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Lebanon's former prime minister is assassinated; President Bush withdraws the U.S. ambassador to Syria; President Bush names John Negroponte as the first national intelligence director; Alan Greenspan gives equivocal support to Social Security privatization

Aired February 19, 2005 - 19:00   ET


AL HUNT, HOST: Welcome to THE CAPITAL GANG. I'm Al Hunt with the full gang: Mark Shields, Robert Novak, Kate O'Beirne and Margaret Carlson.

The United States responded to the murder of former Lebanese prime minister Rafik Hariri by recalling its ambassador to Syria and demanding withdrawal of Syrian troops from Lebanon.


GEORGE WALKER BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We support the international investigation that will be going on to determine the killers of Mr. Hariri. We've recalled our ambassador, which indicates that the relationship is -- is not moving forward, that Syria's out of step with the progress being made in the greater Middle East.

FAROUK AL SHARAA, SYRIAN FOREIGN MINISTER (through translator): This is a criminal, ugly act. We condemn those who are sowing sedition in Lebanon. We hope the Lebanese people at these difficult times will be cohesive and strong to reject any internal sedition or outside interference.


HUNT: Meanwhile, intelligence and defense officials issued new terrorist warnings.


PORTER GOSS, CIA DIRECTOR: It may be only a matter of time before al Qaeda or other group attempts to use chemical, biological, radiological or nuclear weapons. We must focus on that.

DONALD RUMSFELD, DEFENSE SECRETARY: I think the people who follow the intelligence closely have seen a series since September 11 -- seen a series of very real intelligence that reflected al Qaeda planning for further attacks on the United States.


HUNT: Mark, is the United States getting ready to attack Syria? MARK SHIELDS, CAPITAL GANG: No, Al. I mean, I think even if there were an interest in that -- and I don't think -- I don't think there really is -- there's no way. I mean, this week, we learned that 45 percent of our troops in Iraq today are either guard or reserve. Five of the six components of the reserves failed to meet their requirements and their goals for recruitment. So we don't have -- we don't have the resources, particularly the human resources, let alone the will.

HUNT: Kate, how do we get those, what is it, 12,000, 14,000 Syrian troops out of Lebanon?

KATE O'BEIRNE, CAPITAL GANG: This might be a situation -- and the president will be exploring this next week when he visits Europe -- where we can have some constructive help, I think, from the Europeans. The French, of course, have a long-standing special relationship with Syria. There is a U.N. resolution demanding that Syria pull out of Lebanon. So that's at the back of a multi-lateral effort to make Syria deliver on it.

And it's an opportunity for Europeans to show that they're not instinctively, in a knee-jerk sort of fashion, opposed to anything that the United States feels strongly about or recommends, that they share our concern about how destabilizing and what trouble Syria is making in a very volatile part of the world.

HUNT: Margaret, this can bring the old alliance together?

MARGARET CARLSON, CAPITAL GANG: Well, it might because certainly, if there was ever a cause, it's -- it's with Syria remaining in Lebanon and not doing anything about U.N. resolution 1559. But Mark says there's no resources. Kate acknowledges there's no consensus. And that's because we've spent our good will on Iraq. And that brings us to Director Goss and Secretary Rumsfeld basically saying this week that we're no safer now than we were before we took out Saddam Hussein. And remember, that's what Howard Dean said, and he was lambasted for that. But al Qaeda and trying to get nuclear weapons -- it still remains the same threat it was, and now Peter Goss is acknowledging it.

HUNT: Porter Goss. Bob...


CARLSON: Porter. Porter. Yes, Porter to you.

BOB NOVAK, CAPITAL GANG: Nice if you get his name right.

CARLSON: Porter to you...


HUNT: She calls him Peter.

CARLSON: I call him Director Goss. HUNT: Right. Exactly. Bob, the other alliance that was at least talked about this week was the Syrians and the Iranians, that they were going to -- you know -- is that just rhetoric, or is that (UNINTELLIGIBLE) concern?

NOVAK: That's a lot of baloney. It doesn't mean -- can I try to put some of this in perspective?

HUNT: You know, we would love it if you would do that.


HUNT: ... kind of rise above the sort of day-to-day...

NOVAK: There is absolutely not a scintilla, not a shred of evidence to connect Syria with the assassination of the former Lebanese prime minister. None. Zero. Nobody even claims there is. Why are we pulling back -- why is the United States pulling back the ambassador from Damascus? They say to get the troops out. Well, the -- did the troops cause this assassination? On the contrary. Probably, they've been a stabilizing force in Lebanon. The -- you haven't had the -- the Christian and the Muslim militias going head on since you've had Syrian troops.

But it's part of the Israeli agenda to get the Syrian troops out of Lebanon. Should they be out of Lebanon? Absolutely, they should be out. Is it high on our priority list? No! And this -- I just see issue after issue in the Middle East where the United States eventually is playing the Israeli game and adhering to the Israeli agenda.


HUNT: Kate O'Beirne, not a shred of evidence...


CARLSON: Bob is the only one...

O'BEIRNE: Syria is playing a completely destructive role, Bob, with respect to fueling, funding, supporting the insurgency, the terrorists in Iraq killing American troops, killing Iraqis trying to form a government there. They are a very dangerous actor in that part of the world, Bob, and they are bleeding Lebanon dry. It would be enormously helpful, given that they're a sponsor of terrorists, if they were denied the kind of money they pull out of Lebanon. And we are safer. We are demonstrably safer than we were on 9/11. We're not safe yet...

CARLSON: But that's not the...

O'BEIRNE: ... but we're demonstrably safer.

CARLSON: That's not the testimony.

HUNT: Mark... NOVAK: I don't think -- I don't think it has been validated or proven that the Syrians are fueling the insurgency in Iraq.

CARLSON: Well, you're one of the few people who doesn't think that Syria was involved in this assassination.

NOVAK: Oh, what proof is there of that? There's none! Zero! Zero proof.

SHIELDS: I thought the administration certainly walked back from that. I mean, the president was far more measured. There'd been an initial rush in that direction, but I think there's been far less -- but I do -- I think one of the most revealing pieces of testimony this week was both the FBI director and Porter Goss admitting, essentially, that we were not safer. And General Myers saying up to 60 insurgent attacks a day being launched against American troops in Iraq. That's the reality beyond any...

HUNT: Margaret, Iraq -- Iraq really had a terrible week. I mean, it was awful over there. The crimes (ph) got worse.

CARLSON: Right. After -- after the euphoria of the vote and all the hope -- and I mean, it was dramatic and it was a wonderful thing to see -- the violence has not abated.

NOVAK: I mean, surely -- surely, you cannot say, Kate, that this is a Syrian operation. Syria is not that competent to be -- to be running an insurgency...

O'BEIRNE: They are harboring terrorists! They're permitting them to move across the Syrian border! They are arming them! They are funding them! Yes, I can say so, Bob!

HUNT: Well, and with that battle of the right, that ends this segment.

When we come back: Is John Negroponte the right man at the right time to direct national intelligence?


HUNT: Welcome back. President Bush named ambassador to Iraq John Negroponte the first national director of intelligence.


BUSH: And his service in Iraq during these past few historic months has given him something that will prove an incalculable advantage for an intelligence chief: an unvarnished and up-close look at a deadly enemy.

REP. ED MARKEY (D), MASSACHUSETTS: He was the ambassador to the United Nations when we were about to invade Iraq. He actually testified that Iraq had a nuclear weapons program, even though the International Atomic Energy Agency told him it did not exist.


HUNT: Kate, does Ambassador Negroponte's record in Iraq raise concerns about his qualifications for this job?

O'BEIRNE: Al, as ambassador to the U.N., he echoed the persuasive case Colin Powell made, and I think did a very effective job making our case, as I said, along with Colin Powell. And they, of course, were in agreement with every intelligence agency worldwide. I think more immediately, his experience as ambassador to Iraq over the past months has added to the kind of experience he has already that probably makes him a pretty good choice for this new job. He saw the real-world demands for intelligence, how the military uses it, how our diplomats use it. He's been a consumer of intelligence, of course, as an experienced foreign service officer. And I think his diplomatic skills are going to come in very handy in trying to synthesize the work of these 15 agencies, and he gets very strong marks as a strong manager.

HUNT: Good choice, Margaret?

CARLSON: You know, if not doing a good job on the leading up to the war in Iraq, we're going to disqualify you, we'd have to clear out the White House and a few cabinet agencies. So we can't hold him entirely responsible for what he did at the U.N. Negroponte, of the names that were out there, is probably the best because he's -- he's a hands-on guy. Bush likes him. Bush says he's going to be the one briefing him. If I were Porter Goss, I wouldn't like the fact that Negroponte's going to be the one doing the briefings.

And he said something else curious. You know, the -- Cheney and Rumsfeld were against this change in intelligence because it looked like it would undermine them because they have most of the intelligence money there, but Bush, in his announcement, said that Negroponte would be in charge of the budgets. I don't think that's the way it is. I would like to see what Rumsfeld and Cheney...

HUNT: Well...

CARLSON: ... are saying at this moment.

HUNT: ... let me ask -- let me ask Bob about that. Bob, what's more dangerous, the Green Zone in Baghdad or bureaucratically battling with Don Rumsfeld...

NOVAK: Well, that's...

HUNT: ... over intelligence in Washington?

NOVAK: Well, I'm glad you picked up on the liberal cliche of the week, which is that Rumsfeld and...


HUNT: ... Margaret.



NOVAK: ... that Rumsfeld and Negroponte were going to be attacking each other. I don't believe that's the case. I think Rumsfeld has a lot of other difficulties and things on his agenda. Negroponte's in charge.

Negroponte's a remarkable guy. He was a former aide to Henry Kissinger as a young man, got in dutch with Kissinger. They sent him down to Honduras, where he did a terrific job against the communist insurgency down there. He's done a good job wherever he's been. He's an old cold warrior foreign service officer of a type that has died out a little bit. And I can't think of a better choice for this job.

HUNT: Mark, you know, pick up on any of that. But also, let me ask you this. He may be -- he may be an experienced diplomat, but does he have -- does he bring any skills of running a sprawling -- running sprawling organizations and disparate organizations or in the Byzantine world of espionage?

SHIELDS: Well, he -- nobody can run this -- this institution. Now, we're talking about 15 intelligence agencies. We're talking about appearing before 80 committees. I mean, Congress, first of all, has an enormous responsibility, and that is to streamline and to limit the congressional oversight...

O'BEIRNE: Absolutely.

SHIELDS: ... so that -- I mean, Homeland Security chief goes to 88 -- is called upon by 88 committees and subcommittees. So that's the first thing. So I think -- I think you raise a very important question about -- about his background.

Bob -- the very thing that Bob praises, in my judgment, raises a question about whether, in fact, he can speak truth to power. He was sent to Honduras in 1981, when the Reagan administration came in, was downplaying human rights as a factor in foreign policy, and given evidence all around him for four years, denied in every human rights report the State Department issued that there was any kind of oppression and any kind of army units kidnapping, torturing, and in cases, murdering people.

So this is -- I think this is the case -- because that's the toughest part of this job is somebody who can speak truth to power. And the question really central to it for anybody getting it -- Is George Bush, the president of the United States, willing to not only give that power, but will he sustain it and maintain it because...

NOVAK: Let me -- let me...


NOVAK: Let me agree with you on one point. He is not a bleeding-heart liberal. I agree with you. (CROSSTALK)

O'BEIRNE: Being a loyal Reaganite still remains the unforgivable...


HUNT: Are you convinced that this will be Mr. Go-To on anything that matters in intelligence?

O'BEIRNE: I don't know that, Al, as this evolves. I don't -- I don't think anybody can predict what this job is going to look like two years from now. I'm not at all convinced, even though there was this big stampede in favor of it, that it makes sense to consolidate intelligence...


HUNT: Final word, Margaret.

CARLSON: You know, I think -- I think Negroponte learned the wrong lesson from Kissinger. When he stood up to him on Vietnam, he was sidetracked and he was no longer the whiz kid. And then he goes to Honduras and goes along with power. So I think maybe this time he'll get it just right.

HUNT: Peter Goss's good friend gets the last word.


HUNT: Next on CAPITAL GANG: cautious support for the president's Social Security savings plan from Alan Greenspan.


HUNT: Welcome back. In an interview with regional newspaper reporters, President Bush was asked whether he would oppose increasing Social Security taxes on people making over $90,000 a year. He left open the possibility of supporting that. Quote, "I'm interested in good ideas. People need to come forth with good ideas. The one thing I won't do is negotiate with myself," end quote.

Meanwhile, Federal Reserve chairman Alan Greenspan gave a qualified endorsement of the president's proposed personal accounts.


ALAN GREENSPAN, CHAIRMAN, FEDERAL RESERVE: All in all, I'm glad that if we're going to move in that direction, we're going to move slowly and test the waters because I think it's a good thing to do over the longer run.


HUNT: However, Democrats indicated no grounds for compromise.


SEN. HARRY REID (D-NE), MINORITY LEADER: We are going to do during this break, every time we have an opportunity to tell the American people what the outline of the Bush plan -- and that's all we have -- how disastrous it would be for the American people, costing trillions of dollars.


HUNT: Bob, how does Bush's statement affect the prospects for Social Security legislation?

NOVAK: I think it's a very important step. I think this is what Senator Lindsey Graham's been pushing for, and Senator Graham got tremendous attacks from the Cato Institute, from Jack Kemp, from John Sununu -- Senator John Sununu, that this is giving in. But what Senator Graham is trying to do is get some Democratic co-sponsors. He doesn't think he can pass the thing in the -- in the Senate without some co-sponsors. They'll get it through the House all right. And so this is -- and some of the House Republican leaders agree with him. They won't go on the record as saying this is a step that is necessary to get somebody like Senator Carper of Delaware or maybe even Senator Baucus, the ranking Democrat on the committee.

And also, though, Alan Greenspan, of course, is the oracle of Delphi. You know who the oracle of Delphi was, I'm sure.

CARLSON: Yes, Porter Goss.


NOVAK: And he (UNINTELLIGIBLE) this, that, this, that. But that was an endorsement of it, and it was a plus for the program.

HUNT: Mark, your take?

SHIELDS: Al, it's always intriguing to hear Dr. Novak's take on these things. Let me just say I agree with him on Alan Greenspan. Alan Greenspan says there is no crisis. Yes, I'm for private accounts, but this isn't going to solve the solvency. So everybody walks away with something, feeling good about what he's had to say.

But as far as the president's concerned, you wanted to go in this weekend -- if you were the White House, Al, because you've got a week you're going dark on Social Security. President's going to be overseas. You want to go in with Alan Greenspan's endorsement, limited though it might be, of private accounts. Instead, what you've got is the president floating this balloon, which then gets shot down by his own people. At the Conservative Political Action Conference, you couldn't walk around without somebody banging the president and condemning him for even suggesting this. I agree with Bob he was trying to reach out to get Democrats, but boy, I got to tell you, the right wing is not going to give him any (UNINTELLIGIBLE)

HUNT: Does he have a conservative problem, Kate? O'BEIRNE: The president -- I think any proponent of private accounts was helped by Alan Greenspan's testimony. The president himself said, Of course, personal accounts don't fix Social Security. It's not the whole answer. He agrees with Alan Greenspan on that. But they also both agree something has to be done. The current pay- as-you-go system, according to Alan Greenspan, is unsustainable. So I think that was helpful.

The problem with the president concentrating at the moment on just laying the predicate that there is a problem and -- and convincing the American public, who, in turn, will be encouraging Congress to address is, is that it permits ideas floating around to get ahead of the predicate. And people all start declaring themselves whether they oppose this or oppose that.

On its face, raising the income threshold would be a tax increase. It would be a problem for an awful lot of Republicans on Capitol Hill. On the other hand, you could see it as part of an overall deal, where there might be a -- the net effect wouldn't be to raise taxes if you -- if it had other pieces to it. It's too early to say. But the initial reaction is not friendly.

HUNT: Margaret?

CARLSON: Yes. Kate, the answer was yes.


CARLSON: That was really long. But the answer is...

O'BEIRNE: But it won't...

CARLSON: ... that this alienates...

O'BEIRNE: It won't be...


HUNT: Kate's just on a roll now!



CARLSON: I was wondering. You were on Pacific Coast...

O'BEIRNE: It won't be standing by itself!

CARLSON: ... Highway! Right. Yes. No. This alienates more Republicans than it brings. As much as Alan Greenspan wanted to say something nice, he barely could get it out. Personal accounts, in a perfect world, oh, sure. But as a solution for Social Security, it would be like me saying, Oh, I'd like to lose five pounds, I'm going to -- I'm going to eat ice cream every night. There's no connection! It's going to hurt Social Security, not help Social Security. And Alan Greenspan says, In the long run, this is, you know -- maybe it'll be OK, and this kind of thing. But in the long run, that other economist said, we're all dead.

HUNT: I want to weigh in...

CARLSON: This was not an endorsement.

SHIELDS: Weigh in.

HUNT: I want to weigh in on this one. I'm going to teach a class one day on the coverage of Alan Greenspan's testimony on Social Security. Two terrific reporters for "The Wall Street Journal" wrote a lead that said he bolstered the White House's case. Bloomberg's John Berry, one of the great Fed watchers in this town, said it undermined the administration's entire rationale. "The New York Times" on Friday had an editorial, anti-Bush Social Security, citing Alan Greenspan. Inches away, Paul Krugman, a columnist, had an anti- Greenspan screed. And I think Greenspan (UNINTELLIGIBLE) intellectually consistent. The bottom line...


HUNT: The bottom line is the same. The only way you pass Social Security on a bipartisan basis, it'll have to involve some private accounts, probably a little bit of a carve-out, a little bit of an add-on. There will be a tax increase, a net tax increase, and benefits will have to be shaved on a progressive level. The Democratic left, Republican right will hate it. We're a long way from getting there, but anybody who says it's dead is crazy because there's a long way to go.

NOVAK: I would bet -- I would bet it will pass and -- and I -- I don't even think...

HUNT: Do you disagree with my formula?

NOVAK: Not at all. I don't disagree at all. I think the one extra element you might put in there is while you're adding the amount of taxable income above the $90,000 that you reduce the rate perhaps for the lower-income brackets...

HUNT: Half a point or a point, yes.

NOVAK: ... and then you get the Democrats coming in and -- and -- and the Republicans will say -- if the Republicans can swallow that -- that Medicare thing and No Child Left Behind, they sure can swallow that.

HUNT: That's what Lindsey Graham is actually talking about.

SHIELDS: Let me rain on the parade just a little bit...

HUNT: Yes.

SHIELDS: ... of my two colleagues. And that is, first of all, the president has made this case in three different campaigns, 2000, 2002, 2004, about Social Security. But he's never once mentioned -- he's talked about the advantage of personal accounts, but he never talked about either increasing the contribution or -- and cutting benefits, which -- both of which have to be done if this thing is going to pass.

Second, Al, and I think the crucial one, is this week we saw in "The Wall Street Journal"/NBC News poll declining support for personal accounts, in a month of the president's campaigning, from the -- from a plurality supporting to 10-point deficit. That is not encouraging...

HUNT: That is...


HUNT: And that is the final word.

Coming up next, in the second half of THE CAPITAL GANG: Our "Sidebar" story of the week is hot water at Harvard. Larry Summers feels the heat. We'll go "Beyond the Beltway" and preview the president's upcoming trip to Europe. And our "Outrages of the Week" all after the break.




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

Harvard President Lawrence Summers created a furor when he suggested women were not as adept at science as men. He quickly backed away from that saying, "Despite reports to the contrary, I did not say, and I do not believe, that girls are intellectually less able than boys or that women lack the ability to succeed at the highest levels of science. I was wrong to have spoken in a way that has resulted in an unintended signal of discouragement to talented girls and women."


NANCY HOPKINS, MASS. INSTITUTE OF TECHNOLOGY: And he said, you know, men and women are different and even though the distributions overlap there may be many more people out in the tail of the distribution of excellence among men for math, for example.


HUNT: A meeting of the faculty of arts and sciences criticized Summers but the Harvard corporation which governs the university supported him with this statement: "We know that he genuinely and deeply regrets having spoken as he did. President Summers has made plain to us that he is listening carefully to the concerns that have been expressed." Margaret, is this just an exhibition of political correctness or should Larry Summers be dumped and if (UNINTELLIGIBLE) I'll give it a mark?

CARLSON: Two plus two equals four. That would be really hard. But this is a liberal question. Listen, you know, this reminds me of the old saying you can tell a Harvard man but you can't tell him much.

HUNT: Right.

CARLSON: Larry Summers is a provocative, Socratic, dialog, not boring, controversial kind of guy and he said some things that were taken by some women who claim to have felt such the vapors having listened to it, had to leave the room. This is just so blown out of proportion.

Larry Summers has done a lot for women, hired two female deans since he's been there and there were only two ever before, hired a couple of female vice presidents and he should have said, I guess, what they're now saying he's saying earlier on to try to tamp this down but where else but a university should you be able to say this kind of thing?

HUNT: Bob Novak.

NOVAK: Well, when I was in high school the girls were better in science and math because they were better in everything because they did their homework and they didn't misbehave.

HUNT: They were better than you?

NOVAK: Oh, yes. So, I don't even know. Larry Summers had a lot of strange ideas, particularly in economics. He's a (UNINTELLIGIBLE). He has a lot of socialistic ideas and so but I believe a man should be able or a woman should be able to say what they believe.

This is a terrible example of political correctness. They've humiliated him. He's got a -- it has all the trappings of a communist state where you have to go in and confess, air how bad you've been, and why doesn't he say, why doesn't he shove it? He could probably have a more respectable job than president of Harvard if he wanted it anyway.

HUNT: Mark.

SHIELDS: You know when it comes to Cambridge, people fall into three distinct groups, those who like Harvard and those who don't. If you think about Larry Summers, I mean there are two things. One, he's looking like Arlen Specter trying to get the chairmanship of the Judiciary Committee. Now, he's basically going to say anything to keep this job.

And that said, the other thing about Larry Summers that I find appealing that I can understand could be irritating as well is he always has a compulsion to show himself to be the smartest guy in the room. HUNT: Right.

SHIELDS: And I think this was an example of it. He was going to be -- he's always going to be provocative. He's always going to say something to kind of push the envelope and I think this was an example of it.

HUNT: Kate.

O'BEIRNE: What he said was not even all that provocative and the way he couched it that at the very top there are more men testing in science and math and at the very bottom there are more men. He doesn't say anything about any individual man or woman's capabilities and he couched it with "We ought to look at it more," you know, trying to be provocative.

He doesn't owe me an apology for what he said. MIT Professor Nancy Hopkins, who had to run from the room because she explained she became short of breath. She got sick to her stomach. She was either going to faint or throw up.

She owes professional women an apology. She's done more to set back the cause of women. What, she can't hear something she finds, you know, upsetting? This is feminist fundamentalism and it's got a grip on Harvard.

HUNT: I think the academy is supposed to be a place for intellectual inquiry, intellectual stimulation and I agree with that but Larry Summers is the president of Harvard. This was indelicate on his part. He shouldn't be doing it. As economists professor it was great.

He also was wrong, I think, probably I would guess discrimination is number one, not number three, in why women haven't done better and shouldn't have been talking about the lack of Jewish farmers and that was just silly.

However, what this is about, it's not political correctness. This is about Larry Summers trying to reign in some autocratic fiefdoms at Harvard University and they are trying to get him for that and, if they succeed, it's going to be terrible for Harvard. It's going to be terrible for American higher education.

O'BEIRNE: Al, it's bigger than that actually. There are other disputes going on at Harvard but after this depressing, depressing display at Harvard where they have no interest in free inquiry and they're so intolerant of any view these feminists don't feel like listening to, the presidents of MIT, Stanford and Princeton all gratuitously wrote an op-ed also chastising Lawrence Summers.

NOVAK: But he looks very -- he looks very weak in this whole problem, extremely weak.

O'BEIRNE: Right.

HUNT: Well, but Larry Summers has been a pretty darned good president even if he hasn't done things in the right way.

But coming up next on the CAPITAL GANG "Classic," President Clinton goes to Syria a little over ten years ago.


ANNOUNCER: Here's your CAPITAL GANG trivia question of the week. "How many U.S. presidents graduated from Harvard: A) 5; B) 7; or C) 11? We'll have the answer right after the break.




ANNOUNCER: Before the break we asked, "How many U.S. presidents have graduated from Harvard?" The answer is B, 7.


HUNT: Welcome back.

A little over ten years ago, President Bill Clinton paid a visit to Syria as part of a Middle East trip. The CAPITAL GANG discussed it on October 22, 1994 with the Republican activist Bill Krystal.


SHIELDS: Why do we go to a country still labeled as terrorist two weeks before midterm American elections?

BILL KRYSTAL: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) of the trip is the visit to Asad, which I think is a mistake. I mean Syria remains on the State Department list of states that sponsor terrorism. They have not been forthcoming in the negotiations with Israel and I think it's a foreign policy blunder to go to Damascus.

NOVAK: Asad has been very forthcoming and I think that they're very close to an agreement.

CARLSON: I think it's a good idea. I mean talk helps and they're close and it's not that he's going to take credit for it but he could move it along.

HUNT: Yes, I would -- I don't think that Asad has been as forthcoming as we'd like but I think that the dynamics are a lot different than they were 20 years ago or even ten years ago. Syria is still key to any kind of permanent peace in the Middle East. I think it's a worthwhile trip.


HUNT: Bob, was it a mistake for President Clinton to go to Damascus back then? NOVAK: Of course not, sit down with Asad, might as well. They're not a blood enemy. I think it was a good idea to go there and, of course, Bill Krystal and the neocons reflecting the Israeli line would never agree to that but I think it was fine for him to go. I don't think it created anything and right now, of course, the best thing that could happen is to have Israel and Syria negotiate and get an agreement on the Golan Heights.

HUNT: You're comfortable with what you said ten years ago, Margaret?

CARLSON: Well, it accomplished nothing but hope springs eternal for these people.

HUNT: Kate.

O'BEIRNE: It reminded me of the ineffectual naivety of the Clinton administration's foreign policy. Well, he came out of Syria and he said, you know, there's been a real change in attitude on the part of Syria. They're ready to make peace with Israel, not true, and he had just come off making his deal with North Korea not to develop nuclear weapons and we see how successful that's been.

HUNT: Oh, well you know (UNINTELLIGIBLE).

SHIELDS: You know, week after week I sit here and I disagree with what Kate says but I never once leave or flee the room or anything of the sort and I guess that must make me -- that's male supremacy I think it must be.

Given the outcome of the election two weeks later, you could blame that on just about anything. It didn't work, put it that way.

HUNT: Yes.

SHIELDS: It didn't work politically but it was a political trip.

HUNT: Yes, it didn't work but I also don't think it did any damage and I think the idea of not going to countries because you don't like, you don't like the regime is something that would (UNINTELLIGIBLE).

SHIELDS: Richard Nixon went to China.

NOVAK: I agree with you. I'm agreeing with you too much lately.

CARLSON: Yes, we couldn't go (UNINTELLIGIBLE).

HUNT: On that point an agreeable Robert Novak.

Next on CAPITAL GANG, we'll go "Beyond the Beltway" and preview the president's trip to Europe. T.R. Reid of the "Washington Post" joins us after the break.


HUNT: Welcome back.

President Bush leaves tomorrow on a European trip to three countries over five days.


GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Part of my reason I'm going to Europe is to share my sense of optimism and enthusiasm about what's taking place and remind people that that's -- that those values of human rights, human dignity and freedom are the core of our very being as nations.

My first goal is to remind both Americans and Europeans that the transatlantic relationship is very important for our mutual security and for peace and that we have differences sometimes but we don't differ on values that we share this great love and respect for freedom.


HUNT: Joining us now from Denver to talk about the president's trip is T.R. Reid of the "Washington Post," author of a fantastic new book "The United States of Europe, the new Super Power and the end of American Supremacy." Thanks for being with us Tom.

T.R. REID, "THE WASHINGTON POST": Delighted Al, great to be here.

HUNT: Tom, what do you think will be the European reaction to the president's trip?

REID: I think they're going to be very happy, Al, on Tuesday. George W. Bush is going to become the first president of the United States of America to sit at a summit meeting with the president and the 25 prime ministers of the United States of Europe.

They're going to love that because, you know, they felt dissed. They felt in the first Bush administration that America just didn't respect this revolution they've pulled off, 25 countries with about half a billion people have come together.

Europe today has a parliament, a president, a constitution, has an antitrust czar so powerful she was able to make Microsoft rewrite Windows. It's really one place -- I just drove from the Arctic Circle to the Mediterranean. I went through eight countries, never changed currency, never saw a border guard and they want America to recognize that and that's what George W. Bush is going to do.

HUNT: Bob.

NOVAK: Tom, the people I talked to here who are alert to the problems of the European community think that it's not a competitor, effective competitor of the United States. There's too much government, too high of taxes, too much regulation. That's why you've had slow growth. That's why the economies of the Old Europe have lagged behind ours. Is there any feeling there that perhaps even though they're united they've got much too much of a governmental superstructure?

REID: There's a Novak wing in Europe, Bob, but it's very small, very small. And, you know, the problem with that, the reason I wrote the book is, you know, you take Motorola. It's a great American high tech company and guess what, two European companies have passed Motorola in global share for cell phones. Nokia, a Finnish company, has twice as much global market share in cell phones as our great champion Motorola.

Boeing is our biggest exporter. They've been passed in global passenger jets by Airbus, a European champion created by the EU specifically to challenge Boeing. I think this idea that they're lazy socialists who take six weeks of vacation a year is a myth and it's a dangerous myth for Americans because the fact is they've got the biggest market in the world and they're pretty serious competitors.

HUNT: Margaret.

CARLSON: Tom, are the Europeans going to be happy enough that George Bush has come and made nice to them that some of them, some of our allies are going to finally offer some help in Iraq?

REID: I doubt it, though, you know, Americans, Margaret, we're divided 50/50 on whether the war in Iraq is a good idea. There's no division in Europe. In every country, even the ones fighting on our side, 85 to 90 percent of the people think it's a bad idea. So, I think it's going to be very tough for any prime minister in Europe to step up his support in Iraq.

HUNT: Kate.

O'BEIRNE: Tom, during her recent visit, Secretary of State Rice said that the United States welcomed the growing unity of Europe and, as you note, the president, of course, is meeting officially with EU commissioners. How does NATO fit into this picture?

REID: Well, as you saw Gerhard Schroeder, the German Prime Minister, said last week that he thinks NATO should be downplayed and the EU should now be the main point of contact between the U.S. and Europe.

America doesn't like that. For one thing, we're not a member of the EU. We kind of dominate NATO. But I think the Europeans, the whole point of the European Union in the first place was to sort of get beyond war, so to them NATO is a side show. The EU, you know, their federal union is what really matters and they would like to make that the center of debate.

HUNT: Mark Shields.

SHIELDS: Tom, in your superb book, the Penguin Press published, "The New Super Power, the United States of Europe," you go beyond just economic and military and diplomatic differences into values differences. What are the principal values beyond an opposition to war, an opposition to capital punishment, an endorsement of universal healthcare that separate the United States today from the United States of Europe?

REID: You know the Europeans are kind of defining themselves as the un-America in the world. They have more people than we do. They have more trade. They have more GDP and they want to use that power to spread their model. And a lot of it is, frankly, you ready for this Novak, they really like government. They pay very high taxes and they kind of expect government to be there to help people out.

And, frankly, a lot of this works I have to say. In Europe, every single person is covered by healthcare. The doctor comes to your house. You never get a bill and yet they're providing that care for half the cost per capita that we spend on healthcare. So, they're convinced that their way is better and they're now trying to spread it to the rest of the world.

HUNT: Tom Reid, you elevate all of us and hopefully educate Bob Novak. Thanks for joining us.

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

THE CAPITAL GANG FACT: During President Bush's visit to Europe he will attend the European Council, making him the first American president to do so.


HUNT: And now for the "Outrages of the Week."

The blue ribbon documentary team at "Frontline" is airing a program Tuesday night about the 8th Cavalry Regiment in Baghdad as these brave young men and women confronted deadly insurgents.

The Public Broadcasting System has warned its stations they may be subject to federal indecency sanctions unless they broadcast an edited version that omits any profanity.

Is that what we've come to with the Federal Communications Commission that we can't watch a riveting piece about Americans in combat who don't use profanity?

NOVAK: Ward Churchill, a pompous left-wing professor of ethnic studies at the University of Colorado has praised the 9/11 terrorists for striking a blow against capitalism. He describes the victims of the attack on America as little Eichmanns.

The outrage is the Democratic state legislators and University of Colorado students who opposed getting rid of Churchill if he supported white supremacy, denied the Holocaust or praised Adolf Hitler, would Churchill be fired? You bet he would and somebody who tramples the grave of these victims should be fired as well.

HUNT: Margaret.

CARLSON: Our concerned Governor Mike Huckaby flaunted his moral values in a stunt covenant marriage to his wife on Valentine's Day. Meanwhile, Prince Charles announced he will finally marry Camilla Parker Bowles.

The Huckaby's wedding is more like Charles' first wedding, a made-for-TV wedding pitched at a gullible public to make a point. For Charles now this is the real thing. Of the two couples, the royal pair, bony-kneed, graying and awkward, will do more for the beleaguered institution of marriage than the staged covenants pushed by the right wing will ever do.

HUNT: Kate.

O'BEIRNE: The AARP is waging a scare campaign against personal accounts among the elderly although no one below the age of -- above the age of 55 would be affected by the reform. The liberal outfit is now branching out to frighten the younger crowd with ads likening investing in stocks and bonds to recklessly playing slot machines.

The same AARP makes big money selling mutual funds to its own members, including far riskier choices than would be allowed under proposed personal account plan. Who has the AARP been marketing its investments to, senior suckers?

HUNT: Mark.

SHIELDS: Al, for almost 20 years the owners and brass of Major League Baseball have been hypocritically sailing blithely down the river denial consciously ignoring all evidence before their own and everybody else's eyes, that is baseball players who are blowing up into over-muscled physical freaks.

With the out-sizing came a blizzard of tape measure homeruns and repeated reports of steroid use. The team owners and the Players Union behave like ostriches. Now we have grand jury testimony. We have deaths and books reinforcing charges of illegal and widespread steroid use. Cowardice and cheating now threaten America's great game.

HUNT: You are right, Mark. This is Al Hunt saying goodnight for THE CAPITAL GANG.

Coming up next, "CNN 25," the top medical stories of the last 25 years.

At 9:00 p.m., "LARRY KING LIVE."

And at 10:00 p.m. on "CNN SATURDAY NIGHT," a look at the first five years of "Saturday Night Live."

Thanks for joining us.


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