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Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger of Germany becomes Pope Benedict XVI; John Bolton's nomination to be ambassador to the U.N. runs into big trouble in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee

Aired April 23, 2005 - 19:00   ET


AL HUNT, HOST: Welcome to THE CAPITAL GANG. I'm Al Hunt, with Kate O'Beirne, Robert Novak and Mark Shields. Our guest is Democratic congressman Albert Wynn of Maryland.

It's good to have you on the program, Congressman.

REP. ALBERT WYNN (D), MARYLAND: It's a pleasure. Great to be here.

HUNT: It's great to have you here.

The election of Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger of Germany as Pope Benedict XVI got a critical reception from some church liberals.


MONSIGNOR LORENZO ALBACETE, JOHN PAUL II INSTITUTE: I was surprised because to put it mildly, it is obvious the man has an image problem. He's kind of like the ecclesiastical John Bolton.

CARDINAL THEODORE MCCARRICK, ARCHBISHOP OF WASHINGTON: I would say to them, Look at this Holy Father. Don't -- don't -- don't make judgments. I think they will find that in this Holy Father, they have someone who is -- who is going to be very, very open to the -- to the needs and the cries of others.


HUNT: Did the cardinals choose a 78-year-old pope to be a transitional head of the church?


CARDINAL ROGER MAHONY, ARCHBISHOP OF LOS ANGELES: I don't think we were really looking at calendars and ages at the time. I think we were really trying to hear the Lord speak to us. Who is it that the Lord has chosen for this next interim -- interval in the life of the church?


HUNT: Kate, will this pope widen divisions in the Catholic Church?

KATE O'BEIRNE, CAPITAL GANG: Well, first let me say I've spoken to a number of people who have known this pope very well for a long time, and they all say that he is a very humble, very gentle, brilliant man, whose writings, of course, indicate the latter. But he inherited some number of disaffected Catholics who want the church to be something it's not. We are supposed to conform our will to the church's, not demand the church conform itself to us. So he's done nothing to prompt the kind of ridiculous reaction his appointment has gotten from some quarters.

But I wonder whether or not we're going to hear less from such disaffected Catholics. They've been waiting, it seems to me, some of them, for 26 years. If we just wait until John Paul II's gone, maybe the eternal truths of the church will be redefined. Well, that's not going to happen. It wouldn't have happened under anybody who emerged from this conclave. And they're badly outnumbered. The church is growing by leaps and bounds, vocations up, membership way up over the past 25 years in places where orthodoxy is strictly taught. And you saw the young people. You saw the young people in St. Peter's Square jubilant over the election of Cardinal Ratzinger, and you see the young priests, who are uniformly enthused about Pope Benedict. They are the legacy of John Paul II, and I think, as John Paul II used to say, these very orthodox, very faithful young Catholics are the future of the church.

HUNT: Mark, Kate may well be right, but I think everyone expected there'd be a doctrinal conservative chosen. But John Paul did have a great charisma for -- you know, for young people. He was a great leader of an ecumenical march. One doesn't get that same impression with -- with Pope Benedict.

MARK SHIELDS, CAPITAL GANG: No. I mean, I think his public face -- as Kate has spoken about, his private manner, and I've heard that repeatedly from others, as well, that he's a gentle man. But certainly, his public role that he's played within the church has been that of the enforcer. There's no doubt about it.

But I think anybody, Al, who tries to predict popes -- I can remember after 20 years of the papacy of Pope Pius XII, which became increasingly concentrated, increasingly restoring power in the Roman Curia, they picked a 77-year-old seat warmer, the patriarch of Venice, a rather humble, heavyset man with no particular track record. He threw open the doors and the windows of the church, had the Second Vatican Council, declared that every human being had a right to his own conscience...

SHIELDS: Pope John.

SHIELDS: ... to pursue -- Pope John XXIII, you know, and made many people -- affluent people uncomfortable by saying richer nations had a moral obligation to help poorer nations, and in four-and-a-half years, he became the most loved pope in history at the time.

So you know, I can't -- I can't predict -- I will say that the crisis in the priesthood is real, that -- in the West. In every major Western Catholic country, ordination and enrollment is dramatically down.

HUNT: So a mistake, Bob, to just view him necessarily as a caretaker?

BOB NOVAK, CAPITAL GANG: Well, you don't -- Mark's exactly right. You don't know what's going to happen. The interesting thing in the reaction to this, Al, is that ordinary Catholics I talk to, everybody has a very strong opinion on it, tremendous disappointment or, as is the case with Catholics I talk to, elation, jubilation. My goodness, it's Ratzinger. We never think this was possible. Happy days. And I do believe that -- that some people who thought there was going to be an easier church on things like abortion, which impinged on the last presidential campaign because of Senator Kerry's position -- I don't think there's going to be any change there.

HUNT: Congressman, do you have any sense of what this'll mean for the church's role in championing the rights of poor people and in the AIDS epidemic in the third world and all -- and those issues?

WYNN: Well, it poses some real difficult questions because this pope is a traditionalist, so he's not supporting use of condoms. He's not going to be terribly responsive, I don't think, on that issue. And I think that could be problematic. I think there's also a vulnerability on the question of child molestation, which is a big issue in this country. He has not been at the forefront of opening up the church on that issue. I think that's an area where there will be considerable criticism.

HUNT: Well, it'll be interesting to watch in the months ahead.

Albert Wynn and THE GANG will look at the battle of Tom DeLay's ethics investigation after the break.


HUNT: Welcome back. The new Republican chairman of the House Ethics Committee, Congressman Doc Hastings of Washington state, proposed an immediate investigation of House Majority Leader Tom DeLay under Republican rules changes. But Democrats rejected that proposal.


REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), MINORITY LEADER: What the Republicans did on the ethics process was outrageous. They gutted the rules. They purged the committee, especially deposing the chairman. The Ethics Committee is, of its essence, bipartisan. Until it is again, it's a sham.


HUNT: House Speaker Dennis Hastert responded, quote, "We know there are four or five cases out there dealing with top-level Democrats. There's a reason they don't want to go the ethics process. And as long as they can keep someone dangling out there, like they have with Tom DeLay, they take great glee in that," end quote.

Meanwhile, Congressman DeLay continued his criticism of the courts, targeted Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy.


REP. TOM DELAY (R-TX), MAJORITY LEADER: We've got Justice Kennedy writing decisions based upon international law, not the Constitution of the United States? That's just outrageous.


DELAY: And -- and not only that, but he said in session that he does his own research on the Internet? That is just incredibly outrageous!

SEN. RICHARD DURBIN (D), ILLINOIS: Tom DeLay is going to set the standard for judges in America, this man who was pushing through the Terri Schiavo case, defying 15 years of court decisions in Florida, defying the wishes of that poor woman's family?


HUNT: Mark, do Democrats want to keep Tom DeLay twisting in the wind?

SHIELDS: Sure. No, I think Democrats privately will admit that they don't want him to go before 2006, and they're fearful that he will. And the hearings that John McCain's Senate Indian Affairs Committee has scheduled for late June, bringing Grover Norquist and Ralph Reed, among others, to testify on the fleecing of Indians, involves -- is -- one of the principal culprits and targets are Tom DeLay's closest aids, Michael Scanlon, a former aide, and in addition to that, Jack Abramoff and his relationship with the majority leader.

But I don't think there's any question, Al, that -- that DeLay is an inviting target. The more he's known, the more he helps the Democrats.

HUNT: So you and the Democrats agree on this. You want him to stay.

NOVAK: I want him to stay, and I think what the Democrats want is they want a -- they want to damage him. They want to split the Republican Party, so you have a growing current of Christopher Shays people, types, coming up one after another, saying, He's got to go, he's got to go, until you have great divisions in the Republican Party. Whether he goes or not is immaterial. But as a matter of fact, I don't -- I think there's been very, very little drop in support for DeLay. Republicans I talk to are so furious with the viciousness of this campaign and the unfairness of it on just attacking him for things that they all do, that I think there's been almost no slippage of- in his support. And as far as ordinary people in the street, walking around in Prince George's County with -- with -- with banners, "DeLay has to go," that just isn't happening, Albert. And so I -- I think it's -- I would say right now that it is -- that he's going to survive the next two years, and it's not going to be a great, big deal for the -- for the Democrats.

HUNT: Well, Congressman, I'm just struck that Bob Novak is out there on the streets...


WYNN: I thought that was very interesting.

HUNT: ... you know, to find out what the real people are thinking. Is that -- is that your assessment?

WYNN: Not exactly. I mean, Tom DeLay leads the league in ethics offenses, and I think everybody knows it. We're glad to see him out there. Apparently, he's going to keep talking, so between the ethics charges that have occurred, the ones that are pending, and then his continuing to batter the courts, I think it's a great day for Democrats, and we're content to let the Republicans take him to task. I will say we second that.

HUNT: Kate?

O'BEIRNE: Actually, they don't, of course, want him taken to task.

We know what this is all about. Our CNN colleagues, Paul Begala and James Carville, said to the Democrats again this week, You don't stand for anything. How're you going to win elections -- you've been losing every few years -- without standing for something? They have no agenda. They're not fighting a Republican agenda. So they go after Tom DeLay, or -- like Senator Durbin did. May I remind him, he could have stopped the Schiavo legislation. He could have stopped it. Now he's rewriting history. It passed with unanimous consent in the Senate. So they have so little else to go on, they want to demonize Tom DeLay.

But this week, Nancy Pelosi gave the game away. When the Republicans said, Fine, we'll investigate him in the Ethics Committee, Tom DeLay has been saying, I want to go before the Ethics Committee, let them look at all this stuff, I've done nothing wrong, the Dems say -- they won't take yes for an answer. No. We don't want him before the Ethics Committee.

HUNT: (INAUDIBLE) a problem, Mark?

O'BEIRNE: They don't want him cleared!


O'BEIRNE: That's what's happening!

SHIELDS: The Ethics Committee doesn't even qualify as a kangaroo court, Al. What Tom DeLay did -- he was reprimanded unanimously three times in the last session of Congress for ethics violations...

O'BEIRNE: Not reprimanded!

SHIELDS: ... OK -- he was reprimanded.

O'BEIRNE: He was not! NOVAK: No, he was admonished.

O'BEIRNE: He was not!

SHIELDS: Admonished. Admonished.


SHIELDS: OK. He was -- I'm sorry, Al. He was admonished three times. Three times they found him wanting in his ethics, OK? So what did Tom DeLay do? He just fired the -- he fired the chairman of the committee. He changed -- he put on people who contributed to his own legal defense fund, Lamar Smith, among others. He fired the staff, OK, and then said, The rule's changed. Now you have to have a majority, and we have never had in the Ethics Committee in the House of Representatives -- never had anything but bipartisan rules written. He -- what Tom DeLay did was write them separately.

Al, I'll tell you where Tom DeLay stepped on it, and I -- what I think is going to be a problem for him, is that when he started talking about the courts, he started losing people like Charles Krauthammer today -- Friday, rather, in "The Washington Post." He said, We set up the courts, we can un-set them. We have the power of the purse. We can de-fund courts.

I mean, this is not -- this is not...


HUNT: ... you did paint this as sort of a liberal cabal, but you do have people like Charles Krauthammer, "The Wall Street Journal" editorial page, Tom Tancredo...


NOVAK: ... very small slippage, compared to what they hoped for. They -- they wanted -- I mean, Al wants a line of Democrats coming -- coming...


NOVAK: ... of Republicans coming out to attack him. But -- but you know, I'll tell you one other thing. You open up a can of worms with these petty-ante complaints. Nancy Pelosi is in trouble now. She didn't -- she made a little trip to Puerto Rico. She didn't...

O'BEIRNE: So have some other Democrats.

NOVAK: And she -- and all kinds of -- but she is the leader, and she -- she now is refusing to answer questions to reporters. She won't submit her documents. I think it's all a lot of baloney!

HUNT: Let me ask Congressman...

NOVAK: But so is -- so is the DeLay stuff! HUNT: Let me give the final word to the congressman here. Attacking Justice Kennedy -- he goes after particular judges. Ted Olson, a very conservative former solicitor general in this administration, wrote a piece in "The Wall Street Journal" this week saying, basically, we shouldn't be attacking -- we shouldn't be doing that kind of stuff. Is that going to come back to hurt Tom DeLay?

WYNN: It's already hurting Tom DeLay. The Republicans are making the case, the Democrats are just saying Amen. But this is also bigger than Tom DeLay. The Republicans want to change the ethics rules. And you want to know what we stand for? We stand for ethics in government. Republicans want to change rules to make it more difficult to bring ethics cases. That's why Democrats are saying, Under these rules, we will not meet.

O'BEIRNE: (INAUDIBLE) Ethics Committee, it has to become bigger than Tom DeLay...

HUNT: Well...

O'BEIRNE: ... because you don't want him cleared!

HUNT: Well, if he -- if he wants to go before a stacked...


HUNT: ... stacked deck, which is in his favor, I think that's a great case for anybody. Anybody would go to that. Willie Sutton would go before that kind of jury.

Next on CAPITAL GANG, John Bolton's U.N. nomination in trouble.


HUNT: The Senate Foreign Relations Committee delayed for three weeks a vote on Undersecretary of State John Bolton as ambassador to the United Nations. Republican Senator George Voinovich of Ohio unexpectedly dropped his support after hearing the Democratic case against the nominee.


SEN. CHRISTOPHER DODD (D), CONNECTICUT: Mr. Bolton, I think, is disqualified for the job. The evidence is mounting. We've had more evidence in the last 24 hours. It's come to us here. They corroborate some of the earlier allegations about Mr. Bolton lacking the diplomatic skills.

SEN. GEORGE VOINOVICH (R), OHIO: I've heard enough today that I don't feel comfortable about voting for Mr. Bolton. I think one's interpersonal skills and their relationship with their fellow man is a very important ingredient in anyone that works for me.

I've heard enough today that gives me some real concern about Mr. Bolton.


HUNT: President Bush continued to press for Bolton's confirmation.


GEORGE WALKER BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: John's distinguished career and service to our nation demonstrates that he is the right man at the right time for this important assignment. I urge the Senate to put aside politics and confirm John Bolton to the United Nations.


HUNT: Bob, what are John Bolton's chances?

NOVAK: I think they're really probably less than half right now because they -- the White House is going to have to turn around two or possibly three Republican senators to get him out of committee, and they've done such a terrible job. Not to even know that John Voinovich was...

HUNT: George.

NOVAK: ... George Voinovich was in some trouble is ridiculous. Senator Voinovich is a great example of the senatorial style. He doesn't go to any of the hearings. He admits he doesn't go to any hearings. He just wanders into this last thing, and he says, Gee, from what I heard, I've changed my mind. What he heard was demagoguery. It was the slander by Chris Dodd against -- against Bolton. Anybody who is anti-Castro gets that business from Chris Dodd, who is the greatest apologist...


NOVAK: ... for Castro...

HUNT: Come on.

NOVAK: Well, he's the greatest -- I know you hate it because you love him, but he is the greatest apologist for Castro in the Congress. So it is a -- it is a tawdry situation. John Bolton is a -- is an excellent public servant. He's devoted almost his entire life to it. And to get this kind of crucifixion because he's anti-Castro is just wrong.

HUNT: Albert Wynn, Bob Novak can finally commie-bash again, as silly as it is.


HUNT: Tell me your take.

WYNN: No, Bolton's slipping really fast, and he's slipping again at the hands of the Republicans because not only do you have Senator Voinovich, behind the scenes, the reports are that Colin Powell is saying this is not the right guy. he was wrong on Cuba and trying to cook up some scheme that Cuba had a biological weapons program, when that wasn't true. He has an undistinguished career in terms of the proliferation issue. There's really no successes there. So I think there's a lot of ammunition against him, in addition to the fact he doesn't get along well with people, which is a prime requisite for a diplomat. He clearly is in trouble.

HUNT: And clearly, Colin Powell's hand is involved in this. And John McLaughlin, the former number two guy at the CIA, is on the Democratic list to testify. So presumably, he's going to testify negatively.

O'BEIRNE: I think the unsurprising news that Colin Powell is not a fan of John Bolton's and is not being helpful in this nomination actually does help John Bolton. Why? You look puzzled. It's a reminder of what this fight is really about. This fight is about the fact that John Bolton at the State Department was there to advance the Bush agenda as a loyal supporter of George Bush's. This put him at odds very often with Colin Powell and his deputy, and it also put him at odds with the bureaucracy. So now the long knives are out, both in the person of Colin Powell and the bureaucracy.

This has nothing to do with how aggressive he may have been in a hotel room -- or hotel corridor in Moscow 10 years ago. It's about whether or not he would be too aggressive in serving U.S. interests in -- at the U.N., whether or not he is too aggressive a defender of George Bush's foreign policy. That's what this fight is about. And that fight John Bolton can win!

HUNT: Mark, this guy comes across as a -- in a personal sense, as a repulsive bully. Is that enough to disqualify him?


HUNT: Wait a minute! Let me finish. Let me -- no, no!

NOVAK: Well, no, you did that to me, so I'm going to do it to you!

HUNT: I'm going to ask Mark. Mark, is that enough to disqualify someone, or is that irrelevant?

SHIELDS: No, I don't think it's irrelevant. I don't think probably by itself it's enough to disqualify somebody. But I can't -- I listened to Bob, I listened to Kate. I don't know if it's the Bay of Pigs revisited or this is get-even time for parking spaces at the State Department or what it is.

O'BEIRNE: Well, it is! That's clearly it!

SHIELDS: But I mean -- but I mean, the reality is you saw the thing switch this week. Bob's theory about Chris Dodd being the Svengali, Rasputin-like...

NOVAK: He is. SHIELDS: ... figure that got all these Democrats -- I guess he reached out, and apparently, he's got -- now he's got Mr. Hubbard, who is our -- the United States ambassador to Korea, who contradicted what John Bolton testified to under oath, that he had appreciated and thanked him for the speech he made, the abrasive and antagonistic speech he made on the eve of the -- of the nuclear talks in North Korea. And he said that is not the case, that is not true at all.

So you've got Lincoln Chafee saying it's a matter of integrity. You've got Chuck Hagel saying, I won't vote for him on the floor. These are not Chris Dodd acolytes. And you've also got Lisa Murkowski on Friday saying they did the right thing by extending it. This is not moving in John Bolton's direction.

HUNT: We now give the gentleman from Illinois a chance to respond.

NOVAK: Let me say this. If this is a -- a get-even time for the foreign service officers who detested John Bolton because he was -- he was a nemesis on -- on all the -- biological warfare, Al, in Cuba was information by the CIA, which has not changed. It's only the analysis of it that has -- that has changed. And I -- I really believe that this is character assassination of the worst kind. When Chris Dodd gets before the committee, and he said, This has nothing to do with substantive disagreements, it's all...


NOVAK: ... it's all the character of John Bolton -- baloney! It's all about substantive disagreements!

O'BEIRNE: He's been -- look, he's been confirmed four times before. I do predict this. He's going to serve as our ambassador to the U.N. because I would predict that George Bush will recess-appoint him. He belongs at the U.N. We need him at the U.N. He's perfectly fit to serve at the U.N., and I do not believe he's going to let such a loyalist be done in by these petty, dishonest arguments with people who will not confront head on what their fight really is...


HUNT: We only have about 15 seconds. Congressman, a final word on John Bolton?

WYNN: Well, among other things, Condoleezza Rice hasn't exactly been a cheerleader for John Bolton. She said the proper thing, but she hasn't gone out on a limb and said, This guy has got to get there. And...

O'BEIRNE: Yes, she has!


O'BEIRNE: Yes, she has!

WYNN: Well, no. I think she's been less than enthusiastic... (CROSSTALK)

WYNN: But just one quick point, Kate. He may get there through recess appointment, but he's not the answer to the United States foreign policy. We need to win friends and influence people. He's not the guy to do that.


NOVAK: It would be nice if that was the argument made in the committee, instead of all this personal character assassination!

WYNN: Well, it would also be nice if we recognized that Christopher Dodd is a man of great character and impeccable integrity...

NOVAK: That's your opinion!

HUNT: ... and I think -- and I think that wasn't -- it wasn't reflected on this show. And for that...

NOVAK: That's your opinion!

HUNT: For that, I apologize because...


SHIELDS: ... identify with the remarks of the gentleman from...

HUNT: Thank you, Mr. Shields. Al Wynn, thank you for coming in.

WYNN: My pleasure.

HUNT: Thank you for joining us.

Coming up next in the second half, our "Sidebar of the Week," Congressman Henry Hyde ending a more than 30-year run in the House. We'll go "Beyond the Beltway" to Iraq, to look at the insurgency. And our "Outrages of the Week" all after the break.



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

Republican Congressman Henry Hyde of Illinois announced he will not seek a 17th term. He has been chairman of the House Judiciary Committee and currently is chairman of the House International Relations Committee. Hyde previously chaired the Republican House Policy Committee.

In his first of 23 appearances on THE CAPITAL GANG on December 24, 1988, he commented on U.S. allies' response to the bombing of Pam Am Flight 103.


REP. HENRY HYDE (R) ILLINOIS: Well, I think this is another opportunity to give our allies "the opportunity to cooperate and collaborate." They didn't support us and help us, other than Great Britain, when we hit Gadhafi (ph) previously on terrorism. This would be an opportunity for a collaborative effort.


HUNT: In the same program, he talked about the first President Bush's choice as Secretary of Health and Human Services Dr. Louis Sullivan, who gave the impression he was pro-choice on abortion.


HYDE: I think there was a little carelessness in preparing Dr. Sullivan for the onslaught of very difficult questions from the right- to-life movement. They had a right to expect someone who shared their agenda. They worked very hard for George Bush.


HUNT: Bob, what's Henry Hyde's legacy?

NOVAK: Well, isn't it great to see Henry of 1988. He's robust and terrific. I think his legacy is that he was a conservative who was very strong on issues such as those two sound bytes indicated, a strong foreign policy and pro-life on the abortion issue but he was never abrasive on it. He was always civil, always with a smile. I can't think of anybody who is going to be more missed.

HUNT: Kate.

O'BEIRNE: I second all of that. On the policy front, of course, the Hyde Amendment, which since the early '70s has meant federal tax dollars don't pay for abortions. Most members of Congress can't point to something like that obviously. There are countless Americans alive today directly because of Henry Hyde's work on that issue.

As a matter or persona, brilliant debater, he reads books, writes many of his own speeches, incredibly witty and that increasingly rare individual on Capitol Hill, deeply respected by people on both sides of the aisle.

HUNT: Mark.

SHIELDS: I agree that Henry Hyde is a strong pro-life principled opponent of abortion but he was an admirable conservative who believed that life began at conception but did not end at birth.

Henry Hyde pricked the conscience of his colleagues not sufficiently that a majority of them followed him but in supporting money for pregnant women, for children, for those with disabilities. He was terrific.

Kate's right. I heard Henry Hyde give I thought the most persuasive speech I'd ever heard against term limits in which he said "Those who are favoring term limits, I hope if you get the report that you're going in for the surgery in the morning and they've shaved your heard and marked your skull where they're going to open it, you turn to that doctor and say, I hope you just got out of medical school because I don't want anybody with any experience." And I have to tell you it was terrific.

O'BEIRNE: But, Mark, in addition to making that policy point in opposing term limits and being the brilliant debater he was and making points like that, he represented like a poster boy conservative argument against term limits because there always was a split on it.

Conservatives supporting term limits would be asked "Well, what about Henry Hyde?" If you had term limits, you couldn't have a member like Henry Hyde who had been obviously had such incredible conservatives, fought for all these years and would cause term limit supporters to sort of have to think twice. I sure wouldn't want to miss out on Henry Hyde for 30 years.

NOVAK: Let me -- I...

HUNT: Give me just a minute. I think -- I'm a huge fan of Henry Hyde's. I think he made one mistake. I think the impeachment was a mistake. I think Henry Hyde was honest enough to acknowledge that in the Chicago interviews that he gave this week.

NOVAK: He didn't acknowledge.

HUNT: Yes, he did.

NOVAK: He did not acknowledge that, I am sorry.

HUNT: Bob, if I could finish please. I have not interrupted you and I hope you'll have the decency to not interrupt me. He did acknowledge that. He said that may have been a mistake. He also said it may have been payback.

I want to say that I think that was the aberration. I think the rest of his career was every bit what you all have described, a man of tremendous principle, a man of tremendous conviction and a man of tremendous civility.

O'BEIRNE: The only reason I don't see impeachment as an aberration on the part of Henry Hyde I he always did his duty as he saw it, as a public servant. His duty is chairman of the Judiciary Committee was to hold those hearings and move the impeachment.

NOVAK: Just to be accurate he didn't acknowledge a mistake. He said he may have made a mistake. No, that's not acknowledging it. That's quite a distinction.

HUNT: He did exactly what I said.

NOVAK: He said...

HUNT: You have misquoted him. Unfortunately you have misquoted him.

NOVAK: But that's not acknowledging. That's not acknowledging it.

HUNT: I didn't say that, Bob.

NOVAK: Let me say...

HUNT: Bob, let's get it right. I quoted (INAUDIBLE) and you interrupted and you are now misquoting me.

NOVAK: Well, the record...

HUNT: So, I -- no, no, I want you to -- you are wrong on the record.

NOVAK: No, I'm not wrong.

HUNT: You are dead wrong but go ahead.

NOVAK: It will show up Mr. Moderator.


NOVAK: But let me say this...

HUNT: I'm not taking misrepresentations, Bob.

NOVAK: You through?

HUNT: Yes, yes, I'm going to see if you are.

NOVAK: OK. I would say that Henry Hyde is -- one of the things is he was a very funny guy. We used to have him as the Santa Claus on our late and unlamented Christmas shows when we gave gifts to everybody. He had a great sense of humor.

And there's something else about Henry. I once said on the air on a different program that he'd make a great director of the CIA and he called me up. He said, "You know, that's a job I'd really like to have." I think he would have been a good CIA director.

HUNT: I think one thing we can all agree on there has never been a better guest on CAPITAL GANG than Henry Hyde and he was that...

SHIELDS: He was better than many of the panelists (INAUDIBLE).

HUNT: Coming up next in the CAPITAL GANG Classic, Senator Jim Jeffords leaves the Republican Party four years ago.


ANNOUNCER: Here's your CAPITAL GANG Trivia Question of the Week. Henry Hyde played basketball for which college? Is it a) Georgetown University; b) the University of Illinois; or, c) the University of Notre Dame? We'll have the answer right after the break. (END VIDEO CLIP)



ANNOUNCER: Before the break we asked: Henry Hyde played basketball for which college. The answer is A, Georgetown University.


HUNT: Welcome back.

Senator Jim Jeffords of Vermont surprised Washington this week by announcing he would not seek reelection. He shocked the Capitol four years ago by leaving the Republican Party and voting with Democrats to give them a two-year Senate majority.

THE CAPITAL GANG discussed this on May 26, 2001. Our guest was former Republican vice presidential nominee Jack Kemp.


CARLSON: He is a man of principle and he switched parties but not identities. He gave word to what some of us have not been able to, which is that Bush campaigned as a moderate but he's been governing as an arch conservative.

NOVAK: This was not principal and it was not (INAUDIBLE). It was expediency. It was a carefully calculated decision by Jeffords. This was the moment where he could bargain with the Democrats for committee chairman. The fact that he is a liberal means that the media says, oh, he's a man of principle.

HUNT: To call Jim Jeffords a sinister Machiavellian schemer is just utterly absurd. He's a guy who was deeply offended by a number of things. It wasn't even the White House invitation. He offered amendment to the budget thing for more money for special education. The Republicans treated that like pork.

JACK KEMP: Never in our history have we had one member of Congress switch parties in such a way after two months after being elected as a -- from his own party and throw the House or the Senate into the hands of the Daschle-Gephardt wing of the Democratic Party. I think it's a disaster for Jim. I say it out of sadness not anger.


HUNT: Mark, what did Jeffords accomplish by giving the Democrats a temporary majority?

SHIELDS: Well, I mean he changed incredibly the dynamic in this city. I mean it was really profound, Al. I mean Jesse Helms' great habit of blue slipping Senatorial nominations from his own state, vetoing them, holding them up that went right by the boards. Pat Leahy became chairman of the Judiciary Committee. Ted Kennedy became chairman of the Education and Labor.

There was a real change. George Bush would have had to deal collegially with the Senate and then 9/11 happened, so the change was essentially for three months.

HUNT: Kate.

O'BEIRNE: His change may have cost Tom Daschle his Senate seat. It put Tom Daschle front and center as an obstructionist to the president's agenda. He paid a heavy price.

And, boy was Margaret wrong back on that classic. I should have been there to straighten her out. It was totally unprincipled and opportunistic. The Republican Party had been conservative since Jim Jeffords was in the House in 1981 and, what, 20 years later he all of a sudden looks up and figures out he doesn't belong there?

HUNT: Bob.

NOVAK: I think he really might have hurt the Democrats because they did such a terrible job as the majority party while there was a Republican president the first two years of George W. Bush's administration.

I think it really hurt their chances in subsequent elections for the Senate. And I really believe the irony is the Republicans may get this seat back. Jim Jeffords could have gotten elected to it forever. But Bernie Sanders (ph), the Socialist Congressman, could get beaten if Governor Jim Douglas, the Republican, runs against him.

HUNT: Well, Bob, I think on this one you are right but I think also, and I do think it had a negative effort on the Democrats, but I think in large part it was because of what Mark said, 9/11 just changed the landscape for everything.

Next on CAPITAL GANG, we'll talk to CNN's Ryan Chilcote with his boots on the ground in Baghdad.


HUNT: Welcome back.

Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld predicted long term failure for insurgent forces in Iraq.


DONALD RUMSFELD, DEFENSE SECRETARY: They kill Iraqi security forces. They're killing Iraqis and the Iraqis don't like it and increasingly the Iraqi population will be providing greater and greater intelligence to the Iraqi security forces and they will find themselves unsuccessful over time.


HUNT: The defense secretary refused to comment on the bodies found in the Tigress River.


JALAL TALABANI, IRAQI PRESIDENT: They threw the body to the Tigress and more than 50 bodies have been brought out from the Tigress and we have the full name of those who were killed and those criminals who committed these crimes and Mr. Prime Minister Dr. Allawi is going to deal with it.


HUNT: Joining us now from Baghdad is CNN's Ryan Chilcote. Ryan, how would you assess the strength of the insurgency today?

RYAN CHILCOTE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, there's definitely been a spike in violence over the last seven to ten days here. The role that we saw that began with those landmark elections in Iraq on January 30th is definitively over and some of the U.S. military officials, at least off the record even if in a very qualified fashion, were saying that they're optimistic about breaking the back of the insurgency here in the coming months are now really not even talking about that. It's just uncertain the next step.

HUNT: Bob.

NOVAK: What is the significance of these bodies in the Tigress River? Was this just an aberration or does that indicate -- does that have some significance? And what was the impact on the Iraqi population?

CHILCOTE: Well, you know, to be honest the impact has been that Iraqis sort of accepted this almost as normal. It's very difficult and that's one of the alarming things about Iraq, particularly as a reporter, to pin down exactly what those bodies actually represent.

You know the Iraqi president initially came out and he said that they found the bodies, more than 50 Iraqis, in the Tigress River and he made it sound as if they were all from one incident, specifically from a town just south of Baghdad where there may, according to some reports, have been some sectarian violence.

But then when we spoke to the police they said that they had been collecting these bodies over the course of two weeks that there had been 57 of them and that they had no idea who had perpetrated the crime who had killed these people.

HUNT: Kate.

O'BEIRNE: Ryan, my magazine "National Review" has a cover this week about Iraq called "We're Winning" based on interviews with a lot of military commanders and administration officials who point to the increased role the Iraqis themselves are taking, both with respect to the government and with respect to the Iraqi military.

Is that the feeling you're getting that there is, notwithstanding this week an optimism based on the fact that it's now clear the insurgency is fighting fellow Iraqis?

CHILCOTE: It's a very cautious optimism. On the political front what needs to happen, of course, and this is what Iraq has been waiting now for three months since those elections is that Iraq's current politicians need to form this new government.

Everybody has been waiting for this, first and foremost the Iraqi people. It was supposed to happen this Wednesday. Now it's expected on Sunday but it keeps getting pushed back because Iraq's politicians can't find coalition.

On the military front another issue there. Iraqi security forces, yes, a dramatic improvement. There are many more, about 155,000 of them, many more than a year ago. Still, they've got a long ways to go and very importantly they're going to need a lot of infrastructure before they can operate without U.S. forces.

What U.S. forces say they've been doing up to this point because of this insurgency in the country is they've been building the offensive capabilities of that military but they don't have the backbone. They don't have the infrastructure. They can't operate at this point without the U.S. military right behind their back.

HUNT: Mark.

SHIELDS: Ryan, Joe Galloway, one of the really great combat military correspondents of our generation, Knight Ridder, spoke about a military analyst who said that the attacks showed a greater level of coordination and synchronization and perhaps a signal of resolve and perhaps an opportunity, your take on that?

I mean in other words, say they are bigger and they're bolder than just hitting, you know, a Humvee at a time or, you know, even using the improvised electronic devices. I mean why this new attack? I mean is it a new boldness, a new confidence on the part of the insurgents?

CHILCOTE: Well, you know, as the insurgency goes on, it evolves. Both sides, the tactics of both sides are evolving. And I think what we're seeing from the insurgents right now is a choice not to attack the U.S. military because, of course, where the U.S. military is there is great firepower behind every single patrol you see on the road there. There are attack helicopters and there are fixed wing aircraft that can come at a moment's notice.

So, they're choosing to go after civilian targets. They're choosing to go after not as well-equipped Iraqi security forces and they're doing it in a much more bold fashion, if you will. They used to just sort of probe and find out what they could do, attack one car here, one car there.

Right now they're going at it in a very organized fashion and they're trying to make a splash with it. Witness these attacks just over the last couple of days, the downing of that commercial helicopter that appears to have been shot down. Not only did they shoot it down but they videotaped it and that's not only for our consumption but it's for the consumption of the Iraqi people.

HUNT: Ryan, last Sunday on "Meet the Press," Dexter Filkins of "The New York Times," said if you want to go from downtown Baghdad to the airport, just to the airport, it's best to go in an armored vehicle and the cost is $35,000. I think that's right.

SHIELDS: That's right.

HUNT: That's just stunning. I mean you can't get from downtown Baghdad to the airport safely without that kind of money?

SHIELDS: And what do you tip?

CHILCOTE: Well, get this. Actually the safest way to get from downtown Baghdad to the airport is actually in the air or at least that was the case until a couple of days ago, until this commercial helicopter went down.

You know a lot of military officials and individuals choose to actually fly on a helicopter from downtown Baghdad about ten minutes across town to the airport, even though it takes two hours because it makes a lot of stops, than go even in an armored vehicle because the road out to Baghdad Airport is, and this is not joke, I've been in lots of war zones, one of the most dangerous roads in the world. It gets hit every single day by roadside bombs and suicide bombers, by people that are ambushing that road. Every single day people are killed on that road.

HUNT: Bob.

NOVAK: We only got less than 30 seconds left but do you know anybody who believes that if the coalition forces, the U.S. and the British, got out by the end of the year that the Iraqi security forces would be able to handle the insurgents?

CHILCOTE: I don't think that there's anybody that honestly in the U.S. military believes that they can get out by the end of the year and that Iraqi security forces could handle the task right now.

I think what you'll hear U.S. officials saying is that maybe by the end of the year if everything else goes perfectly, and there are lots and lots of ifs, maybe by the end of the year they could begin to consider drawing back the strength of the U.S. troops in Iraq.

But really we're looking at perhaps spring or summer and it depends on a lot of things, for one this country getting its government in order. That's the first political task ahead of it.

HUNT: Hey, thank you very much Ryan Chilcote for your really interesting insights. It was great to have you.

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


HUNT: And now for the "Outrages of the Week." Right wing religious leaders charge the fight over a few judges is all about faith. In an audio tape of a private meeting with Jim Dobson and other evangelical zealots, obtained by the "Los Angeles Times," the real agenda surfaces as they vow to "shake up squishy" Republicans like Maine Senators Snow and Collins and Chuck Hagel.

And they want Congress to just "de-fund" courts they don't like. "Congress can simply disenfranchise a court," declares Dobson, so much for the framers' notion of three independent branches of government -- Bob.

NOVAK: The leftist has another batch of nasty radio ads attacking 10 Republicans, as usual, and not as usual one respected Democrat, House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer of Maryland. He joins 72 other House Democrats voting for a bankruptcy reform that requires everybody to pay his bills. attacked Congressman Hoyer as a tool of the bankers. It was fun for Democrats taking Moveon's money supplied by leftist billionaire George Soros when it savaged Republicans, not so much fun when the poison is turned on a Democrat.

HUNT: Kate.

O'BEIRNE: Last Friday my high speed Amtrak train was abruptly cancelled. All of Amtrak's (INAUDIBLE) trains are now out of commission for several months for critical repairs. The unprofitable rail line will get $1.2 billion in federal subsidies this year. Forget Social Security, Amtrak is the first rail of American politics.

The Bush administration wants to get it off the dole and let the market maintain popular roots but too many politicians want the pork, wasteful spending, all aboard.

HUNT: Mark.

SHIELDS: Al, credit Republicans who favor investing your Social Security money in the stock market with putting their own money where their mouths are. Thanks to the Chattanooga Time Press's Michael (INAUDIBLE), we learned that Senator Majority Leader Bill Frist's campaign committee since January has lost more than $16,000 in the Bush stock market.

But since 2000, the Frist campaign committee invested in a Charles Schwab mutual fund index account has lost $500,000, that's right half a million dollars in the red. Thank goodness Bill Frist has his publicly financed retirement account to ease the blow.

HUNT: This is Al Hunt saying goodnight for THE CAPITAL GANG and thanks for joining us.

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