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CNN CAPITAL GANG
What Has Been Accomplished in President Bush's Second Term? A Military Judge Throws out PFC Lynndie England's guilty Plea
Aired May 7, 2005 - 19:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ANNOUNCER: From Washington, THE CAPITAL GANG.
AL HUNT, HOST: Welcome to THE CAPITAL GANG. I'm Al Shields, with the full gang: Mark Shields, Robert Novak, Kate O'Beirne and Margaret Carlson.
The 100-day mark of President George W. Bush's second term was reached.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. DEBORAH PRYCE (R-OH), CONFERENCE CHAIR: We're here to celebrate the fact that it's been just over 100 days in this 109th Congress, and we Republicans in the majority have delivered some real accomplishments, real solutions to many of the challenges that Americans face.
REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), MINORITY LEADER: The Republicans today are talking about the first 100 days of this session of Congress, and they're saying all the good things they've done for the economy. Well, it will be news to America's working families. Real wages are going down. The price of health care is going up.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HUNT: The president continued to press for restructure of Social Security with a new argument.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEORGE WALKER BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The system isn't fair today. And we need to make it fair. And we can make it more fair for people at the lower end of the income scale.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HUNT: Kate, at the 100-day mark, is there much that President Bush can point to as a real accomplishment?
KATE O'BEIRNE, CAPITAL GANG: Al, I think he has some very big check-offs on his to-do list. Iraq now has a cabinet. We have a democratic Iraq. Very promising developments in the Middle East. Legislation is moving on Capitol Hill, despite the bitter partisan sniping that's going on. And to his credit, I think he has put Social Security reform on the agenda.
Look, politicians would rather kick the can, let the next guy worry about it. He's determined to do everything he can to see that that's not the case. They are very big things for a president to be willing to tackle in his second term.
HUNT: Auspicious start, Margaret?
MARGARET CARLSON, CAPITAL GANG: Kate, Bush is willing to do everything he can to assure that there are private accounts, which do nothing to shore up Social Security. And to his credit, he did say he's trying to make it fairer. But he's trying to make it fairer for the poor, but he's squeezing the middle class, which is what -- much what Democrats did when they were doing Welfare. They were always squeezing the middle class, helping the poor. This is a different version of it with Social Security.
He's had a bad 100 days. Terri Schiavo -- big mistake. Social Security -- not flying. And the carnage in Iraq is, I think, a huge drag on the president. Tony Blair paid a price for that in Britain. They still care if you lie about weapons of mass destruction, and he lost 100 seats. Fortunately for Bush, he's -- he's not going to -- he's not up for reelection.
HUNT: Bob, how do you feel after 100 days?
BOB NOVAK, CAPITAL GANG: Well, you know, the first 100 days was Napoleon, and he ended up badly at Waterloo.
HUNT: Yes. Yes.
NOVAK: So it's...
HUNT: That wasn't a good precedent, was it.
NOVAK: Wasn't a good precedent. Look, the modern precedent is FDR. He had a terrific 100 days. Country was falling apart, and he put in a lot of big government legislation that sent us down the slippery slope. The 100 days is a very silly concept. It's a -- it's a reporters' concept. Doesn't mean anything, and...
CARLSON: Answer the question, Bob!
NOVAK: Nothing -- nothing much has been accomplished in his 100 days, except this. We don't have a Democratic president or a Democratic Congress passing a lot of more government programs, socialized medicine, all kinds of big spending programs. And you know, it's like Henny Youngman: How's your wife? Compared to what?
CARLSON: No, we have a Republican president and Congress passing big spending programs.
MARK SHIELDS, CAPITAL GANG: Those big government solutions, Al... HUNT: Mark...
SHIELDS: Go ahead. Excuse me.
HUNT: Well, no, go to the whole question. The big government solutions in Iraq. Iraq looking better.
SHIELDS: We had the biggest farm bill in history. We've got the biggest prescription drug plan. And now we're going to have the biggest highway bill, transportation bill in history. So I don't know where the small government...
NOVAK: I'll explain it to you if you...
SHIELDS: Bob -- fascinating. I want to hear about Waterloo and the first 100 days here...
SHIELDS: Al, there's a big difference, and the difference is the Republicans are now the majority party. And you know, the Republicans propose. They're the ones, and I think the president has become the initiator, the legislator-in-chief. It's a -- he certainly does not have a limited or pinched view of the presidency and what that job is. But the biggest problem is -- Margaret went through several of the problems, and very well.
But there's minimal enthusiasm for his signature initiative, both politically in the country and on Capitol Hill among -- among many in his own party and among all in the other party. And so that's -- that's what they're facing right now, is a very serious decision they have to make. How the hell do we get out of this? They don't want to go into 2006 with a war that's gone wrong, and it's continuing to go wrong, and Social Security on the agenda.
HUNT: Kate, he did spend 60 days of huge -- 60 cities, and the polls all show less support than there -- than there was 60 days ago.
O'BEIRNE: When you talk to -- the president, I think, has explained this himself. When you talk to people at the White House, they certainly echo it. They are where they wanted to be now with respect to, Is Social Security a problem? And polls are clearly showing that. And should Congress do something about it? Polls are showing yes, they should, sooner rather than later.
And you're seeing this flat-footed response on the part of Democrats. First notice the movement. They were saying during the president's tour, Social Security not a problem, need not do anything. They're not saying that anymore. They're now saying, Well, of course, we have to address it. But they have no alternative to the kind of ideas the president's talking about.
Now, look, they can go into the election next time around being the party of no -- no to everything, not going to do anything to address the clear problems with Social Security that the public recognizes. But the White House is convinced they'll pay a price if they do so.
HUNT: Worked for the Republicans in 1994 with health care, didn't it, Margaret?
CARLSON: Right. It did.
HUNT: Just say no?
CARLSON: And I think Democrats will be forced to come up with something if Bush takes private accounts off the table. But I don't think they have to as long as that's part of the mix and borrowing trillions of dollars is part of Bush's solution.
HUNT: Let me ask Bob about foreign policy. This -- the trip the president is taking, it's really kind of fascinating because he's going to Russia, where he's dealing with a real autocrat, who's really been quite regressive, I think, in the last year or so...
NOVAK: It may be the best thing for Russia, though.
HUNT: Well, maybe. But at the same time, he's going -- in the spirit of his -- of is inaugural address, he's going to Latvia and Georgia. It really shows the delicate balancing act, doesn't it?
NOVAK: Yes. I think it's -- I think it's very clever, and you know, Putin hates him going to Latvia, but he said, Hey, you can't tell me where I'm going to go.
Let me just say that I think it's very hypocritical on the part of Mark and Margaret to talk about big spending because every -- every time the administration puts out a spending bill, they say, We want more.
O'BEIRNE: Democrats want more, right.
NOVAK: We want more. The other thing -- the other thing is, on Social Security, I thought -- I thought it was a very good thing to start means testing, to star to work away at this fiction that this is an insurance program. It's really -- it's a -- it's a glorified Welfare program, and means testing is necessary. And it's going to come sooner or later.
NOVAK: It's just inevitable.
HUNT: Mark, is all you're for big spending?
SHIELDS: We had a Democratic president where eight years, he inherited from Bush -- Mr. Bush's father, a high -- the biggest deficit in the nation's history. And for every one of those years, the deficit went down, and the budget was ultimately balanced. This guy has been a disaster because there isn't -- they don't have the guts to turn to people like Bob Novak and say, You have to pay your fair share!
HUNT: And they had to go back to 30-year Treasury bonds because they have such a big, huge deficit, and for as far as the eye can see. And that's the last word, guys.
THE GANG of five will be back with an unexpected courtroom twist in the Abu Ghraib prison scandal.
HUNT: Welcome back. A military judge declared a mistrial in the guilty plea of PFC Lynndie England in the Iraqi Abu Ghraib prison abuse scandal. Colonel James Pohl said, quote, "There is no finding of guilt that can be accepted any longer," end quote. He reached that decision after Private England's former lover, Private Charles Graner, contradicted her sworn admission to guilt. The judge said, quote, "If you don't want to plead guilty, don't, but you can't plead guilty and then say you're not. Am I missing something here?"
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RICK HERNANDEZ, LYNNDIE ENGLAND'S DEFENSE ATTORNEY: She's taken responsibility for her part in these, but I don't think that she can pay a penalty for the actions of others. They need to pay their own price.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HUNT: Mark, what does this say about guilt for the Abu Ghraib horrendous scandal?
SHIELDS: Al, I think we definitely need a civilian inquiry into the entire -- we've had 28 detainees die in our -- in our custody. It goes beyond Abu Ghraib. But this is -- this is a case where the only people -- eight people have been now convicted, and all of them have been low-ranking enlisted personnel. And Al, it is inconceivable that people higher up in the military did not know about it, either condoned it, looked the other way, or in some cases, gave misleading orders. And it is -- what we have now, the one person, high-ranking officer, is a reserve brigadier general woman, Janis Karpinski, who's been broken to colonel. And she had responsibility with no authority. Those who had authority apparently had no responsibility.
HUNT: Pretty compelling, isn't that, Bob...
NOVAK: I think...
HUNT: ... what Mark just said?
NOVAK: I think -- I think what the trial showed is that there was no plan by some super-bureaucrat in the Pentagon to use these prisoner camps to get information for our war effort. These were just bad actors. But it does -- but at the same time, they are part of the U.S. military, and it was poor discipline. And the way I -- I was trained in my brief military career, there is command responsibility, and I don't believe this was a plan, some kind of conspiracy, but I think there is -- there has to be some command responsibility for how bad these troops were.
HUNT: Margaret, if not a planned conspiracy, was there a tone set from on high that...
CARLSON: Well, yes. If it weren't for the Polaroids, it might still be going on. Let's be clear here. And that this kind of weak girl with the illegitimate baby will be going to prison for this and no one other than Charles Graner, you know, it's a -- it's a preposterous thought. This is the military that depends on discipline -- that these were people who were doing something that was going to get them demoted? It's ridiculous! This few bad apples is now completely exposed for what it is.
HUNT: It's a whole orchard, isn't it, Kate?
O'BEIRNE: Talking about the photographs we all saw of the shocking abuse -- that's what we're talking about -- they themselves in the course of their court-martials have explained it was their own idea. Prior to abusing those in their custody in this way, they were taking pictures of each other naked and taking pictures of each other having sex with each other. Now, what climate was created by anybody senior to them that led to the X-rated photographs that they were all taking?
A hundred and thirty people face discipline owning to the breakdown in discipline at Abu Ghraib. I don't know why -- well, I do understand. They think there's some partisan advantage in wanting to scapegoat people. I guess -- what do you want, General Sanchez? How far up do you want to go? When, indeed, he had nothing to do with the Abu Ghraib photographs, and the Schlesinger commission found -- determined, fully investigating it, that in turn, those pictures had nothing to do with interrogations. These sickos were amusing themselves.
HUNT: Some POWs, like Orson Swindle (ph), I think even John McCain, have had trouble accepting that it was only the low-level...
SHIELDS: That's right. And Lieutenant General Sanchez -- the penalty he has is he's not going to get his fourth star. Now, that's a big difference, not getting your fourth star, because he did approve the most severe interrogation procedures at...
O'BEIRNE: That has nothing to do...
HUNT: ... both Guantanamo...
O'BEIRNE: ... with those photographs!
HUNT: ... at Guantanamo -- I'm talking about the death of detainees. I'm talking about a problem that goes through the entire system of this war. And the reality is that he gets to lose his fourth star and retires with only three stars, and other people are pounding rocks for six years. I mean, now, wait a minute. There seems to be a disproportion -- disproportion here.
I'd point out one thing, Al -- 90 percent of the casualties in this war have been enlisted personnel. They aren't officers. They're -- 90 percent of them have been sergeants and privates and corporals. And now 90 percent -- 99 percent plus 1 of the people who are going to be held accountable for this are going to be enlisted personnel.
O'BEIRNE: And a woman general...
O'BEIRNE: A woman general should not be held accountable?
HUNT: Let's let Margaret in...
O'BEIRNE: Why, because she's a woman?
HUNT: Let's let Margaret in, and then Bob.
CARLSON: Lynndie England was doing what she thought Sergeant Graner, her lover, wanted her to do. Sergeant Graner was doing what he thought would get him ahead. This is how the military works.
NOVAK: No. I disagree with that completely, and I...
NOVAK: I want to show why I disagree with -- with Mark. I don't believe this is a -- this was a plan to abuse prisoners, as the left- wing propaganda in Europe has. I do believe it was a breakdown in discipline. It was unquestioned. But I think these -- these people, Margaret, were not doing it to get ahead. They were doing it to have fun! They were having just one hell of a good time...
CARLSON: So people get in the military...
NOVAK: ... doing this!
CARLSON: ... and become monsters for no reason. They were...
NOVAK: They were -- they were monsters before they got in the military, but they were supposed to be disciplined.
CARLSON: I don't think so.
NOVAK: Here, the military didn't make them do that, but they didn't control them! That's what's sad about it.
O'BEIRNE: General Karpinski's been busted in rank.
HUNT: You know, that would be a little bit more convincing if this were an isolated case...
CARLSON: Totally isolated...
HUNT: ... of torture. It's not an isolated case.
CARLSON: It's not. It wasn't...
O'BEIRNE: It was despicable. It was abusive. It was unconnected, according to the Schlesinger commission -- it had nothing to do with interrogation. They were amusing themselves in this block!
HUNT: I think anyone who looks at those -- at those pictures will conclude that that was torture. But Mark, go ahead.
SHIELDS: Yes. No, I mean, the accountability, Bob, is the problem here. And there isn't accountability up the chain of command. The chain of command somehow ends with a broken sergeant who's now a private.
O'BEIRNE: Mark, you can only go where the evidence leads you! You can't scapegoat people because you want to see senior officers walk the plank!
SHIELDS: I want to see...
O'BEIRNE: If they have no responsibility.
SHIELDS: I want to see people being held accountable, and that's...
O'BEIRNE: Well, there have been 10 investigations, Mark, and not one of them has found the accountability you are dying to see!
SHIELDS: That -- that is...
O'BEIRNE: Based on the facts!
SHIELDS: That is the jurisprudence...
O'BEIRNE: There have been 10!
SHIELDS: ... that we invoked after World War II.
O'BEIRNE: There have been 10 investigations, Mark!
HUNT: The officers are held accountable.
O'BEIRNE: The facts don't fit the way you want to go!
HUNT: That is the final word. Next on CAPITAL GANG: Did a Pentagon official share too much information with friends of Israel? (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
HUNT: Welcome back. Federal agents arrested Pentagon analyst Larry Franklin and charged him with illegally giving classified information on Iraq to the members of a pro-Israeli lobbying organization.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOHN RICHARDS, LARRY FRANKLIN'S ATTORNEY: Mr. Franklin was served with a criminal complaint today. We intend to plead not guilty. We intend to vigorously defend the case, and we expect that the judicial system is going to exonerate him.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HUNT: Bob, does the arrest of Larry Franklin have anything to do or any impact on U.S.-Israeli relations?
NOVAK: I think it had a lot to do with it. You know, the Israelis claim this -- this is AIPAC. Well, AIPAC is a -- is a function of the Israeli government. It's a lobbying function. And to have a mole inside the Pentagon giving them classified information -- but the point is that all the information out -- and this is put out by U.S. officials -- this information was going from AIPAC to the Israeli government. And they were -- Franklin was cooperating with them until one of the television networks broke -- broke the story and stopped the investigation.
But this is -- this -- Israel had promised they would no longer do espionage with the United States. They broke their promise. And to me, it is amazing how little interest there is in this in the media and how little interest there is it in high levels of the government because I think it's an outrage.
HUNT: Kate, the Israelis broke their promise?
O'BEIRNE: He's not being charged with espionage, Bob. Look, one of the causes that brilliant late Senator Moynihan adopted was the argument that far too much in the American government is classified. I think he's probably right about that. But as long as it is, individuals don't get to decide whether or not it ought to be and therefore share it. But this is a very widespread practice, sharing classified information with typically the media. This very week, "The New York Times" reported that they got from an anonymous a classified document. So the reaction typically depends on what the person's motives were. I submit that...
HUNT: You don't think a newspaper getting a classified document is the same as somebody giving something to a lobbying group.
O'BEIRNE: I feel strongly about anybody who has custody of it not sharing classified information. In this particular case, had he been trying to recruit friends of Great Britain to help him make the case he wanted to make, or friends of Italy, I submit Bob wouldn't be talking about it. NOVAK: Yes, I would.
O'BEIRNE: And that's how people treat...
NOVAK: Yes, I would.
O'BEIRNE: ... these leaks in this town.
HUNT: That's all it was, Mark?
SHIELDS: No. I think -- the question -- I don't have the answer to it, but why did AIPAC have the need to classified information on proposed U.S. -- attacks on U.S. troops in Iraq, let alone why did they have any right to it? But I mean, that just -- that confuses me and confounds me.
This thing takes on a subtext in the war in Iraq. Let's be very frank about it. Franklin worked for Doug Feith. Doug Feith was a neocon. He worked for Paul Wolfowitz. The speculation has been that the -- one of the reasons the neocons wanted to go to war against Saddam was to -- Iraq -- was to remove Saddam Hussein, to make Iraq into a democracy, then Israel would be safer. And...
O'BEIRNE: We're all safer with Iraq a democracy!
SHIELDS: Now, I mean, that...
O'BEIRNE: Americans are safer!
SHIELDS: That was -- that was -- you know, hey, I mean, the United States didn't have (INAUDIBLE) much threat from Saddam Hussein. Let's be very frank about that. That's -- that's one thing that I think even the hardest of the neocons have to acknowledge, at this point, that there weren't any weapons and there was no capacity to deliver them.
HUNT: Yes. Margaret, I don't know what the facts are here, but it seems to me that what -- whatever happened, it pales next to the awful case years ago of Jonathan Pollard, the spy, the terribly spy who spied on behalf of the Israeli government...
CARLSON: Who was paid for it, yes.
HUNT: ... who committed treason.
HUNT: ... and that didn't affect U.S.-Israeli relations, so why should this?
CARLSON: Right. It didn't. He was paid for it. And Israel promised after that never to do it again. Now, in fact, Franklin wasn't paid. I think that's one of the facts that we do know, even though some of the facts are messy.
I agree with Mark on everything he said, and also wonder -- can't Israel pick up the phone and call somebody here and find out what they want? Because I mean, they're our ally, and -- and it doesn't have to be leaked from a classified document.
NOVAK: You say you can't explain it. I don't think there's any question that AIPAC operates as -- in this case, as a conduit to the Israeli government. That's what -- that's what they were being used for, and that's why -- and when you give -- when you give classified information to a foreign government, Kate, whether we charge him with espionage or not, it is espionage.
NOVAK: The same -- just the other -- the other...
O'BEIRNE: Bob, you don't know that!
NOVAK: The other...
O'BEIRNE: No, you do not know that!
NOVAK: The other -- the other question is -- is the fact that this was obviously a part of the new neocon thing which is connected with Iran. And it is to show that our great danger now comes from Iran, and that's what all this information with Franklin is involved, and Franklin is supposed to be upset that we are not being attentive enough to Iran. And I have talked to some neocon people in the last week, and they say that we went in the wrong place in Iraq. We should have gone into Iran.
HUNT: Kate, elaborate on what Bob doesn't know. I mean, I don't...
O'BEIRNE: He has no...
HUNT: We don't have a whole show for that...
O'BEIRNE: He has no idea what those two individuals, AIPAC, would do! You have no idea! There have been a lot of hostile leaks about this case. In fact, the story has changed from when we first read about it over a year ago because there've been a lot of hostile leaks of a supposedly classified FBI investigation.
NOVAK: You say the information was not -- was not -- that this was not supposed to be a conduit into the Israeli government?
O'BEIRNE: You have no way of knowing that, Bob! I have no -- I don't know that that's the case, and you don't know, either!
HUNT: Quickly, Mark.
SHIELDS: Hey, Al, foreign policy also follows election returns, and George Bush was able to go to war in Iraq because he had Tony Blair as his partner to give him the fiction of a coalition. And I'll say this. After the results of the election in Britain yesterday, there -- Britain will not sign on for an invasion of Iran. HUNT: OK, Mark. That is the last word. Coming up next in the second half: Should D.C. residents have a congressman? We'll go "Beyond the Beltway" to discuss Iran, getting rough on nuclear weapons. And our "Outrages of the Week," all after the break.
CAROL LIN, CNN ANCHOR, CNN SATURDAY: Good evening, I'm Carol Lin. More of CAPITAL GANG in just a moment, but first a look at what's happening, right "Now in the News".
President Bush is in the Netherlands on his tour marking the 60th anniversary of the Allied victory in Europe. Thousands of anti-Iraq war activists are protesting his visit. One called it an insult that Mr. Bush is going to their war cemetery.
Two American contractors were among 22 people killed by a suicide car bomber in Baghdad today. The explosion occurred next to an SUV convoy. Elsewhere an American Marine was killed by a roadside bomb and an Iraqi civilian was shot dead in northern Iraq.
Pope Benedict XVI continues his predecessor's tough stance against abortion and euthanasia. The pontiff outlined his papal vision at the Vatican today during his last official installation ceremony. He said church teaching defends life, quote, "from conception to natural death."
That is what's happening right now in the news. I'm Carol Lin. Now back to the CAPITAL GANG.
HUNT: Welcome back to the second half the CAPITAL GANG.
Republican Tom Davis, of Virginia, proposed that the District of Columbia be given a voting member in the House of Representatives to be balance politically by a new House member from Utah.
Congressman Davis said, quote, "You're spending hundreds of millions of dollar to bring democracy to Baghdad and the capital of Afghanistan. What are we doing here in the nation's capital, which is the capital of the free world?"
The proposal was endorsed by District of Columbia Mayor Anthony Williams. The House Democratic leader was asked whether she would vote yes or no on the bill.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
NANCY PELOSI (D), HOUSE MINORITY LEADER: When they bring it to the floor I'll respond to your question. But let me say this, there are those in the District of Columbia who do oppose this approach. And everyone has his or her own role in all of this.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HUNT: Pro or con? Is the Davis plan a good idea or not? I will go first. And I will not be as equivocating as Nancy Pelosi. It is absolutely a good idea. If you want to go further it ought to be in the Senate, too. I think Tom Davis is right. This is taxation without representation.
And that must offend you, Bob.
NOVAK: Nancy is right. There are people in the District of Columbia, like me, who think this is a bad idea. Con, I'm against it. I don't think we need any representation. We're in the federal city and we're represented by the president and the vice president.
CARLSON: That's all the more reason.
I'm for it!
Listen, the District of Columbia is third in amount of taxes paid per capita. We send people to fight the wars. I think we're somewhere in the top third of states in casualties in 20th century wars, and on and on. So, of course, we should have representation. And not just the House, the Senate as well.
BEIRNE: I think it's a bad idea. And of course, Margaret's wrong, D.C. is not in the top third of states. The reason D.C. does not have representation in Congress is D.C. is not a state. Tell it to the founders, Margaret. And if you want to change it, fine. Let's have -- let's amend the Constitution.
But I think Tom Davis actually weakens his case by this cute deal with Utah. The case for representation he ought to be able to make on its merits and try to make a principled case. I think he sort of weakens it by trying to come up with an extra Republican someplace.
SHIELDS: Kudos to Tom Davis. At a time when Washington is Balkanized and polarized politically, he reaches across the aisle, he does something big, and large and bi-partisan.
And, Al, I'd point out this, Margaret is right. In World War II a higher percentage of Washington residents served in the military than that of any of the 50 states. In Vietnam, more Washington citizens died in combat than did 10 states, all of which have votes. We're old enough to fight, old enough to die, old enough to vote. What's wrong? What's the justice on these people? I mean, who do they think we are? They think that people in the District don't bleed? Don't care? Don't love their children? Don't love their country? They do!
CARLSON: Yeah! O'BEIRNE: Before the Revolutionary War the founders were aware of that and they have a special status as a federal city, they can become part of Maryland if they want to be represented in Congress.
NOVAK: Let me say right now, that there are plenty of solutions to this thing. And being part of Maryland is one of them. This is one of the worst ideas I've ever heard. Tom Davis used Democratic rhetoric, if they can vote in Baghdad, they can't vote in Washington. That's what the Democrats are talking about all year. But as a matter of fact, this is a cheap, tawdry stunt.
NOVAK: Yes, I'll tell you why. Because the guy, the congress person from the District of Columbia will be a Democrat. There is no question about that. So, to balance it they have an extra person from Utah, who will be a Republican. And that balances it all. And it is cheap politics. And it is in -- I live in the District of Columbia, I love being in the District of Columbia, even though --
CARLSON: And aren't you registered as a Democrat?
HUNT: Well, Bob, did you consider it a tawdry trick when they brought in Hawaii and Alaska?
O'BEIRNE: As states.
HUNT: Did you consider that a tawdry trick? I mean, that one was going to be Democrat, one was going to be Republican? That tawdry?
NOVAK: I won't even dignify that.
HUNT: Because you're not sure -- because he's not sure what his answer is. It's nice to have Bob uncertain.
SHIELDS: Kate's worshipful attitude toward the Founding Fathers -- who by the way, denied the vote to women, denied -- and said all blacks should come as three-fifths. They weren't inspired. They weren't speaking ex capita (ph). They were wise patriotic and noble men, but let's not genuflect before them.
O'BEIRNE: Mark, amend the Constitution; that's what you have to do if you want --
SHIELDS: You don't have to -- Ken Starr -- Ken Starr, a conservative legal scholar --
NOVAK: What's you answer to that?
SHIELDS: And several others say it is unnecessary. The Congress can do this. The Congress apportions the Congress itself and --
(CROSS TALK) NOVAK: I want to add one other thing.
HUNT: You add something.
NOVAK: That when I came to this town in 1957, a long time ago. We didn't have home rule and we had three-appointed commissioners and it was a much better run city when we didn't elect the mayor.
HUNT: It was a city that was racist. It was city wouldn't let blacks go to restrooms.
NOVAK: That's true.
HUNT: It was a city that had school desegregation.
NOVAK: Brown vs. Board of Education --
HUNT: In 1957, D.C. was really a terribly backwater town. It is a much better town today and they deserve representation.
NOVAK: What about potholes?
SHIELDS: Robert Novak came to town and changed it.
HUNT: It has become a better city since Bob Novak moved to it, now we just want to give him representation.
The "CAPITAL GANG Classic": The Social Security debate five years ago.
ANNOUNCER: Here's your CAPITAL GANG trivia question of the week. What year did District of Columbia residents first cast votes in a presidential election?
Was it A., 1872; B., 1880; or C., 1964?
We'll have the answer right after the break.
ANNOUNCER: Before the break we asked: What year did District of Columbia resident first cast votes in a presidential election? The answer is C: 1964.
HUNT: Welcome back. The current debate on Social Security restructuring began in the 2000 campaign when Al Gore hammered George W. Bush for proposing private accounts. The CAPITAL GANG discussed this five years ago this week, May 6, 2000. Our guest was then- Secretary of Health and Human Services Donna Shalala.
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O'BEIRNE: You see George Bush, like dancing on the third rail of American politics by proposing a partial privatization. I think the politics of this has changed dramatically driven in no small part by 80 million people investing in the market, even at very modest income levels and being more familiar with it.
HUNT: I think it is, when you get to the details, whether he's going to have the individual invested or the government invested, that is going to be critically important to keep a defined benefits plan. There are huge transitional costs. This will cost as much as a billio -- excuse me, a trillion dollars over the next 10 years.
DONNA SHALALA, SECRETARY, DEPT. OF HHS: I'm so surprised that anyone would even suggest that Americans want their Social Security system changed. It is an interesting idea; it's an interesting academic proposal to think about individual investment accounts. They're risky. They're expensive to administer.
NOVAK: You know, Al, the $1 trillion transitional costs, that is highly debatable. And that's the scare tactics that we're going to get on this. What scares the death out of Al Gore and the Democrats, that everybody is going to be a capitalist in this country and the labor bosses won't have the control.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HUNT: Margaret, has the debate changed in the last five years?
CARLSON: I know we could just press a button and go around the table here.
The $1 trillion is highly debatable, because it is $2 or $3 trillion now. You know one thing that's missing now, we don't talk about the lockbox, which it became a joke on "Saturday Night Live" for Al Gore. However, Bush raids it all the time. For the $106 billion- tax cut in this budget, you know, he's taken part of it out of the Social Security surplus. It's gone.
HUNT: Raiding the lockbox, Bob?
NOVAK: There is no Social Security fund, I've said that several times.
HUNT: You have.
NOVAK: It doesn't exist.
I think it's interesting that the same arguments are being made, but the debate was much nicer five years ago. It hadn't become so coarse and so hardened. You know, people were willing to make concessions.
I was glad that you mentioned the word "privatization". Nobody can mention the word "privatization". I'd love to privatize --
CARLSON: Because we know what a sham it is.
NOVAK: I want to privatize Social Security.
CARLSON: It's a bad word.
HUNT: But, Kate, every time I used that term or used it before when I wrote a column, someone from the White House or Bill Thomas would upbraid me and say, "No, it's not!" But you're right, it is.
CARLSON: Personal accounts.
O'BEIRNE: Democrats have done a darn good job of demagoguing that privatization issue. What I should have anticipated is that with so many millions of new shareholders, that is enormously threatening to the liberals. They want people to depend on Washington. They don't want people more familiar with the markets, friendlier to pro- business --
HUNT: Is that what it is, Mark?
O'BEIRNE: -- having a stake in the system.
SHIELDS: You know one of the great mistakes that Bush and the Republicans and my colleagues on this panel have made, repeatedly, is talking about the investor class. I mean, I have to say, people think of themselves as Catholics, Protestants, or Jews or workers or veterans or non-veterans, of fathers or parents.
Nobody thinks -- I'm a member of the investment class! Let's join the investment class!
HUNT: Mark, you are dead wrong. I know somebody who considers himself as part of the investment class and he is big time.
And next on CAPITAL GANG, Iran moves toward nuclear weapons.
HUNT: Welcome back.
Iran hardened its stand against cooperation on limiting its nuclear development.
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KAMAL KHARAZZI, IRANIAN FOREIGN MINISTER: It is unacceptable that some tend to limit access to peaceful nuclear technology to an exclusively -- to an exclusive club of technologically advanced states on the pretext of non-proliferation.
RICHARD BOUCHER, SPOKESMAN, STATE DEPARTMENT: Iran needs to look beyond just negotiating to how they can step forward and resolve the concerns the international community has about the years and years of covert programs they've been conducting in the direction of developing nuclear weapons.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HUNT: Joining us now, Ray Takeyh, senior fellow with the Council on Foreign Relations, an expert on Iran.
Ray, why is Iran taking a tougher position at this particular time?
RAY TAKEYH, SR. FELLOW, COUNCIL ON FOREIGN RELATIONS: Actually, the position that Foreign Minister Kharazzi mentioned has always been the Iranian position. Mainly, they have a right to develop nuclear technology and nuclear facilities, indigenously develop uranium, in compliance with MPT (ph), obligations. So that is not necessarily a new perspective that he was offering. But it has been a perspective of Iranians all along.
NOVAK: Ray, is the place where the Europeans, and the United States and the International Agency are going? Does this all lead to ultimate acceptance of Iran as a full member of the nuclear club with weapons?
TAKEYH: I don't think, on the issue of weapons. What we're talking about in terms of EU III/Iran negotiations is a more limited issue of Iran having a right to process uranium and indigenously develop it. Now, the suspicion is that once Iran has that capability it is very close to actually a weapons capability, so, essentially could misuse a civilian program for military purposes.
I believe that ultimately the Europeans and international community will accept Iran having an uranium enrichment capability, that the United States currently doesn't. But in terms actually accepting Iran as a nuclear weapons state, that is still a bridge too far.
CARLSON: Ray, is Iran emboldened at all by General Myers report, and their own observation that the United States is busy elsewhere and that the military is stretched, more than it has been in recent years?
TAKEYH: They are certainly much more confident today than they were April 2003. In a sense, not only that the United States military is pre-occupied with stabilization of Iraq, but mainly that the international consensus that United States would need for a multi- lateral sanction regime, enacted through the United Nations, or much less a military action against Iran. It simply does not exist at this particular point.
The Iraq war has something to do with that. Credibility of American intelligence has something to do with that. But at any rate, the international community doesn't seem to have an appetite for another confrontation with another Middle Eastern state over issues of proliferation, predicated on American intelligence assertions.
O'BIERNE: Ray, the State Department has determined, again, for 2004, that Iran has the most active state sponsored terrorism. Combined with a nuclear capability, that of course, posses an enormous threat to many of us. Can Russia -- can they, and are they willing to be helpful here, given the enormous possible threat from Iran?
TAKEYH: The Russians, in my view, are actually less important of players as Iran's nuclear program proceeds. Because increasingly Iranians have the capability of manufacturing their own program, using their own indigenous capabilities and they no longer rely on export from other countries.
The critical actors here, today, are the European Union, particularly the EU III, Britain, France, and Germany, who are negotiating with Iran -- and the IAEA. Mr. ElBaradei is absolutely critical to any sort of a multilateral sanction that may be proposed against Iran, because if he continues to say what he has been saying, rather persistently, that there is no indication that Iran is misusing its nuclear technology for military purposes, it is very difficult to get international consensus.
SHIELDS: Ray, without any fear of sort of organized European sanctions taking any real form, without any fear of unilateral U.S. action against them, where will Iran be one year from now? And what will it's role be in the Middle East?
TAKEYH: I suspect one year from now Iran will likely to have some sort of a pilot enrichment program that will be acceptable to the international community. And it's role in the Middle East is increasingly going to be a more assertive power in terms of the fact that it has much influence over prospective Iraqi government which has strong Shia representative and has a lot of influence in Afghanistan and is very much involved in the process of reconstruction there. So it is becoming a more important regional player, along with the United States perhaps one of the more important regional players in the Persian Gulf.
HUNT: Ray, let me ask you about the seemingly endless discussions we have about the internal dynamics in Iran; the leadership, the hardliners versus those who are supposedly less confrontational, are the people pro-Western, anti-Western? Give us your sense of where it is today.
TAKEYH: This is largely now a conservative consolidated government, in the sense that the debate in Iran is between hardliners and extreme hardliners. So the idea of reformers, moderates, liberals, no longer has the sort of salience that it did in 1997 or even in year 2001, with the election of the reformist president Mohamad (INAUDIBLE). I mean, this is a strongly conservative government. With elections coming up on June 17, the office of presidency is likely to be reclaimed by the conservatives.
So there is a great degree of ideological consistency in Iranian government that had not been evident before.
NOVAK: Ray, we have less than a minute left. The neo- conservatives, some of them with very good ties into the Pentagon, say that if the United States would really wage a campaign against Iran that the masses in Iran would turn against the government, the government is very unpopular and waiting for something like this. This may sound familiar, but do you think there is any credibility to that argument?
TAKEYH: It is partially accurate, in a sense there is a considerable degree of popular disenchantment with the government. It is inaccurate in suggesting there is an organized opposition willing to take to the streets similar to what happened in Ukraine and elsewhere to actually undermine and overthrow the government. We haven't see that yet, but the notion that the Iranian theocracy is highly unpopular, very inefficient, largely corrupt, that indictment is accurate.
HUNT: Hey, Ray, thank you so much. As always bringing great light to this subject.
TAKEYH: Thank you.
HUNT: The GANG will be back with our "Outrages of the Week".
HUNT: Now, for the "Outrages of the Week".
Amid all the complaining from corporate executives about the cost of Sarbanes-Oxley, the corporate governance law passed after the Enron scandal, it's instructive to look at the criminal trial of HealthSouth executives. What emerges is that the HealthSouth accounting scams, which deceived investors, ended only because of the need to comply with Sarbanes-Oxley. With too much corporate insider duplicity and too many non-performing CEOs getting lavish perks we need more accountability, like Sarbanes-Oxley, not less.
NOVAK: Calvin Coolidge, Vermont's greatest son, rhapsodized about brace little Vermont. Now, Vermont is laboratory for left-wing aberrations. Ignored elsewhere in America the state's house of representatives has passed a single payer healthcare system, abolishing private health insurance and financed by a massive tax increase. Yes, it really is socialized medicine. We know about it thanks to Vermont's dowdy disciple of freedom, John McClaughery, writing in the "Wall Street Journal".
The Vermont plan cannot work. But would be a socialist model for the rest of America if brought to final passage.
CARLSON: How Bush claimed he was stopping genocide in Darfur, but lately his State Department won't even use the word and they have low-balled both the number of troops needed and the dead. It's 400,000; growing by 500 daily.
Bush then sent orders to House leaders to strip the Corzine/Brownback bill that would have frozen the assets of the genocide's leaders and imposed an internationally backed no-fly zone. How can Bush, who vowed to end tyranny and suffering in his inaugural address, gut the very law that would have end the killing, mutilation, rape of thousands of innocents?
O'BEIRNE: In these days of bloated federal budgets it is passe to talk about eliminating wasteful agencies, but the Small Business Administration at least has some explaining to do. A report from the agency found that in 2002 about $2 billion in federal contracts, aimed at small business, went to large firms. The SBA had refused to release the report until hauled into court.
In today's Washington, we now even have a big business administration.
SHIELDS: Al, former Senator Frank Murkowski, the Alaska Republican, went to the U.S. Trust Territory, the Marianna's, to inspect the sweatshop government industry, garment industry, where immigrants, mostly from China work for half the U.S. minimum wage, 12 hours a day, often seven days a week and live un-free, behind barbed wire. All so manufacturers could make a blood-drenched profit.
Murkowski's bill, to give those workers the protection of U.S. law, passed the U.S. Senate unanimously. But one man, Tom DeLay, along with his pal, lobbyist Jack Abramoff, guaranteed the workers continued abuse by ever denying a House vote on Frank Murkowski's bill.
HUNT: This is Al Hunt saying good night for the CAPITAL GANG. And thanks for joining us.
LIN: Good evening, I'm Carol Lin. CNN presents a look inside infidelity next. But first, here's what's happening right now.
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