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Senate Foreign Relations Committee Holds Final Debate on John Bolton; President Bush ruffles Russian Feathers

Aired May 14, 2005 - 19:00   ET


AL HUNT, HOST: Welcome to THE CAPITAL GANG. I'm Al Hunt, with Mark Shields, Robert Novak and Margaret Carlson. Our guest is Republican senator John Sununu from New Hampshire, a member of the Foreign Relations committee.

John, as always, it's great to have you here.


HUNT: Thanks for being here.

The Senate Foreign Relations Committee held its final debate on John Bolton as ambassador to the United Nations.


SEN. JOE BIDEN (D), DELAWARE: I don't believe it's in the interest, the national interest, to have an ideologue who appears to have no governor on his internal engine representing the United States at the U.N.

SEN. GEORGE ALLEN (R), VIRGINIA: We are not electing Mr. Congeniality. We do not need Mr. Milquetoast in the United States. We're not electing Mr. Peepers to go there and just be really happy and drinking tea with their pinkies up and just saying all these -- these meaningless things when we do need a straight talker and someone who's going to go there and shake it up.


HUNT: For the second time, Republican senator George Voinovich of Ohio surprised by opposing the nomination.


SEN. GEORGE VOINOVICH (R), OHIO: It is my concern that the confirmation of John Bolton would send a contradictory and negative message to the world community about U.S. intentions.


HUNT: Would Senator Voinovich create a tie vote, thereby keeping the nomination off the Senate floor?


VOINOVICH: I'm not prepared to think that I should impose my judgment and perspective of the U.S. position in the world community on the rest of my colleagues.


HUNT: The committee then voted 10 to 8 to send the nomination to the full Senate without recommendation.

Mark, the Democrats going to block Bolton?

MARK SHIELDS, CAPITAL GANG: Not without Republicans, Al, but, you know, George -- I think George Allen's identified it. I mean, the pinkie. I mean, you can't have someone with a pinkie out there at the U.N. or any other place.



SHIELDS: No, I think, Al, if I were John Bolton, I'd take great consolation in the words of my principal supporter on the committee, the chairman, Dick Lugar, very respected member from Indiana, who gave a ringing endorsement, which was, There is no evidence that he has broken any laws or engaged in any serious ethical misconduct.

Now, if you're going to put together a resume, you probably don't want to start with that as your principal reference. But the irony is that what John -- the votes that are going to have to be twisted and convinced to vote for John Bolton in the Senate could very well jeopardize the filibuster.

HUNT: John, how do you look at it? Are you going to be able to keep most Republicans other than Senator Voinovich on...

SUNUNU: Well, I think most Republicans have been following the hearings. They've looked at this information previous to the delay in the last three weeks, and I think most have already made up their minds, committed to supporting John Bolton for a number of reasons. One, even after this delay, a lot of the allegations that were made turned out to be uncorroborated or exaggerated. Two, John Bolton has a history of working with the U.N. effectively, helped to strengthen the world food program, one of the parts of the U.N. that really works well, worked with the Security Council dealing with the "Zionism is racism" resolution that was repealed. He's worked on non- proliferation issues and made an important difference in that area.

So he's done the job before. He's the kind of person that needs to be there to help Mark Malek Brown (ph), Kofi Annan's chief of staff, with the reform process. And the votes are there. I don't know that it will be voted on next week. I think there will be a little bit of a delay, a little bit of posturing on this. But I think he'll be endorsed and get the vote of a majority in the Senate.

HUNT: Votes are there, Margaret? CARLSON: Probably. You know, if you listened to Senator Lugar speech, he could have voted against the nomination until he pivoted to, He didn't break any laws, which is a dangerously low standard for a U.N. ambassador. And during the week, to reassure senators who were alarmed by some of the evidence, which you didn't find persuasive but which is, you know -- the parts about taking intelligence and changing it to suit your -- your opinion, I think, was serious. Forget about the bullying and the...


CARLSON: ... the bullying and the arrogance. Just let me finish. Condi Rice said, I'll be supervising him, closely supervising him, which I guess makes her Bolton's Dick Cheney.

BOB NOVAK, CAPITAL GANG: Well, that's picking...

HUNT: Robert?

NOVAK: That's picking things out of what she said. Dick Lugar is never really enthusiastic about anybody. That's the way -- that's his style. This is -- I think is an extraordinarily good appointment. He is -- I've known John Bolton for many years. He -- his problem is he's a conservative, and he's anti-Castro. And he's got Chris Dodd going after his throat, as Dodd goes after anybody who is anti-Castro, and it is a disgrace.

I think Bolton is a -- is a -- he's delivered -- devoted his whole life to public service. I think he'd be an excellent ambassador. And to see the whole Democratic Party just like slugs going after him in unison is a -- turns my stomach.

What's going to happen is they're going to do the -- the judge thing first, the judges, before they get to this. So it's going to be a while before he's confirmed, which is a disgrace.

SUNUNU: This issue of twisting intelligence, though, has to be addressed because that wasn't what the allegations and the confrontations were about. They were about the process used to clear information, in cases where, on the record, it was clear that procedures for clearing information was not followed by Mr. Westerman -- that's what the confrontation was about -- cases where staff members claimed falsely that John Bolton hadn't properly cleared a speech and started spreading that rumor on Capitol Hill and elsewhere -- bad procedure, bad process.

These are the things that created the controversy. No -- no allegations of the high-profile issues that were addressed in the committee had to do with trying to...

CARLSON: Colin Powell...

SUNUNU: ... twist or change intelligence.

CARLSON: Colin Powell's chief...

SUNUNU: That's just not true.

CARLSON: ... of staff said that he had to be closely supervised, so much so that Richard Armitage, deputy secretary of state, said he wouldn't let anything go out of the building without personally looking at it because Bolton wanted to stretch the truth.

HUNT: Well, and whatever the merits were, it went well beyond Cuba, Bob. I mean, there was the ambassador to South Korea...


HUNT: ... who went in and complained about him. Whether it was -- you know, whether it's persuasive or not, this was a much broader- based critique.

SHIELDS: Well, George Voinovich has always been soft on Castro, too. I think that -- we ought to get that out on the record.

HUNT: Mark -- and that is a compelling final word. John Sununu and THE GANG will be back with the Democrats offering a deal on judge confirmations.


HUNT: Welcome back. Senator Minority Leader Harry Reid offered to permit a vote on four of the judicial nominations being blocked by Democratic filibusters.


SEN. BILL FRIST (R-TN), MAJORITY LEADER: I appreciate his offer for -- for a Senate debate and votes on some of the president's judicial nominees, but I just want to say once again that it is that principle of an up-or-down vote that is going to govern this side of the aisle.

SEN. ROBERT BYRD (D), WEST VIRGINIA: Chilling debate, freedom of speech in the United States Senate. Hah (ph). Hah (ph). Who wishes, Mr. Leader, to have that kind of a legacy to confront him, that he killed -- helped to kill freedom of speech in the United States Senate?


HUNT: Bob, why would Senator Frist refuse an offer to break the deadlock?

NOVAK: Because the whole system (INAUDIBLE) you're not going to have -- like going to a concentration camp and picking out which people go to the death chamber. You're not going to let the Democrats do that, say, We're going to -- we're going to confirm this person, we're not going to confirm the other person. They're going to -- they're going to say that this is not the way we're going to do it. They've had all kinds of different offers of that kind.

Now, as a matter of fact, I believe that this -- this constitutional option is going to work. I think it's going to -- they're going to get the 50 votes that are needed. There's no -- it's going to take a couple weeks, but there's -- there's not going to be any Democratic -- maybe it'll take less than a couple weeks. Not going to be a Democratic alternative to it. And all they can do is decide how much they're going to do to have a reprisal. So that's why they're putting out commercials on what a wonderful thing the filibuster is -- is most famous in American history for killing -- for -- for establishing racist -- racism and segregation in the South.

HUNT: This is a racist legacy, Mark?

SHIELDS: All, you know, if hypocrisy were a felony, they couldn't get a quorum in the Senate at this point. Thirty of the fifty-five senators on the Republican side have all employed methods, extra-legal methods, to prevent votes -- John Sununu not among them because John Sununu is too late to the game to do it. But every one of the others -- Rick Santorum, one of the real change agents in this whole system, he had a wonderful judge, highly rated, totally rated for the ABA, rated -- endorsed by every newspaper in the state, by every major legal organization in the state of Pennsylvania -- he blue-slipped him, Al. That's what you do, just prevent someone from ever getting a vote -- 65 judges.

Now, I mean, let's -- let's not pretend that all of a sudden, this is some new system. The reality is that in the past, there was a comity that was worked out in the Senate in the vast majority of cases. We are changing that now and forever, and don't you ever forget it, because it'll be 51, and they'll be ideological and it's going to be a change in the American judiciary permanently.

NOVAK: Oh, Christ!

HUNT: John?

SUNUNU: Well, there -- there did use to be a bit more comity. That's true. And I think that's the concern. What we have now is an environment where there's a 60-vote standard for any appeals court or Supreme Court nominee. That's the standard. And that hasn't been the history. Historically, it hasn't been the case. And that's what we have to deal with. We've got three-and-a-half years left in this president's term. I don't think we can move forward in the current environment, where you have a 60-vote threshold. There are different ways to deal with this. The leaders could come to an agreement. You could have six Democrats and six Republicans on each side come to an agreement.

But what hasn't been dealt with and what Senator Reid really hasn't dealt with publicly is insuring that we're not going to move forward with this 60-vote standard still in place. Now, that doesn't mean you have to change the rules, but if they can't come to an agreement about process and comity for the remainder of this session, if not the remainder of the president's term, then I think it's very likely that there'll be a proposal and a resolution to change the rules. And I think it's likely that the votes are there.

HUNT: Margaret? CARLSON: You know, it's such a shame that Bill Frist, in his long-shot candidacy for the presidency, is going to bring normal, good people like you along with him on a vote that -- that I don't think you really want to cast. You know, Frist doesn't want...

SUNUNU: Normally good. Well, thank you for that.


CARLSON: I know I'm not supposed to be nice to you on the air because it will hurt you back in New Hampshire. But if you were running things, this wouldn't be happening. And you know, Bob Dole resigned when he knew that he was running for president and he was going to have to do things that...


CARLSON: ... it might not be good for the Senate, might not be good for the body. That's what Frist should do. He doesn't want a compromise. He's not going to take the six Republicans-six Democrat thing. He wants to do...

SUNUNU: He doesn't have to take that.


SUNUNU: They can do it on their own volition...


SUNUNU: If we just have six Republicans and six Democrats...

NOVAK: Let me respond to...


HUNT: I want to ask you a question, as a matter of fact.

NOVAK: All right.

HUNT: You say, basically, they all deserve a vote, and yet where were you when Judge Beatty of North Carolina...


HUNT: ... first African-American to go -- who would have gone on the 4th circuit, for five years -- now, wait a second. They didn't allow him to come to the floor for a vote. Where were you on Judge Paez, a Mexican-American from California (INAUDIBLE) Why was that better, Bob?

NOVAK: What you have now is a situation where the Democrats went too far.

HUNT: Wait a minute. (INAUDIBLE)

NOVAK: I'm answering you my way.



HUNT: I'm sorry, Mr. Novak.

NOVAK: You're not (INAUDIBLE), you're a moderator.

HUNT: I'm sorry. You are right.

NOVAK: You're not very moderate, but you're a moderator.


NOVAK: And let me -- let me -- let me -- let me...


NOVAK: Let me say this -- because they went too far when they blocked 16 appellate judges, when they have a secret meeting, which we know the results of because the -- because the e-mails were leaked -- of Teddy Kennedy and -- and the late Tom Daschle talking about how they're going to block all the...

HUNT: I saw him a couple of weeks ago. He looks fine.

NOVAK: Well, I mean, the late senator.

HUNT: Oh, I see.

NOVAK: I think they went too far, and I think you, as a practical politician, Mark, would agree they went too far. If they'd have had three or four, they could have got away with it.

HUNT: Mark, let me just say, since Bob wouldn't answer my question, will you tell me what was the difference back then with Judge Beatty and Judge Paez?

SHIELDS: The difference was that they didn't have the votes then. They didn't have the votes to force...

HUNT: They wouldn't even allow...

SHIELDS: ... it through -- to force this case...


SHIELDS: ... to force this change in the -- in the rules, and they're going to live to regret it, Al, because I'll tell you, we're going to get tit for tat. When the Democrats get back in, they're going to -- they're not going to...

NOVAK: Answer my question!

SHIELDS: They're not going to care about the Republicans. Let me just get one thing straight. Margaret is absolutely right. Margaret's absolutely right. Here's Bill Frist, Ivy League-educated, world-class surgeon, moderate Presbyterian -- all of a sudden, he sees Bush win an election...

NOVAK: Answer my question, will you?

SHIELDS: ... based on moral values...

HUNT: We've established a pattern of not answering questions here. Bob -- John Sununu, let me ask you. Is there any chance that this Ben Nelson-John McCain effort will come up with any kind of third way?

SUNUNU: I think there is a chance. I think it can be done.

SHIELDS: Will you support it?

SUNUNU: If you had six -- I don't know what their proposal is. If you had six on each side, you don't need the leaders' consent. The leaders could, alternatively, make an agreement themselves.

NOVAK: But you can't have sacrificial...

SUNUNU: I believe Judge Paez...

NOVAK: You can't have sacrificial...

SUNUNU: ... was actually confirmed. I'm pretty sure. He sits on the bench right now.


HUNT: And Judge Beatty, that Bob wouldn't answer the question to...

SUNUNU: And not every nominee...

HUNT: ... sat there for five years...

SUNUNU: ... is going to be able to get out of committee...


HUNT: Guys! Guys! Could we have some order? Because you know something? We've run out of time. I'm going to give John Sununu one quick last word.

SUNUNU: Remember, what changed is the sequence of 10 consecutive 60-vote -- 60-vote thresholds imposed on these nominees. That has never been done before! That's the excess that Bob is talking about.

SHIELDS: ... two hundred and twenty-nine, and ten have not been confirmed! Sixty-five of Bill Clinton's never got out!


HUNT: And we have to go out on Mark Shields's high note.

Next on CAPITAL GANG: In Eastern Europe, President Bush ruffles Russian feathers.


HUNT: Welcome back. President Bush began his Eastern European trip marking the 60th anniversary of the end of World War II in Europe by visiting Latvia.


GEORGE WALKER BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: VE-Day marked the end of fascism but did not -- did not end oppression. The agreement at Yalta followed in the unjust tradition of Munich and the Molotov-Ribbentropp pact.


HUNT: The president was asked whether his position would cause trouble with Russian president Putin.


BUSH: Well, I will continue to speak as clearly as I can to President Putin that it's in his country's interests that there be democracies on his borders.


HUNT: Interviewed on CBS's "60 Minutes," President Putin said of the United States, quote, "You have other problems. In your election four years ago, your presidential election was settled by the court," end quote.

President Bush went next to the Republic of Georgia.


BUSH: Standing with the president of Georgia should send a message that we -- we embrace freedom movements, and we stand with you on democracy.

PRES. MIKHAIL SAAKASHVILI, GEORGIA: It was very important for President Bush when he spoke about Yalta. It was one of the most immoral deals in the history of mankind.


HUNT: Margaret, was President Bush too hard on the Russians and his old pal, Putin?

CARLSON: No, not at all. Given Putin's anti-democracy moves, not at all. I think Putin has actually looked into Bush's soul and seen a softie in there, and he says, Oh, I'll take him for a spin in the Volga, and we'll, you know, be in a buddy movie, and this personal diplomacy will be a great thing. You know, he then comes out and criticizes Yalta and FDR, having had that big picture of Yalta behind him in Canada, when he went on his first official trip to Canada as president. And Condi Rice again had to step in and say, Oh, no, no. He didn't mean that Yalta was a bad thing. He -- you know, pulling -- pulling that back.

I think Bush isn't able to really get anything out of Putin. It just simply hasn't worked.

HUNT: Not working, Bob?

NOVAK: I thought it was one of the -- not -- not the president's finest hour, one of his best hours. I thought, finally, a president of the United States has said what an immoral deal that Franklin Roosevelt, a sick man, a dying man, perpetrated at Yalta. The liberal media and the liberal wing of the Republican Party have been afraid to talk about it all these years. And I -- where it's relevant right now is that at the end of World War -- at the celebration of World War II, Putin is saying it was -- what a great thing, and the president says, No, no, no. We didn't get -- you didn't get freedom for another 50 years. You've only had freedom for 10 years, not for 60 years. And of course, I thought it was -- it was great sandwiching that trip between Latvia and Georgia. I thought it -- that makes you proud to be an American.

HUNT: Mark, I think Churchill negotiated that -- Yalta, also, didn't he? And wasn't the Red Army in Eastern Europe already?


HUNT: ... go back to war?

SHIELDS: ... Eastern Europe. I mean, there's no question that Stalin broke the agreements made at Yalta completely about elections that were supposed to be held immediately in Poland, and Eastern Europe was plunged into slavery as a consequence. I didn't realize the president was such an historian. I mean, I'd like to hear him talk about the Molotov-Ribbentropp...

NOVAK: He knows more about it than you do!


SHIELDS: ... Molotov and Ribbentropp -- you want to -- want to tell me who they were? I mean, for goodness sakes, that was one where both sides knew what they were doing. It was nothing like Yalta. They were both making a deal with the devil. It was Nazi Germany and Stalin's Russia. Al, the reality is, George Bush can take all these trips. Iraq is in a civil war today. There is no road in that country that is safe. It is a civil war. And since the election, since the formation of a government, the death has increased, the total. The United States stands by, basically, helpless to do anything about it. That's the reality, not George Bush's revisionist history!

HUNT: Let me -- John Sununu, let me take you back to Russia for a minute. Is the problem with Putin he's too strong or he's too weak?

SUNUNU: The problem with Putin is I don't think anyone really understands what his long-term goals are in Russia. And that's why the visits before and after the trip in Georgia and the Baltic states are so important because rather than focus on what kind of problems were created by Yalta, we should focus on what kind of opportunity is created by these models, the Baltic states, what's happened in Ukraine, what's happening in Georgia, what's happening in Kyrgyzstan. I mean, there's great opportunity. These are very significant countries with, you know, large, well-educated populations. And I think the potential there is for this democratic process, economic reform, political reform to take hold, to be sustained, and for them to, in some ways, surpass their neighbor, Russia, if Russia doesn't find the right path on these same issues, economic and political reform.

HUNT: Margaret, he got...


HUNT: He got fantastic crowds in Georgia.


HUNT: I mean, those were really impressive.

CARLSON: And you're so right about that. But he also should have, you know, pulled himself away from criticizing Yalta to criticizing Putin in the here and now.

NOVAK: Oh, but I mean, the -- you can never do enough to satisfy you people. I'm critical of him sometimes, but this was a terrific performance. And I think that Putin is -- thought he could bamboozle him, could -- could pressure him into this, and -- and I think I know what Putin's after. He's for the -- the reemergence of a greater Russia. And the president is just not buying into that, and I think -- I think it was -- it is an encouraging thing for these people in these -- in these former Russian republics.

SHIELDS: Let me note that George Bush did get a wonderful reception there, Al, and he got it as the symbol of the country that had led the opposition to the Stalinist oppression for 45 years, and that single-handedly led to this...


HUNT: And there is not going to be any restoration of a greater Russia in our lifetime, is there, John.

SUNUNU: Not as long as those republics remain as strong as it looks like they will.


HUNT: John Sununu, thank you for being with us.

SUNUNU: Thank you. Nice to be here.

HUNT: As always, you brought some light to this show.

Coming up next, in the second half: Tom DeLay is the toast of conservatives, we'll go "Beyond the Beltway" to talk California politics, and our "Outrages of the Week," all after the break.


HUNT: Welcome back to the second half of CAPITAL GANG. Robert Novak was on the beat Thursday night in D.C. as the American Conservative Union sponsored a dinner in honor of embattled Majority Leader Tom DeLay.


NOVAK: (voice over): Conservative activist Cleta Mitchell began the evening by declaring, "Welcome to a celebration of the vast right- wing conspiracy. Indeed, some 900 conservatives gathered not to defend Tom DeLay, but to praise him.

The majority leader had adjourned Congress earlier Thursday and he said, "Sent them home to their families." There were only a few of them present, not many K Street lobbyist and even fewer corporate executives, instead the captains of the conservative movement were at the head table, Paul Weyrich, Morton Blackwell, Phyllis Schlafly. In the audience were the conservative foot soldiers who paid $250 a ticket.

TOM DELAY, HOUSE MAJORITY LEADER: This is a very humbling event. But humbleness and humility does not dampen passion. Passion for what we believe in. And we're going to stand for what we believe in, no matter what happens.

NOVAK: There was no discussion about ethical charges against DeLay, but defiance and anger. Former Congressman Bob Livingston calling DeLay the best congressional leader of the last half century asked, "Are we going to let them beat him down?" The "them" talked about? The liberal establishment, but mainly the news media, blamed for the assault on the majority leaders.

DELAY: You guys better get out of my way.

NOVAK: The anger against the newsies is palpable and universal. Conservatives present privately admitted that only a couple weeks ago they feared for Tom DeLay's survival. But all on hand now believe the tide has turned. The purpose of the evening was to demonstrate unconditional conservative support for DeLay. It inconceivable that such an evening could have been arranged for Speaker Newt Gingrich before he fell, or on the left, Speaker Jim Wright before he fell.


NOVAK: Tom DeLay is the first red state legislator to be regarded by conservatives as one of their own. The message Thursday night was that if the liberal news media despises him so much the better.

HUNT: Mark, are the conservatives deluding themselves in thinking that Tom DeLay is home free?

SHEILDS: No, I don't think they're deluding themselves. I mean, I think they know he's got problems which he does have problems. And the problems just grew yesterday. Grover Norquist, one of the sponsors of the event, didn't show up. Was supposed to be a prominent part of the program and revealed that, yes, he had accepted $1.5 million from Indian tribes and arranged meetings with the president to discuss tax policy; had been a conduit on this anti-gambling thing from one tribe to another, to Christian anti-gambling groups that did know about it.

So, I mean, this thing, Al, it's just this K Street thing is reaching out and touching all kinds of Republicans and it is going to continue to bug Tom DeLay and bother him.


CARLSON: Well, as it goes along, it is not up to the hated liberal news media. There will be a process and a lot of other hearings. There's the ethics and a lot of it will just roll along and everything about Jack Abramoff, that we know is bad for Tom DeLay.

And Bob, you know, I sure you enjoy tossing back a few Scotches with your home boys, but a lot of members found themselves otherwise occupied. You know, including Grover Norquist, and just an able to be there.


HUNT: Bob, let me just ask you, and then you can go to the substance of what Margaret said. But, but, isn't it timing -- this thing is going to take six, seven, eight months. That's what an ethics investigation takes; it takes you into next year.

NOVAK: Well, there is no question that he is a highly effective leader. There is no question that there was an absolute hatred toward him by the media and it is returned. It's a -- that's, that's the reality and you can talk about Jack Abramoff and Grover Norquist. They're not the majority leader. I think he has weathered the tide. I agree with it.

And I believe that his support, in the House of Representatives, by -- in the Republican Caucus and in the conservative movement is something that no amount of sniping by liberal journalists is going to change.

HUNT: The other group that would love for him to survive, the Democratic Caucus.

SHIELDS: No question. They want to go in 2006 with Tom DeLay as the poster boy of the Republican Party. I mean -- and let's be very blunt about it. I mean this has stalled the president's own movement. It has diverted attention. It has diverted energy. And you know, I really think that at some point he's been an enormous asset to Republican members, an enormous asset. He's done great things for them that they didn't want to do themselves, whether it is through K Street, or raising money, or knocking heads. But at some point, Bob, when he becomes a political liability we'll see how that loyalty works.


NOVAK: Can I respond to that?

HUNT: Yes.

NOVAK: I think that a lot of nonsense that he is a liability there. He is -- he passed the budget bill through a couple of weeks ago. They can get anything passed through the House of Representatives. They're very loyal. They are going to pass a very conservative Social Security bill. I'm convinced of it. Through, the House, I don't know what's going to happen in the Senate. And the idea that the Democrats just want this guy in there, I think is nonsense. I can't believe that this can be accepted by fact by anybody.

HUNT: Margaret, very quickly. Will he -- will Tom DeLay, be a House Republican leader two years from today?

CARLSON: Uh, no. Because some of it is, you know, he says Democrats take trips to brush off the $1,000 a night at Claridges (ph), but this Indian tribe stuff is not going to go just through an Ethics Committee. There are other hearings about it on other committees and I think that is really going to hurt him.

HUNT: OK, Margaret Carlson, last word on this segment. Coming up next on the "CAPITAL GANG Classic". A high-ranking Democrat implicated in an ethical quandary, 12 years ago.

ANNOUNCER: Here's your CAPITAL GANG trivia question of the week: Which former first lady was honored this week in Washington? Was it, A., Barbara Bush, B., Nancy Reagan, or C., Hillary Clinton? We'll have the answer right after the break.


ANNOUNCER: Before the break we asked: Which former first lady was honored this week in Washington? The answer is B., Nancy Reagan.

HUNT: Welcome back. Twelve years ago, Democratic Congressman Dan Rostenkowski, then chairman of the House Ways & Means Committee, faced charges that he embezzled funds from the House Post Office. The CAPITAL GANG discussed this on July 24, 1993. Our guest was Republican Congressman Newt Gingrich, then the House minority whip.


NOVAK: Democrats are -- have been trying to cover up the details of all these scandals, and then Rostenkowski has not been given any of the treatment that a normal suspect in criminal case would be given. There has been leaks. He's been treated abominably in my opinion.

NEWT GINGRICH, FMR. HOUSE MINORITY WHIP: I think clearly something fishy is going on when you have two eyewitnesses who claim that over a 20-year period there were giving cash to a member of Congress out of the U.S. Treasury, in effect. Something has to be looked at and I think currently the Democrats are covering up a lot of the details.

CARLSON: I think the Republicans are making a mistake here to think that if he's -- if Rostenkowski is indicted that the only party that will be tarnished are the Democrats. If he goes down in the public's mind it will just be business as usual in Congress.

SHIELDS: Let me just say this about Danny Rostenkowski, he is not a high-liver, he is not a greedy man. He passed up the chance to retire with $1 million last year. So if this is -- it is unbelievable to me. But isn't he also a creature of the '60s and the '70s? For some of this, some of the perks and the powers of office? There were different standards.


HUNT: Bob, what's the difference between the way the media handled Dan Rostenkowski and the way they're handling Tom DeLay?

NOVAK: It was shown on the CAPITAL GANG. I am the only person who has been consistent over this span of time. I was --


NOVAK: Thank you.

I thought that Rostenkowski was treated unfairly. I think DeLay has been treated unfairly. I wish everybody here agreed with me on Rostenkowski, because you liked him. He's a nice liberal Democrat. And you don't give DeLay the time of day, believe anything -- any innuendo. So, while even though the charges against Danny were much more specific -- and I do think he was treated unfairly, that he never should have gone to prison. There is much less -- there are no specific charges against DeLay, but the media treats him much more harshly.

HUNT: Account for yourself, Carlson.

CARLSON: I went back and looked and I wrote a piece in "Time" magazine, very critical of Rostenkowski at the time. So, I don't think the liberal media -- the media is an equal opportunity destroyer in that way.


CARLSON: What's shocking are amounts. I mean, DeLay spent more in Claridges on this 400-thread count sheets in one night practically than Rostenkowski...

NOVAK: (INAUDIBLE) SHIELDS: Now, Bob sees everything through an ideological lens. Let's be very frank.

NOVAK: And you don't?

SHIELDS: No. Think about it. Tom Davis gets better press. Henry Hyde gets better press. Why? Because, I mean, they're not like Tom DeLay, who is an us-against-them SOBs, if you don't write the way I do -- you know, Dan Rostenkowski was a likable, approachable, smart, engaging person.

HUNT: Let me just say one thing about that show, New Gingrich discoursing on ethics is a bit like Madonna on chastity.

Next on CAPITAL GANG we'll talk California politics with Mark Barabak, of "The Los Angeles Times."


HUNT: Welcome back. "The Los Angeles Times" poll showed and 11 percentage point lead by City Councilman Antonio Villaraigosa, ahead of incumbent Mayor James Hahn, for Tuesday's election. That's down from an 18 point lead last month.

Meanwhile, the Public Policy Institute show California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger's approval rating slipping to 45 percent among likely voters from 63 percent in January.

The governor issued a warning to the Democratic legislature, quote, "If the legislators don't act and if they don't do their job to create the reforms with me, then I will definitely go to a special election. There's no two ways about it," end quote.

The governor approved of the use of volunteers on the Arizona/Mexican border.


GOV. ARNOLD SCHWARZENEGGER, (R-CA.): If the government, or the state, or country doesn't do its job, then the private citizens go out -- it is like the neighborhood patrol. It is like, they then step in and they try to help.



ART TORRES, CALIF. DEMOCRATIC PARTY CHAIR: Now, Governor Schwarzenegger is alone. He's the only border state governor in the country to endorse illegal behavior by American citizens.


HUNT: Joining us now from Los Angeles is Mark Barabak, political writer for "The Los Angeles Times".

Mark, let's go to the mayor's race first. Is it possible that Mayor Hahn can come back after all?

MARK BARABAK, POLITICAL WRITER, "THE LOS ANGELES TIMES": I'll say what I've been repeating since the first round and that is, you know, Jim Hahn is pushing a very large rock up a very steep hill, difficult, not impossible. He's made progress as indicated in our poll. Enough progress? We won't know that until Tuesday.

HUNT: Bob.

NOVAK: Is it still a problem, Mark, of the African-American voters not wanting to vote for a Latino? Is it a racial problem that in the end could elect Mr. Hahn despite all his unpopularity?

BARABAK: That could be. I mean, as you know, it is really difficult to forge a black/brown coalition. There is a lot of competition for jobs, especially here. So, yeah, Antonio Villaraigosa is trying to do something that is not easy.

That said, Jim Hahn has alienated the African-American community. And if there is a paradox to this whole thing, if Jim Hahn wins, you know, coming from an iconic Democratic family, it may very well be the votes of Republicans in the West San Fernando Valley to do it for him.

HUNT: Margaret.

CARLSON: Hey, Mark, Arnold and Hollywood both seem to be suffering from a declining box office. Is that why Schwarzenegger came out in favor of the minute men and their camouflage and their plastic chairs and their packing heat -- I guess -- when most politicians shied away from that?

BARABAK: Yes, you know you talk to people I get a sense that, you know, I've talked to the governor and he's someone who said, in his words, he likes to keep things spicy and fun and interesting. I think it is improvisational. I think he went on there -- I know he went on there to talk about there was a controversial billboard that was up here in L.A. He went on the air to talk about it. He was asked about the minute men and I don't know that there was a whole lot of strategizing to it. I just think it was something the governor said. And knowing the governor he says things sort of spur of the moment.

HUNT: Mark.

SHIELDS: Mark, those of us who are little long in the tooth and gray in the beard remember that 1969/'73 match up; first with Tom Bradley, then six-foot-four-inch Los Angeles City councilman, former cop, an African-American took on Sam Yordi (ph). Lost the first time, came back four years later and won.

And you did a very prescient piece about two months ago in which you said there are comparisons to the Villaraigosa, Antonio Villaraigosa having lost four years ago to Jim Hahn -- to this election. Could you expand on that a little bit?

BARABAK: Sure, I mean, what we've seen, here and elsewhere, is that the first time that a breakthrough, if you will, candidate runs the first time, it is a lot harder than the second time. Antonio Villaraigosa is a more familiar figure now. He's been in office for four years. The downside is there is not the excitement, if you will.

You know, there are similarities, there are differences. Tom Bradley, as you mentioned, had that police credential which helped him a lot. Antonio Villaraigosa doesn't have that. By the same token, Jim Hahn, you know the wrap on him is that he's boring. You know, Sam Yordi (ph) was anything but boring. He's the guy who went on "The Tonight Show" to play the banjo. He's the guy who ran for governor, who ran for president. And he's a guy who very, very, very blatantly played the race card in the way that Jim Hahn hasn't. So, similarities, and some significant differences as well.

HUNT: Mark, let me go back to Arnold, again. There we hear back here that Arnold is being advised by the old Wilson crowd, the ol' Pete Wilson crowd. And of course, Pete Wilson ran on an anti- immigration platform and took some tough stands. Is that right? Are the Wilson people dominating Schwarzenegger now? And how do they get along with his wife?

BARABAK: I don't think dominating. I think, you know, to put it in terms that maybe you and a Washington crowd would get. Arnold Schwarzenegger has a whole panoply of advisors. It was as if, you know, President Bush was getting advice from Grover Norquist, on the one hand, and Nancy Pelosi and Barbara Lee (ph) on the other. I mean -- and that extreme. You know, Arnold talks to a lot of people. He likes it that way. He likes to hear from a lot of different people.

I know his wife is not enamored, Maria Schriver, a Democrat member of the Kennedy family, is not enamored of the Wilson crowd. But Arnold Schwarzenegger, again, is someone who gets a lot of advice from a lot of people. And that leaves him the option of doing whatever he wants and he can point to this advisor or that advisor as having told him to do so.

HUNT: Yes.

NOVAK: Mark, Gray Davis -- if we can remember him, fondly, Democratic governor. He won big and before very long he was so unpopular that there was a recall. Has -- Arnold was just a couple of months ago seen the most popular politician in America. Is he on a slippery slope or is this just a couple of bad turns? How do you analyze it?

BARABAK: I think you make a real good point, you know, Gray Davis was very, very unpopular. And was still re-elected to a second term. You know, Arnold is nowhere near as unpopular as Gray Davis ever was. And you're right, if Arnold Schwarzenegger runs again for re-election -- and that's by no means certain. But if he runs again, you know, it's not going to be Arnold, the movie star, versus Arnold, the governor, it is going to be Arnold Schwarzenegger versus some other candidate and there will be a choice to be made at that time.

There is no question he has had a very bad last several months, but Arnold Schwarzenegger has shown a capacity for bouncing back and again, if he runs, it is going to be him against someone else. And that is a very different choice than now.

HUNT: Margaret, we have 15 seconds.

CARLSON: Hey, Mark, quickly: Are the cigars in the tents (ph) still playing?

BARABAK: Oh, the cigars in the (INAUDIBLE). You know, I don't know. People will tell you, Arnold Schwarzenegger, he's tried a lot of things. He tried cigars in the tents (ph) and flowers and calling legislators mothers on their birthday. More lately, it has been a lot tougher line. I don't know if there is whole lot of cigar smoking going on these days.

CARLSON: Thanks.

HUNT: Mark, your range is dazzling. Thanks for being with us.

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


HUNT: And now for the "Outrages of the Week". The last refuge of scandals used to be patriotism. Now it is religious bigotry, as in they voted against judges because their Catholics or Evangelicals. The most recent manifestation is the "Fort Worth" (ph) newspaper, where a writer argued lobbyist Jack Abramoff is savaged because he is an Orthodox Jew? What Abramoff shook down Indian tribes, disparaged them in e-mails while double-dealing them, illicitly picked up travel tabs for congressmen, and was an unprincipled gun for hire. This is isn't about religion. It's about his sleazy character. Bob.

NOVAK: The Senate Judiciary Committee ran out of time Wednesday and postponed for a week consideration of Terrence Boyle's nomination for the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond, Virginia. He can wait, he's been waiting 14 years. Now, he's been busy all this time on the Federal District bench in North Carolina for the past 24 years, building an exemplary record. Graded well qualified by the ABA, with his decisions seldom overturned.

Judge Boyle's problem is less ideological than political, as the friend of Jesse Helms and son-in-law of conservative leader Tom Ellis (ph). Now, will he be filibustered?

HUNT: Margaret.

CARLSON: Al, presidents deserve their down time. But is it good for a president to continue a country bike ride when panic breaks out at the White House and 35,000 flee an eminent attack from a plane in a no-fly zone? White House Spokesman Scott McClellan says protocol was followed. Who's protocol? Dick Cheney's protocol. Did George Bush actually sign off on not being told when an F-16 is streaking overhead and his wife's been sent to a bunker? That will be my answer from now on whenever I screw up. I was following protocol, Bush protocol.

HUNT: I like Carlson protocol. Mark Shields? SHIELDS: Al, I didn't realize ABA ratings meant so much to Bob Novak, but that's all right. It's more than two years and thousands of American casualties since the Bush administration's first broken promises to keep production lines working until all U.S. troops in Iraq rode safely in fully armored vehicles. Until now, when one out of three American vehicles there remains, by the Army's own standards, inadequately armed.

But you will be comforted to know that when that Cessna two- seater evacuated Capitol Hill this week, congressional leaders, including Majority Leader Tom DeLay, were whisked to safety in big black SUVs fully armored. Protection for pols, but not for PFCs.

HUNT: This is Al Hunt, saying good night for THE CAPITAL GANG. Thanks for joining us.


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