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The Lead with Jake Tapper

The debate over whether the detention center at Guantanamo should be close to reaching the Senate floor. With the release of Terri Schiavo's autopsy, debate is reignited on Capitol Hill. Is Hillary Clinton moving to the center to run for president? Pat Buchanan visits with "THE CAPITAL GANG"

Aired June 18, 2005 - 19:00   ET


AL HUNT, HOST: I'm Al Hunt, with the full GANG for the next to last time: Mark Shields, Robert Novak, Kate O'Beirne and Margaret Carlson.

The debate over whether the detention center at Guantanamo should be closed reached the Senate floor.


SEN. DICK DURBIN (D-IL), MINORITY WHIP: You would most certainly believe this must have happened by Nazis, Soviets in their gulags or some mad regime, Pol Pot or others, that had no concern for human beings. Sadly, that's not the case. This was the action of Americans in treatment of their prisoners.

SCOTT MCCLELLAN, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: To compare the way our military treats detainees with the Soviet gulags, the Nazi concentration camps and Pol Pot's regime is simply reprehensible.


HUNT: This also led to an unusual rebuke on the Senate floor by the Republican chairman of the Armed Services Committee.


SEN. JOHN WARNER (R-VA), ARMED SERVICES COMMITTEE: It seems to me that was a grievous error in judgment, and it leaves open to the press of the world to take those three extraordinary chapters in world history and try and intertwine it with what has taken place, allegedly, at Guantanamo.

DURBIN: To say that the interrogation techniques here are the kind you would expect from a repressive regime I do not believe is an exaggeration.


HUNT: Meanwhile, administration officials defended the Guantanamo facility.


MICHAEL WIGGINS, DEPUTY ASSOC. ATTORNEY GENERAL: The detention of enemy combatants serves the vital military objectives of preventing captured combatants from rejoining the conflict and gathering intelligence to further the overall war effort.


HUNT: Mark, is Senator Durbin right? And should Guantanamo be closed?

MARK SHIELDS, CAPITAL GANG: Senator Durbin is right, Al, but let's agree right now that nobody uses Hitler, Nazi and gulag metaphors...


SHIELDS: ... or Holocaust. I mean, it just -- it just absolutely makes you the lightning rod and the subject of all attention, the object of criticism. Very (INAUDIBLE) I mean, he was -- what he was speaking on was based on an FBI report. It was not based upon some unreliable detainee who'd escaped or anything of the sort.

And let's be very frank about what Guantanamo was done. Guantanamo was established, Al, to put suspects beyond reach of the U.S. Constitution. And that was confounded. That was confounded by the Supreme Court in a 9-to-zero decision, with strict constructionists saying, No, no. They are under federal law. And this administration, this -- that genuflects before strict constructionism, has, quite frankly, been stonewalling that and been denying the effect of that decision since it was made.

Should it be closed? Of course it should. It's -- it has robbed the United States of the moral high ground. Americans are better than that. I believe we're better than that, and I believe Guantanamo is a stain and a recruiting agent and vehicle for terrorists.

HUNT: A stain that should be closed, Kate?

KATE O'BEIRNE, CAPITAL GANG: Senator Durbin issued a stunning premeditated slander of American troops that will be enormously helpful as it gets repeated throughout the world and used by our enemies. The politics of this I really don't understand. The Democrats have a real image problem. We can agree or disagree, and we have over the years, about whether or not it's legitimate, but we all agree, I think, they got an image problem. They are soft on national security. They're soft on crime -- in this case, terrorism. They're sort of hostile to the military. And they have this instinct where they want to blame America first.

Dick Durbin this week was the embodiment of that problem the Democrats have, and then Nancy Pelosi argues Guantanamo should be closed because to do so would give us a clean slate in the Muslim world. Now, she can't possibly believe that. What do we have, a clean slate, September 10, 2001? I don't get the politics of it. No wonder the Democrats complain about the distraction of having the media cover what so many leading Democrats are saying these days that so damage the Democratic Party.

HUNT: Margaret, do you get the politics or the substance of it?

MARGARET CARLSON, CAPITAL GANG: Well, you know, I thought I was reading a hoax when Senator Sessions said that Guantanamo is a beautiful sight. It's like a resort. And I was thinking, You can check in, but you can't check out.


CARLSON: And that is part of the problem...

HUNT: Beach privileges are really rather limited, too.

CARLSON: ... in Guantanamo, which is you go in there, and your rights are violated, you -- you don't talk to your family, you don't see a lawyer. The FBI has witnessed hanging -- people hanging by their wrists, being shackled to the floor in stress positions, the kinds of things that's happening not to enemy combatants but to people who were rounded up. And that's one of the things that hasn't happened in any of the prisons is that you get thrown in, and you're in a group and there's no charges leveled to show who's the terrorist and who isn't. And I think that is a big part of the problem.

And Republicans like Bill Kristol are calling for Guantanamo to be closed, that there should be accountability.

HUNT: Does this bring out your civil libertarian streak, Bob?

BOB NOVAK, CAPITAL GANG: Certainly not, not for those terrorists, because when you let them out, they go back right on the battlefield.

CARLSON: They're not all terrorists!

NOVAK: But can I -- can I -- can I -- can I speak? I didn't interrupt you, so don't you interrupt me! When they -- when they -- when you let them out, they go right back to killing Americans.

I don't -- I don't want to let Senator Durbin off the hook on this. This was a -- when he talks about this being -- these being repressive regimes -- these weren't repressive regimes, they were genocidal regimes. Nobody's getting murdered at Guantanamo! These -- Pol Pot, the gulags, the Nazi concentration camps were killing millions of people. At the minimum, he needs a -- an apology, which we won't do because of this partisanship has gotten so intense by the Democrats that they have completely distorted what Guantanamo might be.

And I will tell you this. I've been watching the Senate a long time, and I happened to be watching on -- on Thursday night, when -- when John Warner, who is not a partisan guy, confronted him. And I thought Durbin was quaking in his boots when he was confronted by Senator -- Senator Warner! HUNT: Mark...

NOVAK: And he should be.

HUNT: Mark, even if they closed Guantanamo, you have to put these people someplace. So what's the...

SHIELDS: Well, you have to put them someplace, Al, where they -- within the reach of the law. I mean, the fact of the matter is, they're holding these people for information. You don't get much information after somebody's been held there for three years, for one thing. I mean, that -- their information is not exactly up to date.

And you know, we talked about, is this good policy? You know, is it -- are we being tough? You know, it isn't just soft-hearted Democrats who oppose this, it's John McCain, it's Orson Swindle, it's people who have been prisoners of war themselves who condemn this very action...


O'BEIRNE: ... maybe these enemy combatants could be moved to Illinois and put on work release, and then Senator Durbin would have them in his own neighborhood. Ten thousand have been captured on the battlefield in Afghanistan. Only 750 have wound up in Guantanamo. They're down to 500. We are at war with these terrorists! We do not want them going back and taking up arms against us, which some released ones have!

HUNT: And in our next-to-last first segment, Kate O'Beirne gets the last word.

Coming up next on CAPITAL GANG: With the release of Terri Schiavo's autopsy, debate is reignited on Capitol Hill.


HUNT: Welcome back. The autopsy report on Terri Schiavo, showing her to be in a vegetative state, was released.


DR. JON THOGMARTIN, MEDICAL EXAMINER: She did not starve to death, she died of dehydration. Her brain was profoundly atrophied. This damage was irreversible, and no amount of therapy or treatment would have regenerated the massive loss of neurons. She was blind, could not see. No evidence of direct skull or brain trauma was seen.


HUNT: That triggered a resumption of the debate between spokesmen for Terri Schiavo's husband and her parents.


GEORGE FELOS, MICHAEL SCHIAVO'S ATTORNEY: For years, the treating physicians, the doctors, the responsible physicians, Mr. Schiavo, the courts have said over and over again that there's no rehabilitation therapy or other therapy that could improve Mrs. Schiavo's condition. That was also found by the medical examiner.

DAVID GIBBS, SCHINDLER FAMILY ATTORNEY: The family would just like closure. They'd like an answer. They'd like to know what happened to Terri.


HUNT: Kate, does this show that politicians who wanted to keep Terri Schiavo alive were mistaken?

O'BEIRNE: Al, I don't see how the determined effort to dehydrate Terri Schiavo to death is vindicated by the autopsy results. I supported the opportunity for her to have a federal review. These facts don't change that any. The principles remain the same. The case never turned about allegations on how she was initially injured. Some people thought maybe she had some hope for some sort of improvement, but it didn't rest on that.

The principles are that you do not deliberately take the life of an innocent person, especially when her own wishes are not clear and her family's willing to care for her. And the fundamental principle is when someone's wishes and condition is in some question, you resolve doubts in favor of life. Those are the principles, and they remain the same.

HUNT: Margaret, does anything change by that report?

CARLSON: I wouldn't think a conservative would want federal review of cases like this. And there are -- there are a lot more than Terri Schiavo, but conservatives decided to jump on this one for their own purposes. And they did it with gusto, and they did it by putting Doctors Frist and DeLay out there to make the case. And now that Dr. Frist is embarrassed by it, he's not telling the truth. He -- we have a tape of him saying that he questioned whether she was in a persistent vegetative state, and he did it as a physician. And then he went on ABC and said he did no such thing. Tom DeLay said she's just fine. She's lacking speech therapy. Then she'll just be fine.

I mean, it was just a terrible grandstanding moment, Republicans barging into somebody's family, when they didn't belong there and when, in fact, 70 percent to 80 percent of Americans didn't think they should be there.

HUNT: Bob?

NOVAK: This is a political question. The people of the -- in Congress -- and this was a majority in Congress -- who said she should -- her life should continue, are now coming under attack. Since they were mostly Republicans, they are being -- it's the Republicans who are being attacked. But this -- this autopsy report, which is being heralded -- Aha! We gotcha! This shows that you were wrong -- I don't think it shows anything. I think we can debate the whole thing over and over again, but the whole background of her -- of her injury and her death, all these questions are still open. I'm not particularly interested in going into them at this time, but -- but personally -- but I don't believe that this report is definitive in the way that a lot of the newspaper -- news accounts have made it.

HUNT: Mark?

SHIELDS: Certainly not as definitive as Bill Frist's diagnosis was from the Senate floor, based upon a second-hand videotape that -- I mean, Bill Frist, let's stipulate, has had the worst six months of any politician in shoe leather, OK? Nice man, good man, terrible six months politically.

Second, Al, the Congress -- in the most recent survey, Americans asked, "Shares my priorities," 19 percent of Americans say they share my priorities. Two words: Schiavo, filibuster, not worrying about what people -- what's going on in people's lives.

Third point, Al. Michael Schiavo -- this guy, this husband, was maligned. He was vilified! It was charged that he abused his wife, that he had bruised her, that he had been cruel to her, and all the rest of it. I mean, totally, absolutely unfair, none -- no bruises, no nothing, none of the sort. Now they want to go back and say, My God, was he responsible for her going into this comatose state? And so, you know, I just -- it -- it is quite -- if the report had come down the other way, Bob would not, quite frankly, have quite the Olympian perch he occupies tonight.

HUNT: Let me -- let me -- let me give my...

NOVAK: Thank you. I like to be on Olympus, particularly when I'm with you, Mark.

HUNT: Let me -- let me give my views on this. I don't question the sincerity of most of those who wanted the federal courts to intervene in this. My son is very disabled, and he opposed removing Terri Schiavo's feeding tube. But I would hope that those that showed such compassion for Terri Schiavo would have the moral consistency to champion the rights of the severely disabled and they would be outraged when courts try to cut back on rights for disabled or Medicaid funding for people like that who need it, slashed. I think that is -- that is fair to ask.

O'BEIRNE: Fair point. Fair point, Al.

CARLSON: And Texas and Florida, there are laws that the Bushes have approved which against the wishes of patients remove tubes...

HUNT: Margaret, we had...

CARLSON: ... when they can no longer pay.

HUNT: ... a rare consensus. We had a rarer consensus. Let's stick with it.

And next on CAPITAL GANG: Is Hillary Clinton moving early to get back in the White House? (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

HUNT: Welcome back. Senator Hillary Clinton and Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist joined to introduce a bill to improve health care information.


SEN. HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON (D), NEW YORK: I am very pleased to be working with Senator Frist, who has such a personal interest and great professional experience in this issue.


HUNT: However, Senator Clinton recently has sharply criticized Republicans.


CLINTON: There has never been an administration, I don't believe, in our history, more intent upon consolidating and abusing power to further their own agenda than the current administration. It is very hard to stop people who have never been acquainted with the truth.


HUNT: A new book entitled "The Truth About Hillary" by journalist Ed Klein is sharply critical of her. A chapter published by "Vanity Fair" concludes with this observation about her possible run for president. Quote, "She was transforming herself before the eyes of the fascinated public from the old radical Hillary into the new moderate Hillary. The question remained, Would voters buy this new Hillary," end quote.

Last month, CNN/"USA Today" Gallup poll showed adult Americans, when asked whet her they were likely to vote for Hillary Clinton for president, 53 percent said yes, 46 percent said no.

Margaret, is Hillary Clinton moving to the center to run for president?

CARLSON: Well, she's running for president, and she's moving somewhat to the center, other than in that -- that one speech which we showed. She's linking up with Senator Frist at his low point, so she'll help him, I think, more than he will help her. Hillary has a commanding lead at this stage. She's 17 points ahead of Kerry, and usually the last person to run has a slight leg up.

She has the -- the best fund-raising. She has the best political consultants. She has the best political consultant in her husband. But he could also hurt her, in the end, in this. I think she -- she'll -- she'll get the nomination. But think about it. His philandering launched her career to the Senate. It got her to the Senate. But if she can't keep the dog on the porch...


CARLSON: ... how is she going to keep the terrorists in check as commander-in-chief? I can just see it now.

HUNT: Bob...


HUNT: ... you've made quite clear your views on Hillary. You want to add to them now?

NOVAK: Yes. I thought she was going to say that she still can't keep the dog on the porch.

CARLSON: I don't know whether she can.

O'BEIRNE: Well, Buddy was hit by a car. They couldn't keep Buddy on the porch.


NOVAK: I would say that there's no question but that she's trying to move toward the center, and she -- and -- but at the same time, she's -- she is coming out with very mean-spirited attacks. If Howard Dean had said that, we'd all be jumping on his -- on his back. The interesting -- I think it's very interesting she has lost that little faint Arkansas accent that she had picked up. She sounds like she's from Chicago now, as I am. And she's very harsh accent. She...

CARLSON: Like you.

NOVAK: That's right. She's -- she's not a pleasant...


NOVAK: She's not a pleasant woman. And nobody knows how she's going to run. Don't -- don't talk me about -- tell me about 17 percent leads in the polls three-and-a-half years ahead of time. There's nobody knows -- the Republicans don't know whether to -- to be -- to be happy that she's running or to fear the hell out of her, and the Democrats don't know whether they're buying into a disaster or a savior.

HUNT: Mark, I find her pleasant.

SHIELDS: Yes, and...

NOVAK: You would.

SHIELDS: Yes. Well, and Bob is no actually from Chicago, he's from Joliet. And let's just get that...

NOVAK: Well, she's not from Chicago, either.

SHIELDS: That's right. Exactly.


SHIELDS: But Al, the -- Hillary Clinton is the first presidential challenger in 25 years to be the first choice for the nomination in voters of both parties. Republicans want to run against her. Democrats want to nominate her. Last one was Ronald Reagan. So you go to be careful what you wish. Democrats wanted to run against him in 1980.

Rick Davis, one of the most experienced and I think respected Republican managers, said the strength that Hillary Clinton brings to it is because she can wiggle. Her constituency is so strong and so intense that she can move ideologically and not risk -- not risk losing them, whereas most candidates are very -- spend a -- very solicitous about taking care of their constituency, and if they start to get nervous at any point, they come back and reassure them.

HUNT: Same strength that Reagan had.

SHIELDS: That's right. She will raise more money, Al, than Bush and Kerry put together. And finally, she is smart.

HUNT: Kate.

O'BEIRNE: I think Mark's exactly right. The angry left-wing base of the Democratic Party that makes so many demands on other candidates is going to give Hillary Clinton a lot of running room, and that'll be helpful to her. I must say, I'm not going to miss spending the next three years thinking and talking about Hillary Clinton. And I'm not going to miss the efforts on the part of her allies and supporters to begin telling us, as they do every four years, about a Democratic candidate, You know, she's really not that liberal. Substitute John Kerry, substitute Al Gore, substitute Howard Dean. You know, they really are moderates, when all is said and done. And it's already starting, trying to paint Hillary Clinton as a moderate.


HUNT: Can I do that? Wait a minute. I'd like to do that because I will.


HUNT: I think this notion that Hillary Clinton was some kind of radical liberal is utter nonsense.



HUNT: Bob, I didn't interrupt you, did I?

NOVAK: I'm sorry. I'm sorry.

HUNT: Thank you, Bob. In 1993 and 1995, talk to people like Bruce Reed (ph), she was the one that kept saying to Bill Clinton, You're not sounding like a new Democrat anymore. To her everlasting discredit, she was largely responsible for bringing Dick Morris, a -- you know, a -- kind of a slimy fellow, back into the White House. So I -- you know, I think the idea that she's some kind of left-wing ideologue is...

O'BEIRNE: What about socializing American health care system, Al!

HUNT: Kate, only you would think that was socializing...


HUNT: ... it wasn't socializing. It was an ill-conceived and politically...


NOVAK: Al...


NOVAK: Make no mistake about it. There are a lot of women out there, are Democrats, who don't like her, don't like the way she stuck with her man. She has ups and downs. She is a very controversial, polarizing figure. She's an enormous gamble for the Democrats.

CARLSON: I don't take Bob's word on who's a pleasant woman and who isn't. You know, the one smart thing she's doing is she's taking a piece of health care inst5ead of the whole health care problem.

HUNT: Right. Mark...


SHIELDS: I don't know when somebody keeping their marital vows, as she has, and not ending a marriage, is somehow a liability.

HUNT: I thought that was...

SHIELDS: I think it's admirable.

HUNT: I thought that was called "family values."

SHIELDS: That's right.

HUNT: Coming up in the second half of the CAPITAL GANG: Pat Buchanan and THE GANG originals kick it around, a CAPITAL GANG classic you won't want to miss. And we'll take a look back at some of the guests who have joined us over the years.


CAROL LIN, CNN ANCHOR: Good evening. I'm Carol Lin at the CNN Center in Atlanta. More of THE CAPITAL GANG in just a moment, but first, a look at what's happening right now in the news. Americans and Iraqi forces are now on the offensive in Operation Spear. Fifty insurgents have been reported killed near the Syrian border, and Marines freed four men who were apparently tortured as captives of the rebels.

The FBI is investigating a security breach affecting more than 40 million credit card accounts. A hacker apparently gained access to the database of a company that processes transactions for Visa and MasterCard. Consumers will not be liable for any unauthorized charges.

U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice says she wants to re- energize the road map during a week-long trip to the Middle East. During a news conference with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas today, Rice said Israeli and Palestinian leaders should begin ironing out differences over Israel's planned pullout from Gaza.

The top two vote getters in Iran's presidential election will face each other off in a run-off next Friday. The former president, who has been called for better ties between Iran and the United States, and a surprise contender, the hard-line mayor of Tehran, are both going to be running off against each other.

That's 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 of THE CAPITAL GANG. As we near the end of this program, on June 25th, The Original Members Of The Gang Sat Down With Our First Moderator, Patrick Buchanan.


PATRICK BUCHANAN, FORMER HOST, CAPITAL GANG: Welcome to the original CAPITAL GANG. I'm Pat Buchanan, with Al Hunt, Robert Novak and Mark Shields. And in the fall of 1991, I served as our moderator, when I lost my amateur standing by going into New Hampshire.

Brother Novak, what were the great issues that sort of divided the panel and -- in those years, especially back there in '90 and '91?

NOVAK: Well, the biggest event during your reign as moderator was the U.S. invasion of Iraq the first time, to restore Kuwaiti rule, and what was very interesting is we had a 3-1 split against the war. The only guy for the war was General Hunt over there, and he called me Neville Novak.


HUNT: ... our national interests. Bob, you've become a Neville Chamberlain, appease at any cost. Well, Neville Novak, let me tell you something, let me just tell you something.


NOVAK: Mark was against it, and you were against it. And as usual, the powers that be didn't take our advice.

BUCHANAN: Well, (INAUDIBLE), because that thing took six or eight months or something like that, Al. I mean, from the time the invasion came until the U.S. war came. So it was every single week we had to deal with this thing.

HUNT: Yeah, and it began actually in August, I think, and then we went through March, and talked about a lot.

But the other thing I remember, Pat, is being on with you two, the two icons of the conservative movement in Washington -- and this is before Novak was a Catholic, of course, so basically what Novak cared about were tax cuts, and what you cared about were the social, the movement, conservative issues. You put up with tax cuts. You didn't really care much about them. At that time, he didn't really care that much about the social issues, and sometimes, he would go on one of his rants about how we should deny turkeys to poor people at Thanksgiving, and you would get this horrified look on your face, like, is this my ally?

NOVAK: Just to -- just to defend myself, I didn't -- that was when you were our moderator, first Thanksgiving. I didn't say we should deny turkeys. I said -- and I still believe this -- that people enjoying their Thanksgiving, they don't want to see poor people on the TV set, and that's all I said.

HUNT: He still looks horrified.

BUCHANAN: Do they want to see poor people cluttering up the TV set around Christmas and (INAUDIBLE)? No! Novak got a point.

SHIELDS: I think Tuesdays and Thursdays in February is the only time we ought to be aware that there are people in this country who aren't worried about cutting their capitals gains tax. Now, this -- Al is absolutely right -- this was before Bob was concerned about cutting capitals gains taxes, as well as all taxes, and at that point, you'll recall the Robert D. Novak home for the victims of capitals gains tax, one of his favorite charities. But I do -- I do remember our disagreements, passionately, on the show. But I remember one remarkable moment when I was going through the airport in Denver, Colorado, and a woman came up to me and grabbed me and said, you know, "Mr. Shields, I watch THE CAPITAL GANG. And I agree with you on everything except late-term abortion. But I have to tell you one thing that really bothers me. You people like each other."

And this was really true. I mean, because before -- this was before Washington became as ugly and polarized and rancid a place.

BUCHANAN: Well, I've got to say my most memorable moment, when Brother Novak turned to you and said, "the Democratic Party is completely controlled by gays." And I'm sitting right here. And you say, "B.S." in a loud (INAUDIBLE) voice. And then -- so I looked at you and tried to follow up, and then you said it right to me, and all I remember is looking at the camera and saying, "we'll be right back," figuring out how we're -- who's going to have to leave this show?

HUNT: And you broke out laughing while you were doing it. It's the only time I ever saw you lose it for a moment, Pat.

I want to pick up on what Mark said for a minute, because I had known Bob quite well. I've dealt with you professionally before we did this show, and I have to tell you, I thought in the beginning, the idea of having this right-wing Pat Buchanan as the moderator was not the most appealing prospect in the world. And I told my wife after about the third or fourth show, I said, I really -- I said, "something terrible is happening." She says, "what is it?" I said, "I really like Pat Buchanan. He's really a great guy." She said, "you'll get over it," but I never did.

BUCHANAN: Well, listen, Novak was one that appointed me this, when he figured he wasn't getting enough speaking time in the moderator chair.

NOVAK: No, I tell you the truth, I tell you, as you get older, you tell the truth and there's things flying down -- I was on "The McLaughlin Group," I was one of the originals on "The McLaughlin Group," as you were, and I just couldn't stand John McLaughlin anymore, being with him, frankly. And so -- but I liked this kind of show, so I decided, CNN wanted to do this kind of thing, so I made the suggestion of you three, with a lot of thought given to gender and racial diversity...


NOVAK: And I suggested that you be -- I had seen you moderate sometimes at CNN when you were in the old days, and I thought you could -- you weren't always the extreme advocate.

SHIELDS: And Pat, when you left, of course you left to -- it was really interesting, because Pat left to challenge President Bush's renomination in '92, and I remember being up in New Hampshire with you, and talk about a total role reversal. I mean, Pat, I think, Pat, it was a remarkable experience for you. You were radicalized in that campaign.

BUCHANAN: Oh, yeah. Listen, yeah, you see all those working guys up there. That's when I left Novak and the free traders and came out to America first, American jobs first.

NOVAK: You know what it is? That is a good lesson that guys who are on talk shows shouldn't run for president.

SHIELDS: I disagree.

HUNT: I am very, very confident that will never happen to your colleagues here over here (INAUDIBLE).

BUCHANAN: Well, it was, you know, it was a great group, those four years, and it's been great since. You guys had a great show, and proud to have been a part of it.

SHIELDS: And a big part you've been.


HUNT: As Kate and Margaret said, we don't look a bit different.

Coming up next, the most contentious CAPITAL GANG ever. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

HUNT: Bill Bennett puts on his virtues hat when there's not a political election, and then he puts on his partisan hat when we have an election, Bill. You've got your talking points from Austin on this.


HUNT: I mean, basically for you to talk about...

BENNETT: I don't.

HUNT: ... Mark being ad hominem, when you talk about Al Gore...


HUNT: I'm sorry, wait, Bob, I'm not finished.




HUNT: Welcome back. We have welcomed many guests in the studio C over the years. Perhaps the most memorable was Republican William J. Bennett, on November 18th, 2000, in the midst of the presidential election recount.


BENNETT: Al Gore is trying to steal this election. I know you guys don't like Bush, I know you don't want Republicans to win, but you have got to call these thug tactics. Now, I mean, you can laugh about it. If you don't call the kind the thuggish tactics that the Gore campaign is using right now for what they are, the notion of objectivity in the media is gone.

SHIELDS: Bill, I just cannot disagree with you more strenuously. In the first place, Al Gore as we sit here leads in the nation, popular vote. Al Gore has more electoral votes than George W. Bush.

You can sit there from your Olympian perch and talk -- and issue your moral thunderbolts, but the fact of the matter is, you and I vote in the same precinct. Do you think those people there, Bill, do you think they are corrupt?

BENNETT: My arguments...

SHIELDS: Is that what you think they are? Do you think they're corrupt?

BENNETT: Do you want me to answer? Your arguments are ad hominem.

SHIELDS: They're not ad hominem.

BENNETT: Yes, they are ad hominem.


SHIELDS: ... Al Gore is trying to steal an election?

BENNETT: To attack me being Olympian -- absolutely, based on the evidence and based on the facts. The issue isn't the popular vote, Mark. I mean, maybe it sounds Olympian to you. The issue is electoral votes.

HUNT: Bill Bennett puts on his virtues hat when there's not a political election, and then he puts on his partisan hat when we have an election, Bill. You've got your talking points from Austin on this.

BENNETT: I don't.

NOVAK: I mean, let's not, let's not...

HUNT: Let me finish.

NOVAK: Let's not insult people.

HUNT: I am going to finish, Bob.

BENNETT: I can defend myself. Where is the character assassination on the part of the Bush campaign? Where is the character assassination?

HUNT: Stealing the election? Thugs...

BENNETT: Where is the assassination? Where is the assassination?

HUNT: ... stealing the election. If that's not character assassination, I don't know what is.

BENNETT: Who has personally been attacked...


HUNT: Bob, who caused this unpleasantness that you so objected to?

NOVAK: You and Mark did. There is no question about it. Bill Bennett came in here strongly because there was a -- obviously, that George W. won this election on the electoral votes, and the Gore people were trying to steal it, and he said this, and you guys attacked him, which is -- it was ad hominem. But it was pretty good television. It was uncomfortable at the time. Bennett never came on the show again, and I don't blame him.

HUNT: You were there that night, Margaret. CARLSON: Yeah, apparently I stayed out of it, or Bob just cut me out as he is wont to do. You know, we had the wrong Bennett on. Bob Bennett would never behave that way, but the most interesting part for me listening to it is where Bob says, "Let's not insult people." I would like to...

NOVAK: Did you -- did you (INAUDIBLE)...

CARLSON: No, I didn't.

HUNT: I can defend myself.

NOVAK: I can defend myself, yeah.

O'BEIRNE: I wasn't there. I'm not so sure I'm sorry I wasn't there. It is a reminder when you look back how strong the feelings were during that Florida recount, and I think we saw in that clip an important -- the stakes were huge, and Al Gore was cherry-picking...


SHIELDS: Kate O'Beirne is right. The feelings were intense, and that was an example of it. But let's be very blunt about it: What the Gore people were asking for was a recount. That's all. That's not thuggish tactics. The Bush people went to court to stop the recount at the time that they -- that it was most propitious for them. We listened to that Rodney King excerpt of "let's not insult people," can't we all get along? I mean, when Novak becomes the peacemaker, then you really know you've got a hot show going.

HUNT: Well, you know, after that show, the -- the young staff members and interns said that before the show, that Bill Bennett had tried to bully them. He came itching for a fight for some inexplicable reason, and you know what, Mark? He got it.

Next on CAPITAL GANG, we'll take a look back at the many guests that have joined us over the past 17 years.


HUNT: Welcome back. Over the past 17 years, THE CAPITAL GANG has hosted cabinet member, senators, House speakers and presidential advisers to address the biggest stories of the day. Let's take a look back at just a few.


DICK CHENEY, SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: Soviet Union is the one nation in the world that still possesses the capacity to destroy us. The fact of the matter is, they still retain enormous military potential, and we don't know what the political future holds for the Soviet Union.

GEN. ALEXANDER HAIG, FORMER SECRETARY OF STATE: I think when this fighter pilot turned on the ground echelon, we were close to that point we were going to see some very major traumas for the Iraqi forces.

REP. TOM FOLEY, HOUSE SPEAKER: To have gone to Baghdad, taken responsibility for the Iraqi government, set up a post World War II type occupation for years, then responsible for bringing the country back to economic restoration, being responsible for picking political successors, running the country would have been a mistake. We don't need to do that, and the president was right not to.

SEN. DIANNE FEINSTEIN (D), CALIFORNIA: I thought we might get 16 votes. To get above 40 votes sent a very substantial message to the United States military that the culture has to change, and that boys will be boys is no longer acceptable.

GEORGE STEPHANOPOLOUS, CLINTON SR. ADVISER: Paula Jones is not going to succeed. It's a frivolous suit. But more importantly, if you go to the office of the president, if this goes forward, it will just be an invitation to nuisance suits of all sorts.

REP. NEWT GINGRICH (R-GA), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: There is a point here where as a citizen, you don't care about either party, you just want to -- it worries you to see the political system involved in this kind of a scandal.

REP. TOM DELAY (R-TX), MINORITY WHIP: The Democrat Party just has not gotten the message, can't read it, can't understand it. They're in total disarray. They're fighting amongst themselves as to what direction they should go.

SEN. BOB DOLE, SENATE MINORTIY LEADER: We had a choice between the biggest spending reduction, the Republican plan, in history, and the biggest tax increase in the world in history, according to Senator Moynihan, in the world, and that we -- the Democrats voted for a big tax increase.

HUNT: Bigger than the Reagan tax increase?

DOLE: Oh, yes.

SEN. DANIEL MOYNIHAN (D), NEW YORK: Bob is (INAUDIBLE) nostalgic. He wants these tax cuts, so we'll get another deficit, so we can have a balanced budget campaign again. Just like in the old days.

RUDY GIULIANI, NYC MAYOR: This will be a close election between a Republican and a Democrat, and Hillary Clinton will not run as well as those early polls -- and she has time and I have time to make a decision.

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: My hope and prayer is that there is enough interest and outrage and concern amongst the American people that a fair and balanced campaign finance reform bill will pass.

DONNA SHALALA, HHS SECRETARY: I'm so surprised that anyone would even suggest that Americans want their Social Security system changed. To think about individual investment accounts, they're risky, they're expensive to administer, far more expensive than the current Social Security system.

SEN. RICHARD LUGAR (R), INDIANA: I heard Rumsfeld and Powell in a long briefing with the Senate, and they were mightily close together, including Osama bin Laden, the camps, the Taliban, probably targets, and probably military action there.

MICHAEL BLOOMBERG, NYC MAYOR: You just have to go to downtown Manhattan to see what the terrorists have done. We have to respond to terrorism, or we're just going to constantly be attacked, again and again and again.


HUNT: Mark, the most memorable guest?

SHIELDS: Al, a general rule. Cabinet officers are worse than senators, senators are worse than House members. House members are better than they are. I would put in that category Tom Davis, the Republican from Virginia, Barney Frank, Democrat from Massachusetts, Vic Fazio, the former California governor (sic), and Vin Weber, the former -- congressman -- and Vin Weber, the former Republican from Minnesota.

HUNT: Kate O'Beirne.

O'BEIRNE: Well, we poor conservatives on this show are outnumbered 3-2 on every show, so I invariably would be on with Democrats, and no matter how partisan and sort of ugly and contentious things were on the Hill, Saturday night after Saturday night, we would have very cordial, friendly conversations with some of my favorites -- Chris Dodd, and Ed Rendell, John Podesta, the late Bob Matsui, the late Paul Wellstone. Gentlemen every one of them, and I think maybe we showed in some small way, you can disagree without being disagreeable.

HUNT: Aren't you impressed by that, Bob?

NOVAK: Very impressed. I thought the worst guests over the years had been White House staffers, because they are on such a short leash...

HUNT: Yeah, both parties.

O'BEIRNE: They say nothing, yeah.

NOVAK: Both parties, and terrified that they -- we really haven't put too many of them on. I want to say a word about the guest -- it was a terrific guest on our -- our first pilot, which never got on the air, was Bob Strauss, and he was then a guest on many shows in the future. I thought he was a terrific guest.

SHIELDS: He was a very good guest.

HUNT: Margaret Carlson?

CARLSON: I'd put him on my list too, Bob Strauss. I love the people who love what they do, who come on the show and you can just see it in them. And that would be, you know, Chris Dodd is one of those people, Ed Rendell.

O'BEIRNE: Any Republicans?

CARLSON: John McCain.

O'BEIRNE: Knew it! I knew it.

CARLSON: My kind of Republican.


NOVAK: How about Tom DeLay?

CARLSON: I don't think he loves -- I don't think he loves what he does.

NOVAK: I think he loves what he does.

CARLSON: Oh, no, no, no, I think he loves power. He doesn't love governing. And I have to say Mayor Mike Bloomberg, and -- as sometime employer of -- as sometime employer of mine, I must admit.

HUNT: Well, picking up on Margaret Carlson, I would certainly agree with her on Mike Bloomberg, and I never went out with him, Margaret.


HUNT: Of the others, I would say Chris Dodd and Charlie Rangel and Peter King of the House.

CARLSON: Moynihan!


HUNT: He was good. And Daniel Patrick Moynihan was always great.

THE GANG will be back with our all-time outrages of the last 17 years.


HUNT: Last week, I said the Bush administration bought oil and gas property in Florida from a rich contributor. The sale never went through, only because Congress never approved it.

And now, for the outrages of the last 17 years.

I'm all for rising tides that lift all the boats, but today the top 1 percent of Americans make about $700,000 after taxes. That's double what it was when we began this program. The poorest 20 percent, meanwhile, bring home only about $15,000. Little change from 17 years ago. It's not good for any of us, even Bob, when the gap between rich and poor widens. Let's lift all boats, not just yachts.

NOVAK: Thanks, Karl.

The record of the U.S. Supreme Court over the past 17 years is surprising and reprehensible. No matter that all but two of the justices were nominated by Republican presidents; they still find invisible writing in the Constitution to justify legislating their personal views from the bench. They continue to claim constitutional prohibitions against barring abortion and permitting school prayer. The justices discovered constitutional protection for gay rights, and a constitutional prohibition of congressional term limits.

What can be done? Put more Scalias and more Clarence Thomases on the Supreme Court.

CARLSON: Well, it's a tough call -- that Supreme Court delivering the 2000 election, limiting stem cell research? No, it's Bush and Cheney swearing Saddam had weapons of mass destruction, and Saddam was linked to al Qaeda, so that they could try out their theory of spreading democracy by force. Seventeen hundred men and women have died in this experiment, sent to Iraq without a plan, in too few numbers, and unarmored. The lies continue, including the one about the insurgency being in its last throes and Iraqis taking over.

I know why Bush doesn't meet the dead at Dover. It might pierce his denial or break his heart.

HUNT: Kate.

O'BEIRNE: You might not appreciate the unrelenting challenge of this ever-popular segment. Some weeks, I'd been brimming with outrages come air time. Which to pick? Some weeks I've been utterly sanguine, not a concern in the world, outrageless. I might turn to friends for help. Someone would suggest, how about that tornado? Acts of God are not outrages. A team loss? Oh, please.

Bob, of course, was never short of outrages, but wouldn't share. Natch. What upsets Mark, Al and Margaret is music to my ears. It's been sort of lonely.

HUNT: Mark.

SHIELDS: Al, Saddam Hussein did not have chemical, biological or nuclear weapons. Iraq had absolutely no connection to the September 11th attacks on the U.S. Saddam's forces constituted no realistic military threat to his neighbors, let alone to the United States. The case President George W. Bush made for leading his nation into war, now in its third year, with criminally inadequate post-war planning and with tragic costs in blood and treasure, was totally counterfeit and indefensible.

It is more than an outrage. It is negligence of truly historical dimensions. HUNT: This is Al Hunt, saying good night for THE CAPITAL GANG. Be sure to put it on your calendar and tell all your friends, next week, the final CAPITAL GANG. Thanks for joining us.