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The Lead with Jake Tapper

Durbin's Apology to the Senate; Is Jack Abramoff a Thief?; Goodbye from the Gang of Five

Aired June 25, 2005 - 19:00   ET


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

Democrats stepped up criticism of the war in Iraq, with Senator Ted Kennedy again calling for Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld to resign.


SEN. EDWARD M. KENNEDY (D), MASSACHUSETTS: I think the American people deserve better. They deserve competency and they deserve the facts. In baseball, it's three strikes, you're out. What is it for the secretary of defense?


HUNT: The commanding general in Iraq was asked whether he agreed with Vice President Dick Cheney that the insurgency is in its "last throes."


GEN. JOHN ABIZAID, CMDR., U.S. CENTRAL COMMAND: There's a lot of work to be done against the insurgency.

SEN. CARL LEVIN (D-MI), ARMED SERVICES COMMITTEE: It doesn't sound to me from your testimony or any other testimony here this morning that it is in its last throes, but...

ABIZAID: I'm sure you'll forgive me from criticizing the vice president.


HUNT: Meanwhile, Republican Senator Robert Bennett met with the president and discussed his embattled Social Security plan.


SEN. ROBERT BENNETT (R-UT), DEPUTY MAJORITY WHIP: I will be proposing a bill that does not include personal accounts. And the president's aware of that. He indicated that I should go forward and do that. (END VIDEO CLIP)

HUNT: Hey, Bob, is President Bush in deep trouble on both Iraq and Social Security?

BOB NOVAK, CAPITAL GANG: Oh, I think he's in trouble on Iraq. This war goes on. I think one of his great assets is Teddy Kennedy, with his nastiness and saying -- calling him on to quit. That's just childish. Nobody likes that. But when Dick Cheney says it's in its last throes and General Abizaid can't agree with him, that's a difficulty. It is a problem.

Now, the -- I think they have really mishandled the Social Security question. They should have had a plan out there. And the latest fiasco was Senator Bennett came and says, We're not going to have personal accounts, and the president says to everybody, whether he's listening or not, Just go ahead and continue what you're doing. And he doesn't mean his banning personal accounts. They're still trying. But the odds are pretty bad.

So I'd say that on those two issues, this is not a good time for the president. But there's ups and downs in every presidency, and this is one of the down times.

HUNT: Two biggest issues around, though, Margaret, aren't they?

MARGARET CARLSON, CAPITAL GANG: Right. And Senator Kennedy isn't the president's concern, it's Republicans and General Abizaid and other generals who haven't been as outspoken, who've been in Iraq and who know that it's not a public relations problem, which the White House made it out to be -- the president is now going to go around the country selling the Iraq war, the way he tried to sell Social Security. And they may both end up the same way.

It's not going well, and everyone knows it. And the first step to making it go better is for the president to acknowledge the problem that's there with the insurgency, to armor the troops, to send more troops, and to somehow fix the Iraqi army, which has been infiltrated, and everyone knows it because they have found the fingerprints of Iraqi soldiers on the IEDs along the road.

HUNT: Do you see any glimmer of light here, Kate O'Beirne?

KATE O'BEIRNE, CAPITAL GANG: Well, every general who testified this week said they have a really tough job on their hands, but they are seeing progress. Every one of them said that. Even putting aside the typically defeatist attitude on the part of too many liberals, I do think it's so that the public, given the heart-breaking losses we're seeing every week -- the public does wonder whether or not a free and democratic Iraq is worth the cost if they don't see it firmly connected to America's national interest. And that's the case the president has to keep making.

John McCain made that case, Rudy Giuliani and the president at the Republican convention. It moved public opinion. But that's the burden of the administration. The public will understand sacrifices are worth it as long as our own national security is seen at issue, and I think that's something the administration hasn't done enough of.

HUNT: Just a problem of communications, Mark?

MARK SHIELDS, CAPITAL GANG: I think it's deeper than that, Al, and President Bush is in trouble. And I guess where I dissent from Kate's observation is there have been no calls to sacrifice. The only people sacrificing are those in uniform and their loved ones, and everybody else, it's just painless, ouchless patriotism. And profitable, as well.

Al, the very qualities that got George Bush reelected -- the sense of strength and the sense that George -- that John Kerry represented risk, both to the culture of the country and internationally to the war on terrorism -- right now, George Bush has come to represent risk. His Social Security plan is seen as too risky. The Iraq war plan is altogether risky. And Americans are really questioning deeply and profoundly. This is an anti-war movement with no leadership. There's no There's no Ben Spock or George McGovern at the head of it. This is coming right up from the grass roots, which has to make...


HUNT: Let me just say one thing, Bob, and I want you to pick up on it, because you have reported several times, and I think quite accurately, that there was a strong sentiment within parts of this administration to begin an orderly withdrawal. It seems to me now that that is an option, that their option is either to do that, at which point, I think, Iraq may well go into chaos, or not to do that, at which point, you're going to have more and more Republicans, like Walter Jones, say, Wait a minute. You have real problems. Am I exaggerating the dilemma?

NOVAK: Well, I think -- I would not use the word "go into chaos." I believe it's going to be very difficult for them. The Iraqis have -- it's an artificial country. They have a lot of difficulties, and it's not our responsibility -- I don't believe that that is the win-or-lose thing in the -- in the war against terrorism.

I'd like to make two points, though. Mark, I think this country is built on risk. You take a risk in your life when you -- when you went into journalism at an advanced age, and you've been very successful, and you -- risk paid off. The risk -- every -- this is -- Americans are risk-prone, not risk-averse. And I hope they still are.

And secondly, I -- what bothers me -- I'm not an enthusiast of this war, but I sure as hell hope they do well. I just get a feeling from lot of Democrats and a lot of liberals that they are rejoicing that this -- that they think this is a quagmire. The think it's a political advantage.

HUNT: Is that what's happening, Margaret?

CARLSON: That is so untrue. I think during the campaign, there was some -- well, look at how Iraq is going. Let's change leadership. But that is gone. No one is rejoicing because there's no alternative to winning. I think it will be utter chaos. We went to war on a theory, and now -- of democratizing a place -- Mark, by the way, put his profession at risk. He didn't put other people's lives at risk.

HUNT: How...

O'BEIRNE: There is an alternative...

HUNT: Just quickly -- how long will we...

O'BEIRNE: There is an alternative to...

HUNT: ... be there, Kate?

O'BEIRNE: There is an alternative to winning, unfortunately. We could lose the will, and therefore lose. Our commitment isn't by any means endless, but this president has resolved -- and I think when he continues to remind the American public about our own national security interests -- to do everything in our power -- ultimately, it is up to the Iraqis, but we will not cut and run too soon!

HUNT: Final Iraq thought, Mark.

SHIELDS: I know Bob, who -- does not refer to anybody on this panel -- I know him too well for that. But I would quote to him the -- General Anthony Zinni, the former four-star Marine general, who said, This is like the chateau generals of World War II, who continued to send their own troops out to be slaughtered because of a political mistake. You don't pay -- the politicians don't pay for the mistake, the troops pay for it in blood.


HUNT: Coming up next on CAPITAL GANG: Old-fashioned Chicago political arm-twisting brings a Dick Durbin apology.


HUNT: Welcome back.

Senate Democratic whip Richard Durbin backed away from his remarks comparing the Guantanamo detention facility with genocidal regimes of the past after Chicago mayor Richard Daley called his comments "a disgrace."


SEN. RICHARD DURBIN (D-IL), MINORITY WHIP: I'm sorry if anything that I said caused any offense or pain to those who have such bitter memories of the Holocaust. I offer my apologies to those who were offended by my words.


HUNT: Democrats demanded presidential adviser Karl Rove's apology after he made these comments at a New York political gathering. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KARL ROVE, WHITE HOUSE DEPUTY CHIEF OF STAFF: Conservatives saw the savagery of 9/11 and the attacks and prepared for war. Liberals saw the savagery of the 9/11 attacks and wanted to prepare indictments and offer therapy and understanding to our attackers.


HUNT: Meanwhile, Senate Democrats again refused to permit the nomination of John Bolton as U.S. ambassador to the U.N. to come to a vote.


SEN. HARRY REID (D-NE), MINORITY LEADER: They send us this flawed candidate because of this ideological bent the White House has.

We want a nominee that the American people can be proud of. Bolton isn't anyone we can be proud of.


HUNT: Mark, are Democrats riding high or preparing for a fall?

SHIELDS: Actually, both, Al. The reality is, with only two political parties, if one of the two that's in power has formed a circular -- the political equivalent of a circular firing squad, which is what the Republicans have done -- I mean, taking their own numbers way the hell down -- then the Democrats will be the beneficiary at the polls. But the Democrats have to come up -- and they ought to learn from the Republicans (INAUDIBLE) they have to come up with an agenda for governing and an idea about where they want to lead the country.

As far as Karl Rove is concerned, Al, I mean, he makes Spiro Agnew look like Winston Churchill. I mean, this is -- this is a -- this is a desperate man who sees his whole new political era crumbling about him.

HUNT: Kate?

O'BEIRNE: What Karl Rove said about liberals is absolutely true! Look at what Moveon was saying on September 13, two days after 9/11. Let's show restraint and moderation. Michael Moore -- Michael Moore is not -- who blames America for the 9/11 attacks. He's been embraced by the Democratic Party. He was a star at their convention. Moveon is not some estranged group. They spent millions to elect John Kerry, and Hillary Clinton and Harry Reid and Robert Byrd and the whole -- go to Moveon's rallies. It is true about some liberals. It's not a fight or discussion I don't think Democrats want to have because the public recognizes that too many liberals are of a "blame America" mindset and are defeatist about the war on terror.

HUNT: Margaret, I don't recall Michael Moore...

O'BEIRNE: They should have ignored his remarks. HUNT: ... being a hero at the Democratic convention. He snuck into a box one time...


HUNT: ... to sit next to Jimmy Carter...

CARLSON: And people tried to...

HUNT: ... without the president (ph) knowing. Right.

CARLSON: ... tried to -- tried to shun him, in fact.

Karl Rove was talking about Democrats. He's not talking...

O'BEIRNE: He said liberals!

CARLSON: ... about liberals. He's talking about...

NOVAK: He said liberals.

CARLSON: ... liberal Democrats. And he meant it to be the party that backed -- all of the officials, as far as I know, in the -- elected officials in the Democratic Party stood behind the president after 9/11. I don't know any of them who suggested therapy. I don't know any of them who suggested that we indict Osama bin Laden. And so I don't know where that comes from.

O'BEIRNE: Howard Dean did!

CARLSON: You know what's interesting -- I don't -- I don't believe he did. Now...

O'BEIRNE: He said we shouldn't prejudge him!

CARLSON: You know what?

O'BEIRNE: He needs a trial!

CARLSON: I'll tell you, Howard Dean said something very interesting during the campaign, and he was chased out because of it, which is he didn't think we were safer because Saddam Hussein had been deposed. And by the way, we aren't. Politicians are punished for foresight.

HUNT: Bob, punished for foresight?

NOVAK: I -- let me talk about -- the Karl Rove thing, I think, is -- is not the kind of politics that is very effective. I think it -- he becomes the issue, instead of the Democrats. But I sympathize with (INAUDIBLE) the Democrats have been so nasty. Harry -- Harry -- Harry Reid used to be one of the nicest little guys you'd want, and now he's just a -- he's a -- he's a dirty mouth.

(LAUGHTER) NOVAK: I mean, the idea -- the idea of -- of the -- having a -- having a -- at least he speaks the truth, in the sense that all this charade (INAUDIBLE) holding up the Bolton nomination because they wouldn't allow some -- some documents to come out -- he says, No, we just can't stand Bolton. He doesn't know anything about Bolton, and he's -- and he's attacking him.

Now, I will say -- I got to say one thing about Dick Durbin, who didn't make a move -- didn't make a move toward an apology until Mayor Daley said it was -- he was a disgrace. He was a disgrace! The mayor of Chicago said that about an Illinois Democrat. And -- but I did not consider that an apology.

CARLSON: Well, let's wait for somebody...

NOVAK: Just -- just a minute! I -- I read that carefully. That was not an apology! He said, If somebody misinterpreted me, somebody was offended, I'm sorry. Very, very -- and people -- and the press said, Oh, he apologized.

HUNT: I'm going to get in here for a minute on Bolton because Trent Lott and John McCain and Mitch McConnell and others have all said to the White House, Release this information. Call their bluff. See what they'll do. It's Dick Cheney who's insisting they won't do that. If they continue to insist they're not going to release that, the Bolton nomination is dead.

I'll go further. I'll give you a possible replacement: Newt Gingrich, who is lobbying for the job. And can you imagine Newt Gingrich as U.N. ambassador? And it saddens me because if Newt Gingrich makes a comeback and I'm not here to chronicle it...


HUNT: ... that really is unfair!

CARLSON: ... reporting, Al. By the way, "little" Harry Reid is about your size, I think, Bob. And...

NOVAK: I'm little.

CARLSON: And let's wait...

HUNT: He's a boxer (ph), too.

CARLSON: ... for somebody to call Karl Rove a disgrace for what he said.

SHIELDS: Right. George -- George W. Bush has piously spoken about the need to change the climate in Washington. Let's hear what George W. Bush has to say about the savagery of Bob Novak's defended remarks Karl Rove made. I mean, those were -- those were beyond anything in politics.

O'BEIRNE: It's true of some liberals!


O'BEIRNE: The record shows it's true of some liberals!


SHIELDS: You defended...

NOVAK: Who was the savagery...

SHIELDS: You just -- you -- his savagery, which you defended. You said, Oh, I wouldn't have said it, but I can understand.

HUNT: Karl Rove's savagery.

NOVAK: I think I said -- you know, you -- you have for 17 years, Mark, sat there misrepresenting things I say! And I said I didn't think that was the right thing to say!

SHIELDS: You said it wasn't smart, but you could understand it!

NOVAK: No, no, no! I didn't say...


NOVAK: Well, wait a minute! This...


NOVAK: No, no, no, no! I didn't say it wasn't smart. I said he shouldn't have done that! I think that's the wrong thing to do, but I can understand it! That's what I said.

HUNT: Margaret, a final word.

CARLSON: But I don't understand it.

HUNT: Right.


NOVAK: You don't understand anything!


CARLSON: And you know, I think everybody...

NOVAK: ... your problem!

CARLSON: Everybody should lower the rhetoric, but I don't see why you choose Dick Durbin to criticize and kind of let Karl Rove...

NOVAK: Because that was -- that was...

CARLSON: Karl Rove doesn't have to...

NOVAK: ... an outrage! HUNT: Thank you, Margaret.

Next on CAPITAL GANG: Are lobbyists out of control in Washington?


HUNT: Welcome back.

The Senate Indian Affairs Committee heard testimony that Republican lobbyist Jack Abramoff illicitly took millions of dollars from the Choctaw Indian tribe.


SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R-AZ), INDIAN AFFAIRS COMMITTEE: Today's hearing is about more than contempt, even more than greed, it's simply and sadly a tale of betrayal.


HUNT: Chairman John McCain questioned a former Abramoff aide who dealt with Indian tribes.


MCCAIN: You were the tribe's client manager. You were aware, weren't you, of Mr. Abramoff billing the tribe for fees and expense unrelated to the services?

SHAWN VASSELL, FORMER JACK ABRAMOFF EMPLOYEE: Mr. Chairman, I respectfully decline to answer the question on the basis of my constitutional right.


HUNT: Kate, does this scandal threaten to spread from one lobbyist to the GOP in general?

O'BEIRNE: I think the Abramoff dealings with -- misdealings with these Indian tribe clients is a level of greed this town hasn't seen before. I think it transcends party. It transcends conscience. He is being investigated by a Republican committee chairman. He's being investigated by a Republican Justice Department. I think it's sui generis with respect to him and a few of his cohorts.

What I do think Republicans have to answer for is another story this week about the number of lobbyists here in town increasing so dramatically on their watch. It used to be, it seems to me, they were sort of evenly divided between those lobbyists representing interests who wanted Washington to leave them alone and those looking to get a piece of the pie. With the pie growing so much under a Republican Congress, there seem to be more lobbyists representing interests who want a piece of that bigger pie.

HUNT: That's what they used to say about the Democrats 10 years ago. SHIELDS: That is right, Al, and I'd say -- Kate mentions a few of his cohorts. Those cohorts deserve a little attention, a little celebrity. Ralph Reed, the -- the angelic-faced character assassin of the South Carolina primary against John McCain took millions of dollars, didn't actually know what was going on. Grover Norquist, favorite tax-cutter of the -- all those in Washington -- what's the story with Grover? Hundreds of thousands of dollars to arrange meetings at the White House! The White House is now part of this, and the president's got to distance himself from it.

Al, this is corrupt. It is growing. It's going to continue. And it is truly, truly real.

HUNT: Corrupt, Bob?

NOVAK: Yes. This is a corrupt town. There was a lot of corruption in the Clinton administration. A lot of people said it was Bill Clinton (INAUDIBLE) there's corruption involved in this, and they say it's George W. Bush. It isn't. What it is, it's big government. It is -- when government gets this big and people have great advantages to get from government, what's government's favors, what's sanctioning, you find this kind of -- this kind of outrage and pilfering of funds.

And as long as -- as you liberals want to have big government and taking care of all of you, you're going to have corruption. Corruption and government are -- are -- are -- go hand in hand. They can't be separated.

HUNT: Margaret?

CARLSON: But the number of lobbyists has doubled since Clinton, and the big spending and the big government have happened under Bush, so that there's more money...


CARLSON: There's more -- it's too -- way too true! I don't know how conservatives can stand it. And -- and by the way, it's John McCain who's holding hearings. It's no Ethics Committee. They're dead. They're not looking at each other.

HUNT: As you wrote this week.

CARLSON: Only Senator McCain is out there doing it.

HUNT: I want to pick up on what Mark said because I must say, I was just shocked to read some of this stuff. Grover Norquist! I thought it was all about principle. Grover, we find out now, is all about greed. Ralph Reed, you know, the evangelical Christian, devout Christian, writes an e-mail in which he says, "Now that I'm done with electoral politics, I need to start humping in corporate accounts."

Bob, what do we tell the children? I mean, I'm shocked!

NOVAK: Well, I know you're -- you're not shocked because (INAUDIBLE) our last show have to be a little honest. You're delighted!

HUNT: I am?

NOVAK: You're not shocked! You love it!


NOVAK: Because anybody who is against high taxes and you can pin on any mispractice, you love! So you and Mark, you're just -- you're just dancing a jig around this table, Oh, boy, Oh, boy! So don't -- don't -- don't give me that cynical thing about how you're shocked. You're delighted. Admit it.

CARLSON: You know, Al...

HUNT: Kate, I'm really shocked. But Kate, you can tell me why I shouldn't be shocked.

O'BEIRNE: When it comes to Ralph Reed, when I read very closely what exactly it is he apparently is being accused of, I'm not sure that there's a there there. And I to think we have to be careful in this respect. People have a right to earn money. Talented people make a lot of it, and a lot of people on both sides of the aisle have gotten very rich working in this town.

HUNT: Mark?

SHIELDS: If hypocrisy were a felony, Al, these people would be looking at 30 years hard time. They came and presented themselves as one thing, which they weren't. Ralph Reed was supposedly interested in prayer in the schools and cleaning up television and all the rest of it. He's down there actually (INAUDIBLE) a grass roots campaign...

HUNT: And we're finding that what he's doing is, quote, "humping in corporate accounts."

SHIELDS: Humping in...

HUNT: Whatever that means, Margaret.

Coming up in the second half of THE CAPITAL GANG, a look back at some of the best CAPITAL GANG moments.


CAROL LIN, CNN ANCHOR: Good evening, I am Carol Lin. Capital Gang continues in just a moment, but first a look at what's happening right now in the news. Billy Graham continues his final crusade in Flushing, New York, and you are looking at a live picture right now of that event. He is frail and 86 years old and the evangelist will speak again tomorrow.

A 14-year-old girl was killed today in a shark attack off the Florida panhandle. The girl and a friend were 200 yards or more offshore. The shark is being described as 11 feet long. And the deaths of three New Jersey boys found dead in a car trunk had been ruled an accident. The Camden County prosecutor today said that no foul play is suspected in the boys' disappearance and that autopsies of the bodies revealed that they had died of suffocation.

A retired Verizon executive has been tapped to lead the country's most well-known civil rights organization. The NAACP chose Bruce Gordon to be its new president. Gordon will succeed Kweisi Mfume, who resigned in December.

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 CAPITAL GANG. CAPITAL GANG has been covering national elections starting in 1988. Here is a sample of what we said during primaries and national conventions.


HUNT: Robert Novak, is it time fore the Democrats to start popping the champagne bottles in the Big Apple?

NOVAK: I never thought I'd see the day when Democrats were delirious with joy with a candidate at 28 percent.

SHIELDS: I think the Gipper did it tonight. We saw the two sides of conservatism. We saw the mean-spirited, divisive conservative of Pat Buchanan. We saw the smiling, optimistic - Pat's - God love him, he's a great friend of ours, a wonderful colleague on this show. But to Pat Buchanan diversity is still a measure of weakness in America. To Ronald Reagan, diversity is a celebration of our strength.

NOVAK: That's not really fair, Mark, because that was a speech that said there are cultural wars.

HUNT: You know, Bob Dole might very well make a good president, but he is a lousy primary candidate. There is a mediocre message and no inspiration, Mark.

O'BEIRNE: He's the front runner. Maybe he is our guy. Now with the weak showing in Iowa and potentially in New Hampshire, he loses the inevitability factor.

NOVAK: I think the big story of this convention, no matter how you slice it, is the Dole selection. I have been going to these conventions since 1960 ...


NOVAK: 19. I have never seen a single event so change the atmosphere in a convention.

SHIELDS: You are absolutely right. There is no question that the selection of Jack Kemp by Bob Dole has energized the crowd. HUNT: Buoyant and confident Democrats wrapped up a convention with the 66 minute acceptance speech by President Clinton, who uplifted the folks in this arena.

NOVAK: Bob Dole two weeks ago had what I saw - I think he put out a vision for America and this was just a lot of programs. I think this party has been feminized and I think this was essentially a feminine speech.

CARLSON: That was not a feminine speech by Bob's definition of what feminine is. It was full of substance.

HUNT: Not only that, Bob, you got your capital gains tax cut, didn't you?

John Kerry and John Edwards are moving up. Howard Dean has stalled, lost a little bit, and Dick Gephardt has stayed steady. I first covered an Iowa caucus in 1976. I have never seen it this open.

O'BEIRNE: I think it's a risk of a Howard Dean. Maybe we don't know this guy well enough. He's gap proof (ph), he shoots too much from the hip.

NOVAK: Mark, you and I have seen Democratic conventions where everybody was at everybody's throats as recently as 1980 but this election, they're into each other's arms. They want to beat Bush so bad.

CARLSON: Democrats haven't fallen in love with John Kerry, but they've fallen in line, and that's a very, very good thing for Democrats, who have been chaotic in the past.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Al, tell us about the battleground states as you see them right now.

HUNT: I don't see George Bush winning this election without carrying Florida. I don't think John Kerry can carry without winning Pennsylvania and I think the one that carries Ohio is probably going to win.


HUNT: Margaret, what was your favorite CAPITAL GANG moment covering politics?

CARLSON: Well, my favorite moment, if you mean coming here every week and being amused by Mark who has the best sense of humor, even of the other Mark, Russell, I think Mark Shields is the absolute best humor. I steal from him all the time, I never give a speech without calling Mark and saying hey, Mark, can you please just give me the intro so I can just get through this?

HUNT: Kate?

O'BEIRNE: The last clip reminded me, Al, as I stood there looking adoringly at you about you sticking so close to me in San Diego and Philadelphia and New York with a sense that you were outnumbered and some of our viewers would come up, they would see what a nice guy you were, I would confirm that was the case and they would go away very, very disappointed.

HUNT: Bob?

NOVAK: My favorite moment was in Iowa, we were covering one of these caucuses, Republican caucuses and all these shows are live and we had half the GANG in Washington and half in, I guess Ames, Iowa, and the connection was lost and I was about to explain the need for tax cutting. And you made an attempt to say what I would have said. And it just shows how little you understand about the whole theory. It was embarrassing.

HUNT: Mark Shields?

SHIELDS: Al, all of our wisdom is written at the edge of the ocean in very changing tides. Obvious -- energized the crowd, the selection of Jack Kemp. Jack Kemp went into the debate and did a Joe Lieberman. Both of them did a rope-a-dope and neither one helped his ticket.

HUNT: Well, I would quickly say the convention floors. That was more fun and it was terrific and the audiences of both parties and I'll never forget the convention floors.

Coming up next, the ultimate classic, CAPITAL GANG's premiere show.


HUNT: Welcome back. THE CAPITAL GANG's inaugural program, October 15th, 1988, came immediately after that year's second presidential debate that included this memorable response my Democratic candidate Michael Dukakis to CNN's Bernie Shaw.


BERNARD SHAW, FORMER CNN ANCHOR: Governor, if Kitty Dukakis were raped and murdered, would you favor an irrevocable death penalty for the killer?

MICHAEL DUKAKIS, FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: No, I don't, Bernard. And I think you know that I've opposed the death penalty during all of my life.


HUNT: THE CAPITAL GANG discussed this in our first program. Our guest was then House Majority Leader Thomas Foley.


PAT BUCHANAN, FORMER CNN COMMENTATOR: Mark, what is that cold and antiseptic statement, when he was given a question, hypothetical question about the rape and murder of his wife tell you about the problems of the Democratic candidate?

SHIELDS: About the Democratic candidate it tells me he lacked an emotional response that most Americans, most human beings, would have had.

HUNT: Mario Cuomo is against the death penalty and he has been asked that question a couple times in New York State, and he's said, you know what I'd do? I'd want to get a baseball bat, I'm going to find that SOB and I'd want to just clobber him. And he'd say I'd be so full of hate. But then I hope I'd think about my wife, who I love, and the mother of my five children and I'd think about how full of love she was.

TOM FOLEY, FORMER HOUSE MAJORITY LEADER: I think that if he had said something about my human emotion, I would get the guy and kill him right on the spot. He wouldn't have let the house alive.

It was probably too quickly answered.

NOVAK: I think it was a defining question that defined the whole debate, where also you happen to be wrong on your answers. There's not a problem with Michael Dukakis not being as good as Mario Cuomo. It's a problem with the Democratic Party, which has gotten itself into a position where it doesn't understand that people want vengeance on the death penalty.


HUNT: Mark, did that show set a pattern?

SHIELDS: I think it did. I mean, Bob immediately isolating himself. You're all wrong, you're all stupid, you're all misrepresenting me.

NOVAK: I didn't say "stupid."

SHIELDS: Michael Dukakis obviously flubbed that answer big time and it was a crystallizing moment of that campaign. But I will say this, Al. Michael Dukakis is and was a rare politician who is a lot more interested in public service than he was in political power.

HUNT: Kate?

O'BEIRNE: I think you all totally nailed it. You made the key point in that case, Al, that you can be opposed to capital punishment and not have such a bloodless, unemotional answer as Michael Dukakis. It did say something about the weakness of him as a candidate.

HUNT: Margaret?

CARLSON: Well, it didn't set a pattern because I don't think we discussed emotions on the show again as far as I know, since a couple of us don't have any, and Bob, you have been consistent from that time on.

SHIELDS: Consistency, Bob. CARLSON: Ad hominem attacks as opposed to talking about the issue. "You're all wrong."

NOVAK: Well, most of the other people have been wrong but I felt it was a good segment to a good program, it got us off to a good start and it wasn't predictable, there wasn't people saying, gee, Dukakis could do no wrong, Dukakis could do no right, and on our best days I think that's what we did. Sometimes on our worst days we didn't do that.

HUNT: We had a wonderful CAPITAL GANG farewell party and the great Bob Strauss, former Democratic chairman noted this week that every four years we seem to come up with a Michael Dukakis. Next on CAPITAL GANG, quips and zingers.


HUNT: Welcome back. When we first started in 1988, Ronald Reagan was president, the Berlin Wall was a sad picture, as was the Soviet Union, LeBron James was three years old, Fox News didn't exist, neither did Bloomberg News. The movie of the year was "Rain Man" and the "Billboard" top song was "Don't Worry, Be Happy."

Here is a look back at some memorable moments over those past 17 years.


BUCHANAN: Let me give you my "Outrage of the Week" and to do that let's go directly to the tapes.

That's the kind of excitement we hope to bring you right here on CAPITAL GANG.

HUNT: Bob Novak is to unattributed sources what Baryshnikov is to ballet.

SHIELDS: Putting Bob Novak in charge of pardoning ...

NOVAK: They'd all be pardoned.

SHIELDS: It would be like putting Shelley Winters in charge of Twinkies.

NOVAK: I am really sick of every time something happens that it's always the fault of the U.S. government. For goodness sake, I think it is stupid for these congressman to be blowing -- blowing -- I'm sorry, I forgot we had a congressman ...

BUCHANAN: We'll get the last word from one of these congressmen.

O'BEIRNE: We have the loser-in-chief in the White House and I thought, how could he not have chatted up Bob Dole or Newt Gingrich. He would be chatting up Jeffrey Dahmer if he was still alive, Bill Clinton. CARLSON: This is the most exciting thing that might happen at the shadow convention, which is for John McCain to actually be booed. He hasn't had that negative a reaction since he was shot down in Vietnam.

NOVAK: There are not two Americas and people who think there are two Americas are in a minority.

CARLSON: Listen, Bob, the other America is cleaning your room today and her husband is probably working two jobs.

HUNT: Not only is there another America, Bob, that's cleaning your room, but they're also taking care of your vacation home.

NOVAK: I get nauseated by multimillionaires talking about the class struggle, whether they are politicians or members of THE CAPITAL GANG.

I live in the inner city and I was on a wedge (ph) dinner last night and I saw a suspicious looking guy. I was thinking, am I supposed to call the FBI. He was kind of lurching around the street. What am I supposed to do?

SHIELDS: Jon Corzine, you have heard Bob Novak's born in a log cabin, ghetto kid story. We've heard it before. Probably your first time hearing it.

CARLSON: You know, the Democrats were criticized for scaring old people. Well, Republicans are trying to scare young people. Why is that funny, Bob? You're an old person and we can't scare you, either, and it's really too bad. Because I would love to be able to scare you.

NOVAK: Have you been not listening to me the last seven years?

CARLSON: I've been trying not to.

NOVAK: That's what I'm afraid of.


HUNT: Kate, what was your most memorable moment?

O'BEIRNE: Well, I was reminded in those clips of, I think, our unanimous choice of one of our most favorite guests, which was Henry Hyde who came and joined us so often. You tend to want to remember when you are at your best and for me that's driving home after the show going off on G.W. Parkway, I am brilliant. I think of the best rejoinders.

HUNT: Margaret?

CARLSON: We're always at our best after it's over but I'm remembering a worse moment which occurred tonight when I answered the wrong question about the conventions, which, by the way, is those people standing behind us, loving politics as much as we do. Not us. HUNT: Mark?

SHIELDS: I guess the ultimate memory has to be Dr. Novak. Whether he is railing against the United States government or defending the government against those who criticize it and blame it. And to listen to Bob's homily about, I live in the inner city, you would have to be hard-hearted not to have a big ...

HUNT: Bob, is that one of your high points?

NOVAK: Mark has never understood the difference between big government and the United States of America's government abroad being attacked by the left. So there is a difference.

I didn't pick out those little clips but if you noticed I was being abused and zinged. And I felt watching that a little bit like St. Stephen. He was the -- like I, he was a Jewish Christian and he was the first Christian martyr, he was stoned because of his views. And he was attacked and died and so I've had a good time but I think I've really been abused by my colleagues.

HUNT: Well, my most memorable moment was when THE CAPITAL GANG finally realized its full potential by bringing in Margaret Carlson and Kate O'Beirne ...

NOVAK: Aww ...

CARLSON: Thanks Al. Yaayyyyy!

HUNT: THE GANG will be back with a final goodbye.


HUNT: According to Kate's calculation, we have done 3,527 "Outrages of the Week" over the past 17 years. No outrages tonight but plenty of appreciation to those who made it possible. Ted Turner, the founding genius of CNN, Tom Johnson, the chairman who presided over our creation, former president Rick Kaplan, our greatest champion.

Most of all, a small but exceptional staff. Bob Kovach, Geoff Dietrich, Deborah Nelson, every week they make us look better than they are.

NOVAK: I would also like to thank the late Ed Turner, vice president of CNN who, when I proposed this show, he immediately went along. Maybe if there was (INAUDIBLE), but we also had a wonderful producer for many years, Elizabeth Baker, who did a good job. Who am I leaving out?

HUNT: Randy Douthit.

NOVAK: Randy Douthit was the first co-executive creator with me and he really shaped the show and put it together. So we had a lot of people to thank. People always ask me whether after we do a show we go out drinking together, the answer at least for me is, no, I can certainly think of more enjoyable ways to spend my free time. But that misses the point. It's not easy to spend so many years, nearly 17 years for Al, Mark and me, 14 years with Margaret, 10 years with Kate, disagreeing, contradicting, and sometimes insulting and still remaining civil, relatively civil, and for the most part we succeeded. That's made the program a big part of my life and I hope a success.

HUNT: Margaret?

CARLSON: Al, I second all the thank yous. We started so long ago it seems dinosaurs roamed the earth. They are gone now almost. We have been ourselves here for better or worse, disagreeing, mostly respectfully, shouting only rarely. I never walked in a studio without feeling privileged.

One great thing about TV is people find you. I am so happy about the teachers and the nuns who looked me up after all these years. Without them I wouldn't have led the life I had, and I certainly wouldn't be here. I thank them and you.

HUNT: Kate?

O'BEIRNE: Going to miss you, Margaret. We've had a great run. We've had fun and I learned plenty. I won't miss working Saturday nights but will miss generous colleagues, our dedicated staff and our loyal audience. I am grateful to all the nice people I have met in restaurants, malls and airports, who all agree that I am taller than they imagined.

Our disputes have been real and that's how it should be. We've debated candidates and the process and the scope of government, issues of war and peace and even life and death. I know you agree that politics matters. Thank you for that, too.

HUNT: Mark?

SHIELDS: Al, to Geoff, to Deborah, to Bob Kovach, to Elizabeth, to all the wonderful interns who work with us. Thank you very much. You did make us look better. Imagine what we would look like without you. With all our obvious defects of character and intellect, THE GANG for all of its nearly 17 years represented a political Washington that has sadly disappeared in the tsunami of invective.

Our disagreements were deep and they were real, never fabricated, but the truth, as many viewers have regularly suspected, is that beneath the heated rhetoric, there was mutual respect and even some measure of affection.

Of course, I like Margaret and Al personally, my philosophical soul mates, but I also like Kate. And I like Bob Novak. I never thought of him as St. Stephen anymore, I always thought of him as the author of "Dale Carnegie Was Wrong."

I'm sorry if that news disappoints any zealots, but thank you very much.

HUNT: Finally, 17 years wouldn't have been possible without you, loyal viewers. People like Bob Sariani (ph) of Niagara Falls, a Novak and O'Beirne devotee, who called this week to say how much he loves the show. The spirited but civil debates. He tunes in every week. I have loved working with these colleagues, it's been a wonderful ride, and from the bottom of our hearts, thank you.

This is Al Hunt saying, goodbye for THE CAPITAL GANG.