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CNN Capital Gang - Transcript

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CNN Capital Gang - Transcript
Saturday, May 21, 2005

BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT

AL HUNT, BLOOMBERG NEWS: Welcome to CAPITAL GANG. I'm Al Hunt, with Mark Shields, Robert Novak and Kate O'Beirne. Our guest is Democratic Senator Edward M. Kennedy from Massachusetts, the liberal lion of the United States Senate. Thanks for coming in, Ted.

SEN. EDWARD KENNEDY, (D) MA: Glad to be here.

HUNT: Great to have you. The Senate began an historic debate that could end any filibusters on judicial nominees.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. BILL FRIST (R-TX), MAJORITY LEADER: It's the partisan, leadership-led use of cloture vote to kill, to defeat, to assassinate these nominees.

SEN. HARRY REID (D-NV), MINORITY LEADER: They want it all. All the say, all the control, all the power. It is their way or the highway.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HUNT: Efforts were made to forestall invoking the so-called "nuclear option" when voting begins Tuesday, but a deal acceptable to both sides so far has proven elusive.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. ARLEN SPECTER (R-PA), JUDICIARY CMTE. CHAIRMAN: The far left and the far right are urging each side to shun compromise. One side shouts "pull the trigger," the other side retorts "filibuster forever."

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HUNT: Bob, what is holding up a negotiated settlement?

BOB NOVAK, CNN HOST: Oddly, it's not the appellate judges that the Democrats created this crisis over, blocking 16 of them, they're ready to give in on almost everything, just one or two sacrificial lambs. The problem is the Supreme Court's nominees to come, because the Republicans want some guarantee that, say, Antonin Scalia is named chief justice, they won't filibuster him. And it's very hard to get that kind of guarantee. The Democrats are coming back with counteroffers which really reduce the presidential power to make Supreme Court nominations. So the sticking point in the Supreme Court, not the appellate courts.

HUNT: Is that what it's all about, Ted, the Supreme Court?

KENNEDY: No. First of all, I think Senator Reid has demonstrated that he is ready to look at a reasonable compromise, but I think Frist-and this is really the White House now making the calls on this-they are just not ready to do it. I think most people that I talk to don't understand that the Senate has approved 95% of this president's nominees and that the ones that are out there now really are not in the mainstream. This confrontation really comes down to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

It was the president that sent up these nominees at the early part of the year. They would rather pick a fight with the Congress rather than pick judges and it looks like we're going to have to go to the wall.

HUNT: Kate, do you think they'll go to the wall or do you think there'll be a settlement?

KATE O'BEIRNE, "NATIONAL REVIEW": I think there is an outside chance there could still be a settlement, because I think there are some Democrats and Republicans, not too many, in the middle, who are uncomfortable with where this is probably headed. But it's going to be hard for the reason Bob noted. These six Democrats who are talking settlement are unwilling, nor can they deliver-a promise not to filibuster Supreme Court nominees, they are talking in terms of, well, we won't unless it is an extraordinary circumstance. But of course, liberals find an extraordinary circumstance in every conservative nominated.

I think it is very interesting. What is interesting about the talk of deals is that on one hand, Senator Henry Reid ...

HUNT: Harry Reid.

O'BEIRNE: Harry Reid called these nominees threats to the republic because they are so far outside the mainstream. But then he is willing to make a deal and put them on the bench in any event, which does tell you it's about politics and being driven by these left wing groups.

HUNT: Is that what it's all about, Mark, left wing groups.

MARK SHIELDS, CNN HOST: Left wing groups. And there is no right wing groups involved in this whole thing. I want (INAUDIBLE) but let's get one thing straight, just to correct the historical record. 100-0, Antonin Scalia, confirmed by the United States Senate. I mean, so liberals don't find conservatives-and that's a smokescreen on Bob's part. There is going to be a great filibuster effort if Antonin Scalia-Antonin Scalia is a brilliant jurist and would be a disaster as chief justice, so liberals probably ought to be interested in his being chief justice because he can't hold a coalition on the bench. I think the 12 really, with very little encouragement from either leadership, quite frankly, are making a serious effort and I think something might break on Monday, I really do, because I think Kate is right in this sense. There are enough people who do want to avoid the uncharted and potential disaster that awaits.

NOVAK: Just to defend myself on Scalia, Ted's leader, Harry Reid, has said that Scalia is unacceptable because he ...

(CROSSTALK)

SHIELDS: No, no, no, he said he would in fact not oppose him.

HUNT: Yeah. Yeah.

SHIELDS: He actually went just the other way.

KENNEDY: Let's get back to what this is really all about. If you read the debates at the Constitutional Convention, the Founding Fathers considered what was going to be the appropriate balance between the executive and the Senate on three different occasions and on two of those three they gave complete authority to the Senate of the United States.

It was only at the last decision, the last eight days, before the Constitutional Convention ended, they said that this was going to be the balance, that the president was going to be able to nominate but we were going to have to approve. The American people don't expect members of the Senate to be a rubber stamp. They expect us to be able to speak for our values and for our views about it.

What we are talking now is changing the rules to basically stifle individual members of the United States Senate to be able to speak out on these. And that is to have to change the rules, the American people don't go for it. That is what ...

O'BEIRNE: What the Democratic senators are doing is preventing-is preventing senators from expressing their opinions by preventing votes.

KENNEDY: We're not.

O'BEIRNE: There have never been filibusters of judicial nominees that enjoyed majority support. For 214 years, the Senate has with Majority votes.

KENNEDY: You are absolutely wrong Kate. I have listened to (INAUDIBLE) program, and you are categorically wrong. We have seen, I have been on the Judiciary Committee, and I have seen the Republicans bury, effectively, 62 nominees.

O'BEIRNE: Not by filibuster.

HUNT: Kate, when you do it in committee, you don't let them have an up or down vote, it's... KENNEDY: What this is really about and that is the Republicans changing the rules with a power grab so that they are going to be able to own the last aspect of the government. They have the executive branch, the Senate and the House and now they want to own the independent judiciary and they are putting individuals on there that want to repeal-repeal the Voting Rights Act. They want to also appeal, and they have said, the Americans with Disabilities Act. I mean, this is the extreme. They are not mainstream thinkers.

NOVAK: Let me talk about the practical things that I note, Ted, in the long, long period...

KENNEDY: Tell me what...

(CROSSTALK)

HUNT: He's starting to warm me up a little bit.

NOVAK: I mean, inside in the backrooms, you planned this whole plot to keep President Bush's judges from taking the court.

KENNEDY: Ninety-five percent of them, 95 percent, a greater percent than we had with Bush I.

O'BEIRNE: He's got the lowest approval of appellate judges in modern history.

NOVAK: These two women, the Supreme Court justices with tremendous records from California and Texas that they have been denounced by the Democrats on the floor, that right now today, they are acceptable. You can get the six, you can get 10 Democrats to support them.

HUNT: Give Mark 10 seconds.

SHIELDS: Ten seconds. All right. The rules of the Senate are very clear. Bob knows them well, having been here for 50 years. If the Senate requires a change of its own rules, two thirds of the senators. They don't have two thirds of the senators, so they're going to change the rules.

HUNT: That is the final word. Ted Kennedy and the gang will be back with a delay in bringing home troops from Iraq.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

HUNT: Welcome back. In press interviews and briefings, U.S. military commanders expressed doubt that Iraqi forces could develop sufficiently to permit a major withdrawal of U.S. troops within the next year. The head of the U.S. Central Command, Army General John Abizaid, said, quote, "The police and the Ministry of Interior are probably behind in terms of sophistication, chain of command, cohesion of leadership and that keeps American embedded trainers and embedded transition teams in the field longer." End quote.

A "Wall Street Journal"/NBC poll showed that 40 percent of Americans feel that the removal of Saddam Hussein from power was worth it. Fifty-one percent said it was not worth it.

Kate, is the concession that it is too early for major troop withdrawals a setback for Iraqi policy?

O'BEIRNE: Al, I don't think so. It's one of those things we hear every two or three weeks, it seems, on a cycle. We have some realists in the senior military leadership on the ground in Iraq. I think they would also tell you that we are slowly moving in the right direction but it is very messy and it is ultimately, of course, up to the Iraqis, including their security forces, but they do maintain, as I said, they are slowly moving in the right direction.

They have to get the politics right. That is a big part of the solution. It is not all just the military and the state of the Iraqi forces. We are noticing that it appears the attacks are increasingly being carried out by foreign elements. It's not looking any longer so much like a homegrown insurgency. That is helpful. But it is very difficult not to respond to bad news and headlines that we see every two or three weeks.

HUNT: Ted, moving in the right or wrong direction?

KENNEDY: Well, first of all, our servicemen have been brilliant and we all want success. But we have to look at this-we have been in there now two and a half years. Two and a half years. And there is still no plan. There is still no plan. Two and a half years later. And I think this is an extraordinary disservice. Now hopefully this is possible and it is still salvageable. We in the last Defense-in the supplemental, have finally gotten-the American people are finally going to have reports about the progress that is made every three months, six months, nine months, in the training of troops.

My wife's nephew is over in Mosul. He is a tailgunner on a vehicle over there. He had 13 weeks training and was sent over there. Why we cannot train people-we've seen an election. They have the political understanding, it is their country. Why shouldn't they have the military understanding it is their country as well?

If Americans are prepared to go over there and die for it, why shouldn't the Iraqis be prepared to die? How open-ended is our agreement? I think a part of what the problem is, we're being perceived there not as liberators but as occupiers and I think that that is something that has to-I think the secretary said this last week, a greater emphasis on negotiation. There isn't a military solution to the political problem. There has to be a political solution to it and I think we are awfully late getting there.

HUNT: Bob, you have very good Pentagon sources and they were telling you earlier, months ago, that we were going to be really having significant withdrawals by the end of this year. Has that changed now?

NOVAK: Those people still feel that is the way to go. They feel it is imperative to get the hell out of there. We are losing support at home and the theory of those people is that as Ted says, they are an irritant to the Muslims, having the troops there, and it should be, ready or not, here we go. But the military, it is the uniformed military, they don't want to step out of the situation. They feel the Iraqi troops are not ready. They have to stay there.

I really believe that we have done all we can there and it is time to go and hope that things work out for the better. I have always said Iraq is not going to be Iowa, and I think it's their country and they have got to take care of it.

HUNT: Mark-I don't-I just want to celebrate this Quasi- Novak-Kennedy Axis. I have never seen an accord like this. But some of these ...

KENNEDY: We're not quite in the same place because I think what we have to do is have a negotiation where we have to set some goals, we have to negotiate with the Iraqi government, and we have to set some timetables. We're not setting deadlines, but we have to set some timetables and some goals and we-and that, I think, is what's necessary.

HUNT: Mark, some of these same military officers a couple months ago were much more optimistic than they were this week.

SHIELDS: Al, really (ph), there is a couple of inescapable facts. First is recruitment. Army recruitment is down 40 percent short of its quotas. They're voting with their feet by not enlisting right now, and in part because of exactly what has gone on. This has been mismanaged from the outset. It has been ill-conceived and badly executed. The reality is, the president turns out to be a realist this week when the president says, yes, we didn't have a plan, we didn't have a plan for the postwar period. My God Almighty, thank you Mr. President.

But is it any wonder that we are now seen as occupiers rather than liberators after two and a half years?

HUNT: OK. That is the final word.

Next on CAPITAL GANG. Is Ted Kennedy's favorite current DNC Chairman Howard Dean, is his mouth roaring too much for Democrats?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

HUNT: Welcome back. Democratic National Chairman Howard Dean talked about House Majority Leader Tom DeLay at the Democratic State Party Convention in Massachusetts.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

HOWARD DEAN, DNC CHAIRMAN: I think Tom DeLay ought to go back to Houston where he can serve his jail sentence down there courtesy of the Texas taxpayers.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HUNT: On the convention floor Representative Barney Frank told the "Boston Globe," quote, "I think Howard Dean was out of line talking about DeLay. The man has not been indicted. I don't like him. I disagree with what he does. But I don't think you in a political speech talking about a man as a criminal or his jail sentence."

Asked about his comments prior to his next speech in Phoenix, Dean told the "Arizona Republic" quote, "There is corruption at the highest level of the Republican Party and they are going to have to face up to that one of these days because the law is closing in on Tom DeLay." End quote.

Mark, is the DNC chairman becoming an embarrassment to his party?

SHIELDS: No, he is not an embarrassment. Did he say something wrong there? Absolutely. Has he had a couple of verbal gaffes? Sure. But I think Howard Dean, whatever else once (ph) is done, he was absolutely right about this war and that touches an awful lot of people in the Democratic Party. Secondly, Al, I'll tell you this, he is reaching out to Democrats and other voters in those red states that have been written off in the last two presidential campaigns as a matter of reality and pragmatism. I think that is a step in the right direction.

Kate?

HUNT: I suspect you view it a little differently.

O'BEIRNE: I have heard Howard Dean say that that's what his mission is, to reach out to those voters, to grow the party. But when you listen to what he says, he visits red state America and calls Republicans evil, corrupt, brain dead. He delivers these blue speeches in red state American. It seems to me that while Ken Mehlman and the Republicans are evangelizing with respect to the Republican Party, Howard Dean is singing to choir. I'll not the secular choir. He seems to be reaching out to Michael Moore Democrats, enthusing them, and I would have thought he learned in November, Michael Moore Democrats, there ain't enough of them to win elections.

HUNT: All right, Ted, Barney Frank or Howard Dean?

KENNEDY: Well, I think everyone knows that Tom DeLay is up to his knees in ethical and legal issues. That's no mystery. Maybe he could have used other words, but I think Howard Dean is doing a first rate job. He has traveled the country. He is really willing to take on the tough issues. They're looking for someone to take on and speak for the Democrat Party. He's working on organizations, he is giving help and support to party-building in states that haven't got an infrastructure. I think he is a breath of fresh air.

Sure, once in a while he may overstate or misstate a particular situation but I think he is working hard, he is doing well, he is attracting a lot of support. I think he is doing a good job.

HUNT: I think the answer was that both Howard Dean and Barney Frank are friends of Ted Kennedy. NOVAK: Teddy is a good party man. He always has been. Let me tell you, this Dean is a disaster for the Democratic Party. I have talked to people privately in the party, they don't think he is going to last this year. He is going around the country saying nonsensical things, saying vicious things about putting a man in prison before he has ever been indicted for anything.

He is slipping in fund raising and he just-there is an A.P. story that came out yesterday that said I got in trouble because I wouldn't convict Osama bin Laden, maybe I've learned something. Comparing the House majority leader and Osama bin Laden is disgraceful, and if a Republican did that you would rail, pull out a railroad train out of town.

SHIELDS: What he's talking about here, let's get it straight. When Saddam Hussein was captured and TV networks did specials and magazines gave it the cover, as the big item...

HUNT: The turning point...

SHIELDS: The turning point of the war. That's right. Americans are no safer as a consequence. Well, tell that to the 1,400 Gold Star mothers (INAUDIBLE) that Abizaid (INAUDIBLE)

NOVAK: We're talking about Howard Dean.

SHIELDS: I'm talking about Howard Dean. That's what he was (INAUDIBLE)

NOVAK: We're talking about Howard Dean and he's comparing Tom DeLay and Osama bin Laden. Do you compare them?

SHIELDS: I'm not comparing the two.

NOVAK: Okay, thank you.

KENNEDY: Bob, is that what that statement says?

(CROSSTALK)

HUNT: Do you sense any disgruntlement in your party ...

KENNEDY: I don't, no. I mean, I find in traveling around, I haven't traveled extensively. He is trying to work, travels every place, he made a good speech up in Massachusetts. He might have taken a different choice of words. I think he has been doing well. He has been raising resources and doing well and putting it back into local organizations. That's what this...

NOVAK: Why is he afraid to debate Ken Mehlman. He's stays on television with nonsense.

(CROSSTALK)

SHIELDS: Wait, wait, wait. He's going on television with Tim Russert. I'd say this-I'd sure as heck rather face Ken Mehlman than Tim Russert and anybody in Washington would.

NOVAK: Russert asked him to go on with Mehlman and he refused. He is afraid of him.

SHIELDS: Bob. Bob. What are you smoking, Bob? Howard Dean is not afraid. Maybe-listen, he is not afraid-I don't know what he is afraid of. He is not afraid of Ken Mehlman who is evangelizing.

HUNT: Kate?

O'BEIRNE: The answer was for the November elections was not a Northeast liberal who is going to go around and insult all the voters in every state that John Kerry didn't carry, which seems to be what Howard Dean is about.

HUNT: Mark, does it matter who is the DNC chairman?

(CROSSTALK)

SHIELDS: I'll tell you-I'll you this, Al, If 2006 heads the way it is looking right now, with the Republican Congress having the worst ratings of any Congress since 1994, I'll tell you, Howard Dean is going to look like Mark Hannah (ph) and Jim Farley (ph) on Election Day 2006.

NOVAK: It doesn't matter if you have the worst choice you can have.

KENNEDY: I'll just-Kate is just absolutely wrong. The Democrats are proud, proud of Howard Dean. He is right in terms of his perception in terms of the war. He has been able to bring a lot of new young people into that kind of thing. He is committed to the structure of the Democratic Party. And he is getting a lot of ink, he is getting a lot of attention, he is getting under the skin of these two people right here.

HUNT: That's a leading indicator.

KENNEDY: That's a leading indicator.

O'BEIRNE: I didn't say I didn't like him. I didn't say senator, I don't like him. I say-I say, go Howard, senator.

SHIELDS: (INAUDIBLE) Bob Novak going after Newt Gingrich when he was talking about the Democrats being traitors and perverts and all the worst...

HUNT: I think that Ted has put his finger on it. I think if anyone asks whether Dean was going his job or not, he has summed it exactly. If he's got Bob upset he must be doing something right.

O'BEIRNE: I favor him.

BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT

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