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CNN Capital Gang - Transcripts

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CNN Capital Gang - Transcripts

MARK SHIELDS, HOST: Welcome to THE CAPITAL GANG. I'm Mark Shields, with Margaret Carlson, Robert Novak and E.J. Dionne of "The Washington Post." Our guest is Republican congressman Peter King of New York.

It's good to have you back, Pete.

REP. PETER KING ®, NEW YORK: Great to be here, Mark.

SHIELDS: Thank you. A Republican congressman broke the wall of solid support for House majority leader Tom DeLay and a member of the Senate GOP leadership said he must be more forthright.


REP. CHRIS SHAYS ®, CONNECTICUT: ... not arguing and demanding that he step down. He's still the leader. But if I think-but that's what I think. I think he should step down.

SEN. RICK SANTORUM (R-PA), GOP CONFERENCE CHAIRMAN: I think he has to come forward and lay out what he did and why he did it and let the people then judge for themselves. But from everything I've heard, everything he's done was according to the law.


SHIELDS: The anti-DeLay campaign continued with a new television ad.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Repeatedly, the House Ethics Committee has found Tom DeLay guilty of serious rules violations.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Tom DeLay is a national embarrassment. He should resign his leadership position, if not his office.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's time for Republicans to stand up and demand DeLay's resignation.


SHIELDS: Meanwhile, Democrats boycotted the House Ethics Committee consideration of the DeLay case. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), MINORITY LEADER: The Democrats, rightfully, will not participate in a hoax, in a-of rules. Republicans have gutted the ethics process. They've gutted the rules...


SHIELDS: Congressman DeLay responded, quote, "The only way I can be cleared is through the Ethics Committee, so they don't want one," end quote.

Bob Novak, has Tom DeLay's political situation deteriorated to the point where he will have to step down?

BOB NOVAK, CAPITAL GANG: Not at all. You know, I've seen this happen many times in my time in Washington. It's-they decide they're going to target somebody. They pour out attacks on them, one attack after another, and then pretty soon, the newspaper editor-editorial writers say, Gee, if everybody's attacking him, he must be something bad, so we saw he goes. And then the weak-kneed guys like Chris Shays-it looked like he was-he was acting for his mother or something out there, didn't know what to do. I don't say he should-I say he must go, but he-but he should go...

But Tom DeLay is a tough guy. He's a tougher guy than Trent Lott, who was forced into quitting for nothing. And Tom Delay, all these-these ethical considerations are phony as can be, and I don't think he's going to quit. And it's a test of the Republicans to see whether they're going to be stampeded.

SHIELDS: E.J. Dionne, I just point out that today Tom Tancredo, Republican congressman from Colorado-no one's accused of being a lefty or weak-kneed-called for Tom DeLay to consider stepping aside as majority leader. "The Richmond Times-Dispatch," hardly a left-wing organ, editorially called for it, "The Wall Street Journal." It isn't just Democrats, is it?

E.J. DIONNE, CAPITOL GANG: Why, no. And in fact, I think Democrats would like DeLay to hang around at least through the 2006 election. I think his problem is that Republicans are beginning to slip away. "The Wall Street Journal" editorial page is hardly a left- wing sheet, and Congressman Tancredo said that DeLay had handled ethics "stupidly," was the word he used, which is very unusual here.

So I think that he is in trouble, and it looks a little bit-starting to look like the Jim Wright business. Jim Wright was a strong leader, had a lot of loyalty among Democrats. A lot of Democrats said, We can't give in to these Republicans. And then eventually, he was forced out. And that's what DeLay's fighting against now.

SHIELDS: Is he safe, Tom DeLay, Pete-Pete King.

KING: It's going to be a tough fight. I mean, I-I've had differences with Tom DeLay, but what's going on right now is really wrong. He hasn't violated any law, hasn't violated any House rules. We're all Catholics here. There's no mortal sin. There's no venial sin. There's barely an occasion of sin. This is a gang-up.

I was against it when Republicans did it to Bill Clinton. I'm against it now, when the Democrats and their allies in the media are doing it to Tom DeLay. This is wrong. Fight a guy on his-on his beliefs, on his views, on what he's done. Don't-don't pollute the ethics process. It's wrong.

SHIELDS: Do those allies in the media include Newt Gingrich, I mean, who took a couple of shots at him, said he has to come forward and answer, Rick Santorum, who's distancing himself (UNINTELLIGIBLE) You can't call those guys left-wingers.

KING: No, but I'm talking about the front page of "The New York Times" that has the fact that Tom DeLay's wife was paid by his campaign committee, which is perfectly legal, perfectly appropriate and right. They make that a page one story. I've had reporters from major papers call me. They think because I don't always get along with Tom, I'm going to take a shot at him. I defend him. It appears nowhere. I spoke to a Democratic congressman today. He was offered the chance to go on a major show this weekend if he would call for Tom DeLay to step down. So this is definitely is collusion. And people really smell blood. They sense blood. They-and they want to get him.

SHIELDS: I want to tell you how quality an operation we have here. We knew you weren't going to call for his resignation, and we wanted you, Pete King.


SHIELDS: Margaret?

MARGARET CARLSON, CAPITAL GANG: We-you-you failed the test, and we still have you.


CARLSON: I have two-two-two things to say. One is that Tom DeLay's association with Jack Abramoff, the most evil lobbyist ever to be operating in Washington, is...

SHIELDS: That's a high standard.

CARLSON: ... is an occasion of sin. Wouldn't you agree?

KING: But not a sin. But not a sin.

CARLSON: My mother says you cannot associate with, you know, people like that and not...

KING: Yes, but (UNINTELLIGIBLE) highways and byways and he associated with everyone. The fact is...

CARLSON: Well, this is...

KING: ... there's no...

CARLSON: This is a fairly...


CARLSON: This is a close association, and Tom DeLay's top aide went to work with Jack Abramoff. Paying your wife, also, $500,000 for, quote, "personnel advice"-I know others have done it...

SHIELDS: Wife and daughter.

NOVAK: Wife and daughter...


NOVAK: ... five years.


CARLSON: ... still an awful lot of money to me, Bob.


CARLSON: You know, most spouses give that advice, usually unwanted, for free.


NOVAK: Let me-let me...

CARLSON: But there was a-there's an accumulation of things on Tom DeLay. And if Democrats-one point you made-if Democrats backed off, I think then Republicans like you would feel more free to criticize DeLay...


NOVAK: See, this-this is all part of a carefully calculated plot that's been going on for-you laugh, Mark, but it isn't-it isn't a funny thing. It's been going on-it's been going on for-for a long time. The attack on DeLay is not his personality, not ethics, it is-it is redistricting of the state of the Texas. That's what did it because he went out there-the Texas-which is a Republican state, had a Democratic delegation in the House because it was gerrymandered! And he fixed that, and as a result, in the '04 elections, the Republicans gained seats in the House when they would have lost them, except for DeLay! DeLay is a Republican hero. And this is strictly an assassination attack, and it's a test on Republicans to see if even guys who aren't in love with him-I really like Tom DeLay. Peter doesn't like him so much. But it's a test to see whether they are going to-they are going to be tough enough to withstand this media assault.

DIONNE: It's good to hear Bob support the filibuster. I'm counting on him later on.


DIONNE: I mean, the fact is...


KING: The worst mistake we can do is offer Tom DeLay up because once you feed someone to these people, they want more.

SHIELDS: That's the way...


KING: And I was one of those who really opposed Newt Gingrich because he did this type of thing. He's wrong. It's wrong to abuse and use the ethics process the way it's being done now.

DIONNE: Wait. But you can't use the ethics process because it's been sacked by Tom DeLay...

CARLSON: It's not there!


DIONNE: ... to prevent it from being a nonpartisan investigation.


CARLSON: By the way, Republicans might wish they had an Ethics Committee to ease him out, at some point, and rue the day...

KING: Why? He's done nothing wrong!

CARLSON: ... that they did it this way.

KING: You can disagree with a guy without saying he's guilty of anything!

SHIELDS: That's right. And I...

KING: Not one law, not one rule!


SHIELDS: I'd simply say that-that Tom DeLay had said himself that he would not answer the question if he'd ever done anything illegal, in an interview with "The Washington Times." (UNINTELLIGIBLE) done anything illegal, unethical. "Ever" is a big word, and I think that opened up Tom DeLay, and I think he's-I think he's vulnerable, and I think Republicans sense it, including some at this table, who are just too loyal...

KING: I mean, Tom...


SHIELDS: ... for their own good.

KING: ... original sin.

SHIELDS: Peter, I'm telling you-Monsignor King will be back, and THE GANG will look at John Bolton's U.N. nomination hearing.


SHIELDS: Welcome back. Confirmation hearings for Undersecretary of State John Bolton to become U.N. ambassador concentrated on a 2002 incident about intelligence reports on Cuba.


SEN. CHRIS DODD (D), CONNECTICUT: You tried to have two analysts removed from their jobs because you disagreed with their intelligence conclusions. That to me is-in this environment we're in today, Mr. Bolton, I would say, putting aside your views about the United Nations and other things, if that is true, then I don't think you have a right to serve in a high post. Did you ask for these two people to be removed from their jobs?

JOHN BOLTON, U.N. AMBASSADOR NOMINEE: No. I said that I wanted the-in the case of Mr. Westerman (ph), that I'd lost trust in him and thought he should work on other accounts.


SHIELDS: That was followed by a former assistant secretary of state testifying against the Bolton confirmation.


JOHN FORD, FORMER ASST. SECRETARY OF STATE: Secretary Bolton chose to reach five or six levels below him in the bureaucracy, bring an analyst into his office and give him a tongue-lashing. He's a quintessential "kiss up, kick down" sort of guy.


SHIELDS: Margaret Carlson, is John Bolton's confirmation in serious trouble?

CARLSON: I wish it were. I don't think it is. Lincoln Chafee this week said that it was an isolated incident that Bolton went after this analyst who disagreed with him and tried to get him to change his mind and berated him. You know, and this is in addition to all of Bolton's views and some other things he said which have had real implications, like in the North Korean talks, calling President Kim "scum" tends not to be the way to get talks going on North Korea's nuclear weapons.

Bolton's in a jam. I don't think he can be hired anyplace else after what we know about him, other than the U.N. SHIELDS: Bob Novak?

NOVAK: You wonder why there is this attack on Bolton. It's-he's a very able man. He's a-people all-high intelligence, very competent, not just because he's a conservative. A lot of conservatives-but you will find that anybody who is tough on Fidel Castro runs into Chris Dodd. And it's like running into a behemoth. Now, the fact of the matter is that Chris Dodd has been after Bolton since 2002 because he came out with this report, which cleared all the intelligence outfits, of germ warfare capability and sending bioweapons to other rogue nations, and Dodd is trying to normalize relations with Cuba. So this is a vendetta against-against Bolton, as it was against Otto Reich, when he drove him out of the government as assistant secretary of state.

SHIELDS: You know, it's interesting. Chris Dodd would have made a great party leader because he's obviously got fairly unanimous ranks behind him on this. Pete King, Republican Senate Foreign Relations Committee chairman Dick Lugar cautioned Condi Rice and the White House not to nominate John Bolton for undersecretary because he couldn't be confirmed, in his judgment. Tell me, you-I mean, why...

NOVAK: Do you know that for a fact?

SHIELDS: I have got that on good authority.

NOVAK: I don't think it's true.

SHIELDS: Well, OK. That's-that's from (UNINTELLIGIBLE) But go ahead.

KING: OK. Assuming it is true, I would say it's -- (UNINTELLIGIBLE) two different personalities. Dick Lugar is much more low-key, much more of a steady type. John Bolton is more aggressive. He is more outspoken. So I can see the clash in personalities. But again, nothing has come up to say that John Bolton shouldn't be the U.N. ambassador. You have Ford talking about Bolton allegedly berating a guy. Ford wasn't even at the meeting. He wasn't even there. He has no idea what went on there.

NOVAK: Hearsay.

KING: Yes, hearsay.

DIONNE: There are two issues here...

KING: No, but...


KING: No, and also, the fact is that as far as what he said about North Korea, I don't think we should disqualify a guy from being the ambassador to the U.N. because he said that the-Kim Jong Il was scum because he is. And you know, so-so to me, you know, we need some of that Moynihan, Kirkpatrick talk at the U.N.

SHIELDS: Moynihan and Kirkpatrick, though, did believe in the U.N. I mean, that-that seems to be a profound difference here.

DIONNE: It's a Lloyd Bentsen moment. I don't think he's Moynihan or Kirkpatrick, either of those. There are two issues here. One is temperament. And you've had one case after another-a new one came out on Friday in "The Washington Post"-this notion of his being a "serial abuser," is the term that the State Department former intelligence chief used. And it's a question of, is that the right temperament for this job?

But it's actually a substantive issue. What is one of his jobs going to be at the U.N. It's going to be to pass on our intelligence to other people, to other countries, to try to persuade them of an American position. And when you look at his history here of kind of taking the intelligence he wanted, it sort of hurts his credibility.

I think the one thing that'll save him is Lincoln Chafee, the Republican senator from Rhode Island, who usually-often votes against his party, desperately wants to give the president a vote on this. So I think he's got a very high bar before he votes him down.

SHIELDS: I think you're right politically. And Jim Langerman's (ph) decision not to run for congressman in Rhode Island against Lincoln Chafee probably helps-helps him stick with the party (UNINTELLIGIBLE)

NOVAK: Let me say one other thing. This guy at the-this CIA analyst that they've been calling "Mr. Smith" is-his name is Armstrong, Fulton Armstrong-was a guy who has been notorious at the CIA as a lefty. He's been soft on Castro. He's been soft on all the-all the left-wing despots in Latin America. They've been trying to get rid of him for years, but the little cabal of lefties at the CIA wouldn't get rid of him. That's the guy that-that-that they claim that-that-that Bolton tried to get rid of, and that Dodd is after him for.

DIONNE: All eight Democrats on that committee are pro-Castro? Is that...


SHIELDS: You have to understand a real conservative is soft on China, and whatever they do to brutalize people, because they're red, but my God, Castro, you got to hang...


SHIELDS: He's a real threat. He's got nukes, doesn't he.


KING: ... vote against Condi Rice, too. I mean, these guys march in step. They are out to destroy the Bush administration. They're going to go against Bolton, the same as they went against Condi Rice, who has proven to be a great secretary of state in three months.

NOVAK: I got to-I want to respond-respond...

KING: She's done more in three months than...

NOVAK: I want to respond...

KING: ... Warren Christopher did in four years!

NOVAK: I want to respond E.J. very briefly. The reason they're in lockstep is they're stupid! They just don't know any better.

SHIELDS: You know, I will-I will say-I will say this, that-that Novak has exceeded even his bounds tonight. And I'll just make one point, and that is the measure of any military officer is how he treats his troops. And by every measurement...

NOVAK: That wasn't history!

SHIELDS: By every measurement, John-John Bolton has been abusive...

NOVAK: Oh, that's...

SHIELDS: ... has been intimidating...

NOVAK: That's just crap!

SHIELDS: It is-no. You ought to talk to people who worked under him, Bob.

NOVAK: Oh, I-I have...


NOVAK: Yes, I have, and I-and I...

SHIELDS: ... these right-wing getaways that are funded by the big corporate...


NOVAK: These are not his troops, these are-these are left- wing activists in the CIA and the State Department!

SHIELDS: I'm talking about dedicated public servants...


SHIELDS: ... who he's intimidated and brutalized.

Next on CAPITAL GANG, down on the ranch, Sharon and Bush talk in Texas.


SHIELDS: Welcome back. Israeli prime minister Ariel Sharon met with President Bush at his Texas ranch and warned about Iran's nuclear development.


ARIEL SHARON, ISRAELI PRIME MINISTER: No doubt that they are working now, you know, to possess a nuclear weapon, which we regard to be a great danger, and not only for Israel but for Europe and for the United States. We exchange views. We discuss these issues. But it's not that we are planning any military attack on Iran.


SHIELDS: President Bush also gave Israel advice on settlements.


GEORGE WALKER BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Israel has obligations under the roadmap. The roadmap clearly says no expansion of settlements.

MARK REGEV, ISRAELI FOREIGN MINISTRY SPOKESMAN: I thought Prime Minister Sharon was very clear. He said specifically that we will keep all of our commitments in the roadmap.


SHIELDS: E.J., did this exchange in Crawford indicate that President Bush is taking a tougher position toward Prime Minister Sharon?

DIONNE: Yes, but very marginally. Bush had to come out against those new settlements. A lot of Israelis are against those new settlements. It's said that the vice premier, Shimon Peres, thinks this is a bad time for them. He, Bush, also called Sharon "courageous" for what he's doing in Gaza. He called him "strong and visionary." So I don't think Sharon walked away terribly unhappy with what happened down in Crawford.

SHIELDS: Do you agree with E.J.?

NOVAK: No. It's all smoke and mirrors. It was entirely phony. There's nothing-if you read the language very carefully and the...

SHIELDS: Bush didn't mean it, you mean?

NOVAK: They-they hedged everything so carefully that-no change being made, that they'd bought-they pretend they're tough on Sharon, but they're not tough on Sharon. And the settlements are there. And what they're-what they're really doing-and Congressman Henry Hyde, chairman of the House International Relations Committee, brought it up to Shimon Peres in a hearing-is that the-this-this-this vicious actions by the Israeli government is-is suffocating the Christian communities in the Holy Land. And the administration doesn't do anything to do with a born-again Christian president.

SHIELDS: How about the point that Bob Novak raises, and that is-I mean-I mean, beaten up on Shimon Peres, who is just a partner in the coalition government, and going soft on Sharon in Texas-is that-is that the formula to really get some action?

KING: Actually, the formula so far is working. We're closer now-listen, Anything can happen in the Middle East, but we are closer to progress being made than we have in years, really, or maybe ever. Fact is, Sharon is pulling out of Gaza. He is talking about pulling back on the West Bank. And the president has said the settlements can't go ahead. But he has to give Sharon some diplomatic cover because, literally, his life is being threatened at home.

I think this is going to be a minuet we're going to see working out over the next few years. But right now, it's going in the right direction. And there's been very little violence in the Middle East (UNINTELLIGIBLE) Palestinians. Abbas is trying to do what he can, it appears. He's certainly much better than Arafat. So let's-let's give the president some credit, and let's give Sharon some credit, and let's judge it on results, rather than the rhetoric of what happens from day to day.

SHIELDS: Margaret Carlson, after Colin Powell's last appearance at the U.N., arguing about weapons of mass destruction, and the president's appearance there, and of course, turned out to be totally mythical faults about Iraq, here we have Ariel Sharon saying Iran has nuclear weapons. Is-you know, does John Bolton carry that case to the U.N.?

CARLSON: Well-well, a lot of people probably-certain people wish that Sharon would go and bomb the-whatever nuclear facility Iran has, just as he did in-at the Osirak reactor once before. But this is not the kind of diplomacy I think that we want to engage in right now, is to encourage Sharon to be bombing anybody.

The one thing that was-I agree with you on is that Bush does have to show some support for Sharon right now because he is doing-you have to hand it to him. He is pulling out of Gaza, and this upsets a lot of people in his own party and a lot of conservatives there.

But you know, you-you-you think about people holding a meeting and saying, Do you think we can roll out this settlements promise one more time and it'll work, while the bulldozers are rolling and, you know...

NOVAK: You got taken...

CARLSON: ... hammering out the...

NOVAK: You aren't taken in by that, are you?


CARLSON: They're hammering up the construction-no, I'm not. I mean, the language is so fuzzy and so ambiguous, and they're all in on it. The settlements in the West Bank are still being built. Maybe they're not expanding beyond a certain line... NOVAK: They are expanding, though.

CARLSON: ... but within that-those lines, they're building everywhere.

DIONNE: So that's why-Shimon Peres himself is very uneasy about this.

NOVAK: That's right.

DIONNE: He let it be known-the vice premier-he let it be known that he thought this was a very bad time to be expanding settlements, at a moment when you were trying to get peace talks going. And I think that's a strong view among a lot of Israelis.


NOVAK: He's a part of that government, and he-and he defends the policy in the hall.

SHIELDS: Shimon Peres said the Jewish people did not flee the slave holders of Egypt to become slave owners on the West Bank. And I mean, that, I think, has been his guiding principle, and to his credit.

Thank you, Peter King, for coming in, for gracing our show.


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