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In the Crossfire

Is a politician's appearance fair game?

(CNN) -- She's someone President Bush can count on: Kathleen Harris, Florida's secretary of state during the 2000 presidential election. She certified the election results to give Florida's 25 electoral votes to Bush and has written a book about her experiences overseeing the recount of ballots cast in that state. "Crossfire" hosts Paul Begala and Tucker Carlson take on the way she was portrayed in the media.

CARLSON: Our quote of the day comes from a lame-duck secretary of state, who is trying to get herself elected to the Congress. Katherine Harris, infamous for trying to stop Florida's recounts after the presidential election, is attempting to further her political career by writing a book. Its title, our quote of the day, is "Center of the Storm: Practicing Principled Leadership in a Time of Crisis."

BEGALA: Tucker, I have an alternative. How about "Banana Republican: How a Maybelline Abuser Stole the Election."

CARLSON: You know, it's interesting, though, Paul. Actually, one of the many reasons I like Katherine Harris, apart from the fact that she's a delightful person, and she is in person, I hope to someday meet her, is because she actually didn't sink to the level of her critics, you very much included, who mocked not only what she was doing, but also her appearance. It was the worst kind of politics of destruction. I'm serious. I'm serious.

BEGALA: I can tell you're outraged.

CARLSON: I was outraged. It was female-bashing. How many Republicans do you hear saying, "Oh, Barbara Mikulski" and make fun of her? Gene Carnahan or Mrs. Clinton, making fun of the way they look. That is low. It's outrageous. And they simply did it because she was in the way. She was inconvenient. Was nothing, really, that she did. She just happened to be secretary of state. So they beat up on her because she was in the way of what they wanted.

BEGALA: No, because it's not an immutable characteristic. She doesn't have to look that way. She got that spackling compound there, and abusing that makeup. She could look like a perfectly beautiful woman.

CARLSON: I'm sorry. I'm just not into bashing women that way.

BEGALA: Oh, so it's just a sexist sort of thing, right?

CARLSON: I actually think -- I actually honestly...

BEGALA: So it's okay to make fun of Al Sharpton and...

CARLSON: I really believe it is. No, no, I think Democrats cannot handle strong women. I really do -- I honestly think that.

BEGALA: Right, so Madeleine Albright and Janet Reno and Hillary Clinton, they're not Democrats?

CARLSON: No, no, can you imagine the outrage of somebody who said, "Oh, Barbara Mikulski. Boy, she's unattractive. Nobody would ever say that. And yet, it's okay for even The Washington Post, in the Style section, to beat up on the appearance of poor Katherine Harris. I actually think beating up on women's appearances, call me a feminist, ought to be out of bounds.

BEGALA: Actually, that's anti-feminist. I think nobody holds a gun to these politicians' heads. You want to go run for office, people are going to make fun of your hair if you don't have any like me, or if you look like Al Sharpton. Or if you're like Katherine Harris, and you want to go steal an election in front of God and everyone, yes, I'm going to call you on it.

CARLSON: But I thought you said the Supreme Court stole it. Make up your mind as to who stole it.

BEGALA: Well, he got fewer votes than Al Gore. That's a negligible detail I keep going to.




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