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In the Crossfire

Hughes heads home

(CNN) -- A Texan heads home, the NAACP blasts President Bush and wondering if Michael Jackson is too wacko for Al Sharpton: "Crossfire" hosts Paul Begala and Tucker Carlson take sides on the day's issues.

CARLSON: White House Counselor Karen Hughes and her family are going home to Texas, leaving the White House. Depending on whom you believe, in a state of denial, at the mercy of political svengali Karl Rove, well, not very much changed. At the very least, Hughes's departure means a reshuffling of those closest to the presidential ear. For her part, she says she will miss her 19-hour a day, vacation-free job, just as most of us would miss a long session of dental surgery.

BEGALA: She's a good person; she did a good job, I wish her well. I didn't agree with what she did, but Karen stood out, a friend of mine from Austin.

CARLSON: I can't answer that.

BEGALA: I envy her trip home. President Bush, speaking of Bush, chose to stay in Kennebunkport, Maine, this weekend rather than attend the 93rd annual convention of the NAACP, but he was there in spirit. NAACP chairman Julian Bond blasted Bush, telling the crowd, "We knew he was in the oil business; we didn't know it was snake oil."

Bond also blasted the Bush Justice Department, saying Attorney General John Ashcroft is "a cross between J. Edgar Hoover and Jerry Falwell." A spokesman for Hoover disagreed, pointing out that while Ashcroft may have his virtues, no right-winger looked better in a negligee and pumps than J. Edgar.

CARLSON: You know, for the NAACP to question anybody else's accounting practices, a group that almost went under a couple of years ago because of its own accounting practices, is pretty outrageous actually.

BEGALA: He should have shown up instead of hanging out there in Maine.

CARLSON: So he could be berated self-righteously. For years, critics have suggested that singer Michael Jackson is deeply eccentric, even deranged. Jackson himself confirmed those rumors over the weekend in an appearance with leading Democratic presidential candidate Al Sharpton. The two staged a press conference in which Jackson attacked Sony Records, the producer of his latest failed album. Jackson, who says he's black, charged the company with racism and called its chairman "devilish."

The crowd, which included several Jackson impersonators, cheered. The following day, however, Sharpton told reporters he does not believe the head of Sony is a racist or, for that matter, Satan. The episode screwed the New York Post headline, "Jacko got off tracko." The real headline, of course, is "Jackson too nutty even for Al Sharpton."

BEGALA: What do you mean, even for Al Sharpton? Sharpton was ...

CARLSON: He's your man. He is going to be your nominee. Congratulations, by the way.

BEGALA: He's never been accused of insider trading though, has he?

CARLSON: Even so, that would be -- I'm for him.

BEGALA: That's not working out. Anyway, the unemployment numbers were released last week, showing the jobless rate up to 5.9%, a far cry from the 3.9% we enjoyed under the Clinton economy. Wasn't the Bush tax cut supposed to create jobs? Well, 1.8 million Americans who had jobs under President Clinton have lost their jobs under President Bush. But despite the gloomy news, President Bush insisted on spending the weekend in his family's mansion in Maine, cruising in expensive speedboats and playing golf. White House aides say it's a family tradition for the Bushes to flaunt their inherited wealth during recessions.

CARLSON: Wait. Did you take $19 million in corporate payoffs in the last year and a half? Well, that was Bill Clinton. Sorry, I get them confused.

BEGALA: Did you take a payoff from AOL or a paycheck?

CARLSON: No, I actually took a salary. I don't get $500,000 for cruising in and giving 15 minutes off the top of my head commentary.

BEGALA: Yes, you do. I've given speeches with you and they pay you pretty well, just like ...

CARLSON: Not a half a million dollars ...

BEGALA: Jealous!

CARLSON: ... they should be spending for the cure of AIDS.

BEGALA: Jealous.

CARLSON: Speaking of taxes, more fallout from the war on terrorism. Thanks to the anthrax attacks on Washington last fall, Democrat Nita Lowey of New York was unable to pay her property taxes. That's her explanation anyway. Last month, the District of Columbia's Office of Tax Revenue released its annual list of delinquent taxpayers. Representative Lowey's name was on the list.

The Congresswoman's explanation: after several politicians were targeted with anthrax-laced letters, her landlord removed her name from the building's mailbox, so she never got the tax bill. Except as the "Roll Call" newspaper pointed out, the city sent out delinquent tax notices in August, two months before anthrax hit the capital. Congresswoman Lowey has not responded to this discrepancy. Privately, however, her aides say she had no choice. If Nita Lowey had paid her taxes, the terrorists would have won.

BEGALA: I hope you're just as big a stickler for filing things on time when we talk a little later in the program about Bush disclosing his insider trading, which he didn't do.

CARLSON: Members of Congress who were so eager to raise taxes on the rest of us, the so-called rich in the rest of the country, I think probably they'd go ahead and pay their own taxes, don't you think, Paul?

BEGALA: Let's just see if you'll be consistent when we talk about whether Bush disclosed and filed the proper forms when his business was insider trading.

CARLSON: I think people ought to pay their taxes, Democrats in particular.




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