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In the Crossfire

Did the Bush administration receive a fair grade?

(CNN) -- A group that represents some of the families of the September 11 victims gave the Bush administration a C-minus on Monday for its job over the last year. The group is happy with the U.S. military effort in Afghanistan, but that didn't make up for the low marks the group gave the administration's handling of domestic security and civil rights. Steven Push, president of the September 11 Homeland Security Alliance, steps into the "Crossfire" with hosts Tucker Carlson and James Carville to discuss the group's grading system.

CARLSON: I read your homeland security report card and it struck me, as a long-time resident of Washington, very much like report cards I've seen from, I don't know, NARAL or the Tobacco Institute, I mean very much a special interest report card, which is not in itself bad. But I wonder if you're not squandering the special moral authority you have.

PUSH: This is not a special interest report card. It's a public interest report card. The entire nation has an interest in homeland security and we feel that someone has to keep an eye on the government and make sure that they're moving forward in making the improvements that are necessary to keep us safe.

CARLSON: Well, I -- of course, I agree with you, that someone does need to -- that I just wonder if you're the man. Since I think you're 20 years in public relations, but there -- and there's nothing wrong with that -- but there are grades here -- for instance, you gave the Bush administration incomplete on obtaining congressional international support for military force to oust Saddam Hussein. What's the connection between your expertise and that of your group and this issue?

PUSH: We're citizens and citizens have a right to petition their government.

CARLSON: Of course, they have a right. I'm just saying why should we take it seriously. That's all I'm...

PUSH: You should take it seriously because there is no other group that has been more seriously affected by the September 11 attacks and nobody that's more motivated to spend the time to really understand what's going on. This is not a debate only for experts. It's also a debate for citizens. And we -- what I learned from September 11 is that it's not enough to just vote and pay your taxes and not commit any crimes to be a good citizen. And in fact, if I had spent more -- if I had more interest in these issues 10 years ago, my wife may still be alive right now.

CARVILLE: Just to -- your wife was on the United flight that crashed in the Pentagon.

PUSH: Yes, she was.

CARVILLE: It -- one of the things here is that a lot of people, myself included, said we should have a commission to look into that.

PUSH: Absolutely.

CARVILLE: Some people have said that. Would you feel like that your wife's life would -- her death would be more meaningful if we profited from this, if we just found out as opposed to a whitewash, which is being proposed by some people in the administration?

PUSH: If we don't learn what is possible to learn from this attack, and use that information to help prevent other people from going through what we're going through right now, I will feel my wife's death was in vain.

CARVILLE: I don't blame you. I mean we had a commission right after Pearl Harbor. I mean it -- but I have not heard -- have you heard one rational, decent argument why we should look into this, and not to say that anybody did anything criminal or anything like that, but where mistakes were made and how we can prevent them?

PUSH: I have not heard one good reason for not doing an independent commission.

CARLSON: Well, actually, I mean I agree with you and I -- sadly, I guess, James too. I'm pro-commission. I think more information is always better than less, so good for you. But here's the problem I have. I think you're wielding a bit of a moral cudgel here because you do have this special status as a survivor of someone who was murdered on September 11. So you -- here, you give Dianne Feinstein an F because she opposed the commission. You also give one to Trent Lott. Does that mean they are pro-terror or anti-victim?


CARLSON: That seems awfully heavy-handed, if you say their names.

PUSH: No, not at all, but they have -- they have steadfastly, publicly, spoken out against doing an independent commission and given some of the most ludicrous reasons I can think of to do it. Trent Lott's reason for opposing the independent commission is to say that well, other anti-terrorism commissions have been done in the past and we didn't pay any attention to those recommendations. We just put them on the shelf and they collected dust so why should we do another?

CARLSON: OK, but wait. I mean I agree -- again, I...

PUSH: And he said that.

CARLSON: Oh come on!

PUSH: He said that on television and his staff said that to us and to the families who went to visit his...

CARLSON: I disagree -- I disagree with Dianne Feinstein. I disagree with Trent Lott on this question. I agree with you. But the implication that they're acting out of some base motive, I mean you have a fair disagreement. They argue that there are -- the secrets that might get out in the process of conducting this commission. That's one of the arguments and it's a valid argument. For the secret, it's valid. By giving them an F, you make it sound like they're against the victims; they're against making America safer. It's just too heavy-handed. You don't see what I mean?

PUSH: Well, I graded on a curve.




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