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In the Crossfire

Is the war on terrorism being neglected?

Chambliss: "I think the nation's been challenged to make sure that everybody participates in winning the war on terrorism. "

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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Former Vice President Al Gore and some of his fellow Democrats seem to be leading the criticism against the Bush administration's handling of the war on terror. Have the recent elections and the focus on Iraq put the war on terror on the back burner?

Sen.-elect Saxby Chambliss, R-Georgia, and former National Security Council Spokesman P.J. Crowley joined "Crossfire" hosts James Carville and Robert Novak to debate the issue.

CARVILLE: Let me start out, Senator Chambliss, with a question I asked Senator McCain, and that is, what sacrifice has this president caused on us as Americans to make since we started this war on terrorism?

CHAMBLISS: What sacrifice has he called on us to make?

CARVILLE: Well, how has he challenged us as a nation?

CHAMBLISS: You know I think the nation's been challenged to make sure that everybody participates in winning the war on terrorism. He's asked the American people to participate in the process by being on the lookout for different activities, suspicious activities....

CARVILLE: In World War II, people got together, gave blood, they paid more taxes.

CHAMBLISS: Well, that's what happened with the shoe bomber on the airplane. That's the classic example that you can look at, where the American people had their eyes open. ...

CARVILLE: Why isn't this president calling for any national sacrifice? Why doesn't he challenge us? Why is [the government] just giving tax breaks to pharmaceutical companies? Is there something else that we can do?

CHAMBLISS: Well, you missed the whole point. We've got to win the war on terrorism. Tax breaks and Social Security and anything else in this country doesn't make any difference.

CARVILLE: I agree.

CHAMBLISS: And he's providing great leadership on winning the war on terrorism.

NOVAK: The Democrats can always find a reason for raising taxes, I can tell you that. Colonel Crowley, I want to quote for you of one of your former bosses, former Vice President Al Gore. Wasn't he one of your bosses?


NOVAK: In The New York Times he said, "Osama is back. Al Qaeda has reconstituted itself. And, according to the director of central intelligence, possesses just as severe threat to us right now as he did in the weeks leading up to September 11. Meanwhile, the president has been out on the campaign trail beating the drums of war against Saddam Hussein."

You're an expert on this. That's just political claptrap, isn't it?

CROWLEY: Well, I think it reflects the fact that the war on terrorism is not over. And the fact that bin Laden has re-emerged and the attacks in Yemen and Bali prove that al Qaeda is a very immediate and significant threat to the United States. What the [former] vice president was saying was, there is a risk that, in this single focus on Iraq, we can get diverted from the immediate threat that we face, which is the war on terrorism and al Qaeda.

NOVAK: What's his credibility after laying low for a year, not talking about anything, and suddenly he is just mimicking what Tom Daschle said and what a lot of the left-wing press says? What's his credibility?

CROWLEY: Well, in the same New York Times today, none other than William Safire complimented Vice President Gore for the work that he did in setting the stage for the Baltic nations to come into NATO. So he is an acknowledged expert on international affairs and he has a right to get out and give his opinion, as a patriotic American. I hope you don't consider him unpatriotic.

NOVAK: Well, I don't judge anybody's patriotism, not yours and not mine. But I just wondered if you can possibly associate yourself with this dismal view...

CROWLEY: I mean, absolutely. The fact remains that, if we go into Iraq precipitously, we cannot win the war on terrorism in Iraq, but we can make it much more difficult to accomplish.

CARVILLE: Senator Warren Rudman, Republican of New Hampshire, and Reagan Secretary of State George Schultz said. "America remains dangerously unprepared to prevent and respond to a new catastrophic attack." The source was the Wall Street Journal. They said that last month in a report that they issued.

Why are George Schultz and Warren Rudman whining like this?

CHAMBLISS: Well, you know, I think everybody agrees, James, that another attack is probably imminent. And are we prepared for it? No, we aren't. Are we moving in the right direction? You bet we are.

We're better prepared than we were on September 11th from a number of instances with respect to intelligence gathering. We're doing a better job today with the FBI, the NSA and the CIA gathering intelligence. They're doing a better job of sharing information.

They're a long ways away from sharing information like they need to. They're a long ways away from getting it down to the state and local level.

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