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The Spin Room

Does Washington Need New Blood?

Aired January 30, 2001 - 10:30 p.m. ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

BILL PRESS, CO-HOST: It's Tuesday night. You're in the SPIN ROOM. Thank for joining us everybody, I'm Bill Press, here with my sidekick.

TUCKER CARLSON, CO-HOST: Tucker Carlson here with my pet monkey Bill Press. It's a brand new day and we have a brand new Congressman on tonight: 26-year old Adam Putnam, rising star from Florida; we want to know what you think of him and other topics on today's news: 1-800- 410-4CNN or join our on-line chat at cnn.com or send us e-mail at spin@cnn.com.

PRESS: Of course, the most exciting new show on CNN and it is so because of your participation, so we want to hear from you -- get in the chat room -- we put the smartest comments up on the screen so everybody: all your relatives, all your friends around the country can see your name.

CARLSON: Your own little megalomania moments.

PRESS: Get your nominations for "Spin of the Day" or your questions to Congressman Putnam in to spin@cnn.com.

CARLSON: He hasn't been grilled much so you are catching him fresh.

PRESS: It is exciting every year when you are in high school or in college when you gather for the freshmen photo. Right, Tucker?

CARLSON: It's my favorite. And we have, I think, a freshman photo that includes Congressman Putnam.

PRESS: They even do it members of Congress.

CARLSON: Bill, I'll give you $20 if you can pick him out at ten paces.

PRESS: He's not the one that stands out, he's somewhere lost in the crowd but he does stand out, because he happens to be the youngest member of Congress: 26 years old. You have to be 25 to be a member of Congress -- he just made the cut.

CARLSON: This man is a political prodigy -- elected at 22, the youngest member ever of the Florida State legislature. Five years ago, he was a summer intern for Charles Canady, whose seat he took -- I think he won by 57 percent, beat a Ford dealer, a Democrat in a district that's, I think, majority Democrat -- impressive.

PRESS: He comes from a family down there that has ranching and they grow lemons and they have cattle. Citrus and cattle -- we will meet him in just a second. Let's catch up on some e-mail here.

CARLSON: Kevin G. Fletcher writes:

"I think it's great to see young people as elected officials. Hopefully they have learned from older politicians how not to ask. Yes, they are also too young to have done anything too appalling -- some politicians get started early, I don't think Mr. Putnam's among them."

PRESS: Terry writes in:

"Dear Bill and Tucker, I hear Bill Clinton is writing his memoirs. Terrific! I love science fiction."

CARLSON: Speaking of Bill Clinton. Here's one from Babbs in Pennsylvania -- I just love this.

"Please continue to inform us of all criminal allegations from the previous administration."

Babbs, be assured we consider that our sacred duty. We will continue to bring you the latest updates of the Clinton administration.

PRESS: Lots of e-mails about something the president talked again today, which we talked about last night. The money going to faith-based organizations. Jim from Memphis, Tennessee writes in:

"Bill, I find myself agreeing with you that government money should not go to church supported programs -- where did I go wrong?"

If you agreed with me Jim, you didn't go wrong. You are right on the money.

CARLSON: I want to read this right at the top.

"I send you guys something every day." This is from Neil from Little Rock.

"I would like to know -- tell you right now that I'm your number one fan -- I have not missed an episode since the show started; what does it take to get an e-mail on the air?"

Neil, it takes desperation; raw, sweaty-palmed desperation and you passed. There's your e-mail.

PRESS: It takes getting down on your knees and begging, and he did it. Privately, we've been looking at his e-mails every day.

CARLSON: Months now.

PRESS: We just decided he wasn't desperate enough. CARLSON: We chuckle about them downstairs with our producers.

Adam Putnam, the youngest member of the House of Representatives from central Florida, I think Lakeland, Florida. Congressman Putnam, thanks for joining us here on THE SPIN ROOM.

REP. ADAM PUTNAM (R), FLORIDA: Thank you for having me. Good evening.

PRESS: I know you hear all of the time, but has anybody ever told you, you look like Harry Potter?

PUTNAM: My birthday is the same as Harry Potter's birthday: July 31.

PRESS: I knew it! I guess I should have asked you. Has anyone asked you in the last five minutes, do you look...

CARLSON: Harry Potter is not a real person, right?

PUTNAM: No, but in the book, his birthday is July 31. I get more comparisons to Opie than I do to Harry Potter

CARLSON: Actually, I must say right from the top -- oh, there he is, getting spanked on the head.

PRESS: But Opie is not wearing glasses.

PUTNAM: Take it up a notch. You know, the high school years -- Richie Cunningham is a little more accurate.

CARLSON: Speaking of high school and college, what are your roommates and friends from college doing? I bet not many of them are in Congress.

PUTNAM: They are living well off all the money we paid them to keep quiet during the campaign.

(LAUGHTER)

CARLSON: I knew I liked you, Congressman.

PUTNAM: Most of them are still in the area. I went to the University of Florida; most of them are still around.

PRESS: I want to ask -- I know the young jokes -- we're going to get off them in just a second here; but I did read an editorial written by a guy named Daniel Ruth when you were running for office. I just want to read it for our viewers and maybe get your response.

He said: "Adam Putnam is 26 and looks as if he's going on 13. Every time I see the Bartow Republican who is running for the U.S. Congress, I have this compelling urge to ask to see his homework. I wouldn't know whether to vote for this guy, or burp him. Still, is it fair to pass a political judgment on someone running for office simply because they look like Opie?" Do you find, when you come here to Washington, and you walk into that building, do you find that your youth gets in the way? I mean, do they let you into the rooms, for example?

PUTNAM: You know, there have been a couple of funny occasions when I have been stopped and questioned about being in the right place or driving over here violating the DC curfew; but, by and large, it hasn't been a problem. I honestly believe that people go into public service with the same amount of respect, because everybody got here the same way. And whether you move up or down on the respect scale is up to you, but I recognize that everybody is waiting on the young kid to mess up. And there's a higher standard for me to meet.

CARLSON: It sounds like you haven't done it yet.

PRESS: We can count on him to do so.

CARLSON: We have two segments, keep in mind. Congressman, tell us the three things that are really striking to you, now that you come to Washington as a member of Congress.

PUTNAM: The most striking thing, actually, coming out of the Florida legislature, which has one of most progressive, open government -- government in the sunshine laws -- is the way that Congress gets away with treating the press. They tell you to come in between 5:00 and 15:15 and leave at 5:20. They have meetings before the meetings -- the majority has a meeting and then the minority has a meeting -- it's really kind of an unusual circumstance to see how differently the media is treated in the federal government then they are at the state government. That's a striking difference.

But you know, Florida is a diverse legislature, a diverse state -- a lot of issues are sort of microcosm of what we face in Congress, a lot of the same issues.

PRESS: I want to know what it was like when you met Strom Thurmond for the first time. I mean, the oldest guy there and the youngest guy there.

CARLSON: 73 years older.

PUTNAM: I have not yet done that. That is on my list of things to do in the next two weeks to catch him before he's gone.

PRESS: It's like going to the Jefferson Memorial -- you go and see Strom Thurmond and check him off your list.

PUTNAM: You got to go pay homage. I just want my picture taken -- oldest and youngest. You know, he is a neat guy. He has obviously got a tremendous institutional memory, and I can only imagine what kind of advice he would have for me.

PRESS: So can I.

CARLSON: Now that you are meeting other members of Congress, who would you say rudest and hardest to deal with personally? PUTNAM: You know I am not going to answer that on national television.

CARLSON: It's worth a try. Have you been surprised in meeting Democrats, that some are nicer and more amenable to compromise than you imagined?

PUTNAM: Actually, they're all hardworking people with their own set of principles and beliefs, and you know, a lot of them, I don't have a whole lot in common with, but a lot of them I do.

And I'm looking forward to working with them -- one of things that's very different in Washington compared to state legislatures is that in the legislatures you are locked in the same room with these people for hours at a time. You tend to work and play better with others when you have to look them in the eye. In Congress, I can leave my office, walk to the floor, give a one minute speech, calling somebody a low down so-and-so and then walk back to my office and never have to look that person in the eye.

That contributes to the decline in civility. If they locked everybody in a chamber and had debates there, and had more open give and take with people standing there, I think you would see the tension level reduced quite a bit, and I think you would see a lot more camaraderie.

PRESS: Congressman, we have a call for you from Sheila from Washington state -- we're big on the West coast here. Sheila, welcome to THE SPIN ROOM

CALLER: Thank you.

PRESS: Thank you for calling. Do you have a comment or a question?

CALLER: A comment and question. Congressman Putnam, at 27 years of age, what kind of worldly experiences have you had to think you'll be successful in Congress.

PUTNAM: Well, you know, that's a very good question, and it was a big part of my campaign, and it's important to realize that everybody comes into Congress with their own set of life experiences, experiences as a doctor, a lawyer, a teacher, a serviceman or women. And it's made up of all these different viewpoints and perspectives.

I bring what I hope to be a little bit more of a generational perspective, and a longer view towards public policy. It is very much in my best interest that we bring some long-term solvency to Social Security because it's my generation that's not going to have it. It's my best interest that we have a clean environment and clean air and water to make sure that my children and my grandchildren have place to grow up and play and enjoy life.

It's in my best interest to reform the education system because it's my peers and my children and grandchildren who have to deal with the state of public education and the value of that diploma if we don't make some improvement. So, you know, I attempt to bring a longer-term perspective, a perspective for the next 50 years instead of the next fiscal year.

CARLSON: You could spend the next 50 years in Congress.

PRESS: And still not fix all the problems. But you're off to a good start.

CARLSON: But if you could hold on for a second, congressman, we'll be right back. We're still awaiting, out there to viewers, your nominations for "Spin of the Day." Get them to us by phone, chat room, e-mail..

PRESS: ... to spin@cnn.com.

CARLSON: We'll be back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

PRESS: Welcome back to "The Spin Room" with our guest Congressman Adam Putnam, the youngest member of Congress. At 26, barely old enough to serve, but you know -- and the only guy, I think ever, on the show younger than Tucker.

CARLSON: I'd say that's true.

PRESS: How about it, Tucker?

CARLSON: I'll take that as a compliment.

PRESS: You've got it.

CARLSON: I could be in Congress, but you know, before we go back to harassing and terrorizing Mr. Putnam, we have news. And of course, the best news always concerns Canada where something -- we're the voice of Canada, really.

PRESS: We are the voice of Canada and we were...

CARLSON: The Canadian exile community, anyway, here in Washington.

PRESS: And both of us we very, very upset when President Bush announced that he was going to go to Mexico first instead of going to Canada, which most other presidents, including his father, made their first trip to another country to Canada.

CARLSON: It was major snub to our friends to the north, but do you think they took it lying down? No, the mounted up the dog sleds and you know, Jean Chretien, head of Canada, coming down here 11 days, it turns out. The prime minister of Canada is going to come to Washington to meet with President Bush before he heads to Mexico. Symbolically important, and I'll tell you, Bill, that every Canadian cab driver and busboy and Canadian temporary worker I meet in Washington is excited about this. PRESS: He'll be here on February 5th. We should try to get him on the show, since we're so big in Canada. The first foreign leader's hand that President Bush shakes will be Jean Chretien of Canada.

While, we're on the news of the day, very exciting news for THE SPIN ROOM. On the front page of "The Washington Post," for those of you who were not lucky enough to see this morning's "Post," let me just show you little item.

Dan Balz has been writing a new book, and it's been serialized in "The Post" about the recount in Florida, and this morning he writes, quote: "Propped before a flickering set in the wee hours, she (Katherine Harris, secretary of state) rooted for conservative commentator Tucker Carlson on CNN's THE SPIN ROOM.

You notice, Tucker, he does mention that she was rooting for me. Obviously, it was a pretty one-sided view there.

(CROSSTALK)

CARLSON: Indeed it was, and you brought a puppet on the show to mock her. You know, we're always pleased about positive feedback, but I have to say the news that Katherine Harris was watching our show, I'd say the best news so far.

And speaking of Katherine Harris, actually, I have a Katherine Harris question.

PRESS: You do?

CARLSON: Yes, I do for our guest...

PRESS: All right.

CARLSON: ... Congressman Putnam from Florida. Congressman, thanks for rejoining us. Now, you must know Katherine Harris. Do you find her as delightful as we do?

PRESS: Now, wait. As he does.

CARLSON: As I do?

PUTNAM: I grew up around the block from Katherine Harris and it's -- just to add another layer of conspiracy to all those people out there who are convinced it was a deep conspiracy, Bob Crawford, who was also on the elections board, is another Bartow boy.

CARLSON: Fantastic.

PRESS: I knew it.

CARLSON: Now, how is she doing, Katherine Harris? Was she wounded by the coverage she received?

PUTNAM: Well, you know, she has come out of this, you know, a devil to half the public and a saint and savior to the other half, and all she was really tying to do is to do her job. I think that she has -- you know, certainly her self-image, she's held up pretty well. I mean, I wouldn't want to be the object of a "Saturday Night Live" skit repeatedly and, you know, she's really taken her arrows well.

PRESS: She was just trying to deliver Florida for George Bush. Congressman, I want ask you about your record in the legislature. You are a young man, but I was really surprised to read today that you were voted among the last, if not the last, in the Florida legislature on environmental issues. Why? I mean, you're about to have your first kid. Don't you recognize that saving the environment is important?

PUTNAM: Well, I do, and, you know, I also was the lead sponsor of the Everglades Restoration Package that Congress -- it was a joint federal-state venture and the interesting thing was that the people who compiled that list didn't choose to put that piece of legislation on their score card.

So, you know, if you look at the bills that they evaluated, some of them were legitimate differences of opinion; some of them were some policies that I didn't think necessarily belonged on the environmental score card and some were left off of that, like the restoration of Lake Okeechobee.

So, you know, it's -- you're correct. I was at the bottom. I actually had a negative ratings with the League of Conservation Voters.

CARLSON: That's the spirit. Brag about it. Now, this is a question I've always wanted to ask a member of Congress. I read that you raised in the neighborhood of a million dollars in this race. Can you give us the quick eight-second recap of your fund-raising pitch. Hello, I'm Adam Putnam. I'm running for Congress. What do you say next?

PUTNAM: Well, I really am old enough to run.

(LAUGHTER)

PUTNAM: The seat is a predominately Democratic district, but there are good conservative Democrats. It's a predominantly rural, suburban district. Agriculture is a big part of it. I chaired the Agriculture Committee in the House, and we're going to outwork everybody else and we're going to knock on more doors and stuff more envelopes and we're going to win this at the grassroots level.

CARLSON: I can see Bill Press reaching for his wallet even as you say that.

PRESS: Whatever you said, it worked. I just want you to know, Rahet Suad (ph) of New York e-mails in: "Hopefully Adam will provide a whiff of fresh air in a Congress dominated by old-fashioned stooges."

But congressman, you're there because Charles Kennedy, who's been with us a lot on CNN, one of the impeachment managers last year, he took a term limits pledge and he stuck to it, unlike some other members of Congress. So, he stepped down, which opened that seat up, enabling you to win. Do you believe in term limits? Have you taken the pledge? And are you going to stick by it?

PUTNAM: Well, I don't believe -- I have not taken the pledge. I believe term limits are implemented every two years by the voting public for the House of Representatives. I voted against them when they were on the referendum in the state of Florida. And so therefore, I did not take the pledge.

The important things about Charles Kennedy was that he did make the pledge and he did keep his word and that's, you know -- what undermines all of the respect and honor and dignity of public service is guys who break their word. Whether you're for term limits or against them, he kept word and that was the most important thing.

CARLSON: Now congressman, really quick, Bill mentioned old- fashioned stooges. Have you crossed over to the chamber to see the new senator from New York.

PUTNAM: No, I...

PRESS: She's not an old-fashioned stooge.

CARLSON: I meant that in the nicest way. I just mean she's, you know, obviously the newest celebrity to Congress. Are members of Congress interested in seeing her and meeting her?

PUTNAM: Well, you know, over on the House side my next-door neighbor in the Cannon Attic or the Cannon Penthouse, however you choose to look at it, is Coach Tom Osborne and everybody is really excited about meeting Coach Osborne. The folks in the people's chamber, we don't walk over to the Senate a whole heck of a lot.

CARLSON: The people's chamber. I like that.

PRESS: People's chamber.

CARLSON: We ought to do a show for the people's chamber.

PRESS: Something very founding fatherish about that. I like that. Congressman Adam Putnam, you're a good sport. Thank you very much for joining us in THE SPIN ROOM.

PUTNAM: Thank you.

PRESS: And you're off to a good start in Congress. We hope to see a lot of you during your...

(CROSSTALK)

CARLSON: You've got 50 more years to come back and be on THE SPIN ROOM. We hope you will.

PRESS: Fifty years of THE SPIN ROOM coming up.

PUTNAM: Glad to be here. PRESS: OK, thanks congressman. And Tucker Carlson and I will be back with the most exciting part of the show every night, and that is your spins and our "Spins of the Day." That telephone number again, Tucker is.

CARLSON: Is 1-800-310-4CNN. I can recite it now, or you can send your e-mail to spin@cnn.com. We can't wait to receive them. We'll see you in two minutes.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

PRESS: THE SPIN ROOM continues, and what a big day it was. Bill Press and Tucker Carlson here, by the way. Big day, Tucker, in Baltimore today. Even in the rain our favorite team, the Ravens, look at that...

CARLSON: They don't even notice in Baltimore when it rains.

PRESS: They probably didn't notice that we weren't there. You know, it's too bad that we couldn't make it. But it was great day for Baltimore.

CARLSON: Of course it was, they had people wrestling in the back of a truck downtown. And it was great day in Washington. I don't know, Bill, if you caught the senator from Baltimore, that would be Senator Barbara Mikulski, and her response. I think we have tape of it.

PRESS: It was exciting.

CARLSON: It was exciting. Here is Senator Barbara Mikulski.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. BARBARA MIKULSKI (D), MARYLAND: Are we ready? One, two, three. Who let the dogs out? Who? Who?

(LAUGHTER)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CARLSON: You know, Bill, that kind of -- that's kind of beyond comment. So, I'm just going to let that roll on by.

PRESS: I was just going to say, Tucker, if you think we make fools of ourselves on television, there ain't nothing close to that. I've got to tell you.

CARLSON: There really isn't.

PRESS: Erin from Pennsylvania is on the phone to THE SPIN ROOM. Hey, Erin, thanks for your call. What's up?

CALLER: Hi, Bill, Tucker, you guys are great. I have a spin for you. I think it's fantastic, as a 24-year-old Republican, that we have a young Republican in office because it helps remind country that not everybody our age is a liberal Democrat, as MTV would usually have us all believe.

CARLSON: That's the spirit.

PRESS: I see a lot young people who are conservative.

CARLSON: Tons of them.

PRESS: And by the way, Adam has his fans out there in TV land.

CARLSON: Huge fans.

PRESS: Here's D. Deiter says: "I hope Adam doesn't get taken in by the old-time Republicans. Young blood is good." Amen.

CARLSON: Whatever that means. Here's -- and I think he also may have confused some of our viewers. This on writes in: "Why is Conan O'Brien on so early?" That was not Conan O'Brien. That was a member of Congress.

PRESS: And Larry the Lobbyist in Tallahassee writes in: "For a Republican, Adam Putnam is one of the smartest elected official you'll ever meet." I'm not sure whether that's a compliment or not, but obviously a guy that was a lobbyist in Tallahassee when he was in the state legislature. I repeat, for a Republican, Adam Putnam is one of the smartest elected officials.

(CROSSTALK)

CARLSON: Larry the Lobbyist, sounds like a motorcycle gang. OK...

PRESS: "Spins of the Day." Yours and mine.

CARLSON: Time for my "Spin of the Day." My "Spin of the Day" comes from a Republican, today; a leader in the Republican Party. In fact, Trent Lott, senator from Mississippi was asked today what his reaction was to Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton's taking of almost $200,000 worth of gifts when she and her husband left the White House. Here's what Senator Lott had to say.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. TRENT LOTT (R-MS), MAJORITY LEADER: I saw an article that had a headline that kind of surprised me because I was -- I thought I was being very careful not to be critical of Senator Clinton and what she did. I don't know details of it and I'm not the guy to pass judgment on it and so, you know, I'm going reserve judgment until I know something more than I do now.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CARLSON: I think he can pass judgment without knowing any more than he needs to know now. Come out and say it. He thinks it's appalling. He should say so. My favorite part of the whole statement by Senator Lott was where he said Senator Clinton as if he could barely get it out. But he forced himself to. He was not being straight with us.

PRESS: My favorite part of it was you introduction of it that Hillary Clinton is being attacked for taking the gifts. You know what, usually, when you give a gift to someone they take it. It's insulting to give it back. Tucker, this is what gift-giving is all about.

CARLSON: But when you really load $200,000 of goodies in the back of a truck...

(CROSSTALK)

PRESS: Well, this is a historic moment because Tucker and I, strangely enough, have chosen the same person for our "Spin of the Day" for different reasons. Let's bring back the honorable Senator Lott from Mississippi with what he had to say today about John Ashcroft. You won't believe it.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

LOTT: John Ashcroft is going to be a very thoughtful, very conscientious attorney general of high integrity. He is going to surround himself with men and women of a variety of backgrounds and races to run that Justice Department in an appropriate way, enforcing laws on the books. I predict he will do that, and I'm prepared to put my credibility on the line in saying that will be how he conducts himself.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

PRESS: I would just say very briefly to put your credibility on the line, you have to have it to start with.

CARLSON: Bill, this is Trent Lott's credibility-backed guarantee.

PRESS: And it stinks.

CARLSON: This is backed by Trent Lott's credibility, Bill. That was the only straight part of the press conference and I liked it.

(CROSSTALK)

PRESS: All right, that's enough for us. But don't go away because you know who's coming up. Sports, sports. You know they're going to be talking about the Ravens tonight.

CARLSON: Oh, yes. "SPORTS TONIGHT." Back in just a moment.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

PRESS: OK, Tucker, all I've got to say is here's to young blood and politics. I'm telling you, either side of the aisle, good to see them. The younger the better.

CARLSON: Amen. At least Republicans from Central Florida. TO ORDER A VIDEO OF THIS TRANSCRIPT, PLEASE CALL 800-CNN-NEWS OR USE OUR SECURE ONLINE ORDER FORM LOCATED AT www.fdch.com

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