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The Political Week in Review

Aired June 22, 2001 - 19:30   ET


TUCKER CARLSON, CO-HOST: Gary Condit in the spotlight, Governor Gray Davis in the dark and Robert Torricelli in hot water. Tonight, a political week in review.

ANNOUNCER: Live from Washington, CROSSFIRE. On the left, Bill Press. On the right, Tucker Carlson. In the CROSSFIRE: former Republican Congressman Bob Livingston and Democratic strategist Peter Fenn.

CARLSON: Good evening and welcome to CROSSFIRE, the Friday edition. The first week of summer was a sizzler in politics. Republicans picked up a House seat, Senator Robert Torricelli lost his first battle with the Justice Department. Governor Gray Davis took his case to Jay Leno, President Bush admired Vladimir Putin's soul and took it in the teeth from all sides. And a media war erupted between Congressman Gary Condit of California and the parents of a missing intern Chandra Levy.


BILLY MARTIN, ATTORNEY FOR CHANDRA LEVY'S PARENTS: The congressman has indicated that they were friends. As a friend, we reiterate, please come forward, please meet with the police, please tell anything that you can regarding Chandra.


CARLSON: Condit did finally meet face-to-face with Levy's parents last night. Is the story now winding down, or is this the beginning of an O.J. saga for the new millennium? Stay tuned -- Bill.

BILL PRESS, CO-HOST: Lots of topics, let's get started. Bob Livingston, welcome to CROSSFIRE.

BOB LIVINGSTON (R), FORMER CONGRESSMAN: Bill, thanks, good to be here.

PRESS: I have heard a lot of crazy things said by politicians in my time, I think the craziest ever might have been last Saturday, just a little less than a week ago. Let me remind you please what President Bush said after an important meeting over in Europe. Here is just a little clip.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I very much enjoyed our time together. He is an honest, straightforward man who loves his country. He loves his family. We share a lot of values. I...


PRESS: Sorry, we are going to have to break here and go to Bill Hemmer in Atlanta for breaking news.


PRESS: Thank you, Bill Hemmer. Bob Livingston, it's hard to shift gears after that, but let's go forward. We were talking about President Bush's comments after he met with Vladimir Putin. He said he looked into his eyes and he saw his soul. Did you have to laugh out loud when you heard that?

LIVINGSTON: No, I didn't. Actually, I just saw in inane press conference -- that -- the one we just looked at was absolutely outlandish. But no, I thought that President Bush had a responsibility to meet Putin one-on-one, man-to-man. They got together, they enjoyed each others' company, they realized that one was not a threat to the other.

And if George Bush may have -- if not eloquently stated the case of the fact that they got along to the pleasure of everybody in America, that is one thing. The fact is, he is the leader of the free world, he is the leader of the United States, he met the leader of the now-defunct Soviet Union, Russia, and they got along well.

PRESS: But look, this is a guy who is a professional KGB guy. I mean, his career was in being a professional liar. He crushed Chechnya, he crushed the free, independent media in Russia, and then Bush says, "I looked into his eyes and I saw his soul."

Just to show, Bob, how this brings the right and the left together, I never thought I would agree with Jesse Helms on anything...


PRESS: But here's what Jesse Helms said about this. I want you to hear Jesse Helms, please. My new buddy. Here he is.


SEN. JESSE HELMS (R-NC), FOREIGN RELATIONS CMTE: Mr. Putin is far, in my judgment, far from deserving the powerful political prestige and influence that comes from an excessively personal endorsement by the president of the United States.


PRESS: Shame on him!. LIVINGSTON: Look, I love Senator Helms and I'm as anti-communist as he is, and frankly I'm amazed at your question, you know, coming from Bill Press, the guy I watched on television...

PRESS: Bill Clinton said he didn't trust Putin. I don't, either.

LIVINGSTON: Look, Putin is the leader of Russia, whether we like it or not. He's the elected leader. He's the second elected leader of a country that is emerging from an entire existence -- the world's existence -- of tyranny and oppression. We've got to deal with the guy, and you can't simply stick your finger in his nose and ignore him. And George Bush got along with him, and I think that's very good for America.

CARLSON: So, Peter Fenn, we meet again.


CARLSON: Yes, we do. Since it is a wrap-up show, let's assess the state of the Democratic Party. It's a long list. I'll pare it down for you.

FENN: Oh, I can do that real quick.


CARLSON: Let's see if you can. Senator Robert Torricelli, turned down by the Justice Department for a special council, which he wanted, if you can even imagine. Jim Traficant of Ohio...

FENN: Uh-uh -- no Democrat, there. Uh-uh.

CARLSON: He is absolutely...


CARLSON: But let's move on, because you've got a lot to cover.


FENN: ... go ahead.

CARLSON: Edwin Edwards of Louisiana, also an indictment. Roger Clinton facing DUI charges, and charges that he tried to sell pardons earlier. Hilliard yesterday rebuked for financial impropriety, and now Gary Condit. Is it time to change the logo of the Democratic Party from the donkey to, say, the face of Abbe Lowell, or a defense lawyer?

FENN: Do I sense that you need to go on the offensive here a little bit, because you have a president that's at 53 percent of the polls, dropping like the Titanic -- while he's still trying to rearrange the chairs on the Titanic?

Listen, this is -- this isn't about personal scandals. This is about substance, and we've got a guy right now who's on the wrong side of Patients' Bill of Rights. He's on the wrong side of getting prescription drugs for senior citizens. He's on the wrong side of the minimum wage. He's on the wrong side of the environment. He's on the wrong side of energy, and...

LIVINGSTON: That's why we, the Republicans, captured a Democrat seat in the House of Representatives in Virginia that has been a Democrat seat for 18 years.

FENN: Yes, and I did Norman Sisisky, and we worked for Louise Lucas, and let me tell you something. We were behind 15 points and lost by 4. And that race was extraordinarily close.

LIVINGSTON: Close only counts in horseshoes, and it sure doesn't count here.


FENN: Social Security was playing big in that race. But my point, listen, you guys don't want to talk about the substance of the new...

CARLSON: Well, let's talk about one substantive issue. If I could just -- let's just pick one.

FENN: The Patients' Bill of Rights. Let's take that one.

CARLSON: From the cornucopia of issues I just mentioned, let's talk about Senator Torricelli, who, as you know, is under investigation by the federal government for all sorts of financial improprieties. I'm struck, though, that his defense has been Clintonian in that he has attacked the integrity of the Justice Department. What I'm struck by more, we saw with Clinton, of course, is that no Democrat has stood up, either to ask him: "What are the facts, Senator?"

And, two, to say: "Gee whiz, make your defense, but don't undermine a federal institution in so doing it." No Democrat has said that to him. Why?

FENN: I don't know what they said to him in private, but all I can say is that the facts are getting laid out. There's an investigation going on, they're going to put it on the table, and they'll make a decision about it. And you know, I think Bob Torricelli is, you know, he's going to fight it. He's got a lawyer, he's going to court.

But you know, this is one guy, this is -- and I think he may have -- to be perfectly honest, I think he did some stuff wrong. I'll say that. It doesn't look good to me.

CARLSON: Then you are almost alone among Democrats.


FENN: I'm sorry, but I'll say it because, you know, it doesn't look right to me. I mean, you're taking 10 suits, you're taking Rolex watches. If this stuff proves true, he shouldn't have done it.

CARLSON: Orange jumpsuit time.


FENN: I don't know about that.

PRESS: I want to ask you about part of this cornucopia that Tucker mentioned. You served in the Congress with Gary Condit. I know you know him. I don't want to get into all the details of this, or raise a lot of questions or further inflame it. But my question to you is, do you think Gary Condit should come forward and talk to the media about -- and say what the exact nature of his relationship was with this woman? Or do you think he's handling it right by just refusing to talk?

LIVINGSTON: I think that Gary Condit has to come forward and speak to the police. The fact is that Gary Condit is in a very awkward position. He's damned if he does and damned if he doesn't. He's a good, decent fellow, and I'm going to give him the benefit of the doubt until proven wrong.

I know him. I think he's been a great representative for California, and I just am not going to prejudge the case. But I wish him well. I think he could be a victim of terrible circumstances, and you can't explain your way out of that situation. I mean, just -- on the assumption that he is perfectly innocent, what does he say to the media? He -- there's nothing that's going to satisfy the media at this point, so he might as well talk to the police. He ought to talk to family, and that's it.

PRESS: OK. We're going to take a break, though, Jim, and when we come back, the big question of energy on the table this week. We'll pick that up when we come back. It's Republicans versus Democrats. It's California versus United States, and it is George Bush versus Gray Davis. Who's going to win that battle? We'll be right back.



GOV. GRAY DAVIS (D), CALIFORNIA: You know, this electricity crisis has done wonders for my charisma problem.


DAVIS: This is the first time the words "Gray Davis" and "electricity" have ever appeared in the same sentence.

LENO: There you go.


LENO: Well, you don't have to tell me.


PRESS: Don't have to tell me, either. Is California Governor Gray Davis digging himself out of an energy mess by blaming it all on George W. Bush?

Welcome back to CROSSFIRE. Energy was just one of the issues in which the president may have lost ground this week, but Democrats had their ups and downs, too. Even before the dust settles, we're trying to figure out tonight who came out ahead with a top Republican strategist, Former Congressman Bob Livingston and crackerjack Democratic strategist Peter Fenn -- Tucker.

FENN: Cracker.

CARLSON: Crackerjack. Part of that, anyway.

Now, Peter, tell me this. Gray Davis is really drowning in a puddle of his own ineptitude here, isn't he? He goes on "Leno," really, the court of last resort, and he's terrible, incidentally. And then, in his other statements, he blames California's power crisis, over which he's presided for two and a half years, on some unseen conspiracy of Texas energy producers. This is a pathetic performance, isn't it?

FENN: Oh, this is a terrific performance, because he's talking the truth, is what he's doing. Listen, what's happening out there is -- and people have figured it out, the polls show it. They know they're being gouged. His numbers are going up. Bush's numbers are going down. They should put these 18-month caps on prices. They should look at the oil companies. They should look at the producers.

The fact is that the 10 largest oil companies last year had profits of over $52 billion. It was 26 billion the year before. Funny. Where's all this money going? It's certainly not going in your pocket or my pocket.

LIVINGSTON: We're running out of energy. You can't talk energy into the light socket. The fact is, it's disappearing, and we're not drilling.

FENN: That is not the problem in California.

LIVINGSTON: Just yesterday, the House...

FENN: That is not the problem in California. There has not been increased demand. That is not why the prices are going up, you know that.

LIVINGSTON: Demand has gone up every year for the last 20 years, and they have not produced. They haven't rebuilt a new refinery in 20 years. They haven't built any new...

FENN: You're telling me there's not gouging going on there? You're telling me there aren't excessive profits?

LIVINGSTON: I'm telling you that when there is no supply, and people want to demand more, the prices go up in the spot market -- only in the spot market.

FENN: Your good House of Representatives disagrees with you because 70 Republicans voted against offshore drilling.

LIVINGSTON: That is exactly right and it was one of the dumbest votes they ever passed in the life -- because when we run out of oil and the lights go out on the whole country, we going to be in trouble.

FENN: We're not running out of oil.

PRESS: I want to ask you about that though. Doesn't that vote, where 70 Republicans went against the drilling off the Florida coast, and 42 Republicans went against drilling in the national monuments, George Bush was pushing both of those. Dick Cheney was up there trying to sell them. Doesn't that prove that even your own party doesn't isn't buying it?

LIVINGSTON: You are talking to a guy from Louisiana -- you are talking to a guy from Louisiana. We drill offshore and we catch fish right off the drilling rigs and the economy coincides and gets along quite well with drilling rigs and with the production of oil.

The fact is that we've got this hysteria in this country starting in San Diego, working all the way around to the East Coast and down into Florida that says, you can't drill for oil, you can't drill for gas, you don't want to produce it. Now we are talking about cutting off the pipelines in the Caspian region, way across on the other side of the world.

Believe me, if we don't have oil and gas, we could go to nuclear fuel, but the environmentalists don't want to do that. We could burn coal, they don't want to do that. What in the world -- are we all going to walk around with a windmill in our hands?


PRESS: Here's the question. Doesn't it prove, though, that even the members of his own party are not buying George Bush's energy plan? As Peter said, this guy is going South.

LIVINGSTON: There a little problem with Florida politics. Florida has bought into this environmental stuff lock stock and barrel and the guy who happens to be governor of Florida happens to also spell his name B-U-S-H.

FENN: How do you explain oil companies doubling their profits in one year, the 10 largest oil companies? How do you explain this if there is not gouging going on?

LIVINGSTON: Were you bleeding tears when the oil companies were going absolutely broke about two or three years ago when the price of gasoline was cheaper than water? It is still cheaper than water.

FENN: Why is it that the cuts in the Department of Energy.

LIVINGSTON: Go to the grocery store and try and buy a bottle of clean water. You pay a heck of a lot more for water than you do for the price of gasoline.

FENN: You are missing the point here. There are conservation measures that should be put in. There are...

LIVINGSTON: Price controls. They worked well for Nixon, they worked well for everyone.


CARLSON: Now, Peter Fenn, in the minute we have left, let me just a quick interrogation here, Virginia Four. You worked on -- I'm struck by all the high powered and very talented consultants down there. You were down there, Donna Brazil worked on turnout, former President Bill Clinton did phone calls on behalf of Miss Lucas. She still lost in a district that Clinton carried twice. This was a referendum on Bush, and Bush won.

FENN: It's a very close district and Bush carried it last time. Look, you had racial politics unfortunately playing out in a very negative way down there. You had Republicans telling their folks, their people are going to vote, those people are going to go to the polls -- them -- and well, the problem -- the part of the problem was...

CARLSON: So it's a racial conspiracy?


FENN: But the second point was the Republican governor is quite brilliant. He called a special election one week after the Democratic primary so they had to vote twice in a week. Now people are...

CARLSON: And they were too tired to vote the second time?

FENN: No, I'm just saying they had 37 percent turnout.

LIVINGSTON: Bush won and...

FENN: Bush did not win.

LIVINGSTON: He won because it was a referendum on his Social Security program. You guys attacked the hell out of the Social Security program, it didn't work. And Bush is doing better in the Gallup Poll for -- with African Americans, and with Hispanics and your own pollsters are saying we are in deep trouble.

FENN: Look, he is out of touch. He is totally out of touch, Bush, and this race showed it. Our numbers -- we gained 10 points in the last week, and you know...

LIVINGSTON: I don't care if he's out of touch as long as we win elections.

CARLSON: And out of touch and we are out of time. Bob Livingston, Peter Fenn, thank you both, very much.

Bill Press and I will be in touch, in profound touch, when we return in just a moment with our closing comments. See you then.


CARLSON: Bill, you nominated as your line of the week, Bush on Putin. I am going to nominate one of my own: Peter Fenn explaining the loss of Virginia Four by saying, Democrats voted the week before. Apparently there's a limit to how many times Democrats can vote. They get weary. They can't remember to vote again. They're like Florida voters, those Democrats, aren't they.

PRESS: Well, I must say that the spin on both sides about Virginia Four has been pretty over the top. And to say that we were down 15 points, but we only lost by two or something, I think...

CARLSON: A resounding victory.

PRESS: You know what? That is spin. That is what that is.

CARLSON: I would say that is.

PRESS: But I have to tell you, Tucker, I think what else is spin, you know, George Bush took the day off today. He's back on his ranch. You know why? He's trying to figure out how to regroup. This is his as high as he is ever going to be. He's six months in. He's only at 53 percent approval, and it's all downhill from now. I have never seen an administration fall apart so fast.

CARLSON: Fall apart?

PRESS: All over the place.

CARLSON: First of all, it's 53 to 55. It's in the 50s, somewhere. The majority -- look, Bill, this election was virtually a tie. OK, more people support George W. Bush today than supported him on election day. How is that an administration falling apart?

PRESS: I'll tell you. In that same poll, he won by -- he got 48 percent of the vote, right? The poll showed that if he ran again today he would get 44 percent of the vote against an unknown Democrat. That means he's lost ground since November.

CARLSON: As you know...

PRESS: I'm sorry, since December when the court put him in.

CARLSON: Polls like that, hypothetical polls, are perfectly meaningless.

PRESS: No. Not when they show George Bush going down.


From the left, I'm Bill Press. Good night for CROSSFIRE. Have a great weekend.

CARLSON: And from the right, I'm Tucker Carlson. Joins us Monday night for another edition of CROSSFIRE.



4:30pm ET, 4/16

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