Skip to main content /transcript



The Political Week in Review

Aired July 20, 2001 - 19:30   ET



BILL PRESS, CO-HOST: ... and the congressman is still in the doghouse. What a week! What a week, when nothing went smoothly. The first installment of Bush's tax refund went out today, but half a million Americans were mailed a letter promising them a bigger tax figure check than they actually got. Oops!

Republicans blasted Tom Daschle for criticizing the president's trip to Europe, but Democrats pointed out that Newt Gingrich and others never hesitated to criticize President Clinton when he was overseas. Oops!

Vice President Cheney says California must solve its own energy problems, but now he wants the Navy to pay for his electricity bills. Oops!

And just before police searched his apartment, Congressman Gary Condit was seen dumping his garbage in Virginia. Oops again!

None of these guys can get it right, so we've called in two experts to straighten them all out: the fearless Paul Begala and the peerless Mike Murphy -- Tucker.

TUCKER CARLSON, CO-HOST: All right, Paul, prepare to be straightened out.


CARLSON: As if we need more evidence -- and we don't, incidentally -- that Tom Daschle is not quite ready to be majority leader in the Senate, here we have the president go abroad, the first thing Daschle does is attack America. He says I don't think we are taken as seriously today as we were a few years ago, as if we care what the Swedes think. He has to apologize, but still the words hang in the air. This is prima facie evidence that the guy is not ready for the job.

BEGALA: It's prima facie evidence that the guy is the only person who is willing to tell the truth about Bush, the emperor has no clothes. Tucker, Bush is a moron! He is the punchline of a worldwide joke, and Tom Daschle spoke the truth. By the way, Bush had not left American air space when he said it, and the Bush people, the people who are saying let's change this tone are the people who set the tone! CARLSON: But he apologized! Why did he apologize?

BEGALA: He didn't. He said the timing may have been a little off, that's not an apology. Apologies are saying we are sorry to the Chinese Communists who knocked our plane out of the air. Bush specializes in that.


BEGALA: When Clinton was in Europe as president, George W. Bush attacked him and his foreign policy. When Clinton was in Colombia in South America, Dick Cheney attacked him and his foreign policy. By the way...

CARLSON: Paul, this is ridiculous...


BEGALA: ... while Bush was in Europe, John Warner, a Republican, criticized the Bush foreign policy. Is he a traitor, too?

CARLSON: Let me ask you this: Democrats complained when certain Republicans on few occasions criticized the president, President Clinton while he was abroad. Here Tom Daschle does it, and you are defending it on the grounds that Republicans did it long ago? I mean, there is no principle at all in that defense, and I'm sort of surprised that you are making it.

BEGALA: The principle is that the Senate of the United States has a constitutional role in foreign policy. John Warner, a Republican, ranking member of the Armed Services Committee, just yesterday, while Bush was in Europe, criticized Bush's position on the Antiballistic Missile Treaty. Why? Because Warner and Daschle and every honest person here knows that Bush is in so far over his head -- he meets with those heads of state in Europe...

CARLSON: That is absolutely ridiculous.

BEGALA: ... he looks like Mini-Me at the bottom of the Grand Canyon, that's how over his head...


MIKE MURPHY, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: ... this is the first big, stupid mistake Daschle has made. He looks like a narrow partisan guy. We've never had a Senate majority leader attack a U.S. president overseas, where he...


MURPHY: No, no, no, you are doing the Clinton game here where you try to take a small parking ticket and blend it with a bigger crime.

Here is the problem. Our guys have made snide remarks during that big Clinton scandal that happened, but we've never had a leadership guy call the press in and essentially hold a press conference to rip an American president apart while he heads overseas. Daschle knows he's made a big mistake, and that's why he is backing off of it.

PRESS: No, no, wait, wait...

MURPHY: He looks like a tin partisan, and that's a mistake.

PRESS: You know what, Daschle told the truth. The only mistake Daschle made is that he apologized. He should never have apologized, because this baloney that we heard from Condi Rice and everybody else, and Karen Hughes, that politics stops at the water's edge is something that has probably never been true in this country since World War II. It's certainly not true...

MURPHY: So, you guys are saying from now on, that ought to go out the window and every time an American president is overseas talking to our allies, we ought to trash him?

PRESS: No, just one second.

MURPHY: That's the new game plan?

PRESS: In the last eight years, this has never been true. I just want to remind you: for example, President Clinton is in Europe, 1998, Tom DeLay, quote: "I'm suggesting that the president of the United States cannot be believed, and I think it's reflected in his foreign policy." Later 1998, President Clinton in Russia, Newt Gingrich, quote: "These are two weak presidents trying to hole each other up." Don't preach! Don't preach!

MURPHY: There is a difference between sniping at a president during a constitutional scandal that got him impeached, and hope -- bringing the press in to attack a guy when he is...


BEGALA: John Warner yesterday criticized Bush's foreign policy in stronger terms, I think, than Daschle did.

MURPHY: Not at all.

BEGALA: It was at a hearing at the Senate Armed Services Committee.

MURPHY: We have had a tradition for 100 years where you don't do this, and Daschle knows it.


BEGALA: Condemn Warner, condemn a fellow Republican, then you'll have some credibility.

PRESS: All right, I want to point out this is not -- President Bush is not the only member of the administration's top team who stepped in it this week. Dick Cheney, you know, not so long ago he is trying to sell his energy policy, making light of energy conservation, in fact, he even said about ordinary Americans, quote Dick Cheney: "If you want to leave all the lights on in your house, you can, but you will pay for it."

And now Dick Cheney is saying, oops, the electricity bill in my house is so big, I want the Navy to pay for it. Here's what I want to ask you, Mike Murphy, I live pretty close to the Navy yard here on Capitol Hill, can I send the Navy my electricity bill?

MURPHY: Well, first you got to get elected to something, Bill, and I don't think that is going to happen in this century.

Here is the problem: Cheney's expenses in that place -- which is an office complex, not a house -- it's not paid for by Dick Cheney. He is the vice president of the United States, and there's also -- there is a Naval facility there, it's called the Naval Observatory. The Navy requested to pay more, and energy prices have been going up, this administration is trying to do something about the mess...


MURPHY: ... you guys left us, and Cheney has gotten a standard phony press routine on this.


CARLSON: You raised a very interesting question, Mike, and I want to hit Paul with this: the mess that the Democrats left. Here for eight years, there was no energy policy -- hold on -- no energy policy at all. All of a sudden, everybody admits we are on the verge of energy crisis, and what is the one thing Democrats talk about? Whining, again, whining about an electric bill in an office building in downtown Washington, D.C. This is ludicrously micro, as well as unfair.

BEGALA: Now, what it is is illustrative of Cheney's central problem, and that he is a hypocrite. This is a man who has $25,000 pacemaker courtesy of we the taxpayers -- which thank God he has, and I'm all for that -- who denies national health care to the rest of the country and who, as a business executive, took health care benefits away from his retirees when he was at Halliburton. He is a hypocrite.

CARLSON: That is totally outrageous!

BEGALA: He is a man who stands up -- he stands up and says that people shouldn't conserve, and then when the bills run up, he says the Navy has to pay my bill.

CARLSON: Let me introduce a fact into this, I don't want to blow your mind with it, but if I can -- if I can...


CARLSON: It turns out that the government keeps track of how much energy is used in buildings like the vice president's house, and it turns out that Cheney is using a third less electricity than Vice President Gore, the environmentalist vice president...

BEGALA: Why do you suppose that is?

CARLSON: Well, that is an excellent question, Paul, and perhaps you can answer it.

BEGALA: Yes, because Gore had kids in the house. Kids use...



BEGALA: ... Cheney is using a lot of juice for those electric paddles that they have to use every morning to get his heart...


CARLSON: ... so, you're saying that a Gameboy drove up...


BEGALA: They had more kids, more people living in that house. All you have is Cheney and his, you know, five or six nurses and the electrocardiogram, and Mrs. Cheney, and they don't use as much juice as Gore.

CARLSON: You are in trouble in the afterlife!


MURPHY: ... screw yourself into the floor. You're saying that Cheney electrical use down is bad; Gore electrical use up is good? It's ridiculous.

BEGALA: No, Cheney shifting the bill to the Navy is hypocritical.

PRESS: Here's where I agree with you, Mike.


PRESS: I'll agree this is not the most serious trouble Dick Cheney is in. The General Accounting Office has said to Dick Cheney: you headed up this energy task force in the White House, meetings in the White House, and we would like to know who was there and what you talked about, when did you meet, whom did you meet with.

MURPHY: I'm glad you asked me this.

PRESS: And Cheney says, no way, I won't release those records. What does he have to hide?

MURPHY: Bill, let me straighten you out, because that's what...


PRESS: ... all these oil company executives he doesn't want us to know?

MURPHY: Yeah, yeah, I see a conspiracy, definitely. Here is what really happened: a couple of hack Democrat political congressmen called up the General Accounting Office and said, go find out everybody who was there so we can make a bunch of political hay and load up Begala for a weekend. And the General Accounting Office went to the vice president's office and said, yeah, release everybody, because we are like the clerks of this, working for this Democrat partisan hack congressmen, so you guys can make a big political issue.

PRESS: It's a...

MURPHY: And the Cheney folks rightly said, no, we are not going to get sidetracked on this, we are going to work on the energy...

PRESS: Talk about spin!


PRESS: ... it is a nonpartisan office. The rule is that meetings of government task forces are public records, and they should be made public. I ask you again, which you didn't come close to answering, what does Dick Cheney have to hide?

MURPHY: I'm going to shatter the MO of CROSSFIRE and introduce a fact into our discussion here for novelty sake: true or false, who asked the GAO to do this, Democrats or Republicans?

PRESS: Fine, fine, two Democrats did it.

MURPHY: Bingo!

PRESS: No, no, no bingo!

MURPHY: Democrats asked congressional...


PRESS: Why doesn't -- why doesn't he obey the law, and if not, what does he have to hide, Mike? Come on, Mike.

MURPHY: He is obeying the law. He is obeying the law. And it is a fact, as has been released, that that energy committee, that energy process, talked to environmentalists, talked to oil people, talked to solar people.

PRESS: Give us their names. Give us their names.

MURPHY: Talked to everybody.

We have to protect individuals' privacy so they can go...


Let me finish. This is an important point. Let me finish.

PRESS: It's a baloney point.

MURPHY: So you can go to the White House, give an honest opinion and not be fried by Democrat partisan hacks in a political game like...

CARLSON: OK. Now, Paul...

MURPHY: And that's exactly what this is about.


CARLSON: Now, let me -- now, let me -- let me -- I'm sorry to spoil the mood, but I'm going to have to do it. And I'm going to do that by playing some tape of the junior senator from New York, who committed, I thought, a deeply revealing megalomaniacal gaffe at the National Press Club the other day. This is Mrs. Clinton talking about her future.


SEN. HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON (D), NEW YORK: I have said that I'm not running, and I'm having a great time being pr -- being a first- term...


... being a first-term senator. You're going to get me in so much trouble.


CARLSON: She's getting herself in trouble here. I -- once I stop shaking. Let me ask you this: Now, Mrs. Clinton has been a senator for about 20 minutes. Her sole achievement is raising $662,000 just in the time since she's been a senator, gave 10 grand of it to the Robert Torricelli Legal Defense. A good use of funds, we'll ask more about that in the next segment.

But tell me, this says everything about Hillary Clinton, doesn't it?

BEGALA: You know what says everything about her: She went to all 62 counties in New York, something nobody else had done, she whipped Mike Murphy's candidate like a bad piece of meat...


... who was a high-quality candidate with the best consultant in the business. She has an unlimited future, Tucker. Get used to it.

CARLSON: That is...

BEGALA: She's going to be a senator for six years.

MURPHY: She isn't running -- she isn't running, folks.

BEGALA: She's going to be a senator for six years. She's doing a great job.

What she was about to say, by the way, to finish that sentence was "I enjoy being the presiding officer of the Senate," which is often a role that junior senators fill. That's all she was saying.

CARLSON: Really? If she was about to say that, then I wonder why she stopped in mid-sentence and said, I'm going to get...


BEGALA: Because people started laughing because so many people want her to be our president.

MURPHY: There is no mystery here.

CARLSON: But she said she's not going to run, so basically...

BEGALA: She's not going to run.

CARLSON: ... based on what you're saying is that she's going to pull a bait and switch on...


She's saying she's not going to run, but...


PRESS: I just want to say before we go to a break, compared to George Bush's slips of the tongue and embarrassing gaffes, every time he opens his mouth...

CARLSON: But I'll tell -- see, I'll tell you the difference...


And that is when Hillary Clinton made this slip of the tongue, it was like pulling back the mask and the horror-show face beneath.


MURPHY: ... terrifying Freudian slip of the decade.

PRESS: From her lips to God's ears.

CARLSON: You're talking about a very different God.


OK, we're going to talk -- our discussions is turning toward the theological, and we'll continue it with Paul Begala and Mike Murphy, when we return in just a moment.


CARLSON: Welcome back to CROSSFIRE. John McCain talks to Democrats, Gary Condit refuses to talk at all, Hillary Clinton talks about a potential new job. Controversy swirls around all three. Will McCain move on to a new party? Will Hillary move on to a new campaign? Will Gary Condit move on to an entirely new career?

Here with opinions, if not answers, two of the sharpest, toughest, most ferocious consultants in politics: Paul Begala, who is a Democrat, and Mike Murphy, who is not.

PRESS: Growl. Mike Murphy, I want to start with Gary Condit, and I'd like you to tell me everything you know about Sven Jones.

MURPHY: I have absolutely no idea who Sven Jones is.

PRESS: Well, you know what, I didn't either until about an hour ago, and I picked up "The New York Post," that little article...

MURPHY: One of your favorite papers.

PRESS: Yes. But here's what it says about Sven Jones. He was a friend of Chandra Levy's, who worked with her at the Bureau of Prisons. He walked her home many evenings. He had coffee with her at Starbucks. They worked out at the same sports club. He happened to be the very last person that she called on May 1st, the last day we know she was alive, and he has refused to take a police lie detector test.

My question is, don't you think maybe we ought to know a little bit more about Sven Jones and a little less about Gary Condit?

MURPHY: Well...

PRESS: Maybe?

MURPHY: Well, I think it was Colonel Mustard in the library with a candle stick myself, and the clue is we're all clueless and there's been a huge explosion of conjecture about this when nobody knows anything. We just have hours to fill. So yes, it sounds like he did it, let's arrest him.

I don't know. There's this media lynch mob going on...

PRESS: No, no, no. I'm not saying that. I'm not saying that.

MURPHY: All I know is what I don't know. I don't know anything.

PRESS: But my question is don't you think this guy deserves maybe as much or a little bit more media attention and maybe Condit deserves a little less.

MURPHY: My view is that there are probably a whole lot of suspects who deserve some investigation here. Hopefully, the professional cops know what's going on, and I'm glad they're not leaking it to the media destroying reputations.

But yeah, I mean, I -- I think -- Condit has proved himself to be a bit of a public relations buffoon, but nothing else. In America, you're innocent until proven guilty. So as creepy as his actions appear to be, we don't know anything. And I think there's been huge overkill on this.

CARLSON: But not by the Democratic Party, Paul Begala, the intern party as it's now known. I'm struck by how few Democrats have come out, and (a) condemned what Condit has done or (b) said anything about him at all. And I'm wondering why, I see a pattern here: with Clinton, with Senator Torricelli, and now with Gary Condit of not willing to come out and speak truth to power. Odd for Democrats.

BEGALA: No, the Democrats also spoke truth about Clinton. He was a great president, and the impeachment lynch mob was an abomination before the Constitution as the American people...


CARLSON: Let's get back to Gary Condit here.

BEGALA: But no, why have Democrats been silent about Condit? I think for some of the reasons that Mike mentions. First, he should get a presumption of innocence. Second, though, he's a sorry-ass Democrat. He's a right-wing guy who goes and has this Bible studies that he tells us all about on Capitol Hill while he's out, you know, boinking his constituents' children. You know, I'm sorry: I've got no sympathy...

CARLSON: That's exactly like Clinton. That's exactly like Clinton.

BEGALA: No, no. Clinton was not a hypocrite.

CARLSON: Oh, come on...

BEGALA: You know what, he never stood up there -- he didn't vote for the school prayer amendment like this guy. He didn't vote for all the Bush agenda like this guy did.

CARLSON: Well, then let me ask...

BEGALA: So Democrats have no appetite for defending a guy who's been really pretty right-wing and really...


CARLSON: Well, I was wondering -- that's interesting...


MURPHY: ... not that he has allegedly bad behavior. His crime is that he's conservative. That's a real crime for you guys.

BEGALA: No, you -- Tucker asked me why the Democrats haven't defended him and I explained why. Clinton was defended because, first off, there was no missing people, it was a private affair that Ken Starr and the right-wing thugs tried to gin up into a constitutional crisis. CARLSON: Boy, I'm having a really ugly flashback here.

BEGALA: This is a real -- this is a real live criminal case. This is a serious matter. This is not...


CARLSON: I understand that, but then what is Gary Condit doing in your party in the first place? Apart from his predilection for interns, where he fits in pretty well, but I mean, you weren't denouncing him three months ago.

BEGALA: You bet I was. He was one of 31 guys who trashed the Constitution to vote for the Republican impeachment inquiry back in '98. I didn't like it then. He was one of 10 guys in my party in the House who voted for the Bush tax cut. I didn't like him then. OK. I didn't like him then. I don't like him now. But that's political.

MURPHY: It was a frame-up. Begala did it.

PRESS: Speaking of parties' mavericks, Mike Murphy...

MURPHY: Yes. Who could we be talking about?

PRESS: ... I can't look at you without thinking about John McCain. Now, here's John McCain just a few days ago, right, when they're voting campaign finance reform in the House. Senators very rarely go to the House. John McCain, senator, goes to the House. He not only goes to the House, a Republicans senator, goes to the office of Minority Leader Dick Gephardt and sits in on a strategy meeting on how to overcome and vote down the Republican speaker's rule on campaign finance reform.

I ask you -- I mean, look, I admire the guy, but there is no...

MURPHY: That's what worries me, but go ahead.

PRESS: ... limit, is there no limit to what he will do to undermine his own party?

MURPHY: Oh, it's not that bad. No, no, he stole an ashtray, so, you know, it's...

PRESS: Well, all right. There are no limits.

MURPHY: Look, John McCain is a maverick and John -- he served in the House, so he's very comfortable going over there. I don't think there's any issue there. He is for campaign finance reform. He is right on this. Most Republicans disagree, and he's been fighting like hell to get it done and I like him for that.

So the fact is on one issue, when he joins up with your disreputable party, which, by the way, is secretly not at all for campaign finance reform, and in many ways the biggest obstacle...

CARLSON: Not so secretly. PRESS: I think the vote -- no, no, no. No, I think the vote showed who's for it and who's against it. So you say this is just...

MURPHY: You guys want the issue, not the reform.

PRESS: You say this is just pure McCain. Isn't it pretty clear to anybody with eyes that John McCain doesn't like Bush, doesn't like his party, and is going to run as an independent in 2004 if not as a Democrat?

MURPHY: Yes, I'm going to undo some (UNINTELLIGIBLE) and get you to like McCain less so I'll feel better. John McCain is for missile defense, which you can't stand. John McCain is for cutting all your big Democrat pork barrel spending. John McCain is for tax cuts. John McCain for more military. John McCain is a conservative.

PRESS: So he runs as an independent. He runs as an independent, not a Democrat.

MURPHY: No, he's a Republican.

BEGALA: So let me pick up on what Mike said, because Mike's right. John McCain is a conservative, so why is he viewed as an apostate? By the way, he's also pro-life and very pro-military. why viewed as an apostate? Because he dares say that the Republican Party ought not be just this whore house for corporate interests, which Bush has made it into. He has put all of his Grand Ole Party's -- Bush has -- agenda in the hands of corporate American special interests. And McCain dares to say that that's a bad idea.

CARLSON: Interesting.


MURPHY: ... discussed a way a lot of Democrats talk the talk in campaign finance reform and won't fight the fight.

BEGALA: Well, they should put them to the test.

CARLSON: I'm glad you brought that up, because let's name one by name, and this is a very simple question, Paul. When is Senator Torricelli going prison?

BEGALA: Oh, stop!

CARLSON: No, not stop. There's a federal investigation into him.

BEGALA: I have no idea.


BEGALA: I have no idea...

CARLSON: And a lot of evidence that felonies have been committed. BEGALA: This is what we know. We know that there have been an enormous number of leaks from prosecutors to, particularly to "The New York Times." My vast experience...

CARLSON: That doesn't make them untrue. I noticed that you're not claiming that they're wrong.

BEGALA: My vast experience with prosecutors has been that when they have a case, they go to court. When they don't, they go to the press. If they had a case, they would be at the courthouse door right now trying to put that scalp on the wall. Since they don't, they're leaking to the press.

CARLSON: Paul, this investigation has been going on more than four years, or a number -- I think four years now.

BEGALA: Why are they leaking? If they had a case, why aren't they at the courthouse door right now?

MURPHY: Do you think Torricelli is innocent?

BEGALA: I say he's innocent until proven guilty, absolutely.

CARLSON: That's not much of a defense, is it?

BEGALA: All I know -- all I know...

MURPHY: Not that it's unproven. Do you think he's innocent? You know Jersey politics.

BEGALA: I think anybody is a victim of that kind of campaign of prosecutorial leaks. It's probably the kind of case that he could win in court. That's why the prosecutors are leaking this.

PRESS: I have a quick question for you. "The New York Times" reported this week that on overseas ballots in Florida, the Bush lawyers were in the Republican counties demanding that overseas ballots be counted even if they have -- no postmark, even if they voted twice, even if there was no witness signature, even if they were mailed after November 7th and received after November 17th, the deadline. Are you willing to admit now that you did everything you could, successfully, to steal this election?

MURPHY: Absolutely not. That's ridiculous. I will quote "The New York Times" story -- "no fraud on either side," and even if you took those ballots they were talking about out, Bush wins fair and square.

PRESS: Didn't say that. Didn't say that. Said you'd..

CARLSON: It certainly did.

PRESS: No, it said you cannot tell. But four out of five of them were in Bush counties.

MURPHY: Guys, get over it! BEGALA: You stole the election! You sent a right wing, Republican congressman...

CARLSON: Stole the election? Wake up, Paul!

BEGALA: Why was Steve Buyer, a Republican congressman, going to the Pentagon and demanding private personnel records on military personnel? Why? Why was he? According to "The New York Times"...


PRESS: I have a quick question. Do you guys have another half- hour? We'll keep going?

MURPHY: I wish we did.

BEGALA: We don't.

PRESS: Thank you, Mike Murphy. Thank you, Paul BEGALA:.

Whoo! There are a few things left to battle around. Tucker Carlson and I, closing comments on the week in politics, coming up.


CARLSON: OK, Bill, I've seen some scary things, but tonight I saw one of the scariest I've ever seen. When Hillary Clinton pulls back the mask, and beneath it there's this raw, pulsing ambition. "I am the president of the United States." I'm going to make that my screen saver on my computer, just to remind me what could happen. The consequences in politics could be high.

PRESS: Tucker, you better deal with it. She's United States senator from New York. She made a minor slip of the tongue, but let me tell you something.

CARLSON: No, she didn't. She revealed the real Hillary Clinton.

PRESS: Deal with it. She is going to be the first woman president of the United States.


PRESS: So you may want to move to Canada, or maybe move to Mexico. But she's going to be there.

CARLSON: First of all, I would. Second, if she is the president, I will eat the shoes I'm wearing now if she's elected. She's totally unelectable. I hope she runs.

PRESS: I want to say something about the current president. You know, Tom Daschle is right. Remember the last time he went to Europe, he said, "Africa is a nation with incredible disease." That's the embarrassment that we suffer whenever this guy goes out of the White House.

CARLSON: In contrast to Tom Daschle of South Dakota, foreign policy expert? That's ridiculous!

PRESS: Any day. Any day over Dubya.

CARLSON: That's totally wrong.

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

CARLSON: And from the far right, I'm Tucker Carlson. Join us again on Monday for a new week of CROSSFIRE. See you then.



4:30pm ET, 4/16

Back to the top