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How Did President Bush Do on His Trip to Europe?

Aired July 23, 2001 - 19:30   ET


TUCKER CARLSON, CO-HOST: He talked missile defense with Russia's president, stem cells with the pope, trade with other world leaders, and he did lunch with the queen. Tonight: President Bush's trip to Europe. How did he do?

ANNOUNCER: Live from Washington, CROSSFIRE. On the left, Bill Press. On the right, Tucker Carlson. In the CROSSFIRE: Democratic Congressman Gary Ackerman of New York, member of the International Relations Committee, and fellow committee member, Republican Congressman Dana Rohrabacher from California.

Good evening and welcome to CROSSFIRE. George W. Bush's second European tour in as many months is coming to an end. It's been a busy trip. Earlier today, Bush met with the pope, who wasted no time offering his opinion of embryonic stem cell research, he's against it. Point taken, said the president.


GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I'm taking my time. I frankly do not care what the political polls say. I do care about the opinions of people, particularly someone as profound as the Holy Father


CARLSON: That was just one of President Bush's many meetings over the past week. He talked trade with European leaders, he wrangled over arms control with Russian President Vladimir Putin. And of course there was lunch with the queen of England.

How did the president do? Reaction in Europe was generally positive. "G8 Leaders Praise New Bush," read the headline in today's "Washington Post."

Will the warm feelings continue when Bush returns home? Or will the vacation be over -- Bill?

BILL PRESS, CO-HOST: Congressman Rohrabacher, the president got what he wanted today. He meet with the pope. The pictures were beamed back here to the United States to 60 million American Catholic voters. The president didn't meet with the chief rabbi to ask about stem cells, he didn't meet with the head of the Presbyterian Church. To my knowledge, he didn't even meet with the head of his own Methodist Church. So wouldn't you have to agree that there is no reason why an American president should consult the Roman Catholic pope on a matter of American policy, except for purely political -- crass, I might add -- political purposes.

REP. DANA ROHRABACHER (R-CA), INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS COMMITTEE: Was that the announced reason that he saw the pope? I thought he was trying to see the pope on a number of issues, and the pope expressed himself on an issue that was important to him as the leader of the Catholic Church. And there's nothing wrong with listening to the pope's opinion.

PRESS: You really think there was nothing political about this meeting? Come on, Congressman.

ROHRABACHER: I think this is a very serious issue, and it's an issue that's driven many of us to have to really look and examine the issue very seriously, and the pope was expressing, certainly, his reservations as someone who believes that life begins at conception. But all of us have to take a look to see if stem cell research is indeed something that has to be done on human embryos, or whether it can be done some other way.

PRESS: Just quickly, now that we know that the pope is the new chief political adviser for the president, I'm wondering...

ROHRABACHER: A moral advice.

PRESS: I'm wondering if the president is also thereby going to change his position on the death penalty, which the pope also, of course, vehemently opposes.

ROHRABACHER: I think across the board -- I think the president should certainly listen to the pope on all of these issues, but I don't think that -- or other religious leaders. I understand that the president has been meeting with Muslims, he's been meeting with Christians and Jews, and he takes everybody's opinion, but he makes up his own mind based on what he thinks is right. That's the way it should be.

CARLSON: Congressman Ackerman, "The Los Angeles Times" this morning quoted an unnamed but deeply insightful French official, talking about the new European perception of President Bush. I want to read just a quick quote. He said: "American comics still make him the butt of jokes in being the president, but that's not the case in Europe anymore." He might have added comics and Democrats. Here you have Tom Daschle, attacking not just Bush, but saying that the country, America is taken less seriously when Bush is abroad.

Contrast that with perceptions of European leaders to the actual Bush. The Italian prime minister says he's frank, cordial, that conquered -- conquered the other European leaders there. This is Vladimir Putin, described him as very deep, very profound. Even the French were impressed. So why is it only Democrats and comics who are whining about the president?

REP. GARY ACKERMAN (D-NY), INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS COMMITTEE: I think a lot of people whine about the president, and I'm not going to do that while he's abroad, lest I be accused of being one that...

CARLSON: Acting like Tom Daschle, you mean?

ACKERMAN: ... politics when the president is abroad, the way Republicans did while Clinton was president. But nonetheless, what do you expect the world leaders to say when they are with the president of the United States, the leader of the world's only superpower status nation. Of course they're going to say nice things about him.

CARLSON: Well, not necessarily. Let my give you an example. The criticism, the precise criticism -- when they're precise about it, and they're not very often -- but the Democrats do level is that Bush is somehow an isolationist. Joe Lieberman on Fox this weekend said, you know, he's pursuing an isolationist foreign policy that will separate us from our allies, and is in fact now separating us from our allies.

But none of the allies even hint at that. I mean, this is totally false and phony, isn't it? I mean, if they were unhappy with Bush, they'd say so, wouldn't they? Wouldn't Putin say so?

ACKERMAN: This is diplomacy that they're going through right now. This is the moth and the flame kind of a dance. Very few of these leaders with whom he's met on this trip agree with him on the major issues of the day. The thing that he's trying to sell over there, he's not selling very well.

The fact that he could walk and chew gum at the same time has impressed a lot of people who have heard that he was unable to do that. But he's not scored any major victories. He's appeared and they've come to the conclusion that he's a nice guy. He's the president of the United States. They're going to have to work with him, regardless of what their opinion is.

ROHRABACHER: What do you call this agreement with Putin?

ACKERMAN: There was no agreement with Putin.

ROHRABACHER: Well, there is an agreement -- there's an understanding that they are going to proceed and try to reach an agreement to bring down the level of weapons. This -- Putin was -- we were told by you guys...

ACKERMAN: President Nixon did that with the ABM Treaty. That wasn't President Bush.

ROHRABACHER: We were told by you guys if this guy, if George Bush continues pursuing missile defense, there was going to be this arms race explosion, and instead it's just the opposite. As usual...

ACKERMAN: No, it's just that he had a meeting. Now, you can't say that there's not going to be an arms race because two men shook hands.

(CROSSTALK) ACKERMAN: The positive response was an agreement -- they put out a three-sentence statement, that was three sentences that the White House released today, and it basically said, we met, we agreed that we have to talk about some of these things and we're going to talk about some of those things. That was it.

ROHRABACHER: ... Putin was complimentary, and Putin actually wants to work with George Bush.

ACKERMAN: And he was complimentary. I mean, these are people he could love and work with and look into their soul, and work with them.

ROHRABACHER: Let me ask you...

ACKERMAN: When it comes to policy and treaties, you're going to see this break down.

PRESS: Let me ask you about your friend Vladimir Putin here, Congressman, because I remember that first meeting, when George Bush made the famous statement that he looked into Putin's eyes and saw his soul. He said he was a man he could trust.

Well, just last week Vladimir Putin met with Chinese Prime Minister Jiang Zemin. They signed a pact. The pact said two things. No. 1, that they would work together to oppose U.S. plans for missile defense. It also said they would work together to protect Taiwan and to respect China's sovereignty over Taiwan, an issue I know you care deeply about. That pact was described in Russia as -- quote -- "an act of friendship against America." Wouldn't you have to admit, Congressman, that maybe Bush's "trust" of Putin was a little premature?

ROHRABACHER: No, I think we have to do a lot of work with Putin. The fact is that for eight years he's been getting the wrong advice. And when Bill Clinton was going exactly the wrong way with the Chinese, kissing their boots while working with a gangster element in Russia, of course Putin is going to have a bad opinion of the United States. He's got to form a positive relationship with a leader of integrity compared to what we had with Bill Clinton.

PRESS: Wait a minute! Wait a minute. He met with Bush, then he turned around and signed a pact with China to oppose the United States and to support China's takeover of Taiwan. How you can applaud that as positive?

ROHRABACHER: That did not happen just like that. What that -- that agreement was in the works for probably a year.

PRESS: But Bush didn't derail it.

ROHRABACHER: And what happened was -- and why did we have that agreement? Why did a year ago the Chinese and the Russians start coming together? Because not only the incompetence, but the lack of integrity of Bill Clinton was pushing the Russians in that direction.

ACKERMAN: You're going to be bashing Clinton, I think, for the rest of the next millennium.


ROHRABACHER: At last for the first two years.

ACKERMAN: Let's talk about the policies that are yet to be, and I think that the things that this administration has said and done has basically driven the Chinese into the arms of the Russians. And that's not necessarily a very good idea for American foreign policy. That being said, the perspective of both the Chinese and the Russians is that our missile defense system proposal, that the president has yet to lay out, has both of them nervous. And in addition to having the Russians and the Chinese, and you may not care about whether or not they're nervous, but almost all of our European allies are very, concerned as well.

CARLSON: Congressman Ackerman, you're implying, and correct me if I'm wrong, that somehow this account -- which you describe as a three-sentence account, but in fact was more fleshed out than that -- of the meeting between the president and President Putin is somehow wrong? Was just made up by the White House as this disinformation put out by the Russians or by our government, or -- did the AP get it wrong?

Because the account was pretty clear, and that was that Putin is open to reducing nuclear arsenal, open to tinkering with the ABM Treaty, at least, and open to the notion of America building a missile defense system. What about that...

ACKERMAN: I don't know if the AP was wrong, but they walked away from the story this afternoon. There's no question about it. They report that Putin claims there was no agreement, that they have nothing to do, and basically, that the White House put out a three- sentence, just as I described it, that's all there is to it. There was no breakthrough. They denied that there was a breakthrough. It's on the AP wires right now as we speak.

CARLSON: The White House spoke in some detail on background to reporters from every major news organization in America, and they were pretty clear, and to my knowledge, they have not backed off this fact that Putin is open to reducing the nuclear arsenal.

ACKERMAN: Yes, we'd all like to reduce the nuclear arsenal. And we wish the president well. Nobody wishes the president any ill. He's all of our presidents.


ROHRABACHER: Missile defense permits us to reduce that arsenal and to do so safely. Even Putin understands that principle. What he's got now in George W. is a man with integrity who we can trust, and they've got to develop a relationship. For eight years they've had a man with no integrity who was basically kissing the Chinese boots.

ACKERMAN: This isn't about bashing Clinton. If you want to make the show about bashing Clinton...

ROHRABACHER: We are living in a world created by Bill Clinton. For another two years we have to suffer those consequences.

ACKERMAN: And it's a world that's observed all of its treaties. It's a world at peace. It's a world where the economy basically has been very sound and stable, and we've had the greatest growth in American history.

PRESS: Congressman, when you can't defend Bush, you attack Clinton. It's pretty simple.

I want to move on to where the president is going tomorrow. Tomorrow he goes to Kosovo. We've got some great men and women there, 5,000 of them, part of 39,000 NATO peacekeeping force -- without whom, there's no doubt, the Serbs and the Albanians would still be killing each other. Don't you think the president was wrong to campaign on a pledge to bring all of those people home? Our Americans home?

ROHRABACHER: I personally don't think those troops should have been sent over in the first place, and I was very vocal on that in the committees and over the years. I was the first one to suggest the United States need not be spending billions of dollars in order to do the work that should be done by Europeans. We are spending $30 billion a year on NATO, tens of billions of dollars in the Balkans. This is what our NATO partners should be doing. We're picking up their tab and they're out-competing us.

PRESS: Well, it seems to me...

ACKERMAN: Well, you think we should pull out of NATO to begin with, but that's a whole different story.

ROHRABACHER: After the Cold Ward, I believed that. During the Cold War, NATO served a purpose.

ACKERMAN: We're not spending billions of dollars in Kosovo, and just our mere presence there is part of a much larger international force, has brought stability to the region. Talk to anybody who comes through that part of the world.

ROHRABACHER: First of all, we're spending billions of dollars to bring stability to Europe. Let them pay for it.

PRESS: I want to follow up on that, Congressman, if I can. Quickly, follow up, because it seems to me what you're saying is we can be the world's leader, but we have responsibilities as a world leader. Now, if we can save lives, if we can prevent war, if we can prevent genocide with 5,000 troops, isn't that a hell of a lot better use of our money than having them sit on their behinds at some base down in North Carolina somewhere?

ROHRABACHER: No, it's not. It costs money. It costs billions of dollars -- this operation in the Balkans has cost about 10 to $20 billion from the American people. The Europeans should be doing that in their own backyard. Yes, we should be engaged in different parts of the world, but that doesn't mean you have to send troops in every part of the world. We could have armed...

ACKERMAN: The Persian Gulf war didn't cost $20 billion, with 500,000 American men and women over there. This is...

ROHRABACHER: That's because the Kuwaitis paid for it.

PRESS: We're going to take a break and talk about an issue, when we come back, we haven't talked about yet. A lot of stuff going on over in Europe. What do you think the chances are that when he comes back home tomorrow, the president will say he was wrong about global warming? Not many, but we'll talk about it when we come back.


PRESS: Welcome back to CROSSFIRE. This was anything but a vacation trip in Europe for President Bush. On this, his second trip, like on his first, his mission was to convince European leaders that he is right and they are wrong, on missile defense and global warming. Did he make any converts? Will it make any difference back home?

Assessing the success, or lack of, of the president's trip tonight, two members of Congress: Republican Dana Rohrabacher of Orange County, California and Democrat Gary Ackerman of New York -- Tucker?

CARLSON: Congressman Ackerman, the Kyoto Treaty. This has got to be, and I think you'll agree with this -- the phoniest of all phony attacks on President Bush. He's against it. He said he was against it in the campaign -- no surprise there. But everyone else is basically against it, too. Clinton didn't even send it to the Senate for ratification because he knew that senators -- some of the very senators now attacking Bush on the subject -- would never in a million years vote for it. The Senate voted 97 to zero not to consider it.

So how -- I mean, the hypocrisy here is overwhelming, I think you'll agree with that.

ACKERMAN: No, I don't.


ROHRABACHER: Surprise, surprise.

CARLSON: These are people who would not vote for ratifying the Kyoto Treaty, are attacking Bush for not supporting it?

ACKERMAN: I think if that came up for a vote, I think you'd see a large number of people on the Senate side voting to ratify the treaty, and I think the American people, if you poll them, and I know we just heard President Bush say he doesn't listen to polls, he listens to people -- I don't know what polls are except the opinions of the people -- but nonetheless, I think almost every nation in the world is supportive of the Kyoto Treaty. Only one is backing down, that happens to be the United States of America.

We push everybody into these positions on global warming and protecting the environment and leaving the world a better place, you know, for future generations, and then we're the first ones to back out of it. It is rather unseemly.

CARLSON: So by "support," if almost every nation support it, but you don't mean literally support it, because only one, Rumania, has actually supported it, has ratified it.

ACKERMAN: That's the ratification process, yes.

CARLSON: That would be supporting it, wouldn't it?

ACKERMAN: It's Alphonse and Gaston. It's "after you, after you," and that's the deal that's going on here. If the United States is not going to ratify it, you'll probably see a lot of people just standing around twiddling their thumbs.

CARLSON: So it's our fault. It's not, say, France can't really sign on until the United States signs it.

ACKERMAN: No, France can sign on any time they want, but the United States is the big drawback. If the United States isn't going to participate, and we are the nation that has most contributed to the burning of fossil fuels that has caused the problem of global warming over the years, because we've been the most industrialized...

ROHRABACHER: We need to punished, right, Gary? We ought to be punished down there. Driver out there, you need to be punished. He's going to do it to you.

ACKERMAN: Dana, Republicans' children don't drink clean water and don't appreciate breathing the air? What's the matter with you guys?

ROHRABACHER: Global warming is baloney. We're not going to raise taxes on gasoline to $5 a gallon. You don't need to be punished. You American people are wonderful people.


PRESS: Congressman -- hold it.

ROHRABACHER: We want you to have a high standard of living.

PRESS: Hold it, hold it. Nobody hijacks the show around here. Let me just come back to you.


PRESS: Here is our message -- you can, he can't. Here is our message, as I understand it, this is George Bush's message: "You're wrong, all of you. France, Germany, England, Italy -- you're all wrong. I'm right." What is that, other than total arrogance?

ROHRABACHER: No, I think total arrogance are people who are trying to foist off this baloney called global warming, and something -- and if we act upon it, it's going to have a dramatic impact on our way of life. It will lower our standard of living.

ACKERMAN: We're the same people who told you the world was round when you pooh-poohed it.

ROHRABACHER: The people -- by the way, the people of the United States are like the people of France and England, but in England and France their leaders believe in this stuff, I guess. George Bush has been honest enough to say global warming -- he doesn't see the scientific evidence.

PRESS: Let me let you listen to what one of the Democratic senators said yesterday, I believe it was, to Wolf Blitzer on "LATE EDITION." Here's Joe Biden translating George Bush's message to the leaders of Europe. Please listen:


SEN. JOSEPH BIDEN (D-DE), CHAIRMAN, FOREIGN RELATIONS COMMITTEE: That sends a message to the rest of the world that, hang on, folks, we consume most of the resources. We're going to continue to pollute. We don't care what you do on your own. Do whatever you're going to do.


PRESS: That's it.


PRESS: And we do nothing.

ROHRABACHER: No, no, I hope everybody out there gets the understanding of what the Democratic Party is all about. It's all about raising taxes on gasoline, getting you out of your automobile, lowering your standard of living, sending the jobs over to China -- which is what the Kyoto Treaty would do -- dramatically putting restrictions on our ability -- no, no.

ACKERMAN: I think all your hot air is melting the glaciers that is causing the global warming!

CARLSON: No! China -- exactly right.

ROHRABACHER: Every economist that has studied this issue and looked at Kyoto, says that there would be a dramatic change -- a dramatic reversal in terms of our standard of living going up...

ACKERMAN: I bet you think, if you say that three times, it's true!


CARLSON: Well, I will say it a fourth time and in fact it is true. Mr. Ackerman...

(CROSSTALK) ACKERMAN: It's not true. And when the president says, let's look at the science to make a determination to deny that there's global warming, I mean, he must have his head in the sand like an ostrich. There's 99 percent of the scientific community knows and tells you there is global warming. There's no denying that.

CARLSON: That is a very different question, then, should we ratify the Kyoto Treaty.

ACKERMAN: Do you think there is global warming?

CARLSON: I think there is evidence.

ACKERMAN: Explain it to...


ROHRABACHER: Let me explain what it is.

CARLSON: Hold on, we...

ROHRABACHER: Over 100 years, we are one-degree warmer. Big deal! Is this caused by humankind? Nobody knows.

CARLSON: That is exactly right. Let me ask you a question, Mr. Ackerman...

ROHRABACHER: One degree over 100 years.

PRESS: Hold it, hold it.


ACKERMAN: ...but it's underwater because of the rising water tables.

PRESS: Time out, time out, please! Tucker.

CARLSON: Let me ask you -- I want to test your partisanship, here. Mr. Ackerman, now, of all the subjects -- the issues raised by the president's trip to Europe, one that has gotten very little press, partly because of the riots, is that the president's suggestions for how to eliminate and alleviate Third World poverty.

And President Bush has come out and said, look, maybe the World Bank ought to stop giving very low-interest loans to, say, African countries, and replace them with grants. Basically, just give money. This is an idea that ought to warm your liberal heart, I would think, so I'm interested to know, do you support this?

ACKERMAN: I could support it, depending on how it was put together. As a matter of fact, most of the time if not all of the time, Democrats have been supporting debt forgiveness. The Republicans have opposed it in our committee. And in the Congress.

CARLSON: I noticed this was an issue that I'm not in agreement with the president on at all, but I wonder why no Democrat has stood up and said, you know, for all the things I don't agree with President Bush this is one thing I do agree with him on.

ACKERMAN: Watch this. For all of the things I don't agree with President Bush on, this is one thing that i do agree with him on.

CARLSON: Save the tape! That would be my advice.


PRESS: I want to see if we can get another point of agreement here, Dana Rohrabacher, you are on the show often, I've known you a long time. I know that you never caved in and failed to criticize Bill Clinton when he went off on a European trip. You criticized him whether he was here or in Europe. You were consistent.

So was Tom DeLay, so was Newt Gingrich. So you are not one of these Republican who will dump on what Democrats might have issued some critical comments about the president over the last week.

ROHRABACHER: I'm not going to, but I will say, they are wrong. I mean, it bothers me more that they were wrong, because they were saying, my gosh, if you end up supporting missile defense, it will unleash this awesome arm's race. And what we have as evidence, at the end of this, George Bush stuck to his guns. Now Putin wants to agree to reduce the number of nuclear weapons. They were wrong. But they can criticize. It's OK.

ACKERMAN: The thing that was wrong...


ACKERMAN: The thing that was wrong on this issue was the Republican hypocrisy. Almost everybody in the Republican leadership, as well as fully a third of the members of the House of Representatives ripped Bill Clinton apart on every foreign policy issue every time he was traveling abroad, to the extent that they said he has no credibility, and nobody should trust President Clinton, and the world doesn't trust him.

CARLSON: Sounds like you have been polling in the House...


ACKERMAN: Now, suddenly, they are aghast at the fact that somebody else should criticize the president of the United States. We should have (UNINTELLIGIBLE).

CARLSON: Daschle's remarks were false and Tom DeLay's were correct.

ACKERMAN: ...bipartisanship. When Democrats were in the majority, we should have witch burning.

ROHRABACHER: Daschle was wrong!

ACKERMAN: But he had the right to do it.

CARLSON: And the final and true word goes to you, Dana Rohrabacher.

ROHRABACHER: He was wrong.

ACKERMAN: But he had a right to do it.

CARLSON: Thank you. Mr. Ackerman, thank you.

Bill Press and I will be back with our closing comments to sum-up the president's trip abroad. I for one will continue to bash Bill Clinton.

Stay tuned. We'll be right back.


CARLSON: My favorite line of the night, Bill: Gary Ackerman explained that while nobody in Europe has actually ratified the Kyoto Treaty, they support it. They support it. Like I support Monastic Life. I think it's a good thing. I don't actually do it. So I don't really support it in that way. They support the Kyoto Treaty.

PRESS: Tucker, you should not buy in to the appalling level of ignorance of George Bush on global warming. It is real. We should do something about it.

CARLSON: Wait, why aren't the Europeans signing on to it if...

PRESS: They are doing a hell of a lot more than we are, by the way, they are doing it without us! We have the major responsibility...

CARLSON: No we don't.


PRESS: If Bush comes home from Europe and says, I was wrong on global warming, I was wrong on missile defense, this trip is a success. Otherwise...

CARLSON: Then I'll regret my vote for him, because that would be both untrue and sad to watch.

PRESS: Well, I didn't vote for him.

CARLSON: I know you didn't.

PRESS: From the left, I'm Bill Press. Good night from CROSSFIRE.

CARLSON: And from the right, I'm Tucker Carlson, join us again tomorrow night for yet another edition of CROSSFIRE.



4:30pm ET, 4/16

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