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Special Edition: Does Osama bin Laden have nuclear weapons?; Should the Northern Alliance move into Kabul?; Should President Bush meet with Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat?

Aired November 11, 2001 - 17:30   ET


BILL PRESS, CO-HOST: Does Osama bin Laden have nuclear weapons?


PERVEZ MUSHARAFF, PRESIDENT OF PAKISTAN: I can't even imagine that he can have nuclear weapons. Chemical is a possibility.


PRESS: Should the Northern Alliance move into Kabul?


COLIN POWELL, SECRETARY OF STATE: It's better they not enter Kabul.


PRESS: And should President Bush meet with Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat?


CONDOLEEZZA RICE, NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER: He just doesn't think the is the appropriate time.


PRESS: Tonight, the latest on America's new war. This is a special Sunday edition of CROSSFIRE.

Good evening. Yes, we know it's Sunday, but here we are with a special Sunday edition of CROSSFIRE. Thank you for joining us. On this Veterans Day, President Bush went to ground zero to honor the victims of America's war latest war, following a round of meetings yesterday at the United Nations.

Bush prodded world leaders to join the United States in fighting terrorism. He also promised $1 billion in aid to Pakistan. There was no time in his schedule, however, for a meeting with Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat. Meanwhile in Afghanistan, there are hopeful signs that five weeks of bombing are finally paying off. Northern Alliance forces have made significant gains into territory formerly held by the Taliban, but there are also troubling signs from Osama bin Laden himself that the al Qaeda network might possess chemical or even nuclear weapons.

So tonight, we check progress on all fronts. Is the military war on track? Is the coalition hanging tough? Is Congress ready to act on airport security and the economy? Those questions for tonight guests. Republican Senator Richard Shelby of Alabama, Vice Chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee, joining us from New York City and incoming House minority whip Nancy Pelosi, top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee from her base of San Francisco -- Tucker.

TUCKER CARLSON, CO-HOST: Congresswoman Pelosi, thanks for joining us. As you know, the president has asked the Northern Alliance not to go into Kabul. The secretary of state, our Secretary of State Colin Powell agrees with that decision and so do military commanders here.

This morning, Senator Dianne Feinstein of California from your delegation went on "LATE EDITION WITH WOLF BLITZER" and was asked by Wolf Blitzer what she thought of this decision. Here's what she said. This is Senator Dianne Feinstein.


SEN. DIANNE FEINSTEIN (D), CALIFORNIA: When they have momentum going, I think they ought to continue with that momentum. At the same time, I'm concerned we do not have many troops on the ground. We just have our special operation units in there.


CARLSON: Now with all due respect to Senator Feinstein, why is she giving military advice to our military?

REP. NANCY PELOSI (D), CALIFORNIA: Well, with all due respect to you, you'll have to ask Senator Feinstein that question. I spent the morning at many events commemorating Veterans Day. It was especially poignant, as you can imagine two months to the day from September 11, when we were honoring past heroism and of course, saluting our police and fire at the same time, our public safety leadership in our communities across the country.

So I don't know what the justification was for Senator Feinstein's remarks, but I'm afraid you're just going to have to ask her.

CARLSON: Well, then, I wonder as a general matter, if you'd agree, that members of Congress ought to show some restraint when it comes to second-guessing the military. I mean, it is probably not a good idea for 100 senators and hundreds of members of -- congressmen and women to be, you know, directing rocket strikes, etcetera? Don't you think in a time of war that politicians ought to leave the details to the military commanders? PELOSI: Well, I think that will you find that in this past two months, the Congress has been a very bipartisan, bi-cameral way, has stuck very closely with the President of the United States in the fight against terrorism throughout the world and certainly to prevent any acts of terrorism from happening again in our country. On that, we are unified.

I think it was Napoleon who said one bad general is better than two good generals. I'm not inferring that -- implying that generals that we have are not good, but I think that we'll always have one leader. And we will always have people who will have other views.

I don't know -- as I said, I was out on the Veterans Day trail this morning. So I didn't see the context in which Senator Feinstein made her remarks. So I really am not going comment on them.

PRESS: Senator Shelby, let me get your take on this, if I can. And remind ourselves it was yesterday at a news conference in New York City with President Musharraf of Pakistan that the President agreed to his request, the president of Pakistan's request, that we not allow the Northern Alliance, even though they might be capable now of getting there, of going in and capturing the capital city of Kabul.

Here's just a listen to the way President put it yesterday at that news conference. Please listen.


GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We will encourage our friends to head south across the Shamali Plains, but not into the city of Kabul itself. And we believe we can accomplish our military missions by that strategy.


PRESS: Now, senator, that's the capital of Pakistan (sic). There would be no greater symbol of how well the war is going than for our allies there capture the capital, which they may be capable of doing. I mean, so why should we held them back? Since when did we let the president of another country dictate the progress of an America war?

SEN. RICHARD SHELBY (R), ALABAMA: I think it goes deeper than that, Bill. I think it goes back to what are we going to do with Afghanistan? And that is, what do we do we hope to do with Afghanistan, assuming that we dispatched the Taliban and we bring the tribes that make up the country together? There's a lot of adjusting for position there and jousting for position. And what they're going to try to do is fight the war, win the war, and also win the peace. And I think this is what they're really after here.

PRESS: Of course, I misspoke. We all know Kabul is the capital of Afghanistan. And it seems to me, senator, in response to your point, that we've chosen sides here. I mean, we are funding the Northern Alliance. We are arming the Northern Alliance. We have special forces on the ground, working hand-in-hand with the Northern Alliance. We are bombing the front lines there, to make it easier for them to advance. So why do we handcuff them just because the president of Pakistan doesn't like them?

SHELBY: Well, that's not the only reason. That might be one reason, but it goes back to the tribes that make up the nation, what is called the nation of Afghanistan. And what are we going to do in the post-war? I think you have to think long-term like a chess move. Let's win this war, and then let's win the peace. And this is what that's all about, a political settlement, some type of participation by all the tribes after the war is over. That's what we're talking about. And that's what Secretary Powell and the President are trying to achieve.

CARLSON: Now, Congresswoman Pelosi, we've learned in recent days that al Qaeda possibly has chemical and biological weapons. Mr. Rumsfeld said on television this morning, it's even possible that they could have nuclear weapons. And we've been targeting al Qaeda and Osama bin Laden for literally years. My question is, why didn't we know this? And more to the point, why didn't we do something about it before this time?

PELOSI: Well, I would add a third question. Why don't we take the opportunity that is right here for us right you, when President Putin comes to the United States this week, we the United States have an opportunity to join with him in taking inventory of the biochemical resources that Russia has now that we're part of the former Soviet Union then.

Would take probably a few hundred million dollars for us to take that inventory and also to utilize the resources that many of the scientists who worked on this over the years have, instead of having them up for grabs and up for sale to any terrorist around the world.

We have this opportunity. Unfortunately, in a meeting on the appropriations bill, the stimulus package and the rest that took place at the White House earlier this week, the President said he wasn't going to sign a bill if it had one more dollar than what was planned earlier.

We certainly all agree that we should be fiscally responsible. Dave Obey, the ranking Democrat on the Appropriations Committee, has made a proposal that -- and I'm sure it would have bipartisan support that we contain -- we put in our package funding to deal with bioterrorism, especially getting at the root of some of the problems, some of the source which is in Russia.

This is predictable. Now what happened on September 11 we might say was possible, but not predictable. And some would even say unimaginable. But bioterrorism is predictable. There are some answers. We can afford them. They're a small price to pay for the safety of the American people and indeed the world.

CARLSON: Well, because it is predictable, I suppose it raises the question, why wasn't it predicted? People have been talking about this for a long time. And the chemical and biological weapons, incidentally that are being talked about in Afghanistan, apparently are produced or were produced in the country, not stolen from the former Soviet Union.

So again my question, what exactly was the failure and the chain of intelligence here that led us not to know this and then subsequently not to do anything about it?

PELOSI: I don't disagree with you that for example, the anthrax scare, that being one example of bioterrorism, whatever the source of it, is something that we should not have been better prepared for. But the larger issue of bioterrorism, when talk about biological and chemical weapons, is one that I don't know what the source is. You say it's indigenous to Afghanistan, but the intellectual property of how to deal with technology may have sprung from scientists in other countries, and perhaps Russia.

But we do know for sure is that that capability does exist, that it's out there, that many people are impoverished and we have an opportunity. So we're not in disagreement. We should have anticipated some of this. It was much more predictable than the hijacking of four airliners to be used as weapons.

PRESS: Senator Shelby, you're former chairman, now ranking member on the Senate Intelligence Committee. General Musharraf, again, of Pakistan says he doesn't believe it's possible for Osama bin Laden to have nuclear weapons. He may have chemical, doesn't see how he could possibly have nuclear. Do you have any intelligence to indicate that he might, Senator?

SHELBY: I don't believe, Bill, that he has nuclear weapons, but you cannot rule out his, you know, desire to get them and his trying to get them and the possibility, outside possibility that he could fashion, through his troops, I mean through scientists that he could hire some type of crude weapon. Would it be a bomb? Probably not, but it might be something to so panic people. But let's hope he doesn't even have that, but we don't know that today.

PRESS: Let me shift now to just a related, but little different subject. In New York yesterday, the President was asked to meet with Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat. He couldn't find time in his schedule. He hasn't found time yet in his schedule to meet with Chairman Arafat, even though he'll meet with Prime Minister Ariel Sharon any time he comes to Washington.

And this morning on CNN's "LATE EDITION," National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice appeared with Wolf Blitzer. And here, Senator, is the lame excuse she gave for why the President doesn't have time to meet with Chairman Arafat. Condi Rice.


RICE: He just doesn't think this is the appropriate time. I will just reiterate that Secretary Powell has met with Chairman Arafat. that the President has talked with him on the telephone. So there's no aversion here to Chairman Arafat. It's just a matter of when a meeting would be most useful.

(END VIDEO CLIP) PRESS: Now Senator, when everybody agrees that peace in the Middle East is part of this equation of fighting the war against terrorism, how can the United States ever pretend to be an honest broker in the Middle East, if the President is only willing to meet with one side?

SHELBY: Bill, I believe the President will have to meet with both sides, will have to meet with Arafat. And I believe he will meet with Arafat at the right time, but I think he has to choose that timing. It's going to be up to him. We are the big broker. I hope we're the honest broker, but a lot of people would say we're, but we are the big player in this game. And we're going to continue to be. And I believe the President will bring it all together to the best of his ability.

CARLSON: Senator Shelby, Congresswoman Pelosi, we'll be back in just a moment to talk about the political battles going on at home. As we go to break, this is Vice President Dick Cheney laying a wreathe at the tomb of the unknown soldier, Arlington National Cemetery earlier today.


CARLSON: It's the second anniversary of the attacks on the World Trade Center. It's also, of course, Veterans Day. President Bush visited the site earlier today. And this is what he saw.

Welcome back to CROSSFIRE. It's Veterans Day. We've been talking about the war in Afghanistan. Now we move to battles closer to home, those that take place on Capitol Hill. This season, the fight is over how to fix things broken on September 11. The economy, airline security. Each side believes it has the right answer, but only one does. Which one? That's our debate tonight.

Joining us from San Francisco, Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi, who is the incoming Minority Whip and ranking Democrat on the House Sec. Committee on Intelligence and from New York City, Senator Richard Shelby, ranking Republican on the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence. Bill Press?

PRESS: All right, Senator Shelby, there's a little too much agreement in the first half of the show. Let's see if we can mix things up here now. And let's start with an issue of airline security. Senator, I have to say, you voted the right way in the Senate to say that private companies were not doing the job. Federal employees should take over the airline security job. And of course, President Bush disagreed. He persuaded House members to leave that job in the hands of private companies.

And just four days after the vote in the House, Senator, as a man at O'Hare Airport in Chicago, walked through security with seven knifes in his backpack, a stun gun and a can of pepper spray. Doesn't that prove that the President was dead wrong in trusting these companies like Argenbright?

SHELBY: Well, I don't think the President's dead wrong. I don't think any of us are dead wrong, but I think we're going to be dead if we don't tighten up security more and more, Bill. And I think whatever we do in the House and the Senate, the standards have got to be made much, much higher raised. And the people that we train, whether they're federal employees or whether they're private employees, are going to have to be paid a heck of a lot better to recruit and retain the best people.

PRESS: Well, I certainly agree on the paying, Senator, but the question is whether the supervision is as good as actually making these people federal employees. You know, air-traffic controllers aren't just federally supervised, they're federal agents. They're federal employees.

This morning, if I can, on "MEET THE PRESS" this morning, we can now call him Mayor-elect Bloomberg, right?. The city where you are, New York City, appeared on "MEET THE PRESS." And he gave this little story about what happened to a friend of his at an airport security checkpoint. Please listen.


MAYOR-ELECT MICHAEL BLOOMBERG (R), NEW YORK: I had friend the other day, who was going to an airplane, got stopped. His manicure scissors were confiscated. As he was -- after he went through security going down the concourse, there's a drugstore, newsstand selling manicure scissors. That kind of craziness has just got to stop.


PRESS: I mean, senator, what more proof do we need that the rent-a-cops don't work?

SHELBY: Well, Bill, as you said at the beginning, 100 of us in the Senate voted for the airline security bill. And it's a little different, as you know, from the House bill. I believe what they will do in the Congress is work out something.

Because the bottom line is, we've got to improve security at our airports. And we've got to do it now. We can't put it off. And if we raise the standard, if we have private ownership, and private employees, that's OK with me. But the main thing is the standards, whether they're federal employees or private employees.

CARLSON: Congresswoman, the economic stimulus package.

PELOSI: Oh, please don't -- I must have at the airline security.

CARLSON: OK, well, let me ask you a question on airline security really quickly.

PELOSI: Well, I do want to talk about the stimulus package, too. But as a mother and a grandmother preparing for my family to come home for Thanksgiving, I demand that the Congress of the United States act upon the airline security bill. Up until now, the approach on the House Republicans has been delay, delay, delay. Delay in bringing the bill to the floor, and therefore delay in sending the bill to conference. And of course, all of this orchestrated by our whip Tom Delay. I don't even think our Speaker Dennis Hastert subscribes to this.

But because it's two months today, as you observed, two months since the tragedy of September 11. Who would have ever thought that two months out, we would not have airline security bill? And here it is, 10 days before people hit the trail for Thanksgiving.

CARLSON: Right, and you'll notice that not a single plane in those two months has been hijacked. And I guess my question to you is, do you really think a plane ever could be hijacked again in the United States? Aren't we fighting the last war?

If somebody stood up on an airplane, on a commercial flight in the United States and said, "I'm commandeering this plane for terrorist purposes or something like that," he'd be killed by the other passengers in about a minute. I mean, this -- I understand the need for airline security. On the other hand, what about securing nuclear facilities or chemical waste depots that apparently, according to "The Washington Post," other news sources, relatively unsecured in the two months after this?

PELOSI: Well, I agree with you completely. We have to do it all. But one thing that we know for sure is that airline security has to -- we have to pass the legislation. And we must give the best possible security to the American people, so we can restore confidence in people using the airlines again.

Air transportation is vital to commerce in our country. And we shouldn't place all the burden on the travelers, saying be there three hours in advance, when we're not investing in the human resources at the airport, to train them, to give them a decent wage.

And I would say also that while we have the National Guard and they're brave and we welcome their participation, I think we have to invest in their training as well as what this new assignment is that they have. But again...

CARLSON: But then you'll be happy to know nobody disagrees. Nobody I think in the world disagrees with a single word you've said. And...

PELOSI: But we don't have a bill.

CARLSON: Right, but to portray this as a fight against Republicans who don't care about airline security is a bit disingenuous.

PELOSI: I didn't say they didn't care about it. I said they have not brought it to the floor. They have not passed the bill. If it is a priority and we know it is with the American people, and we've seen the demonstration of the challenge it is to our safety, then we have a responsibility to bring it to the floor and not to delay. How could we still have no airline security bill two months after the tragedy of September 11 with Thanksgiving travel just 10 days away from us? Again, we should secure the other -- all the facilities as well.

PRESS: OK, Senator Shelby, onto the other unfinished piece of business, which is the economic stimulus package, Senator. At the heart of which, both in the House and in the Senate, is getting rid of the corporate, alternative minimum tax. So that corporations could get off of paying any tax whatsoever.

Every time we talk about this senator, I try to get somebody to answer a very basic question. And nobody has succeeded yet. I'm going give you a chance. Number one, why should a corporation get away with paying no tax whatsoever? And number two, why should they get a rebate on all the taxes they've paid for the last 15 years back to 1986? And while you're at it, what does that have to do with September 11?

SHELBY: Bill, first of all, I don't believe we should repeal the alternative minimum tax.

PRESS: Good for you.

SHELBY: And I do not believe that we should push what they did in the House, to give IBM and Ford and other big companies retroactive tax breaks. If we're talking about a stimulus package, let's lower the capital gains tax. Let's do some things that will put the working peoples' money back in the economy fast. And I think that, with what the Fed is doing to lower interest rates, is going to help the economy recover a lot quicker.

PRESS: Good for you, Senator. I appreciate that. I want to go back to Congresswoman Pelosi. It sounds like you've got a deal here on the economic stimulus package.

PELOSI: Well, I like what Senator Shelby is saying, that's for sure. But one point he made, I want to follow-up on, when he said putting money in the hands of the American people/ Consumer spending constitutes two-thirds of our gross domestic product. We have to have a stimulus package that is short-term, provides a boost to the economy and does not destabilize our economy in the long term.

The Republican packages don't meet any of those criteria. But as I said, what Senator Shelby says is much more promising. But if we -- we have to increase consumer confidence and consumer spending and saving. Give the consumers the discretionary spending. Certainly the alternative minimum tax repeal has no place at this time in a stimulus package.

PRESS: All right on that note of agreement, we hope you get them both finished before Thanksgiving. That's your challenge from the American people. Senator Shelby, thank you so much for joining us tonight.

SHELBY: Thank you, Bill. PRESS: Congressman Pelosi...

PELOSI: Happy Veterans Day.

CARLSON: Thanks, Senator.

PRESS: Happy Veterans day. Thanks for taking time out to join us.

Tucker Carlson and I, all those burning issues, we're going to resolve them in our closing comments. We'll be right back.


CARLSON: You know, Bill, there is so much pork in the Democratic version of the stimulus package. Some of it actually related to meat products, including the millions that are going to go to the bison industry. I just want to read this one quote. This is from your leader, Tom Daschle asked about why the bison producers getting all this money.

He said, "It's just as much of a crisis, the bison industry, as the airlines or anyone else." It's a nationally vital industry, the bison industry. That's so shameless, it's unbelievable to defend that.

PRESS: I'm not going to. I think the money would be better spent going to the unemployed workers, those that lost their jobs as a result of September 11, rather than to the bison or to the chicken poop, as we discussed the other night, Tucker.

CARLSON: Democratic idea.

PRESS: On that point, I'm leaving you in the good hands of Paul Begala next week.

CARLSON: You're leaving?

PRESS: I'm going off on my way to...

CARLSON: Where are you going?

PRESS: I'm going to Boston, back here to Washington, New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Point Rey Station California.

CARLSON: Why are you doing that, Bill?

PRESS: Talk about the book "Spin This."

CARLSON: "Spin This." It's America's newest bestseller.

PRESS: Absolutely right. And when I come back, we'll talk about how successful. From the left, good night everybody. Thanks for joining us. I'm Bill Press.

CARLSON: From the right, I'm Tucker Carlson. Join us again tomorrow night, Monday night, for another edition of CROSSFIRE. See you then.




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