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CNN CROSSFIRE

Interview With Kelly McCann; Interview With Eleanor Holmes Norton

Aired December 4, 2001 - 19:30   ET

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


THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
BILL PRESS, CO-HOST: Tonight: on high alert again. But is this latest warning really necessary?

And "Time" magazine's person of the year: Should it be Osama Bin Laden? This is CROSSFIRE.

TUCKER CARLSON, CO-HOST: Good evening, and welcome to CROSSFIRE.

Be afraid. Be very afraid. Critics say that was the message of yesterday's third official terrorism alert from the federal government. Citing credible information from intelligence sources, but providing no specifics, Homeland Security chief Tom Ridge told Americans to be on alert for terrorist attacks over the holidays.

The administration says such warnings make America safer. Others say they simply scare people. Vigilance or paranoia? That's our CROSSFIRE tonight.

Joining us, Eleanor Holmes Norton, D.C.'s delegate to Congress, and security expert and former special operations officer, Kelly McCann -- Bill.

PRESS: Mr. McCann, I've heard a lot of confusing statements from politicians in my days here in Washington. I haven't been that long -- a little over five years -- but I never head anything like the American people heard last night from the homeland security czar, Tom Ridge. I'd like just to play one little -- here's how he summed up his message. And let's please listen to him.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TOM RIDGE, DIRECTOR OF HOMELAND SECURITY: It's not an alert to stop your life. It's just a signal to add your eyes, your ears, with courage and optimism to effort to combat the war. And that's precisely what we've done.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

PRESS: Actually, that was this morning on CNN. Can you tell me what the hell does he mean? Add your eyes and ears with courage and optimism? I couldn't do that if I tried.

KELLY MCCANN, CEO, CRUCIBLE SECURITIES: You could, actually. And here's the problem. Most people don't know what they don't know. The American public have never been educated in the patterns of behavior consistent that are with two things. One, of being considered -- what it looks like physically as someone considers you for target value; a facility, a monument or something like that.

Also, people are not usually conversant in the specific patterns of behavior that are indicators of -- of preindicent indicator of an attack, of an actual physical attack.

So there has to be an education part of what Tom Ridge is doing, and in fact, that's part of the charter of the office. It hasn't come out yet, so I would agree it adds a little bit of confusion. But there are plenty of alternatives to get that information.

PRESS: Well, I couldn't agree more that we don't know much about these terrorism attacks. In fact, I don't think he knows beans. I don't think the CIA or the FBI knew. And I agree we need some manager...

MCCANN: He's the manager...

PRESS: But here's my point...

MCCANN: He's the manager, don't forget. He's not supposed to...

PRESS: Well, wait a minute. He's got the responsibility. You just said part of his office for the education. I want some education. We didn't find out anything from Tom Ridge in this alert, no more than we found out in the last two from John Ashcroft. We don't know who, we don't know where, we don't know what, we don't know when.

MCCANN: Consider two things.

PRESS: What kind of an education is is that?

MCCANN: Consider two things. One is their charter, which means that they are responsible to inform the public when they know there's a threat. That includes if the FBI is -- is watching, has under surveillance a Mafia boss but they know that he is going to be the target of a murder. They have to inform him.

Similarly, we have to be informed if there's a threat. If they didn't do it, what would you say on this show if there suddenly was a weapon of mass destruction and the word, the warning hadn't gone out? You would roast him.

PRESS: I want to know what the threat is.

MCCANN: Do you want to know what the threat is or do you want to know what it may look like when the threat is formulated?

CARLSON: Exactly.

MCCANN: It's two different things. CARLSON: Exactly. Now, Delegate Norton let me -- welcome, by the way. Let me correct Bill Press, and not for the first time. Tom Ridge in fact summed up this warning yesterday in his press conference. Listen to what Tom Ridge really said.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RIDGE: The further removed we get from September 11, I think the natural tendency is to let down our guard. Unfortunately, we cannot do that. We are a nation at war.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CARLSON: We are a nation at war.

PRESS: He didn't say anything there either.

CARLSON: Tom Ridge -- hold on, Bill Press -- Tom Ridge is reminding us that we are a nation at war and we need to be reminded of that.

ELEANOR HOLMES NORTON, D.C. DELEGATE TO CONGRESS: Boy, did we get reminded. At the same time, we get reminded that we are a nation at peace and being the same as you always were.

Look, I don't have quite the problem that most people have with being informed. I'm like you guys. I like an open society. I don't want you to keep information from me.

My problem is with how we are receiving it and how our leaders are helping us to receive it. I -- the problem with Tom Ridge is he just got there and looks like an amateur. And in fact, the way in which we are behaving is like a bunch of am amateurs.

For example, the House said tours of the House and the Senate will be open. Along comes this alert. Oops! They're closed. You can't -- that's very amateurish. It shows that you do not know how -- wait a minute, let me tell you.

If you do not know how to protect the Capitol itself on an alert that is as unspecific as that, then you ought to resign. You ought to resign.

CARLSON: But wait. Aren't they protecting you by closing down the buildings? And wouldn't you say that the net effect of this has been no new terrorist attacks since September 11?

MCCANN: Exactly. It's the best indicator.

NORTON: Oh, well, you don't know what the net effect has been.

CARLSON: There have been no attacks.

NORTON: And you are going to tell us what the cause and effect is here?

CARLSON: Absolutely.

NORTON: You have no idea what the cause and effect is.

MCCANN: So what do we release when we have to be cautious of methods and sources? You know, if I -- if I actually -- if I have a direct indicator and I say what I think that attack is, of course you know that it's...

NORTON: Look, I have less a problem with the telling, as I've said. I think the way he tells us is -- is very flawed. I think he's got to give us more information. With some more information, I wouldn't have a problem with it.

What he's got to do is the tell people who are in charge of keeping things open or shut how to behave. He's got to say, "Look, I think everything -- when I say normal, I mean the House and the Senate should be normal. I mean you should open your stores. I mean things should remain as they are."

MCCANN: So...

NORTON: And if you don't say, the people will get the message "cover their fannies" and begin to close the society down as if it were an authoritarian society.

PRESS: Kelly, I want to give you one good example. One good example why I think we are overreacting and we're not getting back to normal, and that is something which is a tradition here in this town, and people come -- a hundred thousand of them every year come to Washington at Christmastime to take their kids through the White House to see the most spectacular decked-up Christmas decorations.

There's Mrs. Bush showing this year's decorations. You're lucky if you can see them on television, because this year they've closed the White House to public tours.

So you -- but at the same time they're having special parties. If you're a lobbyist or a member of Congress -- excuse me -- or a big time reporter, you can get invited to one of special parties. Now, wouldn't you have to agree that makes no sense at all? Aren't lobbyists more dangerous than tourists?

MCCANN: I will presume to tell you nothing about the media or politics if you presume to tell me nothing about security.

PRESS: I'm asking you about closing the White House.

MCCANN: Give me the answer, then. How do I body search every person who could have a baggie of anthrax, because that's the smallest threat that you can think of that is displayed? How do you do it? And...

NORTON: And you see -- and that is just the way to shut down society...

(CROSSTALK) NORTON: If you have to say that there is -- that you have to have zero threat, then you're going to close down the society. It's no longer an open society. And I'm going to tell you this. We shouldn't hire you unless you can figure that out.

MCCANN: I got it figured out. The bottom line is...

PRESS: Everybody who comes into the White House goes through the -- through the metal detector. Every single person. Doesn't matter whether it's tourist or lobbyist. They're discriminating against the public and they're letting the big-time contributors in and it's outrageous. It is our house and they should not shut it down.

MCCANN: It is absolutely not outrageous. The last case that has been a classic example of terrorism from start to finish was the Tupamaros in 1970, where they actually did a...

PRESS: I thought 9/11 was the last case of...

MCCANN: No, I'm talking about from A to Z. If people think that it's an infringement of their rights -- a huge, you know, horrible "they won, oh my God" -- that we close the White House, then -- then I'd say we need to buck up a little bit.

NORTON: Let me -- let me tell you why you're wrong on that. I called the White House. You'll notice, by the way, that the White House is now would you believe it going let the public in to see the Christmas tree lighting.

But I called the White House and said, "Look, I think if we had a conversation about this, that we might be able to figure out a way to keep places like the White House open and protect the president."

For example, if you came to Washington to see the Christmas trees, you might be told it's not going to be the way it was last year. You've got to go to the White House visitor center and leave your Social Security number in order to get in the White House.

(CROSSTALK)

CARLSON: Actually, I think you've brought up a marvelous point. And I think you ought to take the lead. You're a public figure. Why not now, right on CNN, why don't you give your home address and invite America over for tea? Why not?

NORTON: Number 10, 9th Street, Southeast, and my phone number is in the book.

CARLSON: I am so impressed.

PRESS: Good for you.

NORTON: And it's 543-5699.

PRESS: Good for you.

CARLSON: Area code (202). But you must admit...

MCCANN: Leaving out the Social Security number.

(CROSSTALK)

MCCANN: ...doesn't do anything to prevent the attack. Now let's be honest here, OK? The bottom line is -- listen. The best thing about security, Bill, is it's math. It's math, it's not emotional. So here's the thing. How fast...

NORTON: It's not -- it's not math at all.

MCCANN: It is math. It's when emotive issues get involved that security suffers.

NORTON: Ridge says it's an art and not a science.

CARLSON: Well, then...

NORTON: And they're not very good at...

MCCANN: Determining the threat is the art. The application of security is math.

CARLSON: Let me ask you about that. I think you've raised a really interesting question. You said to Mr. McCann that you're a security guy, you fix it. But isn't it true at this moment the state of the art is incomplete? We don't know actually at this point, December, 2001...

NORTON: Are you seriously saying we should close down the society until you find out? You find out and you go on.

CARLSON: I'm just saying we should close down certain high-risk places, the White House among them.

NORTON: I just told you a way to keep open the White House.

PRESS: Wait a minute. Wait.

NORTON: What's your answer to that?

MCCANN: ...the Social Security number...

CARLSON: Can I ask you this question, Kelly?

(CROSSTALK)

MCCANN: ...driver's license?

NORTON: You check the person out. You don't just check the license plates.

MCCANN: That day? That morning?

NORTON: Those would have to come back in several days. PRESS: One second.

NORTON: It's not going to be as easy but at least you don't close it.

PRESS: If I may. I if may. Just a simple factual question. What is the most protected building in the city of Washington, if not in the entire country? What has missiles on top of it? What has armed guards on the roof of it all around?

MCCANN: I mean, what do you want me to say? Do you want me to pick one out of several?

PRESS: I want you to point out the White House is not necessarily an insecure place, correct?

MCCANN: It's -- no. It depend on the type of attack. It's math. A speeding vehicle going 60 miles an hour is 88 feet per second. You know what you have to do to stop that vehicle and create an envelope with redundancy, Bill, that is going to stop a vehicle with some kind of attack? Now, I'm not saying close down the town. But what I'm saying is it's all reducible.

NORTON: Yes, you are.

MCCANN: No, I'm not at all.

(CROSSTALK)

PRESS: Well, how do you -- then explain this to me. How does the president or Tom Ridge go out there?

On the one hand they say, "Hey guys, go shopping. It's Christmas. Build up this economy." On the other hand, they say, "let's get -- get on a plane. Go see grandma for Christmas." And then say, "Oh, terrorism alert."

What are people going to do? They're -- they're contradicting themselves. We are schizophrenic enough. How do they -- why are they doing this?

MCCANN: You're schizophrenic enough. I'm fine.

PRESS: No, they are. They're sending these...

MCCANN: Listen, Bill. Look, Bill, here's the thing. If you look at the threat and people's understanding of the threat, when this war broke out, people didn't even understand why the vice president was in a different location than the president.

PRESS: I still don't -- I still don't understand why he's in a bunker.

MCCANN: That's the basic tenet of security when you have got a situation going.

NORTON: Stop changing the subject.

MCCANN: Would you -- I'm not changing the subject.

NORTON: There's no reason for us not to be able to go into the Capitol or the White House.

MCCANN: It's understanding security.

CARLSON: But isn't this really about the fact...

MCCANN: Revenue. It's about revenue and inconvenience, not public safety.

CARLSON: You represent Washington. That's exactly right.

NORTON: Revenue happens to be part of a free market and a free society.

(CROSSTALK)

CARLSON: ...your city. And isn't that the key to this? It is hurting tourism in the city you represent. It's about money, isn't it?

NORTON: That's one of the reasons.

CARLSON: You're upset about it. It's not about a free society. It's about money, isn't it?

NORTON: It's also hurting tourism in every other city in the United States.

PRESS: Absolutely.

NORTON: Because what people listen to what politicians do and not what they say. And when say they say, hey look, when they're closing down their things, I get it. This is not the time to go out spend money and to do those kinds of things. This is time to exactly as they do. So we're hurting the economy...

(CROSSTALK)

NORTON: But we're hurting New York and Cleveland and L.A. and Boston too.

MCCANN: This is -- this is the kind of melodrama we can't have the people see. They can't consume that.

PRESS: It is real. And you don't think it's real?

MCCANN: It's my world. I know...

PRESS: If you don't think that's real, if you don't think the effect on the economy around this country is really -- is really hurt by what she's talking about, then you just don't know what's going on.

MCCANN: Do you really think that the Fairfax Mall is at the same threat level as the White House? Can you honestly ask me that...

CARLSON: Of course not. Of course not.

(CROSSTALK)

PRESS: The amount of business there is being hurt by the ridiculous, empty warnings by John Ashcroft and Tom Ridge.

NORTON: Have you seen the latest returns for the malls around the United States?

MCCANN: I'm a businessman. Of course I have.

PRESS: Guess what, guys. As tough as it is, we're out of time and we have to move on. And we are going to move on to another topic.

When we come back, is the reason that we are hunting for Osama Bin Laden to put him on the cover of "Time" magazine?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

PRESS: So who will it be this year? Welcome back to CROSSFIRE and topic number two. "Time" magazine's editors admit that none other than Osama Bin Laden is one of those being considered for "Time's" "person of the year."

Hard to swallow, yes. But has anybody else made more of an impact on history this year? If so, who is it? Here now to tell "Time" magazine what to do: presidential historian Richard Shenkman, author of "Presidential Ambition." And joining us from New York, Daniel Pipes, editor of "the Middle East Quarterly" -- Tucker.

CARLSON: Daniel Pipes, welcome. With this talk of putting Osama Bin Laden on the cover of "Time," somebody finally thought to ask the people who work at "Time" magazine, reporters there, what they thought of it.

And I want to read you a quote from one "Time" reporter. This was given to the "Observer." Here's what he says. I'm quoting. "To call Bin Laden person of the year devalues the word person. We would need to have a separate [vulgarity deleted] of the year category."

We've deleted the vulgarity for the sake of our viewers. In any case, isn't this an excellent point? He would devalue the word person, would he?

DANIEL PIPES, "MIDDLE EAST QUARTERLY:" Well, there is a certain point in that it is a mistake to call this man of the year or woman of the year, because that implies a celebration of the person. That's what non-profits do, they select a man or woman of the year.

What this really is, and the right word for it, is newsmaker of the year. And if you consider it that way, newsmaker of the year, then Bin Laden -- like Hitler and Stalin before him -- is clearly the newsmaker of this particular year. It says nothing about his being a good or bad person. It just says he's the guy who made the news. CARLSON: But I mean, times have changed since 1953 when Stalin died. I mean, now I think you'd agree that fame -- to some extent in the public mind, anyway -- equals virtue. And so to promote Bin Laden, to make him any more famous than he already is, isn't that to make a statement about him and his virtue?

PIPES: I don't think that fame equals virtue. And I think all of us have by now heard a great deal about Bin Laden, and I think more than that, that to put him on the cover and research his life is to expose who he is.

I don't think he's going find new recruits through the "Time" magazine story. I think he's going to find more people understand -- we are going to find more people understanding just what a horrible person he is.

PRESS: Richard Shenkman, first of all, in the spirit of tonight's show, would you care to give your home address and telephone number? All right. Pass.

RICHARD SHENKMAN, AUTHOR: I'll give -- I'll give the address of my web site.

PRESS: No 800 number? But as Mr. Pipes pointed out something as newsmaker, I would prefer to think of it as history maker. In fact, over the years, the editors of "Time" magazine said they look for the person who has had the most impact on history in any particular, given year. Given that that's the criterion, who else comes close to Osama Bin Laden? It's got to be Bin Laden.

SHENKMAN: The problem is the language. We would not let a government agency or the president of the United States, for that matter, get away with saying person of the year or man of the year and then kind of footnoting it and say, "Oh, we don't mean that as a compliment. We mean that to be history maker of the year or newsmaker of the year."

We don't do that in this society. Journalists are supposed to be translators for the government. When the government says collateral damage and they really mean death, journalists go out and they say, "OK, we mean this is a death. This is a killing."

Now what we have here is journalists, "Time" magazine, who have to now be interpreted by journalists because they're not speaking plain English.

PRESS: But you're saying that and I don't -- I don't buy it. I mean, look. You're trying to change the rules.

"Time" magazine has been doing this since, what, 1927, I think. And that's always been their rules. They've always been looking for the person who had the most impact on the news or made the most history.

You're trying to turn it into a morality contest or some kind of a popularity contest or even suggesting that this is making some hero out of him. It's not that at all. Take it for what it is and what it always has been. And again, under those rules, doesn't it have to be Bin Laden? As much -- as odious as he is?

SHENKMAN: You know, this is a reflection, really, of a world that doesn't exist anymore. Back in the 1920s you could have a small group in New York on Fifth Avenue or Madison Avenue or wherever the headquarters of "Time" magazine is, and they could sit around and they could say, "OK, we are going to say that this is the person of the year, and we don't mean by that that it's a compliment."

And the rest of the world would sit back and say, "Oh, what's what they mean. OK." But it's now the next century and in this century -- a much more democratic century -- we don't just let the elites say to us and dictate to us when we say x we really mean y.

PRESS: Richard, it's just a magazine cover.

SHENKMAN: The problem is, it's very influential around the world. And it would be used by extremists around the world as evidence that Osama Bin Laden is such a magical, mythical figure that even "Time" magazine, the Western media's own flagship media enterprise, even they have put him on the cover.

CARLSON: But doesn't -- doesn't Mr. Pipes, the idea -- I mean, putting Osama Bin Laden on the cover of "Time," wouldn't that give him significance he doesn't have?

I mean, he's not a statesman, he's not a theologian, he's not a military leader. He's a guy who committed a couple of opportunistic acts of violence. He's far more Lee Harvey Oswald than he is Churchill or even Stalin, for that matter. For whatever his many, many crimes still led a country. Osama Bin Laden leads nothing, does he?

PIPES: You're right. He's not a Stalin or Churchill. But what he is is an extraordinary individual, who coming out of essentially a Saudi playboy background turned himself through willpower, charisma and skill into the enemy number one of the United States. And clearly in the year 2001, the years's or newsmaker or historymaker.

There is no question whatsoever. I don't think that any of the other candidates who have been mentioned, such as President Bush or Tony Blair or Rudolph Giuliani are anywhere in the same league. I might note, by the way, that they're only in the running because they're responding to Bin Laden. This is the story of the year.

CARLSON: No, but you can say of Lyndon Johnson his presidency was a response to Lee Harvey Oswald, and in a strict sense that would be true. And yet we look at Lee Harvey Oswald -- I believe correctly -- as this kind of madman who took advantage of a security lapse. And isn't that exactly what Osama Bin Laden did? He doesn't represent anything, does he?

PIPES: Well, he represents a lot more than -- than Oswald did. But if I think back to 1963, the event of the year was the assassination of President Kennedy, and the person who did it of course was Oswald. And that is the defining event of that year.

If Oswald wasn't the man of the year in 1963, he should have been. He was the person who we remember that year by. And no doubt Bin Laden will be the person by which we remember this year by.

PRESS: Now, Richard Shenkman, you realize that he would not be the first unpleasant subject to grace the cover of "Time" magazine. The first time that they sort of shocked the world and got everybody talking was in 1938 when America woke up and there on the cover of "Time" magazine was Adolph Hitler. Made a lot of people unhappy, but at the same time you might say because of his incredibly negative impact on history, he was the guy that should have been on the cover.

That was followed by Josef Stalin twice: in 1939 and again in 1942 on the cover. And then more recently by the Ayatollah Khomeini in 1979. I mean, I can't think of better company for Osama Bin Laden. It sort of sums up who he is, doesn't it?

SHENKMAN: I think they ought to change the name. Instead of person of the year, if they want to make it villain of the year I'm all for it. He is the villain of the year. He may be the villain of the century. This is not the issue.

The issue is them putting a label on it that sounds like a compliment. If he went home to his mother and he said, "Ma, Ma, I got named the person of the year, the "Time" person of the year!" Even she would have to celebrate because it sounds like a compliment.

PRESS: All right. Suppose you were privileged enough to sit in that conference room in Madison Avenue which you just made fun of. Who would you pick?

SHENKMAN: Well, are sales low? And am I trying to pump the -- the magazine?

PRESS: Well, you're changing the rules. Who would you pick?

SHENKMAN: I think the obvious ones, either Giuliani or Bush. These are...

PRESS: Both of whom responded to Osama Bin Laden.

CARLSON: Now wait. Mr. Pipes, in the ten seconds we have, answer this one quick question. You know a huge amount about the Middle East. You must admit that if his picture wound up on "Time" magazine, Osama Bin Laden's prestige would increase in the Middle East. No?

PIPES: No, I don't agree. Especially if that's the same week that he is found and killed in a cave in Afghanistan. It won't help his prestige at all. That's what counts, what's going on in Afghanistan. Not the cover of "Time."

CARLSON: OK. Thank you very much. Daniel Pipes in New York, Richard Shenkman here in Washington.

PIPES: Thank you.

SHENKMAN: Thank you.

CARLSON: Thank you very much. Bill Press and I will return in just a moment and lay out our cases for why we ought to be on the cover of "Time" magazine. We'll be right back with our closing comments.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CARLSON: You know, Bill, I didn't think it was possible to get lower than defending President Clinton. But defending Osama Bin Laden. That is really a new marker for you.

And I have to say I disagree with one thing, though. I know you are obviously not trying to promote Osama Bin Laden. But if his picture was on the cover of "Time," it would increase his prestige. I think it would be a disaster, and that's why it won't be. I predict it will be Rudy Giuliani.

PRESS: He'll be dead. It won't make any difference. I'm not defending him, Tucker. That was a low blow. I'm just saying I'm defending "Time's" right to choose him if in fact he has in fact made history the most this year. And he has. I remind you again...

CARLSON: History?

PRESS: We're not talking about (UNINTELLIGIBLE). We're not talking about Mount Rushmore here. We are talking about a magazine.

CARLSON: We're talking about "Time." We're talking about more publicity. But the key here is he doesn't represent anything. He is the lone gunman of history and lone gunmen are forgotten.

PRESS: Unfortunately, he is not.

CARLSON: Bill, that is...

PRESS: He represents the worst of humanity and there are thousands who believe in him. I wish he were alone. He is not.

CARLSON: His -- his deed will be remembered. He will not.

PRESS: "Time?" Who knows. But from the left, I'm Bill Press. Good night for CROSSFIRE.

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

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