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CNN CROSSFIRE

Interview With Alex Castellanos; Interview With Paul Begala

Aired December 7, 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.
TUCKER CARLSON, CO-HOST: Pat Robertson's out. And is Tom Daschle the GOP's new public enemy number one? Tonight, plenty of politics in the CROSSFIRE.

Good evening and welcome to CROSSFIRE. Turnovers, reversals, and changes in leadership. They weren't limited to the war front this week.

There were minor revolutions in politics as well. In Washington, the Republican party got a new head. The Christian Coalition lost its old one. The economy declined, energy giant Enron blew up. Tom Daschle infuriated the White House even as rumors spread he hopes to occupy it after 2004. And finally, Gary Condit has made his choice. CNN has learned he will be running again for Congress.

It's just like old times. And speaking of old times, joining us tonight: two of our favorite guests, hard bitten, battle scarred political veterans though they are. Democratic strategist Paul Begala and on the right, Republican consultant Alex Castellanos -- Bill.

BILL PRESS, CO-HOST: Gentlemen, we learned just before airtime that in fact Gary Condit is running. Remember him? Is going to run for re-election, Tucker just pointed out as well. He's going to file within a half an hour. Alex Castellanos, how scared are you?

ALEX CASTELLANOS, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: It's a scary moment. You know, his -- I think his slogan is "in the Clinton tradition." And he's -- he's running for office.

Look, Gary Condit will soon be out there selling cable boxes with O.J.. The interesting story here, though, is the Democratic party that stuck with Rostenkowski when he was indicted and convicted has abandoned Gary Condit who has been charged or indicted for nothing. So what's happening here?

CARLSON: That's -- and let me ask you that, Paul Begala. I know you are ashamed of Gary Condit. Not clear why. Not that different from a lot of other Democrats.

PAUL BEGALA, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: I'm not ashamed of him. I don't have anything to be ashamed of. He ought to be ashamed. He's a shame.

CARLSON: Well, then I'm wondering, though, why the party sort of gets it both ways. Ooh, Gary Condit, he's a bad guy, et cetera, et cetera. But have you called Gary Condit and told him not to run?

BEGALA: I have never met Gary Condit in my life. Have you called him? He should run.

CARLSON: I'm not a Democrat. You are.

BEGALA: Gary, run. And keep running until you get to Canada. And then keep going until you get to Alaska, and then keep going until you fall off the Baring Straits. Get out of here. We are sick of you. We don't want you.

CASTELLANOS: Too late now, pal. You're stuck with him.

PRESS: All right. Having buried Gary Condit, let us move on.

All right. Alex Castellanos, big story this week about Enron. It's a big business story, most people are saying.

I want to suggest to you it may be something more. Ken Lay, chairman of Enron, number one contributor by far to George W. Bush. Gave him over two million dollars plus the use of his corporate jet. Ken Lay, number one adviser to Dick Cheney in putting together the administration's energy plan. Ken Lay, of course, he put together his whole business under the lax rules and regulations in Texas under governor Bush. Ken Lay, considered seriously by George W. Bush to be commerce secretary.

And when California was hurting, had the energy crisis, and Governor Gray Davis was crying out that Dick Cheney and George Bush, saying, "you have to help us from Enron, that they are really screwing the consumers out here." Both Bush and Cheney says, "No,we are not going to touch Ken Lay."

And now Ken Lay has filed for the largest bankruptcy in U.S. history, screwing thousands of employees. Big political problem for the White House, wouldn't you say? Doesn't this make Whitewater look like small potatoes, Alex?

CASTELLANOS: Well, you found -- you found a Republican that spends money like a Democrat. Look. Maybe Republicans used electricity too and that contributed to the bankruptcy. He's from the same state and that's somehow a crime?

PRESS: No no no no no. No.

CASTELLANOS: Enron is a very big and bipartisan company that has employed lots of lobbyists in this town. Jack Quinn, Bennett Johnson, Democrats and Republicans. It's a shame that none of them could prevent the terrible failure of management that this company has.

But I'll tell you the one thing I think Republicans and Democrats do agree on is that if anybody in this company -- the executive -- made millions, keeping their stock, selling it at a high price and preventing pensioners from selling it, then you ought to hang them next to Osama Bin Laden. And there are laws for that and I'm sure this administration is going to enforce them. PRESS: Well, in fact, Ken Lay in fact did keep his billions while the -- while the employees lost their shirts. But you did mention -- I'm glad you mentioned the lobbyists. Enron's lobbyists. Because of course their most recent lobbyist is Marc Racicot, who is suddenly named by Bush as the Republican national chair. I mean, how could be so politically stupid as to name Enron's lobbyist...

CASTELLANOS: Just because he worked for Enron there's a connection there?

BILL: ...as the RNC chair?

CASTELLANOS: I think Governor Racicot also was a lobbyist for the recording industry. But that doesn't mean he can sing. Again, this is -- this company was represented by a lot of Democrats and Republicans. Governor Racicot is one of them.

But he's -- I tell you what, I'm glad you brought him up. Because he's a great choice for Republican chairman. We're very excited about that.

PRESS: Now, a K Street lobbyist as Republican chairman. This doesn't send a message that we'll do whatever big business wants?

CASTELLANOS: He's been a terrifically successful governor. I think the first time America got to see him was in the Florida recount when he was such an effective and articulate spokesman. He's close to the President. Shares a lot of the same values. Strong America. Strong families. You know, big payecks.

BILL: Oh, God.

CASTELLANOS: So we are very excited about him.

CARLSON: Now -- now, Paul Begala, you as a Democrat ought to be ashamed of yourself and all Democrats ought to be ashamed of themselves.

(CROSSTALK)

BILL: That's the second time on this show.

CARLSON: Two -- two in a growing list. Listen to this. Enron collapses, OK. Files for bankruptcy Sunday. Thousands -- many thousands out of work. Pensioners -- as was pointed out a moment ago -- without their pensions. Right before Christmas. This is a tragedy.

What do Democrats do? They make political hay out of it. They leverage the misery of the employees and stockholders of Enron for their own political gains. This is ambulance chasing and I hope you'll disavow it.

BEGALA: That's a good try. That's a new chapter in "Spin This." That's got to...

CARLSON: It's not a try. It's true. You're trying to make political hay out of the misery of Enron.

(CROSSTALK)

BEGALA: No, look. Here's...

CASTELLANOS: I owe Paul. He definitely -- he plugged the move first.

BEGALA: Here's the problem, is that Enron is a vast and far- flung empire. But one of its wholly-owned subsidiaries is the one that's going to pay the price, and it's called Bush, Inc. George W. Bush is bought and paid for by Enron. He has -- some of his top aides are stockholders in Enron -- which they should not have been while they were making energy policy on Enron.

PRESS: There's a guy named Karl Rove...

BEGALA: Dick Cheney met secretly -- my friend Karl Rove. I didn't want to throw his name out on national television.

Dick Cheney met privately with the CEO of Enron, Ken Lay. He won't tell us when, where or what they talked about. We have a whole situation where the -- the "Houston Chronicle" even said when the Bush energy plan was introduced that it looked like it was designed for Enron. It was very favorable for Enron.

CARLSON: Which I'm sure was -- I'm glad you pointed that out...

BEGALA: ...make policy for the people who give them money.

CARLSON: That -- that your friend Karl Rove met with people from Enron because it's not the only...

BEGALA: He owns stock in Enron.

CARLSON: Oh.

BEGALA: Yes.

CARLSON: Oh, we have a -- he owns stock. I mean, I'm sure you own stock in -- in some mutual funds.

CASTELLANOS: I and millions of other Americans.

BEGALA: Mutual funds -- mutual funds are exempted by the ethics laws. I have to live under those laws, unlike the Bush people.

CARLSON: You know a lot about ethics laws. I'm aware of that. But let me -- let me point this out. That -- who went to a Clinton coffee? Representatives of Enron. The first time I heard of Enron was at the White House in 1997 when the Enron guys were up there with Al Gore.

BEGALA: Who was the biggest donor... CARLSON: Who received money from them? Hold on, wait. Who received money from them? Sheila Jackson-Lee, Charlie Stenholm, Benson. Your pals from the Texas delegation. Democrats all. Are they in the scandal too?

BEGALA: Look, George W. Bush is the guy who is going to take the fall here. It is his father's cabinet officers who went on the board at Enron, it is his administration that is staffed by Enron from the Secretary of the Army to his -- his buddies who owned stock in it while they were making decisions on it.

Do you know what we need?

CARLSON: What?

BEGALA: Whitewater was a $200,000 land deal 20 years ago. The Republicans spent $50 million, hired hundreds of agents and IRS agents and FBI agents and accountants. We need an investigation and get to the bottom of it.

Maybe I'm completely wrong and Bush is completely clean and he needs to have his name cleared.

CARLSON: Weren't you the guy crying witch hunt five years ago?

BEGALA: Let's have a full -- this is a multi-billion dollar rip off and with George W. Bush at the center of it.

PRESS: This is real. Whitewater was nothing.

CARLSON: It's outrageous.

PRESS: Alex Castellanos, let me move on here. Last time -- last year during the campaign, anytime anybody said anything about -- even disagreed with the policy of W. -- it was the "politics of personal destruction." Democrats are practicing the politics of personal destruction.

OK. I'd just like to point out to you right now in South Dakota the Republicans are running ads showing Tom Daschle alongside of Saddam Hussein and claiming these that these guys are buddies because both of them don't want any drilling in ANWAR. Of couse, we have -- we haven't heard Saddam Hussein speak on ANWAR yet. But two questions...

CASTELLANOS: You're misinformed, Bill.

PRESS: Wouldn't you say this is...

CASTELLANOS: No Republican I know is running those ads.

PRESS: Yeah, look for the money. Follow the money.

BEGALA: Gary Bauer is a Republican candidate for president. He's running ads.

CASTELLANOS: You're misinformed, Bill.

BEGALA: Gary Bauer's group. And he ran for president as a Republican.

PRESS: Number one. Isn't this the politics of personal destruction? And number two, as an ad consultant, wouldn't you say it's a big mistake? Are you ready to condemn it? Right here.

CASTELLANOS: While President Bush is out there working every day to get an economic stimulus package passed that will make America stronger, Tom Daschle is out there working everyday to stop President Bush and make the Democratic party stronger.

He's the one who is playing partisan politics.

PRESS: Oh, please.

CASTELLANOS: He is beyond end. You know, what -- what some group out there does, that's -- no one in the Republican party is running those ads right now.

But Daschle is the one who is playing the most partisan politics of all in this town. He's the one who's taken the Carville-Schrum memo and evidently memorized the thing and trying to take advantage of this national tragedy to turn back the clock. Hey, this is our opportunity to rebuild big spending, the welfare state in Washington. And he's going to town.

PRESS: Well, I want to ask you this. If Tom Daschle is really so bad -- you know, there's a guy named John Thune, House member from South Dakota, who's running for Senate against Tim Johnson.

I'd just like to read you what he said when he announced that he was going to run for U.S. Senate. This is what Republican John Thune said. He said, quote, "Consider this. Tom Daschle leading the Democrats in the Senate and John Thune working with him and the Republican leadership in Congress and with President Bush. South Dakota would be better positioned than ever before at the federal level."

This guy that you are demonizing, John Thune is putting his arms around saying, "we are going to be buddy buddy."

CASTELLANOS: No no no no.

PRESS: If Tom Daschle's so bad, why is Thune embracing him?

CASTELLANOS: John Thune very realistically -- very realistically recognizes that Daschle's not up for re-election. He's going to be there a while. They're going to have to work together in a bipartisan to get things done. And I think that's all it says.

But look, have you ever met that funeral director...

PRESS: Alex, doesn't he also recognize that... CASTELLANOS: ...that funeral director that you meet for the first time and says, you know, "I really care about how you are feeling?" I think Tom Daschle is beginning to remind Americans of that. Everyone is commenting on how sincere Tom Daschle can make himself appear.

CARLSON: Exactly.

PRESS: Big mistake, Alex. Big mistake.

CASTELLANOS: And when people notice it that much, that means it's not working.

CARLSON: Well, Bill, actually people...

PRESS: I say shame on you.

CARLSON: No, no. People have been -- and I think that's a marvelous analogy. I heard today at lunch the Senate referred to as "the graveyard." Not simply because of the age of its members but because that's where legislation has been dying. Legislation passed by the House. Killed by Daschle.

And I want to read you a quote from Larry Lindsey. Not only a fine economist but also someone who has an acute political sense. This is his summing up of Tom Daschle. I'm quoting now. "This is an abdication of responsibility. Here we have a war and a national emergency with a country in recession, and the stimulus bill gets waylaid in the Senate. The energy bill gets waylaid in the Senate. The terrorism insurance bill is not allowed to be marked up, and there is no action on the trade bill. So I would have to question his priorities."

And I would too.

BEGALA: Not only is Larry Lindsey a bad economist and a bad political strategist, he's not exactly the most buff guy in the world from that picture. Larry Lindsey, by the way...

CARLSON: Well, so he's fat. So he -- you know, what...

BEGALA: Yeah, he's fat. But -- but more importantly, he's an economic...

CARLSON: What does that have to do with it?

BEGALA: He is an economic adviser to Enron. He did to Enron what he's going to do to America.

CARLSON: Wait a second.

BEGALA: If Tom Daschle is stopping...

CARLSON: You're not...

BEGALA: ...the Larry Lindsey/George w. Bush giveaway to corporations -- by the way, guess who gets a quarter of a billion dollars under the Bush tax cut that Tom Daschle is stopping?

CARLSON: Satan?

BEGALA: Enron.

CARLSON: OK. Well...

BEGALA: It's the same thing.

CARLSON: Paul, let me tell you...

BEGALA: This is a whorehouse deal, Tucker.

CARLSON: I understand.

BEGALA: They are sitting there, they take the most money from Enron than any corporation and then Enron is he first hog at the trough to get $254 million of our money.

CARLSON: We can talk about the Kennedy assassination in a minute.

BEGALA: It's a ripoff.

CARLSON: If we're going to get into the whole conspiracy.

BEGALA: It's Enron taking a quarter of a billion dollars.

CARLSON: But I just want to ask you -- hold on. But hold on. Let me lob you an easy one here. Tom Daschle opposes limits on lawsuits stemming from 9-11. On lawsuits. The insurance industry says, "Look, if you just put curbs on lawsuits we could, you know, come up with payments."

BEGALA: They're not looking for...

CARLSON: Hold on. Let me finish. Is there anything that tears apart America and the spirit of unity after 9-11 more than lawsuits? No, there isn't.

BEGALA: Well, political -- political act at Lincoln and Saddam Hussein, but I don't want to repeal the First Amendment. There -- Tom does not -- this is not fair.

CARLSON: Lawsuits are not protected by the First Amendment.

BEGALA: Senator Daschle does not -- does not support unrestricted lawsuits from September 11. What he does also not support, though, is the Bush administration's attempt -- one more time -- to use this tragedy to bail out their big contributors in the insurance industry, to protect them from having to face consequences in court when they screw little people. Only the Republican party can say -- can say, "if you screw little people we are going to protect the big corporations."

CASTELLANOS: This is the man who is sitting there in the Senate blaming President Bush and the tax cuts that he's passed with 12 -- with the support of 12 Democratic senators -- for, you know, causing all of America's economic problems now.

BEGALA: Rightly so.

CASTELLANOS: As if those 12 Democratic senators...

BEGALA: Rightly so.

CASTELLANOS: ...and a bipartisan tax cut. All those senators -- including your man Zell Miller -- were wrong?

BEGALA: Were dead wrong. Dead-ass wrong. History will record it. Tom Daschle is also the guys whose first act as majority leader was he allowed the confirmation of that right-wing, knuckle-dragging thug Ted Olson. So don't tell me that all of a sudden he's the most partisan guy...

CARLSON: First of all, he's not a thug.

CASTELLANOS: That's outrageous.

(CROSSTALK)

CARLSON: Ted Olson? That's outrageous you would say that.

PRESS: Tom Daschle is also the man who passed an anti-terrorism legislation and a $40 billion bailout.

CASTELLANOS: You're off base on that, Paul.

PRESS: Tom Daschle is a man who gets things done.

CARLSON: And it made a great photo op. And now he's...

PRESS: We're going to take a break right now. When we come back, Pat Robertson stepped down as head of the Christian Coalition. Does that mean the religious right is dead? More CROSSFIRE coming up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

PRESS: Welcome back to CROSSFIRE. It's a tough time for Democrats. After all, how do you criticize the president when the country is at war? Well, a few top Democratic consultants think they found the answer. Support the president on the war but slam him on the economy. A winning strategy or political suicide?

We continue our own political wars now with Republican strategist Alex Castellanos and Democratic strategist Paul Begala -- Tucker.

CARLSON: Paul Begala, I hold in my hand a memo written by three eminent Democratic political consultants, three friends of yours: James Carville, Stan Greenberg and Bob Schrum. And it written last month. It was written two months after September 11 and it's a blueprint for how Democrats should respond to the tragedy.

I just want to read you a couple lines and...

BEGALA: Sure.

CARLSON: ...and to see if you think they are as nauseating as I do. It -- it refers to September 11 attack. And I'm quoting now. "We believe this is a moment of opportunity for Democrats." The nation is grieving. Thousands have died. And I'm quoting now. "This is a moment of opportunity for Democrats."

Page two. "Our nation is under attack." And I'm quoting now. "This should not prevent us from moving forward politically." Next paragraph. "Even in our time of national mourning, a time when we are at war" --I'm quoting now -- "Democrats should feel free to attack." This is the most savage, crass, insensitive document I think I have ever read outside of "Hustler" magazine. You cannot defend this.

BEGALA: Nice...

CARLSON: Seriously, Paul.

BEGALA: Nice try.

CARLSON: What do you mean nice try? I'm quoting it.

BEGALA: It's called -- let me use a word that -- that is not a four-letter word either. It's not a "Hustler magazine" word. Democracy. Democracy. They say, "You know what? We are fighting for our democracy overseas. Let's make sure that we fight for our democracy here at home."

George W. Bush, he is doing a good job of running this war. And Democrats supported him, unlike the Republicans who abandoned Clinton in the war on Kosovo for their partisan ends. Democrats -- politics stop at the water's edge. But on our side of that water...

CASTELLANOS: Paul, Paul...

(CROSSTALK)

CARLSON: Let me ask the question. I think you're missing the question.

BEGALA: George W. Bush has a proposal that will refund the biggest corporations in America the last 15 years of their taxes.

CARLSON: Very quickly let me -- let me ...

BEGALA: Democrats stand up and say boo about that and you say, "Oh, that's not patriotic."

CARLSON: Let me -- let me re-ask my question. The question is not is it legal. Of course this memo is legal. My question was...

BEGALA: Wonderful. Brilliant.

CARLSON: I was giving you the blush test. Will you blush when you read this? How appalling the thing is.

BEGALA: Yes, brilliant.

CARLSON: And I'm going to read you the next page and the final question on this memo because it's singeing my hands, it's so revolting.

But it says here that September 11 gives Democrats -- I'm quoting now -- "an edge" -- I'm quoting -- "on freedom of choice. That this will drive home the need for abortion to all Americans. Watching the tragedy of September 11 makes freedom of choice a better issue."

BEGALA: It doesn't say that.

CARLSON: I'm reading it right now.

BEGALA: You take a ten- or eleven-page memo that's single spaced and pretend that September 11 means -- look.

The Democrat party, by and large, supports abortion rights. The Republican party, by and large, opposes it. That's an issue that does matter to people, and particularly when we have a president who was installed by the Supreme Court, his appointments to that Supreme Court are going to be particularly well watched.

CASTELLANOS: Oh, Paul.

BEGALA: And I can understand conservatives don't want that. But that's -- that's what's going to happen.

PRESS: On that issue Alex, segue to Robertson, OK, who -- who steps down this week. In the mid '90s, the Christian Coalition was riding high. Nobody would dare -- dare challenge Jerry Falwell or Pat Robertson. Every Republican candidate had to make the pilgrimage to Mecca, to go down there, appear at that university or else they could never get elected president, They $25 million in the bank.

Today they're an empty shell. Pat Robertson steps down. Doesn't that indicate, number one, that the influence of the religious right is dead and the influence of the abortion issue for the Republican party is dead?

CASTELLANOS: Well, they must be still somewhat powerful if you are still criticizing them. What the memo -- what's really interesting about that memo, it says, look. The Democratic Party strategy we can put the American flag on our cars and then rerun the Gore campaign. Class warfare. Let's divide America.

BEGALA: Gore won.

CASTELLANOS: You know, the perfect recipe for failure.

BEGALA: Gore got more votes than the other guy.

CASTELLANOS: You keep -- keep it up.

BEGALA: Some of us still believe in democracy, Alex.

CASTELLANOS: Pat Robertson. I don't know when the Democratic party became the party of intolerance, but there is more tolerance for Islamic fundamentalists than for Christian conservatives in the Democratic Party.

Somehow when Pat Robertson -- who -- who energized the Christian right -- he did. They didn't vote before 1976. And he gets more people involved in the process. You know, never given credit for that.

But, you know, Reverend Al Sharpton, Reverend Jackson. Hey, that's all right. Reverend Pat Robertson? No you can't forgive him because he got conservatives energized.

PRESS: That's right. But when -- when Pat Robertson blamed the World Trade Center bombings on liberals and lesbians, that's a model of tolerance. Thanks to you for reminding the country of that.

CASTELLANOS: And just like Reverend Jesse Jackson and Reverend Al Sharpton, who I know speak for everyone in the Democratic party, don't they.

PRESS: All right. A lot to cover. I want to move on. Michael Bloomberg, this Republican -- this sort of faux Republican in New York.

CASTELLANOS: He's faux because he won. Is that it?

PRESS: No, he's a Republican pretender. But I just want to -- and -- and this is not a partisan political comment, OK? I just want to give you some -- no, just some numbers on Michael Bloomberg.

CASTELLANOS: Please.

PRESS: Let's look. Here's how much he spent on that mayor's race. $69 million for 744,000 votes. $92.60 per vote. Now, seriously. Republican or Democrat, I don't care. Wouldn't you just have to say that is bad for all of us? It's bad for the system?

CASTELLANOS: Well, as a Republican media consultant, I just have to say is this a great country or what?

BEGALA: You actually have a Democratic consultant there.

CASTELLANOS: Now, look. The biggest contribution Bloomberg got...

PRESS: Take off your greedy hat and answer my question.

CASTELLANOS: It's a -- you know, we still spend more in this country advertising l'Oreal, hair color for Clairol than we do on electing a president, governing our governors. It's not that much money.

PRESS: He bought the mayor's race. That doesn't bother you? CASTELLANOS: Look. The biggest contribution Bloomberg got wasn't his own money. It was Rudolph Giuliani standing there saying, "Hey, this guy is going to be a good mayor of this city." Because why? Because Giuliani has been a strong leader in this tough time.

Guess who else is a strong leader in this tough time? George Bush. If that conveys next election, Democrats are in big trouble.

CARLSON: And Paul -- I just see in the 30 seconds we have left. I see a theme here. You see Al Checky (ph), you see John Corazon and now you see Michael Bloomberg -- Democrats. Bloomberg is a Democrat. Changed at the last minute. Democratic consultants, et cetera et cetera.

You are pretending to be for campaign finance form. Doesn't this make you sick?

BEGALA: It's a free country. He wants to spend his own money, he can. I'm much more interested, though, in holding you all to task for what...

CARLSON: That rich people can buy offices?

BEGALA: No, for what Jerry Falwell -- I want to get off of that. What Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson said. They sounded like Mullah Omar. They said that Americans got what they deserved. I lost friends in that attack on September 11. I want you two...

CARLSON: Spare me, Paul.

BEGALA: This is national television. See, you won't do it.

CARLSON: I sat here...

CASTELLANOS: I lost friends too.

BEGALA: I sat here and disavowed Gary Condit. I want you to disavow Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell...

CARLSON: I'm disavowing it right now.

BEGALA: ...that blamed Americans for that attack.

CARLSON: Settle down, Paul.

(CROSSTALK)

BEGALA: The Republican party is controlled by (UNINTELLIGIBLE). Do you know what Bush said?

CASTELLANOS: ... hear anything Bush said, Paul. You know why? Because you just said...

CARLSON: Ladies, I'm sorry. We're going to have to...

(CROSSTALK) CARLSON: I'm afraid we're going to have to.

BEGALA: Bush said it was "inappropriate." That's all Bush would say.

CASTELLANOS: You should be ashamed...

(CROSSTALK)

BEGALA: ...such a wimp.

PRESS: Stop. Stop.

CARLSON: Paul Begala, Alex Castellanos, may this continue at a later date. We are out of time now, sadly. But Bill Press and I still have a smidgen of time left for our closing comments. Doubtless we can find something to argue about. We'll be back in just a moment on CROSSFIRE.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CARLSON: Hey, Bill...

PRESS: Yes.

CARLSON: Once you figure out how the -- this administration caused the fall of Enron, then I want you to tell me where Atlantis was. And then I want you to explain to me the secrets of Stonehedge. And I'm going to be waiting a long time for all three because there is no connection between this administration and the collapse of Enron.

PRESS: Let me just -- let me just tell you this, Tucker. I hate to break the bad news. George Bush's biggest buddy is perhaps the biggest corporate crook in American history. Now I think that is a connection worth exploring.

CARLSON: Doesn't mean...

PRESS: I'm saying could be. And maybe can Ken Starr needs a job.

PRESS: Maybe bring back Ken Starr...

CARLSON: Bill. Bush...

PRESS: Let's have an investigation and find out...

CARLSON: The -- the president has a friend who turns out is not a great businessman. This is news? This is a headline? "Bush's friend not a good businessman."

PRESS: No. Who screwed his employees and, all right?

CARLSON: That may be true.

PRESS: And cooked the books and ran away with the money. How much did George Bush help him?

CARLSON: Oh, please.

PRESS: Let's find out.

CARLSON: Give me a break.

PRESS: From the left, I'm Bill Press. Good night for CROSSFIRE. Sad night for us tonight. Our talented executive producer, Chris Guarino, is leaving. It's his last day. Chris, thank you. You're a good buddy. Godspeed.

CARLSON: Nineteen years. Good luck, Chris. From the right, I'm Tucker Carlson. Join us again Monday for another edition of CROSSFIRE. See you then.

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