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Interview With Paul Wellstone, Interview With J.C. Watts

Aired December 18, 2001 - 19:30   ET



SEN. TOM DASCHLE (D-SD), MAJORITY LEADER: The only way we're going to get this done, the only way that we can ensure success in the next 72 hours is to ensure that we help these laid off workers.

SEN. TRENT LOTT (R-MS), MINORITY LEADER: He continues to, you know, in my opinion, raise the bar on the -- you know, the unemployment and the health insurance area.


BILL PRESS, CO-HOST: Tonight, can lawmakers put aside their differences and pass an economic stimulus plan?

And, bottled up controversy.


ANNOUNCER: One of the best ways to have a great time this holiday season...


PRESS: Should liquor ads be seen on television?

ANNOUNCER: Live from Washington, CROSSFIRE. On the left, Bill Press. On the right, Tucker Carlson. In the CROSSFIRE, Democratic Senator Paul Wellstone of Minnesota and House Republican Conference Chairman J.C. Watts of Oklahoma.

PRESS: Good evening. Welcome to CROSSFIRE.

Christmas is coming, but that economic stimulus package may not be. President Bush met with Congressional leaders this morning trying to break the log jam, but tonight both sides remain far part, Democrats demanding health care for workers who lost their jobs as a result of 9/11, Republicans pushing for more tax cuts for individuals and for corporations. Senator Paul Wellstone and Congressman J.C. Watts debate what's the better solution and is anything going to happen.

And then, something new on television, but only on NBC: commercials for hard liquor. Yes, gin, vodka, whiskey, you name it -- first time in 50 years. Is this the way to celebrate the holiday season?

We will get to the booze after the politics. Tucker is out of town. Larry Elder of KABC Radio in Los Angeles is sitting in tonight as co-host. Larry, take it away.

LARRY ELDER, GUEST CO-HOST: Thank you. Senator Wellstone, Ronald Reagan in his early term passed significant, deep, meaningful tax cuts. The top marginal rate was 70 percent, as you probably recall, and he got it down to 28 percent.

Bill Clinton in his first year proposes a $16 billion stimulus package. Congress defeated it. In both cases, the economy continued to grow. In Reagan's case it took off. In Clinton's case it continued to grow. What lessons, if any, Senator, do you draw from that?

SEN. PAUL WELLSTONE (D), MINNESOTA: I thought you were going to get J.C. and I to talk about the hard liquor ads. You might find -- on NBC you might find a lot of agreement here...

ELDER: Is that...

WELLSTONE: ...get us on another time.

ELDER: Is that a dodge to my well-crafted -- is that a dodge to my well-crafted question, Senator?

WELLSTONE: No, not at all. I never dodge questions.

I think that the -- I think that what happened with the Reagan administration was a kind of economics of -- of illusion, because it was borrowed money and borrowed time. And then what happened is, we ended building up -- we ended up with record deficits and record debt.

And that was what President Clinton coming in and the Reconciliation Bill that was passed in 1993 was all about, which was to do away with those deficits and we finally had an economy that was really moving forward.

So I think the lesson to be learned is number one, you need to be fiscally responsible. You can't erode the revenue base.

And number two, when you are in a recession -- and we are in a recession -- every economist will tell you you want to do some investment and some spending.

You want to make it short term. You want to make sure it has an immediate effect and the best way to do that is get the money into the hands of consumers, the kind of people -- low- and moderate-income working people -- who will go out and buy a washing machine because they need a washing machine.

Don't have Robin-Hood-in-reverse tax cuts going to multinational corporations and the wealthiest people who aren't going to consume in the first place. And it doesn't make any sense. ELDER: If you, Senator, didn't take peoples' money in the first place -- send it to Washington -- you wouldn't have to send it back to them with that kind of erosion. Why not just not take people's money in the first place and propose deep, substantial tax cuts?

WELLSTONE: Well, actually I -- last time I checked, I was a senator for Minnesota. And on the whole question of what you do with resources, it has -- it has to do with our country as being a community. That's one thing I think we have learned. We all need each other as never before, and the definition of community is we do certain things together.

We make sure there's Social Security for people who are over 65 and need the additional income. We make sure we make a commitment to education, we make a commitment to health care, we make sure that we -- we do well for people in our country. That's what it's about.

And right now, certainly, a priority should be to help people who are flat on their back, out of work, no fault of their own, unemployment benefits running out, terrified, no health care coverage.

I've met with so many people in living rooms in Minnesota that are going through that. You absolutely have to provide the help to people that are in this situation. That's what we are about.

PRESS: OK. Congressman J.C. Watts, part of the problem getting an economic stimulus package passed is the House Republicans still insist on getting rid of the corporate alternative minimum tax. So I would like to ask you -- everybody watching this program tonight has to pay taxes and they do pay their taxes.

I want to ask you why is it good for America for General Motors, for IBM, for Microsoft, to have to pay no taxes at all?

REP. J.C. WATTS (R), OKLAHOMA: Well, Bill, the objective, as you know -- or I would think you know -- is to get money back into the hands of the people that create jobs.

And as Senator Wellstone said, get the hands back -- get the money back in the hands of the American people so they can go out and spend it and buy food and clothes and help with the children's education or buy appliances -- whatever they might need in their household.

On the AMT front, we've got -- over the last two months we've lost about 700,000 jobs. It is important that we do things to create jobs and to sustain the jobs of those people who are today working. And the AMT allowing, you know, small business or any business, allowing them to keep more of their money to expand or to sustain those jobs that they currently have, that is a good thing. That -- that's not a bad thing.

You know -- you know, Bill, every time I'm on this show we usually have a chance to talk about taxes. And -- and I wonder why is it you think that it will break your neck if you support giving people some of their money back. PRESS: Now, Congressman, my philosophy is you give the money to the needy, and not to the greedy. OK. That's the -- that's the difference between us.

WATTS: Well, Bill, let me tell you something.

PRESS: You know, here's the ...

WATTS: The needy -- let me tell you.

PRESS: Yeah. The needy is not IBM, Congressman.

WATTS: Jim -- Jim Trafficant -- Jim Trafficant, Democrat from Ohio, made a very good point. And I can relate to this when he said -- he said, my father worked -- Jim Trafficant said his father worked for 47 years, and he said "not one time did my father ever work for a poor man." There has to be somebody risking their capital in order for jobs to be created.

PRESS: Congressman, you know what?

WATTS: For security, for health benefits, for unemployment benefits. Somebody has to risk their capital in order for that to happen.

PRESS: Wait a minute, Congressman. You know as well as I that doing away with this tax, it does not require IBM or GM to invest that in new jobs. It does not require them to invest that in building any new buildings, creating any new jobs. They can use that for executive bonuses.

And I want you to listen, please, to minority leader Dick Gephardt, who says better than I what's wrong with your theory, what's always been wrong with your theory and what's wrong with your theory today. Here's Dick Gephardt.


REP. RICHARD GEPHARDT (D-MO), MINORITY LEADER: Republicans don't usually change their colors. They -- they like giving money to the wealthiest corporations and the wealthiest individuals and hoping it will trickle down. The problem with trickle down is that it takes about 50 years to trickle down.


PRESS: How long are we going to wait?

WATTS: Well, you know, Bill, I tell you, Mr. Gephardt -- those corporations in his district that create jobs-- you know, you can look at his track record and I suspect he's done something over the years -- probably this year -- to try to help them sustain the jobs that they have or even to create more jobs.

But let me correct a myth. We've got health care benefits. That's on the table. We've got unemployment benefits on the table. But we also think you have to do something to grow the economy, to create economic security, to get people back to work. I don't believe that, you know, 52 weeks of unemployment, that that's as good as a job.

PRESS: Let's get -- let's Senator Wellstone back here.

ELDER: Senator Wellstone, my colleague asserted we all pay taxes. Well, in fact we all don't pay taxes. At least, not federal income taxes.

The bottom half pay about five percent, the top half pay 95 percent of the federal income taxes. The top one percent, Senator, pays 30 percent of the federal income taxes while getting 15 percent of our nation's income.

By definition, any tax cut will, quote, "benefit the rich." Aren't you really saying, Senator, that you're just opposed to any tax cut, any time, anywhere?

WELLSTONE: No, actually, no I'm not. You know I'm a -- it wouldn't surprise you. I'm a -- really a Keynesian economist and I think that when you have a recession you better be -- you better be making sure people can consume and you better be making the investments.

It's a matter of who gets the tax cuts. That's what Bill is saying. And you want -- what you really want to do -- and I think probably about 95 percent of the economists in the country would agree -- that you want to target the tax cuts on working families, low- and income-moderate families, no-income-tax families which will actually consume.

That's what we need right now. Those are the kinds of tax cuts you want. You don't want to reach back to the mid-1980s and give a billion to General Electric or a billion to IBM or a billion to this multinational corporation or that multinational corporation.

It doesn't make any economic sense. Where I disagree with J.C. is -- health care is on the table but frankly, what's been proposed right now on the Republican side is not going help people afford the health care coverage for themselves and their loved ones. And certainly we've got to make sure that we reform the unemployment insurance program so that we get the benefits to families. That's what it's about.

PRESS: Congressman, let me ask you to respond to that, because what the Republicans are saying is that an individual can get a tax cut and then go out and fight all the insurance companies, all by himself or herself, to try to get insurance coverage rather than continuing to get health care from their employer under the COBRA plan. What's wrong with the Democratic plan?

WATTS: Well, Bill, I -- I hadn't seen a plan. We've had an economic security package that we passed back in October, and probably are going to pass another one on the House side sometime in the next 24 hours unless some agreement is -- is had within that time. But in the package, you can't -- Bill, I guess the difference between you and me is that you think that government is a panacea, that it's a cure-all.

I think government has a role to play. I think we can provide some type of health care benefit or some assistance in trying to, you know, have health care during this difficult time.

But you know, the government can't do it all. There's a role for the private sector and the public sector that all shouldn't be put on the side of the public sector.

PRESS: All right. We're out of time here. But not only that, we want to let you two guys get back to work so you can get this package passed before the end of the week.

WATTS: We'll -- we'll stay and talk about the liquor if you want us to.

PRESS: Congressman J.C. Watts, Senator Paul Wellstone. Thanks, guys. Thanks very much for joining us.

WATTS: Thank you all.

PRESS: We'll take our break now. And of course, when we come back, yes, this issue is in a bottle. Are you ready for liquor ads on television?



ANNOUNCER: So if you drink, do it responsibly. Select a designated driver. We want everyone to have a safe, happy holiday. Select a designated driver.


ELDER: Welcome back to CROSSFIRE. I'm Larry Elder. That Smirnoff liquor ad ran last week during "Saturday Night Live," and by airing it NBC broke a 50-year ban on network hard liquor advertising.

The American Medical Association and others are protesting NBC's decision. The ads, they fear, will glamorize drinking, influence young people, and lead to more drunk driving fatalities.

Joining us to debate the ads, George Hacker, director of the Alcohol Policies Project at the Center for Science in the Public Interest, and Peter Cressy, president and CEO of the Distilled Spirits Council of the United States. Bill.

PRESS: All right. Now, Mr. Cressy, just to be honest with everybody that we will have a designated driver ad, those are the kind of ads you're required to run for four months before you can start running the real stuff. So I'd like everybody to see what one of the real stuff ads would be. Here's one for Jack Daniels. A little bit of one, anyhow. Let's see it.


ANNOUNCER: We've always made Jack Daniels whiskey the way Jack Daniel himself prescribed back in 1866. And just one sip will tell you why we always will. Jack Daniels Tennessee Whiskey.


PRESS: So, just to be honest, you're running these commercials on television not to get people to drink responsibly but to sell more booze.

PETER CRESSY, PRESIDENT AND CEO, DISTILLED SPIRITS COUNCIL OF THE UNITED STATES: Well, in fact, we do want people to drink responsibly and we have taken that approach for over 60 years with our Code of Good Practice. Of course, we do want to be on -- on national network television. We...

PRESS: Because?

CRESSY: We need to compete straight up with beer and wine.

PRESS: Yes or no. You're trying to sell more hard liquor. Otherwise you wouldn't be spending the money on the ads, right? I mean, let's just be honest.

CRESSY: We -- we wish to sell more spirits.

PRESS: OK. Now. My question to you then is, alcohol we know is the number one killer of young people in this country. Six-and-a-half times more young people die from alcohol than all other illicit drugs combined. Why is it a good idea to be on television encouraging young people -- or anybody -- to be drinking this stuff?

CRESSY: Well, we are pretty responsible so obviously we disagree with your assumption we are going to in any way focus on youth. That's exactly wrong.

85 percent adult audience is the requirement. We've never focused on youth. We've never used -- used cartoon characters. We are going to be using models over the age of 30. We are not going to be using athletes. It's not the intention to focus on youth.

And of course young people get in trouble with alcohol, and we fight that very hard. We've put over $120 million over the last 10 years into the Century Council, which is -- had think by most people's opinion -- the leading organization to fight underage drinking and drunk driving.

ELDER: Mr. Hacker, when you were looking at the ads you were shaking your head in disdain. However, television already allows them to advertise beer and -- beer and wine. But you can't advertise hard liquor.

You can wrap your car around a tree having had two or three shots of merlot just as you can having had two or three shots of Jack Daniels. Why is one OK and not the other?

GEORGE HACKER, DIRECTOR, ALCOHOL POLICIES PROJECT: Well, that's not the point at all. First of all, I was shaking my head because I thought that the ad that you showed for Jack Daniels was not -- was not really what the public should expect from ads related to liquor. Maybe not this year, but next year.

But it would have been better to show an ad for Smirnoff Ice, which just happens to be a malt beverage, but it is -- has a liquor name...

ELDER: You didn't answer my question. Beer and wine OK, hard liquor not OK. Why?

HACKER: We don't suggest for a minute that beer ads are OK.

ELDER: So you want those banned as well?

HACKER: Well, what we would at least expect if NBC were -- were as responsible as it says it is in setting certain guidelines for these new liquor ads that it would have imposed similar restrictions on beer ads for the last several decades, and it hasn't. This is all about money. This is about greed. This is about paying Katie Couric's $100 million salary.

ELDER: I know free enterprise is -- is horrible and anathema and you really hate that and wish we were a Communist country, but we're not. Once again, why is beer and -- and wine OK, but hard liquor not OK? It's...

HACKER: We have never said -- we have never said that beer and wine advertising on television...

ELDER: So you want them banned as well?

HACKER: No. We would like to see restrictions on those as well. But it's not an answer to make things worse. More advertising -- adding liquor advertising to already the $770 million of beer advertising on radio and television isn't the answer.

PRESS: Peter Cressy, if I can, George mentioned the guidelines. OK. Here they are. These are the -- two pages of guidelines, 19 of them concerning running these ads. OK. I want to give you number five. Number five: On-camera consumption may not be represented.

OK. So like, you never see a cereal ad without kids eating the cereal, but you're going to have drinking ads -- booze ads -- without people being allowed to drink the booze. Doesn't that indicate there's something wrong with it?

CRESSY: Well, you don't have people consuming beer on beer ads. You don't have people consuming wine on wine ads. We are not going to have them with spirits ads either. And I think the point of that, Bill, when you get down to it, is we want to be absolutely certain if a child happens to be watching that show, we don't want them to automatically make the assumption they can go and drink that. We're being sensible.

PRESS: Well, how dumb do you think kids are? If you're advertising liquor, they know you drink it. So you don't have anybody -- you don't show anybody drinking it. Do you think you're kidding anybody? They know what it's for. They see it around the house. They -- you know, they know what grownups do. And they're watching television 24 hours a day.

CRESSY: Well, you've certainly make the right point. Kids are most affected by what their parents do. They're not very much affected by advertisements on television.

PRESS: What?

CRESSY: If you look at the...

PRESS: What kids do you know?

CRESSY: Look at the 1990 report that came out of HHS. Look at the 19 -- look at the 2000 report that came out of HHS. Look at the surgeon general's remarks in 1993.

This is all about affecting brand choice and the segment that you -- that you want to get. Now, if you don't believe it, let's look at the actual facts. And the amount of consumption...

PRESS: I -- I agree with...


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Nobody believes that.

ELDER: But the parent is the person responsible to inculcate the appropriate values so young people know how to deal with this kind of thing. But -- but George, let me ask you this.

You oppose hard liquor ads on the grounds that young people could get addicted, there could be traffic fatalities. You banned cigarette ads. 400,000 people die every year because of cigarette smoking. The AMA tells us...

HACKER: And we've made tremendous progress on...

ELDER: ...that obesity causes about as many deaths as do cigarettes. What is the logical reason that we can't advertise cigarettes but we can advertise Hostess Ding Dongs, Wendy's hamburgers, and salty chips?

HACKER: You know, I'm not going defend those products. But...

ELDER: Would you like those banned as well?

HACKER: Alcohol -- alcohol and tobacco are addictive products.

ELDER: So is eating.

HACKER: No, it's not. It doesn't...

ELDER: People overeat. People are over obese. (UNINTELLIGIBLE) problem in this country.

HACKER:'s not a brain altering...

ELDER: Obviously there's a problem with obesity...

HACKER: There's an absolute problem and I wouldn't deny that for a minute. But alcohol and tobacco are different. They are addictive products that cause massive harm in this society and they shouldn't be as promoted as widely as they are. And adding to the mix of beer and wine ads that we already have today these new liquor ads is a terrible mistake. It's shameful. It's greed over reason.

CRESSY: George, I think we should at least make the point though -- and I'm sure you would agree -- if we go back to 1980...

PRESS: Quickly.

CRESSY: The same amount of alcohol was consumed then as today, despite the fact that the population has expanded dramatically. So in fact we are not getting advertising to increase consumption.

PRESS: Just about a...

HACKER: There are a lot of other reasons for that, including the 21 drinking age.

PRESS: Guys. Gentlemen, thank you very, very much. We will revisit it, I'm sure.

ELDER: No more Ding Dongs.

PRESS: Mr. Cressy, Mr. Hackey -- Hacker, thank you very much for being with us. We'll take a break. And when we come back, we are almost at year's end. So how are the key members of the Bush administration shaping up? We will grade them A to F when we come back.


PRESS: Larry, as you know, a group of conservatives met and decided to give out grades to President Bush and his -- key members of the administration on how well they're doing so far.

We decided, folks, that we were not going to let them be the only ones to give out grades.

So here we go. Let's start with President Bush. Conservatives gave him a B. I actually give him a B minus. Larry, I think he's done a pretty good job on the war but a lousy job on everything else. I give him a generous B minus. How about that.

ELDER: A generous B. Well, I'm giving him a B as well. I give him on A on the war. I think he's -- he's prosecuted the war superbly. I wish he would also prosecute a war domestically, a war against the welfare state. Privatize Social Security, medical accounts for Medicare, and get the government out of the business of welfare. Let people help people.

There was a tremendous outpouring of affection after September 11 and I think that shows -- shows American people care about other people.

Ashcroft. The conservatives give him a B. You give him an F...

PRESS: I'll -- I'll give my marks here.

ELDER: I'm sorry. And I give him a B.

PRESS: Because?

ELDER: Well, I don't like some of the loosening of the wire taps and the monitoring of mosques, synagogues and things like that that he's done. Some of his own agents have complained about it. I don't like the war on drugs. But I do think that he has put his hand around this -- this terrorist cell problem that we've got in this country.

PRESS: Well, I think for the same reasons I give him a flat-out F. I think he flunks completely. My suggestion to J. Edgar Ashcroft is to go and read the Constitution. And we'd all be better off.

Dick Cheney is next. Conservatives give him A minus. I actually give Dick Cheney a B plus. He's the grown up of this administration. He's very credible. I would give him A if he would only get out of his silly bunker.

ELDER: Well, I give him an A because he has, I think, articulated the principles of the managers as brilliantly as anybody. He hasn't been around.

I assume that he has been consulted on the war on terrorism more than anything else and that's why I give him an A, because his job I don't think is domestic. His job is foreign.

PRESS: OK. Next. Ridge. Tom ridge.

ELDER: Tom Ridge. The conservatives give him C plus. He is the secretary of homeland security. I give him incomplete, because I just -- I still am a little concerned about the anthrax stuff, the advice and then the non-advice and all that back and forth.

PRESS: I actually give him a D. Maybe I should have given an incomplete. He certainly took an impossible job...

ELDER: You mean I've influenced your grade?

PRESS: ...but he's doing a lousy job of an impossible job. ELDER: I've influenced you at least to that degree.

PRESS: Don't -- don't take it to the bank.

ELDER: Unbelievable. Incredible.

PRESS: Norm Mineta. There's a guy with a very tough job. Conservatives give him a C. I would give Norm Mineta a B plus. He's got a tough job, but I think he's getting on top of it.

ELDER: Well, my...

PRESS: With no help from the airlines.

ELDER: My problem with the secretary is he was on "60 Minutes" a few weeks ago. He was asked whether or not if he saw five Middle Eastern-looking people getting ready to board an airplane praying in Arabic, would that cause you to have an extra scrutiny on those five people. And he said no. A little too PC for me.

PRESS: Well, I have to tell you. Donald Rumsfeld, Paul O'Neill and Christie Whitman are lucky. We don't have any more time. We'll give them their grades in the mail.


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

ELDER: I'm Larry Elder. Join us again tomorrow night for another edition of...






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