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2001: The Political Year in Review

Aired December 31, 2001 - 19:29   ET


TUCKER CARLSON, CO-HOST (voice over): It was the best of times and the worst of times. Tonight, a look back at the year in politics.

ANNOUNCER: "CROSSFIRE" -- On the left, Bill Press. On the right, Tucker Carlson. In the "CROSSFIRE," in New York Democratic Congressman Charles Rangel and in Phoenix Republican Congressman J.D. Hayworth.

BILL PRESS, CO-HOST: Good evening. Welcome to the last "CROSSFIRE" show of 2001, a year most people are in a hurry to put in back of them. And a year that had a lot of political ups and downs, depending, of course, on your point of view.

George Bush took the oath of office, while Al Gore, who got more votes, looked on, but he hasn't been heard much from since. Jim Jeffords changed parties and gave the Senate a new leader. Gary Condit showed he'd learned nothing about telling the truth from Bill Clinton. Michael Bloomberg spent $69 million for the New York Mayor's office, but he'll still never fill Rudy Giuliani's shoes. And yes, Bill Clinton is still trying to explain why he pardoned Mark Rich.

Indeed a crazy year in politics. We'll get to as much of it as we can. But first, the one event that 2001 will always be remembered for, September 11, a day of horror that shocked, angered, motivated and united us all, but for how long and to what end?

Tucker Carlson?


Mr. Rangel, thanks for joining us.

REP CHARLES RANGEL (D), NEW YORK: Good to be with you. Happy new year.

CARLSON: Happy new year.

One thing we definitely learned in 2001 is that most Americans are grateful that George W. Bush is president. Rick Burke of "The New York Times," your hometown newspaper said out about a month after the war -- or after 9/11 to prove that scientifically. And he did. Doubtless you read the piece. Let me just read one line from it.

"Not one of the more than 15 prominent Gore loyalists he interviewed said their candidate would have done a better job after September 11." Will you admit now that the year's coming to a close that you too are grateful that George W. Bush is president in the middle of a crisis like this?

RANGEL: No, I'm glad that George Bush measured up and has done an outstanding job as the commander-in-chief, but I don't think it does us any good to try to see whether Gore would have done a better job. We thank God for our blessings during the time of crisis when the nation needed a leader that George Bush did a great job.

PRESS: Congressman J.D. Hayworth, let me jump in there and happy new year to you.

REP J.D. HAYWORTH (R), ARIZONA: Thank you, Bill.

PRESS: So President Bush has already said that the year 2002 is going to be what he calls a war year. Doesn't that mean, Congressman, that the White House knows that all of his domestic policies, economic policies have failed? And the only way that George Bush can survive politically is to keep the war going? Keep bombing country after country?

HAYWORTH: Bill, in the wake of September 11, I would hope that even you at this point in time would reflect back on that day and understand we should first react, not as Republicans or Democrats, but as Americans. To put it in perspective, the most brutal, the most despicable act of aggression against honest, innocent citizens in our country's history carried out by dastardly people who have the ways and means across the world internationally to continue to propagate terror.

The President issues the notion that this could be another war year, not for partisan advantage, but for the reality of the world as it exists today. And that is a very momentous and a somewhat sobering thought on this New Year's Eve.

RANGEL: Now that's not the first time, J.D., that you've avoided a question by running up the flag and anyone who doesn't salute it is unpatriotic.

HAYWORTH: I did not say anyone was unpatriotic, Charley.

RANGEL: Well, you inferred.

HAYWORTH: No, I didn't.

RANGEL: ...that he raises the -- you said "even you should know." The fact is that George W. Bush has done a fantastic job as it relates to moving the country toward unity, as it relates to this horrible attack. But Social Security, Medicare, prescription drugs, education, Patients Bill of Rights, this is the security and the strength of a great country. and we just can't just bypass it.

HAYWORTH: And I think you would agree with me that to make sure we can have economic security, Social Security, educational security, all of that stems from national security. We have been reminded, I don't have to remind you, Charley, it's there in your hometown. You've seen it with your own eyes, the wanton attack. We saw it down the mall in Washington, the attack on the Pentagon. First things first, we must secure ourselves and our posterity with a strong national security policy.

RANGEL: But you can't get away from the fact that a handful of Republicans believe that every problem can be resolved by the substantial tax cuts for the wealthy and for the corporations. And it doesn't work that way. You can't fight a war and cut taxes and provide services. It doesn't add up.

HAYWORTH: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) deception. I'll let -- I know the other two guys are supposed to host the show.

CARLSON: Now Mr. Rangel, you used a phrase a moment ago, that I hadn't heard in a long time, Al Gore. Apparently ran for president just last year, was reputed to be this foreign policy expert, and then he grew a beard and went into hiding. Actually, he's giving speeches for tens of thousands of dollars.

I'm wondering where is he at this time of national crisis. If he has so much to share with the country, why isn't he sharing it? Why isn't he running a non-profit or helping out the administration in the prosecution of this war? Why is he just repositioning and making money?

RANGEL: Al Gore's undercover. Here's wearing a beard. He's in disguise. You wouldn't know if you spoke with him yesterday. I think I saw him on the subway going uptown, but you just don't know the real Al Gore. He's changed himself so many times, you just don't know which one we're getting this year.

PRESS: You know, Charley, maybe he's in the bunker with Dick Cheney. You know, they're both in hiding. I don't know.

RANGEL: Yes, I understand Dick Cheney's having a coming out party.

PRESS: Congressman Hayworth, today "The Washington Post" announces that the -- we have moved the Army, replacing the Marines into Kandahar at the base, and that they're going to be there for a long occupation of Afghanistan. Of course during the campaign last year, George Bush said we should not have occupied troops in Kosovo and Bosnia. He's going to bring them home. He also said we should have nothing to do with nation-building.

Doesn't today's announcement mean that, in fact, Clinton was right all along? Bush was wrong all along? And Bush is now doing exactly what Bill Clinton did in Bosnia and Kosovo?

HAYWORTH: No, there's one other part of the equation you were silent about, Bill. And that is the fact that we have to actively prosecute an international war on terror. The Marines are being pulled out. You're seeing a change here, not in the notion of peacekeeping and having our military as little more than social workers in khaki. No, you're having a situation with occupation because there are still remnants of the Taliban and al Qaeda in what is still an unstable...

PRESS: Whoa, J.D., wait a minute. Wait a minute. Wait, wait, wait.

HAYWORTH: And you're also in a situation, where you have to prosecute the war internationally. The Marines are used as a first strike force in that regard.

PRESS: Wait. There are still remnants of hostility and ugliness in Bosnia and Kosovo. And that's what the U.S. forces, in addition to other forces around the world, are doing there. I mean, what is the difference? This is -- look, I'm all for it. But won't you admit that Clinton was right and Bush was wrong?

HAYWORTH: No, I won't admit that because it's not true. Because the fact quite simply is, Bill Clinton, time after time, had a chance to actively prosecute a war on terror, but he was happier to have people simply occupy in the role of peacekeeper or social worker.

CARLSON: And Mr. Rangel -- I am so glad you brought that up, J.D. Hayworth, because actually, Charley, I want to you answer this. In 1996, according to "The Washington Post," Osama bin Laden was offered to the United States by Sudan. And then President Clinton decided that there wasn't, and this is an exact quote, "enough evidence to try him in New York."

I'm not blaming the events of 9/11 on the former president, but will you admit that it would have been helpful if President Clinton had taken Osama bin Laden into custody in 1996?

RANGEL: If I assumed that your facts were correct, I would. Where do you...

CARLSON: They admit it. I mean, members of the former administration admit that's true. RANGEL: I have not seen any evidence at all that President Clinton had the opportunity to bring bin Laden to trial. You don't have it. I don't have it. It makes for...

CARLSON: Actually, I do I have it. And they've admitted that it's true.

RANGEL: You don't.

CARLSON: There have been three "Washington Post" stories on it. 1996, they offered him the United States to Saudi Arabia.

PRESS: They offered to Saudi Arabia...

CARLSON: And to the United States.

PRESS: The facts are straight. He was offered to Saudi Arabia. Saudi Arabia turned it down. That was before the bombing of the U.S. embassies in Africa.

CARLSON: You can keep shouting if you like. PRESS: But there was no evidence against Osama bin Laden at that time.

CARLSON: The fact is the former National Security adviser, Sandy Berger, admitted on this network that there was not enough evidence to prosecute him in a civilian court in New York. So they didn't take him.

RANGEL: What should we have done? Shot him?

CARLSON: No, we should take him into custody on, you know, charges to be determined. He's Osama bin Laden. He's responsible -- he declared war on the United States. He had killed Americans. Come on.

PRESS: Not at that time, Tucker. It was before the bombing of the embassy in Africa.

RANGEL: This is a terrible thing to do after the fact to decide what you would have done. You know, a lot of things may have been done differently if you knew that he was going to plan this horrible event on 9/11. But we didn't know it then and we probably don't even know it now.

CARLSON: Well, in fact we do, but we'll have to -- well, it's been a huge year not only for some.

RANGEL: You know what you have to do, Tuck, is just get over all of this bin Laden thinking that his assassination is going to end the crisis that our country and freedom loving countries are going through.

CARLSON: Well, perhaps apprehending him earlier might have prevented it in the first place.

RANGEL: He's just one of these nuts. And you can't just resolve this problem saying it's evil against good.

CARLSON: Well I think -- if we'd gotten him five years ago, it would have been helpful.

HAYWORTH: But you have to have a strong national defense. And we've learned that lesson again, despite eight years of wandering in the wilderness, that now we must rebuild our national security apparatus and our national defense.

CARLSON: That is exactly right. And with that, we're going to have to move on to Gary Condit. It's been a big year for him, too and for many other players in national politics. We'll get to that when we return on CROSSFIRE. We'll be right back.


CARLSON: Welcome back to CROSSFIRE. Everything changed in 2001, very much, including politics. The Senate turned Democratic. Rudy Giuliani became the hero. Al Gore disappeared. And Gary Condit went from obscurity to living metaphor and back again. What does it all mean and what will it mean for 2002? That's our debate tonight.

Joining us, two of the surest prognosticators in politics, Congressman Charley Rangel, a Democrat from New York and J.D. Hayworth, a Republican from Arizona. And newly back from vacation, tan, rested and ready, CNN is proud to reintroduce to America, Bill Press.


PRESS: And here I am. Tan, rested and ready for Congressman J.D. Hayworth. Congressman, getting to all things political this past year. You started off the year with some good news. Your Republicans were able to steal the election from the guy who got more votes than the other guy.

HAYWORTH: Here's a New Year's resolution. Why don't you quit your whining, huh? Let's start with this New Year's resolution.

CARLSON: That's the spirit, J.D.

HAYWORTH: Back from vacation, time out on the whining.

PRESS: I'll just quit the whining when you admit that your guy got fewer votes than the other guy did and it was selected not elected, but the ends, J.D.

HAYWORTH: No, no, let me introduce you to the Constitution, something called the electoral college.

PRESS: Yes, but you never believed in it before.

HAYWORTH: That's not true.

PRESS: But let's go on now. But the year ended with some bad news, Congressman, in that Dick Armey resigned and everybody sees the inevitable ascension of Tom Delay to the post of Majority Leader. Tom Delay, who represents the worst and the meanest and the ugliest side of the Republican party. My simple question is, are you going to commit suicide by electing Tom as your leader?

HAYWORTH: Did you clean out some barns or just add to the pollution in the barns in northern California?

PRESS: Just answer the question, Congressman.

HAYWORTH: What kind of problem -- that has to be just typical of the stuff we hear in Washington. Anyone who's a committed conservative is somehow evil and mean and terrible. And you folks on the left continue to make all those charges and do all that name calling.

The fact is you'll have to admit that Tom Delay has been one of the great effective legislators and whips of our time with a narrow majority, real victories for President Bush in terms of tax relief for all Americans, an educational plan that holds folks in the classroom accountable, and looks for real results, and summoning the forces we needed on a bipartisan basis, in the wake of the attacks September 11.

PRESS: I take that as a yes.

HAYWORTH: We have a fine leader.

PRESS: I take that as a yes, suicide. Tucker?

HAYWORTH: We will build our majority.

CARLSON: Amen. Mr. Rangel, let me set the scene for you post 9/11. An already ailing economy thumped by those attacks. The airline industry, the hotel industry hurt. Policemen, firemen dead, rescue workers dead. America looks to Congress for help, a stimulus package. In comes Tom Daschle, Democratic head of the Senate. I want to play you a tape of what he proposed in the wake of 9/11. Here is Tom Daschle answer to our ailing economy. Here he is.


SEN TOM DASCHLE (D), MAJORITY LEADER: The bison industry is probably in its worst set of economic circumstances in the last two to three decades.


CARLSON: Terrorists hit America. The Senate bails out the bison industry. Is this the most vulgar display of pork barrel grabbing you have ever seen in your entire career in Congress, Mr. Rangel?

RANGEL: No, I think it's a terrible thing the way you spliced into your commentary, the way that you did. The truth of the matter is that the Congress did respond, both the House and the Senate with a $40 billion package for the President to respond in a way that he did. And true, we needed a stimulus to society, but a handful of Republicans in the House decided that instead of giving a stimulus to the society, they gave the stimulus to the rich and the corporations. After a $1.3 trillion cut.

CARLSON: And the bison industry, that was not a Republican saying that. That was the head of the Senate.

RANGEL: What disrupted the stimulus talk, and I was one of the six members, was not bisons. It was the Republicans refusal to provide for unemployment compensation, healthcare for the workers.

HAYWORTH: That's not true.


HAYWORTH: That's not true, Charley, and you know it.

RANGEL: Holding the workers hostage, while they tried to get $250 billion further tax cut. And anyone will tell you, both sides of the aisle, that that's exactly what broke up this stimulus conference. HAYWORTH: That's not true at all. What's broken it up, and it's sad because, Charley, we understand honest disagreements, but let's not get too delightful and clever in our deception here. The fact is we had a balanced program. We came back with yet another package some 50 days later. Even taking into account the complaints and the constructive suggestions of centrist Democrats.

We had a balanced plan, expanding unemployment benefits, and more importantly, opening healthcare insurance in a way that would help Americans who might not have the Cobra plan, since so many small businesses don't have it, to actually give people an opportunity for health insurance. And Tom Daschle said no in the Senate.

RANGEL: Now let me ask you this. You know so much. You and I sit on the committee that has jurisdiction of unemployment compensation. And we have jurisdiction over Medicare. And we sit on the tax writing committee. This bill that you're talking about, did it come through our committee? The answer is no. You guys go in the back room, make up your bills, and bring them to the floor.

HAYWORTH: That's not true.

RANGEL: And then we're supposed to vote for them.

HAYWORTH: You know what happens in this whole process. What happened was the Senate and Mr. Daschle, soft-spoken though he may be, decided that he would set up a super majority apparatus to side track all of this. And that is why...

RANGEL: Forget the Senate. You were talking about a House bill. I'm asking you, did that House bill ever come through our committee? The answer is no. It was a political bill, a Republican bill that was not meant to negotiate.

PRESS: All right, let a co-host get a word in here if I can, Congressman Hayworth. I'm coming back to the Republican party. Congratulations. You have a new national chairman, Mark Rosco, former governor of Montana. And interestingly enough, now a big Washington K Street lobbyist representing all these big corporations, including recently Enron.

Even Bob Novak this morning, conservative Bob Novak, J.D., in "The Washington Post" said this is a huge conflict of interest for the Republican Party, a bad appointment. Are you ready to suggest that the President made a mistake and ought to appoint somebody else?

HAYWORTH: I think Governor Rosco will be a very capable chairman of the Republican party. I think each party has a chance to determine who can best serve in its role as national chairman. And just as we see the Democratic party work hand in glove with the Trial Lawyers lobby and Boss John Sweeney...

PRESS: He's not on their payroll, J.D. He's not on their payroll.

HAYWORTH: I think he ought to go back and take a look at the -- at what we saw in '96 and the Freedom of Information Act and the court cases that showed that unions were basically running the Democrats campaign in '96 and in other years.

So I think there's a situation where Governor Rosco has to come to a realization that to be chairman, he'll probably have to be a full-time chairman, but I think he's an excellent choice for the job. And I think he'll make a great chairman for the Republican party.

CARLSON: Now, Mr. Rangel, to your credit I think, you have been one of the very few, perhaps the sole member of the free Gary Condit committee. You've said from the beginning, nobody's charged him with murder. He hasn't been charged with any crime at all. And you've essentially stuck up for him.

But virtually no one else in the Democratic party has. These members who stood by Clinton, even after all that's happened. He was, you know, stripped of his ability to argue before the Supreme Court, fined $25,000. Democrats stick by him. Poor Gary Condit, not charged with anything. Gephardt talks about taking away his committee assignments. Why did they abandon Gary Condit? I submit it's because he's powerless.

RANGEL: Well, yes, I was protecting the Constitution. And it will be Gary Condit's constituents that decide whether or not he's going to return to the Congress. Serving on committees is a privilege. It's not a constitutional right.

And so, when people lose confidence in someone to serve on the committee, that's one thing. But whether you serve in the Congress, it's not for TV commentators such as you, just to ridicule what the voters has done. My predecessor...

CARLSON: No, I'm ridiculing what members have done. They've abandoned him.


RANGEL: Clayton Powell was run out of Congress unlawfully. And the United States Supreme Court restored him to his seat.

CARLSON: Well that's an entirely different "CROSSFIRE." But my question remains to you, why have his fellow Democrats run away from Gary Condit, when he hasn't been charged with a crime? It's simply because he's unpopular and they're spineless. Is that not true?

RANGEL: Well, you're wrong. Nancy Pelosi is one of his strongest supporters. And she's the majority -- she's the minority whip. She soon will be the majority whip, next year when we take back the House.

HAYWORTH: OK, that's a prediction that's dead wrong, Charley.

PRESS: Congressman Hayworth, let's get off Gary Condit for a second. I just want to ask you about maybe some losers on the other side. George Bush's numbers have been sky high since 9/11, yet the Republican party lost Virginia, lost New Jersey, lost the Mayor of Houston, all three candidates that George Bush had endorsed. Aren't you on the losing streak and on your way to losing the House in 2002?

HAYWORTH: You wish, but that's not going to happen.

PRESS: I do.

HAYWORTH: We will add to our majority. And you're going to see us come back stronger, working with this president for national security, for tax relief for all Americans, and for economic vitality, which despite the best efforts of Tom Daschle, is coming in the spring.

PRESS: Do you share that optimism, Charley Rangel?

RANGEL: These Republicans have forgotten the 40 million people that don't have any health insurance.

HAYWORTH: You could have helped them, Charley, with the plan we had. You could have helped.

RANGEL: They've forgotten the tens of thousands of people that are unemployed. And these people will remember at the polls in November. We continue to reduce. And we will take back the House.

PRESS: OK, congressman, that's all the time we have for now. But we have a huge important announcement now for the first time in the history of CROSSFIRE, we have invited our two guests to stay around for our closing comments, because we're going to make our predictions, all four of us. You're going to hear those sure fire predictions for the year 2002 from both members of Congress from Tucker Carlson and me, when we come back right here on CROSSFIRE. Hang around for that.


PRESS: Well, it's New Year's Eve. We're not going to make any resolutions because we know we would break them, but we will make some predictions because we know we are always right. So let's look into the crystal ball for the year 2002. Our predictions starting with you, Congressman J.D. Hayworth out in Phoenix?

HAYWORTH: As I said before the break, despite the best efforts of Tom Daschle, the economy will rebound. One important caveat, we must prevent another September 11 type of attack on America. But with no attacks, the economy is coming back. Consumer confidence is up. And you can't keep pinning it down.

The other thing that we will see happen is Republicans will maintain and build the majority in the House of the Representatives and retake the Senate, precisely because of the tactics of Tom Daschle, who seems to revel in the very misery he continues to propagate for the people he claims to champion.

CARLSON: That is the spirit.

PRESS: We hope you're 50 percent right, J.D.

CARLSON: Mr. Rangel, if you would, read America its horoscope?

RANGEL: Well, the Democrats are going to take back the House. Americans are not going to forget how this deficit has been squandered with these horrendous tax cuts for the rich. Tom Delay is going to get a personality transplant and try to be someone that we can work with. And I am confident that we will find Dick Gephardt after this session, the next speaker of the House of Representatives.

PRESS: Speaker Dick Gephardt and the kinder and gentler Tom Delay. All right, well maybe, let's hope.

My prediction, Tucker, is this. I think that, you know, President Bush blinded by his poll numbers, is going to move this war into Iraq, bomb Baghdad next. It's going to backfire on him. He'll lose the support of the American people. He'll lose the support of the coalition. And his poll numbers will plummet, just like his father's did in the year 2002.

CARLSON: We will go into Iraq. It'll be popular and successful. But something else is going to happen in politics. All this talk about John Edwards, who's going to be the Democratic nominee, it's going to blow up. By the end of 2002, it'll be clear that John Kerry of Massachusetts, an old-fashioned liberal, hawkish on some defense issues, will be the front runner because Al Gore will have retired to teach at a community college somewhere in the American Hinterland, his first love.

And very quickly, my second prediction is you will fall in love with George W. Bush even deeper than you are now. You met with him earlier this month. And you admitted to me off the air that you were very charmed by him. And I think that's going to come into full flower. You're going to admit that you love the guy.

PRESS: You cannot be more wrong. The problem is that yes, in a person, he is a likable guy, but his policies are the worst. You've got to admit it. Charley?

CARLSON: First of all, the seeds are sown.

PRESS: Not at all. And by the way, if you're right about John Kerry, I would not be disappointed. I think he'd be a great candidate. That's it for us, folks.

Hey, Congressman J.D. Hayworth.

HAYWORTH: Thank you.

PRESS: Thanks so much for joining us.

RANGEL: Happy new year.

PRESS: Congressman Charles Rangel, thank you so much. Happy new year. The two of you, you're two of our favorite guests. So thanks for ending the year with us.

HAYWORTH: And we hope to be back some more. RANGEL: Happy new year, J.D.

HAYWORTH: Happy new year, Charley.

PRESS: Hope to see you often in 2002. Gentlemen, and that's it for us. From the left, I'm Bill Press. Good night for 2001. Happy new year. See you in new 2002.

CARLSON: And from the right, I'm Tucker Carlson. Join us again next year, almost everyday next year in fact, for more CROSSFIRE. We will see you then. Good night.




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