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Interview With Martin Frost; Interview With Tom Davis

Aired January 7, 2002 - 19:30   ET



GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: There is some talk about raising taxes. And that would be a disaster.

SEN. JOSEPH LIEBERMAN (D), CONNECTICUT: I don't think any of us want to have tax increases, but I do think we've got to put everything on the table.


ANNOUNCER: Tonight: Is it time to rethink the big Bush tax cut? And...


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's the Bank of America building. A plane just flew into it.


ANNOUNCER: ... after a 15 year old flies a plane into a Tampa building, is tighter security needed at small airports?

Live from Washington: CROSSFIRE. On the left, Bill Press. On the right, Robert Novak. In the CROSSFIRE, Virginia Congressman Tom Davis, chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee, and Congressman Martin Frost of Texas, chairman of the House Democratic Caucus. And later, former federal aviation administration attorney, Mike Pangia, and Peter Goelz, former managing director of the National Transportation Safety Board.

BILL PRESS, CO-HOST: It's Monday. It's CROSSFIRE -- welcome. All of that warm, fuzzy bipartisanship we waddled in after 9/11? Forget it. It's gone, buried in an avalanche of charges and countercharges over who did what to sink the economy and how to bounce back.

Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle fired the first shot, laying most of the blame on the big Bush tax cut. But President Bush fired back over the weekend, saying Democrats would raise taxes again over his dead body.

Democrats or Republicans -- whose got the best plan for getting the economy back on track? Two members of Congress here tonight to tackle that one. And later, after the crash of a small plane into a Tampa office building, is it time for tougher security on private aviation?

But first, that hot battle over tax cuts.

BOB NOVAK, CO-HOST: Congressman Frost...

PRESS: Bob Novak ...

NOVAK: Congressman Frost, let's see if we can figure this out. Senator Daschle, your leader, leader of the Democratic Party, says that the recession was made worse by tax cuts in the future. That they were anticipating in the future. But he didn't come out and say, well, let's repeal those future tax cuts. Are you ready to repeal them, or do you just want to demagog and say they're no good, but we're not going to get rid of them?

REP. MARTIN FROST (D), TEXAS: Oh, Bob, no one watching this show is going to pay any more taxes than they pay right now. The only question is whether people, like you and others, who earn more than $300,000 a year won't get some future tax cut a couple of years from now. That's all anybody is talking about.

NOVAK: And you want to get rid of those future tax cuts.

MARTIN: Well, the question is, do we want to...


NOVAK: Yes or no?

FROST: Do we pay for social security? Do we want to pay for the increase in defense that the administration is going to ask for that was in the paper today. I, for one, want to pay for the increase in defense, and I want to make sure that social security is funded.

PRESS: Just a quick question of you, Congressman Davis. I mean, the president is going around accusing Democrats of saying they want to raise taxes. I don't know, maybe I've been on a different planet. But can you name me one Democrat, in the House or the Senate, who is saying we're out to raise taxes?

REP. TOM DAVIS (R), VIRGINIA: Well, they want to repeal the existing law.

PRESS: Well, that's not raising taxes.


DAVIS: It absolutely raises taxes under the Tax Code. To me, that's a tax increase, because people right now -- people right now are expecting, and corporations are making decisions, based on the current Tax Code, which calls for tax decreases. They want to increase those...


PRESS: But you can't name one who is saying raise taxes.

DAVIS: Tom Daschle, for his part, said that he wants to repeal the tax cut.

FROST: It's an interesting point, Bob. I want to just talk about that for a minute.


FROST: Governor Bush of Florida did exactly what his brother is saying shouldn't be done. Governor Bush asked the Florida Legislature to delay the implementation of a tax cut, and on -- a future tax cut, and on December 17, the Florida -- he signed into law the delay of a future tax cut. Exactly what his brother...


NOVAK: I guess he is his father's son. But...


FROST: My point is, is President Bush going to campaign against his brother, because of this?

NOVAK: But you know, this is very tricky. I know you're a very smart politician, and you're not going to say...

FROST: Not as smart as Bob Novak.


NOVAK: You're not going to say you're going to repeal those future tax cuts. But you know? I want you to listen to one of the smartest Democratic political strategists I know, tremendous vote getter, came out for capital punishment when her party and the state of California was going on the tubes with certain people saying we couldn't have capital punishment. And now, let's listen to what Senator Feinstein has to say about this tax question.


SEN. DIANNE FEINSTEIN (D), CALIFORNIA: Twenty percent of the Democratic Senate Caucus voted for the tax cut. Over $1 trillion of that tax cut has yet not gone into effect. My view is that we ought to stay the course. The impact of the tax cut has not yet been felt.


NOVAK: I couldn't have said it better myself.

DAVIS: Forty-one House Democrats -- 41 House Democrats voted for the tax cut as well.

NOVAK: Yes. Now, the question -- the question... DAVIS: Almost a quarter...


NOVAK: ... the question I have for you is what do you answer Dianne Feinstein, a good, loyal, liberal Democrat when she says that the impact of the tax cut has not been felt yet?

FROST: Well, Bob, first of all, I agree with Joe Lieberman, who said last weekend that everything should be on the table. Look, we want to have bipartisanship.


NOVAK: Including tax increases.

FROST: No, there's no tax increases. No one is going to pay a penny more than they pay right now. The question is whether, sometime in the future, people making more than $300,000 will get an additional tax cut. Joe Lieberman said on this weekend that everything ought to be on the table. We ought to continue to have bipartisanship. We had good bipartisanship following September 11 in dealing with terrorism. We ought to continue to try and work on a bipartisan basis.

NOVAK: Now, if we could -- if I can try to get an answer out of you on this, Mr. Frost. American people all over the country are making plans for the future. A lot of people don't make as much as a congressman even. You know, they really don't. And they are making plans for college, for homebuilding. And they are thinking of the future, of the tax cuts oft in the future. Are you going to tell them they're not going to have that tax cut?

FROST: Bob, no one is suggesting delaying any tax cuts, other than for people who make more than $300,000 a yeah.


FROST: The people in my district, the average people, the hardworking people, are going to get their tax cut.

NOVAK: So...

FROST: There is no question about...




PRESS: I know you're ready to jump in. Let me -- let's do the congressman with a question. And I want to come back to Senator Lieberman that Congressman Frost was talking about. What he has said, over the weekend, is that everything ought to be on the table. As the president said today, we're in a war, we have had a national emergency we're dealing with, and we've got a recession. Given that, isn't it wrong of the president or anybody to take any possible solution off the table, including, maybe, delaying some of those future tax increases for the wealthiest people in the country?

DAVIS: You've got to remember where this is coming from. This is coming from people who didn't like the tax cuts to begin with. They resisted the tax cuts. They voted against them. They denounced them at the time. And now, they're just coming back for another round. I think we recognize that during a recession is the time you cut taxes. You don't increase taxes. And that's the one thing that I think ought to be off the table at this point.


FROST: Democrats were for cutting taxes for middle class people. We were the ones that came up with the rebate that was so successful, that was given back this summer.


DAVIS: The only tax cut...


FROST: No one is saying -- no one is saying that...


DAVIS: Daschle has already said these tax cuts are a part of it. That's exactly what he said.

FROST: Tom, the only thing anybody is saying is that we now have -- we don't have the size surpluses that we thought we were going to have, and we're not going to have enough money to pay for social security and Medicare. And so maybe sometime in the future, people at the upper income brackets shouldn't get a tax cut, so that we can pay for social security and Medicare.


DAVIS: That's because of the war on terrorism, which I think we all support...

FROST: And a recession.


DAVIS: ... which is a cyclical pattern, and to get out of that tax cuts...


PRESS: If I can just jump in...


PRESS: Here is the problem -- excuse me. Look, I thought that a tax cut in general was a bad tax cut, but you guys won that battle because you signed the tax cut. But since then, we've had 9/11. Since then, we've had the recession. Don't you think that you have to look at everything? You guys are locked into pre 9/11 thinking, and you have refused to consider that things have changed, Congressmen.

DAVIS: We're not locked into it. No, in fact, if you look at how Congress has responded...

PRESS: But if you take it off the table, you are.


DAVIS: But we have shifted our spending priorities significantly. I think that's very important.

NOVAK: All right, Martin Frost, I just want to get...

FROST: Sure.

NOVAK: ... I mean, we've had this wonderful little engagement, you and I. And you haven't said a thing. You haven't answered one of my questions.

FROST: I absolutely have answered your questions, Bob, and well...


NOVAK: I want to answer one question. I think I came close to an answer this last time. Are you saying that you would repeal the tax cuts? Repealing the tax cuts is a tax increase, the way I look at it. For people...


NOVAK: ... for people who have made -- who are, yes, making more than $300,00 a year.

FROST: Now...


NOVAK: No, just a minute. Just let me finish the question.

FROST: Sure.

NOVAK: ... who have made plans for investments, made plans for investment in their business. A lot of people you know who have now incorporated in small business over $300,000. That affects them. Are you going to say that you're going to tell them in the middle of this recession you cannot plan ahead for those tax cuts?

FROST: Bob, no one is talking about repealing anything. The question is whether you delay it for a year or two. There are very few people in my district who make over $300,000 a year.


FROST: Those folks -- those folks have already had the party. They have already -- they have had a very nice time in the last few years. They have gotten great tax relief. Now, we need to do something for the rest of the country.

PRESS: Here's what I find funny, Congressman, is that nobody really knows. Let's be honest. Nobody knows how we're going to dig our way out of this. But yet, the president has really drawn the line in the sand over the weekend, and you know, it sounded awfully familiar to me, and it sounded, I'm sure, familiar to you. Let's just remind the American people like father, like son -- here we go.




PRESS: And now, we go, of course, to president -- the present President Bush, echoing his father, if we may hear.


GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Not over my dead body will they raise your taxes.



FROST: Nobody is talking about raising taxes.

PRESS: No. Exactly. But...


PRESS: Whoa, whoa, whoa -- wait, wait, wait. Isn't...


DAVIS: ... spending cuts. Remember...


PRESS: Congressman...


PRESS: You guys are having a little private conversation here. But the question is, which I know you want to ignore, didn't he learn anything from his father? And isn't he committing suicide by saying right now, never, never, never, are there going to be any higher taxes under his administration? DAVIS: No, actually I think he's showing remarkable leadership at this point by saying we have an economic stimulus plan on the table. We have an energy plan on the table. We have a trade bill on the table, all stalled in the Senate. Let them take action on that before we come about repealing the tax cuts the American people need or are counting on at this time.

FROST: The American people are going to get their tax cuts. The question is whether Bob is going to get his tax cut.

PRESS: All of it.

NOVAK: Yes, well, I just want to say, you have John F. Kennedy in -- I was just reading the tapes of the Kennedy administration, and you know, he said -- he argued so formally in 1962 that all -- to get this economy moving, all Americans, including the richest, had to have across the board tax cuts. Kennedy was wrong, and Martin Frost is right. Is that correct?

FROST: No, the rich had done very, very well. When I came to Congress, the rich were in the 70 percent bracket, Bob, you may recall.


FROST: Then they went to a 50 percent bracket. Then they went to a 39 percent bracket. The rich -- the rich have done very, very well in recent years.

DAVIS: But they are becoming bankrupt at this point in terms of tactics and they're going back to the old class warfare arguments.


NOVAK: We'll going to have to -- thank you very, very much, Martin Frost.

FROST: Thank you.


NOVAK: Thank you, Tom Davis. We're going to take a break, and when we come back: Are unregulated small aircraft a menace to America? That's what we'll talk about.


NOVAK: Welcome back to CROSSFIRE. Early on Saturday evening, a 15-year-old honor student crashed a stolen small plane into a high rise in downtown Tampa. Charles Bishop died, but he is the only casualty and little damage was done. Police say he was no terrorist, though he did leave a suicide note expressing sympathy for Osama bin Laden.

Does this incident justify much tighter regulation of private aviation? We'll ask Peter Goelz, former managing director of the National Transportation Safety Board, and Michael Pangia, former chief file (ph) attorney of the FAA -- Bill Press.

PRESS: Mr. Pangia, I know we had talked about private aviation on this show right after 9/11. We haven't talked about it since until now for obvious reasons. And I just want to state the facts to you. A 15-year-old kid steals a private plane, takes off in it. He flies 100 feet over the runway of MacDill Air Force Base, which is the command center for the in Afghanistan, and he crashes that plane into the Bank of American building in downtown Tampa. I mean, just looking at the facts, doesn't that prove that in this rush toward greater security, post 9/11, we've left a great, big hole, which is private aviation, and we need a lot of tougher regulation there.

MIKE PANGIA, FLIGHT INSTRUCTOR: Well, this is the first event that I know about where private aviation from a private field has become a problem with security. Now, I -- this kid was taking flying lessons, so he had access to the airplane. He was given the keys, which is very, very usual when you're taking flying lessons, where you're told to go out, look at the airplane, make sure it's safe, you do your pre-flight, and wait for your instructor.

I started flying at 15 years old, had my pilot's license at 17 and my driver's license at 18. Somebody had to drive me to the airport to fly the plane. And so, it's not an aged distinctive difference here. It's a matter of this person having access to the airplane. And many people have access to airplanes, and we don't know that they may be dangerous. And it's very much like automobiles. There are more suicides and problems and reckless driving, especially with young drivers, than there was even thought of in airplanes.

PRESS: Well, let's take it one step at a time. I mean, you said you were 15 years old, and that, you know, that's fine. We're looking at -- we're looking at today. The fact is there are some 18,000 private airports around the country. There are no metal detectors, no search of luggage, no x-ray of luggage, no idea of who is getting on those planes, zero security at these airports. A lot of the time, there's not even anybody present at these airports, and anybody could just walk in and take off with one of these planes. And you tell me that they're secure enough?

PANGIA: Well, we've never had a problem. Now, this is an anomaly, and...


PRESS: ... this weekend?

PANGIA: Certainly, with extra security, with baggage and x-rays such as you are suggesting, have stopped this person from gaining access to the -- gaining access to the keys and committing suicide. If we follow on with saying that the government has to exercise more regulation, control and supervision of our daily activities, which this definitely suggest, I think would be -- I don't think would be good.

NOVAK: Mr. Goelz, unlike my dear friend, Bill Press, you live in the real world. And surely, surely you are not proposing metal detectors, armed guards, all kinds of restrictions and searching of private pilots at all these little airports. I don't know if Bill has ever been to them. I have been to many of them...

PRESS: I've been in a lot of them.

NOVAK: ... all around the country. Now, you surely are not proposing that, are you?

PETER GOELZ, FMR. NTSB MANAGING DIRECTOR: Well, I'm proposing that we shouldn't continue business as usual, and that the general aviation community is always reluctant to change. Remember, these are the guys who thought it was just fine for seven-year-old Jessica Duboff (ph) to fly across the country and try and set a new record that ended tragically in Cheyenne, Wyoming. So trying to get the GA community to embark on a post-September 11 change in how they do business is always an uphill struggle.

The answer is that a small plane like a 172 is probably not a very serious threat. But when you start talking about G3s and G4s, where you're talking about gross weights of 30,000 or 40,000 pounds, you're talking about a plane that can do a lot of damage. And right now, there are no requirements for somebody getting on that plane to be either searched or his baggage searched.

NOVAK: Now, you really didn't answer my question. I would like you to answer my question. Are you proposing that -- how many airports are there? How many...



NOVAK: Are you proposing that we have -- I mean, it's miserable -- I fly a lot. Bill flies a lot. It's miserable for the ordinary passenger. But can you imagine the expense and the problems of trying to put all of these requirements -- are you proposing that for all of these little airports around the country?

GOELZ: That's exactly not what I'm proposing. But what I am saying is that there needs to be an increase in security that is reasonable. How about checking on planes over 12,000 pounds? Who is getting on them, and what they're carrying? Right now in the middle of December, the group of the private aviation, general aviation, came out with a comprehensive plan. Do you know what step one was, Bob? It was, let's make sure that nobody steals our planes. What kind of security is that? If you're not doing that already, something happened on September 11, and I don't think it has gotten through yet.

PANGIA: I think we need to address the problem at hand, because -- you know, because of security and because we're all afraid. We're letting the government have more and more responsibilities, more security, more supervision, more regulations, and we have to be careful about reacting rather than exercising reason.

What was the problem here? And what can we do to prevent this type of problem? Is more security at an airport, or more screening, or things of that sort -- such as we're talking about here -- going to prevent somebody who has permissible access to an airplane because he is learning how to fly from taking that airplane and doing something because he has a deranged mind?

PRESS: Well, look...

PANGIA: You had -- that's the problem.

PRESS: On 9/11, all of the private airports in this country were closed down. They are closed down for three months, sir. Now, they're back in the air...


PRESS: ... and not...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Three months...


PRESS: ... and not one, not one knew FAA regulation has been issued for security at private airports -- over 200,000 planes.


PRESS: As Mr. Goelz points out they're not all Piper (UNITELLIGIBLE). We're talking about G3s, G4s.


PRESS: I know a guy who owns a 727 that he flies. You, representing this, you just want to be left alone while the rest of the public at the commercial airports...



PANGIA: Certainly not.


PANGIA: And I'm not saying -- I'm not saying that there need not to be security with these large airplanes that could do damage. We're talking about most of general aviation. We're talking about small airplanes. What this thing has proven is that something half of the weight of an automobile really...

PRESS: But what if that plane had been loaded with explosives?

PANGIA: Well, suppose a truck has been loaded with explosives?


PRESS: No, no, what if that plane had been loaded with explosives? It could have done a hell of a lot of damage, correct? PANGIA: If somebody got on the airplane and loaded with explosives, just like...

PRESS: Well, what would prevent him from doing so?

PANGIA: What prevents an automobile? Therefore, should we have regulations?



PRESS: You admit there was nothing to prevent that guy from loading that plane with explosives and flying it into that building.


NOVAK: That's the point -- that's the point he's making. Mr. Goelz, I want you to listen to a flight instructor, John King...

GOELZ: That's not the point.

NOVAK: ... not the John King from CNN, a different John King, an air instructor. Let's listen to him.


JOHN KING, FLIGHT INSTRUCTOR: He was a student who I understand he was pre-flighting the airplane, getting ready to fly the airplane. So you really wouldn't -- couldn't deny this student access to the aircraft under those circumstances. You know, people misuse all sorts of things. They misuse trucks. They misuse cars. They misuse airplanes. And that doesn't mean in our society we want to quit using these things, just because they can be misused.


NOVAK: See, the silliness of the...

GOELZ: That's the point.

NOVAK: That's the point. The silliness of the argument about saying, gee, you can load one of these little planes with explosives, the fact of the matter is most of the terrorists damage has been done through vans, through trucks, through cars. You can't -- are you proposing in this country that we have some kind of a security check for everybody's car that you can't -- and when you rent a car, that you have to be shaken down? I mean, where do we end with this kind of paranoia?

GOELZ: Well, trying to compare a car to a plane, even a light plane is not a fair analysis.


GOELZ: Because you can restrict cars from access to critical areas. Once somebody gets into a plane, there's no stopping them, as we saw in Florida. They scrambled the jets not quick enough. And so, the answer is, sure, you don't want to go overboard, but there are reasonable things that we can do to increase the security of GA, and particularly in the charter and the fractional jet areas.

NOVAK: Mr. Goelz, you don't...

GOELZ: You can do it.

NOVAK: ... you don't seem to really be worried much about individual freedom, do you?

GOELZ: I worry about it all of the time. But I think that I believe in what the president said to me on September 11, we're at war, and we've got to start doing things differently. And I don't think the general aviation community has really taken that to heart.

PRESS: OK, gentlemen -- Mr. Pangia, thank you so much for joining us. We are out of time. Mr. Goelz, thank you. We didn't solve it, but we had a good debate on it. Thank you so much for joining us.

And when we come back, big question: How many governors is too many? Would you believe one state can't get enough of them? We'll tell you all about it when we come back.


NOVAK: Would you believe what they're doing in New Jersey, attempting to outdo Argentina, which just had five presidents in two weeks? In Jersey, Republican Donald D. Francesco was acting governor, because he is senate -- state senate president. But when his senate term ends tomorrow, Republican John Bennett and Democrat Richard Cody each will be governor for three-and-a-half days, because the senate is evenly divided. And then, the elected governor of New Jersey, Democrat James McGreevey will finally be inaugurated on January 15. Count them -- four governors in eight days. Bill, you're an advocate of big government. Is four governors enough for you?

PRESS: No. I want more. Could you repeat that again for me, Bob?

NOVAK: Never, never.


PRESS: I want to -- all of those steps. I might have missed a couple.

NOVAK: I'd like to do it in Spanish.

PRESS: New Jersey is, of course, the Garden State, Bob. Now, we know what they're growing in the Garden State -- governors. You know, it's almost as silly as letting the Supreme Court select a president, don't you think? NOVAK: Well, I have -- aren't you -- you're a really (UNINTELLIGIBLE). You can't get over it. But you know, Bill, the (UNINTELLIGIBLE) for a good New Jersey. But most of the politicians in New Jersey were for sale, and that may not be true. But can you imagine what's going to happen in these eight days with these guys in there that are queen for a day?

PRESS: And with all of those parties and with all those hands out. But, Bob, what can you expect from a state where the biggest event of the year is the Miss America contest? What can you expect from a state where, you know, the showplace is the Atlantic City Boardwalk? Have you been to Atlantic City lately?

NOVAK: You know, what they really need in New Jersey, and I think you and I can agree on this...


NOVAK: ... is if Steve Forbes had run for governor and had been elected, they really have to worry about this. We have tax cuts, flea markets...

PRESS: No, Bob, they have a great governor. Jim McGreevey has just got -- there is a gap to getting there. Here is what gets me. They knew there was going to be a gap. Why didn't they just pass a little law and fix it?

NOVAK: Well, figure it out. They have two less governors and less fun.


PRESS: They'll have all the parties. All right, folks, from the left, happy New Jersey, I'm Bill Press tonight for CROSSFIRE. And don't forget, in fact, you folks from New Jersey, if you want to get back at us, here is a chance. We'd love to hear your e-mail and all e-mail from everybody else in the rest of the country. Just send them to us at

From the right, I'm Robert Novak. Join us again next time for another edition of CROSSFIRE.




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