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CNN CROSSFIRE

Interview With Bob Barr, Interview With Sheila Jackson Lee

Aired January 14, 2002 - 19:30   ET

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


THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
BILL PRESS, CO-HOST: Tonight, are Democrats too quick to point fingers in the Enron case? Are they partially to blame? And a new study says divorce is not so bad for kids. Does that mean divorce is OK?

ANNOUNCER: Live from Washington, CROSSFIRE. On the left, Bill Press. On the right, Tucker Carlson. In the crossfire, in Atlanta, Georgia, Republican Congressman Bob Barr. And in Houston, Texas, Democratic Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee. And later, former president of the National Organization for Women, Patricia Ireland, and child advocate Donna Rice Hughes, author of "Kids Online."

PRESS: Good evening. It's Monday. It's CROSSFIRE and week number two of headlines and blame game over Enron. A lot of fingers pointed at accounting firm Arthur Andersen. And an internal memo dated October 12, 2001, just when Enron was starting to sink, ordering destruction of Enron related documents. Fingers still pointed, of course, at the Bush White House. Who knew what when? But now, fingers also pointed at some top Democrats, who received campaign contributions from Enron and may have been in a position to stop the giant company from bleeding to death, but did not.

And that's our first debate. Is Enron just as big a political problem for Democrats as it is for Republicans -- Tucker.

TUCKER CARLSON, CO-HOST: Congresswoman, thanks for joining us. You get points for boldness, because it takes a lot of chutzpah for you to come on this show and attack the Bush administration's ties to Enron, when you yourself, took $38,000 from Enron. So the story is, as Enron is shafting its employees and its shareholders, you are feeding at the Enron trough.

My question, one, aren't you part of the problem? And two, when are you going to return the money?

REP. SHEILA JACKSON LEE (D), TEXAS: Well, Tucker, first of all, I think you're misguided in your pointed analysis. I am about the people of the United States of America and the people of Houston, Texas. First, let me say, happy new year to all of you all.

I was the first congressperson to rise up and call the Department of Labor and establish a rapid response team for the constituents down here. I'm giving the election cycle of this term monies back to the Enron employment fund. As you well know, the monies that were raised were over a 11 year period. I happen to represent Enron here in Houston. We have many good corporate citizens here in Houston. Enron happened to have been one.

But at the same time, we realized that the campaign finance laws, which I voted for campaign finance reform for many years, does not disallow congresspeople from raising monies and does not disallow them for representing their constituents in the fight to find the truth, as long as they're not receiving a pecuniary interest, of which I did not.

CARLSON: OK.

LEE: I am supporting the overall oversight hearings that we must have to get to the truth and find a way to give relief to those hundreds of thousands of retirees and employees who've lost their life savings.

And you can commit, at least put your money on this, that I will be doing my job in Congress in trying to get to the truth.

CARLSON: So you're returning all $38,000, which incidentally, is more than the average household makes a year. Good for you...

LEE: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) election cycle dollars of this term, because...

CARLSON: Oh, so not all, not all $38,000.

LEE: ...as you well know, there were no illegalities in those monies being raised before.

CARLSON: Well, that's -- and that's exactly my point. We'll get to that in a moment. Let me just apologize for being slightly unfair, because you weren't the only one in the House who took a ton of money from Enron. In fact, out of the top five people, recipients of Enron money in the House, three are Democrats. Three out of five. Ken Benson at $42,750, you at $38,000, and Martin Frost at $24,250.

Strikes me, if there's a scandal having to do with Enron and politics and the place where they intersect, it points to the Democratic party, doesn't it?

LEE: Well, you know, first of all, I think you're misguided in your interpretation. We -- this is not a political issue. I'm agreeing with Senator Lieberman. We've got to get to the bottom of this.

And as you well know, hearings are being held -- or will be held in the House and the Senate. The Senate being run by Democrats and the House being run by Republicans.

Absolutely not. I think there's no reason to recuse ourselves. I don't think it's a Democratic problem. It's not a Republican problem, but I will say this. We've got to follow the trail of information to wherever it leads. The White House, the Department of Justice. We've got to find out why Arthur Andersen did what they did. And we've got to find it out through the United States Congress and any place else we can.

You know why? We've got to make sure this does not happen again. And we've got to be part of the solution and not part of the problem.

PRESS: Well, Congressman Bob Barr, we also have to follow the money. In fact, all the money, not just pick out a little bit to a few members of Congress. And when you look at all the money which Enron has given to politicians of both parties since 1989, it totals up to $5.8 million, congressman.

According to the Senate for Responsive Politics, they track this kind of stuff, 73 percent went to Republicans. A mere 27 percent went to Democrats. And when you add that to the fact that you have all these former consultants, and attorneys, and buddies, and board members of Enron working in the Bush White House, I mean some Democrats may be affected here, but isn't this really a lopsided political embarrassment for Republicans and for George Bush, congressman?

REP. BOB BARR (R), GEORGIA: I think it's going to be a lopsided embarrassment for you and the others that are trying to pin this on the Bush administration.

The fact of the matter is, Bill, if you're into the blame game, which I have never been as you know, but you have to start with Bill Clinton. As a matter of fact, he did some favors for Enron several years ago. And immediately thereafter, Enron turned around and donated half a million dollars to the DNC.

And you have $38,000, maybe just pocket change to you, but my good friend and colleague, and she's right. There's nothing necessarily illegal about taking large campaign contributions over a period of time. But that is a lot of money.

And when you add it all up to current members of Congress, it does raise some questions, but clearly the bottom line is here that something very, very wrong has happened. This does not pass the smell test. We ought to have a thorough, complete and comprehensive investigation. And that is precisely what the Bush administration is doing. What else would you have them do?

PRESS: Well, I have to -- I hate to disappoint you, Bob Barr.

BARR: No, you don't.

PRESS: No, not even you are going to be able to impeach Bill Clinton the second time around. So I think we have to focus here on President Bush. And I found it very strange the president's response the first time he was asked about his relationship with Mr. Lay, the chairman of Enron. And here's how he responded to reporters, congressman. Let's listen to it, please.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: First of all, Ken Lay is a supporter. And I got to know Ken Lay when he was head of what they call the Governor's Business Council in Texas. He was a supporter of Ann Richards in my run in 1994.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

PRESS: Now congressman, the truth is, the president has known Ken Lay since way back in the '80's. Ken Lay was the head of the finance committee or a big member of the finance committee for his father when he ran for president. During that 1994 campaign, the president, this president just talked about Ken Lay actually gave Mr. Bush $146,000. Why was the president trying to make people believe that he couldn't even pick Ken Lay out of a police line up?

BARR: Well, because he wasn't in a police line up for one thing. The fact is that Ken Lay is a fat cat by any stretch of the imagination. He was put on this panel in Texas by former Democrat Governor, Ms. Richards out there. He greased the palms of all sorts of different people and different organizations.

Now we're finding out that he may very well have done so with monies that he was not entitled to, if these were gained by some sort of fraud. And here again, what we have to do is precisely what President Bush is doing and what Bill Clinton did not do in the scandal rocked his administration, and that is to put good people in charge of them, follow the money trail, follow the law, and prosecute wherever necessary.

LEE: You know, it's interesting to listen to my good friend, Bob Barr, because we are certainly veterans of the ongoing saga of the impeachment proceedings, Whitewater proceedings. And of course, the last song and dance of investigating Bill Clinton's pardons.

The Republicans never stopped going down any false, ridiculous trail that they could find as long as they were investigating William Jefferson Clinton. Here's my position. We don't need to politicize this. This is a sinking ship and all the rats are jumping off. I'm not going to be one of those rats. I represent Houston. I represent Enron.

CARLSON: Now wait a second. I'm sorry, but congresswoman, I'm just going to have to stop you right there. You absolutely are at the forefront of politicizing.

LEE: The point is that we must investigate...

CARLSON: Let me ask you a question.

LEE: We must investigate...

CARLSON: That's right.

LEE: ...wherever the trail leads. And that means there are Senate committees. There are House committees...

CARLSON: OK.

LEE: ...doing the legitimate responsibility of investigating and the politics of... CARLSON: OK, well, let me ask you this question.

LEE: ...campaign contributions has nothing to do with whether or not we've had a terrible financial collapse in a company, including the unfortunate acts and incidents regarding finances. It has nothing to do with campaign contributions.

CARLSON: Well I can see why -- it has nothing to go do with the $38,000 you received. How about this as something?

LEE: No, it is not.

CARLSON: How about this? Hold on, let me ask you...

LEE: Because I'm out if you're going to do my job.

CARLSON: I'd like to ask you a question now, congresswoman.

LEE: Yes, sir?

CARLSON: How about adding this to the list of possible conflicts that need to be investigated? I don't know if you've seen Slate, the online magazine recently, but there's a fascinating piece by Tim Novak, a chatterbox piece, that says that on November 8, Robert Rubin, you may remember him as the former Clinton Treasury Secretary, called an Undersecretary at Treasury and suggested, "Hey, why don't we downgrade Enron's debt rating?"

Why did he do this? Well, complicated, but he works for a company that is one of Enron's biggest creditors. Now this strikes me as worth investigating, no?

LEE: Well, you know, what though? One of the reasons why Senator Mcconnell, I believe it is, opposes campaign finance reform, is because he believes...

BARR: What does that have to do with this issue? You were asked a very specific question. Why don't you answer it?

LEE: Excuse me, because he believes that it violates the First Amendment. The First Amendment still exists. And anybody has a right to call their governmental representatives. The question is whether anything improper was done by Secretary Rubin's call, and whether anything improper was done by the Undersecretary. Everyone has a right to call from the most...

CARLSON: You've got to be kidding. This is not somebody calling the congressman.

LEE: ... from the citizen whose given nothing has a right to call the United States government. So you find the trail the trail. If there was anything wrong, the congressional committee will find it out.

PRESS: Almost out of time, members. But Congressman Bob Barr, I want to come back to your question. But you say, what is campaign finance reform have to do with it? Isn't the fact that campaign finance reform has everything to do with it?

LEE: Absolutely.

PRESS: Because this proves on both sides of the aisle, I admit, that money buys access and access buys favors. And doesn't this argue for campaign finance reform, like the Shays-Meehan bill, which you Bob Barr have always opposed?

BARR: And I will for the same reasons that Sheila Jackson Lee would like to divert attention from her possible role in all of this. And that is because it violates the First Amendment.

The fact is, whether you have campaign finance reform or you don't, if contributions are given for an illegal purpose such as a favor in return, it is illegal. It always ought to be illegal. It has been illegal. I prosecuted it when I was U.S. Attorney. We have to follow the money trail here.

CARLSON: Well, that raises a really interesting question, Sheila Jackson. You know, I want to ask you this. Now Attorney General John Ashcroft has recused himself from this because he took money, like you, from Enron. Wondering why don't do the same? I mean, why aren't you speaking out on the Enron matter when you've received money from Enron? Isn't that a conflict?

LEE: Well, you're absolutely right. He did recuse himself. And there is a giant distinction.

And let me just say to my good friend Bob Barr, and we've worked together on legislation, there is no woe here with Sheila Jackson Lee. I took and received campaign donations under the existing laws. And as you have indicated, I am a strong advocate of campaign finance reform. I voted for it every time, signed the discharge petition, hoped it passed.

But let me tell you the distinction between the Attorney General, who is in the administration having the responsibility of guiding and dictating singly the investigation of Enron all the way up to the White House. As a member of the United States Congress, I singly am representing the constituents of the 18th Congressional District. To recuse myself would of course limit them, inhibit them from having the representation...

CARLSON: OK.

LEE: ...on the basis that I have done nothing wrong.

CARLSON: Unfortunately...

LEE: And can fully participate in any kind of investigation with the open scrutiny of the American people to do so.

CARLSON: We're going to have to limit and inhibit this segment. Sadly, so much more to talk about. Sheila Jackson Lee, Bob Barr, hope you'll both come back again to debate Enron.

LEE: Thank you.

CARLSON: Thank you.

And when we return, time for our man bites dog segment. Divorce good for children? A new study suggests so. If you can believe it, we'll debate it. We'll be right back on CROSSFIRE.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CARLSON: Welcome back to CROSSFIRE. Divorce, for children it's a tragedy, a traumatic event, likely to leave life long scars. That's the prevailing view anyway. Backed up in recent years by several high profile studies.

But is it accurate? A new survey suggests not. A soon to be released study of 1400 divorced families finds that in most cases, the kids turn out fine. The critics of the study, and there are many, respond that most cases isn't good enough. Some even suggest that the study itself promotes divorce.

Stand together for the children. Should you? That's our debate tonight.

Joining us, Patricia Ireland, former president of the National Organization for Women, who says you shouldn't. And child advocate and author Donna Rice Hughes who says you should -- Bill Press.

PRESS: Donna Rice Hughes, I'm going to go way out on the limb tonight, say something extremely controversial. I'm all for marriage. I know that surprises you.

DONNA RICE HUGHES, CHILD ADVOCATE: Good.

PRESS: And a good marriage, a wonderful marriage myself for a long time. Want to keep it going. And Miss Hetherington, who authored this study that Tucker talked about, is also pro-marriage.

HUGHES: Yes.

PRESS: But let me quote something she says in her report. "When the marriage isn't working," let's look at it. She says, "if children are in marriages with who parents who are contemptuous with each other, not even with overt conflict, but just sneering and subtle put-downs, that erode the partner self-esteem, that is very bad for kids." If the marriage isn't working, isn't better for the kids to get out of it?

HUGHES: I think if the marriage isn't working, the responsible partners in the marriage, the responsible adults, should do what they can to make the marriage work.

PRESS: OK.

HUGHES: To make it fruitful, to make it a nurturing and loving environment. And there are lots of resources where that can happen.

PRESS: OK.

HUGHES: I think obviously when there are cases of abuse and those types of instances, it's probably better to take the kids, you know, take the kids and run. But so many times, it's a matter of selflessness as opposed to selfishness. And so oftentimes if parents could just be selfless and focus on what's best for the children and do what they can, give 100 percent.

You know, I think marriage is dying because we forget the marriage is about dying and dying to self.

PRESS: Well, first of all, we're not talking about abusive situations.

HUGHES: Yes.

PRESS: I think we all agree here, abusive situations, that's another story.

HUGHES: Right.

PRESS: But we're talking about -- so I certainly agree with you. If it's not working, you got to work at it. It ain't easy.

HUGHES: It's not.

PRESS: I know. Right? So you go to counseling. You do whatever. You make your best efforts, but still, sometimes it just doesn't work. These are two people who probably shouldn't have gotten married in the first place.

HUGHES: Probably.

PRESS: It's never going to work. They're just always at each other. That's all the kids hear. That's all the kids see. In that case is my question to you, isn't it better to move on and have a new beginning and give these kids maybe a better life?

HUGHES: I think even the author of the study said that even in the best case scenario, divorce is brutally painful. It's a death. And a friend of mine who just got a divorce said it's a living death. It's always going to be difficult.

PRESS: She also says it's a new beginning.

HUGHES: And it can be. And I have many friends and family members who have been divorced, who have had hope after marriage. I happen to be married to a man who was divorced. And I hope that, you know, we provide a nurturing environment for my stepchildren.

And there is hope. But I would encourage all parents to work on that marriage. And to take marriage more seriously to young people before they ever decide to enter in it. And I think divorce should be much more difficult.

CARLSON: Amen. PRESS: Amen.

CARLSON: Donna Rice Hughes for Congress.

OK, Patricia Ireland, is divorce bad for kids? It's just -- it's a reflection of how decadent we are that we would even ask the question? It's horrifying for kids. It's a nightmare. It's a tragedy. And I think the study, if you read it carefully, makes that point, though, of course, it's billed as something quite different.

Let me read one factoid from the study. 25 percent of children from divorced families have serious social, emotional or psychological problems. Now if 25 percent of children from divorced family got tuberculosis, we would say holy smokes, do whatever you can not to get divorced if you have children? Well, we don't seem to care.

PATRICIA IRELAND, FMR. PRESIDENT NATIONAL ORGANIZATION FOR WOMEN: Well, Tucker, you know that statistic does not prove that the divorce caused those problems. In fact, you might turn it around and say troubled children who are emotionally and psychologically problems perhaps put more stress on a marriage and are part of the reason the marriage came apart.

CARLSON: So it's the kids' fault?

IRELAND: Well, I'm just saying that you don't prove anything.

CARLSON: Well, you seem to be saying it could be the children's fault that their parents are getting divorced?

IRELAND: I'm saying to you that if a couple is yelling and screaming, or there's these stony silences where the kids are tippy toeing around, waiting. They never know when the next explosion is coming. And kids, depending on their age, may decide that they're at fault or that they ought to be able to do something about it, that's not good for them. That's going to warp them.

CARLSON: Oh, obvious.

IRELAND: If you're divorced and you surround yourself with all kinds of support from family and friends, or in the cases that I'm dealing with now, I'm lobbying here in Washington for non-profits and for cities, there's a lot of programs out there, as Donna said, that can help you.

CARLSON: Yes, but I mean, wait come on. Look, it's depressing when parents snap at one another. And it's upsetting for children to see that. But I'll tell you what's a lot more upsetting, and that is the effects of divorce. There have been endless studies on this. Children of divorced parents are poor, more likely to be sexually abused, more likely to drop out of school, more likely to get pregnant, have earlier sexual contacts, use drugs more often. I mean, these are provable facts.

IRELAND: They're not. They're correlations. CARLSON: Against a control group.

IRELAND: There's a logical flaw in your thinking there. But that aside, the truth of the matter is, if we had money for good schools with teachers who are well paid, if we had adequate healthcare, if we had the work that I'm doing for corporations on equal employment and family friendly workplaces, all of those can go into providing a support for families, whether they're intact or divorced, that can mean the kids who are very resilient can come out very well. PRESS: But Donna, you know, most of the conclusions or the feeling that divorce is always bad for kids comes from this 1989 study of Judith, what's her name, Wallerstein, right?

HUGHES: Wallerstein.

PRESS: Who says that children never get over divorce. Now you know, that is absolutely, patently untrue. I mean, my generation, most of my friends were from families for whatever reason, stayed together. My kids, most of their friends, are from divorced...

HUGHES: Right.

PRESS: ...you know, people have been separated, remarried, whatever. And they're great kids. I mean, they got over it. You see that all the time. So how can you just say that divorce is always wrong? It's not true, is it?

HUGHES: But I think they don't always get over it. Just because they have successful marriages of their own and become -- you know, they contribute to society, have good jobs and that sort of thing, doesn't mean that there's not emotional damage.

And both this study and the study that you just went back to 1989 study, both found that the two critical issues that the kids suffer from are trust and safety. And what I see in divorced families, especially with young children, is that they love both parents. And they have to leave one and go to the other. In fact, so many of these children have more frequent flier miles than the parents do.

(CROSSTALK)

PRESS: I've got one question though.

CARLSON: Which is? Let's do it quickly.

PRESS: Isn't the truth, whether divorced or married, the truth is what's most important for a kid is a competent, caring, loving parent?

HUGHES: Preferably two parents that are together. But if they're divorced, then two parents that are apart that will at least communicate with each other, try to co-parent even in their separate lives, and not let that child -- not triangle that child into their problems. CARLSON: OK, this is all -- I mean, at the root level, this study is about politics. Just want to read you one quote. This author goes on about, you know, "single women manage to provide support, sensitivity, they're heroes, they deserve apprise."

This is a political statement. And the statement is women are strong enough to go it alone. It's about the self empowerment of women over the need of children. Isn't that right?

IRELAND: Well, the reality is that we have divorce. This study didn't cause it. The reality is that those children never get over divorce in the same way that you never get over living in a family where there's chaos and trauma and fighting going on.

There are certain things that you carry with you and you either learn to overcome them or you don't. And that's where, as Bill said, a consistent, loving adult and it could be in your family, it could be, you know, in your broader community, can make a huge difference. If we had more counseling in schools, for instance, instead of pulling the social workers out of the schools.

PRESS: We have a time problem. And I'm sorry to have to interrupt...

IRELAND: That's all right.

PRESS: Because I love the debate and would love to continue it. Donna Rice Hughes, thanks so much for coming.

HUGHES: Thank you.

PRESS: Patricia Ireland, good to have you back.

And that's not all, folks. When we come back, our quote of the day. Did you hear? I'm sure you know by now. Last night the president had a serious accident in the White House. He passed out. He collapsed on the floor. But he lived to talk about it. And he wins our quote of the day. You'll hear what he had to say next on CROSSFIRE.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CARLSON: Welcome back to CROSSFIRE. The president of the United States has returned, recovering from his perilous encounter with snack food, pretzels to be precise. He is chastened. He has learned a lesson. And he explained it today. And that is our quote of the day. Here's President Bush recounting what he learned from his encounter with pretzels.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BUSH: Mother, I should have listened to you. Always chew your pretzels before you swallow.

(END VIDEO CLIP) CARLSON: Now see, if that isn't an aphorism to live by, Bill, a little folk wisdom that we can all take with us. And it reveals this guy has a good sense of humor. He's cool.

PRESS: It is a good sense of humor, but there's a more important lesson to be learned here, Tucker. Watching sports on television is dangerous to your health. That's why I don't watch sports.

CARLSON: At least in a prone position with salty snack foods nearby. And there he is, the results.

PRESS: We're glad the president's OK. And we also are grateful to the White House dogs for doing their duty. They were there.

CARLSON: Well, they witnessed the entire event of lying on the couch with Barney and Spot, I don't know. It's hard to imagine Bill Clinton doing the same.

PRESS: Don't watch sports, Tucker, that's the moral of the story.

CARLSON: Trust me, Bill, there's no chance of that.

PRESS: Now, OK, now, speaking of snacks, I would like to talk to somebody else who got -- about somebody who else got the munchies. We learned over the weekend, in fact, that Prince Harry, he's the younger one, William's younger brother, he got in trouble. He admitted to his dad that he had been caught. He had been smoking pot and drinking beer with his buddies.

This is a headline in "The News of the World." Our quote of the day from England. Supposedly according to sources in the pub it's his favorite pick up line. "Do you want to come up to my palace for a drink?"

CARLSON: See now Bill...

PRESS: Not a bad line, Tucker.

CARLSON: It's a fantastic line. Weren't we just talking about the children of divorce and the difficult time they face? No actually, the headline here is 16-year-old boy drinks beer. I mean, there is no headline here. I have to say I'm not exactly sure who this guy is. Apparently he's royal in some way, but I feel sorry for him, because it's got to be horrifying to find your every pub crawl in the newspapers.

PRESS: But it certainly has -- will inspire a new movie, "Harry Pothead."

(CROSSTALK)

CARLSON: It'll certainly inspire all sorts of horrible puns. And that is the real tragedy behind it.

PRESS: Like it gives new meaning to the phrase, "His royal highness," indeed.

CARLSON: I'm afraid we're going to have to cut short the show before Bill inflicts more.

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

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

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