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Interview With Bob Shrum, Interview With Terry Jeffrey

Aired January 16, 2002 - 19:30   ET



BOB NOVAK, CO-HOST: Is Ted Kennedy still all right in President Bush's eyes after the senator's attack on his tax cut?

SEN. EDWARD KENNEDY (D), MASSACHUSETTS: We can and should postpone a portion of the future tax cut.

NOVAK: Has the unlikely friendship between Bush and Kennedy come to an end? Plus, the fire storm over the firefighters' statue.

ANNOUNCER: Live from Washington, CROSSFIRE. On the left, Bill Press. On the right, Robert Novak. In the crossfire, Democratic strategist Bob Shrum and "Human Events" editor Terry Jeffrey. And later in Pensacola, Florida, Reverend Al Sharpton, president of the National Action Network. And in New York, radio talk show host Mike Gallagher.


NOVAK: Good evening, welcome to CROSSFIRE. It was only last week that George W. Bush was touring the country with his new best friend in tow, Ted Kennedy. The conservative president showed the liberal baron of the Senate with praise, even affection. And to some extent, the senator reciprocated.

Well this may turn out to be shorter than a summer romance. Today at the National Press Club, Senator Kennedy called for rolling back the Bush tax cuts, calling them unneeded help for the rich, while health care needed by ordinary Americans is neglected.

Is this just a bump in the road in the Bush-Kennedy romance? Or from the first was their partnership on education strictly a one-night stand? Sitting in on the left tonight, former Clinton White House press secretary Dee Dee Myers, who is now a contributing editor of "Vanity Fair."

Welcome, Dee Dee.

DEE DEE MYERS, CO-HOST: Thank you, Bob.

NOVAK: Bob Shrum, I just want to give you a little montage of the goo that was coming from the president toward Senator Kennedy just last week in several stops across the country. Let's take a look at it.


GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: And a lot of my friends in Midland, Texas are going to be amazed when I stand up and say nice things about Ted Kennedy. He deserves it.

He is a fabulous United States senator. When he's against you, it's tough. When he's with you, it is a great experience.

Mr. Senator, not only are you a good senator, you're a good man.


NOVAK: Poor George W. Bush, lavishing all that. Isn't the answer that when you're dealing with anybody as liberal, as Democratic, as partisan and as treacherous as Teddy Kennedy, that stuff doesn't work?

BOB SHRUM, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Bob, to paraphrase President Bush, you're a good columnist and you're a good man, and you're wrong on almost all of these issues almost all the time. And you and I are good friends.

I suspect that Senator Kennedy and President Bush will work together on a number of bipartisan initiatives in the months ahead. In fact, if you've read the whole speech, there was a call for that. I think they'll work on early childhood development, which is something the First Lady cares very much about.

I think Senator Kennedy, Senator Edwards, have already worked very heard with Senator McCain for a bipartisan patients bill of rights. I think you'll be very unhappy, but I think they might get together and work on that. And I think there's room there.

But I -- you're mischaracterizing Senator Kennedy's position, not a shocking thing for you I guess, in your intro where you say he called for rolling back the Bush tax cuts. He didn't. He called for leaving in place $1 trillion of the tax cuts and for taking away future planned tax cuts for people like you in the top brackets, so that we can afford a prescription drug benefit, we can invest in education, and we can stop raiding Social Security.

NOVAK: Well, that's class warfare anyway, but I'm not...

SHRUM: No, no, it's a simple choice of priorities, Bob.

NOVAK: ..I'm surprised at that. See, you're not kidding me, Mr. Shrum, I can tell you, because this was all written November 13 by Bob Shrum and the ineffable James Carville. They wrote -- you wrote this battle plan, which the senator has just adopted, which is praise the president on the way he fights the war, but knock the hell out of him on everything else, including his tax program.

And you said, you and James said in this paper, that this was a moment of opportunity for Democrats. In this moment of crisis in America with Americans dead, you call this a moment of opportunity for Democrats. And Senator Kennedy was taken you up on it, right?

SHRUM: You have distorted almost every single thing, not only in Senator Kennedy's speech, but in that memo. First of all, Democrats rallied to the president long before anybody wrote that memo. There's unanimous support among Democrats for what the president is doing overseas. There has been enormous bipartisan progress in an area like education. Probably made Terry unhappy, because the president gave up on voucher, so that he could get to a good bipartisan bill on education.

And I think you could get a good bipartisan compromise on the tax cut. But let me tell you what the fundamental choice is here. George W. Bush promised the American people a prescription drug benefit for seniors during the campaign. You can't have that and the future planned tax cuts for the top 1 percent. You can't protect Social Security and have the future planned tax cuts...

NOVAK: You said it was a moment of opportunity.

SHRUM: It's a moment of opportunity to advance the national interest.


MYERS: Setting aside the natural affinity that exists between Senator Kennedy and George W. Bush, for example, they both spent their summers sailing on the New England Coast. They both went to Ivy League colleges, although Senator Kennedy at least went to law school in the south. Isn't this vintage George Bush? Isn't this what he does? Isn't this what he did as governor of Texas?

He would stake out ground on issues, work with the opposition, compromise like crazy, and then go out and sell, sell, sell the compromised package. Isn't this what drives you guys crazy about him?

TERRY JEFFREY, EDITOR, "HUMAN EVENTS": Well no, I think George Bush is an amiable guy. He's very charming. He's actually taking a page out of Ronald Reagan's book by being personally friendly with the biggest liberal in Massachusetts.

MYERS: But it's more than a personal friendship.

JEFFREY: I think he's going to move ahead with a conservative agenda, but I think Bob Shrum and Jim Carville have done Republicans a favor by resurrecting Teddy Kennedy as a foil for Republicans to run against. What I heard today was one big attack by Ted Kennedy on American freedom, particularly freedom of choice.

Essentially what he was saying to every American is that your pay check isn't yours. It's mine. I'm going to take it for the government. And I'm going to use it to create new, big government welfare programs, that's going to make one segment of the American population dependent on the government.

MYERS: Wait a minute. I think...

JEFFREY: And me, the arbiter of what goes on.

MYERS: Heard different speeches. I heard Ted Kennedy sending an olive branch to the White House about issues that both he and the president have pledged to make progress on. Early childhood education initiatives, HMO reform, prescription drugs for seniors which the president promised throughout his campaign. And as Bob Shrum so aptly pointed out, not by raising taxes, but by suspending temporarily, perhaps maybe forever, tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans.

JEFFREY: No, no. See, you guys can't even speak the English right. What he said is he wants to raise the tax rates as they now stand in law on Americans.

SHRUM: That's incorrect.


SHRUM: Terry, that's flatly incorrect. I don't think you've read the speech. I will pay you $1,000 if you could find that phrase anywhere. He didn't say that. What he clearly said was we should suspend future plan tax increases -- tax cuts after 2004.

JEFFREY: He wants to change the tax law.

SHRUM: Sure.

JEFFREY: To make taxes higher than they are today.


JEFFREY: That's a tax increase.

SHRUM: No, no, not a single person.

JEFFREY: That's a big lie.

SHRUM: Not a single person would pay higher taxes.

JEFFREY: Oh come on.

NOVAK: Bob, they're not playing tax...

MYERS: Come back to that point, Terry. Who -- name one single category of Americans who would pay more taxes under the Kennedy plan.

JEFFREY: Yes. Let me talk about an active fact. He wants to cancel the elimination of the estate tax for people who have businesses when they die, that are worth more than $4 million. So you're talking about every family in America that sweat and saved an entire life, to build a business that's worth $10 million. What Ted Kennedy is saying, I want to take that business away, sell it for government profit, and turn the assets over to...

SHRUM: I don't think you know how the estate tax operates.


SHRUM: I don't think you have the slightest idea how the estate tax operates.

JEFFREY: Sure, it means businesses, when a family member dies, have to sell it to give the money to the government.

SHRUM: No, no, no.

JEFFREY: Yes, it is.

SHRUM: They get a $4 million exemption. And then they have to pay a tax on the amount of money over that. And you know what? It's very, very small percentage of Americans.

MYERS: It's tiny.

SHRUM: And very high percentage of contributors to your foundation.

NOVAK: Wait a minute. I want to get back to Ted Kennedy for just a minute, you know. You have coached terrifically, Bob. And I congratulate you, because...

SHRUM: No, he's coached me for a long time.

NOVAK: He isn't shouting anymore. He's soft. He's got a nice elderly look about him, just like I do. And, but...

SHRUM: You have an elderly look?

NOVAK: Yes, that's what I meant. But Mr. Shrum, let's put this in perspective. You know in his -- I have never seen anybody more partisan in my long career in Washington, which pre-dates by five years his entrance into the Senate. Do you know that in his career, he has voted against the confirmation of 62 nominees, including the senior George Bush for Director of Central Intelligence?

Any controversial Republican nominee comes up, he votes against. This is one of the most partisan of all Democrats. And didn't he trap George Bush on this education bill?

SHRUM: Well, see, that -- Bob, we're getting to the heart of this. You really hated the compromise George Bush made in education.

NOVAK: Yes, I did. I certainly did.

SHRUM: And you don't want bipartisan compromise. You just want to keep pushing. That's what Senator Kennedy's asking for. Now let's go through Senator Kennedy's record. Working with Bob Dole to pass the Voting Rights Act. Working with the first President Bush and Senator Harkin to pass the Americans with Disabilities Act.

NOVAK: Any liberal bills. All liberal bills.

SHRUM: Working with Nancy, well, see, what is liberal about working with Nancy Kassenbaum, to say that if you change jobs, you shouldn't lose your health insurance.

JEFFREY: Ted Kennedy created HMOs, which everybody hates. Ted Kennedy created them. They're his baby. Now he wants to create a federal regulatory regime. So essentially what we'll have is we'll get one or two HMOS regulated by Ted Kennedy. It's a back door to Hillary care...

SHRUM: This is like, it is like, this is like dribble from the 19...

JEFFREY: It doesn't believe in individual liberty and freedom of choice.


MYERS: Well, wait, your president, Terry, agrees with Ted Kennedy on a lot of these issues. He's for -- at least that's what he said in the campaign, a prescription drug benefit for seniors. He's for a patients bill of rights of some kind. I mean, how...

JEFFREY: That's right. That George Bush believes in patients bill of rights, Dee Dee, that has medical savings accounts, which would liberate people from big business, and big insurance and let them have freedom of choice.

Let's go back to education.

SHRUM: How would you feel about...

JEFFREY: Ted Kennedy doesn't want educational choice. We're talking about a limousine liberal, trust fund baby, who went to the best schools in America because his parents were filthy rich. So it's inner city black kids, who are not going to give you....


SHRUM: Terry. Terry, you're not attacking Senator Kennedy. You're attacking President Bush, who agreed to that education bill.

JEFFREY: He agreed with a lot...


NOVAK: Before we finish, Mr. Shrum, I just want to tell you. You have made some very bad mistakes in your time, but this is the biggest you've ever made. I just want to show you a current CNN/USA Today Gallup poll on the tax cuts scheduled for future years. They're not scheduled. They are in law. They're in the law of the United States of America. You have to repeal them.

But the American people, 59 percent, after all the propaganda from the left and the media, want to either keep them as planned or have to take effect sooner. You've made a big blunder, haven't you?

SHRUM: You know what? I think what Dick Cheney's been doing in hiding is writing polling questions for CNN. Because that question asks, and I know, I read it very carefully It said "postponing future cuts in income tax rates." That's not Senator Kennedy's proposal. That's no one proposal.

It is, no, people thought they were talking about their income tax rates. Let me give it to you then. Ask the ordinary American whether or not...


SHRUM: Let me finish.

NOVAK: You can't finish.

SHRUM: Drug benefit or tax cuts for the wealthy.


NOVAK: Thank you very much, Bob Shrum. Thank you, Terry Jeffrey.

SHRUM: It's only a tax increase for some...


NOVAK: Well, we have to go. And we'll come back with a case of political correctness at ground zero.


MYERS: Welcome back to CROSSFIRE. I'm Dee Dee Myers sitting in on the left. A bronze statue honoring the 343 firefighters killed on September 11 has come under attack. Although the 19 foot sculpture is based on the famous photograph of three white firefighters raising the American flag at ground zero, the statue depicts one as white, one as black, and one as Hispanic. Political correctness run amuck or a fitting, symbolic tribute to those who died?

And meanwhile, the debate rages about ground zero itself. Should the 16 acre site become a memorial to the victims of the attack or should the twin towers be resurrected -- Bob Novak.

NOVAK: Reverend Sharpton, apart from misrepresenting the famous photograph, it misrepresents the reality of the New York fire department. Only 2.7 percent of the New York firefighters are African-Americans. Only 2.3 percent are Hispanic Americans. In other words, about 94 percent are white. Why would you want to misrepresent the reality as it exists?

AL SHARPTON, NATIONAL ACTION NETWORK: Well, first of all, the question is, are we going to have the sculpture to protest the lack of blacks and Hispanics in the department? I would agree with that, if we're going to have it for that purpose.

But I thought we were erecting it to memorialize those that lost their lives. And those that lost their lives were black, were Hispanic and white. I think that it is really unpatriotic, Bob, to try to make something that really symbolizes and signifies how all of us lost our lives and all of us must come together to fight terrorism and try now to act as if we must make it just one way because that's who happened to be on that photo. That's not who happened to die on September 11th.

MYERS: And only Bob Novak would actually try to make a virtue out of the fact that the fire department is 95 percent white or 94 percent white. But Mike, don't the firefighters have the right to put the statue, a symbolic statute, paying tribute to the firefighters and the people who died, don't they have the right to make that statue any way they want? They're paying for it. They're putting it on the grounds of their headquarters. Isn't their decision?

MIKE GALLAGHER, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: Dee Dee, if this weren't such a serious subject, you know, it would be laughable. This is the dark comedy kind of stuff that a Wes Anderson movie would be like. This is so pathetic. It's beyond political correctness. It's revisionist history.

And it's very simple. It boils down to this. If there were three African-American firefighters who hoisted the flag that day, and that act was captured on film, and somebody came along and said let's create a bronze sculpture of that act. And it is a specific act. It's not some imaginary tribute to firefighters or those who perished on September 11.

The bottom line is if somebody came along and said, you know what? There's only 2.5, 3 percent of the fire department that's black. Let's make it more representative of the fire departments, or let's imagine two White guys, they didn't do it, but let's put two white guys in there and one black guy, Reverend Al Sharpton would be howling with protest, complaining about that act of revisionist history. And Reverend Al, you know you'd be protesting. And you'd be right to do so. You'd be right to protest.

SHARPTON: But Mike, the problem you have tonight is I'm on the show. And I could speak for myself. I would not protest that.

GALLAGHER: Yes, you would.

SHARPTON: One, I would not think -- I think that this is being done to give a real memorial to all that died. Second, I think that Dee Dee's point is the real point. The firefighters are paying for this. They have made this decision. Why would all of you want to come in and tell them with their money how they should memorialize their own peers?

GALLAGHER: You know, that there are firefighters objecting and are protesting about this Reverend Al. These aren't firefighters who died. These are three specific white firefighters who hoisted this flag. They weren't dead. They lived.

NOVAK: Reverend Sharpton, this was not a decision made by the firefighters. This was made by the brass, by the politicians in the fire department. And as a matter of fact, the firefighters who risked their lives, whose colleagues died, unlike you and me, they risked their lives at ground zero, they're outraged. And I'd like to you listen to what one firefighter said about this revision of history.


STEVE CASSIDY, FDNY: The fact that they're changing history. They're trying to rewrite a historical picture. They can't do it. They shouldn't do it.


NOVAK: That's the real voice of the firefighters.

SHARPTON: But I think that's one guy. And I'm sure you can get firefighters that would argue the opposite. Most firefighters that I have spoken with, and we saluted them at National Action Network by the way, think that it is appropriate that the world understand that when the terrorists attacked, they did not distinguish between race. They didn't tell whites to get out the building, blacks. All firefighters went in.


SHARPTON: Yes, we need more black and Hispanic firefighters, but we need to have a picture that says to the world we all memorialize.

GALLAGHER: Bob, ask the three firefighters who erected the flag. That's who you need to ask. And I guarantee you, they're outraged. The two of them would be erased from history.

MYERS: Based on the photo, it's not necessarily a perfect depiction of the photo. I think we can all agree that monuments take many different forms and shapes. If you look around the city of Washington, that's certainly true.

But let's move across the river to Manhattan. There's a 16 acre site where the World Trade Center used to stand. And there's a debate raging about what should go there. Should the World Trade Center be resurrected? Should commercial towers be put back in the same place? Or should the site become a memorial to those who died? Is it a sacred ground, much like the site of the former Murrah building in Oklahoma City.

Mike, what do you think?

GALLAGHER: Dee Dee, it is sacred ground. In fact, I'm squeamish about this viewing platform, and people going down to take pictures and treat it like a tourist attraction. I've been invited many times to go to ground zero and I don't want to go.

There are people that are laying there, dead. And it is their resting place for right now. But I have said from day one that I think the ultimate memorial to those who died would be to rebuild the towers as they were. Those terrorists wanted to destroy New York's skyline. Those terrorists wanted to take down those symbols of might and strength and prosperity and success.

And I believe that the ultimate memorial would be to put the towers up to the centimeter of where they were before, so that we won't let those terrorists ultimately have their victory.

NOVAK: Reverend Sharpton, the events of September 11 destroyed 12 million square feet of office space in New York, driving 40,000 people out of their jobs. Shouldn't we worry less about memorials and more about recreating the economic factors in downtown New York so that people can have jobs?

SHARPTON: Well, certainly we should care about creating jobs. And certainly, we should deal with what was lost that day. But we also should deal with reality. It is sacred ground. Many of us see it that way.

And also, you have the security concerns. You have the concerns of whether or not people would even want to work in the Twin Towers if they were erected there. So I think that it is lot more complex than us sitting in some comfortable studios volunteering people to go, in effect, and work in places that could be considered dangerous.

GALLAGHER: Hey, I work in the -- Reverend Al, you and I both know the Empire State building. That's where my radio studios are, but you know, we go to work. We do it.

SHARPTON: I have an office in the Empire State Building.


SHARPTON: And I can tell you a lot of people that work there are very, very afraid.

GALLAGHER: I work there too, every day.

NOVAK: Gentlemen, out of time. Thank you very much, Reverend Al Sharpton, Mr. Gallagher.

Dee Dee and I will be back with a change, with a twist in London and an embarrassment in Florida.


NOVAK: Time now for the CROSSFIRE pictures of the day. I'll go first. This is a messed up award for esteemed actor James Earl Jones, the voice of both Darth Vader and CNN. The town of Waterhill, Florida gave him a gift for addressing its annual Martin Luther King celebration. But wait a minute, the plaque reads to James Earl Ray, the man who pleaded guilty for murdering Martin Luther King. Just a little mistaken identity, Dee Dee.

MYERS: Ouch, hate to be that guy. But it's hard to imagine how you would confuse an honor for a man who helped feed the dream with the man who actually killed the dream.

NOVAK: Well, I'm a compassionate conservative. So I feel sorry for those poor people in Waterhill.

MYERS: Oh boy, ugly. Any way, Bob, my candidate for picture of the day is proof that making fun the president's recent tussle with the snack food has become an international endeavor. To wit, Madame Tussaud's of London has added a bruise to the cheek of their wax work model of George W. Bush and put a pretzel in his hand.

Now call me crazy, but if President Clinton had showed up with a bruise on his noggin and claimed that it happened or explained that it happened while he was alone in his room, eating pretzels and watching football, you and your conservative friends would have gone crazy.

NOVAK: With good reason. Let me ask you this, Dee Dee, you worked for President Clinton. Do you think Madame Tussaud's should have adjusted his statue to make it confirm to certain of his adventures in the Oval Office?

MYERS: I think that Madame Tussaud's is having a little bit of fun with this, but I think the diversity, the enormous gap that exists in the questions that the Clinton White House had to answer versus those that the Bush White House has to answer is an interesting...

NOVAK: Can I tell you why? It's not because of ideology. I think we can agree with that. It's because they trust and respect George W. Bush.

MYERS: Well, I have to disagree with you on that, but so far, he seems to be getting away with it. So kudos to him for that.

NOVAK: Very good.

MYERS: Yes, absolutely. From the left, I'm Dee Dee Myers. Good-night from CROSSFIRE.

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




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