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Should U.S. Cut Ties to Yasser Arafat?; Should Utah Gun Owners Be Allowed to Carry Concealed Weapons Into Olympic Events?

Aired January 25, 2002 - 19:30   ET



GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I am disappointed in Yasser Arafat. He must make a full effort to ride out terror in the Middle East.


BILL PRESS, CO-HOST: Should the United States cut all ties to Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat? And an issue of Olympic proportions. Should Utah gun owners be allowed to carry concealed weapons into Olympic events?

ANNOUNCER: Live from Washington, CROSSFIRE. On the left, Bill Press. On the right, Robert Novak. In the crossfire, chief Palestinian representative to the U.S., Hasan Abdel Rahman and Republican Congressman Eric Cantor of Virginia, chairman of the congressional task force on terrorism. And later in Salt Lake City, Utah, Maura Carabello, director of the Utah Gun Violence Prevention Center and Utah Attorney General Mark Shurtleff.

PRESS: It's CROSSFIRE. Thanks for joining us. Just when it looked like things couldn't get any worse for Yasser Arafat, they just did. President Bush has refused to meet with him. Ariel Sharon won't even shake his hand. And the Palestinian leader has been practically under house arrest for weeks. Now the Bush White House is talking about cutting him out of the picture, period. No more contact. No more meetings. No more dough. Our debate tonight, is this the way to peace in the Middle East and who are we to dictate who speaks for the Palestinian Authority?

Bob Novak.

BOB NOVAK, CO-HOST: Congressman Cantor, we interviewed on "NOVAK HUNT & SHIELDS" today, a taped interview with Dick Gephardt, who just got back from the Middle East. Be on at 5:30 p.m. on Saturday night. And I think you'll agree Dick Gephardt is no great friend of the PLO. We asked him, if you don't talk to Arafat, who do you talk to? This is what he answered.


REP RICHARD GEPHARDT (D), MINORITY LEADER: We did talk to other Palestinian leaders who are younger and coming along. There's a big split, I'm sure in that group. Everybody doesn't see things alike, no more than we see things alike in the Democratic party here, but he is still their leader.


NOVAK: That's the point. He is still their leader. If you don't talk to Yasser Arafat, you don't talk to anybody. Isn't that what the Israeli government wants, not to talk to anybody?

REP. ERIC CANTOR (R-VA), CHMRN. TERRORISM TASK FORCE: Bob, he might be their leader, but let's face it. He has demonstrated a willingness to engage in terrorist activities. I put in a bill yesterday in Congress to end U.S. taxpayer support of Yasser Arafat. President Bush has laid down very clearly that we in the United States will not support terrorists, will not support those who harbor them.

Yasser Arafat, two weeks ago, was seen to be importing 50 tons of Kalashnikov (sic) rockets and weapons in a boat from Iran. He has also demonstrated a willingness to kill children at this point. We are not in this country going to support a terrorist in activities like that.

NOVAK: Well, you know, one man's terrorist is another man's freedom fighter. A lot of the future leaders of the Israeli government were terrorists blowing up people. And isn't it a fact that the death toll of Palestinians has been so much greater than the death toll of Israelis in this period? I mean, who is the terrorist when you take weapons of war and attack civilian areas? Is that -- killing innocent civilians, isn't that terrorism?

CANTOR: Bob, I think the difference here is when there is a deliberate intent to kill innocent civilians, like this week when the Palestinian gunman went in and killed teenagers in a bar mitzvah, coming of age ceremony, for a young girl of 12 years old, the deliberate intentional killing of civilians is a terrorist act. The acts of Israel are in defense of those type of attacks.

PRESS: Mr. Rahman, I was an early supporter of Yasser Arafat, a long time supporter of Palestinian state. But don't we have to accept the reality that today, sadly perhaps, Yasser Arafat has no power, no influence, no juice, no control over his own territory. So for all practical purposes, we might just at well accept that he can't deliver any more and it's time to look for somebody who can.

HASAN ABDEL RAHMAN, CHIEF PALESTINIAN REP. TO U.S.: Before answering you, Bill, I have really to make comment on what the congressman just said. Yes, there are acts of violence committed by Palestinians. And we condemn those acts of violence because they are committed by individuals who are violating the positions of the PLO.

But when Israel kills Palestinians, it is kill -- those Palestinians are killed by the Israeli government and not by individual Israelis. So the terrorism on the Palestinian side is committed by individual Palestinians who are willing to commit suicide. But when Mr. Sharon sends his F-16 and Apache helicopters to attack Palestinian civilians and kill children, Mr. Congressman, that is an Israeli government policy.

We have individual terrorists, but Mr. Sharon represents an Israeli government that is engaged in acts of terror against Palestinian people. Are you willing to condemn those acts of violence by the Israeli government that result in the killing of Palestinian children in the same way that I'm willing to condemn acts of violence committed by Palestinian individuals?

CANTOR: The difference is, Mr. Rahman, is the acts by the Israeli government are in response to inaction by Mr. Arafat. Mr. Arafat has been put on notice, not only by the Israeli government, by the United States government to reign in the terror, to clamp down, to arrest the people that have been attacking and killing innocent citizens, women and children at this point. And he has failed to do so. So Israel has now no other choice. And they take pains when they go in to do that, to warn those civilians to get out of the way because Mr. Arafat has not incarcerated or arrested the terrorists under his control.

RAHMAN: But if you allow me, Mr. Cantor, when Mr. Sharon sends his F-16 to attack Palestinian civilian areas, does those F-16 distinguish between who is a civilian and one who is not a civilian? Just let me finish. You have a number of children who have been killed by Israel under the age of 16. You have over 250 Palestinian kids who have been killed by Israeli attacks. Are those accidental? Are those accidental? Tell me.

CANTOR: Mr. Rahman, the point is...

RAHMAN: All those are deliberate attacks by the Israeli government.

CANTOR: There is no policy whatsoever that has ever been put into place by Mr. Arafat.

RAHMAN: That's Israel tells you. Mr. Sharon is the only world leader today, who is being tried for war crimes in Belgium.

PRESS: Inherent in your argument is the fact that Yasser Arafat is not controlling his own people, is not controlling his own territory. So I just want to get an answer to my question.

RAHMAN: Yes, I will answer.

PRESS: Isn't he, in fact, out of power and therefore let's find somebody who can take charge?

RAHMAN: No, you know who is not allowing Mr. Arafat to succeed in his combat against violence is Mr. Sharon. You just said...


RAHMAN: ...because he's under house arrest. How can...


RAHMAN: He's under house arrest by Mr. Sharon. Isn't he? You just said that he is under house arrest.

CANTOR: Because he's not done what any civilized leader would do, which is to reign in the terrorist.

RAHMAN: Well, I would suggest you to not use those words about civilization because Mr. Sharon is not civilized and half of the Israeli republic and half of the world Mr. Sharon as a terrorist.

NOVAK: Mr. Cantor, I want to follow-up on what Mr. Rahman said.


NOVAK: This is a draft of your bill. Should we call you, Mr. Secretary? Have you become the Secretary of State that you're deciding who're going to give aid to? Let's just pass that over.

And what I wonder, do you know that there is a conscience effort by the Israeli government to chip away at Arafat's authority, to make had him a prisoner under house arrest? Then you say after chip away his authority, read the New York, just a minute let me finish the question. If you read "The New York Times", congressman, you know that they destroy Palestinian Authority police buildings. Then when he has no power, you say you can't control your extremists?

CANTOR: The Palestinian police are the ones who have been engaged in the terror. Just this week, there was uncovered in an apartment building, and you're talking about civilians areas, some of the largest bomb making facilities and equipment yet uncovered in the region. So Mr. Arafat has had chance after chance after chance.

NOVAK: Are you aware of the...

CANTOR: To show his leadership and he has failed to do so.

NOVAK: Are you aware, sir, of the incident the other day where there were thousands of Palestinians demonstrating out, very physically demonstrating against a Palestinian Authority police because they think the police have abandoned the people?

CANTOR: Well, we're talking about U.S. taxpayer support of a man and a regime that has refused to put his people first. Instead, has used any money or resources.

PRESS: Quick question.

RAHMAN: First of all, you do not give Yasser Arafat any money. You support certain projects carried on by American NGOs. If you want the schools, the...

NOVAK: Gentlemen, we're out of time. Thank you very Congressman Cantor, Mr. Rahman.

RAHMAN: Thank you.

NOVAK: Next up, shooting for gold. Is Utah about to host a pistol packing Olympics? (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

NOVAK: Welcome back to CROSSFIRE. People coming to Utah from all over the world for the Winter Olympics might think they're in the wild West. Concealed weapons are legal in Utah. And gun advocates want to make sure that guns can be carried into the Olympics. The Utah state government this year ordered all state offices, daycare centers, parks, hospitals and college campuses to remove gun bans on people licensed to carry concealed weapons. The University of Utah refuses. And they may go to court for a shoot-out, a legal shoot-out, of course.

We'll preview that legal struggle with Maura Carabello, director of the Gun Prevention Center of Utah and with Mark Shurtleff, attorney general of the state of Utah.

Bill Press.

PRESS: General, I have to tell you that from 2,000 miles away, it looks like the entire state of Utah has gone bonkers. I mean, first of all, you bribe people to get the Winter Olympics to Salt Lake City. Now you've got them for two weeks. You're going to be in the spotlight of the entire world. People coming from all over the world. You're spending about $300 million for security. And you really want to allow people to carry concealed weapons to Olympic events? I mean, are you crazy?

MARK SHURTLEFF, UTAH ATTORNEY GENERAL: We're talking about the university, Bill. And it doesn't look like...

PRESS: No, we're not. We're talking about the Olympics, General. That's my question.

SHURTLEFF: OK, well you need to do your homework then, because the legislature specifically said that the Olympic venues be will be completely gun-free. That's not a question. And nobody's arguing that point.

PRESS: Oh yes, sir, they are. Their gun owners are arguing that point. And in fact, I believe, you yourself are talking about that there should be lockers outside where those who have license to carry concealed weapon can come up to the event, put their gun in a locker and then go inside the event. There are gun owners suing the state of Utah to make sure that they can take their guns to gun owner events. Where do you come down? Do you support that or do you agree with me that it's totally crazy?

SHURTLEFF: Well, I have to say that your facts are wrong. That in fact nobody is suing, that this issues was discussed in the legislature in 1999. It was ruled that the Olympic venues would be gun-free. And (UNINTELLIGIBLE) has decided that there will not be gun lockers. Now there are some who are still trying to put up gun lockers, but right now, that will not happen.

PRESS: So you say no guns at Olympic events in the state of Utah. SHURTLEFF: That's correct.

NOVAK: OK, but now we do have a situation, Miss Carabello, where there's a dispute over whether there should be guns in classrooms. And apparently, the University of Utah, some of the little delicate professors are worried that a kid brings in a gun. They don't like a professor with good reason, they may shoot him.

And I'd like to read you a defense of that, which fascinates me. "This academic freedom defense is really pathetic. They're saying if I disagree with someone they're afraid I'm going to shoot them. Well, guess what? There are small people who may be afraid of football players beating them up, but we don't ban the football players from the classroom." That's pretty good argument, isn't it?

MAURA CARABELLO, GUN VIOLENCE PREVENTION CTR.: That's not a good argument. I mean, the man who said that is an activist here. I think what we're talking about is who has the right. And in the state of Utah, we've always argued that you know, local jurisdiction is the best jurisdiction. I feel very comfortable with the University of Utah, as well as other universities throughout the state, including BYU, to make decisions to keep their students safe.

And I think that they have a lot of legal merits. And I will say that they're willing to go to court on this and let the courts decide it. But regardless of how the courts decide, I'll say that the law needs to be changed. If it's interpreted incorrectly, I think that they have great legal foundations. Their foundations are both federal and state. There's -- we're in disagreement with the attorney general's interpretation of our state laws as well. And we fully support the University of Utah and believe they have the right to make those choices.

NOVAK: Well, Ms. Carabello, you use the word keeping the students safe. According to the statistics I see, with its concealed weapons law, Utah is the 12th safest state in the country. Now you may not know this, but right outside there is a jungle, right outside this studio. And we have in the District of Columbia the toughest gun law in the world.

If I put a gun, a pistol in my dresser drawer, it's against the law. And with that tough gun law in the District of Columbia, it tops in violent crime in the country, tops in property crime, tops in murder, tops in aggravated assault. Don't you think maybe concealed weapons keep people safer than the terrible gun control law in the District of Columbia?

CARABELLO: Well, I mean, I've heard of those black helicopters swooping down on us, getting us. But I will say that Utah is safe, that there's not been an incidence of weapons violations or violence on the University of Utah. And they've had this ban on concealed weapons for 25 years. There's never been an incident of that. I'm a woman and I feel completely comfortable walking around the University of Utah campus. And I feel safe. This is an environment of learning.

PRESS: General, I congratulate you on your wisdom about the Olympic Games. Let's see if we can take that one step further because under the present interpretation of the law, yours I believe, concealed weapons are allowed in daycare centers, in schools, in college classrooms. I mean, general, wouldn't you have to agree that the classroom of all places is one area that ought to be gun-free?


PRESS: Why would anybody need a gun in a classroom?

SHURTLEFF: I agree. Again, people -- I want to uphold the law. That's my job is to make people follow the law. The university is not beyond the law. Nobody is beyond the law. And but I would agree with you. I don't think guns ought to be in schools or churches. The problem is with your current law, you're letting the criminals carry weapons on campus because they don't obey the rules.

That's what they do for a living is they disobey laws and policies. So the only people obeying it are the law abiding good citizens, who have never been a problem. The perfect example of this is what happened in the Appalachian School of Law just a few weeks ago, where you had a criminal shoot and kill people.

The only reason why he was stopped is because the student who had a gun unfortunately out in their car, they had to go out and get it. And by the time they got it, he came out, ordered him to drop his weapon. Now maybe she could have saved lives had she had the gun in the classroom. So the problem is not with law abiding students. It's with the criminals.

CARABELLO: Let me take you what it takes to get a concealed carry permit in Utah. You have to be 21-years of age. You have to pass a course. Well, you don't have to pass a course. you have to take a course. You have to have one of your friends tell you're of good character. You can't beat your wife.

You can get a concealed carry permit without showing cause to the state of Utah. So the presumption that every person who has a concealed carry permit is a law abiding citizen doesn't fly. And we're talking about academic situations. We're talking about who has the right to choose who gets to carry what around.

Now let's be clear. Concealed carry in the state of Utah is a privilege that this state granted people in 1995. It's not a right.

PRESS: General, you just gave an example. I'm going to give you another one down here at the University of Virginia just last week, there's a student who got a bad grade. And he took out a gun and shot the dean. I mean, the idea, the more guns in the classroom, the more guns in the school, the more people are going to be shot with those guns. Why don't you show some leadership and say I don't care what the law says. Keep them out of daycare centers. Keep them out of grade schools and high schools and college campuses?

SHURTLEFF: I want to keep guns out of those places. I don't want criminals to bring them in. But right now, you're saying the University of Utah and other places that you just mentioned, criminals can bring them in there. And the example -- no, just a minute. You gave an example.

PRESS: OK. But the point I want to make is this guy was a law- abiding citizen. He wasn't a criminal.

SHURTLEFF: No, he wasn't.

PRESS: He was a law-abiding citizen.


PRESS: The guy in Virginia was.

SHURTLEFF: You're wrong.

PRESS: And he brought the gun in.


PRESS: He didn't break the law until he fired the gun.

SHURTLEFF: You're wrong. And it was a student who had a concealed weapon who stalked him. He was the criminal. And you -- I'll ask is that academia, educators who believe in facts do your homework and come and show us where there's one example of a concealed weapon permit holder. And Maura left out one important requirement. That is they have to have a background check. So they are law-abiding citizens. Never have those people brought forth their weapons.

PRESS: We're going to have to leave it there. Attorney General Shurtleff, thanks very much for joining us. Maura Carabello, thank you for being there. We've talked about concealed weapons. Next, unconcealed weapons. Your e-mail. Yes, the moment you've been waiting for all week, when you get to fire back at me and Bob. Friday night fire back coming up.


NOVAK: Welcome back. It's Friday "Fire Back." While viewers turned up at Bill and me in the CROSSFIRE with your e-mails. I'll go first.

Our first e-mail is from Andrea who writes, "I am ashamed of the inhumane treatment of prisoners. Is this part of the policy to win the hearts and minds of the Arabic world? Also, I'm tired of this dead or alive, good vs. evil."

Andrea, why don't you get real? Those prisoners down there are killers. They're dangerous people. They're treated a lot better than any of the prisoners, most of the prisoners in this country. They're treated like kings. They're treated better than our service personnel.

PRESS: Go Andrea. All right, Houston, this one's for me from Robert Jones who says, "Press should credit President Bush rather than attack him. Bush could have given special favors to a big contributor -- he did not Press simply applies guilt by association -- something he spoke out against during real scandals between 1992 and 2000."

NOVAK: Robert Jones.

PRESS: Robert Jones, I hate to pop your bubble, but in fact Enron did get a lot of special treatment. They got a lot of deregulation which enabled them to grow in Texas under Governor Bush. They were able to hand pick the chairman of the FERC. They had access to Dick Cheney, got 17 proposals in his energy plan. When California wanted help from Enron, the Bush administration sided with Enron and not with California. Hey, it goes on and on. Don't kid yourself. Enron is a real scandal, Mr. Jones.

NOVAK: Next e-mail's from Joe and Ida Mae Culler who write, "Bob Novak's politicizing criticism of Hillary Clinton is not appropriate. Republicans don't know how to adjust to a woman who is smarter than they are...than MOST men in fact; more faithful than the president and congressman who were condemning her; ahead of the masses on health care. Now, while the Republicans are trying to make Laura more Hillary-like is not a time to take shots."

Hillary is not smarter than I am and might be smarter than you, Joe and Ida Mae. And I'll tell you this, the Republicans are not trying to turn Laura into another Hillary, God forbid.

PRESS: This one, the man doesn't even have the guts to put his name here. He says, "Bill, SHAZAM!...I have found the perfect solution. Hang up the D%@# phone. And I didn't need government help, how about that."

Yes, but the point is, I know, I can hang up the phone, too. I just don't want to get the phone calls in the first place. They're obnoxious. They're intrusive. They're an invasion of my privacy. They're almost as bad as having to listen to Bob Novak every night.

NOVAK: That hurts.

PRESS: From the left, I'm Bill Press. Have a good weekend. Good night from CROSSFIRE.

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




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