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CNN CROSSFIRE

Interview with David Keen, Ralph Neas

Aired March 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: ...half of everything he owns to divorce his wife?

ANNOUNCER: Live from Washington, CROSSFIRE. On the left, Bill Press. On the right, Tucker Carlson. In the crossfire, Ralph Neas, president of People for the American Way and David Keen, chairman of the American Conservative Union. And later, divorce attorney Raoul Felder and trial attorney Gloria Allred.

PRESS: It's CROSSFIRE. Thanks for joining us.

And it's over. Charles Pickering, President Bush's nominee to the federal appeals court will not get the job. He was rejected about an hour ago by the Senate Judiciary Committee, 10 to 9, in a straight partyline vote. All Democrats voted against him.

And majority leader Tom Daschle says he will not bring the nomination to a vote on the Senate floor. But this isn't the end of battles over judges. It's just the beginning. And it's always the same, no matter who's in the White House. Same contentious questions. What's the proper role of the Senate to rubberstamp every presidential nominee? Or to apply its own standards and approve some judges, but send others, like Charles Pickering back home to the farm?

Tucker?

TUCKER CARLSON, CO-HOST: Ralph Neas, thanks for joining us. Let me start by answering Bill Press's question. And the answer is the Senate ought to allow the president to do his constitutional duty, which is to appoint judges. And yet, since President Bush has taken office, Democrats have prevented that, Democrats under the influence of left-wing groups like yours have prevented it.

And the result is that 10 percent of all federal judgeships, as you know, are now unfilled, 95 vacancies. And the effect of that is justice is not done. So in return for doing the bidding of left-wing group likes yours, Americans get less justice. Account for that.

RALPH NEAS, PEOPLE FOR THE AMER. WAY: Tucker, first of all, the Senate Democrats do not do our bidding. They are very independent, and very feisty, and very effective.

Number two, the Senate Democrats have already approved 40 judges, a rate of five per month over the last eight months. A rate that is remarkable, especially in the wake of 9/11 and the anthrax scares.

But they are not going to do, for sure, what the Senate Republicans did during the last six years of the Clinton administration, blocking 35 percent of the Clinton circuit court nominees. But I hope, and this was a real victory for the American people today, they will reject right wing idealogues, people whose judicial philosophy will turn back the clock on reproductive rights, privacy, civil rights, and the environment.

CARLSON: Well, Ralph, you have -- unfortunately for you, you have fallen right into my truth trap.

NEAS: I doubt it.

CARLSON: Because you have repeated the line, we hear again and again from liberals, which is we're simply doing what was done to us by Republicans, but it turns out that's not true. Let me show you statistics that blow your argument away.

Circuit court judges, take a glimpse. Circuit court judges under George W. Bush, 29 in teh first 14 months have been nominated. Only 7 confirmed. Contrast this to during the Clinton administration, first two years, 22 nominated, 19 confirmed under the first George Bush. 23 nominated, 22 confirmed.

The point is Democrats in the Senate have taken control of the Senate and are giving this president a much rougher time than Republicans even thought of giving Bill Clinton.

NEAS: Nice try, Tucker, but wrong.

CARLSON: It's true.

NEAS: It's not true. What has happened is that because of the ideological blockade of Senator Lott and Senator Hatch and others, 35 percent were rejected. And there were so many vacancies.

What happened to Senator Pat Leahy? He faced 111 vacancies, because of what the Republicans did during those last six years. He must feel like the guy in the circus parade, who's walking behind the elephants and trying to clean up the mess. He is approving five nominations, confirmations per month. At this rate, there would be more nominations, more confirmations than any time in our nation's history. He's doing a great job so far.

PRESS: Now David Keane, of course, you know the constitution. You know that the president does have the constitutional authority to appoint. And the Senate has the constitutional responsibility to advise and consent, which is not to rubber stamp.

DAVID KEANE, AMER. CONSERVATIVE UNION: Right.

PRESS: But I want to point out the obvious here, which may get loss, is that Pickering got a vote today in the Senate Judiciary.

KEANE: In the Senate Judiciary Committee. PRESS: Exactly. Under Orrin Hatch, there's a man -- Al Hunt has an excellent piece in "The Wall Street Journal." He points out that under Orrin Hatch, a guy named Alan Snyder, that President Clinton nominated in 1999, never got a hearing. Friend of mine, Los Angeles, Barry Good, great guy, nominated by President Clinton, never got a hearing. Another friend of mine from Los Angeles, Richard Payez, nominated by President Clinton. It took him four years before he got a vote. So Charles Pickering may have lost, but he was better treated than the Democrats were from Orrin Hatch. At least he had a hearing.

KEANE: No, no, no. A lot of people on both sides over the years don't make it. For example, Chris Cox had to withdraw because there was an objection from a senator from the other party from the state. There are a lot of reasons why those things don't happen.

But let's not say Charles Pickering got a good hearing. What Charles Pickering got was the modern equivalent of an ideological lynching. And I think that Ralph and his buddies in the Senate and outside picked out Pickering precisely because he was somebody, who under ordinary and historic circumstances, would not have been rejected by any Senate of either party. He was qualified. He was rated as qualified. He was endorsed by people of both parties in his own state, by the civil rights community, by the heads of the bar association down there.

They wanted to demonstrate something. They wanted to demonstrate that what Ralph likes to refer to as right wing judges were not going to be approved with this Senate. And that's not the role of the Senate.

PRESS: Let me give you one example. And I'm not talking about when he was an early man, where he might have said things, and I said things growing up in Delaware that I would not -- I'd be ashamed of.

KEANE: (UNINTELLIGIBLE).

PRESS: Ashamed of today in terms of some racial things. He did in Mississippi. Wipe that away. Let's go up to 1994, when he's a judge. He's a judge, sitting on a case of a man who is convicted of firing shots into a home of an interracial couple, burning a cross on their lawn. He's a judge, calls the Justice Department in Washington to say, can we get this guy's sentence reduced? I would say what the Democrats and the Senate Judiciary Committee were saying today, a man who did that does not deserve to sit on a federal appeals court. And good for them! How would you defend that?

KEANE: Right. The fact of the matter is neither you nor I know all the circumstances.

PRESS: How do you defend it

KEANE: Defend your interpretation of what happened?

PRESS: No, defend what he said.

KEANE: Was he rereversed on any civil rights cases? Was he? NEAS: Absolutely.

PRESS: I'm asking you to defend this intercession.

KEANE: I don't know that the intercession took place in the way that you said it did.

BEAS: Now Ralph, the fact of the matter...

KEANE: This is a guy who -- now wait a minute, this a guy who the ABA rated as highly qualified. This is a guy who had fewer reversals, 20 percent fewer reverseals over his career than the average judge appointed by either party. This is a guy who has the support of the civil rights community in his state. This is a man who had the support of 18 former heads of state.

(CROSS TALK)

KEANE: But the point is what's going on here.

CARLSON: Let me get right to the heart of it. Ralph, you know the guy's not a racist. Obviously though, you and these groups implied it. You know it's not true. The real problem here is that he's against abortion, isn't it? My question to you is would you oppose -- is there a litmus test? Would you oppose the candidacy of the nomination of any judge, for any court, who says out loud I'm against abortion?

NEAS: He is not a racist. We've made that very clear.

CARLSON: Well, you've implied it.

NEAS: We have looked at his record, his 10-year record as a judge. More importantly, the Senate Judiciary Committee did...

CARLSON: No, but abortion, would you oppose...

NEAS: As a former chief counsel to two Republican senators, I want to tell you they make the decisions, not the organizations I represent. They're broad coalitions that I'm part of. Or David Keane on the other side. The senators make the decision based on the hearings. The hearings defeated Charles Pickering. His record defeated Charles Pickering.

CARLSON: No, but it was abortion, was it not?

NEAS: This is one of the many issues...

CARLSON: Come on.

NEAS: Reproductive rights, civil rights. What they found out is, as a judge, he didn't act consistently with the law. He let his personal opinions interfere with his ability to be a good judge.

PRESS: Very quickly. OK. I hope the Democrats are looking over these nominees carefully. Let's go back not so long ago. When we -- I mean these judges, I believe, are the most important decisions that a president makes and a Senate makes. Because those people there, they're lifetime appointments, they're there forever. They affect every range of issues. And we watched a travesty in Florida where judges ignored the will of the people? We watched...

KEANE: We did?

PRESS: ...a travesty in the United States Supreme Court, where they ignored the will of the people? Don't you think Democrats have good reason to look over judge?

KEANE: Oh, come on, Bill. The historic role of the Senate is not to impose its partisan or ideological standards on judicial appointees. It's to look at them in terms of their legal qualifications and their personal integrity. This is a man of great personal integrity. I've known him for almost 30 years.

PRESS: It's also to look at them on the issues, which Republicans and Democrats do. Both parties do.

KEANE: The question of whether some people do that or not is not the question I'm addressing. It's whether they should. You're saying that they should all do that.

(CROSS TALK)

CARLSON: Really quickly, would you ever let an anti-abortion guy go through without opposing him?

KEANE: I hope not.

NEAS: We will oppose right-wing conservatives, who have a judical philosophy, who would turn back the clock on fundamental, constitutional rights.

PRESS: Amen.

CARLSON: At least you're honest about it. Misguided...

(CROSS TALK)

NEAS: There is a crisis. And the president should work with the Democrats and Republicans to come up with a bipartisan consensus.

CARLSON: We appreciate you both coming very much.

PRESS: It's always a pleasure.

CARLSON: Mr. Neas and Keane, thanks very much.

And when we come back, divorce. A lot of Americans do it. Very few make half a billion dollars in the process. Mrs. Jack Welch might. Fair? Two of America's toughest lawyers duke it out next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CARLSON: Welcome back to CROSSFIRE.

It may be the most expensive interview ever conducted. Last year, Jack Welch, the former head of GE sat down with the editor of the Harvard Business Review and apparently he laid down with her, too. Welch's wife found out. The rest may soon be part of divorce history. His prenuptial agreement expired. Welch stands to lose half of his estimated $1 billion fortune. Fair payment for 13 years of marriage in a very public betrayal or a shakedown? That's our debate tonight.

Joining us, two experts in the field of divorce, reconciliation, and cash payouts. Gloria Allred, who's a family law attorney and radio talk show host. She joins us from Los Angeles. And from New York and of New York, the divorce lawyer to the stars, as well as to the former mayor, Raoul Felder.

Bill Press?

PRESS: Mr. Felder, Jack Welch may be trying to dump Jane now, but last year he couldn't say enough nice things about her. I'd like to read you one pertinent quote I think gets right to the point from his book "Jack," where he says on page 148, about Jane, "I really wanted a full-time partner, someone who would be willing to put up with my schedule and travel with me on business trips. Jane would have to give up her career. She took a leave of absence to try it out and, luckily for me, decided to make this her full-time occupation."

She was there for him. She contributed to his success. She deserves half the loot. Right?

RAOUL FELDER, DIVORCE ATTORNEY: Well, maybe yes and maybe no. You know, you can't mistake chivalry for reality. When you write a book, you say certain things. The unworthy thought crosses our mind that this lady, who was a lawyer, by the way, waited for the pre- nuptial agreement to self destruct and then struck herself. And you know, maybe this was a calculated move and she was sitting there waiting to pounce.

PRESS: Well, maybe Jack Welch should have had that in mind before he bedded the editor of the Harvard Business Review.

FELDER: Well, we don't know.

PRESS: Well perhaps, allegedly bedded. I think -- I thought she admitted it.

FELDER: And that's the difference in New York.

PRESS: Well, I just want to go back to Jane here for a second, because further in the book, he really talks about how on a very specific issue, I mean, Jack Welch gets all the credit for bringing GE into the digital age. You know, applying the Internet, applying the technology. He talks all about it in the book.

And guess what? He says he was totally ignorant about the Internet. Jane is the one that introduced him to it. Jane is the one that showed him the potential. Jane is the one you ought to take this to GE. And he did. Again, doesn't that show she made a tangible contribution to his income and deserves her share?

FELDER: She could have. And the reason why I was emphasizing allegedly bedded because in New York, you got to prove a case for divorce if the other side opposes it. And you know, he may have been victimized by two women here, because you have this lady from the Harvard Review, who is making these statements all over the place. And all of you guys are sophisticated. You know, if you want a story to die, you don't give it legs. You don't give press releases. She's doing it all over the place. You got a wife there, who may have advised her also about self- destruct clauses after 10 years, which is a little brief in a marriage. And so, this guy may be sitting duck for two people, and maybe a victim here.

CARLSON: Now Gloria Allred, speaking of victims, I mean, I have to say, as a feminist, and you're of course a staunch feminist, I'd think you'd be embarrassed by Mrs. Welch. I mean, she's an adult. She's an attorney. Presumably she could make her own money. And yet, apparently she's going to ask to be supported by her husband. Isn't that sort of a 19th century arrangement? She's not a child. He doesn't have custody of her. Why can't she just go off into the sunset and make her own way? She's an adult, right? A powerful woman?

GLORIA ALLRED, TRIAL ATTORNEY: Well first of all, she's entitled to her fair share of the marital property. And if, in fact, she gave up her career in order to support him, that is to be emotionally there for him, to be physically there for him, and that worked out for both of them, then if she's been hurt in her career, then she may need -- she may qualify for spousal support or alimony. But you know, to try to paint him as the victim, is just preposterous. I don't know if you could have said that with a straight face.

CARLSON: Wait a second, Gloria. Nobody's...

ALLRED: I mean, after all, it is the wife who allegedly was betrayed.

CARLSON: Right.

ALLRED: And you know she, look, she may have wanted that 10- year...

CARLSON: Wait, Gloria, may I ask you a quick question? Hold on for a second. You said that she gave up her career. She may have done that, but she wasn't the head of GE. And she's not responsible for GE's stock price going through the roof or at least there's no evidence that she was. So why shouldn't she just be entitled to the money she would have made had she continued with her law career? And let's leave it at that.

Why should she get money that her husband made? Again, that's almost a custodial situation. Is it demeaning not just to her, but to all women to have an arrangement where she gets some payoff at the end, like a child? ALLRED: Well, if he made executive decisions better because he was married to her and she was giving him her love, and her care, and her companionship, and her support, then I'd say more power to her.

But you know I think that you're underestimating the value of her contribution in this relationship. And the point that Raoul made about well, maybe she somehow decided on this 10-year clause and she's a lawyer and maybe this was somehow to trap him or. I think that's preposterous. I mean, this is an adult male. He's got excellent business judgment, although I question his personal judgment in reference to this alleged other relationship. And I'm sure he had an attorney to represent him, independently of her.

My guess is she had an attorney to represent to her in the prenuptial. They both knew what they were doing. And if it expired now, she's entitled to more of her share of the marital property. I say more power to her.

PRESS: Well, Mr. Felder, I want to -- you raise the prenuptial, and I want to ask you about it, too. I think probably two people in this world who know more about divorce than anybody else are Ivana and Donald. You know, Ivana, who probably saidt he last word on divorce, where she said, "Don't get mad, get everything." And Donald, who said, about the prenuptial agreement, this what -- the advice he gave to men of his financial wealth and level. "I think if a person has financial substance, prenuptial agreements are imperative. They are terrible documents that are absolutely vital, not pretty, not nice, not romantic, but if you don't have one, and you have a lot of wealth, I think you should be institutionalized."

Jack Welch had one. He let it lapse three years ago. Should he be institutionalized?

FELDER: Well, you know, it's a variation of saying if you don't have a prenuptial, if you don't have it, you don't need a lawyer, you need a psychiatrist. And that's probably right. But Gloria's point is that a captain of industry can't make a mistake in personal life is silly.

I mean, what we're saying is he did just that. He made serious mistakes in his personal life. And we see that all the time. So he made a mistake. Poor judgment. Maybe relied on this woman he was going to be married to just a bit. But you said, after 10 years, there's no problem here. There's a basic question here. You raised the right question. Isn't it demeaning for a woman to say, hey listen, yeah, I made these wonderful meals for you and this other stuff, therefore...

PRESS: Oh, that's not what she's saying.

CARLSON: And Gloria, doesn't it poison the institution of marriage, this idea that the winnings get split half way? Isn't that an inducement to divorce? I mean, that makes people want to get divorced? If you get divorced after the prenup expires, you cash in. Isn't that a poisonous arrangement? ALLRED: You know, affairs sometimes make people want to get divorced. And I think that women shouldn't have to defend or apologize for, or even try to have to explain why they should be entitled to half the marital property. It's because they're supposed to be partners in a marriage. And it's supposed to be an equal partnership.

And you know, any excuses that the men want to give for why somehow their wives should not be rewarded for their contribution to what was a successful partnership, is beyond me. Stop making excuses. Give her her fair share.

FELDER: But wait, look.

PRES: Very quickly, Raoul.

FELDER: There are some cases where women are entitled to 50 percent. And so the jury's still out on this case. There are some women married 36 years, 40 years, and married when they were dirt poor and so forth. This is not such a case. He was quite successful when he married her.

PRESS: All right. We did not settle it tonight, but we got a good start. We got to go now. Raoul Felder up in New York. Thank you. Gloria Allred out in Los Angeles, thanks so much for joining us.

I'm telling you, it'sot over yet, Tucker. But next, it is Thursday night. And Tucker and I, pillars of law and order, have been on patrol all week, ferreting out examples of official wrongdoing. When we come back, we'll give you our report. Yes, the CROSSFIRE police blotter.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CARLSON: Welcome back. It's time once again for our Thursday night police blotter. When public figures intersect with law enforcement, CROSSFIRE is there. Particulary sordid line up tonight. We begin in Kentucky, where a judge has devised an especially inventive, some might say diabolical punishment for a dead-beat dad. The man who has fathered 12 children by 11 women owes $33,000 in back child support. Pay up, said the judge. And until you do, remain celibate. The man agreed. No word on how the order will be enforced. Book him, Billo.

PRESS: I'm on the case, Daddyo. All right, things don't look good for favorite CROSSFIRE guest, Jim Traficant. His Ohio trial and bribery charges are going so poorly for him, maybe because he's representing himself, that people are already talking about expelling him from Congress, a punishment used only one other time since the Civil War. Traficant, famous for saying, "Beam me up, Mr. Speaker," may soon get his wish. Beamed up and out. Ouch.

CARLSON: And it's not just Jim Traficant who's had a tough time. It's also been a tough month for the Condit family. First, voters in California killed Gary Condit's decades-long political career in an ugly Democratic primary. And then it was his brother's turn. On Sunday, police in Fort Lauderdale, Florida descended on the State Road 84 Bar, where they arrested 50-year old Darrel Wayne Condit for unlawful flight to avoid prosecution. The other Condit is also charged with resisting arrest, driving without a license and possession of marijuana.

Condit's lawyer has been explanation for it all, of course. Chandra Levy. Coverage of the scandal, he says, has harmed his client's image with law enforcement. Roger Clinton, take notice.

PRESS: Not a good month for the Condit family.

CARLSON: No.

PRESS: And next, who says there's no fat our fraud in the Pentagon? A new report shows some Pentagon employees, including 713 officers, have been living high on the hog, and charging it all to their government credit card. $62 million worth of charges for everything from Legos toys, to sex toys, to new clothes, to kitchen appliances. My favorite, one man charged over $4,000 for breast implants for his girlfriend, a waitress at Hooters. Gives new meaning to the word "plastic."

CARLSON: You know, Bill, I'm against this, OK. But I hate to say it -- but I hate to be cynical, but of all the waste, fraud and abuse that takes place in the federal government...

PRESS: Yes.

CARLSON: $4,000 for appearance-enhancing cosmetic surgery doesn't look so bad.

PRESS: No, but the problem is, I didn't think waitressse at Hooters needed...

CARLSON: Well, that is why...

PRESS: I thought of a, you know...

CARLSON: That's (UNINTELLIGIBLE) job.

PRESS: From the left, I'm Bill Press. Good-night for CROSSFIRE. See you tomorrow night.

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

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