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CNN CROSSFIRE

Should U.S. Get Move Involved in Middle East Crisis?; Are Americans Getting More Rude?

Aired April 3, 2002 - 19:00   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.
ANNOUNCER: CROSSFIRE -- on the left, James Carville and Paul Begala. On the right, Robert Novak and Tucker Carlson. In the CROSSFIRE tonight, mounting criticism over how George Bush is handling the Middle East.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MADELINE ALBRIGHT, FORMER SECRETARY OF STATE: I regret very much that this administration has not been as fully involved as we were.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ARI FLEISCHER, WHITE HOUSE SPOKESMAN: The United States will continue to put a shoulder to the wheel to bring the parties together.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ANNOUNCER: Is the president doing enough?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Shocking how rude people are.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ANNOUNCER: Are Americans too rude and should we care?

Round six: will the longhorn lefty two step all over the prince of darkness?

PAUL BEGALA, CO-HOST: You do not want to lock horns with me.

ROBERT NOVAK, CO-HOST: Think you can go the distance? Ha!

ANNOUNCER: All tonight on CROSSFIRE.

(APPLAUSE)

ANNOUNCER: From the George Washington University, Paul Begala and Robert Novak. NOVAK: Good evening, and welcome to the all-new and improved CROSSFIRE. We are at our new location, the George Washington University here in Washington, D.C., have we ever got a hot button issue for you tonight. Americans are rude and getting ruder by the minute. That's what a recent poll says. Personally, I think it's ridiculous. But we'll go head-to-head on the issue with our guests, Peter Post. Yes, he's the great grandson of the sage of good manners, Emily Post. And Steve Malzberg, radio talk show host with WABC in New York, who I am told, doesn't worry about being rude.

But first today's big story is once again the conflict in the Middle East. The Israeli military was on the move again today rolling into the Palestinian towns of Nablus, Jenin and Salfeet resulting in several deaths. In Bethlehem, scores of Palestinians remain holed up in the church of the nativity, revered by Christians as the birthplace of Jesus.

Meanwhile, pressure mounts for President Bush to stop the fighting. The president reiterated support for Israel's right to self-defense, against what Israel calls an onslaught of terrorist attacks. So should the Bush doctrine on terrorism be applied to the Middle East? That doctrine spelled out by the president after September 11, either you are with us or you are with the terrorists.

Paul, can't you admit tonight that you have put forth, again, a part of the cardinal Begala spin that you can't get in with the president on his war against terrorism so you're taking this tragic confrontation in the Middle East and using it for your political purposes to knock the very popular president of the United States.

BEGALA: No. Nothing would make me happier than to see the president engage successfully in the Middle East as he was in Afghanistan. I was a big supporter of the effort in Afghanistan, I remain a supporter of the war against terrorism. But he's been AWOL on the war in the Middle East, as just as he was AWOL when he was in the National Guard.

But we won't get into those kind of personal things with our guests. They are two powerful members of Congress, first on the left, Jane Harman, she is a member of the International Relations Committee -- Intelligence Committee from California, a Democrat. And Peter King, a Republican from New York who is on the International Relations Committee. Welcome to CROSSFIRE. Welcome to George Washington university.

REP. PETER KING (R), NEW YORK: Great to be here.

BEGALA: Congressman King, let me start with you, and I want to start with a very famous image. If you could take a look at this television set behind you. Back in 1993, the president of the United States, Bill Clinton, brought together two men who did not want to speak, did not want to shake hands. Yitzhak Rabin, the prime minister of Israel and Yasser Arafat, the head of the Palestinian Authority. And the president of the United States brought them together, because he's a leader of the free world, using the power and prestige of America. Not just Bill Clinton. Shouldn't George W. Bush, as the leader of the free world today lead in this Middle East crisis?

KING: First of all, I'm not one of the Republicans who attacks Bill Clinton. But having said that, the Oslo Accords were pretty much handed to Bill Clinton in August of '93. And he did a good job of following through but he wasn't the one who brought Rabin and Arafat together. Obviously the White House was the focal point, but everything had been agreed beforehand. As far as, and I think President Clinton did a fairly good job in the Middle East after that.

I don't think it's fair to compare that to what President Bush is going through now. What President Bush is doing is showing leadership. I think President Clinton showed in the last years -- last months of his administration, and I supported him getting involved, but you can get involved so long with Yasser Arafat and then he walks away. He was offered everything he asked for at the time, walked away from it. I think President Bush feels this is not the time for him as president of the United States to be getting that personally involved. His administration is very much involved.

BEGALA: Well, I actually praise Bush for refusing to meet with Arafat because of the violence going on. I think that wise. But disengaging from meeting with Arafat shouldn't be disengaging from the entire region. I think that's what Bush has done.

KING: No, the fact is that the administration is very actively engaged. Colin Powell is constantly talking to all of the leaders in the Middle East, as is President Bush, and General Zinni is on the ground. The fact is, I think Colin Powell or President Bush only get personally involved, actively involved as far as the public can see once there's a chance of putting something together, otherwise we lose our best shot

NOVAK: Jane Harman, you are shaking your head, which disappoints me. I want you to justify your well-deserved, until now, reputation for being an even-handed, non-partisan patriot by saying that this is not the time to involve in cheap Carville-Begala politics, and attack the president of the United States. Since there's no -- Democrats have been wringing their hands, how are we going to get at the George Bush, and they suddenly see, oh we got an opening on the Middle East. You're not going to join in that?

REP. JANE HARMAN (D), CALIFORNIA: Bob, I was going to agree with you that the Bush doctrine applies here. And it is important for this line to be drawn in the Middle East. You are either with the terrorists or you're with the good guys. And I think that the president personally has to make that case to all the Arab states that surround Israel. That's the way we'll solve this. This has to become a priority for the United States as part of our war on terrorism. It's important that this be dealt with.

NOVAK; Why were you shaking your head when Peter was speaking?

HARMAN: Well, because Peter was talking about the history of Clinton and before Clinton. In fact, Bush one was the one -- Jim Baker visited the Middle East eight times and that's how we did the Madrid Conference. So every president since Harry Truman has been intimately involved here. This administration has to get involved. The Bush doctrine applies here. And the point I am trying to make, the reason I was shaking my head is that we can not put this off.

Unless President Bush, Vice President Cheney right now, today, make this a top priority in the war on terrorism, this won't be solved.

NOVAK: Well, you know and I know, Congresswoman Harman, that Democrat politicians have been sending out the talking points. I've seen the talking points to attack Bush on this for not getting involved soon enough. And I'd like to quote someone who is not a Republican by any means, Leslie Gelb, head of the Council of Foreign Relations. I am sure you respect his view. Let's put it up on the screen what he says. "I don't think the answer to this crisis rests in Washington, D.C. or the White House. Most people, if they thought about it for a bit, would understand that we can't wave a magic wand or tell Israel what to do or put U.S. troops on the borders." In other words, George W. Bush can't solve this.

HARMAN: That's not what I'm suggesting. George W. Bush can lead and can force the leaders of Arab states around Israel, including President Mubarak to take a different tack here. Their tack has to be to put pressure on Arafat and give him cover, some cover, so that he becomes a participant in the peace and the security process. Right now he's AWOL. And Sharon can't do this either because of the blood feud between the two of them over 30 years.

This is a problem that will only be solved with United States leadership in concert with the Arab neighbors of Israel, and together, if they work together on this, I think not only can the Tenet and the Mitchell accords be right this minute implemented, but we should be able to fasten some longer-term solution that both leaders in the region will agree to.

BEGALA: In fact, Congressman King, the mounting criticism of President Bush's disengagement has not simply been from the left or the Democratic party. Let me show you a quote from today's "Washington Post," a former official in Bush Senior's administration told this to the "Washington Post." A former official in the administration of Bush's father, said the current administration has been -- quote -- "asleep at the switch" as the violence has escalated out of control. "His advisers dropped the dropped the ball," the official said. Now I don't blame the adviser. I still believe what seems to be a myth in Washington today that Bush is supposed to run things. He dropped the ball, he was asleep at the wheel. And that's a Bush Sr. Republican aide saying that.

KING: Did this guy identify himself?

BEGALA: No. He was too gutless, but he still spoke the truth.

KING: He probably is upset he wasn't offered a job in this administration.

BEGALA: But he's not the only one. I mean... KING: I want to go against your basic premise. I think the president is engaged, the administration is engaged. The fact is, timing is everything in diplomacy, and I think if the president gets too openly involved right now, I don't know where it is going to lead. I think there's a lot going on on the ground, and I don't think, for instance, Prime Minister Sharon is asking for more U.S. involvement at this time. I think what the president wants to do is to allow Israel to assert itself, and then at the same time to be working with states like King Abdullah of Jordan and Mubarak of Egypt and work with them.

But to go in right now, I don't see the purpose of the U.S. president jumping into it if he can't deliver.

(CROSSTALK)

BEGALA: Why not do what Jane Harman suggested? Send Cheney not to try to bolster support for an attack against Iraq, but let him read the riot act to the Saudis and to the rest of our allies in the region and say, you need to pressure Arafat to come back to the peace table. That's what America can do. Maybe we don't need to -- and certainly don't need to send troops there, but we ought to be pressuring our friends to help out in the crisis in Israel instead of to try to help us attack Iraq.

KING: That is the pressure that Secretary Powell is putting on and also General Zinni is putting on, it's behind the scenes. There's a time when you go public and there's time when you go private. I can tell you, before the Oslo Accords in August of '93, you didn't hear a word out of the Clinton administration. That was being done privately.

HARMAN: The reason we've done so well in Afghanistan is because President Bush personally has led our effort. He sees very clearly this bright line, and he sees it in the Middle East, too. He gets it. His rhetorics is excellent. Now he has to lead the effort with the Arab leaders.

NOVAK: Let me tell you where I smell a rat -- that's a bad thing to say.

HARMAN: Are you calling me a rat?

NOVAK: No, no, no, I smell a deception...

(CROSSTALK)

NOVAK: ... if you listen to the television today, if you listen to the news, it's all how has George W. Bush done? Has he gotten in too late, he has not gotten in deep? I want to go to substance for a minute. Bill Hemmer of CNN interviewed today the Arab League Secretary General Amre Moussa from Cairo, and he asked Mr. Moussa, why don't the Arab -- why don't the Arabs attack the suicide bombers? And he said, that would be a good idea, and then he added this. Let's listen to it.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) AMRE MOUSSA, ARAB LEAGUE SECRETARY GENERAL: Why don't you also tell the Israelis that what they are doing is not only wrong, but it is destructive? And if, for us, to be helped, to tell the Palestinians that, OK, there is a glimmer of hope, there is a light at the end of the tunnel.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

NOVAK: Isn't that a reasonable position?

HARMAN: If there were a cessation of violence, it would be a reasonable position. But right now, suicide bombers are only in one place going to the other place. It's not back again.

NOVAK: In other words, Israel can do anything it wants?

HARMAN: No, Israel is being attacked. The physical geography of Israel and innocent Israeli citizens are being attacked. They perceive that they are at war, they are at war. We've got to stop this. Arafat will not do this, cannot do this perhaps. He's lied about his role in the arms shipment. I mean, it's perfectly clear, his fingerprints were all over those 50 tons of arms that were apprehended.

BEGALA: Congressman Harman, Congressman King, we have to take a break. And we'll be back with both of our guests.

And coming up also in the new CROSSFIRE, we're going to ask them: Is it time for the Bush administration to label Yasser Arafat a terrorist? That and other questions when we return.

And our mysterious quote of the day. Here's a hint -- it comes from the most popular woman in America, besides Hillary. Stay with us.

NOVAK: And Jane Harman.

(LAUGHTER)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BEGALA: Welcome back. Is it time for President Bush to label Yasser Arafat a terrorist? Rejoining us to answer that question, Democratic Congresswoman Jane Harman and Republican Congressman Peter King -- Mr. Novak.

NOVAK: Congresswoman Harman, I want to say something -- the last time I said it on the air, it drove Ed Koch crazy -- and that is one man's terrorist is another man's freedom fighter. You know, when the Israeli freedom fighters were trying to get their state and they were blowing up hotels, killing civilians, assassinating U.N. observers, they were not considered terrorists, they were considered freedom fighters. Can you conceive that these misguided young people killing themselves are doing it not out of terror, but because they are desperate to try to get their homeland back? HARMAN: I can imagine it, Bob, but I don't agree with you. I think that it is very clear in this case that what's being done is destroying the innocent civilians of Israel. That is not acceptable behavior by those seeking a homeland. I think that if they were fighting a war, if they were Israeli troops engaged with Palestinian troops, we might be talking about something different.

I support a Palestinian state. So does Israel. So do the U.N. resolutions.

NOVAK: You think General Sharon supports a Palestinian state?

HARMAN: I think that if the violence stopped, if there were peace and security, yes, he does.

NOVAK: Oh, please.

HARMAN: And I think he said that. And in fact, I think the borders have to be negotiated and the right of return has to be negotiated. That won't work. But yes, I do think so, and I think that freedom fighter thing and the moral equivalence of the two sides is bogus. And in fact, one side wants to destroy the state of Israel -- that's not consistent for fighting with one's own freedom.

BEGALA: Peter, I want to show you a piece of videotape of our president, speaking with great moral clarity in my beloved state of Texas. This is Bush in El Paso just a few weeks ago. Take a look.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: If you harbor a terrorist, if you hide a terrorist, if you feed a terrorist, you are just as guilty as the terrorists themselves.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BEGALA: You know, congressman, that Yasser Arafat harbors, hides, feeds and reimburses suicide bombers for their -- we have a new story from Harets (ph), I know you're familiar with it -- that proves that. Isn't he a terrorist?

KING: I think he is. I think the president believe he is also. But the fact is, timing is everything in diplomacy. There is nobody there to take Arafat's place now. And it's a question of what would the purpose be in taking Arafat out now unless there's someone else. I don't think the Israelis want to take out Arafat. I think they maybe want him to leave the country. I think they want to make him a martyr. And I think, again, to me Israel has the moral right to do whatever it wants to do with Arafat. I don't think it would serve a strategic purpose right now doing it. That's really the only difference.

BEGALA: That shows a level of nuance that tells me that while we disagree with politics, you are more qualified to be president than George W. Bush, who goes out and blabbers, he gives these very strong scripted speeches, but then when the reality hits, he has no idea how to deal with the subtleties of foreign policy.

KING: The reality is, no matter what George Bush says is not going to satisfy you...

BEGALA: No, I'm for him on Afghanistan. No, that's not true.

KING: No, but I'm just saying, I'm talking about -- you almost have to be for him there, because there's no doubt he's doing the right thing. Any time there's even a possibility for doubt, you're going to come out against him. And that's the reality. You can't control yourself.

NOVAK: I think it's interesting that Begala started a King for president movement here tonight. But I just want to...

KING: I can leave for New Hampshire in about an hour.

NOVAK: I just want to get away from the politics for just a second, if you don't mind, Congresswoman Harman. And CNN reported tonight that the Israeli government would not permit the president's representative in Israel, General Zinni, to go to Ramallah to meet with Arafat. They said that it was too dangerous. General Zinni is a Marine general. He isn't worried about the danger. How do you feel about Israel preventing the president of the United States from sending his emissary to talk to Arafat?

HARMAN: Well, I don't feel great about it, but it makes the point that Zinni can't handle this alone. They wouldn't prevent President Bush or Vice President Cheney from going there, and they would be surely a guarantee of their safety. But in Zinni's case, the West Bank is dangerous, all the security apparatus has been destroyed.

And I would worry too. I went there six weeks ago, and I was worried -- as part of the congressional delegation. I met with Arafat, by the way, Bob, and he looked me in the eye and he said: "Arms shipment? I had nothing to do with it." And we know from the evidence today discovered in the security headquarters in the West Bank that that arms shipment was requisitions by the highest levels in his Palestinian Authority.

BEGALA: Congressman King, I want to bring up a slightly different topic. You have been for years one of the leaders in the peace process in Northern Ireland. And you've written a terrific new novel, "Deliver Us From Evil." And there's a quote in here I want to read to you that's supposed to be fiction, because you are a novelist here, not just a congressman, but I want to read you this quote and then tell you something odd about it. Here's a quote from the book. It's Bill Clinton in a fictional conversation with Congressman Shawn Cross (ph) -- who reminds me of someone at this table -- saying: "I remember quite a few of the White House staff thought you, congressman, would be the toughest candidate against Hillary back then in the 2000 election, especially after Giuliani dropped out."

Did you know I had that exact conversation with Bill Clinton back in the year 2000? That wasn't really fiction. Most Democrats were most worried about you running, but the powers that be squeezed you out, didn't they?

KING: They probably listened to Bob Novak, who was attacking me day in and day out back in 2000. So, -- but anyway, I appreciate it. Listen, I didn't run. I'm happy where I am.

BEGALA: And you've written a terrific book.

HARMAN: I want to say something nice about Peter. He's a strong, independent voice. Congress is bipartisan in support of Israel, and I don't think that all the partisan sniping from outside of Congress is going to cause that to waiver at all.

NOVAK: We don't have this kind of niceness here, Jane. Thank you very -- thank you very...

HARMAN: I am not rude, Bob Novak. And I'm happy to be on your new show.

(CROSSTALK)

NOVAK: Coming up next in a one-of-a-kind, CROSSFIRE news alert -- he's the mailman on the basketball court, but would he be able to deliver on the campaign trail?

Also, we'll reveal our quote of the day. Here's hint number two. This well-known woman takes on the president of the United States.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

NOVAK: Now it's time for a look at those unusual and interesting stories that you might not find anywhere but in our CROSSFIRE news alert.

About 10,000 salmon have broken out of a salmon farm on the north coast of Scotland, after the strongest tide of the year broke their cages. And environmentalists are in a dither. Should they be overjoyed about freedom for so many fish? No, the tree-huggers fear the tame salmon will mate with the wild salmon and dilute the wild genes. Gee, I didn't even know that salmon had reading papers.

BEGALA: Those wild salmon are wild in more ways than one.

Voters in Georgetown, Colorado have stripped their mayor of her office. Why should we care? Because we at CROSSFIRE are committed to keeping you abreast of all the hot political news, the earnings and the desires of the voters, the lust for power of politicians! And yes, because it means that former Mayor Colleen Brooks (ph) may return to her former job, as an exotic dancer at an establishment called Shotgun Willy's.

NOVAK: Guess who is considering running for governor of Arkansas? One of my favorite basketball players -- Karl Malone, long- time all-star forward of the Utah Jazz, who owns a big cattle ranch in Arkansas. He's known as the Mailman because he delivers. Pretty good slogan for a political candidate. He's a Republican, belongs to the National Rifle Association, and is a strong believer in gun rights. What a pleasant contrast to Bill Clinton he would be in Little Rock.

BEGALA: And he'll be able to shake hands because he has no championship rings to weigh him down, because he can't win the big one. Bring it on, Mailman, bring it on!

And now, the CROSSFIRE quote of the day. This famous talk show host has been widely attacked for turning down an invitation from the Bush administration to tour schools in Afghanistan. But the date picked by the White House conflicted with her plans to appear at charity fund-raisers. The White House canceled the strip, and the right wing attack machine went after none other than Oprah Winfrey.

Well, today Oprah fired back, calling another talk show host, Star Jones, and uttering our CROSSFIRE quote of the day. "I felt extremely used by the Bush administration."

NOVAK: That's a wonderful story, Paul. Here is this Oprah Winfrey, richer than the devil, she couldn't give up her time to do something for her country. She got mail. She couldn't keep it secret. And then, like the rest of the left wing entertainment establishment, she attacks the president.

BEGALA: No fair. She wanted to help her country, but she had to serve charity first, and the White House knew that.

But we are going to go to a break. When the new CROSSFIRE continues, there's breaking news out of the Pentagon. And later -- hey, hey, listen up. A poll of our fellow Americans says you all are rude. We'll get in the face of our guests and demand an explanation. So stay with us. Don't make me tell you again.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BEGALA: We will have more CROSSFIRE in just a minute. But first, we have breaking news tonight about one of the Taliban prisoners being held at Guantanamo Bay.

CNN'S Bob Franken joins us now with the latest. Bob?

BOB FRANKEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Paul, the Pentagon confirms this evening that the United States believes it is holding a second U.S. citizen who is a member of the Taliban. Officials, not at the Pentagon, but officials identify him as Yasser Issam Handi. He has been held at Guantanamo Naval Base, among the 300 detainees there, captured after the Mazar-e-Sharif prison uprising last year.

According to officials, he has claimed all along that he was born in Baton Rouge, Louisiana and produced a birth certificate. The officials say that the Department of Justice has now told the Pentagon they believe that that birth certificate is, in fact, valid. So it raises, of course, any number of legal questions.

One Pentagon source, however, said, "This does not affect our ability to hold this individual as a battlefield detainee." But it raises obvious legal questions about whether he would have to be tried in U.S. courts. But in any case, he has been identified as a U.S. citizen, a probable U.S. citizen by the Justice Department. And now the legal experts will decide, Paul, what to do.

NOVAK: Thank you very much, Bob Franken.

Do you think that this is just a lot of propaganda by a lot of the do gooders of worrying about the prisoners in Guantanamo? They look like they've been treated very well to me?

BEGALA: Yes, actually, I don't have a concern about how they're being treated. I have a greater concern that apparently now two, 20- somethings could infiltrate al Qaeda, but American intelligence isn't able to.

NOVAK: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) how much time this guy has ever spent in the United States. If he's from Baton Rouge, he might be a friend of Carville's, you know that?

BEGALA: It's a distinct possibility. I have to check in with James.

NOVAK: It's a possibility, OK.

Coming up on the CROSSFIRE, coming up next on CROSSFIRE, rudeness in America. We knock heads with our guests, Peter Post, very polite and Steve Malzberg, a little rude. And later, round six. Paul and I take off the gloves and go at it over presidential use or misuse of polls.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

NOVAK: Listen to this. Americans are rude and manners. According to a recent national poll, 79 percent said rudeness is a serious problem. Nearly half said poor customer service has caused them to walk out of a store. And about that many admit being rude themselves.

We're now to going to find out just how rude we really are. Squaring off in the crossfire, our guests, Peter Post, the great grandson of Emily Post and director of the Emily Post Institute and Steve Malzberg, WABC radio talk show host in New York City -- Paul.

BEGALA: Mr. Malzberg, the overwhelming majority of Americans think we're getting ruder. You've got to concede at least that this is a ruder country, cruder, coarser than we were a generation ago, aren't we?

STEVE MALZBERG, WABC RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: I would say possibly that may be true. But I'd like to know what criteria is used? What person that you call up in this survey and say, "Hey, have you ever run into anybody who's rude? Have you ever found an employee of a store to be rude? Have you ever found a rude person talking on the cell phone in the movie theater or next to you in a restaurant and you found it annoying?" Who's going to say "no?" But to say that we're getting ruder and that it's a serious problem, for crying out loud, let's get real here. Serious problems are the war on terror, education, and the disparity between poor and well-to-do kids in learning and the ones who are getting left behind. But rudeness a serious problem?

There are more people, and I think it's geographically motivated as well. If you live out on a farm somewhere, how many rude people are you going to run into, really? In the cities, you pass millions of people everyday.

BEGALA: And pretty rude bulls in Texas, Mr. Malzberg, on our ranches.

MALZBERG: But I just think it's a bogus thing, really.

NOVAK: Mr. Post, the -- a lot of vigor and what you might call rudeness is part of the American tradition. And unlike Paul Begala and Peter Malzberg, I have read Emily Post. In it -- and she preached a very upper class doctrine. These are all rich people with society manners. Isn't all this talk about politeness always been just an effort to keep down the ordinary vigorous American people?

PETER POST, EMILY POST INSTITUTE: Au contraire. It's absolutely not. In fact, the success of Emily Post was that her book appealed to the people who were in the middle class, not the people in the upper class. And that was one of the great parts of the story of what happened when she brought etiquette to the American people.

BEGALA: Mr. Malzberg, let me ask you a specific then. Cell phones, is it right for people to take cell phones in restaurants and movie theaters and get calls?

MALZBERG: I shut mine off before coming on the show, I tell you that. No, it's not right to get a cell phone call in a movie theater, absolutely not, but how many people do?

There you go. That's not mine.

BEGALA: Just go on ahead there. If it's not bothering you, Steve, I'm just going to -- Novak is a very nice man, grandma.

MALZBERG: I have to tell you, cell phones are something that the hard-working person today takes advantage of. It also offers comfort to people that they're able to speak to their mom or their sister or their grandmother while they're walking the street, while they're eating dinner, find out how they're doing. It's a convenience that just because you take advantage of it and use it, doesn't mean you are rude, as long as you're not in a theater talking over the sound on the screen.

NOVAK: Peter Post, you know, isn't that the fact? Cell phones is not a problem. I mean, if you don't -- if you speak quietly in a cell phone, you can be in a restaurant, you can be on a train. It really doesn't make that much difference. It's just if you're too loud without a cell phone it's obnoxious, isn't that right? POST: That's part of the story, absolutely. You've got to be -- recognize that the people around you should not be impacted by your use of that phone. If they're being impacted, then it's inappropriate use of the phone.

It's inappropriate to use in a restaurant because when the phone rings, it disturbs the other patrons. So I don't say that you ought to be using it in a restaurant, even if you're speaking quietly.

It's very hard to speak quietly. We all know about telephone voice. And telephone voice is louder. Basically, what I think of cell phones is I think the big problem is we've become slaves to them, rather than mastering them. And the easiest way to master it, is when you're not using it, to turn it off. Use the voice mail part of it. That's what it's there for. Take messages. And then, when it's appropriate, when you can talk to somebody, without bothering people around you, turn it back on and use it.

NOVAK: Go ahead.

MALZBERG: I was going to say the problem is in this survey, the people asked, the majority say ban the cell phones. I mean, anything people don't like and they're not affected by, and even though it's helpful to many, many, many others, ban it! I mean, that's ridiculous. And that's what this kind of survey leads people to come up with.

POST: But the survey didn't say ban it. What the survey said was that people aren't using it appropriately, that it's impacting other people negatively. And 49 percent of the people think that.

NOVAK: Mr. Post, I want to get to the question of hypocrisy about people who talk about rudeness and are very rude themselves. One very prominent American talks about rudeness, but let's listen to something he said. And you tell me whether this isn't the height of rudeness. Let's listen to it.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BEGALA: Now it's our turn. We're going to kick a little right- wing ass.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

NOVAK: That was Paul Begala. Now isn't that rude? That's ruder than anything I said on the air.

POST: It's certainly an attempt to draw attention and to make something happen. I think it's rude. There's a lot of people who would be bothered by that language. So I prefer that it not be used.

NOVAK: I'm bothered by it.

POST: But what the heck, you know?

BEGALA: I want to ask you about a related topic, say, oh say road rage. What if, say hypothetically speaking, a multimillionaire conservative pundit with a hot new black Corvette was tooling around town and cutting everybody off in Washington, D.C.? That's rude, isn't it?

MALZBERG: You're darn right it's rude.

NOVAK: Who are you talking about?

BEGALA: Oh, maybe you, Novak. That's a heck of a Corvette you've got.

MALZBERG: You know what? That's another part of the survey that just puzzles me. I drive every single day from New Jersey to Manhattan through the Lincoln Tunnel. And I'm amazed at how non-rude people are. How when you merge from 10 toll booths into two tunnels -- two tubes, people aren't cutting each other off and banging on each other's cars.

I mean, there's always an exception, but it is an exception to the rule. The concept of, oh, my gosh, it's such a serious problem, rudeness. I agree so much with Bob. It's just a class kind of thing, to keep people down.

POST: You know, I got to disagree with Steve. If you look at the survey, you got 35 percent of the people who tell you that they have committed that kind of a road range type of a thing at various points in their life. It's not that it's going on all the time.

But even it if it goes on just a little bit of the time, the danger that it causes out on the road isn't worth it. And we need to be working against it.

NOVAK: Wait minute. My pet peeve is pedestrians. I think -- and when they -- when a jaywalker comes in front of my car and I yell at them, is that rude?

POST: Oh, absolutely. Yelling at them is always be rude.

BEGALA: And particularly the epithets that we can't use on a family show, that he in fact yells at...

POST: Absolutely.

BEGALA: Peter Post, I want to thank you both very much for joining us on a very civil and pleasant debate.

MALZBERG: My pleasure.

POST: Thank you. It's a pleasure to be here.

BEGALA: And coming up, your chance, rude or the not, to fire back at Novak and me. Or maybe we'll fire at you all.

Next, though, we call it round 6. No gloves, no guests, no manners, just Novak and me.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BEGALA: Welcome back to CROSSFIRE. My favorite part of the show, we call it "round 6." Just me, Novak and the bell. And I won't hesitate to use it. Mr. Novak. First topic, polling and presidential hypocrisy. Take a look at what candidate Bush said during the presidential debates.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We got too much polling and focus groups going on in Washington today. We need decisions made on sound principles.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BEGALA: Joshua Green of "The Washington Monthly" reports, and Maureen Dowd amplifies, that Bush has spent a million dollars in his first year on polling. Hey, George, as we say in Texas, don't spit on my boots and tell me it's raining.

NOVAK: Talk about hypocrisy. The master of presidential polling was William Jefferson Clinton. He made you and Carville millionaires by using that polling. Now he was the guy who set the bad example. I want to agree with you that I think George W. Bush is following a bad example, but Clinton was the guy who really brought it to its present low state.

BEGALA: I love polling. And I'm glad that Bush is polling. Maybe he'll learn that some of his idiot policies run popular with the country. But he shouldn't lie about it. He ought not lie about. Does anyone respect Bush for lying about the polling? We can handle the truth.

NOVAK: Stop playing to the audience.

BEGALA: I love the audience.

NOVAK: How about looking in your heart, in your soul, instead of looking at what some pollster tells you with rigged questions?

BEGALA: It's just all -- it is, is Bush in this case, communicating with the American people. But he's so insecure, he knows in his heart that he's not qualified to be president. So he tries to pretend that he doesn't do any polling. It's called denial. It's a very common psychological...

NOVAK: See, but you won't even look at the substance of a man. The question is, why did these people need to check with what everybody is thinking? Why can't they say, I'm president of the United States, I'm going to lead the country. I'm not going to take a damn poll?

BEGALA: Because he's not thinking. He's Bush. That's why. They didn't hear that.

NOVAK: All right, all right. Now let me tell you about another phony poll that's out, that shows that the American people don't want tax cuts, that they want a balanced budget. Can you imagine Molly and Sam, sitting around the table and saying, "We don't care about having a little more money. What we worry about is a balanced budget." That's a phony poll with rigged questions. And I tell you this right now. The American people can have both a balanced budget and tax cuts, if they have less government and less spending that you big liberals have imposed on them.

BEGALA: That poll said 80 percent of the Americans believe that tax cuts benefit somebody else. So Molly and Sam...

NOVAK: I'd like to see the question.

BEGALA: I'd like to see Molly and Sam sit around and say, "Gee, you know what we ought to do is take $4 trillion of our surplus and give it to Ken Lay and the rest of the millionaires that supported Bush." I don't think they would do that.

NOVAK: Well, that's a socialistic propaganda, but the American people want to spend -- want to have less money taken out of their paychecks and given to the government. That's the truth of the matter. And I tell you this. This why the Democrats are having a tough time, because people don't like high taxes. And I hate to see the AP getting involved in a phony poll. I'd like to see the questions on it.

BEGALA: George W. Bush doesn't understand that the American people are willing to pay for good government. Bill Clinton raised taxes on the rich and he got elected fair and square and then re- elected fair and square. Actually got more votes than the other guy. That's an old-fashioned to become president.

NOVAK: You know, every poll, even after September 11 says we should have less government, more than more government. Did you know that?

BEGALA: Bush just created how many new agencies and a cabinet officer?

NOVAK: I tell you what. If you want to have another losing campaign, your next candidate for president, when Al Sharpton or whoever is the Democratic candidate comes out there, have him come out for a big tax increase for the rich. And you say that's the way we're going to do it. You'll see how far it goes.

BEGALA: You saw Bill Clinton get 68 percent of the electoral vote. Call in for a tax increase down the road.

NOVAK: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) campaign for it.

BEGALA: Absolutely, he did. It was one of the most popular things he ever did. God bless him.

NOVAK: OK, coming up next on CROSSFIRE, your chance to fire back at us. Poor us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

NOVAK: Welcome back. Time now for you to fire back at us, and for us to return fire. First, a check of our e-mail.

Our first e-mail is from Wyatt of Boonville, Indiana. "I really like your new show, but I think that you need to hit the timeout bell more often."

BEGALA: Good point, Wyatt. Second one here is Fred Church from Huntington Park, California, who writes, "I would like to know what role Bob Novak played in inciting Monday night's basketball riot?"

NOVAK: I think those were a lot of Democrats out there rioting, because Republicans don't riot ever.

BEGALA: What about Miami when they rigged the election? They all rioted down there. Congratulations to the Terrapins and you for a terrific national championship.

NOVAK: Thank you very much. How about a cheer for the Terrapins?

OK, the next is from Kathleen Trevena of Salem, New Hampshire. "Where's Carville? Did the attorney general send him off to Gitmo?"

BEGALA: Well, I mean, we had that report of an American from Baton Rouge being held in Guantanamo. Maybe...

NOVAK: May be with Carville.

BEGALA: No, I wouldn't put it past Ashcroft.

And then, finally, here's number four. "Finally someone to put some excitement back on CNN. Good-bye O'Reilly, hello CROSSFIRE." Nancy Platt, Brookings, South Dakota.

NOVAK: I guess in Brookings, South Dakota this passes for being exciting.

BEGALA: Well, hello CROSSFIRE.

NOVAK: OK, we'll take your questions from the audience. I think that's a ringer out there from -- I think Mr. Begala knows him.

BEGALA: One of my former students, Steve Demann (ph).

STEVE DEMANN: Hi, my name is Steve Demann (ph). I'm a fellow Houstonian, but I live in Cincinnati, Ohio. And my question is for you, Professor Begala. Don't you feel that the recent Supreme Court decision to take up the three strikes law, don't you think three strikes is more than enough for convicted felons to be put behind bars for a long period of time?

BEGALA: Very good question. And let's give all Americans a chill to hear anybody call me Professor Begala. But yes, Steven...

NOVAK: Gives me a chill.

BEGALA: One of my students. I think three violent felonies, and you're out. The problem with the California law is it applies to all felonies. And I don't think that hot check writing and oh, say driving drunk in Kennebunkport, Maine is the kind of thing that should give you a life sentence. Just one hypothetical case out of the crime file.

NOVAK: I just like the whole idea of somebody who's a two-time loser knowing the third time is going to be a charm for him.

BEGALA: Next question? Yes, sir. Tell us your name and where you're from?

JEROD MOSKOWITZ: My name is Jerod Moskowitz (ph). I'm Broward County, Florida. I want to turn your attention...

NOVAK: Broward County?

BEGALA: The scene of the crime. There we go.

MOSKOWITZ: I'm sure I could sell you a chad on eBay if you'd like one. I want to turn your attention back to the Mideast conflict. Prime ministers in Israel have changed constantly over the last couple years, but Yasser Arafat's been around. What happens if Yasser Arafat dies tomorrow?

NOVAK: Well, the question is, if he dies tomorrow that means he's going to be killed. I don't think he's going to have a heart attack. And this country is going to be in a lot of trouble. I could tell you this right now that everybody in the U.S. foreign policy establishment has told the Israelis don't touch a hair on that guy's head. We're going to be in big trouble.

BEGALA: But you do make a good point. There have been, at least by my counts, something like six Israeli prime ministers since the Oslo peace process began a decade ago. All of them, from different parties, all of them have worked toward peace.

Arafat turned his back on peace when President Clinton, Prime Minister Barak put the last best hope for peace on the table at Camp David. I have no idea who might replace him one day. But right now, it does not look like we're going to have peace until there's new Palestinian leadership.

NOVAK: Another question, please?

SARAH SEARLE: Hi, I'm Sarah Searle (ph) from Long Island, New York. You were talking about elected officials ruling by polls. Now wouldn't you say that by running so many polls and that's how elected officials are making decisions, isn't that in essence putting too much faith in the American public where most of them don't even vote?

NOVAK: No, that isn't the problem. The problem is the polls themselves are rigged. Their questions of bad. I could go over those questions with you. I could teach a course, Professor Novak, in rigging polls in America. And it's people like Begala and Carville, who have perpetrated this fraud on America of giving rigged polls and having the politicians think it's what the American people think.

BEGALA: No, it's called just having a conversation with ordinary Americans. If George W. Bush ambled in here, you all would be very shocked. And he would change the atmosphere in the room considerably. I might even be polite, God forbid.

But it's better than for him to get feedback in a less direct manner, right. To have pollsters -- my friends, Matthew Dowd and Yan Vanlauheisen (ph) are pollsters for President Bush. They're good people. They're good professionals. They're serving their president and their country. There's nothing wrong with that. It's called democracy.

NOVAK: What the problem is if you know Paul, and Paul really in his deepest of his black heart he understands this, that if Republican pollsters give Republican results. Democratic pollsters give Democratic results. It's all a phony operation.

BEGALA: No, actually it's not. It can't be use because it's like a doctor needs to have an accurate thermometer.

NOVAK: Oh, please.

BEGALA: A politician needs to know what citizens think. It's just the politicians shouldn't lie to us about that.

NOVAK: Give me a break, Professor Begala.

BEGALA: Shouldn't lie to us about it. OK, sir.

NOVAK: OK.

STEVEN WEISSPORT: Hi, how are you doing? Steven Weissport (ph) from Hastings and Hudson, New York. My question refers to the Iraq conflict right now. A lot of pundits have said the reason we're not entering Iraq and intervening is because of the Middle Eastern coalition. I was wondering why this coalition is so important, even if we have the most superb military out there?

NOVAK: Because there are some extremists, and I guess Paul seems to be joining that bunch of extremists, who think the United States and Israel can go against the entire world, not just the Arab world, but Europe and everybody. I think that would be a catastrophic mistake for this country.

BEGALA: No, actually, I agree with you. I think that the United States needs to have coalition partners. To his credit, Bush senior built a broad coalition the last time he attacked Iraq. He just didn't finish the job. He wimped out.

NOVAK: That was not the job. And he didn't wimp out.

BEGALA: Here's my concern is that we have a war against terrorism around the world. I believe if we attack Iraq we'll lose many of the allies we need.

NOVAK: All right, one last question.

BEGALA: But get al Qaeda first and then worry about Saddam Hussein.

HEATHER FINK: Hi, my name is Heather Fink (ph) from Roxbury, New Jersey. I was wondering, since you refer to your show as a family program earlier?

NOVAK: Who did?

FINK: You said in the how rude section, our friend on the left, that this is a family program. And earlier, when they mentioned the ex-stripper mayor, you felt comfortable talking about or joking about her breasts, like keeping abreast of the situation. How does that fall in line with like your concerns of being an appropriate family...

BEGALA: Well, I don't know how far you've gotten in anatomy. We wouldn't have very many children if we didn't have breasts. I mean, I'm pro-family and pro-breast. Call me a libertine or a liberal, but...

NOVAK: I think she knows you for what you are.

BEGALA: No.

NOVAK: That's right.

BEGALA: The problem again...

NOVAK: Heather, you scored. Good for you.

OK.

BEGALA: This young prude all of a sudden on our campuses.

NOVAK: A prude? You call somebody who just believes in family values a prude? That's where the Democratic party stands.

BEGALA: Proudly on the side of naked body parts, I am from the left, Paul Begala. Good-night from CROSSFIRE.

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

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