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Can Bush Win a War on Two Fronts?; Who Should Pay When Yale Students Get Busted?

Aired April 10, 2002 - 19:00   ET


ANNOUNCER: CROSSFIRE: On the left, James Carville and Paul Begala. On the right, Robert Novak and Tucker Carlson. In the CROSSFIRE tonight: President Bush's two-front battle. Find a way to handle the Middle East mess, while at home defeat the Senate Democrats who stand in the way of his domestic agenda.

A strong GPA isn't the only thing some at Yale are high on. Who should pay when students get busted, as Lone Star Lefty and the Prince of Darkness fire off their verbal jabs, all tonight on CROSSFIRE.

From the George Washington University, Paul Begala and Robert Novak.

ROBERT NOVAK, CO-HOST: Good evening and welcome to the new CROSSFIRE coming to you live from the George Washington University in downtown, Washington, D.C. Tonight -- high on Yale. College students convicted of drug charges lose any federal aid they are getting, but Yale University has decided to reimburse them. It is one of four schools nationwide that are now skirting federal with this dubious policy.

Tonight, we put it in the crossfire. But first, the Mideast. A potential quagmire for the Bush Administration that deepens by the day. Just this morning another suicide bombing. This one on a bus near the resort city of Haifa. At least eight people dead, including the niece of Israel's ambassador to the United Nations.

This latest attack comes just three days before Secretary of State Colin Powell meets with Yasser Arafat and two days before he sees Ariel Sharon to reiterate President Bush's call for an end to Israeli incursions in the West Bank. How is President Bush handling the Mideast crisis? What should he do about the dance of death by Israel and the Palestinians and what about Iraq?

Paul, I just want you, as a patriotic American to say right now, this is a very serious problem. A situation in the Middle East is as bad as it's ever been. Get off the president's back and act like an American instead of a partisan Democrat, right?

PAUL BEGALA, CO-HOST: I am an American first. America has terrific interests in the region. And Bush's neglect over 18 months has been so profound and pronounced...

NOVAK: There he goes again.

BEGALA: ... and his policy today so incoherent that it's hard to imagine what he is going to do next. So we'll ask our guests. Let me introduce them now. First, from the left, Senator Robert Torricelli. He is a New Jersey Democrat, member of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations. Senator Torricelli. And Senator Richard Shelby of Alabama, who is the vice chairman who is the vice chairman of the Senate Committee on Intelligence.



NOVAK: OK, Senator Torricelli, can you get away -- you have had a reputation, deservedly so for being a fair-minded person when it comes to national security. You put the country above politics. Can we say that the president is doing exactly what he should be doing in sending Colin Powell there and asking for both sides to pull back from the violence?

SEN. ROBERT TORRICELLI (D), NEW JERSEY: I think he is doing the right thing. And secretary Powell is the right person to do it. He has confidence in both sides of the aisle and internationally. I think he's uniquely suited for this mission. I will say that I regret that this didn't happen some time ago. I think we are paying a terrible price in the Middle East for the fact that the administration was not engaged for the last year. But that's behind us now. I don't think it's time to cast blame about it. The secretary should go there and we all wish him well.

NOVAK: I'm heartened by your answer. Can we say now that your majority leader Tom Daschle should stop whining about not getting briefed often enough by the president? I'm reading a biography of Lyndon Johnson, Democratic majority leader with a Republican president, Eisenhower. He didn't whine -- gee, he's not telling me anything -- don't you think Daschle ought to get a grip on himself?

TORRICELLI: And if we had been here during the Johnson Administration, I'm certain you wouldn't have been criticizing a Democratic president then.

I would urge him to stop whining if I'd thought he'd started it, but I think it's right for the majority leader of the United States Senate to expect that the Congress is involved in this process, is consulted in this progress. No one wants in a national emergency to be criticizing an incumbent administration, but I think the administration would be wise at this point, now that the crisis has at least settled down some, we are in it for the long term, to simply bring the Congress, Democrats and Republicans further into negotiation and consultation.

BEGALA: Senator Shelby, let me show you exactly what Tom Daschle said. Had this been Eisenhower, he worked hand in glove with Lyndon Johnson when he was the Senate majority leader. Today the majority leader had rather astonishing revelation -- I want you to take a look on the screen, and then get your comment. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. TOM DASCHLE (D-SD), MAJORITY LEADER: I did get a call yesterday from Condoleezza Rice, and I appreciated it. But that's probably the first contact I've had with the president or the administration in over three weeks during all of this critical time. So I do think there ought to be more regular contact and I think a lot of my colleagues feel the same way.


BEGALA: That is astonishing, to freeze the Congress out for three weeks when we have troops in the field and the Middle East in flames, isn't it?

SEN. RICHARD SHELBY (R), ALABAMA: I don't know all the particulars of what went on between the president and majority leader. But it's always good to talk, whether you are the majority leader or just a member of the Congress or the Senate between the president and whoever is up there. Dialogue is worth something.

BEGALA: Has the administration been briefing you? Is this just a partisan thing? They only brief the Republicans, or is there a generalized contempt for Congress?

SHELBY: Oh, I think they have been briefing. I'm, of course, the ranking Republican on the Intelligence Committee. I'm briefed all the time. Senator Graham is the chairman. He's a Democrat. He's briefed all the time. Senator Torricelli has served when he was in the House as a member the Intelligence Committee. We get a lot more briefing than probably other people. But I think we are pretty well informed.

TORRICELLI: I think it's fair to say this is not the way the former President Bush handled the Persian Gulf War or the way Bill Clinton handles things in Bosnia or Kosovo. I will tell you a more shocking story than that. A couple of weeks ago in Pakistan, Joe Biden, the chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, had to call the secretary of state to get transportation into Afghanistan. He couldn't get cooperation. That's just not the way to run a government. Nobody wants to be involved in criticism, but we have an obligation of the Constitution to get information.

NOVAK: Senator Torricelli, I'd like you to listen to something said to the U.S. Senate, I think just this morning, by the once and maybe future prime minister of Israel, Benjamin Netanyahu. Let's listen to it.


BENJAMIN NETANYAHU, FMR. ISRAELI PRIME MINISTER: The question many in my country are now asking is this: Will America apply its principles consistently and win this war, or will it selectively abandon these principals and thereby ultimately risk losing the war?

(END VIDEO CLIP) NOVAK: You know, I just wonder if you, Senator Torricelli, are as outraged as I am that a representative of a high political official of Israel which operates at the sufferance of the United States and the huge subsidy that we pay them, we supply their military is asking just questioning whether the United States government has the principles and fortitude to stay with this issue? Does that make you as angry as it makes me?

TORRICELLI: I'm at least uncomfortable with the comment. But I don't think because we give aid to Israel we should that we have compromised their sovereignty or we owe their policy, they are an independent country.

Nevertheless, I don't think the integrity of the United States government in fighting terrorism, or our solidarity with Israel should be questioned. We have proven that and I don't think it is fair to question the fortitude.

NOVAK: Why would be say something like that? What is the -- you know what I think it is? I think he is trying to stir up a lot of backfire against President Bush by people in his own party.

TORRICELLI: I'm not sure he's not trying to stir up a backfire against people who are currently supporting Ariel Sharon. It may have more to do with Israeli politics than has to do with Israeli-American relations.

BEGALA: Far be it for me to defend Benjamin Netanyahu, but he does have a point. Unlike the war in Afghanistan, where President Bush was clear and focused, in Israel he first said that Israel was right to go into the West Bank, and then he said that they should pull out without delay. Which of the Bush policies on Israel do you support, by the way?

SHELBY: Well I tell you what I do, I support Israel. I think Israel's got a right to survive. I think what they are trying to do is secure their nation. What we should do is try to bring the parties together and stop the killing on both sides.

BEGALA: I couldn't agree more. I'd sleep better if you were the Republican president, and not Bush. But he did send mixed signals, though, the same day, in fact. On Saturday a week ago he had his U.N. representative vote to ask Israel to withdraw and gave a speech in Crawford, Texas where he endorsed the incursion. Now that is just simply an incoherent policy, wouldn't you say?

SHELBY: Well, I wouldn't say it is incoherent. I think the Bush policy is to bring some peace to the area, and that's been our situation all along through many presidents, through many Congresses, and we're the key to it. We're not the only key, but we're a big key to it. I think the Bush policy right now is on the right track. The question is, will it work?

NOVAK: Senator Torricelli, I just have to ask you about all the talk about attacking Iraq. Senator Pat Roberts of Kansas, not a flamboyant person, but a hard-working Armed Services Committee chairman -- or was; he's the ranking Republican on the Risk Assessment Subcommittee, says that he hasn't gotten any information that there is a risk right now from a weapons of mass destruction attack from Iraq. And that seems to be the basis for the United States' launching an attack to remove Saddam Hussein from power.

TORRICELLI: Well, I don't think there is good information at the moment that there are weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, but I think there is good reason to suspect and indeed to conclude that they are developing them, want them, and at some point are going to get them.

I think the problem with the war in Iraq, to bring these two subjects together -- I know Senator Shelby was there as well -- the coalition is fractured. Any intention to attack Iraq now is postponed until there is progress on the Palestinian/Israeli question. Our allies in the region will not hear of it. They will not join it. They are focused entirely on what's going on with the Palestinians. We have to deal with this Israeli-Palestinian question before we can return to the Iraq issue.

BEGALA: And in fact, let me put a little more point on that, because President Bush apparently told Lindsey Graham that we are going to attack Iraq. In fact, Congressman Graham, now running for the Senate, said: "Before the end of the summer or fall, we'll be in a major engagement with Iraq." Now, first, as the vice chairman of the intelligence committee, anybody that blabs like that doesn't belong in the Senate, do they? And second, should we be attacking Iraq?

SHELBY: Well, I think Lindsey Graham is a good congressman and I'm hoping he's going to come to the Senate. I predict he will. But that aside...

BEGALA: But you wouldn't want him on your committee and leaking like that, though, you wouldn't want him on intelligence?

SHELBY: Well, I don't know what -- I don't know what President Bush said to him and I don't know what his interpretation of what President Bush really said was. I don't know. I'm not privy to that. But I can tell you this: We are going to do at the end of the day what's in our best interest, and the policy of whether we attack Iraq will be made at a high level and I believe it will be measured.

NOVAK: Very quickly because we have to take a break, do you agree with Senator Torricelli that we -- the coalition just won't support our attack on Iraq right now?

SHELBY: Well, I think success brings everything. I think at the end of the day, if we are going to wait until we get the so-called coalition to defend our security interests, we'll be waiting a long time.

NOVAK: We're going to have to take a break. We leave the Mideast and turn now to an even bloodier place, the U.S. Senate. When we come back, President Bush versus the Senate. Human cloning, defense spending, oil drilling, judicial nominations, all bloody confrontations. And later, our "Quote of the Day." Here's your first hint. He's been accused of a cover-up -- artistic, not political -- but he says it was prudent rather than prudish. I think you know the answer to this one. Find out who he is and what he said just ahead.


BEGALA: We are back on CROSSFIRE. The topic now, President Bush versus the United States Senate. The Senate is back in town. And from human cloning to judicial nominations, the battle lines are being drawn.

President Bush has called for bipartisan progress, but Democrats say he's really just playing partisan politics. Well, let's get to the reality behind the rhetoric, with our two guests, Senators Robert Torricelli, a Democrat of New Jersey, and Richard Shelby, a Republican from Alabama.

And the first question for Mr. Novak.

NOVAK: Senator Torricelli, the legislation keeps coming from the House into a pit of darkness of no return in the United States Senate. Not that these are defeated, they're just never voted on. The Democratic leadership never lets them get voted on the Trade Promotion Act, on human cloning, on the ANWR oil drilling. This is -- oh, and judgeship, judicial nominations. Let these things be voted on. Is that a fair way to run a legislative body?

TORRICELLI: Well, if we were to measure progress, the progress would be allowing the spoiling of the Alaska wilderness by doing drilling, stopping all medical research because of the human cloning bill that would undo cancer or heart research, that would be progress. Well, on the contrary, we measure progress a different way. We'd like to do something with the prescription drug benefit plan, we'd like to do something on uninsured on health care, we'd like to keep hiring new teachers to reduce class size. I think that's a bigger margin of a national progress.

NOVAK: It's an outrage that you won't let these come to a vote!

BEGALA: In fact, it's a political strategy from the White House, Senator Shelby. "The Washington Post" gave up the game when they reported this week that the White House has a plan to attack you and your fellow senators every single day this week, because they can't get their program passed. Now, is this Bush the uniter or Bush the divider?

SHELBY: Well, I don't believe that's the plan at all, not to attack everybody in the Senate. I think the president ought to attack the obstructionists. The presidents always have. Governors do that on a state level. They run against the legislature. Sometimes the president might have to, whoever the president is, whether it's President Clinton or President Bush, they might have to do what they have to do. But I can tell you this: There are a lot of things that ought to move in the U.S. Senate. Some good, some bad, but we ought to vote on them. We ought to bring them up and vote on them. Nominations, yes. (UNINTELLIGIBLE).

NOVAK: Nominations is the worst. Let me sort of put a chart up on the screen. On the circuit judges confirmed in the first two years for several presidents: Ronald Reagan, 19 of 20; George Bush Sr., 22 of 23; Bill Clinton, 19 of 22. George W. Bush, seven of 29. You know what's going on, they're not brought to a vote because your party has said that any appellate court nominee who is pro-life will not get confirmed, isn't that it?

TORRICELLI: There's something missing on that chart. More than half of them have only been in the Senate for less than 60 days. The administration didn't nominate them. If they don't nominate them, we can't confirm them. And to take a circuit court judge in less than 60 days reviewing their credentials, doing background checks, doing hearings wouldn't be responsible about it.

NOVAK: Do you think any pro-life circuit court nominee will get confirmed in this Senate?


NOVAK: Name one.

TORRICELLI: Well, I don't know people they're going to nominate. But nevertheless, the answer to the question is yes, I do think they will.

BEGALA: The case in point is education, though. The Democrat senator, Kennedy in particular, the chairman of the Education Committee, worked closely with President Bush. They developed a bipartisan plan. They had a particular commitment to funding, and now we get the Bush budget, and Bush has stabbed Kennedy in the back. Why should -- cut the budget by $7 billion over what he himself had promised. Why should any Democrat take Bush's word?

SHELBY: Well, at the end of the day, the Appropriations Committees in the House and the Senate and then the House and the Senate voting on those bills will make the final decision on what's funded and what's not. It won't be the president. It won't be me by myself or even my friend from New Jersey.

BEGALA: But he does have a credibility problem when he pledges the funding at one level to Senator Kennedy and then produces a bill $7 billion short. He's a man of his most recent word, I guess, right?

SHELBY: I think President Bush is doing well. I think he is a man of his word. He's kept his word to me, and I've kept my word to him.

NOVAK: I just want to listen to something the president said today on human cloning.


GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It would be a mistake for the United States Senate to allow any kind of human cloning to come out of that chamber.


NOVAK: Now, seeking reelection in the great state of New Jersey, I gather from what you said, you like human cloning. You want some more Begalas and Carvilles to be cloned?

TORRICELLI: I don't know about Carville, but you can't have enough Begalas. There are limits to any science.

BEGALA: We do it the old-fashioned way, actually, Bob.

TORRICELLI: Here's the problem. Do any of us believe in human cloning? Obviously not. But you know, I know going to the Kessler Institute in my state, go and visit a roomful of paraplegics and tell them we're going to stop research on nerve damage, or people like in my own family with a history of cardiac problems. You aren't going to be able to do that kind of research, or cancer research. The fact is, the legislation, as written by the Bush administration, runs smack into medical research.

NOVAK: You're going against a national opinion, but we're out of time on this. Thank you very much, Senator Bob Torricelli and Senator Richard Shelby.

TORRICELLI: Thank you, Bob, very much. Thank you, Paul.

NOVAK: Our CROSSFIRE news alert is coming up next. You're not going to believe what one of the dead September 11 terrorists just got in the mail. Plus, our "Quote of the Day." Here's hint number two. His concerns are usually more statutory, but in this case, statuary was a subject. Boy, this is really a tough one, isn't it? Who is a member of the Bush administration who let it all hang out? If you don't know yet, when we come back.


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

The Interior Department announces it is retraining over 50,000 employees in the use of government credit cards. No wonder. It seems that $675 million in taxpayer funds were spent by the employees using their credit cards for rent payments, household furnishings, jewelry, telephone bills and cash advances, including thousands of dollars from gambling casinos. Believe it or not, during the Clinton administration, the Interior Department won an award for its credit card use as part of Al Gore's "Reinventing Government" program. Perhaps we should call it reinventing fraud.

BEGALA: Nearly seven months after Ziad Al-Jarrah seized United Airlines flight 93, which crashed into a field in southwestern Pennsylvania, the Bush administration's Federal Aviation Administration continues to send pilot correspondence to him at a Florida apartment he rented last summer. I suppose the apartment manager could have forwarded the mail to the hijacker's new address, but he didn't know the zip code for hell. Bush apparently promised to run the government like a business; now we know why the one business he ran went belly up.

NOVAK: We've learned to expect almost anything coming out of Arkansas and shouldn't be surprised what happened at the Wal-Mart store in the south Arkansas town of El Dorado last weekend. Two young guys, age 20 and 23, were (UNINTELLIGIBLE) away their Sunday on horseback in the Wal-Mart parking lot, when they decided to ride their mounts into the store itself, up the food aisles, dropping horse manure as they went. Said the Police Lieutenant Terry Ward, quote, "we get some weird stuff down here," unquote. Not so weird, maybe. The two men were arrested on charges of public intoxication.

BEGALA: I wonder who got the horses intoxicated.

But OK, you've waited long enough. Now we can reveal the well hidden secret source of our "Quote of the Day." It is obviously Attorney General John Ashcroft. Speaking last night with David Letterman who has given him endless grief for spending $8,000 of taxpayer money to cover up a naked breast on the statue of justice that has graced the Justice Department for decades.

Well, here's how the attorney general explained it to Dave last night.


JOHN ASHCROFT, ATTORNEY GENERAL: I didn't really know much about this. Someone ordered some draperies for the statues, and I've kind of looked into it since you sort of made an issue of it. And it turns out that -- it turns out it really wasn't a covering for the statue so much as it were for a construction curtain.


ASHCROFT: They are being remodeled.

LETTERMAN: Is that right?


BEGALA: Sure, John. Remodeled? Right, what are they going to do, plastic surgery for giant statues with brass breasts?

Anybody who believes Ashcroft, e-mail me here at crossfire@com.

NOVAK: Seventy-six national approval rating for Ashcroft. Don't forget it.

It's not quite taking candy from a kid, but the government wants to snatch these suckers out of the mouths of smokers. We'll find out why next in our CNN news alert. Then, got pot? No problem at one big-name university. A pot policy at odds with the federal government and in the CROSSFIRE when we come back.



NOVAK: Thank you very much, Fredericka.

Prestigious Yale University is giving new meaning to the phrase "higher education" with a controversial new policy. Under federal law, students convicted of drugs offenses lose their government aid. Now Yale has joined three other schools in circumventing the law by reimbursing those students for the federal funds they lost. The rule only covers students convicted of possession.

Is this Ivy League school going to pot with this policy? Or is it a reasonable answer to an unreasonable law that could derail a student's education?

Let's have a warm welcome for our guests, Eleanor Holmes Norton, Washington, D.C. delegate for the House of Representatives and Bob Schaffer, Republican representative from Colorado.

Congresswoman, you are my representative of Congress. I live in the District of Columbia.


NOVAK: I can't escape it and you can't escape it either. Please don't disappoint. Just because you have two degrees from Yale, you are not condoning this violation of the federal law passed by Congress by your university?

NORTON: Look, I'm not an old blue. My degrees are graduate degrees. And this is not school loyalty. What this is about, Bob, is legislative 101. We flunked it. But who we're causing to flunk out of school are, for example, a youngster who smoked a joint at age 16, got rounded up, and now can't get his Pell Grant. The race and class repercussions are absolutely pernicious. We've a kid, for example, out of Anacostia in Washington who somehow has resisted the real drug culture, but he can't get into college anyway because of a possession offense? Look...

NOVAK: How about if he's from Scarsdale?

NORTON: Same difference.


BEGALA: Well, no, let me ask you though. Because in the annals of stupid things that Congress has done, this may be number one, congressman.

REP BOB SCHAFFER (R), COLORADO: Oh, absolutely not.

BEGALA: Explain to these college students here why if they are convicted of rape or murder they can still get college loans, but if they smoke pot, they can't? What's the rationale behind that?

SCHAFFER: That's a little bit of an exaggeration.

BEGALA: Exactly what the law says.

SCHAFFER: Well, I doubt you're going to find too many Americans or universities who are eager to admit those who put on their resume, or are known to be rapest or murderers. You're not going to find too many of them going to college.

But secondly, the fact is one of scarcity. Now listen, these grants are not entitlements. They're not rights. They are, in fact, gifts from some Americans to other Americans. And it's a very nice thing we're able to do.

But if we were able to give these gifts to all American who want to go to college, then I would say this is really not an issue.

BEGALA: But -- I wouldn't just hand all the money away and his rich friends in tax cuts.

SCHAFFER: It's a matter of scarcity. And we only have so many grants to hand out. Now what is wrong with a policy that suggests we're going to give these grants to Americans who have managed to abide by the law?

NOVAK: Go ahead.

NORTON: Well, this is in a irrational way to deal with scarcity. Let me take your Scarsdale point, Bob. You can be high for four years if your momma and your daddy can afford to pay your tuition and keep you at Yale or GW. But if you are a kid who must have the Pell Grant, who's made a mistake, and that's when kids make mistakes, when they're young, you've got what may keep you from going to college ever.

NOVAK: I tell you what bothers...

SCHAFFER: What you want is other Americans to pay for the kid who broke the law.

NOVAK: I tell you what bothers me about this -- what Yale and these other funny colleges are doing. And it is -- this is nullfication. If you don't -- I think it's a good law. I agree with Congressman Schaffer. But if you don't like the law, repeal it. That's what you do. I thought we had decided a long time ago that nullfication by juries or by states is not a good process.

NORTON: How is this nullfication? Yale says we are going to make up for what the federal government isn't paying. That's not nullfication.

NOVAK: No, it's a nullfication in the law as far as I can see.

NORTON: It's a private university. It can spend it's money the way it wants to, Mr. Republican.

(CROSS TALK) BEGALA: When we kick those kids out of college, who are trying to get their lives straight, who are turning away from drugs and toward school and we kick them out, what do you suppose they're going to learn?

SCHAFFER: Faulty premise, first of all. We're not kicking them out. What we're doing is denying the aid...


SCHAFFER: What we're doing is giving the gift to other children who are unable to receive these grants because of scarcity. We're giving it to the law abiders first. Now that's not kicking anyone out. Now listen, you know, Americans are free to make choices. And the law is very clear. You know, if you're in possession of an illegal controlled substance, you're not going to get the gift from the rest of Americans.

NOVAK: Don't you see what that does though to the whole question of responsibility for these students? That the idea that there is a rule? You can say, "OK, I have violate it, but there's a way out."

You know, it's very interesting. I'm very interested in Mr. Schaffer's alma mater, the University of Dayton.

SCHAFFER: Correct.

NOVAK: A Catholic school?

SCHAFFER: Absolutely.

NOVAK: They wouldn't think of doing this, would they?

SCHAFFER: No, but I got to tell you, I -- on this point, I agree with my colleage that this is a private institution, Yale University. And they have the right to pass whatever goofy laws and spend money however they want.


BEGALA: ...drunk driving. Our president is a convicted drunk driver. We could lose 55,000 Americans every year to drunk driving, way more than we lose to possession of pot. Why doesn't Congress spending for that?


SCHAFFER: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) comparing presidents with college students. That's good.

BEGALA: I think Bush should get a second chance.


BEGALA: Here's the difference. A majority of Americans agreed with you and voted for the president, and made him president of the United States.

BEGALA: They voted for Al Gore as we know, but...

NORTON: No, I want to bring the drunk point up, because there's just been a report issued that says the real problem on campus is kids drinking. Now the reason that we're not focusing on drinking is who made the laws. Who made the laws were the folks who drank and drink, not those who smoke marijuana.

BEGALA: We need to take a break. We'll come right back on this point though, because it's an important point. And when we come back, you know, well, why listen to pundits when you can hear from the students themselves? Our audience here at George Washington will speak out and speak out about the policy when we come back.

And then later, "round 6," which party's the people's choice for Congress? The public speaks up and we sound off next on CROSSFIRE.


NOVAK: We are back. And some people are high on Yale, especially students who lost their federal aid because of convictions for drug possession. Yale reimburses them. With us, two members of Congress: Eleanor Holmes Norton, District of Columbia Democrat and Bob Schaffer, Colorado Republican. We'll take a question from the audience, please.

HOWARD PARK: Hi, Congressman Schaffer, given that Republican Mayor Bloomberg...

NOVAK: Name and town, please?

PARK: My name's Howard Park from Washington, D.C. Given that Republican Mayor Bloomberg in New York has said that he inhaled and he enjoyed it, you think we should also cut off all aid to New York City?

SCHAFFER: Well, that seems like a good question, but no. You know, the people of New York voted for a mayor, who fully confessed to the public. And that's a decision that they made. Good for the people of New York.

NOVAK: There's no law for an aid cutoff.

BEGALA: Well, I mean, I guess he's making the same point though. How can Mayor Bloomberg...

NOVAK: Because there's no law. Do you understand that?

BEGALA: They make the laws, Bob. They can pass a new law if they want to. They're the Congress.

NOVAK: Let's take another question.

LISA: My name's Lisa. I'm from upstate New York. I was just wonder if any of you could expand upon the fact this policy particularly hurts the minorities and the poor.

BEGALA: Ms. Norton, if I may first -- here's why. You're exactly right. 27 percent of all Americans 18 to 25 have used drugs. And only 13 percent of drug users are African-American, but 55 percent of people caught and arrested are African-Americans. Now that is disproportionate impact. It may not be the intent but the impact...

NOVAK: They don't have any figures on these students though, on how many lost their...

BEGALA: No, but generally.

NOVAK: Hey, you don't have it.

BEGALA: Even though the majority of people arrested are black.

[ringing bell]

NORTON: The fact is, Bob, that because there is a drug culture, both in the suburbs and of course, in the inner city, but especially in the inner city, where people will buy off of the streets, a youngster is much more likely to get caught up, even though he is green, even though he's never done it again. And the notion -- no, even courts can do alternative sentencing.

NOVAK: Congressman Schaffer?

NORTON: A court can refuse to convict you. You are much more likely to be convicted if you are a minority.

NOVAK: Congressman?

SCHAFFER: You know, failure to separate behavior from race is the soft bigotry that plagues America. It absolutely is. This is not about race.

NORTON: Except for George Bush.

SCHAFFER: This is not about whether this hurts people of one color, race or another. This is all predicated on behavior. And behavior as to whether it is against the law or...

NORTON: The reason it is not predicated on behavior is a white kid from the suburbs may never -- will go into some drug rehabilitation...

NOVAK: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) on this. How much help...


SCHAFFER: How much help do you think we provide if we amend the laws to allow a culture of tolerance or illegal substances are concerned?

NORTON: I have an alternative.

SCHAFFER: Now that doesn't help anybody.

NOVAK: Take another question.

BEGALA: Take one more question here.

JORDAN WALLACH: Hi, my name is Jordan Wallach. I'm from New York City. Do you think it's right that students lose financial aid while murder murderers receive degrees while in prison?

NOVAK: He already asked that question.

BEGALA: Well, it's still a good one.

SCHAFFER: Listen, I think it's fine for those who are caught in possession of drugs to receive college educations. I'm just not for denying children and students who abide by the law grants, while giving those same grants to children who are in violation of our drug laws.

NOVAK: Far be it for me be (UNINTELLIGIBLE), but I'm going to repeat that you have no numbers and no racial breakdown on students who have lost aid because of this federal law. You don't have a breakdown.

BEGALA: But we know only 13 percent of the people who use drugs are black, but 55 percent of the people arrested are black.

NOVAK: Admit you don't have the numbers.

BEGALA: That's racially disproportionate, because people like Bush can just cruise through and never get caught and go on to become president.

SCHAFFER: How do you know he got arrested though with the DUI?


SCHAFFER: Then he got caught.

BEGALA: I do want to thank Congressman Bob Schaffer of Colorado and Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton of Washington, D.C.

And coming up next, your chance to fire back at us. But first, "round 6," just me, Bob. One on one, we'll lace up the gloves and come out fighting, right after a quick break.


NOVAK: It's CROSSFIRE, "Round 6."

[ringing bell]

Novak versus Begala, no guests, no holds barred. Topic number one tonight, homeland security director Tom Ridge refusing to testify before Congress about his agency's proposed $38 billion budget. Two facts, Paul. Number one, he has agreed to sit down with anybody on either side in authority to discuss it privately. Secondly, there's a long, long tradition precedent of presidential aides don't have to testify in open session. The fact is that Senator Byrd, the king of pork, wants to beat up Governor Ridge. And that's why he doesn't want to sit down in private with him.

BEGALA: Private. Private is the key word. It's our money. It's our Congress. We have a right to know what they're doing with it. And this notion that all of a sudden, you and the right wing want to defend the notion that presidential aides shouldn't be compelled to testify before Congress, when I worked for Bill Clinton, they dragged all of his aides up there for every crackpot, right wing investigation...

NOVAK: I never said you had to testify.

BEGALA: They never made me testify, but they dragged John Podesta, the chief of staff down there. They dragged the White House counsel down there, the deputy chiefs of staff down there, Hillary...

NOVAK: Because these were criminal proceedings.

BEGALA: No, because they were innocent people being railroaded. All we want to know is how this guy, Ridge, is going to spend $38 billion of our money. It's public money. It should be discussed in a public forum. What is he hiding?

NOVAK: You know what it is? It's Senator Byrd wants to move the whole government to West Virginia. And we'd have to do this in Morgantown.

BEGALA: Is that what we (UNINTELLGIBLE).

[ringing bell]

CROSSFIRE, OK, issue two, the Democrats, of course, control the Senate just by one vote. Prediction tonight, write it down. The House will go to the Democrats in the next election. Today's CNN/USA Today/Gallup poll, read them and weep. Here it is. If the election were held today, Democrats would take back the House, a resounding 50 to 43, a seven-point win for my party. Welcome Speaker Gephardt. Let's start sucking to Dick Gephardt. Mr. Speaker, we can't wait to have you ont he show.

NOVAK: You know, you aren't sophisticated enough, I think, to know that these generic polls mean nothing, that you have to take it seat by seat. And there's no correlation between that and who wins the Congress.

But take a look at this, the same poll. Who is better that protecting against future terrorism? 54 percent Republicans, Democrats 21 percent? I don't even know -- same poll. I don't even know if that's even fair, but that's what the truth is.

BEGALA: Well, but when it comes down to the vote, they prefer Democrats on issues like Social Security. And by the way, on that same vote, they asked who reflects your values better? The Democrats won.

NOVAK: Your values?

BEGALA: My values.

NOVAK: I think the Democrats do reflect your values.

BEGALA: Well, they certainly do family values all the way.

NOVAK: Unfortunately.

BEGALA: No, no. But that's why you wathc, this coming November, Democrats take back the House guaranteed. OK, we're going to break now. Brace yourself. Our viewers are about to fire back if I can keep my voice long enough. Vim, vigor, vitriol and a very hoarse voice, all when we come back.


NOVAK: OK. Welcome back to CROSSFIRE.

Next, the e-mails from our audience, where they fire back at us.

BEGALA: Here's number one from Glenn Farmer in Madison, Mississippi. "Yale rightly understands that these kids could still someday grow up to be mayor of NY...or eevn president!" Amen.

NOVAK: God forbid.


NOVAK: All right. Next e-mail is from Paul of Damascus. I know of Paul Damascus. He had a hell of trial.


NOVAK: "The new CROSSFIRE is the best thing on TV next to the Super Bowl, and you don't ahve to wait a year for the next episode." I thought these were supposed to be nasty things.

BEGALA: Wow, I like Paul in Damacus. That's actually my code name on the Internet.

NOVAK: Yes, OK. Next...

BEGALA: I'm that Paul. Here's the next e-mail is from Aaron Hines in Mount Oreb, Ohio. "Bob, I like most of your comments but I can't figure out if you are a far right winger like myself or a breed of your own?"

Well, Bob?

NOVAK: I'm a far right winger who is a breed of his own, both. OK. BEGALA: So far right, he's wrong.

NOVAK: We have one more. Oh, from Little Rock, Annie -- we know Annie, don't you? "I really enjoy you putting Novak on the ropes. About time somebody did!" Well, that is ridiculous. I'll get you, Annie Boatwright.

BEGALA: Way to go, Annie Boatwright.

NOVAK: All right, we have a question from the audience. Shoot.

JILL BLACKBIRD: Hi, my name is Jill Blackbird. I'm from Washington, D.C. And my question is for Mr. Novak. Do you think that the U.S. could exert more influence on Israel to solve the Mid East crisis if we cut off or threaten to cut off all military and economic aid?

NOVAK: Absolutely. They can't exist without us and -- but I'll tell you what the president's problem is. He has got the dominant conservative wing of the Republican party is very, very pro Israel. It didn't used to be, but it is today. And I think George W. Bush is very pro Israel. And I don't think he wants to pull that trigger.

BEGALA: Well, and the liberals are also very pro Israel as at least I think they should be. I think it would be a disaster to threaten to cut off aid.

NOVAK: That wasn't the question.

BEGALA: We invest that aid in Israel because it's in America's interest, not Israel's.

NOVAK: But you agree we could cut it off in a minute?

BEGALA: And I think it'd be a disaster for America, but also before we...

NOVAK: Maybe we'd get peace.

BEGALA: I want to give a quick update. You heard the story I read earlier about the FAA sending mail to this terrorist dead hijacker. Well, just since we've aired that story, we've learned the FAA has finally expunged them from their mailing rolls. The power of CROSSFIRE. Now let's see if Ashcroft can reveal that statue again, we'll be making real progress.

NOVAK: Go ahead.

ROBIN COOK: Yes, my name is Robin Cook. I'm from Columbia, Missouri. And my question is for Mr. Begala. You mentioned the poll numbers for the congressional elections. But in light of President Bush's equally high, if not higher poll numbers, I'm curious how his stump speeches for congressional candidates are going to affect the elections?

BEGALA: A great question, it's a great question. He's at 76 percent popularity in that same poll, which is basically about where Clinton was in the middle of the Lewinsky thing. So maybe Karl Rove's (UNINTELLIGIBLE).


BEGALA: Presidents of either party do not have coattails when they're not on the ballot. It wouldn't help at all. Bob, you know this. you've covered elections for decades. Have you ever seen a president, who is not on the ballot, even Ronald Reagan or Bill CLinton when at the height of their popularity, they couldn't help their own parties?

NOVAK: Yes, when I covered the '36 campaign, Roosevelt brought a lot of people in. Go ahead.

MATT PARKER: Hi, my name is Matt Parker. I'm from Weirton, West Virginia. And it's a question for Mr. Begala. I want to know why liberals are constantly exploiting race when explaining problems in society, such as drug use and everything else like that?

NOVAK: Because they're demoagogic.

BEGALA: It is not exploiting race to speak the truth. The truth is, as I said before, think about this. Only 13 percent of people who use drugs are black. But 55 percent of people arrested for using drugs are black. That is simply a fact.

I don't believe that President Bush or anybody else who in leadership in the Republican party has any racial animus. But there's a reality that we're locking up a whole generation of young black men for doing the same thing that young white men are doing. It's unfair.

NOVAK: It's called playing the race card.


NOVAK: Next?

NATALIE SOLOMON: Hi, my name is Natalie Solomon. And I'm from Birmingham, Alabama. The question that I think that we should have been asking tonight is why is something that somebody does in their private life, such, as the recreational use of marijuana, why is that something that's going to affect whether or not they can have an entire education?

NOVAK: Because it's against the law. You know, murdering somebody is something you do in your private life, too.

BEGALA: No, but the question is though the favoritism shown to people who get away with it. I endorsed Bush refusing to answer questions about alleged past criminal drug use. I thought it was the right thing for Bush to do, because it was a long time ago. It is none of my damn business. He did the right thing in refusing to answer those questions, but he ought to do the right thing and repeal this God awful law that kicks kids off of student for making the same mistake he may well have made 20, 30 years ago. NOVAK: I think you've made that point about 30 times tonight. Next? We're all of questions. We've exhausted this whole group.

BEGALA: This is something (UNINTELLIGIBLE). I've never heard him speak about it.

NOVAK: Paul, I hate to tell you this, because I do like you, but I'm embarrassed by your performance tonight when you play the race card on a question that really has nothing to do with race. I'm just disappointed in you, Paul.

BEGALA: A huge majority of people arrested for drugs are black, but the tiny minority who use them are black. That's unfair. And that's going to have to be the last word. On the left, I am Paul Begala. Good-night from CROSSFIRE.

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


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