Has Search for Peace in Middle East Reached Stalemate?; Did Recent Tax Cut Go Too Far or Not Enough?
Aired April 15, 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: Has the search for peace in the Middle East reached a stalemate, or can the Bush administration broker a solution?
How taxing is this April 15 for you? Did the recent tax cut go too far or not far enough?
It's time to head into the ring and join "Longhorn Lefty" and the "Bow-Tie Brawler" as they trade jabs ahead on CROSSFIRE.
From the George Washington University, Paul Begala and Tucker Carlson.
PAUL BEGALA, CO-HOST: Good evening and welcome to the new CROSSFIRE coming to you live from the George Washington University in downtown Washington, D.C. On this tax day, verbal jabs and upper cuts, critics pound the president over his push to make his trillion- dollar tax cut permanent. We will tax our guests on the wisdom or folly of that idea.
And then later in "Round 6", he's back. My man Al Gore blasting away at the man who slammed the White House door in his face.
But first, stalemate or progress in the Middle East? Secretary of State Colin Powell continues his shuttle diplomacy in a search for a cease-fire in the Israeli/Palestinian conflict. Powell is scheduled to meet again with Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat tomorrow. Earlier today, he held talks with Syrian and Lebanese officials in Damascus.
And, in an interview with CNN, Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon says Israeli troops will pull out of all West Bank cities except two within a week. But he says it's impossible to reach peace with Arafat. Tucker, my heart goes out to General Powell. He is doing heroic -- Secretary Powell -- doing heroic work now, but you can't make up in five days for 15 months of neglect. And that's the mission he has. It's mission impossible to make up from Bush having walked away from it.
TUCKER CARLSON, CO-HOST: You know, I thought you were a bigger man than that. BEGALA: I'm a little guy. I'm an accurate little guy though.
CARLSON: Even your former boss, Bill Clinton, said the other day in a speech two days ago, we should all have our prayers with Colin Powell, rooting for his success, not expecting his failure, the force of the world arrayed against him. And I'm sad to hear your voice added to that chorus.
BEGALA: Oh, I'm totally with General Powell. You know that.
CARLSON: Let's bring on our guests, Republican Senator Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania joins us tonight as well as Hasan Abdel Rahman, the chief PLO representative for the United States.
BEGALA: Mr. Rahman, Senator Specter, thank you for joining us. Mr. Rahman, may I begin with you.
HASAN ABDEL RAHMAN, CHIEF PALESTINIAN REPRESENTATIVE: (UNINTELLIGIBLE).
BEGALA: Yes, sir. Take your seat. Thank you for joining us. The first lady of the Palestinian movement was quoted widely in the press saying something rather astonishing, at least to my American ears. Let me put it up on the screen and read it to you and ask you to disavow it, frankly. "Resistance," she said -- it's up here on the screen -- "is a legitimate right for every occupied people, and suicide operations are an indivisible part of that right." That is Suha Arafat, Mrs. Yasser Arafat speaking about suicide bombings and endorsing them. That's an outrage, isn't it?
RAHMAN: I believe that any people who are under colonial occupation have the right to defend themselves. Now, I oppose on legal, moral, political grounds, suicide bombing, not because of Israel, because of what it does to our society and our people.
BEGALA: And when an educated and sophisticated woman like Suha Arafat endorses that, what does it say...
RAHMAN: I'm not here to defend her. I do not speak for her. You ask my opinion and I answer you.
BEGALA: Good for you. At least he's got the courage to take on his own first lady.
CARLSON: Now, Senator Specter, the United States, the president of the United States asked a fairly simple thing of Israel, a very close ally, of course, of the United States that it was withdrawing immediately from the occupied territories. Of course, Prime Minister Sharon did not do that and was fairly dismissive in not doing that.
There was a poll a couple of days ago that asked ordinary Americans, what should be the American response to the sort of dismissive treatment the United States government received from the state of Israel? And here was the response. Cut off all aid to Israel, 27 percent; reduce aid to Israel, 33 percent. Bottom line is the majority of Americans think we ought to cut off or reduce aid to the state of Israel if Israel doesn't obey the request of the president. Are they right, the majority?
SEN. ARLEN SPECTER (R), PENNSYLVANIA: Tucker, they are not right, but I'd have to see more of the poll to evaluate it. But it was not a simple request. To ask Israel not to defend itself against suicide bombers is not a simple request. And Prime Minister Sharon's response was not dismissive. Prime Minister Sharon's response was a very respectful.
He said that as the elected leader of his country he was going to discharge the fundamental duty of his country to defend its citizens. And when you flash a poll up, Tucker, you and I know that it depends very much on how the questions are asked.
CARLSON: But, Senator Specter, the bottom line question remains, and that is why should -- incidentally it seems to me the request that the president made of Mr. Sharon was simple. It wasn't don't defend yourself, it was remove your troops from these places, and he declined to do that. Why should the United States government continue to subsidize a country to the tune of $3 billion a year that dismisses out of hand a simple request like that?
SPECTER: Well, I don't think it was dismissed out of hand. I don't think it was simple. And when you say withdraw your forces, you're taking away the ability of Israel to root out the suicide bombers. I believe that the American people support Israel in defending itself. And when you take what happened to the United States on September 11, we face suicide bombers. They were just a little more sophisticated. They hijacked planes and they flew them into the Trade Towers, and one was headed for the White House and one was headed for the United States Capitol. And I think the American people understand that Israel has a right to defend itself.
BEGALA: In fact, Mr. Rahman, let me press that point. When the United States was attacked by suicide bombers, we reacted not just with house to house searches, painful and damaging though they have been, or Apache helicopters. We reacted with the full force of the American military: cruise missiles, aircraft carriers, B-52s. And the United States was justified in doing that, weren't we?
RAHMAN: You were because that was an aggression against the United States, because the United States was not occupying Afghanistan, and the United States was not building American exclusive settlements in the land of (UNINTELLIGIBLE) -- let me finish.
In our case, and I'm surprised to hear Senator Specter defending this aggression against the Palestinian people, calling it defense. I want to ask Senator Specter have you read the article by James Bennett yesterday about the destruction that Israel is inflicting on the people of Palestine and on the infrastructure? Does destroying the roads, does destroying the telephone system, the electricity, not allowing aid to reach the Palestinians, not to allow the Palestinians to bury their dead, is that what you call self-defense, Mr. Specter?
SPECTER: Well, I think, Mr. Rahman, that it is very unfortunate that...
RAHMAN: Because why you did not condemn it?
SPECTER: Will you let me finish my answer?
RAHMAN: Yes, please.
SPECTER: I was about to say that I think it is very, very unfortunate that there are civilian casualties and there's the kind of destruction which you describe. But when the United States moved into Afghanistan, regrettably there were collateral damages. When we bombed Yugoslavia, regrettably there were civilians killed. I think, inevitably, when you go in to get the military, and there's been -- it's a war that's going on there.
RAHMAN: It's not a war, Mr. Specter. The Israelis are attacking cities, Ramallah, 100,000 people with 30,000 soldiers; Jenin, 15,000 people in refugee camps using helicopters. You know, this is comparative to what Milosevic did in Kosovo. And Milosevic today is in a court for war crimes. Why didn't you, Senator, condemn in the same way the killing of Palestinian civilians? Why don't you?
RAHMAN: Why there are Israeli members of the Knesset are condemning the Israeli army for killing Palestinian civilians, and you and your colleagues in the U.S. Senate are not condemning Israel for killing Palestinian civilians? In the Knesset, there is much more debate about Israeli policies than in the U.S. Congress.
CARLSON: Is that true, Senator Specter?
SPECTER: Well, we in the Senate have a standing for being thoughtful and being careful. And what we have seen is Israel's action in trying to root out the suicide bombers. They're going after the militants. They're going after the people who have been suicide bombers. That's where they're going.
CARLSON: Then why not let, for instance, the Red Cross or other international aid groups or journalists into Jenin, initially?
SPECTER: Well, I think they should, Tucker. And the reports are that Prime Minister Sharon today said that they were letting people in, but it was untrue that they were keeping people out.
CARLSON: But they kept the press out for the first week though. I mean, there's no debate about that.
SPECTER: Well, some of the press was able to get in there. When you have a military operation going on, there's an issue as to who can get in there. But I believe that it ought to be open for inspection. You have conflicting reports there. I think we ought to find out what the truth is. And if there has been inappropriate conduct on the part of the Israeli army, it ought to be identified.
BEGALA: Mr. Rahman, let me give you another outrageous comment from someone who purports to support your cause and ask you if you'll be gracious enough again to tell the American people that he doesn't speak for the Palestinians. His name is Sheik Muhammad Sayyed Tantawi. He is at Al Azhar University in Cairo.
RAHMAN: He's Egyptian.
BEGALA: He's a leading cleric, Muslim cleric. And here's what he said about your cause: "One who blows himself up among those Israeli aggressors is a martyr, martyr, martyr. And whoever says otherwise is a liar." President Bush says they're murderers, not martyr. I think President Bush is right. Who do you agree with?
RAHMAN: Well, I expressed my opinion today, yesterday and the day before on the issue of suicide bombing.
BEGALA: They are murderers then, right, not martyrs? Who's right?
RAHMAN: I am not going to be spiritual about it, because who will decide whether they are martyrs or not is God. I...
BEGALA: Human beings decide who is a murderer though, sir, every day.
RAHMAN: Well, I am telling you I'm opposed to it, period. I am not with suicide bombing, but I believe in the right of the Palestinian people to fight against Israeli illegal, immoral, colonial occupation.
BEGALA: But not with the use of suicide bombers. I mean, I keep hearing well we're occupied, and so...
RAHMAN: No, no. You are putting words in my mouth.
BEGALA: Give me the words. Tell me they're murderers.
RAHMAN: I said that fighting against Israeli occupation is a right for the Palestinians. I am opposed to killing any civilians, Israelis or Palestinians.
CARLSON: OK. Mr. Rahman, Senator Specter, we're going to take a quick break and we'll be right back in just a moment.
When CROSSFIRE returns, we'll reveal who is slamming the president over his Middle East policy?
And a little later, our "Quote of the Day." Here's your first hint. A verbose pundit is the target of a satirical talk show host. Don't miss it. We'll be right back.
CARLSON: Welcome back. More now on the deadly conflict in the Middle East, and President Bush's efforts to stop the fighting. Is his strategy working or is it making matters worse? Democrats are mincing no words, as usual, about what they think. Back with us to debate the issue, Republican Senator Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania, and Hasan Abdel Rahman, the chief PLO representative to the United States.
BEGALA: Senator Specter, during the break, you were telling us that on March 26, you had a meeting with Mr. Arafat in Ramallah. Since then, we've seen our American president call on Mr. Sharon to withdraw the troops, been told no, called on Arafat for a cease-fire, been told no. How did American influence in the region reach such a terrible low?
SPECTER: I don't think it has reached a terrible low. I think that the president has taken the initiative, and I know that he's trying to do his very, very best, and I think sending Secretary Powell there was a good move, the highest level, to try to work it out. But when you ask a sovereign country like Israel to do something, Israel has to make a decision based on what it considers in Israel's interest. But I think there is great respect for President Bush, respect for Secretary Powell, and I think there will be an effort to cooperate.
BEGALA: That's a hell of way of showing respect though. I'll go ahead and let Tucker get in.
CARLSON: Mr. Rahman, there was an editorial yesterday broadcast by the official news agency of the Palestinian Authority out of Gaza City. And it accused, among other things, Secretary of State Powell of having hatred, racist hatred, for Palestinians and for Arabs. It said that Palestinians would not submit to American dictates. It was belligerent and anti-American in a pretty aggressive way.
It strikes me here, on the one hand the Palestinians begging for American intervention. On the other hand broadcasting things like this. What exactly...
RAHMAN: See, we have a democracy. We have people who express views different from the official...
CARLSON: Wait. This is the official news agency. You're telling me this is free press operating in that...
RAHMAN: That means that it is not official, because if it is official, it will not contradict with Yasser Arafat. And what I am saying, we have a great deal of respect for the Secretary, Colin Powell. And we want him to succeed in his mission.
Unfortunately, the recipient of American aid, in this case, Israel, that received $130 billion from the United States since its inception, and the country that is using American weapons to attack the Palestinians and the country that is protected by the United States at the security council. Otherwise, believe me, if there was no American veto, Sharon today and Shaul Mofaz, the chief of staff, would be tried as war criminals, if it was not for the American veto at the security council.
Yet, they are making the president of the United States look weak in the eyes of the Palestinian and the Arab and the world public opinion, because when Sharon defies the president of the United States, who two weeks ago, told him I want you to withdraw now, he is really making the president of the United States look weak.
Second, he is also defying the international as was represented by the resolutions of the security council. Two resolutions, one for '02, one for '03, asking Israel to withdraw. Israel defy the security. How can the president of the United States force any other country from now on to abide by its security council resolutions?
BEGALA: Particularly, Senator Specter, when the president has -- I agree with you, it was right to send General Powell on a risky mission. But for 15 months, he walked away with it. And that's not just me as a partisan Democrat, although I am.
Let me read you a comment from a partisan Republican, Geoffrey Kemp, who led the Middle East efforts for President Reagan on the national security council. He said recently, "a two-year-old could see this crisis coming. And the idea it could be brushed under the carpet as the administration focused on either Afghanistan or Iraq reflects either appalling arrogance or ignorance." Bush just dropped the ball for us, didn't he?
SPECTER: Well, I don't think he has. I think that he felt that, at the proper time, he would act, and I think he has acted. But Mr. Rahman makes a comment about defying the president, there are a lot of people who defy the president. Even some senators defy the president.
RAHMAN: Yes, but senators do not receive money.
SPECTER: In fact, Mr. Rahman, there are even Republican senators occasionally who defy the president.
RAHMAN: Oh, that's good.
SPECTER: I've done it once or twice myself.
RAHMAN: But not people who receive charity from the United States.
CARLSON: But with the secretary of state abroad right now in the middle of very delicate negotiations, it's not helpful for Sharon to respond the way he has, is it?
SPECTER: Well, I don't think he has responded except to push forward what he thinks he has to do for the self-defense of his country. There have been quite a number of partisan comments criticizing what President Bush has done in terms of the way he has carried out, and that's a democracy. And some Democrats have even criticized him.
BEGALA: We won't stop either.
CARLSON: That's not acceptable.
Senator Arlen Specter, we're going to have to go. Senator Arlen Specter from Pennsylvania, thank you for joining us. Hasan Abdel Rahman, welcome back again to CROSSFIRE. Thank you for joining us, sir.
And you're never going to guess who's turning to the United States Supreme Court for help. It's one of those makers of skimpy women's undies. We'll tell you what the fuss is all about next in the CROSSFIRE "News Alert." Plus our "Quote of the Day." Here's hint No. 2: he's got a new gig and the comedy writers aren't cutting him any slack.
BEGALA: 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."
He's tanned, rested and ready to run. That's right, Richard M. Nixon is running for Alabama agriculture commissioner. The fact that he's been pushing up daisies hasn't slowed the old crook down a bit apparently. Well, actually, it was Richard Milton Nixon, who filed to run in Alabama, a 41-year-old former golf pro who runs a restaurant in Pell City, east of Birmingham. The new Nixon says he gets it all the time, which is why his friends call him by his nickname, Agnew.
CARLSON: They do more than decide presidential elections. Today, the Supreme Court began considering a case titled Victor's Little Secret v. Victoria's Secret. The latter, of course, is the Wal-Mart of leather teddies. The former, Victor's, is a family-owned lingerie and sex toy store based in Elizabethtown, Kentucky. At issue, did Victor steal Victoria's trademark name? A decision will be in soon.
In the meantime, a news nugget. The lawyer for Victor's told the Supreme Court today that the company mails 39,000 catalogs a year to residents of Elizabethtown. Here's the interesting part. According to the Elizabethtown Chamber of Commerce, only about 20,000 people live there. You do the math. That amounts to almost two lingerie and sex toy catalogs for every man, woman and child in Elizabethtown. By any measure, that's a dangerous amount of lace undies.
BEGALA: I've got a feeling Clarence Thomas is going to be spending a lot of time with those briefs, don't you, Tucker?
The sleepy Gulf coast hamlet of Inglis, Florida is in the news. Mayor Carolyn Risher has written a proclamation banning Satan from the city. Mayor Risher, blames Beelzebub for such local evils as drug use, abusive parents and Halloween costumes. When reached for comment by CNN, Satan said he was disappointed by the ruling and said he would appeal because, quote, "it prevents me from doing my new job in Florida, which is to be campaign manager for Katherine Harris."
CARLSON: OK. And having reached the low point of the show, let's get to our famous 'Quote of the Day." Featured in today's quote, my colleague and CROSSFIRE co-host Paul Begala, who is expertly played by "Saturday Night Live's" Chris Kattan. Paul was the butt of a joke on an SNL spoof on MSNBC's "Hardball." Here's one of the exchanges. Savor it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE")
DARRELL HAMMONDS, ACTOR, "CHRIS MATTHEWS": Finally, an old friend of ours. He moved over to CNN, but we love having him back here. Always great to have him on the show, former Clinton adviser Paul Begala.
CHRIS KATTAN, ACTOR, "PAUL BEGALA": Thanks, Chris. It's very nice of you to have me here.
HAMMONDS: Shut your Muppet mouth, Begala.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BEGALA: Chris Kattan, come on this show. I'll kick your ass.
CARLSON: I'd love to mock you, but I just can't. That hurt my feelings on your behalf. So I'm not going even to say anything about it.
BEGALA: Bring it on, Kattan.
CARLSON: Coming up on CROSSFIRE, when we return, the battle against wrinkles. The government's latest action on a common practice that uses a strain of botulism toxin. You'll want to get that.
And it's the dreaded 15th of April. As the hours tick away for you to file your tax returns, your president talks about his tax-cut plans, and we'll quiz our guests about it all when CROSSFIRE returns. We'll be right back.
CARLSON: Welcome back. One critic calls April 15 "the day the devil hath made." All those procrastinators scrambling to file their tax returns before tonight's deadline probably agree. You may, too. Here's what some others had to say.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEORGE W. BUSH: Today, as you know, is April 15, tax day. Today at least we get to call it tax relief day.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We have a fundamental Unfairness. The tax code is so complex, so foreboding, so intimidating.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm almost done. I got to figure out the exact form I need for the state taxes.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I hate giving away my money. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Whether you can pay or not file, file by midnight tonight.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CARLSON: Let's bring in our guests and drill them on whether it's time to throw out the current tax system and President Bush's hopes for his tax cut. Give a warm welcome to Republican Congressman Mike Pence of Indiana, his Democratic counterpart, Jim McDermott of Washington state.
Now Congressman McDermott, one often hears Democrats talk about the rich and how few taxes they pay, but let's establish who does pay taxes. In fact, it is rich people. The wealthiest one percent of taxpayers pay 34 percent of all federal income taxes. Rich people, should we thank them? Shouldn't we?
REP. JIM MCDERMOTT (D), WASHINGTON: Sure, of course.
CARLSON: Oh, then why...
MCDERMOTT: They receive the benefit of the society, they ought to pay. When you look at the society, you have -- we've developed a tax system hopefully based on the ability to pay. And if people have money, they ought to pay. If they don't have money, you say to them, we hope you do better economically and that someday you could begin paying taxes, but the only way it's going to work is to tax the people with money. You can't squeeze blood out of turnip.
CARLSON: But isn't -- I mean, this is basically a penalty on the hardworking and successful. Look,if 96 percent of all federal income taxes are paid by the top 50 percent, I mean that essentially is soaking the rich, isn't it? I mean, isn't that just straightforward redistributing wealth?
MCDERMOTT: Well, you have to have money to run a society. So where are you going to get it from? And it's obvious that we have a graduated income tax because the Congress said the only fair way to tax is to tax those people at the top with a higher rate than those people at the bottom. And that's what a democracy's about it's giving everybody the chance to get up there. If you're making $500,000 a year and you have you to pay a lot of taxes, you know, my heart doesn't really bleed for those people.
CARLSON: I thought we treated them fairly.
BEGALA: I want to get Congressman Pence into this though. I know Tucker is crying bitter tears for his bellow billionaires, congressman. But in point of fact...
CARLSON: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) you want to get in that argument, you won't win.
BEGALA: ...CNN and "USA Today," through the Gallup organization asked Americans about the Bush tax cut, which was skewed toward the rich, and asked them did they feel that their taxes had been cut at all? Here's the question, did last year's tax cut lower your taxes? Yes, only 34 percent. No, 50 percent. The majority of Americans looked at the tax cut you voted for and said there's nothing here for me, because the majority of Americans aren't rich. You left them out, didn't you?
REP. MIKE PENCE (R), INDIANA: Well, we didn't leave them out at all, Paul. The reality...
BEGALA: They sure think so.
PENCE: Well, they may think so now, but when you look at the facts of the president's tax cut,after it's all phased in, which a lot of it wasn't phased in as quick as I and other conservatives wanted to see happen, when it's all phased in, nearly 100 million families, including many low income earning families, including married couples with children all over American will see billions of dollars in tax relief, affecting immediately them. The repeal of the marriage penalty alone will this year result in billions of dollars in assistance to working families with small children.
BEGALA: In point of fact, though, every independent group that's looked at this has said over half of the benefit, the entire multi trillion tax cut, goes to the wealthiest 1 percent, not just wealthiest 50 percent that Tucker.
And you know who's getting the biggest burden lifted off of them, of course, as always with Bush, is corporate America. Let me show you a chart, to show you the history of who pays what corporate tax as a percentage of our economy since the second World War.
If you go back to the second World War, 5.6 percent of our GDP came out of corporate taxes. In the Truman and Eisenhower administrations, it was 4.5. Under Reagan and Bush, 1.6, which seems awful low, 2.1 under Clinton, and only 1.3 under George W. Bush. People today who are writing checks are angry because they're writing checks and corporate America is getting off scot-free.
PENCE: Well, Paul, what you're picking up there is a trend in the tax code that has moved more and more emphasis on individuals, but I go back to Tucker's point.
BEGALA: Is that laudatory? I think it's terrible. I think corporations ought to pay their fair share.
PENCE: Ask my senior colleague, Jim, whether it's wise for the Congress has taken the direction of the tax code, but it's gone towards individuals. Look, bottom line is...
PENCE: 55 percent of the cost of the government...
BEGALA: You voted for a tax cut that would have retroactively given Enron a quarter of a billion dollars, congressman. Do you still endorse that vote, by the way? PENCE: Look, Paul, 55 percent of the cost of the government is paid for by 5 percent of Americans. If you're going to cut taxes in any meaningful way, you're going to have to cut taxes for Americans up and down the income scale.
BEGALA: What I'm talking about multinational corporations, not patriotic Americans. I'm talking about multinational corporations.
CARLSON: Right. Who aren't patriotic, by definition, I suppose.
BEGALA: No, of course not.
CARLSON: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) McDermott, look, you say that it's morally right for rich people to have their money taken from them, given to Congress, redistributed to other people. Fine. But the average family pays more in federal taxes than on food, clothing and shelter combined. That's wrong,is it not?
MCDERMOTT: That's the payroll taxes. You're mixing the income tax with the payroll taxes.
CARLSON: That's -- and I meant to.
CARLSON: I'm saying federal taxes.
MCDERMOTT: And those, they will get back, because they're going to get Social Security and they're going to get Medicare if the Republicans don't cut the budget.
CARLSON: Well, if they're a live thing, that they're going to get back when they're 60.
MCDERMOTT: No, no. Those programs are OK, but the way they've done the tax cut right now, they have put us in deficit. They took us from $5.6 trillion positive to $1 billion negative in one year.That's what they did.
CARLSON: Wait, wait. So you hear that...
PENCE: I'd have to jump in here, if I can. And nobody respects Jim more than do. But it seems tome a recession comes to mind, an attack on America comes to mind, a war comes to mind. Jim, you can't lay it all on the feet of the Bush tax cut. There have been other...
MCDERMOTT: The war was happening before that. And you believe the rosiest possible projections. You believed everything was going to be perfect.
CARLSON: But just to bring it to the bottom line again, Mr. McDermott, just to make absolutely certain that I understood you. When you hear that, that the average family pays more in taxes than on food, clothing and shelter, that strikes you as OK, because they'll get it back at some point in Social Security? That doesn't bother you at all?
MCDERMOTT: In a civilized society, you have to pay for it. I don't know what the actual numbers are, but the American people get the best opportunity in the world. They get the best educational system in the world. They get the best health care. They've got the best environment. They've got all these things, even though we have our problems. If you want to go live in Bangladesh and pay no taxes, you're welcome to it, but nobody wants to go there.
CARLSON: The opportunity's given to you by the government.
MCDERMOTT: That's right, by the society we've created.
BEGALA: One of the reasons that people's taxes are so high, we'll come back to this, is because corporate taxes are so low. For example, 40 of our largest and most profitable corporations were given tax rebates, not even just paying their taxes, they got money back. 24 of them got over a billion dollars aggregated in taxes that they didn't even pay. They got tax cuts back. Do you think it's right that every person in this audience pays more taxes than Texaco, Chevron, or Phillips Petroleum or Enron?
PENCE: Well, whatever I think about that, the tax codes that we...
BEGALA: What do you think about it though, congressman? That's (UNINTELLIGIBLE)?
PENCE: Over the last 75 years, Paul, is the reality that we live in.
BEGALA: Is it right for these people to be paying more than Enron?
PENCE: What we ought to do is understood that all those social programs that Jim talks about so compellingly are only going to be protected by a vibrant economy.
CARLSON: Congressman, I'm sorry, the Begala speech has eaten up our time. We're going to a commercial. We have more time though to talk about this. And we will. Coming up on CROSSFIRE, if the Democrats are so opposed to the president's tax cut, why aren't they trying to overturn it? Our guests rejoin for that.
And later on round 6, Paul and I take off the gloves over this man who appears to be on the comeback trail. Shiver.
BEGALA: Welcome back to CROSSFIRE. The issue of taxes in the crossfire. Congressman Mike Pence and Congressman Jim McDermott.
Congressman Pence, President Bush today called for making his massive tax cut for the rich permanent. This will cost a trillion more dollars and make it impossible to have prescription drug benefits for seniors and to save Social Security. Which is more important, more tax cuts for the rich or prescription drugs and Social Security for seniors?
PENCE: Well, what's more important is that we make permanent what the American people believed,Paul, was permanent when we passed this tax code. But for the Byrd rule in the Senate, when we repealed the marriage penalty and repealed death taxes once and for all.
BEGALA: But the rules of simple accounting, Bush clearly (UNINTELLIGIBLE) Harvard Business School. We can't afford both though.
PENCE: The bottom line is, the American people...
BEGALA: You have to choose.
PENCE: ...it's going to be a bait and switch in 2011 when poof, all of a sudden the marriage penalty comes back.
BEGALA: Right, and they're paying you to vote on it.
PENCE: Their taxes come back. And for working families, for families with children, Paul, like you and me, when all of this comes back in 2011, it's going to be a $430 billion tax increase, the largest tax increase in American history. We ought to stop it now. And the Congress will do it this week.
CARLSON: Amen. Now Congressman McDermott, you've heard the whining. Maybe you've engaged in some of it. A lot of Democrats have. The tax cut bad to the rich, etcetera. Why don't Democrats repeal it?
MCDERMOTT: We ought to freeze it. What's gone into effect, we ought to stop right there. Because if we're -- we've not put...
CARLSON: If it's so bad, why not...
MCDERMOTT: Wait a minute. We're in deficit spending for the first time in three years. I mean,Clinton dug us out of it. And we were going fine until Bush got in. And then, we took the same nosedive we did when we...
CARLSON: No, no, but you're not answering my question, congressman.
CARLSON: If it's so bad, why not get rid of it?
MCDERMOTT: ...let's stop with what we did, because what we did give was $300 to ordinary people and $600 to a family. But we don't need to be dealing with the inheritance tax or some of the other things that are buried in this thing down the road.
CARLSON: Yes, but isn't it true that Democrats want the maximum political mileage out of complaining about the tax cut, but they don't want to face any of the perils of repealing it, of raising taxes? Only one Democrat running for president, Howard Dean of Vermont, no chance to win,he's the only one with the courage to say repeal it.
MCDERMOTT: This is the game that's played, the word game, that if you stop a tax cut, somehow that's raising taxes.
CARLSON: Well, if you raise taxes...
BEGALA: Well, that's exactly what Jeb Bush, for example, in Florida is doing right now. He promised a tax cut. He realized that the numbers don't add up. He's clearly better at math than his big brother. And so he has said, look, we can't afford it. We are in a war. We are spending the Social Security surplus, something Bush swore to us he wouldn't do.
Things have changed. We went through the Bush recession. Why not change that God-awful tax cut for the rich? They don't have to send their sons and daughters to go fight in the war. That's for the middle class and poor people, apparently.
CARLSON: Give me a break. Ask the question.
BEGALA: But why the hell shouldn't they pay their fair share?
PENCE: Look, the bottom line, Paul, is the antidote for what ails America is, as you know from the Clinton years, I got to tip my hat to you all, it's a growing economy. We have to get this economy moving again. What better way to get the economy moving again than to say to the American people all the tax cuts we gave you last year that you were hoping were permanent, but really aren't, we're going to make them permanent. So death taxes are gone. Marriage penalty is gone. We're going to increase your child dependency exemption and it be a tremendous shot in the arm for the economy,Paul.
BEGALA: What gave the shot in the arm to the Clinton economic strategy was fiscal discipline, which is something the Republicans have thrown to the wind. Why?
PENCE: Well, look, there has been -- there was fault on both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue with regard to discipline. I don't know if you recall a 9 percent increase in non-discretionary spending...
MCDERMOTT: But the Republicans at both ends.
PENCE: I mean, excuse me, I'm talking about when Clinton was there, Jim.
BEGALA: Clinton ran surpluses.
CARLSON: You grow out of a recession and you grow into the needs of Americans. Unfortunately, we could go on and beat up on Paul all day, and I'd like to, but we can't. We have to go to a break. Thank you both very much for joining us.
A little later on CROSSFIRE, your turn to fire back at us, an opportunity for us to fire at you. But up next, round six. Paul and I lock horns over what's his name, the Democrat who tried to be president last time. We'll be right back.
CARLSON: Welcome back. It's CROSSFIRE, round six. No guests, two hosts and one of my favorite topics, Al Gore. For those of you who don't have C-SPAN, you may have missed it this weekend. Al Gore was at a candidate's forum, people hoping to run for the Democratic nomination 2004 in Florida.
You saw it, Paul. There was Al Gore, gesticulating, sweating quite a bit, screaming, denouncing the right wing. But the interesting thing about this was the real candidates, people who actually have a shot at becoming the Democratic nominee didn't do that. John Edwards, John Kerry, they weren't screaming. Gore has really become a curiosity, kind of a political side show freak. He will be a trivia question. You know, he ran for president for once. It's embarrassing.
BEGALA: Yes, it'll be in the form of a question. Who is Al Gore? The man who got cheated out of the presidency by Bush and the right wing Supreme Court? Yes, but you know what? It's a long road. You're upset because he is coming back. I thought he gave a great speech. Let me show you a clip from it. This kind of passion. Take a look at this clip.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
AL GORE, FORMER U.S. VICE PRESIDENT: I don't care what anybody says. You know, I think Bill Clinton and I did a damn good job on America's economy.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BEGALA: He did a damn good job. He'd a given that kind of speech in October...
CARLSON: Paul, honestly Paul, that was pathetic. But you know what's interesting, you heard the cheering. He was -- it really is like a Star Trek convention. For those of you who haven't been to one of these political events, these are the true believers. This is a crowd that actually believe she had the election stolen from him.
BEGALA: Of course, he did...
BEGALA: He got 5.5 more million votes than the other guy, Tucker. You're the last of the Mohicans, holding out here, pretending that Bush actually won. (CROSS TALK)
CARLSON: But I tell you what, American voters aren't as crazed as Democratic primary voters. They're not going to buy this. And frankly, the guy's a little scary, his hair sticking up and all sweaty. I mean, it's ludicrous. It's pathetic.
BEGALA: Not like Bush running off and hiding out in Texas at his ranch during an international crisis.
CARLSON: Honestly, Paul, you've got to be -- I mean, let's be real. That's not a platform, that's an attack. That's a seizure.
BEGALA: ...bragged finally about his record with Bill Clinton. If he had done that in the campaign, he'd have won hands down. Those two men helped create 23.5 million new jobs, 8 million of which Bush has already squandered away.
CARLSON: You keep saying that, but you know what?
BEGALA: He inherited the greatest economy in history and he ruined it.
CARLSON: What I love about the argument you're giving is it's so perfectly Al Gore. Well I did this, I did this, I never got credit for it. You know, he didn't offer a single, not one prescription for where we go from here.
CARLSON: The fact that we're at war, how do we achieve peace? We heard nothing from Al Gore about that. Instead it oh, was the rich people are in control. I'm going to send in the little guy. Oh,they're tearing -- a people know that's untrue.
BEGALA: In Alaska, they're not trying to put arsenic in the water. They're not letting air pollutants get out so that the head of the EPA from (UNINTELLIGIBLE) resigns in protest.It's a hypocrisy under Bush is that everything from every special in charge. And you know, people are angry about it, Tucker. Get used to it. This time we're going to get so many votes, they can't steal it from it us.
CARLSON: You know what? That is a terrific direct mail pitch, and I'm sure that some of the zombies in your party might believe that, but ordinary people think it's ridiculous. And Al Gore is going nowhere on that platform.
BEGALA: The only thing Bush won was a 5 to 4 vote in the Supreme Court. And we're going to take care of that next time. When CROSSFIRE returns, your chance to fire back us. Tucker and I will be ready, willing and able when CROSSFIRE returns.
BEGALA: Welcome back to CROSSFIRE. It's time for fire back, that time when our studio audience and you folks at home get to shoot at Tucker and me.Ready, fire, aim. And let's open the e-mail bag. Here's our first one from Michael Morry of Bel Air, Maryland. "Mr. Begala," addressed to my dad apparently, "how does it feel when even 'Saturday Night Live' is making fun of you in their skits?'"
Well, Michael, I guess you saw that earlier in the show. Doesn't bother me at all, not at all. If Chris Kattan comes out here, no problem. I'll be just we'll be -- so nice to that little twirp.
CARLSON: I'm not even going to pile on, because I feel sorry for you. OK, here's one.
BEGALA: What about that bow tie?
CARLSON: "I think Tucker should shut up once in a while, let the panel answer the question. He is a typical Republican, always filibustering." This from someone who identifies himself as Earl Umfleet of Sumner, Illinois. You know what? The typical Republican doesn't filibuster enough, as far as I'm concerned. New Year's resolution number one, filibuster more.
BEGALA: Yes, Washington has a shortage of hot air. That's exactly what we need from them.
All right, here's fire back number three from Karen Burson, Twin Lake, Michigan. "This new CROSSFIRE is fantastic. Next to C-SPAN," well thanks, "showing both sides is fair and balanced, not like other networks that make the claim and show only the station's views." Karen, you have figured out a powerful truth about cable news. Welcome to the real fair network.
CARLSON: And this my favorite e-mail of the night from Barbara, identified only as being in Montana."I do not have a television. I live in a remote area. And I refuse to get a satellite dish. I have taken the TV out of my house.But I've been hearing and reading rave reviews about the new CROSSFIRE with at long last the progressive voice having a place to express themselves. Thanks, Barbara. Sadly, someone has told Barbara there's a progressive voice on this show.
You know when you don't have a TV, you'll believe anything.
BEGALA: If Bush hadn't squandered all that tax, she'd be rich. She'd have the money to buy a television set.Barbara, save up.
Yes, sir, what's your...
CARLSON: You have a question?
BEGALA: What's your name and what's your town and what's your question?
DAN: My name's Dan Auger. I'm from Milford, Connecticut. And my question's for Paul. How can you or any of the Democrats justify the redistribution of wealth, which Is basically socialism, and saying -- taking money away from corporations, which will give jobs to the economy? BEGALA: Oh, sure -- first off, I don't believe corporations only exist to create jobs. They exist to generate profit. And that is fine, that profit is a legitimate vehicle to be taxed. If you, as a citizen earn money, the government taxes it. But if a multinational corporation like oh say, Enron, which can buy off the Bush administration, they make a huge profit and pay no taxes. I think it's unfair.
And by the way, the philosophy does not come from socialism. It comes from Jesus Christ, who said from those who much has given, much will be expected.
CARLSON: Before Paul gets too sacrilegious, let me translate.
BEGALA: That's straight out of the Bible.
CARLSON: Paul believes we need to take money from you and give it to the DMV. Now if you don't think that's a good deal, don't vote Democrat. Yes, sir, you've got a question.
GRANT: Hi, my name's Grant from Bloomfield, Indiana. My question is if Israel attacks the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem, will they turn the Christian world against them as they've turned the Arab world against them?
CARLSON: It doesn't seem to. I mean, the IDF has admitted unintentionally not shooting a monk, setting part of the building on fire. And there's been no great outcry. So one, you know, suspects if there's not going to be an outcry after that, then there probably won't be.
BEGALA: Well, but also first remember how that standoff occurred. Palestinian fighters shot their way one of the holiest places in Christendom.
CARLSON: That's absolutely correct.
BEGALA: And so, it's not like the Palestinians didn't start this thing.
CARLSON: That's 100 percent right.
BEGALA: Yes, sir?
CHRIS: Hi, Chris Petersen from North Reading, Massachusetts. I guess this is for Paul, but you can talk, too, Tucker if you want.
CARLSON: Thank you. can't stop me.
CHRIS: Given Americans, you know, image of Al Gore with the beard and the bitterness and everything, do you really think he's the best person to represent the Democratic party in 2004?
CARLSON: Answer it honestly.
BEGALA: Hey, I have to suck up to all of them, because I want them to come on. Al Gore needs to come on CROSSFIRE and make the case for himself.I love him. I worked with him in the Clinton administration and I think he did a great job as vice president. And if he wants to run again, I say God bless him.
Don't forget he got more votes than the other guy.
CARLSON: He needs to make the case himself. And if he wants to run again,he should. That's quite an endorsement. Many Democrats feel that way about him.
CARLSON: Yes, ma'am?
ALI: Hi, I'm Ali Margot from Sacramento, California. And I was wondering what was the logical next step Colin Powell should take if his meetings this week don't work?
CARLSON: Paul Begala, our foreign policy expert.
BEGALA: He needs to squeeze our friends in the Arab world to lean on Arafat to renounce terrorism. That's what he needs to do. And it's Egypt,Saudi Arabia, which is funding a lot of this, and the rest of our friends, and make them push Arafat...
CARLSON: And he can find a viable alternative to Yasser Arafat, a leader, a homegrown leader of the Palestinian people who could speak in place of Arafat, and was credible, he could do us all a great service.
BEGALA: Excellent point. From the left -- I'll never say that again, Tucker. Good night for CROSSFIRE.
CARLSON: From the right, I'm Tucker Carlson. Join us again tomorrow night for yet another edition of CROSSFIRE. See you then.
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Did Recent Tax Cut Go Too Far or Not Enough?>