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Aired April 17, 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, Secretary of State Colin Powell says all parties in the Middle East are on notice. But has his trip moved the region any closer to peace? As America's Catholic cardinals prepare to travel to the Vatican, what changes are in store per this church in crisis?

It's light out as long horn lefty and the prince of darkness do battle ahead on CROSSFIRE. From the George Washington University, Paul Begala and Robert Novak.

PAUL BEGALA, CNN CO-HOST: Good evening and welcome to CROSSFIRE. Coming to you live from the George Washington University, we're in beautiful downtown Washington, D.C. You picked a great night to be with us. This is one of those nights -- set the VCR. This is a show you are going to want to keep. Our issues include the sex scandal rocking the Catholic Church here in America. Priests are accused and some convicted of sexually abusing children.

Pope John Paul II has ordered all the American cardinals fly to the Vatican next week. The question is will this dramatic meeting result in changes that many outraged Catholics are demanding?

Also, Osama bin Laden, remember him? Did a major blunder by the Bush administration allow the al Qaeda leader to escape? We square off on that in round six.

But first, Colin Powell's peace mission to the Middle East. Just before leaving for home, the secretary of state called on the Israelis to end their occupation of the West Bank, and Powell bluntly told Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat he must do more to stop Palestinian violence. But who is listening?

Arafat shaking with anger after meeting with Powell accused Israel of seizing more areas, and he called for international pressure to end his confinement at his West Bank headquarters.

Bob, like you, I wish Colin Powell all the success in the world. But he showed up too late. And this is a heartbreaking failure, isn't it?

ROBERT NOVAK, CNN HOST: No, it isn't a heart breaking failure. It's a partial success. The Hamas forces, he talked to the Lebanese and the Syrians out of restraining them. And there's been an end of violence in the north. I think he has put both sides on notice that they should be peaceful, and I wish you as a patriotic American, and I know you are a patriotic American, would stop this niggling, partisan sniping at Bush and Powell and be much more constructive.

BEGALA: I'm with you halfway. I don't snipe at Powell, because I think he is doing everything he can. Bush is doing everything he can, but the problem is he can't do anything. He's had 15 months to do this, and he's done squat. So I am very disappointed in Bush.

NOVAK: You disappointed me again. You always disappoint me. Let's bring on our guests. Please welcome Democratic Congressman Eliot Engel of New York and Jean AbiNader, the manager director of the Arab American Institute.

John, how are you? Congressman how are you?

REP. ELIOT ENGEL (D), NEW YORK: Thank you very much.

NOVAK: I'm curious to know how you feel, Congressman Engel as a good, patriotic American. When the president's envoy, the secretary of state of the United States, a distinguished American general, Colin Powell goes before the prime minister of Israel three times he asked him to pull back these troops, as the U.N. has asked Israel to do, as the president has asked him to do, without delay, immediately. And he is just treated with contempt. Aren't you embarrassed for both the United States and for Israel?

ENGEL: Well, I wouldn't say that the president's been treated with contempt. Prime Minister Sharon is the leader of his nation, and ultimately every leader of each nation has to do what he or she feels is in the best interest of their people.

You have had innocent Israeli civilians being mowed down with suicide bombings in a terror campaign lead by Yasser Arafat And, frankly, I think Mr. Sharon showed a great deal of patience for many, many months and only after these attacks didn't finish that he felt he had to go in and clean out terrorist nests, which is exactly what we are doing in Afghanistan.

NOVAK; You know, I was -- I was, that's the first time I've heard Ariel Sharon referred to as patient. But, you know, I would have bet every cent I have, what little money I have that you would have tied the -- this war with the terrorist attacks on September 11. And I'd like you to listen, congressman, to a statement by the prime minister of Lebanon, who is visiting in Washington this week. And let's listen to what he had to say.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RAFIK HARIRI, LEBANESE PRIME MINISTER: I don't think that Prime Minister Sharon believes in peace in the first place. He did everything to destroy it, and to -- and he benefited from that situation and the United States -- September 11, to say that we-- Israel and United States are fighting the same enemy, which is absolutely not true.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

NOVAK: Isn't that exactly what has happened? I knew it was going to happen. It just took a little longer than I thought it would. Yet Israel and their ardent supporters, such as you, have equated this long war between Israel and Palestine with the terrorist attacks on the United States. You can't equate the Palestinian nation of 3 million people with the al Qaeda, can you?

ENGEL: Well, first of all, let me say that the head of Lebanon is -- his country is occupied by Syrians. And so he toes the puppet line of the Syrian regime. So it doesn't surprise me.

Yes, I can say that it is the same fight. The fight in America is against terrorism, and the fight in Israel is against terrorism, bombs that are exploding and killing innocent civilians. If we can go halfway around the world in Afghanistan, and rightfully so to root out terrorism, than Israel surely can be allowed to do the same in its own backyard.

BEGALA: Let me bring Mr. AbiNader into this. I was stunned --

(CROSSTALK)

BEGALA: Let me ask you the question before you answer. I was stunned to hear Novak describe Sharon's treatment of Powell as a snub. After all, the man is fighting a war and he took time three times in a week to meet with our secretary of state. Meanwhile, Hosni Mubarak, the president/dictator of Egypt has no war to fight, receives $3 billion of American taxpayers' money and today he snubs our Secretary of State Colin Powell on his peace mission. That's an outrage isn't it?

JEAN ABINADER, ARAB AMERICAN INSTITUTE: Should I begin with correcting both of you historically or just in terms of the money?

NOVAK: Try both.

BEGALA: Is it not outrageous...

ABINADER: Egypt receives --

BEGALA: ... for Egypt which is on the (UNINTELLIGIBLE) of the American taxpayer refused --

(CROSSTALK)

ABINADER: What about Israel which receives $3 billion. DO I get to finish?

BEGALA: Sure.

ABINADER: OK. Number one, Afghanistan and Palestine are not the same. Israel is occupying Palestinian land. Israel has been occupying Palestinian land since 1967. Israel signed off on the U.N. resolution, just like everybody else, land for peace. So number one, this is an occupation that is being resisted for 35 year. It is not al Qaeda, it is not terrorism, in the sense of what happened to the World Trade Center. Different.

Number, two, Israel is our ally. Israel not only receives $3 billion in cash in a check, courtesy of the congress once a year, without any reporting to the American people or the American government on how they spend that money. But, two, you would think that Israel, given how the United States guarantees its existence by giving it F-16s, tanks, and weapons and international coverage for its behavior, would pay some attention when the president of the United States says it's time to withdraw.

We knew that at some point Arafat and Sharon would create obstacles to this mission and Powell picks up the phone and calls the president, I need you to talk to these guys to tell them how serious we are, and the president blinks.

BEGALA: I let you go for a couple of minutes, Mr. AbiNader. Now answer the damn question, who the hell is Hosni Mubarak to refuse to meet with the American secretary of state?

ABINADER: He's the president of a country.

ENGEL: Just like --

ABINADER: just like prime minister --

(CROSSTALK)

BEGALA: So it's fine with you that Mubarak can snub our secretary of state?

ABINADER: He can refer to Prime Minister Ariel Sharon as the leader of his country who can do anything he wants. But if Mubarak decides --Mubarak is not at war with Israel.

BEGALA: Right. he should at least have time to sit...

(CROSSTALK)

ABINADER: He signed a peace...

BEGALA: ... down and meet with our secretary of state.

ABINADER: ... agreement the last time I checked. And the reality is the United States doesn't have a strategy, an end game in this whole effort.

They sent Powell over there with a mandate and not a strategy. We got what we asked for because we weren't willing to back up the mandate that Powell was supposed to have.

ENGEL: So you endorse Hosni Mubarak stiffing Colin Powell?

ABINADER: I endorse efforts that will lead to peace. And the effort that was undertaken by Powell was stiffed by the Israelis a lot earlier than --

NOVAK: Congressman Engle, you are a very sophisticated student of the Middle East. I've followed you for years.

ENGEL: Thank you.

NOVAK: And you know exactly what's going on. You know very well, don't you? That Ariel Sharon was against the Oslo agreements, he was against the Madrid Conference, he was against the Palestinian Authority. And I'd just like to read to you what the chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erakat said the other day, just before Secretary of State Powell finished his mission. He said that if Mr. Powell leaves the area without having Sharon withdraw, that's a bad sign.

I don't think there's anything saying that Sharon is withdrawing. Sharon is maintaining and keeping up the occupation. And here's the key phrase, destroying the peace process is his end game. You know very well that Sharon hates the peace process, doesn't he?

ENGEL: Well, let's talk about the peace process, and let's talk about Oslo. And let's see what happened 18 months ago when there was a final plan. The Palestinians and Yasser Arafat walked away, rejected it. It was a very, very generous offer, it gave them 97 percent of the land and almost 100 percent of what they wanted. The Israelis said, yes. They accepted peace. It would have been two states, Israel and Palestine next to each other.

ABINADER: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) --

(CROSSTALK)

ENGEL: Excuse me, I didn't interrupt you. It would have been two states, but instead, Yasser Arafat said no, walked away and unleashed the intifada and suicide bombings.

BEGALA: He had before him a perfectly good offer.

NOVAK Let him respond.

(CROSSTALK)

BEGALA: Why did he not -- I worked at the White House, sir.

ABINADER: The offer was 90% of the land except what Israel had already annexed around Israel. So first of all it was 90 percent of 70 percent of the land, except those occupied by Israeli settlements and covered by Israeli roads. So the Palestinians were asked to accept 40 percent of the land of Palestine that had been occupied in 1967.

ENGEL: Why didn't he make a counter offer instead of walking away?

ABINADER: I can't explain why Arafat does what he does.

BEGALA: Can you defense the lack of a counter offer and a turn to terrorism. ABINADER: No, I can't explain or defend. I don't defend terrorism. That's not my job. My job is to look at America's interests.

ENGEL Arafat is (UNINTELLIGIBLE) --

ABINADER: My job is to look at America's interest and understand how our foreign policy is pursue our interests.

NOVAK: All right.

ABINADER: And we have failed in that regard, particularly in the Middle East.

NOVAK: I have to bring up one other thing. We do not have much time left in this segment. I want to bring this up. Speaking of terrorism, everybody agrees something terrible happened in Jenin on the West Bank. There are just a lot of dead Palestinians. A lot of the bodies have been disposed of. There's an accusation of a massacre by the Palestinians. The Israelis deny it. I don't know who is telling the truth.

Don't you think as a liberal Democrat Congressman Engel, that the Israelis made a terrible mistake in not letting the international press and authorities come in after the fighting was over, and see for themselves whether the claims of a massacre were justified?

ENGEL: No. I think the Israelis took very careful steps not to bombard Jenin, not to drop bombs from the air which would have wiped them up, but going house to house and alley to alley, like we are going cave to cave in Afghanistan. They are going out of their way to try to keep civilian casualties to a minimum. That's the difference, you see, the Palestinian suicide bombers are targeting Israeli civilians where as the Israelis or not.

ABINADER: I want the Congressman and his Jewish friends and his pro-Israeli friends in Congress to go to Jenin and see what happened, and into Nablus and to Bethlehem. Bethlehem and Ramallah, which are Christian cities occupied by the Israelis -- number one.

Number two, is Ariel Sharon 20 years ago created the massacres at Shavra (ph) and Shatilla. He is the butcher of Beirut then. He's 20 years now, he is the same person.

NOVAK: All right. We are going to have to take a break.

Just ahead on CROSSFIRE, we bring your guests back for more on the conflict in the Middle East. The Powell mission is over with no cease-fire. What can President Bush do?

In our quote of the day, here's hint number one: The comment was made during the divorce hearing involving a tough-talking former politician and his estranged wife who is demanding $1 million a year tax free. And if you don't know that, you haven't been reading the papers.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DICK CHENEY, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Doers of death and discord must not be permitted to shape the destiny of Israelis and Palestinians. That destiny, the future of the Middle East must be shaped and decided by peacemakers, responsible and courageous leaders on all sides who rise to President Bush's call to defeat terror and to lead the region into reconciliation and security.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

NOVAK: That was Vice President Cheney speaking just a short time ago at the Israeli embassy. Welcome back to CROSSFIRE.

Colin Powell is on his way home from the Middle East without a cease-fire. What should President Bush do now? Our guests are back to talk about it, Democratic Congressman Eliot Engel of New York and Jean AbiNader, the managing director of the Arab American Institute -- Paul

BEGALA: Mr. AbiNader, in the last 24 hours, Mr. Bush exercised his authority as president to waive a provision of the 1980 Senate anti-terror law which prohibits U.S. taxpayer funds from going to the Palestinian Liberation Organization. In light of news reports that the Palestinian Authority was in fact reimbursing terrorists, suicide bombers, how can you explain to the American people why their tax money is going to an organization that's clearly supporting terrorism?

ABINADER: Actually it doesn't. If you actually look at the --

BEGALA: The tax money doesn't go there? Or does the P.A. --

ABINADER: The tax money does not go directly to the PLO. The tax money -- our aid to the Palestinians only goes through PPOs and NGOs. That was the requirement that has been on the books.

NOVAK: Explain what a PPO and an NGO is.

ABINADER: Yes, private voluntary organizations or non governmental organizations, such as the Red Cross, Caritas, Christian charities, the Mennonite Church.

BEGALA: But given that money is fungible. That frees up other dollars for -- you have seen the documents --

ABINADER: No. These are American, primarily American organizations.

BEGALA: Let me press the point, though. You've seen the documents that the Palestinian Authority reimbursed terrorists for suicide bombings. How can they be credible in the eyes of the world, when we know they are financing terrorism?

ABINADER: You know, I wish that the world were perfect that good guys were good guys and bad guys were bad guys. BEGALA: Forget perfectionism. What I am talking about --

ABINADER: Listen, the reality is here, when you are...

BEGALA: Perfection is one thing, but mass murder is another.

ABINADER: ... working for peace. When you are working for negotiations, sometimes you have to work with people that you don't generally like. Just the way the Arabs look at the Israelis and can give you a list of their atrocities. And the Israelis can sit down and give you a list of the Arab atrocities. That's not what America should be about in terms of its Middle East policy.

It should be saying how can we get these people to the table. Because in the long term, their interests and our interests are at stake. And in terms of building stability and security, not more conflict.

NOVAK: Congressman Engel, I am really dying to know how you referred to one of the strangest incidents in Washington.

There was a rally of Israel supporters in Washington on Monday. And the administration sent as its spokesman, a very distinguished defense intellectual, a Jewish-American who I think is the strongest supporter of Israel in the entire administration. And during the course of his speech he just mentioned, just mentioned in passing, innocent Palestinians are suffering today. And in a speech that was really an attack on Arafat and terrorism, just one line, half-line, and he was booed. What do you think of that?

ENGEL: Well, I was at the rally. And it was really more than 100,000 people showing strong support for Israel. One of the things we have in this country is freedom of expression or freedom of speech.

NOVAK: I didn't say they didn't have a right to. But I would just like to know your reaction to it.

ENGEL: You don't have that in the Palestinian entity. In fact, what the Palestinians do, if someone was booed, they'd be shot and killed.

NOVAK: Tell me what your reaction to that was?

ENGEL: My reaction, well, how many so called collaborators...

(CROSSTALK)

NOVAK: I would like to know your reaction to the booing. Were you ashamed of your fellow Jews?

ENGEL: No, I wasn't ashamed of my fellow Americans. They weren't only fellow Jews there, there were fellow Americans to, and there were many many Americans there and many American supporters, Christian and...

NOVAK: Did you boo, Mr (UNINTELLIGIBLE)? ENGEL: No, I didn't boo, but let me tell you, there is a lot of support for the state of Israel in this Congress and in this country from Jews and Christians and Muslims and non-believers alike, because Israel and the United States are common democracy and share common values and Yasser Arafat is a terrorist.

(CROSSTALK)

NOVAK: One question, do you object to mentioning innocent Palestinians?

ENGEL: No, I don't. I think it's a shame when any innocent people are killed anywhere.

NOVAK: I'm glad you say that.

(CROSSTALK)

BEGALA: I want to let Mr. AbiNader respond to this allegation which is broadly reported that Palestinians have been murdered for the so-called crime of collaboration. This is Palestinians slaughtering Palestinians. Surely that's not equivalent to booing a politician at a rally, is it?

ABINADER: He made the equivalency. I didn't. What I was...

BEGALA: I want to hear you say that's an outrage and it's murder.

ABINADER: It's an outrage and murder. What else do you want me to say?

BEGALA: You seem to be awfully blase about cold-blooded killing.

ABINADER: Because what you do is you take one or 10 or 30 incidents and you try to characterize a whole race by that and you try to characterize a whole people by the fact that the opposition happens to be not people who Arafat gets along with.

BEGALA: We are going to have to make that the last word, Mr. AbiNader, I am sorry...

(CROSSTALK)

BEGALA: We are out of time. I want to thank both of you for appearing. Believe me we will come back to this. But later in the program we'll shift to lighter fare thanks to the efforts of our president.

Guess what will be soon on your school lunch menus? It likes water and sports some long whiskers, if that's a hint. If not, stay tuned to CROSSFIRE and you can figure it out for yourself.

Also we'll have our quote of the day. Here's hint No. 2. It's a high-profile divorce case in which one side wants a big slice of the apple. Get it? Apple, divorce? (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

NOVAK: Now it's time to take a look at those unusual stories that might not make headlines, but can always be found in our CROSSFIRE news alert.

Whether they like it not, school kids all over America will be eating catfish for lunch. The Agriculture Department announced this week it will buy $6 million worth of breaded catfish products to distribute to schools.

If the students don't like it, they should blame Republican Senator Tim Hutchinson of Arkansas. He's running for re-election and wants to help his state's hard-pressed catfish farmers first by keeping out the Vietnamese competition, now by forcing our kids to eat catfish.

BEGALA: Yuck. So let's just bounce Hutchinson so we don't have to eat that garbage.

Every politician complains about his or her press coverage. But Mike Turner, Republican running for Congress on Ohio has filed a formal complaint with the Federal Election Commission. His beef: His GOP primary opponent owns the eight weeklies and two dailies that cover the Dayton Ohio District in which he is running. Turner claims that the papers ran 70 articles on the election, only one of which was favorable to him. When asked to comment, his opponent Brown said, which one?

NOVAK: OK, all right. They laughed at Ralph Nader when the left wing presidential candidate went to court to sue the presidential debates commission for ejecting him as a spectator from the 2000 election Boston Debate. It's Nader who is laughing now. In a settlement this week, Ralph got a couple of letters of apology and checks totalling $25,000. Maybe Mr. Nader should sue the commission for keeping him out as a debater, not just a spectator.

BEGALA: And now the moment you've all been waiting for, the CROSSFIRE "Quote Of The Day." You can cut the tension with a knife here. It comes from the high profile divorce case involving the former mayor of New York, Rudy Giuliani and his estranged wife, television journalist Donna Hanover.

Ms. Hanover is demanding $1 million a year after taxes to support herself and their two children. Rudy says that's about $950,000 more than he's willing to shell out. The verbal donnybrook triggered this response from the New York state supreme court judge, Judith Guiche our quote of the day: "This case is a train wreck waiting to happen." What do you mean waiting?

Coming up next on CROSSFIRE, you may have dangerous products in your home. The latest in the CNN News Alert, and the sexual abuse scandal in the Catholic church. We tackle the issue in the "Crossfire" with our guests. We will be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) NOVAK: Welcome back to CROSSFIRE.

Amid growing discontent by rank and file American Catholics, Pope John Paul II has summoned eight American cardinals to the Vatican next week. The question of sexual abuse of boys and young men by priests and the hierarchy's failure to deal with this problem will be on the table.

Dozens of priests and at least 17 diocese in the United States have been removed or suspended in cases of sexual abuse. The big issue is whether in the past these abusive priests have been transferred to parishes, who did not know their background. Now what are the pope and the American cardinals going to say or going to do about it?

Let's bring our guests into the crossfire. Please welcome Frances Kissling of the Catholics for a Free Church and Austin Ruse of the Catholic Family and Human Rights Institute.

BEGALA: Thank you very much for joining us. Mr. Ruse, let me begin with you. And to try to set the proper biblical context, let's turn to the book of Matthew. I want to put it up on the screen here. This is Jesus Christ, who told us, "But who so shall offend one of these little ones which believe in me, it were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck and that he were drowned in the depth of the sea."

Now that's farther than even I would go. But don't you think Cardinal Egan and Cardinal Law, the two cardinals who apparently condoned this kind of conduct, shouldn't be cast into the sea with a millstone, as Jesus said. Shouldn't they at least have the decency to resign?

AUSTIN RUSE, CATHOLIC FAMILY AND HUMAN RIGHTS INSTITUTE: Absolutely not.

BEGALA: So Jesus was wrong?

RUSE: No, Jesus was absolutely correct, but in this particular case, it deals specifically with the people who committed those acts. I think that the bishops made some mistakes in moving people around, but the responsibility rests first and foremost with homosexuals in the priesthood who were acting out.

BEGALA: But what should the punishment be for those mistakes by bishops, who sent predators into innocent children's neighborhoods, parishes, homes?

RUSE: I think that they will get a stern talking to by the Holy Father and I also think that...

BEGALA: This is your advice? A stern talking to?

RUSE: They will have to answer to this going forward. But it is not your job, it is not my job as Catholic layman to determine who is going to be a bishop and who isn't. BEGALA: If I were on a jury, it would be my job to make him a prisoner. He's aiding and abetting a heinous felony.

RUSE: They should make sure that this does not happen again. And the way we do that is cleaning up the seminaries and making sure that homosexuals are not in the priesthood any longer.

NOVAK: Frances Kissling, I think that we're all Catholics here. And I think that we all agree that this has not been handled well. Changes are made. But I do believe a lot of the critics of the hierarchy have a private agenda. And that Cardinal Theodore McClerk (ph) of Washington, who I think is one of the most enlightening cardinals in the church, had an interview, had a lunch with "The Washington Post" yesterday. And what -- he said something that I think we'll put on the screen.

He said, "Elements in our society who are very opposed to the church's stand on life," that's abortion, "the church's stand on family, the church's stand on education, and they see in this an opportunity to destroy the credibility of the church."

That's true, isn't it?

FRANCES KISSLING, CATHOLICS FOR A FREE CHOICE: Well, I think that the bishops and the priests who have engaged in this activity have done a pretty good job of destroying the credibility of the church themselves. I don't think any of us needs to do that.

And I think that this notion of either blaming the media, blaming those who disagree with church positions, blaming others, blaming homosexuals in relation to this, is again, it's a true sign that the church still doesn't get it, that the leaders of the church still don't get it.

This is not the time for either liberals or conservatives, orthodox, or dissenting Catholics to push their agenda. This is a time for us to deal with the fact that many children, now adults, as well as children currently, have been abused. There is no other issue. The rest of it is nonsense. These children have been abused. They have been abused by priests. I'm sure that there are bishops who have been involved in abuse. And we know that the bishops didn't do what they needed to do. And there's no evidence that they going to do it now.

NOVAK: Well, you know, first place, I spent an hour and a quarter this morning, along with other Catholic journalists, all the way from a guy named Carville on the left, to Kate O'Beirne on the right with Cardinal McCarrick (ph). I hate to tell you this, Ms. Kissling, but Cardinal McCarrick gets it. He really understands there's a problem.

KISSLING: If he got it, he never would have said what you put up on the screen. He never would've said it. All he would have said is how sorry...

NOVAK: If I could ask the question. KISSLING: I'm sorry.

NOVAK: He says he's sorry. He says it over and over again. But if I could just say that what he's talking about is the idea of people gathering in the streets outside Holy Cross Cathedral in Boston and demonstrating for women priests. That has nothing to do with this. Nothing at all to do with it. You can have have the clergy women priests, and it wouldn't change this problem.

KISSLING: I agree with you. I agree with you. The answer to this problem is not women priests. It's not getting homoexuals out of the priesthood. It is dealing with sick people, whether they are straight or gay, sick human beings, and getting them away from children.

And our bishops didn't do that. And this is the time for our bishops to talk about nothing else but the scandal of children being sexually abused. We should not be here to use this as an opportunity, as Austin has done, to attack homosexual priests. I'm not here to plead for women priests.

I'm here for one thing. I'm here to see that this church establishes a policy that protects children. And neither the solutions of the right or the solutions of the left are going to protect our children.

BEGALA: Ms. Kissling, we're goign to have to go to break. Mr. Ruse, I'm going to come to you first when we come back. You have my word. You're a very good gentlemen in letting Ms. Kissling speak. And we want to make sure that we reward your good manners.

And straight ahead on CROSSFIRE, we bring your guests back for more debate on the sex scandal involving American Catholic priests and this. Did Osama bin Laden escape from his mountain stronghold because of a foul-up by the Bush administration? That's the issue when Bob and I go one on one in "round 6."

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BEGALA: Welcome back to CROSSFIRE.

We're talking about the sex scandal in the Catholic church. Our guests, Austin Ruse of the Catholic Family and Human Rights Institute and Frances Kissling of Catholics for a Free Choice.

Mr. Ruse...

RUSE: Yes.

BEGALA: In the previous segment, you mentioned more than once the issue of homosexual priests, gay priests. Now surely you understand there's an enormous difference between homosexuality and child sexual abuse, right?

RUSE: Absolutely, but this issue is not really about pedophilia because the number of cases of -- related to pedophilia are miniscule. Almost all of these cases are of homosexuals looking for teenage boys.

BEGALA: Which is classified as hemaphilia, which is another crime.

RUSE: But it's not hemaphilia. And this is a mainstay in homosexual literature. Mary Eberstat of "The Weekly Standard" has done a number of wonderful pieces on this topic. It is standard in homosexual fiction, and also studies of homosexuals that this is a typical coupling. And this is a problem in the priesthood, absolutely and it must end.

BEGALA: In fact, that's an slander on gay Americans. Let me show you the social science research. Dr. Gregory Harrick of the University of California, San Diego, by the way, who's the recipient of the American Psychological Association Award of Distinguished Contribution in Psychology.

NOVAK: That qualifies him, doesn't it?

BEGALA: He says this. He concluded, he reviewed all the literature. And he concluded this.

"The empirical research does not show that gay or bisexual men are any more likely than heterosexual men to molest children. This is not to argue that homosexual and bisexual men never molest children. But there is no scientific basis for asserting that they are more likely than heterosexual men to do so."

It's a slander. And it's a red herring.

RUSE: This is not a pedophilia question. The red herring is the pedophilia question. And later on CNN...

BEGALA: Dr. Harrick actually looked at both those, children and teenagers.

RUSE: ...you're doing a show about a priest having an affair with a woman. These are not the issues. The issues are homosexual priests going after teenage boys.

NOVAK: Ms. Kissling, you know, that quote talked about molesting of children. All the stuff I have read is the priests molesting teenage boys. There were 16-year-olds.

KISSLING: Is that OK? Do the teenage boys not suffer?

NOVAK: No, no, but that's not pedophilia. That's homosexuality.

KISSLING: No, it's not necessarily.

NOVAK: Not homosexuality?

KISSLING: No, no.

BEGALA: It's classified as hemaphilia and actually was reviewed in the same site. NOVAK: We're in a cul de sac no that. I want to ask you this. I think we've exhausted that. I want to ask you this. When the bishops go to Rome and they meet, hopefully, with the Holy Father, and they come out and they -- if they issue an -- a statement of apology, "we are terribly sorry that we have done this." And perhaps institute some kind of control, maybe even a layman's commission, would you feel some steps are being taken to restore the credibility of the church?

KISSLING: Well, first I hope it's a laywomen's commission as well as a layman's commission. But yes, I certainly would feel that some steps are being taken. But I will feel much better when the Holy Father meets with the victims of abuse and talks to them. We have this little closed circle, cardinals, priests, bishops, popes.

NOVAK: You really don't like the Catholic church...

KISSLING: I love the Catholic church.

NOVAK: You don't like the hierarchy.

KISSLING: If I didn't love the Catholic church...

NOVAK: You don't like the hierarchical arrangement?

KISSLING: No, I don't like the hierarchical arrangement.

BEGALA: I'm sorry, come back to Mr. Ruse.

NOVAK: (UNINTELLIGIBLE).

BEGALA: For the last word, you still...

KISSLING: Yes. And (UNINTELLIGIBLE).

BEGALA: You stunned me.

KISSLING: He certainly wasn't for a dictatorship.

BEGALA: I'm sorry to interrupt. You stunned me and I think our audience when you said that bishops who move these monsters around should only get a strict talking to. How about the priest in Pennsylvania a few weeks ago, I think it was on Easter Sunday, who actually dared to suggest reforms in the church like letting married people be priests,letting more married men. We already have some.

He didn't get a stern talking to. He was yanked out in nine days. Don't you think they need more than a strict talking to?

RUSE: I think that they will have to answer to the Holy Father. And he will take them to the wood shed. I think later in life and after they die, they will also have to answer. But on this earth, they're not answering to you and they're not answering to Frances Kissling. They're answering to a higher...

BEGALA: They ought to answer to the world. RUSE: You want the church to be a democracy. You want to vote in bishops, but we don't do it that way.

BEGALA: That's going to have to be the last word. They're telling us we have to go. Frances Kissling and Catholics for Free Choice, thank you very much. Austin Ruse, thank you also.

Now when we come back, CNN's going to have an in-depth look actually at this controversial heartbreaking issue in a special report tonight with Connie Chung. It's at 8:00 Eastern time. In fact, Connie now is gracious enough to join us for a preview.

Connie?

CONNIE CHUNG, CNN ANCHOR: Thanks, Paul.

Tonight, we're going to go inside the mind of one trusted priest, popular with the kids an author, a d.j., and now a convicted sex offender. Father Don Kimball will tell his story for the first time. And we'll hear from those who have lost their innocence, their trust and faith.

Paul, it's shaping up to be a very compelling hour of television. It's called "Fall from Grace: Crisis in the Church." It's coming up next. Back to you, Paul and Bob.

BEGALA: Connie, thank you very much. It's going to be a very important special. I'm definitely going to watch it.

Bob, I was just stunned to look at Austin Ruse tell the parents of children who've been assaulted and molested that the bishops who aided and abetted, that should just get a stern talking to. That is a heartbreaking revelation.

NOVAK: Well, I think what we need is abject apology. And I really believe that some of these bishops and -- who have performed badly, might be better off if they took themselves to a monastery...

BEGALA: Amen, good for you.

NOVAK: ...and thought about it. But I don't...

BEGALA: And resigned from any leadership role in the church.

NOVAK: ...like the left wingers tellin them.

BEGALA: And resign from any -- we're making progress now. Thank you very much.

And coming up later...

NOVAK: You're taking my lines away.

BEGALA: And coming up later on CROSSFIRE is your turn to fire back at us. So stay tuned. And then "round 6," Novak and I will slug it out over the failure of America to bring back Osama bin Laden dead or alive.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BEGALA: Now it's time for "round 6." I love that bell. No guests, no gloves. No sense. No, just Novak and me going after each other over tonight's issue, a report that the Bush administration may have blown a great chance to capture Osama bin Laden.

Bob, "The Washington Post" reported today that they had him. They had this murderous animal cornered in the caves of Tora Bora and Bush wimped out. Like his daddy let Saddam Hussein off the hook, Bush didn't send the troops in to get him. Is there something genetic with the Bushes that they can't finish a fight?

NOVAK: I tell you something, Paul, if you had ever served in the military, as I did.

BEGALA: Or as Bush certainly did not.

NOVAK: Instead of getting your deferments while -- other people were...

BEGALA: I never had a deferment. I registered for the draft.

NOVAK: ...dying in Vietnam, you would know that military orders don't come from the president on a tactical operation like that. Now the Secretary of Defense, Don Rumsfeld today said that this story is incorrect, that he wasn't at Tora Bora. I don't know what the truth is. There's no correspondence up there. We take -- we have to rely upon what people tell us.

But the whole idea, I wish you'd get over this, of trying to attach every little story to some attempt to undermine President Bush. It really is unbecoming to you, Paul.

BEGALA: First, let me defend myself against your personal attack. I was 13 when the war ended in Vietnam, Bob. They weren't drafting 13-year-olds, I'm sorry. I did register for the draft when I turned 18. And I would have proudly served, unlike Bush, who went to the National Guard and then was AWOL for a year and failed to show up.

NOVAK: You have Bushitis. Everything is turned into a...

BEGALA: He's our commander in chief and is letting this murderer get off the hook.

NOVAK: You're not running a campaign here, you know. You ought to get over it. He's president of the United States. He's your president too. And you ought to give him a little support in fighting a war. And I think that most Americans agree with me on this.

BEGALA: I gave him whole-hearted support in that war.

NOVAK: Oh, yes.

BEGALA: When he said -- oh, I did, Bob. NOVAK: You gave him phony support.

[ringing bell]

BEGALA: Wholehearted supported, because he said he was going to get bin Laden, who is, Bush was right, who is evil. Do you ever hear Bush mention bin Laden anymore? No, because again, a Bush wimps out. And I'm sorry, I supported him in the war. But now if he's wimping out, I got a right to call him on it.

NOVAK: OK, coming up next on CROSSFIRE, the chance for you to fire back at us. And you can count on us to fire back at you. CROSSFIRE returns in a minute.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BEGALA: Welcome back to CROSSFIRE.

It's time for "fireback," that time of our show when you get to fire back at us, both in the studio audience and you playing the home version of our game. Let's start with the e-mail bag. Here's our first e-mail from J. Worrell of Cincinnati, Ohio.

"Paul," optimistically enough it begins, "stop interrupting the guest! Ask a question, then allow them to answer. I guess your mama didn't teach you any Texas manners." Well, J. Worrell, I guess in Cincinnati, they don't teach you not to criticize somebody's mamas. My flaws are mine. Don't blame my mama, Worrell.

NOVAK: Very clever. The next question is from John of Roselle Park, New Jersey. It says, "Go ahead Bob, give me your two cents on what we should do about drilling. I lilke to hear the sides of rick, white, old, Republican, who just care about the mighty dollar, instead of respecting God's creations."

Yes, I care about American working men and women who get good jobs out of oil drilling. John of Roselle Park cares about fuzzy animals in Alaska.

BEGALA: Here's the next one. "With all due respect to you Mr. Begala, WILL YOU PLEASE just get over the 2000 presidential election. Your man lost!! Period!! Try and hang your hat on some other liberal theme." Tom Malone of Little Falls, New Jersey. No, Tom, your man lost. He got fewer votes than my man. My man got robbed. And no, I'm not going to get over it. It's called democracy.

NOVAK: Last e-mail's from Jenny of Appleton. I guess that's Appleton, Wisconsin. It's the home of whom?

BEGALA: I don't know.

NOVAK: Senator Joe McCarthy.

BEGALA: Oh great. One of your heroes.

NOVAK: Yes. It says, "Hey Mr. Novak, why do you always roll your eyes whenever you don't like what the opposing view is? Your Republicans can dish it out, but you sure can't take it!" You know, Jenny, you're just about right because it's very hard to take the demagoguery, the hypocrisy and the absolute mendacity I find from this side of the table.

BEGALA: Actually Jenny should know the eye roll is actually a chick magnet. The babes line up for Novak when he does that that eye roll thing. It just drives them wild.

Yes, ma'am your question? And where are you from?

SUSAN CONDELLO: Hi, my name is Susan Condello. I'm from Fairport, New York. And my question's for either of you. I was wondering exactly how influential you think Israeli and Palestinian voting blocks are on U.S. foreign policy?

NOVAK: Palestinian voting blocks? They meet in some basement in Detroit. I mean, there's no Palestinian voting block. The Jewish voting block is not very influential and most of them vote democratic anyway.

But what has happened that is different is that there is tremendous support from Israel on critical support, in my opinion, from a lot of people who are non-Jewish, who are a lot of Christian fundamentalists and the right wing of the Republican Party. And that's created a problem from President Bush trying to be a statesman when his party is opposing them on attempts to be even-handed in the Middle East.

BEGALA: Yes, I agree with Bob's analysis about the conclusion. You have this interesting mix of liberal Democrats, like myself, Eliot Engel, the congressman, who was on here before, strong supporters of Israel. But then also, many fundamentalist Christians who tend to be political conservatives, also suport Israel. So it's actually a broad consensus in this country.

NOVAK: Next?

ALANA ALTMAN: Hi, my name is Alana Altman. I'm from Columbus, Ohio. And I wanted to know when is Congress going to be forced to restrict pork, or in this case, catfish legislation?

NOVAK: Say it again? What was the last question?

ALTMAN: I wanted to know when Congress was going to have to curb pork, or in this case, their catfish legislation that you spoke of earlier?

NOVAK: Well, it's ridiculous. They passed the bill saying that the Vietnamese catfish were not really catfish. They look the same. They taste the same. They said they're not really catfish because they come from Vietnam. But you can't control Congress. All you can do is hope that they have good luck.

BEGALA: Well, in fact, there's a great American tradition of pork. I mean, I don't support Senator Tim Hutchinson, the person who wrote that nonsense in the law, but he is representing his folks, his state, just like every other member of Congress does. I mean...

NOVAK: But (UNINTELLIGIBLE).

BEGALA: I do. If a member of Congress stood up and said, "I voted against everything that helps my state," do you think he or she would be in the Congress for very long?"

NOVAK: Congress works best when it's in gridlock.

BEGALA: From the left, I'm Paul Begala. Good-night for CROSSFIRE.

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

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