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Did President Bush Let Osama bin Laden Get Away?; Has He Failed For Search For Peace in Middle East?

Aired April 18, 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: Did the president let Osama bin Laden get away? Did he give the go-ahead for a coup in Venezuela? And has he failed for the search for peace in the Middle East? We'll hand the grades for Mr. Bush's global report card.

As the race for governor heats up in New York, challenger Andrew Cuomo is questioning Governor George Pataki's leadership in the wake of September 11. Has he gone too far? Our pundit pugilists take on the issues and each other ahead on CROSSFIRE. From the George Washington University, Paul Begala and Robert Novak.

ROBERT NOVAK, CO-HOST: Good evening. It is tonight's edition of the new CROSSFIRE coming to you live from the George Washington University in downtown Washington, D.C. What we'll debate tonight, Democrat Andrew Cuomo coming out swinging in his bid to unseat New York's Republican Governor George Pataki.

Cuomo accuses Pataki of a failure of leadership after the September 11 terrorist attacks. Has Cuomo blown his chances in November, or has he executed a shrewd Carvilleesque political maneuver? We'll ask our guests in the "Crossfire." But first we grade President Bush's handling of major world events.

The Middle East, even before Colin Powell had stepped back on U.S. soil, Democrats and other critics were calling his mission to end the fighting between the Israelis and Palestinians a failure. President Bush says Powell laid out the path to peace.

Venezuela; President Bush has come under fire for his administration's alleged involvement, denied and unproven in the failed coup against leftist president Hugo Chavez.

Osama bin Laden, did the U.S. military allow the al Qaeda leader to escape? Or is this just more political bombast? We'll tackle these issues and more in the "Crossfire" with our guests.

Paul, this is a dangerous world, a crisis. The war against terrorism magnified by another crisis, the Israelis against the Palestinians. Don't you think that the cheap politicians ought to get off the president's back and act like Americans instead of cheap demagogues for once? PAUL BEGALA, CO-HOST: It's magnified by a third crisis. We have a president who doesn't know what in the world he's doing in the world. When you Republicans try to defend the Bush foreign policy it's like the guys who said well, the food on the Titanic was really good. That may well be. But the point of our foreign policy is to advance our interests around the world.

NOVAK: There you go again, cheap demagoguery.

BEGALA: Oh, it's expensive demagoguery, believe me. Let me bring in our guests. Please everybody bring a warm CROSSFIRE welcome to Democratic Congressman Robert Wexler of Florida, and Republican Congressman Tom Davis of Virginia.



NOVAK: Just to brief you, he's not a former Congressman. He's still a Congressman.

BEGALA: Congressman Davis. Of course ,still a Congressman, and also the chairman of the Republicans Congressional Campaign.

REP. TOM DAVIS (R), VIRGINIA: You call me a former Congressman? I thought he'd gave me a pay raise.

BEGALA: You wear two different hats. If you just give me a minute, though, let's review the bidding all around the world the way Bob did from his partisan take introducing this segment. Today we learned that tragic accident that happens in war. We bombed Canadian troops. On top of that we have tensions with Canadians because they have slapped tariffs on our timber products in response to Bush's trade war on steel.

In Afghanistan, we didn't get Osama bin Laden either dead or alive. In Latin America, all of Latin America is angry with us for backing his anti-Democratic coup in Venezuela. In Europe, they hate us because we walked away from the global warming treaty. The Chinese shot down one of our airplanes and we apologized to them.

And the Israelis and the Palestinians agree on one thing, neither of them are going to do anything that George Bush says. All around the world, can you name me a country that we're not in worse shape in than we were 15 months ago before Bush took office?

DAVIS: Afghanistan for one. Afghanistan was harboring terrorists. We've come in and cleaned out, al Qaeda is in a retrograde operation. I think the foreign policy has been successful. It is a partisan question as you asked it. It's a very complicated world but I think the administration is doing a good job right now.

BEGALA: Let's's take on Afghanistan. I strongly support the war in Afghanistan and I wish we were fighting it more aggressively, though. Did you know that we had more troops in Salt Lake City for the Olympics than we had in Afghanistan while Osama bin Laden was in Tora Bora and we let him get away? Is that your idea of prosecuting a war?

DAVIS: I think we leave it to the generals in the field. One of the things we have learned in conducting wars is when you start conducting them right from Washington, particularly at these early stages and take it away from the generals, you end up making more mistakes. We'll have to wait and see at the end. But we have cleaned out al Qaeda. The government is out of there, the Taliban. And I think it's been a success in Afghanistan.

NOVAK: Congressman Lewis, let's pin this down to the thing that's people who are not as off-the-wall as Paul is, are concentrating on and that's the Powell mission. They're saying it was a failure. It didn't succeed. But Secretary Powell was in the Oval Office today with President Bush, and let's listen to what President Bush said.


GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: This is a part of the world where killing has been going on for a long, long time. And one trip by the secretary of state is not going to prevent that from happening.


NOVAK: Now, isn't that -- isn't that a reasonable thing that Colin Powell is one of the most respected people in the world. He made a start. He's going to go back again. Henry Kissinger was on the circuit on the shuttle diplomacy in the Middle East for 72 days. Isn't that a reasonable thing to say? This is a very difficult problem. The idea that Colin Powell was going to go snap and get it solved is ridiculous?

REP. ROBERT WEXLER (D), FLORIDA: Well, the issue is not Colin Powell. Colin Powell is a very able diplomat. The issue is the moral clarity of the president. When the president has stuck to his principles, the zero tolerance for terrorism principles, he's been effective in the Middle East.

But when he started to waver, when on one day in the United Nations, the United States supported a resolution which condemned Israel and told Israel to withdraw its troops and then a couple of hours later the president comes out and says no, no, no, I really support Ariel Sharon that makes the job of the secretary of state next to impossible.

And I think that's reflected in the fact now that Mubarak in Egypt won't even meet with him. You would think after giving them $2 billion that the Egyptians would at least see our secretary of state.

NOVAK: Mr. Wexler, you happened to disappoint me. You are doing the straight Israeli line, but for the sake of accuracy the president didn't say -- just a minute, the president didn't say no, no, no, I didn't mean that. The president has been very adamant in saying the Israelis should withdraw. And when you get beyond the Israeli Amen corner in Congress, let's take a look at what the CNN/TIME poll shows as to the Bush policy in the Middle East: 56 percent agree, 29 percent disagree. You're on the other side of Mr. Bush, the American people are with him.

WEXLER: No, I'm on Mr. Bush's side when he speaks about going after terrorism and having no tolerance for terrorism. That's the American policy. And that's been the Israeli policy. But the problem is...

MACKINNON: But the American people are supporting his position.

WEXLER: The problem is when the policy gets missed. You know what, don't trust what I say, Bob. You said it best. Bush looks lost in dealing with the Middle East. A brilliant writer named Robert Novak, on March 31. Great words.

NOVAK: But he's improved himself since then.

WEXLER: No predecessor in the White House has faltered as badly as Bush in the Middle East.

NOVAK: But he has improved himself when he told the Israelis to get out of the Palestinian territories. I said you're on the right track Mr. President.

WEXLER: It's never fair to throw our words back. We're supposed to be doing that to you. Let me come back to this sound bite Bob played a moment ago. I was struck by how the president of the United States was passing the buck. He's only the most powerful man in the whole wide world and he says, gee I'm just one guy, we are just one country, they've been killing each other for thousands of years -- he looks like he just discovered that, by the way -- you know, gee, Condi, it turns out the Arabs don't like the Jews!

Here's what he has done as president. He's been there 15 months. It took 11 months before he sent anyone, and that was General Zinni. He sent him 11 months after taking office. Then he sent General Powell 15 months after taking office. Except for those two men what has he done to help us in Israel?

DAVIS: First of all I think you have to start at 9/11. You can go pre-9/11. You can go after that where the whole world changed at that point.

Let me...


And I think they waited until what they felt was a propitious moment after a lot of discussions with other Arab governments in the region in terms of when to send Colin Powell. And since Colin Powell has been over there, the terrorist bombings have dissipated somewhat. You now have a timetable for the Israelis getting out of some of the cities over there and it has improved and turned the heat down a little bit.

The goal here is to get the parties to the negotiating table. President Clinton gave it his best effort. But with an agreement on the table, Arafat walked away. Chairman Arafat walked away. At that point, there wasn't anything a new president could do at that point. You had an Israeli government, it fell as a result of that.

WEXLER: With all due respect though, the suicide bombings to the extent they've been minimized in Israel are not a direct result of Colin Powell's trip. They're a direct result of Ariel Sharon's aggressive policy in the West Bank and in Gaza.

DAVIS: No, I disagree because a part of this was Chairman Arafat going on television in Arabic...

NOVAK: They were still having suicide bombings before Powell went there.

DAVIS: Absolutely.

NOVAK: Absolutely.

WEXLER: And, of course, there was a big bombing on the day that he got there.

NOVAK: I want to go to another thing, the harangue that Paul engaged in, on not finding Osama bin Laden in Tora Bora. I'd like you to listen to what Don Rumsfeld, the secretary of state (sic), said on that -- secretary of defense, I'm sorry, said on there.


DONALD RUMSFELD, SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: We have seen repeated speculation about his possible location, but it has obviously not been verifiable. Had it been verifiable, one would have thought that someone might have done something about it.


NOVAK: You know, unlike members of Congress, Congressman Wexler, he speaks an understatement. Let me try to explain to you what he was saying. He was saying if we knew where he was, we would have gotten him. That's the truth. We didn't know where he was. There was no evidence he was at Tora Bora.

WEXLER: Well, there are high military and diplomatic officials that believe that Osama bin Laden was in Tora Bora and that, in the first three days, when we bombed from the sky, which deservingly so was -- seemed to be the right thing, turned out to be the wrong thing because we probably should have had armed...

NEVILLE: You don't know that he was there. I mean, the CIA doesn't know that he was there.

WEXLER: And you don't know that he wasn't there, but it appears...

NOVAK: Well, then why do we have this discussion... BEGALA: I can tell you where he's not. He's not in hell and that's where he belongs. And I don't know why Bush has given up the fight, Congressman. He went to us, and I cheered him even as a Democrat who can't stand Bush. I cheered him because he promised that we would do whatever it takes to hunt down and get this evil and he has let him go. We've only gotten two of the top 12 al Qaeda leaders.

DAVIS: We're still going after him. We still have troops going through caves over there. We have millions of dollars out there.

BEGALA: We had more troops in Salt Lake City than we had in Afghanistan.

DAVIS: Well, we don't now.

NOVAK: You said that once.

WEXLER: The bottom line is can't we admit that if we had our troops on the ground, Osama bin Laden much more likely so than is the case now would have been found...

NOVAK: You couldn't have troops everywhere in Afghanistan.


BEGALA: We'll go to break. We're going to come back to our two congressmen and, if we're still alive, our two hosts.

Next on CROSSFIRE, did the Bush administration have its hands in that coup in Venezuela? We'll bring our guests back for that one.

And later, the CROSSFIRE "Quote of the Day." Here's hint No. 1, get out your pens, he's out of a job but he's still turning heads. We'll be right back.


BEGALA: Welcome back to CROSSFIRE. We are grading George W. Bush's handling or mishandling of crucial events around the world. Please welcome back our guests, Republican Congressman Tom Davis and Democratic Congressman Robert Wexler -- Mr. Novak.

NOVAK: Congressman Wexler, there's been a lot of nonsense written about the United States trying to pull off an unsuccessful coup in Venezuela. I've been watching a lot of military coups in South America in my time. This was one of the most incompetent, inefficient.

I guarantee you, I know a little bit about the CIA. If they had had anything to do with it, it would have been conducted in a lot better way. You have no evidence, do you, contrary to what Paul implies, that there was any U.S. role in that coup?

WEXLER: No. I'm not aware of any information attaching President Bush to the coup. But what disturbs me is what happened after the coup. The president didn't stand up for democracy. We had a man, Chavez, who the president doesn't necessarily agree with and many Americans have fault with, but he was an elected president. And when the military coup occurred, the president didn't stand up for democracy the way the other Latin American leaders did. What kind of message does that send to our small neighbors to the south?

NOVAK: I'd like to see what kind of message you're sending because another elected leader is Yasser Arafat. He was elected by the Palestinian people. You don't like to admit that, but he was.

But Chavez was elected. Chavez is a demagogue. He is against free enterprise. He's been expropriating (ph) things. He's been giving free oil to Fidel Castro. You mean in your soul, in your heart, you didn't say, thank God, he's gone when they had that little coup?

WEXLER: Bob, I actually believe in democracy and I believe in freedom. And I support people's right to express themselves.

NOVAK: Adolf Hitler...

WEXLER: And the United States of America should not support a military coup when people have voted otherwise.

NOVAK: Adolf Hitler was elected to...

BEGALA: Congressman Davis, let me ask you about this. First, just first things first. Who has a more legitimate claim to the office they hold, Hugo Chavez, the president of Venezuela, who won an election, or George W. Bush in America?

DAVIS: George W. Bush. That's easy.

BEGALA: George W. Bush didn't win anything more than a five to four vote on a Supreme Court that his daddy helped pick. I don't like Chavez, either. I think he's a thug and he's a clown. But he was freely and democratically elected. And the entire region, most of whom don't like him either, is furious with the United States because we refused to back democracy. You have to admit that was a mistake for Bush to salute...

DAVIS: Well, they did give a statement, as you know, condemning extra democratic means to resolve the issues.

BEGALA: But they praised the coup and they blamed Chavez.


Ari Fleischer stood in the White House briefing room, sir, and said this is Chavez's fault and it is his problem, which was essentially condoning the coup. That was a mistake, wasn't it?

DAVIS: He didn't endorse the coup and they condemned after...

BEGALA: Of course they endorsed the coup. We were the only country -- we have a treaty obligation in the Organization of American States to stand against any Democratic coups. We did not follow that obligation, did we?

DAVIS: I think we followed the obligation.

BEGALA: The obligation requires us to denounce an anti- democratic coup and we didn't do that.


NOVAK: If they had a coup against Fidel Castro, what would you think of that?

WEXLER: Fidel Castro is not a Democratic leader. Not only did they take Chavez out, but they announced they were going to end the national assembly, disband the congress. Bob, at least stand up for democracy. Stand up for democracy and say people are entitled to elect their president.

NOVAK: Do you think Chavez is a democratic leader? He has expropriated property. He has committed illegal acts. He has just about taken the powers away from the assembly. Do you think Chavez is a democratic leader?

WEXLER: Chavez believes in everything I do not. But I am not Venezuelan. I'm American. And as an American, I support people's right to vote.

BEGALA: What about the comment that the Bush administration official had to the "New York Times." This was a stunning comment, when they said we don't think legitimacy is only conveyed by the majority vote of the voters. Isn't that an astonishing thing to say, particularly when your guy got fewer votes? Doesn't that just speak of contempt for democracy?

DAVIS: Well, he got a majority of electoral votes, Paul.

BEGALA: You know, actually he didn't. Robert from Florida, he was at the scene of the crime, but we can set that aside. We can set that aside though. Isn't it an astonishing thing for the White House, the United States of America, to be saying that legitimacy is not conveyed by the votes?

DAVIS: We have these unnamed officials saying this and that. We do know the official pronouncements from the White House, where it condemned extra democratic means to settle this. Obviously, there's been a lot of turmoil in Venezuela.


WEXLER: Those pronouncements were late and they were lame. And they were nothing to compare to the pronouncements of fledgling democracies from much smaller countries. The president of the United States should have been the first one in the world to stand up for democracy.

(CROSSTALK) NOVAK: Mr. Wexler, I'm glad you never have to live under a leader like Hugo Chavez, and you have somebody like George W. Bush instead. Thank you very much.


WEXLER: And we've got a constitution that we should all stand for.

NOVAK: Thank you very much, Robert Wexler, Congressman from Florida. Thank you, Tom Davis, Republican from Virginia.

Still to come on CROSSFIRE, the man known as The Juice faces more legal problems. Details in the CROSSFIRE "Police Blotter." And the "Quote of the Day," here's hint number two. He's a political spouse who's no longer calling the shots. CROSSFIRE returns in a moment.


NOVAK: If you're a public official and you're in trouble with the law, look out. It's Thursday night, and it's time for the CROSSFIRE "Police Blotter."

Poor O.J. Simpson, in trouble again. No, not for murder. Just for stiffing his lawyers in a child custody fight last year. It's not chicken feed. O.J.'s being sued for over $200,000 in unpaid legal fees, plus interest. But then, again, that may be chicken feed for Simpson. A civil jury that held him liable for killing his ex-wife and another person ordered him to pay $33.5 million. Anybody really think he's paid that?

BEGALA: A federal judge has given EPA Administrator Christine Todd Whitman the go-ahead to confiscate the files of the EPA ombudsman and to transfer the ombudsman, Robert Martin, to a new job answering the phone on a hotline. Mr. Martin has served as EPA ombudsman, which is part public advocate and part investigative watchdog, since the first Bush administration. His investigations have won praise and support from both Republicans and Democrats on Capitol Hill.

So what did Mr. Martin do to deserve this exile? Apparently only his job. The ombudsman was investigating a possible conflict of interest between Whitman's husband and polluters at two clean-up sites. Mr. Martin's investigations have long been supported on Capitol Hill, and at least one published account suggests he may be planning on resigning in protest.

Christine Todd Whitman says the files containing the investigation of her husband will be burned as an example of EPA's commitment to alternative energy sources. Just kidding.

NOVAK: What a tragedy. For some time now, left-wing crazies have demanded that Henry Kissinger be tried as a war criminal. A Spanish judge hasn't gone that far, but he wants to question the former secretary of state as a witness to so-called human rights violations by Latin American dictatorships. Judge Baltazar Garzon (ph) of Spain is the pushy jurist who ordered the 1998 arrest of former Chilean President Augusto Pinochet. And now he's demanding that Kissinger be questioned in London about human rights abuses in Chile when Kissinger was in office in Washington. I really hope Henry tells them where to get off.

BEGALA: (UNINTELLIGIBLE). The guy's been in America for 68 years, he still speaks with that phony accent.

Anyway, it's time now for the CROSSFIRE "Quote of the Day." Comes from my former boss, the greatest president of our lifetime, Bill Clinton. He's busy promoting national service, fighting AIDS in Africa and working on his memoirs. He was also a surprise guest at a recent party for a Republican Congressman Peter King of New York who was out with a terrific new novel. Asked to say a few words at the party, Clinton demurred, saying our quote of the day: "I'm just here as part of the lonely authors club."

NOVAK: If anybody out there really believes, Paul, that he's going to write any part of that book himself, I've got a bridge to sell them.

BEGALA: No, he absolutely is. He's hard at work at it right now. He doesn't have three million federal employees like he did when he was in the White House. He has got to do his own work. And he's doing it well. I can't wait.

NOVAK: You want to bet?

BEGALA: Oh, it's going to be great. He's going to have a really nice chapter about you, Bob.

Coming up next, New York Governor George Pataki feels the sting of Andrew Cuomo. Is it a brilliant move or a costly mistake? We will ask our guests in the CROSSFIRE. Also, the latest on that Amtrak derailment in Florida in the CNN news alert. Back in a minute.


BEGALA: Welcome back to CROSSFIRE.

November is still a long way off, but the race up in New York to be governor is already beginning to heat up. Yesterday, the hard charging Democratic candidate, Andrew Cuomo, questioned the leadership of Republican Governor George Pataki in the days after the September 11 terrorist attacks. Cuomo said, "There was one leader for 9/11, it was Rudy Giuliani. And that Pataki, "stood behind the leader. He held the leader's coat." Republicans cried foul, but Cuomo was on the attack again today.


ANDREW CUOMO, DEMOCRATIC CANDIDATE FOR GOVERNOR, NEW YORK: George Pataki is not a bad man. That's not what this is about. I don't think campaigns have to demonize. I'm not saying he's a bad man. Just that he's not a good governor. Look at the results. Look at the leadership. We've been talking about the upstate economy. That's not rhetoric, that's the reality. BEGALA: As for the governor, he's not saying much. Just that he was "stunned," and found the comments "very sad."

Well hopefully our guests will neither be sad, nor stunned. Please give a warm welcome to former New York mayoral candidate and former CROSSFIRE host Mark Green and former New York Republican Congresswoman Susan Molinari. Good to see you.


BEGALA: As always.

NOVAK: Mark Green, welcome back to CROSSFIRE. It's been a long time.


NOVAK: Mark, this business about holding the coat, I've seen a lot of silly things in politics. That's got to be one of the silliest. And let me present a witness for the opposite point of view that he wasn't holding the coat. And that's the former mayor of New York City, Rudy Giuliani.

We'll put on the screen what he said. Rudy said -- maybe it'll get up on the screen. I hope it will, but maybe not. There it is. He said, "I held his coat as often as he held mine. We were inseparable." You know, I watched them from ground zero many times. And it didn't look like one guy was holding up the other guy. They looked like they were partners.

GREEN: You're being very literal. Andrew Cuomo legitimately raised the question of the leadership skills and the results of the incumbent governor. That's inevitable. What is so deliciously ironic, Bob, is the last time there was a Pataki-Cuomo fight, of course as you know, Rudy Giuliani sided with Cuomo, Mario Cuomo.

NOVAK: That was a different Cuomo.

GREEN: And it was at a press conference attended by Mayor Giuliani and me, the Democrat, the ranking Democrat of the city, when Rudy Giuliani attacked Pataki as being a puppet of Al D'Amato. I'm not exaggerating. Now someone else has said in effect he's a puppet. And now Rudy's changed his mind. NOVAK: Well, you know, well things do change in politics.

GREEN: Except your point of view, but...

NOVAK: And yours. But Mario Cuomo, Mark, I admired Mario, as know that. I think he, I didn't agree with his vision, but he had a vision. But his son is just a mean little guy, who can think of nothing other than to tear down George Pataki. Don't you see the great difference between the Mario Cuomo of San Francisco Keno who set a vision, a left wing vision for America, and his son, who just is niggling and giving little sound bites?

GREEN: First it's really unfair to compare anybody to their father. Let's analyze him on his own.

MOLINARI: Well you just said -- you just said...

NOVAK: You brought up Mario.

GREEN: It's Giuliani for or against Pataki. And we won't -- if you want to talk about your father, that's fine. Andrew Cuomo.

MOLINARI: I'd love to talk about my father.

GREEN: ...founded the leading non-profit housing group in America, built more houses than anyone before. And of course, he's been the Housing Secretary under Clinton...

NOVAK: Did you endorse him?


NOVAK: If you're so good, why didn't him endorse him?

GREEN: I'm neutral because I'm a commentator like Paul. I don't get involved in politics.

BEGALA: Don't let him drag you.

GREEN: Andrew Cuomo has a record to run on.

BEGALA: I'm sorry, Mark, let me bring Susan Molinari into this. This is like a PH.D. in duh.

MOLINARI: You're right.

BEGALA: Rudy did a better job than Pataki or anybody else, frankly, on September 11, didn't he?

MOLINARI: Rudy did a different job than Pataki and everybody else.


MOLINARI: And first of all, have to say, I think it is absolutely outrageous and I think it is pathetic that Andrew Cuomo's first foray really into New York politics has to do with defining and taking advantage of a tragic situation, as opposed to talking about his record. Because obviously he's not as comfortable in talking about it. But let's talk about September 11.

BEGALA: No, no, let me stop on that. That is such a load, Susan.

MOLINARI: No, it's not a load.

BEGALA: Rudy Giuliani on March 5 hosted a fundraiser in Washington, D.C. called, and I quote, "a salute to America's heroes." Do you know where the money went? They didn't go to America's heroes. They went to America's hacks. Republican politicians and the firefighters in New York were outraged. If anybody's exploiting September 11, it's the Republican Party.

MOLINARI: The firefighters in New York, who put out a press release today condemning Andrew Cuomo for what he's done. Now let's get down to September 11. Was Rudy an absolute hero and a star and a savior? Yes, he was.

But you know what? He had to in those initial days mobilize the police, the fire, the Office of Emergency Management Services, city agencies. Those were the men and women who were on the ground the initial days. They fell under the jurisdiction and the bailiwick as the mayor.

What did the governor do? He dealt with all the state agencies.

BEGALA: I don't know.

MOLINARI: He mobilized the urban search and rescue, the National Guard, the State Emergency Management Office. He worked with the White House. He coordinated and unified New York state. And that, gentlemen, is the big difference between these two candidates. Governor Pataki is the man who unifies New York state, as opposed to the Andrew Cuomo, who seeks to divide it.

NOVAK: Mark, let's talk practical politics. I'm going to give you a current Quinnipiac poll.

MOLINARI: You can argue over the way you say it, but the numbers are still the same.

NOVAK: Yes, we know what it is. And we're going to put that up there. Pataki job approval, this is the whole state of New York, a Democratic state, approve 66 percent, disapprove, 19 percent. Then the head-to-head Pataki and junior Cuomo. 54 percent for Pataki, 30 percent for Cuomo. Isn't what has happened practical politics?

Cuomo finds himself in terrible shape, and he doesn't know what to do. So what he does is he lashes out with this silly hold your coat...

GREEN: After 9/11, George Bush, George Pataki, Rudy Giuliani, coincidentally all rise to 80 percent favorable because this country generally, and our city in particular was shattered. And the public looked to people to represent us and fight against terrorism abroad and at home. That's understandable.

Six months ago, Pataki was ahead of Andrew Cuomo like 45 to 37, which politically speaking, you know is competitive. It separated a bit because of this tragedy, but it's now...

NOVAK: A bit? He's 24 points behind.

GREEN: ...Pataki has fallen six points in the last month. It is legitimate for Andrew Cuomo to say leadership is Clinton and Schumer getting $20 billion from Bush, when Pataki blew it by asking for more than double.

NOVAK: We have to take a break.

MOLINARI: No, that's not absolutely true at all with regard to what's happened federally.

NOVAK: All right, coming up on CROSSFIRE, our guests return for more debate on the Cuomo demagoguery. All right, the Senate delivers a blow to the president's plan to drill for oil in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. It's a topic in "round six."


NOVAK: Welcome back to CROSSFIRE.

We're talking about Andrew Cuomo's blistering attack on New York Governor George Pataki's leadership. Our guests, former New York mayoral candidate Mark Green and former congresswoman from New York, Susan Molinari.

BEGALA: Susan, you're a Capitol Hill veteran. When -- before we took a break, Mark Green made a point that the governor of New York, George Pataki, came here to Washington and asked for $40 billion right away, for $54 billion. It was such a clownish and clumsy move, that they shipped him back to Albany where he did whatever they do in Albany. And they let serious legislators like Hillary Clinton and Chuck Schumer bring $20 billion home to New York, right?

MOLINARI: I just don't even know where to begin to start to tear that apart.

BEGALA: $34 billion. He embarrassed himself over it.

MOLINARI: Well, let's talk about, you know, two United States senators who in fact did stand shoulder to shoulder with Governor Pataki, two New York state senators, as well as the New York delegation to get back to our original -- to highlight how wrong Andrew Cuomo was. But in fact, Governor Pataki did come to Washington, D.C. and went to the White House and asked for an aid package for all of New York state, because all of New York state suffered not to the degree of New York City...

BEGALA: Did he get it?

MOLINARI: He's getting an awful lot of support from the federal government.

BEGALA: Hillary and Chuck are getting the $20 billion. That's what New York is getting, right?

MOLINARI: Wait a second, the truth is Hillary is, Chuck is, and so is Governor Pataki. He is an integral player. He talks to the White House all the time. He has worked with Mitch Daniels. He's worked with the appropriaters.

I was in the office with the appropriators today with the head of the redevelopment corps, the Port Authority, the MTA, all people who work for Governor Pataki. He fights very hard for New York state, which is why these numbers from the Quinnipiac poll are so outrageously high on behalf of Governor Pataki.

NOVAK: Mark, let's talk a little politics. This is -- New York's one of the most Democratic states in the union right now. Al Gore just creamed George W. Bush there by a huge margin. They had big edge in the congressional and the House delegation. Two U.S. senators now. And yet you have, I don't want to be personal, but you have a Republican or at least a nominal Republican mayor...

GREEN: Wait till the recount.

NOVAK: ...of New York City.

GREEN: The French judge cheated me.

NOVAK: And you have a Republican governor way ahead in the polls. Can I suggest what the problem is?

GREEN: Please, I'd like to know.

NOVAK: It's this nastiness that we have from Andrew Cuomo. Voters don't like it. They don't like it when Democrats are attacking each other in the primaries. They don't like it when Democrats -- the only thing they can think of is to attack their opponent.

GREEN: Now the national audience only hears you. First, Andrew Cuomo and Carl McCall have not attacked each other much at all in the primary.

NOVAK: They haven't?

GREEN: Their surrogates have...


GREEN: Second, George Pataki let's get to the facts, he opened this line of inquiry by making this issue political. Four days before the mayoral campaign, I was the Democratic nominee for mayor. He calls me and he calls Michael Bloomberg, saying look, I have to get going. I'm appointing a panel of all gubernatorial appointees, all my people. I said, "George, you've got to be kidding. Can't you wait 96 hours to see who the mayor-elect is?" He said "No, we got to get going."

They appointed the last people last week. He did it because he was afraid the Democrat...

NOVAK: All right.

GREEN: No, no, I'm not done. His lecture bureau said -- his lecture bureau is pitching him. He wants to talk about 9/11. He appointed a man as the head of the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation, John Whitehead. This is supposed to be a consensus effort. He was about to host a $1 million fundraiser, political fundraiser for George Pataki before "The New York Post," of all papers, blew the whistle.

NOVAK: You're getting...


NOVAK: Just a minute. I want to look you in the eye, Mark. I've known you a long time and don't cross your fingers. And you tell me, do you think that was a smart move, that was good language by Andrew Cuomo?

GREEN: We're talking about Andrew Cuomo's candidacy against George Pataki. Cuomo's the underdog. And we're talking about Pataki's lack of leadership. You wouldn't have been talking about that if he hadn't said it.

BEGALA: Let me ask you a question before you give an answer.


BEGALA: I want to try -- test your candor, too. Look me in the eye, the camera will be on you, and tell me that you honestly in your heart believe that Pataki did as good a job on September 11 as Rudy Giuliani?

MOLINARI: He did as good a job. He did a different job. And that's why...

BEGALA: As good a job. I'm going step back as the thunderbolt hits now.

MOLINARI: As good a job and a different job.

BEGALA: A lessor job.

MOLINARI: You know what...

BEGALA: He held Rudy's coat. Andrew Cuomo was right, Susan.

MOLINARI: He was not political. He was the leader of New York state.

BEGALA: He was an incompetent.

MOLINARI: ...and he let the people who needed to do...


BEGALA: Over time. Thank you very much, Susan Molinari, Mark Green.

MOLINARI: Hey, I want that bell.

BEGALA: Coming up later on CROSSFIRE, your chance to fire back at us and also "round six." No guests, no gloves. Just Novak and me going at it over Bush's plans to drill for oil. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) BEGALA: Time now for round six here on CROSSFIRE. No guests, no gloves, but yes, there will be a standing eight count rule. The issue, the president's plans to drill for oil. Now that he's shut out of Alaska's Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, environmental groups say he's got his eyes on the Rocky Mountains.

Bob, the papers today report that Bush wants to drill in Wyoming, in Montana, in Colorado, in Utah and in New Mexico. This guy makes James Watt look like St. Francis of Assisi.

NOVAK: Let me tell you something. We just had a disaster for this country. I know you don't care about what happens to the country as long as your politics works. But in the Senate today, they voted down the drilling in Alaska, kind of oil production...

BEGALA: Looks like somebody else cares about our country, too.

NOVAK: ..the kind of oil production that would have been surpassed anything that Iraq did. It would have given us oil independence. It would have been jobs for teamsters, for machinists, for steelworkers. And the only reason they voted him down was the malevolent environmentalist lobby sending communications to the people. This was a dark...

BEGALA: The malevolent environmentalist...

NOVAK: This was a dark day for America.

BEGALA: This is what -- here's what Bush wants to do at the behest of big oil. He wants to relax clean air standards. He wants to kill the polluter pay provision under Superfund. So hostile has he been, that the Bush senior appointee, who's the head of EPA's enforcement division, resigned in protest.

I mean, you know, the only thing -- if we ever find a way to run cars on air, they're going to want to drill in Bush's head next. See? He ill drill anywhere.

NOVAK: See, the thing is the garden clubs of this country would make us be another Holland. We wouldn't have the growth. We wouldn't have the jobs. And I'm just amazed a hard rock Democrat like you doesn't care of the need for jobs, for Americans, for good paying jobs. I think you're making a big problem in alienating organized labor. And you may suffer for years to come.

BEGALA: Bill Clinton created 23,000,500 jobs, and he didn't ruin Alaska. And I think Bush has already cost us 8 million jobs. And the answer is not to go despoil Alaska.

NOVAK: You didn't answer my question.

BEGALA: Or Wyoming or Montana or Colorado or Utah or New Mexico.

NOVAK: Why do you think the blue collar unions desperately want this?

BEGALA: You know, the labor union was divided on this, actually.

NOVAK: Oh, what?

BEGALA: And they would get more jobs from the bipartisan proposal..

NOVAK: The janitors...

BEGALA: ...natural gas pipelines.

NOVAK: The janitors' unions were against it.

BEGALA: No, natural gas pipeline.

NOVAK: And the government workers and the teachers.

BEGALA: No, wrong again, Novak.


NOVAK: All right, straight ahead on CROSSFIRE, your chance to fire back at us. And you can bet we'll return fire.


NOVAK: Welcome back to CROSSFIRE. It's fireback.

And our first e-mail is from Dave of Palm Desert, California. "Bob Novak is so out of control. He is so far to the right, he's going to fall off the planet." Well, Dave, let me tell you something, I move a little bit farther to the right everyday. And I still got a long way to go.

BEGALA: A few steps to the right of Genghis Khan, he is actually. Here we go. John Derr in St. Joseph, Missouri writes, "Paul Begala and James Carville are prime examples of how whacky and desperate the left has become. Somebody get these two guys a ladder so maybe they can climb up the level STUPID."

John, apparently spending a whole lot of time on that level yourself, John. You must know it well.

NOVAK: OK, the next one is from Howard Hollaman of Smithfield, Virginia. That's where they have the hams.

BEGALA: Yes, Smithfield hams.

NOVAK: In case you didn't know that. "Bob I agree with your views on the Israeli occupation and that the Israeli military needs to go home. This hurts me as I have never agreed with anything that comes out of your mouth. I guess even a blind squirrel finds a nut now and then." Howard, if that's what you think, I've got to reassess my views.

BEGALA: Howard has clearly found a nut. That's right. "I just started watching CROSSFIRE recently, and I must admit, I'm addicted. I now watch it religiously. I love the debates, the News Alerts, and most especially the rapport between the hosts. Keep up the excellent work!" Signed my wife Diane -- no, it's Larry in Toronto. Larry, thank you very much for that. We'll keep it up.

NOVAK: All right, is that a question in the audience or just a guy who wandered in?

BEGALA: He's stolen a microphone. Security! Yes, tell us your name?

JIM STENGE: Jim Stenge from Grand Rapids, Michigan. This is for Paul. President Clinton had eight years to resolve the Middle East situation and he didn't. Don't you think you're being a little bit too hard on President Bush, given he's only been in office for about a year, year and a half?

BEGALA: What Clinton did in those eight years, though, was work endlessly and relentlessly, as by the way, Bush's father did, toward peace. He moved us closer to peace than anybody had in 5,000 years. He had Arafat right there. And Arafat walked away from peace. I blame Arafat for that. And I blame Arafat for the terrorism now. But Bush walked away for 15 months. He did nothing.

NOVAK: Don't you know, Mr. Grand Rapid, don't you know with this guy, George W. Bush can do no right. Next question.

AARON PARSON: Aaron Parsons, Rushville, New York. My question's for Bob. What do you feel about the Republicans, House Republicans today standing up against the Democrats' attempt to reverse the Bush tax cut?

NOVAK: I say God bless the Republicans. The Republicans were put on earth by the Lord to cut taxes. And if they don't do that, they're not worth anything.

BEGALA: Let me finish Bob's sentence. To cut taxes for the rich. They're busy raising taxes on working people.

NOVAK: For everybody.

BEGALA: No, they're raising taxes.

NOVAK: No, that's nonsense.

BEGALA: Cutting them on Novak's crowd. Yes, ma'am?

HEATHER NAGLE: Hi, this question goes to you, Paul.

NOVAK: Name, name, your name!

NAGLE: My name's Heather Nagle. I'm from Akron, Ohio.

BEGALA: You don't want to hack him off, Heather.

NAGLE: No, no, this is for you.


NAGLE: If you're going to criticize Bush for not capturing or killing bin Laden, what about his predecessor, Clinton when he had opportunities? What do you say about that?

BEGALA: He had opportunities and he took them. He launched cruise missiles after Osama bin Laden.

NOVAK: One night!

BEGALA: And when he did, the Republicans attacked him. The Republicans undermined him. Trent Lott and others criticized him for doing that. So shame on the Republicans. Clinton went after bin Laden again and again and again, but Bush had the entire United States Army. He didn't use it.

NOVAK: He didn't go after him again and again.

BEGALA: We weren't at war.


NOVAK: That's such a distortion of history. He did it one night when he had been found lying to a grand jury. And then he forgot about it entirely.

BEGALA: No, he had four different -- that's such a lie.


BEGALA: You're going to wait. No, he said four -- no. He said four different groups.

NOVAK: Got 30 seconds, go ahead.

BEGALA: In the back to capture and kill bin Laden. It was the right thing to do.

NOVAK: Go ahead. Go ahead.


NOAH MARR: This is Noah Marr from Columbia, Maryland. George Bush is asking for tax cuts, even as we're running deficits and raiding Social Security. How can we pay for tax cuts and still run our war effort and still keep Social Security solvent?

NOVAK: Where did you come from? The Democratic National Committee? That's straight...

BEGALA: No, he comes from America.

NOVAK: Wait a minute. That's straight spin of raiding Social Security is a lot of nonsense. We are overtaxed in this country. And we need a tax cut for everybody.

BEGALA: We are raiding Social Security and running a deficit, so that Bush can hand the money off to the rich. From the left, I'm Paul Begala. Good-night for CROSSFIRE.

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


Failed For Search For Peace in Middle East?>



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