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Can Middle East Leaders Find Path to Peace?; Do Farmers Need Government Handouts?

Aired May 7, 2002 - 19:00   ET


ANNOUNCER: CROSSFIRE. On the left, James Carville and Paul Begala. On the right, Robert Novak and Tucker Carlson.

In the CROSSFIRE tonight, President Bush meets with Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, and much of the focus is on the man who isn't there, Yasser Arafat. Can these leaders find a path to peace?

U.S. farmers are set to get billions of dollars in government handouts. Do they really need it or are they just pigging out at the expense of the rest of us?

The Raging Cajun is swinging from his heels as he takes on the Prince of Darkness ahead on CROSSFIRE.

From the George Washington University, James Carville and Robert Novak.

JAMES CARVILLE, CO-HOST: Good evening and welcome to CROSSFIRE. We're coming to you live from the George Washington University in downtown Washington, D.C.

Tonight, the struggle for peace in the Middle East. Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon lays out his blueprint for peace with the Palestinians in Oval Office talks with President Bush. The big question is is there a role for Yasser Arafat. President Bush's response, he's the Palestinian leader so you've got to deal with him.

But threatening these events, another deadly bombing in Israel. Police say today's attack apparently was carried out by a suicide bomber. CNN's Wolf Blitzer is in Jerusalem tonight. Wolf, this is the first bombing in almost a month. Has the Israeli public started to let its guard down?

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Well, I don't know if they let their guard down. Certainly the security services didn't let their guards -- their respective guards down, though I have to tell you that with every day since that last suicide bombing on April 12, here in Jerusalem at that open air market right in the heart of Jerusalem, there seemed to be a lot more traffic. Israelis were going out increasingly.

I was here at that time on April 12, and in the days that followed, the city center was virtually deserted. People were afraid to go to downtown Jerusalem, even on the Israel independence night when normally tens of thousands, perhaps even hundreds of thousands of people would congregate. There were very few going out then.

In the last couple of days, traffic got back almost to normal. People were going about their normal business here in Jerusalem as well as in Tel Aviv, Haifa, the other major urban centers of this country. In Rishon Letzion, which is a suburban town just south of Tel Aviv, about 15-20 minutes south of Tel Aviv, this is really the first incident that's occurred there, the first kind of terrorist incident. And this kind of incident is obviously going to shock the Israelis. Indeed, it already has -- Bob.

ROBERT NOVAK, CO-HOST: Wolf, the Israeli officials have said that their military operation in the Palestinian territories had really curtailed the ability of the Palestinians, the terrorists, to do suicide bombing. Now this comes two weeks later. Do you think this is a shock to the strategic and tactical plans of the Israeli government?

BLITZER: Well, I'm sure it's a shock to them because they thought they had the situation fairly well under control, although in conversations I've had recently with top Israeli security service personnel, they've always said there's no 100 percent guarantee they can eliminate any kind of suicide bombing.

What they've said and what the prime minister of Israel has said is they'll reduce the opportunities for those kinds of terrorist attacks. And if this is the first one in almost a month, perhaps they're getting the job done, although as they say, there's no 100 percent guarantee. And this will serve as a wake-up call to all of the Israeli security personnel -- Bob.

NOVAK: OK. Wolf Blitzer, thank you very much.

Let's bring our guests into the CROSSFIRE now. Ra'anan Gissin, spokesman for Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and Diana Buttu, legal adviser to the Palestine Liberation Organization.

Mr. Gissin, there's no question that members of your government have said that the operation, the military operation in the Palestinian territories had really put a curtailment on the suicide bombing. Now, does it look now as though trashing a civilian ministry of the Palestinian Authority, destroying files, really had nothing whatever to do with suicide bombing and you really haven't solved the problem by this very harsh military action?

RA'ANAN GISSIN, SHARON SPOKESMAN: The war against terrorism is indivisible. The United States is seven months in Afghanistan. It hasn't finished the job. And this war that was launched about 18 months ago -- and by the way, the attack today happened in my hometown. This is the first time my hometown has been hit.

It's a war in which you have some successes and you also have failures. It's a war that requires tenacity, resilience, and it requires, most of all, and that was raised in the conversation today with the president of the United States, real structural reform in the Palestinian Authority similar to reforms taking place in Afghanistan, by the way.

NOVAK: Well, explain this to me, sir. Hamas has apparently taken credit for this bloody deed. Now Hamas is an enemy of Yasser Arafat and the Palestine Liberation Organization. And yet you say, Prime Minister Ariel Sharon says this is Yasser Arafat's fault.

In the first place, this is people who want to make him fail who have put on the attack. And in the second place, you've just about destroyed the ability of the Palestinian Authority to accomplish anything. Can you explain that to me?

GISSIN: Yes, Robert, in the future, we're going to live alongside a Palestinian state. That state has to have accountability, responsibility, transferability. You don't have it now.

NOVAK: How can they control Hamas, though?

GISSIN: Oh, they can because if they would take the measures necessary against terrorist activity as they should have done before, then they would have controlled Hamas. But no action was taken, not even a statement. I haven't heard one statement from the Palestinian Authority.

NOVAK: I beg your pardon. There was a communique put out by Arafat today condemning it.

GISSIN: No, no. A statement calling his people to stop suicide/homicide bombing.

CARVILLE: What you have right now in Palestine is a disaster.


CARVILLE: Didn't the Palestinian leadership help bring this on the Palestinian people by walking away from a deal that they were offered in January 2000 which would have guaranteed a Palestinian state...

BUTTU: Absolutely not.

CARVILLE: ... returned 95 percent of their land?

BUTTU: Absolutely not. What the offer was proposed would have divided the Palestinian state into four separate cantons. We would have had to cross through Israeli checkpoints in order to move from one Palestinian area to the next. They would have controlled our air space, our borders, our economy. They would have controlled our livelihood.

CARVILLE: That is not -- you brought about Ariel Sharon. You brought about this government. And in the Palestinian -- and I'm a fan of the Palestinian people, some of the nicest people I've ever met are Palestinians.

NOVAK: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) of the Palestinians. CARVILLE: Some of the nicest people I've met. But the Palestinian people have been plagued with the most short-sighted, goofy, asinine leadership of almost any people in the world.

BUTTU: Absolutely not. The Palestinians recognized Israel's right to exist on 78 percent of our historic homeland. We've never, never, and you will certainly not hear it from Mr. Gissin here, heard a recognition that we have a right to exist on the remaining 22 percent that Israel occupied in 1967.

GISSIN: You have a right to exist period. But you haven't recognized my historic rights on my land have you?

BUTTU: In fact, we have recognized Israel's historical right.

GISSIN: No. You recognized our might, not our right.

BUTTU: We've recognized Israel's right to exist.

NOVAK: Mr. Gissin, last night, sitting where you were was Adel al-Jubeir, Saudi Arabian policy adviser. And I'd like you to listen to what he told us last night up on the screen.


ADEL AL-JUBEIR, SAUDI ARABIA POLICY ADVISER: We came to America with a peace plan. We came to America leaning forward. We came to America with a solution to the problem. Sharon comes to America looking for any possible opportunity to avoid having to step up to the plate and deal with the important issues. So he comes throwing charges that are baseless and ridiculous.


NOVAK: Now isn't it a fact, sir, that you trying to discredit the Saudi peace plan, have put out these documents -- I haven't seen the documents, I've seen the summary of the documents, saying that they have contributed to the terrorist bombings?

GISSIN: On the contrary, we accept the vision. The vision that the Saudis have offered for peace in the Middle East has been the vision since our inception and even before.

BUTTU: So why hasn't it been carried out then?

GISSIN: No, I'll tell you. The problem is that if the Saudi government really wants to pursue peace, it has to disassociate itself completely from supporting terrorist activity, from financing terrorist activity, as it has done so clearly by the evidence that we presented to the president and Congress.

BUTTU: The evidence that the Israelis presented to Congress demonstrates absolutely nothing.

NOVAK: Weren't you trying to discredit the Saudis with that evidence? GISSIN: We're not trying to discredit the Saudis. We're trying to ask something that the United States asked today after September 11 from all other countries. Either you're for terrorism or you're against it.

NOVAK: OK. We have to take a break. And coming up next, we keep our two guests in the CROSSFIRE for more debate on the Mideast.

And afterwards, our "Quote of the Day." Here's a hint: This huge company has already ruined itself. Now it may also have done some damage to your pocketbook. We'll tell you how.


NOVAK: Welcome back to CROSSFIRE. It's been another bloody day in Israel. Let's go live to the scene of today's suicide bombing. CNN's Jerrold Kessel joins us now from Rishon Letzion, Israel. Jerrold, what's the latest?

JERROLD KESSEL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Bob, death, devastation, destruction and a good deal of disbelief on the faces of people here as they look upwards to the scene of this devastating attack here which took place at just about three hours ago, about 11:00 local time. It's now 2:15 a.m.

And you can see that third story, the third floor of this building which was the pool hall, it's called the Spiel (ph) Club, a snooker (ph) and cafeteria reads the notice that's left above that gaping hole in the building where this attack took place, blew out the side of the wall, brought down the whole acoustic ceiling.

And what you're seeing now of that ladder as the rescue work continues. The rescue work has continued to the extent that they have managed to ferry away all the wounded. We believe the latest account was 57 people wounded, of whom many in serious condition. And 15 or 16 dead was the latest count. But what that crane is doing up there now, and we've seen over the last 10 to 15 minutes three bodies being brought down on a stretcher that have been brought down into the -- to the ground level where the waiting ambulances are there. It's a scene, as I say, of quiet disbelief. The rescue work continuing here late into the night.

All kinds of reactions, of course. We've had the first political reaction here on the site from the Usi Landau (ph), that's the minister of internal security who's blamed Yasser Arafat for this. Palestinian leaders said that terror was a cancer, had to be eradicated. He said perhaps Israel's action, devastating action in the West Bank was not sufficient and maybe it needed to be more. Well, we shall watch the rescue operation continuing as the final tally of the death count goes on here in Rishon Letzion.

Jerrold Kessel, CNN, reporting live from Rishon Letzion in Israel.

NOVAK: Thank you, Jerrold Kessel. Is there any hope for peace in the Middle East? Our guests, Ra'anan Gissin, spokesman for Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon; and Diana Buttu, legal advisor to the Palestine Liberation Organization -- James.

CARVILLE: Let me ask you something. Didn't Ariel Sharon contribute to inflaming Palestinian opinion when he stupidly went up Temple Mount in what ought to be considered as an insult to the Palestinian people instead of leaving that alone? Isn't that the kind of stuff that we don't need?

GISSIN: It wasn't an insult to the Palestinian people. Temple Mount is the holiest place for the Jewish people.

CARVILLE: Well, it's also a holy place for the Israeli people. Why inflame people?


GISSIN: It didn't inflame, I want to tell you, because...

CARVILLE: It didn't inflame the Palestinian people?

GISSIN: No because if...

CARVILLE: That would be news to the Palestinian people.

GISSIN: We want to hear the facts.

CARVILLE: OK. Go ahead.

GISSIN: The facts are very simple. It was accepted and checked by the police against the Palestinian security force who said that nothing will happen if he doesn't go near the mosques. And then, of course, there was an ambush of inciters there waiting just for that...

CARVILLE: One of the great things about CROSSFIRE, we actually have a real live Palestinian right here that we can ask.


Did that inflame...

GISSIN: What do you want us to do? This is our homeland. Do you want us to sit back and play dead?

CARVILLE: No, I don't want you to sit back and play dead. I criticized her leadership.


BUTTU: First of all, first of all, we informed the Israeli government that such an action would be very, very inflammatory and very -- and should not be taken at any cost. They then brought 1,000 soldiers with Sharon onto the Harama Shariv (ph).

And on top of that, you don't even have to believe what I'm saying and you certainly shouldn't believe what Mr. Gissin is saying here. You should believe what Senator Mitchell said about it. Senator Mitchell himself said that it wasn't simply the act of Sharon going up onto the Harama Shariv (ph) Temple Mount, but the accompanying actions, the fact that he brought 1,000 soldiers with him, and the fact that there were five Palestinians on that every day, unarmed Palestinians, who were killed as a result.

NOVAK: I want to go to the current -- what's happening now.

GISSIN: Your own people said that it was a provocation.

NOVAK: Ms. Buttu, I want to ask you this. You know the Palestinian people well. What is the reaction among the Palestinians who have been battered by the Israeli Defense Force when there is this brutal murder by a suicide bomber today, at least 16 Israelis killed, 14 wounded? Is there a feeling of triumph, of justification, of vindication, we got ours, do you think?

BUTTU: It's a very sad phenomenon right now. There's been polarization on both sides. And you do see very strong support on behalf of the Palestinians for suicide bombings. At the same time, you see a great deal of support on behalf of Israelis when they go in and they kill Palestinians, particularly with respect to what happened in Jenin and other places. There was more than 70 percent support on behalf of Israelis supporting these varied killings against Palestinians.

CARVILLE: The Israelis have taken a very strong stand against terrorism along with President Bush. In fact, I'm looking at TV spots that are being run, I believe on this network, talking, connecting what happened to the Israeli people to what happened to the American people on September 11.

In today's "Washington Post" -- excuse me, "Washington Times" which is a pro-Bush newspaper in the world...

NOVAK: And pro-Israeli.

CARVILLE: Right. And they said that an Israeli colonel said the Saudi government gave $135 million the past 16 months to help families of suicide bombers. How are you going to go to a peace conference with the Saudis if you believe that they're giving $135 million to terrorists?

GISSIN: Well, how would we go making peace with the Palestinians when they instigated those suicide bombings? Because we believe in peace.


This requires certain conditions. And that was what the president was discussing today.

CARVILLE: So what do the Saudis have -- what is the condition that you're going to impose on the Saudis?

GISSIN: We're not going to impose anything. If they want to belong to the civilized nations of the world, they have to disassociate themselves from terrorism, stop the incitement. Fifteen of al Qaeda came from Saudi Arabia...



BUTTU: The formula has always been one of land for peace. Israel withdraws from the lands that it occupied on June 4, 1967, and it will get the peace that it wants and the peace that it deserves. Israel has never been willing to withdraw from these territories because it instead, rather than wanting peace, it wants land.

NOVAK: I want to ask you about the relationship of President Bush to this entire situation. Before the terrible news of this bombing came out, President Bush had been meeting with Prime Minister Sharon. He said he was very disappointed with Yasser Arafat.

And he was asked by the press, well, are you disappointed with Sharon? And he says that he is not disappointed with Sharon. He is -- he would never tell Prime Minister Sharon what to do. Do you think the president is an even-handed mediator and able to negotiate a peace between these two sides taking that position?

BUTTU: Well, I think that if we're going to have a mediator, the person is going to have to be even-handed. And in order for President Bush to be even-handed, he's going to have to take a certain number of steps. One is he's going to have to actually come into the West Bank and monitor, whether it be himself or Americans themselves on the ground, the very efforts that we're taking and the very efforts that we have taken in the past.

Second, they're also going to have to monitor our infrastructure and our capability to carry out any future security for Israel. These are things that the Americans will have to do if they want to be even- handed.

CARVILLE: I've got to go back. I'm vexed by this thing. President Bush and Prime Minister Sharon say there's an absolute delineation. You can't deal with terrorists. And you're putting out that Saudi Arabia gave $135 million to the families of suicide bombers and we're going to a peace conference sponsored by terrorists? I don't understand. Enlighten me.

GISSIN: I think after September 11, there's a lot of leaders around the Arab world that have to take responsibility for their actions and decide one way or the other, are they for terrorism, are they against terrorism?

CARVILLE: But Saudi Arabia has been giving money.

GISSIN: True. But we're saying -- OK, we're willing to allow the Saudis to enjoy the benefit of the doubt and show us that they're not.


NOVAK: We just have a few seconds left. Diana, I want to know what your personal reaction is to the latest suicide bombing today.

BUTTU: Personally, I condemn it as the PLO has repeatedly and the Palestinian Authority has repeatedly. I condemn the loss of any life, whether it be Palestinian, Israeli, American or otherwise. Civilians should not be killed.

NOVAK: We're out of time.

CARVILLE: I want to express my sympathy to the Israeli people for this suicide bombing.

NOVAK: We're out of time. Thank you, Diana Buttu. Thank you.

GISSIN: Thank you.

Have a good, safe trip back. I'm sorry you have to leave early.

When CROSSFIRE returns, our "Quote of the Day." And here's another hint: When the power went out in California, was this notorious company pumping the switch? We'll explain in exactly one minute.


CARVILLE: Time now for the CROSSFIRE "Quote of the Day." It's about the Enron corporation. Documents released yesterday show Enron traders manipulated California's power system to increase profits. Our quote is from a lawyer for the California Public Utilities Commission who says, quote: "To us, this is really the smoking gun memo. It's Enron's own attorneys admitting that Enron is manipulating the California market."

You know, of course Enron did this. But what's really in this memo that's really newsworthy is is, quote, "that this inking is now being used by other market participants." Let me tell you something -- get this out of Trashcroft and Chernoff's (ph) hands, the attorney general of California. Start filing with the subpoenas and getting these people in here because these people were manipulating the market, and quit blaming Enron for everything.

NOVAK: James, I know exactly what you're doing. You're trying to make this a Democratic campaign issue. Enron -- wait a minute -- Enron was an equal opportunity bipartisan sleazebag. They got more money in the Clinton administration -- wait a minute -- I listen to you...

CARVILLE: That's not what I'm saying.

NOVAK: ... you listen to me.


CARVILLE: I'm saying it was more than Enron involved in this. And George Bush said he trusted the utility companies to manipulate the price. He said he trusted Cardinal Law while this was going on. There's something wrong with the people George Bush trust. NOVAK: If I could say something while you're interrupting, Carville, as a matter of fact, they received -- they receive more money from the Clinton administration on bank loans than they ever got from the Bush administration. And the idea of making this a partisan issue is sleazy and typical.

CARVILLE: Investigate it. Investigate it.

NOVAK: Straight ahead on CROSSFIRE, the FBI says it wants to question a young man about the rash of mailbox pipe bombs in five states. We'll have a live update in the CNN "News Alert."

Also, the new farm bill, a $180 billion boondoggle or a life saver for farmers? We'll put that to two members of Congress with very different views. Back in a minute.


CARVILLE: Welcome back to CROSSFIRE. We're coming to you live from the George Washington University in downtown Washington, D.C.

This is a good time to be an American farmer, if you like government subsidies that is. Over the next decade, farmers will get some $180 billion from the U.S. Treasury, thanks to the new farm bill being passed by Congress. President Bush says he'll sign the bill. Critics, including Republican leaders, say it's a return to the old policy that never worked. Supporters claim it saves farmers who are going under.

Let's bring our guests into the crossfire. Republican Congressman Jeff Flake of Arizona and Democratic Senator Blanche Lincoln of Arkansas.

How are you doing? Senator Lincoln.

NOVAK: Senator Lincoln, this bill, this incredible bill, for 2 percent of the population has three times the spending of the education program that was passed by Congress. It includes $4 billion for peanut growers, so that your fellow Democratic Senator, Senator Max Cleland of Georgia, can be re-elected. Isn't this a disgrace?

SEN. BLANCHE LINCOLN (D), ARKANSAS: Absolutely not, Robert. I think it's important to the American people for them to know that they can continue to enjoy the safest, most abundant, affordable food supply in the world. They go to their grocery shelves and there's something there. We get the best cost for food in the world in the entire world on the globe. And we get it produced, the most environmentally sensitive way. We don't tear down our rainforests, we don't put terrible toxins into our water, we follow the best application rules that there are. I think the American people appreciate that.

NOVAK: That's a perfect fourth of July speech. But let me tell you what I hear going on is, Senator Lincoln. And that is, the farmers, what this bill being about to past, they are rubbing their hands in glee. They are ready to plant from row to row, side to side. They're going to build up a big surplus. They're going to the banks to get loans. The banks are wringing their hands. This is just the old Harry Hopkins tax and tax, spend and spend, elect and elect, isn't it?

LINCOLN: Absolutely not. You've got farmers out there who are getting prices that they got decades ago for their commodities. There's no way that they can survive on that, particularly in a global economy right now. You've got to be competitive. And you've got to farm. An economy of scale in states like Arkansas, and Georgia, and other places, where you can be competitive in the marketplace.

CARVILLE: Congressman , from the Republican free market standpoint, this bill must be anathema to you.

REP. JEFF FLAKE (R), ARIZONA: It is awful.

CARVILLE: It violates free market principles. It's a big government handout, right?


CARVILLE: It's opposed by "The Wall Street Journal" editorial pages. It's opposed by "The New York Times." It's a terrible piece of legislation.

NOVAK: Posed by me.

CARVILLE: Posed by you.

FLAKE: It's a terrible thing.

CARVILLE: Let me ask you a question. Why in the name of God's green earth then is President Bush going to sign it, if it's so bad, and such an anathema?

FLAKE: I would ask him the same question. This is not only bad policy...

CARVILLE: But there must be a reason. If it's so terrible, if it violates free market principles, it's a big government giveaway, if it's a sop (ph) to corporate farmers...

NOVAK: Let him answer.

CARVILLE: I'm asking. He didn't answer me.

NOVAK: You interrupted him. How can he answer when you interrupt?

CARVILLE: I didn't interrupt.

FLAKE: Well, he's taken my speech completely. It's an awful, awful bill. You mentioned that Americans enjoy the cheapest food supply everywhere. The price of sugar here is three times the price it is on the world market because of farm subsidies and price supports. LINCOLN: We don't set the world market price here.

FLAKE: No, we pay, the average American family will pay $4,000 over the next 10 years, because of this bill in price supports, added food costs because of price supports, and direct subsidy. It's an awful bill.

CARVILLE: Senator Lincoln, the Congress passed a piece of Gingrich era legislation called the Freedom and Farm Act.

LINCOLN: You're exactly right.

CARVILLE: Now tell us about that brilliant piece of legislation.

LINCOLN: Yes, exactly. You talk about free market. You know, we tried that. We tried that without providing our farmers the marketplace to be able to be competitive in a global marketplace. It didn't work. And we put out supplemental appropriations bills for four and five years to the tune of billions of dollars.

FLAKE: We didn't give it a chance to work. All we said is in New Zealand, they said in 1984 we're going to end subsidies. They did it the right way. They said two year phase-out and it's gone. Every sector there is doing better.

LINCOLN: I didn't see anybody...

NOVAK: Senator Lincoln, I'm going to bring up something. And I hope you forgive me for bringing it up, because it's not nice. But I'm going to do it anyway.

LINCOLN: Yes, well, it won't be the first time.

NOVAK: From -- between 1996, 2000, Senator Blanche Lincoln, Democrat of Arkansas, received farm subsidies totalling $351,085. Don't you think, in all decency, you ought to say, I'm out of here? That's a conflict of interest? I don't vote on this legislation?

LINCOLN: You know, what? If you could cite where that came from, and you could actually say that was accurate, I have land, farmland, that was given to me by my grandfather in a trust. I share with eight other cousins. There was a farming operation that farmed not only that farm, but my father and mother's farm and my father's two sisters' farms. And the total farm received $350,000.


CARVILLE: Let her finish. You asked her a very...

NOVAK: You interrupted her.


LINCOLN: It is so inaccurate. And that's exactly what the opponents of this bill want you to think. They want you to think...

NOVAK: You didn't receive $350,000, your farm didn't?

LINCOLN: Absolutely not.

NOVAK: You just said the farm received $350,000.

LINCOLN: The farming operation. I have one-ninth of one-quarter of that farming operation.

CARVILLE: Isn't this a prime example of this right wing, hate smear machine...


CARVILLE: ...that puts stuff in his mouth that comes out about you and other Democrats?


NOVAK: Go ahead.

FLAKE: You know where that information comes from? It's an environmental working group, a very left wing group, actually.

LINCOLN: Absolutely.

CARVILLE: Being slammed around by you. And you ought to be ashamed by yourself.

LINCOLN: I don't know if they're left or right. All I know is they're inaccurate. And that's what the American people are getting are inaccuracies.

NOVAK: Senator Lincoln, I just want to say how in self respect, as a decent person, you can abide who are getting these subsidies. I just want to put up on the screen just some of them. For example, in 2001, John Hancock Life Insurance, that great small farmer, $134,318. Chevron, that's an oil company, $80,637. Archer Daniels Midland, God bless them, $9,728.

But wait a minute. I got better stuff for you. In 2001, Scottie Pippen, you know who Scottie Pippen is, received $26,000.

LINCOLN: Right, he's from Arkansas.

NOVAK: My boss, Ted Turner, received $12,000.

LINCOLN: And you know what?

NOVAK: He really needed that money.


NOVAK: And James Carville's favorite, Kenny boy Lay, $6,019. Isn't that disgusting?

LINCOLN: And you know what? The courts have corrected that through court proceedings.

FLAKE: No, not at all.

LINCOLN: Yes, they have.

FLAKE: The caps that were in effect.

LINCOLN: The caps at 2.5.

CARVILLE: You voted for the retroactive repeal of the alternative minimum tax, didn't you?

FLAKE: Yes, I did.

CARVILLE: And you -- and that was given how many millions of retroactive...

FLAKE: It's not the same thing.

CARVILLE: Of course, it's the same thing.

FLAKE: It's not a retroactive tax. It's taxes they've already paid.

CARVILLE: They were giving how much of a refund to Enron?

FLAKE: Why are we changing the subject here?

CARVILLE: Because I'm asking you, you're so outraged because Scottie Pippen got $6,000. You vote for a piece of legislation that gives Enron $246 million. I'm telling you, if the government does something for a farmer, the Republican Party has a conniption. If the government does something for Peabody Lou...


NOVAK: Will give you give him a chance to say something will you? Just for a second?

CARVILLE: He's got nothing to say about it.

FLAKE: You know, I grew up on a farm. In fact, if you look, the end of my right index finger, I lost the end of it in a windrower (ph) at age five on an alfalfa field. And I've admittedly been gone for a while, but I know manure when it's being shoveled. And when people try to say that this is for family farmer, that's a load of manure. When as Bob pointed out, so much of it, the vast bulk of it, 80 percent of it goes to 20 percent of the smallest farm. Arthur Daniels Midland, all the big guys. I mean, Scottie Pippen, when he's not posting up for the Portland Trailblazers, he's digging post holes, apparently on Arkansas farms.


LINCOLN: No. Well, I grew up on a farm, too. A seventh generation Arkansas farm family. And I've walked a rice levy, and I've scouted cotton in the summer. And let me tell you, there are hard working farmers out there who have had to increase their economy of scale in order to be competitive. And you think just because they've increased their farm and their acreage, to be competitive in a global marketplace, that they got thrown into, because of Freedom to Farm, that they're all of a sudden not family farmers anymore? Just because they're bigger?

NOVAK: Can I suggest something, Senator Lincoln?

LINCOLN: Mm-hmm.

NOVAK: There's a lot of people out there in this world who live in a small business, people they live in a hard world. They make their money sometimes. Sometimes they lose money. They don't go to the government and get handouts and subsidies. Why is this 2 percent of the people have their hand out to the government? They say "We can't make it on our own, we have to have the people in the audience do it?"

LINCOLN: Because the government doesn't stand up for them when you're looking at all of the trade negotiations that come out. Look at the other countries across the globe. They subsidize their producers to no end. Unbelievable. 84 percent of the export subsidies.

CARVILLE: You grew up on a farm, you have an interest in that. What are agriculture prices in the last four years? They've been pretty good for the farmer or what?

FLAKE: Well, no, what we've finding out, if you saw what happened when the bill passed, commodity price in futures dropped like a rock. And you know what? None of the farmers even care because they aren't subjected to the market anymore.

CARVILLE: But before the bill.

FLAKE: They either get their money from the taxpayer or from the markets.



NOVAK: We're going to take a break. When CROSSFIRE returns, more debate on whether farmers are living high on the -- the hog? Also, your only chance to fire back at us.


NOVAK: Welcome back to CROSSFIRE. The new $180 billion farm bill, a needed lifeline to farmers or election year pork to win votes? Our guests, Democratic Senator Blanche Lincoln of Arkansas and Republican Congressman Jeff Flake of Arizona.

James? CARVILLE: Congressman Flake, let me -- I want to state your position correctly. You thought the 1996 Freedom to Farm Act was a good piece of legislation?


CARVILLE: But since 1996, that the Congress has gone back and continued these subsidies under things like disaster assistance, etcetera.

FLAKE: Right.

CARVILLE: Well, who was in control of the Congress for this time?

FLAKE: Right. Oh, the Republicans were. It was a mistake. It was wrong. Part of the problem is, as I mentioned, it's not only bad policy, it's bad politics.

CARVILLE: But why does a Republican -- if it's so bad, why does the Republican Congress do it and a Republican president sign it? I'm grabbing at idea.

NOVAK: It's politics.

FLAKE: Of course it is. It comes from seeing the country in red and blue.

CARVILLE: Wait a minute.

FLAKE: Seeing the Bush states and the Gore states.

CARVILLE: A man that means what he says, and says what he means, and gives a speech on a free market signs something just based on politics?

NOVAK: All the other presidents do. Tell me one who didn't. Tell me one who didn't?


CARVILLE: I'm asking a simple question. He's just like all other presidents.

FLAKE: It's bad politics.

NOVAK: Senator Lincoln, I want you to listen to one of the favorite sound bytes of the year, many of many a year, given by one of Mr. Flake's colleagues in the House of Representatives, Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania. Listen to it and tell me if this isn't the gospel truth.


REP. PAT TOOMEY, PENNSYLVANIA: This is a sad day for our country. We're taking a big step in the wrong direction. I would say in the direction of Soviet style agricultural policy.


NOVAK: Isn't that a -- we're going the way of the Soviet Union when we say we're going to pour all that money in, say the hell with the market. We're going to put a picture of Stalin in every farmer's home. Isn't that right?

LINCOLN: Absolutely not. And I think, you know, as we've talked about Freedom to Farm, we were going to lead the way in opening up the market and using the free market as a tool for farmers. Nobody followed. All the other nations on the globe are subsidizing to the Nth. 84 percent of the export subsidies consumed by the EU...

NOVAK: Senator, you're a sophisticated, knowledgeable person. You must know that the passage of this bill, there's going to be reprisals. There's going to be intervention. We're going to be challenged in the World Trade Organization because of this. You know that, don't you?

LINCOLN: Absolutely not. We feel confident that everything is going to be...


NOVAK: Just a minute, just a minute.

CARVILLE: I'm trying to get an answer to this question. You tell me, what's happened to commodity prices in the last four years?

LINCOLN: They're been in the tank.

CARVILLE: Oh, really?

LINCOLN: Yes. Cotton at 27 cents last year. You know, you're going to ask our farmers to be competitive in the global marketplace with prices like that?

CARVILLE: So what would happen to cotton if we didn't have...


CARVILLE: Let me finish. If we didn't have these subsidies, what would happen to the amount of cotton planted in the United States?

LINCOLN: It'd go out. I mean, there wouldn't be any.

CARVILLE: So you mean little kids wouldn't have the denims to go to school in? And they would be cold in the wintertime?

NOVAK: Congressman Flake, I just can't let this go. When -- I can't believe that Senator Lincoln said that we're not going to have reprisals by the rest of the world. You must be aware of that?

FLAKE: Oh, they're lining up. This puts at risk our export markets. Those who say we're trying to compete internationally, this puts us at great risk internationally because our subsidies are up higher than just about everybody else now.

CARVILLE: But congressman, President Bush's decision to impose steel tariffs, the world -- they're not going to reprise against that?

FLAKE: They well may. That was a mistake as well.

CARVILLE: Gee, this guy's making a lot of mistakes out there. I tell you.

NOVAK: Almost as much as your party did.

CARVILLE: Not quite. Strongest growth we've ever had. The best tax policy.


FLAKE: I mean, the real problem with this is Ronald Reagan said back in '64 in a speech for Barry Goldwater, greatest speech every delivered. He said that we shouldn't trade security for freedom. And this bill, what we did here is we traded the Freedom to Farm for the Farm Security Act. And so, we Republicans are giving up not only the good policy, we're giving up the rhetoric as well. And it's a mistake.

LINCOLN: But you know, if you ask the consumers in the audience, I think that they would like to know what they're purchasing in their grocery store shelves is something that American farmers have grown with a great deal of environmental sensitivity.

NOVAK: You think they care?

LINCOLN: I do think they care, because I've got spinach farmers that can't sell spinach to canneries.

CARVILLE: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) productive farmers in the world.

LINCOLN: Absolutely the most productive...


CARVILLE: They're Do you mean to tell me that -- oh, my goodness (UNINTELLIGIBLE) they're the most productive?


CARVILLE: Maybe they deserve some. Maybe they deserve subsidies.

FLAKE: What consumers deserve to know is that they're paying out the nose for this farm bill. $1,800 in direct tax payments to -- and then $2,500, a total of $4,000.

NOVAK: We're out of time. We're sorry. Senator Lincoln, thank you. Congressman Flake, thank you. You don't want to miss what's coming up next. Your big chance to fire back at us.


NOVAK: Welcome back. It's time for fire back, when the viewers fire back at us. Firs, e-mail. The first e-mail from K.C. McLafferty of Butler, Pennsylvania. "I will not even turn CNN on since you have added James Carville and Paul Begala to CROSSFIRE. You have destroyed a good program with these two who would be more apt for a cockfight than for any enlightening of the left side of political issues." James, do they have cockfighting in Louisiana where you come from?

CARVILLE: Absolutely. You can bet on it, too. It's not legal, but they've got it. They also got bookmakers, too.

"I use CROSSFIRE segments to show my class how to debate and how not to debate. I had to share the fact that many students noted that the host and guest that we determined were conservative were described as both "whiny" and "unprepared." Also the kids think that your bell is childish. Wah!

NOVAK: Typical from California, wouldn't you know?

OK. Here is one from Colonel Robert B. Morrow of Fresno, California. "James, I cannot understand how a mature, intelligent gentleman like Bob Novak can bear on being on the same program with three, loud-mouth, immature individuals such as you, Paul, and Tucker. This is my third note to you. Chances are 100 to 1 you won't publish." Colonel, you just lost the bet.

CARVILLE: It's a big night, colonel. You've got it, man. You're on CROSSFIRE. What can I say?

"CROSSFIRE is the best show on CNN. I really enjoy watching Begala and Carville give Novak and Carlson nightly thrashings. I have started wondering if Novak is afraid of Carville as I have not seen them on together. I guess some wisdom must come with age." Let me tell you something.

NOVAK: We're together tonight!

CARVILLE: Let me tell you something about Bob Novak. He's always wrong. He's never afraid.

NOVAK: Thank you, thank you. First question please?

MARK: Mark Gasner from Houston, Texas. Do you find this latest suicide bombing a coincidence? Or do you think it's a planned manipulation of the Bush/Sharon meeting?

NOVAK: It is a planned manipulation. It is done by Hamas. It is anti-Arafat. It's trying to undermine Arafat. And when the Israelis say this is Arafat's doing, that is stupid and disingenuous.

CARVILLE: Well, one of the problems you have is that Palestinians are asking for a state. And what people are asking is, if they can't control these suicide bombers what they have now is they're concerned that the Palestinian state...

NOVAK: And that's what Hamas wants. Question?

NICK: This is Nick Garcini from Cincinnati, Ohio. Warren Buffett recently said that it's almost inevitable that a nuclear attack will likely be made in the United States. Maybe three months, three years, 30 years. What should we do now?

NOVAK: Let me tell you something. Warren Buffett said this morning. He is a billionaire investor. He don't know from nothing about nuclear attacks. That's a stupid, irresponsible remark.

CARVILLE: But you know, the guy's got a right to an opinion. I don't know if it's any better than anybody else, but he's right about a lot of things over things. I hope he's wrong about this.

NOVAK: One more question, quickly?

RICK: Rick Stern from Woodbury, New York. Mr. Carville, I'm interested whether you believe a Democratic administration would have been a more positive influence today in intervening in the Middle East crisis?

CARVILLE: Yes. Of course I do. I mean, because it was an idiotic piece of public policy, where we said we didn't have a stake in Israeli/Palestinian conflict. Of course we do. We have a stake all over the Middle East. This administration, the State Department is at war with the Defense Department. It has been disastrous. Disaster for his foreign policy.

From the left, I'm James Carville, good night for CROSSFIRE.

NOVAK: You just heard an unpaid political commercial. From the right, I'm Robert Novak. Join us again next time for another edition of CROSSFIRE.


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