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Are New Terror Warnings Sensible Precaution?; Is Loyal Democratic Opposition Too Loyal?

Aired May 21, 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, the FBI issues a new terror warning for New York. Is it a sensible precaution or an overreaction to past criticism?


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The FBI have questions to answer.


ANNOUNCER: And we have plenty to ask. In the CROSSFIRE, former G-man turned Congressman Mike Rogers.

Since when did Democrats do what Dick Cheney tells them? Tonight, has the loyal opposition gotten too loyal?

And it's supposed to be money in your pocket, but he says maybe it shouldn't get there. Will that get him to the White House? It's all in the CROSSFIRE.

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

JAMES CARVILLE, CO-HOST: Welcome to CROSSFIRE. We're coming to you live from the George Washington University. A little criticism from the vice president's show went a long way over the weekend. Tonight we're going to ask have the Democrats been too soft on the Bush administration over 9/11?

Also a guy who'd like to take on George W. Bush takes on one of the president's proudest accomplishments. But our first stop is the FBI. Today the FBI alerted New Yorkers that there may be a terrorist attack against the Statue of Liberty or other prominent landmarks.

The information, which comes from detainees does do not have any specifics, but the bureau chalks up the warning to -- quote -- "an abundance of caution" -- unquote. And that's certainly better than the abundance of secret and miscommunication the bureau has been taking its lumps for.

Does the FBI finally get it? Tonight, former FBI special agent has agreed to step into the CROSSFIRE. Mike Rogers is now a congressman from Michigan.

REP. MIKE ROGERS (R), MICHIGAN: James thanks for having me. Thank you.

ROBERT NOVAK, CO-HOST: Congressman, Congressman Rogers, now I don't know what a person in New York is supposed to do going into this holiday weekend when he or she goes over the Brooklyn Bridge, you're supposed to slow down, look left and right for terrorists? Or is the case of your old outfit the FBI, which has been burned mightily lately, just trying to cover their posterior in saying well, we don't know what's going to happen. We can't say there's any credibility, but we're on record as having warned you. Is that what's happening?

ROGERS: Well I mean it's in a very tough spot to be right now. You have -- when they've issued warnings in the past, they've been beat up that they're nonspecific enough and now the big cause is did you know about 9/11 and not notify people? And that's a very difficult position.

They want to make sure they give the right amount of information to the individuals that need it so that A, they don't further the terrorist cause by creating chaos, and we can stop or deter a terrorist act in the United States. They've got to make that call on every piece of information that they gather. And I tell you it's not an easy decision for them to make and I think they probably were a little bit nervous about it and provided it to the right sources and you heard through the ...

NOVAK: But ...

ROGERS: ... the New York officials.

NOVAK: ... you're not only a former FBI agent, Congressman, you're now a politician and the idea of putting this out coming after all the FBI getting beat up on the talk shows, getting beat up in the newspapers, this is -- I mean, I can't see how a public statement goes to anybody who needs this information. This is just a self-protection by the bureau, isn't it?

ROGERS: Well you know, you don't understand what information led up to them disclosing it. I imagine if they had detainees giving very specific sites, even though they couldn't confirm it, it was enough for them to notify the authorities. But what you see here is and the danger in this, Robert, is that you see this I think malicious partisanship on this issue that's really got to stop.

I mean if you look at the great society, they taught us a lot. Right after Pearl Harbor they weren't clamoring for a commission, they were clamoring for uniforms to go after a very common enemy. We have a very common enemy here in the United States. It's terrorism, and we are at risk. Americans are at risk, and we better pool our resources here and stand with the president.

I have to tell you that, you know, the Democrats now and Daschle included is more interested in catching George W. Bush as the Republicans or George Bush is interested in catching Osama bin Laden. I say let's stand with the president, let's let him make the changes. They've done some really incredible things since 9/11. I have to tell you. When I was in the bureau ...


ROGERS: ... when I was in the bureau the CIA and the FBI didn't talk very well. That was years of institutionalized problems and laws that were passed that said you couldn't even talk to criminals overseas because they might embarrass the United States to get information ...

CARVILLE: Congressman ...

ROGERS: ... I got to tell you ...

CARVILLE: Can I ask you something Congressman?


CARVILLE: Congressman, do you know how soon after Pearl Harbor a commission was appointed to look into it and find out what went wrong?

ROGERS: It's about three years.

CARVILLE: No, sir, 11 days.

ROGERS: No, that's not correct.

CARVILLE: Eleven days. And we were able to do that ...

ROGERS: Congress agreed -- no, sir, Mr. Carville, Congress agreed not to interrupt and take away from the focus of the war. And that's what we should have done.

CARVILLE: Eleven days after Pearl Harbor, the president did that. I don't understand why -- what's your objection to the American people finding out what went wrong and what we can do to correct it and make it go better?

ROGERS: Well let me -- let me -- I mean, a commission, a blue ribbon commission is code word for a political witch-hunt. And what you find is, people like, no offense James, you're the best in show business I've ever seen but I don't want guys like you writing the questions to put our intelligence operations ...

CARVILLE: I don't think anybody's going to put me on the commission, Congressman.


Actually, no one suggested that I be on the commission. I think you're talking about Senator Rudman and Senator Hart. But ...

ROGERS: Well, I tell you, we have...

CARVILLE: If that's how desperate you all are to make me on the commission, then that's fine.

ROGERS: We have two great oversight committees, James. We have two great oversight committees. If you remember, the church commission which was I think a waste of taxpayer's money that basically said we're going to have two oversight commissions, two intelligence committees. We have those. Let them do their work.

What we're going to do now is, and I want to know, James, what agents would you take off the street from fighting terrorism in the United States today to come back to Washington, D.C. to go through a stack of papers so you can feel better? I don't think that's the right approach for America. We have a common enemy now. Let's go get him.

CARVILLE: I think -- I think I'll take the two hundred they had investigating President Clinton's sex life?

ROGERS: Oh come on now.



CARVILLE: You're filibustering Congressman because you don't want to answer questions.


ROGERS: James, I'll tell you, under the Clinton administration, the FBI was used to gather up personnel files and bring them to the White House. Under this administration the FBI is used to catch terrorists. I think ...

NOVAK: Congressman ...

ROGERS: ... that's the right place for us to be.

NOVAK: Let me give you a little advice from an old hand. Don't feed James those softball pitches. I mean he knocks them out of the park. Let me -- let me -- let me say that I am not a Democratic partisan, I guarantee you, and I'm worried about the FBI. And I'll tell you another non-Democratic partisan who's worried about the FBI and that's the Republican vice chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Richard Shelby of Alabama. And let's listen to something that he said over the weekend.


SEN. RICHARD SHELBY, (R-AL), INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: Well I believe it was the FBI's response -- that's the responsible party and I believe that the FBI has failed the American people in that regard, that is, the information that got out on, I believe it was July the 10th memo to headquarters dealing with the flight schools, basically saying they should act on it. Nothing was done on it. The FBI was either asleep, or inept or both.


NOVAK: Asleep, inept, or both, that's a tough indictment from a senator who is not a Democratic partisan but is a conservative Republican.

ROGERS: Well Dianne Feinstein, not known for her conservative politics, also said this commission idea was no good, the intelligence committees could handle it, but let me tell you something, you have to understand that these folks at headquarters when they got this information were absolutely pretty sure convinced that the next terrorist attack was going to happen overseas.

They were working on the USS Cole, the Paris bombings, they were convinced with all the chatter that they were getting, there was going to be an overseas attack. There was nothing -- they think this memo had some great ray of shining hope and intelligence? It did not. It said hey, this is something we ought to be looking at, and they said yes, you're right. We better look at our immediate threat, which they assumed to be overseas. Now ...

NOVAK: Congressman...

ROGERS: ... how do you blame them for that I'm not sure. But what we...

NOVAK: Congressman...

ROGERS: ... do know -- but let me -- let me say this, though because there were institutional problems prior to September 11th. This president and the attorney general stepped up to the plate. They passed the patriot act, which takes the handcuffs off the intelligence services. For the first time in American history, you have the FBI and the CIA giving a briefing to the president at the same time.

NOVAK: Congressman...

ROGERS: The director has brought all of the intelligence analysts to headquarters so we don't miss this in the future. I think that's the right direction. Let them go do their jobs.

NOVAK: Let's be candid. Local cops have been telling me for years that the FBI is great for doing background checks, and great for getting files on people, but they're no damn good at analysis. Doesn't this show a huge gap in the FBI in able to connect the dots, take information and put it together and reach a conclusion?

ROGERS: It shows me -- let me tell you something, this is incredible to me that in spring of 2001, the Democrats got the same briefing two days after the president did. The only difference now is that this is 2002 and it's election year. This is I think partisanship to the point and I think questioning the bureau's integrity at a time they just don't need it. They were overloaded and overworked. I mean they caught the millennium bombers at the border.

I didn't hear Robert or James stand up and say good job FBI for stopping Osama bin Laden from blowing up the Los Angeles airport. How quick we forget. These guys have one great work. If you look at the things they've done now to try to track these guys. They've dismantled their financial operation not only here but abroad. They're doing some incredible work. Why would we want to cuff them upside the head when they're out there defending America right now? I don't -- I don't see the point in it. I think it's contrary to good national defense of the United States.

CARVILLE: You know Congressman, I've been in your position before. I've had to defend indefensibles, so I don't blame you for sitting there filibusting because I had to defend the FBI and the Bush administration's record on terror after 9-11, I'd filibuster too.


ROGERS: ... this is absolutely defensible.

CARVILLE: All right, you want to filibuster again. Let me ask you a question. Did -- it was reported in the "New York Times" that the FBI director and the attorney general informed of the Phoenix memorandum about checking out these flight schools shortly after September 11th. Yet the president didn't find out about it until he read it in the newspaper. Don't you think the director of the FBI and attorney general should inform the president that they had a valuable lead that was blown in this investigation?

ROGERS: Well I don't know the specifics of it, but I will tell you what I would hope that they would do is find out the credibility of that kind of information before going to the president and you know doing a knee jerk typical political kind of event here where something was very tragic. Their first ...


ROGERS: ... of duty -- their first order of business ...

NOVAK: That will have to be the last word ...


NOVAK: Thanks. We're out of time. Thank you very much Congressman Mike Rogers. We really appreciate it.

ROGERS: Thank you very much.

NOVAK: Now that some of the president's critics have toned it down a few notches, a few hard liners complain that their fellow Democrats have become lap dogs. In a minute we'll ask whether the loyal opposition has become too loyal, too scared, or has it just grown a little common sense? And later our quote of the day is an even scarier warning about possible terrorism in our future.


NOVAK: Welcome back. Last week, the Democratic complaints here in Washington were deafening. Prominent Democrats were racing with each other in a bid to make political hay out of the revelation that President Bush had been briefed in a very general way about possible hijack threats. So did common sense finally prevail or did threats from Dick Cheney and Condoleezza Rice cause the Democratic Party to lose its nerve?

Stepping into the CROSSFIRE is Congresswoman Jane Harman, a California Democrat and member of the Select Intelligence Committee.


CARVILLE: Tomorrow I'm going to give the keynote speech at the New York State Democratic Convention. What should I tell them that Democrats in Washington and in the Congress stand for?

NOVAK: If anything.


REP. JANE HARMAN (D), CALIFORNIA: We stand for a secure country. We're the ones talking about a strategy for homeland defense. We stand with the president to win the war on terrorism, and by the way, we also stand for and we fought for during the Clinton years fiscal responsibility and tomorrow I think a huge supplemental is going to be voted on in the House that raises the debt ceiling. We're going back to deficit spending and that's something I think Democrats ought to stand against.

CARVILLE: Do we stand for a joint commissions proposed by Senator Lieberman and Senator McCain to look into the events leading up to September 11th and what could have been done differently?

HARMAN: Well let me say James, we have to look into them. I'm the ranking member of a subcommittee that on a bipartisan basis, Bob, is looking into this. We're going to have a report next month. I'm also part of the bicameral group, the two intelligence committees, that has a very capable outside staff looking into this. I'd like those two things to proceed. I think they're going to be real good.

NOVAK: You don't need a (UNINTELLIGIBLE) commission.

HARMAN: I'm not a huge fan of the commission. I'm not against it later, but it shouldn't be a political football in an election year.

NOVAK: Congresswoman, I want -- one of the things that I've enjoyed so much in Washington these last 45 years is something I'm going to show you right now.

HARMAN: Forty-five years ...

NOVAK: Forty-five years ...

HARMAN: ... a kid like you Bob?


HARMAN: I'm shocked. NOVAK: And this was -- this was -- your leader ...

CARVILLE: I think he was born 45 years ago.

HARMAN: You're right. You've got that right Carville.

NOVAK: This was your leader dick Gephardt, the Democratic leader of the House, on Thursday when this 9/11 warning came out. Let's listen to what he has to say.


REP. RICHARD GEPHARDT (D-MO), MINORITY LEADER: The reports are disturbing that we're finding this out now. I think what we have to do now is to find out what the president, what the White House knew about the events leading up to 9/11, when they knew it, and most importantly, what was done about it at that time.


NOVAK: Now that had implications of Watergate. Now just three days later on Sunday, he's on Fox News and this is the same guy, your leader, let's listen to him.


GEPHARDT: You know, I think sometimes people overreact to things and think we're in a political campaign. I never, ever, ever thought that anybody, including the president did anything up to September 11th other than their best.


NOVAK: Now tell me, who do you follow? The Gephardt of last week, or the Gephardt of Sunday?

HARMAN: Well let me -- first of all those are clips, and I've been in a lot of negative political campaigns, you know that campaign against me for governor, and you can take pieces of what people say and make them look terrible. So let's start with that, but I was in an event with him today and what he stands for is what I just said, which is developing a homeland security strategy. Looking backward for the purpose of getting it right this time, the stakes are too high to make this partisan.

NOVAK: But see, what James wants, James wants to use this as a method of just knocking the hell out of President Bush. Would that -- that'd be a mistake politically, wouldn't it?

HARMAN: That'd be a mistake? It'd be wrong -- it's not -- it's not the correct thing to do.

CARVILLE: You don't think it's wrong -- you think it's wrong to find out what happened?


CARVILLE: ... if a minority leader said everybody did their best, you think the FBI did their best leading up to September 11th?


CARVILLE: Of course not ...


CARVILLE: Well then why is he saying that on television?

HARMAN: I don't know why he's saying it on television. What is the right thing to do is to look back over 20 years; the first act of terrorism in the modern era was against our marines in Lebanon in the Reagan administration. Four administrations, we haven't got it right yet. We've got to get it right now.

CARVILLE: But shouldn't the American people ...


CARVILLE: What is the problem ...

HARMAN: Right.

CARVILLE: ... with the American people who pay for the CIA, who pay for the FBI, who pay for everything, what's the problem with them knowing what mistakes were made? We have an airplane crash. We do a post mortem.

HARMAN: Nothing. Nothing.

CARVILLE: And what's the problem with them knowing what the president -- now I don't think the president -- obviously it's idiotic to think that he knew this was going to happen, didn't do anything about it, but I think a logical question is should he have known given what was happening?

HARMAN: Well should the system have been fixed earlier, probably yes, but now the goal, James, is to fix the FBI, fix the CIA, connect them to each other, have a digital database, not just these separate little data sources so we can put all the data together, have a really smart group of people cross cabinet lines looking at this data to draw the right connections and find out ahead of time next time.

NOVAK: But can I just quickly, we don't have much time, but I want to just ask you, you know what did he know and when did he know it, that's a Watergate line. It's not appropriate here, is it?


HARMAN: ... used that a couple of times. Well a lot of people say -- I'm sure James is going to say that if Bill Clinton were still president we'd have filed the impeachment articles. That would be wrong too. This is not what we should be doing. What we should be doing on a bipartisan basis is getting it right.

CARVILLE: OK, thank you so much, Jane Harman. We appreciate it very much.

HARMAN: I love being in the center of you two.

CARVILLE: Next, our CROSSFIRE "News Alert" brings you a political circus. And then 2004 president hopeful Joe Lieberman borrows a play from Walter Mondale's 1984 campaign book. It didn't work then for (UNINTELLIGIBLE). Can it possibly work now for Joe? And also, a quote of the day from a man who thinks defense but doesn't usually get defensive.


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

Is there anybody who doesn't like the circus? PETA doesn't. PETA stands for People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, and it recently submitted a design for a District of Columbia arts project which mourned the plight of the poor circus elephant. The design included this declaration: "The circus is coming, see shackles and loneliness all under the big top." Well, the design was rejected and now the matter is going to court.

Jane Garrison, PETA'S elephant specialist, says if elephants cry for justice cannot be heard in Washington, maybe the elephant should no longer be used to symbolize democracy. Gee, Jane, I thought it symbolized the grand old party.

CARVILLE: Here's a book you need to get your English Lit professor to make required reading. "The Sexual Life of Catherine M." has sold 300,000 copies in France. It is about to arrive here in the United States. We hear there isn't much of a plot and the author admits to descriptions of orgies and having sex with 100 men in one night might be considered erotic or even pornographic, Catherine M. says -- quote -- "I couldn't care less if people think I'm a nymphomaniac or not. I don't think I am. Well if you're not, who is? To me sexuality is a way of life.

NOVAK: Soona Velly (ph) is a woman from Kent, Washington whose teenage son has been in the news the last few years in a most embarrassing way, but behind the embarrassment, she spied money, big money. This was the boy who fathered two children with his married 30-something teacher who by the way is serving a seven and a half year prison sentence for child rape. Soona went to court asking for a cool $2.4 million award from school authorities whom she alleged did not do enough to protect her precocious city (ph) boy. Alas, a civil jury's verdict is no, not a dime for Soona. And Soona is still stuck with raising her son's two children.

CARVILLE: Now for our quote of the day. If the FBI's new terror warning for New York got your attention, does it knock your socks off? In testimony before the United States Senate Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld predicted that someday terrorists will come at us with nuclear, biological, or chemical weapons. I don't know about you, Bob, but I'm going to get the book that French woman wrote, so I don't have to think about this.

NOVAK: It's better. OK.


DONALD RUMSFELD, SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: Terrorist networks have relationship with terrorist states that have weapons of mass destruction and that they inevitably are going to get their hands on them and they would not hesitate one minute in using them.


NOVAK: OK, coming up in a CNN news alert, the battle of Florida may be going back to court and the Bush administration OK'd it.

Also a decision in the controversy over pilots carrying guns in the cockpit. Stick around for a round six showdown as CROSSFIRE continues.


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

Just after President Bush pushed his bit tax cut through Congress, last year's events punched a hole in the U.S. economy. Now where's he going to get the money to pay for the war on terrorism, increased domestic security, and the general economic slowdown? After all, he's already given away the budget surplus. But this week, Senator Joe Lieberman said hold on a minute. Why don't we postpone and suspend some part of the Bush tax cut? They haven't taken effect yet. And Lieberman says his proposals won't affect families that earn less than $180,000 a year.

Here to discuss the politics of tax rollbacks, Republican Congressman John Sununu of New Hampshire and New York Democrat Charlie Rangel.


And while they're here to talk about taxes, we want to start with the FBI's new terror warning for New York City.

NOVAK: Congressman Rangel, what about that? That's your city. Is that a good idea, to tell people that they may blow up the Brooklyn Bridge, the tunnels, the Statue of Liberty, just as we're going to into a holiday weekend?

REP. CHARLES RANGEL (D), NEW YORK: Well, it's damned if they do and damned if they don't. You know, the Bush administration didn't tell us anything, and they're paying for that. And so, you can't be over cautious. It's good for us know. It's not going to stop tourists. It's not going to stop New Yorkers. The only way to beat the terrorists is to come out and do what you have to do, and try to make a better New York and a better United States of America. And that's what we intend to do.

CARVILLE: Congressman, there was a similar thing in the state of New Hampshire. Would you think that they ought to put it out, or behave differently? Or what's your general feeling about these alerts?

REP. JOHN SUNUNU (R), NEW HAMPSHIRE: The administration has got to put out information that they think is credible. They've got to share information. They want people to be alert. They want people to be aware of suspicious activity. And they want law enforcement and the first responders, the police, the fire department, to be prepared as well. I think Charlie's right. I think they've got a job to do and they're doing it.

CARVILLE: Did you know what color code we had on today?

SUNUNU: I didn't either.

CARVILLE: I'm going to be honest with you. It looks yellow. But my point here is, it looks like there's sort of a lack of follow through, because we went through and we were going to have these color codes that were going to tell us everything. And I bet you there's not five people watching the show tonight that know what color code we are.

SUNUNU: I think the evidence or the information they've shared today is a lot better than any particular color code, but I do think the point is you've got to share credible information when you have it with the first responders, with the people in place that are going to have to deal with the crisis, whether it's in New York or California or New England.

NOVAK: All right, Congressman Rangel, I'm going to turn to your eminent role as the leading tax authority for the Democratic party and the House of Representatives. There's a very interesting poll by CNN/"USA Today"/Gallup. And they asked, "Do you think, American people, do you think your taxes are fair? Last year, only 51 percent thought they were fair, 46 percent said no. This year, 58 percent thing they're fair. 37 percent said no.

That's after the Bush tax cut that all the bleeding heart liberals are saying is so unfair to the working people. I have -- have the Democrats misread the American people again?

RANGEL: Well, you know, Bob, they put people, anchors on television shows based on their popularity. They put people on the Ways and Means Committee not on popularity, but their willingness to take responsible votes, to do what's best for the United States economy, and what's best for the United States of America. Raising people's taxes is never popular. And some people and most people have never seen a tax cut they didn't like.

The real question should raise is that with the nation being at war, with the increase in the number of people becoming eligible for Social Security and Medicare, will we have the money to pay for it? We're $7 trillion in debt. And so, would you ask that we cut tax further and be more popular?

NOVAK: Well, how about cutting spending a little bit? There's a runaway going up on spending. Do you want to go back to the Clinton share of the taxes, of the national income of 23.3 percent? It's down to 19 percent. Why not cut spending instead of taking away taxes from people, who can invest it into the private sector?

RANGEL: I can answer that. Because the Republican leadership would want to cut the spending in prescription drugs, which of course, they can't even come out with a bill. They'd want to cut spending in education. So far, only 7 percent of the nation's education is paid for by the federal government. And they would want to cut spending in Social Security. They call it privatization.

Now it's an election year. They don't even know what the word means. And so yes, we would like to see an increase in taxes with these corporations that are running away from America, being set up in foreign countries, just for the sole purpose of avoiding taxes. But the Republicans believe they should have safe haven, but they don't give that safe haven and security to Social Security benefits and Medicare beneficiaries.

CARVILLE: Congressman, you are a leader to make tax permanent?

SUNUNU: We should make them permanent. Of course. And it's good policy. And if you don't make them permanent, if you want to repeal them, postpone them, it's bad policy. It's bad for the economy.

CARVILLE: Right. You don't just support these tax cuts. You support further tax cuts. You support a rollback to the corporate AMT, make it retroactive?

SUNUNU: Well, I think we should simplify the tax code and the corporate AMT is an indication of how complex the code is.

CARVILLE: You voted for it? Yes, you voted for it though?

SUNUNU: It was in one of the tax legislations that came up.

CARVILLE: And you're for even tax cuts than we have now, right?

SUNUNU: For example, what are you talking?

CARVILLE: The president's proposed $700 billion in new tax cuts above and beyond...

SUNUNU: Should we make the tax cuts permanent? Yes.


SUNUNU: Should we repeal the estate tax immediately for small businesses? Absolutely. CARVILLE: And also...

SUNUNU: Should we simplify capital gains taxes? Sure. There's 17 different categories.

CARVILLE: You're for prescription drug benefit, aren't you?


CARVILLE: And you're for increased spending on terrorism?

SUNUNU: We put both of those things in our budget this year.

CARVILLE: You've increased spending on terrorism?

SUNUNU: We're going to pass a supplemental bill.

CARVILLE: You're for increased spending in national defense? You're for increased spending in education?

SUNUNU: Listen...

CARVILLE: I'm asking you...

SUNUNU: Sure, we've got so balance priorities. We're not going to increase every program 15 percent per year. We can't sustain that. You know it and I know it.

CARVILLE: Right. You're not...

SUNUNU: And that's what Charlie Rangel is talking about.

CARVILLE: Let me finish, you're for no protection of Social Security?

SUNUNU: Let me answer your questions.

CARVILLE: I'm asking...

NOVAK: Let me answer the questions.

SUNUNU: Should we protect the benefits of everyone in the system, everyone coming into the system for 20 years? Should we always guarantee a minimum benefit? Absolutely. Charlie Rangel's talking about Republicans want to cut education. That's ridiculous. Even Joe Lieberman recognizes we're entering an era of fiscal responsibility -- no, let me finish here. Lieberman came out today and he said, let's only increase domestic spending at the rate of inflation.

Now that's what we're talking about. Let's put some restraint on spending, so we can fund the priorities of homeland security and national defense.

NOVAK: Charlie Rangel, you're a master politician, Charlie Rangel. RANGEL: I'm pretty good at my work.

NOVAK: And you want to be chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee and...

RANGEL: From your lips to God's ears.

NOVAK: Very good, chairman. Now let me ask you this. Do you really think that Joe Lieberman coming out and saying we will want to have a tax increase on the American people, do you think that's really a way to make Charlie Rangel chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee?

RANGEL: Well, that would be a dumb way for him to even be considered as a presidential candidate. And Charlie Rangel would not be associated with a statement like that. What I'd like to do is to say let's see what American budget is going to be. Let's see what our expenses are going to be? Where is this war on terrorism going to take us?

SUNUNU: The Senate can't even pass a budget right now. That's where we are.

RANGEL: I'm sorry, I thought you'd finished, John, but I'll wait until...

SUNUNU: No, go ahead, Charlie. I was talking about the budget though and...

RANGEL: I would say that -- no, but you're talking about making permanent tax cuts in the next 10 years. I'm trying to tell Bob Novak if I was going to say what the revenues were going to be reduced in the next 10 years, I would try to find out what our expenditures are going to be in the next 10 years. One thing that John and I know is that 40 million people, in addition to our regular beneficiaries, because of the baby boomers, that would be an additional expense. We don't know where the war is going to take us. And so before we talk about reducing revenues by $1 trillion, increasing the debt ceiling by $1 trillion, let's see what expenses are, because each and every day, we're spending billions of dollars on interest debt.

NOVAK: Charlie, we're going to have to take a break. We'll be back to you. We're not going to suspend, postpone, or roll back our debate on your taxes. Our guests will be right back.

And then comes round 6. James and I will take off the gloves. But should airline pilots get their guns?


NOVAK: Welcome back to CROSSFIRE. We're talking taxes with Democratic Congressman Charlie Rangel of New York and Republican Congressman John E. Sununu of New Hampshire.

CARVILLE: Sorry, congressman, we've established that you are for making a tax cut permanent. SUNUNU: Yes.

CARVILLE: You apply $350 billion, I think it is, prescription drug benefit. You're for increased spending on terrorism. You're for increased spending on defense. And you're for increased spending on education. Are you for the balanced budget amendment to the Constitution of the United States?

SUNUNU: Absolutely. (UNINTELLIGIBLE) has one, and it would put in place a balanced budget requirement in peacetime. But the fact of the matter is, we're fighting a war, an unprecedented right now. And we've got an economic recession that needs to be dealt with. And you know as well as I do that that's...

CARVILLE: Name me how many federal programs you want to eliminate?

SUNUNU: Take the Farm bill, and you can probably find 15. I voted against it. It was a mistake. It provides...

CARVILLE: Other than the Farm bill, name me two more?

SUNUNU: Well, how many programs do you need? How many programs are in the subsidies?


SUNUNU: A partnership for a next generation vehicle, which we finally eliminated last year. We've got a fossil fuel R&D program that funnels subsidies to oil and gas companies, that are very profitable.

CARVILLE: It's all part of one bill? So you have one bill?

SUNUNU: No, no, those are not part of the Farm bill.

NOVAK: Congressman?

SUNUNU: So that's about 50 programs right there, James.

NOVAK: Congressman Rangel?

RANGEL: Yes, Mr. Novak?

NOVAK: You talk a lot about revenue, but are you aware that there are studies that indicate that these tax cuts will add to revenue, just as the Reagan tax cuts did? I mean the only problem is you guys want to spend so much there's never enough revenue. But actually, when you cut taxes, it increases revenue. We've proven in the Reagan years, didn't we?

RANGEL: Yes, I think if you use the same accountants that Enron used, you can come up with that type of accounting.

[ applause ] But the truth of the matter that is that I'm for tax cuts. And I think they should be fair. I think they should be equitable across the board. I don't think they should just be for the rich. But I really don't think that you should borrow money to pay for the tax cut. The difference between John Sununu and me, that he's on the appropriations committee. That's the spending committee. And they do well. I'm on the tax writing committee. And we have to make the hard choices.

NOVAK: You want to respond to that?

SUNUNU: Well look, Charlie, you know as well as I do it's pretty tough to be a conservative on the appropriations committee, but I manage to do it. You say you're for across the board tax cuts? I don't think you've supported across the board rate reductions. And the fact is rate reductions are central to economic growth.

RANGEL: What I'm saying is that...

SUNUNU: And repealing tax cuts, repealing the estate tax cuts are going to cream the small business community, create uncertainty. And uncertainty dampens economic growth. There's no two ways about it.


RANGEL: Soon you'll be asking us to increase the debt ceiling, to allow the United States of America to borrow $1 trillion more in terms of dollars.

NOVAK: I want to get one last question in. Congressman Rangel, are you aware that the top 5 percent of the Americans in income pay more than half of the taxes? Shouldn't they get more than half of the income tax cut?

RANGEL: You know, God has blessed all of us in America. And I'm quite certain that those people that make over $350,000 a year are not looking for another tax cut to be coming to them in 10 years.

NOVAK: Don't be so sure.

RANGEL: They want to protect this country. They want to make certain we have enough money there for homeland defense, for prescription drugs, for our defense. And that's what we have to look at. Not all of us are going to be around like you, Bob, for the next 10 years. We have to plan for those 10 years.

NOVAK: Well, you're in the same age bracket as I am. Thank you very much, Charlie Rangel. Thank you, John Sununu. I appreciate it.

Coming up, one of our viewers gets colorful about the government's rainbow of security alerts. But next, James and I will go a round over guns of any kind of weapon besides boxing gloves in the cockpit.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) NOVAK: Welcome back. The branch of the federal bureaucracy you probably never heard of has decided not to let commercial airline pilots carry firearms in the cockpit. The Transportation Security Administration, the good old TSA, has been considering the proposal for a month. Still a possibility, arming pilots with nonlethal weapons like stun guns and lasers.

James, I don't know about you, but if airline pilots feel that they're going to be more secure, even with their reinforced doors with a gun in the cockpit, in case one of these killers gets to them, I trust the pilot a lot more with my safety than some bureaucrat in Washington behind a desk.

CARVILLE: You know, I want to be sympathetic with you because I know I fly a lot obviously. I'm a big fan of the pilots. I'm a big fan of the pilots union. They want this. And I want to give them every benefit of the doubt. There's somewhere around 66 -- north of 66,000 licensed commercial pilots in the United States. Commonsense tells me some of them could be, shall we say, a little off their rocker. And another thing is -- one or two of them.

NOVAK: Like TV hosts?

CARVILLE: One or two. All of us are. I think that the Transportation Board is worried about -- it's like when you're a prison guard, you can't take your gun into prison. Because once you put a gun on an airplane, A, you don't know who else is going to get their hands on it. So I'm sympathetic to both sides on this, but I don't think the Transportation Department was completely out of line for making...

NOVAK: Let me tell you what it is. It is this gun control nonsense. The American people suddenly have a phobia about guns, which is a part of our heritage and a part of our culture. And I just can't believe, I can't believe this Republican administration is saying to the pilots, you can't have it.

CARVILLE: Well, I've got guns all at my farm. It's different having guns at my farm and having guns on an airplane. You can do a lot more damage with a gun on an airplane, than I can at the farm.

NOVAK: I would rather see an airline pilot have a gun than you.

CARVILLE: It would just -- if you were around, you would too, because I might take it. Pow!

NOVAK: Coming up on fire back, a viewer with boiling blood, well, apparently can still send us an e-mail.


NOVAK: It's fire back time, when the viewers out in audience and in the greater world get to fire back at us.

Here's an e-mail from H.D. Bodega from good old New York City. "CROSSFIRE makes my blood boil, causes me sleepless nights, causes me to yell at the guys when I don't agree with them and ignore everyone else around me, but I love every minute of it. So much so that I watch it twice every night." H.D., I think a guy who watches this program twice has got problems, serious problems.

CARVILLE: All right, this is from Rick Meister, Boca Raton, Florida. "We can't blame anyone for the September 11 incident except bin Laden and terrorism. We need to come together right now and find answers instead of blame. It is time to stop trying to get in the spotlight and stop playing politics." You're right, we do need answers, Rich. I agree with that.

NOVAK: OK, here's Barbara Dawson from Stevens Point, Wisconsin, which I know well. "What exactly would Congress have done if they had had the vague information on terrorist attacks before September 11? If Democrats had spent more time doing their job than trying to find ways to criticize President Bush, our country might have more safeguards in place." You ought to read that to the New York Democrats when you give your speech tomorrow.

CARVILLE: Yes, I'm glad she knows it was vague. I think we ought to find out. "A complete analysis of the structure of the FBI needs to be done. Are they part of the crew who is deciding whether we are on red, yellow or fuchsia alert? Between Phoenix, Minneapolis and D.C., where does the buck stop?" Sal Taylor. Well, Sal, I don't know, we're still trying to find out, but we found out tonight, we are on yellow and not fuchsia alert.

NOVAK: Good luck.

Here's where the buck stops, a question from the audience please?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Hi, my name is Marcia McLean from McLean, Virginia. My question is why didn't President Clinton do more to eradicate the terrorism during his presidency, I'm talking about the embassies in Africa, Tanzania, Kenya, and the U.S.S. Cole when they were bombed? Also, I would like to know if somebody bombs our embassies, is that considered an act of war?

NOVAK: Well, those are two good questions. Go ahead.

CARVILLE: Is she asking me or you?

NOVAK: Asking you.

CARVILLE: Let me go through them again. President Clinton put a kill order on Osama bin Laden, trained Uzbeks, had submarines in the Indian Ocean on alert to do that. And if you find out that General Carey, who is a three star lieutenant general said the Clinton people were by far more focused on terrorism than the Bush people were. So I think if President Clinton's record on this was far superior to the current administration. They could learn a lot by listening to people like Carey who bring this up.

And by the way, if Osama bin Laden...

NOVAK: Hey, what is this -- a Clinton -- this is Clinton campaign speech on a guy who screwed up the terrorist thing like he did everything else on foreign policy. Next question? Go ahead.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, Dan Phelps, Dubuque, Iowa. Isn't the ridiculous Bush tax cut hurting important funding priorities like the war on terror?

NOVAK: That's ridiculous. We've got plenty of money for the war on terror. What we don't have money for is a subsidy for those Iowa farmers in Dubuque.

CARVILLE: You know...

NOVAK: All right, next question? Go ahead.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hi, my name's Jim Williams. I'm from Teraverde (ph), Florida. And I was wondering with regard to the issuing the general alerts to the public, how much consideration is given to the economic impact that it could have?

CARVILLE: By probably very little, but I'm sorry, we're out of time. (UNINTELLIGIBLE). We got to leave. From the left, I'm James Carville and good-night for CROSSFIRE.

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


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