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CNN CROSSFIRE

What Is Ahead for Gary Condit?; Is FBI Whistle-Blower Providing More Ammunition for Bureau's Critics?

Aired May 24, 2002 - 19:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ANNOUNCER: CROSSFIRE. On the left, James Carville and Paul Begala. On the right, Robert Novak and Tucker Carlson. In the CROSSFIRE tonight: He's keeping out of sight, but he isn't out of mind. What's ahead for Gary Condit and the Chandra Levy investigation? A former police detective is about to step into the CROSSFIRE.

The FBI's boss got a letter, and it sure wasn't fan mail. Now, is it more ammunition for the bureau's critics?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The letter from the former counsel of the Minneapolis office of the FBI is very serious.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ANNOUNCER; And, take a little Enron, toss in the White House, season with terror alerts, and top with a convention or two. It's the CROSSFIRE political grill. Anybody got a match? Tonight, in the CROSSFIRE.

From the George Washington University, Paul Begala and Tucker Carlson.

TUCKER CARLSON, CO-HOST: Good evening and welcome to CROSSFIRE. Those of you who haven't left town yet for Memorial Day weekend, thanks for joining us. Washington, D.C.'s police officials were back in Rock Creek Park today looking for clues in the death of Chandra Levy. Her skeleton was discovered Wednesday. Police admit it was in an area of the park that they missed during their searches last year. With the House in recess, camera shy Congressman Gary Condit has left the building. He's now home in California.

What's next in the Chandra Levy investigation? We're joined here tonight by Lou Hennessy. He's an attorney and a former D.C. police homicide commander.

PAUL BEGALA, CO-HOST: WTKG-TV, Channel 5 here in Washington, D.C. is reporting something that nobody else is reporting, that's why I want to give them credit or blame if they're wrong -- and that is that the remains were found tied up. First off, do you know, can you confirm or deny this? And second, where does this lead investigators, if true?

LOU HENNESSY, ATTORNEY: Well, I can confirm that Paul Wagner (ph) reported that, told me that, that he had learned that. But I think that's a big break in the case.

What's important here is what she was tied up with. Is it something that the suspect brought with him, or was it something he took from her? Or something that he found there at the scene? And what's also important here is the type of knot that was used to tie her. These are all clues as to who the person is, to give you some insight into their background, depending on the type of knot that was used.

I don't know anymore about what the ligature or what the item was than you do. But it's certainly is a nice break, I think, for the police.

BEGALA: So, OK, if you're the homicide investigator on this, like you were once in D.C., where do you go with that? Do you go to -- we don't have any named suspects. How do you go around looking for a particular brand of rope, and we don't even know if it's a shoelace or a bandanna or something?

HENNESSY: We don't know whether it was a rope or not. But you can tell -- they can tell a lot if it is rope. They'll be able to send it to the FBI lab and they'll look at it very closely. They'll look at the rope, try to determine where it's sold, what it's used for, in terms of trying to identify the origin of the rope.

But, again, I emphasize that they're going to try, if there's a knot in it, they're going to look at that very closely and see if they can link something from the person's background that tied it, because different types of people tie different types of rope -- different types of knots, I'm sorry. You know, boy scouts learn to tie a knot one way; sailors learn to tie a knot another way.

BEGALA: Like a lying congressman, how would he tie a not?

CARLSON: Now, Detective Hennessy, you call this news, this as yet unsubstantiated or confirmed news, a great break in the case. I want to read to you a quote from Terence Gainer, assistant chief of police in Washington. This is his description of the news story. "If it is true, the individual who released it should be shot or put in jail." This is not the murderer who should be shot or put in jail, but the leaker should be shot or put in jail.

HENNESSY: Well, I think that's probably a little overstatement on his part. I think that they're probably frustrated that so much information in this case over the course of the last 14 months has leaked out. And I think it's probably hindered their ability to successfully progress this case.

I've never heard of an investigation of this magnitude where the names of suspects and the names of people they plan on interviewing have been released prior to the person being interviewed or even being charged. CARLSON: Well, I'm glad you pointed that out, actually. There has been a lot of leaking over the last 14 months in this case, and a lot of it has come from the police department itself. For instance, when we found out and read in "The Washington Post" that Gary Condit in his third interview had admitted to an affair with Chandra Levy, where did that come from? That came from the police department, the Metropolitan Police Department. So it turns out the police have leaked when it suits them, when it acts as a cloak for their incompetence, but when it doesn't, they threaten to shoot the person who leaks it.

HENNESSY: Well, like I said, this information shouldn't be getting out. There's certain information about a crime scene and about a crime that you don't want anybody to know. So that when somebody steps forward with information about that, you know that they have some instant credibility, because they're telling you about things that nobody else knows about.

With respect to the potential suspects and what witnesses have told you, in describing what they've told you, intimate details and attributing to certain persons is somewhat unethical, because you taint and you disparage people who are -- could be completely innocent.

The biggest problem that I see, though, is it makes other people reluctant to confide in the police, because they're worried about their confidence being compromised.

CARLSON: So future congressmen are not going to feel a whole...

BEGALA: So, now you've told us about how cops are likely trying to chase down whatever it was that she was apparently bound with. What other forensic work are they doing? Just walk me through it as a layman. What are your former colleagues doing now to try to put this puzzle back together again, so many months after her disappearance?

HENNESSY: Well, they're taking on the role of an anthropologist, really. And my understanding is that they've brought some up there to help them harvest these remains, so to speak. And I think that's great, because traditionally urban police officers and urban homicide detectives don't deal with these types of scenes. We deal with scenes on asphalt, or inside. So this is a unique experience for them, as well. They're not experts in that field.

You know, when they missed the body back in July, didn't surprise me. The area was, you know, not conducive to a great grid search. And urban police officers aren't trained to search these types of environments, anyhow. I thought it was probably, you know, a valid effort, but probably unsuccessful with respect to execution.

CARLSON: Now, Mr. Hennessy, if you're going to look at who's the most likely suspect here, you have a congressman who's never been convicted of a crime on the one hand, then you have a guy named Ingmar Guandique, who is a 24-year-old Salvadoran, currently in jail for two assaults in Rock Creek Park on female joggers. Is he a suspect? Let's let Assistant Police Chief Terence Gainer answer that question. Here's his comment on Mr. Guandique.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TERENCE GAINER, ASSISTANT POLICE CHIEF: We're going to keep an open mind about this until we get more facts. He is not a suspect in the case. But clearly anybody would be drawn to someone convicted of attacking joggers in that park.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CARLSON: So the guy's been convicted of attacking joggers in the same park near where the body is found, but he's not a suspect? What do you have to do to become a suspect in the eyes of the D.C. Police Department?

HENNESSY: My sense of this is they're probably looking at him very closely. I think it would be inappropriate and unethical to name him as a suspect in this case at this point in time, because they really have nothing to tie him to this offense. But I would think that he is probably being looked at very closely. They're probably trying to develop a time line to determine where he was on specific dates, particularly toward the end of April, beginning of May of last year, exactly where his whereabouts may have been on those times. I think he probably is a suspect, but it would be wrong for the police to come out and name him as a suspect.

BEGALA: So, but do they go in and interview him now? Do they interview Condit or other material witnesses? He was never named as a suspect either, Condit wasn't. Do they have to go back over that ground again, or can they just go with the forensic evidence they have?

HENNESSY: Oh, they're going to need some interviews. The forensic evidence unfortunately doesn't always -- it's not like on television on "CSI." It's not definitive in most instances. Forensic evidence generally corroborates more so than identifies, because there's other explanations for evidence potentially being at a scene.

So, they're going to need to interview a number of people, and most cases are closed through interviews. Even today, with all the advances in technology, the overwhelming majority of the cases are closed the old-fashioned way. People tell the police things because they have confidence in the police, and they act on that information, or are able to corroborate it and establish probable cause.

BEGALA: Lou Hennessy, former D.C. homicide investigator, thank you very much for joining us tonight on CROSSFIRE, and walking us through this difficult case.

Ladies and gentlemen, Lou Hennessy, let's thank him.

(APPLAUSE)

BEGALA: A new smoking gun memo on the FBI has the bureau on the defensive yet again. Next in the CROSSFIRE, how badly did the bureau blow it before September 11? And can it ever be fixed? And later, as we head into Memorial Day weekend, who would dare accuse a United States senator who lost both legs and an arm in Vietnam of breaking his oath to protect and defend America? The answer's coming up in our CROSSFIRE news alert.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BEGALA: It seems like every day brings another black eye for the FBI's reputation. This time, it's a scathing letter to FBI headquarters from a top agent in the bureau's Minneapolis field office. Among her complaints, that at least one and possibly more FBI agents in Minneapolis were reprimanded for contacting the CIA before September 11 to see if Zacarias Moussaoui had terrorist links.

Instead of getting the attention of the honchos in headquarters, the on-the-ball agents got in trouble for violating protocol. And, perhaps, a chance to foil the September 11 plot slipped away. FBI Director Robert Mueller has asked for a Justice Department probe of the allegations, and a congressional panel is also on the case. Is FBI headquarters its own worst enemy? Joining us from New York is former FBI special agent Don Clark. Mr. Clark, thank you very much for joining us.

CARLSON: Mr. Clark, thanks for joining us.

We'll get to mistakes the FBI may or may have not made in a minute. First, I want you to take a look at something that happened today. This is today's alert from the FBI to America. I'm going to read you part of it. Quote: "Recent information has determined that various terrorist elements have sought to develop an offensive Scuba diver capability." Offensive Scuba diver capability. What is that?

DON CLARK, FORMER FBI SPECIAL AGENT: Well, I suppose that someone has collected some information -- now this is, Tucker, this is actual intelligence that there is something that's going to take place. So clearly, that information is passed out, because someone has gathered information that says, look, this has been developed at this point. Obviously it's been developed for some particular reason, so let's get that information into the hands of the users, and there are a number of areas around us, such as ports and other activities, that this type of gear would be used for.

So I think that's what we can make of that information. Now, as to how much further it goes, I don't know.

CARLSON: Except, Mr. Clark, users can't use it if they don't understand what it means. There's no indication of what it means in the alert, which goes on to say that there is -- this is only uncorroborated information. There's no threat of an imminent threat -- I mean, no evidence of an imminent threat to the United States. And I'm quoting now an FBI spokesman, "it's nothing to get panicked about." So there are mixed signals here. Fear terrorist Scuba divers, just kidding. Isn't that the message of the terror alert?

CLARK: Right. Keep in mind now, before 9/11, we would not be having this conversation, because there was no information given out at all. Now I think there is a clearly an effort to make sure that we err -- that the organization will err on the side of caution and try to get information out.

However, to give out information that is non-specific perhaps does bring about a little bit of discussion, and as many people as I talk to from day to day, I'll find some people that say, yes, I'd like to have this information, just to know about it. And others who would say that they're not. But I think the decision makers perhaps can do a little bit better job of assessing, especially when it's non- specific, Tucker.

BEGALA: Mr. Clark, you'd be surprised to hear that I actually disagree with Tucker yet again on that. I don't have a problem with the American people being given more information, particularly if it is as specific as the technique that he outlined. What I have an enormous problem with, though, is the way that the FBI leadership in Washington has reacted to the way some very insightful, prescient and heroic agents have acted.

We referred earlier to a 13-page letter that a special agent and an attorney in Minneapolis sent to Congress. It's in today's papers. And today just a few hours ago, a leading Senate Republican, Charles Grassley, issued a statement in which he said, and I quote: "This letter has me very alarmed about the nation's security. If FBI headquarters is still handling terrorism information like it handled the Moussaoui case, we're in grave danger. I don't blame agents in Minnesota for wondering if there were near sympathizers of Osama bin Laden sitting around at headquarters." What on earth is going on at headquarters, Mr. Clark?

CLARK: Well, Paul, let's just take a look at what possibly may have taken place with this situation in Minneapolis out there. First of all, it's really fair that the American public realize that the street agent is really the backbone of the organization. They're the ones who get out there, collect the information, and move that information forward.

However, there are management structures there, and there are structures in place and procedures so that this information can be moved about and worked with.

Now, I don't doubt that perhaps an individual in Indianapolis -- I'm sorry, in Minneapolis, had some conflict with individuals at headquarters, and maybe even the management out there had some conflict with them. But I don't think that the organization is totally in disarray. I don't think that the policies and procedures are so in a set of not being capable of handling these types of situation that you can say that the organization is just totally out of control and not functioning, and that's causing the country great danger. I think that's a far stretch.

BEGALA: When a leading Republican senator says that, I got to -- look, I think that the organizational structure put in place by Louis Freeh, who was my President Clinton's, my boss' appointee there, has been just an enormous disaster. Those leaders have been egomaniacal incompetence, and they have I think let all of those agents down. And I for one am glad to see -- don't you think that this woman ought to be given some kind of a gold star for standing up and speaking the truth to power like that? It's probably not going to help her career very much, is it?

CLARK: Well, I don't agree that the organization has just been totally in a state of disarray and that all of the agents out there have been let down, because the FBI has done some tremendous things here, Paul.

Let's look back even at 1994, right here in New York City, where information was developed by that organization that was solid, actionable information, which thwarted a terrorist attacks against harbor tunnels, which we're talking about today, against the United Nations, FBI buildings and other symbols here in New York City. Those people were arrested. That terrorist attack was put to bed, and it even resulted in a subsequent prosecution of the blind sheik, which was a part of a major terrorist network.

So when you say that even under Louis Freeh or any other director that the organization has just come apart, I don't agree with that, because I think the organization has done some fine things here. There have been some black marks, and, yes, there's always an opportunity to really get yourself improved and to work on strengthening some areas, but this organization is still strong, and I think if we look at those structures that are there and really make sure that they work properly, they will work properly.

CARLSON: Mr. Clark, let's talk quickly about the Phoenix memo, the now famous memo written last summer by an FBI agent who noticed that there were Osama bin Laden supporters in flight schools in Arizona. This memo now, we know, went basically nowhere. Why did this happen? Well, the current FBI director was asked that when he came up to the Hill to testify earlier this month. His explanation, he said, look, there are 2,000 flight schools in the United States, probably 20,000 flight students. The bureau did not have the manpower to find these Osama bin Laden supporters.

I want to read you a quick quote. Christopher Caldwell of the "Weekly Standard," today's edition. Here's his response to that, quote: "Any small town newspaper reporter could have narrowed down that 20,000 to under 100 in an afternoon. Whoever got Williams' memo would understand that there is one commonsensical way to implement it. Look for Arabs."

Isn't that true? And wasn't it concerns about racial profiling that prevented the bureau from doing that?

CLARK: You know, Tucker, a newspaper reporter operates on a totally different set of standards than an FBI agent has to operate. There's a set of department objectives, policies and rules and regulations that must be followed strictly. And if -- when these policies are violated, agents are brought to task and managers are brought to task, careers are destroyed and further things happen when they don't do this. So you just can't say that, yes, you can go out and you can really determine immediately by taking all these steps to do that. Now, having said that, again, an agent goes out and collects information like they did down in Phoenix, and something happens to that information. Well, the something is that it moves itself up through a system that is well established and works its way to FBI headquarters. And in the memo or the portions of it that I've been privy to see through the media or other activities, I've not seen one thing in that memorandum that was actionable, caused somebody to have to take some action on.

CARLSON: OK. Don Clark, former special agent, it's a tough day to be defending the FBI. You did an able job of it. We appreciate it. Thanks for joining us.

CLARK: Thank you.

CARLSON: Coming up in our CROSSFIRE news alert, a German newspaper uses some surprising amount of ink to talk about President Bush's historic speech. Later, our Friday political grill. Who's up, who's down in the latest poll numbers? We'll tell you. And then, our quote of the day. The deep philosophical question that may keep you busy for the entire holiday weekend. We'll reveal it. We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CARLSON: Welcome back. Time now for the newsiest part of the newsiest news show in cable news. It's time for the CROSSFIRE news alert.

Leaders of Tageszeitung, a left-wing German daily opened their newspapers this morning to find a blank page. It wasn't a printer's error, it was an intentional statement, a visual protest against President Bush's presence this week in Germany. "Bush," the newspaper declared in an editorial, "is overly belligerent, too war-like, and in general a one-man threat to global peace and stability."

In other words, citizens of a country that caused two world wars and the deaths of countless millions, a nation that virtually invented the idea of totalitarianism, a place that was saved from enslavement by U.S. soldiers and taxpayers believe they have an important message for the American president about peace.

Around the world, irony alarms went off in unison. President Bush, meanwhile, departed for Russia, where he received a stern lecture about the perils of drinking too much vodka.

BEGALA: I'm not even going to touch that vodka line at all.

Memorial Day marks the beginning of the summer season, but already perhaps the heat is getting to one congressman in Georgia. Republican Saxby Chambliss has issued a press release attacking Democratic Senator Max Cleland for an obscure 1997 vote on chemical weapons inspectors, which Chambliss characterized as, quote, "breaking Cleland's oath to protect and defend America."

Congressman Chambliss has never served a day in the military. Senator Cleland lost both legs and his right arm in service in Vietnam. He's been awarded both the Bronze Star and the Silver Star for meritorious service in Vietnam. Now, in fairness to Congressman Chambliss, his Web site does not that although he has never served in the military, he has served as a coach in YMCA youth basketball. Basketball is heck, hey, congressman? Happy Memorial Day.

CARLSON: Thank you, General Begala. Steel workers do it, truck drivers do it, now even nude models do it -- unionize, that is. In Pennsylvania, several dozen models have formed the Philadelphia Models Guild, a new union for people who take their clothes off for art students. Among their demands, higher wages, more generous benefits, cushioned floor pads, and of course, the right to be taken seriously. Quote: "By uniting together, we could become regarded more as professionals," explains their leader, a naked firebrand.

Fellow unions around the country are taking them seriously. The guild has been bombarded with offers from teamsters locals eager to form alliances. Workers of the world, unite.

BEGALA: Is there something in the water in Georgia? Given that all the lunacy today is coming from the Georgia Republicans, maybe we ought to ask if there's something in the Perrier down there. Republican State Senator Sonny Purdue of Georgia has produced a video for his campaign against Democratic Governor Roy Barnes that depicts Barnes as a giant rat wearing a necklace emblazoned "King Roy," and guzzling wine, stuffing fruit in his mouth, while a narrator describes the governor as "shifty."

Even Purdue's fellow Republicans were repulsed. They've called the video "malicious" and "disgusting," and have called on Purdue to apologize. An aide to Purdue said: "We don't think people are going to overthink it too much." Apparently there's no danger of Mr. Purdue overthinking anything too much.

CARLSON: But you left out one key bit of information: The Republicans who were mad were his Republican opponents.

BEGALA: Who were disgusted by what he was saying.

CARLSON: They pretended to be.

BEGALA: Next in a CNN news alert, what's being done to prevent gridlock in the skies this summer? And don't forget, our quote of the day. It's about a couple of people you see on TV, and one of them, we hope, you see every time you tune into CROSSFIRE.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

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

We found our quote of the day today in "The Wall Street Journal." Former pharmaceutical company and lobbyist and current Office of Management and Budget director, Mitch Daniels, was regretting that he no longer has time to discuss philosophical questions with his college-age daughter. Questions like our quote of the day, "If James Carville and Geraldo Rivera were both drowning, and you could only save one, would you read the paper or eat lunch?"

Yuck, yuck, yuck, Mr. Daniels. You know the word drowning in red ink because Mitch Daniels' sense of humor is about as good as his sense of math. He took the biggest surplus in history and made it into a deficit.

CARLSON: Paul, I do think -- I agree with you...

BEGALA: I can laugh about that.

CARLSON: ...that this raises important and thorny moral questions. It is a situational ethics dilemma. And I would solve it in Solomonic fashion by reading the paper while I ate lunch, thus satisfying all sides.

BEGALA: This is the notion that a dirt bag lobbyist for pharmaceutical companies.

CARLSON: A dirt bag?

BEGALA: Who has now -- yes, well, they're kind of redundant, but...

CARLSON: Eat your words, my friend.

BEGALA: Who then goes and destroys the greatest surplus in history. And he wants to hack on my friend, James Carville? Shame on you. Get a life and get a sense of humor.

CARLSON: Get a sense of humor? It was a joke, Paul.

BEGALA: Oh, it was not.

CARLSON: Coming up in "Fireback," one viewer comes to the defense of Gary Condit. But next, grab your hot pads and spatulas. Everyone except scuba diving terrorists is invited to gather round as we fire up the political grill here on CROSSSFIRE. Right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BEGALA: Welcome back to CROSSFIRE. It is Friday, the start of the Memorial Day weekend. So sit back, crack open your first beer of a long weekend, and get ready for the CROSSFIRE political grill, as we heat it up. Put on that apron that says hail to the chef, and the hat that says, "I'm with stupid" and welcome our two guests, two political weanies themselves ready for the grill. Former White House press secretary Joe Lockhart and ace Republican strategist Alex Castellanos.

(APPLAUSE)

Look it. Hey, stand up for a minute. Howie, get this shot. Look at the political...

(CROSSTALK)

CARLSON: You guys look fantastic for political guys. I'm impressed.

Now Joe Lockhart, we've been talking about terror, not a subject Democrats have a lot to say about on the international front, but a lot on the domestic front. And I'm referring, of course, to the ongoing Democratic effort to scare old people. Now Republicans have long said Democrats want to make Social Security into a fear issue. But until today, we could never prove it. Now we can.

"The Washington Times" got its hands on an e-mail sent from Marcy Capri, Democrat of Ohio's office, about an ad she was going to do, Social Security, Bush going to take away your benefits, et cetera, et cetera. Look at the screen. I want to read you. This is an actual quote from a Democratic staffer written on that script. "Talk about scaring seniors, this may be a little over the top. But it is sooo fun to bash Republicans.:)"

You'll note the smiley face. That's your strategy, basically, scare old people. Admit it.

JOE LOCKHART, FMR. CLINTON PRESS SECY.: Well, you know, I think these people should be docked pay for doing something irrelevant. Because if you look at what the president's talking about, we don't have to scare them. They presented a commission that they stacked with people that came out with three possibilities. All three of them had one thing in common, cut benefits, cut benefits, and cut benefits.

The really interesting thing in the paper today, which isn't up on the board, is Senator Grassley, President Bush's pointman on Social Security and privatization coming out today, or yesterday, and saying, well, even though we promised it in the campaign, now we think we've got to wait to 2005. Let's get another mandate behind us before we go and do this. Where's the leadership here?

CARLSON: Let me ask you, speaking of -- that's -- I'm so glad you brought up the leadership question, the "L" word. I want to ask you, Joe, how is the Democratic legislation, the legislation Democrats have put forward to save Social Security? How's it -- give me an update on that? Oh, it doesn't exist?

LOCKHART: No, I'll tell you something, the Democrats...

CARLSON: Because if it doesn't exist, I'm wondering why.

LOCKHART: Well, I'll answer. Here we go.

CARLSON: OK.

LOCKHART: The Democrats actually put forward a number of important ideas that the Republicans stopped when Clinton was in office. And there's a bit of...

CARLSON: That was in the last administration.

LOCKHART: Yeah, but there's a bit of a problem, which is why I raised this administration. We extended the life of Social Security, extended the solvency of Social Security. What this administration has done is moving us on a path of bankrupting Social Security. We've gone from surpluses to deficits. And we may need another emergency.

BEGALA: I'm sorry, Tucker. Let me bring Alex into this. The last time you were on, I'm going to shift topics here, we were talking about the sordid Republican use of a photograph from September 11 to raise money for its party. This is the photograph. You will remember this well. September 11. Well, the good people at Media Horse Online were having a contest to come up with the best caption. And unfortunately for them, the best caption came from Bush himself, who this week, told German television this. "I mean, I was trying to get out of harm's way."

Now is that the heroic, gritty determination that the Republicans cite? "I'm trying to get out of harm's way?" That's what he's telling Dick Cheney in that photograph? I'm just quoting our president here.

ALEX CASTELLANOS, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Yes, Paul, if you'd like to pick, you know, a moment from anybody's day, and try to make a negative ad out of it, I'm sure you are very capable of doing that. And since there isn't a very positive Democratic agenda, maybe the negative attacks are all you can do.

But look, Social Security I think's an important thing. I can't believe you guys are still doing the same old thing on Social Security. The only news in this memo is that water's wet. Democrats have been trying to scare seniors on Social Security for 100 years.

BEGALA: Why has Senator Grassley...

CASTELLANOS: Here's my question. Don't we all agree that most Americans out there, most politicians in Washington understand that if they touch Social Security, if anybody cuts Social Security, America's seniors would set their hair on fire? No politician is going to do that, Republican or Democrat. We all get it. It's not going to happen. The only thing the Democrats are doing...

BEGALA: No actually, Alex, that just in point of fact is false.

CASTELLANOS: It's not going to happen. The only thing...

BEGALA: President Bush, no...

CASTELLANOS: ...the only thing that's going to happen is the Democrats are going to become...

(CROSSTALK)

CASTELLANOS: ...they're going to become the phony political party.

BEGALA: President Bush set up a commission, chaired in part by the CEO of the company I work for, AOL/Time Warner. That commission proposed, as Joe said, three different ways to cut Social Security, no ways to save it because the commission had to, under Bush's mandate, come up with a way to privatize it. Privatizing it is not the way to go. That's where the Democrats have the plan to save Social Security Republicans want to get away with.

CASTELLANOS: You know, the only serious discussion about Social Security anybody's ever had is about personal control of your Social Security account. Because when people actually have personal control of their Social Security account, maybe the big spending Democrats can't spend it all.

BEGALA: This is a new euphemism. It's like -- no, they say they're going to fix Social Security. It's like when I fix my dog, Gus.

CASTELLANOS: I mean, if the deficits were so bad, why did the Democrats have them for 24 years?

LOCKHART: Well, we got rid of them. We got surpluses. There's a big difference. And I'll tell you one other thing, if giving yourself personal control was such a good idea, why do we need to wait until 2005? Because it isn't a good idea. And that what he wants to do is make sure that he can privatize Social Security in a way that he never has to face a voter again in a fight.

CARLSON: Let me move from the future to today. Today, incidentally, is the year anniversary of the Jeffords coup. Jim Jeffords switched a year ago today, switched control of the United States Senate.

LOCKHART: He looks much better, doesn't he?

BEGALA: America does.

CARLSON: And nobody bought his book.

Anyway, D. Brook Smith, judge, just made it out of the Senate Judiciary Committee today. Three Democrats voted for him. Good for them. All the rest voted against him. Why? A lot of it had to do with the fact, and you're not going to believe this, Judge Smith belonged to an all-male hunting club, the Spruce Creek Rod and Gun Club. And feminists had a fit. And not just them, PC chieftains like Patrick Leahy opposed the nomination on these grounds. "It would be bad precedent if we ignore his membership in an all-male club." Isn't this 1970s attitude here?

LOCKHART: The great part about the nomination process that's going on now is we're getting one bad judge after another. Now some of them are going to get through. The matter of the way...

CARLSON: Belonging to an all-male club makes you a bad person?

BEGALA: In point of fact...

CASTELLANOS: We aren't getting any judges because Daschle is holding them all up and not having hearings on anything. And meanwhile, we have a war on terror, justice needs to be done, and they're all being held up by Daschle.

BEGALA: The Democrats... LOCKHART: They're not being held up (UNINTELLIGIBLE).

BEGALA: ...have confirmed 57 judges. But wait, Tucker was being misleading in that question.

CARLSON: Wait, let me ask you. Hold on.

BEGALA: The comment Leahy said was not about a guy who belonged to an all-male club, which by the way is a violation of the canons of judicial ethics. And it was about a man who lied to the Judiciary Committee. He told the committee in 1988 he would get out of that club if it didn't change its policies. Eleven years later, he was still in the club. He hasn't changed the policies.

(CROSSTALK)

BEGALA: No, lying to the Senate.

CARLSON: Let me finish my question. Do you think that that is disqualifying? Do you think you, who defended the private sphere in a politician's life, do you think it's disqualifying to belong to an all-male hunting club? Are you on the side of NOW and the Democratic allies, the fascists who get into your private life to the extent they'll disqualify you from being a judge because you hunt with men?

LOCKHART: I don't know anything about hunting with men. That's something that you guys will all do. But listen, I think, as Paul said, and what's missing from your question, you know, it's a serious thing to mislead the Judiciary Committee. And you know, this guy's gotten through. The Democrats split on him. But there's going to be a lot more fights, because there's going to be a lot more fights because we keep getting these judges who are out of the mainstream as far as their personal and judicial beliefs.

CASTELLANOS: All these judges, by the way...

LOCKHART: And we're going to keep fighting.

CASTELLANOS: ...have been -- all the legal authorities had great judges. But I guess you can't play in the NFL either and run for office.

LOCKHART: Well, wait a second. Let's talk about this. The legal authorities were taken out of the process, because Bush was afraid to have the ABA look at them. So don't -- so let's not talk about the ABA.

CASTELLANOS: The ABA said these were all qualified nominations.

CARLSON: That's exactly right. But unfortunately, we're going to have to take a quick commercial break. When we come back, the Enron-a-thon. That's right. We'll be talking about Enron. Who does it help? Who do it hurt? We have different opinions. We'll share them with you as always. We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) BEGALA: Welcome back to CROSSFIRE. We are warming up for the unity of Memorial Day weekend with some bitter, divisive political fights, including GOP strategist Alex Castellanos and former White House press secretary Joe Lockhart.

Mr. Castellanos, let's talk about Enron, as Tucker promised before we went away. In today's paper, more information. The White House first said there were four, five six, I think, meetings with Enron. Then they said there were 24. Now there's over 100. Kenny boy Lay was at everything from choosing the regulators who were going to be regulating his corporation to the Easter egg roll. He spent more time there than Bush, who was apparently was at Crawford, Texas, not reading memos from the FBI.

What in the world -- what do you do with this? Because it feeds everybody's knowledge that the Republican party is bought and paid for special interests.

CASTELLANOS: Well, Paul, you've certainly caught the White House looking after the economy and looking after the country. You know, guilty there as charged.

Look, this is a major American company, energy company, one of the biggest companies there. And when...

BEGALA: One of the biggest con artists in history, Kenny boy Lay...

CASTELLANOS: You know, obviously there were contacts there.

BEGALA: (UNINTELLIGIBLE).

CASTELLANOS: The big scandal here is Joe Lieberman, the defeated candidate, who is now subpoenaing the candidate that defeated him. This is after a big bipartisan speech.

LOCKHART: Sort of.

CASTELLANOS: No, that's exactly what Lieberman...

LOCKHART: I mean sort of defeated him. Just....

(LAUGHTER)

BEGALA: All these technicalities.

CARLSON: That's so sad, Joe. You know, my heart bleeds whenever I hear you say stuff like that.

CASTELLANOS: Oh, a bad day for the Democrats is when they realize Bush really did win. And not only that, he's doing a good job.

BEGALA: You happen to be wrong on both counts.

CASTELLANOS: But anyway... CARLSON: No, but, Joe...

CASTELLANOS: But anyway, the question here is, is Joe Lieberman that desperate to get out from under Gore's shadow and get elected president that he's politicizing this entire issue? The same day the White House delivers a huge stack of papers, Lieberman doesn't even wait to see what's in them. The White House is cooperating fully. He doesn't wait to see them. And what does he do? He issues a subpoena that day. It's all politics.

CARLSON: And if you think that's bad, Alex, wait till you hear this. This is the worst Enron story. I know about Enron stories. I'm not defending Enron, horrifying story. But one of the most horrifying, Dick Gephardt. Next Tuesday, he's having a town hall meeting for laid off Enron employees. Now if this isn't the behavior of a scandal vulture, someone swooping in to use the suffering of ordinary Americans to his political advantage, I don't know what is.

LOCKHART: Well, listen, these people are the ones who've been left out.

CARLSON: Absolutely.

LOCKHART: Last time I checked, the Department of Justice hasn't done anything to the executives who went off with these billions of dollars. But the people who have been laid off need someone to look after them. And I think Democrats would be pretty proud to do that. But let me tell you why...

CARLSON: So this is ambulance chasing, you've got to admit.

LOCKHART: But let me tell you why I think this week's story is interesting, particularly the last couple of days. We're beginning to get a full and clear picture of just how political and cynical this White House is, from the picture we just looked at, to the fact that for eight months they thought, well, we don't have to tell the American public that we knew some of these things. We had some warnings. And, two -- let me finish.

CASTELLANOS: No, that's misleading.

LOCKHART: To a lecture on patriotism from Vice President Cheney, for anyone who might say we should raise questions about this, just pure political bullying. And I think the more we see of this, the more the American public is going to turn off.

CASTELLANOS: Look, look, you know, right now there are a few other things to be worried about in the White House. You know, we got a crisis in the Middle East, a war on terrorism.

LOCKHART: I thought you said they're doing a great job.

CASTELLANOS: India and Pakistan may blow each other up. And in the middle of all of this -- yes -- because that's what they're working on. And in the middle of all this for pure partisan political purposes, candidates for president in the Democratic party are subpoenaing the White House, before even a formal written request.

LOCKHART: Let me say something. We had a lot of...

CASTELLANOS: And you know what all the evidence is so far? Every bit of evidence is that the White House acted entirely properly on every count. That when Enron came to them and said help us out, they said you'll be treated just like everybody else.

LOCKHART: We had a lot of politics in my time at the White House. Hold on one second. We had a lot of politics at my time in the White House. We also had a number of conflicts that Republicans stood up, and some supported, and some didn't. And we fought back with as much vigor as we could. But I'll tell you something, we never sunk as low as to stand up at the White House and say if you don't agree with us in Kosovo, or if you don't agree with what we're doing in Iraq, we think you're un-American.

CARLSON: We'll blow up another pharmaceutical factory? But that's exactly...

BEGALA: That was a chemical weapons plant. OK. You believe the bin Laden spin?

CARLSON: Right.

BEGALA: You believe the propaganda for bin Laden?

LOCKHART: You know, Sudan has good flags.

CARLSON: Yes, that's spectacular to sit here as the former Clinton press secretary and lecture me on political cynicism from an administration that actually redefined it. I'm not defending everything this administration has done, but if you want to compare cynical political behavior, there's really no contest. Clinton wins, as you know.

LOCKHART: Well, I think there is a contest. And I think when Dick Cheney gets up and lectures us on the idea that if you raise any questions at all, if you say why did you withhold this information, then you're undermining the war effort, that's a new low. I'll tell you something...

CARLSON: No, he didn't say...

LOCKHART: I will sit here and raise questions, do something, and I won't have somebody questioning my patriotism.

CARLSON: I agree with you. And he didn't say it.

(APPLAUSE)

BEGALA: Does it undermine the war effort, for example, for me to point out that Dick Cheney, who's giving lectures on patriotism, took deferments in the war and said in the '60s I had other priorities, and sold oil field equipment to Iran, Iraq and Libya, three terrorist states just two years ago? Does that undermine the war effort? CASTELLANOS: You should be -- you should not be quite that small, Paul. But look, what does...

BEGALA: Was he not selling oil field equipment terrorist states?

CASTELLANOS: There is -- I'll tell you what does undermine the war effort...

CARLSON: I'm sorry, I'm afraid we have to go. And I agree with Paul, undermining war efforts.

BEGALA: Yes, we'll have more lectures on patriotism.

CARLSON: Thank you both very much. I appreciate, Joe Lockhart, Alex Castellanos, thanks for joining us.

BEGALA: Thank you very much.

CARLSON: One of our viewers has fired back a thought about political turncoat, Jim Jeffords. We'll be back quicker than you change your party affiliation.

That's pretty quick. We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BEGALA: Welcome back to CROSSFIRE. While Frank looks for those al Qaeda scuba divers, we open up the e-mail bag and turn the program over to you in our fireback segment.

Let's begin with e-mail number one. Charles Marlow in Columbia, Maryland writes, "Paul, I strongly disagree with your recent remarks. When airplanes start crashing into buildings and no one know who was behind it or if they would strike again, getting the president 'out of harm's way' is not an option, but the only right thing." I disagree. Tucker Carlson himself wrote that Rudy Giuliani wasn't looking to get out of harm's way. Neither were the cops and firefighters. They were public servants who risked their hide.

CARLSON: Never a more fearful president than President Clinton, who closed Pennsylvania Avenue...

BEGALA: What?

CARLSON: ...for the sake of his own security, as you know. OK, Tom Wilson, Fort Lauderdale, Florida. "With the Bush administration dodging any and all responsibility for foreknowledge of 9/11, a couple of GOP bumper sticker ideas have come to mind: We may be in charge, but we can't protect you. We are in charge, blame Clinton." Tom, you're on the right track. Blame Clinton. I'm all for it.

BEGALA: Absolutely. Let's look at number three from Judy H. in Cleveland, Ohio, who said, "I really hope to see all of you set the example of not rushing to judgment regarding Gary Condit. Hasn't our justice system always relied on the belief that you are innocent until proven guilty?" Tucker, she's with you on this. And maybe I've been too rough on Condit, but I don't think so. I didn't say that he's been guilty of a particular crime, I've just said I think the word I used was 'dirtbag congressman.'

CARLSON: I didn't disagree, but I don't think he's a murderer. OK. Sara Bethel writes, "Vermont voters elected a man based on his ideas, not his political label. At least they got the person most of them voted for." Sara, you'll notice, writes safely from New York, not Vermont.

BEGALA: Where Hillary Clinton and Chuck Schumer, two of the best senators in America...

CARLSON: Great commentary right there. Yes, a question from the audience?

LYLA: Yes. My name's Lyla. I'm from Kingwood, Texas. And this question is for the both of you. If John Walker could find the Taliban and Osama bin Laden, why couldn't a CIA agent?

BEGALA: That is a great question.

CARLSON: Because they're not hoping to join. I think that may be.

BEGALA: No, I mean, there are a lot of legitimate questions. It's why we ought to have an independent investigation. It ought to go back several presidencies. I'm perfectly willing to have them investigate everything Clinton did, but I'm just curious as to why Bush and Cheney are so afraid of having an honest investigation. I think that tells us a lot about their own conduct.

CARLSON: I think it would be bad for the country if an investigation would become overtly political and I think they think that, too. Yes, another question?

SARAH: Hi, my name's Sarah from Fancy Farm, Kentucky. And I was wondering what you think about the "National Enquirer's" decision to publish the photos of the two gunmen from the Columbine school shootings?

BEGALA: They're -- you know, I couldn't use the language on a family network. They ought to be ashamed of themselves. They're clearly only doing it to make money and they're despicable people.

CARLSON: Hard to add to that. Yes, sir?

GEORGE ARCADUS: George Arcadus (ph) from Paris, France. Should we worry that all the coverage of terrorism encourages further terrorist acts?

CARLSON: You know, from the moment I entered journalism, that day I graduated college, I've heard people blame the press for this, that or the other, but I -- you're not going to pin that on us, I'm afraid. I think it's the role of the press to report on terrorist threats. And I don't think it's the press' fault when they occur. BEGALA: And I think the American people have been very courageous. I don't think this country's freaking out. When we learn about these threats, we can handle it. We can deal with it. We're a lot tougher than the terrorists are, and maybe a lot tougher than some of the politicians think we are.

CARLSON: And the French. Very quickly, sir. Twenty seconds left?

JEFF: My name is Jeff, and I'm from Washington, D.C. And I'm wondering if you feel like the media is compromising intelligence gathering and analysis by constantly criticizing the FBI and the administration?

CARLSON: I don't think criticism has ever compromised intelligence.

BEGALA: Right, it's criticism. It's patriotism. From the left, I'm Paul Begala. Good night from CROSSFIRE.

CARLSON: And from the right, I'm Tucker Carlson. Be sure to join us on Monday for perhaps the most extraordinary CROSSFIRE ever. TV talk show host Jerry Springer, Congressman James Traficant, and rock star and gun lover Ted Nugent, all together on the same program. That's 7:00 p.m. Eastern Memorial Day, Monday. See you then. Have a great weekend.

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Providing More Ammunition for Bureau's Critics?>


 
 
 
 


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