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CNN CROSSFIRE

Would a Prescription Drug Bill Bust the Budget?; Should Steroid Use Be Cut From Baseball?; Should Nickelodeon Deal With Gay Issues?

Aired June 18, 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: Is the rush to provide affordable drugs for older Americans a prescription for budget busting? We'll look at paying the bills for all those pills.

Baseball's elite are being accused of taking steroid shortcuts. Congress may be about to step in and try to strike out the practice.

Kids being raised by two mothers in love can see a program about their lives on Nickelodeon. But critics say the children's channel is sending the wrong message to its young viewers.

Ahead on CROSSFIRE.

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

PAUL BEGALA, CO-HOST: Welcome to CROSSFIRE.

Tonight, Congress muscles in on the debate over steroid use in baseball. Also, kids with gay parents, conservative activists throw a hissy-fit over a kids show about different kinds of moms and dads.

But we start with medicine in politics, and whether Congress can deliver a prescription drug bill for America's seniors, who happen to be the fastest growing segment of the country's population.

Public outrage over the cost of prescription drugs has pressured the Congress and the White House to do something to help seniors on Medicare. And yesterday House Republicans unveiled a $350 billion prescription drug benefit plan that is considerably cheaper than an $800 billion plan rolled out by House Democrats last week, as well as two different $500 billion plans offered by Senate Democrats.

Have Republicans finally seen the light on the need for prescription drug entitlement? Or is this just another election year campaign ploy?

In the CROSSFIRE tonight: Democratic Congresswoman Rosa Delauro and Republican Congressman Roy Blunt.

(CROSSTALK)

BEGALA: Good to see you.

TUCKER CARLSON, CO-HOST: Congresswoman, welcome.

REP. ROSA DELAURO (D), CONNECTICUT: Welcome.

CARLSON: Democrats did a pretty good job during the Clinton years, up until recently, really, repositioning themselves as fiscal conservatives, concerned about budget deficits, about not spending too much money, staying within government's means, et cetera, et cetera.

But it turns out not to be true: $800 million for prescription drug benefit, you and fellow House Democrats proposing at a time when we're going to be running a $100 million deficit forecasted this year.

This is free spending, the definition of.

DELAURO: It all depends on where your priorities are and what choices you want to make, Tucker. If you want to spend $1.3 trillion for a tax cut and you also want to do an additional $600 billion in this last week, and make them permanent; if you want to give a quarter of a billion dollars to Enron.

If that's your priority, then that's where you want to spend your money.

I would rather spend my money on what is the single-biggest issue I think the American public is facing today, and that is the rising cost of prescription drugs and how people are forced to choose -- literally choose -- between being able to get their prescription medicines or being able to pay their rent, being able to eat. It's real.

CARLSON: Well, of course, Republicans agree with that. They've offered their own plan -- and we'll get back to that prescription drugs in just one second.

But I'm interested -- I'm not surprised, though, that you brought up the tax cut. Democrats constantly talking about how this president wasted all this money on this tax cut, and yet Democratic leaders haven't moved to freeze it in future years.

So getting all of the benefit of whining about it, taking none of the risk of ending it, why?

DELAURO: All I can just say to you is that we have -- I did not vote for the same budget that my colleague voted for. And I didn't vote for the tax cut.

I think we do have to very seriously consider whether we defer the tax cut for the top rate or repeal the tax cut for the top rate, the richest 1 and 2 percent of the people in this country.

But it's a question of where your priorities are. If you believe, as I do, that we have to do something about providing a prescription drug benefit to seniors in this country -- all seniors -- and that you want to help to drive the cost of prescription drugs down then, in fact, what you have to do is to put your money where your resolve is, and do that, and that's where our priorities ought to be, and not on taking care of special interests and the pharmaceutical companies or the insurance companies.

BEGALA: Let me bring Congressman Blunt into that to defend his party and its plan.

First, forgive me if I am skeptical in an election year, congressman. When the party that opposed Medicare, Ronald Reagan, your patron saint politically, called it socialized medicine. In fact, it is socialized insurance, and a damn good program, at that. Newt Gingrich once said he wanted the financing arm of Medicare to wither and die on the vine.

And now all of a sudden, a few months before an election, you and your colleagues in the House Republican caucus want us to believe that you strongly support a new federal entitlement for senior citizens.

Persuade me that's it's real.

REP. ROY BLUNT (R), MISSOURI: Now you did say, correct you if you're wrong, right?

BEGALA: Yes sir; please do.

BLUNT: That gives me plenty of opportunities to do exactly that.

You know, we passed a private sector-based prescription drug addition to Medicare two years ago. I think if the Senate would have taken that bill up, we'd be well on the way to solving a lot of this problem now.

You know, I haven't been in the Congress -- this is my third term, so I wasn't there when Medicare was introduced. But I do remember during the campaign when Dick Cheney was challenged on a vote supposedly against Medicare, he pointed out he'd voted for the Republican alternative, which include prescription drugs at the time.

You know, we've known this was something that needed to be included in health care for a long time. The Republican House passed this two years ago. My good friend Rosa said she didn't vote for the budget I voted for; that's true, because the Democrats don't have a budget this time.

First time in a long time that there's no alternative budget. We have the budget; we have the legislation; we have a $350 billion amount of money carved out that actually within this budget we could do.

The difference in our plan and a trillion dollar Senate plan or an $800 billion House Democratic plan, is our plan is within a budget, and it could be done. We want to do it. It's the right amount of money that can actually deliver a benefit now to seniors. And, you know, Rosa is absolutely right. This is one of the problems that members hear about -- real cases from people in their districts. This the second shot that we've taken with this leadership at trying to solve this. And I think we'll pass our bill again this year.

(CROSSTALK)

BEGALA: Why -- let me ask you about how -- I don't want to get too deep into the weeds, but I know that you know this bill quite well.

Why does your bill subsidize insurance companies instead of people through the Medicare system? Why do you give $350 billion to big insurance companies rather than Medicare?

BLUNT: What we do is we subsidize premiums for seniors who are at a level that -- and they buy the private insurance, that's right.

Why is it a private sector solution as opposed to another government run health care plan? Because that's -- really we need to continue with a private sector solution in prescription drugs to do everything we can to encourage the development of new pharmaceutical medicines.

There is a huge change in health care delivery. You know, we could -- I suppose we could federalize the pharmaceutical industry, but we wouldn't have very many new drugs developed, in my opinion, if we did that.

The cheapest pharmaceutical drugs in the world are bought by Americans with health insurance that covers that. The most expensive pharmaceutical drugs in the world are bought by Americans who pay cash.

We're trying put more people into that category who now benefit from the most affordable pharmaceutical medicines in the world: That's Americans with insurance that covers it. We're trying to make that available to seniors who didn't know when they retired that they would need it.

(CROSSTALK)

DELAURO: Let's just talk about the plan for a second. This is $350 billion over 10 years. There's no defined benefit; there is no guaranteed premium. It is all about the special interests. It does nothing about bringing the cost -- does nothing about bringing the cost of prescriptions drugs down, and it does not cover but 24 -- about a quarter of seniors' prescription drug costs.

(CROSSTALK)

DELAURO: And let me just -- hang on for one second, Tucker.

The fact of the matter is is that if you've been following "Wall Street Journal" in the last several weeks about the pharmaceutical industry that sells its drugs overseas at a much lower rate. And what that does, it drives the cost up here.

This is a plan -- it's not a Republican plan, it's a plan that's been written by the insurance industry and the pharmaceutical industry.

CARLSON: If I could just interrupt -- I know it's very helpful for Democrats to have another whipping boy, the tobacco industry, now the pharmaceutical industry.

But let's be honest -- and I hope you will be -- your plan is not going to pass.

So if you care, and I believe do you, about covering some, at least some seniors, why not strike a compromise, a reasonable compromise, and get some of the them covered?

DELAURO: Let me just say, I think that this plan and the question that was asked before -- I think the question that is planned at this time, it is all about trying to have something that at least, it covers yourself to say we have a prescription drug benefit out there, because it is absolutely flawed and it doesn't, as I said, drive the costs down, and it doesn't cover all seniors.

The fact of the matter is that we probably will, unfortunately, for the people of this country and for seniors that we see every day, that we are not going to have a prescription drug benefit that passes this year.

(CROSSTALK)

DELAURO: Hang on for one second. And then we're going to have -- then we're going to be left with the price discrimination issue. And I'd like to ask my colleague, what do you do about the high cost of prescription drugs?

(CROSSTALK)

DELAURO: ... and having to drive those down?

BLUNT: I'm just trying to remember all this sort of disinformation here to respond to, which is not all that easy to do.

The truth is...

DELAURO: Try. Try.

BLUNT: ... the truth is that if we subsidized in Connecticut, our plan would pay 100 percent of the premium for 181,000 seniors in Connecticut; 100 percent of the premium. A substantial amount of the premium for another large group of seniors in Connecticut and every other state.

It will drive the cost of drugs down, because just like the drugs that the pharmaceutical drugs that many of us buy, who are in plans, health care plans, where we choose to do that, you then bid the price of drugs in large quantities, just like many of these other countries do.

You get that price down. You know, I've seen the list. But the truth is, many people who are working today, or who retired in the last decade who knew they needed this as part their health care, have the insurance where they get their prescriptions for $12 or maybe $20 because they -- their company buys in this mass -- in mass quantity and makes the arrangement. That does drive this down.

We anticipate a minimum reduction of every senior's bill because of mass purchasing of at least 30 percent. And you do move people into this category that really has access to the cheapest pharmaceutical medicines in the world.

At the same time, you continue to encourage the pharmaceutical industry to develop more medicines that do more things, not just for thousands of people, but for 13 and 14 and 15 people who need a pharmaceutical drug solution.

The government...

(CROSSTALK)

BLUNT: ... the government cannot take over this industry and continue to have the kind of advances that we've had.

DELAURO: The pharmaceutical industry has done very...

(CROSSTALK)

BEGALA: Congressman, my sources on the Hill tell me that tomorrow, you in the majority -- you're a person of unquestioned integrity in the Congress -- but that your party is going to suspend the debate on the prescription drug plan to go raise money from pharmaceutical firms.

First, tell me that's not true. And if it is, tell me that you personally will not participate.

BLUNT: I'm sure that it's not true we're suspending the debate to go raise money from pharmaceutical firms. I think there is a fund- raiser tomorrow night. It's long scheduled...

DELAURO: There is a fund-raiser tomorrow night by the pharmaceutical industry...

(CROSSTALK)

DELAURO: Yes, oh absolutely. It's true.

BLUNT: You know, it is not by the pharmaceutical industry. It's a House-Senate dinner we have every year. You know that. And...

DELAURO: Underwritten by Glaxo Klein Smith (sic)?

(CROSSTALK)

CARLSON: Sounds like another wicked conspiracy. I have to say.

Unfortunately, we're going to have to break because we are out of time...

(CROSSTALK)

DELAURO: ... that the pharmaceutical companies will not bring generic drugs to the market.

CARLSON: I'm sorry because -- Mr. Blunt, Ms. Delauro, thank you very much for joining us, we appreciate it.

Still ahead: Baseball is being accused of juicing more than the ball. Will the Congress step in to get serious, or get serious about steroids in the national pastime?

Later, a show about gay parents creates static for a children's television network.

And our "Quote of the Day," a politician flees the jackals.

We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CARLSON: Welcome back to CROSSFIRE.

Coming up later, the kids' channel Nickelodeon under fire over a special on gay parents.

But first, Congress is taking a swing at steroids, deciding whether it should regulate the muscle-building drug in Major League Baseball. This follows the recent disclosure by former National League Most Valuable Player Ken Caminiti that he used steroids. Major League Baseball doesn't test for the drugs.

So what is the harm in adding power to a home run swing? Weighing in tonight, one of our favorite guests, sports radio talk show host Steak Shapiro. He joins us from Atlanta.

Now Steak, I want to read you a quote from the just-mentioned, the great Ken Caminiti. Here it is. He says, about steroids: "Look at all the money in the game. You have a chance to set your family up, to get your daughter into a better school, so I can't say don't do it, not when the guy next to you is as big as a house, and he's going to take your job and make the money."

I mean, isn't it fair for ball players, whose very livelihood depends on their physical performance, to enhance that performance with dope?

STEAK SHAPIRO, SPORTS RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: Well, I mean, it's not OK in any other sport in the entire world. Why would it be OK in Major League Baseball?

You're also talking about a controlled substance. You're also talking about an illegal substance.

So I don't know, is it OK to have heroin in the locker room as well? I mean, steroids are illegal. You smuggle them in the country. They're also tainting the game of baseball, tainting the records.

But other than that, Tucker -- yes, I agrees with you, no big deal having steroids around.

BEGALA: In fact, Steak, not only do they damage the sport, but they damage the users. And it's a difficult thing for young men like ball players to look forward in the future, but this is what steroids do to them. And particularly, kids who are watching this ought to learn this: heart and liver damage, endocrine system imbalance, elevated cholesterol, strokes, aggressive behavior, increased injuries, dysfunctions of the genitalia, and I think they make them lose your hair, too, Steak. I'm not sure about that last one.

No, but this is serious business. And we've got a bunch of young men who are using them because, I think, of the profit that this Ken Caminiti said they can make by hitting the ball farther.

SHAPIRO: Well -- I don't blame Ken Caminiti. If you're sitting in AAA and you got a wife and three kids, and the guy in front of you is hitting 25 home runs and playing second base, you know, you're looking up and saying hey, you know, how am I going to support my family? Where am I going to get the big contract?

The point is, Major League Baseball and the players union, one of the strongest unions in the world maybe, they don't want to be tested for anything. They talk about privacy issues.

We're talking about illegal substances. We're talking about guys that are so obviously on the juice in baseball. You know, when Babe Ruth and Roger Maris were breaking records, they didn't have juice baseball, they didn't have parks that were moved in in terms of the fences, and they didn't have guys on steroids.

And now we're breaking home run records every few years.

Second baseman, as I mentioned, are hitting 30 homers because it's good for the game when guys are hitting homers. But the reality is, this is an illegal drug, an illegal substance, and a dangerous one. And it's being smuggled in, but nobody wants to blow the whistle on it. It's time to get...

CARLSON: Let me suggest a reason, Steak, and that's because it's made the game better. Let me put it -- let me use this example, if an actress gets breast augmentation or injects poison into her face in the form of Botox to make herself more attractive in order to make money in front of the camera. People don't say, "Well that's appalling that would you would hurt your body." They understand that it gives that person an advantage, and she makes money.

I mean, I don't understand the difference.

SHAPIRO: Tucker, you're not not going to get arrested for saline, and your not going to get arrested for being a plastic surgeon.

Steroids are illegal. Steroids are illegal in the Olympics. They're not legal in any other sport.

Baseball is turning their back on it. I mean, again, you can't compare what's enhancing, or what augmentation is, to illegal substances. I mean, it's giving players who use it an unfair advantage. And the ones who don't use it are, you know, are at a strong disadvantage, and health-wise it's not safe.

And we're talking about an illegal -- you know if, for instance, Ken Caminiti is found with a bag full of steroids, technically, you know, he's in possession of a controlled substance. How is that good for the game of baseball?

BEGALA: Well you know, Steak, when you read the "Sports Illustrated" expose on this, where Caminiti came out, now we learn Jose Canseco is going to write a book saying that he was using steroids. Where in the world was the sports press?

I don't know mean you personally, but you guys see these players every single day. You got know if somebody is jacked up. And why are we only now learning about this?

SHAPIRO: Well, it's a dangerous precedent to accuse guys of something -- although, look at pictures of Mark McGwire six, seven years ago or Ken Caminiti, or even a Barry Bonds. It's very hard to believe that even with the best weight training you can change your body type to that level. So everybody...

BEGALA: McGwire said he used a legal steroid, andro.

SHAPIRO: Well andro -- and andro has been outlawed in a lot of sports now and again. You know, it's going to be outlawed in baseball, or is outlawed in baseball.

The point is, you know, there is rampant rumors. But again, unless you see a guy taking it, unless you have proof, it's very dangerous for the press to come out.

But look -- I mean, everybody has known that it's a big part of the game. If you read that article, I mean, ball players have known it in AAA. Go to Tijuana, ask how many times they're sending, you know, illegal steroids over the borders.

So, I mean, look -- I like the home run ball as much as anybody. I think the long ball, what McGwire did, was a huge thing for baseball, what Bonds did.

But let's be honest about it: They're cheating. It's cheating in the Olympics, it's cheating everywhere else. Why isn't it cheating in baseball?

CARLSON: You know what? It may be cheating in baseball, but I guess the question is, who cares? Not the fans. I want to read you a quote from Chad Curtis, this is in "Sports Illustrated"; doubtless, you read the issue. He said: "If you polled the fans, I think they'd tell you, I don't care about illegal steroids. I'd rather see a guy hit the ball a mile or throw it 105 miles an hour."

The fans don't care about the long term health prognosis of the players, they care about home runs, correct?

SHAPIRO: Well, I think they care if people are cheating, and I think -- you know, I think they care if some guys are given unfair advantages.

Again, I don't know if you think it taints Ken Caminiti's MVP season when he admits -- he said, "Look, I hit 28 home runs at the All-Star Break that's the most home runs I ever had, period. I mean, the fact is, when I got on the juice, I was that much better."

I mean, if it's an illegal substance, don't some of the fans care that that's part of what's making it happen? And it's not all- natural...

BEGALA: And in fact, Steak -- in fact, Steak, in defense of my fellow fans, CNN and Gallup Organization did poll the fans, despite what this goofball Curtis said.

By 86 to 12, we baseball fans said, yes, Major League Baseball players ought to be tested for steroids, it ought to stop. So in defense of the fans, don't you think they'd like to stop this too?

SHAPIRO: And the union -- I mean, the union is so powerful. Though, again, they talk about a privacy issue, a privacy issue.

I mean, you're not -- you know, this is not about someone's sexual orientation or anything else, this is about an illegal substance that, you know, that is going on -- a controlled substance. So I think that some people care about it -- yes, I love the home run chases and everything else.

But I think, you know, it's time to tell the players, "Look, you're making millions of dollars, don't tell us we can't test you." Put away those privacy issues.

I mean look, Tucker, you and I, we got this body from hard work and dedication. I mean, these guys...

CARLSON: Exactly right, Steak, you and me in the gym together.

(CROSSTALK)

CARLSON: I'm going to miss those days.

BEGALA: Steak, I'm going to join you for a few 12-ounce curls the next time you're in Washington.

Steak Shapiro, the king of the land of sports radio. Thanks a lot Steak.

Ahead on CROSSFIRE: Nickelodeon opens the closet door to let kids talk about gay families and the brouhaha it's causing when we come back.

And our "Quote of the Day": first he was The Body, then he was The Mind, now he's the one-termer.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BEGALA: He's a political maverick with a lot of muscles, free from steroids, and now he says, though, his heart's no longer in his job. Minnesota Governor Jesse Ventura says he is not seeking reelection, says he's tired of media attacks on his family, and there have been complaints about his son throwing parties that made a mess of the governor's mansion.

In our quote of the day Governor Ventura says: "I'm kind of like Che Guevara: I lead the revolution, but at some point I turn it over to someone else."

Who is the Fidel Castro now of Minnesota?

CARLSON: This the perfect quote, because Che Guevara never led a revolution. When he died in Bolivia, like nine people following him, five of them were drunk. He was a pathetic failure and a phony, just like Governor Jesse Ventura, who never accomplished anything beyond being a color commentator for a football franchise, or network, or whatever that failed.

It was pathetic, he's pathetic and nasty.

BEGALA: It is proof that dilettantes ought not dabble in politics the way that the former owner of the Texas Rangers -- I don't know if you heard of him -- who -- he jumps in, he finds himself elected president, now he's in so far over his head, he looks like Mini-Me at the Grand Canyon.

You got to leave this to people who are serious.

CARLSON: You know, that's not only unfair, but it's also stupid. He was actually a good governor...

BEGALA: You shouldn't talk about our president that way, Tucker.

CARLSON: ... and re-elected.

But the sad thing is Ventura spent his entire time blaming his shortcomings on the press. And that is always the sign of someone who is over his head and just blaming someone else, is when they blame the press. That is...

BEGALA: I love when members of the media attack everybody else, but if somebody counterattacks back and says, you know, "it's not fair for you to hammer my kids."

(CROSSTALK)

BEGALA: So a teenage kid had a wild party. God bless him, I hope he has two more.

(CROSSTALK)

CARLSON: Unfortunately, we have to go.

Things got a little shaky for people across parts of the Midwest today. That and other top stories just ahead. In our CROSSFIRE "News Alert," the rubber hits the road for one German campaign.

When you have two mommies, what do you tell your friends? Should homosexuality be a subject for children's television? We'll debate it.

We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CARLSON: Welcome back. Get a pen and paper. It's time for a segment packed so densely with news, you may need to take notes. It's time for the CROSSFIRE "News Alert."

In international news tonight, yet another innovation in romance from Germany. German chancellor Gerhard Schroeder's Social Democratic party has come up with a new way to boost its image with voters -- condoms, fire engine red ones, each emblazoned with an upbeat message from the party. They're on sale now at Social Democratic headquarters, $40 for 100.

Innovative as the idea is, unfortunately it was never tested with polls or focus groups, and as it turns out, most voters regard bright red condoms with political slogans on them as perhaps the most unappealing advance in bedroom technology since the waterbed, so Mr. Schroeder's party continues to the trail the opposition.

BEGALA: The Democratic controlled Senate Finance Committee today approved legislation to crack down on U.S. corporations that relocate to tax havens like Bermuda in order to avoid paying taxes. House Republicans, though, continue to block similar legislation on their side of the aisle.

It's a classic contest between the virtue that Republicans trump the loudest, patriotism, and vice they truly prize, greed. Sadly, among Republicans, at least, greed is kicking patriotism's butt, and somewhere Benedict Arnold is re-registering as a Republican.

CARLSON: Just when you thought the situation in the Middle East seemed hopeless, Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan has announced that he plans to visit the region.

The noted black nationalist and former Calypso singer is embarking later this week on what he calls a peace mission. Farrakhan says he intends to meet with both sides in the conflict, but there is a problem. Israeli officials have not responded to his request to enter their country. "In Israel," Farrakhan explained, quote, "I am looked at as an anti-Semite."

Asked how this perception arose, Farrakhan explained that white devils and practitioners of gutter religion sometimes take his remarks out of context as a way to strengthen their fiendish hold of the entertainment industry and international banking.

(LAUGHTER)

BEGALA: The "Cleveland Free Times" reports that the Ohio Ethics Commission is reviewing that state's laws to see if they were violated by Ken Starr. Mr. Starr has been hired by the Ohio attorney general, Miss Betsy Montgomery, to represent the state in a school voucher case.

He stands to make a reported $125,000 in fees from the case. Starr has also been the star attraction at five political fund raisers for the attorney general hired him. Under Ohio law, state employees may be barred as acting as political campaigners on behalf the candidates who arranged state contracts for them.

Now let me be fair to Ken Starr. He may not be a state employee but instead an independent contractor, in which case he wouldn't be covered by this law, so let's be fair. Let's have a thorough investigation, oh, say, eight years, cost $90 million, assign 200 FBI agents, and I have just the lawyer to lead the investigation, the honorable William Jefferson Clinton.

CARLSON: Only problem, there's nothing honorable about him. And I must say, Paul, get over it. It's over, my friend. It is over. Poor Ken Starr. Poor Ken Starr.

BEGALA: Poor Ken Starr?

CARLSON: Yes.

BEGALA: Here's a man -- wouldn't you have rather have had those 200 FBI agents looking for terrorists, instead of looking for Clinton's dirty laundry?

CARLSON: Clinton, who made $9.5 million last year.

BEGALA: Oh, so now you're anti-capitalist?

CARLSON: No, I'm not anti-capitalist.

BEGALA: You know he did more free speaking engagements than he did paid ones?

CARLSON: He made $9.5 million, Paul. Give me a break.

BEGALA: Hey, great...

(CROSSTALK)

CARLSON: Later, in our "Fireback" segment, a viewer asks, "What ever happened to a certain presidential wanted poster reference?" But next, a Nickelodeon special on same sex parenting. Education or propaganda? The debate is just ahead. We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BEGALA: Welcome back. How could a family-friendly TV special on a kid channel, Nickelodeon, cause such an uproar that it ends up here on the CROSSFIRE?

Well, when the topic is gay parenting, what their kids are doing and talking about -- and right wing conservatives have heard about this and are having a hissy fit.

The program is called "My Family is Different." It airs tonight on "Nick News." It allows kids raised by gay parents to discuss their lifestyle. Critics say this is not acceptable family viewing. Ironically, this outrage has only stirred more interest in tonight's special, so let's stir the controversy a little more.

In the CROSSFIRE, Winnie Stachelberg, who is political director of the Human Rights Campaign, and Peter LaBarbera, the senior political analyst of CWA's Culture & Family Institute.

CARLSON: OK. So let me just get right to the problem I have with this program, which I have not seen, only read about, but I do have a quote from Linda Ellerbee, who is the host and, I think, the producer as well.

She says, "It's never a wrong time to talk about hate, it's just not. That's what our show is all about." Strikes me the underlying assumption here is that if you disagree with the proposition that gay parenting is OK, if you're against it, that's hate, you're a hater. That strikes me as unfair and name calling. Don't you think?

WINNIE STACHELBERG, POLITICAL DIRECTOR, HUMAN RIGHTS CAMPAIGN: I don't think so at all. I think what this television show is about is about kids talking to kids about an issue, gay parenting, that is out there. And it's age appropriate, and it is a wonderful forum for kids to disagree, and for kids to hear different opinions, and for -- most importantly -- for kids to know that it's OK to disagree, but it's not OK to attack people for those disagreements, to celebrate our diversity, and that's what this television is about.

CARLSON: So you think it is, in other words, a legitimate position for a person to have, to believe that gays should not rear children, that's a legitimate position. We can disagree, and we're tolerant of each other's positions, say, so it's OK for people to believe that?

STACHELBERG: I don't think that people should believe that gay parents aren't OK. I think it's OK for kids to have different opinions, and that's what we see on the show...

CARLSON: Including that opinion? Is that an OK opinion?

STACHELBERG: We see a difference of opinion, but what I think the show is getting at is that -- teaching understanding, and teaching tolerance, and teaching the right way to have those disagreements. That's what this television program is all about.

BEGALA: Peter, let me show you a brief video clip from the show itself. I hope everybody has steeled themselves, and I'm glad you're sitting down, because you might get the vapors and faint. This is actually what's going on on this program. Take a look. Shocking!

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "My Family is Different")

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: People have come up to me so many times and said, "Oh, my God, you have two moms. Are you gay, too? Are you a queer? Are you a fag?"

It's like, no, but is there a problem with it? Why do you have to use cruel words for it? And it's really -- it's kind of painful.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BEGALA: What's wrong with showing kids that it's wrong to hate?

PETER LABARBERA, CWA CULTURE & FAMILY INSTITUTE: Well, Paul, that's being simplistic. Of course it's wrong to hate, but in schools and in programs like this, what's happening is exactly what Tucker said. They're teaching that viewpoints are hate. In classrooms across the country, children are taught that homosexuality, opposition to homosexuality, is quote, "bigotry" or "homophobia." These terms are being taught as fact, and that's the problem.

And I'm really very curious to see in this show whether they show the person from our staff, the Concerned Women for America, who was raised by a mother who became a lesbian, announced she was a lesbian, and had a very troubled childhood, and we'll be anxious to see if that makes the cut.

The problem is twofold. One is the homosexual parenting issue, the other is media bias. And we'll how balanced this program is.

BEGALA: Well, there's another problem, and that is hate. There is hate in this world and it is directed at gays, particularly.

LABARBERA: There is hate directed against Christians who believe homosexuality is wrong. Would you agree with that?

BEGALA: Actually, I do, but -- as a Christian myself, I see that, too, but here is what's different. The most commonly used schoolyard epithet today is not "Christian." I can't even think of one that would describe us. It is instead the word "fag," a deeply offensive word.

When I was a child growing up in a small town in Texas, the most prominent racial epithet was the word "nigger." Today not even in my little town could people use that hate-filled word in polite company. I want -- what's wrong with an America in which we don't use the word "fag" either?

LABARBERA: Paul, first of all, we can't ban speech. I don't use the word "fag," either.

(CROSSTALK)

BEGALA: ...can't ban it. I'm just saying we should have some...

(CROSSTALK)

LABARBERA: What's happening is -- what's happening is a politically correct environment, this is going on schools, where some kid will say, maybe say, "Gosh, that's so gay," and what gay activists groups, like Winnie's -- I don't know if Winnie's in particular is doing this -- but they're saying, OK, when a child says that, "You're so gay," pull him aside, and go give him a politically correct lesson on homosexuality.

What's happening is they're turning bad speech into politically correct lessons -- one-sided, always, on homosexuality, and there are many groups...

(CROSSTALK)

BEGALA: ...negative "you're so black"?

LABARBERA: Look, when Matthew Shepard died, Winnie's own group, on its (UNINTELLIGIBLE) and its Web site, blamed the, quote, "Christian Right" for Matthew Shepard's death, even though those jerks had nothing to do with the pro-family movement, so the gay activist movement is on record classifying or belief system as hate, which is why we oppose hate crimes laws and things which fall into this sort of political correctness.

CARLSON: Isn't this true, Winnie -- I mean, I think you'll admit this -- that the purpose of the program, one of the purposes of the program, is to convince people who see it that it's different but not bad for gays to raise children, so to that extent, it's pushing a message, an opinion, a point of view.

STACHELBERG: It is different but OK. I think that's exactly right, and I think that's the message that this country ought to hear about gay men and lesbians, generally. As parents -- we are parents out there across this country in big towns, in small towns, in rural areas and urban areas.

That's the facts. People are parenting at much higher rates than they used to, and I think it's important -- I was a teacher in New York City -- I think it's very important to teach kids that it's OK to be different. Whether you're black or white, whether you're Dominican or Puerto Rican, these are differences that we all need to live with, and there are appropriate ways to deal with those differences.

Pulling someone aside and calling them gay in a classroom, in fact, Peter, is not appropriate, and there's nothing wrong with suggesting to a young child or a teenager that there is a better way to talk about differences than to call someone a name like that.

LABARBERA: You've hit on a problem, Winnie. You've hit on a problem. You said that it's OK to be different. One problem we have is people who are people always equating homosexuality with race. It's one thing to teach anti-racist bigotry, but it's another thing to classify a whole belief system...

STACHELBERG: I'm not talking about race. I'm not talking about race. What I'm talking about is the way that we instruct our children...

LABARBERA: But equating homosexuality with the civil rights movement...

BEGALA: I do. I believe God makes us gay or straight.

I never sat down with a legal sheet and said, "Do I fall in love with Diana or her brother Ron, who's a real cutie-pie, but I'm sorry, God made me heterosexual.

LABARBERA: That's your belief.

BEGALA: It wasn't a persuasion. Did someone try to recruit you to be straight, Peter?

LABARBERA: That's a canard.

BEGALA: Right.

LABARBERA: There are many, many people who've gone into homosexuality and got out of it. It's a behavior...

BEGALA: Do you believe God makes us the way we are?

LABARBERA: I don't believe that God makes anybody gay, of course not. But there are people who go into homosexuality and get out of it. It's a changeable behavior, unlike race. I've never met an ex- black, I've never met an ex-Hispanic, Paul.

BEGALA: That's hilarious.

CARLSON: If I could stop the sermon for one second, Paul.

I just want to get, again, to the issue of tolerance. And I just want you -- and you may have said this before, and I may have missed it, but I want to hear you say that it's a legitimate point of view that ought to be respected by gays and everybody, that homosexual acts are immoral. A lot of people believe that.

I know you don't, probably members of our audience may not, but a lot of people in the United States and the world believe that, and it strikes me that in order to be tolerant, you have to agree that that's a legitimate point of view held by many people who are religious.

STACHELBERG: I think there are difference of opinion about homosexuality. I just heard one from Peter that I disagree with fundamentally, and we at the Human Rights Campaign are working very hard to change the hearts and minds of the American people,

CARLSON: But it's legitimate, though.

STACHELBERG: But it is something that exists. Legitimate or illegitimate, it is there. And so I think the point, Tucker is -- hold on one second.

LABARBERA: She's saying it exists like racism exists. This is the problem, Tucker.

(CROSSTALK)

Morality is not a prejudice. Morality is viewpoint held by millions.

BEGALA: Morality is teaching children not to use the words like "fag," that's what morality is.

STACHELBERG: Right, and I think, Tucker, to get back to...

LABARBERA: Morality is behavior, and what you believe about behavior, and why should sexual behavior be outside the bounds of morality? Like I said, there's no such thing as an ex-black, and yet you're equating it to race.

BEGALA: It's an immutable characteristic.

LABARBERA: Paul, for thousands of years people have believed this behavior to be wrong, even taboo. Why, all of a sudden, in the last 50 is it acceptable, and you can't even say it's wrong.

BEGALA: Our founding fathers, God rest their souls, found it acceptable to own people because of their race. They were wrong. We have progressed as a society.

LABARBERA: Just because that was wrong doesn't mean everything they believed is wrong, and they also believed that sodomy was a terrible wrong.

CARLSON: I'm afraid -- we could actually keep going and keep going, but we can't. But I want to thank you both for joining us very much.

Requests to play with my hair and much more, ahead in "Fireback." But coming up, Paul and me in "Round Six."

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BEGALA: Welcome back to CROSSFIRE. It's "Round Six." The guests have gone home, leaving Tucker and I to debate gays and moms and dads.

CARLSON: Tucker and me.

BEGALA: Tucker and me -- thank you very much professor.

I was so struck at Peter LaBarbera, who seems to believe that we sit down and choose -- being black, as he said, is not a choice, for God makes us what color we are; but being gay, like you sit down with a legal pad and you say, well on the one side, you know, my clothes would match well, my house would be nicely at decorated. On the other side, people would bash my brains in outside of a bar for falling in love with someone.

I mean, nobody sits -- does this. This is how God makes us. And that's why the heart of prejudice is treating people differently because of an immutable characteristic they can't control.

CARLSON: I'm interested, and I'm glad you brought that up -- Peter LaBarbera's point.

Peter has a different position than you do. He has a different set of beliefs than do you. You can live -- if you were tolerant, you and Peter could live side-by-side respecting one another's differences. Instead, you likened him to Bill Connor (ph), some sort of racist, some sort of grand wizard -- calling his beliefs not just wrong or different than yours, but illegitimate -- name calling.

And that's what I object to. There are decent religious people who don't hate anybody who happen to believe that homosexual acts are wrong. I think they have a right to believe that.

I may or may not agree with that, but I think to call them names is unfair.

BEGALA: First, I didn't call them names. But it is prejudice to say that some people shouldn't be able to have children.

I'm amazed that conservatives who think the government can't be trusted to write a prescription drug benefit plan, but can be trusted to tell people who can have children.

(APPLAUSE)

CARLSON: You are avoiding the question. And the question, I think as Winnie Stachelberg in, I thought, a thought a compelling way, it's one of civility. It's one of respecting differences. It's one of not calling people illegitimate or calling them names, because it is a different and legitimate point of view to believe that homosexuality is wrong.

People in this television (UNINTELLIGIBLE) may not believe it, but a lot of people in the world believe it. So don't call them racist...

(APPLAUSE)

BEGALA: To act on that belief is to be prejudiced. You can believe what you like, but when you cross the line and act; and when you act against people because of something they can't control, you are prejudiced.

CARLSON: But I -- of course, you know, I totally agree with that, Paul...

(CROSSTALK)

CARLSON: You are attacking the ideas themselves...

BEGALA: Yes. That's called a debate.

CARLSON: No, no, no, as out of the realm of debate; as beyond the pale. You likened them to racism, which is the one thing in America that nobody accepts. That's an outrageous slander.

(CROSSTALK)

CARLSON: People don't accept it, Paul -- it exists, but people hate it, and they should.

BEGALA: And they should hate homophobia just as much.

Ahead in our "Fireback" segment, it's your turn to weigh in on the Nickelodeon issue, and on prescription drugs, so stay with us..

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BEGALA: Welcome back. Stay tuned to CNN for more on that developing story in the Middle East.

But for right now on CROSSFIRE, it's "Fireback." Every night, every day, all the time you e-mail us, and we love them.

Here's our first one from Ben Hawkinson in Williams Bay, Wisconsin who says: "Why not allow U.S. citizens to purchase cheaper prescription drugs from foreign countries? Wouldn't this drive down the cost of prescription drugs across the board, thereby making them more available for a greater number of Americans?"

In fact, Ben, there's a woman named Shelly Pingry (ph) who's running for the U.S. Senate in Maine who's trying to do just that in her state.

CARLSON: OK, Donna from Clovis writes: "Like it or not, there are a great many people in the world who happen to be gay; and like it or not, your children are at school discussing this topic. I doubt Nickelodeon would put their reputation out there to be crushed if the show wasn't done in good taste."

Donna, the assumption appears to be, if a show is not in good taste, it won't be on television.

I'm not sure, Donna, that...

BEGALA: Donna, welcome to CROSSFIRE.

CARLSON: Exactly.

BEGALA: Just kidding. Very good point though, Tucker.

"Whatever happened to the president's `dead or alive' pledge on bin Laden? This president's short attention span is the number one worry of the world right now. Bush does not bring any situation even close to a conclusion before he's off and running somewhere else. He has no conclusive evidence about Iraq except that Saddam is a bad guy."

Glenn Harbaugh, Sterling Heights, Michigan.

(APPLAUSE)

CARLSON: I must say, Glenn, I think there's pretty compelling evidence he's a pretty bad guy. But there are people out there who support him.

OK, this one to me: "Tucker, do something about your hair. It looks like you just crawled out of bed." Actually, I did. "I'm a hairdresser, and I'd love to cut your hair for free.

Mary Ann from Waldorf. Mary Ann, I'd love to have you cut your hair for free, but I can't. CNN ethics rules preclude that. But thanks for the nice offer.

BEGALA: We could do a segment on it, though. Mary Ann could get the weed whacker out and just...

CARLSON: Only on Fox, Paul.

Yes sir, a question?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, my name is Bill Mann from Portland, Maine, and my question is about your segment on steroids and baseball. Does baseball deserve to be called the national pastime? Isn't this a message that should result in the banning of steroids and mandatory testing, just for the message this is sending?

BEGALA: Absolutely. And I'm a guy -- I'm a big union guy; the union is wrong on this. And, by the way, so are the owners. I mean, everybody is just making money off it, and these poor young men are the ones whose lives are going to be shortened and their health is going to be ruined.

CARLSON: The ones who are making $15 million a year for playing a game.

BEGALA: It will do them a lot of good when they're in a super- size casket...

CARLSON: I mean, people read a lot into baseball as some deep metaphor for America. It's a sport you watch on television.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm Al from Friendship Heights, Maryland. Why shouldn't every American have the right to the same amount of health insurance as their so-called elected representatives in the Congress have?

BEGALA: Great point. That's a great point.

If all the country knew about the great benefits that our employees get -- this is the only place in the world where the bosses get worse health care than the employees. They're the hired help, we ought to get what they get. He's right.

Yes sir?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hi, my name is Lee Wilson (ph) from Houston, Texas. And my question is, the Democrats complain that the Republicans are suspending the vote on the prescription drug plan in order to further pad our pockets by sucking money from the pharmaceutical industry. But isn't an $800 drug plan that they know will not pass just another ploy to gain support in an election year?

CARLSON: Of course. And you know the real tip-off here, there's always, in every Democratic plan, there's always a villain; there's always a bad guy: someone to be vilified and dehumanized. It's an evil tobacco executive; it's an evil automotive executive; it's an evil pharmaceutical executive.

There's also the person to beat up on. It's pathetic, but it happens every year, doesn't it Paul?

BEGALA: As opposed to the conservative story, in which it's government employees who are the ones who get beat up on.

You know what, I think I want my kid to grow up more like firefighters in New York and less like Ken Lay. We just disagree...

CARLSON: And more like a DMV employee...

(CROSSTALK)

BEGALA: ... less like these dirtbag CEOs.

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

CARLSON: From the right, I'm Tucker Carlson.

Join us again tomorrow night for another edition of CROSSFIRE.

TO ORDER A VIDEO OF THIS TRANSCRIPT, PLEASE CALL 800-CNN-NEWS OR USE OUR SECURE ONLINE ORDER FORM LOCATED AT www.fdch.com



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