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Does Court Ruling Open Door For Escapes from Death Row?; Terrorists May Be Targeting Fuel Depots; Pardons Still Spark Controversy

Aired June 21, 2002 - 19:00   ET


ANNOUNCER: On the left, James Carville and Paul Begala. On the right, Robert Novak and Tucker Carlson. In the crossfire tonight: Has the Supreme Court opened the door for criminals trying to escape justice? The court says it's cruel and unusual to execute the mentally retarded. Will the ruling become a dodge for inmates trying to avoid execution?

The FBI is checking out new warnings, including a possible plot to sit Sin City on the Fourth of July. And are terrorists hitting the road, turning fuel trucks into weapons?

What's the easiest way to get close to a politician? Give big money at a party fund-raising event. What's the easiest way to get the vice president's team. Leak security information. It's party time, as we round up the political action. Ahead on CROSSFIRE. From George Washington University, Paul Begala and Robert Novak.

PAUL BEGALA: Welcome to CROSSFIRE. Tonight, the fear factor of terrorism increases as we near the Fourth of July holidays. Rumors of Las Vegas attacks and fuel trucks turned into bombs and even other threats. Also, party time, as the president hits the road to raise a whole lot of special interest money. But we begin with the fall-out from yesterday's Supreme Court ruling on executions and the mentally retarded.

Twenty states allow executing mentally retarded inmates. But the court decided those executions violate the Constitution's ban on cruel and unusual punishment. No one knows how many of the 2,400 people currently on Death Row in those 20 states are mentally disabled. Supporters of the ruling were delighted, praising the court for ending a punishment they call barbaric. But critics of the court's decision, including dissenting Justice Antonin Scalia, say there's no national consensus to ban the execution of the retarded. In the crossfire tonight, Jamie Fellner, director of the U.S. program of Human Rights Watch, and former governor of Virginia and Republican National Committee chairman, Jim Gilmore. Thank you for joining us.

ROBERT NOVAK: Mr. Gilmore, the Supreme Court looks like it's up to its old tricks of finding invisible writing in the Constitution. They legalized abortion; I don't find anything about abortion in the Constitution. They say you couldn't have school prayer; I don't see anything about school prayer in the Constitution. And I am sure the Founding Fathers had no idea that when they were writing about cruel and unusual punishment, they were talking about feeble-minded people who kill other people. This is just making up something that isn't in the Constitution, isn't it? Jamie Fellner?

JAMIE FELLNER, HUMAN RIGHTS WATCH, U.S. DIRECTOR: I'm very sorry. I didn't realize you...

NOVAK: That's right, it was you I was talking to.

FELLNER: I'm sorry. Now the Supreme Court isn't making up anything. It's doing exactly what the Founding Fathers wanted it to do, which is to interpret the Constitution as a living document, to reflect the developing standards of any -- the society in which we live. It's done exactly the right thing in recognizing, as most people in this country recognize, including death penalty supporters, that it is wrong and unjust to kill someone who has the mind of a child. People with mental retardation can commit terrible crimes, and they have. But that doesn't mean that they have the level of culpability which makes the death penalty a proportionate and fair punishment. In fact, it's senseless cruelty.

NOVAK: Isn't what you're up to, Ms. Fellner, the abolition of the death penalty by a salami tactic of the Supreme Court, taking off a little slice here and a little slice there? Trying to get rid of it, when in fact a majority of the people in the United States are in favor of the death penalty.

FELLNER: We certainly oppose the death penalty in all circumstances. But what the Supreme Court has done is recognize, as I said, that even most people who support the death penalty believe that it is wrong to kill someone with the mind of a child. The Supreme Court has an obligation to try and make sure that the actions taken by juries and legislators reflect the standards set by the Constitution. And, you know, when you think about the purposes of the death penalty -- retribution and deterrence -- even those people who support the death penalty would say neither of those purposes are satisfied when you kill somebody who has significant mental impairments.

BEGALA: Governor Gilmore, first let me thank you for taking the time to join us; it's always good to see you again. The argument against this was summed up, I thought, rather neatly by a state senator in your state of Virginia, by the name of John Edwards, who said this morning -- in this morning's "Washington Post," we don't execute children, why should we execute someone with the mind of a child?

JIM GILMORE, FORMER GOVERNOR OF VIRGINIA: Well, you know, Paul, there's a real problem, I think, with this case. And it doesn't recognize what actually happens in many of these cases, or what happened in this case. In this case, the Atkins defendant, with somebody else, kidnapped an enlisted Air Force soldier, airman, took him -- robbed him, held him at gun point. Took him to an ATM machine. Made him take out his money from the ATM machine, and then stole his money there. And then rode him yet to some other place in order to carry out a plan to kill him and shot him eight times. Now, that is below the level of conduct that we, as civilized people, have ever permitted anybody to go. And I think they ask the important thing. We need to remember that the death penalty establishes a floor and says there's some conduct as civilized people that we will not permit. In this instance, we're saying that some people, in fact, can do that. People who have a mental retardation. But there are a lot of problems with this case. How are you going to determine who is mentally retarded enough and who is not mentally retarded enough? People are going to go now on Death Row all across the country and take IQ tests. And I can assure you, they're not going to be staying up all night cramming for those tests, trying to ace it.

BEGALA: Governor, in point of fact, though, what the court said, was that states, and you used to run them, would be able to figure this out. And I don't worry that states all of a sudden are going to open the doors for murderers. I think they'll, in fact, if there's any risk, they will be too stringent, and let too many people with real mental disabilities -- but let me pick up just one point that Ms. Fellner made, and that is the question about deterrence. Those of you who believe in the death penalty, and I do not, believe it deters crime. How in the world can you deter crime against -- by someone, rather, with the mind of a 7-year-old?

GILMORE: Well, I think that it's wrong to begin to say this is a person with a mind of this or that. This person was an adult. There are many safeguards in the criminal justice system already to take care of the so-called person with a mind of a 7-year-old. You can have an insanity defense. You also have to have a question of whether a person, before they ever stand trial, is deemed to be capable of standing trial. Then there are safeguards all up and down the line. The jury is required to consider the mental status of a person. And, but meanwhile, in this situation, we don't really know how you're going to be able to implement this.

There's one more point, Paul, that I want to make. As governor, I was very supportive of mainstreaming people with mental disabilities, mental retardation, to the greatest extent possible. You want people to have the best opportunity in life. This case is going to say to the people of the United States, people who are mentally retarded are not like us. And as a result of that, they may very well be into a position where they're going to be treated with a great deal more suspicion.

FELLNER: Governor, with all due respect, all the associations that represent people with mental retardation and their families, all the professionals in this field, all of those who have worked, as you say you have worked, to try and mainstream and respect the inherent dignity of people with mental retardation, they all have said that the criminal justice system, an in particularly capital punishment, needs to reflect the diminished capability of people of mental retardation. It's not just a question -- let me just finish for a minute.

NOVAK: I want to ask you a question because we're running out of time. Please? Please? In the Washington Post this morning, they say a big door was opening. They quote an Louisiana attorney, Judd Moreau (ph), who said that "they've opened a big door, and there's no way to close it. Mentally retarded according to who?"

FELLNER: That is absolutely ...

NOVAK: Just let me finish. "The justices sent it to the states and said, finish out the rest of it." How do you respond to that, please?

FELLNER: That 18 states have already -- death penalty states have passed legislation prohibiting the execution of the mentally retarded. They know they can figure out ways in which fact-finders can determine whether someone's mentally retarded or not.

GILMORE: But wait a minute, wait a minute. That's all we do in trials now.

FELLNER: It's a red herring to say that the doors are going to be open. Mental retardation can't be faked. It can't suddenly appear when somebody's 50 years old. It can be tested with IQ, adaptive performance and the experience of the person as witnessed by many others. And it has to be shown before someone was 18 or 21. So you can't have someone who was, you know, in graduate school studying physics suddenly saying they're mentally retarded.

GILMORE: But this case -- this case shows the frailty exactly of that kind of argument. The facts of this case show that there was complete cognizance, complete understanding, a plot, a brutal murder of an Air Force enlisted man, the stealing of his money, the carrying out of a complete plan.

FELLNER: What this case...

GILMORE: This very case just shows that that ...

BEGALA: We're out of time, ladies and gentlemen. Thank you very much, Governor. Thank you very much, Ms. Fellner.

Will the Fourth of July be the wrong kind of explosive celebration? Next, the FBI is checking out new threats against the U.S., including what a man thinks he heard about Las Vegas on his cell phone.

And later, will Tom Ridge win the name game to run the new Department of Homeland Security? Also, our quote of the day: Saying yes after saying no. Not a lot happened to change this guy's mind.


NOVAK: The FBI is running down leads on a number of new terror threats. A businessman in Las Vegas says he heard a cell phone conversation he thinks targets the town for an attack on the Fourth of July. That's less than two weeks away. The agency is also issuing an advisory warning terrorists may want to use fuel trucks to attack U.S. targets, including Jewish schools and synagogues. Do all those warnings still scare people? Should they scare them? In the crossfire, CNN security analyst Kelly McCann. Thank you for joining us. BEGALA: Let me ask you about the Justice Department warning today. And a great critic of the Justice Department, the attorney general. I think he did the right thing today. I applaud this. It's specific enough that people can try to act on it or at least be on the alert. What should we be doing to look out for fuel trucks driven by terrorists?

KELLY MCCANN, CNN SECURITY ANALYST: Well, of the course the fact that it came from the detainees in Guantanamo is significant. Because basically, in the interrogation process, they're talking about all that they might do. So, now, as a responsible element of the U.S. government, they are compelled to tell people that this is a potential threat. Same as the SCUBA threat. That didn't mean that we had frog men in the Potomac the next day; it just means that it's possible that that could be a methodology used by them. So the average citizen should still be aware of unusual things that stand out and then, you know, report adequately in a common sense fashion, unemotionally, qualifying it with, this may be nothing but this is what I saw. And let the system sort it out.

NOVAK: The threat to Las Vegas, Kelly, didn't come from a detainee. It came to some guy who says he heard it and he understands Arabic. How much he heard, how much is the imagination? What do you think of the whole idea of taking what I would call a low-grade level of intelligence and putting it out to CNN so it's a big story all day long? Is that a good idea?

MCCANN: It's not a good idea. And what I'll say about that, Bob, is technically speaking, the first question that will be asked by the FBI tech guys is what kind of phone was involved? Because, depending on the phone, there are significant bleed-over issues. Okay? In signal intelligence talk. They will ferret out the validity of this thing. But just like the news industry, you would never run a story without corroboration, without substantiation. Nor should we find anything actionable on one source, on someone who just pops up.

NOVAK: So that's a mistake, to put that out.

MCCANN: I think that they're erring on the side of caution, of safety, but yes.

BEGALA: Let me ask you about something else that was in the news. As someone who used to work at the White House, it sent chills through my spine. A Cessna small plane, a private plane, was within minutes of potentially striking the White House, within the air space. And it turns out there was not an F-16 close enough in time, God forbid had it been necessary, to shoot it down. Do we need 24/7 air patrols in Washington?

MCCANN: The CAP issue -- the CAP is there, Combat Air Patrol, okay? However, what it does is not understood by most. If in the event that something did look like it was heading towards the capitol, the capitol is the issue. That plan still could be forced down into your house, my house, your house, whatever. It's not meant to protect us; it's meant to protect institutions and the government. Having said that, we're still struggling with an issue. My personal experience, I flew from Seattle to Washington last week.

Five minutes out of D.C., after having being warned five times not to get out of your seat, someone stood up and walked back to the bathroom, unchallenged. All the passengers were looking at each other. The stewards, then, stood by his seat; he was allowed to sit down and he was chastised. But what would have happened if someone had stood up and cold-cocked this guy? Who would have been in trouble? Is it a rule, or is it not a rule? At what point do we start enforcing these kinds of ...

BEGALA: Well, you're supposed to divert ...

MCCANN: We were supposed to go to divert to Dulles. In this case we were going to Nashville; we were supposed to go to Dulles. They didn't.

NOVAK: But isn't that a stupid rule? You know, I fly the shuttle to New York frequently. The shuttle to New York almost always takes an hour. They say it's 35 minutes. It isn't. It's an hour. Because of landing. They don't let anybody go to the bathroom for an hour. Because you give the air pilots and the stewardesses a little rule of a half hour and they double it. But isn't that a stupid rule in the first place?

MCCANN: It's a rule. And rules should be enforced. Now whether it's smart or not, I think there are better ways to do it. I think that an RF system that limits the time that it would take for a steward or stewardess to grab a phone, call the cockpit, say something's going on, should be replaced with a panic button. So LED or a siren -- And the pilot immediately knows something's wrong. Right now, there's a time lag. And if everyone here would think about it, the time it would take you to run from mid plane to that door is too small. And it is easily vulnerable. So there's big issues.

BEGALA: There's another issue that Congress is wrestling with. The Bush Administration has decided they don't think it's a good idea for civilian aircraft pilots to be armed. I think it's a very good idea, so long as they get sufficient training. I like the idea of the last line of defense, behind the fortified door, if God forbid somehow terrorists would breech that door, he would be met with a gun. Why shouldn't we arm our pilots?

MCCANN: You said it first, training. I'm very familiar with, obviously, and make a fair part of my living with guns. However, I also understand the importance of training. That particular thing requires confined space shooting, which is a very technical, difficult thing to do. Techniques like -- without pushing away from this table, to turn and shoot accurately, under duress with the physiological effects of imminent danger present, is significantly different than qualifying.

And the argument that these guys were former Navy men or -- I spent time in the military, and I know what qualification is about. Qualification is not training. So it goes to training. Now another personal experience, we were contacted by a major carrier to provide in-air intervention techniques to stewards and stewardesses. For that, they allowed 30 minutes. We didn't do the job. Thirty minutes. What can you ...

BEGALA: Thirty minutes of training?

MCCANN: Thirty minutes of training. You're supposed to be able to fend off Al Qaeda guys running down the aisle. I mean ...

BEGALA: Al Qaeda's giving it more than 30 minutes.

NOVAK: We're almost out of time. But I want Kelly to concede that there's not enough air marshals to be on every plane. That this can't be -- it can't happen. We can't have that many, can we?

MCCANN: It goes to the bottom line. You're right. And at the precise time that money is an issue and that airliners are going broke, we're asking them to add training, add layers. I agree.

BEGALA: Kelly McCann, CNN security expert. Thank you very much for joining us. I always appreciate it.

Still to come, a president, a vice president and $100 million in special interest fund-raising dollars.

Then, CROSSFIRE's "political alert," the war between the White House and "Esquire" Magazine spills over onto the pages of the "New York Times."

And later, our quote of the day. It sounds like a good idea now, so why didn't he like it in the first place? Stay with us.

BEGALA: Time, now, for the quote of the day. In the closing days of his administration, President Clinton spelled out a comprehensive plan for peace in the Middle East. In it, Palestinians would set up a state in the West Bank in the Gaza Strip and gain sovereignty over the Arab sections of Jerusalem. Palestinians would pull back on their call to allow millions of Palestinian refugees the right to return to their original homes in what's now Israel. Israel, in its part, would recognize Palestine as a state, the legitimate homeland of the Palestinian people.

At the time, Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat expressed reservations, and an historic chance for peace was lost. But now, a year and a half later, Arafat -- is he trying to say yes? According to an Israeli newspaper, Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat is now saying he thinks the Clinton plan is a good deal. He gets our quote of the day, saying, "I am prepared to accept it, absolutely."

NOVAK: It's a little late.

BEGALA: A day late and a couple of dollars short.

NOVAK: I will say this: There's a lot of revisionist history goes on, because he never -- Arafat never rejected it. He said he had reservations. And so it was just hanging out there, and then Prime Minister Barak got defeated by General Sharon in the election, and it was pulled right off the table. So it -- there was never -- there was never a rejection. I know, it's easy to say he rejected it, and that's ...

BEGALA: He said he had reservations. That's what I said. But then, after the peace talks collapsed in Taba, after Camp David, in January of 2001, he began the current terrorism. Arafat ordered up that terror ...

NOVAK: I don't know if he began it, because it all started when Sharon showed up at the Temple Mount. But that's another story. We can't ...

BEGALA: We can debate that later.

NOVAK: OK. Next in a CNN "news alert," big tobacco loses big in a court case in tobacco country. Later, in our CROSSFIRE political alert: a self-appointed peace envoy says he's ready to help India and Pakistan. But will they listen? Wait till you hear who it is.

And then, we'll square off in our political roundup.


NOVAK: Welcome back to CROSSFIRE.

It's time for a look at those unusual and interesting stories that you might not find anywhere but in our CROSSFIRE "Political Alert."

It had seen -- it had seemed that India and Pakistan had avoided a nuclear confrontation. But, wait, the Reverend Al Sharpton is off for the subcontinent. And if anybody can stir up trouble, it's the New York city rebel-rouser. Actually, this time, the Reverend Al is preaching peace, not war, saying he's a devoted follower of Gandhi and wants to bring peace to the homeland of the great advocate of non- violence.

It's all part of Al Sharpton's campaign for the Democratic presidential nomination. But Al may find he isn't in Harlem anymore. The editor-in-chief of the "Indian Express" predicts Sharpton will have a hard time finding anybody who will talk to him. Al, you better try New Hampshire first.

BEGALA: Or CROSSFIRE. Come on here, Reverend Al.

A few weeks ago, White House chief of staff Andy Card was quoted in "Esquire" magazine, saying President Bush was in denial and that Karl Rove was a right-wing beast. Card's words, not mine. Other Bush aides said Karen Hughes actually makes one-fifth of all of Bush's decisions for him, and that Hughes, quote, "literally manufactures Bush."

This week, Card told the "New York Times" he doesn't think he said some of the things in the article. Esquire's editor-in-chief, David Granger, fired back today in a letter to the "New York Times" defending the article's author, Pulitzer prize winner Ron Suskeim (ph), and calling the attempt by the White House to besmirch his reputation scurrilous. You can read all the quotes you want. The White House doesn't want you to see them in the current issue of "Esquire."

NOVAK: You know, I was disappointed in Andy Card because everybody else at the White House thinks he said those things.

BEGALA: Well, of course, he didn't get misquoted 16 times.

NOVAK: Congress closed shop early yesterday. Nobody really missed the lawmakers, but they wanted to participate in something constructive, the annual congressional baseball game, Republicans versus Democrats. The Republicans almost always win this game easily. But this time, Democrats were thought to have a chance because the ace Republican pitcher, the former NFL football great Steve Largent, has resigned from Congress to run for governor of Oklahoma.

No matter. Congressman John Shimkus of Illinois replaced Largent and pitched the GOP to an easy 9-2 victory. Adam Putnam of Florida, and at age 27, the youngest member of the House, was a pinch runner and promptly stole two bases. Now, nobody outside their districts had ever heard of John Shimkus or Adam Putnam before. Maybe this will be the start of something big for them.

BEGALA: Test them for steroids, that's what I say.

In other sports news, Germany beat the United States this morning in World Cup soccer by a score of 1 to nil. No, I don't care, either. How can you, though, get very interested in a sport that has a score like 1 to nil? The Germans clearly care, and to celebrate, they intend to invade Poland.

But don't despair, America. Germany wins the World Cups. America wins the World Wars. But if you want to see a real winner, tune in tomorrow as my mighty Texas Longhorns -- here they are on my tie -- play for the championship game of the College World Series. Batter up.

Canada's not as boring as some of the people up there think, eh? Well, we'll tell you all about it when CROSSFIRE returns.

And then Bob and I go at it mano y mano in "Round Six." And you get to take your best shot at us in our "Fireback" segment. Stay with us.


NOVAK: There's lots going on in the political world, from the vice president's disapproval of the leaks coming out of Congress to figuring out who will run on the cabinet-level Department of Homeland Security, and the president and vice president raising more than $100 million for the GOP. In the CROSSFIRE, Democratic consultant Peter Fenn and Terry Jeffrey, editor of "Human Events."


BEGALA: I thank you both for joining us on a beautiful Friday night. Terry, as Bob pointed out, our president today passed the $100 million mark in special interest fundraising. Now, I say at one level, good for him. He is the leader of his party, as well as the leader of our country. That's part of his job. I don't begrudge that.

But one of the things he does when he raises money is he flies out there, as he must, on Air Force One. Invariably, the White House lays on a phony baloney photo-op and then charges the taxpayers for about half of that cost. I know about this because Republicans tried to pass legislation in the '90s to stop President Clinton from doing it. Shouldn't at least congressmen, like Lindsey Graham and Saxby Chambliss, who voted to ban that act, not be the beneficiaries of Bush raising money that same way?

TERRY JEFFREY, "HUMAN EVENTS": (UNINTELLIGIBLE) more when terrorists are targeting our citizens. And I think if we need the president to fly on Air Force One, the taxpayers are going to have to pick that up.

BEGALA: Contributors could pick it up.

JEFFREY: Let me tell you about the special interests that's contributing all this money to the Republican Party that you don't like. That special interest are people thousands and thousands of people, who want to remove Tom Daschle as Senate majority leader. That's why all this money is flowing in there. You got to change the majority in the Senate.

BEGALA: But they could, with all that money, pay for bringing him out there. He must be on Air Force One. He has got to have all the security in the world, and I think that's wonderful. But it's hypocritical for Lindsey Graham, for Saxby Chambliss, to say it was wrong for Clinton to split the cost between his donors and the taxpayers, and then praise Bush and take the money when Bush does it. Isn't that hypocrisy (UNINTELLIGIBLE)?

JEFFREY: Good enough. I don't care. Make both parties pay for when they have a president in office and he's incurring political costs.


PETER FENN, DEMOCRATIC CONSULTANT: I like this debate myself.

NOVAK: Peter Fenn, I want to show you something that even you won't be able to believe. On Thursday, your minority leader and the House representative, Dick Gephardt, was very upset because of some procedural question on how they were handling the referral of the trade bill to a conference committee, very tactical. Let's look at what Dick Gephardt said.


REP. RICHARD GEPHARDT (D-MO), MINORITY LEADER: This is the end of democracy in the House. And we're going to fight this with everything we have. I've said to Democrats, you should not vote for this rule. There's no earthly reason. We can all disagree on trade. But we all ought to be able to agree that the House ought to work its will, that everybody ought to have a say, and that we ought to have a normal, reasonable process. I mean, if this stands, then we're losing democracy in the United States.


NOVAK: Losing democracy in the United States. We had, Mark Shields and I, had the speaker of the House, Dennis Hastert on today. It's going to be on "NOVAK, HUNT & SHIELDS" show...

FENN: That's a plug, isn't it?

NOVAK: That's a plug. Tomorrow at 5:30 p.m. for the whole interview. But we showed him that soundbite and we asked Mr. Speaker what he thought of that. Let's listen to what he said.


REP. DENNIS HASTERT (R-IL), HOUSE SPEAKER: You know, democracy is getting together, sorting out the problems and going to compromise. So, I think the minority leader was a little overagitated. He must have had some bad bean soup that day.


NOVAK: That does -- I mean, don't you -- can't you calm Dick down? He's more sensible than that.

FENN: Look, I think one of the things that he is so upset about is the Republicans have a six-seat majority over there. Only six seats. Now, hopefully, next November, we're going to take care of that and they'll be out of the majority. But they're running this thing like a dictatorship. They're running the House of Representatives...

JEFFREY: No, no, no, no, no, come on.

FENN: They ought to have a vote. They ought to have a vote on fast track. They ought to have a vote. They ought to be able to do this without trying to control it.

You want to see a dictatorship? Look at Senator Daschle's Senate. The House of Representatives passed a complete ban on cloning by a 100-vote majority. Tom Daschle won't let it come up in the Senate unless you get a 60 vote close to get rid of cloture. The House voted to eliminate the death tax. Can't come up in the Senate without 60 votes.


JEFFREY: Tom Daschle is the guy who is standing in the way of the will of the people of the country today, because he doesn't want majority rule.

FENN: Are you against 60 senators? Are you against the filibuster rule? Are you against the way the Senate is run? JEFFREY: I'll tell you what it shows. It shows that Tom Daschle and the Senate Democrats are against what the majority of the American people want.


NOVAK: I just wanted to ask you one thing. Were you not around for the -- I guess you're a younger guy than I am. Everybody's younger than I am. But were you around right around for the 40 years when the Democrats were in control of the House and they wouldn't even let -- they wouldn't let them vote on anything? You remember that?

FENN: We had all kinds of votes. We had votes all the time. But now, we have to get discharge petitions to get things out like campaign finance reform. And finally, finally...


FENN: ... they were able to vote on campaign finance reform. But still, we have our commander-in-chief, our vacuum cleaner in chief down there making $100 million.

JEFFREY: Tell this to all the Federal Appeals Court judges like Miguel Estrada and Priscilla Owen...

FENN: We're going to talk about judges?

JEFFREY: ... that Patrick Leahy and Tom Daschle won't even let come up for a hearing in the Senate Judiciary Committee.

BEGALA: One of the gripes I have against my friends the Democrats who are on the Senate is that they have actually approved 57 judges for Bush, which are 57 too many for me.

JEFFREY: Come on, Paul.

BEGALA: But let me ask you about one member of the Senate...

FENN: Especially compared to the way that Trent Lott ran that Senate, wouldn't have approved any of Clinton's judges.


JEFFREY: ... except one.

BEGALA: Let me ask you to prove that you're a big and decent man that I know you are, and I'll show you a quote that you said. I'll put it up on the board and read it to you. You said: "What Hillary Clinton essentially said in these New Square pardons is, 'I didn't inhale,' and I don't think anybody believes her." This week, the U.S. attorney cleared Senator Clinton and her husband of any and all charges in that. It's a good time to apologize, like the man you are. Show me the man you are.

JEFFREY: I'm not going to apologize, Paul. Let me give you the quote that Bill Clinton made that this reminds me of. March 7, 1997, where the big issue was whether the Communist government of China had illegally funneled money into Bill Clinton's reelection campaign. Bill Clinton said, I quote: "I don't believe you can find any evidence of the fact that I had changed government policy solely because of a contribution." Leaving open the interpretation if he only changed it 50 percent because of the contribution, even if I did that, you're not going to find evidence that I did.

BEGALA: You slam an innocent person. She's found innocent by the legal system, and you're not man enough to say, look, I'm sorry?

JEFFREY: I believe that Bill Clinton's pardons were corrupt on their face.


JEFFREY: I do not believe that Bill Clinton was dumb enough to create evidence of an explicit quid pro quo which would be needed in a court for bribery.

FENN: Give me a break. Give me a break.

JEFFREY: Give me an argument of statesmanship and national interest that explains why (UNINTELLIGIBLE)?

FENN: I don't have enough fingers or toes to count the number of exonerations we're seeing of the Clintons. You know, it's gone from the ridiculous to the sublime. Millions of dollars spent on all these investigations, and nothing. Nothing on Whitewater. Some of these folks he's responsible for Vince Foster's death? You know, we're going...


FENN: I can make the list. And (UNINTELLIGIBLE). Let me just make this one final point. History is going to be the judge on this.

JEFFREY: It sure will.

FENN: History will be the judge, and you know something?


FENN: History will come down and say, these were the most ridiculous investigations that have ever been conducted in this country, and...


JEFFREY: You believe -- you can look me in the eye...

FENN: ... disgraceful what we did.

JEFFREY: You think that there is a statesman-like argument where Marc Rich is pardoned in the early hours of the morning before Bill Clinton leaves office? That was an act of statesmanship? FENN: Listen, let me tell you something. Agree or disagree with the pardon, you can make substantive arguments on either side for these pardons. Pardons are not for the Mother Teresas, right? I mean, you know, these people are being pardoned for a reason.


FENN: I'm not going to argue that...


NOVAK: I want to bring up one more thing before we kick you guys off, and that is that one of the cheapest things (UNINTELLIGIBLE) in a long time is that to try to -- when you're worried about your opponent, you get him off the ballot. In Massachusetts, the Democrats are worried about Mitt Romney, and so they're trying to get him off the ballot. But I -- just a minute, just a minute -- I want to bring in a witness.

I want to bring in a witness named Barney Frank, Democrat of Massachusetts. We're going to put him up there. He says: "Party shouldn't be keeping people off ballots. It also transforms Romney from the guy who did wrong into the victim." You disagree with that?

FENN: You usually disagree with Barney Frank. I usually agree with him. But in this case I don't, and I'll tell you why.

NOVAK: I bet you don't.

FENN: I'll tell you why. I'll tell you why. This is a guy who is thinking of running for office in Utah and Massachusetts. There's a clear law that says seven years residency in Massachusetts. Now...

NOVAK: He never was thinking about running in Utah. That's not true.

FENN: I don't know about you -- oh, well, I don't know about you...

NOVAK: Not true! You made it up!

FENN: Let me just make this point -- $54,000 little tax exemption. Oh, I missed it. I signed this without reading it. I'll tell you, Jerry (ph) -- Terry -- if you found that you made 54,000 bucks, would you notice it? I think so.

NOVAK: He was never thinking of running in Utah. You just made that up.

FENN: I made it up? I didn't make that up.

NOVAK: Shame on you. Shame on you.


BEGALA: I want to thank Terry Jeffrey from "Human Events," and I want to thank Peter Fenn, Democratic strategist, both for joining us tonight.

BEGALA: You know, if you ever watch this show and think, you know, I could do better than those bozos, well, guess what, your chance is coming up. We call it "Fireback," so warm up your laptops and fire away those e-mails.

But before you take your potshots at us, I have a few to take at Bob. Watch (UNINTELLIGIBLE) when CROSSFIRE returns.


NOVAK: Welcome back. It's "Round 6," just me versus Paul.

Paul, I was watching the House of Representatives this afternoon, and you found the worst kind of Democratic demagoguery. They were attacking American businessmen, trying to avoid this terrible tax system we have, they're going to Bermuda. Number one, it's within the law. Number two, if you don't like it, change the system that we have now, which penalizes success in America.

BEGALA: What we're trying to do is change the law so that these billionaire Benedict Arnolds can't continue to be traitors to their country. We are at war, and you know, they always tell us when we're kids in school, freedom isn't free. You know, some of us believe that. And so there are young people off fighting and risking their lives for our freedom. These guys won't even pay the taxes that feed and shelter and house and train those troops. Shame on them.

NOVAK: To put that as a matter of patriotism is just unconscionable on your part, Paul. I think better of you for that. These are good Americans. They just are sick of the terrible tax system we have today. And if you made enough money, you'd be sick of it too.

BEGALA: You know what? I don't ever resent paying my taxes. It's the prices we pay for a civilized society. And these guys are traitors, that's what they are. Traitors in a time of war, to turn their back on the money that they owe their government for the freedom that they protect.

NOVAK: That's (UNINTELLIGIBLE). It's not only not a treason, which is a terrible crime, but it's not even against the law.

BEGALA: It ought to be. They're trying to change it.

NOVAK: I would say the way we ought to do it is get rid of the income tax system, get a fair system where we have a sales tax, and you won't have this kind of problem at all. You won't have to worry about Bermuda.

BEGALA: Soak the poor, that's the Novak strategy. No, I think rich people...

NOVAK: Soak everybody.

BEGALA: ... pay their fair share, pay their stupid taxes and just support their country in a time of war. I don't know why that is so hard. When other Americans are sending their sons and their daughters -- there are very few sons and daughters of CEOs over there right now, Bob.

NOVAK: That's the demagoguery that the Democratic National Committee...

BEGALA: It's called patriotism.

NOVAK: ... is being put out, and it's not going to work, because the people out there know what a lousy tax system this is, and they wish they could get it off their backs as well.

BEGALA: You know what? Nobody likes the tax system, but they don't have a right to cheat the government out of the money that keeps us free. Shame on those guys, Bob.

When we return, one of our viewers has some rather pointed observations about the angelic and demonic attributes of your humble hosts. Stay with us.


NOVAK: It's time for "Fireback," when the viewers fire back at us. The other night, I made a comment about how boring it was to be from Canada, and all the Canadians are sending in e-mails. Here's one from Lars Kushner of Victoria, British Columbia. He says: "Look, Novak, up here in Canada, we may not have a McDonald's on every corner and a presidential scandal every week to entertain us, but we are certainly not bored to death. In fact, we usually go outside for entertainment. I know going outdoors may be a hard concept for people like you in your smog-filled cities to understand, but at least one in three Canadians isn't obese."

You know, Lars, it is a question of when all those people from Canada get so excited about my comment, it shows that they really are bored. And you know, most -- they should be complicated (ph) -- most Americans disregard Canada. I at least gave you a comment.

BEGALA: The next e-mail is from Deborah Coleman in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. She wrote in about a comment I made yesterday, one of my rare times I praised President Bush. He was hosting an athletic event, a fitness expo on the White House lawn. I said it was great, and here's what Deborah says: "You're correct, Mr. Begala, President Bush is at his best when he's promoting exercise, hosting t-ball tournaments and entertaining foreign dignitaries. He would make an excellent first lady."

Deborah, I know Hillary Clinton. Hillary Clinton is a friend of mine. George is no Hillary Clinton.

NOVAK: OK. Next one is from Paul Birch of Brattleboro, Vermont -- they got good skiing in Brattleboro. "Would Mr. Novak complain if President Bush declared him an enemy combatant and locked him up indefinitely without any due process? President Nixon would have loved to apply this theory to his enemies list. Civil liberties protect all of us, guilty and innocent alike."

You know, Paul, you're from the People's Republic of Vermont, so I give you a pass. But as a matter of fact, you don't understand. There's no chance I'm going to be an enemy combatant. It is the enemies of our country who get locked up. Not even somebody as obnoxious as Paul.

BEGALA: Well, if they ever made being obnoxious a crime, I'm done for.

Here's our last e-mail from David Whiteford in San Antonio. "I'm somewhat amused by the fact that James Carville and Bob Novak look like different manifestations of the Devil, while Tucker Carlson and Paul Begala look more angelic. When setting up the new CROSSFIRE format, was this intentionally done to give those belonging to each political persuasion both a villain and a hero?"

NOVAK: Am I the Prince of Darkness?

BEGALA: I don't know. I think they're both lovely, handsome men.

NOVAK: Question, please, from the audience.

NAGMANA MALIK (ph): Hi, my name is Nagmana Malik (ph), I'm from Cleveland, Ohio. My question is regarding the Supreme Court ruling. Would the -- the next step would be to put on trial kids who are 7 years old, with a 20-year-old mind? Would they be having the same laws or same punishment as a 21-year-old?

NOVAK: Yeah, that's a good point. The problem we have is that the Supreme Court is not a legislator. It's supposed to interpret the laws. And when you have the Supreme Court ruling saying we see a mood in the country and we're going to reflect it, that's not what judges are supposed to do.

BEGALA: In my state of Texas, they executed two retarded men when George W. Bush was governor, and that was a shock and a shame and a disgrace, and I'm glad it's over.

NOVAK: Bill Clinton executed one in Arkansas, too.

BEGALA: He was not retarded.


BEGALA: Yes, ma'am. Go ahead.

MAUREEN KANE (ph): Hi, Maureen Kane (ph), from Richmond, Virginia. As a former special education teacher, how does a state determine what level of understanding each individual has of the nature of their crime when it takes years to teach specially- challenged persons the difference between right and wrong?

BEGALA: The states, according to the Supreme Court, will have to make that decision themselves. And I guess I just don't worry that states are going to be too lenient with people. These are people who have all committed crimes. The question is whether they are culpable enough mentally to be punished.

NOVAK: You just don't like capital punishment.

BEGALA: I don't like it in any case, but particularly not for retarded people.

NOVAK: So, be honest.

BEGALA: I'm always honest. You don't have to worry about that.

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

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


Terrorists May Be Targeting Fuel Depots; Pardons Still Spark Controversy>



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