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What Will Bush Do About Corporate Corruption?; Should the Bush Twins be Off Limits to the Press?; MADD Pushes for New Measures

Aired June 28, 2002 - 19:00   ET


ANNOUNCER: CROSSFIRE. On the left, James Carville and Paul Begala. On the right, Robert Novak and Tucker Carlson. In the "Crossfire" tonight, scandals and score cards.


GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: And there's a higher calling than trying to fudge the numbers.


ANNOUNCER: Tonight from the pledge to schools to Congress to political winners and losers.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The bill is a terrible bill. It's a sham.


ANNOUNCER: It's almost time for fireworks, cookouts, 4th of July beer. Is it also time for checkpoints, tougher laws and higher beer taxes? People who are fighting mad, ahead on CROSSFIRE.

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

TUCKER CARLSON, HOST: Good evening and welcome to CROSSFIRE. Tonight, dragging the names of private citizens through the gossip columns simply because two of those citizens happen to be named Bush.

Also we pledge to diagnose this week's political winners and losers. But first, get the tourniquet. It's time for a news injection. Here comes the CROSSFIRE political alert.

President Bush has announced that he will undergo sedation tomorrow at Camp David for a colonoscopy. As he left the White House a few hours ago, the president reassured the company he feels great and is having no troublesome signs or symptoms. It's just that his doctors recommend the procedure because benign polyps have been found during previous checkups.

While the president is under, Vice President Dick Cheney will be running the country, at least for a little while.


GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We're at war - we're at war, and I just want to, you know, be super - you know, super cautious. And I informed the vice president of this and he's fully prepared to - he's standing by. He'll realize he's not going to be president that long.


CARLSON: In a rare moment of agreement with Katie Couric, President Bush is urging all Americans to take good care of their health and get regular medical checkups, even embarrassing ones.

PAUL BEGALA, HOST: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) Bush hands power to Cheney. Didn't he do that in January of 2001? What's the news here?

Tourists at the U.S. Capitol got some extra excitement this afternoon. Fire trucks roared up and everyone was chased out of the building when someone on the House side of the Capitol thought they smelled smoke. It was only a false alarm - a false alarm - thank goodness, no smoke, no fire, just dust on a fan that had created a bad smell.

Things are always hitting the fan on Capitol Hill. But not to worry, Congress this week purchased itself 25,000 gas masks in case of a chemical or biological attack, but what about the rest of us here in Washington and around the country? Congress' message seems to be clear. It is don't worry, all is well, go about your business.

CARLSON: Paul, you look better than you ever have.

BEGALA: Only in Congress.

CARLSON: I like the muzzle, then again that smoky smell may have come from critics of FBI Director Robert Mueller. They're smoldering because he agreed to deliver the keynote speech at a gathering of the American Muslim Council. One of the Council's founders has ties to Hezbollah and Hamas. Mueller used the speech to thank American Muslims for their help in the wake of September 11 attacks.

Mueller also announced a new effort to build cooperation between the FBI and the Muslim community. Starting next month, new agents will receive four hours of instruction on the tenets and culture of Islam. That's in addition to the usual instructions on the tenets and culture of bureaucratic in-fighting, secret-keeping and ignoring vitally important memos from subordinates.

BEGALA: Today's news that Xerox may have cooked its books to the tune of $2 billion puts the Bush administration in a bit of a bind. The chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission, Harvey Pitt, was a lawyer lobbyist for Xerox's auditing firm, KPMG.

Pitt also represented the convicted felons of Arthur Andersen who so impressed Dick Cheney when they were the chefs sauteing his books over Halliburton that Cheney actually appeared in a video praising Andersen for going - quote - "over and above just the sort of normal by the books auditing arrangement".

Just how far over and above the books, we may never know. After all, Harvey Pitt is the man in charge of investigating.

CARLSON: Democrats can't get out of bed in the morning without a villain to blame. What does it take to get tossed out of the Green Party?

Gubernatorial candidate Jonathan Adler found out recently when he was found guilty of possessing more than 50 marijuana plants. Adler had been running for governor of Hawaii on the Green ticket. After his conviction, he was forced to change his affiliation to the apparently more tolerant Natural Law Party.

The switch caused some confusion in the already confused third party community. Adler himself was said to be particularly baffled, adding that he was merely fulfilling what he thought was a basic requirement of Green Party membership, acquiring one marijuana plant for every year of life.

BEGALA: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) chemical seems to be the leitmotif of tonight's show. Next we will throw all of the week's events on the table and pick the winners and the losers.

And later, a "Washington Post" gossip columnist tries to get the president's daughters in trouble again. We'll ask him why he won't just leave those girls alone.


BEGALA: Welcome back to CROSSFIRE. Still ahead, that "Washington Post" columnist who's been gossiping about our president's daughters. But first, what a week in politics this was. So much for the lazy hazy days of summer I guess.

This week alone we saw a Republican judge rule that "one nation under God" violates the Constitution. We saw courageous congressmen of both parties rushing to defend the pledge of allegiance from Satan's minions. The Supreme Court said that taxpayers' funds can be used at religious schools in the form of school vouchers.

House Republicans passed their Medicare prescription drug plan, which House Democrats denounced as a giveaway to big insurance companies, but which big insurance companies said was fine with them. President Bush said that the Palestinians must have free elections, but cannot have Yasser Arafat as their leader. And the markets were rocked by WorldCom, Xerox and Martha Stewart.

All this political news is, for us at CROSSFIRE, a good thing. To help us pick the winners and losers of the week, please welcome to CROSSFIRE Democratic Consultant Bob Beckel, Republican Consultant Ed Rogers.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Paul, how are you?

ED ROGERS, REPUBLICAN CONSULTANT: I saw you in Paris last week ...


CARLSON: Paul was in Paris last week.

Mr. Beckel, thanks for joining us on winners and losers. The big loser is the Democrats. Why? Prescription drug plan passed in the House. This is the Democratic nightmare, obviously because it takes away a key campaign issue. But they're ignoring it.

I want to read you a quote from Congressman Ed Markey of Massachusetts. You know Republicans always accuse Democrats of trying to fight ...


BOB BECKEL, DEMOCRATIC CONSULTANT: Would you step it up so I don't fall asleep?


CARLSON: ... he comes out and says it. Settle down, Bob. Quote - "watch out, grandma, GOP now stands for get old people. That's the strategy right there, scaring old people. That's pathetic. Are you embarrassed ...

BECKEL: Nothing pathetic about it. I mean we've been doing it for years. It works. The - I remember my mother, before she died, she used to call me up every day, two days before an election, every election she'd say, Bob, am I going to get my social security check and I said on Wednesday, you will. You know the thing about this Republican prescription -- it's not a prescription drug plan.

It is -- it's something to take care of people a little bit here and a little bit of the back end and there's a $2,000 gig in the middle. And it's typical of Republicans, you dress it all up. You know you all have never run across an old person that's not rich that you've ever thought much about.

ROGERS: It is more money than what Gore advocated during his campaign and in Washington, where you measure quality or commitment by the price tag, the $350 billion Republican plan is considered infinitely inferior to the $800 billion Democratic plan.


BEGALA: ... Ed Rogers, where does it go? The Republican plan takes that money, gives it to ...

(CROSSTALK) BEGALA: ... let me finish the question first ...

ROGERS: Forty-four percent ...

BEGALA: ... it goes to big insurance companies ...


BEGALA: ... instead of Medicare. The core difference here is Democrats believe we should subsidize Medicare, which is ...

ROGERS: Everybody - everybody ...

BEGALA: ... and Republicans believe we should subsidize insurance companies, right?


ROGERS: Subsidize ...

BEGALA: Why give that money to big insurance companies?

ROGERS: ... those that need it.

BEGALA: Big insurance companies need it?

ROGERS: And you give - and the Democrat plan gives money to everybody, which is typical.

BECKEL: Let me ask you a question, you country club boys. The - do you think you ever would have come up with a prescription drug plan if the Democrats hadn't pushed it?

CARLSON: But Bob, let me ask ...


BECKEL: Would you have come up with it?

CARLSON: ... you - actually Bob, Bob ...

BECKEL: You wouldn't have come up with it. They're playing catch-up like they always are.

CARLSON: Bob, the fact is that a prescription drug plan has been passed in the House ...


CARLSON: ... but it will not get through the Senate, will it?


CARLSON: Democrats will kill it ...

BECKEL: It will not happen. CARLSON: ... because they want, in November, to say to old people, look, Republicans hate you.


ROGERS: If it's - if it's October ...


ROGERS: ... of an evened numbered year ...


ROGERS: ... commercials of Democrats scaring the Democrats.

BECKEL: Are you finished?

BEGALA: Here are the rules. One at a time. Bob, answer the question.

BECKEL: The answer is simply this, there'll be a prescription benefit plan because Democrats are not going to the polls without having one. And Republicans -- there's not a politician in this country who's going to go and not have a prescription drug plan to talk about.

You say the difference is in price, 350 billion to $800 billion. You know we like to spend money on people. It's a good thing to do. And if you put our $800 billion up against your $350 billion, what it's going to turn out to be is just like Paul said, you're going reward the big insurance companies who contribute all that money to you and Bush, and then you know we're going to try to give people actual prescription drugs.

BEGALA: Let me move on to the next topic ...


BEGALA: ... which is the economy, right? There's a new poll out this week that I want to show you Ed and you can read polls with the best of them. The PEW Research Organization (ph) asked American citizens how President Bush is doing handling our economic conditions. They asked first, is he doing as much as he can or could he be doing more?

Nearly two to one, our fellow Americans say that Bush could be doing more to try to help the economy, and I presume that's also to rein in corporate excesses. This is terrible news for the Republicans, isn't it Ed?

ROGERS: Well by any standard President Bush's popularity and approval rating right now is historically and colossally high.

If you find satisfaction in slicing and dicing a poll and finding something that suggests that he's not doing as much as he can on the economy, when he's fighting the war on terrorism and doing a lot of things that personally threaten people, that people consider more of a priority, that's not altogether a bad thing.

Having said that, the macro economy matters. There's no question about that. If the Democrat Senate would be more cooperative, we might have a better macro economy.


BEGALA: You know I remember a president named Bush who said overseas wars were more important than the economy at home and it's all the Democrats' fault in Congress and I remember him getting the biggest butt whipping of any incumbent president in history. Maybe his son will exceed that. Ed, aren't you worried about replaying 1992?

ROGERS: Well, maybe people have learned those lessons, but also ...


ROGERS: ... that was an election during a recession. There won't be an election during a recession this time unless the Democrats are really good at tossing a wrench in the years and dragging the economy down.


BECKEL: One of the problems of you guys who drive Jaguars is you don't seem to understand that there is a recession in America. You ought to travel out to places like Idaho ...


BECKEL: Let me - let me tell you something ...

CARLSON: Bob, can you stop the demagoguery for one second? I want to read you a list ...


BECKEL: Me stop the demagoguery ...


CARLSON: I want to read you a list of issues the Democrats are hoping to run on. Enron, the war, tax cuts, Social Security. Now, we hear the Democratic leaders want to run on WorldCom. There is one problem with this, apart from the fact that obviously the Democratic Party is the party of Marc Rich.

Here is the essential problem. I want to show you a list of corporate donations over the past 18 months from Global Crossing, WorldCom, Qwest Communications.

The Democrats received a total of $1.5 million; Republicans, $1.3 million. The fact is both parties take it. Democrats take a little more. There's no way you can run on this. BECKEL: You know something, Tucker? It's amazing about you, my boy. You just have lost touch with reality again. You know for years, you wrapped labor unions around us and you know the American people equate the Democratic Party with labor.


BECKEL: Wait a second - wait a second.

ROGERS: There's a lot of that.

BECKEL: The -- you better be careful, I got an uncle who's in the mob. The - Tucker, let me tell you something. When it comes to big corporate America, the Republican Party has got them hung around their neck like an albatross.

Let me ask you one question, if George Bush was so concerned -- he ran out today and said, oh, it was just terrible, all these big corporations doing bad things.

You know what would be a good idea, instead of talking about it, John Ashcroft, instead of getting some Puerto Rican kid out of Brooklyn who was supposed to have a dirty bomb, why doesn't he indict somebody from Enron. There's been three indictments on Enron. They're all British citizens. You know why?


CARLSON: Instead of saving your country ...


BECKEL: You're tied in lock, stock and barrel with Enron. Lay ought to be in jail, and he ought to be in jail with no bail whatsoever, and you guys haven't done it. Why?


BEGALA: Let me ask you the question ...


BEGALA: ... let me ask you the question first. The president's strategy is to try to get out in front of this. Tomorrow, our president's going to gives his national radio address on corporate responsibility. On July 9 we learned the president will give a big speech, a major address on corporate responsibility.

Are you worried about the hypocrisy issue coming from that? Let me read you something that the "Associated Press" wrote about George Bush.


BEGALA: They said that as a Harken - he's a director of a company called Harken Energy. The "Associated Press" says documents show Bush received memos in the spring of 1990 that referred in stark terms to his company's cash-strapped condition, as banks demanded it pay down its debt. One document said the company was in the midst of a liquidity crisis. Another told Bush the company was in a state of non-compliance with its lenders.

After that briefing, he sold his stock. A few weeks later, the bad news about their finances came out. The stock collapsed. Bush walked away with a fortune. Doesn't that sound remarkably similar to WorldCom?

ROGERS: You guys have beat your heads against that wall for a couple of years. Keep it up, but let me say this.

BEGALA: So you're not worried about insider trading ...

ROGERS: Let me ...


ROGERS: ... let me say this. These bogus accounting practices where the president, the Republican leadership of Congress are doing a lot about didn't start on Inauguration Day, January 21st ...

BEGALA: No, Bush was doing it when he was in business, Ed.


ROGERS: It didn't start then.


ROGERS: It started ...


BEGALA: ... insider trader ...

ROGERS: ... it started here in the bubble economy ...


ROGERS: ... during the bubble ...


ROGERS: ... during - and a lot of them are going to go to jail - a lot of them are going to go to jail.


BECKEL: ... going to go to jail.

ROGERS: That didn't start when Bush was elected or when Bush was sworn in. It started during the Clinton bubble years, where we were all taught from the top down the truth is relative (ph).

CARLSON: Unfortunately ...


CARLSON: Wait a second ...


CARLSON: ... we are out of time.


CARLSON: ... but we'll be back in just a minute so we can compare more conspiracies.

Our guests will be back after the break. Next, what does Tipper Gore think about Al's running for president again, if you can even imagine. And later getting mad about drunk driving. Are you mad enough to raise beer prices? We hope not. We'll be right back.


CARLSON: Welcome back to CROSSFIRE. Is it possible to be mad at mad? Yes. We'll explain in a little bit.

But first we're sorting through this week's political winners and losers. In the "Crossfire" tonight Democratic consultant Bob Beckel and Republican consultant Ed Rogers.

Bob Beckel, Tipper Gore says she wants her husband to run, looks like he's going to. Democrats are horrified at the possibility. I want to read you a quote from a Jake Tapper, story running in Salon, say this a Democratic consultant talking about Al Gore.

Quote - "Gore smacks right now of a child star in the middle of an awkward adolescence. He's still showing up for auditions and the casting crew is reluctant to tell him he's the Tina Yothers of the Democratic Party."

Tina Yothers is a child star you probably never heard of. I hadn't either. That's true, isn't it?

BECKEL: You follow child stars? Is that what you do?

CARLSON: I don't, but I have to follow Al Gore, sad isn't it?


BECKEL: I mean, you know, whoever that is, like Al Gore, I suppose you could equate George Bush with Martha Stewart, given their stock dealings but ...

ROGERS: She's a Democrat.

BECKEL: But you know something? I think it would be not in the best interests of the Democrats to have Gore running. He had a shot at it, and I think there's a lot of animosity left out there now. But I was with a friend of mine last night, this woman had something very specific to say and I agree with it. She didn't understand how any working man or woman, not in management, could possibly vote for a Republican, and I'll go to my grave not understanding why they will do it, except that they didn't vote, a lot of them, for Al Gore, and we've got to get blue-collar voters back, the old Reagan Democrats, and I'm not sure ...

CARLSON: He's a disaster. You're an honest man. Thank you, Bob Beckel.


BECKEL: I didn't say he was a disaster. That was your words ...


CARLSON: You said he was a bad man and a loser.

BECKEL: I said he was a bad man and a loser?

CARLSON: I thought that's what you said.

BECKEL: You know something, you ought to go back to national history, because you can get some more of those ties, man.


CARLSON: I'm going to - I'm going to check the transcript.

ROGERS: Don't say anything that discourages Al Gore from running.

CARLSON: You're right. That's an excellent point. Thanks, Ed.

BEGALA: Before Al Gore or George W. Bush or anybody's running for president, as you know, there'll be a big mid-term election in November - in November. And the CNN organization along with "USA Today" and the good people at Gallup have been surveying American public opinion. They find the Democrats now lead in the congressional election by eight points, 50 to 42.

I think it's exactly what Beckel was saying before, blue-collar voters watching with horror how Bush and the Republicans have turned everything over to these excessively greedy corporations, are coming home to Democrats. If the elections were held today, we'd beat you like a bad piece of meat, Ed Rogers.

ROGERS: Republicans have never led in that congressional ballot. It's never happened, so that's ...


ROGERS: ... not particularly alarming in our - in our case.

BEGALA: You're down eight points. You have led in the past, and that's why you won in '94, for example.

ROGERS: The House is safe. The contest is in the Senate. We'll see.


BEGALA: So you're not worried about being eight down a few months before the election?


BECKEL: You know something? You're going ...

ROGERS: Not a bit.

BECKEL: ... you're going to -- you're going to have your proverbial butt handed to you come November. I mean this economy ...

ROGERS: Can we come back?

BECKEL: ... is getting worse ...

ROGERS: Can we come back?


ROGERS: Can we come back?


BECKEL: We can come back. George Bush is going to lead y'all right over the edge. I mean you keep worrying about this war. I grant you he's done a good job on the war to a certain extent. But the fact is he has been nonexistent when it comes to the economy. He wasn't before. He isn't now. He's a terrible president when it comes to the economy ...


ROGERS: Bob ...


ROGERS: Bob ...


ROGERS: Bob ...


ROGERS: Don't hyperventilate.


BECKEL: Would you please indict somebody from Enron? Please! (CROSSTALK)

BEGALA: John Ashcroft ...


BEGALA: What is the Republican strategy, Ed Rogers, for pulling us out of this Bush recession? You cut taxes - you said that would help. Well all it did was inflate the debt and the deficit and push us deeper into a recession.


BEGALA: What are we going to do?

ROGERS: First of all there isn't a Bush recession by any means right now. Having said that, there are a lot of sectors of the economy that are weak, that need some help, that need some reform. If the Democrats in the Senate would cooperate with Bush on trade, would cooperate with Bush on taxes, would cooperate with Bush on regulations, there would be a lot more grease in the economy right now.


BEGALA: That's like the captain of the "Titanic" ...


CARLSON: ... Democrats will not let this prescription drug benefit pass, will they, in the Senate?

BECKEL: They will - they will not let that ridiculous Republican bill pass.


BECKEL: They will pass - they'll pass ...


BECKEL: ... a Democratic bill because people need prescription drugs and any politician would be crazy not to do it. Secondly, the Republicans are playing catch-up ball everywhere and can I just end where I began? Would you please indict one of these white-collar criminals? You keep throwing every black kid, every brown kid into jail ...

BEGALA: All right Ed ...

BECKEL: ... send Lay to jail.


BEGALA: Bob Beckel for the Democratic Party, Ed Rogers for the Republican Party. Thank y'all very much. Well, the walls came tumbling down tonight in the Middle East. In a minute, CNN's Connie Chung will tell us about the latest moves in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

And later, the "Washington Post" gossip columnist who's picking on a pair of underage private citizens.


CONNIE CHUNG, CNN ANCHOR: They also took hair sample today from Ricci's father-in-law. And when I come back at the top of the hour, I'll look at an in-depth look at the Elizabeth Smart case. Just who is Richard Ricci? We'll have an exclusive interview with Ricci's neighbor who has some very interesting information about Richard Ricci. And now, back to Paul and Tucker.

BEGALA: All right, thank you very much. I understand also you're going to a story of the human toll of WorldCom. As a WorldCom investor, I'm feeling the pain. But what are you telling us about WorldCom tonight?

CHUNG: We had interviews with a couple of employees who were actually fired. And you know, there was a rumor. There were reports that if any employee spoke with the media, that person would then lose severance. So, the employees are very, very scared to talk to us, but two of them will, one of them, in a special way.

CARLSON: All right. Thanks, Connie. We'll watch. We'll see you at the top of the hour.


CARLSON: Coming up in "Fireback," a viewer points out what Clinton and WorldCom have in common, besides the fact they both failed. But next, "The Washington Post" gossip columnist who's passing on stories on the first daughters. We'll be right back.


CARLSON: Welcome back to CROSSFIRE. We're coming to you as always from the George Washington University, here in downtown Washington, D.C. Let's have a quick show of hands in the audience. How many of you would like the rest of the country to read about your last pub-crawl?

Fortunately, nobody else wants to read about your misadventures, either, because you're private citizens, not like public officials, just like Jenna and Barbara Bush. Yet, the president's 20-year-old twin daughters have made the "Washington Post's" gossip column, "Reliable Source." Why were they ambushed? We'll ask your guest tonight, "Post" columnist, Lloyd Grove. He bellies up to the bar and joins us.


BEGALA: Lloyd.

CARLSON: Thank you, sir.

BEGALA: Lloyd, today you wrote a column about the president's daughters. I don't want to talk about the content of it. First of all, I'm just sorry for the Bush family that we're even talking about it at all on CNN. But here's why we are -- I don't care what the Bush daughters do. I care a lot about what "The Washington Post" does.

I think presidential children should be off-limits. It's not so important what I think, though. Let me read to you what our president said, several months ago -- setting the ground rules, I think, in a responsible fashion.

He said, "I am going to be angry at people mistreating my girls in the public arena. I'm fair game and Laura's semi-fair game. But the girls aren't."

Why don't you leave these kids alone?

LLOYD GROVE, "WASHINGTON POST": Well, I think they're not fair game, in most circumstances. But, more than a year ago, these young ladies had some interaction with law enforcement authorities over under-aged drinking.

And so, they knew that when they went to a bar in Washington last night, they would be taking a risk. I mean -- and I'm not being moralistic about it. I mean all of us have -- long ago, drank when we were under age, I think, when we were in college. But they are children of the president. And it didn't...

BEGALA: That's pain enough. Why not leave them alone? They didn't...

GROVE: Well...

BEGALA: First off, we don't know that. The sober people there said they didn't recognize them. Do you run everything that every drunk in every bar calls you with?

GROVE: No, I -- believe me, I did my due diligence and was completely confident that it was an accurate report. But it probably hasn't escaped your notice, Paul, that I'm a gossip columnist.


CARLSON: Yeah, but Lloyd, you are breaking long-standing ground rules here, as you know. Let me give you an example -- a couple of years ago -- and you know this -- then Vice President Al Gore's -- one of his children was involved in an incident in Washington.

There -- law enforcement was not brought in, but there was law breaking, minor law breaking involved. Al Gore called the heads of news organizations around Washington and they didn't run it. Good for them. What's the difference here?

GROVE: Are you exposing that incident right now?

CARLSON: I'm not -- I'm not saying who it was or who did it or anything about it and neither did the "Washington Post..."

GROVE: By the way...

CARLSON: Why are you changing...

GROVE: ... guys, I -- since you're giving more circulation to my story, I want to see more hand wringing, please.

CARLSON: No, no, but I want an answer. I mean why, when Al - one of Al Gore's children did something similar to this. You didn't report it. When the Bush kids do, you do?

GROVE: Well, I wasn't here doing this column when Al Gore's kids got into trouble with the law, if that's what happened. But we have, I think, been fairly judicious about the kinds of things we've written about the Bush girls. I've had many opportunities to write things about them and I've taken a pass because I do think, that unlike the president and the first lady, these kids do have a zone of privacy.

But, look, I mean these kids were cited in Austin, Texas for under age drinking. Jenna went before court. She was fined. She was given community service. They were put on probation. And...

BEGALA: So then...

GROVE: ... they...

CARLSON: ... then let me put this in some context for you. No offense or anything, but you know as well as I, that "People" magazine, which, in some ways, is a decent, responsible magazine.

But it's still "People" magazine. It's a couple of steps in respectability below, we thought, "The Washington Post." They have a policy that they're not going to write about the Bush twins. So you're putting yourself, as journalist, below "People" magazine?

GROVE: Well, I wasn't aware of this policy. And I think I've read stuff about the Bush twins in "People" magazine. But I'm interested to see how they act on this policy. I think that, yes, we should be as judicious as possible. But when there are things that are newsworthy, in the gossip sense, that occur, I think it's legitimate for me to write about it.

BEGALA: Great! Let's continue that standard, though. It's not my standard. It's yours. Let's be consistent. Do you follow around the children -- aside from the President of the United States, probably the most powerful guy in Washington is a man named Len Downey.

They've never heard of Len Downey, but he runs the "The Washington Post," one of the most powerful newspapers in the whole world. I don't even know if he has kids and I don't care. If he does, and they're around the age of the Bush girls, are you going to follow them around into bars? Should CNN follow them around? Shouldn't it be newsworthy if the children of media executives are behaving like children and we can - we can... GROVE: Paul, you see no distinction between the president of the United States and Len Downey? No, of course you don't because given your...

BEGALA: It's a...

GROVE: ... professional history and working for the president, you did work for, of course, you would have the position. If I were you, I'd have the same position.

BEGALA: But you didn't answer my question. Is it fair game to cover the children of media -- powerful media officials? The president's powerful. His children are not. You say that makes them fair game. Len Downey - I don't mean to single him out or any other media executive - the head of CNN - these are powerful men and women. Should we follow their children around and give them the same treatment? I think if we did, then the media would back off of these politicians.

GROVE: Well, I am not following anybody's children around. And I'm not following the Bush girls around.

BEGALA: In truth, if someone called you from a bar and said, Hey, the children of the owners of "The Washington Post" or "The New York Times", are here and drinking. Would you run it?

GROVE: Well, I don't think I - I mean...

BEGALA: Damn straight you wouldn't run it.

CARLSON: No way, you'd never run it in a million years because they'd be irritated with you. And that's the key difference. You're never going to see the president but you work with these guys so you're not going to expose the foibles of their children. That's the difference, is it not?

GROVE: No, that's not the difference. The difference is that there's a different standard, I think, in the media today, for the first family and the president. There is no zone -- I mean, this is the situation we find ourselves in. There is no zone of - I mean this is - this is the situation we find ourselves in. There is no zone of privacy for the president. Everything the president does is public. Is that correct, Paul?

CARLSON: Well, it is now.

BEGALA: It is and that is going to have to be the final word from Lloyd Grove, "The Reliable Source" from "The Washington Post." Thank you very much for joining us.


BEGALA: Still to come, your chance to "Fireback" at us. One of our viewers has a math problem, one that supporters and still doctors may have a hard time solving. But next on the CROSSFIRE, a guest who wants us to get MADD all over again and someone who would rather not. Stay with us.


BEGALA: We all know better but plenty of Americans will probably use the upcoming holidays as an excuse to get trashed and then get behind the wheel.

Some of them will make it home fine, some of them will die, others will kill. That's why MADD, Mothers Against Drunk Driving, has a new eight-point plan. It includes tougher enforcement of seat belt laws, tougher standards for advertising alcohol and the most controversial of all, higher taxes to price beer out of teenager's budgets.

In the CROSSFIRE tonight, MADD president-elect, Wendy Hamilton and Rick Berman of the Council For American Beverage Licenses.

Wendy, thank you.

CARLSON: Rick, good to see you again.

CARLSON: Thank you. Thank you.

Now, Wendy Hamilton, a recent study in "The New England Journal of Medicine" that - you're familiar with it -- estimated or calculated that the average person with a blood alcohol level of 0.10, which is the current standard in most places, has about the same chance of getting in an accident as a person talking on a cell phone. You want the blood alcohol level, threshold, lowered - even lower than that.

What amount of alcohol is permissible in a person's blood before it can drive?

WENDY HAMILTON, PRESIDENT-ELECT, MOTHERS AGAINST DRUNK DRIVING: Well, you're wrong about one thing. The 0.08 is in 33 states as of today. Tennessee just passed it yesterday. The legal level is 0.08. That's what it is. You're 11 times more likely to be involved in a crash if you have a 0.08 blood alcohol concentration. That's the illegal level.

CARLSON: But is there any level that's acceptable?

HAMILTON: Impairment begins with the first drink. So we want to make sure that people who are driving have a sober designated driver.

CARLSON: But then why not measure - this is, I guess, the key question - why not measure impairment, which is to say if a person is driving erratically or dangerously or in a posses a threat to other people, arrest them, charge with DUI. But if he's - but if a person is driving fine, why do you - what's the difference...

HAMILTON: Your critical driving skills are dangerous at 0.08. Your ability to track, your ability to judge -- make lane changes. Your dangerous at a 0.08. People are killed. People are injured at a 0.08. That's what the illegal level is. That's what the science says it should be. (CROSSTALK)


BEGALA: Let me ask - if you're asking me, I think, no. If - I like to drink. I love beer, in fact. I don't - if I have a single drink, I don't drive at all because I do believe impairment begins at one. I don't think that's what the law should say though. That's just my personal preference.

The law, though, says 0.08 in most states. Just so people know, 0.08 -- I'm a 172-pound man -- that, for me, is four drinks in one hour on an empty stomach. Let me tell you - and like I said, I like a beer, as much or more than the next man. You give me four beers on an empty stomach and put be behind a wheel. And that's legal.

BERMAN: This is game play because...

BEGALA: No, it's not.

BERMAN: ... the National Traffic Highway Safety Administration also suggests that a 120-pound woman who drinks two six-ounce glasses of wine - it's in their own publication...


BERMAN: ... two six-ounce glasses of wine over a two-hour period, is subject to arrest, loss of license, higher insurance rates, going to jail. Now, you tell me that's...

HAMILTON: That's old...

BERMAN: ... there are millions of women - it's not old -- the math doesn't change and the biology doesn't change.


BEGALA: I asked you about me. I asked you about a 170-pound male. You tell me that it's safe to be 170-pounds, have four drinks in an hour on an empty stomach and then drive. Tell me that, Rick.

BERMAN: I'll tell you what the stats say - the stats say that the people who are at the 0.08 and 0.09 level, which is now illegal thanks to MADD, get into just as many accidents as people with trace amounts of alcohol in their system.

And Wendy knows that all the drunk driving accidents that people see in the newspaper are about people who are abusive drinkers, hard- core alcoholics, who drink to excessive levels. The 0.08 thing is a red herring.

And you know just as well as I do, Wendy, that there are just as many people who are involved in accidents at 0.05, at 0.03, 0.02 and they're not caused by alcohol. People have a drink and accidents happen for 1,000 reasons. And yet, MADD tries to make it seem that alcohol was the cause of the accident.

HAMILTON: The impaired driving was the cause. You are dangerous about a 0.08. That was the science...

BERMAN: Why don't you come out after cell phones?

HAMILTON: That's what science says.

BERMAN: Tucker said that - the "New England Journal of Medicine" says that cell phones are just...


BERMAN: ... as dangerous at 0.08. In fact, cell phones are dangerous than 0.08. Why not go after cell phone users?

HAMILTON: Science says at a 0.08 - and the study that...


BEGALA: Rick, let Wendy answer.

HAMILTON: A 137-pound woman, in an hour, three drinks. You're using the wrong statistics from NTSA and you know it.


BERMAN: It's a publication.


CARLSON: This road does raise an interesting question. Now, MADD, taking a turn from the meddlesome, I have to say, and pushing for higher taxes on beer, punishing everybody, not just drunk drivers, of course.

But why not -- if you're so concerned about auto safety and obviously, you are, why not push for a tax on cell phones, which, the "New England Journal of Medicine" says are dangerous for drivers too?

HAMILTON: We're not here to talk about cell phones. We're here to talk about alcohol...

BERMAN: You said impaired driving.

HAMILTON: ... and drunk driving.

BERMAN: You said impaired driving.

BEGALA: Mr. Berman, let...

HAMILTON: Let's get real about what we're here for, Rick. We're here to talk about drunk driving.


BERMAN: Impaired driving...

HAMILTON: 0.08 is impaired driving.

BERMAN: You and I testified...

HAMILTON: I'm not going to talk about cell phones.

BERMAN: Well, you may not want to. Do you I testified...


BERMAN: Excuse me; I was on a sister show, if you will, MSNBC with a lobbyist...

BEGALA: I was once, too, and it - I've moved up in the world, so have you. So...


BERMAN: And we are both to be congratulated. When I asked the lobbyist for MADD about cell phones, he said -- and deaths from cell phones, he said, "I don't care about deaths from cell phones." Now, that's the attitude that MADD has.

MADD is focused on alcohol. There's a prohibition wing of MADD that wants to focus on impaired driving and alcohol, but impaired driving due to sleep, which you heard about yesterday in testimony, not about cell phones, not about speeding and these are all issues that if you want to talk about impaired driving, we ought to be coming together on it. But MADD is only focused...

CARLSON: Well, is that...


CARLSON: Hold on a second.


CARLSON: Hold on, let Mrs. Hamilton have a try.

HAMILTON: Thank you. When 16,653 people are killed by cell phones, then I'll get concerned about that. Right now...

BERMAN: Now, you're sticking up for people with one drink again.

BEGALA: Mr. Berman, excuse me.

HAMILTON: Rick, get real. We're talking about over half a million people in this country. It costs this country -- traffic crashes cost this country $230 billion every year. We have to get serious about drunk driving. 0.08 is the legal level in 33 states and the District of Columbia. And we're going to go and start working on high-risk drunk drivers, also.

CARLSON: But the - here's the confusing part -- nobody disagrees with, for instance, going after high-risk drunk drivers, I assume you mean alcoholics. But why the diversification -- why is MADD pushing for nanny-ous things like seat belt laws or higher taxes on beer, which have nothing obviously, to do with drunk driving. Don't you dilute your message when you become nanny-like?

HAMILTON: Seat belts, if every state in the country passed a seat belt law and 90 percent of the people in the country buckled up, we would save 5,000 lives every year and that includes the drinking drivers.

CARLSON: If people stopped smoking, they'd be healthier too. But why is MADD addressing this?

HAMILTON: We're talking about seat belts here and seat belts save lives.

BERMAN: What about speeding?

HAMILTON: I've been in a rollover crash. I know that seat belts save lives. Beer taxes -- the rate of beer taxes directly impacts the fatality rate. The more beer taxes go up, the lower the fatality rate.

CARLSON: Is that true?

BERMAN: You know just - I mean your audience can think about this themselves. Can you imagine that when the drunk driving - the drunk driving problem that we all think about is a core of people who, according to your predecessor, say -- are people who are hard-core, repeat offenders, alcoholics.

Can you imagine that those people are going to stop driving drunk because you put another nickel on a can of beer? It's silly. You're going to penalize people...

HAMILTON: The nickel on the can of beer is going to go...

BERMAN: You're going to penalize people who are not even driving.

HAMILTON: ... for education, prevention and enforcement.

BERMAN: You have a $45 billion budget for education. I can't believe that we need more people to find out that drunk driving is a bad idea.

HAMILTON: Absolutely, we do.

BEGALA: When lobbyists come on television...


BEGALA: ... and tell them that drunk driving is the same as using a car phone; I think we do need more education, candidly. I -

BERMAN: Education about cell phones perhaps, but we... (CROSSTALK)

BEGALA: What -- where should be the legal limit? You think it's OK for me to drive after four drinks in an hour on an empty stomach. Should it be five, six, eight...

BERMAN: I think...

BEGALA: ... a 12-pack?

BERMAN: I think some people shouldn't be able to drink and drive at all because they don't handle alcohol well. There are other people who...

BEGALA: Some people can have six, eight drinks and be just straight as an arrow. Do you want to get in a car with them because I don't?

BERMAN: Even Wendy has said that most of the people who are picked up for drunk driving has driven hundreds of times without causing an accident. Most people drive well and abusive drinkers don't. And that's who we should target.

CARLSON: Unfortunately, we are out of time. Rick Berman, Wendy Hamilton, thank you both very much for joining us. We appreciate it.

Next, in "Fireback," a viewer writes in to say, "I have something in common with Rosie O'Donnell." We'll be right back.

ANNOUNCER: If you'd like to "Fireback" at CROSSFIRE, e-mail us at Make sure to include your name and hometown.


BEGALA: Welcome back to CROSSFIRE. It's time now for "Fireback." Locked and loaded, you are.

Let's go to the e-mail bag. Our first is from John L. Johnson of Brighton, Michigan. "Has anyone noticed if Republican pundits have yet jumped on the fact that WorldCom is based in Clinton, Mississippi?"

Ah, it could be a conspiracy.

CARLSON: It didn't escape my attention. OK, Andrew Heithoff from Arkansas speaking - or writes in about the Supreme Court's decision on drug testing. "It would be more appropriate to randomize drug testing in school athletics, not in band or choir. It's not like someone will be taking drugs to make them stronger to hold a trombone."


CARLSON: Trombonists will do anything for an edge.

(CROSSTALK) BEGALA: They're the most ruthless guys in the band, man.

Here's Jim Hudson from Fort Orange, Florida, writes - "A typical $3,500 voucher will not enable the poor, urban kid to go to the rich kid's school that costs $15,000 a year. This voucher will send a few kids to religious schools instead of really fixing the expensive problems like class size and teacher's numbers."

Right, you are, Jim. Although, you should know the expensive private school our president went to is $25,000 a year.

CARLSON: And the former - but you know, actually, I don't think budget problems are the reason inner city schools are...

BEGALA: Of course it is.


BEGALA: They're poor schools because they are poor.

CARLSON: Bryan Miller from Paddock Lake, Wisconsin - oh, this is grotesque - a fashion on Tucker. "Your face shot should be put next to Rosie O'Donnell. With your current haircut, you look very much like her."


CARLSON: Well, thanks, Bryan Miller.


BEGALA: You know...

CARLSON: I don't -- I'm not quite sure I know what to say.

BEGALA: You don't see that there.

CARLSON: Well, I'm getting a hankering for Tom Cruise just thinking about it. All right.

BEGALA: Get your own magazine.

CARLSON: Audience questions, yes.

KURT KURR, AUDIENCE MEMBER: Hi, I'm Kurt Kurr (ph) from Savanna, Missouri. In these fiscally uncertain times, how can the Democrats propose a Medicare prescription plan that will cost $8 billion over the next 10 years? And how is that sustainable when the baby boomers retire?

CARLSON: Well, of course, it's not. And - but the two reasons they do it is one, they have -- they don't care at all about deficits despite their talk that they do. And two, they know it won't pass. So they can turn and say, "Look, the Republicans hate old people and that's why you should vote for us." BEGALA: Now, let me tell you where Tucker is wrong, which is in every syllable that he said. First up, we'll save money because people on prescription drugs - you get less surgery and less physician care. Second, more importantly, the reason we're in fiscally tough times is because President Bush squandered the surplus. He inherited the largest surplus in history.


BEGALA: You think he'd be good at inheriting things.

CARLSON: I understand, but no. It's like one of those...


BEGALA: Your question? Yes, sir, your question.

JOHNNY MCGALLEY, AUDIENCE MEMBER: Hi, I'm Johnny McGalley (ph) from Winchester, Virginia. I want to ask you -- do you think that the recent WorldCom scandal is just another attempt for Democrats to pin an issue on Republicans in the fall elections?

CARLSON: Actually, don't take my word for it. They announced that in "The Washington Post." Dick Gephardt basically said, "Look, we've tried everything else. We can't get them at" - and Enron sort of went away. What ever happened to Enron anyway?

BEGALA: When I worked in the White House...

CARLSON: Why don't we try WorldCom.

BEGALA: ... President Clinton again and again and again asked the Republican Congress to put in place protections against these exact corporate excesses. The Republicans killed them. They should be held accountable in the elections.

CARLSON: That's a total lie. This is a hangover from the decade of greed in the 90's.


CARLSON: A question.

GARY TOMAC, AUDIENCE MEMBER: Good evening, Gary Tomac (ph) from Lakota, California. If American veterans can use the G.I. bill to attend Notre Dame and possibly study theology and seniors can use Medicare to be treated at St. Mary's Catholic Hospital, then why can't our youngest citizens use the vouchers to attend the school of their parent's choice?

CARLSON: That's a great question.

BEGALA: The difference is...

CARLSON: In fact, religious schools all across the country have people with federally backed student loans are attending them, so. BEGALA: The difference is those are adults. College students are adults. Senior citizens are adults. And I don't want the government indoctrinated my children with some...


CARLSON: That's such a lie. The constitution makes no distinction, adults.

BEGALA: From the left, I'm Begala. Goodnight from CROSSFIRE>

CARLSON: And from the right, I'm Tucker Carlson. Join us again Monday night for yet another edition of CROSSFIRE. "CONNIE CHUNG TONIGHT" begins immediately after a CNN news alert.


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