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CNN CROSSFIRE

Bush Confronted with Questions About His Business Practices; Is the Atkins Diet Healthy?

Aired July 8, 2002 - 19:00   ET

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


THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ANNOUNCER: In the crossfire tonight: Is it his fault? His fault? Or their fault? In the CROSSFIRE, taking care of business.

KAREN HUGHES, COUNSELOR TO THE PRESIDENT: The president is determined to clean it up.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The stump speech with the right sound bites is not good enough.

ANNOUNCER: He's still thumbing his nose at the West. Is it time to attack Iraq?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I certainly see the element of surprise going from that.

ANNOUNCER: And should you be eating this? Or this? Ahead on CROSSFIRE.

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

PAUL BEGALA, CROSSFIRE HOST: Welcome to CROSSFIRE.

Tonight, does Dr. Atkins know beans about what we should eat? Also, should W. finish the job his daddy didn't? But our first order of business tonight are those unusual and interesting stories you're not going to find anywhere else but in our CROSSFIRE political alert.

President Bush took to the podium of the White House briefing room today but spent much of the press conference on the defensive. He was peppered with questions about his role, if any, in controversial accounting practices and insider stock sales when he was a director of the Harken Energy Company.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: No malfeance, no attempt to hide anything. It was just an accounting firm making a decision, along with the corporate officers, as to how to account for a complex transiction (ph).

(END VIDEO CLIP) BEGALA: No one in the White House press corps there asked the president what malfeance or transictions (ph) were, but we got the point. Corporate scandals were also a topic here on Capitol Hill today, as the House Financial Services Committee held a hearing in which both the former CEO and the former chief financial officer of WorldCom took the Fifth. President Bush is expected to address the growing crisis of confidence in corporate conduct in a speech tomorrow on Wall Street in New York. In a few minutes, we will put that corporate greed and the "Bushies" themselves into the crossfire, so stay with us.

TUCKER CARLSON, CROSSFIRE HOST: And maybe he is going to talk about corporate greed. I remember in the Clinton years, unbridled greed was known as growth. The decade of greed in the '90s.

BEGALA: That's sort of like, on Wall Street, Mr. Insider Trader speaking out.

CARLSON: I beg your pardon. The president's upcoming tongue- lashing of the business community reportedly is the final project of departing White House Counselor Karen Hughes. She and her family are going home to Texas, leaving the White House. Depending on who you believe, in a state of denial, at the mercy of political Svengali Carl Rove, well, not very much changed. At the very least, Hughes's departure means a reshuffling of those closest to the presidential ear. For her part, she says she will miss her 19-hour a day vacation- free job, just as most of us would miss a long session of dental surgery.

BEGALA: She's a good person; she did a good job, I wish her well. I didn't agree what she did, but Karen stood out, a friend of mine from Austin.

CARLSON: I can't answer that.

BEGALA: I envy her trip home. President Bush, speaking of Bush, chose to stay in Kennebunkport, Maine, this weekend rather than attend the 93rd annual convention of the NAACP, but he was there in spirit. NAACP chairman, Julian Bond, blasted Bush, telling the crowd, "We knew he was in the oil business; we didn't know it was snake oil." Bond also blasted the Bush Justice Department, saying Attorney General John Ashcroft is "a cross between J. Edgar Hoover and Jerry Falwell." A spokesman for Hoover disagreed, pointing out that while Ashcroft may have his virtues, no right-winger looked better in a negligee and pumps than J. Edgar.

CARLSON: You know, for the NAACP to question anybody else's accounting practices, a group that almost went under a couple of years ago because of its own accounting practices, is pretty outrageous actually.

BEGALA: He should have shown up instead of hanging out there in Maine.

CARLSON: So he could be berated self-righteously. For years, critics have suggested that singer Michael Jackson is deeply eccentric, even deranged. Jackson himself confirmed those rumors over the weekend in an appearance with leading Democratic presidential candidate Al Sharpton. The two staged a press conference in which Jackson attacked Sony Records, the producer of his latest failed album. Jackson, who says he's black, charged the company with racism and called its chairman "devilish."

The crowd, which included several Jackson impersonators, cheered. The following day, however, Sharpton told reporters he does not believe the head of Sony is a racist or, for that matter, Satan. The episode screwed the New York Post headline, "Jacko got off tracko." The real headline, of course, is "Jackson too nutty even for Al Sharpton."

BEGALA: What do you mean, even for Al Sharpton. Sharpton was ...

CARLSON: He's your man. He is going to be your nominee. Congratulations, by the way.

BEGALA: He's never been accused of insider trading though, has he?

CARLSON: Even so, that would be -- I'm for him.

BEGALA: That's not working out. Anyway, the unemployment numbers were released last week, showing the jobless rate up to 5.9%, a far cry from the 3.9% we enjoyed under the Clinton economy. Wasn't the Bush tax cut supposed to create jobs? Well, 1.8 million Americans who had jobs under President Clinton have lost their jobs under President Bush. But despite the gloomy news, President Bush insisted on spending the weekend in his family's mansion in Maine, cruising in expensive speedboats and playing golf. White House aides say it's a family tradition for the Bushes to flaunt their inherited wealth during recessions.

CARLSON: Wait. Did you take $19 million in corporate payoffs in the last year and a half? Well, that was Bill Clinton. Sorry, I get them confused.

BEGALA: Did you take a payoff from AOL, or a paycheck?

CARLSON: No, I actually took a salary. I don't get $500,000 for cruising in and giving 15 minutes off the top of my head commentary.

BEGALA: Yes, you do. I've given speeches with you and they pay you pretty well, just like ...

CARLSON: Not a half a million dollars ...

BEGALA: Jealous!

CARLSON: ... they should be spending for the cure of AIDS.

BEGALA: Jealous. CARLSON: Speaking of taxes, more fallout tonight from the war on terrorism. Thanks to the anthrax attacks on Washington last fall, Democrat Nita Lowey of New York was unable to pay her property taxes. That's her explanation anyway. Last month, the District of Columbia's Office of Tax Revenue released its annual list of delinquent taxpayers. Representative Lowey's name was on the list.

The Congresswoman's explanation: after several politicians were targeted with anthrax-laced letters, her landlord removed her name from the building's mailbox, so she never got the tax bill. Except as "Roll Call" newspaper pointed out, the city sent out delinquent tax notices in August, two months before anthrax hit the capital. Congresswoman Lowey has not responded to this discrepancy. Privately, however, her aides say she had no choice. If Nita Lowey had paid her taxes, the terrorists would have won.

BEGALA: I hope you're just as big a stickler for filing things on time when we talk a little later in the program about Bush disclosing his insider trading, which he didn't do.

CARLSON: Members of Congress who were so eager to raise taxes on the rest of us, the so-called rich in the rest of the country, I think they probably they'd go ahead and pay their own taxes, don't you think, Paul?

BEGALA: Let's just see if you'll be consistent when we talk about whether Bush disclosed and filed the proper forms when his business was insider trading.

CARLSON: I think people ought to pay their taxes, Democrats in particular.

Taking care of business has become the top political business here in Washington. Today congressional Democrats gleefully forced a pair of former WorldCom officials to repeatedly take the Fifth amendment. Tomorrow, President Bush is expected to call for criminal penalties, including jail time for corporate leaders who knowingly misreport their company's earnings.

First in the crossfire, tonight Democratic Congresswoman Maxine Waters of California and Republican congressman Bob Barr of Georgia. Thank you both very much for joining us.

BEGALA: Congressman Barr, let me start with you, sir. I want to play you, if I could, a brief sound bite from President Bush today at his press briefing in the White House briefing room. Just take a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BUSH: The SEC fully looked into the matter. They looked at all aspects of it, and they did so in a very thorough way and the people that looked into it said there is no case.

(END VIDEO CLIP) BEGALA: Now, Congressman, you were a federal prosecutor. If you -- if I told you, which has been reported that the SEC, in fact, never interviewed Bush, never interviewed other directors of Harken and never interviewed officers of Harken, would you describe that as a very thorough investigation, Congressman?

REP. BOB BARR (R), GEORGIA: Well, I'm at somewhat of a disadvantage. I only got about every other word of the sound bite there. But what I ...

BEGALA: I'd be happy to read it to you, sir. I don't want to be unfair to you.

BARR: Yes, do that, because I really couldn't -- couldn't get the gist of it.

BEGALA: Yes, sir. He said the SEC fully looked into the matter. They looked at all aspects of it and they did so in a very thorough way, and the people that looked into it said there is no case. My question is, if, in fact, the reports are true -- we haven't seen -- they haven't released all the facts, but if the reports are true, that they didn't interview Bush nor other directors or other officers, that doesn't sound very thorough, does it?

BARR: No, the way you presented it, it sure doesn't.

BEGALA: Shouldn't they release all these files -- I'm just basing this on news accounts. Senator Harken -- Senator Daschle, rather, the Senate Majority Leader, has called on the president to release all of those records from Harken Energy and the Securities Exchange Commission. Shouldn't he do so?

BARR: Well, Paul, I thought what we were going to be talking about is actually something important, not your personal vendetta. I thought we were going to be talking about WorldCom this evening ...

BEGALA: Which is more important, Congressman, the president or ...

BARR: ... and what really is a very serious criminal and regulatory matter. I think that what the president needs to do is to do everything possible to ensure that we do have a very visible, very aggressive round of prosecutions here. And with that, based on my background as a federal prosecutor, I certainly would agree.

CARLSON: Congressman Waters, thank you for joining us. On your first line of defense against corporate malfeasance, of course, is the SEC. One of its former chairmen, Richard Breeden, was on CNN today and he was asked, what can Congress do to police corporations more effectively and here's what he said. Listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RICHARD BREEDEN, FORMER SEC CHAIRMAN: If the Senate would like to do something, the first thing they should do is confirm the four SEC nominees who have been sitting around, waiting for confirmation, two of them for at left a year, to give some more commissioners at the commissioner level with Chairman Pitt to help him out.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CARLSON: Now, at a time like this when America needs the SEC more than ever, I can't imagine what justification Senate Democrats have for not filling up the slots, for holding these nominations. What is the justification, do you know?

REP. MAXINE WATERS (D), CALIFORNIA: Well, first of all, let's not get off the issue. The issue is, we have startling revelations about major corporations that have been involved in fraud and accounting practices that are questionable. We are focused today on WorldCom and what happened, and it's very simple. Instead of showing their operating expenses in the way that they should, they put it over in the capital outlay column, in order to make the bottom line look a lot better and make the company look a lot healthier, so as to attract investors. We've got to get at those kinds of practices.

CARLSON: I agree.

WATERS: We've got to get at what went wrong at Enron.

CARLSON: I agree with you.

WATERS: We've got to get at what went wrong at Global Crossing. We have to make sure some people are brought to the bar of justice, that there are some indictments and there is some jail time. That's what we need to do.

CARLSON: But I think everybody -- you sound very much like President Bush in your sentiments. He agrees, I agree, we all agree. But one of the first lines -- hold on, let me ask my question. One of the first lines of defense here is the SEC. They're the -- because it's the police force, in essence, and it is understaffed and Democrats are the reason it is understaffed and I want to know why.

WATERS: We'll get those appointments, but right now the first line is the Justice Department. This is a criminal matter that must be -- as a matter of fact, they're filed a lawsuit already. What we need now is to bring some people to the bar of justice. We need to put a stop to these accounting practices and these corporate practices that are robbing pensioners, that are laying off workers, that are basically tricking investors and causing states like mine to lose $560 million with the Enron debacle. That's what we need to focus on. That will come and you'll get those appointments. So let's not deflect on what's wrong and what we should be doing now.

CARLSON: Deflecting? It's been a year.

BEGALA: Excuse me, Tucker. Congressman Barr, let me get your reaction. Given that the Justice Department and President Bush hasn't even issued a parking ticket to any Enron executives, isn't Ms. Waters right?

BARR: Well, you may have missed it, Paul, but there was a major prosecution, indeed a precedent-setting prosecution of an accounting firm, one of the big eight accounting firms, maybe you didn't miss that, but this has been a very, very complex situation. I commend the Bush Administration for moving as quickly as they did against that. Maybe you don't, but I think that was important. I do think they will be and are putting together some very serious criminal cases. And I think that you certainly wouldn't want them to rush into it without gathering all the evidence first, would you?

BEGALA: Well, no, but actually I think the Andersen case was a case of them scapegoating and overreacting to the people that drove the getaway car, while the, metaphorically speaking, bank robbers ...

BARR: Well, a lot of times in cases you start -- you start out with the lower down where you have the very, very clear evidence, you start putting those cases together, and you work your way up. That is something that is standard operating procedure. But in this case, I'm very confident that we will see and I hope we do see -- I agree with Maxine, I hope we do see vigorous prosecutions very quickly. I think it's important economically, financially and politically to do so.

CARLSON: Now, Congressman Waters, I agree with you and I think most of our viewers do, that the real victims are the people that you mentioned in your district, who were hurt financially by the collapse of WorldCom, Enron, et cetera, et cetera. Given that, that there are real victims, Americans, don't you think it's unseemly for Democrats to use this scandal -- all these scandals as a campaign tool, as they've announced in the pages of "The Washington Post" that they plan do in the midterms. Isn't that appalling?

WATERS: Listen, when you have people who have been hurt and pensioners who have lost their entire savings, it's fair to go after them in whatever fashion you decide to do it. The president is going to make a speech, or has made a speech, or will be talking about what he's going to do, and that's campaigning, in essence, because what he's trying to do is get in front of the scandal and not have it as an issue in his re-election. Democrats, certainly, want to point to those who they believe are responsible. Some of these same companies that we're find have had these unsavory practices also got large tax breaks. So everything is fair. Let's put it all out there on the table. Let the chips fall where they may.

CARLSON: But isn't -- I mean, this is a little desperate and just a tiny, maybe bit pathetic here. I mean, the latest CNN/Gallup poll says that 63% of Americans approve of the way this president is handling the economy versus 33% who disapprove. In other words, this idea that Bush is in bed with big business, the Democrats are going to rise to victory in the mid-terms, has provided no traction so far. Isn't it time to give up and move on to some other campaign idea?

WATERS: I think you're mis-characterizing -- I think you're mis- characterizing what is going on. This is just unveiling. It's just exploding. People are just learning about the practices of major corporations. And so I think it's going to catch up with anybody, Democrat or Republican, that's been involved in supporting them, that's been involved in shielding for them, that's been involved in trying to deregulate them. It's going to catch up with anybody who's been involved in supporting them in any way. So don't -- don't say that the president or any Democrat or Republican or anybody is not to blame. Let's let the chips fall where they may. Let's get the information out on the table. Let's let the investigations go forward whoever has some responsibility in this, they must be brought to the bar of justice.

BEGALA: Again, Congressman Barr, we come back to this issue then, again, of the SEC's investigation of then Mr. George W. Bush for insider trading. He has not agreed -- he was asked again today if he would release all of his records. He said he wouldn't. And he also then characterized it as a case in which there was no case. They looked over it, and they said there was no case. Well, that's not what the SEC said. "The Washington Post" published part of a letter from the SEC to Bush, and it said this; let me read it to you. "[It] must in no way be construed as indicating that the party (Bush) has been exonerated or that no action may ultimately result from the staff's investigation."

They specifically told him that he is not exonerated, yet he is characterizing this investigation as something that cleared him. Shouldn't he follow the advice of Senator Daschle and others and just release all of those records so we can get to the bottom of it?

BARR: Paul, you're confusing, I have to admit. On the one hand, you criticize the Department of Justice for not moving quickly enough against these major players and then, on the other hand, you want them to go off on this tangent which has nothing to do with the major scandals that we're facing here. Which way do you want to have it? Do you want them to go after the big fish, or do you want them to go off on a political vendetta like you would like to do?

BEGALA: Well, Congressman, let me tell you exactly -- let me tell you exactly what happened at Harken that we know from published accounts. There are at least three major issues. One was the sale of Harken's subsidiary to Harken insiders that the SEC said later was not properly accounted for. That's the same thing that we see in corporations today. Two was whether Bush disclosed his insider trading, which he says -- he now acknowledges he did not. And then third is whether, in fact, when he sold he knew that the stock was about to tank, which as a member of the audit committee, you'd think he would know.

BARR: I'm not saying...

BEGALA: Those are the same issues, exactly the same issues, that you're addressing on Capitol Hill in Congress today.

BARR: And I'm not saying that these things should or should not be looked into. If, in fact, there is evidence of wrongdoing, I think yes, they ought to be looked into. But what I'm saying is, in fairness to what you were saying earlier, where you go after the big fish first and not worry about the small fish, let's not lose sight of the forest for the trees. What we have here are very serious, major corporate criminal proceedings and fraud going on here. Let's get to the bottom of that, and let's do it as quickly as we can.

CARLSON: Congressman Waters, I mean you must agree with that. This whole, you know, chase after President Bush's business dealings many, many years ago because he didn't file something on time? This was transparent partisan political witch hunt, is it not?

WATERS: Look, he's the president of the United States of America. He's the leader of the biggest nation in the whole free world. And he's got to be able to reveal what he's done, what he's not done, and if he can't stand the heat, he has to get out of the kitchen.

CARLSON: Wait a second. Wait a second.

WATERS: He's going to be scrutinized, whether you like it or not.

CARLSON: Yes, but Congressman Waters ...

WATERS: It's not a question of whether I or anybody else likes it or not. The fact of the matter is the journalists of this nation have decided to take a look, to see what he did, when he did it, and how he did it. He can't escape it. If he didn't do anything wrong, let him release the papers. Let him tell the people about it.

BARR: Where were you when we needed you, during the impeachment?

WATERS: Oh, don't try to deflect this argument. We're talking about Bush and his past activities.

BARR: Now we're talking about the standard of the United States presidency. Now you know how I feel.

WATERS: If he -- If he has not done anything that he needs to hide, then come forward, and stop the journalists from all the speculation. Come forward with the facts, and then we won't have to worry about anything. If he's got something to hid, they're going to find out it anyway. That's the way it's supposed to be.

CARLSON: Wait a minute. Let's reopen Whitewater while we're at -- while we're at it. Maxine Waters, I like the jag you're on.

WATERS: No, no, no, no. Right now, we're talking about WorldCom. We're talking about Enron. We're talking about Xerox. We're talking about Global Crossing. We're about those major corporations. Many of them have been cited as the finest businesses in the United States of America, in the world perhaps, who know, we find, have played all kind of accounting tricks. They gamed the system, and we're going after them. We're not talking about Whitewater. We're talking about corporate greed right now. We're talking about those people who have ripped off pensioners. And you know what? It's time to unveil all of this. It's been festering for a long time.

CARLSON: It's also time for a commercial break.

BEGALA: Let me tell you, it is time for a commercial break. I'm going to thank Tucker for that assistance there. Next, we'll ask two members of the Bush Administration whether two members of the Bush Administration, Cheney and Harvey Pitt ought to be investigated rather than doing the investigating. And later, is America planning to attack Iraq? And should we be? Also on the menu, Dr. Atkins' high fat, low carb diet. It's a puff piece in the "New York Times Magazine." We'll have both sides on this meaty debate here.

CARLSON: Welcome back to CROSSFIRE. Is corporate America good for political points? One of the questions we're asking tonight. Democratic Congressman Maxine Waters of California joins us, as does Georgian Republican Congressman Bob Barr.

BEGALA: Congressman Barr, as your fellow Republican John McCain, more of a Teddy Roosevelt Republican than probably a George W. Bush Republican, has called for Harvey Pitt, the head of the Securities and Exchange Commission under Bush, to resign. Do you agree with that call?

BARR: I can't think of too many things on which I agree with Mr. McCain. Nor would I agree with your characterization of him as a Republican, to be honest with you. No, I think that sitting back, you know, from an ivory tower and saying, off with their heads, get rid of this person, get rid of that person, is just plain politics. It would be very nice if Mr. McCain would just sort of sit back and say, look, we have a Department of Justice here. We have fraud that has been committed by all accounts. We have a number of SEC appointments here. Let's get these appointments through. I'd like to see him do something constructive instead of just criticizing the president at every chance he gets.

BEGALA: And so you have faith, though, that the Bush/Cheney Justice Department, the Bush/Cheney SEC can investigate Halliburton and Dick Cheney, who was Halliburton's CEO? There is an SEC investigation of Halliburton going on right now about a time when Dick Cheney was CEO. You have faith that that won't be in any way compromised?

BARR: I do know that the -- that at the Department of Justice, and by the way, I supported and would continue to support, an independent counsel statute, but since we don't have one -- it lapsed, as you know, a couple of years ago, there is a mechanism at the Department of Justice for the appointment of special prosecutors. If there is any evidence or any likelihood at all, in reality, that an investigation cannot properly be handled objectively of an administration official, any administration, by the lawyers at the Department of Justice or the 93 United States attorneys across the country. I've seen no evidence of that so far, do you?

CARLSON: Now, Congressman Waters, before Paul doesn't answer that question, let me ask you this one: what we're seen now, really, is the burst of the bubble. We're seeing the hangover from the real decade of greed, the 1990s, aren't we? A time when Pets.com, an IPO that made it worth more than GE. The president at the time, you may remember him, Bill Clinton, said nothing about this. As this enormous bubble is getting bigger and bigger and bigger, he sat back and just took credit for it, and now we're all paying the price. That's exactly what happened, isn't it? WATERS: No. What we're seeing is the unveiling of a corporate culture that is dominated by greed and the willingness to make money in any -- by any means necessary and in any fashion. What we're seeing is this network of folks who are all in bed with each other. Take a look at the banks. With Citibank, Citicorp leading the syndicate of banks who loaned billions of dollars to WorldCom. They did no due diligence. They just gave them the money and, look, it's not -- they don't have any collateral.

CARLSON: I couldn't argue with that. We're on the same side.

WATERS: Look at the analyst who was in bed with Mr. Ebbers, who was friends with him, who socialized with him.

CARLSON: Congressman Waters, you make some good -- Let's stick to the point. Let's -- Let's back up --

WATERS: What you have is the old boys network a corporate culture where people grease each other's backs ...

CARLSON: You must mean ...

WATERS: ... where people share information, and where people make money off of each other, and they all make as much money as they possibly can.

CARLSON: So you mean -- you mean -- Basically, you're saying Robert Rubin, Clinton Treasury Secretary, who called this Treasury Department and tried to get a phony credit rating for Enron, he's the person you're -- he's the one you're talking about, then. The symbol of the Clinton economic plan.

WATERS: Let the chips fall where they may. What I'm telling you is that CitiGroup led a syndicate of some six or seven banks who loaned billions of dollars to WorldCom, unsecured, no collateral. No due diligence, no questions asked. And if they call those loans in, it's going to cause the bonds to default at some $30 billion. And states like mine are going to lose all this pension money, and so what I'm telling you is, there is an environment and a culture here that's got to be broken up. Let's not play games with this. This is not playing political games.

BEGALA: Congressman Waters, thank you very much for joining us. I'm sorry to cut you off, Congressman. Congressman Bob Barr from Georgia, as well. Thank you very much for joining us from Capitol Hill, both of you.

Next up, some U.S. soldiers take a field trip that could mean trouble. CNN's Connie Chung has the details on CNN News Alert. And later, they still cheer for him in Iraq. Are the Bushes finally ready to push Saddam Hussein off the world's stage? And then, we may change your dinner plans.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BEGALA: President Bush used his news conference this afternoon to do a little saber-rattling at Iraq.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It is the stated policy of this government to have regime change. It hasn't changed, and we'll use all tools at our disposal to do so.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BEGALA: The president says he firmly believes the world will be a safer and more peaceful place if Iraq has a change in government. But that's easier said than done, especially now that the administration's war plan has been on the front page of the "New York Times."

Here to discuss a possible Desert Storm II is Kenneth Adelman, who ran the Arms Control and Disarmament Agency during President Reagan's administration. Ken, welcome back.

KEN ADELMAN, FORMER REAGAN ARMS CONTROL ADVISER: Thank you.

CARLSON: One of our favorite guests, wearing one of our favorite ties.

ADELMAN: Thank you. Thank you.

CARLSON: Now, I've asked this question before, but I still -- I just can't believe it, and I don't think you've given us a satisfactory answer, so I'm going to try again. Why are America's war plans on page one of the "New York Times" which strikes me as...

ADELMAN: Because someone leaked them.

CARLSON: Well, wait. I don't buy it for a second. This is an administration that doesn't leak anything.

ADELMAN: OK. But these plans, as the article said, were not briefed to Secretary Rumsfeld, were not briefed to the chairman, were not briefed to the president. So they're low-level plans that some guy wanted to be a big shot and leak them.

CARLSON: But wait a second. Not -- I mean, that's just one example among many. But the idea that we're going invade Iraq has been in the...

ADELMAN: Well, the president said that and I wish we would get on to it.

CARLSON: Well, why? Well, that is exactly right. Why is this being discussed? It increases the risk, it strikes me, to American soldiers, to Israel. Saddam Hussein has nothing to lose and now he knows it.

ADELMAN: But he has known it for a good long time, that he's the No. 1 threat to America. And so we should remove that threat. He cannot afford to be here and to just do nothing at this situation. I do not want to be in a situation where a few months from now or, at the maximum, two years from now, a CIA head walks into the Oval Office and says, Mr. President, Saddam Hussein now has deployable nuclear weapons.

Do you want to form a coalition then to get Saddam Hussein? You want to rouse public opinion then? You want to get support then? It is much easier now, Tucker, to do this.

BEGALA: Why then is our president not doing it? First, I disagree that Iraq is the principle threat...

ADELMAN: Well, I wish he would.

BEGALA: I actually believe al Qaeda is a much greater threat than Iraq is, but we can argue about that on another show.

ADELMAN: OK, let's do that.

BEGALA: I'm curious as to why our president keeps telling us this very cutesy answer, which, with a smirk, and he says, well, I don't have any war plans on my desk. Well, if you subscribe to the "New York Times" he does. Why is he being cute about it instead of just making the case for the attack that he seems to want?

ADELMAN: Those plans, I think, were very low-level. I do not think they were briefed much to anything...

BEGALA: But you don't think anything has gotten to Bush yet? I've read a story that said those plans, in fact, were developed in '98, I think, by General Zinni, when he was the head of central command many years ago. There have been plans to attack Iraq. I mean, I am not telling any secrets here. I mean, there are contingency plans that our military has all the time. And you'd think the president maybe would have asked out of curiosity, hey, I'm hot to invade Iraq. How would you boys do it?

ADELMAN: I'm sure he has asked that. And I would think that the answer would be it is not -- we should do everything we can to prepare. War is always a serious business, et cetera, but it is not going to be that difficult to throw out Saddam Hussein and to liberate Iraq and to remove our No. 1 threat.

And I say this for four very simple reasons, that I think it will be mostly a cakewalk to take Iraq. And not even to take Iraq, we don't want Iraq. We want to remove the regime. And the four reasons are quite simple. No. 1: It was a cakewalk last time. We lost two percent of the amount that the Iraqis lost. We didn't lose one tank in the whole engagement. No. 2: We have gotten so much stronger since then with smart bombs. And No. 3: They have gotten so much weaker since then. Their army is one-third the strength it was at the Gulf War. And No. 4: This time, we're playing for keeps. So I just don't think it would be that difficult.

CARLSON: Well, I guess what is confusing to me, what is troublesome to me, actually, are the stated motives for removing Saddam. This administration has said, well, he's flouting the U.N. He won't let in the U.N....

ADELMAN: Listen...

CARLSON: Is that the criteria that's driving American foreign policy?

ADELMAN: No, no. Tucker, for two years, I was the U.N. ambassador there.

CARLSON: Yes.

ADELMAN: OK. So, I mean, if you were going to arrest and invade everybody who flouted the U.N., I mean, you would be very busy.

CARLSON: We'd have trouble being allies with Israel, for one thing.

ADELMAN: That's right.

CARLSON: Why are they saying this? Why is Boucher saying this?

ADELMAN: The most important reason that you want to remove Saddam Hussein is that he is building weapons of mass destruction, chemical weapons which he has right now and has used extensively, biological weapons which he has right now and could use at any time...

CARLSON: Does he have anthrax?

ADELMAN: ... and nuclear weapons, which he will have before the next presidential election. He will not use them directly against America. But he certainly will hand them off to al Qaeda, to any terrorist group to use against us. And whether we trace it or don't trace it, that will be the source.

And why is that the source? Because unlike Paul, unlike the caves in Afghanistan, where al Qaeda is or Somalia or Philippines and all these places, unlike them, when you are in charge of a government of Iraq, you have 30 labs that work full time on weapons of mass destruction, you have a budget of billions of dollars, you can hire the best European scientists out there who will do all this shenaniry (ph) for you just for money.

You have a whole apparatus, Paul, that is out there making weapons of mass destruction that can really do enormous damage to us, making September 11, God help me for saying it, but making September 11 pale in comparison.

BEGALA: Let me come back to this, because many times in the past, you have tried to draw a more direct link, not that Saddam Hussein may well arm al Qaeda, which, again, I believe to be the greatest threat facing America, not Iraq. But, in fact, you've said in the past and others have that Saddam Hussein was somehow behind September 11. There was this story that Mohamed Atta, one of the hijackers, had been in Prague meeting with Iraqi (UNINTELLIGIBLE). We now know that that's false. That's a myth. So we're going to go war over a false story? ADELMAN: Paul, we know it is a myth that it is a myth. The only people who really have evidence of that...

BEGALA: We know they were Saudis, so why aren't we going over to Saudi Arabia, for one?

ADELMAN: No. The only reason we know about this meeting is because the Czech government had the goods on that meeting in Prague. And the person who found that out in the Czech government is maintaining it is still true. So, there have been a lot of press reports -- and I agree with you, Paul -- there have been press reports that say that meeting did not take place.

BEGALA: Did the CIA announce this...

(CROSSTALK)

ADELMAN: But the fact is that the Czechs say that that meeting did take place. But, that's a detail. The fact is we know that this guy is involved in terrorism. We know this guy hates America. We know he hates President Bushes, you know, of any generation. And we know, given a chance, he would attack us and we know that we shouldn't put up with it anymore.

CARLSON: This will not be the last time we talk about Iraq or the last time we talk about Iraq with you. Ken Adelman, thanks for joining us.

ADELMAN: Thank you, Tucker.

CARLSON: Appreciate it.

Coming up, your turn to "Fireback" at us. One of our viewers has gotten to the bottom of all the corporate greed problems. Guess which former resident of the White House is to blame?

But next, pass the butter and the cheeseburgers. Do we know what's good for us all along? I think we have. We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CARLSON: Welcome back.

It's been 30 years since Dr. Robert Atkins published his book diet revolution that downplayed the evils of saturated fat in meat and dairy products and said the real villains on our tables were sugar and carbohydrates, like pasta and rice. The book was a mega best-seller, even though the medical community went bonkers.

Yesterday's "New York Times" magazine published a reappraisal, quoting some researchers as saying that there is an element of truth in what Dr. Atkins has to say, that fat, after all, may be good. But it has to be the right kind of fat. To help us put the fat in the CROSSFIRE are Dr. Pamela Peeke, she is an assistant professor of medicine at the University of Maryland and a Pew Foundation Scholar in nutrition and metabolism; and Colette Heimowitz is the director of education and research for the Atkins Health and Medical Information Services.

(CROSSTALK)

BEGALA: Ms. Heimowitz, as Tucker pointed out, it has been 30 years since Dr. Atkins proclaimed his diet revolution. Six million books sold, 192 weeks on the "New York Times" best-seller list. You claim 20 million follows, and Americans are fatter than ever. Isn't it time to declare the revolution a failure?

COLETTE HEIMOWITZ, EDUCATION DIRECTOR, ATKINS HEALTH & MEDICAL INFORMATION SERVICES: Absolutely not. It's been the low-fat hypothesis that has failed the test of time. It's been the Atkins program of controlling carbohydrates that has passed the test of time despite the critics and all the things people have to say about the dangers and all of the American Heart Association warnings against the program.

The program has survived because people aren't hungry. They're able to eat until they're satisfied and they control their cravings for sweets. The key thing here is to have people understand they could eat fat as long as they're controlling carbohydrates. It is a dangerous message to tell people they could eat as much fat as they want and still continue to eat excessive carbohydrates.

CARLSON: Now, Dr. Peeke, these are Lucky Charms. I've been eating them all day. And I have to say they are, in fact, magically delicious, quite tasty. But I'm not guilty about eating them. You know why? Because right on the side of the box, there's an endorsement from an official physician's group, the American Heart Association, which in addition to Lucky Charms, has endorsed Cocoa Puffs, Cookie Crisps, and my favorite, Count Chocula.

Now, against that, I bring you Dr. Robert Atkins, who said, really, you ought to have a cheese omelet for breakfast. So, the physicians Lucky Charms. Atkins says cheese omelet. I think I'm going to take Atkins' side. Can you see why?

DR. PAMELA PEEKE, ASSISTANT PROFESSOR, UNIVERSITY OF MARYLAND: Well, wait a second now. As it turns out, it is a lot more complex than that.

CARLSON: No.

PEEKE: Yes, absolutely. There is a middle ground, and we're all beginning to discover that there is a middle ground. Turns out you have to be real careful when you look at this word carbohydrate, this no-carbohydrate issue because, you know, fruits and vegetables are carbohydrates. And we all know that they're basically a medicine cabinet of antioxidants, vitamins and minerals. You want to include them in your diet.

It is the grabable, you know, grab-and-go starch that were made by processed foods, by refinement, they're not natural. Frankly, they're science fair projects. They're not real food. So, bottom line, what are you doing here? That's...

CARLSON: Why does the AMA endorse this science-project food then?

PEEKE: Because they have to kind of get with it. You know what I'm talking about?

CARLSON: OK.

PEEKE: It is like a little bit behind the times here. The bottom line is, it was the refined sugars, OK, it is the refined sugars. It is the white stuff. It is the white rice. It is the white pasta, the white potatoes. It is the white bread. These are basically, again, unnatural foods. They make your blood sugars rise through the ceiling. But the fruits and vegetables and the whole grains, and the multi-grains are fine. Got to be real careful here.

I think that Dr. Atkins definitely brought out some very good points. We do eat too many grabable, you know, starches and refined foods. No question about that. But you want to make certain to include in your diet just enough of the other carbohydrates that are high quality as well as high-quality fat.

BEGALA: And, Ms. Heimowitz, let me tell you what the American Heart Association, which does endorse Lucky Charms, which tells me that they're not too uptight. This is what they say about your diet. This is Dr. Robert Eckel, who is the chairman of the American Heart Association nutrition committee and he says, "my first piece of advice is against utilizing the Atkins diet, and that's for sure. This diet is purely for weight loss, and it's our opinion that as a tool for dealing with fat America, it carries the very real potential for an increased risk for heart attack." Your response?

HEIMOWITZ: I'm very surprised considering he's representing the American Heart Association when studies in the literature show that excessive carbohydrate consumption raise triglyceride levels and lower HDL, the good cholesterol, and that's an independent risk for heart disease. Not to mention the high risk of high insulin levels on arteriosclerotic disease, which happens when you have too many carbohydrates and your insulin levels go high.

And this program is not about no carbohydrates. It is about effective carbohydrates in the form of vegetables and, along the way, you begin to add fruits and nuts and seeds. And if someone's metabolism can handle it, if they don't store fat, they could have whole grains as well. It is a matter of keeping beneath your carbohydrate threshold so you don't store fat. Instead, you burn fat for energy with the body is equipped to do. It is a natural phenomenon. We either burn sugar for energy or we burn fat. This is a program that teaches you how to burn fat for energy.

CARLSON: Dr. Peeke, you don't sound like you agree?

PEEKE: I was just jumping all over the table for other reasons. Basically, the bottom line is you add fruits and vegetables along the way. Excuse me, why are they not added right off the bat?

Also, in addition, we have this whole issue of adding supplements instead of whole foods. Clearly, all science has shown, this is evidence-based medicine science, that by definition, you want to make certain to have a whole food matrix, not a pile of pills that -- I wonder who owns those companies, anyway. Well, anyway, the bottom line is you want to have whole food, fruits, vegetables from the very beginning. You don't wean yourself off one thing and on to something else.

CARLSON: But wait a second, evidence-based dieting shows conclusively that the Atkins diet works. You actually lose a lot of weight.

PEEKE: That's absolutely not true. That is not true.

CARLSON: I don't know. I mean, it's...

PEEKE: If you look at...

CARLSON: ... done wonders for lots of people.

PEEKE: Well, how you to define success? If you want to turn yourself...

CARLSON: Getting less fat.

PEEKE: Yes, but over what period of time? If you want to turn yourself into a six-week phenom, and that is a science fair project that can drop weight, I can have you drop weight any way you want to do it, any way you want to do it. You could eat the rug, the wallpaper, it doesn't matter. The bottom line is it is all about the calories in, the calories out.

However, my definition...

HEIMOWITZ: I have disagreed with Dr. Peeke at this point (ph).

PEEKE: ... of success is is this sustainable? Is it sustainable for life...

HEIMOWITZ: And have you read the literature?

PEEKE: ... and is it healthy for live? We have absolutely no evidence-based medicine whatsoever to show in peer review literature and science journals that this, over time, is healthy.

(CROSSTALK)

HEIMOWITZ: Dr. Peeke, show me the research that...

BEGALA: Well, let me show you one piece of research from a doctor who I trust, OK? Dean Ornish is a physician and one of the most prominent on the issue of heart and health. And here is what he has said after reviewing your diet. "High-protein foods, particularly excessive animal protein, dramatically increase the risk of breast cancer, prostate cancer, heart disease and many other illnesses. In the short run, they may also cause kidney problems, loss of calcium in the bones, and an unhealthy, metabolic state called ketosis in many people. The American Dietitic Association recently condemned high- protein diets as being dangerous, a nightmare of a diet." That's what the science says.

HEIMOWITZ: And this is where the misinformation and the misconception and the myths persist. And despite that, we have had success over 30 years. Show me the research, long-term, of low-fat diets that have been successful in people having good health, preventing disease, losing the weight and keeping it off. This is a program that accesses fat.

Now, you're telling me that burning fat for energy is unhealthy? You're wrong. You burn fat for energy, you add...

BEGALA: (UNINTELLIGIBLE).

HEIMOWITZ: And you add carbohydrates back in to keep beneath your carbohydrate threshold. If you go over your carbohydrate threshold, you're going to gain weight. Simple, if you're getting fat, you're eating too many carbohydrates. It's as simple as that.

BEGALA: Ms. Heimowitz, Dr. Peeke, I want to thank you -- Ms. Heimowitz, thank you again. Dr. Peeke, thank you very much for discussing this.

PEEKE: Thank you.

BEGALA: Believe me, it won't be the end of it either.

Coming up in our "Fireback" segment, a viewer takes issue with something other than Tucker's taste in bow ties. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BEGALA: Welcome back.

Time to "Fireback." Let's go straight to the e-mail e-bag. From Dan Ryba in Chicago, Illinois: "Bill Clinton's era of high economic expansion is due to him and his administration falling asleep at the wheel and not investigating corporate earnings. Now, it's up to President Bush's administration to clean up and weed out the corporate wrongdoings."

Dan, the problem with that is President Clinton tried five different occasions to pass regulations that now Congress is going to pass, and every time the Republicans killed him.

CARLSON: That is such a crock and you know it.

BEGALA: No, it's not. It's an absolute fact.

CARLSON: But on to the next one, addressed to me: "Tucker, the bow ties are bad enough -- well, thanks a lot -- but the pink shirts really must go. You look like you're waiting for someone to beat you up and take your lunch money."

Emily Dunbar, take a shot at it, Emily. I dare you. Take my lunch money. I don't even have lunch money.

BEGALA: Yes, sir, your question or comment. What is your name and where are you from?

MIKE: My name is from Mike Mangon (ph), and I'm from Manasquan, New Jersey. My question is, I lost 50 pounds on the Atkins diet. My father lost 75. He's kept it off for three years. I've had it off for about four months. I was wondering if you had any opinion on that as to why you disagree with the diet?

BEGALA: Well, look, I'm not a diet expert, but the guys I checked with, like Dean Ornish, who is, says it increases your chance for all kinds of heart problems and cancer. And, I mean, I'm not for heart problems and cancer.

CARLSON: Let me answer that question honestly. There is a certain sort of food neurotic who hate -- and this is not Paul but a lot of diet experts -- who hate the idea that people can eat steak and other great things and lose weight. It just bugs them. They think you ought to be eating rabbit food. So they attack the Atkins diet. They're all crackpots. Yes, a question.

CATHERINE (ph): Hi. My name is Catherine Lusker (ph) and I'm from Discovery Bay, California. And my question is for you, Tucker. I was wondering while our unemployment rates are reaching highs of like 5.9 percent and Democrats are scrutinizing our president for his past affairs, don't you think they should be working on our future?

CARLSON: Democrats ought to be? Absolutely. I mean, my question always is what -- you know, what, spending a lot of time scaring old people about Social Security, what exactly is the Democratic plan to fix Social Security? If you ever (UNINTELLIGIBLE) CROSSFIRE, you know the answer. There isn't one. So, yes, I agree. I mean, a little bit of a positive message would be nice once in a while.

BEGALA: And, in fact, of course, there is. But more importantly, where is the Bush jobs plan; 1.8 million Americans who had jobs under Clinton lost their jobs under Bush. And he sits there and goes speedboating with Poppy in Maine. Not exactly a jobs claim. Yes, ma'am?

LINDA: My name is Linda Gerbitz (ph). I'm from Clearwater, Florida. And this question is for anyone. Actually, it is a comment. All this talk about attacking Saddam Hussein sounds a lot to me like the movie "Wag the Dog," getting everyone's attention away from the fact that we haven't been able to track down Osama bin Laden or al Qaeda or even find out who was putting anthrax in people's mailboxes. What do you think about that?

CARLSON: I think you're talking about a scenario in which, let's say, you get caught lying under oath and to divert attention from that, you lob a bunch of cruise missiles into the desert and through a country nobody has ever heard of. That would be "Wag the Dog." I think this is actually a serious attempt, wrong-headed or not, to remove Saddam Hussein. And I don't think -- and I think Paul agrees...

(CROSSTALK) BEGALA: No, I disagree intensely. I worked for President Clinton when he bombed Osama bin Laden, the example that Tucker was referring to. It was the right thing to do. And if Bush had enough guts, he would have done it a long time ago too.

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

CARLSON: And from the right, and confused by the last comment, I'm Tucker Carlson. Join us again tomorrow night for another edition of CROSSFIRE. "CONNIE CHUNG TONIGHT" begins immediately after a CNN "News Alert." See you tomorrow night.

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



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