Williams' Death Brings Up Issue of Cryonics; Parties Square Off Over Corporate Responsibility
Aired July 9, 2002 - 19:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ANNOUNCER: CROSSFIRE. On the left, James Carville and Paul Begala. On the right, Robert Novak and Tucker Carlson. In the CROSSFIRE tonight: putting a legend on ice. Ted Williams' son is hoping for a scientific home run and his daughter's crying foul.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARBARA JOYCE WILLIAMS FERRELL, TED WILLIAMS' DAUGHTER: There's a lot of people out there who said they would buy Dad's DNA. And there could be lots of little Ted Williamses running around.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ANNOUNCER: Tonight, frozen for later. Should we say it ain't so?
He's taken it to the street.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: There's no capitalism without conscience. There's no wealth without character.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ANNOUNCER: But will there be reform without politics? Ahead on CROSSFIRE.
From the George Washington University, Paul Begala and Tucker Carlson.
TUCKER CARLSON, CO-HOST: Good evening and welcome to CROSSFIRE. Tonight, Ted's dead head. Freeze him now, clone your very own all- star team later.
But first, the good, the bad, the deeply weird. The CROSSFIRE "Political Alert." Nary a golden parachute was in sight today as Professor George W. Bush, Harvard MBA, came to Wall Street to deliver a guest lecture on business ethics. He promised his administration will do everything in its power to end the days of -- quote -- "cooking the books, shading the truth, and breaking our laws." As with any lecture, there will be a quiz. Take note when the trouble started.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BUSH: The 1990s was a decade of tremendous economic growth. As we're now learning, it was also a decade when the promise of rapid profits allowed the seeds of scandal to spring up.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CARLSON: Now the quiz: who was in the White House when those seeds of scandal sprang up? Calvin Coolidge? No.
PAUL BEGALA, CO-HOST: Who was one of those seeds of scandal? We will get to that. Who was one of those businessmen ripping people off? George W. Bush.
CARLSON: Basically, President Clinton aided and abetted the largest and most vulgar explosion of untamed greed this country has ever seen and said not word one about it, except congratulate himself.
BEGALA: Except on six different occasions, tried to get Congress to pass regulations, would have kept all of this happening. The Republicans stopped him. We'll get to this.
CARLSON: I lived here at the time. I don't remember that.
BEGALA: I worked there and we'll get to more of this later. Speaking of our current president, George W. Bush, when he was a candidate, promised the people of Nevada -- quote -- "As president I would not sign legislation that would send nuclear waste to any proposed site unless it's been deemed scientifically safe."
Well, just a half-hour ago the Senate voted 60-39 to ratify President Bush's shafting of the people of Nevada and of your state, too. The Bush plan calls for mobile Chernobyls hauling radioactive waste through 43 states. Experts expect 150 nuclear transportation accidents.
But once it gets to Nevada, don't worry. There hasn't been an earthquake near Yucca mountain in three weeks. When reached for comment, President Bush quoted his hero, Otter, from "Animal House," who once said famously, "You screwed up, you trusted me."
CARLSON: Local Chernobyls? I have to say, you all, being professional Democrats, are very good at scaring people.
BEGALA: I'm a talk show host, not just a Democrat.
CARLSON: Even lower. Even lower.
CARLSON: You've seen the Democratic donkey. You are familiar with the Republican elephant. Now meet the progressive moose. After many difficult years without an official animal symbol, the Progressive Party of Vermont has settled on the moose.
We're kind of branding a little bit, explained a party spokesman. It's just a way to connect people. People love moose. Indeed, they do -- tourists from New Jersey, that is, who regard the animals as handsome, noble and quaint. A perfect emblem for a coffee cup or a bumper sticker.
Actual Vermont voters, however, may react differently. In Vermont moose are better known for giving off noxious odors, attracting bloodsucking insects and killing motorists in collisions. They're also famous for their loud and violent rutting, during which they compulsively urinate and knock down trees.
CARLSON: A fitting symbol of progressive politics.
BEGALA: I could have gone all night without hearing you talk about violent rutting, Tucker.
CARLSON: Violent and loud rutting.
BEGALA: Thank you very much. "The Washington Post" reports that our president will not attend this summer's meeting of Catholic charities because the invitation was extended by Boston's embattled cardinal, Bernard Law. This is the same Cardinal Law that President Bush publicly defended in March, calling him a man of integrity.
As evidence of Law's role in the church scandal grew, Bush continued to back him, but now will not attend. What about the hundreds of thousands of impoverished Americans helped by Catholic charities whom Bush is now stiffing?
Bush said they ought to follow his example. Get a trust fund, cash in on their families name and have their daddy's SEC ignore their insider trading.
CARLSON: So is the point here, Paul, that the president ought to go have a drink with Cardinal Law? You would be outraged if he did that.
BEGALA: He should go to Catholic charities. Of course he should. They're a wonderful group. I contribute to them.
CARLSON: You would attack him if he did that, as you well know.
BEGALA: I support Catholic charities. He should go.
CARLSON: That's theoretical.
Time now for this week's Janet Reno desperation update. Reno, of course, is making a segue way from failed attorney general to an even more embarrassing second career as a doomed gubernatorial candidate in the state of Florida. It gets uglier by the day.
When "Saturday Night Live" portrayed her as a disco dancing female impersonator, Reno came on the show to join the gag. Now she has taken it one excruciating step further. Reno's latest fund raiser is scheduled to be held at a trendy South Beach dance club.
It's not yet clear what the former attorney general will wear, not that it matters. For a mere $25, supporters and gawkers can watch a real live Janet Reno disco party. It's cheaper than a night at the movies and much, much stranger. Come one, come all.
BEGALA: She's great. She's going to win that race if she's a nominee.
CARLSON: She's going to win the race?
BEGALA: George W. Bush's little brother is going down.
CARLSON: If she wins that race I'll eat this coffee mug. She's going to lose, Paul. But it's going to be super entertaining.
BEGALA: I want to see you dance in a handsome blue dress there.
CARLSON: If Janet Reno was there, I would.
BEGALA: More political news. A University of Houston poll shows Democrat Ron Kirk leading Republican Attorney General John Cornyn by 8 percent in the race for U.S. Senate from Texas. This, despite President Bush's support for Cornyn and despite Bush's inexplicable attack on Kirk, the first African-American mayor in Dallas history.
Bush summoned Dallas TV cameras to the Oval Office to proclaim he could never work with Kirk, whom he labeled -- quote -- "an obstructionist." This stunned the people of Dallas, who recall Bush praising Kirk, even calling him vice president Kirk during a presidential visit to Dallas.
Soon, apparently Bush will have to get used to a new name for him, Senator Kirk.
CARLSON: So he's not allowed to criticize Kirk? Is that the idea?
BEGALA: He said, I can't work with him. He worked with him when he was a mayor. He's just -- he's panicking. I don't blame him.
CARLSON: Maybe he is an obstructionist. I'm going to miss Graham.
BEGALA: Well, at baseball's all-star game tonight, there will be a special tribute to 18-time all-star Ted Williams, who died last week. Just think, though, if some people have their way at future all-star games, Teddy "Ball Game" may be back, along with that sweet swing that got him a .406 batting average in 1941.
Williams' children are involved in a bizarre and angry battle over his corpse. His son reportedly had the body frozen in hopes that someday Williams' DNA could be sold and a lineup of little Teds could be cloned. His daughter is fighting to have her father's remains cremated.
Fire and ice tonight in our CROSSFIRE. Our guests are Dr. Max More, president of the Extropy Institute and a member of Alcor Life Extension Foundation. He is in Los Angeles. And, in Charlottesville, Virginia, Jonathan Moreno, the director of the University of Virginia's Center for Bioethics.
Thank you for joining us.
CARLSON: Dr. More, thank you for joining us. I have to admit, I didn't know a great deal about cryonics when I woke up this morning, but spent a little time on the worldwide Web, went to something called the Cryonics Institute and came across the following page.
"In emergency cases," it says, "before proceeding any further, if the person has already died, cool his or her head immediately. Place ice cubes or crushed ice or water ice in a plastic bag and completely cover the front, top, back and sides of the person's head." It goes on to say, "click here if the person is not yet dead, and we can help you freeze the head."
Now, you're a believer in cryonics. What -- if you're a believer, do you keep a -- I don't know, a soup tureen of liquid nitrogen in your house? What exactly are the methods you use to preserve a body as it dies?
DR. MAX MORE, PRESIDENT, EXTROPY INSTITUTE: Well, first of all, I'm not a believer. I don't like to be a believer in anything. I think the cryonics gives some unknown chance of success. Nobody is actually promising that this will work.
We have some reasonable evidence that brain cells can survive for some time after clinical death. That's not biological death. But we don't know the actual chances of being brought back. So I'm not believing in anything.
All I believe is that it's probably a better chance if I'm suspended than if I'm thrown in the ground to rot or be burned in flames. Those don't give you any chance at all.
MORE: Go ahead.
CARLSON: As I understand it, it's quite expensive? I mean, in some cases, over $100,000 to have your body or your head preserved.
MORE: That's the new thing, because I've been doing this since I was in my early 20s, and I had no money as a student. And I did it with life insurance, which is how most people do it, which is a very small payment per month.
CARLSON: Are you a body or a head man?
MORE: I'm head only, at the moment. I'm head only right now. My view is that any technology that can repair the damage from the crystal formation could also regenerate the body relatively easily.
BEGALA: So that means that when you're gone, they're going to chop your head off and freeze it in, like, a big Frigidaire, and the rest of you does go away, right? They'll burn it or bury it or whatever, right?
MORE: That's true, although I think my own preference would be to preserve the rest of my body separately, or at least the spinal column, in case there's any useful information in there for revival purposes.
BEGALA: But they might be more comfortable together. Wouldn't they want to kind of hang out together? They become attached for a while.
MORE: I'll tell you what. If things improve, if the suspension procedures get better than they are today so there's really no cellular damage, then yes, I'll take my whole body, because it will be fairly easy to bring me back.
But right now, there's no denying that tremendous damage is done by the freezing process itself, despite all the precautions taken. And to repair that kind of level of damage, we need an advanced molecular technology that would make regenerating a body relatively easy. And I say relatively easy.
CARLSON: Mr. Moreno, this is obviously grotesque and ghoulish and kind of revolting. But what is morally wrong with it? You're an ethicist. Explain why this is a wrong thing.
JONATHAN MORENO, DIRECTOR FOR BIOETHICS, UNIVERSITY OF VIRGINIA: You know, Tucker, the 50- or $100,000 to freeze the great Ted Williams' head would be better spent buying baseball equipment for kids in the inner city, or building them baseball parks.
This is a medical science that doesn't even meet the silliness threshold. And it's really unfortunate that something like Ted Williams' memory is caught in this. The justice issue here also is, you know, there's something to the ancient wisdom that says we get our shot, we all get our shot at life, and then we move on so the next person can take our place.
What if Tucker Carlson were around for 100 years? How many people sitting in your audience at GW wouldn't have a shot at your job?
MORE: I'm shocked to hear that.
BEGALA: That's the least of the worries about Tucker being around for another 100 years.
MORE: I'm shocked by this idea that we should just dispose of people as soon as they keel over. Would you not give people resuscitation as their hearts stop temporarily? Or would you not give them chemotherapy to try to get over cancer?
These people are not disposable. These are human beings who have a chance of coming back. If you're going to it's silly, I think you need to give a reason why so we can actually address the real arguments there.
CARLSON: What about that, Mr. Moreno?
MORENO: The problem is that this is all part of a culture that has totally lost track of the fact that life has an appropriate beginning, middle and end.
MORE: Appropriate according to who?
MORENO: I don't agree with Dr. More's view that this is simply an extension of other life-preserving techniques. There are times when it's appropriate to use those techniques. There are times when it's appropriate to use those techniques and medical care, and times when it's not.
MORE: And who decides when it's appropriate?
MORENO: Excuse me, sir, can I finish?
MORENO: So many people now are suffering in their last days and weeks of life, as are their families, because of inappropriate medical interventions.
MORE: But this would remove...
MORENO: Sir, I'm still talking. We've come to expect people to insist upon. And we are creating a very bizarre technology of death instead of a technology of life. And this is only the oddball limit of that kind of culture.
MORE: Again, that's not an argument. And I would make the point that if we had good cryonic suspension available, then probably most people wouldn't want to suffer those last months, which are very expensive months, in hospitals. They'd rather be suspended under better conditions. That would greatly reduce the cost of medical care.
MORENO: You have no medical or scientific argument, either. You've just said that someday it might be possible. Someday it might be possible to fly a cow to the moon without a spaceship.
MORE: No, that's nonsense. That's nonsense. You're talking nonsense. Now you're being silly because you're making ridiculous arguments that contravenes physics.
(CROSSTALK) MORE: I'd like to hear why he thinks that this contravenes physics or biology. Flying a cow to the moon without propulsion system does violate physics. Let's hear an argument, please.
CARLSON: Well, let me provide an argument for you.
MORE: It's very easy to make fun, isn't it? But give me an argument.
CARLSON: I'll go right ahead and do that. I want to read you something from the Alcor Life Extension Foundation, of which apparently you're a member. This is from, again, the Web site.
Here's a quote. "The possibility of living a longer, more productive life, even following the event we now refer to as death is becoming more realistic with each passing day."
There is a kind of willful self-deception here. I mean, the fact is, people do die. We're not very close to eliminating death. There's really no hope at this point that mankind will ever be able to eliminate death. And this is sort of elaborate pretending, is it not?
MORE: There's no hope, according to who? There are many eminent scientists these days who think there's a great deal of hope. We've already immortalized cells in culture. We've used (UNINTELLIGIBLE) extend the life of cells. We can regenerate a number of tissues.
We're making advances on an enormous number of fronts. There's no reason to say that this is an impossible problem to cure. It's a technical problem and we will cure it in time.
And in the meantime, this is the conservative thing to do, to preserve somebody in good condition to reach that possible technology. Otherwise they have no chance at all.
BEGALA: Dr. More, I disagree with you. But you have a perfect right to waste your money and follow all these goofy enterprises. But in the case of Ted Williams, there's no indication I've seen in the public record that this was Mr. Williams' desire. This is, according to the news accounts I've seen, the desire of his son.
In fact, as Mr. Moreno pointing out, Ted Williams, I know for a fact he spent a good deal of his life, most of his life, raising money for the Jimmy Fund, a cancer fund, that helped kids with cancer. And my guess is he'd probably rather have that money spent helping children alive today trying to fight cancer, than turning himself into a sideshow spectacle, the way it's become.
So why should somebody else make the decision, in the case of Ted Williams?
MORE: Well, I don't argue with that. I don't know the exact facts of this case. And we certainly can't trust the other side to give an accurate interpretation. But my view is really, it should be up to each person to decide if they want to be suspended. Nobody else should really decide that for them. Now, if he's paying for it, that's one thing. But if it's against his wishes, then no, that's not OK. So I don't disagree with that. But it should be our choice individually.
CARLSON: OK. On that happy note, we're going to take a quick break. We'll be right back. Stay frozen to your chairs, heads and all. Our guests will be right back to consider this question. If Ted Williams can be frozen and unthawed, does that mean that people such as Richard Simmons, Bill O'Reilly, yes, Kathy Lee Gifford, can live forever too? We'll explore the ethical implications of cryonics -- and there are many.
Later, President Bush's prescription for what's ailing Wall Street. Will business take its medicine?
And our quote of the day. It's from a man who's been prone to exaggeration, outright falsehoods, in the past. There he goes again. We'll be right back.
CARLSON: Welcome back to CROSSFIRE. We're talking about the implications of freezing and cloning famous people, cutting their heads off for future use. Today it's baseball legend Ted Williams. What if someday it's Bill Clinton? Ooh.
In the CROSSFIRE tonight, from Los Angeles, Dr. Max More. He's the president of the Extropy Institute and a member of the Alcor Life Extension Foundation. And in Charlottesville, Virginia, there's Jonathan Moreno, who's the director of UVa's center for bioethics.
BEGALA: Dr. More, let's talk about some of the -- I think, silly, absurd, but practical ramifications of your position. If such mythical technology ever takes place and we can revivify an 83-year- old Floridian like Ted Williams, what are we going to do with this army of 83-year-olds?
Do they get back Social Security? Do they get their inheritance back that they left to their kids? Do they still qualify for rent control for all the years that they were in frozen suspension? What are the pragmatics of this?
MORE: Those are all excellent questions. There are many issues. We have to sort of multi-track on this, and not think along one line. Don't just think of an 83-year-old person coming back, but really think about all the changes that are happening.
That person to be brought back, first of all, they're not going to be revived until we've really cured the problem of aging, which is going to take some unknown amount of time. So they're not going to come back as an aged 83-year-old person. They'll come back with youthful vitality.
Now, there is certainly a major issue of adjusting psychologically, and that's not going to be easy. I don't think anybody should pretend it will be easy. But, you know, I made a move from England to California, which is a pretty big culture shock. This will be bigger one, certainly. Many people won't want to do that.
BEGALA: You're talking about human popsicles. I mean, England to L.A. may be a bit, but, I mean. So we're going to -- now, Ted Williams, when he passed, was 83. He had a bunch of physical maladies, but the body itself was 83.
So we're not only going to bring him back, but -- like, at what point? Can we pick? Because '41 was his best season. He hit .406 and he was the greatest hitter to ever live. Can we bring him back just at that stage of his development?
MORE: Well, if he did, he wouldn't be very good in comparison to the athletes of that time, I suspect, because the standards keep going up as we get better ways of training and diet and chemistry and so on. So I don't think that would be a very good idea. He's not going to be coming back and playing the same game, at that point.
CARLSON: Mr. Moreno, one of the things that I'm -- one of the many things I'm bothered by in the story, is the idea that these companies take this money, then promise to keep these heads under ice for a thousand years, into perpetuity.
I mean, everyone thought Enron was going to last forever. Of course, it didn't. Is there any government regulation of this? Or can you just become a freelance head-taker? Do you know, Mr. Moreno?
MORENO: This is the wild, wild west, Tucker. There's no regulation. People can spend their money on foolish things if they want to. But there's so much more good that could be done.
You know, there's a special irony in talking about cloning an all-star team of Ted Williams. He had such a great swing that people called him the natural. He hated that, because he had a great work ethic.
And he used to say that he worked every swing that he got. Every ball that he hit, he worked very hard to hit. And...
CARLSON: Back to the -- wait, I just want to make sure I understand this. There are laws against desecrating corpses.
MORENO: Of course.
CARLSON: And yet, anybody can just open a mom or pop head shop, basically, and the government can't do anything about it. Is that right?
MORENO: That's right. I mean, this is one of the areas in which there is not regulation. There's also hardly any regulation at all on the other end of life, on in vitro fertilization, for example, which is why this whole business about human cloning has gotten to be such a hot topic.
MORE: Well, there may be reasons for regulation and oversight. But of course, that would probably add legitimacy to this, which you probably wouldn't want to do. But let me ask you, if we had a procedure, some experimental procedure, that might help somebody to stay alive, but it was quite difficult to do and was expensive, would you tell them, sorry, but you're going to have to die because that's expensive. The money could have gone to the Boy Scouts or some other charity. Are you going to say that that person cannot use their money to die, that it's a silly attempt?
MORENO: Dr. More, I've said before, people can do silly things with their money. If they want to give it to companies like yours, that's fine with me. But I think people...
MORE: There's nothing silly about that.
MORENO: People ought to think a little more deeply than you apparently have, about...
MORE: I've thought about it very deeply, I can assure you.
MORENO: That's not what I'm hearing tonight.
MORE: Well, I haven't heard any arguments from you whatsoever. All you've given are some ridiculous kind of analogies with cows flying to the moon. Honestly, they're very poor kind of arguments.
MORENO: Exactly what I read about...
MORE: Excuse me, but I'm talking right now. We've frozen many kinds of tissues. We've frozen skin, we've frozen 40 different kinds of tissue. We've revived those back. We're getting on towards doing whole organs. There's no reason to think that the information embodied in those cells is destroyed completely, if you suspend someone in good condition.
So for you to say that's impossible, you're going to eat those words in the future. I'd actually like to make a bet with you, if you're willing to do that, off the show, for some large sum of money, whether this will be possible or not. Because I don't think you have good reasoning behind your position.
MORENO: Sir, I believe that life has a course and a shape. And I don't want to be around to collect on that bet.
BEGALA: The ethics, Mr. Moreno, of -- the news reports we've seen is that Ted Williams' son wants to freeze his father's corpse to sell the DNA to others. Now, if DNA, off, transferred hitting ability, then his son would have hit .406. And his son is a total loser. What are the ethics of selling off the DNA?
MORENO: The ethics of selling off the DNA is, that's pretty much unregulated, too. But it's ridiculous. I mean, there's as likely to get me, which they definitely don't want on their team, as they are to get another star quality hitter as Ted Williams. Genetics is a lot more complicated than that.
MORE: I agree.
MORENO: You don't express a quality that simply, that directly.
MORE: I agree, too. I think it's a ridiculous idea, if that's what's happening. But I don't know if that is what's happening, or just what one side of the family is saying. Certainly you cannot bring back that person with a DNA. A DNA is not a person. There's going to be a huge number of changes in the environment and the expression of those genes. So that would be a ridiculous idea.
BEGALA: Dr. More, thank you very much. We'll have you back in 250 years. And, Mr. Moreno, thank you. We'll have you back during your natural life.
BEGALA: Still to come, Dubya risks being struck down with a thunderbolt as he delivers a lecture on -- get this -- corporate ethics.
And next, a quote of the day from a man who stood up to many of the villains of the civil rights era. Who's he worried about now? Stay with us.
BEGALA: Welcome back to CROSSFIRE, coming to you live from the George Washington University here in beautiful downtown Washington, D.C. Still ahead, Dubya fires away at Wall Street, and your chance to fire away right back at us.
But first, George W. Bush made John Ashcroft his attorney general as a consolation prize after Ashcroft lost a bid for reelection of the U.S. Senate to a dead man, the late Mel Carnahan. The fact that Bush and Ashcroft now lead the party of Abraham Lincoln has not been lost on the members of the NAACP.
At the group's national convention this week, the Reverend Jesse Jackson summed up what Bush and Ashcroft mean to African-Americans.
What he said is our quote of the day -- quote -- "Today we face the most threatening combination to civil rights in 50 years."
CARLSON: It's a total outrage, actually, and it's also stupid and it comes from a pathetic figure. But -- and it also is something he's accused every singly Republican president of racism since Gerald Ford. But the fact is, the NAACP has 500,000 members. The NRA has 4 million. AARP has 35,000. This is a group that gets a huge amount of ink. Does it represent all black Americans? Of course not. It's a fringe group. It's an adjunct to the Democrat Party. And it just does not speak from the mainstream of black America or America itself. It's ridiculous.
BEGALA: Tucker Carlson speaks for mainstream black America far better...
CARLSON: I absolutely do not. But I don't pretend to, and that's the difference.
BEGALA: Excuse me.
In the oldest and most respected civil rights organization. Let me tell you, not just what the NAACP says, this is a "Washington Post" report of this a couple of months ago. Career lawyers at the Justice Department contend their division's enforcement of civil rights is being compromised. That's not the NAACP. That's career attorneys, committed to civil rights, at the Justice Department.
CARLSON: To imply in 2002, as you certainly well know, that someone is bad on civil rights, you are saying that person is a racist. That's an -- that's the worst slander you can utter against another person. It's outrageous. It's beneath contempt. And it's totally unsubstantiated. It's totally outrageous.
BEGALA: Bush and Ashcroft's record on civil rights cannot be debated.
CARLSON: Of course it can be debated.
BEGALA: Oh, so these career attorneys at the Justice Department say that they're...
CARLSON: I want you to give me one example of how he's bad on civil rights.
BEGALA: He opposes affirmative action. He opposes the hate crimes bill. He campaigned at Bob Jones University. He still hasn't signed any election reform, even though he stole the election in Florida. He has an attorney general with a perverse affection for the Confederacy.
I could go on, Tucker. He has a bad record on civil rights.
CARLSON: Your demagoguery is starting to irritate me.
BEGALA: Deal with it.
CARLSON: Coming up, from wrestler to governor, and now to the hospital. CNN's Connie Chung joins us next with the latest on Jesse Ventura.
And then, a not-so-subtle reminder to corporate America, play by the rules or else. Be right back.
CARLSON: President Bush today reminded corporate leaders that the business of America is honesty. It was a speech given with his eyes not so much on the bottom line as on the sinking markets, and on the approaching election. So what will it accomplish, if anything?
Please welcome to the CROSSFIRE tonight Democratic congressman Ed Markey of Massachusetts, and Republican congressman Vito Fossella of New York.
BEGALA: Congressman Fossella -- just give you my reaction, won't surprise you. The speech was mostly rhetoric, and the rhetoric was mostly hypocritical. It was like Richard Nixon speaking out against wiretaps or Ronald Reagan speaking out against arms for hostages, or, yes, Bill Clinton, who I worked for, speaking out for chastity. This was a stunning -- the greatest example of right wing cross dressing since J. Edgar Hoover. I want to hear you defend that speech.
REP. VITO FOSSELLA (R), NEW YORK: Tell me how you really feel.
I think the president is tackling a very legitimate issue that is facing the American people today, and I think he did it in a great way today in New York. I think, as he has embraced the war on terrorism, or promised to lead the American people in cutting taxes and promoting our economy, he has also taken the helm in trying to restore a sense of accountability in our corporations.
The reality is, a lot of Americans, innocent Americans, have invested their life savings. A lot of employees work for these corporations. And some bad -- a few people did some bad things. Those people should be prosecuted. Some of them should go to jail if necessary. And I think from this point forward, any of them serving in a high-level capacity need to know that the federal government is not going to tolerate any misdeeds or actions anymore. And the president stepped up to the plate, as the president, as the commander in chief, to tell the nation that the federal government is going to be there.
For example, the rhetoric along -- funding, fully funding the SEC to go after corporate abusers is necessary. Doubling the fines, if necessary. Jail time for corporate abusers, CEOs. That's what the American people want, because ultimately, we all have a stake in the success of the capital markets, and the free market system. Without integrity, transparency, and honesty, it falls apart. You cannot...
BEGALA: Let's talk about honesty. (UNINTELLIGIBLE) I want to show you... FOSSELLA: ... you cannot take away the risk from investing, but what you can do, the government can do is enforce the laws, and aggressively pursue those who break it.
BEGALA: But the question I posed to you was about hypocrisy. I want to show you a clip of the president today, and then tell you the reality behind the rhetoric. Take a look.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: When a company uses deception -- deception accounting to hide reality, executives should lose all their compensation -- all their compensation gained by the deceit.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BEGALA: This from a man who even his father's Securities and Exchange Commission said did just exactly that. He profited from a phony transaction at the oil company that he ran, and he walked away with the profits. That's stunning hypocrisy, isn't it?
FOSSELLA: Well, I think, if my understanding is correct about this and what the issue you bring up here, is that the SEC, the federal agency responsible investigating these types of things, investigated the president and found him free and clear.
And as you know, someone who has been around politics for a few years, it was brought up in his gubernatorial election, and it was a non-issue, it was brought up in the presidential election, it was a non-issue. The reason why is because the federal government responded, and found that he did nothing wrong.
So I think what, honestly, what we are here to do, and I think what the members of Congress and the American people deserve, is to step up to the plate and do what we can. To demonstrate to the American people, those who may have their life savings at stake, that it's OK to invest in the stock market because it benefits us all, and if you are going to cook the books, if you're going to play games, the game is over. The party's over, and they have taken the punch bowl away.
CARLSON: Now Congressman Markey, this Harken oil conspiracy that Paul alluded to -- I know you're above trafficking in ludicrousness like that, so let's just get right to the point here.
John King for CNN today reported that the White House is saying President Bush would be willing to sign the Democratic plan, Senator Sarbanes' plan, coming out of the Senate. This is, essentially, an indication that he is on your team. So what are Democrats complaining about?
REP. ED MARKEY (D), MASSACHUSETTS: The president did not say that today. The president said the Republicans passed a strong bill out of the House in April, and now we await the Senate. On the Senate floor, Senator Phil Gramm, the lead Republican on these issues, is fighting the Democrats. So the president should have said, One, I want an oversight board that is not controlled by the accountants. That's what the Republican bill was in the House. Two, I do not want accountants to also be consultants for the firms which they are overseeing. That's what happened at Enron, that's what happened at MCI. He did not say that today. I do not believe, he should have said, That analysts should also receive bonuses for investment banking that comes into the same financial firm. He should have said that as well.
Instead, what he said to the Democrats was, Democrats, don't build that wall. Don't construct some separation that makes it impossible for accountants to engage in that kind of chicanery. And thirdly, the president, in fact, has named three people to the Securities and Exchange Commission. That's all he gets to name. All three of them come from the accounting industry, led by Harvey Pitt, their chief lawyer. Now what kind of confidence does that send to people with 401(k)s that have been cut in half and are now 201(k)s, if they're trying to decide whether or not to keep the money under the mattress, or put it back into the marketplace?
CARLSON: You're not suggesting that all accountants are corrupt. And we will get to that in a minute. But I just want you to answer my original question, which is, if it's true, and I believe it is, that the White House is saying, off the record anyway, the president will sign the Democratic legislation coming out of Senate. What -- I mean, there are details -- apparently, you disagree on, but it's impossible to paint him as this tool of corporate greed, isn't it? I mean, this is your campaign issue.
MARKEY: Off the record, said by someone whose name you won't name -- can't name, because he is anonymous, when we're about to go into a war between the Republicans in the House and the Democrats in the Senate...
CARLSON: You're hoping for it.
MARKEY: Well, we're hoping for the war, because we want to prove that the Republicans are, in fact, still unwilling to put the protections on the books to protect ordinary people. We are now -- we've been fooling with the golden goose that lays the capitalist egg now for a year and a half. And it's about time that we sent the signal to the American public that we are not going to allow the job creation and the wealth creation in our society to be the province of a very small number of wealthy corporate executives.
And so yes, we're going to have this battle. No, the president did not say this today. You can't point to anything he said today that would lead to that conclusion. Instead you have some anonymous friend of yours, some young Republican would say that.
BEGALA: It's your nightmare -- It's Congressman Fossella's nightmare, actually, right? Because -- because of his alleged and possible past criminalities as a corporate officer himself, the president will sign the Democratic bill because Democrats are going to roll him, and you're the guy who is going to get the limb sawed right out from under you, aren't you? You voted for the weak Republican bill. Bush is going to sign the strong Democratic bill, and that makes you look like a schmuck, doesn't it?
FOSSELLA: I guess through your eyes, I guess that's probably right.
BEGALA: I think the world of you. I'm saying through Bush's eyes. He's going to make all of you Republicans look terrible.
FOSSELLA: I respectfully disagree. I think, you know, despite the attempts by those on the other side, this situation existed for years. It predated President Bush's presidency, and I think the vast majority of the American people know that. I think what we responsible folks need to do is try to solve the problem where we can. The reality is, the House is not finished, and in a couple of days, the Commerce Committee, another committee with jurisdiction, will be taking up -- taking up a bill as well.
So I think it's important -- it is incumbent upon all of us to work together. It's not a Republican issue. It's not a Democratic issue. This is what's right for the American people, and the American investor. How do you go after someone who cooked the books and pin that on President Bush? How do you blame Ed Markey for somebody in a corporation that cooked the books, or tried to pull the wool over somebody's eyes that perhaps you had a 401(k).
BEGALA: Can I show you? Can I show you? I'll show you exactly how.
FOSSELLA: I think it's totally irresponsible.
FOSSELLA: And what we can do is give the tools to the prosecutorial agencies that are discharged with the responsibility. Go after them, and do it.
BEGALA: I'll show you exactly how. It's because...
FOSSELLA: Blaming 101. Thank you.
BEGALA: ... President -- President Bush himself -- it does predate his administration. He was doing it as a corporate executive. And the Securities and Exchange Commission, by the way, never interviewed Bush, never interviewed other directors of the company, never interviewed other officers of the company, and never said that he was exonerated. Here's how, though. There is a liberal group who is running an ad, and this is what it looks like. You will probably see a lot of these in your campaign.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Remember the saying about foxes guarding a hen house? Well, guess what's happening in Washington? President Bush says he's getting tough on corporate fraud. Bush sold out early. The Bush team: Dick Cheney was CEO of Halliburton, more Enron-style accounting. And Harvey Pitt? The accounting industry's top lawyer. Bush thinks tough talk can hide the record. That's sly -- like a fox.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BEGALA: That's from a group called American Family Voices, and I'm sure they're not the only group that is upset with the way that the Republican policies have allowed this to happen. How are you going to answer that?
FOSSELLA: You know, the beauty of this country is groups like that can say what they want, despite the fact that they may be wrong. That is the beauty of it.
BEGALA: Did Dick Cheney not run Halliburton when Arthur Andersen shifted $100 million in accounting and the SEC is now investing that? That's a true statement, right?
FOSSELLA: You use -- you throw the words "alleged" around. In this country, and I think if it was you, for example, if the SEC investigated you and found you clear, and then somebody said you were guilty of wrongdoing...
BEGALA: If they sent me a letter -- the letter to Bush, sir, said you are not exonerated. That is what the letter said. Nothing in this is to be taken as exoneration, said his father's SEC to him. They didn't prosecute him, but I can't imagine why. It was daddy's...
FOSSELLA: Yes, I understand this conspiracy can go on forever.
BEGALA: Shouldn't he just release all the records then, so you can prove me wrong?
FOSSELLA: No, I think what we should do, and I will leave that to the discretion of the president, is try to address, really, fundamentally what, if anything, the federal government can do. And I think we're going to do something. I think one thing that transcends all of this, and it affects -- whether it's corporate America, the accounting profession, the legal profession, political profession, is honesty, integrity, transparency, and trust. You could pass all the laws you want. If you have these bad people huddling in a room trying to cook the books and pull the wool over the American people's eyes, those folks should go to jail, despite what you do in Congress.
But I tell you this, I think and I hope that good people like Ed Markey in the House and the Senate can join the president, as he stated today, down in Wall Street, New York, where I still think is the financial capital of the world, to demonstrate to the American people and the world that you can have confidence in the capital markets, and the free market system. CARLSON: Mr. Markey, I want to thank you, by the way, for not referring to the president as a criminal, and debating him on the issues rather than on conspiracies, but I take issue with the political strategy the Democrats appear to be working, because I don't think it is going to work.
I want to show you a poll that just came out the other day. It is a McKenna Research Poll, asked the question, Who is to blame for corporate wrongdoing? Corporate CEOs, 72 percent; Clinton, 8 percent; Bush 6 percent. I think Clinton ought to get a little more blame than that, but the bottom line here is that people see the fault of corporate misdeeds as the responsibility of corporate CEOs. I mean, that's who they are blaming. They are not blaming the Republican party. In fact, blaming Democrats a bit more.
MARKEY: OK. Let's take your theory, as you are telling it to us. We've lived, Paul and I, throughout our entire lives, with being charged with being too close to organized labor, that they control us.
CARLSON: We will pay for that ad, by the way.
MARKEY: I am just going to tell you. Well, who is too close to CEOs? So if there is one party in America, and you have two in the lineup, and you have to pick one, I think the American people are going to pick the Republican party, in the lineup as being too close to the CEOs.
CARLSON: That's a good theory.
MARKEY: So let's just go forward then. Let's just say it's not about the past, and it's not about President Bush's fuzzy math, and it's really about the future, and who is going to protect American families against corporate wrongdoing. Well, so far, if there was going to be any evidence that was going to be brought forward that convicted the Republicans of trying to deal with this corporate wrongdoing, to clean up the accountants, to clean up all this mess, there wouldn't be enough to convict them.
And so, as we go forward, your buddy in the bowels of the White House might be right, and the Republicans might be ready to roll over right now and become the investor's best friend, but so far, there isn't any evidence.
And that's where the Democrats, 129 days from now, are going to be able to use it as a metaphor for the surplus which has been squandered...
CARLSON: Don't even try.
MARKEY: ... the social security trust fund...
CARLSON: I know, I know, I know.
MARKEY: ... which they want to put into the stock market, the Dow, the Nasdaq...
CARLSON: And good luck.
MARKEY: ... the future of people's families.
CARLSON: But you still need to answer (ph).
MARKEY: It is a metaphor which the Democrats are going to be able to ride all the way to a majority in the House and the Senate.
CARLSON: I know. They always do (ph). Let me ask you this really quickly. Speaking of the Senate, there are four nominees to the SEC, which everybody agrees, Republican and Democrat, needs to be strengthened. And they are being held up by Democrats in the Senate. I don't understand. I honestly don't understand the reason for this. Why Democrats in the Senate are preventing this essential agency, protecting investors, the rest of us, from taking their positions. Why?
MARKEY: The president is naming the majority of the SEC to be accounting industry officials. One thing he should have said today is...
CARLSON: Well, so what? I mean, it's an accounting related job. I mean, I don't...
MARKEY: ... he should have -- if he wants to restore confidence in the American marketplace, he should have asked for Harvey Pitt's resignation today.
CARLSON: That is something I don't understand.
MARKEY: The market -- the market would have gone up instead of down. As the marketplace looked today at the reforms that were being proposed by the president, they didn't see enough teeth in them, and as a result, the market plummeted again. If he had announced...
BEGALA: Excuse me, Tucker. Congressman Fossella, you're a tough on crime Republican, right? I admire that in you. But our president put in charge...
FOSSELLA: Even though I'm a schmuck?
BEGALA: No, I said the president thinks you are, I think you're a great guy. But our president put in charge of the Securities Exchange Commission a man who went -- who came from the industry, as their lobbyist and lawyer, and then went back to them and said -- and I quote -- "We'll have a kinder, gentler SEC," and then Bush zeroed the growth in the budget for enforcement. Now that's soft on crime, isn't it?
FOSSELLA: Well, the reality is that earlier this year the president signed into law a securities bill that established paid parity for the Security and Exchange Commission's investigators and prosecutors, so -- because the issue was that SEC was losing people, and the law he signed allows the SEC to pay their employees more to retain them. That's a fact.
But it is clear what's happening, you know, -- and it's sad what's happening -- is that the American people want us to respond. They want the president to respond, and what the other side is going to seek to do is play games until election day, and hope that the -- you know, they can amplify this issue and make a political football out of it. And that, I think, is somewhat irresponsible. But the good people of this country will prevail upon all of us to do something, do something right. At the same time, give teeth to the SEC, to the Department of Justice, to go after those few bad apples, because I happen to believe most people in this country are honest, hard working, want to raise a family, send their kids to school, and we should support them, and not allow...
BEGALA: That will have to be the last word. I am sorry to cut you off. But Congressman Ed Markey of Massachusetts, thank you very much for joining us. Congressman Vito Fossella from New York as well. Thank you both.
Next, "Round 6," where Tucker and I will take the gloves off and go one on one. And then, it's your turn to fire back at us. Believe it or not, the debate about Tucker's fashion sense is still raging.
BEGALA: Welcome back to CROSSFIRE. Time now for "Round 6," where Tucker and I shoo the guests away and climb into the ring by ourselves.
Tucker, you began the show with an attack, blaming all this corporate irresponsibility on President Clinton. I said then, and I'll tell you now what the real facts are, and these are the facts: when President Clinton was president, his Securities and Exchange Commission chairman asked for the authority to separate auditing and consultings in accounting. The Republicans blocked it.
His head of the Commodities Future Trading Commission asked for more disclosure of derivatives. The Republicans blocked it. His treasury secretary asked to crackdown on tax havens. The Republicans blocked it. Senators tried to control 401(k) abuse, Republicans blocked it. I could go on and on.
CARLSON: Paul, let me just counter with one -- look, the fact is -- look, between 1998 and 2001, 40 percent of the SEC staff left. The Clinton people didn't care at all, as they didn't care about policing these industries that were booming and therefore propping up his poll numbers.
But the fact is that every Democrat in Congress who's been here more than three terms was a witness at the scene of the crime, and the crime was this massive bubble, aided and abetted by Bill Clinton. He was the main beneficiary of it, and its explosion, its deflation is what we're seeing now. It's that simple. The bubble burst. BEGALA: Again and again and again and again and again, on six different occasions, the president and his administration asked the Republican Congress to act to prevent this, again and again and again they stopped him.
CARLSON: Paul, you know that that's -- you know that that's not true.
BEGALA: I was working on -- I worked on some of these issues, Tucker. That's the record, that's the reality.
CARLSON: Unfortunately, we have to go.
Next in "Fireback," one of our viewers wants Ken Starr back on the job. What a marvelous idea. We'll be right back.
BEGALA: Welcome back. Time now for you the viewers to fire back at we poor pathetic hosts. Here's our first e-mail from J.E. Clark in Memphis, Tennessee, home of Graceland.
He says, "Where is Ken Starr when we really need him? He spent millions of dollars and years of time trying convict President Clinton for a two-bit deal from years ago. Maybe he'd like to check out some of W.'s crooked transactions. How about it, Ken?"
Excellent, excellent idea, J.E. Clark.
Beverly Enyeart from Lincoln, Nebraska writes, "Having Bush give a speech on corporate ethics is like having President Clinton give a speech on marital fidelity."
To which I would say, having President Clinton give a speech on corporate ethics would be like having President Clinton giving a speech on fidelity. There's a guy with corporate ethics problems. We didn't recognize them at the time.
BEGALA: Bush has a monumental hypocrisy problem.
CARLSON: That's not true, Paul, actually. As many times as you say it, its' still ridiculous.
BEGALA: Of course it's true.
Of course it's true. Just because his father didn't put him in prison for insider trading, doesn't mean he was innocent.
CARLSON: That's insane.
BEGALA: My dad would have cleared me too. I want that on the record. My daddy loves me. Lon Malone in Richmond, Virginia writes, "How we criticize Bush's comments!" These being comments about his administration's civil rights record, I should say. "He did, after all, give high profile jobs to two African-Americans! Two out of 34.8 million ain't bad, is it?"
CARLSON: OK. And finally an e-mail I agree with. It comes from Jeremy Westbrook of Hattiesburg, Mississippi, writing to defend me from earlier fashion attacks, early in the week.
"As tempers flare, politics rage on, countries crumble, and the world around us sinks deeper into turmoil, it's amazing that a person could be so shallow as to poke fun at the attire of a man who tries to make sense out of all of it for us. Bow ties, pink shirts. Solid."
Hey, man! Jeremy Westbrook, yes!
BEGALA: Go to our live studio audience. Just tell me your name and your hometown.
TONY: Hi, I'm Tony Scliatopless (ph) from Cranford, New Jersey, and I have a question for both of you concerning the to freeze or not to freeze. How does it hurt anyone if someone chooses to freeze their remains? I mean, if they're terminally ill and it gives them hope, is it really such a bad thing?
CARLSON: Well, I think -- I mean, apart from the fact that it's ghoulish and creepy, I think it perpetuates the lie that people are in control of life, its beginning and its end. They're not. And I think the misperception that they are leads to lots of problems in the world at every level, and this is another example.
BEGALA: Yes, it's part of a larger culture where we deny death, and also it does divert a lot of funds that could go to much more useful things than turning people into popsicles.
CARLSON: Though to be fair, I don't think there are millions going to head freezing. So there are a fairly small group of enthusiasts.
BEGALA: We have had plenty of guests on this show who had their heads freezed before they came on.
CARLSON: They're all welcome. Yes, a question.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: OK, for Paul. Janet Reno not only conjures a negative image with dishonesty but a relation with the Hispanic community that can only be described as not so great. How can you assume she will automatically win the Florida gubernatorial race because she's a Democrat?
BEGALA: First of all, because Jeb Bush has done a terrible job and they don't like him.
CARLSON: Oh, right! BEGALA: But second, you're completely wrong. Janet Reno -- I may have my criticisms of her but she's a thoroughly honest person, a person of towering integrity, and John Ashcroft is not half the woman Janet Reno is.
CARLSON: And if you were even awake during the 1990s when she incinerated all those children at Waco, for instance.
BEGALA: That is a lie I'm not going to let you get away with! David Koresh killed those children.
From the left, I'm Paul Begala. Good-night for CROSSFIRE.
CARLSON: And from the right, I'm Tucker Carlson. Join us again tomorrow night for yet another edition of CROSSFIRE.
"CONNIE CHUNG TONIGHT" begins immediately after a CNN "News Alert." See you tomorrow night.
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