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McCain Calls for Tougher Legislation for Corporate Crooks; Is Bush Too Close to Big Business?; Should Bad Language Get You Arrested?

Aired July 11, 2002 - 19:00   ET


ANNOUNCER: There's thunder on the right.


SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: I don't think that this is over by a long shot.


ANNOUNCER: And thunder on the left.


REP. RICHARD GEPHARDT (D-MO), MINORITY LEADER: We need to fix the problem.


ANNOUNCER: And the thud you hear is Wall Street. Is someone feeling "loan-ly" at the top?

Fasten your seat belts and don't try anything funny. The pilot may have a gun.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Our duty is to protect the passengers, our cargo, and to maintain control of the ship at all times.



UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We are rushing to the security blanket of guns in the cockpit. That could do more harm than good.



PAUL BEGALA, "CROSSFIRE": We're going to kick a little right wing ass.


ANNOUNCER: And, should Paul Begala have his mouth washed out with soap, or be arrested? Watch your mouth, ahead on CROSSFIRE.

From the George Washington University, Paul Begala and Robert Novak.


ROBERT NOVAK, "CROSSFIRE": Welcome to CROSSFIRE. Tonight, the last line of defense against terrorist hijackers. Why would anybody be against it?

Also, the limits of free speech. But first, I'll look at those unusual and interesting stories that you might not find anywhere but in our CROSSFIRE "Political Alert."

A remarkable foursome plied Capitol Hill today. Cabinet Secretaries John Ashcroft, Donald Rumsfeld, Paul O'Neill and Colin Powell sat at the very same table to support formation of a new department of homeland security. Representative Dick Armey gets credit for arranging this photo-op.

He persuaded Secretary O'Neill to delay an overseas trip and got Defense Secretary Rumsfeld to come, even though his hand is in a cast, following surgery this week. About a dozen House committees are working on bureaucratic chair shuffling.

Armey's select committee eventually gets to put all the pieces together. Don't you just feel safer already?

BEGALA: I think it's good that they're trying to make this effort. It's a little late. I don't understand why security does not have the FBI and the CIA in it, though. I mean, homeland security, it's got the meat inspectors, but not the FBI.

NOVAK: Does it feel better to know that they're taking the Secret Service into Justice, instead of Homeland Security...


NOVAK: Well, never mind.

BEGALA: I think it's a good idea. Citing top Bush administration sources, "USA Today" reports that an invasion of Iraq by the United States will only occur if there is significant provocation, such as Saddam Hussein invading a neighbor or producing a nuclear weapon.

Now, this is a significant policy shift from previous justifications, which included something about that guy really ticks me off, and Dad's getting tired of being teased about it at the country club.


BEGALA: Seeking to reassure conservatives, however, White House sources say attacking Saddam is still an option if the Bush-Cheney corporate scandals look like a big problem in the November elections.

NOVAK: I know you don't like this, but maybe they'll come to their good senses and say, gee, the world's not going to come to an end if this guy stays up there tormenting the Iraqis.

BEGALA: It is an interesting piece of reporting.

NOVAK: Yes. A veteran Democratic Congressman, John Conyers from Detroit, never is short of goofy schemes. Now he wants the senior Democrat in all of Congress, his fellow Michiganer, John Dingell, to drop out of the August 6th primaries. Dingell is running against Congresswoman Lynn Rivers because of redistricting.

Conyers wants Dingell to use his big war chest to elect Democrats, take control of the House, make Dick Gephardt speaker. And when Gephardt quits Congress to run for president, private citizen Dingell runs for speaker.

Folks, it won't happen. Besides, John Dingell is one of the last of the good ol' boys left in the Democratic Party. Hang in there, John.

BEGALA: I'm with you. I love John Dingell. Great American, great Democrat. But if a private citizen should be speaker, Bill Clinton. He's available.

NOVAK: How about Paul Begala?

BEGALA: Speaker Clinton.

Most of us know, of course, the story of John F. Kennedy and the PT-109. Back in World War II, 1943, the 26-year-old Navy lieutenant's patrol boat was rammed by a Japanese soldier. Two American soldiers died. Kennedy's heroism saved all the rest of the crew. And this week we got a ghostly look at what's left.

Robert Ballard, who also discovered the wreck of the Titanic, released pictures of what Naval historians say is almost certainly the wreckage from PT-109. It was discovered earlier this year.

Ballard's new assignment will be a little tougher: finding proof that another future president, George W. Bush, ever reported for duty during 1972 and '73, when he was supposed to be in the Air National Guard. Of course, all available records show he never showed up.

NOVAK: You got your GW blast in early. You know, Lieutenant Kennedy was one of the few officers who ever, on the basis of a blundered assignment, became a hero. That shows you what a good PR man will do.

BEGALA: He was a great American hero and a great American president. NOVAK: While it's news when private corporations go bust, it's old hat for publicly-owned companies to go deep into the red. I'm talking Amtrak. Its president told Congress this week that for the second straight year, Amtrak will lose $1 billion. That's billion with a B.

Why does the railroad lose so much money? Senator John McCain has got this one right. Instead of concentrating on service in highly-populated corridors, as a private company would, Amtrak runs service in sparsely settled areas. The members of Congress insist on it. That's how socialism works, doesn't it?

BEGALA: Amtrak is a great service to America, particularly in rural areas. They deserve representation. They deserve Amtrak.

NOVAK: They don't deserve us paying for their luxury train tickets.

BEGALA: They're not luxurious. We need Amtrak.

Remember the so-called debt clock? The digital counter that sat in Times Square for years as the national debt skyrocketed during the Reagan-Bush deficits? Well, guess what. It's back.

Not even two years after President Clinton balanced the budget, gave us the largest surplus in history and put America on a path to zero national debt, President Bush's fiscal policies have the debt clocks zooming once again. Said Bush, our first MBA president, "I always told you I was going to run the country like a business. I just didn't tell you that business was WorldCom."



NOVAK: It's an interesting thing. We had a recession that Bill Clinton started. We had a terrorist attack. Those things didn't have anything to do with the deficit, did they? Of course not.

BEGALA: This is Bush's tax cut.

NOVAK: The White House today confirmed that back in the 1980s George W. Bush was loaned more than $180,000 from Harken Energy, a company he served as a director.

Early this week, the president seemed to call for an end to such loans. But until now they have been commonplace. A White House spokesman reminded reporters that the Bush loans were completely appropriate and fully disclosed. Democrats are acting like they have stumbled on to another Whitewater, or even Watergate.

First in the CROSSFIRE tonight, two members of Congress from New York, Democrat Nita Lowey and Republican Peter King.


REP. NITA LOWEY (D), NEW YORK: How are you?

REP. PETER KING (R), NEW YORK: Bob, how are you?

BEGALA: Thank you both for taking the time to join us.

LOWEY: A pleasure.

BEGALA: Congressman King, when I woke up this morning, here's what greeted me on my doorstep, the "Washington Post." Bush took oil firms' loans as director. Practice would be banned in president's new corporate abuse policy.

Now, you're a Teddy Roosevelt reformer, as a Republican. This has got to bother you, that the leader of your party has this Harken hypocrisy, right?

KING: Well, first, I'm glad you woke up this morning. That's a step in the right direction.


NOVAK: Sometimes you can't tell.


BEGALA: I live in my dream world, but this is a nightmare, right?

KING: No. not at all. First of all, we're talking about something that happened years ago, which was totally proper in the context of the time it was. The fact is that conditions have changed since then. What could have been perfectly legal and appropriate and proper, 10, 12, 15 years ago, is not today. Because it's been abused by corporate officials today.

President Bush certainly did not abuse anything at that time. But the fact is, because there's been so much abuse lately, I agree with the president. That practice should be stopped now.

BEGALA: I actually want to tell you more about that loan, as the "New York Times" reported it, because I don't think it was proper at all and I suspect you don't, either. Put up on the board, how the "New York Times" described how they struck this deal for Bush.

It was not a loan like you and I would get. The "Times" says two years later, after the original loan, the arrangement was changed. No longer was Mr. Bush personally liable for repaying the loan. Mr. Bush's risk was limited to not profiting on the deal, since he could simply return the shares should they decline in value, for less than the loan amount.

Now, Congressman, your constituents in New York can't get a loan that they don't have to repay if their investments go south. Why should George W. Bush?

KING: At that time it was common practice. It was not abused, to encourage direct participation, to get employees involved, as far as getting stock in the company. The loan was given basically to get stock in the company. That's the way it was done at that time. It was not abused.

It was something which was done on a fairly regular basis. Now that it's being abused, it should be stopped. But if something happened years ago and was done properly, does not mean it was done improperly or the president did anything wrong.

You guys are reaching. You can't help yourselves. Paul, you can't help yourselves.

NOVAK: Nita Lowey, I've always felt that many Democratic politicians are without shame. But I think you have a little shame, so I'm going to ask...

LOWEY: Want me to respond to that question?

NOVAK: No, I'm going to ask you to answer this question. We have a serious situation in this country right now. Because the investors are very worried the market is going down, partly because of the things you people are saying up there.

And you are taking a loan the president of the United States took out, as a private citizen, before he even ran for governor. Aren't you a little ashamed of yourself, that when there are serious things afoot you are playing dirty politics?

LOWEY: Bob, to me this is about basic American values: honesty, hard work, integrity, fairness. Investors put their money in the market in the United States of America expecting that everything would be run in an orderly, fair, honest way. Every day we see another revelation.

I think what the Congress has to do is to restore confidence again. Over 50 percent of Americans currently invest in the market. That's frightening. And this is why Social Security is so important.

NOVAK: You completely ignored my question. Totally ignored it. This -- since George W. Bush, he was then trying buy the Texas Rangers, took out this loan, we've been through about three business cycles. You're not going to tell the American people that his loan had anything to do with what's going on there. Can you answer that question?

LOWEY: Let me tell you what I believe. I think, from the administration to the CEOs, to the investors, to the Congress, we have a responsibility to restore confidence. And if it means...

NOVAK: You want to answer my question?

LOWEY: I will. I think the administration should let all of the information out and have it all reviewed and put it in back of them and let's move on.

NOVAK: Answer my question. LOWEY: I did answer them.


LOWEY: I really believe that the administration has a responsibility to get all of the administration out. I strongly support the Sarbanes bill, the Leahy, McCain bill, that passed in a bipartisan way in the Senate. And I would hope that the House would support it as well.

BEGALA: It has everything, of course, to do with the current crisis. Because if the president has been tainted, as we know he has, by his own corporate scandals, he's ill-suited to lead us to resolve our current corporate scandals.

Let me show you an exchange that happened at a press conference a few days ago. A reporter from "The Washington Post" asked him a very simply question about his role in what the SEC -- even under his daddy -- ruled was a phony transaction. Here's the question. Watch Bush's response.


QUESTION: Let me ask you, right before the accounting, the sale itself of this subsidiary, did you favor that? Were you involved?

BUSH: You need to look back on the director's minutes.


BEGALA: Well, Bush says look at the director's minutes. Mike Allen, who asked that question, reporter from "The Washington Post," asked the White House for those minutes. No. Then they said, we don't have them.

He went to Harken Energy. Harken Energy says, well, we don't release any of those records ever since 1994, since Bush got into politics. They're hiding something. They're stonewalling. Shouldn't they come clean?

KING: First of all, Paul, there is no corporate scandal. The president has been tainted with nothing. The SEC fully investigated this and found nothing. The SEC, when President Clinton was president, put out the letter in 1993 saying there was nothing there.

The fact is, this has been brought up in every campaign. It's been (UNINTELLIGIBLE) by the SEC. And you keep calling it a scandal. I agree with Nita Lowey. This is a crisis that we face in the American economy today. We have to address it.

We want to address the issue. You people want to attack the president. And you're reaching. You're grasping. And if the race is about -- if this is about the integrity of the president, the American people have faith in this president. And politically, it's good for us that you attack the president.


NOVAK: We almost have to take a break. But I think we have to take off your mask. You are the chairman of the famous and feared DCCC. People out there might not know what it is. It's the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, which has caused as much havoc as the Communist Party in this country. But...

LOWEY: Oh! Oh.

NOVAK: Oh, just kidding. Just kidding. I want to review -- you want to elect a Democratic Congress. I want to give you some bad news. The CNN-"USA Today"-Gallup poll: Who is partially responsible for the business scandals?

George W. Bush? Strongly agree, 15 percent. You can look at that, Nita. Moderately agree, 31 percent. And then we asked, Bill Clinton, who is responsible for these business scandals? Strongly agree, 26 percent, moderately agree, 25 percent.

The people think that if anybody had something to do with this, it's Bill Clinton, not George Bush.

LOWEY: Well, the polls that I'm looking at, Bob Novak, say that 60 percent of the people believe that Democrats are fighting for them, that Democrats are on their side, the side of the small investor, the side that wants to see honesty, fairness, integrity in the markets. But understands that for our economy to get moving again -- and remember, the markets are at a five-year low right now -- and it's in all of our interest to get the economy moving again; to see fairness so we can create jobs for the small investor.

NOVAK: I'll take the Gallup poll over the Democrats.

BEGALA: That's what we'll talk about after the break, so hold that thought, Nita. You, too. We want to know how you guys are going to jump-start the economy, Congressman King.

When we come back, Bob and I are going to ask our guests how much more damage that Dubya can do to the economy.

And later, the dangers of the colorful language some of us use. In some places, apparently they throw you out of the ball game.

And then, our quote of the day. You're not going to believe who is agreeing with Dan Quayle.



BEGALA: Welcome back to CROSSFIRE. A wave of late buying didn't quite save the markets from further embarrassing the Bush White House today. Nasdaq closed up slightly but the Dow industrials were down yet again. Is there any hope this current administration can inspire even the slightest bit of investor confidence? In the CROSSFIRE, Representatives Peter King and Nita Lowey, both of New York. NOVAK: Nita Lowey, I don't get frightened by many things, but I'm scared to death. Because I see members of Congress -- professional politicians who have never done useful work. They only thing they know how to do is raise money and throw mud.

Suddenly they are restructuring the corporate structure of America, which is the envy of the world. That's scary, isn't it?

LOWEY: Just a minute, Bob Novak. I'm a mother of three children. I'm a grandmother of six. I think that's pretty solid work. What do you all think about that?


LOWEY: And I'm honored to have the privilege to serve in the Congress of the United States and work with my good colleague, Pete King. And in fact, are you saying that everything is fine out there? The fact that the stock market is at a five-year low, investors are...

NOVAK: It's scary when people like you are telling American businessmen how to act.

LOWEY: Well, we should just let the Tycos and WorldComs keep issuing statements, $3.9 billion. I want to tell you, Bob, I ran into Tony in White Plains, who lost his life saving. Owns a little shop.


LOWEY: He's not going to be able to retire.

NOVAK: Can I get my violin out?

LOWEY: You sure should. But Tyco and WorldCom are going to go off with their hundreds of millions of dollars because they didn't give a damn. Frankly, I think we need some regulations. You shouldn't be able to lie and you shouldn't be able to issue false statements. There has to be integrity.


KING: I agree with Nita and so does President Bush. But, Paul...

BEGALA: Back when President Bush went to give his much ballyhooed speech on Wall Street on Tuesday, ever-helpful White House aides told the "Washington Post" before the speech they were hoping for a stock market rally. The market dropped 50 points in the 27 minutes he spoke.

And since he began that speech, it's down 469 points. If I were writing headlines for the "New York Post," it would be "Investors to Bush: 'Shut Up.'" I mean, how does this guy inspire confidence when he's tanking the markets every time he opens his mouth?

KING: The same way he inspired confidence in the country over the last year. It was going to happen. This is a nine-inning game. And you don't judge anything by what happens in the top of the first or the bottom of the second or the top of the third.

The fact is that I am confident, within the next several months, you will see the economy coming back strong. And also, one of the reasons why the Dow is continuing to go down is because of the constant partisan fighting on Capitol Hill.

Once a bill is passed and signed, which will be, I believe, before the end of July, Bob may be unhappy, but I think the American people will see that solid steps have been taken. And you're going to see a combination of a Senate and a House bill, probably closer to the Senate bill.

NOVAK: Pete, I wish I had as much faith in economists as you do. I want to thank you for being with us, Peter King.

KING: Thank you, Bob.

NOVAK: Nita Lowey.

LOWEY: Thanks, Bob.


BEGALA: Thank you very much. Nice to have you.

NOVAK: Remember the war on terrorism? Airline pilots sure do. And Congress may give them a weapon that will help.

Later, should swearing in public land you in jail?

And our quote of the day is from an actress who should have spoken up 10 years ago.


NOVAK: It's been 10 years since then-Vice President Dan Quayle dared to criticize the TV program "Murphy Brown." When the program's title character had a child out of wedlock, Vice President Quayle complained she was -- quote -- "mocking the importance of fathers by bearing a child alone and calling it just another lifestyle choice."

Now, it turns out actress Candice Bergen, who played Murphy Brown, agreed with him. She gets our quote of the day for telling the Television Critics Association -- quote -- "His speech was a perfectly intelligent speech about fathers not being indispensable, and nobody agreed with that more than I did."

BEGALA: Bob, you know, there were a couple of problems with that speech, though. He stated the obvious, so give him a Ph.D. in Duh -- dads are important. But what he didn't do is apply it up and down the economic scale.

If you remember, it was really called the poverty of values. About how poor people have bad values. He didn't talk about country club Republicans who neglect their children and leave them with their first wives. NOVAK: That's class drivel. You always turn everything into class drivel. In the first place, Edgar Bergen was a strong Republican, Candice's father. She's showing that some of it rubbed off on her. If she had said that, we might have had a second term for Dan Quayle.

BEGALA: Edgar Bergen was a famous ventriloquist, which is, I think, where Candice Bergen gets her affection for dummies.

On that thought, there is yet another reason to pass up that extra hamburger, milkshake and piece of cake. In a minute, CNN's Connie Chung will tell you why.

And also ahead, why some people are taking off on the idea of guns in the cockpit.

And later, can we even have this debate on TV? We're going to look at what could possibly be wrong with a little creative cussing. Stay with us.



CONNIE CHUNG, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, I'm Connie Chung in Los Angeles.

CROSSFIRE is back in 90 seconds, but first, these stories top our "News Alert."

West Nile Virus has now made its mark this year. Louisiana reported the first verified human cases today.

Three men tested poistive for the virus. Lab tests are being conducted in another three or four suspected cases. West Nile virus is a mosquito-borne disease that's been spreading since 1999.

Philadelphia police plan to charge NBA All-Star Allen Iverson with four felony counts for allegedly forcing his way into his cousin's apartment with a gun last week.

Iverson is accused of barging into the home while searching for his wife. He is expected to turn himself in next Tuesday.

In Tennessee still no sign of five escaped inmates considered armed and dangerous. The fugitives used home-made knives to break out of a county jail 90 miles east of Memphis early this morning. They made off in a guard's car, but are believed to now be traveling on foot and wearing civilian clothes.

A new survey finds that a large number of Americans don't know that being overweight might increase their risk of cancer. Eighty-six percent of those surveyed knew that packing on the excess pounds increases their chances of getting heart disease and diabetes, but only 25 percent were aware of the link between obesity and cancer. California and other Western states are in the grip of a punishing heat wave. In some areas, soaring temperatures hovered above 110 degrees. Health officials warn the oppressive heat is deadly. They are urging people to drink plenty of fluids, wear sunscreen and light clothing, and avoid excessive exercising.

When I come back at the top of the hour, new developments in the case of an alleged police beating caught on videotape. The man who shot the video has been taken into custody right outside CNN's Los Angeles bureau. I'll have the latest on that and an interview with the attorney for the police officer at the center of this controversy.

Paul and Bob, back to you.

BEGALA: Connie, I know you're out there in L.A. Do you have any sense from community leaders that somehow this could spiral out of control the way we saw those tragic 1992 riots?

CHUNG: I think everyone is being very cautious. And I don't think that anyone is indicating that any rioting might ensue. But, you know, who knows. I don't think -- I think everyone appears to be calm at the moment.

NOVAK: Thank you, Connie. We'll be watching you at the top of the hour.

Still to come -- words that at least one American city will land you in jail. Next in the CROSSFIRE -- should guns land in the cockpit? Fasten your seatbelts for this one.


BEGALA: Welcome back to CROSSFIRE coming to you live from the George Washington University here in downtown Washington, D.C.

OK, look, I want to take a quick poll of the audience just like I promised during the commercial break. By applause, show me who here thinks we should allow pilots to carry guns in the cockpits.


BEGALA: Pretty impressive. The House of Representatives apparently agrees with you all, voted to let pilots carry guns. And it was not even a close vote: 310 to just 113. But the White House is opposed to guns in the cockpit, and the bill may hit a little turbulence when it comes to the Senate. Next in the CROSSFIRE, public affairs firm senior vice president, Peter Goelz. He's a former managing director of the National Transportation Safety Board. Mr. Goelz, welcome to CROSSFIRE.

NOVAK: I want to ask -- instead of asking you a first question, I want to cede it to the sponsor of the guns in the cockpit bill, Congressman Don Young of Alaska, the chairman of the House Transportation Committee. We're going to put his question up on the screen. Congressman Young asks, it's right up on the screen if you want to look at it -- "do you really think that 9/11 would have happened if our pilots had been armed, as they should have been armed?" What's your answer?

PETER GOELZ, FORMER NTSB MANAGING DIRECTOR: Well, I don't know. And I don't think anyone knows. But I think the real issue here is, what we've got is an election year. And when you have Novak and Begala agreeing, that's like cats marrying dogs, isn't it? I mean...

BEGALA: Oh, that's a hideous thought.

GOELZ: This is an unusual event, and I think it has to do more with an even-numbered year...

NOVAK: Even though the people want it?

GOELZ: Well, let's look at it. When the first bill was passed, the idea of arming pilots was tossed to the security people. And they reached out to a broad variety of folks to say, are there unintended consequences to introducing upward of 70,000 weapons into the air system? They came back with the answer and said the unintended consequences of this are greater than the security that it would supposedly bring us. And they recommended no.

BEGALA: I strongly, strongly disagree. First off, 70 percent of our pilots are already trained in the military. So they have some familiarity with weaponry. They can get and will get the training that they need to be just as well trained as air marshals, and they already have our lives in their hands. They are behind a 747, which now we know is a weapon of mass destruction. Why not trust them with a .45?

GOELZ: And we want them -- we want them to fly that plane and bring it down as quickly as possible.

One of the things that happens in this whole debate is that the arguments keep shifting. Part of the time, well, we're going to keep the guns only in the cockpit. No, we'll let the pilots carry them throughout the airport.

NOVAK: That's a detail.

GOELZ: Of course, and it's just an irritating detail. How about this? What do we do if you have got pilots walking through the secure area, and the gun is gone? Do we clear the area? What do we do about that? What happens...


GOELZ: Well, let me give you another one. This is election year pandering. That's what's going on. On the pilots' own Web site today, this morning, the pilots' union said the truth is only a small fraction of the pilots will ever be carrying guns. So, wait a minute. So, wait a minute. So this afternoon...

NOVAK: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) the guns will be in the cockpit.

GOELZ: No, they're not going to be. So the answer is this is just rhetoric. If the pilots themselves say only a small fraction, where's the increase in safety? It's rhetoric.

NOVAK: Mr. Goelz, I have dealt with security people all my life. They are the kind of people who have made beautiful Capitol Hill look like downtown Beirut. They always have the wrong answer. But I'll tell you, somebody -- this is a golden moment for me, because if there is any person in politics I disagree with all my life, had no use for, it's Senator Barbara Boxer of California. And I'm so excited...

GOELZ: You're right.

NOVAK: Let's listen to what she has to say.


SEN. BARBARA BOXER (D), CALIFORNIA: Imagine how the survivors of all those passengers and crew will feel if we fail to allow pilots to have guns defend the plane and an American flight was brought down by the American military. I know it would make me feel awful. It would break my heart, and I would carry that for the rest of my life.


NOVAK: Go, Barbara. Isn't that the argument? That whatever is wrong with a pilot carrying a gun, it's better than the plane being shot down by an American warplane?

GOELZ: There is no question that the idea of having an American plane shot down by one of our own is a horrific concept.

NOVAK: And that may be the alternative.

GOELZ: I don't think it is. But, you know, listen, I'm willing to reconsider if it's bringing you and Barbara Boxer together. That in itself is extraordinary.

BEGALA: You know, it's not -- I strongly disagree that this is simply a political thing. Because first off, everybody agrees, therefore it's not much of a partisan issue. But also, there is a deterrent effect here.

GOELZ: Everyone agrees except the professional security people. And one of the things -- let me -- let me give you one fact.


NOVAK: That has to be the last word, because we are out of time. Thank you very much for being with us.

GOELZ: Thank you.

NOVAK: Thank you very much for being with us. We appreciate it. Thank you. Thank you.

One of our viewers has fired back some e-mail about guns in the cockpit. We'll get to that in a little bit.

But next, does Paul Begala dare open his mouth in Pittsburgh?


NOVAK: Two Pittsburgh area police departments are putting people in jail for being dirty mouths, for using bad language. Ever anxious to engage in the trivial, the American Civil Liberties Union, the ACLU, is going to court against the cops to protect dirty speech.

Joining us from Fort Meyers, Florida, where we're interrupting his vacation and we thank him, is Vic Walczak, executive director of the ACLU's Pittsburgh chapter, and in New York is Mike Gallagher, nationally syndicated radio talk show host with the Salem Radio Network.

Mr. Walczak, as I understand it, a woman was stopped in the Pittsburgh area. She mouthed off to cops, she was very nasty, and they took her to jail. What did she say to cause that, and what's wrong with saying you can't talk to a cop that way?

VIC WALCZAK, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, ACLU PITTSBURGH CHAPTER: Well, first of all, she wasn't exactly nasty. And let me give you quickly the facts of these two cases, which are fairly typical of what we've been seeing.

In one case, a woman was stopped allegedly for running a stop sign. There is what is later recognized to be a computer error that says her license is suspended. They make her get out of the car, they put all her groceries on the street. She's trying to get home to her daughter who's sick, and she says just innocently, "man, am I having a BS day." That's the word she says. Boom, handcuffs, you're off to jail, charged with disorderly conduct, spent several hours in jail, has to hire a lawyer to beat the charges.

Second case involves a young couple who are coming out of a grocery store. They start -- they step into the crosswalk, and a police car comes flying through the intersection. They have to jump back, and she yells, "it's a crosswalk," and then uses the street language for anal orifice. And the cop turns around, tracks him down in a parking lot and starts screaming at them, how dare these folks swear at him, how dare they call him this. Boom, they land in jail, they are charged with disorderly conduct. Again, all the charges are dismissed.

Question is, do we want our nation's police officers, who have a lot to do in protecting us against crime and fighting against terrorism, do we want them playing miss manners? Do we want them being the naughty language police? And the answer is no.

BEGALA: Let me bring you into this -- I'm sorry to interrupt, Mr. Walczak -- but I want to bring Mr. Gallagher into this. Not much I like about George W. Bush, but here's one thing. He has a filthy mouth. And I like that in my politicians. He cussed me out personally once...

MIKE GALLAGHER, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: You deserved it. BEGALA: ... and he was caught on tape one time using the very phrase about anal orifices -- I'm now not allowed to use this without getting fired. Let me play that tape for you. You take a listen. He was talking about a reporter for "The New York Times." Listen to our president.





BEGALA: The only thing I don't like about that is Cheney just said, "yeah, big time." He should have said, "damn straight, boss."

GALLAGHER: Yeah, right. Paul, what a cheap stunt to take a clip from President Bush that you guys on the left just rallied around and said, oh, look, he's got a dirty mouth just like us.

I mean, first of all, in response to what -- I mean, in response to what Vic said, the ACLU never misses a chance. They are a cop- hating organization that salivates at the opportunity to go ripping into our nation's law enforcement community. I'm sure that they are foaming at the mouth over the heat that cops are taking right now over these celebrated video incidents.

The fact is, no American could debate that as you walk through today's parks, or walk through the shopping mall, the language in America right now is filthy, is offensive, and for crying out loud, if a cop can't arrest some foul-mouth trash-talking punk from getting in their face and chewing him out...

BEGALA: You're talking about our president that way? Come on now.

GALLAGHER: ... for using poor language -- he wasn't talking to a cop. He was talking to you, he was talking to you, Paul, not a cop.

NOVAK: Mr. Walczak, you, working with a bunch of weenies as you do at the ACLU, probably don't have much experience with foul mouths. But I can understand what the cops go through, because I have to deal with Begala and Carville. And I'd like you to listen to a little -- just a little small selection of what I have to put up with. Would you listen?


BEGALA: We're going to kick a little right-wing ass.

JAMES CARVILLE, CO-HOST, CROSSFIRE: When these sons of bitches just knocked down two of our buildings.


CARVILLE: If there is a completely neutral person, I don't want to know the son of a bitch.

BEGALA: Bush is going to sign a strong Democratic bill, and that makes you look like a schmuck, doesn't it?


NOVAK: Isn't that the decline of values in language that is under -- that is poisoning America?

WALCZAK: Look, nor the ACLU nor I necessarily condones profane speech. I'm trying to raise children, and I'm working to discourage them from using it. But it's different than when you pass a law that says that the police can throw you in jail simply because you utter a profanity. And a couple of points that Mike makes -- one, the ACLU does not hate the police. I've personally represented more than 20 police officers. When police officers' rights are violated, including their free speech rights, the ACLU is the first to come to their aid.

GALLAGHER: Well, then, if you're represented 20 police officers, how many people have you represented who have sued the police? I bet it's a lot more than that.

WALCZAK: It is a lot more than that, to be honest.

BEGALA: Let me get you back on the point of -- I'm sorry to interrupt you, Mr. Walczak. Let me get back to the point of cursing. I disagree with Mr. Walczak on this, though, Mike Gallagher. He said nobody condones cursing -- you're looking at him. I condone it. I think it's great.

GALLAGHER: I know. You guys...

BEGALA: Let me suggest this. If there are teenagers watching, I'm encouraging you to take up cursing. Here's why. It won't kill you like cigarettes. Kids want to rebel, OK? Cursing doesn't kill you like cigarettes; it doesn't rot your brain like drugs and alcohol; it doesn't scar you permanently like tattoos; it doesn't hurt like a body piercing, and it pisses off grown-ups. So, kids, start cussing today. It's the most acceptable form of youthful rebellion.

GALLAGHER: Nice. As a parent of teenagers, I would point out, and I would implore every teenager in America who may be watching this, as a parent of a couple of twin boys who are 19, don't listen to Begala. He learned at the knee of the master. We all know that the leftists like Clinton and Carville and Begala and the ACLU...

BEGALA: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) Clinton, believe me.

GALLAGHER: ... they're a bunch of trash talkers who don't mind dirty words. Do the right thing, kids. Refrain from the nasty language and don't listen to this Begala. He's an evil influence.

BEGALA: Or President George W. Bush, who... NOVAK: I don't want to be on his side, but wouldn't you say that if he cursed, that would be the least sinful thing that Bill Clinton ever did?

GALLAGHER: Thank you. Exactly. I wish that's all he was doing, Bob, was cursing. Unfortunately, he was chasing people around with cigars.

BEGALA: Well, Mike, if I can be serious here -- let me be serious here for a minute, though.

NOVAK: You want to be serious?

BEGALA: I'm a Catholic, and I actually checked the St. Augustin's "Summa Theologica" on this, and in his homily on the fire of purgatory, St. Augustin, no lesser authority said that, in fact, cursing is only a venial sin, not a mortal sin. It's a minor offense, because he said evil deeds are much worse than evil words. Wasn't St. Augustin right?

GALLAGHER: Oh, you are pulling out all the stops, Paul. But come on, admit it, when you walk through the mall -- today I was in McDonald's with my wife. I don't miss the McDonald's stops too often, as you can tell. And here's a couple of 21-year-old women, young ladies. Every filthy F word, GD -- I'm with my wife. Come on, Paul, you know how embarrassing that is. We need to clean up language, and if the cops need to start arresting people, amen, brother.

BEGALA: All right. Mike Gallagher gets the last word on this one tonight, and (UNINTELLIGIBLE) dirty word. Good for you. You kept it clean. And Vic Walczak from the ACLU. Thank you both very much for a fun debate.

Next on CROSSFIRE -- your chance to fire back at us, and one of our viewers is comparing what Bill Clinton did to what Bush and Cheney did. Stay with us.


BEGALA: Time now for "Fireback." And boy, do you. We're wearing our flak jackets so we can take it. Let's start with the e- mail bag. Here's our first from Al Jensen in Copper Center, Alaska. "Revelations this week about Bush and Cheney's corporate activities make Clinton look like a choir boy." Amen. Now, that is true. When the scandal was Whitewater or a girlfriend -- those were the good old days.

NOVAK: If you think that fraudulent embezzling that went on with Whitewater has anything to do with this, you're more of a partisan than I thought.

BEGALA: Let's find out by getting an independent counsel. Let's put Ken Starr on George Bush's ass to see what he finds after eight years and $8 million.

NOVAK: You're using too much swearing, by the way. All right. This is Josh Gipper from Fairbank, Iowa. "I find it truly heartening that we find it reasonable to put a gun in the hands of our pilots. I mean, it's obvious pilots are always in their right frame of mind while they're in the cockpit and definitely never drunk." Josh, you are not my kind of Gipper if you are trying to defame policemen -- defame pilots who aren't drunk. They are good guys. You should have a lot of faith in them, because we put our lives in their hands.

BEGALA: And women. And by the way, the two drunk pilots were caught by our new federal -- federal airport security people. So good for them.

Kim in Las Vegas, Nevada writes: "Nevadans" -- she was writing about the debate last night about whether Nevada should decriminalize marijuana, and she says: "Nevadans have to have legal marijuana to treat the increased number of people with cancer leukemia now that we're the nation's nuclear waste dump." Kim, that's a -- do you remember Chic Hecht? Chic Hecht was a Republican senator from Nevada who once famously said, "I'm not going to let them put that nuclear waste suppository in my state." He was great.

NOVAK: (UNINTELLIGIBLE), you know, and it's going to really upset the high rollers rolling their dice in Las Vegas 100 miles away. OK. The last one is from Andy Baranowski of Bordertown, New Jersey. "I was just wondering if Paul was related to Squidward of "SpongeBob SquarePants?" Their heads look alike, and they sound a lot alike, too. Just wondering was there a common relative?" Let's take a look.

BEGALA: Squidward is one of my favorites. Oh, there it is.


BEGALA: In fact, SpongeBob Novak I think is actually a little more like it. Here's SpongeBob SquarePants. Look, he's happy and people love him. Here's Novak, SpongeBob Novak.

NOVAK: OK. Next -- first question from the audience?

ASHAN (ph): Hi, my name is Ashan (ph). I'm from London. My question is to both of you, or maybe it's a bit of a comment...

BEGALA: What school do you go to?

ASHAN: I go to Harvard University.

BEGALA: Oh, well, I've heard of that.


ASHAN: How does putting a metal weapon in a metal cylinder 30,000 feet above the earth make anybody safe? In my opinion, this is just another and most dangerous symptom of America's gun culture.

NOVAK: I'll tell you what it is -- I like the gun culture. I think people who are afraid of guns have a real problem. And I'll tell you something else: If they had those guns, those handkerchief heads with box cutters wouldn't have killed 3,000 Americans.

BEGALA: Also, though, you should know, the director of aviation safety for Boeing testified on Capitol Hill and he said, and I quote: "Even multiple handgun bullet holes would not result in a loss of the aircraft." So it's not unsafe to the aircraft.

NOVAK: Next question.

CHRISTOPHER ZAMPONIO (ph): Christopher Zamponio (ph) from Washington, D.C. I don't know how we can say that the tax cuts have caused the deficit, since most of them haven't gone into effect yet.

NOVAK: I know. That's the left-wing Democratic propaganda, and as a matter of fact, what the president should do -- and I'm sorry he doesn't -- is to really turn us around and help investors. We should have a cut in the capital gains rate and increase the timing for the cut in the income tax.

BEGALA: The president's own budget says the largest cause of the deficit and the projected deficit is the president's tax cut. He says so, and he can't lie.

From the left, and apologizing for my potty mouth to my grandma, my mom, my wife -- everybody's mad at me now -- good night for CROSSFIRE. I'm Paul Begala.

NOVAK: And I'm mad at you too. From the right, I'm Robert Novak. Join us again tomorrow night for another edition of CROSSFIRE.

"CONNIE CHUNG TONIGHT" begins immediately after a CNN "News Alert."


Is Bush Too Close to Big Business?; Should Bad Language Get You Arrested?>



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