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Nader Blasts Political Parties as Greedy Corporate Stooges; Does Operation TIPS Want Your Cable Guy to Spy on You?; Reality TV Shows Trigger Massive Groan

Aired July 17, 2002 - 19:00   ET



On the left, James Carville and Paul Begala. On the right, Robert Novak and Tucker Carlson. In the CROSSFIRE tonight, he's defending himself...




ANNOUNCER: ...and Dick Cheney.


BUSH: I've got great confidence in the vice president.


ANNOUNCER: And at the same time he's preaching corporate reform.


BUSH: ...that we've got to change from a culture of greed to a culture of responsibility.


ANNOUNCER: Is there a reform credibility gap in Washington? Political and consumer activist Ralph Nader steps into the CROSSFIRE.

John Ashcroft's Justice Department wants some tips.


JOHN ASHCROFT, U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL: We actually need the citizens of America to become active participants in developing information.


ANNOUNCER: Who's going to be spying on you?


RACHEL KING, GENERAL COUNSEL, ACLU: It's a run around from the Constitution.


ANNOUNCER: Ozzy's doing it. So is P. Diddy and Anna Nicole. Are you going to watch when reality bites?


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


TUCKER CARLSON, CO-HOST: Welcome to CROSSFIRE. Tonight, reality TV. Real trash or real entertaining? Possibly both. Also John Ashcroft's real-life version of "I Spy."

But first, real news in the CROSSFIRE "Political Alert."

A pair of suicide bombers blew themselves up at the entrance to a convenience store in southern Tel Aviv tonight. At least three civilians were killed. More than 40 people were injured. The area is home to many immigrant workers, and Tel Aviv's mayor says many of the victims were, in his words, foreign.

The group Islamic Jihad claims responsibility. Palestinian, Israeli and U.S. officials immediately condemned the attack. A senior Bush official tells CNN -- quote -- "It is a despicable act of terrorism," to which I can add nothing.

PAUL BEGALA, CO-HOST: I cannot agree more. I suspect lots of Americans would actually support a Palestinian homeland if it wasn't being born from these acts of terror.

CARLSON: Maybe that's the point. Maybe these acts are designed to prevent it from being born.

BEGALA: I suspect you're right, for the only time tonight.

With the president of Poland looking on, our president today showed off some linguistic legerdemain. No, he didn't attempt to speak Polish, but he did manage to talk out of both sides of his mouth at once.

W. claimed the SEC records he refuses to release actually clear him of wrongdoing in the Harken Energy scandal. He also claimed that Dick Cheney will be cleared by the SEC.


BUSH: I've got great confidence in the vice president. Doing a heck of a good job. When I picked I knew he was a fine business leader and a fine, experienced man, and he's going a great job, and that matter will take -- run its course, Halliburton investigation, and the facts will come out at some point in time.


BEGALA: No one asked Bush how he would know the eventual outcome in an investigation his administration has only just begun. Meanwhile, the Associated Press reports Bush violated a written agreement not to sell Harken stock, cashing out just weeks before the public learned of Harken's financial woes, and despite his written pledge to the contrary. From now on I suppose the Bush suck-ups will have to describe him as a man of his most recent word.

CARLSON: Paul, as you know, Harken stock actually went up after the president sold it, but I must say that...

BEGALA: But you know that's no defense to insider trading.

CARLSON: The larger question here is can the Democratic party ride this ludicrous, discredited conspiracy theory to victory to 2002 or '04, and the answer, as you know, is know.

BEGALA: This guy has to answer tough questions about -- he's got to release the records. And he will do...


CARLSON: ...nowhere.

Next, in news you couldn't possibly make up tonight, a disabled Florida man has sued a West Palm Beach strip club on grounds of discrimination.

Quadriplegic Edward Law says the Wild Side Adult Sports Cabaret has trampled his rights by not providing a wheelchair ramp to its lap dancing room and by placing its dancers on a stage above his line of sight.

According to Mr. Law, the Americans with Disabilities Act guarantees him the right to an unobstructed view of strippers as they remove their clothes and rub against stainless steel poles. He may be right. A decade ago, critics of the 88 predicted the legislation would be a magnet for frivolous, disruptive and expensive lawsuits that insult the truly disabled.

They may be right, too.

BEGALA: One of the rare days I wish that I had practiced law. What a great -- how would you like to do the depositions in that case?

CARLSON: I would like that. You're not supporting this guy?

BEGALA: No, I just think it's hilarious.

CARLSON: The constitutional right to lap dancing? BEGALA: Well, let him -- let him run out his case there. We'll see how it...

CARLSON: I'll bet you $1,000 he voted for Gore. You know he did.

BEGALA: Oh, stop it. You have to be careful with our president's background. He may be a Bush guy.

CARLSON: That's not a Bush voter.

BEGALA: He may be. Speaking of our president, the Food and Drug Administration under President Bush makes life and death decisions for millions of Americans and regulates one-fourth of our nation's economy.

So why has the Bush Administration gone for 17 months without an FDA commissioner? The "Washington Post" reports that the Bush White House insists that the new commissioner come from the pharmaceutical industry, which has showered the GOP with millions of dollars over the years.

And who has made this important decision for President Bush? Why, none other than my friend Karl Rove, a man with no medical training, no public health experience, but he is a doctor, of course, a spin doctor.

CARLSON: I wonder, Paul, if the millions of Americans who have been cured of life-threatening illnesses thanks to the pharmaceutical industry appreciate a whole industry being tarred with the broadest possible brush for political ends?

BEGALA: How about the fact we need an FDA commissioner, and they are saying it must -- must -- come from one special interest. Why not represent the American people instead of the pharmaceutical corporations?

CARLSON: As long as it's not Kessler. I just thank my...

BEGALA: He was a Bush senior appointee. Bush daddy did a great job with his FDA appointing.

CARLSON: If you watch C-Span you may know him best for his work on the Senate Judiciary Committee, not to mention his specially designed shirt collars, but Orrin Hatch has another, more melodious side. The Utah Republican is also a composer of some note, at least by the somewhat low standards of the United States Senate.

Senator Hatch's latest work will be featured on the soundtrack of the movie "Stuart Little 2." It's a song entitled "Little Angel of Mine." As a service to our viewers who vote, here's a selection from the piece.



For the record, to clear up any lingering confusion, that was not in fact Senator Orrin Hatch singing. The man can only have so many talents.

BEGALA: I love Orrin Hatch. That's a terrific song. Congratulations, Senator Hatch.

The "New York Daily News" has revealed a Justice Department coverup, literally. Attorney General John Ashcroft, who hasn't made a single arrest for anthrax nor filed a single charge against Enron, has found the time to cover a naked breast on a statue of justice.

Ashcroft claimed that the blue curtain made a better TV backdrop, but e-mails published today by the "Daily News" make it clear the purpose of the drape is, to quote one of the e-mails, quote, "hide the statues." I could have told you, John, it's not the naked breast that gets you in trouble, buddy. It's the blue dress.

CARLSON: I'm strongly pro-breast and I'm not going to defend that, though I have to say it's feminists who always complain about naked breasts.

BEGALA: Oh, stop it.

CARLSON: It's true! It's totally true.

BEGALA: John Ashcroft -- John Ashcroft is now a feminist? No, he's a nut and he needs to get a new line of work covering up statues.

CARLSON: He's a nut?

BEGALA: He's a nut. He is stone crazy!

CARLSON: You're calling the attorney general a nut?

BEGALA: Yes. He's out -- he's out of his mind, Tucker.

CARLSON: I'm not going to respond to that.

BEGALA: Get a real job, John.

CARLSON: That's totally outrageous that you would say that.

BEGALA: Oh, he's nuts!

Richard Nixon may be dead and gone, but the credibility gap is alive and well, getting wider every time President George W. Bush talks about corporate reform.

CARLSON: Oh, please.

BEGALA: We are getting down to business tonight with the author of "Crashing the Party: How to Tell the Truth and Still Run for President," consumer advocate, former presidential candidate Ralph Nader with us here tonight.

And on Capitol Hill, Republican Congressman David Dreier of California, the chairman of the House Rules Committee.


How are you? Thank you for coming.

CARLSON: Good to see you.

Ralph Nader, thanks for joining us.

You were vindicated the other day by none less than Alan Greenspan, who famously described the Clinton era as one of -- quote -- "infectious greed." This was a message you took to the 2000 presidential election. Good for you.

My question to you is, Ralph Nader, why are you the only one who had the honesty to point out that the Clinton era was one of infectious greed?

RALPH NADER, AUTHOR, "CRASHING THE PARTY": Well, what's the difference with the present administration? The Bush/Cheney era that's hyper-infectious greed.

They actually came from the corporate world. They got these sweetheart loans, they sold stock before the company collapsed. That was Bush, and the Halliburton Cheney thing is even worse.

Corporate crime is going to be the defining issue in November election. Anyone who's soft on corporate crime, that opposes corporate reform is going to lose votes from Reagan Democrats and from Republicans who have those 401(k)s, so I think that you ought to pay...

CARLSON: Really?

NADER: ...attention to Speaker Hastert and Congressman Oxley, who are working hard to make sure that Gephardt is the next speaker of the house.

CARLSON: Well, meant this in no offense to you, but this -- obviously this line of reasoning didn't work that well in your last campaign, though thank you for getting Bush elected. But all evidence points to the fact it's not working for Democrats. Bush the president now is at 72 percent approval rating. The attacks against him on the basis of these corporate scandals aren't working.

NADER: Well, the polls are not very good, in the way they ask the question. Second of all, there's a second shoe to drop, Tucker, as people start looking for their retirement funds, the second shoe is three, four months, five months after the headlines on WorldCom or Tyco. And the same thing with Bush. They are giving the president the benefit of the doubt, like most presidents had, like Clinton got for so long. But after awhile it's going to start wear down -- wearing down, as the investigation in Harken Energy and his role and Cheney and Halliburton. And Cheney is now the principal supporter of the principle if you don't bend, you break.

See, inside the government, he's arguing against any legislation of consequence to deal with corporate crime, fraud and abuse that are affecting so many millions of workers, pensioners and investors.

BEGALA: Let me bring Congressman Dreier into this. First, thank you for joining, Congressman. Good to see you again.

REP. DAVID DREIER (R), CALIFORNIA: Paul, great to see you all.

BEGALA: "The Washington Post" today revealed your party's strategy on Capitol Hill. In a front-page story, "The Post" said, and I quote, "one day after the Senate unanimously passed a broad overhaul of corporate and securities laws, top House Republicans said they will try to delay and likely dilute some of the proposed changes."

We have an epidemic of corporate fraud and criminality going on and your party stands for delay and dilute, Congressman?

DREIER: You know, Paul, I will tell you that once again the "Washington Post" is absolutely wrong. I totally agree with Ralph Nader. Anyone who is going to be soft on the issue of corporate crime will in fact lose votes. And I will tell you this. There is no American who is more outraged over the kinds of criminal activity that we've seen from corporate executives by intentionally cooking the books and not being straightforward and transparent with shareholders and employees than George W. Bush. And I will tell you the Republican majority in the United States House of Representatives shares that outrage. And let me just say...

BEGALA: Well, Congressman, that article...

DREIER: That article, Paul, is absolutely wrong.


We are determined to do everything that we possibly can to ensure that we get legislation completed this week coming. And I will tell you, the House bill we have is a very strong bill. It was passed on April 24 with 119 Democrats joining us in support of that measure, and it was done just a few weeks after the president called for action. And I will tell you this, the Senate has finally just acted. I'm happy that they have. I believe that the House bill is as strong or stronger than the Senate bill when it comes to disclosure and transparency.

BEGALA: And, Congressman, you began this answer by telling me that no one was tougher on corporate crime. Let me hold you to your own record. Like almost every single member of your party, Congressman, you voted to override President Clinton's veto on December 20, 1995, of the Public Securities Litigation Reform Act, a law that made it easier for corporate ripoff artists to rip off investors without being held accountable.

President Clinton said at the time our markets are as strong and effective as they are because they operate and/or seem to operate with integrity. I believe that this bill, as modified in conference, could erode this crucial basis of our market's strengths? Wasn't President Clinton right and weren't you wrong?

DREIER: No. I mean, let me just say, obviously, at that time, I don't believe that it was the kind of problem that we needed to address, and the sorts of issues that now come out had not come out at that time. I think that we were on track and doing the right thing, and I think President Clinton was wrong. But I will tell you this...


BEGALA: The law that you passed made it made it easier for these con artists to steal and harder for innocent citizens to claim their rights.

DREIER: You could completely misunderstood. I don't believe that it's a law that has made it in any way easier for that activity to take place. I'll tell you what I do believe is important. I do believe it's important for us to empower the Securities and Exchange Commission, and Harvey Pitt was so strong when he made the statement that no one will be free.

Now, Ralph has just talked about the issue of Harken. And we know that 12 years ago, that was resolved and there was a letter of no wrongdoing that came forward from the Securities and Exchange Commission. But I will say this, Harvey Pitt is clear. If there is any wrongdoing, no one, absolutely no one, is going to be free from the kind of scrutiny that should be put forth.

CARLSON: OK. Well, on that note, we're going to have to take a quick break. We'll be right back.

In a minute, we'll ask Ralph Nader if he's going to ruin the presidential hopes of any more Democratic Party candidates. Of course, we hope so.

Later, and you thought game shows were as low as primetime television could go. You were wrong. Welcome to reality.

And, for a CROSSFIRE record-setting third day in a row, guess who gets our "Quote of the Day?" We'll tell you. We'll be right back.


CARLSON: Welcome back to our reform-minded edition of CROSSFIRE. Our guests this evening are Ralph Nader here in Washington. And also in Washington, though by remote, California Republican Congressman David Dreier.

Now, Mr. Nader, you had said a moment ago that nobody can appear to be soft on corporate crime. But the fact is nobody is soft. The Sensenbrenner bill, the Republican legislation that just passed, provides for 25-year prison terms for securities fraud. I mean, how far would you bump it up from there, the death penalty? What is the appropriate penalty?

NADER: Tucker, they don't even bring prosecutions. Not one of these corporate executives has been sent to jail. They're not even in trial.


NADER: They haven't been prosecuted. There isn't a prosecutorial budget in the Justice Department to do anything about it.


CARLSON: Hold on. Hold on, Congressman.

NADER: And the other thing that is important is that the Democrats and the Republicans failed to pass a disgorgement bill. Most people in the United States want those crooked bosses to pay it back and be sent to jail. And they didn't -- they defeated it. They defeated the stock option expense in the Senate, Republicans and Democrats. And the other thing is they are not giving investors, 60 million investors, more power -- their the owners of the corporation -- more power to control their company. You see?

CARLSON: I understand that you want to make the investors here into this sort of the workers, right, to use an older model here. But my question to you, and I've always wondered this, where were investors, say, when a corporation or a company that was, in fact, losing money was paying himself $10 million a year, presumably they have some role, some say in his compensation. And they never said anything in most cases.

NADER: They don't have any say. That's the whole point. Investors, as a rule in this country, cannot control the compensation of their bosses, their stock options, their bonuses, nothing. The board of directors rubber stamps the executives who control the corporation. The investors own the corporation, but don't control the corporation. And that weak law that was passed in 1995, which stripped investors of the power to go against the accounting firms, the corporate law firms who were aiding and abetting the crooked corporate bosses, that has not been repealed yet.

So, there's a lot of window-dressing in both the Senate and House, although the Senate is better than the House in that respect. I'm telling you, Tucker, if you want those Republicans to win in November, you better get Hastert on this program and Oxley because they are the best guarantee that Gephardt is going to be speaker of the House.


DREIER: And I will tell you the fact of the matter is the House bill is very tough when it comes to the issue of disclosure. We also want to include a provision which will have some kind of compensation for those investors who are victimized. I believe we can come out with a very good bill. And contrary to the article that Paul mentioned, we want to do it quickly.

The delay out there is being proposed by Dick Gephardt, the Democratic minority leader. Why? Because he wants this process to drag on for a long period of time. We want to get it done. We want to make sure that there is full accountability. And the president of the United States has said he wants to sign a tough bill. And you know what? That bill is going to include a number of the provisions which have been raised by Ralph. And I think it's going to be much tougher, much tougher than many people think.


BEGALA: Excuse me, Congressman, let me ask you about one of those...


I know you are by satellite and you're very gracious to join us, but I need to get a question in before I can answer. One of those provisions in the Senate bill would separate auditing functions from consulting functions, a built-in conflict of interest that President Clinton's chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission asked the Congress to separate several years ago.

Your Republican colleagues stopped it. In fact, the chairman of the House Financial Institutions Committee, Michael Oxley, who Mr. Nader referred to called it a draconian solution to a perceived problem. Again, wasn't your party wrong, wasn't President Clinton right in trying to prevent corporate fraud?

DREIER: Last week, when I was sitting on that set with your counterpart, James Carville, I said that I'm supportive of that provision. And the fact is I believe...

BEGALA: Where were you when Clinton was asking for your help?

DREIER: Excuse me?

BEGALA: Where were you when Clinton was asking for your help?

DREIER: Where was I when Clinton was asking for my help? I am telling you that I've stated that I'm supportive of that provision. We are going to move into conference on this thing and I believe that it's something that conceivably could be included at the end of the day in this package. You know, you act as if this is a fait accompli. Both you, Paul, and Ralph Nader act as if this is a done deal and we're not going to take any action. We're working to take action right now to make sure that we bring about some kind of rectification for a problem which developed during the 1990s under the Clinton administration and under another...


BEGALA: While your party was blocking every Clinton reform. DREIER: That's just not true. That's just not true.

BEGALA: It's just the record.

CARLSON: OK. Now, Mr. Nader, really quickly here, speaking of solutions, when you ran on the Green Party line two years ago, the Green Party has espoused for many years nationalizing American industry, or large chunks of it for the Fortune 500...

NADER: No, you're wrong.

CARLSON: Democraitizing it, I think, is the term the Green Party uses.

NADER: Giving investors the power to control what they own, giving the American people the control of public land.

CARLSON: Well, what exactly does that mean? Do you believe that the federal government should nationalize American industry at any level?

NADER: Of course not. What I believe is that the American people own the public airways, they own the public lands, they own their investments. They own the government research and development to medicines and other things. But they don't control anything. It's given away to the corporations.

And as a good capitalist, you should understand, you should read my article in the "Washington Post" tomorrow, that capitalism means that if you own something, you control it. And we're mobilizing people all over the country, investors and workers alike, to make sure that these laws that are going to be passed are going to be enforced and they're going to have teeth in them, there's going to be adequate budget for the government to apply law and order to these corporate crooks...

DREIER: And we're all for that.


NADER: For weekly updates,

BEGALA: David Dreier, thank you.


Congressman Dreier from Capitol Hill, always a gracious guest, thank you very much for joining us, sir.

Still ahead, John Ashcroft wants you to spy on your neighbor.

Also, it may be Ozzy, but it sure ain't Harriet. We're going to put primetime TV's hottest new trend in the CROSSFIRE.

But first, our "Quote of the Day." The source may be familiar to you, but we promise it's not a rerun. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CARLSON: Welcome back. It's time for our newest regular feature here on CROSSFIRE, soon to be ex-Congressman Jim Traficant's "Quote of the Day." Yes, he is still on Capitol Hill, still trying convince the House Ethics Committee he shouldn't be expelled from Congress, and still amusing one and all with an irreverent wit seldom seen in convicted felonists. Here he is.


REP. JAMES TRAFICANT (D), OHIO: What do you want? A picture of my crotch next here.

There are no ethics in politics and there should be no ethics committee.

God almighty here. I infuriated jury that convicted me over my attitude.

Here's another point I wanted to make. That's bullshlit.

I don't like the government. His FBI undercover code name was cheese (ph) one. So, I'm looking here, see what the hell I'm charged with.

I hate the FBI, the justice department, the treasury department. I will die in jail before I would admit to doing something I did not do. And, if I am in Leavenworth.

If they lie again, I'm going to go over and kick him in the crotch. Quite frankly, Scarlett, I am prepared to be beamed up.


CARLSON: They're going to just love him in prison, but I'm going to miss him.

BEGALA: Well, he may get a show of his own here.

From the ridiculous to the sublime though, Connie Chung will have a CNN "News Alert" coming up on the latest suicide bombings in Tel Aviv.

And also, are those utility workers outside your home there to fix things or to spy for John Ashcroft?

And, if we catch you watching TV's hottest shows, you want your mother to know?


CARLSON: Welcome back to CROSSFIRE. We're coming to you from the George Washington University here in downtown Washington, D.C.

The calendar may read 2002 instead of 1984, but Big Brother may soon be watching you. It's no joke.

The Justice Department is currently organizing Operation TIPS, which is short for Terrorism Information and Prevention System. You can read all about it, and even join now, at the government's own Web site: The idea is to recruit millions of ordinary people -- utility workers, truckers, train conducters -- to watch for suspicious activity and report it to the government.

So who is snitching on you?

Stepping into the CROSSFIRE tonight: former federal prosecutor Victoria Toensing.

BEGALA: Victoria, thank you. You're always so generous with your time.

The last time you came here we talked about the case in which an American citizen was arrested -- taken into custody, not really arrested -- at Chicago Airport and thrown into a military brig without a charge, without a lawyer, without a hearing, and you defended that.

Now we're moving into an area where everybody from the beer truck driver to the cable guys can is going to be the cable spy.

You know, civil libertarians said if we went along with this, there would be a slow erosion of our liberties. They were wrong: It's been a rapid erosion, hasn't it?

VICTORIA TOENSING, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: You know, I -- both of you are against me tonight. You know, I'm here all alone.


TOENSING: Poor little me.

And I was thinking as I was coming over here that you remind me of my dear husband Joe, who every time I want to renovate the house, he's against it before he has seen the plans.

And you have not seen the plans for this.

CARLSON: We're more reasonable than Joe, though.

TOENSING: You have no idea what this is.

I mean, so let me just tell you. It is a request of professions -- those who know about their professional neighborhood to provide public information voluntarily about possible terrorism strikes.

So it isn't asking the park worker on the Fourth of July to report underage Johnny who's sitting on the blanket drinking beer. It's, do you see someone lighting a fuse that could blow up the mall?

This is very specific and very important legally, what people are being asked to report. CARLSON: But don't you thin -- well, first of all, people are probably -- your average citizen would report if he saw someone lighting a fuse going to blow up at the mall.

But gee, there's a fascinating story in the "New Republic" this week by Dave Grann. I won't get into it too much, but it just essentially tells a story of a New Jersey fuel trucking company that was being followed by a Middle Eastern-looking man. And it was clear something was amiss. SO the company owner contacted the state police, the FBI and the Department of Transportation, who did nothing. And it underscored the point that these agencies are awash in so much information, they can't deal with it all.

Isn't this just adding more and more data that they can't possibly...

TOENSING: Your complaint is, will it be efficient? And I don't know. We're going to have to hold the Justice Department accountable.

But you really both pointed out something that is a problem, and that is that most of us, yes, if you're going to light a bomb fuse, you know, we're going to recognize it. But I can remember when I was in charge of terrorism for the Justice Department, the FBI put out this notice, this memo saying to people, look under all the seats when you clean -- this is to all the cleaning people, and see if you can find guns, explosives or contraband.

And so this woman came forward with this piece of material that happened to have been an unexploded bomb and said, is this contraband?

The FBI agent knew what a bomb looked like, but nobody had been taught who was in that profession, to the other people.

We need truckers who know what's suspicious in the trucking industry. We need people in shipping to know -- I don't know -- what's suspicious in the trucking -- shipping industry.

The various industries need to police their professional neighborhoods.

CARLSON: But you don't find there's something a little bit creepy about citizens being asked to spy on other citizens? A little bit Soviet, a little bit East German, a little bit "1984."

No, not at all?

I mean, fior instance, what if somebody peers through Paul's window and sees him smoking dope. Does that -- not that you would...

TOENSING: They could do that now.


CARLSON: ... what would you do with that information?

TOENSING: Is that evidence of a terrorism incident? No, not at all.

Now let me go back to what the problems are that need to be corrected, though, because I told you the one problem, which is people outside of their industry doesn't know what's suspicious.

But the second one -- and the big one -- is, weren't you all -- wasn't everyone complaining about after September 11, no one connected the dots. There was an Arizona agent that wrote about the Middle East (UNINTELLIGIBLE). There's the Minnessota bureau that was writing to the FBI saying we want to search Moussaoui's computer, right? And no one connected the dots.

Now we have a centralized location. Because if we didn't have that -- if we didn't have one number for everybody to call, they're going to call their local FBI office and we're going to be out there with the dots not connected. How do we get this information together?

BEGALA: Here's the problem, though: Which dots are they getting?

First off, you're right, it goes to a central databank. And when you...

TOENSING: Before it was, you didn't connect the dots.

CARLSON: ...invented Big Brother, and now they're upset about it.

BEGALA: When you list -- when you list professions, you mention truckers and other people. Folks that Aschroft mentioned that bothered me the most are utility workers, the cable guy, people who come into your home without a warrant.

So they come in and they see Carlson listening to Barry Manilow albums. They report that to John Ashcroft's Justice Department. He's in a database for...

TOENSING: The cable guy doesn't show up...

BEGALA: ...being a nerd.

TOENSING: ...most of the time anyway, so the cable guy is not a problem. You can wait all day, the cable guy is not going to be there.

BEGALA: Hey, this is a cable network. Cable is fine. It feeds my family.

TOENSING: But when is the last time the cable guy came into your home and that you didn't know it. They just showed up, walked in, you didn't get consent, you were there. You have time to hide the dope, to hide the...

BEGALA: But he's not supposed to be a spy.

TOENSING: Well, how is even being a spy today? What are you talking about? Today he's a private citizen, he comes into your home, he sees something untoward, he can call up and do anything that he wants to do.

CARLSON: I'm not letting him in, then.

TOENSING: You're not letting him in? What is it -- I mean, we report today all kinds of things, don't we? Don't we? Wasn't there just on CNN the police talking about little Samantha Runnion and asking people to go out and see if they can find a man that looks Latino, that has a mustache, that's of a certain description, and didn't they ask all citizens to help?

Should the police not have been allowed to do that?

And yet there will be Latino men who are picked up, who are picked up, who are questioned, who are stopped, unfortunately, who do -- who are not the person. But that's what we asked our citizens to do.

BEGALA: That will have to be the last word. Victoria Toensing, former Justice Department official, thank you very much for joining us.

As long as you are by the computer, by the way, ratting us out to John Ashcroft and Operation TIPS, why not send us an e-mail? We'll read some more later in the "Fireback" segment.

But next, is this must-see TV? We'll put Ozzy, Anna Nicole, P. Diddy and reality televsion itself in the CROSSFIRE. Stay with us.


BEGALA: You know, not so long ago, "Survivor" ushered in a new era of reality television. Seemingly real people stabbing each other in the back for fun a profit. And we all asked, can TV get any lower? Of course it can.

As children the baby boomers used to watch "Ozzie and Harriet." Now their kid are stuck on Ozzy the bat biter on MTV and, soon, Anna Nicole Smith will play the merry widow on E!, just a few of the growing list of semi-celebrities, has-beens and never-wases, who are washing up on a cable channel near you.

Just in from the vast wasteland and ready for the CROSSFIRE are Mo Rocca. He is a correspondent for the "Daily Show" on Comedy Central, and Sandy Rios, of the Concerned Women for America. Thank you both very much for joining us.

CARLSON: All right, now. Sean "Puffy" P. Diddy Combs. Unfortunately we don't have time for you to explain what exactly this character does for a living, but instead I want you to just listen to a quote from him. Here he is, Mr. Combs.


P. DIDDY, ARTIST: I'm very excited about this new partnership with MTV. I think this will give people a chance to finally understand and see what I do on a day-to-day basis. (END VIDEO CLIP)

CARLSON: Now who cares what this guy does on a day-to-day basis?

MO ROCCA, CORRESPONDENT, "THE DAILY SHOW": Well, look, I think it's absolutely valid. We have to remember that today's children are tomorrow's celebrities, at least some of them, and some of these future celebrities may get their own reality sitcoms.

And I think it's important for them to know what that might entail. And so I think somebody like Puff Daddy can teach us a lot. I also think somebody like Puff Daddy can talk to us about why he changed his name P. Diddy, and I think that's fascinating for a budding etymologist.

BEGALA: Absolutely, Mo. Sandy, let me bring you into it. This is a little device. It's called a remote control. Three words: change the channel. They actually let women use these now, I'm told, but now -- change the channel, Sandy. What's the problem? You got something on you don't like?

I tried this on Tucker and I hit the brightness button and nothing happens. I'm just kidding.

So you have the power.

SANDY RIOS, CONCERNED WOMEN FOR AMERICA: Oh! Yes, but that's not the point. I think the point is, Paul -- this is the main point for me. You know, it's funny about television, because television makes things seem larger than life. You know that.

If you're on television, people think somehow you are something, because you're on TV. People are always, you know, waiting behind the cameraman because they want to get on TV.

ROCCA: You know, can I get a word in edgewise here?

RIOS: No, let me finish.

ROCCA: I'm sorry, yes?

RIOS: The point I'm trying to make is that television creates something out of nothing. It really is not very significant that we appear on television. And so reality television presents nothing and makes it look like something, and people that...

ROCCA: Please, Sandy. Sandy, Sandy, please.

...are watching it are actually doing nothing when they think they are doing something.

Yes, Mo?

ROCCA: I have to -- I have to disagree with everything she just said.


ROCCA: I mean, Anna Nicole Smith -- look at somebody like Anna Nicole Smith. This is a woman who began life very poor, and now she's very rich. I meanm it's a Horatio Alger story.

RIOS: So, Mo, we get to watch her lying on her bed eating junk food?

ROCCA: And I think that the Concerned Women of America should be a little bit more concerned about empowering young girls who want to grow up and marry billionaire oilmen.


CARLSON: Now, wait a second. Now Mo, Sandy has a point, though, that really this is the death of "Love Boat." So now if you're a washed up actress like Cybill Shepherd and you've got nowhere to go but Hollywood Squares, this gives you a second life on television, and it creates for the public this false perception that, say, Cybill Shepherd's snacking habits or interior life is interesting of meaningful.

ROCCA: Well, look, we have a real problem in this country with Social Security solvency. Liza Minnelli is somebody who's getting her own show, and if she didn't have her own show, she might not be able to take care of herself. This is -- and I'll remind you that this a woman who suffers from encephalitis and now no longer has it.

So I really think that Sandy needs to be more concerned about women who have had encephalitis, because those women are from America.

RIOS: Mo, maybe you should concerned women, because you have so much concern about this.

BEGALA: Well, for somebody who I think you're sympathetic to, former celebrity himself, Dan Quayle, went so far as to praise the "Osbournes." He clearly watched it and he said it was a good show and that he found some redeeming value in this rather bizarre family relationship, so Dan Quayle...

RIOS: So because Dan Quayle said that, I have to line up, huh?

BEGALA: Well, I'm just curious. He's like your guy, right?

RIOS: He's my guy?

BEGALA: Conservatives love Dan Quayle.

RIOS: Well, maybe they do, but we don't have to agree with him on everything...

ROCCA: Can I say something? I keep getting cut off here!

RIOS: No, let me answer, Mo.

BEGALA: Go ahead, Sandy. RIOS: The problem is, you know, 100 years ago or 200 years ago, people understood that time was precious. Many people, when they finish their job, would learn disciplines like language, and they would learn geometry or geography. They enhance their lives. Instead we go home and watch reality television.

BEGALA: We watch CROSSFIRE first, though...

RIOS: Yes. All right. I'm more in favor of that. But I would just say life is precious. Surely we have more to do than do sit and watch people do nothing while we think that we are doing something and we're doing nothing except wasting our lives.

CARLSON: Now, Mo, is that true? I mean, do you have nothing better to do than to watch Liza Minnelli. Honestly, you can tell us.

ROCCA: Look, you know what's ironic about all of this? Sandy and I go back years. I mean, we're old friends. And just last week she was telling me that she loves Ozzy's show on MTV. So go figure.

CARLSON: But Mo, don't you think it's a bad sign when people are no longer -- not only do they watch, say, "The Osbournes," but they are no longer embarrassed about it.

Don't you think, you know, if you're sneaking off to the dirty book store there should be shame associated with it. But watching "The Osbournes," you'll admit it.

ROCCA: Well, in all seriousness, I mean, how many people are watching this?

The fact of the matter is we have to trust the market. I mean, there's channels for everything. If you want to watch golf all day long; if you want to watch House and Garden; and if you want to watch hard news, I mean, you can turn to Comedy Central.

I mean, there's definitely, you know, a place for everybody out there.

BEGALA: So there is.

But what's wrong with the marketplace argument?

RIOS: The marketplace argument?

BEGALA: That Mo just made -- the market is serving the consumers what people want.

RIOS: Yes, but you know what, there is a day -- let me try this on you, Paul.

You know, there was a time, I'd say 30 years...

ROCCA: Can I get a word in edgewise?

RIOS: Oh, Mo! ROCCA: All right, fine. I'm not going to fight.

RIOS: There was a time when people understood, like Hillary Clinton said just a few years ago -- thank you Mo -- that it takes a village. And we understood that we work together to create a better land. We taught our children well. We were on the same page in terms of morality. Hollywood was held to a high standard.

And now it's moral chaos. The lowest is the winner doesn't matter. And I don't think it serves any of us.

BEGALA: Disagrees with Dan Quayle, agrees with Hillary Clinton. My kind of woman...


CARLSON: In television, despite all the chaos, is going to commercial break, which we're going to have to do now.

ROCCA: You know what's sad...

CARLSON: Mo, tell us in 31 seconds.


ROCCA: What's sad about all this: Anna Nicole Smith would probably describe herself as concerned, as a woman, and as someone from America. So this is just sad and ironic, I think.

RIOS: There you go.

CARLSON: Mo Rocca in New York, Sandy Rios in Washington, thank you both very much.

Coming up: your chance to throw a little reality back at us in "Fireback."

One of our viewers has, I think, a fascinating idea for improving the way Paul Begala looks on television.

We'll be right back.


CARLSON: Welcome back to CROSSFIRE.

It is time for our "Fireback" segment. We ask you to send e- mails, you do. Here are some.

Bob Ardinger of Columbia Maryland writes: "Let me see if I understand the new national security plan: The guy who comes to my home to fix the cable TV, bending over and showing his butt, is our first line of defense against terrorism."

CARLSON: That's right Bob, the cable guy: He protects you while you sleep. BEGALA: Excellent.

Here's our next e-mail from Gary Sibley Sr. in Brewer, Maine, who writes: "The dark shadow over the face of the mystery `Quote of the Day' speaker, could we have it put over Begala's face for the entire show?"

Oh, really nice, Gary.

CARLSON: Leave it to a man from Maine to come up with a sensible solution.

There it is.

BEGALA: It's cheaper than plastic surgery...


And now we go to our audience and our first question.

BEGALA: Yes sir, tell us your name and your hometown.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Malcolm Barnes (ph), hometown, Washington, D.C.

Isn't this just politics as usual? Aren't there laws on the books to address insider trading, and doesn't this debate just take advantage of the ignorance of the American people?

CARLSON: Well you just described politics as it is always practiced. It's always politics as usual.

But yes, I mean, absolutely. The fundamental problems here are not going to be solved with laws. I mean, they have to do with moral temperament and restraint and lack of greed, et cetera...

BEGALA: It is politics as usual, so Republicans are for big businesses ripping us off, the Democrats are for the little guy. That's always been that way, and will continue to be that way. Good point.

CARLSON: That is the most vulgar and untrue possible characterization. Leave it to Paul to give it.

Yes, ma'am?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Hi, my name is Carrey Talerigone (ph), and I'm from Carbondale, Pennsylvania.

And I was wondering, is the corporate scandal really enough to bring down -- push Bush's popularity ratings to the point where Republicans won't be able to ride his coattails come November?

CARLSON: Look, people -- ordinary people understand that all of these problems grew during the decade of greed when things like -- it's true -- when, you know, was trading for 1,000 times worth its nonexistent earnings was considered a great success. People understand that the Clinton administration refused to reign these excesses in, and now we're paying the price.

So no, of course he's not going to be punished.


BEGALA: ... so silly. As I showed you with Congressman Dreier, President Clinton proposed reform after reform after reform. Republicans opposed them.

Now they're left saying, well, he fooled around with a young girl, so that made corporate executives rip us off.

CARLSON: No, they're saying he messed up the economy, and it's true.

BEGALA: I'm sure they sat there at the board meetings and they said, Clinton's making out, let's go rip off the taxpayers, the citizens.

It's crazy. It's insane.

CARLSON: A question?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Hi, my name is Meg Gustofson (ph), and I'm from Rockford, Illinois.

And as a member of the generation who grew up on watching MTV's "The Real World," isn't this just a current trend of reality television shows just an extension of our human desire to know more about people's personal lives?

CARLSON: Oh, absolutely, we love peeping in each other's windows. Doesn't mean it's a good thing, though; and you ought to be embarrassed when you do it. That's my feeling.

BEGALA: Yes, I'm for leaving everybody alone. I don't want to know anything about Ozzy Osbourne's life or Anna Nicole Smith's, but if people want to watch it...

CARLSON: And if you watch, you definitely should not admit it in public. I think that's the bottom line.

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

CARLSON: 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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