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Is Saudi Arabia a Friend or Foe?; Does Bush Deserve Fast-Track Trade Authority?; Whatever Happened to Pro Athletes Being Role Models?

Aired August 6, 2002 - 19:00   ET


ANNOUNCER: CROSSFIRE: on the left, James Carville and Paul Begala. On the right: Robert Novak and Tucker Carlson.

In the CROSSFIRE tonight: They export oil, but some of their native sons we could do without. Is Saudi Arabia a friend or foe?


DONALD RUMSFELD, DEFENSE SECRETARY: Saudi Arabia is like any other country: It has a broad spectrum of activity.


ANNOUNCER: He has new power to make deals.


GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Trade expands choices for America's consumers and raises living standards for our families.


ANNOUNCER: But does it mean someday they'll be exporting your job?

Baseball's big mouth is at it again. Why are so many athletes in the dog house, or even the courthouse?


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


Tonight, one of the most important accomplishments of the Bush presidency, and Congress actually helped.

Also, remember the good old days when athletes were role models for good behavior?

But as it is every day, the first thing in our batting order is the CROSSFIRE "Political Alert."

President Bush got more than a clean bill of health today. His doctor gave two thumbs up and said, unbelievable after the president's annual physical at Bethesda Medical Center.

The president also signed an important trade bill today. We'll talk about that a little later.

He also called a White House summit for next month and -- for missing and exploited children, and then the president headed to Texas for his August working vacation.

Quite a day. And, as you can see, even the White House dogs are getting out of town for the dog days.

Washington has been left to the tourists and the talking heads like us.

PAUL BEGALA, CO-HOST: I'm glad he's taking a vacation. In fact I think -- I'm all for taking a month off. I think he should extend it to January 2005, in fact. We wouldn't even miss him.

Rather than cutting federal spending like they promised they would when they took control of Congress, the Republican Party has only redirected it. A computer analysis by The Associated Press shows the GOP has shifted billions of dollars of your tax money away from Democratic districts and toward Republican congressional districts, moving spending from poor, rural and urban areas to the more affluent suburbs.

So instead of actually cutting spending, Republicans take from the poor and give to the rich.

Republican Dick Armey said there's an old adage: "To the victor go the spoils."

Well, to quote another favorite Republican adage: "Help the rich, screw the poor, vote Republican."

NOVAK: That is not a Republican adage. And even though you were a Georgetown professor, you may not know that to the victor belong the spoils was coined by the founder of the Democratic Party, Andrew Jackson...

BEGALA: Andy Jackson. Very good point.

NOVAK: Absolutely.

If you want a book for a good snore, Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle has just the trick. He's announced -- believe this -- a new book about the current session of Congress.

Talk about watching grass grow. The most exciting day for Tom Daschle came when Senator Jim Jeffords -- you know, he's from the People's Republic of Vermont -- crossed the aisle to give the Democrats their majority and automatically make Daschle majority leader.

The senator said the late Tip O'Neill's book is a model. Some model. It was full of lies about me and other people. But it was a good read, and I doubt that the Daschle book will be that.

BEGALA: It will be great. You know, Bush just finished his first book, and he said he liked it so much he's going to color another one. Isn't that cute?

David Ignatius of the "Washington Post" writes today that President Bush was once the director of an outfit called Caterair, a catering service for airlines. This is not in Bush's official biography, but apparently when Bush was on the board, Caterair went belly up under the weight of its junk bonds.

So let's review: Bush's first oil company went broke. He was bought by another oil company, which went broke. Then he was bought out by a third oil company, where he sold his stock weeks before it tanked.

Well, Bush always said he'd run the government like a business; we just didn't think he'd run it like one of his businesses.

NOVAK: You know, Ann Richards brought up all that bunkum when she ran against him in 1994. They brought it up again when he ran for reelection in 1998, got beat. Brought it up in 2000, got beat. Why don't you get a new line?

Bill Clinton and Jim Guy Tucker, the man who succeed him as governor of Arkansas, were bitter enemies in that state's Democratic politics. But they have something in common now: Neither one can practice law before the U.S. Supreme Court.

The court yesterday disbarred Tucker because he was convicted of fraud and conspiracy in the Whitewater scandal and served 18 months. All President Clinton did was lie to a grand jury in a sexual harassment case and resign from the Supreme Court bar rather than contest disbarment.

What a legacy for the poor state of Arkansas.

BEGALA: Why don't you get off Jim Guy Tucker. I don't even know the guy, but he's had to contend with cancer and Ken Starr, and I don't know which of them I'd rather choose. But I think you ought to just leave the guy alone.


BEGALA: Well, the "New York Times" columnist Paul Krugman today reports that the Bush administration would make George Orwell's worst villains proud. The Office of Management and Budget released a press release last month that inaccurately claimed that only 15 percent of the projected deficits are caused by the Bush tax cut. Well, the actual number is 40 percent.

So instead of apologizing for their fib and correcting the record, the Bushies secretly altered their own press release. Now, W. promised to change the tone in Washington, so instead of the president misleading us about having a girlfriend, he's misleading us about something really important: how he squandered $4 trillion of our surplus.

NOVAK: You know Paul, in my role as a one-man truth squad, number one, the 40 percent is an absolute's ridiculous figure.

BEGALA: Do you know where it comes from?

NOVAK: Can I please talk through your interruption?

Number two, the OMB 14 percent figure, they are sticking to it. They have never retracted it. I called them and checked it.

And number three, before you print Paul -- repeat Paul Krugman's lies, why don't you check them out?

BEGALA: I did check them out Bob. The 40 percent comes from the Bush budget. There was a table from Bush's own budget that says for the next 10 years 40 percent of the deficit Bush has created is from the Bush tax cut. I think it's higher, but I'll go with Bush's number of 40 percent.

NOVAK: That's absolutely wrong. Call the OMB...

BEGALA: Look it up in the budget, Bob.

NOVAK: I know you hate to do reporting, but try it once in awhile.

BEGALA: Look it up in the budget. It's a fact.

NOVAK: There are a lot of red...


NOVAK: There are a lot of red faces in Washington today, and it isn't just because of the heat. The embarrassment is being caused by a front page story in the "Washington Post." It reveals that last month a top Pentagon advisory board got a briefing describing Saudi Arabia as an enemy of the United States. The paper says the briefing recommended the U.S. give the Saudis an ultimatum: stop backing terrorism or face seizure of your oil fields and financial assets.

Over at the Pentagon, backpedaling was the order of the day.


RUMSFELD: This apparently was a person from the Rand Corporation who was giving a briefing. And he briefed on Saudi Arabia, and it ended up in the newspaper, which is unfortunate.

He had an opinion and, of course, everyone has a right to their opinion. It did not represent the views of the government. It didn't represent the views of the Defense Policy Board. (END VIDEO CLIP)

NOVAK: So is Saudi Arabia a friend or foe?

In the CROSSFIRE: James Zogby of the Arab-American Institute and Congressman Eric Cantor, Republican of Virginia.


NOVAK: Congressman Cantor, you're a Republican, I believe.


NOVAK: And your Republican Secretary of Defense Don Rumsfeld said that some guy just came over and briefed somebody, and that's what all this fuss is about.

And I'd like you to -- I'd like to read to you the official position of the Bush administration on Saudi Arabia. I'll put it on the board.

This is from Victoria Clarke; this is the official statement: "Saudi Arabia is a long-standing friend and ally of the United States. The Saudis cooperate fully in the global war on terrorism, and have the department's and the administration's deep appreciation."

Now are you, as a junior congressman from Virginia, going to say, I know better than the Pentagon?

CANTOR: Bob, it's always good to be back with you on the show.

NOVAK: I'll bet it is.

CANTOR: I will tell you that I support and agree with President Bush that we are fighting a war against terror and that those nations who will join us in that fight will be allies, those who are not on the side of the civilized world, we will be on the other side in this particular situation.

And I think now is the time that we ought to rethink our relationship with the Saudis. Clearly in this war on terror -- and we are fighting it against its sponsor, radical Islam. Saudi Arabia has been more -- much more of a problem than it's been a solution.

NOVAK: But that is not what the Pentagon -- you go against the Pentagon position, you know better.

But I think I know what's going on, and I think you know what's going on. The Defense Advisory Council is headed by Richard Pearl, who is an ardent friend of Israel, a bitter opponent of Saudi Arabia, and since September 11, he has been raging a campaign to disestablish Saudi Arabia as an ally of the United States. Isn't that what's going on?

CANTOR: Say what you will. But if you look at the facts in reality, what is going on? What have we seen the Saudis do? We have seen on September 11, 15 out of the 19 hijackers were Saudi, something that the Saudi royal family did not immediately admit or want to admit. There have been reports that up to 80 percent of the detainees in Guantanamo Bay, taken from the war in Afghanistan that we are fighting, are of Saudi origin.

NOVAK: So the Pentagon is wrong?


BEGALA: No, the Pentagon -- let me interrupt, here. Sorry, Congressman, but the Pentagon is right. Tory Clark (ph) says the Saudis cooperate in the war on terror. They do. They cooperate with the terrorists, Jim. Let me read to you.


You know what? They do. They fund Hamas. They teach these -- let me read you first from this briefing.

JAMES ZOGBY, ARAB AMERICAN INSTITUTE: Let's not go too far afield here.

BEGALA: Let me read to you from the "Washington Post." This is man named Laurent Murawiec, who wrote, "The Saudis are active at every level of the terror chain, from planners to financiers, from cadre to foot soldier, from ideologist to cheerleader."

The Saudis are on the other side of the war on terror, aren't they?

ZOGBY: You know the interesting thing? Donald Rumsfeld today in the Pentagon repudiated that report and said it has nothing to do with the United States or United States policy.

BEGALA: Because they're not free to speak their mind, because they need that Saudi basing, and they need Saudi oil.

ZOGBY: That's a silly comment to make, and shame on you for making it.

BEGALA: It's true. Absolutely true.

ZOGBY: Paul, wait, look. Let's not -- the president of the United States, Donald Rumsfeld, Colin Powell have made it very clear that Saudi Arabians are cooperating -- and actually, they're cooperating in every way. They've arrested people. They've given the names of people to Interpol to arrest more people. They've frozen funds and they have shared intelligence with us, and we are using their airbase right now for command and control.

CANTOR: Jim...

ZOGBY: I didn't interrupt you, Congressman.

For purposes of being able to carry out the war in Afghanistan. They have cooperated. They have a problem. And as a friend, we are working with them to solve the problem. There is a group of people -- al Qaeda -- whose enemy is not just the United States but is the United States and Saudi Arabia.

They obstruct and killed 3,000 Americans, but they have also struck and killed Saudis and Americans in Saudi Arabia. They want to destroy the U.S./Saudi relationship. You know what? Richard Pearle and company also want to destroy the U.S./Saudi relationship, and the fact is that if Richard Pearle has his way Osama bin Laden wins.


I am proud the Pentagon today repudiated the report. The next job is get Richard Pearle out of that job. He should not be serving as the head of the Defense Policy Board, because he was an adviser to Benjamin Netanyahu, and I think that there's a questions here about...

BEGALA: So? James Carville was an adviser to Ehud Barak. It's a free country in America, unlike Saudi Arabia.


ZOGBY: I think there's a problem here -- I think there's a problem here when he uses that post to disrupt the relationship that the president, the secretary...

NOVAK: Mr. Cantor, you want to...


CANTOR: Let's look at the facts. The fact is Colin Powell was on Capitol Hill this spring testifying that in a telethon that the Saudi Arabians held, they raised over $150 million. He himself said that most of that money will end up in the hands of Hamas. What is Hamas doing now?

NOVAK: Who said that?

ZOGBY: He didn't say that.

CANTOR: Secretary Colin Powell.

ZOGBY: He didn't say that.

NOVAK: He never said that. He never said that.

ZOGBY: I know Colin Powell and he wouldn't say something so baldfaced untrue.

CANTOR: And there is -- there has been tens of millions of dollars raised in Saudi Arabia that ends up in the hands of Hamas. What is Hamas doing?


There was bombings in Israel...

ZOGBY: He did not say that the money being raised in that telethon would go to Hamas. He did not say that.

CANTOR: Well, we'll check the facts.

ZOGBY: We will check the facts, and you were wrong.


BEGALA: Do you dispute that the Saudis fund Hamas?

ZOGBY: I dispute the fact that the Saudi government does. I will tell you that there are individual Saudis who do, just as there are individual Americans who support extremist groups in the West Bank and Gaza...


ZOGBY: ...who have been making acts of violence and terrorism against Palestinians. Both societies have problems of fundamental extremists, and we've got to deal with them together, not as enemies but as allies.

NOVAK: OK, we have to take a break. In a minute, why the Saudis may be the key to peace in the entire Middle East.

Later, doesn't free speech apply to relief pitchers?

And our "Quote of the Day" is from a very smart guy who wants more intelligence.


NOVAK: Welcome back to CROSSFIRE. Saudi Arabia is considered a close ally of the United States. It was a base for the 1991 offensive against Iraq. It strongly supports the U.S. war against terrorism. It has proposed an innovative Israeli/Palestinian peace plan. Yet today's "Washington Post" reported a briefing to a Pentagon advisory board describing Saudi Arabia as an enemy of the United States.

What's going on? Are the Saudis friend or foe? In the CROSSFIRE, Congressman Eric Cantor, Republican of Virginia, and James Zogby of the Arab American institute -- Paul.

BEGALA: Jim, I want to tell you about a story that was in the "Washington Post" a couple of months ago about a school a stone's throw from Washington D.C. here where we are sitting tonight. This is in the United States of America. There's a Saudi, the Saudi Academy of Northern Virginia, and the "Washington Post" sent a reporter out there -- because we have a free press, unlike the Saudis -- just to see what they were teaching their children.

Let me put it up on the screen, and tell you what our friends, the Saudis, are teaching their children here in our country. "The 11th grade textbook at the Islamic Saudi Academy in Northern Virginia, for example, says one sign of the Day of Judgment will be that Muslims will fight and kill Jews, who will hide behind trees that say, 'Oh Muslim, oh Servant of God, here is Jew hiding behind me. Come here and kill him.'"

Tell me again why they are our good friends in this war against terrorism, when Israel is clearly our good friends?

ZOGBY: That is not a good thing and there is no way I can defend that. But that has not anything to do with the fact there is a strategic partnership and an alliance between our two countries that has served both of us well.

The fact is that if you look at the kind of investment Saudi Arabia has in America and America has in Saudi Arabia, the number of Saudi students who have studied here and in American universities and gone back to become the progressive forces that are trying to make change in their country -- and there are people making change in their country -- if you look at the Americans who have worked in Saudi Arabia and prospered and benefited from the relationship there, we are working together on many things.

We have got to make changes. There is hate there. There is also hate here. There are Southern Baptist preachers who are saying horrific things about Islam, and there is a problem. We both have a problem of fundamentalism. There is Christian fundamentalism, Jewish fundamentalism, Islamic fundamentalism, and there is Hindu fundamentalism and a whole lot of other problems in the world. We have got to work together to solve them.

NOVAK: Congressman Cantor, let me go to the question of the military support that Saudi Arabia gave us in the Gulf War. I mentioned it -- they're giving us now. And I don't know whether you're a military expert. I don't even know whether you ever wore the uniform. I'll bet you didn't, have you?

CANTOR: I did not.

NOVAK: I didn't think so. And so I'd like to show somebody who wears the uniform today, the senior U.S. military officer, and let's listen to what he says.


GEN. RICHARD MEYERS, JOINT CHIEFS CHAIRMAN: I think Saudi Arabia has been a -- I mean, it's been a partner for many decades in the region, and an important partner. I think in terms of our work in Afghanistan and the support we've asked, they've been very forthcoming.


NOVAK: That's a pretty good endorsement, isn't it?

CANTOR: Well, Bob, I can tell you I think some of Jim's comments and yours, is, yes, they have been a strategic partner since after World War II and certainly during the cold war, but things have changed. I think clearly things have changed. And if you look at the president's statements shortly after September 11, in which he, I think, made a definite statement that we are returning to a values- based foreign policy, that we are going to seek our allies, seek out allies who believe in what we believe in, freedom, democracy, the rights of individuals.

Saudi Arabia is about as far from those principles as you can get. The women have no rights in Saudi Arabia. The women that we send over there suffer from the same tyranny that the Saudi women have. And, look, there -- as far as the Northern Virginia academy that is being funded by the Saudis, this is just the tip of the iceberg. These schools exist around the world. And I will tell you that Saudi oil money along with the Wahabism, the extreme version of Islam, that the Saudi government, I think, wants to wholly own and is a subordinate of the Saudi government, those two -- that combination has...

NOVAK: So, we just throw our strategic ally out the window?

CANTOR: ... done more to contribute to the radicalization of the Islamic world.


ZOGBY: One of the problems here is that a little knowledge is a dangerous thing. We had a terrible thing happen to our country September 11. And all of a sudden, we discovered Saudi Arabia. People learn a couple of words, Wahabism, Salafi (ph) and a few others, Shi'a, whatever. And out of that, there were enemies of this relationship who fed it and wanted to create a picture of evil.

Saudi Arabia is not an evil...

CANTOR: Haven't we said that this was a friendly comment?

ZOGBY: Saudi Arabia is not an evil country. Saudi Arabia is a country we have worked with and their partners, and as Donald Rumsfeld said today, we agree on some things and we don't disagree on others. They're a partner.

NOVAK: Have you ever been to Saudi Arabia, Mr. Cantor?

CANTOR: No, I have not, but I've traveled...

ZOGBY: And I've been there 22 years and I've been going to that country, and there are problems and I speak about the problems. But they are a friend. And the way you work with a friend is you help a friend change.

CANTOR: Jim, how are they a friend?

ZOGBY: And if we support the president's value-based policy, we work with friends to change. We are not silent about problems, but we talk about the problems and we help them to change. We don't do what Richard Perle does and try to make an enemy because in this war against terrorism, we need friends. This cannot be us and Israel against the world because we'll all lose.

BEGALA: Congressman, we got 10 seconds. You have the last word. CANTOR: Well, let's face it. America has stood alone in times during the past of recent crisis. We'll stand alone again...

ZOGBY: I do not want us alone. I want us with friends and allies.

CANTOR: We will stand alone again and fight against terrorism and fight against evil and prevail.

BEGALA: That will have to be the last word. Thank you very much, Congressman Eric Cantor, Jim Zogby of the Arab American Institute.


And coming up, W. finally gets something President Clinton had wanted for years.

Also, the bad boys in the sports world. Why do we put up with them?

But next, our "Quote of the Day," someone who wants a more laser- like focus on intelligence gathering. Stay with us.


BEGALA: Welcome back. September 11 pointed out serious flaws in how our government analyzes and acts on intelligence information. Now we know there were clues out there. Some were missed. Others got lost in bureaucratic turf wars. Everyone agrees we have got to do better, but apparently we are not.

Defense Secretary Rumsfeld gets our "Quote of the Day" for this bleak but candid assessment of the lack of progress. He said, quote: "We have not made many strides since I've been here in improving the intelligence take." Rare candor from a high government official, Bob.

NOVAK: I'll tell you something. Mr. Rumsfeld is really obsessive in trying to keep loose lips from talking too much at the Pentagon. I think that was a loose lip. I think that's the kind of thing that ought to be done behind closed doors. I don't think it serves any purpose.

BEGALA: It's not as bad as the leaks that we've been getting though. There's somebody at the White House or maybe the Pentagon leaking our battle plans every day.

NOVAK: I think it's not going to work because I don't think it serves a purpose.

BEGALA: It's an honest comment though.

NOVAK: Coming up, a medical update on the newly separated conjoined twins.

Later, why we all should be glad the president can take the fast track.

Plus, why do we put up with pampered, overpaid, under-polite talk show host -- I mean, ball players? Ball players.



BEGALA: For now, the topic on CROSSFIRE is trade. From 1974 until 1994, American presidents all had special powers to negotiate trade agreements. After the president had negotiated a deal, Congress then either had to take it or leave it: no amendments, no changes -- all or nothing.

Then, during the Clinton administration, the Republican Congress let this so-called fast-track trade authority expire. Eight years later, President George W. Bush finally has it back.

He signed a bipartisan bill today restoring fast-track trade negotiating authority. But a lot of people still worry that free trade will end up exporting their job.

Now in the CROSSFIRE, California Democratic Congresswoman Maxine Waters joins us from our Los Angeles bureau.

Congresswoman, thank you for joining us.


NOVAK: Congresswoman Waters, I would like to have you listen to what President Bush said today at the signing ceremony.

Let's listen to it.

WATERS: All right.


BUSH: Other nations and regions have pursued new trade agreements while America's trade policy was stuck in park. With each passing day, America has lost trading opportunities and the jobs and earnings that go with them.


NOVAK: Since we haven't been negotiating trade deals because of Congress' refusal to pass fast-track authority, why did you vote against it and oppose it to the bitter end, Ms. Waters?

WATERS: Well, first of all, you can't compare what other nations do in voting for their trade laws and what we do here in this country.

Of course there are many nations that would like to take our jobs. There are many nations that would like to have favorable conditions under which they can export their products to us. We have to be concerned about making sure that the Congress of the United States does not simply give its power to the president to do whatever he wants to do. We enjoy separation of powers here. And that means we ought to be able to understand exactly what is being negotiated, and we have to protect American jobs and make sure that we get the best that we can get for our country in these trade agreements.

We cannot allow one person, even the president of the United States, to make these decisions. And we certainly don't want political decisions being made about trade.

NOVAK: But Congresswoman, we have not been able to negotiate any treaties in the absence of that authority for the president. And of course, in this global arena, we have to make these trade deals.

Isn't -- let's be frank -- isn't the deal that you and the other Democrats are so much bullied by the labor unions that you just can't vote yes on these bills?

WATERS: Absolutely not. We know that the American public expects us to know what's in a trade agreement.

To say that you're going to give the president fast-track authority, and when it comes before the Congress, all we can do is agree with whatever he's done -- we can't amend it, we can't ask any questions about it -- I don't think the American people sent us there to be a rubber stamp on trade agreements in any shape, form or fashion.

So it's not just about labor, it's about everything. It's about child labor, it's about the environment, it's about fair pricing, it's about fair tariffs. It's about a whole host of issues.

And we cannot say to the president, Mr. President, you can do any old thing you want, it's all right with us. If that's the case, why would the people elect us?

BEGALA: Well in fact, Congresswoman, when I was working for Bill Clinton in those primaries in 1992, you were one of the first important members of Congress to endorse him in that campaign.

WATERS: That's right.

BEGALA: Twenty-three million Americans got jobs because of the economic policy that you and President Clinton helped put in place. And for that everybody is grateful.

But a fourth of those jobs did come from expanded free trade. I mean, President Clinton asked for this same authority. I supported him on that.

Didn't the Clinton record of having expanded trade with more job training, with more education, with more environmental protections, didn't that work? WATERS: No. First of all, you must agree that I am consistent. Many of us are consistent. We voted against President Clinton having the singular authority to make these trade agreements, just as we voted against Bush.

And no, I do not think that the bubble, or the increase in our economy had anything to do with jobs that were realized, necessarily, from globalization or trade.

I think that our economy did better. The president did do some good things in our economy, but it was because of the way he managed federal government, and not because of the trade agreements.

BEGALA: Well, in fact, I will give you points for consistency. And I have to point out that many, many of your colleagues were not so consistent.

In fact, 23 members of the House -- and I won't read all of their names; I've got them here, though. But you know them. Twenty-three members of House, Republicans all, opposed President Clinton when he asked for fast-track trade authority.

The same bill comes up four years later -- actually, the Bush bill was slightly even more liberal, if you ask me -- they support Bush, 11 members of the Senate, Republicans all, opposed it when Clinton asked for it.

So there's some politics going on on the other -- on the Republican side, wasn't there?

WATERS: Well, some of them are just hypocrites. Others of them had their arms twisted by the president of the United States.

I have never seen a president demand the members of his party vote in the way this president does. Sometimes we hold the role open for almost an hour after the last vote until the president can twist arms and turn around votes.

The bipartisan agreement on fast-track really is that the Congress of the United States should not turn it over to the president. Republicans and Democrats alike believe that. And that's why this bill only passed by one vote.

NOVAK: It was three votes, 215-212.

WATERS: Well, they must have gotten two at the last minute, when I wasn't looking.

NOVAK: Ms. Waters, I like to try to introduce a fact or two in here occasionally. And isn't it a fact that the Democrats in the House of Representatives only -- this is just pathetic, 25 -- only 25 Democrats voted for this bill, 183 opposed it.

And you -- let's be honest, why was this? It's the labor bosses saying, if you vote for this bill, we're going to cut off the money we give you to get elected to Congress. Isn't that what it is? WATERS: Oh no, I don't think you can say that at all. Just as President Clinton had trouble and could not get the vote, this president is no different.

It is not about whether or not you are aligned with labor or whether or not you are supported by labor, even. It's about the basic Constitution of the United States of America, separation of powers.

We have the right to debate trade agreements and to make sure that we're protecting the American workers and American people, and that we're not allowing the president to make these agreements based on some other considerations that he may have other than what's good for the American workers and businesspeople.

NOVAK: Congresswoman Waters, you're a sophisticated person. I just can't imagine that you envision an America where we have no trade agreements, we don't allow any of our products to go out, we don't allow any to come in.

And isn't it a fact that your distinguished husband, who was later an ambassador, was in the marketing business for a foreign automobile company? Isn't that true?

WATERS: No, it is not true. You talk about facts, you have none.

As a matter of fact, my husband was ambassador to the Commonwealth of the Bahamas. He's never been involved in foreign trade per se. He was in the automobile business, but -- wait a minute.

You have to understand that as the ambassador to the Commonwealth of the Bahamas, the number one priority for that administration was to promote trade. We do promote trade. We promote fair trade.

NOVAK: He didn't sell automobiles?

WATERS: Yes he did. We promote fair trade.

NOVAK: And foreign automobiles?

WATERS: We promote fair trade -- no.

NOVAK: And they were foreign automobiles?

WATERS: Yes, he did.

NOVAK: OK, thank you.

WATERS: We promote, and he promotes, fair trade.

We are not against trade, and I don't want you to get the impression that we are against trade. I support fair trade...


BEGALA: Congresswoman Waters, I thank you very much for joining us.

We are going to go to breaking news. We're going to go to Anderson Cooper, who's got breaking news on that case of the conjoined twins.


NOVAK: Welcome back to CROSSFIRE. We're coming to you from the George Washington University in Foggy Bottom, D.C.

Is there anyone that pitcher John Rocker hasn't offended? A few years ago, it was New Yorkers. This week, it's gays. Rocker is apologizing for calling a male couple in a Texas cafe, "fruitcakes," and apparently some other things that we can't say even on cable. Rocker is not alone, not nearly in the great world of sports.

Philadelphia 76ers superstar Allen Iverson was accused of threatening two men with a gun, although today prosecutors said they won't refile more serious charges against him. Are professional athletes off their rockers? And should we put up with, let alone pay big money to boys behaving badly? Joining us from the CNN Center in Atlanta is sports talk radio host Steak Shapiro.

BEGALA: Steak, thank you very much for joining us, sir.

Being in Atlanta, I'm sure you have covered Rocker when he was down there. He's a big, strong dumb redneck from Macon, Georgia, as I understand it, who was in Dallas and, right, offended the gay community by calling a couple of guys fruitcakes. I actually think the Dallas Cowboys were just as offended because I'm not a big fan of the "Cowgirls" down there. That's probably who he was really talking about.

But what's the real story on Rocker? Is he dumb, is he crazy or is this a false choice?

STEAK SHAPIRO, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: Well, I've known John Rocker since he broke in with the Braves about five years ago. I mean, John Rocker is what he is. He's a pampered athlete. He's a spoiled athlete. He's a guy that, I know this might be a shocker to you, but he's not the most lenient when it comes to his opinions, not the most liberal on his feelings toward homosexuality. And he expressed that the way a lot of guys, I guess big rednecks from Macon might. Just so happens he's a national sports...

BEGALA: He's a guy who routinely showers with other men though, isn't it? Isn't that part of feeling...

SHAPIRO: Bob, tell us how you really feel.

NOVAK: That's Paul. That's Paul.

SHAPIRO: I don't know. A little too much information.

NOVAK: Don't accuse me of a Begala-ism. SHAPIRO: Look, John Rocker is what he is, guys. I mean, you know, because some -- because some guy is intolerant of homosexuals is not the only guy that has these kind of backward views on things. And, I mean, you know, the notion that athletes get off scot-free, I think it's ridiculous. Allen Iverson had the Philadelphia media staked out at his house like he was O.J. Simpson for three days over charges that were never really filed on him. John rocker makes a couple of off-color remarks, which I'm not condoning, but is it worth getting Steak Shapiro on CNN to talk about an off-hand remark in a Dallas brunch?

I mean, you know, let's not pretend -- everything these athletes say, because they make so much money, because they are so famous, we magnify it. It's no different in Hollywood. It's no different in entertainment. I love how we all scream, oh, the athletes are out of control, they're going nuts. It's no different than any other walk of life. The difference is we have ESPNEWS and we used to have CNN/SI -- sorry about that guys -- but the reality is you have got 24-hour news and sports covering this stuff. We need stories. I don't think John Rocker being ignorant is a big story.

NOVAK: Steak, this is Bob Novak. About 50 years ago, literally, I was a sports writer and I knew athletes when they were making if they were really in the big bucks, about $12,000 a year. And they weren't any nicer when they were that way.

SHAPIRO: Exactly.

NOVAK: Do you agree with that?

SHAPIRO: Yes. Ty Cobb was a real gentlemen when he wasn't hurling racial remarks at half of the guys in the stands or teammates or whatever it was. Billy Martin, this just in, and Mickey Mantle used to like to have a few pops when they were out on the road. And even, on some cases, baseball players would have illicit behavior with women outside their marriage. All these crazy things happened 50 years ago. They happen today. It's no new news. We just have more people covering it. And back then, by the way, when Babe Ruth was carousing and drinking and doing everything else, writers protected him. We don't protect these guys now. That's the only reason it's a bigger story now.

NOVAK: Here's what I don't understand. Maybe you do or maybe you don't. Allen Iverson is a great basketball player. He's not a good player, he's a great basketball player. And he just willed that team to the Finals of the NBA playoffs a year ago. But he is not a nice guy. He spent a little time in prison. He's a difficult fellow. He has trouble with his coach. Why should we care what his personality is? Do you care what his personality is?

SHAPIRO: Well, here's the reality. If I lived in Philadelphia, I like the fact that he has the word 6ers on his uniform, and that's what I care about. Nice guy, not a nice guy, Allen Iverson -- and by the way, Mr. Novak, good basketball knowledge. You're right. He was MVP a couple of years ago, got his team to the Finals, and his head coach, Larry Brown, is not a big fan. But the reality is, hey, he decided that he doesn't want to get caught up in this high society deal. He goes back to his roots, back to the hood if you will, and hangs out with those people. Does not make him not a nice guy? Look, Allen Iverson is not going to win a popularity contest. But if it says Philadelphia on his uniform, 6ers fans are going to root for him. You know, you can't all have the great image of Magic Johnson, who, yes, he has a few picadillos in his closet as well, so...

BEGALA: I cannot believe you are covering for these guys. I can't believe you are...

SHAPIRO: Hey, you know what...

BEGALA: ... sucking up to them.


Here in the Baltimore/Washington area, Scott Erickson, who is a terrific pitcher for the Orioles, has been on a bad streak. And a couple of weeks ago, pitches an eight-inning game, does a great job and the crowd is cheering and on their feet. And there's a lot of little kids out there cheering him. And he goes home with the first win he had had since April. And, apparently, a couple of days later, allegedly, puts his girlfriend in some kind of a wrestling lock and he's beating up on a girl.

Now, he's a role model in additional to a ball player. And, frankly, I don't think most moms and dads want their little kids looking up to a role model who beats up girls.

SHAPIRO: Well, what is the responsibility? Are we supposed to fire him? Are we supposed to make sure he doesn't...


SHAPIRO: Hey, look, that's the ownership. And the fact is if he goes and wins 15 or 20 games, then the ownership is going to take care of him. It's a parent's decision...

BEGALA: Do you think your radio station would keep you on if you beat the crap out of some girl?

SHAPIRO: Only -- I don't know about a girl. If I slapped around you and Robert a little bit, maybe it would be OK.

BEGALA: You know, Novak once bit off a piece of my ear. We had to edit it out. It was a horrible scene.

SHAPIRO: He's a monster. Novak is a monster. I wouldn't mess with him.

Hey, all I'm saying is, Paul, why are you so outraged? Why do you think this is so unbelievable? It just happens to be they're famous people screwing up. They screw up in every walk of life, if it's entertainment or movies. You know, because they're athletes, should we cut them more slack? No. But I don't think it's any different than what happened.

BEGALA: But you are. You are saying you're cutting them more slack. If some regular person had beat the hell out of their girlfriend, they wouldn't care.


NOVAK: How many guys do the things that Allen Iverson is alleged to do and never -- it doesn't even get a one-paragraph story in the paper.

SHAPIRO: Well, you know what? I don't think it happens too often because Glenn Robinson didn't get, you know, pushed under the rug. You heard about Scott Erickson.

NOVAK: No, I mean non-athletes. Non-athletes...

SHAPIRO: Oh, non-athletes. Hey, look, I don't have percentages. But I'd guess even there in the bastion of CNN or in the bastion of any other company, there are some guys behind the scenes doing some things they wouldn't be proud of. The fact is...

NOVAK: And, you know, I can't even vouch for Paul.



BEGALA: Yes, but I'm not a big one on doing brunch. Apparently, it's Mr. Rocker's kind of milieu.

But let me ask you -- let me shift the topic just slightly though. Pat Tillman, most of our audience probably doesn't know who Pat Tillman is. I know you do. He was, until a few days ago, a free safety for the Arizona Cardinals. He was an All-American at Arizona State. He walked away from a multimillion dollar football career to volunteer for the United States Army out of patriotism to serve his country because he was moved by what happened after September 11. You know, what's wrong with us putting a little more of a spotlight maybe on Pat Tillman and a little less on, say, John Rocker?

SHAPIRO: The question is would I've gotten the honor to sit on CROSSFIRE and talk to you gentlemen if we were talking about Pat Tillman. So, I mean, the media is as much to blame.

Look, the other thing is that Pat Tillman, he's such a class act. He won't allow the media to cover this. He doesn't want it to be one of those Riddick Bowe, I'm joining the Marines, sensationalized deals. He's a true American. He's a true gentleman. He's a man trying to represent his country.

And, yes, that's one of the great stories. So, parents have to make this decision. Are you going to have your kid emulate a guy like Pat Tillman or are you going to have him look at Erickson and Big Dog and Iverson? That's a parents' choice to make. But don't seem blown away and outraged every time you hear about something. Pat Tillman is a great example. But I don't think that make headlines. I don't think that gets you on CROSSFIRE. I think the other stuff does. You guys have to figure that out. You tell me.

BEGALA: Steak Shapiro, always got an opinion. Thank you very much for joining us on CROSSFIRE. Terrific job.


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

NOVAK: From the right, I'm Robert Novak. Join us again next time for another edition of CROSSFIRE. "CONNIE CHUNG TONIGHT" begins immediately after a CNN news alert.


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