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CNN CROSSFIRE

Will Cheney Be on Bush's 2004 Ticket?; Is it Necessary for the U.S. to Wage War Against Iraq?; Why Is Pot Legalization on the Nevada Ballot?

Aired August 8, 2002 - 19:00   ET

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


ANNOUNCER: CROSSFIRE: on the left, James Carville and Paul Begala. On the right: Robert Novak and Tucker Carlson.
In the CROSSFIRE tonight: He's been out of sight, but hardly out of mind.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DICK CHENEY, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I don't have any complaints.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ANNOUNCER: Does anybody, except maybe the Democrats and VP wannabes?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CHENEY: I'll be happy to support whatever decision he chooses to make.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ANNOUNCER: Would the Bush team be happy to have him?

There he goes again.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SADDAM HUSSEIN, PRESIDENT OF IRAQ (through translator): The forces of evil will carry their coffins on their backs to die in disgraceful failure.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ANNOUNCER: Will he be just as wrong as when he predicted the mother of all battles?

And some of Nevada's police say: legalize pot. Is the state in for high times or high crimes?

Ahead on CROSSFIRE.

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

ROBERT NOVAK, CO-HOST: Welcome to CROSSFIRE. Tonight Saddam Hussein predicts death and destruction and failure if the U.S. attacks him. Well, we've heard that one before.

Also, will Nevada voters just say yes to legal marijuana?

But first, as we do every day, let's start with the political stories which were high, on the CROSSFIRE "Political Alert."

Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton says she'll put on a pair of work gloves and help George W. Bush clear brush at his Texas ranch, if only the president will invite her down for a visit. She wants to bring along some company -- not her husband, but a group of New York firefighters and workers and veterans of the Ground Zero cleanup. They all want to lobby for a health tracking system and brand new emergency radios.

"If I get invited, I'll be there," says the former first lady, who apparently never learned you shouldn't invite yourself anywhere, especially to a president's home.

Mr. President, this is an offer you can refuse.

PAUL BEGALA, CO-HOST: No, I love Hillary. She's fighting for her firefighters and emergency workers there. And president Bush went up and wonderfully threw his arms around those guys. Now let's see if he'll put his money where his mouth is and protect their health.

So good for you Hillary.

Speaking of our president, you know, he's been in office for over a year-and-a-half and yet he continues to try to blame President Clinton for his own failed economic policy. Speaking to fat cat contributors in Mississippi yesterday, Bush continued to try to shift the blame for the Bush recession onto Clinton.

Of course, when Clinton was running the country we had he lowest unemployment in a generation, 23 million new jobs, a balanced budget and a record surplus. George W. Bush reversed Clinton's economic policies and, in so doing, reversed our successful economy.

So blaming Clinton now, isn't that kind of like the Chicago Bulls blaming Michael Jordan for the fact that now they suck?

NOVAK: Well you know Paul, I've tried to explain to you that the economy was slipping two years before Clinton left office. They covered it up. And I'm going to explain to you some of the figures to show you they cooked the books in the Clinton administration.

The queen of soft money is raising so much cash that she needs more space to collect it. Yes, Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton again.

Last week I reported that Senator Hillary screamed at reform Senator Russ Feingold for criticizing soft money. Today the "New York Post" reported that after renting in New York City from the state Democratic Party, she's moving into a new two-office suite at more than $3,000 rent a month, five times what she's paying now. But that's no problem for her soft money machine. It's raised well over $1 million for grateful Democrats, extending her political clout, God forbid, from coast to coast.

BEGALA: If she can find New York real estate for 3 grand a month, they ought to make her the secretary of the treasury. She'd balance the budget in a day.

The American Bar Association meets in Washington this week. Now the last time the lawyers met here they were greeted by a gracious welcome, personally, by President Ronald Reagan.

But now neither President Bush, nor Dick Cheney, nor a single member of the Bush Cabinet plans on meeting with them. You know, that seems odd to me. After all, it was Bush's own former lawyer who was general counsel to the SEC under his daddy, and the SEC declined to prosecute W. for insider trading. And W. made another lawyer, the one who got him off the hook with the SEC, our ambassador to Saudi Arabia.

In defense of the president, I'm sure he would have made time if it had been a truly important meeting, like with Enron executives.

NOVAK: You know Paul, the official at the SEC who cleared George W. Bush long before he was governor was a non-Republican civil servant with a great reputation. I'll give you his phone number if you want to get the truth, if you're interested in it, that is.

BEGALA: Great.

NOVAK: Was the Clinton administration cooking the books, or was it just incompetent bureaucrats? Whatever, the latest Commerce Department statistics show that corporate profits were actually dropping through 1999 and 2000, when that same Commerce Department reported then that profits were on the rise. The discrepancy between the real profits and the reported profits: 30 percent, a mistake of $150 billion -- that's "B," billion, dollars.

The motive: Claim a fictitiously vibrant economy for Al Gore to run on.

Private corporation executives who cooked the books that way are called to account, and may do the perp walk to prison.

BEGALA: As you know -- as you reported in your column today in the "Washington Post," those are career economists who collect those numbers and analyze them. And what you left out of your column and your commentary is they made similar adjustments and mistakes when Bush was president. SO there's no grand conspiracy here.

NOVAK: There's either conspiracy or incompetent, on e or the other.

BEGALA: Oh, nonsense.

So the feminist fund-raising group Emily's List is in a lot of trouble right now for taking on my pal from the Clinton administration, Rob Emanuel (ph) and Michigan Democrat John Dingell. Both men won their congressional primaries and both of them beat candidates supported by Emily's List.

Now I wonder if Emily's List contributors wouldn't rather see their money spent helping, say, Mary Landrieu, one of the few women in the Senate, keep her seat.

Well, no dice, says Emily's List. Senator Landrieu, you see, supported the ban on partial-birth abortion. Doesn't matter that her Republican opponents support a total ban on all abortions.

Wasn't it Santiana (ph) who said: "Fanaticism consists of redoubling your efforts after you've lost sight of your aim"?

NOVAK: Paul, when I see a Clintonite like yourself attacking the Emily's List, I love it. Trouble in the leper colony.

Vice President Dick Cheney keeps a low profile. But unlike previous vice presidents, it isn't because he's a political nobody who is only needed to balance the ticket. Cheney keeps out of sight because of the war on terrorism. He did surface this week, addressing the Commonwealth Club in San Francisco and suggesting he might like another term.

To put the vice president's job performance in the CROSSFIRE, we're joined by Democratic consultant Steve McMahon and Republican consultant Charlie Black.

(APPLAUSE)

BEGALA: Guys, welcome back.

We're grateful to -- the best word (ph) is Charlie, you may be the best in the whole Republican Party. You helped give us President Reagan, president Bush, now you're advising Republicans all around the country.

I want your honest, candid assessment of what the vice president said yesterday. He left something out. He said: I'll run again if -- once I tell the president to make that decision. Then if the president, my wife and my doctors approve.

He left out a fourth, which might be a more important voice, and that is the investigators from the Securities and Exchange Commission. He can't run from prison like James Traficant, can he?

CHARLIE BLACK, REPUBLICAN CONSULTANT: Well Paul, I'm sure the American people welcome the news that Dick Cheney is going to be available to them for eight years instead of just four, because certainly President Bush will have another term, and my guess is he's going to want Dick Cheney there with him.

But don't worry about the SEC. Whatever the SEC is doing, they're investigating Halliburton, not Dick Cheney. It's been well documented this was a very standard accounting practice that didn't have any impact on the accuracy of their reports to the public. The SEC has to go through the investigation. They'll clear Halliburton and the vice president, and you guys will have to get off on some other case.

You're committing political suicide attacking a popular vice president on a spurious charge. Get on something else.

BEGALA: Well first off, I am a little dubious about the Bush administration's ability to investigate Cheney. I'm open to the notion that he's innocent here, but there ought to be an honest, fair investigation. But politically, set aside the legalities.

BLACK: These are career investigators and lawyers...

BEGALA: Who work for Bush and Cheney.

But let me set that aside...

(CROSSTALK)

BLACK: ... commissioners are Democrats.

BEGALA: There's a political albatross here, even if he's cleared. This is a firm that did business with Iran, Iraq and Libya while Cheney was the CEO. This is a firm that had 35 offshore tax havens to dodge taxes. And of that -- this is what Dick Cheney himself said of Arthur Andersen, the people who allegedly helped him with this accounting gimmick that's being investigated.

Here's what he said about Arthur, and he made a promotional video for them.

He said: "One of the things I like that they do for us is that, in effect, I get good advice, if you will, from their people based upon how we're doing business and how we're operating over and above the just sort of normal, by-the-books audit arrangement."

I mean, come on.

BLACK: Every large corporation and every CEO gets advice from accountants and attorneys and experts. And that's what he meant. Arthur Andersen, until the recent unpleasantness, was known as the greatest accounting firm in the world.

Dick Cheney had a distinguished career at Halliburton. It's a great company. As he said yesterday, 80,000 great employees. They haven't done anything wrong, and no investigation is going to show that.

But more important, more important: the American people admire Dick Cheney for 30 years of public service in big jobs under four presidents, secretary of defense at wartime. They know him for two things: competence and integrity, and they're not buying any of your nonsense.

(CROSSTALK) BLACK: Quite trying to run the ball straight at Mean Joe Green. You're losing.

NOVAK: Steve McMahon...

STEVE MCMAHON, DEMOCRATIC CONSULTANT: Yes sir.

NOVAK: ... this is what's known -- what Bill Clinton called the politics of personal destruction. I'd like you to listen to what one of Vice President Cheney's counselors, Mary Matalin, a former co-host on CROSSFIRE, said about him yesterday.

Let's listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MARY MATALIN, COUNSELOR TO THE VICE PRESIDENT: He understands that he is a political target. That's the price of public service today. What is not so easily accepted is that a solid corporate citizen like Halliburton can become a public target simply because of association with him.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

NOVAK: Isn't that what's happened -- that you smear people, have gone after Halliburton only because he was their former CEO?

MCMAHON: It's so good to be back, Bob. I've missed this so much.

You know, no one is smearing Halliburton. Halliburton is being investigated by the SEC which, you might remember, is being -- is run by the Bush administration.

I'll tell you what I think's going on here. I think there are people...

(CROSSTALK)

BLACK: ... Democrats and independent...

MCMAHON: There's not a lot that Bob Novak and I agree on, but there's one thing that we do agree on. And that is that conspiracies can happen at the highest level of government.

I believe what's going on here is people inside the Bush administration are getting this story out there, just like people inside the Bush administration did on Dan Quayle, that maybe we're not going to stick with this guy, and they're floating a little trial balloon.

I think this is a clear sign yet that the president thinks it's time to take off the training wheels.

NOVAK: I talk to a lot of people in this administration. Nobody has suggested he's not going to be on the ticket. That's all coming from your side of the fence.

But I don't want you to change the subject. I just -- the idea that Halliburton is suspect because he was the CEO, doesn't that give you some heartburn? Because after all, as Charlie said, the SEC is not part of the Bush administration, it's an independent agency.

MCMAHON: Halliburton is suspect because of the way Halliburton conducts its business operations.

NOVAK: What did they do wrong?

MCMAHON: Halliburton is suspect because of the accounting firm that they used to do their books. Halliburton is suspect because a lot of shareholders lost a lot of money.

And I think the SEC is prudently looking at a lot of the companies that cost shareholders billions and billions of dollars.

Did I mention that the president and vice president got out with all their money?

BLACK: Halliburton didn't lose money.

NOVAK: They didn't lose money.

MCMAHON: No, they didn't pay...

(CROSSTALK)

BEGALA: Two out of the five years that Cheney ran the firm they didn't pay taxes, and they had 35 offshore tax...

BLACK: Well maybe they didn't owe taxes.

BEGALA: Let me get -- well, because they dodged them...

(CROSSTALK)

BEGALA: They went overseas to hide their taxes. That's unpatriotic for a...

BLACK: I guarantee you any money that they made in the U.S., they paid taxes on...

BEGALA: What about money they made in Iraq? What about the money they made in Iraq?

(CROSSTALK)

BLACK: ... unless you're a Democrat, and he wasn't.

BEGALA: If Al Gore had been the CEO of a company that had traded with Iraq, Iran, Libya, what would you be saying about...

BLACK: Well, I don't know about the Iraq thing. Maybe Bob can say whether that's right or not. BEGALA: It is.

BLACK: Well if it was done, it was legal...

BEGALA: It was done through subsidiaries to avoid the U.S. law that made it a crime.

But even if it was technically legal, don't you think it's immoral to do business...

BLACK: What did they do Iraq?

BEGALA: They had two subsidiaries, Ingersoll-Rand and Rand Dresser Pump that sold spare parts to Saddam Hussein. That's what they did. And they had a British subsidiary that did that to evade the American laws against it.

I think that's unpatriotic, don't you?

BLACK: Well, I'll look into that. It's not illegal, or you wouldn't, certainly, be saying that. And if they didn't do anything illegal...

NOVAK: I'll tell you, I don't know the answer to that, but I will bet you as I sit here that that is at least 90 percent wrong because everything else that comes from...

(CROSSTALK)

BEGALA: There's a man named Guy Marcus (ph) who confirmed this on ABC News two years ago...

(CROSSTALK)

BLACK: He didn't say illegal, he said unpatriotic according to Begala standards.

NOVAK: Any Republican is unpatriotic.

BEGALA: All right, we're going to a break right now.

When we come back, we're going to ask our guests if they really do think W. needs a new running mate, and if so, who.

Then later: Nevada's big gamble. Why would they put a question like this on the ballot?

And our "Quote of the Day" comes from a candidate who's not afraid to take on the tough issues, even if Bob Novak disagrees with her.

Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BEGALA: Welcome back to CROSSFIRE. He can hide, but can he run? Dick Cheney's been spending most of the last few months in hiding, not from terrorists, but from reporters who want to ask him tough questions about his tenure at Halliburton, now the subject of an investigation by the Bush-Cheney SEC.

Yesterday he had to remind a crowd that, yes, he might be able to run for reelection.

We're discussing the vice president's job performance with Republican consultant Charlie Black and Democratic consultant Steve McMahon.

NOVAK: Steve McMahon, one thing that Dick Cheney has that his predecessor, as vice president, Mr. Gore had, is a -- didn't have, is a sense of humor.

And let's listen to something he said yesterday at the Commonwealth Club.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CHENEY: When I get on the elevator there's a guy there with a black bag -- actually two guys with black bags. One has the football, the other has medical capabilities.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

NOVAK: I don't know if you can appreciate that old geezers like me, a two-time cancer survivor, have a lot of admiration for the courage of Dick Cheney as somebody who has survived heart disease and lived a very useful life. Can you appreciate that?

MCMAHON: Absolutely. Absolutely. And I think if you, you know, you change the batteries and give him a little Pravachol he'll be ready for four more years.

NOVAK: Well, see, you make fun of it...

MCMAHON: No, I'm not making fun of it, I'm actually serious.

I actually don't think his health should be an issue. I don't think it really is an issue with voters. And I think, you know, he was elected as part of this ticket in spite of his health. And I think if the president decides to keep him, he's not going to drag down this ticket. Personally I think he propped up the ticket last time, and probably helped the president get elected.

NOVAK: I want to ask you this: If you know that he is -- you know, there's a lot of razzamatazz and shoe polish about Al Gore being the most effective vice president.

This guy is probably the most -- I've been in this town 45 years. He's the most effective vice president and most powerful vice president I have seen -- and influential. Do you agree with that?

MCMAHON: Boy, I'll tell you, this is an area where there's going to be a little bit more agreement than you might find from a Democrat. I think he's been, actually, an asset to the president. Partly for reasons that you might not appreciate, because I think on a ticket like this, when you had Dan Quayle at the top of the ticket instead of the bottom, it's actually more important than ever to have somebody there...

NOVAK: I was waiting for the rabbit punch.

BEGALA: Let me take this on. One of the great myths in Washington from people that have been around here 45 years is that Dick Cheney is competent as vice president. He is not. He is woefully incompetent.

Let me make the case, Mr. Black.

BLACK: What in the world are you talking about?

BEGALA: Sit tight.

He's been in charge of basically four things. On May 8, 1991 our president asked him to chair a task force on terrorism. The task force never met, never once, until after September 11. He had time to meet with Enron executives in his energy task force; he did not have time to chair the terrorism task force our president instructed him to chair.

Case -- point number two: that energy task force, it was a political and substantive debacle for the president defeated in the Senate.

Three: The president sent him to the Middle East on a very important trip to allies for our support -- to support us in an attack against Iraq. He came back empty handed.

And four: He's working on those war plans, and they leak to the papers every single day.

This guy can't play the game, can he?

BLACK: Well, nobody in America, including you, thinks Dick Cheney leaks things to the papers.

BEGALA: But it's happening under his watch.

BLACK: He is a part of the team here, and an important part of the team, as an experienced former secretary of defense. But he's not the secretary of defense, nor does he wear a uniform and do the war planning.

Go over them again, I mean, the thing about...

BEGALA: He never met -- the president asked him on May 8 of last year to chair a task force on terrorism and they never met. They never convened.

BLACK: The fact is that there were a lot of staff, including Joe Allbaugh, one of the most senior guys in the administration, were meeting and were planning. But they were playing a lot of catch-up ball since the Clinton administration did nothing about terrorism for eight years.

BEGALA: Which is actually false. But let's keep it on Cheney.

Do you know who General Don Carrrick (ph) is? He's a three-star general; he's not a partisan. He did an interview in the "Washington Post" where he said the Clinton people met all the time on this, and he did not detect the same sort of focus among the Bush people.

And the fact that Cheney never even convened a meeting of that task force...

BLACK: Well, it's embarrassing if they actually had a meeting to decide not to accept Osama bin Laden when the Sudanese offered him up during the Clinton administration.

(CROSSTALK)

BEGALA: No, the energy task force, a total debacle. He's being sued by the General Accounting Office, and it was defeated in the Senate.

BLACK: It's a spurious suit. But you know what? About 75 percent of what Bush and Cheney proposed is in the energy bill, and about 100 percent of it's in the House bill. And they're going to come out of conference with very close to a big win.

NOVAK: Steve McMahon, the strategy of the Democratic Party is to attack Bush and Cheney for being former corporate executives. There's a problem with that, which is shown in a CNN/"USA Today"/Gallup poll. Is it a good thing or a bad thing that Bush and Cheney had experience as corporate executives? Seventy-two percent good thing, 21 percent bad thing. You're on the wrong wicket on this thing, aren't you?

MCMAHON: Well, I think it depends on what kind of experience they had, and I think the SEC files contain a lot of information about what kind of experience the president had, and I think some upcoming SEC files are about to have a lot of information about what kind of experience Vice President Cheney has, and maybe they'll both on the same day want to release those files so we can all find out about their corporate experience.

NOVAK: That's worse than McCarthyism.

MCMAHON: No, no, no, Bob.

NOVAK: I'll tell you why it's worse. Because McCarthy put up a piece of paper and he says I have a list of Communists. You don't even have the paper. You're just guessing.

BEGALA: Bush is hiding it!

(CROSSTALK)

NOVAK: Can you let Mr. McMahon answer, please?

MCMAHON: Harvey Pitt has said we've got the file, it's all right here, if the president would just ask us, we'll release it. What's the problem? It's not McCarthyism.

NOVAK: You know, what he said -- that is such a distortion. What the chairman of the SEC said, it is against SEC procedure to put out these internal files. But if it is demanded by the president they'll do it.

That's a lot different.

MCMAHON: Well, that's a distinction without a difference, isn't it? He said he'd release the file if the president asked. Has the president asked? Did I miss something?

BEGALA: No, he hasn't.

(CROSSTALK)

NOVAK: Steve McMahon, thank you very much. Charlie Black, thank you very much.

(CROSSTALK)

(APPLAUSE)

Coming up: Instead of smoke and mirrors, we've got smoke and sabers. The smoke comes from marijuana. And voters agree that may not be a problem in Nevada. And the saber rattling comes from a vicious dictator who's tried it before, not that it got him anywhere.

But next, proof that a candidate will say just about anything to get elected.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BEGALA: Welcome back. The latest attempt in Janet Reno's very unconventional campaign for governor of Florida is a place few politicians would dare to visit. But Reno's never been timid about doing what she things is right or calling them as she sees them. So while appearing on South Florida' premiere gay radio talk show in Miami today, Reno came out in favor of changing Florida's laws to legalize gay adoption.

It's our "Quote of the Day."

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

JANET RENO, FLORIDA GUBERNATORIAL CANDIDATE: There will be some time when a gay couple is not suited to adopt. There will be times when a heterosexual couple is not suitable to adopt. Let's look at the facts in each case and make a decision based on what's right.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So you would support changing the law in the state of Florida? RENO: Very much so.

(END AUDIO CLIP)

NOVAK: I don't know whether these kids would be worse off with adoptive gay parents or with Janet Reno as their adoptive mother. It's a hard call.

BEGALA: Good for Janet Reno.

Next in the CNN news alert, a new security worry over at the White House.

And later, if you can't beat them, legalize them. What kind of message would that send?

Also guess who is sending messages to Washington? They certainly are not hugs and kisses. Well, should the U.S. shut him up for good? Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

NOVAK: This is the anniversary of the end of the Iran-Iraq war of the 1980s when both sides massacred one another to bloody indecisive stalemates. Saddam Hussein marked what Iraq calls the Great Victory Day, by taking off against -- you guessed it -- the United States.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SADDAM HUSSEIN (through translator): One of the lessons of recent and distant history is that all empires and bearers of the coffin of evil whenever they mobilize their evil against the Arab nation or against the Muslim world, they were themselves buried in their own coffin.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

NOVAK: When Saddam is history, what happens to Iraq?

Joining us now is Prince Ali bin Al-Hussein. He's a spokesman for the Iraqi National Congress, a coalition of Saddam's Iraqi opponents...

(APPLAUSE)

... in Washington to meet with State Department officials tomorrow.

Your Highness.

BEGALA: Surre vonlea (ph) I'm told is the proper way to address you now.

PRINCE ALI BIN AL-HUSSEIN, SPOKESMAN, IRAQI NATL. CONGRESS: Yes, I guess so. BEGALA: Very good. Welcome to CROSSFIRE. Thank you for coming.

AL-HUSSEIN: Thank you.

BEGALA: You were quoted on The Associated Press from a discussion you had at the National Press Club earlier today talking about an attack on Iraq by the United States. And you said, quote, "We do not believe it will require a great military effort."

Sir, why aren't you doing it yourself then?

AL-HUSSEIN: Well, we have been trying for many years now. And we had hoped that we would have got greater support from the international community to help the Iraqi people overthrow this regime. Not only because it's a danger to the Iraqi people, but it's a danger to the international community and it's desire to acquire a nuclear weapon is a danger to the United States as well.

So it's in all our interest to help the Iraqi people overthrow the regime. Now a military confrontation is -- seems almost inevitable now. And we have to deal with that.

BEGALA: But does it have to be an American confrontation? There are two young men in this audience who are in the United States Army. One in the Reserves, one on active duty. Both of them would gladly go if their commander in chief gave the order.

But I'd like you to tell them and their mothers and fathers, why they should risk their lives and maybe even God forbid, lose their lives, so that you can go be a king in Iraq.

AL-HUSSEIN: Well, it's to free Iraq from the tyranny of Saddam Hussein. And it's to protect the U.S. population from the danger of Saddam.

This cannot be overemphasized. He will have a nuclear weapon within three years. He has used weapons of mass destruction against his own people, against women and children. And he regards it as a great leveler that he can take on the United States if he has that nuclear weapon.

So we can deal with him now when we still have the opportunity, or we can deal with him in three years time when he's got a nuclear bomb.

NOVAK: Your Highness, you have -- I watched your press conference today, and you indicated that nobody, nobody at all will fight for Saddam Hussein. Of course, a lot of people did fight for him for eight years against Iraq.

But my question is this, you have not been in Iraq since you were two years old. I have been in Iraq more recently than you have.

How do you know what the people of Iraq will do if they are attacked by the United States? AL-HUSSEIN: Because we have direct contact with the people inside Iraq, with military commanders, with commanders of the Republican Guard, who tribal (ph) share (ph) with ordinary people. They are all telling us that if the United States attacks Saddam Hussein, they will not fight for Saddam Hussein. They will rise up against him.

This is firsthand information, and we are working very intensively inside Iraq to take opportunity, the opportunity of any attack on him.

NOVAK: Saddam Hussein's speech today was characteristically nasty. But there was some interesting that are (ph) largely ignored. And let's take a listen to something he did say that I found quite interesting. Let's listen to it.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SADDAM HUSSEIN (through translator): The right cause is of respect the security and rights of others through dealing with others in peace and in establishing the obligations acquired (ph) by way of a quick (ph) dialogue on the basis of international law and international governance.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

NOVAK: When he's talking about international governance, after all of the bluster. I've been watching diplomacy for a long time, and he's saying, "I want to negotiate."

Why not negotiate before we have bloodshed and carnage in Iraq?

AL-HUSSEIN: Well, they have been negotiating. They've been negotiating since 1991. And as a result, Saddam Hussein completing ignoring the U.N. resolutions and the will of the international community and breaching the cease-fire.

You cannot appease dictators. The world has learned from the 20th century that to give into dictators just makes them more ruthless, more aggressive and perceive it as weakness.

And he's a huge danger, and he ends up in paying a much higher price in the future than in the present.

BEGALA: Surre Vonlea (ph), let me ask you about the group that you were here in Washington with today. It's called the Iraqi National Congress. It purports to be the opposition and, you would argue, one day the successor government to Saddam Hussein.

But "Newsday" and other newspapers in America have taken a look at the Iraqi National Congress, and it's very favorable.

Let's put what they wrote up on the screen here: "The State Department in January suspended funding to the Iraqi National Congress after an audit found financial management problems in the handling of a portion of U.S. aid given to the group, which has totaled $24 million in American aid since 1998.

"State Department officials lifted the suspension later this month, freeing up $2.4 million for three months after the Iraqi National Congress agreed to improve accounting practices."

You're getting an awful lot of American taxpayer's money right now. How do we know it's being well used?

AL-HUSSEIN: Well, first of all I suggest you don't rely on other news outlets for information. If you go to the State Department, they will tell you that the audit did not recommend suspension of funds, that, in fact, they recommended that the funds should be increased. And the State Department is now offering us $8 million.

BEGALA: And did they suspend your funds for three months?

AL-HUSSEIN: No, they did not suspend our funds. We did not have an agreement at that time anyway. But they were -- they continued to give us funds. And now they're offering us funds of $8 million. And in fact, one of the facts is wrong, is that it wasn't $24 million. It was more like $12 million.

So I think we have a very good relationship with the State Department, the U.S. government. The auditors have given us a clean bill of health and they're wiling to continue to fund the Iraqi National Congress.

NOVAK: You Highness, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, who have responsibility for the well-being of the United States and all our service men and women, say it will take somewhere between 200,000 and 250,000 American troops to go into Iraq and have a change of regime.

The Iraqi National Congress says no. Why should we believe you and not the men who wear the uniforms with the stars on their shoulders who have studied this problem very thoroughly?

AL-HUSSEIN: Well, it's natural that the U.S. Army should be cautious and should be protective of their own soldiers. And that's completely understandable. But our view is that it won't require that amount of troops because our knowledge of inside Iraq is that there will be no resistance.

Apart from that, the Iraqi Army has bitter experience from 1991 on the capabilities of the U.S. in open battlefields. So in fact, Saddam is not going to deploy his military in the battlefield. He's probably -- he's in fact using a strategy for street fighting, which we believe we can handle just as well as he can.

NOVAK: But the U.S. military thinks that street fighting is much more dangerous that open battle. And I don't quite -- you had said today nobody will fight for Iraq, and then you say you can handle the -- you do expect that people will be fighting in the streets of Baghdad, which is very dangerous, isn't it?

AL-HUSSEIN: Well, I think the military strategy and obviously is very difficult to talk about these things, but it's focusing more on this as a war in which he's trying to occupy another country, and has to defeat the military. This isn't the case of Iraq. This is about regime change. You change the regime, you've won the battle.

And...

BEGALA: Surre Vonlea (ph), I'm very sorry to interrupt you, but we have only a few more minutes left. And I want to ask you, we change the regime to what? Will we have a democracy there? Will we have some monarchy where Americans are shedding blood so that you can be a king somewhere? What government in the Middle East would you model a new Iraq on?

AL-HUSSEIN: Well, the important thing is to establish democracy in Iraq and to get the Iraqi people the ability to choose what system of government they want. There are democracies in the world which are monarchies. Canada, your neighbor, for example, is a monarchy.

BEGALA: It would be modeled like the Canadian...

AL-HUSSEIN: And so is Japan. That would be entirely up to the Iraqi people. That's our first step. We mustn't impose anything on the Iraqi people. We have to give the Iraqi people the freedom to chose, something they've been lacking for over 40 years.

BEGALA: Suree Vonlea (ph), Ali bin Al-Hussein, thank you very much for joining us, sir.

(APPLAUSE)

AL-HUSSEIN: Thank you.

BEGALA: Coming up, it ain't easy being Green. Green Party members fired back at me an e-mail about the way I described his party.

But next, an issue that may increase voter turnout in Nevada, but also might increase a lot of serious health and safety problems.

Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

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

This November, Nevada voters will decide whether to legalize possession of up to three ounces of marijuana.

It has to pass twice, both this year and in 2004 before it could ever become law.

Now a new poll shows the state is evenly split, 48 percent in favor, 48 opposed, 4 percent undecided. Believe it or not, even Nevada's largest police organization has come out in favor of legalizing pot. What's going on here? Two guests join us from Las Vegas to debate it.

Bill Rogers is spokesman for Nevadans for Responsible Law Enforcement. And Todd Raybuck, a narcotics detective with the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department.

Gentlemen, thank you very much.

(APPLAUSE)

NOVAK: Mr. Rogers, I would like to quote for you somebody -- I'm not a big hard-line anti-drug person -- I'd like to quote for you Keith Stroup who is with the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, NORML. They've been trying to decriminalize marijuana since I was a little boy.

And Keith Stroup says this, quote: "It is highly unlikely the federal government would allow a state to create a legal market for the sale of drugs, in which the state licenses the sale or sets up stores to sell it," end quote.

Are you just making money for yourself, but the feds ain't going to allow it, are they?

BILLY ROGERS, NEVADANS FOR RESPONSIBLE LAW ENFORCEMENT: Well, Keith Stroup should have talked to the drug czar, because when the drug czar was out there two weeks ago, he said that the federal government would not crack down on Nevadans if this initiative passes in November.

I mean, the federal government is not going to come in here and arrest people for small amounts of marijuana. That's simply not going to happen.

And when the drug czar came to town, perhaps Keith Stroup didn't read that.

NOVAK: Well, I don't know -- which drug czar are you talking about?

ROGERS: I'm talking about John Walters.

NOVAK: John Walters is really against this. He thinks it's a disgrace.

ROGERS: He is against it, but when asked if the federal government was going to arrest people for small amounts of marijuana if this initiative passed, he said the federal government would not do that, and that it was ultimately up to the state of Nevada to decide on this.

BEGALA: Well, Detective Raybuck, I have to say I do not support -- I don't live in Nevada, it's not my business, but I don't support legalizing pot. But I'm surprised that your fellow officers do.

How do you explain that? It is just that's a small amount of pot that's at stake here?

TODD RAYBUCK, NARCOTICS DETECTIVE, LAS VEGAS POLICE: OK, first of all, we have to clarify what's going on with what Mr. Rogers is stating. In fact, John Walters did say the federal government would not prosecute for small mounts of marijuana, but they did not say they would not come in and enforce laws against sales of it through convenience stores.

As far as small amounts, I brought with me three ounces of marijuana to show the American public exactly what three ounces is. Because it's a lot more than the small amount that Mr. Rogers is purporting.

Additionally, it's enough to roll not 100, 200 but more than 250 marijuana cigarettes. And Mr. Rogers is proposing that every Nevadan over the age of 21 years of age can carry this in their pockets on the street of Nevada. And that's absurd.

Now, in response to your question about the police union supporting this, I need to clarify that this panel that you're referring to, is just a panel of nine members that speak for thousands of police officers. What the spoke about was their opinions and their opinions only.

No police officer was polled in reference to this. And I'm a member indirectly of that organization that you're speaking of. And I can tell you that while their opinion, the nine people that you're speaking about, say that they back this measure, that thousands of officers that they're speaking about, do not.

NOVAK: Mr. Rogers, do you have any response to that?

ROGERS: Well, first of all, the law enforcement community is divided. There are people in law enforcement community who support this. There are people who oppose this issue. But that's dramatic in itself.

I mean, one month ago most people thought that the law enforcement community would be lined up solidly against this initiative.

The fact that law officers are supporting this initiative is a victory for us. I mean most law...

RAYBUCK: Mr. Rogers, you're confusing the statements here. You're saying that law enforcement officers are supporting you. Nine people said that they agreed with you, not the thousands that you're impress upon the nation that is behind this.

ROGERS: Most law enforcement officers will tell you that they spend too much time arresting people for small amounts of marijuana...

RAYBUCK: OK...

ROGERS: ... and that that time could be better used to go after violent criminals like murders, like murders and rapists. RAYBUCK: Mr. Rogers, let's clear something up first. First of all, you have been purporting yourself across the country as being Nevadans for Responsible Law Enforcement. You're not even a Nevadan. And I'm insulted that you're speaking for me on behalf of the nation.

Second of all, what you're saying is you don't realize and what the American people don't realize is that one ounce of marijuana in the state of Nevada was decriminalized from a felony to a misdemeanor and that we currently only issue citations. And that's the practice of the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department to just issue citations.

ROGERS: Well...

RAYBUCK: So this smoke and mirrors act that you're trying to put in there is...

ROGERS: Well, first of all, last year more than 5,000 Nevadans were arrested for small amounts of marijuana.

RAYBUCK: OK, but Mr. Rogers...

NOVAK: Let him respond.

ROGERS: That took police officers off the street for 15,000 hours in this state. That is a lot of time that law enforcement could have been spending going after murders, rapists and other violent criminals.

RAYBUCK: OK, Mr. Rogers, what you're sign first of all, is misconceiving because you're just stating that so many thousand, 5,000 police or persons were arrested for arrests for marijuana. You don't know if those are multiple charges. You don't know if those people had other more severe charges. You don't know any of that.

ROGERS: I know that more than 90 percent of those were for possession, and what police officers tell me is when they arrest somebody for marijuana, that in nine cases out of 10, they're not even prosecuted.

I mean, we're wasting law enforcement time rounding up...

BEGALA: Let me...

ROGERS: Yes.

BEGALA: ... let me actually ask Detective Raybuck to hold up those two bags full of pot. I mean, that's an enormous amount. Actually, put it right under your chin so that it can be on the camera.

NOVAK: Put it under your chin so they can see it. That's it.

BEGALA: That's an enormous bag. That's...

(LAUGHTER) BEGALA: ... you know, that's not just some recreational use there.

ROGERS: Well first of all, that's the standard in most of the states that allow medical marijuana. Most states that allow medical marijuana...

RAYBUCK: OK, you're confusing the issue. I'm not talking about medical marijuana...

ROGERS: I'm not confusing the issue. I'm talking about an adequate supply that is generally considered a 30 to 60 day supply...

BEGALA: Adequate supply for a Grateful Dead concert. You can get the whole Memorial Stadium stoned on that.

NOVAK: Let me ask you, let me ask you, Detective Raybuck, something. You know, you live in a state where you have a legalized prostitution. You have legalized gambling all over the state. A lot of people think that Las Vegas should be renamed Sodom and Gomorrah, something like that.

I mean, doesn't it seem odd that you're cracking down on marijuana -- I'm against marijuana legalization, but isn't it kind of odd that in Nevada you draw the line there when you say anything else goes?

RAYBUCK: You know what, you're right. We do have legalized prostitution in some areas, not in Las Vegas, but in some areas of the state. And we do have legalized gambling. But what this issue is is this is about our children in Nevada. And so I am standing out against with brothers in law enforcement, my sheriff, Jerry Keller, my under sheriff, Dick Wingett (ph). We do not support this issue because this is a bad move for the future of Nevada and the young people in Nevada.

ROGERS: Well, first of all, this strictly prohibits minors from using marijuana...

RAYBUCK: OK...

ROGERS: Anyone who sells marijuana will go to -- marijuana to a child will go to prison. Anyone who sells marijuana without a license from the state will go to prison. And you know that.

RAYBUCK: OK Mr. Rogers, but you say anybody who sells it without a license. First of all, let's address that issue. Who's going to issue those licenses, and who is going to do the backgrounds? Police officers...

ROGERS: They're...

RAYBUCK: You're merely just redirecting law enforcement. Now let's go, if it does in fact get legalized, what police officers, for example -- we have alcohol crackdowns every year in the state. Why...

BEGALA: OK, Bill Rogers gets the last word...

NOVAK: Mr. Rogers. The last word.

ROGERS: Sure. Well, ultimately this initiative protects responsible people and punishes those people who are irresponsible. That's why we're even in the polls right now. And that's why we're going to win in November.

NOVAK: All right, we'll have to thank you. Thank you very much Billy Rogers, thank you very much Detective Todd Raybuck. We appreciate it very much gentlemen.

(APPLAUSE)

NOVAK: In a minute it's your turn. One viewer has fired back an e-mail about how we should refer to people who aren't super rich.

ANNOUNCER: If you'd like to fire back at Crossfire, e-mail at Crossfire@cnn.com. Make sure to include your name and home town.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

NOVAK: Time now for "Fireback," when the viewers "Fireback" at us. The first e-mail tonight from Darla Henderson of Knoxville, Tennessee. "I take great exception to you calling those who are not extremely rich losers. I've been very successful as a volunteer in my professional organization and put myself through college, et cetera. But I am not rich and, therefore, I am a loser."

Darla, I call a loser somebody who has tried and failed and whines about other people being rich. I think Darla, you probably are a loser.

BEGALA: Oh, Darla.

My goodness. Here's e-mail number two.

Oh, stop, he's just kidding, right?

NOVAK: No.

(LAUGHTER)

BEGALA: Dave Roppolo in Florida writes, "Paul, although I'm forever in your corner, tonight I took offense to your unbecoming retort to Michael Moore regarding loopy, nutty Greens. Why don't we leave the immature name-calling to the Ann Coulters, Rush Limbaughs and the Robert Novaks."

(APPLAUSE)

BEGALA: You know, Dave, I'll make you a deal. I'll give up the immature name-calling if the Greens will give up the immature voting and vote Democrat so they can stand up for the working people.

(APPLAUSE) NOVAK: OK, another question -- another comment about Michael Moore, who was on last night. Deborah Julander of Greenwood Village, Colorado says: "I wish you would have asked old Michael what he does with all of his money he makes off his books. Six months off the best seller list should be putting him in the hated top 10 percent."

I've got the same question for Begala and Carville.

BEGALA: That's a very good point. I wish I was making Michael Moore's kind of money .

Mike O'Neill in Alpharetta, Georgia writes, "Surgeons have separated Siamese twins joined at the head. Was that the Republican Party and big business?"

NOVAK: Oh...

BEGALA: They're joined at the wallet, Mike.

NOVAK: All right, first question from the audience.

BEGALA: Yes, sir.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: My name is Michael Ute (ph) and I'm from Milford, Connecticut. And I have a comment for Mr. Begala.

I just want to say that the Democratic strategy to connect the Bush administration to the corporate corruption has proven itself to be a miserable failure. And I hope you keep it up.

BEGALA: Well, don't worry, I will.

You're not a very -- I don't think you're probably a very undecided voter.

NOVAK: This is the same thing...

BEGALA: I didn't connect them.

NOVAK: Those are the same people who used health reform in 1994 and got a Republican landslide.

BEGALA: I didn't connect them. It was Bush who ran an oil company and sold his stock too early.

It was Cheney who ran an oil company...

NOVAK: Let's get another question.

BEGALA: ... and is being investigated by the SEC.

NOVAK: Another question.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hi, my name is Adam (ph) from Abbington, Pennsylvania. In light of the decision in London to decriminalize marijuana so they could focus more resources on important issues like crime, health care and education, do you think the U.S. should follow suit?

NOVAK: Well, you know, we have declared our independence from Britain some time ago.

(LAUGHTER)

NOVAK: We had a little war on that.

(LAUGHTER)

BEGALA: No, I think the last thing we need is another mind- altering chemical on the market. I am not for it .

Yes, sir .

NOVAK: Last question.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hi, I'm Mike Lehman (ph) from Chicago. And my question...

NOVAK: Go Chicago...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, sir, go Cubs.

My comment is the lesson learned from 9/11 is that we need to address the threat before it becomes a tragedy. I think we need to apply that wisdom to Iraq and silence Saddam's sass with force.

NOVAK: I want to ask you a question, are you ready to volunteer to go fight?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, sir.

NOVAK: Well, that's good. You put your money where your mouth is .

(APPLAUSE)

BEGALA: Sign him up .

(APPLAUSE)

BEGALA: Sign him up.

The problem is, the president needs to make his case. I'm skeptical, but open. But he's got to make the case to the American people and to this young man, Bob.

NOVAK: OK. We have one more question? Go ahead, quickly.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Hi, I'm Beth Power from Chicago also. And I want Dick Cheney to stay on the ticket because his problems can only help the Democrats in the elections.

(LAUGHTER)

BEGALA: Amen, young lady.

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.

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



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