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CNN CROSSFIRE

If Saddam Hussein Won't Pay Attention, What About U.N.?; What Will Congress Decide to Do About Iraq?

Aired September 13, 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:

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I am highly doubtful that he'll meet our demands.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

If Saddam Hussein won't pay attention, what about the U.N.?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

COLIN POWELL, SECRETARY OF STATE: You cannot just look away.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

What about the Democrats in Congress?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. JOSEPH BIDEN (D), DELAWARE: Mr. President, what is it you want and tell me why you want it?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

In Florida, they can chase cars, so why can't they count votes?

Plus, is it time to polish up Dr. Mudd's name?

Ahead on CROSSFIRE.

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

ROBERT NOVAK, CO-HOST: Welcome to CROSSFIRE.

Tonight, the president leans on Congress to hurry up about Iraq.

And you know the old saying, "Your name is mud?" We'll talk to a descendent of the real Dr. Mudd who is trying to clear his great- grandfather's name. But first, how about a good scare?

Here comes the Friday the 13th edition of our CROSSFIRE "Political Alert."

Florida's election board has rejected Janet Reno's request for a statewide manual recount in the Democratic primary for governor. All year, the Florida Democratic establishment worried that Reno would be nominated and be devoured in November by Republican Governor George Bush.

The worst attorney general ever is one of the worst candidates ever. So Democrats were delight when a political rookie millionaire lawyer Bill McBride appeared to nose out Janet. Instead of a recount, Florida security of state says if any uncounted votes are found, they can be submitted with updated vote totals next week.

So much for any Democratic momentum. And Jeb Bush says thank you very much.

PAUL BEGALA, CO-HOST: Well let's just set the word straight. I do think we need party unity in Florida. But to say Janet Reno was anything but a great attorney general, let me tell you, John Ashcroft is not half the woman Janet Reno is. Janet Reno, you did a great job for America. God bless you.

In other Florida news, about an hour ago, Florida authorities released three medical students who were stopped and questioned as a result of a terrorist scare. Authorities stopped the three and closed down a stretch of I-75's Alligator Alley after a woman at a Georgia restaurant said she heard them discussing a possible target for terrorism in Miami.

Sources say the man may have been playing a prank on the woman. No explosives were found in the vehicle. And the commander of the bomb squad has informed CNN that no explosives were found.

But according to my own personal highly placed sources here, Florida police apparently did find 10,000 more votes for Al Gore, which they immediately gave to Pat Buchanan.

NOVAK: Of course you just made that up.

BEGALA: I did make that up.

NOVAK: And you always like to (UNINTELLIGIBLE) the naive out there.

Good news today for Dick Cheney and for Americans. The vice president, who has survived four heart attacks dating back to 1978, underwent a routine cardiological check-up at an undisclosed location. Actually, a Washington hotel.

The test, including an EKG, showed no new problems for the 61- year-old vice president. Dick Cheney is one of the hardest working and most influential vice presidents ever, and maybe we can hope he will be on the ticket again in '04.

BEGALA: I actually do agree he is one of the most influential and hard working. He has had four heart attacks and cancer and gout and he's still going. And I admire that greatly. I admire him more that he has given an exclusive interview to you, Bob Novak, to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the "NOVAK, HUNT & SHIELDS" show.

So congratulations.

NOVAK: Thank you. Thank you very much, Paul.

BEGALA: Last night on this broadcast my friend Mr. Novak praised a California judge's ruling, tossing out a $78 million fraud judgment against the investment firm of California Republican gubernatorial candidate Bill Simon. A review of campaign donation records, though, from the Web site opensecrets.org, reveals that the judge in the case, James C. Chalfant, has contributed to a number of Republican politicians, including former California Governor Pete Wilson, right- wing House impeachment manager Jim Rogan and former New Jersey House Speaker Chuck Haytaian.

But, overruling a jury of honorable and independent California citizens and letting Simon's firm off the hook just might be Judge Chalfant's most valuable contribution of all.

NOVAK: You know you're opening up a bad door there, Paul, because if we start going into the socialist judges and given all of these terrible judgments over the years, it will be very bad for your cause.

And if you get the idea from Democrats that corporate corruption is a strictly Republican problem, get a load of the bankrupt Global Crossing company, which provided big bucks for prominent Democrats, especially Democratic National Chairman Terry McAuliffe.

The House Commerce Committee is expanding its investigation to include Qwest Communications and other companies. A subpoena was served yesterday on Global Crossing Chairman Gary Winnick to appear at a hearing next week. It's the old story. Democrat Winnick accused of inflating the company's stock value, then unloading it before declaring bankruptcy.

Corporate chicanery really is bipartisan.

BEGALA: Well, I know you didn't have much time, but I'm surprised you didn't mention that President Bush's father, former President Bush, was given tens of thousands of dollars of Global Crossing stock, wrote it up to several million dollars, sold it off. So you know...

NOVAK: Did I say bipartisan?

BEGALA: Well, it affects the Republicans as well. That's a good point. You did say that.

Well we've got some late breaking news now here at CNN in the war on terrorism and the investigation into September 11. A key suspect may be in custody tonight in Pakistan.

Let's quickly go to our CNN justice correspondent, Kelli Arena -- Kelli.

KELLI ARENA, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Paul, Ramzi Binalshibh is one of the most wanted men on the planet in direct connection to the September 11 attacks. And he is, according to government sources, in custody in Pakistan.

Now Binalshibh was an integral part of the Hamburg, Germany terrorist cell, according to investigators, and was one of the roommates of Mohamed Atta, who flew American Airlines Flight 11 into the World Trade Center.

Investigators say that Binalshibh was involved in planning and financing the September 11 attacks. And investigators believe that he may have at some point planned to be the 20th hijacker. Now he tried to enter the United States four times prior to September 11 but he was unsuccessful.

Now the Germans have a warrant out for his arrest. He is not under indictment here in the United States.

Bob, back to you.

NOVAK: President Bush today said he expects U.N. action on Iraq within days and weeks, not months and years. However, the president ads he doesn't really expect Saddam Hussein to adhere to any resolutions the U.N. may pass.

Does that mean that Saddam Hussein's time in power is also a matter of days and weeks, not months and years?

Joining us now from Burlington, Vermont is Ken Adelman, who was director of the U.S. Arms Control and Disarmament Agency under President Reagan.

(APPLAUSE)

Ken, thank you for joining us. Always good to see you again.

KEN ADELMAN, FORMER DIRECTOR, U.S. ARMS CONTROL AND DISARMAMENT AGENCY: Thank you, Bob.

BEGALA: Let me start with this breaking news that Kelly Arena, our Justice Correspondent, just broke.

Ramzi Binalshibh, one of the masterminds allegedly of the September 11 mass murder here in the United States, apparently may be under custody. This is a great victory for American law enforcement and presumably corporation that we have gotten from the Pakistanis.

Aren't you worried, therefore, that if we go to war with Iraq, as you have been agitating for months, that would jeopardize the kind of international coalition that apparently seems to be working in tracking down al Qaeda, the principal threat to America? ADELMAN: No, Paul, I'm not worried about that at all. I think it's absolutely integral to the war on terrorism to get a head of a terrorist state, which is Saddam Hussein. I think that to argue that somehow going after Saddam Hussein is against the war on terrorism or contrary to the war on terrorism is like arguing that going after Al Capone is against the war on organized crime. It's ridiculous.

BEGALA: Well, actually, let me press the point. Do you think that Prime Minister Musharraf of Pakistan would be in a position to help America if we were at war in Iraq and the street was erupting in Pakistan in anti-American protest? No. He would have no ability to help us go after the Binalshibhs of the world.

ADELMAN: Yeah, well, you answered your own question, Paul. If your question is would he support the United States? Not overtly. But the fact is that he would act just like he is acting now.

Let me make a point here, Paul. And that is that this war on terrorism is a universal goal for all of us. It's not an American project, it's a universal goal.

It's a goal of everybody with civilization and has to be on behalf of civilization. So don't think that Musharraf's arresting a terrorist is a favor to America. It's partly a favor to America, but the point is it's a favor to all of those who believe in rule of law and believe in civilization.

NOVAK: Ken, we have been talking to you for a long time.

ADELMAN: Right.

NOVAK: And you and your coconspirators have always been anxious to have the United States out there alone, maybe with Israel and nobody else. And I would like for you to listen to something that the Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Senator Joe Biden, a Democrat, said on CNN this morning.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BIDEN: I think we should just slow down, let the president approach this the way he has. I think he's being responsible the way he's doing it and I think he has a prospect of getting the world behind it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

NOVAK: Now, Paul may hate it when a Democrat says something nice about George W. Bush, but I'd like you to tell me. I guess you hate that too when Joe Biden is saying let's just slow down and not just go off on our own.

ADELMAN: No, I like Joe Biden. I don't agree with him on a lot of issues. I certainly don't agree with him on this issue.

The fact is, Bob, that to slow down on the war of terrorism is to say to terrorists around the world, and say to Saddam Hussein in particular, you know you can fiddle around and you can keep building up your weapons of mass destruction, your chemical weapons, your biological weapons. You can get nuclear weapons, and we're going to be fiddling around some more because we're not going to be in any hurry.

I think we have to be in a hurry. I think these weapons of mass destruction are going to be used against the United States sooner than later. And I think that we absolutely have to preclude that. And I don't want another September 11 or a bigger September 11.

And it's not true, Bob, as you keep saying all the time, it is not true that this is something that we're going to go it alone.

NOVAK: Yeah...

ADELMAN: The fact is that Britain will be us. You're right, Israel will be with us, Turkey will be with us, Qatar will be with us.

Certainly the Iraqi people will be with us. That's the most important, the Iraqi people will be with us. Spain will be with us.

NOVAK: Well, you know...

ADELMAN: For sure Italy will be with us.

NOVAK: I hope you don't list the whole United Nations tonight...

ADELMAN: No.

NOVAK: But, Ken, I would like you to -- let's really be candid that you and my old friend Richard Perle, my old friend Bill Kristol from the very beginning for the past year have said we don't want to build a coalition, we don't need a coalition. We can show our muscle in the American emporium. That's what you're...

(CROSSTALK)

ADELMAN: Bob, if you've ever heard me say that, you were just wrong. I never said anything like that. I said a coalition would be nice if we had it.

But let me remind you what happened the first time we went around this and the Gulf War the first time. There was no international coalition before President Bush Sr. said, this will not stand, drew a line in the sand and sent over 540,000 Americans.

After he decided we're going in, then there was an international coalition. So don't get this idea, oh my gosh, we need a coalition in order to go in. We know that once Americans...

BEGALA: Sorry to interrupt you, but I want to get this point in, Ken, which is we need a coalition to go after al Qaeda. You're one of the most brilliant people I know, so I'm not going to let you get away with this intellectual laziness, Ken.

You conflate Iraq and al Qaeda when we know that there is no connection there. In fact, Madeleine Albright, one of the great hawks of the Clinton administration and a great secretary of state, wrote this, this morning. I'm going to read it to you and get you to respond.

She said, "The president made a strong case for international action. I hope, however, that the president will not be pushed by his hard-line advisers into an unwise timetable for military action. We should pick this fight at a moment that best suits our interests. And right now our primary interest remains the thorough destruction and disruption of al Qaeda and it related terrorist networks."

Won't going after Iraq disrupt our ability to stop and kill al Qaeda?

ADELMAN: No, it won't, Paul.

BEGALA: I want to hear your argument. OK, just because you say -- I mean as much as I respect you, Ken...

ADELMAN: No it won't. The answer is no it won't.

BEGALA: The distraction factor alone will push our allies away and we'll no longer have the coalition to go after al Qaeda.

ADELMAN: No, I just don't believe that. Let me say, first of all, that I like Madeleine Albright. And to say that she was the most hawkish member of the Clinton administration is slim pickings, in my mind. But, anyway, leave that aside.

The fact is...

BEGALA: Well, she beat (UNINTELLIGIBLE) like a bad piece of meat in two elections, Ken.

(CROSSTALK)

NOVAK: Ken, we're almost out of time. Let me ask you a question and give me an answer.

ADELMAN: The fact is we can chew gum and walk at the same time.

NOVAK: All right.

ADELMAN: We can go after al Qaeda around the world and we can go after the big one. Why do I say that? Because a terrorist group is terrible, but a terrorist state is even worse.

NOVAK: We're almost out of time. I got a yes or no question.

ADELMAN: Sure.

NOVAK: Do you feel devastated when President Bush goes before the U.N. and he completely abandons the fairytale that somehow or another the events of 9/11 were tied to Iraq? He didn't even mention it to the U.N. ADELMAN: No, I don't think he has to mention it, because he didn't mention lots of things to the U.N. You and I have been arguing about this for the last year, Bob. I think there is good evidence that Saddam Hussein was tied to 9/11. I don't think it's absolutely conclusive, but I think it's good evidence. And you...

NOVAK: Oh you're changing.

ADELMAN: No I'm not. I think it's very good evidence, and you have not acknowledged that good evidence. I see no reason why Mohamed Atta went 7,000 miles for a meeting with the head of Iraqi intelligence a few months before September 11 and...

NOVAK: Fairytale.

ADELMAN: ... and 7,000 miles for this meeting.

BEGALA: I'm sorry (UNINTELLIGIBLE), my friend, but we're going to have to go. I really do appreciate you taking the time to debate Iraq with us.

Ken Adelman, ladies and gentlemen. Thank you very much.

ADELMAN: OK.

(APPLAUSE)

BEGALA: President Bush is leaning on congressional Democrats to give him a blank check on Iraq or face the consequences on election day? So in a minute we'll ask a pair of guests if the president should be playing politics with war and peace.

Later, is Janet Reno getting "Gore'd" in Florida? Does she really deserve one of the famous Florida recounts? Do we?

All of this ahead as CROSSFIRE continues. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

NOVAK: When Mr. Begala pulled out this terrible canard that this was a political maneuver -- and so today I had an interview at the vice president's residence with Vice President Cheney for the 20th anniversary of the "EVANS AND NOVAK," now the "NOVAK, HUNT & SHIELDS" program, will be on tomorrow at 5:30 PM on CNN Eastern. If you missed that, it will be on again at 10:30 on Sunday morning.

I didn't mention Begala's name, I was too polite. But I asked the vice president of what he thought of this canard and this is what he said.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DICK CHENEY, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I've talked with a lot of Democrats and I find a lot of them are going to be supportive of what needs to be done here. This is one of those issues where I don't think the American people respond well to the suggestion that somehow this is just a political issue or something that's being done spur of the moment.

Anybody who looks at the record will see that we've talked about the problem in Iraq and have seen in develop now for over the past year.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

NOVAK: Don't disappoint me, John Podesta. You are with Cheney and not with Begala on this issue, right?

JOHN PODESTA, FORMER WHITE HOUSE CHIEF OF STAFF: Well I think the president started off on the right foot this week by saying that he was going to consult with Congress and that he went to the U.N., made a powerful speech there, began the process of building an international coalition. Today, I think it was unfortunate that he injected the election.

NOVAK: Cheney or Begala, who are you for on this issue, as far as contriving a political outcome?

PODESTA: I like to think the president is going to be on the side of the American people. And that's to go and cooperate with Congress and to seek a bipartisan resolution.

BEGALA: Our vice president, Congressman Paxon, did say to look at the record, and I did. In January of this year Carl Rove, chief political adviser to the president, gave a speech in Austin, Texas to the Republican National Committee, where he said, We're going to take the issue of national security to the voters, politicizing the war.

In June of this year, a PowerPoint presentation devised by Karl Rove and Ken Melman, the political director for the White House, was leaked to the press. The first three words of that briefing: focus on war.

Saturday's "New York Times," White House correspondent Elizabeth Bumer (ph) quotes the chief of staff saying, "This debate is driven by marketing issues." And today, our president proves me right. Listen to what the president of the United States said, politicizing this war. Take a look.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BUSH: If I were running for office, I'm not sure how to explain to the American people to, you know, vote for me and, oh, by the way, on a matter of national security I think I'm going to wait for somebody else to act.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BEGALA: He didn't get Cheney's talking points, he spoke the truth. That your party is trying to politicize this, and shame on Bush.

BILL PAXON, FORMER U.S. REPRESENTATIVE: I think the president is acting presidential. He's looked at an 11 year record of deception that Saddam Hussein has perpetrated on the United Nations and the world community. And he said, as this president does so well, that's not going to stand.

He's straightforward, he's direct. He doesn't play word games. You don't have to look in dictionaries to determine what he means by his words.

He went to the U.N. and he said we are going to take this on if you do not act. He has called, as "The Washington Post" said today, the U.N.'s bluff. Now we'll see what the U.N. does.

But I think his message today to Congress was instructive. His message was, if you want to wait, fine. But I don't think that you want to wait for the U.N. to make a decision. You decide.

BEGALA: He said I'm going to take it to the electorate.

PAXON: No, no, no.

BEGALA: In fact...

PAXON: Can I just say, I think the president was exactly what he does best, straightforward and direct. This is an issue...

(CROSSTALK)

PAXON: No. This is a very important issue that has been ignored by the world community for 11 years and, frankly, been ignored in Washington for 11 years. And it's not going to stand any longer.

NOVAK: John Podesta, I'd like you to listen to one of the wittiest men I know, the House majority leader. Listen to what he says.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. DICK ARMEY (R-TX), MAJORITY LEADER: My biggest concern on that is if it becomes necessary for the president to ask Congress to vote a resolution, that Saddam Hussein will die of old age before the Senate leadership gets it on their floor.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(APPLAUSE)

NOVAK: Good point, isn't it?

PODESTA: I think the Senate has acted extremely responsibly, with Joe Biden (UNINTELLIGIBLE).

NOVAK: On what?

PODESTA: It was Joe Biden that had hearings on this, forced them into making a real strategic change, I think, which is to try to build an international coalition. And the reason that that was important was because of exactly the conversation you were having with Ken Adelman. We've got to pursue the war on terrorism as we pursue regime change in Iraq.

And I think that if we had followed that go it alone strategy that was being outlined by the hawks in this administration, by Dick Cheney this August, we would have been making a big mistake.

BEGALA: The president, who you brag on for being a straight talker, and I agree, has said, and I quote, "I'm a patient man." He's also said he hasn't made up his mind. Why then is he pushing Congress to make up its mind before the election when Bob Ney, a fellow Republican, conservative Republican of Ohio, tells the "Los Angeles Times," quote, "I'd like to see the vote after the election. The president has some groundwork to do."

PAXON: Well, now let me quote a Democrat. John Edwards, a guy who I'm sure you think should be the president instead of the one who is in the White House today, George Bush...

BEGALA: I'd pick any one of these actually too. I mean...

(CROSSTALK)

PAXON: You know what? John Edwards (UNINTELLIGIBLE) don't wait. I think that there's an important role for Congress here, and that's to stand up before they leave town. And, frankly, when they...

BEGALA: So before the president made up his mind...

PAXON: Paul, could I -- Congress is going to leave town and they're not going to be back until February of next year. I don't think that Congress should leave town without taking up this issue.

BEGALA: Why?

PAXON: And they should go home and explain to their voters and their constituents what they mean and how they stand on this issue. Stand up as the president did, clear and straightforward, and speak out.

NOVAK: Mr. Podesta, there is no politics in this, is there, for either side?

PODESTA: Well, I think that there's the politics of trying to obliterate all the other issues that the Republican Party seems to...

NOVAK: You think they do that?

PODESTA: ... that the Republican Party seems to be trying to do, which is to try to not talk about anything except Iraq between now and November.

NOVAK: John, just...

PODESTA: But I think that the president owes it to the American people, and I hope that what he will do is to pursue this on the merits, try to make the case...

NOVAK: I think he will.

PODESTA: ... deal with the U.N. and build a coalition that...

NOVAK: I'm glad you're a (UNINTELLIGIBLE), because speaking of politics, in a minute we'll ask our guests about today's late-breaking political story down in Florida. Janet Reno wants a statewide manual recount. Will Florida Democrats ever learn?

Speaking of Florida, in a CNN "News Alert" Connie Chung will have the latest on a scare that turned out to be a bad joke gone real bad.

And then the great grandson of a man sentenced to life in prison for being in on the Lincoln assassination conspiracy fights to clear his ancestor's name.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

NOVAK: As we said earlier, Florida election officials have rejected Janet Reno's demand for a manual recount of all the votes in Tuesday's Democratic primary for governor. Reno lost to Bill McBride by about 8,200 votes, but they were all sorts of problems.

It was Florida, after all, on election day. As Yogi Berra says, "It's deja vous all over again."

We're talking politics with former Clinton chief of staff John Podesta. And the former leader of the House Republican leadership, former Congressman Bill Paxon of New York.

BEGALA: And let's shift to Florida, Florida, Florida. Governor Jeb Bush, we know he can't run child protective services. They've lost children there -- it's the most tragic story of the year. We know he can't run an election. Why should he run state of Florida for another four years?

PAXON: You know, actually, Governor Bush has bipartisan reforms that he put the commission together, bipartisan commission. They put reforms in place and they worked well in 65 of the 67 counties.

(CROSSTALK)

PAXON: They put the reforms in place, the counties (UNINTELLIGIBLE). The two Democratic-controlled counties, Miami-Dade and Broward, couldn't get it right. And the interesting part of this is it's a little conspiratorial, but it's true. Those counties, Democratic controlled.

The state Democratic chairman (UNINTELLIGIBLE) was told by the state election commissioner, Smith, there's problems down there, you better get your act together. And, guess what, they didn't do it. Why? Because Poe and Pennellis (ph), the Democratic (UNINTELLIGIBLE), were supporting McBride. And they want Reno and her base to get the votes.

That's what it was all about. That's what it was all about. They wanted to ignore those problems, and that's the problem. NOVAK: Well, that's a conspiracy theory. There's another theory of what happened, and that great political analyst, Jay Leno, explained it last night.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JAY LENO, TALK SHOW HOST: What are these people doing down there? It seems that the Florida voters didn't understand how to use the new touch-screen voting machines. Apparently instructions and the name were too confusing. "You touch the screen."

Some of the other ones are too primitive. You know they don't need a governor. They should just appoint a king down there so these people don't have to go vote.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

NOVAK: Isn't it true that Floridians are just too stupid for democracy?

PODESTA: Look, I think Governor Bush said he wanted to make Florida the envy of the nation. I think he's made it the laughing stock of the nation, as this little segment just...

NOVAK: Well, how do you blame him?

PODESTA: He was supposed to put into place an election system that would work. Obviously, that didn't happen.

NOVAK: They're still dumb.

PODESTA: I think this was the biggest nightmare for Jeb Bush.

PAXON: It did work.

PODESTA: It didn't work.

PAXON: John, that's ridiculous.

(CROSSTALK)

PAXON: It was the county, up to them to hire the people to run the machines. They didn't do it in these two Democratic-controlled counties. They were in charge.

BEGALA: That's not what the governor said. After the 2000 debacle he didn't say, "I hope the counties fix it." He said, "I'm going to make sure this never happens again." Now he gave his word and he didn't keep it.

(CROSSTALK)

PAXON: ... and the counties didn't carry it out. And you know what the interesting thing is? Reno still won't concede, McBride can't do his victory lap, and this is a dangerous position. The Democratic counties didn't do their job and now the Democratic candidates for governor are in a fight.

NOVAK: You know how in the world Janet Reno, (UNINTELLIGIBLE) nobody over heard of, was explained by a pollster from Fort Lauderdale named Jim Kane. We'll put up what he said on the screen.

He said, "The idea that you can campaign in a state with nine million by running voters around in a red truck... that's what ultimately led to her defeat. It demonstrates her naivete. She had great notoriety but she had little or no experience of running a campaign."

Wasn't the problem, John, that she was just a bad candidate, that she was a bad attorney general?

PODESTA: No, I think she was a good attorney general. I like Janet Reno, I think she was a good candidate. But Bill McBride is a great candidate. He ran an effective campaign.

NOVAK: Nobody ever heard of him.

PODESTA: He ran an effective campaign, he's a Vietnam War hero. I think he's going to give Jeb Bush a real run for his money because he knows how to actually get something done, as opposed to Jeb Bush, who can't manage anything.

BEGALA: We're nearly out of time -- sorry, but Jeb Bush attacked Bill McBride during that primary. A strategy that worked well for Gray Davis. That was a mistake for Jeb Bush, wasn't it?

PAXON: Let me tell you what's going on here. This is the Seinfeld effect regarding Bill Clinton, there's no second acts. Cuomo, Robert Reich next week, Steve Grossman, (UNINTELLIGIBLE) didn't do very well in the primary.

(CROSSTALK)

NOVAK: One at a time. And Podesta...

PAXON: It's a bad situation. If you're close to Clinton, it's bad.

NOVAK: Podesta is not running. John, thank you very much.

BEGALA: (UNINTELLIGIBLE)

NOVAK: Bill Paxon, thank you.

There has been a late development in the war on terror. Connie Chung has details next in a CNN "News Alert."

And later, we'll talk to the great grandson of the doctor who was convicted for taking part in the Lincoln assassination conspiracy. But was the doctor really innocent?

And our quote of the day is from a Democrat who really needs to get some mosquito repellant. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BEGALA: Coming up in our "Fireback" segment, another defender of Canada's honor goes after Bob Novak.

And next, is there something sinister behind those annoying mosquitoes that keep buzzing around you? Don't answer until you've heard our quote of the day.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

NOVAK: According to the CDC, 1,295 people have been diagnosed with West Nile Virus this year. Nationwide, there have been at least 54 deaths. The virus is spread by mosquitoes. Health officials in many states are spraying and clearing out mosquito breeding grounds, but that is not enough for Democratic Senator Patrick Leahy of Vermont.

Leahy, who was targeted in last year's anthrax attacks, wants a government investigation to see if West Nile Virus is really the work of terrorists. Senator Leahy's talk with a radio interviewer includes our quote of the day.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

SEN. PATRICK LEAHY (D), VERMONT: I think we have to ask ourselves is it a coincidence that we're seeing such an increase in West Nile Virus, or is that something that's being tested as a biological weapon against us?

(END AUDIO CLIP)

NOVAK: You know this supports my long-time theory that you hang around Capitol Hill long enough, you get goofy.

(LAUGHTER)

BEGALA: No, I mean as you pointed out, this man was targeted in an anthrax attack for which we still haven't even had an arrest or a suspect. One man whose life has been trashed is not even a suspect. And I don't blame him for being a little skeptical about what our government (UNINTELLIGIBLE).

NOVAK: Nice try. Stop crossing your fingers when you say things like that.

BEGALA: Still ahead, one of our viewers takes sides in the war for votes. And then, a heinous crime and a controversy that won't go away even after 137 years. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BEGALA: Welcome back to CROSSFIRE. We are coming to you live from the George Washington University here in beautiful downtown Washington, D.C. Now, everybody knows that Abraham Lincoln was assassinated by John Wilkes Booth. And if you're a real history buff, you also know that Booth broke his leg during the getaway. And during the dead of night his leg was treated by a Maryland doctor by the name of Dr. Samuel Mudd.

Mudd was arrested, convicted of taking part in the assassination conspiracy, and sent to prison. President Andrew Johnson pardoned him in 1869. And, after Dr. Mudd died in 1883, his descendants never gave up trying to clear the family name.

Thomas Mudd, the doctor's great-grandson, joins us now from East Lansing, Michigan. Mr. Mudd, thank you very much for coming to CROSSFIRE.

(APPLAUSE)

THOMAS MUDD, GREAT-GRANDSON OF DR. SAMUEL MUDD: And thank you for having me.

NOVAK: Mr. Mudd, as a first witness against your case, I'm going to bring in another Mudd, a famous Mudd, Roger Mudd, the eminent TV journalist, now the anchorman on The History Channel. And we're talking about the question of whether Samuel Mudd knew that his patient was the assassin of Lincoln.

Roger Mudd said that it is hard to believe that he did not know. How do you respond to cousin Roger?

MUDD: Well, he's a cousin far removed. He's really not a descendent -- he is not a descendent of Dr. Samuel A. Mudd.

And Roger Mudd, I was surprised at this comment. One way you could answer that is with something that recently surfaced that was right before our eyes for many years. Was the fact that David Herold, who was the accomplice of Booth, said that they used an assumed name, Tyson. He didn't figure himself into it right then, but he said an assumed name: Tyson.

Independently, Dr. Mudd, when he gave his statement, without ever knowing what Herold had said, Dr. Mudd said that they used the assumed name Tyson or Tyser (ph) and Henston (ph). If they used -- I'm sorry?

NOVAK: Go ahead. Just finish up, please.

MUDD: If they used assumed names, then we should assume that Booth was disguised and that Dr. Mudd did not know it was Booth.

NOVAK: OK. Let me ask you, have you ever read "Blood on the Moon: The Assassination of Abraham Lincoln," by Edward Steers Jr.? I recommend it. If you have...

MUDD: I have my copy right here.

NOVAK: Really?

BEGALA: It's Bob's book club tonight.

NOVAK: You don't have to go very far in this book. Page three, Mr. Steers, who has done a lot of research, said, "The evidence that Dr. Mudd was a coconspirator of John Wilkes Booth, both before and after Booth's murder of Lincoln, is substantial and convincing."

How do you respond to that?

MUDD: I would say, first of all, that Ed Steers wrote, I think, a very, very good book. He's a fine writer, a slick writer. Practically all of his research came from another source, however.

And I would also contend that most of the research that he did, or the sources that he used per Dr. Mudd, were circumstantial, and he even admits that in the preface of his book. He also, I think, did not use the type of sources or weigh his sources or judge his sources in such a way that I think that Dr. Mudd got a bad day in his book.

BEGALA: Well, Mr. Mudd, though, let me ask you. Your ancestor was pardoned. It was 137 years ago.

I mean with no disrespect meant, what does this got to do with you? Why aren't you leading your life instead of worrying about somebody's life who has been dead for 100 years?

MUDD: That's a good question. My ancestor, Nettie Mudd, was the first. She wrote this book: "The Life of Dr. Samuel A. Mudd" that was published in 1906. From the very first, the descendants of Dr. Samuel A. Mudd have tried to remove the stigma that's been attached to our name.

After Nettie, it was my father, Dr. Richard Mudd, who passed away at 101 years old this last May 21. And for a while, my brother-in- law, Jack McCale (ph) carried on. Even though he was having some health problems he endured, and I thank him for that.

And now it is passed on to me. It's a family tradition.

BEGALA: Well, but not like stamp collecting and fly fishing? I mean there's a lot of fun things. I mean...

NOVAK: All right -- go ahead.

MUDD: Well, I hate to be on the defense. And you know it's very difficult.

NOVAK: But you are.

MUDD: James -- this book here is a book -- a conspiratorial book, if I can use the term. It's very tough. The only way that you can counter that is you have to counter it by carefully looking at the sources, how they were used, and that's exactly what I'm in the process of doing right now.

NOVAK: OK. It's a terrific book. And if you're really interested in this, you ought to read it. If you're not interested, then don't read it.

But, anyway, Edward Steers rights this: "When John Wilkes Booth arrived at the home of Samuel Mudd in the early morning hours of April 15 it was the fourth time these two had met." The fourth time. "The meetings were neither accidental or innocent, they were part of a conspiracy to remove Abraham Lincoln as president as the United States."

Now how in the world can you call this -- can you call your ancestor innocent? That's the fourth time that he met the killer.

MUDD: Dr. Mudd did not meet Booth four times. He met Booth in November, 1864, when Booth bought a horse. He met Booth again in December 23, when he went to Washington to buy a stove for his wife, to meet some relatives and friends so that they could come back to the farm in Charles County.

I could, and here in this book, where they have a statement of Dr. Mudd, would take a while to do. But what I think Steers has done is Steers -- first of all, I'm sure he never had a course in historiography, I'm positive of that. Secondly, he calls himself a nonprofessional historian and yet he has a doctorate -- not in history, he has a doctorate I think in Chemistry.

So what we're dealing with is somebody who does not use sources correctly.

BEGALA: I'm sorry, I want to get your perspective on one thing, Mr. Mudd. I'm sorry to interrupt you sir, but we're almost out of time.

I want to get your quick perspective. Your ancestor was convicted in a military tribunal.

MUDD: Correct.

BEGALA: Do you have confidence in the military tribunals we're using today, we may be using today in the war on terrorism?

MUDD: Well you know, it's unfortunate that at this very time this historical sidelight really has come into the forefront during this particular period. And I'm sure this might well effect the decision of the court; I'm not sure of that, you never know how courts are going to decide.

NOVAK: All right. OK, Mr. Mudd, we're out of time. Thank you very much for coming in. We really appreciate it.

MUDD: Well thank you very much.

NOVAK: Next on "Fireback" one of our viewers suggests a Democratic dream ticket for 2004. Come to think of it, Republicans would like it too.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BEGALA: Welcome back to CROSSFIRE. Time now for "Fireback." Let's go to the e-mails first.

First, Terry in Cape Coral, Florida writes: "Paul, kudos to you for being the first newsperson to interject what I call war for votes. It's my humble opinion that that very philosophy is on page one of the Republican playbook. Of course, on page two is when something goes wrong `blame everyone else but us.'"

Terry has definitely cracked the code of the Republican play book.

NOVAK: Yeah, there is really another sicko Democrat out there who (UNINTELLIGIBLE).

Brett Matteson of Raynham, Massachusetts writes: "Janet Reno wants an investigation into the Florida voting problems. She didn't investigate anything for eight years. Where did she learn that word?"

Right on, Brett.

BEGALA: Unfair. Janet Reno was a great, great United States attorney general. By the way, crime went down when Janet Reno was attorney general. It's back up now that Ashcroft is in there.

Lavy in Baltimore, Maryland writes: "Paul, I almost always agree with your opinion. Have you ever considered running for public office? Here's a thought: Tom Daschle for President and Paul for V.P."

Somewhere Tom Daschle is hiding under his desk right now. Don't worry, Tom, I'll never do it to you.

NOVAK: Please, God make that be the ticket. I would love it.

OK. Arthur Rubinoff of Toronto, Canada -- another one of the dopey e-mails from north of the border: "Bob," -- I said the other night that Canadians were crazy -- "Bob, at least crazy Canadians know how to run an election." They sure do when they got a one-party system. They don't even have an opposition there.

Question from the audience.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yeah, I think the Mudd...

NOVAK: Name.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: My name is Larry (ph). I'm from Long Island, New York.

BEGALA: Thank you, Larry, what's your question or comment, sir?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's a comment. I think that the Mudd family should accept the fact that the public really doesn't care about their side. They just want someone to assign blame to. And I think they should speak to the Buckner family from the 1986 World Series where he blew it for the Red Sox. Just knowing how the general public just feels about despising someone. NOVAK: I think you're right. But I think that Buckner was guilty as hell.

BEGALA: Buckner, what, he booted the ball right there at first base.

NOVAK: Question, come on. Let's get moving here.

BEGALA: Yes, sir?

NOVAK: Berkeley, get him out of there. Get another...

BEGALA: My kind of guy, no. Berkeley, what a great guy. Your chancellor, Bob Burdahl is one of the great educators. What has he taught you?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Steve from Grand Rapids, Michigan.

BEGALA: Yes, sir?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What's up with the wimpiness of the congressional Democrats on this Congressional resolution? It seems like they're all ready to bow before this patriotic fervor.

BEGALA: Well, you know, I think Joe Biden, as John Podesta pointed out before, has been holding hearings on this. I think they're being responsible and prudent. It's difficult to do that when the other side is playing politics. They're moving this to try to effect the election. The Democrats are treating it like it's serious.

NOVAK: Democrats are always right and Republicans are always wrong.

BEGALA: Good point. Great point.

OK, but before we leave tonight, we want to share some very good news from our friend and CROSSFIRE colleague Tucker Carlson.

NOVAK: Dorothy Tagert Carlson was born last night here in Washington. Mom, dad, and the newest member of the far right are doing well.

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

NOVAK: On the right, I'm Robert Novak. Join us again next time for another edition of CROSSFIRE.

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