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CNN CROSSFIRE

Iraq's Last Minute Letter Leaves Doubt in the White House; Three Students Accused of Attempted Terrorism Speak Out

Aired September 17, 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 -- Iraq opens the door for weapons inspectors with a last minute letter.

COLIN POWELL, SECRETARY OF STATE OF THE UNITED STATES: We have seen this game before.

ANNOUNCER: The Bush administration vows to keep the pressure on Saddam Hussein. Is this diplomatic dance moving the U.S. closer to war with Iraq?

KAMBIZ BUTT: I think she was just listening for two phrases and she wasn't (UNINTELLIGIBLE) the entire conversation.

EUNICE STONE: I'm not in the habit of going around cooking up trouble and telling lies.

ANNOUNCER: A case of she said they said. Their overheard conversation led to a false terror scare. Tonight we'll hear their side of the story.

And is President Bush a Grand Old Party pooper? Tonight the queen of Washington's social scene on why the good times just aren't rolling like they used to and the effect that's having on DC's political machines. Ahead on CROSSFIRE.

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

ROBERT NOVAK, CO-HOST: Tonight we're back on Iraq. President Bush continues to make his case for toppling Saddam Hussein despite Baghdad's offer to readmit weapons inspectors.

Is the U.S. moving closer to war? Two members of Congress will step into the CROSSFIRE. Then we'll hear from the three medical students detained by police after a woman thought she overheard them talking about a terror attack.

And is President Bush a party pooper? Some say his own body waves are taking a toll on Washington's social scene much to the displeasure of the capitol's permanent residents.

We'll get to that all this hour but first, as we do every day, let's start with the best little political briefing in television -- our CROSSFIRE political alert.

Janet Reno was merciful in not prolonging the misery. The vote counting in Florida did not go on and on and on. Today one week after the Democratic primary the former U.S. Attorney General gave up. She conceded defeat for the governor's nomination to millionaire lawyer Bill McBride having picked up in recounts just 3,000 of the 8,000 votes she was behind.

As usual Democratic officials in south Florida bungled the election but Janet wasn't blaming them. If she goes to court she said it will be against Republican Governor Jeb Bush.

She may pose as the kindly grandmother type but Janet Reno is the mean partisan stepmother.

PAUL BEGALA, CO-HOST: Janet Reno today did a very classy thing and Jeb Bush better watch out -- he's about to become an ex-governor.

Well, his brother, meanwhile, George W. Bush, our president, was back on the campaign trail again today -- this time for the plaid- loving Tennessee Senate candidate Lamar Alexander, his one-time opponent in the presidential campaign.

President Bush today raised a cool $1.1 million for Alexander -- this a day after he raised another sack full of special interest money for Iowa Republican Jim Nusle.

Come to think of it our president's been spending an awful lot of time on the campaign trail lately shaking the money tree.

According to "The Washington Post's" Mike Allen today, W. is devoting two or three days a week to politics and fundraising. Well, let's see -- with the two days a week he spends at Camp David that leaves just two more days a week to be the president.

Bush seems to agree with the old Edgar Bergen line that hard work never killed anyone but why take a chance?

NOVAK: I think that was used by Ronald Reagan at a Grid Iron Club dinner and he was a great president. If George W. Bush can be half that good I'll be delighted.

Today is the Massachusetts Democratic primary election for governor and Robert Reich, President Clinton's Secretary of Labor, surely will be defeated.

Last week Andrew Cuomo, President Clinton's Secretary of Housing, was clobbered in the New York primary for governor. Today in Florida Janet Reno, President Clinton's Attorney General, conceded defeat for governor.

In North Carolina, Erskine Bowles, President Clinton's Chief of Staff, did win the U.S. Senate nomination but he's running way, way behind Republican Elizabeth Dole.

One middle level Clinton aide, Rahm Emanuel, will be elected to Congress from Chicago but that's in spite of the Clinton connection. It's fatal.

BEGALA: Middle level? Rahm Emanuel was the top aide to the President of the United States. I worked with him at the White House.

He is going to be the hottest thing to hit Capitol Hill since -- I can't remember -- who was that Congressman who became the Senator? That's who Rahm's going to . . .

NOVAK: Preston Brooks.

BEGALA: Preston Brooks. Rob's going to be the next Preston Brooks.

Well, the dog wagers at the White House keep trying to push it off of the front page but Enron keeps coming back to haunt them. In today's "New York Times" Paul Krugman writes about newly revealed e- mails in which Bush Army Secretary and former Enron executive Thomas White apparently wrote to an underling at Enron upon learning of massive losses -- quote -- "close a bigger deal, hide the loss before the first quarter."

Krugman also notes that yesterday's "Wall Street Journal" confirmed that manipulation by energy companies played a key role in California's electricity crisis.

Whether those corporations also manipulated favorable treatment from the Cheney energy task force is as yet unknown since Cheney continues to hide the records in a secure undisclosed location.

NOVAK: You know -- the Paul Krugmans and the Paul Begalas of the world have been trying to get Tom White for ages. I'd like to have him respond sometime as to that e-mail. It looked a little bit out of context but we'll find out sooner or later.

One of the nation's hottest congressional races is down in Mississippi where two incumbent members, Republican Chip Pickering and Democrat Ronnie Shows, are in the same district and it looks like the Democrats are running scared.

Both the AFL-CIO and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee had to pull off the air an anti-Pickering ad when station managers complained that it was false and deceptive.

The ad claimed Congressman Pickering -- quote -- "voted to reward Enron with $250 million in tax rebate" -- unquote. That's not true but it's standard Democratic spin that I hear from Paul every night.

BEGALA: HR3090, October 24, 2001 Chip Pickering, who's -- I like him -- he's a good guy -- he voted for it -- it gave Enron $254 million. It's simply true.

Well, just when you thought Republicans could not sink any lower in their attempt to politicize issues of war and peace, they're running an ad claiming that South Dakota Senator Tim Johnson is soft on defense. Now set aside the fact that Senator Johnson co-sponsored President Bush's USA Patriot Act, set aside the fact he voted for the Bush defense budget, Johnson has an even more compelling response. His son, Brooks, is a sergeant in the United States Army on active duty.

Sergeant Johnson turned down a cushy stateside job to go to Kandahar, Afghanistan. He just recently returned home safe and sound -- thank, God.

Johnson's opponent GOP Congressman John Thune can also point out that he carries a gun as well but only for pheasant hunting. He's never worn the uniform of his country.

NOVAK: Either has Tim Johnson but the interesting thing about Tim Johnson is that he was the biggest -- one of the biggest recipients for the far left anti-National Defense Council for Livable World but, more interestingly, Tim Johnson went to court to sue the government for not going into Iraq the last time.

And then after the president asked -- President Bush asked presidential permission -- congressional permission he voted no.

Those are the facts, Paul.

BEGALA: Tim Johnson's tough on defense.

NOVAK: Now Iraq is the -- now Iraq -- is the U.S. getting closer to war with Saddam Hussein?

He's now agreed to let in U.N. weapons inspectors without conditions. That's appeased some U.N. members but the Bush administration is unimpressed.

The White House says, "We've seen all of this before -- that Baghdad is just buying time with the first in what will be a very long series of stalling attempts."

Joining us now in the CROSSFIRE -- tonight from Capitol Hill -- Congressman J.D. Hayworth, Republican of North Carolina, and Charles Rangel, Democrat of New York. Thank you very much.

BEGALA: Congressman Hayworth, we'll start with you, sir. First we were told by Vice President Cheney recently on "Meet the Press" that there was a connection between Iraq and 9/11. The president later dropped that from his rationale when he spoke to the U.N..

Then we were told it was weapons of mass destruction -- a very important issue. Then when the Iraqis agreed -- at least verbally -- to allow unfettered inspections, this is what the White House came up with -- even more conditions -- an end to repression in Iraq, reparations for Kuwait paid by Iraq, missing military personnel to be accounted for from the last Gulf War and questions on how the oil for food money is spent.

How many American lives is it worth to make sure, for example, that the Emir of Kuwait and his 40 wives get the reparations from Iraq? REP. J.D. HAYWORTH (R), ARIZONA: Paul, I'm glad you raise these questions and I think it's important to note the onus is not on President Bush -- it's on Saddam Hussein. And the fact is we are dealing with questions of international security and the American nation.

You asked a question about putting troops in harm's way on a specific instance. I would offer you this question or perhaps this answer -- we always have to think very carefully before putting our troops in harm's way but this is the issue, Paul -- if Saddam Hussein obtains a nuclear weapon or is continued to allow to assemble other weapons of mass destruction pretty soon every American could be at risk.

And I just turn to Charlie's hometown and 3,000 killed on September 11, 2001. These are the stakes and it's time to get out of rhetorical Punch & Judy and talk about the real issue, which is maintaining our national security.

NOVAK: And, of course, Congressman Hayworth, you are from Arizona -- not North Carolina.

HAYWORTH: Just North Carolina State.

NOVAK: You went to North Carolina State. Played a little football there.

HAYWORTH: A little -- that's been the operative term. Recruited as right tackle ended up left out.

NOVAK: OK. Congressman Rangel, there was a very, very impressive piece in "The Washington Post" by Hank Perritt. He is a congressional candidate from Illinois against Congressman Kirk, incumbent Republican.

And we're going to put up on the screen what he said. He said, "Unfortunately Democratic Party pollsters and political strategists caution us candidates that we should not talk about foreign policy but instead focus on domestic issues.

The national leaders of my party seem tongue tied when it comes to matters of war and peace -- end quote. Isn't it, Congressman Rangel, a mistake for you to tell young candidates like that that you can't talk about war and peace in this campaign?

REP. CHARLES RANGEL (D), NEW YORK: I think it's obscene for any member of Congressman to put Republican or Democratic labels on the question of whether or not we're going to send our young men and women into harm's way.

If a situation arises that we have evidence that any enemy anyplace is going to strike our great country I would say the president should have the authority immediately to take them out.

If, on the other question, we cannot find any connection at all between what happened in my great city and Iraq -- if it is a question of oil, if we have waited 10 years then I think the president should be lauded for the attention that the brought to the United Nations, Colin Powell should be congratulated for focusing in this direction and we should wait and see whether or not we've won the first step in the battle to get rid of Saddam Hussein.

NOVAK: You didn't quite answer my question, Charlie.

RANGEL: I answered it. I don't think it should be the president pushing for a vote before the election or that our candidates or Republican candidates should be told to do anything except where their conscience dictates.

I want to make it abundantly clear -- I don't think a war at anytime should be a political Question -- it should be what's in the best interest of the United States of America.

BEGALA: I want to come back to Congressman Hayworth -- again, you slipped off the question I asked you like the good pulling guard that you were at N.C. State. The question was not if he's got a weapons of mass destruction program do we have a legitimate excuse to invade -- the question was if he follows through on his promise -- a dubious notion at that -- but if he does allow unfettered inspections as promised, is it still worth going to war over whether Iraq pays Kuwait reparations?

HAYWORTH: Well, again, you pulled one instance out of . . .

BEGALA: It's one that the president mentioned, though, sir -- with all due respect -- in his U.N. speech and one he mentioned again last night.

HAYWORTH: That's true. And I think the point is this, Paul. First of all, as you said in the prelude to re-asking your question -- it is very dubious to assume that Saddam is going to allow, as you described it, unfettered access and inspections. The White House been clear -- it's not a question of inspection, it's a question of disarmament and renouncing the attempt to obtain weapons of mass destruction.

But even more to this point, Paul -- and this is something we have to remember -- we're talking about matters of national security. I can appreciate trying to score debate points on ancillary issues but this is the main question we have.

We saw what happened with al Qaeda when we gave the elements of terror a pass first with the first World Trade Center bombing, gave them a pass on Khobar Towers, gave them a pass on the embassies in Africa and gave them a pass on the USS Cole.

We saw what happened -- 3,000 dead Americans. And if Saddam Hussein has access to weapons of mass destruction -- if he continues -- and we've seen reports that Iraqi intelligence agents met with Mohammed Atta in Prague -- we're checking out the veracity of those reports.

But even if there is a scintilla of that type of suspicion we need to reserve the right to act preemptively to save American lives -- not to put them in harms way.

RANGEL: Let's take this one step further then -- do other nations have this right? Can North Korea take out South Korea? Can China take out Taiwan? Can we take out Cuba?

You said earlier, J.D. -- this is an international Question. The president asked for international support in making certain we have inspections.

Now we have -- I agree with you that we can't take Saddam at his word but we have to make certain that the U.N. does what the U.N. is supposed to do -- this has nothing to do with the question that was asked of you. Should we invade Iraq as a result of wanting to have a change in regimes?

I say you start down this road and then other nations believe they have the moral right to bypass the U.N. and just take out nations.

HAYWORTH: (UNINTELLIGIBLE)

RANGEL: And these are our American men and women.

BEGALA: You're going to have to hold that response. And, Congressman Hayworth -- if both of you would be good enough just to stay with us. Believe me, we're going to come right back to this in just a minute. We're going to take a quick break.

And when we do come back -- with war on the horizon the Commander in Chief remains Campaigner in Chief. Is this really the best way for our leader to spend his time?

Also, a case of she said they said -- we will hear from the three students who were mistaken for terrorists.

But, first, our quote of the day -- here's hint number one. You're not going to believe what this gubernatorial candidate said when he was asked if he'd ever smoked marijuana. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RICHARD HOLBROOKE, FORMER U.S. AMBASSADOR TO THE U.N.: So the U.S. pressure, the decision, the change in policy to go through the U.N., has begun.N. to pay off.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

NOVAK: Do you agree with that?

RANGEL: I don't know whether it's paid off or not. It could be that President Bush won't take yes for an answer. But I do believe that the president's speech at the U.N. did make a difference, that the U.N. officials and Russia and Saudi Arabia and the rest of the countries around Iraq made it abundantly clear that if they didn't abide by the U.N. mandates, they would have a problem.

So I do believe within the international community, the United States has gained a lot of respect. And as J.D. said, we have to now wait and see whether "no conditions" means "no conditions" and what progress we can make.

HAYWORTH: And this is the point...

BEGALA: Congressman...

HAYWORTH: Go ahead.

BEGALA: Congressman, go ahead.

HAYWORTH: Well, this is the point we need to stress, because we've seen reports that indicate that Saddam has already put limits on what he said he said. He says, "this is limited to military areas."

So if the U.N. inspectors go back in, which incidentally may take them a matter of months, would he say, Oh, gee, sorry. These are research facilities or these are baby formula factories. Sorry, can't let you in; only military installations.

RANGEL: That's, that's not...

HAYWORTH: But there's another important point, and it is this. As was reported yesterday, Saddam exiled bomb maker says it is his belief that as Saddam is working overtime to get fissionable materials from Germany and enriched uranium from Brazil. And if he does so, he will have a nuclear weapon by Christmas.

That's the kind of gift I don't want to see given the American people...

RANGEL: J.D., that's the United Nation's problem...

BEGALA: Well, let me ask you then, sir...

RANGEL: ... not congressional.

BEGALA: ... I'm sorry, Mr. Rangel. If it's so dire, why is our president spending two or three days a week campaigning? The Washington Post reports today -- let me read to you. " Even as much of his staff plans for possible war with Iraq, the president continues to devote two or three days a week largely to politics." That, plus the fact that he's gone every weekend to Camp David. If it's so dire, why isn't the commander in chief on the job full time?

HAYWORTH: Paul, you're a great student of political history, particularly political history involving Democratic presidents. You may recall that at the height of the Cuban missile crisis, JFK took a swing in 1962 through Chicago for Democratic candidates, continued to raise...

BEGALA: That was to fake out Castro...

HAYWORTH: ... money for the Democratic Party.

BEGALA: No, sir, wait a minute. Don't do a disservice...

HAYWORTH: So we're going to give some consideration to a Democratic commander...

BEGALA: That was to pretend, to keep up the pretense that we did not know about the missiles in Cuba.

HAYWORTH: ... in chief, but not to a Republican commander in chief.

You know this is the problem, Paul, this is the problem. And I know it's tough for the format of this show, but we're talking about the national security of our nation and our national interests.

And this is deadly serious business. So the old rules of rhetorical Punch and Judy and the old rules of politics don't really apply here.

As you know, Camp David is situated to have command centers...

NOVAK: All right...

HAYWORTH: ... to have all of the information necessary for our commander in chief.

NOVAK: I want to get -- time is short. I want to get in a last question.

Charlie Rangel, you and I were both in the Army during the Korean War. You were in combat with a great record. I was not in combat.

But we have a situation now where we have a different kind of Army. It's an all volunteer force. Do you think the president has less compunction about sending this force into combat since it is not a citizen-draftee Army, but a volunteer Army?

RANGEL: No. And you know, if you take a look, you would see that most of us who volunteered for the Army in Korea and Vietnam, we did it for economic reasons, not to just protect the flag.

Once the flag goes up, we salute it, we go to combat. And we're prepared to die for this great country. But when the body bags come home in the volunteer Army, they won't be kids of congressmen or others. These will be kids from rural areas and from urban areas, black and white and poor.

NOVAK: Charlie Rangel, J.D. Hayworth, thank you very much. We appreciate it.

(APPLAUSE)

Still ahead on CROSSFIRE, we will speak with the three Muslim medical students that were detained on I-75 in Florida for supposedly saying things that sounded a little too much like terrorism. Also, has the sparkle gone out of Washington's social scene with the presence of an administration more interested in governing than partying?

And straight ahead, our quote of the day revealed here's hit number two. What's the worst thing a politician can say when asked the question, "Have you smoked marijuana?" You'll find out next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(APPLAUSE)

NOVAK: Time to reveal who is behind our quote of the day. When asked if he had ever smoked marijuana, President Clinton said he had tried, but didn't inhale.

Well, a Democratic candidate for governor of Illinois did one better than that. He said he tried it twice, but wasn't sure if he'd inhaled because quote, "I was so inept at it, I don't know whether I did or didn't."

(LAUGHTER)

Rod Blagojevich went on to say, he had vivid recollections of both encounters and that he was sure he did not get the munchies.

Blagojevich is the front runner in the race for governor of Illinois. Paul, Rod may be inept. I think he took the wrong book out of the Clinton campaign.

(LAUGHTER)

The wrong page out of the Clinton campaign book.

BEGALA: He probably should have taken a page out of the Bush camp. George W. Bush was asked, he said, "I refuse to answer on the grounds that it may incriminate me." Good answer by Bush -- better than poor Rod.

Well, there has been a news update. There's been a mid-air collision in California. Connie Chung has details next in CNN "News Alert."

And still ahead, Sally Quinn on why the life has gone out of Washington's party scene and why some say the president is to blame.

Plus, it could be a scene right out of a sitcom if it weren't so serious. We'll hear from three young men who were mistaken for terrorists.

Stay with us.

(APPLAUSE)

(NEWSBREAK)

BEGALA: Terrific, Connie. I can't wait to see it.

Thank you very much for that report, too. Connie Chung, ladies and gentleman.

(APPLAUSE)

BEGALA: When we come back, you've heard of "Party on Wayne" and "Party on Garth." Well, why nobody in Washington is any longer saying, "Party on W."

Plus, those three detained medical students. What were they really talking about at Shoney's?

Stay tuned.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BEGALA: Welcome back to CROSSFIRE, coming to you from the George Washington University here in beautiful Foggy Bottom in Washington, D.C.

And if the subject hadn't been so serious, it would have been a wonderful "Seinfeld" episode -- an overheard conversation winds up scary in the beejeezus out much of the nation and closing a major interstate highway.

Well, a Georgia woman reported that she'd heard three Middle Eastern looking men, as she described them, plotting a terrorist attack. The men turned out to be medical students who were detained by police for 17 yours while they're vehicles were searched by bomb squads, all on nationwide TV. They are here now to tell us their side of the story.

Please welcome Kambiz Butt, Ayman Gheith and Omar Choudhary. They join us from Los Angeles along with their attorney Brett Newkirk.

Gentlemen, thank you very much for joining us.

(APPLAUSE)

ALL: Thank you.

NOVAK: Gentlemen, I'd like to start off just to give a frame of reference by playing for you a radio interview with the woman who made the telephone call, Eunice Stone.

Let's listen to it.

(BEGIN AUDIO TAPE)

EUNICE STONE: They said they had attended a party in Chicago the night before and that they needed to quit stopping because they were five hours late. And then I just naturally, my curiosity, I just kept listening. And something else was said. They were kind of huddled together there over the booth talking. And then one guy said, "Do you think that will bring it down?" And I looked at my son, and we were just looking at each other. And he said, "Well, if that don't bring it down, I have contacts. I'll get enough to bring it down.:"

And to me, that meant they were planning to blow up something.

(END AUDIO TAPE)

NOVAK: Mr. Butt, what were talking about when you said you wanted to bring it down?

BUTT: We were talking about Omar bringing his car down from Kansas City. Me and Ayman purchased a car in Chicago, and obviously we drove down. And Omar flew out to Chicago to accompany us down to Miami just for company. And the conversation pertained to just him bringing his car down.

I asked him, "Well, do you have enough money to bring your's down because you know, it's pretty pricey?" And he was like, "Yeah, you know, I have enough connections that if I can afford it." And that was what the conversation pertained to.

NOVAK: What did you mean that, Mr. Gheith, that you had enough connections?

GHEITH: Well, it was...

NOVAK: I'm sorry, Mr. Choudhary?

CHOUDHARY: I was going to buy a car once we got to Miami. If not then, then I was going to have one shipped down from Kansas City. And that was what I was referring to bringing the car down from Kansas City.

NOVAK: I mean, the connections, what connections were you talking about?

CHOUDHARY: Oh, connections, just in terms of I knew some people who were car dealers there and I would ask them that, "If you have to ship a car, from one city to the other, how do you do it, and what deals can you get me?"

BEGALA: Well, Mr. Gheith, are you -- you're not accusing Ms. Stone of lying then, right? Your defense is or your argument is that this is a misunderstanding, right?

GHEITH: We're not -- I don't want to accuse anybody of anything. I don't to slander or hurt because I know how much it hurts, you know, for somebody to be slandered.

All I'm saying is I'm -- we're positive of what we said. We know exactly what we said. And we've maintained it throughout, from the beginning, from the first time they put the handcuffs on until today.

BEGALA: Mr. Butt, Ms. Stone also says that you mentioned, you and your friends, mentioned September 11. And that's part of what caught her attention.

Did you?

BUTT: Well, we absolutely did not. I mean throughout our whole conversation, we were in Shoney's for about an hour. September 11 was never a part of the conversation. September 13 was never a part of the conversation. All we were talking about was our school, the experience we were about to have in Miami pertaining to our, you know, rotations in the hospital. We were talking about friends and just getting Ayman settlement with his sister, and Omar getting a car. That's all the conversation was about.

GEITH: And we were five -- about -- some time behind because we were -- we wanted to get everything out of the way and settled before Monday morning, because we started school. But the thing is...

BEGALA: But that suggests though that her memory is accurate if she remembers you saying you were five hours behind and you verify that. She says she remembers you saying about 9/11, but you say, "Well, that's the part she didn't hear?"

GEITH: Well, no, it's -- well, she also said that she remembers vividly that we were both speaking in Arabic and English. And the problem with that is I'm the only one who speaks Arabic. So, I mean, you know.

BEGALA: But she...

GEITH: I don't want to call Mrs. Stone a liar. And let me say first of all, we all are very saddened that she was in the hospital.

(UNKNOWN): Yes, we are.

(UNKNOWN): We really feel -- we really feel (sic) she feels better.

We hope she fells better.

NOVAK: Mr. Choudhary, why did you blow through the toll gate on I-35 without paying a toll?

CHOUDHARY: Actually, I wasn't the driver of the car...

NOVAK: Who was the driver?

BUTT: I was driving the car.

NOVAK: Well, why did you blow through the toll gate?

BUTT: I didn't blow through the toll. Actually, I stopped at the toll, paid it, paid the lady. I noticed that she was very nervous. I noticed there was a squad car almost at the corner of the toll booth waiting for us. Paid the toll, pulled out and within about five to 10 miles, we got pulled over.

NEWKIRK: You will actually see proof of this very soon. We've been in conversations today, David Kabilion, my partner in Miami, Florida, I was in conversations with Sheriff Hunter who claims that he has copies of the tape from the toll booth, but he just hasn't had time to review them yet.

I think we'd all like to see that tape.

NOVAK: I want to make this point (ph). You are saying flatly that you did not blow through the toll booth without paying a fine? Is that correct?

(UNKNOWN): Absolutely.

(UNKNOWN): Absolutely.

GEITH: Did not run through the toll.

BEGALA: Mr. Choudhary, let me ask you. The police said that you and your friends were not cooperative when they pulled you over, and that you resisted allowing them to search your car. Is that true?

CHOUDHARY: I don't -- I remember when we were pulled over, we were arrested, I told the officers that, you know, "I'll answer all of your questions." And in fact all three of us offered any help we could provide, but we did ask them as to why we were detained. And we were not given an answer to that for the entire duration of detainment.

NOVAK: And so you're saying you were, you were cooperative, Mr. Choudhary?

CHOUDHARY: Yes, we were as far as I'm concerned. I don't recall anything that could lead them to believe we were not cooperative.

NEWKIRK: Respectfully, very often in law enforcement, one's assertion of one's constitutional rights, as happened here, is termed uncooperative. And I think that's what we had happen here.

BEGALA: So Mr. Newkirk, when we come back, I want to get your clients to speak for themselves, with all due respect to your profession. I want to ask -- let me try Mr. Butt.

NEWKIRK: I think they said the same thing that I said.

BEGALA: Did you not -- did you at first deny the police access to your car for a search?

BUTT: Absolutely not...

BEGALA: Perfectly your right, but did you actually (UNINTELLIGIBLE) that?

BUTT: No, I actually told them that, "You can go ahead and search the car because I have nothing to hide." I knew they were going to search the car anyway. I mean it was pretty obvious from the situation we were in. So I told them, "Go ahead, go ahead and search the car." I did not tell them that you can't search the car.

GHEITH: I requested for myself that they not search my car.

BEGALA: Why is that, sir?

GHEITH: My mom, it took her two and some hours to pack everything just right. I had my medical equipment in there. My books were in there. All of clothes, my ties. And you know, when -- when a car is searched, you know, how it is, they're going throw everything around. And I didn't want anything, you know, to be messed up.

NOVAK: Last question, and I want each of you to answer briefly, please.

Do you think that you were racially profiled, and this is the cause of all of your difficulty?

GHEITH: I mean, I'll say I don't understand the word. I mean, the actual description, the definition of racial profiling. What I do understand is had her eyes been closed and she heard this conversation, I'm pretty sure we wouldn't be in the spot we are today, that I could say .

NOVAK: You agree with that, the other two gentlemen?

CHOUDHARY: Yes.

BUTT: Absolutely.

BEGALA: Let me ask you what you would do if you heard -- if you saw your eyes were open and you saw a white young male, Anglo, wearing a T-shirt that had right wing expressions or neo-Nazi stickers on it and talking about blowing up a federal building or bringing down a federal building as Tim McVeigh did, wouldn't that be legitimate profiling of him too?

GEITH: Well, it's not the profiling. I mean, the issue is not the way he looks. He has the right to look the way he wants to look, you know. But I'm not going to pick up one or two words out an your long conversation and hold him, you know, to that.

NOVAK: That will have to be the last word.

Gentleman, thank you very much for your time.

We appreciate it.

(UNKNOWN): Thank you very much.

(UNKNOWN): Thank you.

(UNKNOWN): It's our pleasure.

(APPLAUSE)

NOVAK: Coming up on "Fireback," a northern neighbor thinks the United States should get a whole lot bigger.

But first, why some in Washington want to party like it's 1999 before the Bushes came to town.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

NOVAK: George W. Bush has admitted to being quite the party guy in his youth, and we're not just talking Republican. Now the president is a teetotaler who hits the sack by 10:00 each night. That's all fine and well for his health, but it's not doing much for the health of Washington's famous social scene where supposedly much of the real work of politics is done.

Joining us in the CROSSFIRE tonight, a woman who has been described as Washington's hostess in chief and the queen of the D.C. social scene. She's also author of "The Party: An Insider's Look at Capital Society." "Washington Post" reporter, Sally Quinn.

(APPLAUSE)

BEGALA: Sally, welcome to CROSSFIRE.

I'm not big on honorifics, but your majesty. As you know, I don't like Bush at all. I don't defend him on anything. But let me defend him on this. What's wrong is the guy just wants to sty home with his wonderful wife?

SALLY QUINN, "WASHINGTON POST": Well, you know, I think that it's a little more complicated than just the Bushes don't like to go out. I think that they came in, they clearly don't like to socialize very much, and they didn't get out very much in the beginning.

He does go to bed at 9:00, and I don't have a problem with that. I mean, I'd rather really have the president run.N. the country well and be rested and feel good than to be out at night at parties.

But I think that after 9/11, things really did shut down. And I think at that point it would have been inappropriate for the president to have a lot of parties.

But at the same time, shortly before that Katherine Graham died, and Katherine Graham was one -- she was the owner of "The Washington Post." I'm sure most of you know that. And she also gave great parties. And she gave the kind of parties that Washington is famous for, which is sort of what you all are doing here tonight, which is bipartisan.

You know, anybody can have a political fund raiser and have all of their Democratic friends or their Republican friends, but the real trick about entertaining in Washington is to actually have people who disagree with each other and have them sit down and be nice to each other over dinner.

NOVAK: Of course the two greatest presidents of the 20th century, Ronald Reagan and Calvin Coolidge, did a lot of (UNINTELLIGIBLE) sleeping too. But, Susan Waters started all of this fuss by writing something called "The Big Chill" in W. Magazine. We'll put what she wrote, how she started her article.

She said, "For capital courtiers who thrive on proximity to power, the real crisis in Washington these days isn't war, recession or the upcoming mid-term elections. It's a mind numbing lack or glamour and social buzz."

Do you miss the glamour, Sally?

QUINN: Well, I mean, you're still here.

(LAUGHTER)

(APPLAUSE)

BEGALA: Touche.

NOVAK: So is that what we're talking about, that the glamour is gone?

QUINN: Well, when you don't have a lot of parties, then it's hard to have a lot of glamour. And you know, I think people often misunderstand the whole idea of Washington entertaining because they think, "Oh, how can she talk about parties and when we're about to go to war?" And clearly, you can't talk about that in the same breath.

But the fact is that in Washington, parties are work. It's political. When you go to a party, you make contacts. It's like a big Middle Eastern market place where you're negotiating with people, you're making contacts, you're learning things.

I mean, I have been to so many different events where people actually who were fighting on the Senate floor -- once sat in a dinner party with two people who had been having a terrible fight on the Senate floor. They didn't really know each other very well. And I got in the middle of this conversation. By the end of the evening, they were hugging each other, holding hands, "let's have lunch."

I don't think that's a bad thing. I remember actually...

BEGALA: We got in trouble for a lot of hugging and more in the White House. So I...

(LAUGHTER)

BEGALA: ... sort of a different thing.

QUINN: Well, you know, I was sorry James wasn't here, because I remember that right after Clinton got elected, James and I sat next to each other at a dinner party. And I thought, "Who is this crazy person?" I mean, I'm going to have to sit next to him because I'd only read about him.

BEGALA: And you were (UNINTELLIGIBLE). (LAUGHTER)

QUINN: And he thought, "Who is this oh, awful Washington establishment person?"

Well, by the end of the evening we were in love. You know, we had a great relationship and I love his wife, Mary, too by the way.

And you and I had a great conversation one night at a party.

BEGALA: You did.

QUINN: And, you know...

NOVAK: So you go to the big time parties...

BEGALA: Oh, I'm huge, Bob. Oh, absolutely.

(LAUGHTER)

QUINN: This was a hot party. And he was one of the star guests.

NOVAK: You know, I've been in this town as a journalist for 45 years. And I've never been invited to parties. I never -- I don't go to the Georgetown parties.

(LAUGHTER)

I don't get invited to state dinners. I don't get invited to un- state dinners. And you know, I've had I think a pretty good life. Who needs all of those parties.

(LAUGHTER)

QUINN: Well, actually, I have seen you around sometimes, Bob. You are out and about occasionally.

NOVAK: Not in about 30 years, I don't think.

QUINN: No, but I do think that it promotes communication. I don't think that's a bad thing. I mean I think that when the president has a state dinner or when they entertain people, I think it just helps people get to know them.

I was at a dinner party recently with Dick Cheney, and I happened to be at his table and there were a lot of...

NOVAK: At an undisclosed location...

QUINN: At an undisclosed location. There were a lot of very skeptical liberal journalists at the table. And by the end of the evening, they were feeling sort of won over by him just because they'd never actually sat down at a table. And he was nice; he was polite; he was interesting; he was informed.

So I thought that was an interesting moment, because they all came away saying, "He's not a monster."

BEGALA: Well, could it be though that you're a journalists. Journalists seem to be at the heart of the Washington social scene. And our president does have famous antipathy for them.

Turns out, for example, his first state dinner he had no one there from the Houston at all. It's not that he's a homebody, it's maybe he doesn't like journalists.

QUINN: Well, I think he probably like some journalists. Karen Hughes was a journalist actually.

No, I think that anybody who goes into the White House, and I'm sure you know this better than anybody, immediately hunkers down. You circle the wagon. They're all against us, they hate us. And I think it's even worse for Democratic presidents because they know that most journalists are -- have more of a liberal bent. And so they think the journalists are going to be on their side. And when they realize that it's an adversarial relationship, they feel betrayed. And then they get really angry and upset.

BEGALA: Sally Quinn of the Washington Post, thank you for helping us decode the tribal rituals of Washington. Terrific job. Thank you very much for coming on.

(APPLAUSE)

Now one of our readers, one of viewers has an e-mail asking the question what the Bushies and the `Beverly Hillbillies' have in common.

Well, we will find out when we come back with our Fireback segment.

Stay with us.

(APPLAUSE)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(APPLAUSE)

NOVAK: Time for "Fireback."

Nathan Stein of Calgary, Alberta, Canada says, "I take your comment about the western Canadian provinces as an invitation to join the United States of America and abandon the dictatorial control of the inept, inarticulate left-winger John Chretien. We accept. Send in the Marines."

Right on, Nathan. But only George W. can send in the Marines.

BEGALA: The governor general then of the new 51st state will be Bob Novak.

Gene Smith of Friendswood, Texas, right by where I grew up, wrote, writes, "When it comes to social activity in D.C., the Bushes are like the `Beverly Hillbillies.' But one thing is for sure, they have a common interest in oil. Oh, and they also have a Jeb."

(LAUGHTER)

Well, Gene, pretty good. I liked the "Beverly Hillbillies."

NOVAK: They still have a few lefties in Texas, don't they, Paul?

BEGALA: Yes, sir.

NOVAK: From the audience.

AUDIENCE MEMBER: Artie Homicheire (ph), Davis, California. President Bush is by no means a party animal, but Clinton was and that didn't help him much. Does a president's social life really impact the effectiveness of his administration?

NOVAK: Not a bit, but Bill Clinton was sort of animal. I don't know if he was a party animal.

(LAUGHTER)

BEGALA: Yes, I'm defending President Bush. He don't go to any parties. And he's completely ineffectual even though he sleeps 12 hours a night. So who knows why this guy is where he is.

NOVAK: Next question.

AUDIENCE MEMBER: Hi, I'm Stacy (ph) from Fitchburg (ph), Massachusetts. I have three siblings that have been activated because of the tragic events of that happened 9/11. What are your feelings of the U.S. attacking Iraq, and or your feelings of the United Nations attacking Iraq?

NOVAK: I would rather see them inspect and get rid of the weapons. And I was at Fort Devans (ph), Massachusetts near Fitchburg (ph).

You know that?

BEGALA: Yes, I'm actually with Bob on this. If we call Saddam's bluff and send in inspectors, and then he kicks them out, then we have a right to attack. But he if doesn't and he allows unfettered access, I think President Bush has to respect the U.N. that he spoke so passionately to last week.

Thank you for your question, though.

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

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

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