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Will Bush Get a Resolution Against Iraq Through Congress?; Should Lautenberg Have Been Let on the New Jersey Ballot?

Aired October 2, 2002 - 19:00   ET


ANNOUNCER: CROSSFIRE. On the left: James Carville and Paul Begala. On the right: Robert Novak and Tucker Carlson.
In the CROSSFIRE tonight: He's getting what he wants.


GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: A bipartisan resolution is clear, and it is strong.


ANNOUNCER: They've gotten themselves in trouble and accused of everything from bad timing to treason.


REP. JAMES MCDERMOTT (D), WASHINGTON: We went to Iraq because we care about what happens to Americans.


ANNOUNCER: Tonight, fresh from Iraq, Congressman James McDermott steps into the CROSSFIRE, along with Armed Services Committee member Senator James Inhofe.

New Jersey's Democrats have a candidate. But will he get a spot on the ballot?

And for an encore, he's economizing.


AL GORE, FORMER VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: How can it be essential that we go to war prior to the election, but absolutely fine to wait until after the election before we take any action to deal with the economy?



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


Tonight, partisanship triumphs over the rule of law in New Jersey. You aren't surprised are you?

Also, what's that noise out in left field? It's only Al Gore sounding off again. He can wait, but there's major political news that can't wait. So here comes our CROSSFIRE "Political Alert."

It looked like bipartisanship, at the White House today. President Bush joining arms on Iraq with some big democratic guns, including House Minority Leader Dick Gephardt and the party's last vice presidential candidate, Senator Joe Lieberman. Along with lots of Republicans, they signed on to the president's resolutions authorizing U.S. military force against Iraq to force disarmament.

But plenty of democratic faces skipped today's festivities. No Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle or Majority Whip Harry Reid. No President Pro Tem of the Senate Robert Byrd; no House Minority Whip Nancy Pelosi. Are the Democrats split right down the middle on war and peace?

PAUL BEGALA, CO-HOST: I think they are. They are. But at least they're not trying to politicize it the way some people I think on the Republican Party -- some people at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

Well just within the last hour, the New Jersey State Supreme Court has ruled that the Democratic Party in New Jersey is within its legal rights to replace the name of Robert Torricelli with the name of Frank Lautenberg on the November ballot. Republicans predictably probably feel a little like Ralphie Cifaretto in that eye-popping scene from "The Sopranos." If you didn't see it, don't bother, don't ask; just trust me.

They say -- the Republicans do -- that they are planning to appeal, if necessary, all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court which has, shall we say, a more pro Republican record on election cases. It's now routine for the Republicans, I guess. They realize they can't win a free election so they try to block democracy, turning to right-wing judges they've appointed to the Supreme Court.

Well the GOP is, in fact, trying to keep former Senator Lautenberg from replacing Torricelli on that ballot, and their reason, of course, is obvious: Lautenberg would defeat Doug Forrester, who made his fortune by overcharging for prescription drugs. Because political parties, in theory, exist to contest elections rather than lawsuits, maybe the GOP should change its name from the Republican Party to the Republican Guard.

NOVAK: I guess you would like them to just roll over on this absolutely outrageous power play, where the guy is going to lose, so they get rid of him. That's democracy. I'm really disillusioned.

And who are these New Jersey Supreme Court judges who just did the bidding of their state's Democratic Party, taking Bob Torricelli's name off the ballot and putting Frank Lautenberg's name on? Justice James Azali (ph), a Democrat named to the court in 2000, has contributed $2,000 to Torricelli and $1,000 to Lautenberg. Justice Barry Albin (ph), a Democrat who joined the court just last month, has given Torricelli $2,500 and Lautenberg $500.

Pushing the Supreme Court to rule is Governor Jim McGreevey, who appointed Justice Albin to the court after receiving nearly $10,000 in contributions from him. Do these political judges -- did these political judges recuse themselves, bow out, because of such a blatant conflict of interest? Are you kidding, this is New Jersey.

BEGALA: Well, here in Washington I wish that the judges President Bush Sr. had appointed would have filed out and recused themselves before ruling for George Bush Jr. Same thing.

The stock market just finished its worst third quarter in 15 years. Half of yesterday's big rally was wiped out this afternoon. Poverty is up, family incomes are down, and the number of Americans without health insurance is on the rise again. They seem to go together, don't they, another Bush presidency, another Bush recession?

Today, the man who got more votes than George W. Bush, Al Gore, cataloged the economic devastation of the Bush years. He compared the Bushies to a lost driver who won't stop to ask for directions, but insists on racing farther and farther into the wilderness. Of course the economic recovery plan President Bush promised us after the Waco Summit has never materialized.

The president would like you to know that Saddam Hussein is an evil, evil man. And he's going to continue to be an evil, evil man even as your 401(k) is reduced to a 201(k).

NOVAK: Paul, you can't talk the country into a depression, but I'll tell you one thing: listening to Al Gore depresses me.

One more shoe has fallen in the vicious attack on Secretary of the Army Thomas White. Paul Begala recently cited a "New York Times" column by Paul Krugman, reporting on an e-mail supposedly written by White as an Enron executive allegedly covering up company losses.

Krugman says he got the e-mail from freelance writer Jason Leopold, writing in Leopold did not grant my request for a copy of the e-mail and now I know why., after careful review, yesterday took down Leopold's article from its Web site because "We have been unable to independently confirm the authenticity of the e-mail."

White says he never wrote it or never saw it. It's time for an apology from you, Paul.

BEGALA: I'm very sorry if I cited something that turns out to be factually false. I want to see now Secretary White say that he is sorry for telling the Senate Armed Services Committee he would divest his Enron stock and then not doing it.

Great news from (UNINTELLIGIBLE), however. The "Manchester Union-Leader" reports today that a growing number of supporters of defeated Senator Bob Smith are going to write in his name in the November election rather than vote for the Republican nominee, Congressman John Sununu. A group called Christian Freedom Defense has apparently written to 1,800 New Hampshire churches asking the faithful to write in for Smith.

The letter says "If this action causes the Senate seat to become one that's held by Governor Jeanne Shaheen, then so be it. Your lips to God's ears, brothers and sisters. That's Smith, S-M-I-T-H, easy to remember, easy to write in.

NOVAK: Well you know Sununu would beat Jeanne Shaheen, so you want to bring a third party in. But I never thought the day would come, Paul, when you'd become a Bob Smith fan.

BEGALA: Well our president has apparently decided to beat the war drums in the rose garden this afternoon. It was billed as a bipartisan exercise. But, as Bob pointed out earlier, Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle, perhaps our nation's leading Democrat, was not included.

Well, the White House may be trying to stifle (UNINTELLIGIBLE) and dissent at the rose garden, but here at CROSSFIRE we love it.

So stepping into the CROSSFIRE tonight, Washington Congressman Jim McDermott, who just returned from Iraq, and Republican Senator Jim Inhofe of Oklahoma, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee.


NOVAK: Congressman McDermott, there was a notorious disreputable visit to Hanoi during the Vietnam War by the actress Jane Fonda, saying when she got on a communist gun and said she wished she could shoot down some American planes. And I would -- there's a picture of her right there, Hanoi Jane, it really disgusted Americans.

And I wonder if you thought of that when you went to Baghdad and before -- from Baghdad last Sunday you said this, and let's listen to what you said.


MCDERMOTT: I think the United States is simply trying to provoke. I think the president would mislead the American people.


NOVAK: Do you think there's something wrong going to Baghdad and that dictatorship and saying there that the president of the United States was trying to mislead?

MCDERMOTT: Well, Bob, I didn't know we had gone to war with Iraq. Had we declared war, as the Vietnam situation? I mean had you repealed the first amendment?

(CROSSTALK) MCDERMOTT: Wait a minute, I'm talking to him.

NOVAK: I didn't know we had claimed war against Vietnam.

MCDERMOTT: Well, we never did, you see, but we were at war. We had soldiers going in at that point. There were no soldiers yet. We were trying to make peace.

And I'm willing to go over there and talk with them. Nobody else seems to be willing to talk to them. But if we don't negotiate we are going to have war.

NOVAK: Congressman, I don't have any problem, some people do. Senator Inhofe might have problems with you going over there. But did you weigh your words that you are standing there in Baghdad and in fact calling the president of the United States a liar? Do you think that might have been inappropriate.

MCDERMOTT: Do you think that if a press asks you something you should answer it? I mean would you answer the press? I've never stopped you before.

NOVAK: No, I don't answer the questions, I ask them.

MCDERMOTT: I see, you ask the questions.

NOVAK: Exactly.


BEGALA: Would you answer the congressman's question?

SEN. JAMES INHOFE (R), OKLAHOMA: Oh, yes, absolutely. I wouldn't be there in the first place. I don't think it's appropriate to go over there and aid and comfort the enemy when he says, well, we're not at war.

That's kind of a technicality. That's semantics. They were shooting down -- trying to shoot down our pilots at the time he was over there. And I think that's outrageous.

So the answer to the question is, no, I wouldn't have.

MCDERMOTT: You mean the planes that were bombing them, they were trying to shoot them down?

INHOFE: No -- bombing them in a no-fly zone? They had...


MCDERMOTT: I was in the (UNINTELLIGIBLE) airport and saw the damage done by the planes.

INHOFE: I can't believe this. I can't believe this.

MCDERMOTT: Well, I mean you've got to admit that we're bombing in Iraq, don't you?

INHOFE: I don't have to admit that we're bombing in Iraq. We're trying to take out surface to air missiles that are shooting at our pilots.

MCDERMOTT: And so we're doing it, what, with powder puffs and marshmallows? What are we using? We're using bombs, man.

INHOFE: Then I think everyone would agree this is a war after all.

BEGALA: Well let me ask you about...

INHOFE: It's not a declared war.


INHOFE: You liberals are always that way. You say, well, if it's not officially a declared war -- I can go over there and I can be nice to these people. Here's a guy that tried to murder our president, a guy that murdered 5,000 of his own citizens in one day. A guy that right now is shooting at our pilots that are flying legally in a no-fly zone patrolling it.

MCDERMOTT: There's no legal no-fly zone.

INHOFE: Oh yes there is.

MCDERMOTT: Under what? You tell me the law...

INHOFE: Under U.N. resolutions that he agreed to.

MCDERMOTT: No. There's no legal resolution -- no, there's no resolution for the no-fly zones.

BEGALA: Let's just take this just one at a time. I'm going to remind you, Senator Inhofe, about some words that you spoke the last time America was going into war. That war was Kosovo. And there is a startling, striking resemblance to exactly what Congressman McDermott said.

This is your words in the "Wall Street Journal" on March 5, 1999. Our president was leading us to war against an equally genocidal maniac. I agree with every word you said about Saddam Hussein. They also apply to Slobodan Milosevic.

This is what you said: "President Clinton's word means nothing." You called our president, sir, a liar as he was leading us into a war against a genocidal maniac. Would you like to retract that?

INHOFE: Oh yes, I certainly would. A totally different situation. At that time, Kosovo was no threat to the United States of America, right? It was -- we went in there for more humanitarian reasons. At that time, our president, Bill Clinton, had cut down our end (ph) strength and our modernization to the point where we were spread too thin and we were totally dependent on guard and reserve. We had to do something about it.

And yet we were spreading these guys first in Bosnia, then in Kosovo. And I don't think it was appropriate at that time. They were no threat to us. Iraq say threat to us.

NOVAK: Congressman McDermott, I'd like you to listen to what Senator John McCain said. Senator John McCain has a hell of a war record. I think you'll agree.

MCDERMOTT: Yes, he does.

NOVAK: And I don't think he's a very partisan Republican. I think you'll agree. Let's listen to what he said about you.


SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: These are members of Congress. If these members of Congress want to go to the floor of the House and criticize the president of the United States until the cows come home, fine with me, but don't go overseas. Don't go to Baghdad and question the credibility of the president of the United States.

That is not appropriate behavior and I don't think it will be very well received by the majority of the American people. It's totally inappropriate.


NOVAK: I don't think Senator Inhofe went to Belgrade when he criticized Bill Clinton either.

MCDERMOTT: You know what, these guys want to shift the emphasis. The question here is whether we're going to have disarmament or we're going to have war. And they are wanting to have a war.

They want to go to war. Otherwise they would be talking about having the inspectors come in and the inspectors would go to work and do a professional job.

But, no, what the -- what Colin Powell said this morning on NPR was: I don't think these inspections should go on until we go back to the U.N. and we get some more -- they want to make them fail. That's why the British diplomat said...

INHOFE: That's not true.

MCDERMOTT: ... they're trying bring a war resolution rather than...

INHOFE: It's regime change that he wants. He wants to get rid of a very dangerous terrorist who wants to kill Americans. Is there something wrong with that? This is our president.

NOVAK: Congressman McDermott, Senator Inhofe, we have to take a break.

In a minute we'll ask our guests if the U.S. should get back into the business of trying to assassinate leaders we just don't like.

Later, can New Jersey Republicans find a court that will follow the rule of law instead of the Democratic Party's dictates?

And our quote of the day comes from a man who holds a degree in religion in philosophy. But what he's preaching, it is pure politics.


NOVAK: Welcome back to CROSSFIRE.

White House Spokesman Ari Fleischer got himself in hot water yesterday by suggesting it would be a lot cheaper to assassinate Saddam Hussein than to fight a war against him. The U.S. took assassination off its list of diplomatic options back during the Ford administration. Is it time to reconsider?

In the CROSSFIRE, Democratic Congressman Jim McDermott from the state of Washington, and Republican Senator James Inhofe of Oklahoma.

BEGALA: Senator Inhofe, let's take a look at our White House press secretary. Put him on the big screen right here behind you. He spoke yesterday, as you know. Oh no, wait. That's a Mafia (UNINTELLIGIBLE) from "The Sopranos" ordering a hit.

I'm sorry. It's the wrong piece of videotape. It's an HBO show also owned by our network. Let's see if we can find Ari Fleischer.

INHOFE: Well let's watch the rest of this first.

BEGALA: But this is the same thing Our spokesman, he speaks for all of us. He's not partisan. Ari Fleischer called for something that sounded like (UNINTELLIGIBLE), if we can switch the tape to Ari Fleischer. Let's see.


ARI FLEISCHER, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: I can only say that the cost of a one-way ticket is substantially less than that. The cost of one bullet, if the Iraqi people take it on themselves, is substantially less than that. The cost of war is more than that.

QUESTION: I'm asking you if you intend to advocate from that podium that some Iraqi, you know, person, put a bullet in his head.

FLEISCHER: Regime change is welcome in whatever form that it takes.


BEGALA: A two-part question, Senator. First, the wisdom of the strategy of assassination. And second, the wisdom of publicly calling for it. If you're going to do it, do it for goodness sake. (UNINTELLIGIBLE) on national television.

INHOFE: Yes, all right. He said that and I know that that's a lot of fun to play with. But the reality is, we're talking about something here, Paul, that is very serious. We're talking about a threat. Our president is looking and thinking he's got to do everything he can before we have some weapon of mass destruction on a nuclear warhead coming to a major city in America.

As we watched what happened on the 11th of September, we saw the planes going into the towers. If that had been the weapon of choice of the terrorist, which would be a nuclear warhead on a missile, then there would be nothing but a piece of charcoal left.

And I just think we need to remember what Secretary Rumsfeld says. He says that the consequences of making a mistake now relative to what it was back in conventional warfare, we're not talking about losing 100 or 200 lives. It would be 200,000 lives. And it's a very serious thing.

Liberals don't like to believe that there's any threat out there. The threat is there. He's made that statement. He wants to kill Americans and he's developing the technology to do it.

NOVAK: Congressman McDermott, last night we were talking about you. I hope your ears weren't burning. And your colleague, Congressman Fattah from Pennsylvania was defending you. He kept referring to you as a war veteran who had risked your life for the American people.

And I just want to get the record straight. With all due respect, you were chief psychiatrist at the Long Beach naval station with the rank of Lieutenant Commander. You never heard a shot fired in anger, did you?


NOVAK: OK. I just wanted to get the record straight. So you don't get a pass to go to Baghdad and call the president a liar because you were some kind of war hero.

MCDERMOTT: You know what I did do, Bob, I sat and dealt with the casualties that came back. If you ever saw the movie "Apocalypse Now" those kids were the ones I saw. I saw the Marines, and I know what happens when you send kids to war in a war where the government is not clear about what they are doing, in which they are not backed up.

Those kids came home confused and upset. And here we are going to a war with everybody saying we know what we're doing. We don't have any idea.

First the president says, oh, it's al Qaeda we're after. Oh, well no, it's after weapons of mass destruction. No, it's al Qaeda. What are we doing? He says it's all so sure.

BEGALA: Senator Chuck Hagel, who is a decorated combat veteran and a conservative Republican, said almost the same thing in the "New York Times" today. Let me put it on the screen and read it to you.

He said, "There's a thing that's rumbling around, I think, in the country and the world and that's the credibility of the argument here. The danger is if the credibility of the argument continues to be stretched and pulled, and one week it's this and this and next week it's that." What happens? This is Chuck Hagel...

INHOFE: Well, first of all, just because he's a Republican, there's difference of opinion on the Democrat side and the Republican side. There are some very liberal Democrats over in the House of Representatives, some of your best friends, who are really on our side of this issue. But when you were getting a quote from John McCain, you didn't give the rest of it.

He said: In one respect, what McDermott did over there is worse than what actress Jane Fonda did -- Hanoi Jane back during the time that John McCain was a prisoner of war -- because at least she was a young troubled actress and members of Congress are supposed to be grown, mature individuals. That's coming from a guy who was actually in prison at the time that Hanoi Jane was over there.

BEGALA: We are out of time. Actually, one last thing for me. I'm from Texas. You're from Oklahoma. My Longhorns are going to play your Sooners in about 10 days. I bet you some Texas barbecue -- I don't know what they eat in Oklahoma, I guess they eat liberals, but (UNINTELLIGIBLE) make a bet. (UNINTELLIGIBLE) Senator James Inhofe of Oklahoma. Thank you for joining us.

Congressman Jim McDermott from Washington, thanks. Thank you all both very much. We appreciate you coming.

Next on CROSSFIRE: Is Frank Lautenberg headed back to the U.S. Senate? We will look at the Democrat's fight to restore democracy in the garden state.

Also, Al Gore is giving the Bush administration fits. He's also making a case for his own re-election?

And our quote of the day comes from a man who fought for voting rights and now he sees a voting wrong. Stay with us.


BEGALA: Welcome back to CROSSFIRE.

In a letter to the Baptists of Danbury, Connecticut in 1802, President Thomas Jefferson first called for a wall of separation between church and state. And the right wing has been trying to tear down that wall for 200 years. But Mr. Jefferson is smiling down on us tonight, because today the House of Representatives voted down the latest attempt to tear down Mr. Jefferson's wall: a bill that would have let religious leaders endorse politicians directly from the pulpit without endangering their tax-exempt status.

Georgia Democrat John Lewis, a hero of the civil rights movement, a darn good preacher in his own right, was not the only -- was not only on the winning side. Something he said during the debate is our quote of the day: "If this legislation is allowed to pass or stand you could have a minister coming into a pulpit and saying vote for so and so because God told me."

NOVAK: Paul, I can't tell you how many black churches I've been in to hear black preachers endorse Democrats, so have you and so has John Lewis. What hypocrisy.

In a minute, we'll get an update on where hurricane Lili and its 140-mile-an-hour winds is heading.

And speaking of gale force winds, we'll also endure Al Gore's latest storm at the Bush administration.

And we can't forget New Jersey. Bob Torricelli missed the deadline to get off the ballot, but what's a little law to stop the Democrats?


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

New Jersey's Supreme Court today ruled in favor of democracy. The court will allow once and future Senator Frank Lautenberg to put his name on the November ballot, replacing Bob Torricelli who withdrew earlier this week.

Republicans, however, remain firmly committed to the concept of one-party election as long as it's their party, of course.

Joining us in the CROSSFIRE to discuss this, two congressmen from the Garden State: Democrat Frank Pallone, Republican Chris Smith.

Gentlemen, thank you very much.

NOVAK: Congressman Pallone, Senator Lautenberg, who is 78-years- old, about to become freshman senator again, he hopes, was the fourth choice to replace Bob Torricelli in violation of law.

The third choice was you. And I am told that you were very eager to do it and your wife wouldn't let you. Is that true?

REP. FRANK PALLONE (D), NEW JERSEY: Well, let me tell you this: my wife knows that I'm on this show tonight and she told me to be very nice to you, Bob.

But the fact of the matter is that -- the fact of the matter is that I made a decision. It was the decision jointly made between myself and my wife and basically it was a decision because I wanted to stay in the House of Representatives. I think that we're going to get the majority for the Democrats in the House of Representatives, I like it here and I want to play my role here.

NOVAK: Well, congressman, what we have here, we have a rule you must tell the truth or a big bucket of water falls on you and I am told...

See, we had Governor McGreevey was going to come on our program last night because -- and talk about this wonderful young candidate they had, Frank Pallone, and then they gave us word from Trenton, his wife won't let him run.

PALLONE: Well...

NOVAK: Is that the truth?

PALLONE: No. The truth of the matter is that it was a decision that I made with my wife, and we -- we feel very strongly, and I do, that it's important for me to be in the House of Representatives.

I think we're going to take the majority back. And Senator Lautenberg was the logical choice for this Senate position. He is the greatest, he was a Senator, and he's going to win this for the Democratic party.

BEGALA: Good for you. In fact, I don't know about you, Congressman Smith, I don't even put a tie on without checking with my wife. She picked this out for me. I'm proud to be a committed family man.

Your party, since the beginning of this election season, has called on Bob Torricelli to step aside. Now he's done so and you're squealing.


REP. CHRIS SMITH (R), NEW JERSEY: Well first let me say, Paul, I was waiting for the call, but it never came.

The call for him to resign was made over and over again, obviously it was expected if the resignation were to occur, and we haven't had a resignation, we just had a pull-off from the ballot, that it would be done in a timely manner.

New Jersey state law says 51 days. It -- There should be some -- that law should have some sanctity to it and not be breached because of poll numbers.

The only reason we're here today -- if the poll numbers over the weekend, the Eagleton polls, said Bob Torricelli was up by 13 points rather than down by 13 points, he would still be on the ballot. We should not allow -- you know, that's why people are becoming increasingly, if they haven't been already, even more so, distrustful of politicians and the court system.

This is a manipulation, unfortunately. And, you know, there are 1,600 ballots that have gone out. I just got word of a doctor in Hawaii who already voted. I don't know who he voted for, but he's in my district, doctor in the army, who has voted and now he has to revote.

He's been disenfranchised as have so many other people.

BEGALA: For example -- let me give you a counterexample.

SMITH: Sure.

BEGALA: When Dick Cheney was the Republican nominee for vice president, Democrats could have launched a constitutional challenge. He was living in Texas. So was bush. We decided not to, because that's who the Republicans wanted.

Mitt Romney, the candidate for governor in Massachusetts, may be a legal, technical resident for Utah, but we didn't challenge it because it's the Democratic way.

SMITH: It's all about reasonableness. Had this been done 51 days or out we wouldn't be sitting here. It would be a done deal. The situation is -- I even had a candidate who ran against me once who was late in filing. He was made whole, put on the ballot. You know, that just the way it works. But when you miss it -- only because of the poll numbers, showing a 13-point deficit. Only reason.

PALLONE: The reason this happened -- and Mr. Forester called upon Senator Torricelli to not run...


PALLONE: ... he asked him not to run. The fact of the matter is -- and the supreme court, as you know, unanimously, the New Jersey supreme court unanimously ruled today that it was proper for Senator Lautenberg to be substituted for Senator Torricelli on the ballot. The reason they did that is because they want to make sure the people have a choice. This is not the soviet union. You have forester run unopposed and the people not have a choice?


SMITH: There are 69 Congressional races where there is no Democrat or Republican opponent including Rob Andrews in New Jersey. Senator Curry in Massachusetts is unopposed by a Republican. John Warner in Virginia is unopposed by a Democrat. But it's through their own fault that he's being taken off.


NOVAK: Congressman, I have a question for you. You said that old Senator Lautenberg -- he's even older than I am.

PALLONE: He's a wonderful person. He is going to win this election.

NOVAK: He is just sweet. But what he has -- he's lost a step or two.

PALLONE: He has not. Oh, I deeply resent that.

NOVAK: I'm sorry you resent it. He was asked about the Super Fund and -- let's listen.


PALLONE: Senator Lautenberg is a wonderful person and he's the best candidate we could have.

NOVAK: Listen to this.


FRANK LAUTENBERG, FORMER U.S. SENATOR: Make sure, for instance, that polluters pay for the pollution that they've helped developed under the -- and reinforced the Super Fund Legislation that I helped author over the last years past.


PALLONE: ... exactly remember exactly particular point.

NOVAK: I don't believe that.

PALLONE: Oh, come on, Bob. I can tell you something? Senator Lautenberg was one of the most effective senators we've had in the United States Senate. He would constantly bring home things for New Jersey whether it was the environment the health care or whatever the issue was. And the thing is, that I deeply resent the fact that the Republicans don't want to have a race.


BEGALA: Mr. Forester has a big disagreement with Frank Lautenberg who helped created Super Fund. Mr. Forester doesn't want polluters to pay, he wants taxpayers -- human beings -- to pay for corporate pollution. Isn't that wrong, sir?

SMITH: I do believe polluters should pay.

BEGALA: You disagree with your candidate.

SMITH: But you know there's disagreement from time to time. I'm sure Frank disagrees with his candidates from time to time. That's not what we're here about. We're here on CROSSFIRE tonight because a major breach has been made.

PALLONE: There will not be a race...

SMITH: No individual should be above election law.

PALLONE: No issue is raised if you don't have a race.

NOVAK: We're out of time. Congressman Pallone, sorry you are not running. Congratulations to your wife.

PALLONE: Thank you.

NOVAK: Congressman Smith, thank you.

In a little bit, one of our viewers fires back a suggestion about how the Republicans can conquer the Democratic shenanigans in New Jersey.

But next -- the latest step -- stop along the Al Gore comeback trail. God forbid.


NOVAK: Will ever dawn on Al Gore that the country really doesn't want to know what he thinks about every little topic under the sun? Well, it hasn't dawned on him yet. Today he got his 2004 warm-up speech on the global economy. To put it in the CROSSFIRE we're joined by Democratic consultant Kiki McLean and Republican consultant Ed Rogers.

BEGALA: Thanks both of you all for joining us tonight. Ed, I love this speech. I'm sure you won't like it. Let me show you a sound bite from it. This is a great point that he made about some I suspect is one of your heroes -- Ronald Wilson Reagan.


BEGALA: Citing Ronald Reagan.


AL GORE, FORMER VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: He'd do no more than what has ideological hero, Ronald Reagan, did at the same point in his presidency, before the midterm elections of 1982, and engage the bipartisan Congressional leaders in a complete reassessment of our nation's economic policy.


BEGALA: Why doesn't he follow Reagan's footsteps? George W. is no Ronald Reagan. You worked for Ronald Reagan, didn't you?

ROGERS: I did, as a matter of fact.

BEGALA: Why didn't he do what Regan did and reassess his economic policy?

ROGERS: Al Gore is doing more of what the Republicans want him to do than what the Democrats want to do -- want him to do. Rather than be out on the hustings raising money for Democratic candidates, he's reminding everyone of why he's not president. And that dry, monotone, whatever it was he was talking about is...


KIKI MCLEAN, DEMOCRATIC CONSULTANT: You want a campaign with raising money and doing campaign -- that's how you want to run the country. Al Gore thinks it's important we talk about the economy and money that people need to be able to put in their own pockets, not their campaign coffers.

NOVAK: You just led into my question that I wanted to ask you.

MCLEAN: Because I try to be helpful to you, Bob.

NOVAK: Thank you. This was an hour-long speech. MCLEAN: It wasn't an hour long.

NOVAK: It was an hour-long and I read the whole speech -- not because I'm a masochist, because I'm conscientious. And he did not -- he said he wanted President Bush to get engaged, didn't tell him what to do, and he didn't say one thing about whether he should repeal or rollback the tax cut.

MCLEAN: I saw the speech, too.

NOVAK: Let me finish my question. And they you answer it.

MCLEAN: But you've got to get to the question.

NOVAK: All right. But if you interrupt me we'll never get to it.

MCLEAN: All right. Come on.

NOVAK: He did not -- he did not at any point say they should roll back the tax cut. And when he was asked in the Q&A period he just sloughed it off.

MCLEAN: Amazingly, I was at that speech today, too. It ran about 30 minutes -- everyone here should know -- and then there was some Q&A after that.

But what is important is that he talked about several important things that he believed should happen. No. 1, that the president and his team should engage and address the economy, treat it as importantly as they are treating foreign policy.


MCLEAN: That's not true. He suggested on the framework of that discussion that he should sit down with leaders of Congress and there were three...


MCLEAN: Three substantive things should be off the table. One was making sure that we fund the war on terrorism. No. 2 was making sure we have money aside to pay for a war against Iraq. And No. 3 was to make sure we find a short-term stimulus package to extend unemployment benefits and make sure we help small businesses through the worst economy.


MCLEAN: You wanted me to answer this question and I'm going to answer it.

NOVAK: I didn't want a speech.

MCLEAN: No. 2, he did say President Bush's tax cuts should be on the table. I want to make a point. He said they should be on the table for the discussion like everything else. It should be on the table with the exception of the three exceptions I just pointed out.

I want to make one point and that is why you say nobody wants to hear him, the Entire National Press Corps was there to cover it and do you know why? Because this man was half of the principal architecture team that created the greatest economic recovery in the last 100 years.

BEGALA: Ed Rogers is rolling his eyes at the notion that it was the greatest economy...

Let me give you the statistics. Let me give you the facts.

ROGERS: He rang the bell in my favor.

The best thing I can do is let someone that is for Al Gore running for president talk. That's the best thing I can do.

BEGALA: Excuse me, let's let the numbers talk.

When George W. Bush became president this is what he inherited: The Dow was at 10,587. Today it's at 7,755. Down 36.5 percent. Unemployment is up 36 percent. This $281 billion surplus is $157 billion deficit and we have lost 2 million jobs since George W. Bush took office.

What a great time to have a war.

ROGERS: It drives you crazy.

BEGALA: That he trashed our economy, yes it does.

ROGERS: It drives you crazy that the American people don't blame him because they know it's not his fault. That economy was on the way down. There was great -- there was -- all of the accounting, all the whipping up of the stock prices took place on Clinton's watch.

Bush inherited an economy that was limping and troubled, then came September 11. And now, the Democrats won't do anything for the economy. They won't even pass a budget. There is no budget.

MCLEAN: What is Bush doing?

ROGERS: Passed a budget. Passing energy bills. Passing terrorism insurance. The Democrat party is so owned by the trial lawyers and -- by the trial lawyers and the labor unions that they can't pass anything benefiting the economy. It has a lot to do. You're saying we're not doing anything about the economy.

NOVAK: Although the former vice president did not say what he'd do about rolling back the taxes --

MCLEAN: Said they should be on the table with Congress.

NOVAK: He didn't say what they should do with them on a table. He did take time to demagogue, and let's listen to some demagoguing.


AL GORE, FORMER VICE PRESIDENT: Thank goodness that President Bush did not succeed in persuading Congress to put the entire social security trust fund in the stock market just before it collapsed.


NOVAK: You know very well that nobody proposed putting the whole social security trust fund in the stock market. That was never on the table.

MCLEAN: Listen, it is the Republicans biggest dream to privatize social security and if they privatize, by that exact words.

NOVAK: That is demagoguery.

MCLEAN: That is not demagoguery.

BEGALA: That is the last word. That is the last word. Kiki McLean, the ace Democratic strategist and new mama, thank you for joining us.

Ed Rogers, ace Republican strategist and a new daddy.

Two new parents taking time to fight for their kids' future.

Thank you all very much for a good debate.

Next -- it's your turn to "Fireback" at us. And one of our viewers would like to hear something other than war drums from 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

We'll let you know. Stay tuned.


NOVAK: "Fireback," when the viewers get back at us.

Ron Carson of Ellensburg, Washington writes, "If the New Jersey Supreme Court allows the Democrats to insert a new candidate, perhaps the Republicans should enlist Rudy. All future elections look more like two baseball managers setting up a left-handed pitcher to match up with a right-handed pitcher. The only principle the Democrats would defend to the death is the one that gets them elected."

Exactly right, Ron, whatever it takes.

BEGALA: They put Dick Cheney on the ballot despite the constitution, they put Mitt Romney on the ballot despite state law, and I went along with that. I think people should vote for whoever they want.

Brian Carr in Austin, Texas writes, "If the Bush administration put half as much effort into domestic issues as it does into banging the drums of war, they'd burn fewer calories and the country would be in much better shape." Amen, Brian.

NOVAK: Well, I'm not even going to comment on that one.

V. Paine of Kewaunee, Wisconsin, writes, "I've noticed that every time Robert Novak says the word 'Democrat,' he snarls. Is this a congenital thing or a learned response?"

Well, Mr. Paine, let me tell you, until I was 12-years-old, where I grew up, I thought the word was damn Democrat. I didn't know it was just plain Democrat.

BEGALA: Ann Jenkins of Highland, Michigan, writes, "I love the new CROSSFIRE. We now can see what a real fair and balanced looks like." Amen. "At last, a regular and articulate spokesman for Democrats and Clinton lovers. I never thought anything would get me away from my favorite show, Jeopardy!"

Well, thank you.

NOVAK: First question.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hi, my name is Chris (ph) from Amherst, Massachusetts and I was just wondering, isn't today's decision by the New Jersey Supreme court setting a dangerous precedent?

NOVAK: Oh, I think so right now. For example, the governor of -- the race for governor of Pennsylvania, the Republican candidate is not doing very well. They ought to get him off the ballot and have the acting Governor Schweiker, who is a hero because of the mining thing. He'd kill the Democrat, Mr. Rendell.

So, we could just mess around like bringing in a new quarterback in the fourth quarter.

BEGALA: You know, the problem is, it's not a game. People should have a choice between two parties.

If the Republicans have their way, they'll have one-party vote.

NOVAK: Oh, that's ridiculous.

BEGALA: And that's not worthy of the party of Lincoln.

NOVAK: Question?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hi, David Bassett (ph) from Bellevue, Washington.

Al Gore's recent castigation of Bush's economic policy seems to me as ridiculous as his Internet claim. Everything I read indicates that other factors have been much more terrible and damaging on our economy than these recent tax cuts.

Isn't Gore simply politicizing this debate for some gain? NOVAK: Yes, and if the Republicans are lucky, he will be nominated and he will not have a close race this time, I guarantee you.

BEGALA: If the economy was booming, do you think Bush would be taking credit? Yes.

He changed our economic policies. He took the best economic policy in the world, made it the worst, he ought to take the blame for it.

NOVAK: Let's get a last question here.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: HI, I'm Damon Hamm (ph) from Fairfax, Virginia, and I'd like to ask you, Why you guys are so afraid of having someone in this New Jersey race?

It's only going to strengthen the quality of candidate. It builds on democracy and I just can't understand...

NOVAK: I'll tell you. We have an old guy like Frank Lautenberg, who nobody liked in the Senate, especially Bob Torricelli, and that's all they can find. That is pathetic. But maybe it's what New Jersey deserves.

BEGALA: I was once Frank Lautenberg's press secretary, you should know that. But I'll tell you, he's a tough guy, he's a tough candidate, he's a smart guy. He's going to win. He's going to win.

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

NOVAK: From the right, I'm Robert Novak. Just us next time for another edition of CROSSFIRE.

"CONNIE CHUNG TONIGHT" begins right now.


Should Lautenberg Have Been Let on the New Jersey Ballot?>

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