CNN Europe CNN Asia
On CNN TV Transcripts Headline News CNN International About CNN.com Preferences
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
SERVICES
 
 
 
SEARCH
Web CNN.com
powered by Yahoo!
TRANSCRIPTS
Return to Transcripts main page

CNN CROSSFIRE

Are Media Links Hurting the Sniper Hunt?; Has Bush Made His Case for War With Iraq?;

Aired October 9, 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 right James Carville and Paul Begala. On the right: Robert Novak and Tucker Carlson. In the CROSSFIRE: Tonight, a tough cop loses his cool.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CHARLES MOOSE, MONTGOMERY COUNTY POLICE CHIEF: And if it's decided that Channel 9 is going to investigate this case, then so be it. So be it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ANNOUNCER: Are media links hurting the search for a sniper? If so, is a change in journalism in the cards?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don't see where that hurts the investigation. I think it actually might help.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ANNOUNCER: Congress approaches an historic vote.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We don't owe Saddam Hussein any more time.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ANNOUNCER: Has the president made a case for war?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We've got to do better than the shoddy piecing together of flimsy evidence.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ANNOUNCER: Ahead on CROSSFIRE.

From the George Washington University: Paul Begala and Tucker Carlson.

TUCKER CARLSON, CO-HOST: Welcome to CROSSFIRE. Tonight, hyperventilating police tell the press, leave us alone, we'll call you when it's over. On Capitol Hill it may not be over, though the result is a foregone conclusion. But before we start (UNINTELLIGIBLE), first we bring you the best political briefing in television: the CROSSFIRE "Political Alert."

CARLSON: It turns out nothing rejuvenate a 99-year-old senator like a fight over one of his judicial nominees. Near centurion Strom Thurmond took to the Senate floor today to denounce a democratic double cross that's blocking confirmation of his former aide, Dennis Shed (ph) to a post on a federal appeals court.

Thurmond called it an "egregious act of destructive politics." "In 48 years in the United States Senate," he continued, "I have never been treated in such a manner." A spokesman for the judiciary committee, Patrick Leahy, says the nomination may be considered later, depending on when the Senate adjourns or whether there is a lame-duck session.

I have to say it is the most partisan judiciary committee, the cruelest ever I think probably in the history of the United States Senate. And to do this to Mr. Thurmond is indefensible.

PAUL BEGALA, CO-HOST: Yesterday, in fact, they passed 17 Bush judges out of that committee. Yesterday alone. They have passed 100.

The Republicans ran the Senate in President Clinton's last two years. They passed 72. So in 15 months the Republicans have passed more judges...

CARLSON: Well, actually, 100, as you know, is a far smaller percentage of the total brought to the Senate than it was under Clinton. So they are obstructing. And to do this to Thurmond is just an outrage.

BEGALA: Thurmond, who in 1964 wrestled Ralph Yardbird (ph) to the floor to prevent him from voting on a civil rights movements. So Strom Thurmond (UNINTELLIGIBLE) worry about obstructionism? One of the great cases of obstructionism and he's still there.

CARLSON: That was 40 years ago, Paul.

BEGALA: Well there is a new twist in the ongoing House and Senate debates over Iraq. It comes from a newly declassified exchange between the Senate Arms Services Committee Chairman, Carl Levin, and a CIA official. Levin asked if it was currently likely that Saddam Hussein would attack America with a weapon of mass destruction.

The official said the probability was low. Levin went on to ask what the likelihood of a chemical or biological attack would be if America went to war with Iraq. Pretty high, came the response.

So, in case you're scoring at home, our president wants to go to war with Iraq because Saddam Hussein has for decades had chemical and biological weapons. But he's never dared to use them against us. But the CIA says if we do go to war, his likelihood of using them goes from low to pretty high. Onward Christian soldiers.

CARLSON: See, this, Paul, is why it is so deeply important to read to the end of the document. Because if you had, you would have seen that it is filled with evidence that bolsters the president's case, including the fact that there are al Qaeda operatives in Baghdad, not just northern Iraq, who have been trained in the use of chemical and biological weapons by Saddam Hussein. It makes their case.

BEGALA: Believe me, I read the entire document. We'll discuss it with our Congress members tonight.

CARLSON: Renegades, (UNINTELLIGIBLE), truth tellers, each party has them, and those rare members of Congress who are brave or stupid enough to express things their colleagues believe but are too timid to say out loud. Well since the untimely imprisonment of James Traficant, a new man has filled that role in the Democratic Party: Congressman Jim McDermott of Washington state.

Earlier this month, McDermott traveled to Baghdad where he all but endorsed Saddam Hussein for president. He explained that he trusts the Iraqi government more than he trusts his own government. Now Mr. McDermott is back in Washington. Yesterday he joined four other Democrats in voting against both the national motto: In God We Trust, and the under God clause in the pledge of allegiance.

Pro Saddam and anti-God. McDermott's next mission: a bill to outlaw the fourth of July, as well as family picnics. As of tonight, it's still pending in the House.

BEGALA: I'll tell you what, I'd still take Jim McDermott any day of the week over Jerry Falwell, who runs around saying that Mohammed was a terrorist.

CARLSON: Well Jerry Falwell is not a member of the Democratic Caucus. He's not a member of Congress. McDermott is and he ought to be embarrassed.

BEGALA: But Jerry Falwell is like this with George W. Bush.

(CROSSTALK)

BEGALA: Citing newly uncovered documents, the "Wall Street Journal" reports today that as a director of Harken Energy Corporation, George W. Bush helped to set up, in the journal's words, "a partnership used to moved trouble assets and large debts off the company's balance sheet, much like the controversial investments that Enron Corporation set up before it filed for bankruptcy court protection."

The journal also reveals the story of the banker who bailed out Bush's energy company when another bank was demanding payment for delinquent loans. Ten days later, the obliging banker was the guest of W's father, then president, George H. W. Bush at the White House. You can't say the Bushes aren't gracious or grateful.

CARLSON: That's a conspiracy so big I can't even fit it into my head. But I do say to you, Paul, good luck running on that in 2002.

BEGALA: Good luck Bush running on his (UNINTELLIGIBLE) record as his banditry there at Harken (UNINTELLIGIBLE).

CARLSON: It's not a job, it is an adventure. That's what the U.S. Navy used to tell its recruits. Apparently someone took the slogan seriously. A new study by the General Accounting Office found that over a recent 17-month period naval personnel rang up more than $200,000 in unauthorized purchases on government credit cards.

The unnamed sailors dropped more than $20,000 in jewelry, close to $30,000 at a strip club, and nearly $35,000 gambling. They went on $38,000 worth of luxury cruises, dropped $71,000 on tickets, including at least one to "The Phantom of the Opera," and several to Lakers' games. And before it was all over they spent $13,250 at two Nevada brothels.

The charges produced predictable outrage on Capitol Hill, but they also raised alarms among planners at the Pentagon. They fear that should the U.S. invade Iraq, some of the armed services may be too tired to fight.

BEGALA: Rumsfeld was so angry he fell off of his $800,000 toilet seat at the Pentagon.

President Bush is threatening to veto the entire Pentagon budget. Not because sailors are overspending, but because -- are you ready for this -- it is too generous to disabled veterans. Democrats, joined by many Republicans, are pushing an amendment to allow disabled vets to collect both their military retirement and their VA disability pay. Under current law, retirement benefits are reduced by the amount of disability payments.

Democrats reason that if you're both disabled and a veteran you should be able to collect both disability and veterans' benefits. But President Bush is so opposed to this disabled veteran's benefit, he's going to veto the entire Pentagon budget on the eve of a possible war. So much for compassionate conservatism.

CARLSON: Well, it's because it is on the eve of a possible war and an ongoing war, as you know, that he is thinking of vetoing this because that is, I think, the single largest growth in the Pentagon budget is in these benefits. It's a complicated issue that somebody needs to deal with it directly, and I'm glad somebody is. As on Social Security, someone looking at it straight and seeing it's a problem. We have to deal with too.

BEGALA: So those troops that are going over there, if they're injured in combat...

(CROSSTALK)

CARLSON: The ongoing search for the D.C. area sniper produced no arrests today, but it did provoke an on-camera temper tantrum by the Montgomery County, Maryland's police chief. He's unhappy about leaks to the media. Those leaks revealed that searchers near Monday's shooting scene discovered a shell casing and a tarot card with the written message, "Dear policeman, I am God." We'll put reporters and leakers in the CROSSFIRE in a moment.

But first, for the very latest on the sniper investigation, we're joined tonight by Montgomery County Executive Doug Duncan.

BEGALA: Mr. Duncan, first, thank you very much for joining us. I know this is a busy time. I wonder if you could just first give us the latest on the investigation.

DOUG DUNCAN, MONTGOMERY COUNTY EXECUTIVE: Well, we've still got a massive manhunt going on. We're getting leads. We've got 1,700 leads from the public that we're tracking down. And we're doing everything we can.

I can say it has been a good day in Montgomery County, Washington. We haven't had a shooting today. And it's a horrible thing to say, but that's how we're looking at it from day to day.

BEGALA: Is there anything that citizens ought to be doing to protect themselves, though? I've heard you say, well go about your daily life. And I think we're trying and we're doing the best we can. But what should we be doing?

DUNCAN: It's very difficult. And it's the random nature of the attacks, it's the sniper-like techniques being used in the attacks. That's what is so terrifying to people.

But people are getting about, they are doing things, they are very determined to try to lead as normal life as possible, while they have very high levels of fear and anxiety.

Kids are going to school, people are going to work. People are going shopping and to the restaurants, and were very appreciative of that. We are just asking people to be very cautious, very vigilant, very observant, and to call us with any information they think might help us solve this case.

CARLSON: Now Mr. Duncan, as you know, the police chief expressed frustration earlier at the media circus or spectacle this has become. And I wonder if you think that politicians aren't adding to that. I mean you had Governor Glendening out there making remarks that became controversial. You have Senator McCulsky, yourself, and other people in law enforcement. I wonder if that doesn't add to the general spectacle that this has become.

DUNCAN: No, I have been here since day working with our chief. And what we saw last night was over the line. The media has been enormously helpful. We're very thankful to the media for letting the public know what is going on, helping us reassure the public about getting out and about their normal business, asking people to call us with information, asking people to help with the reward funds. So the media has been very, very helpful here. Where they cross the line, though, is when they do something that interferes with our investigation. It makes it harder for our investigators to find out who is doing this. This is not investigative reporting for consumer affairs. This is not stopping someone from losing money.

Lives are at stake here. This is very, very critical. And the chief I think was right to be angry.

CARLSON: Everybody recognizes how serious and how critical it is, but I wonder if you will be a lot more specific. We've heard that the press has been scolded a lot for reporting this incidence of this tarot card with the message written on it. And maybe this has somehow hampered the investigation. The leak, of course, came from your own county employees.

But what I'm wondering if you can tell us specifically how this knowledge impedes the investigation.

DUNCAN: Well, we're not going to get in those details. I can just assure you that the announcement was a setback. It has hurt the investigation and we're very disappointed and very angry about who did this. You're right, who leaked this information, and we're very disappointed that this was reported by the media, without coming for official comment from the Montgomery County Police Department.

So, we moved beyond it. We have got a lot of other leads that we're following, but you know what, people are being killed here. If anything slows us down from finding who has done this, we're going to be angry about it and we're going to continue to be angry about it.

BEGALA: But, in fact, Mr. Duncan, it can't help law enforcement at all when the media tells the killer that they found one of his shell casings, for example. I mean wouldn't that have been a lot better kept quiet, and didn't you tell your people to keep it quiet?

DUNCAN: We are working very hard. We have got four different jurisdictions, all the federal agencies, state agencies here as well. Clearly, there was a process breakdown within our investigative team that let this information get out about the card. And we have worked very hard today to address that process problem, fix that and get everybody on the same page and make sure that the only information being sent to the public about the investigation is authorized by the leaders of the investigation.

BEGALA: Well let me ask you a question about the shell casing. Doesn't that tell the killer certain things about where the investigation is going that I'd rather not speculate on myself?

DUNCAN: We're not speculating on that. Information has gotten out; we're trying to control that information to make sure it doesn't happen again, whether it is a card or shell casing or whatever. We have given some information out to the public because we felt the public could help us track down.

The white box truck, we're still looking for that. We want to find that and find out who was in it. So we've asked the public to help us with that.

And if the FBI, if the ATF, if the investigators here in the Montgomery County Police and other police agencies feel that we need to go to the public and ask them for information to help, then we're going to do that. If they feel that releasing information is going to set us back, going to hinder us, then we're not going to do that. And we've made that message loud and clear across all of the agencies involved today.

CARLSON: Well, Mr. Duncan, I mean (UNINTELLIGIBLE), because you made the allegation, but then you won't answer the basic question: you know, how does this hurt the investigation? But isn't it true that more information generally helps the public help police departments? I mean "America's Most Wanted" has helped solve literally hundreds of crimes by disseminating information about those crimes. Wouldn't you want to have a scenario like that?

DUNCAN: It depends on what kind of information you're giving and what is behind all that information. If you're giving out the wrong information it hurts you. And what happened with that was the wrong information being given out.

We're not going to open up the investigative files, and we are doing -- we've got 1,700 leads we're tracking down. We want our investigators to be able to do that and we want them to do that without having evidence, without having information compromised that makes their jobs tougher.

And their jobs have been made been made tougher by what's happened today. But, you know what, it has happened, we have a lot of other leads. We're moving on and we're going to do everything we can to find out who is doing this. That's our number one mission, to protect the people in the county, people in this region, and arrest whoever is doing this before they shoot someone again.

BEGALA: Montgomery County Executive, Doug Duncan, thank you for taking the time to join us, sir. Good of you to do so on such a busy night. Thank you very much.

In a minute, we'll have a hot debate on the tension between public safety and the public's right to know. A topic that boiled over in the case today of the suburban sniper.

And later, does debate mean anything on Capitol Hill anymore? Or is it all just posturing for the cameras? Stay tuned.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BEGALA: Welcome back to CROSSFIRE.

Montgomery County, Maryland Police Chief, Charles Moose, says that leaks in the media about the Washington area sniper case are approaching unacceptable interference in his investigation. Well, at the risk of being a little too self (UNINTELLIGIBLE), it's fair to ask someone, do we need to stop the media before we cover this again? Well, in New York is the city's former police commissioner, Howard Safir. And in our nation's capital at the "Washington Post," media critic for that newspaper, Howard Kurtz, also the host of CNN's "RELIABLE SOURCES."

Guys, thank you both.

CARLSON: Mr. Safir, thanks for joining us. I want to show you a clip from Montgomery County, Maryland Police Chief Charles Moose from this morning. And I want to ask you about it. Here he is.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MOOSE: If you want Channel 9, if you want the "Washington Post," if you want CNN to conduct this investigation, let me know. I've been told by the people that live in Montgomery County that they want the Montgomery County Police Department to do this investigation.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CARLSON: Now that was the chief of police complaining about leaks to the press. But this is a man who is supposed to be calming the public, telling people where to go from here. Essentially, losing control of his emotions on television, being nasty and sarcastic, is that helpful behavior for a chief of police?

HOWARD SAFIR, FMR. NYC POLICE COMMISSIONER: It's not helpful, but I understand his frustration. He has probably been up without sleep for a number of days. His investigation is moving forward. He has some evidence that is vital to his case and he sees it in the media.

And, of course, the media is reporting it without knowing what is going on inside the investigation, without knowing whether it's helping or harming the investigation. And I think it's irresponsible. I think they should have checked with him first.

CARLSON: But here is the thinking -- not to speak for the entire press corps, but here's the thinking. You know this tarot card with the message is found, and I think reporters who report that think, well how could this possibly hurt the investigation? The leak, of course, came from a county employee, presumably.

And I'm wondering if you could explain to us in a way that our previous guest didn't how could this hurt the investigation, this knowledge that this card was on the ground.

SAFIR: Well, of course, you know I don't know what's going on inside the investigation, but I do agree with the county executive. The fact is, there may have been a certain information on that tarot card that they did not want the perpetrator to know. It may have helped them in leading towards his identity or her identity. And the fact is, that by releasing something without knowledge, what you're doing is you're jeopardizing the investigation and it's not responsible. And what you really need to do is you need to at least check with the authorities. And I've been in a situation where I have had reporters come to me and say, we just found this out, is this going to hurt your case? And I told them, yes, it's going to hurt my case. And they've withheld the information until it was time that it didn't put people in danger.

And, of course...

BEGALA: I'm sorry to interrupt, chief, but I want to ask Howard Kurtz on that very point, as a media critic and working with journalists yourself. Doesn't the press have a responsibility to do more than simply publish facts as best they can ascertain them? Shouldn't they check, the way Chief Safir just said?

HOWARD KURTZ, CNN'S "RELIABLE SOURCES": Yes. And apparently the chief is unaware that that's exactly what happened in this case. I talked to the news director for the CBS affiliate here that broke the story, and when they got this information about the tarot card, they asked top police officials, are you asking us not to publish this? They received no such request not to publish it.

Same thing at "The Washington Post," which made it the lead story this morning. No official request not to publish the information. I'm telling you, I'm not buying the notion that this bit of information is jeopardizing the investigation. I lean toward the side of the equation that says this could produce a tip from somebody who has a deranged cousin who is into tarot cards. But now we all live in this community...

BEGALA: But, Howard, I'm sorry to interrupt you, but let me interrupt you, because the "Washington Post" is in business, and you did put this on the front page. And your business is selling ads; so is CNN. Chief Moose is in the business of catching a murderer. If, in fact -- let me take the hypothetical then -- if, in fact, they had been told the opposite, if they had gone to the police and the police said, look, please don't publish that, it could harm our investigation. Don't they have a duty to withhold that information then?

KURTZ: Well, they have a duty to make an informed judgment. And I think if the police officials had made an appeal to this newspaper or to the CBS affiliate or anybody else, don't publish this information, probably that request would have been granted. Why, Paul? Because journalists live in this community, we have kids in school. We're all worried about this serial sniper, and so these decisions are not made lightly.

But in this particular case, I don't think you can make the charge of irresponsible behavior because obviously somebody within the police department wanted this information out, even though Chief Moose is clearly tired and frustrated, and understandably under a lot of pressure, may disagree.

SAFIR: Well, if I might, I've heard this top police official thing before and, you know, somebody checks with somebody that they specifically pick out that they're going to get the right answer from, and then they say they checked with a top police official. But you know putting information out without knowing what the consequences are really is not responsible.

CARLSON: But Commissioner Safir, I mean forgive us for being a little jaded in the Washington area, but we just witnessed the Chandra Levy investigation unfold over the course of a year, during which the D.C. Police Department blamed virtually everyone but the person who is now suspected of doing the actual killing. They blamed the press for leaking, they blamed poor Congressman Condit. It looks like he's almost certainly innocent now.

And there is a sense that police departments use the press as a convenient whipping boy when they don't know what else to do and when they're not making progress in the investigation. Is there some truth in that?

SAFIR: And I'm not suggesting that at all. I mean the press is incredibly valuable in helping police departments with getting information out in cases. But when you have a situation here where you have a very difficult case -- and this case is probably as difficult a case that law enforcement will face -- when you have random killings where you have the potential for other killings, releasing this information just might cause somebody to be harmed.

CARLSON: OK. Well we're going to take a quick break. We'll be right back. In a minute we'll ask our guests, why have a news conference if you have got nothing to say?

Later, they're supposed to be debating, but is there really anything going on besides democratic foot dragging? Of course not.

And our quote of the day proves that calypso singers ought to stick to music. Be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CARLSON: Welcome back to CROSSFIRE.

We're talking about today's meltdown by the police chief of Montgomery County, Maryland. Are leaks really interfering with his investigation of the Washington area sniper killings?

To answer that, we're talking with former New York City police commissioner, Howard Safir, and "Washington Post" media critic, Howard Kurtz, also the host of CNN's "RELIABLE SOURCES."

BEGALA: Howard, one of the things we have seen certainly her on CNN and the others who are covering this story has been a seemingly endless parade of content-less press briefings. It's a bit of a vicious circle. Should these officials take so much time to brief the press when there are no developments? Should we in the press cover it when they do?

KURTZ: Well, a cynical answer, Paul, would be that police chiefs and sheriffs and county executives like to bask in a national limelight when they have the unfortunate circumstance of having a high profile case or crime in their jurisdiction. But I'm not going to give you the cynical answer.

(CROSSTALK)

BEGALA: ... cynical answer for the media, though. Like the media is selling soap, right? The media wants the ratings, they want the readers. And so we take it to them. I mean there's a cynical argument on both sides, right?

KURTZ: You're a half a step ahead of me, because I was going to say I think mostly police officials in these cases are responding to a barrage of media requests. And the question could just have easily been asked -- and I've been critical of this -- why does CNN and the other cable networks -- you can certainly understand local stations -- feel the need to put up that breaking news logo and put on every news conference when it's clear it's just a status report with no significant advance in the investigation?

I think it is because they want the appearance of breaking news, even when unfortunately there is no breaking news in these cases.

CARLSON: Commissioner Safir, Howard Kurtz refers to these as status reports. A lot of them are. Some don't even rise to that level, however.

I want to play you a very brief sound byte here from Chief Moose at one of yesterday's many briefings.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MOOSE: I have no information to report on any part of the investigation.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CARLSON: So, that's it. That was the whole reason for hauling out the TV crews on double overtime. It is true? I mean one has to suspect that some of these guys like being on TV, as awful as that sounds. Do you think that's true?

SAFIR: Well I happen to agree with Howard Kurtz that a lot of this is pushed by the media so they can get their sound bytes no matter what they are. But I think you also have an obligation as a public official to maybe not say what Chief Moose said in that particular sound byte, but rather to give a progress report that you have so many people working on it, that you're diligently pursuing every lead, and just to give the public some confidence that you're continuing to pursue something that is terrorizing the community.

CARLSON: But isn't -- so, I think you're kind of confirming what I have been suspecting, that police departments use the press for their own ends. And that's OK, because the press helps solve crimes in some cases.

SAFIR: They use each other. CARLSON: Right. Okay. So then but isn't it a little hypocritical then for chiefs of police to flip out on television when there is a minor leak and sort of bite the hand that continuously feeds them?

SAFIR: Well I think that Chief Moose, if he could take back that comment, probably would have. But I also understand the kind of pressure that he's under. This investigation is moving very slowly, he's getting all kinds of criticism. And, you know I'm sure he would rather have not said that, but he's a professional law enforcement officer and I'm sure he will regain his composure.

BEGALA: Howard, let me ask you about another comment that Chief Moose made. It was about the endless parade of analysts who have been second guessing and projecting and kind of prognosticating. And as somebody who does that in politics, I'm not about to attack that. I think that is very useful, of course, to criticize the government at every turn through the media.

But at the same time, the media convicted Richard Jewel falsely of the Atlanta Olympic bombing. They falsely said that the Oklahoma City bombing was done by Middle Eastern terrorists. I mean doesn't the media get it wrong a lot of the time? And doesn't Chief Moose have a point?

KURTZ: Chief Moose definitely has a point on that part of his criticism. What happens is, since there is so little official information available from these investigations, and a voracious media appetite because, after all, there's lots of public interest in these kinds of crimes, you round up this usual parade of suspects of ex- analysts, ex-detectives, ex-police chiefs, forgive me, who sometimes, not all of them and not on all occasions, will engage in all kinds of speculation when they don't know the details of the case.

And I think the media there are guilty of just trying to fill air time, grab ratings, grab viewers by the eyeballs and trying to keep the story alive, even though they don't have, obviously, the people they would like to have, which are the people actually working on the investigation. By the way, Chief Moose did soften his tone at a subsequent press conference today, where he thanked the media for their cooperation. I think he realized that perhaps he had gone a little too far in his early morning tirade.

BEGALA: Howard Kurtz of the "Washington Post," Commissioner Howard Safir of New York City's finest, thank you all both very much for an enlightening debate.

A leading member of the Senate today reminded his colleagues of the Tonkin Gulf Resolution, which was, of course, the blank check that got America mired in Vietnam.

We're going to have Congressional leaders from both sides of the aisle and both sides of the issue to discuss America's next war in our next segment.

And before we get to that, our "Quote of the Day," a longtime fighter from civil rights has a warning for Colin Powell. Stay tuned.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BEGALA: Welcome back to CROSSFIRE. When it comes to civil rights, there's no questioning Harry Belafonte's credentials. The singer befriended Martin Luther King back in the 1950's and put his own money behind the Freedom Riders in voter registration drives.

We're calling the long-gone days when slaves lived on the plantation and a privileged few were allowed to visit the master's house. Belafonte had a warning today for Secretary of State Colin Powell. It is our "Quote of the Day."

Quote: "Colin Powell is permitted to come into the house of the master. When Colin Powell dares to suggest something other than what the master wants to hear, he will be turned back out to pasture."

CARLSON: Belafonte ought to be ashamed of himself. That's one of the meanest, most hateful things I've heard in a long time. He said it simply because Colin Powell is black and disagrees with his politics. They don't share the same politics. If Colin Powell was white, he never would have compared him to a slave.

It's an outrage and I can't imagine that you would defend that.

BEGALA: I think we're going to have to find out what happens after the elections. There are rumors that Colin Powell is being forced out.

CARLSON: No. No. No. Back up. Address this slur.

BEGALA: He is trying to keep Colin Powell, as I think General Powell is, trying to keep us from rushing into a war and I applaud that and I think he is having a positive effect. And I think we'll have to wait and see whether he lasts

CARLSON: Well, maybe tonight on "LARRY KING" he will address this. Everything that you have said pertains to the merits of the argument: Should we go to war, should we not.

This is an attack on his skin color. No, literally. This is comparing him to a slave. This is so vicious and outrageous. This is what liberals do to Clarence Thomas simply because he's black.

I'm serious. It's so mean.

BEGALA: There's an enormous difference between Colin Powell and Clarence Thomas.

"LARRY KING" will have Colin Powell on. He's the real deal. Clarence Thomas can fend for himself.

Still to come, your chance to "Fireback" at us. One of our viewers has thought up an ingenious way to save the American economy and keep us out of war at the same time.

But next: The words are flying on Capitol Hill over the issue of Iraq. Is it only a matter of time before the bullets are flying too?

We'll find out. Stay tuned.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

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

You know, during the Vietnam War, George W. Bush got himself a coveted position in the national guard, which media investigations later revealed he didn't always show up for.

Dick Cheney got five draft deferments and later said he had other priorities in the '60's.

Well, on Capitol Hill today, there was a lonely warning that now- President Bush and now-Vice President Cheney may be leading our sons and daughters into a repeat of that tragic chapter in our nation's history.

Senator Patrick Leahy of Vermont called attention to the remarkable similarities between the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution and, in Leahy's words, "the blank check," now before both houses of Congress.

But defenders of the president's policy, and there are many in both parties, were quick to point out what they an imminent threat from Saddam Hussein.

Here to debate all of this tonight in the CROSSFIRE, House Democratic Whip Nancy Pelosi of California and Missouri Republican Congressman Roy Blunt tonight.

Thank you very much.

CARLSON: Congresswoman, thanks for joining us.

REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), HOUSE DEMOCRATIC WHIP: Good evening.

CARLSON: Many members of your party, virtually all members of your party, have decided they're going to sign on with the president to authorize force against Iraq, spanning the gambit: Martin Frost, Leader Gephardt.

Will you join them or are you going to stay in the Jim McDermott wing of the party do you think?

PELOSI: It serves the purpose of your show to define it that way. We do have a resolution being put forth by John Spratt of South Carolina, which gives the president the authorization to go to the U.N. to use -- to take, by any means that the Security Council decides is necessary to force the inspections, including the use of force pursuant to a Security Council resolution.

And then, if that -- but if that doesn't work, and the president want to act unilaterally, under the Spratt Resolution, the president would have to come back to Congress for that declaration of war.

So I think it captures all that the president says he needs. It recognizes that Saddam Hussein is an evil person, that he has capability. And we can go just into how much capability he has. I happen to think, as a 10-year veteran of the intelligence committee that, while he may have chemical and biological weapons, he does not have nuclear.

So this whole notion of, We're waiting for a nuclear cloud or mushroom event is not really real. Even the letter that George Tenet, the director of Central Intelligence, sent to the chairman of the intelligence committee in the Senate today said the likelihood of Saddam Hussein initiating an attack in the foreseeable future would be low.

CARLSON: With all do respect, Congresswoman, you've thrown out so many things here, I just want to get back to the resolution.

Why would the resolution that you would be supporting require the president to come back to Congress, thereby wasting, at that point, very valuable time, before striking Iraq?

PELOSI: There is time, even according to the director of Central Intelligence, who said the likelihood of Saddam Hussein initiating an attack in the foreseeable future is low.

First of all, Saddam Hussein has had...

CARLSON: He said many other things also, in that letter, but...

PELOSI: But he said that, in the letter, would be low.

The fact is, is that the Security Council, if they decide that the use of force is necessary then, pursuant to their resolution, the U.S. could go forward. There would be no time lost if that urgency was there.

I don't happen to think that the urgency is there. I agree with the director of Central Intelligence that the launch by Saddam Hussein has a low prospect in the foreseeable future.

He has had chemical and biological weapons for a long time. He does not have nuclear, and isn't projected to until the end of the decade unless he gets cooperation from outside.

BEGALA: I'm sorry to cut you -- I want to bring Mr. Blunt into this, though.

And, in fact, I want to read to you from that letter. There's lots of information for both sides. Those of us who are on the outside of the government don't have the access to the intelligence information that you all do; to read a letter from the head of the CIA is very, very interesting.

Let me read you one thing that he had to say on this very topic that Ms. Pelosi was talking about. George Tenet, the head of the CIA writes: "Baghdad, for now, appears to be drawing the line short of conducting terrorist attacks with conventional or chemical and biological weapons against the United States."

If that's true, doesn't that undermine everything our president told us just the other night?

REP. ROY BLUNT (R), MISSOURI: I don't think so. And I think if you read more of the letter...

BEGALA: We shall.

BLUNT: ... or read more of what George Tenet has been saying.

He said that in the letter; he's also said lots of other things: that Baghdad does have -- that Saddam has developed very dangerous weapons.

He's the only person in the world today in charge of a government who's used those weapons. You know, there are other governments that have bad things, but only Saddam Hussein has used bad things on his own people, on a neighboring country.

You now, they've developed a weapon, I guess, that uses a weapon, a biological weapon, Aflatoxin, which has no battlefield use, but they've weaponized it. They fixed it so -- they've converted it to where you could deliver it on a missile.

The only -- the use of Aflatoxin is to give people liver cancer. Now, liver cancer may stop a lieutenant on the battlefield from ever becoming a general, but it's most effective against children.

A person that would develop a weapon to give people long -- to hasten a long-term death through liver cancer, a person who would used chemical weapons on their own people, a person who used biological weapons on another country is a dangerous person.

He is clearly an enemy of our country, and I think it's naive to believe that he would not use something if he had an opportunity to do so.

BEGALA: There's where we disagree, because he's had 20 years. He's had horrible weapons for 20 years and he's never used them against the United States because we have deterred him with our superior force.

(CROSSTALK)

BLUNT: ... missiles every week against United States planes. He takes shots at our planes flying over the no-fly zone virtually weekly.

BEGALA: Let me read to you more from what George Tenet said in his letter about when and why he might, in fact, use those weapons. This is what he had to say: "Should Saddam conclude that a U.S.- led attack could no longer be deterred, he probably would become much less constrained in adopting terrorist actions. Saddam might decide that the extreme step of assisting Islamist terrorists in conducting a WMD" -- weapons of mass destruction -- "attack against the United States would be his last chance to exact vengeance by taking a large number of victims with him."

The head of the CIA says, in fact, he is more likely to use those awful weapons that he hasn't used against us for 20 years if,in fact, we go to war.

What is your response?

BLUNT: Well, I think the whole idea of a public letter like this is pretty interesting.

And, you know, even things that we do talk about, we can't always talk about.

It's clear Saddam Hussein has taken some targeting actions in terms of mapping and other things -- I think that's public; I don't think I heard that in any forum where I can't discuss it -- looking at the United States as a potential target.

It's also clear that he actively supports the force of terrorism in the world today with money, with encouragement, with research. He is actively out there doing that.

This debate where the president of the United States is joined by the Democratic leader of the house, Dick Gephardt, where Tom Lantos the ranking member on the Intelligence Committee stands up with Henry Hyde, the Republican chairman of the Intelligence Committee and advocates the same resolution, is to give the president the authority he needs as a final resort to make this situation one where we have a safe result for the people of America.

CARLSON: Ms. Pelosi, we're almost out of time for this segment.

I saw you shaking your head. You're not on the same page, exactly, as Leader Gephardt, though, why?

PELOSI: No.

I will tell you this: I think that there are many costs of going into Iraq now, attacking Iraq now. And one of them is a cost on the war on terrorism. What we need to fight -- right now the clear and present danger to the United States is the al Qaeda terrorists. We have to use all of the intelligence and all of the connections that we have throughout the world.

To his credit, the president has built a coalition of over 60 countries who are helping us on the war in terrorism. That will unravel. That will unravel if we attack into Iraq. And if we do it in a unilateral fashion, especially.

So the war on terrorism is our top priority.

CARLSON: I'm sorry, will you hold that thought, Congresswoman?

We're going to be right back. We're going to take a quick break.

Your turn to join the Iraq debate is coming up in our "Fireback" segment.

Next, we'll ask why some Democrats are calling their party a bunch of whiners -- accurately, of course.

We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CARLSON: Welcome back to CROSSFIRE.

Democrats complain the Iraq debate is monopolizing both houses of Congress. Of course, the only thing blocking action on a host of important bills is their own obstructionism. Will it take a lame duck congressional session to keep the country running, or should we just wait for the new Republican Congress to come to town in January?

In the CROSSFIRE to answer those questions are House Democratic Whip Nancy Pelosi of California and Missouri Republican Congressman Roy Blunt.

BEGALA: Mr. Blunt, let me ask you again about Iraq and intelligence.

I'm just fascinated by this, something that was in the "Washington Post" this morning. You made an interesting...

BLUNT: This is another thing from "The Washington Post" this morning?

BEGALA: It's filled with intelligence information and God bless them for publishing it.

PELOSI: We mark it "classified" upstairs in the intelligence...

BEGALA: But some of this has been declassified. Mr. Tenet then released this letter, the CIA director, and one of the things that you said, actually in the first segment, it's sort of interesting, sort of suggested it's bothersome when intelligence information is in the press and I think one of the reason may be that it's not supporting the president's case.

"The Washington Post" said today, "An increasing number of intelligence officials, including former and current intelligence agency employees are concerned that the agency is tailoring its public stance to fit the administration's views."

Isn't there some concern on your part that maybe the president is pressing a little too hard on his intelligence people to tell him what he wants to hear instead of what he needs to know? BLUNT: I don't think that's right. I think it is clear that Saddam Hussein is a threat to the United States, he's an enemy of the United States. He is a tyrant. He terrorizes his own people and, you know, Nancy mentioned earlier, we put together this tremendous alliance of nations to fight terrorism, but that wouldn't happen in Iraq.

I think just the opposite is happening. I think every day, as we move forward and are willing to lead on this issue, more and more countries, first Great Britain, then Spain, then Italy, then many others -- Australia -- there are many countries now joining in that effort.

This is a case where the United States can lead rather than follow. We hope the United Nations will take action but these resolutions that say, Let's wait for the United Nations. This is exactly the kind of situation the United Nations was created to prevent. This is exactly the same kind of person who is outside the bounds of civilized behavior, who does things that shouldn't be allowed to be done, who the United Nations should have gone in in the last decade and stopped and hasn't.

Maybe, seeing that we're willing to do this, the United Nations is, as someone said the other day, maybe it's the president -- said will you be the United Nations or the League of Nations? That's the point the United States is at. We are building an alliance. We won't be doing this by our selves and we'll be staying, along with others, until this situation is...

CARLSON: Congresswoman Pelosi, it is no secret the Democratic position on Iraq is in disarray.

PELOSI: I want to finish my point earlier

CARLSON: Let me just ask you...

(CROSSTALK)

CARLSON: I know, but I just want to hit you with this wonderful quote from Senator Fritz Hollings. He said, The problem is -- our problem is Democrats whine and whine. Everyone knows what the trouble is. The question is, what's the solution?

Isn't this the problem? There is no coherent view of the war on Iraq for Democrats?

PELOSI: No, I think this is a very serious debate and that's interesting from your standpoint for a show.

CARLSON: It's marvelous, though...

PELOSI: For a debate -- I'm a big fan of Senator Hollings, and for a roast or something that would be appropriate. But for a discussion about putting our young people in harm's way, we have a very serious decision to make. As I said, the war we are in now is a war on terrorism. And the risk that we have in going into Iraq now I will repeat: poses a risk to the war on terrorism. It will unravel the coalition. It will make Arab countries that are friendly to our cause now shaky. They won't be able to give us the cooperation. It will be a cost in human lives of our young people that we won't know. It will be a cost in money. It will be a cost to our economy. The president talks about building the economy of Iraq after the invasion. What about building the economy of the United States?

BEGALA: Congresswoman Pelosi, I want to thank you very much. Congressman Blunt, thank you very much.

One of our viewers is worried that the media will ignore the new revelations about W.'s Enron practices. We'll put his mind to rest in just a minute.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BEGALA: Welcome back. Time for "Fireback."

We have "Fireback" on a variety of topics. Let's go to the e- mail bag.

Kim Grittner in Madison, Wisconsin writes: "The best way to deal with Iraq is to send in the Bush economic team to run things. They'll have that country in ruins within a few days."

God bless Kim. That's exactly right.

CARLSON: More bumper sticker thinking from the Democratic party.

Steve Chubbs of Wilmington, Delaware writes, "Does anyone else find it amazing that Democrats will admit they would vote differently on the Iraq proposal before and after an election."

Actually, (UNINTELLIGIBLE), I do find that amazing. I think it's a serious debate that deserves the full attention of the Democratic party and pains me that it hasn't received it.

BEGALA: Nobody has said -- with all respect to Steven Chubbs of Wilmington, Delaware -- nobody has said they would vote differently. They said they want a reason from Bush on why we have to vote right before an election.

CARLSON: No, they said they didn't want the vote before the election.

BEGALA: Because they don't want to politicize it as Bush has successfully done. Congratulations, Mr. President.

Josh Gilbert of Seattle, Washington writes, "I'm wondering how Bush and the SEC are going to ignore the new Harkin information in today's "Wall Street Journal" and "Boston Globe," or will the press just ignore it?" Well Josh, let's see. We referred to it tonight. We'll see if we get more into this important story about allegations that Bush conducted himself, just like Enron, when he was in the oil business.

CARLSON: A boring and pointless story that's over a decade old.

BEGALA: Like Whitewater?

CARLSON: Bill Evans -- yes, maybe like Whitewater. That's an excellent point.

Bill Evans from Stoughton, Wisconsin writes, "The liberals won't trust an American with a handgun," that's true, "but they'll trust Saddam Hussein with a nuke."

I think that brings up -- no. I would say that Jim McDermott, who announced on ABC -- you're right, that is a bumper sticker. I don't think it is entirely true, maybe partly dumb. But there's a kernel of truth in it.

Jim McDermott is more upset about Americans holding handguns in their homes than the possibility -- this is true -- that Saddam Hussein has chemicals -- chemical and biological weapons.

BEGALA: Saddam Hussein has had chemical and biological weapons for 20 years. Bush just woke up and noticed it. The man watches the History channel, thinks it's Headline News.

CARLSON: You are trivializing a serious threat to the United States.

BEGALA: You're trivializing it too. You're making fun of Jim McDermott.

Yes sir, what's your question?

CARLSON: He is trivial by definition.

Yes?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm Rigosovo (ph) from Acoteague (ph), Maryland. My question is that: I would like to know is that -- Doesn't the press have the responsibility not to leak crucial information to the killers?

CARLSON: I'm not sure the press has the responsibility not to. The press's responsibility is to report the news. I think most organizations -- and I've seen it many times up close do pull back if they think information they're going to report is going to hurt somebody.

I just don't see how reporting the existence of a Tarot card, information that was leaked by the police department itself, is going to aid the killer. BEGALA: Howie Kurtz -- I think Howie Kurtz was responsible tonight when he said they checked with the cops. And that's what they ought to do.

Yes sir?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Neil (ph) Dyker (ph) from Cleveland, Ohio. It seems to me that the Democrats want nothing less than President Bush's actual battle plan and yet the President has continued to do everything the Democrats want.

How is this anything more than typical partisan political rhetoric from the Democratic party?

BEGALA: First off, the majority of Democrats are voting for this. I think it's ill-advised. But there's nothing partisan about this in the least. I still think there are legitimate questions about the timing.

Why are we voting on this 30 days before...

CARLSON: In other words -- in other words, Democrats are accusing or implying that the president of the United States is sending American soldiers to their death to win a midterm election. It's an unbelievable allegation.

BEGALA: No, I'm saying he's sending a resolution to Congress for political reasons and he is.

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

CARLSON: From the right, I'm Tucker Carlson.

Join us again tomorrow night for another edition of CROSSFIRE.

A special edition of "CONNIE CHUNG TONIGHT", "Sniper on the Lose," begins right now.

See you tomorrow.

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



His Case for War With Iraq?; >

© 2004 Cable News Network LP, LLLP.
A Time Warner Company. All Rights Reserved.
Terms under which this service is provided to you.
Read our privacy guidelines. Contact us.
external link
All external sites will open in a new browser.
CNN.com does not endorse external sites.