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Sniper Shootings Bring Gun Control into Spotlight

Aired October 15, 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, another shooting, but this time multiple witnesses. Can they help police catch the D.C. area sniper?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I am confident that ultimately that information is going to lead us to an arrest in this case.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you think it's a little dangerous hiding out guns in a bank?


ANNOUNCER: Michael Moore takes on America's gun culture in his new movie. We take on Michael Moore in the CROSSFIRE.

And with 21 days to go before the election, the sniper makes gun control a campaign issue.


ARI FLEISCHER, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: New laws don't stop people like this.



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

TUCKER CARLSON, CO-HOST: Good evening, and welcome to CROSSFIRE.

Tonight, the search for the D.C. area sniper is thrusting gun control into the spotlight. We'll look at the issue with Michael Moore. He has just made a movie about it.

We'll also talk about the effect on the election, which is now just three weeks away.

But first, we want to get an update on the sniper investigation. For that we go to CNN's Wolf Blitzer at the Montgomery County, Maryland police headquarters.

Wolf, what is the latest?

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: The latest is that police, local law enforcement here in Montgomery County, as well as in Virginia, and including the District of Columbia, they think they are making some progress. They think they do now have some eyewitnesses who may have seen the killer or killers leave the scene of last night's shooting about 22 hours ago in Fairfax County in northern Virginia.

Indeed, our Justice Correspondent, Kelli Arena, is reporting just a few moments ago that multiple sources saw what they described as a dark-skinned man or men getting into one of those white vans seen at that northern Virginia site, perhaps Middle Eastern or Hispanic looking men. No confirmation from law enforcement that they are indeed the suspects. But there are eyewitnesses who are reporting that right now.

They released these sketches of these two vans. Both of which have these aluminum luggage racks on top. A Chevy Astrovan, a Ford Econoline van, and they're saying that people should be on the lookout for that because multiple witnesses did spot those vans at various scenes.

There are now nine people who have been shot over the course of almost two weeks. Two people seriously injured. One of them, of course, that 13-year-old boy at the Benjamin Tasker middle school in Prince George's County just outside Washington.

So the bottom line is police, local law enforcement, they think they are making progress. Of course, no arrests yet -- Tucker.

PAUL BEGALA, CO-HOST: Wolf, there's a story that the Pentagon is going to be getting involved in the investigation as well. What's their role going to be?

BLITZER: The role is going to be that the Pentagon has some very sophisticated, high technology equipment that might be useful to FBI, to local law enforcement, in searching for this killer or killers. The Defense Secretary, Donald Rumsfeld, and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Richard Meyers, they both signed off on a proposal that would make this technology available.

As you know, under the posse comitatis law, the military can't get involved in local, national law enforcement, but there is a stipulation that they can help if signed off by the defense secretary, the chairman of the joint chiefs. So this equipment, which we're not going to spell out in detail what it is, might be helpful to the authorities, the federal authorities, whether the FBI, the ATF, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, or the Virginia or Maryland local county law enforcement, which is involved.

So the Pentagon is indeed getting involved.

CARLSON: All right. Wolf Blitzer in Montgomery County, Maryland. Thanks, Wolf. BEGALA: Thank you, Wolf.

CARLSON: Now as we do every day, we bring you the best political briefing in television: our CROSSFIRE "Political Alert."

It didn't take long for partisan politics to intrude on the Washington sniper tragedy. Some Democrats are already calling for stricter gun control laws. As if more laws would have dissuaded a man intent on killing strangers.

Others have suggested fingerprinting, having every gun in the country fired so the maker can record the unique marking the weapon leaves on the bullet casing. The information would be fed into a national database, which would be filled with the names of gun owners. The vast majority of whom will never commit a crime, of course.

Criminals, however, will still be able to manipulate their guns to change the fingerprint and make them untraceable. The White House has dismissed the idea as tantamount to fingerprinting every person in the country. Both sides believe they're right. But so far, only one is using slurs.

This afternoon, Virginia Democrat Jim Moran charged that President Bush does not have a valid position, but is instead merely trying to protect murderers like the Washington sniper.

BEGALA: Well, of course that's not right. He's trying to protect the NRA, which is his political supporter. And that's a valid concern...

CARLSON: They both have valid points of view.

BEGALA: Excuse me. There's a valid concern for any politician to defend his political supporters. But I think before he dismisses this technology, which could help catch criminals -- the press secretary today dismissed it, saying it wouldn't prevent crime. Well he's right. But it would help catch criminals.

And he ought to at least take a look at it before he dismisses it. I was disappointed.

Well, in addition to the fact that Washington is being stalked by a sniper these days, the Republican Vice Chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Mr. Richard Shelby of Alabama, warned that recent terrorist attacks are, he said, "just the beginning" of a new wave of terror aimed at Americans.

And then, of course, there's also Iraq, where many fear America will soon be at war. Our president's response to all of this? More political campaigning. More than any other president in any other time in our history.

"No president in history has campaigned this aggressively for as sustained a period of time," says a senior White House official to "The New York Daily News." Of course, I'm sure Mr. Bush will hurry back to work at the White House if something really important ever comes up.

CARLSON: You know, you say this every night, and every night I'm amazed by the chutzpah it requires for a Clinton defender to get down on the guy for fundraising. It's his right, as you often point out.

Speaking of Iraq, people say that country is a totalitarian dictatorship. But that's not completely true. Every seven years, like clockwork, Iraqi voters get a taste of democracy. They get to cast a vote supporting Saddam Hussein for president.

Seven years ago, 99.96 percent of Iraqi voters declared their love for Saddam Hussein. In today's election in Iraq, Saddam is hoping for the full 100 percent. To get it, his new campaign slogan: yes, yes, to President Saddam Hussein and death to America.

And he has a new campaign song, "I Will Always Love You," by Whitney Houston, sung in Arabic. A spokesman for Iraq's revolutionary command council says the 19 people who voted against Saddam the last time are certain to be won over by these catchy improvements, otherwise they will be killed.

BEGALA: And, of course, if that doesn't work out, he can always turn to Chief Justice Rehnquist.

Well, one of the things I actually like about President Bush, and there are not too many, is this: he, just like President Clinton and Hillary Clinton, he and Laura Bush have always refused to discuss their children with the media. Good for him. Not so Jeb Bush.

Governor of Florida has a daughter who has had well publicized troubles. And this morning, on the "Today" show, there was Jeb Bush, 21 days before the election giving an interview about his troubled daughter. How he doesn't blame himself as a father, how it hasn't effected him as a governor, and how, as he put it, "she has to do this under the lights and it makes it harder."

So, Jeb, why did you go on the "Today" show and turn the lights up even hotter?

CARLSON: Well, I don't think people should talk about their children on television under any circumstance. But I have to say, if there's one place where you give a man the benefit of the doubt, it's when he talks about his children. And I think we should give Governor Jeb Bush the benefit of the doubt in this case.


CARLSON: More sad news -- speaking of low political motives -- from the Al Gore world tonight. A devastating story in the "Washington Post" this morning tackles the question, what has Al Gore been doing for the last two years. The answer: no one really knows.

Theories abound, including making money, writing a book, teaching classes, growing and then shaving his beard, eating. Beyond that it's not clear. What is clear is that Gore's popularity among fellow Democrats has plummeted to Robert Torricelli-like levels. Even the democratic candidate for governor in Gore's home state of Tennessee has declined repeatedly to appear in public with him. That's bad.

Gore has about another month to decide whether he'll run for president again. Republicans are praying he will. One high level Democrat says that Gore has spent the last 21 months trying to find "the right place in his heart and head to put the 2000 election." Deep. The Al Gore campaign/encounter group continues.

BEGALA: Of course we know what George W. Bush has done in the last two years, he has taken two million jobs out of the economy, he's taken 1.5 million people off of their health care. He's taken the greatest surplus in history and made it into a deficit. So I prefer Al Gore eating and shaving to Bush screwing up the economy.

Well, a committee of the Ohio Board of Education, the AP reports today, recommends that science classes in the Buckeye State teach both evolution and creationism. That's right. Ohio will teach creationism in science class, not in comparative religion class or crackpot theory class.

They're teaching faith as if it were a fact. Pleased with their success, right wing religious nuts plan to petition for sex ed classes that teach the theory that babies come from storks, medical schools that teach breeding, and geology classes that teach earthquakes happen when the giant turtle, on whose back the earth rests, shifts his mighty weight.

CARLSON: The point, of course, Paul, is merely to state the obvious truth, which is that evolution is a theory, not a fact. And in the spirit of scientific method make that clear, but some reactionary leftists are against that.

When we come back, new developments tonight in the search for the sniper. We'll get insight from a former Washington, D.C. homicide investigator. Later, filmmaker Michael Moore will explain "Bowling for Columbine," his new documentary on gun violence and why the U.S. is responsible for the terrorist attacks of September 11.

Still ahead: how the sniper attacks are affecting the election now just 21 days away. We'll be right back.


BEGALA: Welcome back to CROSSFIRE.

Now the latest on the sniper terrorizing the capital area. Ballistic tests confirm that a 47-year-old FBI who was shot and killed outside a northern Virginia Home Depot last night is, in fact, the sniper's 11th victim. Here to offer some insights into the case is Ted Williams. He's a former Washington, D.C. homicide detective, but currently ace attorney in our nation's capital.

Ted, thanks you for joining us.

CARLSON: Mr. Williams, there's been a fair amount of speculation, some of it on the op-ed page of "The New York Times" the other day that the sniper is part of a terrorist cell. Do you think that's likely?

TED WILLIAMS, FORMER D.C. HOMICIDE DETECTIVE: Well, you know, I'm not really sure, in light of some of the information that we're now getting, that the person could very well be Hispanic, or they may put a composite out about someone who is dark skinned.

But it very well could be considered domestic terrorism. And the acts are clearly terrorist in nature from that perspective. But when we look at Middle Eastern -- whether it's Middle Eastern, I think it's highly unlikely. And the reason I say that, Tucker, is merely because we've not received any kind of communication.

I think that these kinds of terrorists, particularly the Middle Eastern terrorists, would want the world to know that they're creating this kind of havoc. One of my concerns, though, is that -- copycats. I'm very much concerned that the Middle Eastern terrorists looking at what's going on right now could try to come back into the United States and create havoc, unfortunately.

BEGALA: Well, how about the notion of military or police training? I mean he has a high degree of marksmanship here. This guy is eluding the police like nobody I've every seen. Maybe he knows something about police tactics. Is there any sense that you have of his background that way?

WILLIAMS: Well, you know I've tried to do some kind of analysis of his background. And it could very well be that the person could be anywhere from a janitor to someone who is in law enforcement to someone in the military.

It doesn't take a lot of training to get off the rounds in which he's getting off, specifically if you have a rifle with a scope on it. And from the distance in which he's shooting, which is approximately about 150 feet.

CARLSON: What role could the Pentagon possibly play in apprehending this guy?

WILLIAMS: Well, you know because I am somewhat aware of the role that they can play, I am very concerned about giving that kind of information, even on this show. And the rationale behind that is because I really firmly believe that this sniper is feeding off of television. I think he goes out, he creates these acts, and then goes by and watches television just to see the fruits of his labor.

But I think that they do have enough sensitive information -- or materials, and the capabilities of those materials, to actually assist the FBI and the local police in this investigation.

BEGALA: Well what message should he get through television if he's watching. He's got a D.C. cop talking to him. What would you say to him if he's watching?

WILLIAMS: Well, I think clearly the message I would like to give him is that he should turn himself in. But I don't expect that he will do that. But, if there was a message that I'd like to get out, Paul, it is that I firmly believe someone knows who this person is, and I think that in light of that belief, that those people need to come forward.

Last night we had a terribly senseless killing of a 47-year-old woman who was only going about minding her own business. It's my understanding she has two kids, and that she had had a breast implant problem with cancer. And I just believe that somebody knows, and we would urge that person to come forward and talk to the authorities.

CARLSON: We're almost out of time, but, quickly, were you surprised last night that this vehicle, apparently quite an unusual vehicle, a van with a ladder on top, was able to elude the massive police road blocks in the area?

WILLIAMS: I was very much surprised because, clearly, we were prepared for this. When I say "we," law enforcement. And I think that they immediately swarmed into that area when they got that information. But for whatever reason, and I think luck has a lot to do with it, he was able to elude law enforcement.

But I can unequivocally say to you that it's only a matter of time. I think the evidence is there. I think that there may very well be some surveillance tape and they may have some information on his tag. And sooner or later we're going to get him, and I think it's going to be sooner rather than later.

BEGALA: But, Ted, I know you don't like to criticize your brothers and sisters in law enforcement. But why the hell did they put out the fact that the van has a busted tail light, which any idiot can fix? Why didn't they keep that to themselves instead of putting it out to the media?

WILLIAMS: Well, you know, it's strange. I think that they tried to keep a lot under the cover. And -- but some of the members under the team, I think, spontaneously is giving out information to the media. I do believe that law enforcement needs to control the media and the media shouldn't control law enforcement. I firmly believe that this is an investigation that the law enforcement agencies should only come forward when they have information that they can give to the public to help in catching this criminal.

CARLSON: OK. We in the media like to be in control. So I hope that doesn't happen, but thank you very much for being with us. We appreciate it.

Coming up, we'll bring you the new developments on the sniper investigation. And three weeks from today voters head to the polls. Will the sniper case influence how they vote?

And when we come back, Michael Moore mocks working class America in a new propaganda film about gun control. He joins us to defend it. We'll be right back.


BEGALA: Filmmaker Michael Moore is known not so much for skewering his subjects, as he is for letting them skewer themselves. In his latest movie, "Bowling for Columbine," Mr. Moore takes an uncompromising look at America's gun culture, a tragically timely subject in light of the current Washington area sniper attacks.

Please give a warm CROSSFIRE welcome to filmmaker Michael Moore.

That's more like it. Big, dramatic entrance.

CARLSON: Thanks for joining us this afternoon.

MICHAEL MOORE, FILMMAKER: Thank you for having me.

CARLSON: I broke away from (UNINTELLIGIBLE) this afternoon to watch you movie, and I was really struck by the meanness of it. You zero in and attack not just ordinary people, but really the weakest segment of society, a truck driver, a realtor, a bank teller. I was reminded of what Pauline Kael once said about you, the film critic of "The New Yorker." She said you use your leftism as a superior attitude. Members of the audience can laugh at working people and still feel they're being politically correct.

I wonder if that's what was going on in your new movie?

MOORE: Are you sure you weren't watching the Madonna movie?

CARLSON: No, I was watching yours.

MOORE: I thought you were in the wrong movie. Because my movie goes after the power structure, the people in charge of this culture of violence, this culture of fear, the NRA, Charlton Heston, the corporate people at KMart who sold the bullets. Their store sold the bullets to these kids who used them in the Columbine massacre.

CARLSON: Really, with all due respect, I mean, Charlton Heston is an 80-year-old man with Alzheimer's disease.

MOORE: He does not have Alzheimer's disease.

CARLSON: Actually he does.

MOORE: Actually, he doesn't: He said a couple of weeks ago that he doesn't have Alzheimer's Disease.

CARLSON: But he's an elderly man.

MOORE: No, you just gave the man a disease.

CARLSON: He released a press statement.

MOORE: No he didn't. He released a press statement saying, "I have Alzheimer's-like symptoms. I do not have Alzheimer's."

CARLSON: He's an old man who is forgetful and you beat up on him.

MOORE: But now you're making an Alzheimer's joke. Well, I mean, who is being mean here? Why would you do that to Charlton Heston?

CARLSON: Nice try, Michael Moore. But, seriously...

MOORE: No, I'm serious.

BEGALA: Actually, I'm no great Charlton Heston fan either, but he did support Martin Luther King 40 years ago. He's got a very strong record on civil rights. Whatever he did mean by that, I don't think he meant anything racist.

MOORE: He was a Democrat, and he told me his story about how he converted to be a Republican. He was driving down the road one day, saw a Barry Goldwater billboard. It said, "In your heart you know he's right." And he said, "I looked at that and, in my heart, I knew he was right."

BEGALA: And the rest of us said, in our guts we knew Barry was nuts. But that was a long time ago. I'm going to ask you, though, what I think maybe Tucker is getting at. Somebody who plays a riveting scene in your movie, James Nichols. For a time, detained in the Oklahoma City bombing, then released. His brother Terry was convicted of complicity in what was then the worst mass murder in American history.

And he goes on an antigovernment tirade, as you just let the camera go. I mean, as I said introducing you, you let him skewer himself.

But I'm just wondering if, in the wake of Oklahoma City, the footage that you have of Nichols and other government haters, do you think maybe we should have racial profiling for right wing white guys, given that that's who blew up the Oklahoma City building and, you know, as we're trying to hunt down a sniper here in Washington? Maybe we should just pull over the right wing white guys and say, hey, you're listening to Rush Limbaugh, sir, that's a sure sign.

MOORE: Yes. You know, it's funny, on the plane here the other day, I watched them search an elderly lady who must have been in her 80s and a child that was five years old at the airport. I mean -- and I know this is not what you want to talk about right now, but I just think are we really safer as a result of the system that we have here? What has really happened in the last year that's made us, as a person who lives in New York, you live in D.C. Do you feel safer a year later?

You know is Saddam Hussein the person who might bring harm to you tonight? I don't think so. I think that's where the disconnect is between Bush and his administration. He doesn't understand where the American people are. What they're afraid of is they are afraid they're going to lose their pension, their 401k, the meager savings that they had that went into the stock market blind. That's what they are afraid of.

BEGALA: This is where I say amen, like many in our audience do. I love your economic populism. Obviously, I don't like how you bang on Bill Clinton, who was, in terms of economic policy, the best president we had since Franklin Roosevelt. But you attack him in this movie on foreign policy.

You point out that on April 20, 1999, the day that these children murdered all those other kids at Columbine, that NATO, of which the U.S. was the leader, dropped more bombs than any other day...

MOORE: On the Columbine massacre day, yes.

BEGALA: ... in pursuit of stopping genocide in Europe. Do you think it was wrong to use force to stop a man who was clearly a war criminal convicted -- or now about to be convicted -- of ethnic cleansing, killing people because of their race? Was that wrong?

MOORE: It was wrong to bomb civilians. Always wrong to bomb civilians.

BEGALA: But yet it happens as an accident in every war.


BEGALA: No, it was not America's -- are you saying it was America's strategy, NATO's strategy to attack civilians?

MOORE: Well, it may not be my strategy to run over you tonight with my car, but if I accidentally do it, would that be OK just because it was an accident? Of course it wouldn't. You know we have to take responsibility for our actions.

Those bombs that dropped on the hospital, that dropped on the elementary school, that dropped on the train load of civilians, had Paul's name on it and Mike's name on it and Tucker's name on it. Because we pay taxes that pay for those bombs.


MOORE: Hundreds of thousands of Serbs were already in the street. They were ready to overthrow Milosevic. There was no reason to have the bombing that went on like that on that particular day or any other day.

CARLSON: OK. Now, Michael Moore, you just said something I've been waiting years to hear you say, and that is we need to accept responsibility for those things we do. Your movie implies that somehow Clinton was responsible for Columbine, that Lockheed Martin in the same town is responsible for Columbine. Everyone but the people who actually committed the murders.

MOORE: I don't believe that.

CARLSON: My question to you is, who do you think is responsible? What multinational corporation is responsible for these sniper shootings in Washington?

MOORE: But I don't believe that at Columbine.

CARLSON: That's exactly what your movie implies. I just watched it. MOORE: Well, again, I think you must have been next door at the Vin Diesel movie. I just -- you have to...

CARLSON: That would have been a little more entertaining perhaps than your movie.

MOORE: Quit going to these big multiplexes. Go to the stand- alone theaters with the big screens. One movie.

CARLSON: To explain Columbine in your film, you go to the Lockheed Martin plant in Littleton, Colorado and shoot the tape of (UNINTELLIGIBLE), implying that that's responsible.

MOORE: Well, I think it's legitimate question to ask. Looking at the overall fabric of our society and how violence weaves itself in, in many ways, that in the town where this massacre took place at this school, the number one employer is the world's largest weapons maker. That's not to say that Lockheed Martin is responsible for the massacre at Columbine.

I'm just asking that we, as Americans, take a look at this violent culture that we've created. The violence that happens personally, in our communities, and globally. And...

CARLSON: So who is responsible for the sniper attacks? Which among us is? Not the sniper, but what forces you just alluded to are responsible for these attacks, do you think?

MOORE: What are you talking about? I don't understand what you're saying. Well nobody knows who is responsible for it

CARLSON: Well I don't know, if you are willing to draw a connection between Lockheed Martin and Columbine, I was thinking you might have a creative explanation for this.

MOORE: Oh, I understand your question now. Oh, who is responsible for why -- now we're up to our, what, 12th shooting? It's because the police in this area are not able to trace the bullet to the gun that was bought because the National Rifle Association has coerced Congress into making sure that there is no federal database of ballistics fingerprinting.

Had the police had that tool available to them, and you, of all people, Mr. Conservative, Mr. Law and Order, that you would sit there with that smirk on your face while people are dying and not support the police having the tools available to them to catch this guy, it's just an outrage.

CARLSON: So Charlton Heston did it. That's what I was...

MOORE: It's an outrage!


MOORE: Unbelievable. Unbelievable.

CARLSON: Glad we got you going, Michael Moore.

BEGALA: Who was the only person to stand up to the NRA, by the way? And pass the Brady bill and assault weapon ban? I'd like to hear you say one good thing about Bill Clinton.

MOORE: Listen, I admire Bill Clinton a great deal. I think there's many good things about Clinton...

Is this guy here every night?

BEGALA: He is, and we love him. That actually...

MOORE: Where is Novak?

BEGALA: They are telling me we're out of time. Michael Moore, thank you very much. A good sport.

MOORE: Thank you very much.

BEGALA: The movie is "Bowling for Columbine," "Bowling for Columbine." Thanks, Michael.

Later, gun control may become an election issue and new information links al Qaeda to the bombing in Bali. Connie Chung will have all that and more in a CNN News Alert right after this.


BEGALA: Coming up, our "Fireback" segment when we get to hear what's on your mind.

But before that, with nine people killed by a sniper here in Washington, should Congress step in to give law enforcement a new weapon on the war on crime? Two senior members of the House of Representatives will weight in when we return.


CARLSON: Welcome back to CROSSFIRE. We're coming to you as we always do from the George Washington University here in downtown Washington, D.C.

With just 21 days to go before the midterm elections, the D.C. area sniper has thrust the issue of gun control into the campaign. Here to talk about that and other election issues, Congressman Martin Frost, who's a Democrat of Texas. Also Congressman David Dreier, a Republican from California.

BEGALA: Gentlemen, thank you both very much.

REP. DAVID DREIER (R), CALIFORNIA: I spend most of my time sitting next to Martin Frost. So it's nice to do it here.


BEGALA: The chairman and soon-to-be chairman once the Democrats take over of the Rules Committee. Both very powerful guys. We really appreciate you.

I'm going to ask you whether you and the Rules Committee will move a bill that will allow law enforcement to take a ballistic fingerprint of every gun.

Now this is what the former chief of the Firearms Enforcement Division, at the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms said about this. He thinks the technology will work just fine and will help the good guys catch the bad guys. Let me put it up on the screen and read it to you.

His name is Joe Vince, chief of Firearms Enforcement Division of ATF. "I definitely think the technology is there, and it has been refined to the point where it is cost effective. It would not be an imposition on the manufacturers or law enforcement or citizens, so I'm all for it."

Mr. Chairman, law enforcement needs this tool. Will you give it to them?

DREIER: Well, Paul, let me say that for starters -- martin and I and everyone is in agreement -- our thoughts and prayers go to the victims and it's a horrible tragedy and everyone in this community is very, very distressed about this.

I believe the answer to your question is we need to look at this. I think that this is something that needs to be addressed. But having said that, it's very often that we rush to pass legislation in a time of crisis. It seems to me we need to do everything that we can do empower law enforcement to deal with this difficult issue. We need to support them. As Ted Williams said out here, we need to make sure the person who knows something about this comes and turns in the individual or individuals who are responsible.

And so, yes, I think we need to look at every proposed option that could ensure this would never happen again.

BEGALA: Well I certainly applaud that. Later this week I'm going hunting. I'm from Martin Frost's home state of Texas.

DREIER: I know you are.

BEGALA: We all own guns. We all hunt.


REP. MARTIN FROST (D), TEXAS: I tell people that in Texas even in the liberals own guns.

BEGALA: Absolutely, we do.

But Ari Fleischer today disagreed with you. I applaud your position. You don't have to come out for it the first day. I mean you got a lot of things on your plate. But Ari Fleischer today came out against it, before -- I suspect Ari is not a great expert on ballistics -- but he came out today already. DREIER: Well neither am I...

BEGALA: Didn't the president make a mistake in sending his flack out today to try to kill this thing before we have even studied it?

DREIER: You describe the press secretary of the president of the United States as a flack?

BEGALA: Well, he is a lovely man, and he has got a great head of hair, but yes, he's a flack. I used to be a flack. I used to do it. It's an honorable job. But he shouldn't -- I think, don't you agree, he shouldn't have tried to snuff this thing out...

DREIER: I don't know that he sent him out there with that position, and I just think that we, at this time, need to do everything that we can, not to rush to pass a new law. I mean, the old line, "there ought to be a law, there ought to be a law" is something that is often very prevalent. At the same time, people say I want less taxes -- less government, lower taxes. But I do believe that we need to do everything that we possibly can to support law enforcement today, not passing a new law today, but looking at every option that can ensure that this won't happen...

CARLSON: Congressman Frost -- you may not have seen this, so I almost feel bad showing you this because it's impossible to defend, but earlier today, Congressman Jim Moran from Virginia, a Democrat, was asked on CNN about ballistic fingerprinting -- the issue of the day. Here's what he said.


REP. JIM MORAN (D), VIRGINIA: They are opposed to it because the National Rifle Association is opposed to it, but I don't know what they fear for -- why do they want to protect people who would be shooting other people?


CARLSON: So there you have it. That's the position of Mr. Moran, a leading Democrat. The president is protecting murderers. That's outrageous.

FROST: Of course, you know that most of these shootings -- or at least half of them occurred in Mr. Moran's district, or right around his district so he obviously is very concerned about this...

CARLSON: So that gives him a right to accuse the president of protecting murderers?

FROST: No, no -- our emphasis ought to be on finding the sniper. Finding this guy, and I think this is an interesting proposal. We ought to look at it. Rob Andrews, one of my colleagues from New Jersey, has a legislative proposal to study this.

I think we ought to study it. You know, I wish we could talk about the economy. This is an important issue, don't get me wrong, we want to find the sniper. But the Republicans seem to want to talk about everything other than the economy, and we have the worst economy we've had in years.

CARLSON: In years -- we're going to talk about the economy after a commercial break, but your response, I think, is completely reasonable. We ought to talk about it, that it is a valid issue, but I hope that Democrats will resolve from here on out not to question the other side's motives, not to accuse the president of protecting murderers. Do you think we can all agree on that?

FROST: We need to find the sniper. That ought to be the emphasis. We ought to...

CARLSON: Can we do it without accusing the president of protecting murderers?

FROST: We ought to find the sniper. Everyone agrees with that, and we ought to look at this, and let's talk about the economy.

BEGALA: Let me let the NRA speak for itself. Kayne Robinson is the first vice president of the National Rifle Association, and during the campaign, he committed the sin of candor -- he spoke the truth, and he was quoted saying this, "If we win," the NRA, "we'll have a president where we work out of their office."

Now, Bill Clinton was supported by labor, but he opposed them on trade. He was supported by liberals, but he opposed them on welfare reform and the death penalty.

Our president has never stood up to the NRA, has he -- David Dreier?

DREIER: Well, let me just tell you that you do know that everyone associated with the campaign disassociated themselves with that old statement from two years ago. I remember seeing that...


BEGALA: But two years later, you can't point to a single moment George W. Bush has ever stood up to the NRA. You just did, and God bless you for doing it, but why doesn't Bush have your political courage.

DREIER: Paul, everyone has made it very clear that we want to make sure that law enforcement is empowered to do this. The president of the United States has been absolutely adamant, and he's outraged just as everyone else is, as far as what has taken place here in the metropolitan area, and Paul, we need to do everything we can to empower law enforcement. I agree with that, the president agrees with that. And so, you know, to -- if you want to just engage in NRA bashing, you are welcome to do that, and I know you like to demonize and engage in class warfare...

BEGALA: Just quoted the NRA, that is all I did.

(CROSSTALK) DREIER: You do it beautifully. What I am saying is, you may have quoted the NRA, but the fact is everyone associated with this White House has disassociated themselves with that comment.

BEGALA: We're going to hold -- that thought, and come back and debate the economy, just like we promised you, Martin Frost.

Apparently, the presidential pretzel still just won't die tonight. It's back tonight in our "Fireback" section.

And when we come back, the House Democratic leader calls for billions in rebates to stimulate our economy -- we'll ask Congressmen Frost and Dreier about that in the next CROSSFIRE segment. Stay tuned.


BEGALA: We are back, talking about the issues of Campaign 2002 with Republican Congressman David Dreier of California, and Democratic Congressman Martin Frost of Texas.

CARLSON: Congressman Frost, you said just a moment ago you wanted to talk about the economy.

FROST: Absolutely.

CARLSON: I absolutely agree with you. You've probably seen the Democracy Corps poll put out by James Carville, often sits on this set, Stan Greenberg, Bob Shrum. Here's what it says. It asks the question, who does a better job handling the economy. The public thinks Republicans do a better job, by 44 percent to 40 percent. This is not only exactly the opposite from the conventional understanding, but it's also bad for your party, isn't it?

FROST: Oh, I don't think it is bad for our party. We have three weeks to discuss this issue. We have the worst economy we've had in years. We need -- we have a lot of people who have lost their jobs. In my state, Southwestern Bell announced that they were laying off 11,000 people. A Texas company, EDS, stock dropped 50 percent in one day. This is not a good economy. The Republicans want to talk about everything else. You know, we had the vote on Iraq last week. Let's spend the next three weeks talking about unemployment, about 401(K)s, about what's happened in the last two years since the Republicans have been in power, and I think you'll see those numbers change.

CARLSON: But everyone -- well, first of all -- we are talking about war, which I think, with all due respect to Southwestern Bell, I think is maybe a bigger issue.

FROST: Well, we've had that debate. We have had that debate.

CARLSON: However, everyone agrees that the economy is slumping, but I don't think the public is making the connection between a slumping economy and the Republicans. They don't see it as a partisan issue. FROST: Well, I think they will, and you know, someone needs to ask the question, are you better off -- were you better off two years ago than you are today?

CARLSON: That's a good one.

FROST: That's a very good question.

DREIER: Public opinion polls have actually come out, and most people have said yes.

FROST: I hope the election is determined on that issue, because millions of people have lost their jobs, and people have lost millions of dollars in their retirement funds, billions of dollars in the stock market. We had surpluses during the Clinton administration, we handed off a surplus to the Bush administration, and went straight into deficit spending. You know, I think that this issue -- I hope this election will turn around the economy, and we have a lot to say about that issue in the next three weeks.

BEGALA: Richard Gephardt, the Democratic leader, gave a speech today. He called for short-term stimulus, some rebates to folks, tax cuts that you might like, school construction to fix up our classrooms, most tellingly, he called for raising the minimum wage and extending unemployment benefits for every single unemployed American. All I hear from Republicans is, don't bail out working people, bail out the big insurance companies. Is that your sole economic platform is to bail out big insurance companies?


DREIER: That's not true -- you do know -- that is not true at all. Well, I'm glad you mentioned the terrorism insurance package.

BEGALA: The insurance bail-out bill of 2002.

DREIER: It will create a half a million jobs that Martin just talked about right here in this country if we can get this bill out of conference and get it passed. The president has called for it. We're strongly supporting it. The Department of Homeland Security is another measure. We have just passed this Iraq resolution, and we need to get the Department of Homeland Security done. The House did it when Dick Gephardt said he wanted us to get it done, by September 11.

Unfortunately, we've not seen it come out of the United States Senate. It needs to get done.

Now, let me just say, as far as the economy, you and I had this discussion here on this set just a few weeks ago. You kept talking about the Bush economy, and the Bush downturn, and you know what you finally admitted to me, Paul, I don't know if you remember this, a few weeks ago, you said when I kept saying this downturn began when Bill Clinton was president, and you acknowledged that, and you said the only reason that you called this the Bush recession is that it sounded good. That's what you said to me. That is what you said to me. (CROSSTALK)

BEGALA: That is not what I said.


DREIER: We need to go back and look at the tape.


BEGALA: Excuse me. I'm going to bell ring on that. What I said was those two words always go well together. Bush recession. The last Bush gave us the last recession. The new Bush gave us the new Bush recession.


CARLSON: Let me ask you this question. I don't think what you're saying is crack pot. I think you can make that case. I don't agree with it, but I think it's a valid case.

But if you're going to continue it to its logical end, you'd have to say it's time to repeal that tax cut. But Democrats aren't saying that, as you know. Therefore, they have no authority to criticize the Bush recession.

FROST: First all, we've asked this president to do exactly what the previous President Bush did and have an economic summit and have a real budget rather than have a big budget deficit.

CARLSON: A summit? Why not just take a stand and say it ought to be repealed?

FROST: Well, the Republicans won't even present the bills in the House, as you know. There are 13 appropriation bills. Republicans -- let me finish, David. The Republicans only brought five of those bills up. They hid 13 of those appropriation bills because they don't want their vulnerable members to have to vote to cut education spending and cut health care spending. They're timid. They're afraid to actually vote on these issues.


DREIER: The Democratic Senate did not pass a budget.

BEGALA: We have 15 seconds left, much as much as how I care about how a bill becomes a law, will Republicans raise the minimum wage?

DREIER: I don't what we're going to do on the minimum wage...

BEGALA: Do you or oppose to raise the minimum wage?

DREIER: I don't support a further increase in the minimum wage. I will tell you that I am not a proponent of further increasing the minimum wage. I am for creating incentives that will create opportunity for everyone.

CARLSON: Mr. Frost, quick last word?

FROST: Democrats are the ones that raised the minimum wage. If you want to live like a Republican, vote Democratic.

DREIER: That's the hold Harry Truman line.

CARLSON: Thank you both very much.

The hair wars continue in "Fireback." That's coming up next. Stay tuned. We'll be right back.


CARLSON: Welcome back to CROSSFIRE. Time for our "Fireback" segment, also known as the Canada moment.

First up: "As a Canadian citizen, and former resident of that mighty nation, I'm forced to protest Tucker Carlson's intentional mispronunciation of the Canadian Prime Minister's name as Gene Cretin. Does Mr. Carlson not realize he's creating a grave insult to Cretins everywhere?" Signed, Gerd Eichele or Gaird Ishell, Racho Cucamonga, California.

BEGALA: A guy name Gerd making fun of a guy named Chretien, right? OK.

Karen Sirridge writes about a little cheap shot I took at Tucker yesterday. I said that maybe he'd look better with Jim Traficant's toupee. And here's Karen's response: "Tucker, you have a great head of hair. Begala's just jealous. He's closing in fast on the Carville look."

What's she talking about?

CARLSON: I have no idea, but I'll give you the number of my wig maker. Maybe he can help.

Next up: "Gentlemen," writes Robert from Hamilton, Ontario, "Being as you are both very smart, is either of you prepared to declare a winner in the Iraqi election now that the polls have closed?"

I thought Phil Gram was going to be president of the United States, so I'm always wrong. But in this case, I bet you Saddam has the lead.

BEGALA: Really? Katherine Harris a close second. What do you think? She's running down in Florida? Isn't that where she went?

Lori in Lawrence, Kansas writes: "Regarding the quote by Clinton that we 'walk and chew gum," Bush can't even watch TV and eat snack food at the same time."

Oh, the killer pretzel.

CARLSON: You know, my theory is that all bumper stickers are written by Democrats. I know I'm right.

BEGALA: There you go.

CARLSON: OK, first up. Yes, sir?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: My name is Craig (ph) Friedsen (ph). I'm from Potomac, Maryland. And I was wondering that, Being members of the media, do you feel that you sometimes across the line of public information and are hampering with the sniper investigation?

CARLSON: I don't think there's evidence of the press hampering the sniper investigation. I mean, keep in mind that the law enforcement agencies use the press at least as much as the press uses them.

But I think everyone who is on television or writing about it, is cognizant of the fact that, you know, you don't want to incite anyone to violence. Certainly not a sniper.

BEGALA: Right. It's something that we wrestle with and worry about. At the same time, it's a big story. And we're commenting it because it's in the news, but putting it in the news may incite this guy more. It's a terrible conundrum but _- I don't know if it will make you feel better, but we do wrestle with it.

Yes sir?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hi. My name is James (ph) Kim (ph) from New Jersey. My question is this: I understand that not all gun owners may have intention of killing people. But at the same time, not all car drivers have intention of getting into an accident and killing people.

Is it really too much to ask for gun control so that we can actually prevent killings in the first place?

CARLSON: Well, I'm glad that you recognize that now all gun owners want to kill people. In fact, in many parts of this country, outside of the city, virtually everybody owns a gun, either for sport or for self-defense and those are legitimate rights that every American is guaranteed as far as I'm concerned and legal scholars are concerned, so...

BEGALA: But this is not any gun control at all. This ballistic fingerprint people are talking about may or may not be the right technology. Experts that we quoted earlier tonight said it is.

But it won't infringe on my right or you right to own a gun in the slightest.

Yes ma'am?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm Kathy (ph) Kendall (ph) from the University of Maryland. Do you think that the sniper attacks will affect the Maryland governor's race?

BEGALA: Yes. Yes, it's one of the places where I think it can -- Kathleen Kennedy Townsend has a strong record. She's a Democratic lieutenant governor, a strong record on law enforcement. Her father, Robert Kennedy, was murdered by an assassin with a gun and I think that Maryland is a place where that could be an issue.

CARLSON: It's -- actually -- she has no record at all on law enforcement or anything else, having never voted for anything in her life, of course.

And I think the real question here though, delightful person though she is, is will she stoop to the level of using a tragedy like these sniper attacks for political gain? And one hates to think that she would. One wants to think she's above that.

BEGALA: She has known enough tragedy in her life. I don't think we have to worry about her on any tragedy.

CARLSON: Well, many people have known tragedy. It's a distinct question from will she use this tragedy.

BEGALA: From the left, I'm Paula Begala. Good night for CROSSFIRE.

CARLSON: From the right, I'm Tucker Carlson. Join us tomorrow night for "Sniper on the Loose," a special CROSSFIRE town meeting.

"CONNIE CHUNG TONIGHT" begins right now. See you tomorrow.


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