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Sniper Still Not Captured, No New Clues in Case; Should the Case Become an Election Issue?

Aired October 18, 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: Ron Silver has advised the president on TV's "West Wing." Tonight, he plays another special role as co-host of CROSSFIRE.

The hit and run sniper still on the loose. Could a national ballistic fingerprinting system put a stop to the rampage?


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's not going to identify the criminal if the gun was stolen, but it would be a very useful law enforcement tool that we shouldn't just out of hand reject.


ANNOUNCER: Nine people killed, two wounded. Should the sniper attacks be a political issue? Congressman Bob Barr and gun control advocate, Michael Barnes, are in the CROSSFIRE.

They're not running against each other, but you'd never know it. President Bush and Bill Clinton slugging it out for big bucks on the campaign trail. That's just one of the issues making news with 18 days to go until Election Day.


From the George Washington University: Tucker Carlson.

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

On any other night you would find James Carville or Paul Begala joining me at this desk They're spending the evening with Barbra Streisand. But tonight, our guest host is a man who plays a political consultant on television. But his real political credentials are hardly fictional. He was the founding president of the Creative Coalition and most recently was part of an official U.S. delegation to China.

Ladies and Gentlemen, from TV's "West Wing" to CROSSFIRE, please welcome Ron Silver.

Now, we begin our show as we do every night, now just 18 days until Election Day, with our CROSSFIRE "Political Alert."

President Bush is on the offensive in a bid to return Senate control to the Republicans. First stop earlier today, the state of Missouri, where former Republican Congressman, Jim Talent, is out to win the seat held by unelected and perhaps unelectable, Senator Jeanne Carnahan, who was appointed to the job two years ago.

Her strategy for winning looks familiar: convincing old people that Talent wants to blow their Social Security retirement gambling on the stock market. Talent dismisses the charges as scare tactic. And so it turns out to most voters. Recent polls show Talent beating Carnahan 6.5 points.

You have to think of a new line about Social Security.

RON SILVER, GUEST HOST: Well, I don't know, Tucker, do you think the Republicans are going to do better this time against a candidate who is alive?

CARLSON: Yes, I do.

SILVER: I mean they didn't do that well last time with a...

CARLSON: It's a low bar, but I think they can meet it.

SILVER: OK. I just wanted to know.

Senator Joe Lieberman took to the stump today at Nasdaq headquarters and he fired away at President Bush's economic policies. Mincing no words, Lieberman blasted the president for using the possibility of a war with Iraq as an excuse to spend less time on, in his words, "the weaknesses of the national economy."

Lieberman also blamed Wall Street woes on the administration's policies. And he says that under the Republican watch, a million workers have used up their unemployment benefits and a million private sector jobs have been wiped out. To turn things around, Lieberman proposed a new job tax credit for companies that hire new workers next year.

CARLSON: Democrats have been pretty good at convincing Americans what they already know: the economy is in trouble. But not good at connecting that failing economy to the Republicans.

SILVER: Well, I don't know. CEOs are going to jail, people are just getting their 401(k) statement. You know things in the stock market is tanking. Am I stupid or is it not the economy?

CARLSON: I think it may be the economy, but it's not the president's fault. That's the key distinction.

More evidence tonight that "The Sopranos" is more reality series than fictional drama. The superintendent of the New Jersey State Police has resigned, following allegations that he maintained personal ties to a member of the Genovizi (ph) crime family. This news comes on the heels of the Robert Torricelli scandal, in which the New Jersey Senate Democrat is said to have bragged about his friends in the Mafia.

Senator Torricelli's subsequent denials were undermined considerably after a surveillance tape surfaced showing him in the company of three men identified by the FBI only as, "waste management consultants." Aides to New Jersey Governor Jim McGreevey tonight denied suggestions that their state is under the complete control of the Mafia. They added that the governor will deny it himself, just as soon as he completes a high-level meeting now taking place at the back of a dimly lit Italian restaurant.

SILVER: Remind me not to leave the studio in your company tonight, OK? You've got three beautiful daughters to take care of.

California Republican Bill Simon hasn't got very high marks so far for his campaign to knock Gray Davis out of the governor's mansion. But listen to this, heads turned yesterday when the GOP guys started turning inward toward the chairman of the Republican Congressional Campaign Committee.

Virginia Congressman Tom Davis, who apparently is not related to the Democratic Governor Davis, minced no words when he said, "I don't think there is a single worse run race in the country than the governor's race in California on the part of the Republicans." As if that weren't bad enough, Davis went on to say that Simon's rookie campaign would be to blame for the Republicans picking up no congressional seats in November.

CARLSON: Well I have to say this is a Polish firing squad.

SILVER: Well, I hope the World Series is better than what's going on out there now with that campaign.

CARLSON: I feel sorry for Bill Simon. He shouldn't have said that. And I feel sorry for the people of California who have to live with Gray Davis. Even you can't support that.

SILVER: I don't feel sorry for him at all.

CARLSON: Well, you ought to.

It has been a hard year for Democratic presidential candidates. Most voters still don't recognize the name Tom Daschle. Former Vice President Al Gore has tried to make news, but has succeeded only in generating new stories about his weight gain.

Tonight, more bad news for Democrats. It looks like the Reverend Al Sharpton meant it when he said he was going to run for president. Sharpton has set up an official 2004 exploratory committee. Next stop: the creation of what his aides are calling a national campaign organization, which means Al Sharpton volunteers in every town, Al Sharpton offices in every city, Al Sharpton billboards, bumper stickers, press releases and pins. Al Sharpton speeches, radio addresses and CROSSFIRE appearances. Al Sharpton New Hampshire, Al Sharpton the debates.

In short: Al Sharpton in the American consciousness. When you think Democratic Party, you think Al Sharpton, or you will by 2004.

SILVER: I can't wait. Al lost 40 pounds.

CARLSON: Yes, on the prison diet. Go to prison and lose some weight. After you.

CARLSON: OK. Quick now, who was your first black president? If you guessed Bill Clinton, well you get half a point.

You may recall the quote comes from African-American Author Tony Morrison. As it happens, Clinton is being inducted into the Arkansas black hall of fame as an honorary member. He is the first non-black to be so recognized in the hall's ten-year history. Clinton is expected to be on hand for the event tomorrow night.

The hall chairman says the move is in recognition of Clinton's appointment of blacks to high levels in both state and federal government and his efforts in the fight against AIDS since leaving office. Now, one thing you can bet real money on, Clinton did not get in the hall for his sax playing.

That's what it says there. It says it right there.

CARLSON: This is the problem with jokes, though. You tell them wrong and all of a sudden they become real.

SILVER: Don't you think like Lincoln should have been on the short list?

CARLSON: You think he might have made it? I can't top that.

The D.C. area sniper has killed nine people, wounded two, and terrorized countless others here in Washington and across the country. How many more victims before the rampage ends?

Some law enforcement officials and gun control enthusiasts argue it might be already over if we had a new national firearm fingerprinting system. Only two states have one now. Critics say that's absurd. It is an effort to leverage tragedy for political gain.

Joining us to debate this, Michael Barnes, who is the president of the Brady campaign to prevent gun violence, and Republican Congressman Bob Barr of Georgia.

SILVER: Good evening. How you doing?

REP. BOB BARR (R), GEORGIA: Doing great, thank you. Mike, good seeing you.

SILVER: OK. Let me jump in here now, OK? NRA, you're on the board, congressman?

BARR: Yes, sir.

SILVER: OK. Thank you. Cops can trace the vehicle that the sniper is using, but they can't trace his gun. It seems that the NRA is against anything having to do with any common sense, any sort of decency, any sort of just common sense about how to take control in this environment.

Now, in this very, very dangerous environment, some people have suggested that the NRA should be placed on a terrorist list of aiding and abetting terrorists by being an obstruction for law enforcement officials.

BARR: How can you say that with a straight face, Ron? I mean that is so ridiculous that it defies common sense and it really illustrates your prejudice in this case. The fact of the matter is - let me start out by saying one thing -- there is a piece of legislation that calls for an objective scientific study of ballistic fingerprinting. You know who is pushing that? Me and the NRA is pushing that, because we do want to know if, in fact, ballistic fingerprinting, which is not effective at this point, the state of being able to match up ballistics by a computer so that it makes sense is not feasible.

SILVER: But, Congressman, you've spent enough time in the legislature. You know that saying, let's do another study is a delaying tactic.

BARR: No it is not. Ron, the problem is this -- and you know what that study showed? There was a study that showed in 68 percent of those instances in which was based on computer analysis, they were able to match up they failed. The state of the technology, Ron, is just not there.

MICHAEL BARNES, GUN CONTROL ADVOCATE: Tucker this is the ATF study. President Bush's administration's study says that ballistic fingerprinting has solved hundreds to thousands of crimes.

BARR: No, that is not true.

BARNES: Today's "New York Times," the head of the California division that deals with this in their department of justice, you cannot question the technology, it's already being used to solve hundreds or thousands of...

CARLSON: I'm going to have to interrupt your demagoguery here for just one moment to point out that no study - hold on. Of course it works, to the extent it has been used. No study, as you know, has ever been conducted on what is being proposed now in nationwide registry. Which is why I want to know why the Brady campaign has not signed on to this legislation.

I'm talking about HR3491, proposed by Congresswoman Hart (ph) of Pennsylvania in December of last year. There is no mention of it on your Web site. In fact, there is no mention of any of this on your Web site, because it sounds like the Brady campaign, like most Americans, have never heard of ballistic fingerprinting until...

BARNES: We have been advocating this for decades.

CARLSON: Then why aren't you supporting this piece of legislation?

BARNES: For decades we've been advocating this, and it has been blocked by the criminal's lobby in the United States.

CARLSON: Oh, come on. Before you name call, I want an answer to my question.

BARNES: The only people who oppose this -- everyone in law enforcement wants it. The head of...


BARNES: They all say they want it.

SILVER: This technology has been tested across the world and has shown itself to be highly effective. This is not a gun control issue, it is a public safety issue. Law enforcement has to have 23rd century technology to operate in today's society.

Joe Vince (ph), the former ATF chief of firearms division -- ATF is a part of the Treasury Department of the United States government. What will it take to convince you?

BARR: Just because ATF wants it means it is magical and it works, Ron? The fact of the matter is -- let me go back to the study that you all cut me off on a moment ago. A study of ballistic fingerprinting conducted by the great state of California -- we were talking about how great things are out there -- concluded that in 68 percent of those instances in which it was tested by computer, which is the only effective way to make it work, Ron, you can't test 200 million weapons by looking at them under a microscope. You have to do it under a computer.

The state of the technology isn't there, and the legislation that this man just cited, which handgun control folks don't support, would give us the analysis to make the system work.

CARLSON: Mr. Barnes, let me ask you this. You live in Maryland. For two years...

BARNES: This California study, the guy who did it, the guy who headed up that team, they re-looked at it after the ATF analysis and he said - and this is in today's "New York Times," - the guy who did the study you're talking about. The question is not whether the technology works, it is whether we have the political will.


BARR: It doesn't matter if it (UNINTELLIGIBLE) or not? What kind of nonsense is that?

SILVER: Are you seriously trying to impugn the gun people's control side and position on this as not being sufficiently interested...

CARLSON: I am merely trying to ask two separate questions. One, why the gun control lobby wouldn't support legislation that seeks more information, A. And, B, why you wouldn't look to Maryland, where you live, which has had ballistic fingerprinting legislation on the books for two years. In that time, 17,000 firearms have been fingerprinted. How many arrests has it resulted in? Zero.

I'm not saying that its'...

BARNES: No, several cases have resulted. Talk to Colonel Dave Mitchell (ph), who is the head of the Maryland State Police. He says this is like DNA. This is what law enforcement needs to catch the bad guys.

BARR: It is not like DNA.

BARNES: If we had had this in place now, we would know where this tragedy -- why it is happening, where that gun was manufactured. We would know where it was manufactured and we would know where it was sold and we would know to whom it was sold. That doesn't mean the person who bought it is the shooter, but we would know those things.

BARR: No, we wouldn't.

BARNES: Yes, we would. And that's why law enforcement says...

BARR: You would have about a one in three chance of knowing at best right now, with the state of technology, Mike, the way it is.

BARNES: A sheriff of San Antonio, Texas told me, "I cannot imagine why the National Rifle Association would stand up..." - the only people this benefits are criminals.

CARLSON: Wait a second. Before you...

BARNES: It's a public safety issue.

CARLSON: Well, you've made some pretty radical allegations and we'll address them when we come back. We're going to take a quick break.

When CROSSFIRE returns, sniper attacks and politics. Should the Washington-area killings be a campaign issue? Also, why possible war with Iraq and the war against AIDS aren't stopping Bush and former President Clinton from hitting the campaign trail.

And our quote of the day comes from a well-known movie star posting a strong opinion of the president's foreign policy. We'll be right back.


CARLSON: Welcome back to CROSSFIRE.

The Beltway sniper's rampage began two weeks ago. It's a tragedy, but has it also become a political tactic? Are Democrats using these terrifying attacks as ammunition in the midterm elections? Back with us to debate it tonight, two graduates of the George Washington University. Michael Barnes, who is the president of the Brady campaign to prevent gun violence. And Republican Congressman Bob Barr of Georgia.

Now Mr. Barnes, I spent - I hate to admit this, but -- quite a bit of time this afternoon on your Web site looking at some of the very political attacks you had. And give us your home phone number, that is our rule here.


CARLSON: You have attacks on Bob Ehrlich running for Congress, a Republican in suburban Maryland. You have a list of all the things he's done wrong, in your opinion. "When it comes to guns, Bob Ehrlich is dead wrong."

I want to read you some of the things you think are wrong with his position on guns. How about just one. "Bob Ehrlich supported the effort to kill campaign finance reform for voting for an amendment..." et cetera. Well, the Sierra Club supported killing campaign finance reform and so did organized labor. What does this have to do with guns?

BARNES: That was an amendment that was put forward by Bob and his friends in the NRA to exempt the gun lobby. It would be the only lobby in America that would have been exempted from the provisions of...

BARR: Get out of here. It would have applied to all sorts of organizations.

BARNES: No, it mentioned - it only dealt with the gun lobby. In fact, Congressman Ehrlich himself said the amendment was absurd.

CARLSON: OK. Well speaking of absurd, this is political ad you all have on the air against Bob Ehrlich. One of the most unfair things I think I have seen this year.


ANNOUNCER: Bob Ehrlich is dead wrong. Uzis and AK-47's don't belong in our neighborhoods. In Congress, Bob Ehrlich voted to put dangerous assault weapons back on our streets. Tell Bob Ehrlich to stop siding with gun lobby extremists who threaten our neighborhoods.


CARLSON: You make it sound like Charlton Heston has been shooting people here. Look, Bob Ehrlich did not want to put assault weapons on the street.

BARNES: Well, Tucker, that is not the issue. The issue is...


BARNES: He voted to repeal the ban on assault weapons.

BARR: Assault weapons have been illegal in the hands of private citizens for 77 years and you know it.

BARNES: No, you're talking about machines guns. I'm talking about semi-automatic assault weapons. The ban that was passed in 1994, a ten-year ban which expires in 2004 - we're going to have to renew it. Bob Ehrlich and Bob Barr and their colleagues voted to repeal that...


CARLSON: That's so unfair. That's such propaganda.

BARNES: Well, why would you vote to allow them on the streets if you don't want them? Do you think people should be allowed to own Uzis and AK-47s, Bob?

BARR: They can't now. That was now what that vote was about.

SILVER: Let me get back to your real (UNINTELLIGIBLE), and that is your slippery slope. That once you register, once you license, it is a slippery slope, not gun control, not tracing guns, but actually banning or confiscation of guns. Ultimately, I think that's where the NRA is afraid it's going to go.

BARR: It's not just the NRA. It's millions of Americans, Ron.

SILVER: I understand that millions of Americans make up the NRA. But I just want to run through a list with you. And tell me what you think is -- why don't you look at it on the screen - they'll have it up on the screen.

You need a license or a permit in this country for: driving, hunting, fishing, boating, teaching, camping, voting, street vendors, garage sales, lemonade stand, to install lawn sprinklers, expand your driveway, ice fishing, animals, practicing medicine, pharmacy...

BARR: OK, we're obviously a heavily regulated society. What's your point?

SILVER: Well I don't think doctors should be registered or have licenses. I don't think we need registration for cars. Let's get rid of it all. What is the federal government doing in our lives invading our privacy like this? You're a lawmaker, you don't believe that.

You've legislated. You've made laws. You want to protect...

BARR: Look, if you want to go through every one of those things, we could debate them.

SILVER: What's wrong with licensing? Renew it every year. Make sure that you can still see if you're going to shoot something. What's wrong with that?

BAR: You have no constitutional right to wear classes. You have no constitutional right to be a cosmetologist. We're talking about a constitutional, an explicit constitutional right here, Ron. You may not like it, you may disagree with the founding fathers. But your remedy is to go ahead and see if you can put to bear all of your great resources and amendment...

SILVER: Do not impose your second amendment understanding on me and...

BARR: I'm not, it's in the Constitution.

SILVER: A well-regulated militia does not mean...

BARR: The right to keep and bear arms does.

SILVER: And the well-regulated militia.

BARNES: We have a constitutional right to travel, but you have to pass a test to make sure you know how to drive a car. You have to register your car. You ought to have...

BARR: That's because you're using public roadways.

BARNES: You have to pass a test to show you know how to safely handle a firearm. A firearm went off in your hand and one of your fundraisers recently.


BARR: So what do you want to do, regulate that?

BARNES: And you're an expert -- but you were holding this gun and what if it went off and killed somebody at your fundraiser?

CARLSON: Mr. Barnes, now before we get too off in the weeds here, I actually think the question of whether they ought to be licensed, I don't think they ought to be. But at least you're being reasonable and it's a reasonable conversation.

I want you to retract this line. I'm kind of offended by it. "Ehrlich wants military-style assault weapons on our streets." That's unfair. You don't really believe that this candidate wants assault weapons on the street. That's an unfair thing to say, please take it back.

BARNES: The effect of his vote and the vote of Mr. Barr and others is to allow Uzis and AK-47s on the streets.


SILVER: If you see a 10-year-old child walking across the street and you can go and intervene and keep her from getting hit by a car, and you decide not to intervene, she gets hit by the car.

CARLSON: Does she have an uzi?

SILVER: Do you think I can say you allowed her to get killed? I could say you wanted her to, you did not stop her.

CARLSON: I'm not sure that is analogous to allowing Americans to keep weapons in their home and not on the streets.

BARNES: Do you want your next door neighbor owning these kinds of high-powered weapons?

BARR: Oh, now it's high-powered weapons.

BARNES: Eight-five percent of the American people say that they think these weapons should be banned.

CARLSON: I don't trust your neighbor.

BARNES: And when you see what is happening in our community here...

BARR: They are banned. You know they are, under the 1934 gun act.

BARNES: But Bob Ehrlich and you voted to allow people to have them.

BARR: No, we did not.


SILVER: Wait a second. Get back to the issue. Why don't you want registration? We're not banning guns, we're not confiscating guns. Americans love guns. American virile males like to kill little animals 150 yards with a high-powered weapon. That's fine. That's OK.

BARR: Actually, a lot of American women do to, to protect themselves, Ron.:

SILVER: OK, that's fine. I don't want to take guns away from people that like guns. I want them to register.

BARR: You just want to know who has which guns, where they are at all times.

SILVER: And what's wrong with that? I do it to vote.

CARLSON: Because it's none of your business.

BARR: You don't do it to vote.


SILVER: That's not what I have in my home. You know that.

BARNES: Let's talk about these weapons just for one second. I served in the U.S. Marine Corps, I have fired assault weapons. I was an expert with an M-16. There is no -- an M-16 is not illegal.

BARR: Yes it is.

BARNES: You can go to gun shows anywhere around here and buy them.

BARR: No, you can't.

CARSON: Gentlemen, I'm going to have to break it up. Before we get to - I'd like to know where you can get them. Maybe you can tell me after the show. I can pick one up. But thank you very much for joining us. We'll talk about that (UNINTELLIGIBLE) after the commercial break.

Thank you both.

Coming up, are politicians going down the wrong trail by making the sniper attacks a campaign issue?

And our famous quote of the day: you know him. Following the lead of Barbra Streisand and other celebrities, he's taking aim at the president's policies. We'll reveal his name when we come back.


CARLSON: Time now for our CROSSFIRE quote of the day.

Actor Sean Penn paid $56,000 this morning to lecture President Bush in the pages of "The Washington Post." In an open letter, taking up most of the page in the paper's main section, Penn slammed Mr. Bush over threatening war with Iraq.

In part, Penn's (UNINTELLIGIBLE), "Sir, I beg you, help save America before yours is a legacy of shame and horror." I must say this for Sean Penn, Ron, at least he did not call Saddam Hussein the leader of Iran. So he is one up on Barbra Streisand.

SILVER: I happen to disagree with Sean on this issue. I'm a firm supporter of the administration's policies. I think it is pretty courageous and they're doing exactly the right thing. And I hope we get everybody to come along with us. But if not, we'll go in alone.

CARLSON: You know, I totally agree with you. You do get the sense -- you can answer this question, though -- if people in the acting community sometimes don't -- they need editors. I mean there's a section in this - I'm just going to read part of it. This is Sean Penn writing, "I beg you, Mr. President, listen to Gershwin, read chapters of Stegner, of Saroyan, the speeches of Martin Luther King," to which I said to myself having my coffee this morning, huh? What does that mean?

SILVER: I thought it was rather lyrical. A lyrical advertisement.


When we return, two jets have crashed off of California. That and other stories in the CNN NEWS ALERT. Eighteen days and counting to Election Day. We bring our guests in the CROSSFIRE over this week's hot political news.

We'll be right back.


CARLSON: Coming up in our "Fireback" segment, what one Republican viewer has to say about tonight's guest host Ron Silver.

Also, if the economy's tanking, why aren't Democrats leading in the mid-term elections? That's just one of the complicated, potentially unanswerable questions we'll put to our guests next.


CARLSON: Welcome back to CROSSFIRE. We're coming to you from the George Washington University in Downtown Washington, D.C.

With 18 days to go until the mid-term elections, the election season keeps getting stranger. Bill Clinton is back raking in money like he never stopped. Al Gore has disappeared again like he was never here. Democrats thought the economy would help them, so far it hasn't. Republicans assumed they would benefit from the war, it's not clear that's true either. So who is winning and who will control Congress after November 5?

Here to debate it, Al Gore's former campaign chairman Tony Coelho. Former Republican Congressman Bob Walker. Joining me in the questioning, "West Wing's" Ron Silver.


SILVER: OK, let's jump in. I don't get it. And the questions about the economy.

Now as I said before, the 401(k) third quarter statements are coming in, people are going to be very, very depressed. CEOs are going to jail. The stock market is tanking. The economy seems to be in some sort of trouble. A lot of people getting fired at all these places. That's a -- you know, a mid-term election, Democratic issue. Why isn't it helping? I'm not seeing...

BOB WALKER, FRM. U.S. REPRESENTATIVE: Well, in large part because I don't think the Democrats are trusted to lead on the economy. A party that couldn't pass the budgeting the Senate, where they have leadership responsibilities, is not very capable of being trusted by the Aaliyah people to lead on other economic issues.

SLIVER: But certainly in terms -- in terms of the economy the eight years under Bill Clinton -- whether it was gratuitous or not with his bubble, whatever, -- seem to have been pretty good. Now I understand circumstances are different now.

WALKER: Even Bill Clinton's own economists say that this recession started at the end of his term and so, what we're doing is fighting our way through a problem that grew out of that period. That's a -- partially a stock market problem, but it's also a problem with the fact that we haven't done all the things that are necessary to get the economy straightened out.

The Republican House has passed several pieces of economic legislation which Bush and his team believe are necessary. Those have all died in the Senate and that's a problem.

CARLSON: Tony Coelho, Celinda Lake has basically made the same points. She is, of course, a renowned Democratic pollster. Here's what she says, "To our chagrin," -- she told "USA Today" "the public is not yet blaming Republicans for the bad economy."

In other words, everyone recognizes the economy's in tough shape. But people...


CARLSON: But people also, more than that, recognize that blame placing is vulgar partisanship and they reject it, which is to say they reject the Democrat strategy. Isn't that true?

COELHO: That's a strange connection. No.

CARLSON: No, that's what Celinda Lake is saying. She is saying we want to blame all the problems on President Bush. People aren't buying. We need to think of something new to lie to them about them.

COELHO: No, I think the issue, I think the issue is, Tucker, that the economy is in serious trouble. And I do think in every poll it says that the public is concerned about the president's leadership on the economy. He has one of the worst economic teams that we have had since Carter's team. I mean, this is a disaster with this administration. And the public, if you look at the polls, the public will say that they do not have confidence in this administration in regards to the economy, and the polls also say that they favor the Democrats in regard to these issues. Most of your legitimate polls, except for your Republican polls.

WALKER: That's just not the case. There are a number of polls...

COELHO: And so think -- let me -- I politely let you get away with your rhetoric. So...

WALKER: Thank you.

COELHO: The thing is that I think the issues are there. What is very obvious is that the administration is trying to make sure that those issues don't come up. The president doesn't talk about those issues. And he's talking about a lot of other issues, and running around the country with his pom-poms, running campaigns instead of dealing with the issues that this country really has.

CARLSON: But if that's true and if people recognize, you know, I'm glad to hear you repeat that talking point, this is the worst economic team since Herbert Hoover, or whatever...

COELHO: No, I didn't say that, you said it. But I'll say it. (CROSSTALK)

CARLSON: Well, you said -- well, maybe it would be an improvement. But people aren't buying it. Look, Democrats aren't winning across -- in New York, just to give you one -- I'll torture you with this more in a minute -- but to give you one example right off the top. In New York...

COELHO: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) torture me, you know that.

CARLSON: It's a Democratic state, OK? Obviously, Carl McCall ought to be winning. He is getting creamed by George Pataki.

COELHO: Because George Pataki is doing everything a Democrat would do. He has moved to the center and beyond. You guys would never elect him to anything in any other state. He is more us than he is you. And that is your problem with Governor Pataki.

CARLSON: Very clever. Very clever.

SILVER: In all fairness now, in all fairness now, I think the conversation is about war. And it's about Iraq, and there's a great fear in the land. And I think the president has jumped ahead and has been handling it pretty well, and it has kind of drowned out conversation. And even the economy, I believe, is in trouble, but I don't think it has risen to a level where it has become an issue where it will be an electoral issue at this point, because there are other things on our plate. But I do have an economic question, Bob, and that is: I don't hear a lot about privatizing Social Security anymore. And I'm just curious why you and some people in your party may not think it's a great idea anymore?

WALKER: Well, the fact is that privatization is a term that Democratic pollsters came up with as a way of trying to demonize Social Security reform. Social Security is something that is badly in need of reform. Nobody is talking about privatizing it. What people are talking about is what Daniel Moynihan, a Democrat, said in his...

SILVER: In the campaign, though, I recall one of the big issues was exactly privatization of Social Security, and I don't hear about it anymore.

WALKER: What people have talked about is exactly what Senator Moynihan and his commission said was the right thing to do, and that is to begin to give younger people a choice about what they do with their own money. And the fact is, the fact is that Republicans really do believe that one of the ways in which we have to to deal with economic issues is by dealing with those that are real. The Social Security system going broke is a real problem, and Democrats to this day have not faced up with it. All they've done...

SILVER: So putting a portion of it in Enron or in the stock market is you think a good idea?

WALKER: Nobody is talking about putting it into Enron. You can put it into a selection of different kinds of economic tools. Bonds are one place we do it. I happen to have a plan like that that has run through the United States Congress. When I was in the Congress, I chose to put my money in government bonds. Other people could do this...


WALKER: The fact is that other people could do the same thing.


COELHO: ... you're not because it's not a popular issue.

WALKER: We want the American people to have the same choice that members of Congress have in terms of how they invest their own money. And I think it's high time we move in that direction.


CARLSON: I agree that Republicans should completely run away from this. They're terrified of it. Your demagoguery has worked, congratulations. But I think you will admit nobody is suggesting that money is pushed into the stock market. It was always from the beginning about choice. If you want to invest a small portion, you can. That's it. It's nobody (UNINTELLIGIBLE).

SILVER: Do you want the American people to have the same health care as the members of Congress?

WALKER: Absolutely.

SILVER: You do?

WALKER: Absolutely.

SILVER: Oh, good, then you'll come along and we'll talk about it.

WALKER: And I want them to pay for it, just like members of Congress do.

CARLSON: We've just run out of time. We'll be right back, and you can (UNINTELLIGIBLE).

I know. We will. Later on CROSSFIRE, a chance to fire back at us. Why one viewer doesn't take kindly to comments about Barbra Streisand made by me, and we'll take on more political stories of the week in the CROSSFIRE. We'll be right back.


CARLSON: Welcome back to CROSSFIRE. Only 18 days to go before election day. So we're talking about what else? Politics. Still with us, two former members of Congress, Democrat Tony Coelho and Republican Bob Walker.

Mr. Coelho, OK, Democrats obviously believe in the wake of the sniper killings here in Washington that gun control is going to bring a number of them into the House of Representatives or the Senate, but that's not the consensus around the real world. Democrats don't all believe that. I want to show you a spot from Alex Sanders, running for Senate as a Democrat in South Carolina. This is his appeal to voters on the gun issue.


ALEX SANDERS (D-SC), U.S. SENATE CANDIDATE: My wife, Zo (ph), is the latest skit-shooting champion. I hunt because my daddy hunted. He hunted because his daddy hunted. I want to go to Washington and take aim at corporate corruption. Some Washington ideas waste our money, you take this one.


CARLSON: That is so cool. I would actually vote for a guy (UNINTELLIGIBLE) like that.


CARLSON: But the ad ends with the line "real South Carolina values." Those are not the values of the Democratic Party, but they are, in fact, the values of South Carolina. There is disconnect.

SILVER: Come on, Tucker. Guns and political contributions distort all politics, and we just saw a wonderful example of that.

CARLSON: I totally agree. I totally agree. So shouldn't Democrats be running more spots like this?


COELHO: I come from a hunting area, I have hunted and I have hunted all my life. I happen to believe in guns; I just think that we should be able to register them. I just happen to think that I'm not afraid to tell people I hunt. I'm not afraid to register them, and so forth. Republicans want to say that you shouldn't touch any of this. I mean, I think this is crazy.


SILVER: No, the question is about the politics of this, actually. I mean it is a pertinent, relevant issue not only to people in this area of the country but all over the country. Isn't it pertinent and relevant to talk about it when you talk about debating issues that affect everybody? You'll talk about their pocketbook, why not talk about them pumping gas?

WALKER: I notice most Democrats in Pennsylvania are not talking about guns. Because in Pennsylvania it would be a very bad thing for Ed Rendell, for instance, to go out and talk about registering guns...


COELHO: I think to a great extent with people frightened today all across the country, for you guys to try to politicize it is rather...


COELHO: I'm just saying that I think with today's basic fear that people have -- and rightfully so, what's gone on today -- that I think that, you know, you should all cool it.


COELHO: I think people are -- people are concerned about what's happening today. They want this guy captured. We don't know if he's a terrorist. We don't know...


SILVER: ... from both sides. You know, not withstanding to see the sitting in. People that blame the Bush administration for politicizing Iraq, and running on Iraq and impugning people. I think that's unfair -- I think that's unfair.

But I also think it is unfair to say that Kathleen Kennedy Townsend's ads, talking about a pertinent issue, is politicizing the issue, is equally unfair. We should not be using Iraq or what is happening here...

WALKER: All I was responding to was a moment ago, you implied that Republicans were the ones who brought up the gun issue. It's not Republican's that brought up the gun issue, it is...


SILVER: ... talking about a very relevant issue.

WALKER: The Republicans, in fact, are trying to bring up the homeland security issue as well because we think it is very relevant...

COELHO: You guys are blocking -- every time we go to get a vote on it, you guys block it.


WALKER: It came through the United States House of Representatives within weeks. It has been delayed in the United States Senate for weeks...

COELHO: Because you guys have blocked it.

WALKER: No, it's not been blocked...


WALKER: ... by Democratic leadership that won't make the kind of compromises necessary...

(CROSSTALK) COELHO: The problem is, Bob, is that you guys want a bill that you want. Even though you don't have the votes, you want -- let the bill come to a vote.


SILVER: We're taking this outside.

CARLSON: That is going to have to be the last word. I wish we could finish it, we can't, we're out of time. Thank you both very much. Mr. Coelho, Mr. Walker, thank you.

Coming up next, a chance you have been waiting for, to "Fireback" at us. We'll be right back.


CARLSON: Welcome back to CROSSFIRE. Time for our "Fireback" segment where we dig into the e-mail bag.

First up, Michael Conklin from Jersey City, New Jersey writes about of segment last night, "Are you giving equal time to Senator Lautenberg?" after, of course, having on his opponent Doug Forrester last night.

We have, in fact, contacted Senator Lautenberg. Hadn't been called back yet. One of his aides said he's too afraid to come on. I don't think that's true. I'm sure he will.

SILVER: I don't know about that. The guy's winning. I don't think he needs any more exposure on the show.

CARLSON: Yes, but you like to think he's strong enough to come on CROSSFIRE.

SILVER: Well he's strong enough. He's been there for a while.

All right. Fine. Thanks a lot, guys.

"Would you please tell Mr. Silver that I'm a hard-core Republican on Wednesday nights when I am ashamed to say that I experience some sort of strange conversion and I become a stinky Democrat."

A strange conversion.

CARLSON: It's like the process of turning into a werewolf.

SILVER: Is that it?

CARLSON: Yes, you sprout hair.

Well, Jill Dunn of Cape Coral, Florida writes, "Tucker, why are you so eager to question the intelligence of Barbra Streisand, who mistakingly referred to Saddam Hussein as the president of "Iran;" yet you never question the intelligence of George W. Bush who repeatedly refers to nuclear weapons as `nucular' weapons?" Well, Jill, I never questioned the intelligence of Barbra Streisand. I mearly pointed out that she referred to, I don't know, the Prime Minister of England as Pope John Paul or whatever she did.

SILVER: Oh, come on. It is easy to confuse two four-letter countries.

"Ron, last season on `The West Wing' your character went on a tirade about how liberals let conservatives push them around. Give them hell." Ted Kornobis.

OK, Ted, I will.

CARLSON: Too late now, Ron.

OK, we have a question from the audience. Yes, sir?

QUESTION: Hi. My question -- my name is Tim Silvani (ph) and I'm from Washington, D.C., I live right across the street and my question is for Mr. Silver. I am a rabid "West Wing" fan and for the past few weeks, I've been more stressed out about President Bartlett's (ph) re-election campaign than I have about my mid-terms. Can you offer any hints as to the outcome of the election?

SILVER: He'll do a little better than Saddam Hussein did last week. If you read "Variety" and you realize Marty signed up for $300 thousand an episode for the next fives years. Don't worry about it. You'll have President Bartlett to kick around for a long time.

CARLSON: Well Saddam got 100 percent.

SILVER: I'm talking show business. The numbers are different.



QUESTION: Hi, my name's Brad Glandjock (ph) and I'm a freshman at GW. Tucker, who is going to replace you on the right when you leave to become Al Sharpton's campaign manager?

CARLSON: You know, I haven't worked that out, but you're absolutely right in saying I am tempted to become Al Sharpton's campaign manager. He is the voice of the Democratic party, the embodiment of all it values and stands for I support him 100 percent. Go Al Sharpton, 2004.

SILVER: Al's going to actually go in and take over the lead in (UNINTELLIGIBLE) New York. That's what he's going to do.

QUESTION: Hello, my name's Ross Mancooter (ph) from Long Island, New York. My question's for Mr. Silver. Do you think in today's society actors and athletes could actually win a national election?

SILVER: Well, somebody did in 1980, so that was 20 years ago. Yes, I think it can happen, sure. CARLSON: OK. Yes, sir.

QUESTION: My name is Dan Jones (ph), I'm from Kalamazoo, Michigan and my question is for you, Tucker. I was wondering if you wish the Republicans had their own primetime drama series?

CARLSON: The Republicans, boy. I don't...

SILVER: They did: "Dynasty."

CARLSON: Yes, exactly. Exactly. Wasn't J.R. a right-winger before he got shot?

I wasn't aware that "The West Wing" was a subsidiary of the Democratic party. But if it is...

SILVER: OK, that's it from tonight. From the almost left, I'm Ron Silver. Good night from CROSSFIRE.

CARLSON: And from the absolute right, I'm Tucker Carlson. Join us again Monday night for another edition of CROSSFIRE. "CONNIE CHUNG TONIGHT" begins right now. Have a wonderful weekend.


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