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

CNN CROSSFIRE

Paul Wellstone Remembered

Aired October 25, 2002 - 19:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

ANNOUNCER: CROSSFIRE. On the left: James Carville and Paul Begala. On the right: Robert Novak and Tucker Carlson. In the CROSSFIRE: A death in the political family.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. PAUL WELLSTONE (D), MINNESOTA: I am blessed to be a senator from Minnesota.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ANNOUNCER: Tonight, memories of Senator Paul Wellstone of Minnesota, killed today in a plane crash.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: A plain-spoken fellow who did his best for his state and for his country.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ANNOUNCER: We'll hear from the people who covered him and worked with him.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. EDWARD KENNEDY (D), MASSACHUSETTS: We'll miss you, Paul, and we'll never forget you.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ANNOUNCER: Tonight on CROSSFIRE.

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

PAUL BEGALA, CO-HOST: Welcome to CROSSFIRE.

You know this was supposed to be the day that we would get back to normal here in our nation's capital. Then came the tragic news from Minnesota. Senator Paul Wellstone killed in a plane crash today. Wellstone was a Democrat and a liberal; indeed, one of the most passionately liberal members of the Senate.

He combined that passion, though, with an exuberance and wit and it made it hard not to like him. He made friends easily, was highly respected on both sides of the aisle. Senator Wellstone's plane went down in a wooded area about seven miles east of (UNINTELLIGIBLE) Minnesota. We don't know why.

Officials say light snow and freezing rain were reported in the area. Seven others died in the crash as well, including the senator's wife, Sheila, their daughter Marsha, three campaign staffers and two pilots. They were flying to (UNINTELLIGIBLE) to attend a funeral.

Tonight, we're going to talk to people who new Paul Wellstone. People who covered him, people who served with him in the United States Senate. We'll watch some of his past appearances on this broadcast and remember the life and career of one of the most interesting members of the United States Senate.

TUCKER CARLSON, CO-HOST: Paul Wellstone was 58 years old. He was a college political science professor. He was elected to the United States Senate in 1990. He was campaigning for a third term and had been scheduled to debate his opponent tonight.

This morning, Wellstone was campaigning with fellow Democrat, Senator Ted Kennedy. For more on the world's reactions on the passing of Senator Wellstone, we go to Manchester, New Hampshire and CNN's Judy Woodruff.

Judy, this is a tragic development, obviously, but also confusing. What is the reaction there?

JUDY WOODRUFF, CNN ANCHOR: Tucker, what we've all been hearing today is just a devastating reaction from Democrats and Republicans, as you've said. Paul Wellstone, an outspoken liberal, and yet somebody who was liked on both sides of the aisle. We saw Democrats today breaking down. Tom Harkin, the Democratic Senator from the state of Iowa, barely able to speak.

A little earlier, Pete Domenici, the Republican Senator from New Mexico who worked closely with Paul Wellstone, unable to bring himself to speak even after we had scheduled a telephone interview with him. Republicans, Democrats both commenting, President Bush himself commenting on Senator Wellstone's death from his ranch in Crawford, Texas.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BUSH: I want to start off by saying how sad Laura and I are about the sudden and tragic death of United States Senator Paul Wellstone, his wife, and one of his children, as well as the death of others on that private airplane. Our prayers and heartfelt sympathy goes to their sons, their loved ones, their friends, and the people of Minnesota.

Paul Wellstone was a man of deep convictions. He was a plain- spoken fellow who did his best for his state and for his country. May the good lord bless those who grieve.

(END VIDEO CLIP) WOODRUFF: And Tucker, as you said, it was Senator Ted Kennedy, another prominent liberal in the Senate, somebody who's worked closely with Paul Wellstone, who was campaigning with Wellstone just this morning in Minnesota. Kennedy was still in Minneapolis today, this afternoon, when word came that Senator Wellstone had died.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KENNEDY: He was a man of enormous ability, but most of all, he was a caring person. He was really a special person, a very unique man. And I think, as has been said, all of us admired this fight. We admired him in many fights, but we admired this fight.

He was coming to the people of Minnesota that he loved. And he wanted their support so he could go and return to the United States Senate and fight for them. We'll miss you, Paul and we'll never forget you.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WOODRUFF: So Senator Ted Kennedy, one of many members of the Senate, which Trent Lott, the Senate Republican leader, said today is just like a family, we've lost one of our own. And Tucker, before I come back, I'd say the man you saw in that picture standing next to Ted Kennedy, former Vice President Fritz Mondale, a former Senator himself, ambassador, his name is one of a few that have come up in the last few hours as Democrats in Minnesota very quickly talk among themselves about who they think might go -- whose name might go on that ballot in Minnesota.

We are just 11 days away from the election. And it may well be that they can leave Paul Wellstone's name on the ballot. But if that is not possible, they will have to come up with another candidate. They're looking at Mondale. We're also told that they are looking perhaps at Senator Wellstone's older son, his surviving older son, David Wellstone -- Tucker.

CARLSON: OK. Judy Woodruff, in New Hampshire. Thanks so much, Judy.

Paul Wellstone was something of a Washington icon, some would even say anachronism. He was an unrepentant liberal who (UNINTELLIGIBLE) to the days of fellow Minnesotans, Hubert Humphrey and Walter Mondale. Rather than embracing the new Democrat ideal espoused by Bill Clintons and Al Gores and Joe Liebermans in the political world, he didn't.

CNN senior political correspondent Candy Crowley looks back on Mr. Wellstone's colorful career.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Senators voting in the negative.

CANDY CROWLEY, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Look up nearly any overwhelming vote in the Senate 99-1, 98-2, and bet that one of the dissenters was the senators from Minnesota.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mikulski, Murray and Wellstone.

CROWLEY: Paul Wellstone was intensely passionate, purely liberal. He called drug industry profits obscene, fought bankruptcy laws he thought were anti-consumer, and taxed policy he said favored the rich.

WELLSTONE: Republicans want some of the largest corporations in the country to pay zero in taxes, but they refuse to help the people who were flat on their back, out of work.

CROWLEY: The uncompromising nature of his politics wasn't everybody's cup of tea. A survey of congressional staffers called Wellstone one of the Senate's biggest windbags.

WELLSTONE: You can't realize this goal of leaving no child behind, not on a tin cup budget, not unless you make this commitment. And there will be no educational reform bill because it can't be reformed.

CROWLEY: Lobbyists dubbed him the worst dressed. But, mostly, Wellstone's politics and his passion were softened by the playfulness of his character.

WELLSTONE: We're going to win it!

CROWLEY: His life was a culmination of unlikely stories. The son of Jewish Russian immigrants who grew up in Virginia. With an old green bus and a set of quirky commercial, Wellstone, a college professor, beat powerful Republican Senator Rudy Boschwitz in 1990. It was one of the decade's political stunners.

Wellstone eventually became the senior senator from Minnesota who fought against the big guys for the little guys. The darling of the big burly unions in Minnesota's iron range.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Don't come better. The best senator in the United States.

CROWLEY: The rap was that Wellstone was so unrelentingly liberal he could never accomplish anything in an increasingly centrist Senate. But he found pockets of bipartisanship to further his passions. He and conservative Senator Pete Domenici, both with mental illness in the family, teamed up to push for parity for mental illness.

WELLSTONE: It is a matter of fairness and justice, and we are going to fight this all the way.

CROWLEY: Wellstone thought in the end what mattered most was not winning, but principle. So when he broke his promise to serve only two terms he took some heat. But Wellstone said the stakes were too high in a divided Senate for him to leave.

But winning was not everything. Wellstone was the only Democrat in a tough race to vote against the resolution of war against Iraq. WELLSTONE: I have to only do what my head and heart and soul tell me is the right thing to do. That's all I can do.

CROWLEY: Perhaps it would have cost him some votes. But Wellstone, though he was battling multiple sclerosis, had a fight for his seat that was energetic and typically Wellstone.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think the race has to do with, you know, people in Minnesota saying, look, this -- you know, we want a Senator who is on our side when it comes to jobs or when it comes to being willing to take on these big economic interests. We don't view Paul as a WorldCom guy or an Enron guy or Global Crossings guy. We view him as one of us and for us.

CROWLEY: Paul Wellstone died at the age of 58, eulogized as a decent man of passion and optimism. "I still believe," he once said, "that government can be a force for good in people's lives."

Candy Crowley, CNN, Washington.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

CARLSON: And Candy Crowley will be joining us a bit later on with more on Senator Wellstone.

BEGALA: Well, the United States Senate has often been called the world's most exclusive club. And while Paul Wellstone's probably nobody's idea of a country club senator, the maverick from Minnesota was one of the more popular members of the Senate with those who knew him best, his colleagues there.

We are joined by two of them now. In our New York bureau, Democratic Senator John Corzine of New Jersey and Republican Senator Sam Brownback of Kansas. He joins us from Topeka. Gentlemen, thank you very much, on a tough, tough night.

CARLSON: Senator Corzine, Senator Wellstone always stuck out, at least from our perspective here in the press, because there didn't seem to be many like him, sort of unrepentant, unapologetic liberals who weren't embarrassed to say they were liberal. Is that your take, that there weren't many like him in the Senate?

SEN. JON CORZINE (D), NEW JERSEY: You know, he is one of the most courageous people I have ever worked with. He said what he thought, was very straight about it, and was willing to passionately represent those views. He really believed that there was a role for government in our society. That we needed to stand up for those that were voiceless. And I think he was one of the most interesting, most successful in many ways, because he continued to carry a passionate view about everybody having access to the American promise.

BEGALA: Senator Brownback, let me bring you into this. One of the things that I find amusing about the media is they use the word "partisan" as if it were somehow bad. Paul Wellstone was a committed partisan for his political views, just as committed as you are on very opposite views. And yet because I think of a very winning personality, you and he formed a real friendship. Tell us about that.

SEN. SAM BROWNBACK (R), KANSAS: Well, we did form a real friendship. And I think it's the issue of recognizing that we both had passion for our subject. And I saw a pure heart in him and he saw a pure heart in other people as well. It wasn't anybody questioning anybody else's motives. We would get at different topics different ways, but we could agree that we needed to address it.

Particularly, we were able to get a bill through in the year 2000 on sex trafficking, the trafficking of young girls and women around the world that's a seamy side of the globalizing economy. His wife, Sheila, was actually the one that brought the topic up and really did the research. Found out it was occurring amongst Ukrainian women and brought that on forward. We worked on it together. And now hopefully fewer are being trafficked around the world because of Sheila and Paul's great passionate work for human rights.

CARLSON: Senator Corzine, I'm sure you remember 12 years ago when Senator Wellstone came to the Senate, there were many sharp elbows, most of them his. And people were saying he'll never get anything done. Twelve years later he has lots of friends in the Senate. Of course I want to read you a quote from a profile of him. This is Senator Wellstone speaking.

"If people don't like you here in the Senate they're looking for every reason to vote no when they see your name next to an amendment." Do you think his personality helped him as a legislator?

CORZINE: Absolutely. As Sam mentioned, he was able to work with the other side of the aisle on issues where there was common ground. Senator Domenici and he have led a tremendous fight for mental health parity, which I think, unfortunately, will come after his untimely death. But his leadership really raised this issue to the national agenda. He's had the ability to change some of the issues with regard to gun violence in our country.

Actually, the snipers that are being held in Maryland are held under a domestic violence law that Paul Wellstone authored in the Congress. He's able to work with people. He was a much more practical person than I think a lot of folks would have focused on since he was so principled about how he talked issues.

But he made sure that he got things done and he's going to be missed by all of us. As I said, he's an interesting individual, but he was a man of action who really cared about human kind.

BEGALA: And, Senator Brownback, of course the work that you described earlier, the trafficking in women and the work that Senator Corzine described a moment ago, very, very serious matters. And yet one of the things I think that was most winning about Paul Wellstone is he had as good a sense of humor as I ever saw in a politician. If you will bear with me, I'm going to play part of one of the ads that he ran when he was an unknown college professor taking on a powerful incumbent senator. And here's how he got to Washington. Take a look.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) WELLSTONE: Is he here?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No, he's not.

WELLSTONE: You don't want me to...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No, we don't like strangers walking around.

WELLSTONE (voice-over): First I tried at campaign headquarters.

(on camera): Let me give you my home phone number too. OK?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Sure. I'll make sure that he gets this and we'll get back to you.

WELLSTONE: What do you think? Do you think we should have debates around the state so that people can see ...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'll get the message to him.

WELLSTONE: What do you think?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Glad to meet you.

WELLSTONE: No, but about these debates.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thanks for coming down. I'll make sure he gets your message. Thank you.

WELLSTONE: OK. All right. I'll see you later.

Nice car.

(voice-over): Then I tried his office.

(on camera): Is he here?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He is not here. He's returning from Milwaukee.

WELLSTONE: No luck.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BEGALA: He chased Rudy Boschwitz, then the senator, around the state, finally trying to get debates. But he did it with humor. I mean, isn't that the best way probably to go after somebody in a campaign, senator?

BROWNBACK: It probably is, because so much of politics has an edge to it that people really don't like. They would rather see people getting along. And yet politics is the discussion of ideas and differences and choices that people make.

I found Paul was passionate about putting forward his point of view. Frequently, in enjoyable terms, sometimes most of the time I would disagree with the point of view he was putting forward. But he generally, in working with him on a personal basis, just wasn't disagreeable about it. And in the end, in working in the Senate to get things done, that's really what you have to do is put your point forward passionately but not be disagreeable about it. And Paul practiced that art very well.

BEGALA: Absolutely. As do you, Senator Brownback. If you'd keep your seat just for a moment, though, we have to take a break. And Senator Corzine stay with us as well. And in a minute, Tucker and I are going to ask these senators about some of the good times they shared and the fights they had. And the times they were on the Senate floor and they just couldn't believe they were hearing Paul Wellstone saying what he was saying.

And later, memories of Senator Wellstone from the CNN reporters and others who watched his career. Stay with us.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

WALTER MONDALE, FMR. VICE PRESIDENT: He had a very good mind, but he also had an honest mind. And he served what he believed in, no matter what the challenge. He also had a great heart, and he fought all of those years right up until this morning, to help change this country and protect the decent spirit of our nation.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CARLSON: Welcome back to CROSSFIRE.

"Mother Jones" magazine once called Paul Wellstone the first '60s radical elected to the U.S. Senate. Of course they meant it as a compliment. What was it like to work with him? Reaction is pouring in, including thoughts from former Senate Majority Leader Bob Dole.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BOB DOLE, FMR. SENATE MAJORITY LEADER: Paul Wellstone and I were friends. We didn't vote very often together, but we respected one another.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CARLSON: We're continuing our conversation with Democratic Senator Jon Corzine of New Jersey and his Republican counterpart, Republican Senator Sam Brownback of Kansas.

BEGALA: Gentlemen, thank you for staying with us.

Senator Brownback, we just saw Bob Dole, one of the great wits of American political history. He got a laugh even out of our studio audience when he kind of (UNINTELLIGIBLE). He said, "We didn't vote together very often." But Wellstone was able to find those kinds of moments when humor would help. One, let me give you an example of. A reporter asked him -- there was a brief buzz that Wellstone might run for president in 2000. And he was asked about it and he pulled a reporter aside and he whispered, "I tell you I don't think I have a very good chance." And she said, "Why?" And he said, "I'm short, I'm liberal and I'm a Jew." And everybody just kind of cracked up. You must have had moments like that with Senator Wellstone, didn't you?

BROWNBACK: I had moments like that with Paul, because he was very -- he could be very blunt, very candid and very funny about it. And a lot of times, being funny in political office is difficult and can be a liability, because people will use words back against you. But he wasn't afraid to do that, particularly in private type of moments.

He would comment about that. Both people on his side of the aisle, other side of the aisle, himself. He was a very engaging, I guess would be the right term to be, just a very engaging personality and very enjoyable to be around.

CARLSON: Senator Corzine, my favorite thing about Paul Wellstone, apart from the short jokes, which I thought were actually pretty funny, was the fact that he was one of the few Democrats, it seemed to me, willing to stand up to the new Democrats. I mean he opposed President Clinton, as you know, on human rights in China, on welfare reform, on a number of issues from the left. Is there anybody in the Democratic Party who will take his place and take a stand on principle, left-wing principle?

CORZINE: Well, I think there are people in principle in the Congress. And certainly Senator Kennedy, Senator Harkin, Senator Durbin, there are a number of people who are solid progressives that vote their conscience, state their views, and I think they'll feel more passionately than ever to represent those views, because we're going to be missing that -- that friend with those strong feelings that everybody in America has, should have access at that American promise.

He's going to be a voice that's missed, but there were -- there will be others who take up his legacy, because he set a real pattern for those who believe in principle, that you can be successful in politics.

BEGALA: Senator Brownback, one of the things the Senate is legendary for is pomposity. And it's actually something Wellstone didn't have any of. But I think that's one of the reasons he was able to work across the aisle with you, with people like Senator Domenici on mental health, and with Jim Ramstad, who is a Republican congressman from Minnesota, who I heard earlier this afternoon reminiscing about Senator Wellstone.

He said they had lunch together in the Senate dining room. And as they finished, they got up to leave and Senator Wellstone, instead of leaving, went back through the back door into the kitchen to thank the cooks and the dishwashers for serving him his lunch. Isn't that the sort of personality that you saw behind the scenes with him? BROWNBACK: It is. He had a very kind personality that looked out for everybody. And that's actually where we got together on, was on an issue, as I mentioned earlier, about sex trafficking. And if you look at the issue, you'd think there are not very many votes to be gained in Minnesota or Kansas on that subject, but these were people that were being hurt. And they were people that were being moved around the world. And he had that deep care and passion for them regardless of where people were situated.

If they were folks that really needed somebody to help out, he wanted to be there. And they might be people that are helping out in the kitchen or other places. It might be women that were trafficked from the Ukraine into Western Europe for brothels. And he was going to be there to passionately stand up.

I hope we don't forget his wife. Because she was really a remarkable and beautiful lady. Quite quiet behind the scenes, but a depth of soul and conviction that brought a lot of these subjects on. I mean, really, she complemented and made Paul successful in many of his causes, and I'm sure that they talked about these issues all the time together.

BEGALA: Senator Sam Brownback, wonderfully put. Thank you very much for being gracious enough to join us on a difficult day. Senator Jon Corzine, in New Jersey, thank you as well. Both of you have lost a friend and colleague, and we thank you for your time.

When we come back, some of the funniest political ads and fiery speeches the Senate ever saw through the eyes of those who covered Paul Wellstone. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CARLSON: Welcome back to CROSSFIRE.

Minnesota Governor Jesse Ventura today told reporters the only thing he knows for certain is he won't appoint himself to succeed Senator Paul Wellstone. That's of course bad for the press, probably good for Minnesota.

As you'd expect, news of the Senator's death left Governor Ventura subdued, but not at loss for words.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GOV. JESSE VENTURA (I), MINNESOTA: His dedication to state and nation was profound. His energy, his passion, and his love of people were overwhelming. For us to lose Senator Paul Wellstone as a leader and as a person is devastating.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CARLSON: So the people who know U.S. senators best are, of course, the reporters who cover them. They see them in their unguarded, off camera moments. They hear stories from members of their staff, and they stick microphones in their face often when they'd rather not answer the questions.

Three of our best reporters join us now. CNN Senior Political Correspondent, Candy Crowley, CNN Senior Anlayst, Jeff Greenfield, is in New York, and CNN Senior Political Analyst, Bill Schneider, is also here with us.

BEGALA: Before we come to you, I want to get a quick update. CNN's Jonathan Karl is in St. Paul and has some new reporting on who the Democrats may be looking for to put on that ballot.

Jon, what do you have for us?

JONATHAN KARL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Paul, before I get to that, let me tell you where I am. I'm here at this candlelight vigil here at the steps of the state capital in St. Paul. A candlelight vigil for Paul Wellstone, an incredibly moving scene. There are hundreds of people here.

And the bus, the signature bus that Wellstone used to first get elected in 1990 is here on the grounds of the state capital. And now, even as people mourn Paul Wellstone, the election, of course, 11 days away, Democrats are wondering who can replace him on the ballot. And what I can tell you is the democratic officials in both Minnesota and in Washington have told us that they intend to approach Walter Mondale, the former president of the Senate, as the former vice president, former ambassador to Japan, and of course former U.S. senator, and obviously somewhat of a legend here in Minnesota.

He is 74 years old. We are told that they will reach out to him over the next day. And two of those that will be reaching out to him are two of the nation's most prominent labor leaders: John Sweeney of the AFL-CIO and Bill McAntee (ph) will both be reaching out to Mr. Mondale.

No word yet on what he would do, what his answer would be. But very sad and somber Democrats here are still looking forward to the election and they want to have somebody else who can step in and fill Paul Wellstone's shoes, and they believe Walter Mondale is the guy to do it.

BEGALA: Jonathan Karl, thank you very much for that report.

Bill Schneider, let me throw another name that I heard today talking to prominent national Democrats, and that is Alan Page, elected twice statewide to the Minnesota Supreme Court, the first African-American to sit on that court, best known probably to Minnesotans as a member of the Purple People Eaters, a NFL Hall of Fame football player for the Vikings. That's another name that's been thrown out. What do you think of that?

WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: It's a good name. Look, what they need is someone who has instant name recognition, because there is no time to mount a campaign. You can't pluck an unknown out of obscurity. Certainly there will be some sympathy vote for the Democrats, I think. We saw that with Mel Carnahan. He died, and he was still elected senator because of the sympathy factor, and that could operate in favor of the Democrats. But they need someone with instant name recognition.

I can think of three people. You mentioned Alan Page, Walter Mondale, Skip Humphrey, Hubert Humphrey III, who lost the race for governor, who was beaten by Jesse Ventura, but has a very well known name.

CARLSON: Jeff Greenfield, is there -- we asked this question of the senators, and I want to get your take. Is there anybody else, any other Democrat in the Senate who can replace Wellstone as an unreconstructed lefty who doesn't care what the DLC thinks, a man of principle?

JEFF GREENFIELD, CNN SENIOR ANALYST: Well, the neighboring state of Wisconsin, which has produced as unusual a set of political people as Minnesota, has a senator named Russ Feingold, who is a pretty principled guy. He almost lost reelection in 1998 because he refused to take any PAC money. He was the one liberal who at least flirted with the idea perhaps voting to convict President Clinton on impeachment charges. He's certainly no clubby, as you would have said. You can point to him.

Jon Corzine himself, while he doesn't have the kind of '60s radical look -- I mean, a guy who made a few hundred million on Wall Street probably doesn't qualify as a '60s radical, but in terms of his politics, Corzine is very close to an unreconstructed liberal -- in terms of things like health care, his tax plans, his belief in an assertive federal government.

So there are, I think, a few in the Senate, but you're quite right, that Paul Wellstone was the perfect embodiment of the unreconstructed, unashamed, progressive, liberal, left, whatever you want to call it, who was not in very much sympathy with the kind of move to the center that President Clinton exemplified.

BEGALA: Candy, let me also ask you how you came to know him. When he came first to the Senate, his first term, one of the first things Paul Wellstone did was offer a gift ban, which hit every senator, not allow them any longer to take special interest gifts from lobbyists, and yet, 12 years later, he passes as one of the most beloved members of the Senate. How did he pull that off?

CROWLEY: Because he does it so nicely. I mean, look, this is -- I mean, yes, there are other liberals out there, other unreconstructed liberals, but not as many nice ones. There were no really hard edges to Paul Wellstone. Did he want what he wanted? Yes. Did he just toe that line, was he uncompromising? Yes. But he was funny and he was a nice guy. I mean, when you read -- I'm sure your e-mails are just flooded with people who are sending you their reaction, and the one word you see the whole time is "decent" and then "caring."

So, you know, he just did it -- the package was nice, even though none of them agreed with him, not even the Democrats, you know, but he was just a nice guy.

CARLSON: Paul Wellstone -- I was always struck by how the risks he took in kind of mocking himself. This is a guy who not only made fun of his own shortness, he did it on CROSSFIRE more than once, but also bragged about getting under 800 combined on the SAT. Most politicians couldn't pull that off.

SCHNEIDER: That's right. And he wanted to pass laws that would give more opportunity for people who didn't pass the state-mandated examinations to graduate from high school. He said, look at me.

CARLSON: Lower the standards!

SCHNEIDER: Lower the standards. No, he said, look at me, things -- he thought that minority students were facing discrimination. Look, he was a liberal but he was also a populist. No one ever called Paul Wellstone a limousine liberal. You might call Jon Corzine a limousine liberal, not Paul Wellstone. He was a man of the people, and that made him more genuine than people have come to think of liberals.

GREENFIELD: In fact -- in fact, guys...

BEGALA: Jeff, I'm sorry, they're telling me I have to go to break. I really apologize for doing that, but next in the CNN news alert, Connie Chung is going to bring us the latest on the sniper investigation. Prosecutors met today to try to determine where to bring charges. CROSSFIRE will return just after that.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(NEWSBREAK)

CARLSON: In our "Fireback" segment tonight, we'll get some of our viewers' thoughts about the effect of Senator Wellstone's death. We're, of course, only 11 days away from an election.

Next, our panel of reporters takes up the question of how today's tragedy will affect the political world. We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CARLSON: Welcome back. With us once again to talk about the political effect of Paul Wellstone's death is CNN Senior Political Correspondent Candy Crowley, CNN Senior Analyst Jeff Greenfield -- he's in New York, and CNN Senior Political Analyst Bill Schneider here with us.

Jeff Greenfield, recently as you know, within the last year, Senator Wellstone was attacked from the left, something I didn't think would be possible, by "Mother Jones" magazine, which implied he was a sellout. Do you think that's fair, did he just get more sociable in his time in Washington, or why did they say that?

GREENFIELD: Well, I think first of all, it's kind of par for the course that among -- among people on the outer edges of any movement, nobody is pure enough. I mean, to get elected is proof that you're corrupt. There was a Green Party candidate in the race against Paul Wellstone, he was not drawing all at all, under 1 percent of the vote, and I don't think would have been a factor. Paul Wellstone told me in a interview I did with him on Monday, he said, Yes, I've learned some things about Washington, but I've learned the right things, and I haven't stopped for what I believe in. So I think that was, of all the problems that he would have had going in this last 11 days of the campaign, being attacked from the left was probably the least of them.

BEGALA: In fact, Bill Schneider, during the commercial break, you were saying to me, he was the authentic heir of the 1960s, and yet effective in the 21st century in the Senate.

SCHNEIDER: That is right. He, I think, was the great voice for the '60s cultural liberals, the anti-war liberals, the civil rights movement, the pro-women's rights movement, he was the voice of that constituency.

Even more authentic than Bill Clinton, who some of them regarded as a sellout, he would regard himself as having made compromises to be more effective. But Paul Wellstone, I think, that voice is lost. He reproduced the march that Robert Kennedy had made in the South in 1967. In 1997, Paul Wellstone went to Tunica, Mississippi and visited some of the same places that RFK had visited in the '60s to say, The poverty is still here. The problems are still here. He was trying to pick up the mantle of that progressive movement.

CARLSON: Candy Crowley, it is interesting, I read recently that he was, in fact, the least bipartisan member of the Senate. Which I found, I guess, since I work on CROSSFIRE, amazingly refreshing. Someone who didn't have to pretend to be bipartisan.

CROWLEY: Well, absolutely, and that's why so many journalists -- I mean, when everybody comes out oatmeal in the center, and you can -- you get these sort of blah statements from them, Paul Wellstone would go bam, and he knew exactly what he thought, and he would say it with no smoothing out the edges, just this is what I feel.

So he's -- you know, it makes him a favorite up there when everybody else sort of blends into the middle.

BEGALA: Jeff Greenfield, Bill Schneider mentioned Senator Bobby Kennedy, for whom you worked, he was, of course, murdered during his presidential campaign, and also John Hinds, probably the most popular senator Pennsylvania ever had, killed in an air accident as well, in a helicopter. Mel Carnahan, two years ago, the governor then of Missouri -- running for office, these politicians actually have a fairly hazardous life, don't they?

GREENFIELD: Yes, you can add to that list Hale Boggs, the former majority leader, the father of Cokie Roberts, who died with Congressman Nick Begich in Alaska, you can add Jerry Litton of Missouri who, 26 years won a primary, flew to the victory party with his family, never made it.

But what happens is in a campaign, you kind of believe that you are invulnerable. I remember, in various campaigns when I was involved in that line of work flying in small planes in bad weather, and I really remember Robert Kennedy looking up once in the middle of a terrible storm, and saying, I think he cribbed the line from his brother to the press, I want to say in all modesty, if we don't make it, your names will be in very small print.

So there was a kind of fatalism when you are in politics. I mean, few people really believe you are going to risk you life in the literal sense, but as we've seen, it happens -- for a noncombatant job, it can be very dangerous.

CARLSON: Candy Crowley, we're almost out of time, but I don't think I know -- I don't know a single person who has flown on more campaigns than you have, on little planes in bad weather, I am sure, all the time.

Do you get worried about it?

CROWLEY: I do, but -- you don't want to be the chicken, going OK, I think I won't go. OK, fine. But there's a lot of pressure on these guys to go shake the next hand. You don't want a rally -- even 15 people sitting in Duluth and then, say he can't come because the plane -- you don't want to not have those 15 people on your side or disappointed and say, Yes, well he didn't even bother to show up. There's a huge, enormous pressure on the politicians, and I think on the pilots who fly them.

BEGALA: That's a very good point. Candy Crowley, we'll have to leave it at that, our national political correspondent. Thank you very much.

Bill Schneider as well, and Jeff Greenfield joining us from New York. Thank you all very much. Some of our viewers in Minnesota and all across America have e-mailed us with their thoughts about Senator Wellstone. They are next in our "Fireback" segment.

Also, in addition to being a liberal lion in the Senate, he was a passionate partisan here on CROSSFIRE.

Stay with us for highlights of Senator Paul Wellstone's past appearances on this broadcast. Stay tuned.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CARLSON: Welcome back. Time for our "Fireback" segment, tonight dominated by response from viewers who liked Paul Wellstone, the late Paul Wellstone. Kelly Wilcox from Minneapolis writes: "Paul Wellstone truly did fight for what he believed in." And amen, he truly did.

Bring back honest, old-fashioned liberals like him.

BEGALA: Well, and he certainly did. It's not a bad way to be remembered either, Kelly, your senator.

Gary LaClerc in Sterling Heights, Michigan writes: "Senator Wellstone stood for a better world and fought with everything he had to achieve it."

Gary, thank you for those thoughts. I agree.

CARLSON: All right. We have a member of our audience. AMY GUERIN (ph): Hi, my name is Amy Guerin (ph) from Bethesda, Maryland, and I attended Hamline University in St. Paul, Minnesota, and I was impressed one time when I went to a Blockbuster video store on Grand Avenue in St. Paul, and Senator Wellstone came in just as a customer. And it was amazing how people just felt so comfortable to say hello to him and talk to him like he was a regular guy. He didn't put on any airs, you could just tell he was a really nice person.

BEGALA: Strikes me as a guy who'd be renting the three Stooges too. That kind of mad cap physical -- he was a wrestler, you know, a great college wrestler.

CARLSON: What was he renting?

GUERIN (ph): Oh, I didn't catch that.

CARLSON: It's probably just as well.

BEGALA: Tucker actually has to show his I.D. to go into the adult section back there in the back, but that's another -- that's another night.

CARLSON: Thank you.

BEGALA: Oh, I'm just kidding.

CARLSON: Paul Wellstone was many things, but he was also one of our favorite guests. Coming up, highlights from some of his many appearances here on CROSSFIRE.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BEGALA: Senator Paul Wellstone was a frequent guest on this program over the years, so before we leave you tonight, we wanted to bring you some of his feistier moments in the CROSSFIRE.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SEN. PAUL WELLSTONE (D), MINNESOTA: And in a way, this isn't about liberal philosophy, it's about trying to do well for people in the country.

ROBERT NOVAK, CO-HOST: How come you can make it here for CROSSFIRE tonight and you rudely rejected the president's invitation for lunch?

WELLSTONE: Why did I think that question was coming? He called me Pablo, now I'm public enemy number one.

You have on the one hand President Bush with a Robin-Hood-in- reverse tax cuts.

You know, because this is a huge priority, it's about protection for people, it's about making sure people get the care for themselves and their loved ones that they deserve, it's about being on the side of consumers versus these big insurance companies, and I think it's a serious enough and important enough issue for people in Minnesota and people in the country. We should work and work until we do the job.

I think it's so important right now in the Middle East especially, to try to call for a cease-fire, to try to get a cease- fire, to try to end the violence. Otherwise, the only future in the Middle East is we'll have Palestinian children killing Israeli children and Israeli children killing Palestinian children for generations to come.

My nature is to like people even if you disagree on the policy. And that's really what it's about.

Because you don't go after a pristine wilderness area for six months' worth of supply of oil.

You're not expecting me to defend the president on this, are you? I mean, listen, I think his personal behavior was reprehensible. I don't defend any of it. But do you remove a president from office? That's the question.

Where we can work together, I'm all for it. If, however, President Bush comes in with an agenda of huge tax cuts, mainly going to the top 2, 3, 4, 5 percent, not investing in children's education, health care, then I believe Democrats should be principled opposition to that.

There is an old Yiddish proverb that says you can't dance at two weddings at the same time.

And you want to make sure that you're not setting these kids and teachers and schools up for failure because you've done the investment to make sure these kids have a chance to achieve and do well -- I'm all for that. But you want to know something there? You want to know something, governor? It can't be done to on a tin cup budget.

And right now, certainly a priority should be to help people who are flat on their back, out of work, no fault of their own, unemployment benefits running out, that you absolutely have to provide the help to people that are in this situation. That's what we're about.

You just can't have kind of the slogan or the rhetoric about leaving no child behind unless you're willing to make the investment. That's what's wrong with moving to vouchers. Once we do that, and make the commitment to these kids, these schools, these teachers, and if that doesn't work, come back and talk to me about taking money away from public education, but not now.

It's sort of in the words of Rabbi Hillel (ph), if not now when, Democrats? It's time to speak out. It's time to have a passionate, principled debate. And you need to be not so timid on the bread and butter economic issues.

I haven't changed at all in terms of my commitment on children and education, on living wage jobs, on the preservation of the environment. I believe these things. I think you focus on a good job, a good education, a good health care, and I see this agenda as being very harsh. And you know what? People will decide. The truth of the matter is, people will decide.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

CARLSON: You know, I didn't obviously agree with much that Senator Wellstone stood for, but I liked him, because for a politician I thought he was pretty honest. And I came to this conclusion, the best example I ever saw, he came on CROSSFIRE one time with Charlie Stenholm, Democrat from Texas, like 6-foot-5, Wellstone is pretty small. (UNINTELLIGIBLE) comes out and says, "I want to make your chairs the same size." Wellstone says, "well, why, we're not the same size? Charlie Stenholm is really tall. I'm really short. I like to keep my chair where it is." And I thought, how many politicians would say something like that? I liked him after that.

BEGALA: One, that's how many. I have to say as a partisan who loved and agreed with almost everything that Paul Wellstone said in those clips, I hope every Democrat in America took a look at that clip where he said "Democrats can't be timid." There's no reason that they should be cowing like a herd behind George W. Bush.

CARLSON: Because they don't believe in anything, unlike Paul Wellstone.

BEGALA: They do, but they're scared, and Paul Wellstone was unafraid. You know, Al Gore just barely carried Minnesota. It's actually a very competitive state, with an independent governor, and yet Wellstone was the only Democrat up for reelection the last time around who voted against the welfare bill, the only Democrat in a tough reelection fight this time who voted against Bush's wrongheaded war in Iraq, and he wants to repeal his tax cut. These are winning issues strategically for Democrats. Wellstone was right strategically and morally.

CARLSON: I think they are probably suicidal, which obviously is not a bad thing from my point of view either, but I think that they're much more principled, and that's why, like I admire Jesse Helms for his stance on principle, even if it's unfashionable, that's why I admire Senator Wellstone.

BEGALA: Wellstone gained 15 points in the three-week period when he opposed the war most dramatically. That should be a lesson. Vote your conscience, speak your conscience. God bless Paul Wellstone.

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

CARLSON: From the right, I'm Tucker Carlson. Join us again next week for more CROSSFIRE. We'll be arguing then, we promise. "CONNIE CHUNG TONIGHT" begins right now.

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



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