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CNN CROSSFIRE

Haitian Immigrants Detained in Florida

Aired October 29, 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 tonight: it's one week to Election Day and counting. In Minnesota, it looks like the Democrats are counting on Walter Mondale. Nationwide, both parties are counting on the economy, but for different reasons.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: ... and the Daschle Democrats like to say, "No." No to President Bush on jobs creating tax cuts.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: For eight years, Democrats led America to the strongest economy in history. And in two years, Republicans have brought us the weakest economy in a generation.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ANNOUNCER: Will voters' pocketbooks be the biggest issue next Tuesday?

Plus, as more refugees pour in, whatever happened to secure borders or immigration reform?

Ahead on CROSSFIRE.

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

ROBERT NOVAK, CO-HOST: Welcome to CROSSFIRE.

It's one week from Election Day and everything is political, even the memorial service for the late Senator Paul Wellstone. We'll get to that in a few minutes.

But first, a breaking news story we've literally been watching develop live all afternoon here on CNN. A boatload of Haitian refugees pulled near the shore of Key Biscayne, Florida, and everybody jumped off into the shallow water then on to the beach.

For the latest on this mess, let's go to CNN's Mark Potter in Miami -- Mark. MARK POTTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good evening. The story right now is that the situation seems to be coming under control. The local authorities have rounded up more than 200 Haitians on the causeway area between Miami and Key Biscayne. They've been put on to buses and are sent out to the Comb (ph) Avenue Detention Facility, a facility run by the INS. There they will be processed, they will be given food and water and clothing if needed, and then the questioning will begin.

Authorities there will be wanting to know where they came from, whether they came directly from Haiti or whether this was a smuggling trip through the Bahamas. They'll also begin the questioning to determine whether these people have a credible fear of persecution should they be returned to Haiti. That begins the asylum process.

The other development is that the Coast Guard itself has towed the boat from the area. It has a number of vessels still in the water near the causeway, trying to determine if anybody else is in the water. Right now the Coast Guard says it has about 21 Haitians aboard its vessels, and three of them are reported to be injured, although not seriously.

No other injuries have been reported, according to the Coast Guard. And there have been no deaths reported. Now this is a scene that we have seen here in Miami many times over the past decades, although not so frequently in recent years. There was another boat like this discovered near the Key Largo area in December, but this is rather rare, seeing these old wooden coastal freighters, 50 feet long, with, in this case, 200 or more people aboard.

And an inherently dangerous situation in the open sea, and -- but we are seeing it again. And the Coast Guard officials are saying the seas have gotten calm and they wouldn't be surprised if we see a little bit more of this. So that's the situation here tonight. A developing story. Processing begins at the detention facility in the next few days -- Paul, back to you.

PAUL BEGALA, CO-HOST: Mark Potter, thank you for that report from Miami. Of course every one of these refugees is very likely to wind up being sent back to Haiti, where they may try again and risk their lives and go into those dangerous oceans to come back to the United States.

Joining us to discuss this from Miami, Lida Rodriguez-Taseff. She is the president of the Miami chapter of the ACLU. Ms. Rodriguez-Taseff, thank you for joining us.

LIDA RODRIGUEZ-TASEFF, PRESIDENT, ACLU MIAMI CHAPTER: Good afternoon.

(APPLAUSE)

BEGALA: Let me ask you, if I may, there are, of course, no Bush administration representatives here. But if they were here, I suspect they would tell you, look, we have to send these 200 people back. Because if we don't, it will send a signal and tens of thousand of Haitians could get on very unsafe vessels in shark-infested waters and lose their lives trying to come here. How do you respond?

RODRIGUEZ-TASEFF: Absolutely ridiculous. One thing we need to take into account is the fact that Haitians have been treated differently, have been denied basic rights that everybody else seeking asylum gets.

What we're asking here is that these people be given the same treatment that everybody else is given. Give them credible fear interviews, determine if they have a credible fear of political persecution, if they have a basis for asylum. And if they do, allow them into the country, do what you do with everybody else who proves that they have an asylum claim. Release them into the community and let's let the process work.

There has been a Haitian-only policy since December of last year that has discriminated against Haitians, that has resulted in Haitians being detained and being deported even though they have a claim for political persecution.

NOVAK: Well, Ms. Rodriguez, I understand you have to have a claim for political persecution. Things are hard living in Haiti, as we all know. But now there's a Democratic-elected government in Haiti. Are you saying that there is political persecution there now?

RODRIGUEZ-TASEFF: You don't have to ask me. You simply have to ask the very INS officials who, in December, granted political asylum processing to 187 people, most of whom they determined did have a credible fear of political persecution. What happened then? There was a policy that was implemented, who knows by whom, who knows why, that essentially required these Haitians to be sent back secretly without giving them the same rights that everybody else is getting.

So the question goes back to, if these are economic refugees, let the process work. Treat them in the same way that you treat everybody else.

NOVAK: Well, President Clinton sent in the Marines to install Aristide, the president of Haiti. Should President Bush send in the Marines to take President Aristide out as the president of Haiti?

RODRIGUEZ-TASEFF: That's not what this is about. This is not about what the U.S. government should do in Haiti. This is what the U.S. government should do to enforce its own immigration laws. If you allow everybody else who comes here seeking political asylum to go through a process and you say, but the only people who don't get to go through the process are the Haitians, your being unfair. It's discriminatory, it's racist and wrong.

In a nation of immigrants, where we give everybody a chance to prove their claim, we need to give Haitians the same rights that everybody else is getting. This isn't about foreign policy. This is about controlling our borders. And the best way to control our borders is to enforce the law.

BEGALA: It's also about politics. We're six days away from an election. We all remember the Elian Gonzalez situation. And there was Governor Jeb Bush in Florida praising immigration to the United States and asylum and freedom for one boy. Do you have any doubt that if 200 Cubans were jumping off a boat right now live on CNN into Miami that Governor Jeb Bush would be out there welcoming them with open arms?

RODRIGUEZ-TASEFF: No doubt that the governor would be treating them differently. And that has to do in part because we have a discriminatory policy that treats Haitians worse than it treats everybody else. So, yes, it's political.

But you know what's interesting about this? Since December of last year, when this all started happening, the politicians in this area have all banded together and said it's unfair to treat Haitians differently. So whether it's Republican or Democrat, the government officials, the local, the national government officials down here, have said treat everybody the same. And it's interesting, if you can give Cuban people the right to remain in this country simply because they reached dry land, why can't you at least give Haitians the opportunity to prove their case?

BEGALA: Lida Rodriguez-Taseff, from Miami, the ACLU chapter down there. Thank you very much for joining us. We appreciate it.

RODRIGUEZ-TASEFF: Thank you.

BEGALA: Of course it is one week and counting until Election Day. In just a minute we'll have the hottest news in the campaign trail in our CROSSFIRE "Political Alert." And that will take us to Minnesota, of course, where thousands are gathering to pay tribute to the late Senator Paul Wellstone. Stay with us.

(APPLAUSE)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

NOVAK: Election politics has moved to the front burner. Just about everywhere, especially in Minnesota, where we'll go in just a minute. But in the D.C. area, the politicians still have time to arm wrestle over who gets the first legal crack at the sniper suspects. That story tops our CROSSFIRE "Political Alert."

Prosecutors from Maryland and Virginia have been maneuvering over who would try the sniper shooters. But today, big foot stepped in, none other than U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft. He announced a 20-count complaint against John Muhammad. That's based on one federal statute that says, "A person who in the course of a violation causes the death of a person through the use of a firearm, shall, if the killing is a murder, be punished by death by imprisonment or by any term of years or for life."

Who would you bet on for swift justice, Virginia's local authorities or the Feds?

BEGALA: This time I am with you. I wouldn't trust John Ashcroft to prosecute a parking ticket. He still doesn't have an arrest in the anthrax attacks. He can't run nothing bigger than his mouth. Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill told a Republican audience in North Carolina yesterday, "We are bumping our way along to a better performance on the economy." Oh? Consumer confidence is at a nine- year low. Orders for durable goods are down. Auto sales are down. Retail sales down. Industrial production down. And the index of leading economic indicators has been dropping for four months in a row.

Meanwhile, President Bush is reducing SEC funding, and Harvey Pitt has placed a man with no accounting experience whatsoever in charge of the new accounting oversight board. That's the title of a newly published book, but the devilishly handsome author puts it, "It is still the economy, stupid." Let's have an election on it.

NOVAK: That's shameless. This man with no accounting experience, Paul, is William Webster, retired federal judge, former director of the FBI, former director of the CIA, one of the best reputations in Washington.

What really excites Democratic National Chairman Terry McAuliffe about next week's election is neither keeping control of the Senate, nor taking over the House. It's going after the President's brother. Going after Jeb Bush.

Now the problem is, the problem is that Governor Bush is on an upsurge, Terry, running eight points ahead in the "St. Petersburg Times" poll against Democrat Bill McBride. How could this be? Because Bush is coming out hard against tax increases. Taxes still the key to winning elections, though the politicians often forget it.

BEGALA: You know Jeb Bush actually came out and said we should delay the tax cut he promised. That's what his brother says is a tax increase. So maybe Jeb is a tax increaser in big brother's eyes, but either way he's a loser. Let's book that one. (UNINTELLIGIBLE)

"The Denver Post" reports that Republican Senator Wayne Allard of Colorado pushed for a delay in accounting reforms just days after he received campaign donations from the three big accounting firms that most vigorously oppose the new rules. Lynn Turner (ph), who was then the SEC's chief accountant told "The Denver Post," "I will leave it up to the voters to judge why a U.S. senator would sign a letter opposing reforms just days after receiving campaign contributions from the very accounting firm lobbyists working to stop the SEC. I think most will come to the conclusion there was a direct link between the contributions and the letter.

Yes, Ms. Turner (ph), I think you are right. I think the accounting term for what the corporate donors got is called a return on investment.

NOVAK: Well, I have the letter in my hand, July 28, 2000. He asked for a routine extension of the comment period. Several other senators signed it, including Senator Chuck Schumer, Democrat of New York and Senator Evan Bayh, Democrat of Indiana. This is just a campaign smear against Senator Allard, who is in a close election fight. The politicians in California redistricted the state's congressional district to make sure none is competitive. But there is one contest in the golden state, thanks to Gary Condit. Remember him? He was the Democratic congressman cleared of any part in the death of intern Chandra Levy, but certainly not cleared of having an affair with her.

He was defeated in the Democratic primary by his former aide Dennis Cardoza. Now Condit's children have denounced Cardoza as an opportunist who betrayed their dad and they're urging voters to support the Republican candidate, state Senator Richard Monty. The race, thanks to Condit's children, has become a virtual tossup.

BEGALA: I love the fact that the Republicans have to look to Gary Condit for moral leadership. I like that. Dirt bags for Monty is their slogan.

In about 30 minutes, the people of Minnesota will gather to celebrate the life of Senator Paul Wellstone. Over 15,000 people are filling an arena at the University of Minnesota. President Bush will not be there.

Now I think that's perfectly understandable. Senator Wellstone opposed almost all of President Bush's policies, and if President Bush were to attend, some people, even me, might say it was insincere. So I have no problem with him not attending.

But White House spokesman Ari Fleischer didn't say that. He said, "If you take a look at the historical record of when a sitting Senator dies in office, no, the president will not go." In fact, President Clinton attended the funeral of sitting Republican Senator John Chafee. And here are the pictures to prove it.

Of course, Lyndon Johnson attended Senator Robert Kennedy's funeral. He was a sitting senator when he was murdered. So the historical record is far from what Ari says it is. Now look, I know every time I point out yet another Bush fib, the right wingers send me e-mails. They note that President Clinton lied about sex. It's true, he did.

But the Bushes seem to lie about everything but sex. What's the matter with them?

NOVAK: But I think one thing we shouldn't lie about, Paul, is that Vice President Dick Cheney offered to go to the funeral and the Democrats said, no, Mr. Vice President, stay away. You'd think the Democrats could put partisanship aside at least long enough for tonight's memorial service for Senator Paul Wellstone.

CNN Congressional Correspondent Jonathan Karl joins us now from outside the University of Minnesota's Williams Arena in Minneapolis, where this service will be held -- Jonathan.

JONATHAN KARL, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Bob, an extraordinary event here because there are 16,000 seats inside that arena, or 14,000 seats. They are all filled. An overflow arena of 6,000 is also filled.

And if you look behind me, you'll see several thousand people have gathered outside this arena to watch the ceremony, which will start in about 15 minutes on that monitor ahead. And you've got people that are blocks from here all crowded outside on this cold Minnesota evening that are preparing to watch this.

And inside the hall -- we have some pictures inside as well -- you'll see that you have a list that's really a political who's who in America. Bill Clinton is in there, former Vice President Al Gore is in there, former Vice President Walter Mondale is in there, who is soon to be, of course, the Democratic candidate. He'll be announced we expect tomorrow.

And you also have more than half the United States Senate inside, including Tom Daschle and the Republican leader, Trent Lott -- Paul.

BEGALA: Jon, let me ask you about where the politics go from here. They are in Minnesota. The campaign I guess begins as soon as the memorial service ends.

KARL: It certainly does. Tomorrow morning at 6:15 AM. Norm Coleman is wheels up traveling around the state. He's the Republican candidate, obviously. And tomorrow there will be a little mini convention of about 800 Democratic activists from around the state gathering to formally choose their candidate, which everybody expects will be Walter Mondale.

But they will have a vote. It will be a voice vote. And then Walter Mondale will step before that convention and give his first political speech as a political candidate since 1984.

BEGALA: Jonathan Karl, thank you for that report from a heartbreaking but amazing place up there in Minnesota. Thank you very much, Jon.

Even while they are mourning the dead there in Minnesota, the political long knives are already out. So in a minute, we will look at the Republican' attempts to get Walter Mondale, even before he gets into the race.

And later, with consumer confidence at a nine-year low, should the Republicans be about nine times as worried about the election? You bet. CROSSFIRE will be back in a minute.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

NOVAK: Welcome back to CROSSFIRE.

After 1984, who thought we'd have good old Fritz Mondale to kick around anymore? Actually, the Democratic Party seems to think that Jimmy Carter's vice president is such an esteemed elder statesman that he shouldn't be kicked out at all. And only mean-spirited Republicans would dare raise questions about his record, about what a lousy candidate he was or his relevance. Is Walter Mondale really the Democratic Party's best hope? Two former congressman are in the CROSSFIRE tonight. California Democrat Vic Fazio and New York Republican Bill Paxon.

BEGALA: Gentlemen, first the good news. Each of you have about another 25 more years before you have to go back into politics and run for office again. Let me begin with you, Bill. Senator Wellstone had not even been laid to rest before the Sunday talk shows features a remarkable orchestrated smear on Senator Mondale. Let me show it to you here on the big screen. Take a look. First speaker Gingrich, then...

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

NEWT GINGRICH (R), FORMER HOUSE SPEAKER: Walter Mondale chaired a commission that was for the privatization of Social Security worldwide. He chaired a commission that was for raising the retirement age dramatically.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ROMESH PONNURU, "NATIONAL REVIEW": He is a major advocate of President Bush's position on Social Security, which is something that I think once it becomes more public is going to alienate Wellstone Democrats. He's in favor of private accounts for Social Security and raising the retirement age.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BEGALA: Now, that was both carefully orchestrated. Two leading Republican theorists speaking from talking points, I guarantee you from the White House, and both of them telling falsehoods. That's just untrue. Why are they attacking Mondale in such a coordinated and false fashion?

BILL PAXON, FMR. U.S. REPRESENTATIVE: Well, first of all, this is a tremendous tragedy, the loss of Senator Wellstone, and I think we all agree, number one. And number two, I think the voters of the state deserve a thoughtful and complete discussion of the issues. I hope that will occur.

I don't think that in America we want to anoint people or pass seats on just because of party. And I think as we go in the next few days, I'm hoping that these Democrats will join in that effort. Norm Coleman has been leading a real discussion of these issues. It's the reason the race was even last week.

But, you know when you talk about this, Paul, it's interesting. Sunday morning -- Sunday morning at Senator Wellstone's headquarters, Tom Daschle was attacking Norm Coleman. At the same time they were saying don't play politics, they were out running attack ads on Norm Coleman. So, look, both sides are in a mine field here.

(CROSSTALK) BEGALA: Congressman, is it fair for the Republicans to lie about -- it's fair to attack him. Attack him all you want, but tell the truth. Mondale opposed the very recommendations that they said he supported. That is false and unfair, isn't it?

PAXON: Well, first of all, there will be plenty to talk about, about Senator Mondale. There will be plenty to talk about. We could talk about the worst inflation, the worst recession, 18 percent interest rates. We can talk about votes to cut defense at a time the nation was in peril.

I'll tell you what, I think there's plenty to talk about. And starting tomorrow the people of Minnesota deserve that full and complete discussion. We hope they don't just stand back and hide behind...

NOVAK: No, you want to say something?

VIC FAZIO, FMR. U.S. REPRESENTATIVE: Well, first I want to say that kind of campaigning from the get-go is typical of how the Republicans have mishandled this race. They have been so aggressive. There's an NFIB mailer out there with Paul Wellstone and a grave site talking about death taxes.

They have asked to debate five days running in a five-day election before Walter Mondale was even asked to run by the Wellstone family. So it's just one misstep after another, Bob, and it's going to cost them the race.

NOVAK: I'm glad you got the talking points, which is to say that, oh boy, they're just attacking poor old Fritzy.

FAZIO: I don't get them anymore, Bob, but they're instinctive.

NOVAK: Yes, I guess so. You got those things in your head. But, Vic, let me tell you what Norm Coleman, the candidate for governor, who the guy is running, let's hear what he said on Sunday. Let's watch it.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

NORM COLEMAN, REPUBLICAN CANDIDATE: As I believe about Paul Wellstone, Walter Mondale is a good man. Paul Wellstone is a good man. He was my political opponent. He made me a better candidate.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

NOVAK: That's really mean, isn't it? Isn't it the fact that this is...

(CROSSTALK)

NOVAK: If Newt Gingrich is the voice of the Republican Party, we're in huge trouble. I can guarantee you that.

FAZIO: I think we can all reach agreement on that. NOVAK: But I think -- isn't this just a plot by the Democrats to say you can't criticize Fritz Mondale and tell what a lousy candidate he was. And that's why he has been out of politics for 25 years.

FAZIO: Their timing was terrible. There will be a debate, there will be an opportunity to have a real discussion of the issues. And Walter Mondale will prove to people that he's been alive and well for a number of years in the public sector participating. You know this is not a question...

NOVAK: You know I don't know if you were around for his campaigns. I went through a lot of files today. He made about every mistake possible. That's why he only carried Minnesota. The only state he carried by 4,000 votes.

(CROSSTALK)

PAXON: Well, you know right now there's two polls that were conducted and both are out and they both show this to be a race that's essentially even, number one. Number two...

(CROSSTALK)

PAXON: I will now take the chance. The other opportunity is there are a million new voters in the state, 500,000 that have come of age, 500,000 that have moved into the state since Walter Mondale last ran and almost lost his home state. And I think they want to hear about the positions of the candidates on these issues, and I'm hoping that it isn't something that I saw in the paper, well maybe on Sunday night late we'll have a quick little discussion. We need a long thorough discussion of the issues.

BEGALA: Let me ask you the question, now that I've already gotten the answer. And the question is this: President Bush called Senator Wellstone a man of conviction. And I think we all agree that he was. Nobody would call Norm Coleman that.

PAXON: Oh I disagree.

(CROSSTALK)

PAXON: That is an outrageous thing to do. That is outrageous.

BEGALA: Norm Coleman, in 1996, when I was working for Bill Clinton, he was Bill Clinton's state chairman. Today he's George W. Bush's. Do you think Paul Wellstone would have switched from Clinton to Bush? This man has no convictions, and that is what Minnesota...

(CROSSTALK)

BEGALA: He goes from being my guy's state chairman to your guy's state chairman. What do you think?

PAXON: Norm Coleman is a man of conviction, and for the past year he's been out there talking about the issues and, as a result, against an incumbent senator, had made the race even and slightly ahead before the tragic death of Senator Wellstone. So I think that that is what -- I think that really tells the story.

(CROSSTALK)

NOVAK: He's always been anti-abortion. That's a smear, Vic. That's why he left the Democratic Party, because it was a pro-abortion party.

BEGALA: But he just figured that out in the year 2000?

NOVAK: Because they made life miserable for him. That's why he left.

(CROSSTALK)

BEGALA: Hang on just a second. OK, guys, we have a lot more, believe me. And in a minute we're going to come back to these excellent guests, expand our conversation beyond just the borders of Minnesota and ask them about some of the other hot races all around the country. They're all coming into the home stretch.

And, when people vote their pocketbooks this year, which party's column do you think they're going to be marking? Mine. Stay tuned.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BEGALA: Welcome back to Crossfire. Today's Hotline reports that Democrats are closer than Republicans to locking up 50 seats and control of the U.S. Senate.

But don't count your chickens yet fellow Democrats. Eleven of the 34 Senate races are so close that they are within the margin of errors in the polls that they've taken there.

We're talking politics with former Congressman Bill Paxon, a Republican from New York, and Democrat Dick Fazio, former Congressman from California.

Guys.

(APPLAUSE)

NOVAK: Congressman Fazio, as I mentioned earlier before you get on the show, the Terry McAuliffe, the Democratic National Chairman is salivating over the governor's race in Florida. And he's shown that Jeb Bush was falling, falling, that Bill McBride had got even with him. As soon as Terry McAuliffe got into it and said, "We're going to beat Jeb Bush," suddenly Bush did a spurt.

Now let's take a look at the poll results in the St. Petersburg Times, Miami Herald. Right now it's Bush 51 percent, McBride 43 percent. Should Terry McAuliffe have kept his mouth shut?

FAZIO: Well, you know, with all due respect for Terry, I don't think the people of Florida are waiting to hear his views on this race.

(LAUGHTER)

This is a race that will be close. McBride has come from way back. He's won an incredible...

NOVAK: (UNINTELLIGIBLE).

FAZIO: ... upset victory. And obviously the White House and all of the Republicans nationwide are coming in to back and fill behind Jeb Bush.

But as you said earlier, Bob, in another conversation, this is a tough year for governors all across the country of both parties. I think Jeb Bush has had a rather unimpressive first term. And I don't know what the outcome of this race will be but if you think it's going to be that margin, I think you're wrong.

BEGALA: And in fact...

FAZIO: This is going to tighten up.

BEGALA: ... I'm sorry Vic. In fact, Bill Paxon, there is a new ad that Bill McBride is running with a stunning endorsement, not from Terry McAuliffe -- of course the Democratic chairman is going to be for the Democratic candidate -- an endorsement from Jeb Bush. Take a look at Jeb Bush endorsing Bill McBride.

He's the ad.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

(UNKNOWN): Jeb Bush is running negative ads attacking Bill McBride now. But listen to Bush in his own words recorded before McBride ran for governor.

JEB BUSH: He has a real vision for in business that is pretty extraordinary. I think he is a person of high integrity. And real honesty, he really is one of the great Floridians of our time.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(LAUGHTER)

BEGALA: Jeb, you're right. I can't agree with Jeb Bush anymore, Bill Paxon.

(APPLAUSE)

PAXON: It's interesting, and that was done when he left his law firm. Kind of for the firm, happy that he was leaving apparently. But the fact is there's another one that you don't want to show here which I know you know about. And that is McBride saying equally nice things about Jeb Bush that Jeb had on the air the same time. As soon McBride put this one up, Jeb had one.

They both said nice things about each other, we'll grant that. The fact is, as Bob just said, Terry McAuliffe, the great Democrat chairman, said, "Our number one target isn't the House or the Senate or another group. It's Jeb Bush. And when we beat him," he said, "there won't be anything as devastating to President Bush as his brother losing Florida."

He's going to win by between 6 and 10 points.

BEGALA: Ooooh...

PAXON: This election is moving in his direction dramatically. And Terry McAuliffe didn't stop there. He ran up to New York the same day he made this stupid remark about Bush, which caused everybody to focus on the race, and Bush turned...

BEGALA: Forty eight hours anyway...

PAXON: ... 48 hours -- he goes to New York, the Democrat chairman goes to New York and says, "he's going to defund the Democratic candidate for governor."

I mean, this guy is not ready for prime time.

NOVAK: Vic Fazio, tonight in Boston there is a debate for governor of Massachusetts between Mitt Romney, who saved the Salt Lake City Olympics and Shannon...

BEGALA: For what?

NOVAK: ... for governor...

(LAUGHTER)

BEGALA: I said saved from what?

NOVAK: From destruction. We don't want to get into that.

(LAUGHTER)

Shannon O'Brien (ph), the state treasurer is a hack politician -- women can be hack politicians too -- and she's been 12 years on Beacon Hill up there. She has raised taxes $2.6 billion. She lobbied for...

FAZIO: How can she raise taxes? She was the treasurer of the state.

NOVAK: She was in the legislature before that.

FAZIO: She did it singlehandedly, I gather.

(LAUGHTER)

NOVAK: And she voted for it. And she lobbied to get salary increased $45,000. Isn't this the kind of politicians that are losers in this...

FAZIO: I know you hate people with experience, Bob. You love these people from out of the blue, like Romney from Utah, coming out of Michigan blood line to Massachusetts to find a place he can run.

But this is a woman who has...

NOVAK: Where did you come from originally?

FAZIO: ... put a great campaign together. She came from behind in the primary. She's holding the Democratic party vote. And the fact that it's close today, I think is encouraging here because she's going to close fast. And we're going to have another Democratic governor after a brief hiatus, I must admit, in Massachusetts.

NOVAK: Like 12 years.

BEGALA: Bill Paxon, let me move next year now to New Hampshire

PAXON: New Hampshire. Let me just comment, it is the way it's going and it looks very good for Romney.

BEGALA: We're almost running out of time. I want to get to New Hampshire though, where the incumbent Republican Senator was defeated in the primary by John Sununu. The Boston Globe today -- the other day -- endorsed Jeanne Shaheen, the Democratic governor.

PAXON: Shocking. Shocking.

(LAUGHTER)

Oh, my God, stop the press.

BEGALA: Hey, I've worked up there, Bill. There's an awful lot of suburban voters in New Hampshire read that Boston Globe. Now here's what they said about John Sununu. They looked at his record. Sununu favors a flat income tax that would end the deduction for home mortgage interest. He supports making permanent the Bush tax cuts, a gift to the rich, that would cripple government's ability to finance basic responsibilities from defense to Medicaid.

Jeanne Shaheen has pulled ahead in the polls because people found out that John Sununu is for the special interest garbage. That's why he's going to lose.

PAXON: I can tell you this, I was in public office 21 years. And the newspapers never endorsed me, and I won. I don't think the newspaper editorials drive elections.

BEGALA: But that flat tax, he said, he said...

PAXON: In fact...

BEGALA: ... he said homeowners in New Hampshire were special interest groups.

PAXON: Do I get a chance?

BEGALA: You've got more than a chance, Bill. PAXON: In New Hampshire, they haven't elected Senator in over a quarter of a century, number one. Number two, the Republican ticket is driving the Democrats way in terms of their vote. There is no chance the governor -- we're going to hold both seats.

(LAUGHTER)

NOVAK: Did you know...

PAXON: And there's no way that John Sununu is going to lose.

BEGALA: People are watching this. You're not even embarrassed.

NOVAK: Just for truth, the sake of truth, that Jeanne Shaheen has also proposed that the Bush tax cuts be made permanent. Did you know that?

FAZIO: I know that Jeanne Shaheen is ahead. I think there's a lot of dissension in the Republican party. And she's going to take advantage of it and win that Senate seat.

PAXON: I did an across-the board...

NOVAK: Thank you very much, Vic Fazio. Thank you much, Bill Paxon.

(APPLAUSE)

Later on you'll get a chance to fire back at us. One of our viewers has a perfect campaign slogan for the long timers Frank Lautenberg and Walter Mondale. We're also going to examine one of the biggest issues in the upcoming election. We'll ask why even the Democrats are accusing their party of being a bush of whiners.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(APPLAUSE)

NOVAK: Welcome back to Crossfire. We're coming to you from the George Washington University in Foggy Bottom, D.C.

As we count down the last week before the mid-term elections, we're going to look at some of the major nationwide issues tonight -- the U.S. economy, which has kept its head above water thanks to President Bush's tax cut.

Instead of tossing out another life preserver, Paul Begala's Democrats want to hit it with the anvil of a tax increase.

In the CROSSFIRE, former under secretary of Commerce, Robert Shapiro. He's a Brooking Institution Fellow and a columnist for "Slate." And with him is Stephen Moore of the Cato Institute and the Club for Growth.

(APPLAUSE)

BEGALA: OK, we've got a lot high powered intellect here. Let's get right to it.

I want to show you an ad that the Democratic Party -- not the Democrat Party -- a group called Mainstreet USA is running around the country on the economy. Take a look.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MUSIC

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BEGALA: That is the most devastating style of ad because it's all fair, it's all factual. And it's true, right? The Republicans have tanked the economy.

STEPHEN MOORE, CATO INSTITUTE: Paul, as you know a lot of those losses started when Bill Clinton was still president, and you were still over there in the White House. But the fact of the matter is, the Democrats are picking up no traction on the economy because they don't have an economic growth message themselves.

They keep bashing Bush on the economy, but all they keep saying is, "Well, let's repeal the Bush tax cut, which the American people don't want." And in fact the Democrat candidates in close races are distancing themselves from that message.

And they talk about just more big government. It ain't going to work, Paul.

NOVAK: Robert Shapiro, the whole question is do people think they're bad off? I go around the country. I said last night, people are filling up the restaurants, middle class people. But let's take a look at the CNN-Time Poll, October 23, 24. Your families situation, good -- 77 percent, poor -- 22 percent.

Are those people just stupid?

(LAUGHTER)

ROBERT SHAPIRO, FORMER UNDERSECRETARY OF COMMERCE: Look, the fact is the last thing the Republicans want is for this election to be decided on the economy. We now have the lowest consumer confidence in nine years. We have the slowest growth in the post-war era. Unemployment is by a third. Retail sales, industrial production, business investment -- all down. The last thing that the Republicans want is the economy to be the deciding issue in this election.

NOVAK: Let me explain that...

BEGALA: Wait, wait, let me bring Stephen Moore in. A minute ago you said that President Clinton's fault that the Bush has crashed the economy. But I want to turn to a real expert...

(LAUGHTER)

... a fellow by the name of Stephen Moore, president of the Club for Growth, who spoke about President Bush's responsibility to attacking (ph) the economy.

Here's what you said just about a couple of months ago...

MOORE: You really do your homework, Paul.

BEGALA: I do. They pay me the big bucks, Stephen. You said, he, "President Bush, opens his mouth and the market goes down. I'm not saying he's responsible for the market crash, but he hasn't inspired a rush for investors to get back in."

Now isn't blaming Clinton for Bush's screw ups kind of like blaming Barry Bonds if the guy who hits behind him can't get a home run?

MOORE: Well, that happened a lot in the world series.

BEGALA: Yes.

MOORE: But look, the fact of the matter is Paul, if you look at the Democrats in the Congress, they have no message. Now I actually agree with you. I think Bush could be stronger. I think they should accelerate the Bush tax cut. I think they should cut spending. They should cut the capital gains tax, something we did. When you two were in the Clinton White House, we cut the capital gains tax.

If we did those things, the economy would move, but I think President Bush has a very strong case when he goes around the country and says, "Give me a Republican Congress, give me a Republican Senate so I can get these things through."

There are 50 bills in the -- that passed the House that are sitting there in the Senate, many of which would help this economy.

NOVAK: Rob Shapiro, the problem with the Democrats is, well, let's just see what the Club for Growth, Steve Moore's organization said in an ad.

Let's look at his ad.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

(UNKNOWN): Democratic Leader Tom Daschle -- Tom Daschle and the Daschle Democrats like to say, "No. No to President Bush on job creating tax cuts. No to President Bush on homeland security. No to President Bush on eliminating the unfair death tax."

(END VIDEO CLIP)

NOVAK: You do say no all of the time, don't you?

(LAUGHTER)

SHAPIRO: Well, look, I think you've got a point and that is the Democrats would be sweeping this election in fact if they were able to put forth a really coherent economic policy for getting the country growing. And they haven't. But the fact is that President Bush's president under the worst economic record we've had in the post-war era.

And look, he's not responsible for the recession. The recession was the end of the longest business cycle in American history. He is responsible for the character of the recovery. And this is a very, very slow anemic recovery. And the main reason is because the markets are looking at lathe out year deficits, and real long-term interest rates are high.

(CROSSTALK)

And business investment is low.

BEGALA: That is true.

MOORE: You know the interest rates are...

BEGALA: We have a huge deficit now.

MOORE: The interest rates are lower now Paul, than they've been any time in 30 years.

BEGALA: Not long term rates.

MOORE: And even the long-term...

BEGALA: Real long term interest rates behave not fallen...

MOORE: Well, why are -- why are people refinancing their mortgages? They've failed a lot.

BEGALA: We're going to come back to all of this. Hang on just a second. They're making us take a break right now. And in a minute we're going to continue our discussion with these two geniuses about why it really is still the economy stupid to quote me.

And later in "Fireback", one of our viewers points out why Bob Novak is misreading the economic signs of the times.

Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(APPLAUSE)

BEGALA: Welcome back to Crossfire. You know despite all of the Bush administration's efforts to change the subject and distract the public, just one week from today voters are going to remind W that it is still the economy, stupid.

We're here talking pocketbook issues with Stephen Moore of the Cato institute and the Club for Growth, and former undersecretary of Commerce, Rob Shapiro.

NOVAK: Rob, I want to quote a very partisan Democrat, a senior Democrat, Senator Fritz Hollings of South Carolina, who said, quote, "We need a unified party position on the economy. We've got a cry baby position. All we do is whine."

You can't disagree with that, can you?

SHAPIRO: Well, I don't think -- I don't think Democrats are whining. But I do think they haven't put forth a really coherent position on the economy. At the same time, the fact is we don't have the White House, and the White House doesn't have an economic policy .

The White House has tax cuts that have used up the entire surplus for the next 10 years, and want to use it up for another 10 years. And they've got special interest interest legislation. They had new trade protection for the steel, new trade protection for textiles, new trade protection for timber, bailout for agri-business, bailouts for airlines.

NOVAK: The Democrats...

SHAPIRO: Bailouts for energy.

BEGALA: In fact, in fact Steve Moore, the Republican lobbyist here in town were very candid with the Washington Post. And they went through the Republican agenda.

It's not the agenda they're talking to voters about of helping people and prescription drugs, all this garbage they're saying in the campaigns. This is what the Republicans are really for.

Republicans are drawing up plans, the Post reports, that would aid a broad array of industries. Business lobbyists said the wish list includes substantial nationwide limits in the amount of damages that could be awarded in medical malpractice cases, a major overhaul of the tax code to reduce the burden on corporations, which would have a better chance of becoming law if the GOP took control of the Senate.

This is real Republican agenda, special interests for corporations. They're lying on the campaign, aren't they?

MOORE: Well, I read it a different way. I listened to what you just said, and what we're talking about is the two big millstones around the neck of the economy are right now...

BEGALA: Where (ph)...

MOORE: ... are over regulation and over taxation. If we could have a true flat tax, 18 percent no double taxation of saving, we would have -- it would be like rocker fuel for this economy.

And you know, you look at the Democrat's side of the aisle, and what we've got are people like Walter Mondale running again. And what are you going to do, run people like George McGovern in South Dakota again? I mean, it's just a blast from the past.

(LAUGHTER)

It's all the tax and liberal...

BEGALA: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) Strom Thurman.

MOORE: Bring back Michael Dukakis (ph).

NOVAK: Rob Shapiro, if you were to listen to Paul, he wants all of the Democratic candidates out there to say, "Let's repeal these tax cuts. Let's roll them back."

The candidates, like Tim Johnson in South Dakota, Jeanne Shaheen in New Hampshire, they want to keep the tax cuts.

Who's right?

SHAPIRO: Well, the fact is, economically, Paul is right. The fact is, we now know how to get this economy going. And it is deregulation, not trade protection and not bailouts for industries.

And it is...

NOVAK: So you would repeal the tax cuts?

SHAPIRO: ... and it is fiscal discipline. I would freeze the tax cut in place today, and forego all of these additional...

NOVAK: Where are you going to invest your investment?

SHAPIRO: ... all of the additional -- it raise investment because it will bring down long-term, long-term interest rates and get business investment going again, which is why we had the longest expansion in U.S. history.

MOORE: I want to accelerate the Bush tax cuts. There haven't been -- the reason they haven't worked is they haven't -- nobody has gotten a tax cut. Most of the tax cut doesn't happen until 2005 because that's the Democrats insisted that it be delayed.

SHAPIRO: Those are the tax cuts for rich people that doesn't happen until 2005.

MOORE: No, well then...

BEGALA: One more quick issue -- Social Security. One of the reasons I like you coming on Stephen, is you're an honest Republican. You say you're for privatizing Social Security. President Bush said the same thing. He called for full privatization of Social Security in the campaign. Now they're all running away from it like the devil runs from holy water. Why?

MOORE: Well, because they're as cowardly as the cowardly lion in the Wizard of Oz. But the fact of the matter is, this is a winning issue for Republicans.

This is a room full of young people who very much want to be able invest their Social Security payroll tax...

BEGALA: You all want to eat dog food and give your Social Security to Enron? Who here wants to turn their Social Security over to Enron?

MOORE: Who...

BEGALA: Anybody?

MOORE: No, the fact of the matter of is when you look at the polls, even senior citizens if they know that you're not going to cut the benefits, are in favor of some kind of new system that gets the Titanic away from the iceberg.

SHAPIRO: The only chance to finance that new system was blown with this tax cut. That just took all of the money.

NOVAK: Rob Shapiro, thank you very much. Thanks, Stephen Moore. Thank you very much.

Next in "Fireback"...

(APPLAUSE)

... a viewer has an etiquette lesson that Minnesota's Democrats really ought to pay attention to.

(APPLAUSE)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(APPLAUSE)

NOVAK: Time for "Fireback." Bruce Rutherford of Long, South Carolina says, "Same on the Wellstones for not wanting the V.P. Cheney at the funeral. Now it is political and it was not the Republicans who made it so."

Bruce, you're right. That was a disgraceful performance by the Wellstone family.

BEGALA: No, it wasn't. In truth, they didn't want the disruption of Secret Service, and believe me Vice President Cheney respected the wishes, as he should.

NOVAK: How about Clinton -- isn't Clinton and Gore there?

BEGALA: Clinton and Gore don't have the kind of package Cheney has. Believe me, Cheney can't even burp without having 50 Secret Service agents around him. And he deserves them, but they don't need the disruption.

"Bob Novak," Ed writes in Bremerton, Washington, "pointed out that the economy can't be that bad since restaurants are filled with middle class Americans."

He's right. They're looking for jobs.

(LAUGHTER)

NOVAK: Wow. I think (UNINTELLIGIBLE) as his writer.

OK, Lois Qune (ph) of Balington (ph), Rhode Island says, "Paul, don't think that two old men running for the Senate in New Jersey and Minnesota should use the campaign slogan, "Vote for who I used to be." They will both be in their 80s before their terms will be up. If the voters in these two states drag them out every time..."

Lois, this is all a plot. They're going to resign, and this is all a scam on the voters of those two states.

BEGALA: This from the party that ran Ronald Reagan at age 73 for president and Bob Dole at age 73 and Strom Thurman at age 94.

(LAUGHTER)

I mean, come on.

Tim Stausser (ph) in Las Vegas, Nevada says, "Paul, I'd be more than willing to return that $300 windfall of a tax return I received from Mr. Bush in return for the $17,000 my 401 (k) lost in the last few months."

(APPLAUSE)

Tim, I'm with you.

NOVAK: He needs a better investment. He needs a good financial consultant.

BEGALA: He needs a better president.

NOVAK: Question?

BEGALA: Yes, sir.

QUESTION: Walter Brickman (ph), from Fairfax, Virginia. Mr. Begala, I notice you're quick to criticize Norm Coleman for switching party affiliations in Minnesota. Do you feel the same about Jim Jeffords in Vermont? He did give you party a power in the United States Senate.

BEGALA: He did, he did, but he didn't become an Independent because Bush pushed me out of the party. It was highly unprincipled for Norm Coleman to go from Clinton Democrats to being a Bush Republican. He's a fraud, he's a phony and he's going to lose.

NOVAK: Next question.

BEGALA: Yes, ma'am.

NOVAK: Next question.

QUESTION: Hi, I'm Alice Blair (ph) from Alexandria, Virginia. Do you believe there will be any similarities between the Mondale - Coleman with that which occurred between Ashcroft and Carnahan?

NOVAK: It's an entirely different situation. Now they're not running dead man this time. They're running a live old man.

(LAUGHTER)

BEGALA: I think you'll have a similar result where the Democrat will win.

Yes, ma'am.

QUESTION: Good evening. Mr. Novak, Donna Gardner from Columbia, Maryland. Republicans have promoted the investment of Social Security funds in the stock market. Is this a dead issue for Republicans or will it resurface in the next election or in 2004?

NOVAK: It will come back because it has to be done to save the system. And you saw -- we took a break -- a poll at the break. And all of the young people, they want -- they want to invest that money. And it's just the labor unions and the left wingers that do it.

BEGALA: Let me tell you, if you let George W. Bush put your Social Security in the stock market, you'd better develop a healthy taste for Alpo because that's what you're going to be eating in your retirement.

NOVAK: All right, take audience poll, who wants to be able to -- raise your hand -- who wants to be...

BEGALA: Who wants to trust Enron with their retirement...

NOVAK: ... wait a minute -- now wait a minute. Who wants to be able to invest their own funds in Social Security? OK.

(APPLAUSE)

Who's opposed to it? Who's opposed to it?

BEGALA: Excuse me.

NOVAK: Who's opposed to it?

BEGALA: Who trusts George W. Bush to put your Social Security in the hands of Enron and WorldCom and every corporate...

NOVAK: It isn't George W. Bush. It isn't George W. Bush...

(LAUGHTER)

BEGALA: From the left, I am Paul Begala. Good night for Crossfire.

NOVAK: On the right, I'm Robert Novak. Join us again next time fore another edition of Crossfire.

"CONNIE CHUNG TONIGHT" begins right now.

(APPLAUSE)

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