Nancy Pelosi Takes Over House Democrats
Aired November 14, 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: Bin Laden's alive, threats are being made, the FBI is worried. But what's going on at the White House?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: While there is no plan at this time to raise the threat level...
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ANNOUNCER: Is the president too focused on Iraq?
Tom DeLay on the right, Nancy Pelosi on the left...
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. NANCY PELOSI (D), CALIFORNIA: I've been waiting over 200 years...
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ANNOUNCER: ... and lots of room in the middle. Have both political parties gone to extremes to pick their leaders?
And, he was a rising Republican star. Now, as he bids farewell to Congress, J.C. Watts talks about the color of a conservative.
Ahead on CROSSFIRE.
From the George Washington University: Paul Begala on the left. And sitting in on the right: Sandy Rios.
PAUL BEGALA, CO-HOST: Welcome to CROSSFIRE.
Tonight, the Democratic Party makes history. Choosing a woman as democratic leader clearly has the Republicans worried. Why else would they be attacking Nancy Pelosi before she's even sworn in?
Speaking of worries, we have plenty here at home. What with Osama bin Laden apparently still on the loose and terrorist threats on the rise. Our usual hosts on the right, Tucker Carlson and Bob Novak, are away at an all-male retreat, sitting naked in the woods feasting on spotted (ph) owl with Rush Limbaugh, Jerry Falwell and Newt Gingrich. And so we've got Sandy Rios of Concerned Women for America to sit in. Sandy, welcome back. SANDY RIOS, CONCERNED WOMEN FOR AMERICA: Why wasn't I invited to that, Paul?
BEGALA: It's a guy thing. They don't like women on the right. But we love them here on CROSSFIRE.
BEGALA: So let's get started with something I love doing every day, the best political briefing in television, your CROSSFIRE "Political Alert."
The White House today publicly admonished the FBI for releasing information the White House deems unreliable about a possible terrorist threat to hospitals in Washington, Houston, San Francisco and Chicago. But incoming Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman, Richard Shelby, a Republican from Alabama, told CNN hospital administrators should beef up security and be aware of terrorists looking for soft targets.
The White House is said to be furious with the FBI for spreading unreliable information. One White House aide told the CROSSFIRE "Political Alert," "The FBI shouldn't be putting out false information, that's President Bush's job."
RIOS: Very funny, Paul. Now the White House didn't say it was false, they said it was just not substantiated, just to correct you. And also, they say exactly that's why the homeland security department is being formed, so they won't have mix-ups like that in the future.
Well today, Democrats in the House of Representatives resoundingly declared their intention to remain out of touch with American voters. Unbelievably, the vote wasn't even close, 177 to 29. That was the total by which pro-choice, ultra-liberal California Democrat Nancy Pelosi was elected House Minority Leader.
That same Nancy Pelosi that led the opposition to the Iraq resolution and homeland security department. That same Nancy Pelosi who is so radical she's one of the few in her party to support infanticide in the form of partial birth abortion.
Outgoing Minority Leader Dick Gephardt says under Pelosi's fine leadership he's confident the Democrats will win back the house in 2004. Sure, just like Gephardt led the Democrats to resounding victories in '96, '98, 2000 and 2002.
BEGALA: You know, Sandy, I love this debate. I would take Nancy Pelosi. Here is a woman who has been married 39 years to the same man, five great kids. Didn't even begin her congressional career, as Al Hunt pointed out today in the "Wall Street Journal," until her youngest child was already in high school.
Became well known originally for taking on human rights violations in communist China, versus Tom DeLay, who first became well known because he wanted DDT, which almost made the bald eagle become extinct. RIOS: Paul, you're so funny.
BEGALA: We'll debate that wit these new Congress members.
RIOS: Let's do.
BEGALA: You know, when I was a kid, conservatives read books. Now they're intellectual marching orders come from an AM radio deejay by the name of Rush Limbaugh. Tom DeLay even invited Mr. Limbaugh to address the incoming House Republicans this week.
Now, the media watchdogs at a group called Fairness and Accuracy In Reporting claim that in the 1970s Mr. Limbaugh told a black caller to his radio show, "Take that bone out of your nose and call me back." FAIR also claims that Limbaugh once broadcast that Vince Foster was murdered in an apartment owned by Hillary Clinton and that the body was later taken to Fort Marcy (ph) park.
And CNN has verified that Limbaugh once called then 13-year-old girl Chelsea Clinton "The White House dog." Limbaugh is a blowhard, a bully and a blockhead. Who better to instruct new Republican congressman on how Tom DeLay wants them to behave.
RIOS: Paul, you paint your political opponents with such horrible strokes.
BEGALA: It's Rush.
RIOS: You know, you say you're concerned the Republicans may be taking their marching orders from Rush Limbaugh, but let me tell you, you got your information from FAIR, which is a media company that lost all their credibility just a few years ago because they claimed the Super Bowl was the day when men beat their wives the most.
Nobody believes these people. So you need to be careful of your facts, Paul, and from where you get your marching orders.
BEGALA: They're a good watchdog group. Now FAIR is a very good watchdog group. Limbaugh said all those things. They reportedly show...
RIOS: According to FAIR.
It's amazing. The Senate Judiciary Committee earlier today voted on two of President Bush's judicial nominees. Nominated a mere 554 days ago, Judge Dennis Shedd (ph) and Professor Michael McConnell (ph) will at last have their day in the United States Senate. What's so amazing about that is that the vote that just days ago these two men both voted well qualified by the ABA were accused by Senate Democrats of having a deep and abiding hostility towards civil rights cases and being too conservative and pro-life to be a judge, respectfully.
Something changed between then and now, and it wasn't the judges. What changed was that the Americans sent an Election Day wake-up call that suddenly Democrats didn't think these judges were so horrible after all. BEGALA: We shall see. This will be one of the big changes in the Republicans taking control of the Senate. We'll now have a parade of judicial nominees that will resemble that evolutionary chart, except it stops about three guys from the left. Every knuckle dragging thug in America is going to get a black robe from George W. Bush. But they won, they have a right to do this. It's just these are lifetime appointments; I hope people watch them carefully.
RIOS: And I think they will, and I'm glad about that.
BEGALA: Well, that's one place we do disagree.
George W. Bush may be America's -- is, not maybe -- he is America's first MBA President, with a degree from Harvard no less. But his comments yesterday have mainstream economists scratching their heads. Mr. Bush declared that the deficit would have been bigger, yes, bigger, without his tax cut.
See, the theory that lower taxes generate more tax revenue is formally called supply side economics. President Bush's father memorably termed it voodoo economics. If Mr. Bush had read the hot new book "It's Still The Economy, Stupid," he'd know that we tried that theory in the 1980's. It created the largest deficits in American history and quadrupled the national debt.
President Clinton, on the other hand, reversed voodoo economics. He raised taxes on the rich, paid off the deficit and gave us the longest, strongest, broadest economic expansion in American history. Kind of makes you wonder what they taught W. at the Harvard Business School, doesn't it?
RIOS: Paul, will you ever be deprogrammed from that Clinton spell? I'm wondering. I'm waiting for it.
You know Clinton didn't even own a home. He didn't have two nickels to rub together when he came to the White House. And you want us to believe he was responsible for the American economy? I don't think so.
BEGALA: Well, greed and brains are not the same thing. He was never into money, it's true. But, you know...
RIOS: And suddenly he know how to balance the national budget since he doesn't even have one to balance at home? I don't believe that.
BEGALA: He did balance it. You know he did balance it. Our current president with the MBA was actually investigated for insider trading, something Clinton wasn't investigated on. Insider dating, maybe Clinton, but not insider trading.
RIOS: I'm waiting for the spell to lift, Paul.
Jonathan Turley (ph), a law professor here at Georgetown University, in a scathing "L.A. Times" editorial -- George Washington University -- blasts Attorney General Ashcroft for being a body snatcher for taking charge of the new sniper suspects and being shamefully intent on seeking the death penalty for both.
A possible military tribunal for Zacarias Moussaoui and others, he terms "junk justice" designed for quick convictions and easy execution. Well, sorry Professor Turley (ph), not to share your sympathy for accused snipers and terrorists who would love nothing more than to destroy this country, your children and mine. But most Americans agree with General Ashcroft. They know we're at war, how come you don't?
BEGALA: You know, tonight, the state of Virginia is going to execute a man named Mir Aimal Kasi, who committed a terrorist murder out in front of the CIA headquarters. He was arrested and tried in a public court in a free democratic country called America. And he's been given the ultimate sentence.
We don't need to have kangaroo courts. We're America. And we can convict and punish terrorists without having to use Saudi Arabian style justice.
We're a free country, we ought to act like it. John Ashcroft ought to act like it and defend the constitution.
RIOS: He's defending the country, for which I'm very grateful, Paul.
BEGALA: You don't need to (UNINTELLIGIBLE).
Well of course there are plenty of new reasons to worry about possible terrorism. A frightening new warning came in today. We'll put that in the CROSSFIRE next.
And later, each party is accusing the other of turning to the radical fringe for their leaders. We will ask two incoming members of Congress if either charge is fair.
And he just cast his last vote as a member of Congress today, in all likelihood, but he'll always be welcome here on CROSSFIRE. The highest ranking African-American in congressional history is stepping down, but not before he steps into the CROSSFIRE one more time. Stay with us.
RIOS: Welcome back to CROSSFIRE.
On a day we witnessed an interesting disagreement between the FBI and the White House, the bureau had alerted hospitals in Chicago, Houston, San Francisco and Washington that it had information that they could be the target of terrorist attacks over the holidays. But White House officials are saying the threat has low credibility. And that this confusion is the very reason for the long overdue department of homeland security.
In the CROSSFIRE to talk about security issues is retired Air Force Colonel Randy Larsen. He's the director of the Anser (ph) Institute for Homeland Security and on the advisory panel to the government's office of homeland security. Let's welcome him.
BEGALA: Good to see you, sir.
RIOS: Nice to see you.
BEGALA: Welcome back. It's always good to see you. It is usually on a bad news day. This is one of them. But thank you for making yourself available. I know you were on the Hill testifying today.
Our White House and our FBI seem to be at war today. The FBI put out information. I happen to think that more information is good.
Nobody panicked today. People in Houston and Chicago weren't rioting in the streets. But maybe they had a little extra caution. Maybe they had a little extra observation. Why is the White House upset that the FBI is trying to give us information we need to protect ourselves?
COL. RANDY LARSEN (RET.), U.S. AIR FORCE: I was up on the Hill all day today, so I don't know what happened between the FBI and the White House. But I worked in this field for a long time and I know the problems.
We're given -- it's like a jigsaw puzzle, a three-dimensional jigsaw puzzle, and they give us five percent of it. And that's what intelligence information is. And you say what do I tell the American people?
We have some information, there may be an attack. Do I scare them or do we become jaded because we get these attacks? Now we've heard about schools, we've heard about banks in Washington, D.C. Now we hear about hospitals and petroleum facilities.
It is very difficult to do. So the most important thing is to have a department of homeland security that can get information that comes in from law enforcement sources, intelligence sources. Put this together in what we call a fusion center, and then make a decision on what to give the American people.
But I can guarantee you it's never going to be easy. Spent a lot of time talking to the folks in new Scotland Yard, all they had to deal with the IRA and David Van Ness (ph), the commissioner of counterterrorism said, "You Americans need to learn something called measured vigilance. Right now you're bouncing between paranoia and complacency."
We're going to have to find some happy medium in there. This is going to be here for a while, Paul. It is not going to go away.
Having a new department, which I think we're going no think we're going to have here in another week or so, is certainly going to help that information flow.
RIOS: Randy, that threat to hospitals was pale in comparison to this supposed bin Laden statement yesterday or the day before that we heard. Let's revisit a little bit of that. He asked this question, if it is indeed him. "Why is it acceptable for us to live with fear, murder, destruction, displacement, the orphaning of children and the widowing of men, but peace, security and happiness should be for you? This is not fair. Now is the time to become equals. Just like you kill us, we will kill you."
First of all, I want to make a comment. That sounds like jealousy turned to madness to me. But secondly, this threat, how real and why are we not being warned about this more clearly?
LARSEN: I think when he declared war on the American population it was like 1998. This is not new information. You were in the White House then. This is not new information.
I think the American people are starting to understand it more now. We certainly saw on 9/11. But it is interesting, in '98, he declared war not on America, the country, but on American people, men, women and children like we saw in 9/11. We have to take that very seriously.
I don't know if he's still alive. And you know what, it doesn't make any difference whether he's alive or not, because his people are out there. We probably have 2,000 al Qaeda terrorists in the United States right now. We have to be on alert.
But we can't be paranoid. In 2001, about 3,000 Americans died of terrorism. It was a tragedy to those families, no question. But 6,000 died of food poisoning in 2001.
Nearly 8,000 people died of skin cancer from overexposure to the sun. So we do have to keep it in perspective here, but we do have to be more prepared. And I guarantee you, that's what we said in the Senate hearing today, we're not as prepared as America needs to be.
BEGALA: Well, Senator Tom Daschle, the leader of the Senate Democrats spoke out on this as well. Let me play a piece of what he had to say about this topic of Osama bin Laden and ask you to respond.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. TOM DASCHLE, MAJORITY LEADER: It's bin Laden's messages we're listening to. And it is bin Laden who is still the spokesperson. And you know, it seems to me we're not worried about what others are saying, we're worried about what bin Laden is saying.
And it was the president himself who said "We will not be successful until he's found dead or alive." Those were his words. Well, I guess I'd say the time has come to ensure that that happens.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BEGALA: Are we doing everything we can to kill or capture bin Laden and the rest of the al Qaeda leaders?
LARSEN: No question in my mind. But let's look back at history for a moment. Admiral Yamimoto planned and led the attack on Pearl Harbor. In 1943, we got intelligence information that he would be on an airplane. And we sent up two P-38s and shot him down and killed him.
Was that the right thing to do? Yes. Was it the moral thing to do? Yes. Did it have any major impact on World War II? No.
And it will be the same thing for bin Laden. Yes, we want to get him. Yes, its the moral thing to do. And if we can send a predator up and get him like we got those guys in Yemen recently, we'll do it. It will not make the war go away. We need to understand that.
RIOS: Randy, we we're talking about going to war with Iraq, as everybody knows. If any nation on earth is likely to give weapons of mass destruction to the likes of Osama bin Laden, who else but Iraq?
LARSEN: I think they are a candidate. I think they're still behind the anthrax attacks on the U.S. Senate building and on the news agencies. Don't have any solid proof.
But because I think they would only give away small samples like we saw there. I don't think Iraq would give away -- and I don't think perhaps even Saddam was behind that. I think a free agent of his working on it that wanted to do something possibly did it.
But I don't think there are too many states that we have to worry about giving people weapons of mass destruction. The problem is you don't have to be a nation state or superpower to have it. In the Senate today, we were talking about biological weapons and they said what's it look like? The same thing I told Vice President Cheney, this is a weapon of mass destruction.
This is not dangerous here, but it is nearly identical to bacillus anthraxis (ph). This is bacillus (UNINTELLIGIBLE). It's weaponized. It's three micron in size.
So if I took the cap off here, and just pulling the cap off would pull enough out here that everyone in this audience in a half an hour would breathe enough of it. And if it were bacillus anthraxis (ph), they would have anthrax.
This was produced with equipment made off the Internet -- I mean off the Internet for $250,000. You don't have to be a superpower to make weapons of mass destruction. That's what's changed.
That's why -- you know, when these inspection teams go in there to Iraq, it will be tough. Because you know I can hide this in a room smaller than this. It's going to be difficult. But we've seen what Saddam has done to 16 Kurdish villages with gas. We know he's the type of person that would use this.
RIOS: Now this is the threat they mentioned in hospitals today. So wasn't it good thing to alert hospitals to look for somebody doing something like this?
LARSEN: I don't know what the information -- whether that was a good thing or bad thing. I think it's a very smart thing to alert all American people we're going to have to be more aware, but we also have to find that happy medium in there. We can't run around paranoid, we can't be complacent. Education is a real important part of that. That's what we're trying to do here tonight.
BEGALA: Colonel Randy Larsen, always a pleasure to have you. Important information for our audience. Thank you very much for joining us.
As of today, both parties in Congress have chosen their leaders. In a minute, we'll ask if either side can lead the other closer together.
And later, he went from being a star player on the field to star member of Congress. Today, he cast his final vote. We will ask J.C. Watts what's coming next. Stay tuned.
BEGALA: Welcome back to CROSSFIRE.
You know, Americans love extreme games. Extreme skateboarding, extreme bike stunts. And in Washington, some people say both parties are playing extreme politics on Capitol Hill. This week, congressional Republicans chose far right winger Tom "the hammer" DeLay as their majority leader. And proud, progressive Nancy Pelosi was elected minority leader of the Democratic Party today.
We thought we'd get the perspective of two of the bright new stars of the congressional firmament, both incoming House freshmen. Please welcome incoming Democratic Congressman-elect Rahm Emmanuel of Illinois, and Republican Congresswoman-elect, Candice Miller of Michigan.
RIOS: Hey, Rahm, you're from my home turf, Chicago. You know what, you were one of the new Democrats in Clinton White House, moderate. And in the sense that you were pro NAFTA, you were also pro welfare reform. And yet today you voted for Nancy Pelosi, who is your polar opposite on those issues. Why did you do that and what's up with that?
RAHM EMMANUEL (D), ILLINOIS CONGRESS-ELECT: What's up with that? Well the medication kicked in. No...
RIOS: This is what happened with Paul, I know.
EMMANUEL: Because Nancy, I think -- look, my analysis is and my view is we can have disagreements, but this election and going forward for the Democrats is about talking about the future and about change. We neither want this to be the party of the status quo. We want to be the party of change.
We want to be the party about the future, not the past. And Nancy's election and, this is a woman, symbolizes both of those. And I think it's the proper thing for the party. And she will be I think the person that brings the party together to focus on bringing the country and going forward. And I think the most important thing is she, I think, embodies what I think is right about any of us who hold public office. This election and the office is not about us. It's about the families we represent and the challenges they face. If you keep that center, everything will be fine.
BEGALA: Congresswoman Miller, congratulations first on your victory. Well done.
CANDICE MILLER (R), MICHIGAN CONGRESS-ELECT: Thank you.
BEGALA: Welcome to the Congress. Also, in the interest of full disclosure, our audience should know -- you should know -- Rahm is a dear friend, we worked together in the White House.
EMMANUEL: You're using "dear" lightly.
BEGALA: OK. Bitter enemies and rivals on the White House staff. And I contributed to his campaign. So people should know I have a bias here.
MILLER: All right. Full disclosure. I'm the secretary of state, you know. So you need to know that.
BEGALA: There you go. Now that you're a member of -- well, when you were secretary of state, let me start there, you spoke out for the environmental plank in your party's platform in the 1996 Republican convention in San Diego. And you spoke passionately and powerfully about the environment. I respect that.
That's probably an area where we agree. I suspect it's an area that you disagree with the man you voted to be your leader, Tom DeLay, from my hometown of Sugarland, Texas. Let me tell you what my congressman Tom DeLay said. He said "The EPA is the Gestapo of government."
Now, do you think that the families in Michigan who sent you here want you to vote for your leader to be somebody who compared the people to keep our water clean to the worse mass murderers in human history?
MILLER: Well, you know I am very much an environmentalist. And I appreciate you remembering that about the Republican platform. One of the other things I talked about is no diversion of the great lakes. So that was a big part of my platform.
But yes, in particular, if you think about the district that I'm representing, I will be representing now, which is sort of the thumb area of Michigan, very heavily agriculture there. A lot of rural areas and those kinds of things. A lot of the farmers in Michigan are very upset with the EPA. They think they're over-regulated, they think that they really have -- you know got a monkey on their back in many ways.
And so I think that the Republican Party are really the true environmentalists. It is certainly an issue that helped us win this election.
BEGALA: Some clearly are.
MILLER: On the other hand, I think that middle America generally is looking at the Republicans to ensure that we are the party of less government generally, less taxes generally, and certainly less government regulation. But where government does have a role...
BEGALA: Not less DDT and not less arsenic.
MILLER: Of course we're against those kinds of things. But still, in all, I was very pleased, as a new member of Congress, to be able to vote for our entire leadership. We have a wonderful leadership there. And I'm just very excited to be part of the whole delegation. And we'll see how we do.
RIOS: All right. Well Paul, I loved your adjectives in your opening. Tom DeLay, the hammer, and reasonable wonderful, Nancy Pelosi. I might change those adjectives a little bit.
But I will admit, there's no question that Tom DeLay is certainly to the far right of Nancy Pelosi, who to me is on the far left. So it's true that both parties have elected leadership that are polar opposites politically. My question for you, Rahm, is do you think that's a good idea? We've got polarized forces now in the House.
EMMANUEL: Well I think it's less -- you know Washington gets fixated about the personalities. It is not about the personalities. It's about the policies you propose to solve the problems.
RIOS: Well, it is the policies you're talking about.
EMMANUEL: Yes, but I mean you're focusing -- look, I think Tom DeLay is way out of step with mainstream America.
RIOS: So is Nancy Pelosi.
EMMANUEL: But look, let me give you one example.
RIOS: That's the example.
EMMANUEL: Let me ask you a question. Chris Smith (ph), not exactly what I call a raging liberal, voted with Nancy on China. Does that make Chris Smith (ph) a raging liberal?
EMMANUEL: That's my...
RIOS: But that's not enough of an issue. That's not enough of a test.
EMMANUEL: Well, is it a test for a lot of people. Letting China into WTO was a big issue. And a big (UNINTELLIGIBLE) built coalitions across the aisle. This is a person who is willingly on other issues to work with the other side. Now, the question is what are you going to do -- and I think for Nancy and for the Democratic Party -- and I also think for the Republican Party -- is what policies are you going to propose to help solve the 42 million uninsured?
What policy are you going to propose to help middle class families afford a college education for their kids so they do not...
RIOS: But, Rahm, answer the question.
EMMANUEL: I am answering the question.
RIOS: I mean you've got two polar opposites. Is that a smart thing? That's my question.
EMMANUEL: Well, for both parties? No. I think the question is and the real test here is can they work across party lines. I gave you an example where Nancy did work across party lines. The question is can Tom work across party lines and always try to hammer...
RIOS: But (UNINTELLIGIBLE) Tom's fault that they do not get along.
EMMANUEL: Well, I do think that's a legitimate question. Nancy works across party lines with people you would not describe as part of the left.
BEGALA: Let me invite Candice Miller to defend the indefensible again...
BEGALA: I love Tom DeLay. He's the embodiment that all of the Republican Party stands for. He, after the slaughter at Columbine, after the shootings at Columbine, he stood up and blamed those mass killings on birth control and the teaching of evolution. Do you agree with that?
MILLER: You know you keep talking about Tom DeLay.
BEGALA: Because he's nuts.
MILLER: The speaker of the House is Dennis Hastert.
BEGALA: He's the leader of your party. He's stone crazy. I'm sorry. Well Denny Hastert is a principal conservative, he is an honorable man.
MILLER: Are we going to the right or are we going to the left? I mean think what's happened here...
BEGALA: You don't think those murders at Columbine were motivated by birth control or evolution? MILLER: I think what's happened with the Democratic Party, certainly, they have really put their finger in the wind and they've taken a quick veer off to the left here. And I'll tell you, I could take Dennis Hastert into my district all day long, because he is truly middle America, as is Tom DeLay.
Absolutely. I recommend...
MILLER: On the other hand -- you know, and I come out of Macomb County, you sometimes remember the term Reagan Democrats.
MILLER: That term really had its genesis in Macomb County so you had a lot of second generation factory workers whose parents were always Democrats but then they voted for Reagan. And since that time, they're not sure what they are anymore.
But I think what has happened now is they're really the ticket splitters. With what's happened in this last election and with the way that George W. Bush has connected with people in Macomb County and across the entire nation here, you're going to see another huge evolvement of the Republican Party again. We're going to institutionalize the Republican Party as a majority.
RIOS: Rahm, totally different here. This is really interesting to me. Of the 31 new House members, 30 of them are pro-life. You're not among that. You are the one pro-choice person. You were targeted by EMILY's List and yet you won. How do you think you won your race in Chicago?
EMANUEL: Because there are good people with good values in Chicago.
RIOS: Good answer.
MILLER: That's why he won. He's slick.
EMANUEL: First of all, EMILY's List didn't attack me on the issue of choice, but I actually do believe -- I laid out an agenda that talked about the future. I talked about the uninsured in our country and I worked on creating kid care, how to expand that to family care. I talked about higher education. I talk about expanding the teacher training so we can have more master teachers in our classroom. I talked about the future.
The truth is that I think is the agenda the Democrats need to address. I don't think, you know, EMILY's List decided to attack me. They didn't attack me on what are considered core or principal issues or the bottom line issues for them. I took my case to the people, worked tirelessly in presenting that agenda which I think matters to the families.
That's why I think what's most important regardless of what party -- and I have a little disagreement about what party is that majority party -- if you lay out an agenda of things that are important to American families and the challenges they face today, you'll be OK. If you do get into a rut and only try to appeal or talk to a segment of America, you won't be a majority party. That's what the Democrats need to avoid as well as Republicans and get arrogant about the power they have today.
BEGALA: That has to be the last word. I am very confident in the future of the Congress with Rham Emmanuel, the Democrat from Chicago. Candice Miller, Republican from Macomb County, Michigan. Thank you both very much for a terrific debate.
EMANUEL: We'll be singing (UNINTELLIGIBLE) "Kumbaya" together.
BEGALA: No "Kumbaya." We'll have you back to fight some more, believe me.
The state of Virginia is getting ready to execute a murderer tonight. And perhaps rile up Islamic terrorists as well. Connie Chung will bring us the details on that story next in a CNN "News Alert."
Also, we will ask outgoing Congressman J.C. Watts about his new book, "What Color is a Conservative?" And why the Republican can't attract more African-American voters.
And in "Our Quote of the Day" a respected journalist predicts the Apocalypse is coming, at least politically. Stay tuned.
BEGALA: Ahead on CROSSFIRE, Representative J.C. Watts spends part of his last day as a voting member of Congress with us. He's slumming, I guess.
And then "Our Quote of the Day," a warning of what we can look forward to now that Republicans are firmly in control of the entire federal government. Stay with us.
RIOS: Welcome back to CROSSFIRE. We're coming to you from the George Washington University in Downtown Washington, D.C.
If you want a poster boy for the liberal media -- and there are so many possibilities to choose from -- Bill Moyers' credentials are impeccable. He started out as Lyndon Johnson's press secretary, eventually landed in that taxpayers' subsidized bastion of liberalism, public broadcasting.
Moyers has spent decades watching political leaders come and go, but in his PBS commentary he set a new high water mark for liberal hysteria. This is what he said, "I you liked the Supreme Court that put George W. Bush in the White House, you will soon swoon over what's coming. And if you like God in the government, get ready for the Rapture." BEGALA: What you forgot to mention is before he was Lyndon Johnson's press secretary, he was a Baptist minister. Bill Moyers knows his gospel and he knows his politics. I'll take him over that gasbag Limbaugh any day of the week.
But for me, I'm still dodging chip shots from outraged golfers. We will tee one of them up in our "Fireback" segment.
But next, a man who never shied away from real contact sports, not weenie sports like golf. He was a football player and a great one. And then a Congressman and a pretty darn good one for a Republican. In the CROSSFIRE, J.C. Watts will join us next. Don't go away.
BEGALA: Welcome back to CROSSFIRE.
By any standards you can imagine J.C. Watts is an amazing American success story. In college he quarterbacked the Oklahoma Sooners breaking my Texas Longhorn heart by winning two consecutive championships. He was twice chosen most valuable player in the Orange Bowl.
He played in the Canadian Football League and was most valuable player in the Gray Cup, the CFL's version of the Super Bowl. He went to Canada because the NFL didn't like the idea of him being a quarterback here. After being elected to the Congress in 1994, J.C. Watts rose to become the chairman of the Republican conference in the House of Representatives.
But this year he decided to walk away from politics. He was a shoo-in for re-election but he decided not to run. He just published a new book called "What Color is a Conservative?" Today, his last day casting votes as a member of the Congress, he joins in the CROSSFIRE. Congressman Watts, thank you, sir.
Let me begin with page 150. This is -- let me say, I'm a liberal. You're a conservative. That's not our biggest difference. I'm white, you're black, that's not our biggest difference. I'm a Texas Longhorn and you're an Oklahoma Sooner, and I admire...
REP. J.C. WATTS (R), OKLAHOMA: That's our big difference.
BEGALA: That's the biggest. That's bigger than anything else.
Well on page 150, you quote your father. Let me read it to you though. It's a wonderful story of father and son.
"A reporter for the `Tulsa World' once asked (my father) Buddy, who loved a good joke, about our political differences. `I'm not like my boy,' this dyed-in-the-wool black Democrat told the reporter. `I told him that voting for the Republican ticket made as much sense as a chicken voting for Colonel Sanders.'"
Your daddy notwithstanding, it probably has not been easy to be an African-American conservative Republican?
WATTS: Well it has been easy, Paul, because I've got a good sense of who I am. I'm secure in who I am. I don't need the validation of those that would say, you have to be a certain thing in order to be accepted. I'm comfortable going against the grain if I need to.
And by the way, Daddy, that same fellow that said that, by the way, voted for Richard Nixon in 1960. Thought that John Kennedy was too young to lead the country. And never voted for President Clinton. And I can't say he would have voted for George W. in 2000 had he been living, but I can assure you he would not have voted for Al Gore.
RIOS: Congressman Watts, let me say first of all you're going to be so missed. I can't tell you how much we're going to miss your smile, your voice, your wisdom.
But let me ask you this, you just walked off the floor from the House, cast your last vote, maybe the last one of your lifetime and came here to us. My question is how did that feel?
WATTS: Well, Sandy, I hadn't actually cast our last vote. We're probably going to have two more before the night -- two or three more before the night is over.
But it is the last night, right. And this has been a tough week emotionally because over the last eight years I've built some wonderful relationships with Republicans and Democrats. This atmosphere has been somewhat like a locker room for me where you build relationships based on real friendships. And of course, you know, I obviously agree with many Democrats, but I've made some good friends there. I've disagreed with some Republicans. But I've created some lasting friendships.
So you know, this is a very impersonal arena. You don't get to know a whole lot about people. You kind of keep things close to the cuff. But I've made some real friendships that will last for a lifetime in spite of the political differences that we might have. So this has been a tough week, Sandy. I've learned after three different meetings of saying good bye, to not say good bye, but to say so long. And I suspect I'll get a chance from time to time to come back and see those friends that I've created over last eight years.
BEGALA: Let me quote another passage from your book because you draw a terrific parallel between football and, as we say in Texas or maybe Oklahoma, life its own self.
On page 206, let me read this to you, "Affirmative action," you write, "is a little like the professional football draft. The NFL awards its No. 1 draft choices to the lowest-ranked team in the league. It doesn't do this out of compassion or guilt. It's done for mutual survival. They understand that a league can only be as strong as it's weakest team."
Now that's a, I think, courageous disagreement with many Republicans who think affirmative action is wrong. WATTS: Well, Paul, I think there is a role for a system or some type of design to say to least, to say to those that's trying to get into the system, to get contracts, to grow a business, to get scholarships, we are going to assist you.
I'm not one that believes that affirmative action should be based on one's skin color or one's gender, I think it should be done based on one's need, because I think if you are from a poor white community, I think that poor white kid needs a scholarship just as badly as a poor black kid.
So why would one say we're going to colorize education? I think that anybody that stays in school, gets good grades, pays the price, I think we are wealthy enough in the public and the private sector in America to make sure that every child in America that wants to continue their education, they should be able to do that.
WATTS: And so my affirmative action is based on need, not on skin color. And in the NFL, they do a great job of it. Paul Tagliabue understands if we can make the Cincinnati Bengals a much better team, we're going to sell more advertising, we're going to get more people in the stands. It is going to be good for the entire league. We want to make -- Paul Tagliabue says, We want to make the Cincinnati Bengals a resource as opposed to a drain on resources. I think that's the same theory that I apply in everyday life in trying to help the underserved community, all that I've done there. That's the purpose, to say let's make people a resource as opposed to being a drain on resources.
RIOS: Congressman, while you obviously have a very different philosophy of leadership than the traditional black leadership -- in fact, you are polar opposites with some of the traditional leaders, which has gotten you in trouble. That's a lot about what you talk about in your book. Let's look, for instance, at something that Jesse Jackson said this week about the election.
He said, "Next year, the right wing is going to control the White House, the House, the Senate, and the courts. Virtually every civil rights remedy will be made illegal next year."
My question for you is two part. Does he really believe that, and secondly, why don't you?
WATTS: Well -- Jesse talks -- Reverend Jackson talks in that language, and that's the rhetoric that he uses. I -- those are his politics. I can't say if he believes that or not. He could better answer that than I could, but I don't believe that. I think that Republicans being in charge, the things that we have fought for, you know, welfare reform -- not because we're trying to take something from someone and throw them in the streets, as was accused when we reformed welfare, but there's a different theory in my -- there's a different view on welfare with Reverend Jackson and me.
I think Reverend Jackson defines compassion by how many people you can have on food stamps, AFPC, and in public housing. I measure compassion by how few people are on food stamps...
WATTS: ... and AFPC, and I measure it by how few people are there because you've helped them climb the ladder of economic opportunity, and one of the things that Reverend Jackson says that I agree with totally, I think -- you know, and he says it about himself. He says, I was born in the ghetto, but the ghetto wasn't born in me.
And I think that -- I think that is the ideology that we should advocate with people who grow up in undeserved communities. I mean, and I can give you example after example after example in athletics. It's amazing. If you look on the front page of the 'Washington Post" or most national newspapers, it is very difficult to see role models of black men on the front page of those papers. But you know, you turn to the sports page and what do you see? You see red, yellow, brown -- that's right, Darrell Green, Alex Rodriguez (ph). You know, Barry Bonds, home run king for a season.
I mean, that's what you see. And so -- because athletics embodies sacrifice, hard work, commitment, paying the price, understanding that the only helping hand you can ever really rely on is the one at the end of your sleeve, athletics teaches that, and so I think that's why you see many kids being so attracted and drawn to athletics and succeeding where they don't do it in the classroom because we say, You can't because you are black, or We can't because you're poor, and I just -- I just totally disagree with that philosophy.
BEGALA: Congressman J.C. Watts, congratulations again. The book is "What Color is a Conservative." I want your pledge -- once you are not a politician you will come back as a preacher, a community leader, businessman, and join us again on CROSSFIRE.
WATTS: Well -- thank you both.
BEGALA: OK. Appreciate that very much. J.C. Watts, ladies and gentlemen.
In a minute, one of our Democratic viewers fires back his own thoughts about J.C. Watts and extends an interesting invitation to him, one I hope he will take up. Stay tuned.
BEGALA: Welcome back. Time now for "Fireback." Let's go to the e-mail bag.
Barry Robertson in Toronto, Ontario writes, "It's a shame that the Republican Party forced out one of its brightest stars, J.C. Watts. I must pay lots of respect to J.C. for walking away from a party that gave him an opportunity, but tied his hands. Paul, tell J.C. he should become a Democrat."
Yes, I hope he's watching still backstage. J.C. Watts, we'd love to have you in my party. RIOS: Yes, don't hold your breath, Barry.
This is from Sarah Radcliffe in Newburgh, Ontario.
She says, "I am shocked an amazed. Paul must really like Sandy Rios because last time she was on he spoke in such a respectful manner. How unusual. For that, he has my respect and appreciation, and please encourage Sandy to host the show more often."
Sarah, thank you. And Paul is nice to me.
BEGALA: There we go, I was raised right. My mom and daddy taught me manners, at least, vis-a-vis women. I tend to be rude to the guys when they come back.
Mark Harber in Woodstock, Georgia writes, "Hey Paul, you have really been cracking on the Augusta National Golf Club and golfers in general lately, but how is it that people like you, who like to climb up in a tree at 4:00 in the morning and wait for hours to blow Bambi's brains out, think you are somehow higher on the food chain?"
Mark, it is the clothes. Hunters wear that really cool camo, golfers wear that really silly, goofy -- the knickers, and the little gloves. It's the clothes, man.
RIOS: Oh, Paul, ease up on those poor golfers. You know?
BEGALA: No, I don't like golfers, and I don't like golf. Sorry about that. With Sandy Rios on the right, I am Paul Begala...
RIOS: I don't play golf.
BEGALA: ... on the left. Good night for CROSSFIRE. Stay with us, though, because CONNIE CHUNG TONIGHT begins right now.
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