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CNN CROSSFIRE

Supreme Court to Hear Case on Treatment of White Students in College Affirmative Action; Saudi Arabia Calls Accusations Unfair

Aired December 3, 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: the Supreme Court goes to college to decide if white students are being treated fairly. Will affirmative action flunk the test?
Saudi Arabia gets tough about money, charity and terrorism.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ADEL AL-JUBEIR, SAUDI FOREIGN RELATIONS ADVISER: We believe that our country has been unfairly maligned.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ANNOUNCER: Will it be enough to polish its image?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

AL-JUBEIR: The atmosphere in the United States unfortunately is it's a feeding frenzy. It's let's bash the Saudis time.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ANNOUNER: And before you have one for the road, watch out. It's taking less and less booze to put you over the limit if you're behind the wheel. Should it?

Ahead on CROSSFIRE.

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

(APPLAUSE)

TUCKER CARLSON, CO-HOST: Welcome to CROSSFIRE.

Tonight, reading, writing and affirmative action. Is that any way to run a university? Also, are tougher laws getting drunk drivers off the highway or simply putting unimpaired drivers in jail? But first we take them down and we pass them around. We bring you the best political briefing on television, our CROSSFIRE "Political Alert." The last Senate race in the country will be decided on Saturday, when incumbent Democrat Mary Landrieu faces Republican Suzanne Terrell in a runoff in Louisiana. The central issue in the campaign, which candidate is more like George W. Bush? Both Landrieu and Terrell brag about being virtual clones of the president, but only one can produce the real thing.

The president himself attended a Terrell rally in Shreveport today before headlining a fundraiser in New Orleans. At both events, Bush reminded voters that, despite her attempts to hide it, Mary Landrieu is, in fact, a Democrat, and a relatively liberal one at that. Voters finally seem to be noticing.

On Saturday, Terrell is likely to become Louisiana's first Republican senator since reconstruction. And Bush, the man Democrats have derided as inept and stupid, is well in his way to becoming the first president in a generation popular and effective enough to get candidates elected.

PAUL BEGALA, CO-HOST: The interesting thing here is you make a good point. Landrieu is a Democrat trying to pretend like she's pro- Bush. A sure strategy for losing. Let's see how she does as a Democrat. I'd like to see her win, but I think she's not going to because she's not running as a Democrat.

CARLSON: There's not a lot to run on as a Democrat these days.

BEGALA: Like the peace and prosperity that we had when Democrats ran the country? Both of which Bush has squandered?

CARLSON: Yeah.

BEGALA: The Catholic Archdiocese of Boston is considering declaring bankruptcy. Some fear that the move would be a legal strategy to avoid compensating the many victims of sexual abuse: children, raped by priests. The strategy is reported to be the brainchild of Cardinal Bernard Law of Boston. One member of the cardinal's own finance council said, "To me, it sounds more like a negotiating ploy."

Meanwhile, a judge has assailed the archdiocese for trying to delay the release of documents detailing priests accused of sexual abuse. The archdiocese finally and reluctantly released them today. Perhaps the wiser and more honest course might be for Cardinal Law to declare moral bankruptcy and ask Rome to replace him with someone who will protect the Church's children instead of its wealth.

And I say this as a Catholic and a believing one at that. It breaks my heart to see these cardinals covering up sexual abuse.

CARLSON: Well, it makes me feel a lot better about the Episcopal Church. Thanks for joining us.

Former Congressman Jim Traficant left Washington earlier this year on his way to an eight-year term in federal prison, but he did not go alone. He took the furniture with him. According to "Roll Call," the Ohio Democrat walked off with a conference table, six leather chairs, an end table and a coat rack. All the property of the House of Representatives.

Congressional investigators tracked the missing furnishings to an auction house outside Youngstown, where they're about to go on the block, presumably to help pay the $250,000 fine Mr. Traficant still owes the government. To a spokesman, Traficant explained that after watching the Clintons leave the White House he assumed furniture was "transferable." Traficant added that his only regret after 18 years in Washington was not being able to pardon a single fugitive financier before leaving town.

BEGALA: Now, of course, the Clintons followed the same rules that every president followed. And I didn't notice you banging on Ronald Reagan...

CARLSON: They took a lot of stuff that didn't belong to them, if I remember, Paul.

(CROSSTALK)

BEGALA: That's a big...

CARLSON: There's actually no apologizing for that.

BEGALA: They're actually clerical errors.

CARLSON: Clerical errors?

BEGALA: No, this is important. Because I didn't see right wingers banging on Ronald Reagan -- excuse me for talking while you're interrupting. Ronald Reagan walked off with a $2 million mansion that his rich cronies gave him as a payback for being a servant to the very rich.

CARLSON: It actually wasn't public property, but I love this, it's always, well you guys do it too. Why can't...

BEGALA: The Clintons followed the same rules. Get over it. Clinton was a great president. You cannot deal with that, so you're trying to trash him.

CARLSON: Charging Mark Rich, that was really quite a moment, Paul. Defend that.

BEGALA: That was Dick Cheney's lawyer who defended him.

CARLSON: It was Dick Cheney's lawyer.

(CROSSTALK)

BEGALA: It was Dick Cheney's chief of staff who...

CARLSON: He pardoned him. Keep going, Paul. It gets sadder every moment. BEGALA: It has been a year, of course, since Afghanistan was liberated, but Taliban justice lives on in the Bush White House. Consider the pathetic case of John Dilulio, the former Bush domestic policy aide who dared to tell "Esquire" magazine that the Bush administration completely lacks any policy apparatus. Even before the "Esquire" article had hit the newsstands, Ari Fleischer, spokesman for the administration to promote virtue and prevent vice, called Dilulio's comments, "baseless and groundless."

An odd choice of words, since Dilulio's observations were clearly based on his firsthand knowledge and grounded in his personal experience as a Bush aide. Within hours, though, Dilulio himself repeated Fleischer's attack on Dilulio, calling his own words again, "baseless and groundless."

Dilulio went on to say he's being treated well by his captors and he regrets speaking to the great Satan of "Esquire." For their part, the Bush aides promised not to stone him.

CARLSON: So you're attacking Ari Fleischer and John Dilulio, but, at the same time, praising what Dilulio said to the magazine writer? I mean, that's the most confusing thing I've ever seen. I mean, he just said, I don't agree with everything the magazine piece said.

BEGALA: The magazine piece was stuff he said and wrote himself. He's disavowing his own words.

CARLSON: No, actually he didn't disavow his own words.

BEGALA: Yes he did. He said they were baseless and groundless and that they were the wrong words.

CARLSON: He said the characterizations were wrong.

BEGALA: No, he didn't actually.

CARLSON: Actually, he did.

BEGALA: Well look at it. It's posed on the web at esquire.com.

CARLSON: When you think of the American labor movement, you probably think of teamsters and steelworkers and Mafia dons. But that's ancient history, at least the teamsters and steelworkers. The new face of organized labor is Pepper (ph). The 31-year-old shop steward of the exotic dancers guild. A chapter of the service employee's international union local 790.

Pepper (ph) is now on strike, along with Vivian (ph) and the rest of the hard working unionized lap dancers at the Lusty Ladies strip club in San Francisco. Like many American workers who spend their days naked rubbing against brass poles in darkened rooms, these union activists believe they deserve more sick days and better wages. Their slogan: Two, four, six, eight, pay me more to gyrate.

"We want respect," Vivian (ph) told The Associated Press. "We are grossly undercompensated." She added that her union is demanding a raise of at least $3 an hour payable in moist one-dollar bills. Those are your people. They're probably the only Republicans in the labor movement, though.

BEGALA: God bless them. You know what, if they need somebody to go out and personally organize the strippers, girls, Carville is ready to go out there and help you out. Had to say that. My wife watches. So does my grandma.

Sometimes, though, things get lost in the holiday rush. But nothing gets past the old CROSSFIRE "Political Alert." Last week, as most of us were committing the sin of gluttony for Thanksgiving, White House Spokesman Ari Fleischer committed the sin of candor. The following exchange took place at an official White House briefing.

A reporter asked Mr. Fleischer the following question, "Does the president have in mind a specific solution for the economy?" To which Ari replied, candidly, "No, the president does not."

There it is. Five words, the Bush economic policy. No plan, no solution, no clue. But he would like you to know that Saddam Hussein is an evil, evil man.

CARLSON: You know, Paul, you may not remember, but during the campaign in 2000, candidate Governor George W. Bush said, look, the economy is slowing down. Democrats, partisan to the point of insanity said, that's an outrage, you're talking down the economy, it's untrue. The president acknowledged before he was even president that we are in a downturn and then the first thing you do, literally a week into it, blame Bush for the economy.

Most people know the president is not in charge of the economy. It's too big. It's too complicated.

BEGALA: It's too big for Bush. It wasn't too big for Clinton. You get a president who knows what the hell he's doing.

The Supreme Court is going back to school in a case involving race relations. In a minute, two guests will step into the CROSSFIRE to discuss whether the color of your skin should determine whether you get into the college of your choice. And later, a debate that may make you think twice before getting behind the wheel after partying too much. And our quote of the day, a top Democrat tells his party off, but not defending one of its own.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BEGALA: Welcome back to CROSSFIRE.

The United States Supreme Court has agreed to hear a case involving one of the most divisive issues in our country, affirmative action. The justices will decide whether applicants to the University of Michigan and its law school were unconstitutionally turned down because they were white. Now, in order to achieve a more diverse student body, many institutions have policies that take into account an applicants race, along with other non-racial characteristics, like geography, socioeconomic disadvantage and, of course, athletic skills.

The high court's ruling, which is due by next June, could literally change the complexion of higher Ed in America. Joining us to debate this from Sacramento, Ward Connerly, the Chairman of the American Civil Rights Institute. And with us here at George Washington is District of Columbia's delegate to Congress, Eleanor Holmes Norton. Thank you both for joining us.

(APPLAUSE)

CARLSON: Delegate Norton, thanks for joining us. At the heart of one of these cases is a story of a woman named Jennifer Gratz. She applied to the University of Michigan, she had a 3.8. She didn't get in, partly because she was white. Now if your daughter was applying to college and she didn't get in partly because she was black, if her race counted against her, I think you would call that what it is, it's racism. And I think you'd call it that. Why not call it that here?

REP. ELANOR HOLMES NORTON (D), DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA: Well, I wouldn't because in the University of Michigan case, it should be noted that there were whites who also did not get in whose scores were the same or lower than the scores of blacks who did not get in. The reason is that diversity broadly considered was added to a large number of factors.

Now, these factors included factors that let in whites with lower scores than this plaintiff got in. If diversity is what is a central value in this and every selective university in the United States, then it ought to be a compelling interest or seen as a compelling interest by the Supreme Court.

CARLSON: Wait a second. What you're saying is, if I understand it, that it's OK to count someone's race in his favor, and of course the flip side, the inevitable flip side of that, is it's OK to count someone's race against him. Now that is -- if there is a definition of racism, isn't it that?

NORTON: When, in fact, you have a whole grid of factors, and, in fact, you are looking at the entire grid of factors, and you're looking at groups that have been under-represented in higher education for 200 years, of course, if you want diversity you must make race a factor. Not the deciding factor. But at least a factor. Or else you're going to end up with the same kind of all-white student bodies that you've had...

CARLSON: Unless you commit racism against the white students.

BEGALA: Excuse me. Let me bring Mr. Connerly into this. The Supreme Court did rule on this precise issue about 24 years ago in a case involving the university on whose regents you sat, not at the time, but the University of California system. They also, in that case, the Bocky (ph) case it's called, as you well know, the court referred back to a case 30 years earlier which integrated my alma mater, the University of Texas law school. And it speaks directly to law school admissions, which is what's at issue here. Let me read you what the court ruled. It's supposed to be, as Al Gore would say, the controlling legal authorities. The Supreme Court says, "The law school, the proving ground for legal learning and practice, cannot be effective in isolation from the individuals and institutions with which the law interacts. Few students, and no one who has practiced law, would choose to study in an academic vacuum removed from the interplay of ideas and the exchange of views with which the law is concerned."

Isn't the Supreme Court right when they say that diversity is an important state interest?

WARD CONNERLY, CHAIRMAN, AMERICAN CIVIL RIGHTS INSTITUTE: I think diversity is a very important interest if you're talking about diversity of thought. I don't think that the diversity of someone's skin color or where their ancestors came from is compelling. And that is exactly what the court is going to have to decide.

Diversity, as practiced by most public and private universities in America, is nothing more than a license to discriminate against those that they consider under-represented. The nation is dedicated to the principle of equal treatment for every individual, not groups. And the whole idea that there is under-representation, I think strikes at the heart of what's wrong with the way most of these policies are practiced.

BEGALA: Well, Mr. Connerly, though, diversity of thought is sort of an ephemeral thing. I don't know how we have a thought police to check that. In Michigan, the case at issue before the court looks not just at race, as Delegate Norton said, they also look at geography, if you happen by circumstance of birth to be an under-represented county. They look at socioeconomic status, they look at whether you can play football. And the University of Texas, by god, they ought to be looking at that, too.

Why is it that we have affirmative action for things like that, or say in the case of George W. Bush, it's called a legacy. He received affirmative action as the kind of over-drinking, over- privileged son of the moneyed elite. Why should they get affirmative action but not people based on race?

CONNERLY: There's a difference between affirmative action, Mr. Begala, and race preferences. In every instance that I've seen -- and I still serve on the board of regents of the University of California -- when race is being used, it is not being used as a teeny, weenie, itty-bitty factor. It is the deciding factor. And extra points are given to some people on the basis of their quote race and taken away from others.

That is not affirmative action. That is a blatant system of race preferences, and that is something that I hope the court strikes down.

NORTON: Now, if it were the deciding factor, then it would be a quota. Quotas are exactly what the Bocky (ph) case 25 years ago struck down. It is one among sometimes dozens of factors. And unless you want an all-white university, listen to your college presidents, you're going to have to have that factor factored in.

Now, let me say this, because this is very important, and seldom mentioned when we talk about affirmative action. Affirmative action is a temporary remedy. If you want it to go away, then, of course, you've got to, in fact, do it and get it over with. If you do what Mr. Connerly is talking about, you're going to be doing something like it for god knows how long.

For example, even in California, you've had to go to a proxy for what proposition I think it's 209 (UNINTELLIGIBLE). Now, in fact, they have another way of, in fact, getting minority students, because they were flushed out of the system by abolishing affirmative action altogether.

BEGALA: Well, Mr. Connerly...

CONNERLY: That's not a proxy. That is not a proxy. We've gone to a comprehensive review of all applicants looking at their grades and their standardized test scores, as well as their backgrounds. But it's not a proxy for race.

(CROSSTALK)

NORTON: It's a proxy, because it's where they were in their class at schools all around the state, including minority schools. So some of those children go to schools that are 100 percent black or Hispanic.

CONNERLY: But Congresswoman, anyone can be in their top four percent at the University of California. And what you're saying is that, in order for a child to learn, or a student to learn, they have to have somebody of a different color sitting next to them. If that be true, then we may as well wipe out all of the black colleges, the historically black colleges, all of the women's colleges, because they're all lacking in diversity.

CARLSON: Now, Delegate Norton, I want to get back to the core issue here, which is, is it morally right, should it be legally allowable to punish someone for the color of his skin? And I think a lot of people don't believe it ought to be. I want to read you a quote from one.

Her name is Ebony Sandusky (ph). She was a student at the University of Michigan. She's quoted in the "Chicago Tribune" some years ago saying this: "It makes me angry that students were rejected from this school even though they were qualified. If I had known that my grades had been raised half a point just because I'm black, one of my application essays would have been why I didn't want my grade point to be raised. It implies that minorities are not as smart."

This is someone who's embarrassed to be the beneficiary of racism.

NORTON: Yeah, then of affirmative action...

CARLSON: Of racism, which is what it is. NORTON: Then don't go. The fact is that those -- the universities are full of -- not full of, not as many as there should be -- black and Hispanic students, because there must be many who, in fact, hold the opposite view. You've got to understand that affirmative action is here and embraced by African-Americans, by higher education, by Hispanics, precisely because diversity is seen as an important value...

CARLSON: Actually, polls show it's not embraced by any of those groups.

NORTON: How do you know?

CARLSON: Because I have the poll right here. Would you like to see it? There's a poll by "The Washington Post." "In order to give minorities more opportunities, do you believe race or ethnicity should be a factor when deciding who's hired, promoted or admitted to colleges? Whites, 94 percent no. Blacks, 86 percent no.

NORTON: Yeah. Ask that question in a way that makes it look as though...

CARLSON: That's the most neutral possible way you could ask it.

CONNERLY: Can I enter this dogfight?

NORTON: If you're telling me that black people want us to get rid of affirmative action, I want to have somebody who, in fact, has been for affirmative action speak for them.

BEGALA: Let me bring in Mr. Connerly. Let me come back to this point, though, that what sticks in the craw of many, I think, on affirmative action, vis-a-vis race, is we have no control over our race. Why then are you not just as exercised about special preferences for legacies, benefits for people whose parents already went to that university? It seems to me society's better served by giving preferences to people whose parents didn't get a chance to go to college so we have more opportunity.

How can you defend privileges to the George W. Bushes of the world when you say you oppose racial privileges?

CONNERLY: Well, to answer your question, I am exercised about legacy admits and that's why I offered a resolution at the University of California, which was passed by my colleagues to eliminate legacy admits. We've done that. It is wrong to provide admission on the basis of who your father is or your grandfather is, rather than who you are as an individual.

But let's recognize one thing. It is consistent. It's inconsistent to go with -- to eliminate race preferences but to keep the legacy admits. And that's why we did away with both. But let me tell you this...

CARLSON: Mr. Connerly, I'm sorry we're going to have to leave it there. We are completely out of time. We've gone a little over, but it was worth it. Thank you very much for joining us. Delegate Norton, thank you. We appreciate it.

(APPLAUSE)

BEGALA: Still ahead, shutting off the money pipeline to terrorists. The Saudi Arabians say you can trust us. Should we believe it? Also, the state-by-state move to make what used to be driving legal into driving drunk. But next, rich, bored and unemployed, he keeps talking and talking and talking and talking some more. But is anyone still listening? That's our question. We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BEGALA: Welcome back to CROSSFIRE.

While President Bush was playing politics in Louisiana today, his predecessor, President Clinton, was reminding us all what a real president sounds like. Whereas Bush simply repeated his standard stump speech, W.'s only known commitment to recycling, President Clinton was giving a tutorial on presidential leadership.

In a speech to the Democratic Leadership Council, Mr. Clinton urged his party to be relevant in a progressive way, to take a clear stand on national security, and to be tough, and disciplined. And in our quote of the day, he took his fellow Democrats to task for their lack of toughness in the face of Republican attacks.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

WILLIAM J. CLINTON, FMR. PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: What was done to Tom Daschle was unconscionable, but our refusal to stand up and defend him in a disciplined way was worse.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BEGALA: Amen. A party that can't be trusted to defend its leaders won't be trusted to defend America.

CARLSON: This is one case when I feel sorry for Democrats. To have someone get up there like Bill Clinton, who really we all ought to get over at some point, particularly Democrats, who didn't help his party at all in the midterms, who actually is responsible, I think, for the disintegration of the Democratic Party to a large extent...

BEGALA: Sure, the only president since Roosevelt to win two presidential elections and two landslides.

CARLSON: You're absolutely right. The first wasn't a landslide, obviously.

BEGALA: Sixty-eight percent.

CARLSON: It was the Ross Perot election. But the bottom line is, look, Paul, he left his legacy to his party is confusion, disintegration. Two years after he leaves office, your party has no idea what its stands for, what it thinks. It's pathetic. Even you agree with that. That's his legacy.

BEGALA: The fact the Chicago Bulls suck after Michael Jordan left is Michael Jordan's fault? No. Jordan's the greatest basketball player of all time. Bill Clinton is the greatest president of my lifetime.

CARLSON: That's a ludicrous analogy.

BEGALA: Pay attention to him. You'll learn a lot.

CARLSON: I think it's time to get over Bill Clinton. I have.

BEGALA: I wish you would. He was a great...

CARLSON: You wish I would?

More preparations for a possible war with Iraq. Connie Chung has details next in a CNN NEWS ALERT. And then, with friends like Saudi Arabia, can the United States afford to rest easy or even at all? And before you reach for that next drink, look around for big brother and even tougher drunk driving laws. Are they fair? That's our debate. We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BEGALA: An adviser to Saudi Arabia's royal family today issues a defense of what critics call a woman hating, terrorist breeding kingdom. The defense was slicker than a barrel of Saudi crude.

Next in the CROSSFIRE, Saudi Arabia, partner in combating evildoers or mother of terrorists?

Later, efforts to make sure you get home from those holiday parties in one piece.

Stay tuned.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(APPLAUSE)

CARLSON: Welcome back to CROSSFIRE. You will be surprised to learn that we're coming to you from the George Washington University here in downtown Washington.

Saudi Arabians are complaining that the United States has the wrong image of their country. Never mind that 15 of the 19 hijackers on September 11 were Saudi. Never mind that while two of the hijackers were living in the U.S. and plotting mayhem, they may have gotten money from a Saudi charity.

Today the Saudis again promised to get tough on terrorism and do a better job of tracking money flowing out of the country through so- called charities.

Here to discuss the Saudi's image problem is James Zogby, president of the Arab American Institute and author of "What Arabs Think: Values, Beliefs and Concerns."

(APPLAUSE)

BEGALA: Thank you. Jim, first, congratulations on the book. Thank you for bringing it by. But tonight, I do want to talk not to much about what Arabs think of your new book, but what Americans think.

JAMES ZOGBY, PRESIDENT, ARAB AMERICAN INSTITUTE: Right.

BEGALA: But one of the things I think we think, we saw the press conference today from Mr. al-Jubier, senior adviser to the royal family there. And one of the things he said struck me, and I made a note. He said, "One of the differences is cultural, we Arabs are quite about expressing emotions." And that was taken by the some the wrong way after September 11.

Oh, contrare, as they say in France. Let me read to you from a statement from a part of the royal family. This is from the Middle East Media Research. They reported on November 29 -- this is of last year -- "In "al-Yakim" (ph), a weekly news magazine published online by the Saudi royal family released an English translation of an interview with Saudi minister of interior, Prince Niaf Ibin al-Badah Assiz (ph)."

Here is what Prince Niaf said. "Who benefited from the events of 9/11? I think, they the Zionists are behind these events. It is impossible that 19 youths, including 17 Saudis carried out the operation of September 11."

Doesn't sound to me like he's hiding his emotions very much, Jim. Sounds like he hates Jews and he's blaming them for 9/11.

ZOGBY: Well, look Prince Niaf's comments didn't stand. They were not reflective of the government position, and in fact, the foreign minister made it very clear that Saudi Arabia was embarrassed and angry that 15 of their young people did it. And he made the point public. He made it clear. And he's repeated the statement over again.

I saw those comments by Prince Niaf. They were not -- they were not correct. They were not fair. They were not, I think -- they were a kind of a denial. And they were wrong. They shouldn't have been made.

BEGALA: Is this one of those deals that it happens here too, where we say one thing to the folks at home and then we try to make up nice when we say things...

ZOGBY: No, no.

BEGALA: ... overseas? Is that what's going on with Saudi Arabia?

ZOGBY: It's a statement where somebody in the government said something that simply wasn't right, and the foreign minister who speaks for the government, made it clear Saudi Arabia accepted responsibility for 15 of their own young people, who literally did a horrific and wrong act. And they deserve to be condemned for it, and they should be.

Prince Niaf shouldn't have made that statement. It was wrong.

CARLSON: I think we just took a poll of the audience in a commercial break -- "What percentage of you think of Saudi Arabia as an ally," which is kind of an adversary.

Most said adversary, and I think that's reflective of how Americans feel in general.

Let me tell you why I think part of the reason. I think Americans were surprised to learn the Taliban was receiving money from the Saudis, that Iraq over the last 15 years has received, you know, X numbers of millions, maybe billions from the Saudis. And there's a perception that they fund causes -- that is the Saudis -- fund causes that are against (ph) American interests.

ZOGBY: Well, you know, I think part of the problem here is that we haven't really seen this whole situation in perspective. We can look at both the Taliban situation and the Iraq situation to understand them.

In the case of Afghanistan, the United States and Saudi Arabia were partners. We worked together to get the Soviets out of Afghanistan. And it was a victory. It was one of the major victories in the Cold War. We defeated the Soviet Union and forced them to evacuate, causing a great demoralization in their country. It probably caused them as much demoralization as what happened in Eastern Europe later on.

After we left, after they left, we dropped the ball completely. The United States walked away, left Saudi Arabia holding the bag. And what was left in Afghanistan was a vacuum that was filled by warring tribes not unlike the situation today if we walked away. And we asked the Saudis to help. They were funding different groups. They only group that seemed to be able to coalesce and bring it together was the Taliban.

It was a tactical and ultimately strategic error. But it was one that the United States actually supported early on.

(CROSSTALK)

ZOGBY: We did not discourage the Saudis from playing that role. When they discovered what the Taliban was doing, they walked away from the Taliban as well, and we...

CARLSON: After 9/11 as you're fully aware.

ZOGBY: Actually, no, actually no. Saudi Arabia broke with the Taliban before 9/11...

CARLSON: On 9/11 they were one of I think three countries to recognize the Taliban in...

ZOGBY: But they broke with supporting the Taliban, and in fact it was a major issues when they did with Iraq. Understand Iraq was fighting Iran. And Iran was threatening the entire region...

CARLSON: Hold on. Before we go into the whole history of this, the bottom line is...

ZOGBY: And we were supporting Iraq as well, the United States was as well. Remember that.

CARLSON: Read this. This is Mohammed Sharif (ph), who is the Tunisian minister of education. This is a quote to the New York Times. This get to the very core of the point I'm making.

"While Saudi Arabia is officially a moderate state allied with the United States," he says, "it's also been one of the main supporters of Islamic fundamentalism because of its financing of schools, falling the intransigent Wahhabi doctrine. Saudi backed madrasas in Pakistan and Afghanistan play significant roles in the strengthening of radical Islam in those countries."

That is all undeniably true, and that's the problem.

ZOELLICK: Well, look, I have a problem with the madrasas. I do. And Saudi Arabia in fact has supported those madrasas. In Pakistan they did because it absorbed lots of young people.

Remember, when Afghanistan was fighting, there were maybe four million refuges on the border with Pakistan. Some thing had to be done to absorb those people and give them something to do. The United States, working with Saudi Arabia, helped set up those schools, as a way of absorbing that energy.

The people that went in to teach them turned out to be extremists not unlike some of the religious missionary fundamentalist crowd in this country that goes and creates trouble in other parts of...

CARLSON: That's an outrageous (UNINTELLIGIBLE). No American in this country has ever blown up buildings. Come on.

ZOGBY: My friend, wait, my friend, listen. What happened at 9/11 has to be understood as an evil, condemnable act. But the ideology of religious extremism is a phenomenon, not exclusive to Islam. And don't for a minute think that it is.

There are Hindus massacring Muslims. There are Jews massacring Muslims. There are Christians massacring both as well.

CARLSON: In New York City? I mean...

ZOGBY: No, wait, wait. What happened to America was wrong. I am not justifying it. It is condemnable. But religious extremism is a worldwide phenomenon, and if we don't wrap our arms around all of it and deal it, as a world wide phenomenon, I think we're putting ourselves all of us in the world in grave peril. CARLSON: Well, let's talk about...

ZOGBY: Don't confuse one with the other. They're all fundamentally wrong.

CARLSON: This is fundamentally an Islam problem...

BEGALA: Here's the difference though. If Bob Jones University wants to teach their racist clap trap at their university, Christians of good faith say that's wrong, right? Except for George W. Bush who went there to suck up to them. Most of the people of my faith said, "No, that was wrong."

The Saudis have a school right here in the Washington, D.C. area, and this is what the Washington Post found when they went to that school, this is not a madrasas trying to absorb refugees in Pakistan.

ZOGBY: I know the quote and I was shocked and horrified when I saw it.

BEGALA: Let me read it to the audience though because it is...

ZOGBY: I was horrified when I saw it.

BEGALA: ... shocking and horrifying. The 11th grade textbook at the Islamic Saudi Academy in North Virginia, for example, says "One sign of the day of judgment will be that Muslims will fight and kill Jews who will hide behind trees that say oh, Muslim, or servant of God, there is a Jew hiding behind me. Come here and kill him."

That's Saudi sponsored hate being taught right here in America.

ZOGBY: It is wrong. And it should not be in those books, and I'll tell you, again, it is a world wide phenomenon. And we have, believe it or not, in this country, religious preachers, Christians, who are saying evil, wicked things about Muslims. And some of them are supporters...

CARLSON: So everyone does it. It's not a...

BEGALA: Here's the difference...

ZOGBY: Some of them are supporters of our presidents and our president rightly distinguished himself, I think, by saying it was wrong and it has to stop.

BEGALA: When did Crown Prince Abdullah say that these Muslim extremists are wrong?

ZOGBY: Now, you're getting to the point. The Saudis have said it, are saying it. And what happened today with Adel al-Jubeir speaking before the U.S. press was to make it clear that Saudi Arabia is taking public steps to deal with this problem.

And we -- look, I was asked a question in a show recently, "Is Saudi Arabia a partner or a problem?" And I said, "It's a partner with a problem."

And as a partner, America as a partner with Saudi Arabia, we have to help them deal with the problem. This kind of going berserk over every time Saudi Arabia is mentioned isn't helping solve the problem. We have to work with them as partners to deal with the problem that they are beginning to wrap their arms around and put to rest.

And I think it's important that they're taking the steps they've taken. They should be commended for the steps they're taking, and we should work with them to help them take further steps.

But that does not mean that we should gang up on them every chance we get.

Remember the Three Stooges and Niagara Falls?

(LAUGHTER)

ZOGBY: You know, it's the same thing. You say Saudi Arabia today, and people normally sane people go berserk. It is wrong. We should be deal with this in a cold and dispassionate way to help them deal with this problem because they want our help. They don't want our absolute contempt, which is what they're getting from too many people right and left in this country.

BEGALA: Anybody who can work the Three Stooges into a debate about Saudi Arabia is my friend.

Jim Zogby, the book is...

ZOGBY: I'm on this show.

BEGALA: ... "What Arabs Think: Values, Believes and Concerns."

Thank you very much for joining us. Thank you favor a very good debate.

(APPLAUSE)

Still ahead, your chance to "Fireback" at us.

And one of our viewers is a little concerned that Tucker's wardrobe makes a political statement. Is my friend sartorially correct? We will let you know soon.

But next, a friendly reminder that we can all live with. Stay tuned.

(APPLAUSE)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(APPLAUSE)

BEGALA: Welcome back to CROSSFIRE. T'is the season for holiday parties. But before you reach for that next class of beer or glass of champagne, consider this. More and more states are lowering the limit for what is considered drunk driving. In New York, lawmakers have just made a deal to make the legal blood alcohol limit .08, joining 34 other states and the District of Columbia.

The move comes under pressure from the federal government, which will withhold federal highway funds from states that haven't toughened their drunk driving standards by the year 2003.

To put this in the CROSSFIRE, we are joined by John Doyle. He is the executive director of the American Beverage Institute. And in West Batalla (ph), New York, we are joined by Senator Charles Fuschillo. He is the sponsor of New York's tough new DUI law.

Thank you both for joining us.

(APPLAUSE)

CARLSON: Senator Fuschillo, thank you for joining us.

(APPLAUSE)

You hear people say quite a bit that lowering the DUI threshold to .08 or maybe even lower will save lives. And you hear them say specifically it will save 300, 500 a million lives.

So I was amazed to find out that there is zero evidence that having a .08 blood alcohol level makes you more likely to get into an accident.

There's not. So don't you think there ought to be before we start making this the law of the land and hauling people off to jail?

CHARLES FUSCHILLO, N.Y. STATE SENATOR: Well, I don't agree with you that there's zero evidence. Look at the states that have enacted .08. They've had a significant reduction in traffic fatalities. And just look at the statistics nationwide.

You know, I don't agree with former President Clinton that much, but in the year 2000 when he signed that mandate requiring states to go to .08 by next year, he did the right thing. Statistics throughout this nation show that too many people are dying on our roads. And whether it's .10 or above, or .10 or less, we did the right thing.

CARSON: But Senator, obviously, nobody is in favor or drunk driving. And certainly not in favor or fatalities and traffic accidents.

But look, here's the problem. If I have four glasses of wine over two hours and I'm at .08, I'm penalized the same way as someone who has 14 glasses of wine. And of course, a man with 14 glasses of wine in his system is much more likely to cause an accident, and yet we're both equally guilty. That's ludicrous. FUSCHILLO: No, it's not ludicrous. Look at the statistics in 1999. I mean, tell the 1,000 families of individuals who died from getting killed by a drunk driver with less than .09 throughout this nation, they're not going to think it's ludicrous -- ludicrous. We have to do whatever we can whether it's on a federal level or a state level, to get the drunk drivers off of the streets and make people think twice before they get into that vehicle.

Whether it's four drinks or five drinks, what's important here is have they lost their responsiveness when they get behind the wheel? And four drinks, the National Highway Transportation Safety Board has determined that.

BEGALA: In fact, we can get to the statistics in a minute Mr. Doyle, and we will. But you know, Washington, common sense is not too common. So let's start with common sense.

I am about a 175 pound male. If I had -- to get to .08, I can have four drinks on an empty stomach in one hour. Now if I have four drinks on an empty stomach on one hour, are you going to let me drive your kids around the highway here, the beltway in Washington?

JOHN DOYLE, EXECUTIVE DIR., AMERICAN BEVERAGE INSTITUTE: Well, you said we were going to put the statistics up for a moment. But if you were a hundred...

BEGALA: Just seriously, yes or no? Would you risk your children's lives on a man who had four drinks on an empty stomach in one hour?

DOYLE: Well, Paul...

BEGALA: Hell, no, you wouldn't...

DOYLE: ... I wouldn't put my kids in your car under any circumstances.

(LAUGHTER)

BEGALA: This is like the death row, John. We have 50,000 deaths a year from this, and somebody...

CARLSON: Well, wait a minute (inaudible). Come on.

BEGALA: ... you want people behind the wheel to run over to my kids with four drinks in them.

DOYLE: Paul, understand this whole debate over drunk driving has lost its perspective. We as a nation have -- and for the most part solved the drunk driving problem whereby we can reach the responsible social drinker.

None of us here is going to turn on a bender and get drunk and drive. What we're left with is this hard core of alcoholics who do not respond to public appeal, quoting a very famous leader in this fight. It's down to this group. This group is not going to -- this problem is not going to be solved by .08 or roadblocks or other sanctions.

These are alcoholics who are dealing with alcoholism. The problem has been reduced to this -- that does not address -- that does not need a .08 to be addressed with. It needs sanctions like -- to go to our point. If you're at a .08, you want to make it illegal, you are actually safer than if you were driving with a cell phone according to the New England Journal of Medicine.

Yet if you're in New York and you're driving with a cell phone, you know what the penalty is -- a hundred bucks. You get popped at .08, you go to jail, $15,000, loss of license.

But you are less impaired...

BEGALA: This is where common sense has just left the room. If somehow cell phones are more dangerous than four drinks in one hour -- by the way, let me take on...

DOYLE: New England Journal of Medicine -- '97.

BEGALA: ... this myth that it's just a few hard core drunks. Do you know what the percentage of first time DUI arrests is in the state of Illinois for example? Eighty two percent. It's not just the hard core who get arrested four, five, six, eight times...

DOYLE: And do you know what the average VAC (ph) of those of arrestees is? In the fatal .17, we're talking about alcohol abuse. Do you know how much beer it takes you to get to .17? You'd probably drink 11, 12 beers an hour. That's where the problem is. Yet we have this sanctions...

BEGALA: Four beers in an hour is not a problem.

DOYLE: No, not for me.

(CROSSTALK)

BEGALA: Senator Fuschillo...

FUSCHILLO: You know what, Paul, it is about common sense. And it's about us being responsible in New York state and throughout this nation. You can't tell me that somebody who is at .08, 09 and .10 is a responsible driver. It's exactly what you said. Four drinks in one hour, it doesn't make you a responsible driver.

CARLSON: But Senator, wait, hold on. Here, this is -- first of all, before we making sweeping generalizations about what a responsible driver is or is not, I still am awaiting the study to prove this scientifically. But isn't this really about eliminating all drinking and driving. The zealots behind this measure want it to be illegal to have a glass a wine and then drive because the idea that any drinking and driving is morally wrong.

That's the impetus isn't it?

FUSCHILLO: You know, what absolutely not. I am certainly not a zealot behind this. I look at the facts and figures. I meet with the parents who have lost their children, whether it's somebody who was .08, .09, .10, these are about real facts. These are not about somebody's philosophical believes.

DOYLE: Well, Senator, let's look at the facts...

FUSCHILLO: These are looking at the facts that when somebody gets in the car and they're drunk, that car becomes a weapon. And they're killing people. And we're just trying to make it a greater deterrent for them to get behind the wheel.

DOYLE: We -- Senator, we have a drunk driving problem, and your colleague Senator Bruno, your colleague, has pushed for higher mandates and higher punishments against true abusers, alcohol abusers. These are the people who have reduced the drunk driving too.

Yet your bill is simply attacking someone today who is today defined by the law as a responsible social drinker. You are now by law, redefining this person as a drunk, and you're going to hit him with a sanction which is equal to as if he had drunk...

FUSCHILLO: Listen, I'm the one who sponsors...

DOYLE: ... a fifth of gin.

BEGALA: But tell me again...

FUSCHILLO: No, no. Let me just finish that -- let me just answer that point.

BEGALA: ... I just want the definition on the table of what's a responsible social drinker. Four drinks in one hour on an empty stomach is OK with you?

DOYLE: You want to play the number game. Two glasses of wine for 120 pound woman according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, she drinks two glasses of wine over two hours, she gets behind the wheel of her car, and that's pretty social drinking, stopped at a roadblock, she's going to jail. She is not...

BEGALA: Good.

DOYLE: ... the drunker driver.

BEGALA: Two drinks and a 120 pound woman...

DOYLE: No, no...

CARLSON: OK. Unfortunately...

BEGALA: ... four drinks in an hour...

DOYLE: ... in two hours, Paul. Not...

CARLSON: ... ladies and gentlemen, before we send her away, we have to go to a commercial break. And I'm sorry we're out of time. I wanted to know more about this woman.

Senator Fuschillo, thank you for joining us. Mr. Doyle, thank you very much.

DOYLE: Thank you for having me.

(APPLAUSE)

CARLSON: Next in "Fireback," yet more Republican support for the Begala for president campaign. We'll tell you about it. We'll be right back.

(APPLAUSE)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(APPLAUSE)

BEGALA: Welcome back to CROSSFIRE. Time now for "Fireback."

We've been getting an awful lot of e-mail about some of the debates we've had. One of them to start off from Bill Campbell from Leesburg, Florida, writing about our president, George W. Bush.

He says, "He's smoked the environment, torched the economy and burned foreign policy. He's in the Bible -- the burning Bush." There he is.

(LAUGHTER)

CARLSON: Oh, those Democrats, great bumper sticker writers. I'd say you've corned the market on that.

BEGALA: Bush is a biblical figure, though.

CARLSON: Next up, Mark Dunn (ph) from St. Louis writes, "Amen to Begala for president. I'm a hardcore Republican and I think Paul is wrong on nearly all of the issues he addresses, but at least we'd see a politician who pick a side, voice his opinion, and be fully capable of defending that position, an art that I think is sorely missed throughout politics."

I have to say there is just a tidal wave of GOP support for you.

BEGALA: You can feel the groundswell can't you.

CARLSON: Sharpton can't do it alone. He need's a little help. That's right.

BEGALA: That's exactly right. Never going to happen, believe me.

Rodney Fenn (ph) in Houston, Texas, near by my home town anyway, writes, "Forehead," -- that would be me of course, some of us can't afford a toupee, Rodney -- "of course you're going to try and stir up something by bringing up this article by some liberal about Rove and Bush. Why shouldn't you? You're like a schoolboy who didn't get his way when your buddy, phony Al, didn't win. That's too bad; get over it."

My buddy, phony Al, did win. The Supreme Court stole the election, Rodney. It even made the papers in Houston. You get over it.

(APPLAUSE)

CARLSON: OK...

BEGALA: I'm a forehead...

CARLSON: ... someone needs a little professional help. Tracy Penner (ph) of Rockville, Maryland writes, "Tucker it all makes sense now. Your clothes are a reflection of your political coherence. They're all over the place and don't make sense."

(LAUGHTER)

Thanks, Tracey (ph). You know, I think they're kind of -- it's sort of bold. You have bold stripes.

BEGALA: It's looking fine to me. You know...

CARLSON: Thank you, Paul...

BEGALA: Tracey (ph), get...

CARLSON: ... my fashion advisor.

BEGALA: Exactly.

CARLSON: That's exactly right. Speaking of fashion, yes, sir.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Tucker, my name is Doug White and I'm from Washington, D.C. And I noticed earlier that you said that you think the Democrats ought to get past President Clinton. And I'm wondering why it is that the Republicans don't get past President Clinton and stop kicking him around?

CARLSON: Well, A, because it's fun.

But you often hear Democrats say, "Get over it, get over it, get over it." But really, it's not Republicans who are daily reliving the 2000 election or going on about the glories of the incredibly embarrassing Clinton administration. One never hears Republicans say that. I think they are over it. It's the Democratic party that needs a little help.

BEGALA: The Republican Party of course wants to name every waste sewage treatment plant after Ronald Reagan, but they don't like the fact that Democrats had a great president in Bill Clinton and wish he was still in office.

Yes, ma'am, what's your question or comment? UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Hi, I'm Megan Connelly (ph) from Arlington, Virginia. Diversity is a key element in every college campus, but won't affirmative action lower the standards universities strive to achieve?

BEGALA: I don't think so, no. In fact, I went to a university that practiced affirmative action, and it actually made the education environment much better.

CARLSON: Well...

BEGALA: That's for university presidents, actually to decide.

CARLSON: ... and I don't even think...

BEGALA: And they actually support affirmative action.

CARLSON: I don't think that's the issue is whether it lowers standards. The issue is, is it ever morally right to punish someone for the color of his skin? And I thought we agreed no. It's always, always wrong no matter how you try to explain it or excuse it, it's wrong.

BEGALA: Just like we reward the heavy drinking, under achieving children of the very rich.

CARLSON: Whatever that has to do with it.

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

CARLSON: From the right, I'm Tucker Carlson. Join us again tomorrow night, Wednesday night, for yet more CROSSFIRE.

CONNIE CHUNG TONIGHT begins right now.

See you tomorrow.

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