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CNN CROSSFIRE

Will Trent Lott be Replaced in the Beginning of the Year?; The Republican Record on Race

Aired December 17, 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: he's doing lots of damage control.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. TRENT LOTT (R-MS), MINORITY LEADER: I'm now trying to find a way to deal with the understandable hurt that I have caused.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ANNOUNCER: Does Trent Lott have any political friends left? Tonight: what Washington's insiders are saying.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We've seen an elected official get punched in the nose.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ANNOUNCER: Plus, does the Republican Party have a problem with its record on race?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ARI FLEISCHER, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: The president supports affirmative access.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ANNOUNCER: Tonight on CROSSFIRE.

From the George Washington University: James Carville and Tucker Carlson.

(APPLAUSE)

JAMES CARVILLE, CO-HOST: Welcome to CROSSFIRE. The whole country is talking about Trent Lott's future, that is if he has one. So what's the president of the United States doing? Reading stories to children and not taking questions. We have lots more to say about all this, so let's start, as we always do, with the best political briefing in television, our CROSSFIRE "Political Alert." President Bush's only public appearance this afternoon was when he helped read "The Night Before Christmas" to a racially mixed group of children. Ironically, while this was going on, the president's spokesman was reaffirming his boss' support on his position on Trent Lott.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

FLEISHCER: The president, I reiterate, does not think Senator Lott needs to resign.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CARVILLE: This is completely consistent with President Bush's past in dealing with matters of race. While the governor of Texas, he refused to attend the funeral of James Byrd, the black man who was dragged to death. He refused to support hate crime legislation when it came before the Texas legislature. He refused to condemn Bob Jones University of banning interracial marriage. And he refused to condemn the flying of the confederate flag in South Carolina state capital.

Now President Bush's friends say he hasn't got a racist bone in his body. I believe they're right. His detractors say he hasn't a courageous bone in his body either. I know they're right. Mr. President, it's time to more than repudiate Senator Lott's comments. You need to call for his resignation, the resignation of John Ashcroft, and all the other members of your party who are nostalgic for the racist policies of the past.

(APPLAUSE)

TUCKER CARLSON, CO-HOST: As you know, James, Trent Lott is on his way out. And he's on his way out because the president of the United States wants him out. As for hate crimes legislation...

CARVILLE: Why today did he say -- I thought this was a man that knew the meaning of "is."

CARLSON: Because you know as well as I do that there is a complicated dance going on...

CARVILLE: I thought he was going to tell the truth.

CARLSON: He is telling the truth.

CARVILLE: Ari Fleischer wasn't telling the truth when he said the president doesn't see any need for...

CARLSON: No, he was not telling the truth.

CARVILLE: I don't understand. A man ran for office on the thing he would tell us the truth. And you're saying that he's lying?

CARLSON: Give me a break. You just read the most sanctimonious news alert about how the president is for Trent Lott's -- you know it's not true. CARVILLE: He said it today. He doesn't need...

CARLSON: I don't care what he said. You know for a fact that he's on his way out.

CARVILLE: Look, he says he's a straight-talking Texan. He even knows the meaning of the word "is." He told us that. He's now saying he doesn't need to leave.

CARLSON: Well, actually, by comparison of the man he replaced, it's a pretty...

(CROSSTALK)

CARVILLE: I'll tell you what, when it came to these kind of matters, he sure didn't speak with a fork tongue.

CARLSON: Trent Lott's groveling mea culpa on Black Entertainment Television last night, part of what "The Weekly Standard" calls the "Repent with Trent Tour," doesn't seem to have changed many minds. The Senator denounced his own remarks at Strom Thurmond's birthday party as "insensitive, repugnant and inexcusable." He left out insane, evil and worthy of the death penalty, but you get the point.

Incidentally, we asked Senator Lott to come on tonight to discuss the scandal, but his staff said he was busy attending a Kwanzaa party. But at least one mind was opened as a result of the BET interview. Congressman John Lewis, who led civil rights demonstrations and survived beatings of the hands of real racists in the 1960s, called Lott's apology "sincere." "I would like to come down on his side," Lewis said, "giving him a chance."

Smaller minds and much lesser men do not agree. But if John Lewis is willing to give Trent Lott a chance, who in conscience would dare not? I tell you who would dare not: Democrats who want to squeeze every political advantage they can out of this.

CARVILLE: Let's give President Bush credit. He still supports him. He's taken John Lewis' thing. He said there is no need for him to resign.

CARLSON: But you know that's not true.

CARVILLE: But wait, you're not saying he's not following John Lewis' (UNINTELLIGIBLE). You're saying that he's lying? I don't understand. I'm confused.

CARLSON: No, what I'm saying is you ought to take Trent Lott at his word, as John Lewis does, as someone the moral authority to make that statement.

CARVILLE: I'm confused, Tucker. The president is lying and I'm supposed to say that's a good thing. I don't understand.

CARLSON: I don't believe the president has addressed it directly. Do you, James? CARVILLE: Ari Fleischer said the president sees no need in him resigning. Absolutely. You think he didn't tell Ari what to say? He's lying -- if you say he's lying, I think the president is telling the truth. Trent Lott voted against a Martin Luther King holiday, and even though he says it was a mistake, he'd vote for it. Something Lott said during last night's television interview. It's so absolutely ridiculous, we've just got to play it for you. Listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

LOTT: I'm not sure we in America, certainly not, you know, white America and the people in the south, fully understood who this man was. The impact he was having on the fabric of this country.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CARLSON: Is there more sanctimony on the way now? Are you going to go on and on about he is the one man who didn't recognize how great Martin Luther King was? I'm sorry he voted against the holiday. That doesn't make him a racist. Please, James.

CARVILLE: Well, let me put it this way. If he was from the state of Mississippi and in 1983 he didn't realize that Martin Luther King was a big deal, then he's too damn dumb to be a racist. I mean, I don't know how to tell you this, but Martin Luther King is a big deal, man. He's like a big guy.

CARLSON: Well, thanks James, for stating the ludicrously obvious. And don't think that's the point Lott was making. I think he was making the point that he didn't know that by voting against it he would be indicating to some people that he didn't like black people.

CARVILLE: Oh, come on. You think when that vote came up you think there was one black person in the whole country that didn't say we need a holiday honoring our hero? And that he was a big deal to us?

CARLSON: Trent Lott disagreed, that that doesn't make him a racist.

CARVILLE: I didn't say he was a racist. If he said he didn't know, he was really dumb.

CARLSON: We need to have a sanctimony alarm here.

CARVILLE: We need somebody to tell the truth.

CARLSON: The sanctimony alarm is going off, James. I'm going to have to cut you off.

According to "The Washington Post" this morning, close friends and advisers of Senator Tom Daschle are urging him not to run for president in 2004. Their stated reasoning, not because Daschle presided over the worst and most profound midterm defeat in modern political history, not because he could not possibly beat George W. Bush two years from now, but instead because Ted Daschle is just too important to step down as leader of Senate Democrats in order to compete in the primaries.

In other words, Tom Daschle's closest friends simply care about him too much to see him fulfill his lifelong dream of becoming the most powerful man on the planet. They love him, that's why they don't want him to become president. Keep in mind those are Senator Daschle's friends talking. I'm a friend, too, of Senator Daschle.

CARVILLE: I'll tell you one thing. I am a friend of Senator Daschle.

CARLSON: You are?

CARVILLE: And I think -- yes. I think he is a great man.

CARLSON: Do you insult him like his other friends?

CARVILLE: No. I think he is a great man, I think he's a great senator, and I think he would make a great president. He is a friend of mine. He's a very good man.

CARLSON: Yeah, good. That's great.

CARVILLE: Today, the "Wall Street Journal" reports that to convince the country we need more tax cuts, the White House is claiming that deficits don't matter. But the White House is wrong, deficits matter. The "Journal" detailed how study after study shows there is a direct correlation between high deficits and high interest rates. And we all know that high interest rates are terrible for the economy.

Republicans won't be troubled by such facts, however. After being the party of the balanced budget amendment and after saying the government should balance its books like (UNINTELLIGIBLE), now the Republicans are abandoning these positions to give more tax cuts to the rich. The truth is the Republicans don't care about deficits, just like they don't care about Trent Lott or any policy or any principle other than getting elected, and that's a fact.

(APPLAUSE)

CARLSON: Actually, as you know, interest rates are as low as they've ever been and, in fact, the deficit was limited (ph) to Clinton because of the tech boom. Something he had nothing to do with.

CARVILLE: Oh really?

CARLSON: Yes, oh really.

CARVILLE: It was a sound economic policy...

CARLSON: No it wasn't.

(CROSSTALK) CARVILLE: ... and in his long-term -- it was sound economic policy. This is a party of tariffs, this is a party of deficits, this is a party of third-rate people. This is a party that cuts back on education. This president is a disaster on the economy.

CARLSON: Those are stupid bumper sticker generalizations, which is about all you're going to get.

As savvy newspaper readers know, often the most interesting news appears not on page one, but in the corrections column. Such is frequently the case of "The New York Times," which earlier this week ran the following correction. This is a verbatim quote.

"An article on November 10 about animal rights referred erroneously to an island in the Indian Ocean and to events there involving goats and endangered giant sea sparrows that could possibly lead to the killing of goats by environmental groups. Wrightson Island does not exist; both the island and the events are hypothetical figments from a book. No giant sea sparrow is known to be endangered by the eating habits of goats."

Other corrections printed in "The Times" that day clarified that Narnia (ph) is not a Baltic republic, Rumplestiltskin is not the incoming German justice minister. And, in fact, the lollipop guild has never been part of the American labor movement.

(APPLAUSE)

CARVILLE: I love corrections. I know many fine people in the lollipop guild.

CARLSON: Yes, I do too.

CARVILLE: And they do make fine lollipops, and you just have not chosen to join the AFL-CIO. But I'm sure under the tutelage of my good friend John Sweeney that the lollipop workers will see that they need to be under the umbrella of the great AFL-CIO.

CARLSON: They're what we call politically unreliable those lollipop guys.

In a minute, the prospects for Trent Lott's political survival. We'll gauge the mood on Capitol Hill and beyond. We'll also dare to ask what the Senate leadership would like without the man from Mississippi.

Also, what ever happened to pure colorblind democracy? Has it been given up? We'll debate it. We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CARVILLE: Welcome back to CROSSFIRE and what sure looks like and feels like the Trent Lott political deathwatch. Or is there a chance he can still pull through? Either way, there is a lot on the line. Let's get a sense of the mood in two of the country's most important cities. CNN Congressional Correspondent Jonathan Karl joins us from Capitol Hill, and CNN Senior Analyst Jeff Greenfield is standing by in New York.

(APPLAUSE)

CARLSON: Jon Karl, does anybody you've talked to on the Hill think Trent Lott is going to come out of this as Senate majority leader in January? And what do you think?

JONATHAN KARL, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: The vast majority think, no, that he's not going to do this. There are some on the other side. You know Ted Stevens, who is going to replace Robert C. Byrd as the president pro tem, the most senior Republican on Capitol Hill and the Senate, he came out with a statement saying he's coming back to Washington to fight for his friend, Trent Lott.

So there are some clinging to that hope. But most think, Tucker, that this holiday season there will be a group of wise man traveling not to Bethlehem but to Pascagoula, Republican wise men, to make the case to Trent Lott that he needs to step down.

CARVILLE: Jeff, let's just for the purpose of people here, 26 senators actually will decide who the next majority leader is of the United States Senate. Doesn't it look like everybody has to fall in line after the majority vote?

JEFF GREENFIELD, CNN SENIOR ANALYST: Well, usually the custom is, once the leader is chosen, it's kind of like a nominating convention in the old days, where they say, well, actually it's unanimous, even if you got 51 percent. But it strikes me that there's a -- one of the most interesting things about this story is that the normal instinct would have been for a lot of conservatives and Republicans to say, as I think Tom DeLay did say a few days ago, this is partisanship and it's hypocrisy, and what about Robert Byrd and what about that?

And all of the ammunition that I think is hurting Trent Lott has come from Republicans and from conservative thinkers. And if I may, I think there are two reasons for that. There is no question historically that the rise of the Republican Party in the south was geared originally to race. 1964, Goldwater carried five states, Thurmond went into the party.

It is also true that the younger generation of conservatives and Republicans are asserting that their philosophy will actually help poor people, black people, brown people more, and I think they're particularly angry because Trent Lott has thrown this whole conversation back 35, 40 years ago.

CARVILLE: How is Sonny Perdue's campaign in Georgia against the taking of the confederate symbol off the flag symbolic of this sort of young group of conservatives that are coming up talking about their solutions? It's the same thing to Perdue that the national Republicans all campaigned with.

GREENFIELD: James, Sonny Perdue is not emblematic of the kind of people I'm talking about. He's not emblematic of Bill Frist. He's not even emblematic of George W. Bush, who in his acceptance speech in 2000, said, "It's time to put conservative principles squarely behind the fight for justice."

Now you can argue sincerity, you can argue whether their ideas are right. But their intention to make that case has been really hurt by the old wounds that Trent Lott has opened. And that's why I think his own party is ready to dump him.

CARVILLE: Is this being the same George W. Bush, Jeff, that took a courageous stand against the confederate flag in South Carolina, right?

CARLSON: Now if you could just hush for one second. Jon Karl, my impression is that the White House is really driving the effort to get Senator Lott to step down or resign or not to be a Senate majority leader. Do you think that's true?

KARL: Well, we have two front-page stories. One in "The Washington Post, " one in "The New York Times" saying that the white House is prepared to let this guy go. Clearly, that's is the impression up here. The impression almost to a person among Republicans on Capitol Hill is that the White House is sending a very clear message that they want Trent Lott gone. So absolutely.

And you know, to Jeff's point, conservatives are driving this train both here on Capitol Hill and off Capitol Hill. And, as a matter of fact, we interviewed Tom Daschle today for his first interview since this whole thing erupted, and Daschle was asked about this -- I asked him about the censure resolution. They're ready to put that on hold. They're not talking about censuring Trent Lott right now. They want to sit back and watch the Republicans implode.

CARLSON: So give us a sense quickly of what this will mean. Let's say Trent Lott resigns next week. What happens?

KARL: Well, the question is does he resign from the Senate or does he resign from majority leader? That's the big question. Because if he resigns from the Senate, obviously, you go back to a 50- 50 Senate, because you've got a Democrat in Mississippi who would be in the position to name his successor.

And another thing Tom Daschle said is he would love to have Mike Espy (ph) come up here to take over for Trent Lott. Mike Espy (ph), of course, an African-American former member of the House, former Ag secretary, is already being talked about in that situation. So who knows.

But clearly, the conventional wisdom here on leadership is that it falls to one of two people, Don Nickles or Bill Frist. And the feeling here is that Bill Frist is the one the White House wants.

CARVILLE: Jeff, can you tell me how many elected Republican members of Congress have called for Trent Lott's ouster?

GREENFIELD: The only one who sort of did in so many words was Don Nickles. But surely, James, you have been swimming in the major political oceans long enough to know that the language of politics at times like this from both parties is Aesopian. In other words, it's kinds of by indirection.

And there is no question that, when you pick up the papers today, as Jonathan said, and you see the not for attribution, you can't (UNINTELLIGIBLE), this is the language that Washington speaks. It also, by the way, is why so many people hate Washington. Nobody says what they really mean.

KARL: Yeah. And also the fact that you have Ted Stevens as one of the very few Republicans that have come out willing to defend this guy. I mean, they're speaking with their science. But there is another one I'll add to the Don Nickles, and that's Jim Talent put out a very strong statement today, openly questioning whether or not it's appropriate to have Trent Lott stay on as their leader.

CARLSON: OK. I was just going to say thanks for telling us. We may have Jim Talent on CROSSFIRE. I hope he comes on. Thank you both for coming on, Jonathan Karl, Jim Greenfield, thank you.

(APPLAUSE)

Next: the party of Abraham Lincoln has an image problem. How much longer can Democrats get elected by playing the race card? Jesse Jackson and Cliff May will be here to debate it.

And later, we'll ask, what if Republicans have a new year with a new Senate majority leader? What will it mean? We'll get details. We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CARLSON: Welcome back to CROSSFIRE. On page one of every Democratic strategy manual are these words: When all else fails, call your Republican opponent a racist. It's been like that for decades.

(APPLAUSE)

Unfortunately, it still works. But how much longer can it work? Stepping into the CROSSFIRE tonight, the Reverend Jesse Jackson of the Rainbow Push Coalition, along with Republican strategist and former Republican National Committee Communications Director and former "New York Times" man Cliff May.

CARVILLE: Did he write that?

(APPLAUSE)

CARLSON: Now, Mr. Jackson, we don't agree on all that much, but I think we can both agree on a basic definition of racism. Racism is when government favors one group over another based on skin color.

JESSE JACKSON, RAINBOW COALITION: That's a limited definition.

CARLSON: Well, that's one of them.

JACKSON: No. One definition may be personal, feeling superior.

CARLSON: Right.

JACKSON: It may be institutional, where one group has advantage over another. It may be philosophical, it may be religious. And so don't make it that simple.

CARLSON: I don't think it is that simple. But I think we can agree that is racist in any case. So I'm struck by the fact that only one of the two major political parties has that idea at its core, in its platform, and as its operating principle. Its support for affirmative action makes, it seems to me, the Democratic Party complicit in racial discrimination.

JACKSON: Affirmative action is a conservative remedy to offset years of denial. And, by the way, it is a majority of white women and women of other color, plus people of color. It is an affirmative action of those who have been victims of negative action. And it has been seen as a minority. It is a majority issue. Women and people of color are a majority.

CARLSON: I must say, I'm struck by -- if that definition is true -- by this poll. This is, I think, the definitive poll done by Harvard in "The Washington Post" on affirmative action. Here's the question -- not a loaded question.

"In order to give minorities more opportunities, do you believe race or ethnicity should be a factor when deciding who is hired, promoted or admitted to college?" Whites are against it by 94 percent to three percent, but black Americans who responded were against it 86 to 12 percent. Now, I don't know how you -- that makes sense to me, people are against discrimination, no matter what you call it.

JACKSON: What's phenomenal about the case in Michigan, for example, is that you make, as a factor legacy points -- the kind that Mr. Bush got when he went to Yale -- athlete points, rural points, international points, above 50 points, grades points, but race cannot be a point. Race is the most fundamental fact in the history of America's past and America's existence. There must be some plan to remedy the years of denial and exploitation, which persists until this day. Don't you know that?

(APPLAUSE)

CARVILLE: Cliff, let me go back to this (UNINTELLIGIBLE). What is it about your party, the Republican Party, that makes people like in the neo-confederate groups, people in the Concerned Citizens Council, who advocate racial segregation, why do these people feel more comfortable in the Republican Party than they do in the democratic Party? What have you all done to make them feel so welcome and warm there?

CLIFF MAY, FOUNDATION FOR THE DEFENSE OF DEMOCRACIES: I can't imagine, and nothing I hope, and nothing we should. The fact of the matter is, James, that I believe very strongly -- and I'm going to establish, I hope, for you -- that it's the Republican Party that is the more integrationist of the two parties. We don't believe in segregation even if you call it theme dorms. We don't believe that hyphenated Americans is the model. We don't believe in balkanizing, we don't believe in divisiveness. Which party believes that one should be judged by the color -- not by the color of their skin, but the content of the character. Martin Luther King (UNINTELLIGIBLE) Republican.

CARVILLE: Well I'm sure he was a big Republican. OK? Let me go here. What is it about -- why is the attorney general of the United States gives an interview to a magazine that hails the assassination of Abraham Lincoln and he says we don't do enough to promote the image of the confederacy? The current president of the United States goes to South Carolina and refuses to take a stand on the symbol of the confederate flag flying over the capital. You don't think black people get that?

MAY: Look, there was a confederate flag embedded in the state symbol of Arkansas where -- when Clinton was governor. There was a park named for a Ku Klux Klansman in Tennessee. We all have to examine...

(CROSSTALK)

CARVILLE: ... give an opinion on this.

MAY: Senator Byrd was a Ku Klux Klan member. I know he's not now, and I'm sure he doesn't long for those times.

CARVILLE: Answer my question. Why couldn't George W. Bush take a stand on a racist symbol that was flying over the South Carolina thing? Doesn't that make neo-cons, neo-racists?

MAY: Look, the people who have been hardest...

CARVILLE: Neo-confederates comfortable?

MAY: No, it doesn't. The people who have been hardest on Trent Lott for what he said, for his remarks, have been conservatives. Because the Republican Party is the party of Lincoln.

JACKSON: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) the most from Trent Lott has been conservatives, because it was his anti-civil rights...

MAY: He's damaged his party, he's damaged all southerners. He's damaged himself most of all.

JACKSON: His struggle in Mississippi and across the south. When he took Reagan to Philadelphia, Mississippi, where two Jews and a black was killed the same day Carter was in Atlanta, Georgia giving the human rights speech, that signal was not lost. When he tried to get funding for Bob Jones University, where Bush went two years ago, that signal was not lost. So when he voted against the King holiday, against (UNINTELLIGIBLE)...

(CROSSTALK)

MAY: Reverend, when I talk about Senator Byrd and when I talk about others, I'm saying that race is an issue inside both parties, and both parties have to examine their souls in this. And what's more, playing the race card, as you're doing, James, and a lot of Democrats are doing, by making believe that this is a Republican problem as opposed to an American problem.

CARVILLE: Let me tell you, I asked you a question and you didn't answer. Why didn't George W. Bush have the courage to go to South Carolina...

(CROSSTALK)

CARLSON: (UNINTELLIGIBLE), James.

CARVILLE: No, I'm not -- you'll have to answer one of my questions. Don't tell me what I said.

CARLSON: Now Mr. Jackson, I want to hit you with my theory here.

MAY: Why was Senator Byrd a member of the Ku Klux Klan?

(CROSSTALK)

CARLSON: May I ask Mr. Jackson a question, here? OK. And you feel free to wipe James' spittle off your coat if you'd like to. Mr. Jackson...

CARVILLE: I get excited.

CARLSON: ... it seems to me that Democrats being, of course, the party that created and sustained and benefited from segregation, the party that opposed the 1964 civil rights legislation, have a lot of guilt and a vested interest in pretending that -- it's a true fact. It passed by Republican support.

(CROSSTALK)

CARLSON: A vested interest in pretending...

JACKSON: You do know that in 1964...

CARLSON: Twenty-one Democrats voted against it.

JACKSON: ... when Nixon would not reach out to Dr. King in jail and (UNINTELLIGIBLE), that was a march of his victory. You do know that Lyndon Johnson in '64 led the (UNINTELLIGIBLE) drive, while Goldwater opposed it. And then the right to vote led by Democrats and supported by some Republicans.

CARLSON: Did the majority of Democrat's vote for the civil rights act?

JACKSON: Well, the (UNINTELLIGIBLE) came from outside of both parties. Both parties were trapped in the race syndrome. We broke it wide open.

CARLSON: Well, let me just ask you one quick question. J. William Fulbright, the long time senator from Arkansas, the mentor of our former president, the signer of the southern manifesto in 1956 opposing Brown, was against the civil rights act for 1964. Those strike me as defining moments in any person's career. Why is he a hero to your party?

JACKSON: But Al Gore's father was not.

CARLSON: Al Gore's father voted against the civil rights act of 1964, just so you know.

JACKSON: But all of this is a diversion from Trent Lott as the here of the Republican Party. He delivered a new south for the Republican Party. And those who benefited from his work now want to dump him rather than censure him. It seems to be unkind and not generous.

CARLSON: But we're talking about the parties here. Why is it...

(CROSSTALK)

CARVILLE: Let me ask you a question. Why did Lyndon Johnson the Democratic nominee in '64 support the civil rights act and Barry Goldwater, Republican nominee, oppose it?

MAY: Lyndon Johnson -- the same reason, I would say, that Eisenhower decided to desegregate the schools in Little Rock, Arkansas. Because he believed in integration.

CARVILLE: Why did Barry Goldwater oppose it? He didn't believe in integration?

MAY: You know I don't think...

(CROSSTALK)

CARLSON: He was a libertarian, that's why.

CARVILLE: He was a libertarian, that's why. Oh, I got it.

(CROSSTALK)

JACKSON: All of this is a diversion from Trent Lott and the Republican Party. Tonight, he (ph) says that she (ph) goes from apology to contrition to conversion. Let's not support affirmative action. Let's not (UNINTELLIGIBLE) on racial conciliation.

Mr. Bush, the president, has not (UNINTELLIGIBLE) civil rights groups one time in two years. Has not (UNINTELLIGIBLE) organized labor one time in two years.

CARLSON: That's totally not true.

JACKSON: He has not met with the NCAA or the Leadership Conference in Civil Rights one time in two years. It's absolutely true.

CARLSON: Well, he hasn't -- he's met with organized labor again and again. A lot of them vote Republican.

JACKSON: He has not met with John Sweeney on one in two years.

CARLSON: As you know -- I'm glad that you brought that up, because speaking of civil rights groups and civil rights here is none is greater in American life today that John Lewis of Georgia. And I want you to hear what he has to say about Senator Lott.

This is verbatim quote.

JACKSON: All right.

CARLSON: "I'd like to come down on his side," that is Senator Lott's side, "giving him a chance. I'm not one of those calling for him to step down and give up his leadership post. We all make mistakes. We all make blunders. It's very much in keeping with the philosophy and discipline of non-violence to forgive and move on."

It seems to me Mr. Jackson if John Lewis can do, I don't know why you can't.

JACKSON: I think John Lewis is right, but let me tell you what the scriptures says about it. It says, "If my people who are called by my name will humble (ph) themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then they hear from heaven."

If Mr. Trent Lott is now looking to change his ways and begin to address issues of poor people and civil rights and civil justice in a legislative way, select judges who are fair -- you measure a tree by the fruit it bears.

So I think John is right in first step. Now as he goes toward inclusion, will the party follow him as it followed Lyndon Johnson? He's on the Lyndon Johnson trail. Lyndon Johnson went from the sordid (ph) southern background to '64, public accommodation. That's where redemption came.

CARLSON: So Lott is the new Lyndon Johnson?

CARVILLE: Let...

JACKSON: Well, the point is that will be the measurement because Johnson's redemption came through legislation, not just through words.

Trent Lott's redemption will come through action, just not through words. That is true for the president as well.

CARVILLE: I have started an organization called "Liberals for Life," and...

CARLSON: Oh, please.

CARVILLE: ... let me tell you, because Lott, actually, I can't understand. You can't justify -- Lott has to go because he expressed nostalgia for 1948, yet John Ashcroft gets to stay -- he express nostalgia for 1848. He said we ought to do more -- so my point is what do you tell the little school girls and school boys at home, how do you tell the children that Trent Lott has to go and John Ashcroft gets to stay?

CARLSON: I think...

CARVILLE: Explain that to America how a person gives an interview at a (UNINTELLIGIBLE) magazine stays attorney general.

MAY: The Reverend Jesse Jackson just gave the answer here.

CARVILLE: What...

MAY: Legislation -- for example, legislation that will open them so they can open them so they can go to any school of their choice and get...

CARVILLE: Amen.

MAY: ... and get a good education, which the Democrats oppose and the Republicans favor.

JACKSON: But when Mr. Bush says...

(CROSSTALK)

CARLSON: That's the way to do it...

(APPLAUSE)

JACKSON: ... when Mr. Bush says, vouchers for a few, rather than public education for all, he's leaving thousands behind.

MAY: So if we can do it for everybody, you're in favor of it?

CARVILLE: Regardless...

MAY: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) school choice (UNINTELLIGIBLE).

JACKSON: I think all schools should be choice and all children chosen. But you can't do that by selecting a few.

CARLSON: So who are they?

MAY: So you agree on the theory, we've just got to figure how to (UNINTELLIGIBLE).

CARLSON: And on that note of agreement, I'm afraid we're going to have to end.

CARVILLE: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) join with me, we're all for Trent.

CARLSON: Mr. Jackson, thank you both.

JACKSON: Trent Lott is your leader.

CARVILLE: Cliff May, thank you very much. JACKSON: Do not leave him now. Lott is your leader.

CARLSON: Not for long.

JACKSON: He is your leader.

CARLSON: Thank you, Mr. Jackson. I appreciate that.

(APPLAUSE)

CARLSON: Nice to be barked at.

Will the war with Iraq be a U.S. cake walk? The chairman of the joint chiefs of staff has an answer. Get it next in a CNN "News Alert."

And then, we'll survey Washington's 2003 political landscape which seems to be a whole lot more than up than in the air thought it would be.

We'll be right back.

(APPLAUSE)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(APPLAUSE)

CARLSON: Believe it or not, our viewers are interested in more than Trent Lott. In a moment, one "Firesback" some thoughts about Al Gore. Remember him.

But first, from the probably to the ridiculous, we'll survey the political possibilities in the new season of Congress with or without Trent Lott.

We'll be right back.

(APPLAUSE)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(APPLAUSE)

CARVILLE: Welcome back to CROSSFIRE. We're coming to you live from the George Washington University in Foggy Bottom in beautiful downtown Washington, D.C.

Trent Lott's attack of foot and mouse disease could arrange (ph) the Senate's political landscape almost as much as the last election.

Two former lawmakers are here to discuss the possibilities. Please Democratic strategist and former California Congressman Tony Coelho, along with former Pennsylvania Congress Bob Walker, who is a Republican.

(APPLAUSE)

CARVILLE: Tony, Congressman Walker, how are you doing?

(APPLAUSE)

CARLSON: Tony Coelho, here's what I understand the essential Democratic argument to be against Trent Lott and the Republicans. They said, "Look, Republicans may not be actual racists, but they are in some sense pandering to racists for political gain to this large group of people out there who are racists."

Here's where the theory falls down. Not only have I never met this mythical group of racists that's voting Republican, I've never -- despite looking at a lot poll numbers -- ever seen evidence that they exist in numbers large enough to pander to.

Where' the evidence that large numbers of Americans actually are racist? Do you have -- have you ever seen numbers on that?

TONY COELHO, FORMER CONGRESSMAN: I find it intriguing just how defensive you are and how you're spinning the White House line.

CARSON: Why not answer the question.

COELHO: You know, but I think -- I think, pal it is not...

CARLSON: Answer the question.

COELHO: ... pal, what you are basically trying to do is to flip it on us, and it doesn't work.

CARLSON: It's a simple question. If you can't answer it, just say so.

COELHO: There's a lot of examples for it. I tell you what, what's really exciting today...

CARLSON: Where's the research?

COELHO: ... is that -- what's exciting today is not about Trent Lott. This is not about blacks. This is not about the Republican Party. It's really about the maturing of America. It's exciting because basically Americans of all parties of all persuasions are saying, "Enough is enough. We're not going to put up with it anymore."

That is exciting to me.

CARLSON: But I still...

(APPLAUSE)

COELHO: And so I think it's time to get it over with.

CARLSON: I think part of what you said is right, but...

COELHO: And I think it's great.

(APPLAUSE)

CARLSON: ... I still want to get to the nub of it, and it's an honest question.

COELHO: But you know what, but in effect, by you continuing to hammer on it, you're in effect accentuating...

CARLSON: Tony, settle down, I'm just asking you a question.

COELHO: ... what people are concerned about.

CARLSON: Have you ever seen evidence that large numbers of Americans...

COELHO: Of course I've seen evidence of it.

CARLSON: Where is it? And how big is it?

COELHO: The Willie Horton ad with George Bush. You want me to go chapter and verse? I've been...

CARLSON: That was 14 years ago.

COELHO: ... around some 30-some years and I've seen it time and time...

CARLSON: In other words no, you have no real evidence...

COELHO: ... time again.

CARLSON: ... obviously?

COELHO: Oh, yes, I do.

CARLSON: Produce it.

CARVILLE: Congress Walker, I like to refer to people by their title as opposed pal, when they come on this show.

CARLSON: If (ph) that's how they respond.

CARVILLE: Again, I like to refer to people by their title (UNINTELLIGIBLE).

Give me the odds on Senator Lott surviving this?

BOB WALKER, FORMER CONGRESSMAN: I think they're pretty good, actually.

CARVILLE: Pretty good, OK.

WALKER: I think when all is said and done that the American people will see the facts of this case and I think the Senators will become more comfortable with it. The meeting that's to be held in the Senate is being billed as a meeting on voting on Trent Lott, is in fact a meeting about discussing the whole issue.

So it will be an internal institutional issue, and they'll hear Trent Lott...

CARVILLE: Give us the case for Trent Lott. Give us -- because everybody comes on here says he's gone and everything else. I find no one will stand up for him, and I want to give you -- give me the case for it.

WALKER: I want to you -- I have a little hard time being dispassionate on the subject because...

CARVILLE: That's all right.

WALKER: ... Trent Lott's been a friend of mine for 30 years.

CARVILLE: Be passionate, be passionate. He doesn't have any defenders out there, and I want to give you a chance to defend him.

WALKER: And the fact is that the Trent Lott that I've seen portrayed over the last several weeks are not the Trent Lott who I know. And I think that Trent Lott has done a lot of good things in the United States Senate, and senators are going to line up behind him for the leadership skills that he provides.

And I think there are a lot of people who recognize that his ability to work inside the institution is in fact something which President Bush is going to need over the next few months. And that is a positive thing for Trent Lott.

CARVILLE: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) one more question before we (ph) go on. Trent -- last night Trent Lott said he was for affirmative action across the board. Do you really believe that he means it?

WALKER: I'm for affirmative action, and I worked that way in the United States Congress. What I'm not for is quotas. And I think that quotas, you know, have been entered into some process of affirmative action.

But I'm very much for a process that allows disadvantaged people to be able to be considered for jobs to have a leg up. And I worked for that. I was a guy who worked for (UNINTELLIGIBLE).

CARVILLE: I didn't (UNINTELLIGIBLE). You're not in trouble. He is. I'm trying to say that he said he's for it across the board.

WALKER: I'm going to -- but I'm going to point out that I'm one of the people who voted for the Martin Luther King holiday, worked against red lining and so on.

CARVILLE: But...

WALKER: And I found in Trent Lott... CARVILLE: Right.

WALKER: ... when I worked with him in the House, a very valuable ally who I felt was perfectly comfortable with the (UNINTELLIGIBLE).

CARLSON: James, would (ph) you vote (ph) for Strom Thurmond in '48 is the question? Not the (UNINTELLIGIBLE).

(CROSSTALK)

CARVILLE: You understand, Congressman, I'm giving you a chance to defend your guy. You've only (UNINTELLIGIBLE).

WALKER: (UNINTELLIGIBLE).

CARLSON: OK, now then I want to get back to my pal, former congressman, Tony Coelho. I want to show you a soundbite that sums up everything I think is wrong with the Democratic response to what Trent Lott did and said.

It's a quote in fact. And I'm going to read it.

This is from Congressman Jesse Jackson, Jr., a Democrat of Illinois. He said, "Trent Lott is the Republican Party's Monica Lewinsky, except worse."

"Jesse, Jr., what do you mean worse," he asks rhetorically of himself in the third person.

"Let me try to explain. Monica Lewinsky reflected Bill Clinton's private moral failure. Trent Lott reflects the Republican Party's political moral failure. Both Monica and the issue now confronting Trent Lott are moral failures. One issue involves personal morality. The other public morality."

There are two problems with this. One it reduces it to a political equation when it's much deeper, more important, these racial wounds in America. And second, it implies that the Republican Party itself has an institutional problem with race, which I think is unfair and unfounded. Don't you?

COELHO: Well, I think that to a great extent, it's an exaggeration that the Republican Party has a problem with this. I agree with that. But there are people in the Republican Party where it's really been a method to become majority.

It started with Richard Nixon, who I happened to like, by the way, but he had an agenda. It started with Ronald Reagan, and had the same agenda.

And I'll tell you, Willie Horton ad, wasn't something that was brought out of nothing. And so the agenda is there. The Republicans have accentuated it. They succeeded. I don't like it, but they did succeed.

WALKER: But President Bush has tried to change that agenda (ph)...

COELHO: And so, and so the point is that it has been there. So if you want to taint the whole Republican Party, no I won't because Hugh Scott from the state of Pennsylvania, a great Republican Senator, was a great civil rights...

CARLSON: Wait a second.

COELHO: ... and I could go on and on.

CARLSON: And you could of course -- of course you could.

COELHO: And there were Democrdats that were horrible on this, but we're talking today, Tucker...

CARLSON: OK, well, let's talk today.

COELHO: ... we're talking today about something that Trent Lott said...

CARLSON: I understand. Let me ask you a follow-up question...

COELHO: ... today, not yesterday.

CARLSON: However...

WALKER: What he said was wrong, but there is a -- but I think that we also have to look at the fact that President Bush as really tried to change the dialogue on this. President Bush has stood up on many occasions and attempted to bring about a situation where we're not dealing with bigotry.

CARLSON: Wait, but hold on. Let me ask Tony (ph)...

CARVILLE: No, I want to go to Congressman Walker here.

CARLSON: ... the last example you gave was in 1988, the Willie Horton ad. I would argue Willie Horton actually did rape and kill people and it was a legitimate ad. But beyond that, it was still 1988. I want you to give me an example of George W. Bush or the Republican Party, apart from these comments, in the last couple of years, doing essentially the southern strategy, you alluded to, Richard Nixon's strategy to sort to play off black Americans for electoral success.

COELHO: Well, let's see Tucker, why don't we just start with South Carolina primary in 2000.

CARLSON: Right.

COELHO: Now I was on the other side. You know, I was with Gore and so forth. I know what happened there, and I know what they tried to do. So don't play games with me. Don't be demeaning.

CARLSON: What are you talking about?

COELHO: You know what was happening there. You know what he was doing with Bob Jones University.

CARLSON: You are throwing out outrageous charges, with no evidence.

COELHO: I'm not throwing out -- you're throwing out outrageous charges.

CARLSON: I asked you a question.

COELHO: The point is, is those things did happen. So you know, I think...

CARLSON: What things? What are you talking about?

COELHO: ... that we're beyond. I think that we're beyond that, which I think what is exciting.

We have moved beyond that as a country. They now -- from now on from day forward, we're not going to be able to do what Trent did and get away with it.

CARLSON: I don't know what you're talking about, we're going to get away with it.

COELHO: I don't think we're going get away with those things in South Carolina.

CARVILLE: Bob Jones University.

(CROSSTALK)

COELHO: You know as well as I do.

CARLSON: No, I don't.

CARVILLE: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) for sending out a mailer that saying that John McCain had a black baby, all of that came from the Bush camp (ph).

CARLSON: The Bush campaign didn't do that. You know that.

CARVILLE: Bush didn't say, "I don't have a position on the confederate flag." Come on, Tucker.

You've got to get real.

CARLSON: I was there, James.e

CARVILLE: Bush lacked the courage to say he had a position on the confederate flag. You were there. Bush said (ph) they ought to take the confederate flag down.

WALKER: But George Bush...

CARVILLE: Tell me that. Look at that camera and say "Bush supported taking the flag down." CARLSON: I'm not...

CARVILLE: I'm asking you something.

Look at the camera. I'm asking him a question. You said it's wrong. I said Bush -- did Bush refuse to say we (ph) should take the confederate flag down?

CARLSON: No.

CARVILLE: You're lying.

WALKER: George Bush in his public life...

CARLSON: I'm not lying (ph)...

WALKER: ... George Bush in his public life has really made an attempt to reach out to minorities.

CARVILLE: OK.

WALKER: He did so while he was governor of Texas. He has done so in the presidency.

CARVILLE: Right.

WALKER: His faith-based initiatives are all aimed at attempting to have a new kind of dialogue with regard to minorities and disadvantaged.

I think that's a positive thing and should be celebrated, James. And I think that you should be (UNINTELLIGIBLE).

CARLSON: He doesn't (UNINTELLIGIBLE).

(CROSSTALK)

CARVILLE: Why didn't George Bush go to James Byrd's funeral? Why didn't George Bush speak out against the confederate flag in South Carolina?

CARLSON: Going to James Byrd's funeral is the measure of his (UNINTELLIGIBLE). That's ridiculous.

CARVILLE: Why did George Bush not apologize for a ban on interracial dating at Bob Jones? Because George Bush is not a racist, but he has no courage when it comes to speaking up on this.

And that's the problem.

WALKER: That's just not so.

CARLSON: It's not true. He denounced the ban at Bob Jones and you know it.

CARVILLE: He -- a week after. A week after. (APPLAUSE)

WALKER: He did.

CARVILLE: A week after.

CARLSON: Well, then why do you lie about it now?

CARVILLE: I didn't say -- a week after.

CARLSON: Gee whiz, come on.

CARVILLE: A week after.

And he didn't do anything about that. My point it is this, and I said it and I'll say this, I don't think President Bush has a racist bone in his body. But I don't think -- you can't cite me a time in his political career when he has gone out -- he campaigned for Sonny Purdue (ph) in Florida who got elected because they wanted (UNINTELLIGIBLE).

CARLSON: The day after 9/11, when the country was at it most raw, the president stood up, and whatever else his faults, said, "Do not use this American tragedy to discriminate against fellow Americans on the basis of their race or their religion."

That took more courage than anything I've seen a politician do in my lifetime.

(APPLAUSE)

Why can't you give him credit for that?

(APPLAUSE)

COELHO: Look, Tucker, the problem is I give him a lot of credit for a lot of things. Your problem is, you will not give any Democrat any credit for anything.

CARLSON: That's totally not true.

COELHO: That is true.

Your problem is you're shrill, you're hard and unforgiving.

CARLSON: I'm shrill?

COELHO: Yes, you are.

CARLSON: You start off by saying...

WALKER: Look, (UNINTELLIGIBLE) his...

COELHO: ... pal. So let's be straight forward with what -- where you come from.

CARLSON: Tony, Tony, take it easy.

COELHO: I don't mind it because I've been around for a few years.

CARLSON: Take it easy.

COELHO: Yes, that's a good comeback, Tucker.

CARLSON: Well, it's true.

COELHO: But I've been around for 30-some years. I've heard it all.

CARLSON: (UNINTELLIGIBLE)

CARVILLE: Congressman Walker, thank you. Pal Coelho, thank you.

(LAUGHTER)

CARLSON: Well, at least pals here on CROSSFIRE.

(APPLAUSE)

Thank you.

(UNKNOWN): Thank you, sir.

CARLSON: Congressman, thank you.

CNN's News Night at 10:00 p.m. Eastern will have more boon Trent Lott as Aaron Brown is joined by Republican Senator Orrin Hatch.

Next, your chance to "Fireback" about Trent Lott. And believe it or not, we may need to dig our ballet shoes to do it. Whatever that means.

We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(APPLAUSE)

CARVILLE: Welcome back to CROSSFIRE. Now you're chance to "Fireback" at us to tell us what you think. We've been telling you what we think all night.

Let's get a little taste of your medicine here.

All right. "If Trent Lott is for affirmative action, then Tucker Carlson and Bob Novak are prima ballerinas." Glen Archenall (ph), I guess of Akron, Ohio.

Well, I can assure you one thing, Tucker and Bob are not prima ballerinas.

CARLSON: That was my past. I don't want to talk about it now. (APPLAUSE)

CARLSON: That was a former life.

CARVILLE: Could you do the show in the tights.

CARLSON: Can you imagine me in a unitard (ph)?

CARVILLE: There you go.

CARLSON: Don Opasik (ph) of Pittsburgh writes, "I was devastated by the news that Al Gore has withdrawn from the 2002 (?) presidential race. The Republcian Party has lost a significant contributor to George Bush's reelection. I guess that leaves Al Sharpton."

You know, it always goes back to Al Sharpton, and I'm glad it does.

CARVILLE: You're friends because he's series because he stays at the Four Seasons Hotel.

CARLSON: He is...

CARVILLE: And that's a qualification to be a serious candidate...

CARLSON: ... he is. That's one of the reasons he's a great candidate.

CARVILLE: James Carville is to be commended for his kind words about Al Gore. He is a good man and a great American. It's easy to defend Gore on his worst day than it is to defend Trent Lott on his best day." Jim McDonaugh (ph) of Farago (ph), Minnesota.

(APPLAUSE)

Amen, amen, amen, amen.

CARLSON: You know it's only been 24 hours since he got of the race, and I'm already over him. Al Gore, the words sound kind of familiar? I'm not sure what they mean.

CARVILLE: I'll tell you, I hope he comes back and runs for president one day.

CARLSON: I do too.

CARVILLE: I'll vote for him. I'd vote for him in a second. I voted for him in 2000 and ready to vote for him again.

CARLSON: And in reference to our show last night about New York versus Washington, "Tucker, you say that New York has rude cab drivers and other folks. But who in D.C. is ruder than you are?" Shay Narsual (ph), North Brunswick, New Jersey.

CARVILLE: That's not fair. Novak is equally as rude. CARLSON: You think so?

(APPLAUSE)

CARLSON: So we're sharing the title? OK.

CARVILLE: You always to me are very nice.

CARLSON: Uh, huh.

CARVILLE: I'm very gentile.

CARLSON: Yeah.

CARVILLE: I'm nice. I don't talk out of turn. I don't get excited. I don't run on words.

(LAUGHTER)

CARLSON: Actually, you're probably (ph) out of control as you know.

CARVILLE: (UNINTELLIGIBLE)

CARLSON: Yes, sir.

CARVILLE: How are you, young man?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Very well, thanks. Good evening, guys. My name is Julian Portia (ph). I'm from Pottsdam (ph), New York, a small town way up state. And my question to you is do you think that there are some Republicans who are taking advantage of Senator Lott's remarks for personal political advantage with out having to take him on face to face?

CARVILLE: No one would ever do such a duplicitious thing in Washington, that is for personal political advantage. Why not take on somebody face to face?

There are no many knives in Senator Lott's back right, it would take a year to get them out.

CARLSON: Well, I do think, I think it's an interesting question. And of course the short answer is yes.

CARVILLE: It is a good question.

CARLSON: But I think that there have been a lot of people, particularly conservatives, who have been upset with certainly -- concerned about his leadership for a long time.

Yes, quick.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hi, I'm Jim Green (ph) from Arlington, Virginia. Years ago it always seemed that the Republicans were against deficit spending. However, in recent years it seems that the Democrats are being more fiscally responsible. Any explanation for the change?

CARVILLE: Yes, the Democrats balanced the budget, took over Republican deficits. And the Republicans came in and they had to pay their contributors off with a tax cut, so they did that. And they're arguing against the thing that they were very for at the very first time.

CARLSON: The Democrats...

CARVILLE: It's called political duplicity.

CARLSON: The Democrats happen to inherit a tech boom that crested right as they left office.

Leftie.

CARVILLE: I'm inherited from the left, James Carville. Good night for CROSSFIRE.

CARLSON: From the right, I'm Tucker Carlson.

Join us again next time for yet more CROSSFIRE.

CONNIE CHUNG TONIGHT begins right now. Have a terrific night.

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