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CNN CROSSFIRE

Which Political Figures Have Been Naughty And Nice; Must-See Movies During The Holidays

Aired December 24, 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: did he have a nice year because he was naughty? And will this guy ever make a nice speech at another birthday party? Tonight, we're making Santa's job easy by sorting out who has been naughty and who has been nice in 2002.
So many new pictures, so little time. Don't get in line until you see our CROSSFIRE guide to the holiday movies.

Plus, we're getting a visit from you know who.

Tonight on CROSSFIRE.

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

(APPLAUSE)

TUCKER CARLSON, CO-HOST: Welcome to CROSSFIRE and Merry Christmas Eve. Tonight we're attempting to sort out who's been naughty and nice. Just like everything else in Washington, it all depends on your partisan perspective. So maybe we can agree on what movies are must-sees during the holidays.

And there's dancing and prancing on our roof. We're either getting a visit from Santa or agents from the Department of Homeland Security are here to see us. Stay tuned and find out.

PAUL BEGALA, CO-HOST: But first, we've made our lists, we've checked them twice. Now you're going to find out who at least we think has been naughty and nice. Joining us to help sort through that list, strategist Peter Fenn, he's a good Democrat; and a good Republican strategist, Alex Castellanos. Thank you very much.

(APPLAUSE)

BEGALA: Great to see you. Long time, no see. Thank you, Alex. Just happened to be in the neighborhood.

CARLSON: It's great to have you all here. It feels like just moments ago we saw you.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Great to be here. CARLSON: Trent Lott makes my nice list for the following reason. You think of all the ways he could have gone out. He could have wagged his finger at the American people, he could have dragged the country through the scandal for nine months, just to save his job, as a certain other political figure did a couple of years ago. It would have been nauseating. Instead he leaves. And considering his career's destroyed, he didn't complain that much, he's nice.

PETER FENN, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Oh, so he went willingly?

CARLSON: No, he went gracefully.

FENN: Well, he could count votes, unfortunately. Listen, the reason he is naughty, and the White House obviously thought he was very naughty, because they orchestrated his demise. He will spend the rest of his term taking the knives out of his back. That's what's going to happen.

BEGALA: And, Alex, top of my naughty list, the man who put those knives there, beautifully engraved with GWB. Our president, George W. Bush, I thought handled the Lott thing in the most sort of naughty way, if I can be flip about it. He was duplicitous.

He told the American people first that he unquestionably supported Lott. Then, after a week of polling, decided he was suddenly outraged by racist comments. Then simultaneously the White House told us Bush was playing no role when we all knew that he was. Maybe it was the right role, I don't know. But why was he so duplicitous and political?

ALEX CASTELLANOS, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Paul, where is your Christmas spirit? If anyone's been nice I think this year it's President Bush. Nice for America. Not only kept us safe for a year after September 11, defeated the Taliban, rebuilding our military, and there's that little election thing that we may have all noticed that he won.

FENN: Louisiana?

CASTELLANOS: The Senate.

FENN: Oh, I thought you meant Louisiana.

CASTELLANOS: But I think more importantly, he's proven to the American people he can be a strong leader and be a nice man. And I think combining strength and decency, it's nice for the country. And he's redefining I think the Republican Party. Compassionate conservatism, it's not just a slogan. It lives in a guy and he's transforming the Republican Party with it. So that's nice.

BEGALA: That's awfully nice for Bush, let me tell you. It's getting a little thick. I'm glad I'm wearing my boots. I home Santa is wearing a lot of boots, because a little reindeer kaka coming out of Alex tonight. But it's Christmas Eve, so...

CARLSON: You know, that was eloquent. Anybody else been nice? CASTELLANOS: Well, I think Bill Frist has been very nice as well. Here's a fellow who's had the courage, I think, to take on one of the toughest jobs on in Washington, which is to capture the Senate for the Republicans and the vision to get it done. And he is also transforming the Republican Party in President Bush's image. I mean, heart surgeon...

FENN: You know, it is going to be interesting to see what happens with Bill Frist. Whether he supports affirmative action, as Trent Lott was going to do. Whether he supports hate crimes legislation. Whether he stops the use of the confederate flag in campaigns.

Let me give you two little things about Bill Frist, which I want him to talk about. Number one, he was a member, right up until he ran for office, of a club that would not admit African-Americans. Now, I think he's got to answer to that. Second thing, and I think this is something that...

CASTELLANOS: The Robert Byrd club?

FENN: No, the Humane Society of the United States, which is one of my dear clients and one of my nice lists, pointed out that, when he was a medical doctor in his residency at Harvard, he went around -- let me just finish, because I don't want to vilify him on this thing, but I want him to answer for it. He went around to the shelters, took cats, said he was going to adopt them, and then used them in experiments.

He said in his book that he regretted this. I would like to see some movement on issues like this that show that compassionate nature. Pro-animals. Not using animals.

CARLSON: I must say, I hate to agree with you there, but you bring up animals. I have to mention Congressman James Traficant.

FENN: Animal.

CARLSON: The one (UNINTELLIGIBLE) who sadly makes our naughty list, not simply because he's in prison -- though that would get you there halfway -- but more to the point, he can't come on CROSSFIRE now that he's incarcerated and that's naughty.

FENN: I know it.

CASTELLANOS: It's a ratings problem.

CARLSON: Yeah, it's huge.

FENN: But, you know, you can get somebody in prison -- I don't think anybody here -- this is one of those that we all agree on, right? Is anybody going to say that he's been nice this year? The IRS doesn't think so. He owes them a lot of money.

BEGALA: He was nice to CROSSFIRE; I'll give him that. He comes on -- that's my standard. Let me tell you the top of my nice list: Hillary Rodham Clinton, the senator from New York, who did such a good job in office, fighting for her state after it came under attack on September 11. She even impressed Jesse Helms, who is about four clicks to the right of Attila the Hun. And even Helms, one of the finest minds of the 12th century, says that Hillary is doing a good job in the Senate. She has been a lioness for her state and it's why she's got record-high popularity now.

CARLSON: Well, I hate to say I agree with you. She's also on my nice list, because apparently you may have heard she's going to run for president in 2008, thereby assuring Republican control of the White House, and I think that's a nice thing, don't you Alex?

CASTELLANOS: Having already been president once, she could run for re-election. No, I think Hillary's on my naughty list...

BEGALA: Naughty?

CASTELLANOS: ... as one of the most selfish politicians in town.

BEGALA: Oh, Alex.

CASTELLANOS: She threw Andrew Cuomo overboard in New York just to satisfy her political base. And now she is keeping Terry McAuliffe as the chairman of the Democratic Party to be her chairman for her presidential aspirations. And the Democratic Party can't come to closure on the Clinton years until it gets rid of the Clintons.

BEGALA: Closure? We had peace and prosperity. Which part of that did you not like? You want to close it off, we don't.

FENN: They want to bash the Clintons until hell freezes over. And it ain't going to help you. Because, I'll tell you, the one thing that's very interesting about Hillary Clinton is she's very accomplished. The folks in New York love her. She's building bridges between business and folks like you. I mean, she's going to be a force to be reckoned with, and you know it.

(CROSSTALK)

CASTELLANOS: The other Clinton -- the other Clinton who is on my naughty list, you just can't forget, it's Bill Clinton. Now I don't know what he's done to be naughty. But I know he's been Bill Clinton, so he must have been naughty.

(APPLAUSE)

FENN: OK. Then we'll have to put -- OK, then we'll have to put Al Gore in the nice list. You'll have to agree with me on that. I know you won't have him to kick around anymore, Alex. But you may have him for the -- but, you know, "Saturday Night Live," come on. I mean, how good was he in that oval office, showing the pecs in that hot tub? Wow -- awesome, right?

CASTELLANOS: Al Gore was the most real I've ever seen him when he was being completely phony. I'll agree with you.

CARLSON: So what was the most real part? When he hit on Joe Lieberman in the hot tub? I mean, I have to say, I think Al Gore let us all down by not running for president. If you make the claims, as he did, that I'm really the president, I really won, I was cheated out of it, it seems to me you have a moral obligation to run again. Plus I wanted to watch it because I think...

(CROSSTALK)

BEGALA: ... is that he is one of the great patriots of modern American history. After the election was, in my eyes and many others, stolen from him, instead of saying that Bush was illegitimate, like many of us did, he stood up and said, he's my commander in chief, stood by him after the recount, and stood by him after September 11. And now, as he pulled out of the presidential campaign, he did it not because he wanted to pursue his personal ambition, which is manifest, but because he loves his country more and doesn't want us to have to revisit the past. I think that's a remarkable act of patriotism.

CARLSON: He doesn't want to impose himself on the country. I agree with that.

CASTELLANOS: Forward to the past Paul Begala.

BEGALA: I admire what Al Gore did. By the way, he's coming on in a couple of weeks.

CASTELLANOS: I think Al Gore has been nice. He spared us a rehash of the 2000 election, which I think was a nice thing to do.

BEGALA: Since your party lost that election.

(CROSSTALK)

CASTELLANOS: He's going to let another Democrat lose the election in his stead. But I'll tell you what I like. What I think has been awfully nice for Republicans is that he started campaign 2008. He's going to keep the Democratic Party divided not for two years but for six. That's very nice.

BEGALA: We have to take a break right now you all. Keep your seats, both of you, please.

We're going to come right back. And when we come back in a minute, don't you be naughty. Stay tuned to us. And we will also have advice for everyone who's on a quest for the best holiday movies.

Then, what do you suppose Santa is bringing our president this year? Stay tuned and you'll find out from the man himself. Santa or the president? Stay with us.

(APPLAUSE)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) BEGALA: Welcome back to CROSSFIRE. We're making Santa'sworkload a little easier this Christmas Eve by sorting out which politicians have been naughty and which have been nice. We've got plenty of both, and two of Santa's little helpers here. Republican strategist Alex Castellanos, Democratic strategist Peter Fenn.

CARLSON: You know, it wouldn't be Christmas -- and I know you'll agree with this -- without Al Sharpton, my favorite Democrat. I think one of the nicest Democrats, because he is the only honest man in the 2004 race. He's the only Democrat who says what other democrats secretly think, who embodies in his very body the values of the party.

FENN: And what is that that he says?

CARLSON: The values of the Democratic Party, Peter.

FENN: He embodies some of the values of the Democratic Party.

CARLSON: Yes! Oh, he admits it.

FENN: You embody some of the values of the Democratic Party. You're nice, Tucker.

(CROSSTALK)

FENN: But I'm not going to let it go.

BEGALA: I'm going to move -- this is going to really surprise Alex. Probably the one thing on my list you may really like. On my naughty list, two guys, good Democrats, good guys, good senators, Joe Lieberman, John Edwards. Why? They won't come on CROSSFIRE.

We've invited them hundreds of times. I've been doing this show for eight months now. And if they're not tough enough to stand up to Tucker Carlson, they're not going to be tough enough to stand up to George Bush or Saddam Hussein. The road to the White House -- you'll agree, Alex, right -- comes right through CROSSFIRE. And these guys, if they want to show that they're tough, they need to carry their butts right here to the show. Right?

CASTELLANOS: I can'tunder stand it. Everybody else seems to be willing to take a beating. Is it Carville or...

BEGALA: Don't you want to see Lieberman and Edwards come here and answer some dog-gone questions?

(APPLAUSE)

CASTELLANOS: Is it Carville or Begala that they're afraid of?

BEGALA: If you were their -- look, you're both two of the most brilliant leading consultants in the business. Wouldn't you tell them, if your client were seeking the presidency, you'd say, hey, you've got to get on.

CASTELLANOS: If your ideas can't stand the heat of your ideas, can't take the debate here on CROSSFIRE, it's going to be hard to see how they're going to survive the presidential campaign.

CARLSON: That's exactly right.

FENN: But you know something? This is what Al Gore was finding at the end. He was having fun with his politics. This can be fun. You know, you can argue it out. We fight like cats and dogs. We like each other sometimes.

CASTELLANOS: But Lieberman is caught in the middle, though. Lieberman has a real problem in the Democratic Party, and that is he represents the schism of the Democratic Party right now. He doesn't know whether he can be a new Democrat and those with semi Republican values, or does he have to appease the Democratic base?

(CROSSTALK)

FENN: I can say them all real fast. Lieberman, Kerry, Edwards, Gephardt, Dean, and whoever else.

CASTELLANOS: Sharpton, if you want to...

CARLSON: Those are all on your nice list?

FENN: Absolutely. Because you know what we're going to have? We're going to have a debate within that party for the next year, hopefully all of them on CROSSFIRE. And we're going to show that the economy would be much better off with a Democrat. We're going to show that we're going to be able to fund education with a Democrat.

We're going to be able to show that we're going to bridge this racial gap that you guys have been creating for 30 years in the Republican Party in the south. I'll tell you something, you know, when we get these guys out, when they're put on shows like CROSSFIRE, you're going to see -- you're going to be not such a happy guy. Because you're going to have to run against one of these guys.

CASTELLANOS: Can't wait.

BEGALA: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) I think a guy on your nice list, Alex?

CASTELLANOS: I think I'd have to put this year Karl Rove on the nice list. Because he bet big. In Washington, you don't win big unless you bet big. And he bet big this year, and he won big, not only for his president, but for his president's agenda. And I think now you're going to see a prescription drug benefit move again. You're going to see more tax cuts to keep the economy going. So, nice for the country, nice for Republican Party.

BEGALA: Actually, Karl is a friend of mine from Texas, but he did bet big. And I don't know if people who aren't in this business really understood the guts it took for Karl and his boss, our president, to put their chips on the table in tough races like they did. I didn't like the outcome, but I admire it as a strategist.

CASTELLANOS: And it's not just politics; it's government. We're going to see an agenda. But I think that's what people don't understand about Karl Rove is it's policy not...

(CROSSTALK)

FENN: I disagree with that. See that would be my problem, that what it is -- we don't do polls. We don't do polls in the White House. Oh, hello! What was this (ph) Trent Lott? (UNINTELLIGIBLE), dump him. I mean, look, the only problem with this guy is that there's -- as Deulio (ph) said, too much politics in that White House, not enough substance, not enough policy.

CARLSON: Well now you know who -- I want to bring up someone who, to his great credit, does not take polls but still winds up on my naughty list, and that's Congressman Jim McDermott. And he gets there for coming back from Baghdad after denouncing the United States government from the capital of the country that was firing on American planes. Even as he did it, this man right here ought to have been denounced by the Democrats, but he wasn't. It fell to people like me to make a stink out of it.

FENN: Well, I think you saw some concern expressed for words that were used over there. But look, these guys -- this is a patriot. This is not somebody who has the interests of Saddam Hussein in mind. He doesn't come out -- Saddam Hussein does not come out on Jim McDermott's nice list. But, you know, I would agree. I think politically, you know, I think substantively I wouldn't have done it.

BEGALA: Let me bring back this -- another aide, you mentioned him earlier. One of Bush's top domestic policy aides, John Deulio (ph). He left the White House after about a year, and gave an interview to "Esquire" magazine. He wrote a long letter to "Esquire," much of which they published, all of which they ultimately put on the net, which said that under President Bush there is no policy apparatus, that everything is political. That makes John Deulio (ph) the first person with courage in the Bush administration to speak the trust about what happens in there. He's a nice guy, isn't he?

CASTELLANOS: No. I think that makes John Deulio (ph) very -- maybe perhaps misinformed. It's not necessarily news that there's politics going on in Washington. I don't know when (UNINTELLIGIBLE) water is wet. But politics is actually how we govern our governors, so there should be politics in Washington. But I'll tell you who is the most politically tone deaf.

CARLSON: You're going to have to tell us quick because we're almost out.

CASTELLANOS: Tom Daschle.

(CROSSTALK)

CARLSON: One quick one.

FENN: Frank Murkowski (ph) for appointing his daughter to the United States Senate.

CARLSON: OK. Well on that happy confusing note, Merry Christmas. Peter Fenn, Alex Castellanos, thank you both very much. We appreciate it.

Still to come, a visit from Saint Nick himself. But first, Christmastime means movie time. Which line should you join? Don't miss our CROSSFIRE guide to the movies next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CARLSON: Welcome back. All too soon, the visions of sugarplums will stop dancing, the church services will end, presents will be opened, dinner will be done, and everyone will say, we're bored, let's go to the movies. The question is, which one should you see? Fortunately, we can help.

Joining us from Seattle, Washington, for our CROSSFIRe guide to the movies, is film critic and radio talk show host Michael Medved.

(APPLAUSE)

BEGALA: Michael, thank you for joining us. Merry Christmas, happy holidays.

MICHAEL MEDVED, FILM CRITIC: Merry Christmas to everybody.

BEGALA: Thank you for taking the time. Let's begin right away. Christmas day, "Gangs of New York" starts. Martin Scorsese, Leonardo DiCaprio. Should people take Christmas day or maybe the day after off and go out and see it?

MEDVED: Absolutely not, unless you want to be very, very depressed on Christmas day. This is one of those movies, like many other Martin Scorsese movies, that is full of brilliant details and a brilliant lead performance by Daniel Day-Lewis. But the film is just industrial strength depression, and it ends with a suggestion that I actually found rather offensive.

The last shot you see in the movie is a shot where you go from 1862 New York to apparently 2000 New York. And you see the twin towers. As if Scorsese is suggesting that the destruction of the World Trade Center was punishment for America's cruel treatment of Irish immigrants in the 1850s and '60s. And is that really necessary? Is that what we're supposed to be taking away from this?

This is one of those films, a big gamble for the Disney company, for Miramax. And I don't think it's a gamble that's going to pay off at all, because it's the kind of thing that people are not going to enjoy, particularly in holiday season.

CARLSON: Well, speaking of immigrants, "My Big Fat Greek Wedding" -- not mine, bit the film of the same name -- sort of the story of the year, made $200 million, very small budget. Now it's going apparently to become a television series. Any hope of that being worth watching, do you think?

MEDVED: Oh, I think the TV series could be very funny, because Nia Vardalos, who created "My Big Fat Greek Wedding" and starred in it and deserves an Oscar nomination for starring in it, is obviously a very, very talented individual. So who knows.

The interesting thing about "My Big Fat Greek Wedding" to me is that this wonderful picture that everybody in the country has embraced, and that I loved along with nearly every other American with a pulse, has been totally rejected and shunned aside by all the critics organizations. All the critical awards are out now, and even though I believe "My Big Fat Greek Wedding" is going to be a major Oscar contender, the critics typically with their nose in the air, have said, well, it's not worthy of any best picture consideration.

And the films that they've chosen instead of "My Big Fat Greek Wedding" don't have the same emotional punch or the family appeal that has made this film such a spectacular hit. It's the most successful moneymaking independent film in history.

BEGALA: Well, Michael, I don't know if you know this, but in Washington there's big talk that there will be a Trent Lott spin-off, my KKK wedding. Everybody wears white, back in Mississippi, he goes back to his ethnic roots. Actually, let me ask you about...

MEDVED: Well, actually, what I thought was that Trent Lott was doing the remake of "Birth of a Nation." Wasn't that what you guys were supposed to be saying?

BEGALA: Absolutely. Let me ask you about a kid movie that, you know, maybe or maybe not be appropriate for kids, "Harry Potter." Kids across the country have been driven to bookstores, thank god, for this. And then they've been flocking to the movies to see the first and now the second. But, I mean, I know at least one 10-year-old who went to see it and came back and said, well, my little brother shouldn't go and see that because he's seven and it's too scary. Is this too much for kids?

MEDVED: That's a very smart 10-year-old. I would say that 10 is just about the dividing line. I have a 10-year-old at home, my son Danny (ph). He absolutely loved this new film. It's one of those rare sequels that's better than the original.

I think it's a stronger story. The pacing is better. The acting is better. The characters, all of it.

And look, one of the things that I find troubling is that there have been some conservatives who have condemned "Harry Potter" because it deals with witchcraft and things of that nature. The point is that this film has a very clear delineation of good and evil. And one of the things that I think is very clear in the films that the public has embraced, as opposed to the critics, is the public likes movies where there are good guys and bad guys. And you can actually tells difference.

That, after all, has been a great tradition of the whole Hollywood film industry of the United States. Maybe a tradition that some Hollywood filmmakers at least are rediscovering.

CARLSON: Well, another tradition from Hollywood, of course, is actors taking political stances they don't fully understand. And I'm wondering if the positions that Sean Penn has taken on Iraq -- he just came back from Baghdad -- Susan Sarandon and a number of others putting out pretty detailed policy prescriptions for the United States government. Is that...

MEDVED: No the amazing -- Sean Penn just last week came back with the conclusion that there are no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. I didn't know that Sean Penn was going to be employed by the UN as an ad hoc weapon inspector, but apparently so. No, this stuff is nuts.

And the one thing that I wondered about is Susan Sarandon was in three pretty good movies this year. Very good performances. She's a fine actress. She was in "Igby Goes Down" and "Moonlight Mile" and "The Banger Sisters." And the reason that you guys have never heard of those movies is because they had to subpoena people to go see them.

They were all gigantic flops. I think part of the reason for that is people are tired of Susan Sarandon. They're tired of Martin Sheen and his political preachments, which I believe is one of the reasons the ratings for "West Wing" has gone done.

The problem here is that there are people in Hollywood who live inside a liberal left wing bubble and don't understand that if they preach their politics so insistently, it's going to compromise, it's going to take away from their popularity and harm their careers. And I think they ought to wake up.

BEGALA: Michael, I've got a word for that. It's called principle. Charlton Heston, a very controversial conservative, leads the NRA. It's ended his acting career, probably earlier than it would have otherwise. But he believed in his kooky right wing, in my eyes, but he believed in his principles. Susan Sarandon believes in hers and Mr. Penn believes in his.

I actually think that's admirable, people who are willing to take a hit economically because of things that they believe in. Why are you criticizing that?

MEDVED: I think you could say that it's admirable. But it's also very arrogant. The question would be why should someone pay attention to Susan Sarandon on issues involving foreign policy. At least with Charlton Heston you can say he's been a labor leader, Paul, which is a category that you ought to respect.

He's been president and a very popular president of the Screen Actors Guild. Susan Sarandon and Tim Robbins have really definitely, it seems to me, damaged their career prospects. They made a movie called "Cradle Will Rock," which was sort of a film bio of Mark Blitstein (ph), who was a communist party composer and writer back in the 1930s.

And when you allow your politics, your agenda to be showing -- Samuel Goldwyn, a great founder of the Hollywood industry, said if you want a message, go to Western Union. And it would be far more acceptable and far more sensible in business terms if some of the left wing preachments were occasionally balanced by right wing movies. If, for instance, Charlton Heston did have the opportunity to make movies instead of just speaking about politics at the NRA.

CARLSON: OK. Michael Medved, we're almost out of time. Compound question here. "Two Towers" just opened the other day. Is it worth seeing, and are popcorn prices going to keep rising?

MEDVED: Probably popcorn prices will keep rising, because most prices do. And "Two Towers" is absolutely worth seeing. It's, in my opinion, the best movie of the year. I think one of the reasons that this kind of film is going to be so popular and so resonant with people is because at this moment of danger, it is a film about ultimate good versus ultimate evil. And also, the bad guy here, played by Christopher Leese (ph). (UNINTELLIGIBLE), the evil wizard, bears more than a fleeting resemblance, physical resemblance to Osama bin Laden. And it's great to see good guys standing up to him.

BEGALA: Michael Medved, you are one of the good guys. We may disagree about politics. You're an awfully good guy to join us on this Christmas Eve broadcast. Michael Medved, thank you very much, sir.

MEDVED: What a pleasure. And Merry Christmas to you, Paul, and to Tucker.

BEGALA: Coming up: Christmas Eve headlines in a CNN NEWS ALERT. And then, the man of the hour. Right here on CROSSFIRE, Santa Claus himself will drop off gifts for some of our favorite politicians. You're not going to want to miss this. Stay with us.

(APPLAUSE)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CARLSON: He's a very busy man. But believe it or not, he's made the time to drop off a few presents for some of our favorite politicians. Next, Santa Claus himself steps into the CROSSFIRE. You don't want to miss a second of it. We really land on him. We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CARLSON: Welcome back to the Christmas Eve edition of CROSSFIRE. Our guest has a sleigh idling out front. He can only spend a few minutes with us. But before Santa Claus returns to spreading cheer to more deserving populations, he's brought some gifts for us and for some of our favorite political leaders and television hosts. You can only see this on CROSSFIRE. Ladies and gentlemen, the one, the only Santa Claus.

BEGALA: Oh, Santa.

Good to see you.

CARLSON: Hola, Santa.

SANTA CLAUS, JOLLY OLD ELF: Anybody here been naughty? Anybody here been nice? BEGALA: Oh, there we go.

CARLSON: Santa, you've got a good arm. Thank you.

SANTA: Thank you.

CARLSON: All right.

SANTA: I want to thank all of you for voting for me.

CARLSON: Oh, Santa's been drinking. OK.

BEGALA: All right.

BEGALA: May I call you Santa, Mr. Claus or Santa?

SANTA: Dr. Claus.

BEGALA: Dr. Claus. Let's get right to it. You're here making your stop in Washington, a town full of politicians. What are you going to give Trent Lott?

SANTA: Trent Lott? What am I going to give? A shoehorn for Trent Lott.

CARLSON: Why?

SANTA: Why? To get him out of this fix.

BEGALA: He did sort of put his foot in his mouth.

CARLSON: That's true. And actually we're going to attach to that a Kwanzaa card so he can celebrate his new favorite holiday.

BEGALA: You know what he really needs is some sort of a device to pull all those knives out of his back that his friends are putting in there. It's the Republicans who have been so rough on poor Senator Lott.

CARLSON: Poor Senator Lott. Now speaking of people who deserve our pity if not contempt, what are you giving to Al Gore?

SANTA: Al Gore, we have an Emmy. This is for his spectacular performance on "Saturday Night Live," and his presidential performance, keeping it a secret until the invest last minute.

CARLSON: Do you think at some point he'll play himself?

BEGALA: That's impressive. No, who this actually should go to is George W. Bush who is pretending to be the president even though Al Gore won the election. That's a fine acting job by Mr. Bush.

CARLSON: Keep telling yourself that.

SANTA: Al Gore has been playing a variety of parts for decades.

CARLSON: I love him. That's the spirit, Santa.

(CROSSTALK)

SANTA: It's on my list.

BEGALA: You know, what about George W. Bush? George Bush Jr. Our current occupant of the Oval Office? What is he getting from you, Santa?

SANTA: How about a wrench? What is he going to use this for? To plug the leaks in the White House.

BEGALA: Ah.

CARLSON: Oh, fantastic.

SANTA: They're plaguing him.

CARLSON: He might also use it to convince Trent Lott to leave the leadership post, you know.

SANTA: There are other things you can do with a wrench.

BEGALA: Nixon had a problem with plumbers, too, he had Haldeman and Ehrlichman and Chuck Colson and plugging leaks.

The leaks are probably deliberate though.

CARLSON: From perhaps future presidents and current presidents to past presidents and presidential contenders, Bill Clinton and Bob Dole.

SANTA: Well, for Bill Clinton and Bob Dole, Santa has tea and cookies. Why? Because they're going to be the leaders of the Senate Wives' Club. And they're going to have to learn to serve tea and cookies to all the senators, like good Senate wives always have done.

CARLSON: Has anybody warned the Senate wives?

BEGALA: I hope -- no, I hope there is a vicious negative campaign between Clinton and Dole to be the president of the Senate Spouse's Club. I'll enlist. I'll come back out of retirement as a political consultant. Make negative ads. Bob Dole says he'll have nice cookies and tea but what Bob Dole doesn't tell you. Wouldn't that be great? He's slipping Viagra into your Lipton iced tea, ladies.

CARLSON: Well can they do a Viagra ad together? That would be the product.

BEGALA: But they're both great guys and it's nice you thought of them. How about a guy, one of the toughest jobs in America? Tom Ridge, our director of homeland security.

SANTA: Director of Homeland Security. I actually get signals from the Department of Homeland Security in my hat. Santa can't be too careful.

BEGALA: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) down with that "Star Wars" system, wouldn't they?

SANTA: Here we have a selection of 96 colors of crayons to determine the alert level for every day.

BEGALA: Outstanding.

CARLSON: Santa, maybe you can tell us what the Magenta alert is.

SANTA: The Magenta alert is, be nervous.

CARLSON: Be nervous?

SANTA: Today, however, it's Christmas, it's only Beige.

BEGALA: Beige.

CARLSON: Tomorrow being Teal.

BEGALA: Or Red and Green. No, he does have a tough job. We make fun. But, he's doing all he can, God bless him. He's got a hard job. I hate to make fun of Tom Ridge. I'll make fun of the rest of them.

CARLSON: We're allowed to make fun of Saddam Hussein. You're apparently giving him a present. What are you giving him?

SANTA: Well, here we are with several bottles of Wite-Out so he can amend his weapons declarations. He didn't get it right the first time.

BEGALA: See now, I would have thought Wite-Out would have been a Strom Thurmond gift or something. Sort of a...

(BOOS)

BEGALA: Oh, quiet. He watches every night. He's a huge fan. He's 100. He's been called a lot worse.

Now, a guy who one of Tucker's great heroes and one of our most faithful guests until he was incarcerated, Jim Traficant. What have you got for him, or the rest of the guys who've been locked up?

SANTA: Little Jimmy Traficant?

BEGALA: Buddy Cianci, Edwin Edwards.

SANTA: Well we have for all of them, this get out of "Jail Free" card.

CARLSON: Good luck.

SANTA: For Edwin Edwards, Buddy Cianci and James Traficant. And we have this much improved hairpiece. CARLSON: Santa, that looks like a coon skin cap. Did you think Traficant will fool anybody with that?

SANTA: Looks better than what he has now, doesn't it?

(LAUGHTER)

SANTA: And as a personal gesture, Santa will donate his beard after Christmas for use as a hairpiece. Maybe Trent Lott would use it, too.

BEGALA: Well Lott needs that hair, it's bulletproof, it's for security reasons that he uses all of that hair spray. It's not just his fashion statement.

CARLSON: First of all, I believe that hair is real. Let me add my voice to the chorus of people defending Trent Lott when I say that's his real hair.

SANTA: And this is my real hair.

CARLSON: Yes, it is.

BEGALA: Did he pay for it?

CARLSON: No.

BEGALA: I have no idea but he does use a liberal amount of hair spray, if I may use that term.

(CROSSTALK)

CARLSON: Now that unfortunately that James Traficant is in prison, someone else has to represent the Democrats, Al Sharpton. What will you be giving to Al Sharpton?

SANTA: Well, Al Sharpton intends to go to Iowa and New Hampshire. It's going to be pretty cold there, so we have this lovely hat for Al Sharpton to brave the winters in Iowa and New Hampshire. I'm sure he's not used to it on the streets of Brooklyn and Manhattan. This is a winter hat for Al Sharpton to get through Iowa and New Hampshire.

CARLSON: And he'll be able to get all his hair under that?

SANTA: Look, this could be his hair already.

BEGALA: No, he's got that great James Brown 'do. Although, we remember he came on the show the night that they aired the tape of him discussing a drug deal and he was wearing one of those "Urban Cowboy"...

CARLSON: Yes.

BEGALA: ... blue velvet hat. CARLSON: Yes, with cowboy boots and a cigar in his mouth. I took one look at him and said this is say Democratic presidential contender.

BEGALA: This is a guy who endorsed Al D'Amato as a Republican, so he's not my favorite Democrat.

A guy I do like a lot. He's come on the show and has the guts to stand up for what he believes in. John Kerry, thinking about running for president...

(CROSSTALK)

BEGALA: ... what would you give him since he's going to run for president?

SANTA: He has a lot of money, but Santa has something to remind him of where all that money comes from, Heinz ketchup, 57 varieties.

BEGALA: That is because, of course, his wife Teresa Heinz is the heir to the fine ketchup fortune of her late husband Jack Heinz who was a Republican senator and a good one at that.

But, so you think, Santa, he may want to use a little bit of this ketchup fortune in the campaign?

SANTA: He might want to use a little bit of the money or he could use it on his hair. I don't know.

(CROSSTALK)

CARLSON: Speaking of campaigns upcoming what would you give to the junior senator from New York, Mrs. Clinton?

SANTA: Hillary Rodham Clinton, now she said, promised faithfully, she promised Santa she wasn't going to run in 2004. So Santa has for her, a calendar for 2008. Showing all the dates of all the primaries and caucuses. She better begin filling in this calendar very quickly.

CARLSON: She promised Santa herself. That implies that she sat on Santa's lap to make that promise.

SANTA: Yes, she did. And we're not going any further with this.

BEGALA: That's right. I am counting down the days until 2008 and Hillary runs.

A guy who's plainly running, though, in 2004, is a guy who was elected vice president the last time, Joe Lieberman. Apparently they didn't let him serve because the Supreme Court stole it from him. How about Joe Lieberman, what would you give him in his quest for the big job?

SANTA: Well, you know, Joe Lieberman would like to be president of the United States. But he's got a problem. He would be the first Jewish president. And what is he going to do for Christmas in the White House? Well, we're giving him "Martha Stewart Living" with elaborate suggestions for how to decorate your house for Christmas, because, my guess is he probably hasn't done this too much. He's going to have to get used to it.

CARLSON: The only kink in that plan is that in fact, Martha Stewart may be spending Christmas with James Traficant.

Santa, if you'll just hold your reindeer for one moment. We have another segment coming up. We're going to take a quick commercial break, something you don't have in the North Pole. And we'll be right back.

In a minute, Santa has some gifts for the CROSSFIRE hosts. Who will get lumps of coal? Stay tuned to find out. Plus if you're nice, we may even reveal who's hiding behind the beard. You'll definitely want stick around for this. We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CARLSON: Welcome back to CROSSFIRE. Happy Christmas Eve. Our guest tonight, a heavy-set bearded man in a red suit. Mr. Claus, thanks for joining us.

BEGALA: Thanks for staying with us. We've been going through the list. We've overlooked a guy. We talked about President Bush. We didn't talk about the most powerful man in the world, Dick Cheney. What have you gotten for Dick Cheney?

SANTA: Well, I have something for Dick Cheney, if I could only find out where he is. At his secure and undisclosed location. Here are some ideas for metropolitan home to decorate that location for Christmas. If only we can figure out how to get it to him.

CARLSON: Excellent.

BEGALA: My fear is his secret undisclosed location is What-A- Burger. But I hope not. I hope he's working out and taking good care.

CARLSON: And last but not least or last and probably least, the shortest serving senator this year, Dean Barkley of Minnesota who was here for about 20 minutes. What do you have for him?

SANTA: For Dean Barkley we have this lovely volume for him to use to write his Senate memoirs. "The Memoirs of Dean Barkley" will be here.

CARLSON: He could use the same book to put his political philosophy in there.

BEGALA: He was a good guy. He is a good guy. He came on our show. He defended his views and he left after about eleven minutes, I think. But God bless him. It was kind of every man coming to Washington and then getting the hell out. Which is probably a wise thing to do. How about the host though? Mr. Carlson? He needs nothing, of course. He's a man with everything.

CARLSON: That's exactly right.

BEGALA: Except a political philosophy that makes sense. Do you have one of those for him?

SANTA: Well, we have something that appears to be in the Christmas stocking. But we will see to it that Mr. Carlson gets his favorite album from Barbara Streisand. His favorite singer, so he can listen to it for hour after hour.

CARLSON: Well you know, that is touching, Santa, and I appreciate it. But I just don't feel the need to bring me the actual CD. You can donate it to someone else who might have better use for it.

BEGALA: Because, as we all know Tucker has the complete set of everything Barbara has. Tucker every night likes to make fun of Barbara Streisand. One of the great talents.

CARLSON: I'm a Liza Minelli man. I am a little jealous. And for Paul Begala?

SANTA: For Paul Begala. Also in my stocking back home we have for Mr. Begala a Bush bobble head.

CARLSON: Oh, excellent.

BEGALA: So that when Begala speaks, Bush can agree and agree and agree.

CARLSON: Nice. Okay.

SANTA: This would be a first.

BEGALA: He only does that with Karl Rove.

CARLSON: Well, speaking of first, ladies and gentlemen, it is time to reveal the identity of Santa, not in fact Santa, he is CNN's own Bill Schneider. You know him as a political analyst. Here he is.

BEGALA: Bill, thank you very much for being such a good sport, doing such a great job.

CARLSON: Merry Christmas, Santa.

SANTA: I'm going back to the North pole. You know why?

CARLSON: Why?

SANTA: Because that's where the polls come from.

BEGALA: Of course the only poll that matters is the one that closes on election day. CARLSON: On Christmas Eve.

BEGALA: Ladies and gentlemen, Bill Schneider helping out Santa Claus. Merry Christmas to you. Next it is your turn to "Fireback" at us. Hey, whatever happened to peace on earth, goodwill toward men?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BEGALA: Welcome back this Christmas Eve edition of "Fireback". We've gotten a lot of your e-mails, some naughty, some nice. Here's one.

Michael Palmer, Frederick, Maryland writes "Paul, I brought my brother a copy of your book for Christmas. He told me it makes great bathroom reading. Happy holidays."

Yes, it moved more than one. If you hurry, actually, still, there it is, all night bookstores will have it. You can order it. Get it delivered. Perfect Christmas gift, and then, of course, there's the "Eight Days of Kwanzaa." Trent Lott I know will be buying lots for his friends during the Kwanzaa celebration.

CARLSON: Holding that as he jumps over the broom.

BEGALA: Sharon Cacioppa, from New York, writes, "Dear Tucker. We love to watch you scream and squirm every time Paul or James hits some sore spot with you. Your voice actually goes up five octaves, really confusing my cat."

BEGALA: Well, Sharon I totally disagree with that.

CARLSON: Confusing liberal's cats. It's sort of an avocation for me.

BEGALA: Sean Conrad of Elkims, West Virginia writes to me "Paul, you seem to have a lot of anger. Maybe killing all those innocent deer isn't as therapeutic as you thought." Au contraire, Sean, you should -- actually you shouldn't join me, I wouldn't trust you with a gun. But I just got back recently from a hunting trip with my pal Tony Sanchez who ought to be the governor of Texas, but is the most gracious host on a deer hunt ever. And we had we had a great time makes happy every time go.

CARLSON: You have apparently vented the psycho analysis community here.

Jerry Adams from Beaver Creek, Ohio writes, "Have you ever noticed how much James Carville looks and acts like "The Grinch That Stole Christmas." This man has so much hatred and contempt for anyone who does not think like he does that he's just about to explode!" Yes, Jerry, and some day he will. We have a cleaning crew on staff.

BEGALA: Oh, see, not at all.

CARLSON: There he is.

BEGALA: Nothing like him. No.

CARLSON: Yes, right, no. Really no resemblance at all.

BEGALA: There's uncle James. He's the one with the tie, I guess. No, that's unfair. Yes, ma'am, what's your question or comment?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Pat Blackman from Birmingham, Alabama. Paul, which Democrat would you like to find in your Christmas stocking with a sign around his or her neck that says the next president?

BEGALA: Well, Bill Clinton. We should repeal the 22nd amendment and by god get him back in there and this country would get straight again in a hurry. If not him, I can't choose sides because I'm on suck-up patrol for people who will come on CROSSFIRE. Democrats who come on I like, those who don't, I don't.

CARLSON: Notice it would be a better country if only the constitution weren't in the way.

Yes, a question.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Kevin Hagerty from Kensington, Maryland. I wish that the Republicans would bear down and tackle the struggling economy. And forget the war of Iraq to -- which only is hurting the economy.

CARLSON: Well, war with Iraq would hurt the economy pretty significantly. Doesn't mean that it's not necessary, though. And luckily this administration has enough principle to tackle that question in isolation. Whether we should go to war with Iraq.

BEGALA: Well, whether or not we should go to war with Iraq, we ought to be doing more about the economy. If Bush declared war on the economy here at home. John Kerry said if we really wanted to topple Saddam Hussein, send the Bush economic team over there, he'd have them on their knees in a week. We need a new economic team. Whether or not we have a war.

Yes, ma'am.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm Jennifer from Washington, D.C., which politician other than Trent Lott should be dubbed this year's Christmas turkey?

BEGALA: Other than Trent Lott? that's a great question, for me it would be John Ashcroft who is about four clicks to the right of Trent Lott on virtually every issue and is an embarrassment to our country. There are plenty of principled Republicans who could be our attorney general under Bush. It's a disgrace he picked John Ashcroft.

CARLSON: I think the clear winner is Al Gore who in dropping out took from the American people the pleasure we would have had in watching him run and fail. Well, this is quite a development here.

Yes, Sir, what's your name? JAMES CARVILLE, CO-HOST: Hello -- Matty, Matty, here. We're the Carvilles, from (UNINTELLIGIBLE) Virginia. And my oldest daughter has a question. What is that question?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What are we going -- stop that.

CARVILLE: They want to know what should we get President Bush for Christmas?

BEGALAL: First maybe a picture of the two cutest girls in the whole wide world there, Matty and Emma. I'd get them a book, I'll give them "It's The Economy, Stupid." Karl Rove could read it to him or maybe we would put it out as comic book form. Maybe he would learn something.

What would you give him, Tucker?

CARLSON: I'd take back the book, thereby giving him a Christmas present.

BEGALA: The greatest Christmas present George W. Bush could ever have given was when he allowed Mary Matalin, these little girls' wonderful mom to spend time home with these girls. For that I admire him even when she was working in the White House, he made sure he had time to spend with these two girls in the world.

CARLSON: Amen.

BEGALA: You come up here, sweetie?

From the left, with Matty, I am Paul Begala. Good night for CROSSFIRE, have a very merry Christmas.

CARLSON: From the right, I'm Tucker Carlson. Join us again tomorrow night yet more CROSSFIRE. But in the meantime merry Christmas.

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