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CNN CROSSFIRE

Can John Edwards Beat Bush? Can the Iraq Crisis Be Solved With Diplomacy?

Aired January 2, 2003 - 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: Another presidential wanna-be throws his exploratory committee into the media circus.

SEN. JOHN EDWARDS (D), NORTH CAROLINA: If the American people want some body who's a lifelong politician to be their president, that's not me.

ANNOUNCER: So, is anybody worried?

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: That's just going to be background noise. My job is to protect the American people and...

ANNOUNCER: But which member of the axis of evil do we need protecting from more? Iraq or North Korea?

Plus, the leader of a religious sect says his talk with some extraterrestrials gave him the inspiration for cloning.

RAEL, RAELIAN MOVEMENT LEADER: We will be able to live eternally from a body to another body.

ANNOUNCER: We'll ask Rael if his group has really cloned a human being.

Ahead on CROSSFIRE.

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

ROBERT NOVAK, CNN CO-HOST: Welcome to CROSSFIRE. It's only the second day of 2003 and already we're in Never-never land.

In a little bit, we'll ask whether the American people really want a trial lawyer as their president. And if that isn't far-out enough, we've also got his holiness, Rael -- that's what he calls himself -- a guy who says he came up with the idea of cloning humans after chatting with the occupants of a flying saucer. But let's get started with a healthy dose of reality, our CROSSFIRE "Political Alert"

A third Democratic hopeful jumped into the 2004 presidential race today, Senator John Edwards of North Carolina. He called himself a champion of regular folks. And that's quite a trick for a multimillionaire trial lawyer.

But for Johnny Edwards to run at all is an exercise in the art of living dangerously. Not only is he a representative of one of the most despised groups in America, trial lawyers, and who have brought so much havoc to the economy, almost all -- almost all his campaign funds come from other trial lawyers.

Can he sell this load of beans to the American people, as he has convinced North Carolina juries to feather his nest?

PAUL BEGALA, CNN CO-HOST: I love when people bang on trial lawyers. And then they say our current president, he's a man of the people. He's a Texas oilman, who failed and got bailed out by his daddy's friends. I mean, I take John Edwards or any of those Democrats over Bush and Cheney.

NOVAK: Well, I'll tell you, Paul, I have never called George W. Bush a man of the people. But John Edwards isn't one either.

BEGALA: We'll debate him a little bit later. We'll have a couple of top guys come out and debate him.

Speaking of President Bush, he met today with reporters on his ranch down in Texas. He actually tried to convince them, and this is a quote from today -- "I'm not paying attention to politics", he said. Right, and Hugh Heffner's not paying attention to women, either. Mr. Bush called the economy -- and I quote again -- "pretty darn strong." Then he said he'd unveil a new plan next week to stimulate it, nevertheless.

The economy, of course, is not strong. It hasn't been since the last time Congress passed a Bush economic plan. The new Bush plan is said to include even more tax cuts for the rich, just like the old plan. Mr. Bush clearly doesn't get it. His tax cuts are what got us in the mess in the first place. George W. Bush calling for tax cuts for the rich is like the captain of the "Titanic" calling for more icebergs.

It just doesn't make sense, Bob.

NOVAK: Well, you know, Paul, you people have been opposing tax cuts all along. It's the reason you lose elections. It's why you lost the 2002 election. And this recession that started under Clinton's watch can only be driven off by giving some of the tax money back to the people.

BEGALA: It actually didn't start under Clinton. Martin Feldstein, who you know well, who was the chairman of Reagan's council of economic advisers, says the highest point of economic activity was March of 2001.

NOVAK: Rob Shapiro cooked the books and I'll explain that to you sometime.

BEGALA: Bob, no.

NOVAK: The new Senate majority leader, Bill Frist of Tennessee, is also a skilled heart surgeon, who from time to time still practices the healing arts. He did so yesterday, about 30 miles from Miami, when he stopped after a rollover accident, identified himself as a doctor, but not as a senator, and helped paramedics and firefighters tend to the injured. Two people died in the accident, but four other victims are alive today, and one paramedic says it was Frist's quick action that saved lives. This is the man who leftists has been calling a racist and vicious right winger. How can anybody do that?

Count on Paul Begala and his Democratic friends to do their best.

BEGALA: Bob, you're usually a better reporter than that. You look at the current issue of "Esquire," you'll see that there's actually a very favorable interview with Dr. Frist conducted by none other than Paul Begala.

Look at the issue of "The Washington Post" there's a scathing attack column attacking Bill Frist by, hmm, Bob Novak. It's the right wingers who are going after Frist, because you're scared he might actually be a human being.

NOVAK: I attacked him for not being conservative enough.

BEGALA: Yes, you did.

NOVAK: I criticized him. I didn't attack him. But if you want to find out what the left is doing, I guess you guys did -- you missed the last meeting in somebody's basement. It was the People for American Way refer to him as a racist.

BEGALA: Well, he's certainly not a racist. I have not seen that. People for the American Way is a great group.

NOVAK: Oh, it's wonderful.

BEGALA: I dispute that. But it's the far right that's going after him.

Well, we said earlier John Edwards has begun his exploratory campaign for the presidency. But the one Democrat who leads him and every one else in the early polls has decided to sit it out, New York Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton. She begins 2003 as the most admired woman in America. That is an honor usually held by the current first lady. And Laura Bush is an enormously impressive and a very admirable person.

So given Mrs. Bush's well deserved, very positive image, Senator Clinton's emergence as the most admired woman in America is all the more remarkable. Perhaps folks admire how she fought for her state after the terrorist attacks in New York City. Perhaps they admire how she champions the poor at a time when others say that greed is good. And maybe, just maybe, they admire her amazing grace in the face of that right wing attack machine.

So my friend Bob Novak, let me thank you for your relentless attacks on Hillary to help make her the most admired woman in America. Keep it up another five years, you'll make her president.

NOVAK: Well, you know, I do agree. I'm very happy she's winning these phony polls, because maybe you'll be crazy enough to nominate her for president some day and she'll follow in the foot steps of George McGovern and Walter Mondale. One state. But what state would it be for Hillary?

BEGALA: Well, she'd follow in the steps of her husband who carried, oh, 37 states twice.

NOVAK: The new Republican governor of Massachusetts, Mitt Romney, is turning back his $135,000 dollar salary. Lieutenant Governor Kerry Healy is giving up her $120,000. They're working as volunteers. Governor Romney, who was sworn in today, calls this a symbolic move, showing commitment to public service.

You know that sets a terrific example in comparison with money grubbing members of Congress who vote themselves a pay raise each and every session. People all over America volunteer without pay to work in charitable organizations, school boards, health care organizations. Why not governors and legislators? And I guarantee you, you wouldn't need term limits if these jobs didn't pay anything.

BEGALA: You know what? I couldn't agree more. But what about presidents and vice presidents? George Bush, worth $15 million, never worked a day in his life. He has a $400,000 pay raise -- $200,000 pay raise, and Dick Cheney took $60 million out of Halliburton and screwed all the working people there and he takes his pay.

NOVAK: What I admire you, Paul, is that I often wonder how you can turn anything into a vicious attack on the president.

BEGALA: It's not vicious. You said...

NOVAK: Can I -- you mind if I speak while you're interrupting? I always wonder -- I always wonder how you can turn everything we talk about into a vicious attack on the president of the United States, but you manage it.

BEGALA: It is not a vicious attack, Bob. When you said, why don't Congressmen and senators, I simply said why not presidents and vice presidents. That is not vicious.

NOVAK: But then you attacked the president.

BEGALA: That is not vicious. That is...

NOVAK: Saying he never worked a day in his life. That's outrageous.

BEGALA: Oh, that's...

NOVAK: He did more than you did. He did make a payroll once in his life.

BEGALA: No he didn't He got bailed out. He was a total failure in business. He got bailed out three different times.

NOVAK: that's ridiculous.

BEGALA: Speaking of Novak's point about overpaid public servants, our chief Justice, William Rehnquist, makes $192,600 a year. That is almost five times what the average working family brings home every year, and yet, like the Republican that he is, the chief Justice is crying poor. He's begging taxpayers for a pay rise.

Now Rehnquist's greed stands in stark contrast to the outgoing Democratic governor of Georgia, Roy Barnes. Roy Barnes has received million dollar offers to join silk stocking law firms, but he's instead decided to devote the next six months of his life and his enormous legal skills for free to the Atlanta Legal Aid Society. He will be representing poor people dying of AIDS, homeless people living with mental illness, old people being ripped off by corporate con artists.

Chief Justice Rehnquist could learn a lot from Roy Barnes, like the meaning of the words above the Supreme Court, words which promise something Justice Rehnquist rarely delivers: equal justice under the law.

NOVAK: Paul, I wonder what Roy Barnes is going to do after those six months. That's why that's a phony offer. And I'll tell you something. I would say that Justice Rehnquist is making one tenth of what Paul Begala is making.

BEGALA: Shoot, I should make 20 times that. I never stole an election. He ought to be making license plates.

NOVAK: Oh.

BEGALA: He stole the presidency...

NOVAK: Well, you've got...

BEGALA: ...from the guy who got the most votes.

NOVAK: You're going back to that same -- well, go ahead.

Don King has promoted plenty of prize fights in Atlantic city, New Jersey. But the proposal to rename part of Mississippi avenue in King's honor may be fighting for its life today. It turns out they would rather name it after a local priest or businessman who made good and helped the city, not someone who never did anything for the city until he became famous. Tomorrow, Don King makes a return engagement on CROSSFIRE, right here. We'll ask him about boxing politics, and if he'll fight for his name on a street, if they turn down Don King, what about making it Mike Tyson Avenue, or better still, Robert Torricelli way.

BEGALA: There you go. Or, the great former governor of New Jersey Christie Todd Whitman now the head of the EPA, if they could name it after her, it would never get cleaned up, but it's a nice name for a nice lady and they could put it in her honor.

This is, of course, the first week of 2003. In other words, it's the first week of the presidential campaign of 2004. In a minute, we'll let you know about the latest Democrat who says he can do a better job than our president. Later, we'll compare points on the axis of evil. Should North Korea be a bigger worry than Iraq?

And he's talked to the aliens, and they may have inspired him to produce human clones. But is he ready to step into the CROSSFIRE? Stay tuned and you will see.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BEGALA: Welcome back to CROSSFIRE. Senator John Edwards of North Carolina is the latest Democrat to file papers forming an exploratory committee for a possible run for the White House. Mr. Edwards is 49. North Carolinians elected him to the U.S. Senate in 1998, throwing out right wing anti-Clinton Republican senator Lauch Faircloth.

Edwards says he has fought for regular people all his life. Did it in court as an attorney, does it now as a senator and promises to be what he calls a champion for the people if they put him in the White House. In the CROSSFIRE to discuss Senator Edwards and the rest of the presidential field for 2004, Democratic strategist Vic Kamber and Republican strategist Ed Rogers -- Gentlemen.

NOVAK: Vic Kamber, in addition to that commercial we just had delivered by Paul on behalf of Senator Edwards, let's listen to the real mccoy, what Senator Edwards said today in a press conference.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

EDWARDS: I would say that I have exactly the kind of experience we need in the White House. Somebody who's close to regular people, somebody who understands their problems, somebody who has ideas, real ideas, specific ideas about how to make their lives better.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

NOVAK: Now, this is a multimillionaire, even richer than you guys are, who has -- lives in mansions in North Carolina, and in Washington. How the hell is he close to the regular people?

VIC KAMBERS, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: If you knew his background, Bob, how he grew up, where he came from.

NOVAK: I'm talking about where he is now.

KAMBER: That's how he succeeded. That's why he thinks he should be president, because he knows how to succeed. Look, George Bush and Bill Frist has shown us the way. You don't need a lot of government experiences, you just need to be talented in certain ways. Bill Frist is bright, talented, effective, he was a great lawyer, he was a great college student, a great.

ED ROGERS, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Bill Frist?

KAMBER: No, I'm talking about John Edwards.

NOVAK: Johnny Edwards, this is part of a tremendous con job. You know, you people haven't figured out how you're going to defend the fact that the trial lawyers are financing the Democratic party. And what you're saying is that you believe the companies, you believe the taxpayers, for all this money to give a few dollars to a few victims.

(CROSSTALK) .

NOVAK: What you do is you line the pockets of the John Edwards. Can you sell that to America?

KAMBER: Bob, if we could sell an oil baron to America, failed oil baron to America, if we could sell some of the people we've sold in the Republican party, yes. But let me say, what John Edwards is doing, John Edwards, and you know this better than anybody, believes he can make a difference. As Republicans who ran sixth or eighth last time ran and believed they could make a difference.

NOVAK: Republicans?

KAMBER: I said the last election cycle when six or eight Republicans ran of all stripes, they believed they could make a difference. John Edwards believes he can make a difference. He believes he can win. The beauty of John Edwards' candidacy of the other Democrats is seven or eight Democrats are saying we've got a weak, vulnerable president. We can beat him. They're not running for their health. They're running because they believe he can win.

ROGERS: They're running because of their own ambition. Baloney.

John Edwards when he started this quest four years ago to buy himself a Senate seat and get into the game, he thought there would be a market for a Clinton-lite or for a wanna-be wonder boy. September 11 and the world terrorism has changed all that. Poise, experience, qualifications, matter now. And he has none of the above.

(CROSSTALK)

BEGALA: Oh, by any standard he's done real well.

Poise, experience, and qualification, none of those words would be used to describe George W. Bush when he first ran for the presidency just a few years ago. ROGERS: By any standard he has proven himself in office.

BEGALA: No, by your partisan standard.

ROGERS: By any standard.

BEGALA: No, sir. Senator Edwards said something a minute ago. He talked about ideas. He said I've got specific ideas.

ROGERS: He didn't mention any, but he did talk about them.

BEGALA: He mentioned a lot of them. We only played ten seconds of it. Let me go through five on the economy.

ROGERS: Please.

BEGALA: He pledged a $500 energy tax credit to boost the economy, he promised to cut the federal workforce by 10 percent. Something the last Democratic president did and no Republican has done. Freeze the tax cuts, he said, for families earning more than $200,000 a year. Very tiny percentage, but make tax cuts permanent for middle-class families. And finally greater disclosure of corporate finances so that we can have faith in corporate governance so people can invest again. Those are specific ideas. Where are Bush's ideas on the economy?

ROGERS: He, John Edwards, and a host of others, will have a potpourri of cats and dog initiatives that they will be offering up in the months ahead. But this is about John Edwards. His background, his qualifications, make it a farce that he would run for president of the United States.

(CROSSTALK)

BEGALA: What you just said is that ideas don't matter, personal attacks do.

(CROSSTALK)

BEGALA: Let me finish my question. You go after Edwards personally, I go after ideas. I don't like Bush's ideas. He's a lovely guy, actually.

NOVAK: You attack him.

BEGALA: I attack his ideas.

NOVAK: You said he's a loser who never worked a day in his life.

BEGALA: He never worked a day in his life. That's public records.

ROGERS: Look. John Edwards is not going to be the nominee.

BEGALA: But you're going to attack him personally, not his ideas. ROGERS: He is a lightweight not ready for prime-time actor who made a bet some years ago that he's going to be the nominee.

(CROSSTALK)

ROGERS: There are a lot of well credential Democrat wanna-bes who are going to run we are spending to much time. We're spending too much time on John Edwards.

NOVAK: Let's get away from this personal abuse.

BEGALA: Thank you.

NOVAK: You and I don't like to do that. I want to show you a little chart we made. We took it from "Roll Call" newspaper, and Senator Edwards PAC, his political action committee, total contributions, $1.39 million. Trial lawyer donations, $1.19 million, 86 percent. That was about roughly the percentage when he ran for the Senate in North Carolina. He is old, lock, stock and barrel, by the plaintiff lawyers. You think that's a good idea?

KAMBER: Well, I first of all don't agree with your statement. The PAC has raised money from trial lawyers. He's gone to the PAC.

NOVAK: Eighty-six percent.

KAMBER: Yes. And the PAC is to give money to other people. It's not for his own races or campaigns.

NOVAK: His own campaign...

KAMBER: When he ran the last campaign first of all, Faircloth spent more money than he spent in the last campaign.

(CROSSTALK)

NOVAK: When you have nearly 90 percent of your contributions from one economic class, you are in their pocket. Isn't that right, Vic?

KAMBER: No, I don't agree necessarily. They may be people who you support the -- the reason people give money, Bob, you know it and I know it is because they support the ideas you stand for. He is a trial lawyer. He believes...

(CROSSTALK)

ROGERS: ... the most parasitic element of the American economy today.

(CROSSTALK)

RODGERS: That's what he is. This is a bold takeover attempt by them and it's not going to work, even within the Democratic Party.

BEGALA: I think, Ed, that the reason why -- and you are one of the brightest people in the Republican Party. And the reason why you're going after this guy...

ROGERS: Here comes something bad.

BEGALA: ... and I don't have any favoriteness (ph). I'm for all of them who come on the show. In fact, actually, I don't like Edwards very much right now because he hasn't been on CROSSFIRE for awhile. If you're not tough enough to stand up to Bob Novak, how can you stand up to Saddam Hussein? So I want to have Edwards come here and debate the way you guys are.

But I think the reason that you're, as Clinton would have said, squealing like a pig stuck under a gate, is because you know your guy is vulnerable on this message of not caring about ordinary folks, especially poor folks. Take a look at the Bush budget. This is what Molly Ivins...

ROGERS: Oh, Molly Ivins -- please. Tell us about Molly Ivins.

BEGALA: Here's what's in the Bush budget. Number of seniors who will be cut off...

ROGERS: I'm not going to look.

BEGALA: ... thirty-six thousand. Number of families cut off heating assistance, 532,000. Kids cut off after school programs, 50,000. Kids cut off of child care, 33,000. The number of workers who lost their unemployment insurance this week because President Bush and the Republican Congress didn't extend it, a million.

This is what the Democrats are speaking to. This is why you all are nervous, isn't it?

ROGERS: And if John Edwards had his way, we would have more trial lawyers in charge, more supervision of the economy by this parasitic element, wiping out a lot of the American economy...

KAMBER: I'd love to have a debate on trial lawyers and who they defend and the victims they help. That's not the issue here.

NOVAK: We just had a little -- we have a little breaking news, just passed the Associated Press Wire. Associated Press tells us that Richard Gephardt is going to file -- Congressman Richard Gephardt, former House minority leader, going to file his papers for exploratory committee. He's going to have an event on January 22.

Now I want you to take off your partisan hat. Do you have it on? Yes. And put on your analyst hat. Dick Gephardt, who I like very much, has had a terrific career. But do you think this is the time now where he might be a viable candidate? Or do you think his time has come and gone?

KAMBER: I think you're going to have seven or eight Democrats, Dick Gephardt being one, who are going to run. There's no front- runner today. I think...

NOVAK: Do you think he's a viable candidate? KAMBER: Absolutely. And I think any Democrat who's been named from Howard Dean to John Kerry...

NOVAK: Any Democrat?

KAMBER: Seven or eight I'm saying, are going to be viable against George Bush.

NOVAK: Can I ask how about my candidate then?

KAMBER: I don't know who your candidate is.

NOVAK: Al Sharpton is mine.

KAMBER: Well that figures.

NOVAK: Is he viable?

KAMBER: Probably not.

NOVAK: Oh!

KAMBER: Because we are a racist country that doesn't elect minorities into prime offices, primarily.

ROGERS: Dick Gephardt is an accomplished figure who has been well regarded within his party, and has been acknowledged by his peers to be a leader. John Edwards is none of that.

It is interesting to note that for the next several months, the candidate to watch is Al Sharpton. He's the only candidate with any personality in the race.

(CROSSTALK)

NOVAK: ... on the Al Sharpton thing. He's going to get a lot of African-American votes. The Democratic primary voters in the South is heavily African-American. Do you think John Edwards can win Southern primaries when he's up for the black vote against Al Sharpton?

KAMBER: He has proven he can win -- he's proven he's won primaries. He won the Southern primary...

NOVAK: Against black voters?

KAMBER: I think there was a black candidate if you look at who ran against him in the primary in North Carolina.

NOVAK: You think he can...

KAMBER: I think any number of the Democrats can appeal to African-Americans and do very well. Sharpton will get votes. Sharpton will get votes, too.

BEGALA: Sharpton has no problems with Democrats. It's a dream for Bob and other people on cable TV like me who put this guy on TV. But he's not a serious candidate.

(CROSSTALK)

BEGALA: The focus of the debate ought to be, if I had my druthers, the Bush tax cut. That's his big idea. Democrats in the main oppose it. The Associated Press just the other day reported a poll, turns out not just Democrats, the entire country now opposes what Bush did.

Here's what the Associated Press -- right down the middle. The Associated Press is very fair, and they reported this, their words: "Americans believe by a 2-1 margin that it is prudent to hold off on more tax cuts, a centerpiece of President Bush's domestic policy agenda, an Associate Press poll has found. Even most Republicans said it' would be better to hold off on tax cuts to avoid deeper deficits."

I mean you guys are selling something ain't nobody buying.

ROGERS: All of that is dependent -- your crowd here notwithstanding, Paul Begala has a lot of family here visiting.

BEGALA: I have a big family.

NOVAK: This crowd notwithstanding, how you posed the question matters a lot. The question is how do you stimulate the economy? How do you revive an anemic economy? You do that by pumping money into the system. You do that by tax cuts. That's what Bush is for. And that's going to carry the day.

NOVAK: That's the last word. Thank you very much. Thank you Vic Kamber, we appreciate it.

BEGALA: Vic.

NOVAK: A U.S. aircraft carrier has had a change of orders because of possible war with Iraq. Connie Chung has the details next in a CNN "News Alert."

After that, we'll look at President Bush's axis of evil, and ask who's worse? The Iraqis or the North Koreans?

And later, an interview, we're beside ourselves about getting the founder of a sect that believes in cloning, and UFOs.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(NEWS ALERT)

NOVAK: Again today, President Bush told reporters that he believes diplomats can find a peaceful way out of the stand-off over North Korea's decision to restart its nuclear reactors and possibly produce nuclear weapons. On the other hand, the president hasn't been sounding nearly as optimistic about finding a diplomatic way out of the problems the U.S. has with Iraq.

Both countries, along with Iran, make up what the president has called the "axis of evil." To help us decide who's more evil, please welcome Charlie Kupchan, a former Clinton National Security Council official, and Frank Gaffney, former assistant secretary of state -- secretary of defense in the Reagan Administration.

Thank you.

(APPLAUSE)

BEGALA: Gentleman, thank you both. I'm going to start, Frank, with you, if I may, and a small piece of videotape from our president today. He was in Crawford. He took reporters on a nature walk. That's his comfortable attire. But he talked about some very serious matters and was asked about the North Korean situation. This is what he had to say.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BUSH: I believe the situation with North Korea will be resolved peacefully. As I said, it's a diplomatic issue, not a military issue, and we're working all fronts.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BEGALA: Frank, we have -- a psychotic communist dictator with nuclear weapons is not a military issue. If that's not, what is?

(LAUGHTER)

(APPLAUSE)

FRANK GAFFNEY, CENTER FOR SECURITY POLICY: It could be. I think what the president's saying is it's not right now. And my guess is that he anticipates -- I certainly do -- that it may become a military issue before too long. The big question for all of us is, is it a military issue right now? And if it is, as it happens, probably not coincidentally, it's a military issue at approximately the same time that we have another military issue half a world away, which I think pretty powerfully underscores the absurdity of the arguments that we heard principally during the Clinton administration that we were never going to face the kind of two-war scenarios that we previously used to size our forces to deal with.

This is a dangerous world. We are involved in a global conflict against terrorists and state sponsors of terrorism, and I think this particular crisis, the North Korean one, may go military before it's over. I hope it won't until after we're done with Iraq.

NOVAK: Charlie Kupchan, a lot of your colleagues in the Clinton administration are very critical now, that, We did right on Korea, and these people are doing wrong. And they're saying a lot of things I don't quite understand. I just want to put up on the screen something that one of your former associates, Leon Fuerth, who was the national security adviser to Vice President Gore, said. He said, "It's unlikely that the United Nations would take meaningful action in this situation since no other power than the United States possesses the means to back up words with action." Now, can you explain what action Leon is talking about? Surely, he doesn't want to take a military strike and start a second Korean war. I don't know anybody that wants to start a Korean war. Isn't it just -- isn't it just kind of just nudging the Bush administration, Why don't you take action?

CHARLES KUPCHAN, SENIOR FELLOW, COUNCIL ON FOREIGN RELATIONS: No, I don't think anybody wants war in Korea, neither Democrats nor Republicans, because it would be a disaster. You'd have fissile material, if you hit the reactor, and you'd probably have Seoul getting hit with 10,000 artillery shells, and then you'd have the troops coming south.

NOVAK: A million.

KUPCHAN: Several tens of thousands. But the issue here is, I think, you need action coupled with containment because right now, I think what Bush is doing is saying we're going to kind of box them in. But boxing them in doesn't solve the problem because it leaves us with what the Bush administration has told us is the nightmare, a rogue nation with nuclear weapons.

They have probably two now. They have about 8,000 fuel rods, which they can turn into nuclear weapons, about six this year. And then, if they start their reactor or build new reactors, they could be building five, six bombs a year. We can't do nothing. So we need to box them in, and we need to have a serious negotiating strategy that aims at three things: Get the fuel rods out of the country, get rid of their nuclear reactor for good, and get weapons inspectors in there.

But we got to negotiate because we have on our problems the nightmare, a rogue nation with nuclear weapons, exactly what Bush is telling us we can't let happen in Iraq.

BEGALA: Frank, let me press the point on the contradiction and read you the comments of another former Defense Department official. I know he served in our Pentagon, as well. This is Kurt Campbell, who told "The New York Times" the following: "You have this huge contradiction. If the Iraqis do anything to impede inspections, the administration says it's cause for war. But when the North Koreans eject the inspectors and restart their nuclear program, they want us to believe that there's no crisis."

Our president fancies himself a man who sees the world in stark, clear, moral terms. He has no patience for the ambiguity of foreign policy. Wasn't he wrong to try to say these two nations are exactly equal, when he's clearly not treating them equally?

GAFFNEY: I think what he's trying to do -- and I'm -- I don't work for him. I'm not going to try to read his mind. But I think what he's trying to do is buy some time, quite frankly, because I think he does understand -- I certainly sense that the national security team around him understands this is a crisis. Whether you call it a crisis, whether you call it a conflict, whether you call it something else, it is a crisis. And it has the potential, as we've just heard, to become very ugly, indeed. An additional nightmare is that, along with the ballistic missiles, which is the principal cash crop of North Korea, you have Kim Jong Il selling some of the plutonium that he's been presumably gathering.

KUPCHAN: Because he needs the money.

GAFFNEY: Because he needs the money. The problem really comes down to this. I think the administration is trying to act, as well as to contain. The issue is, is the wise course of action to return to the same process that was so manifestly a fraud before -- more negotiations aimed at providing some incentives?

Let's face it, there have to be incentives for the North Koreans to do any of the things. And none of the things that you talked about, Charlie, were in the original 1994 agreement.

NOVAK: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) negotiations?

GAFFNEY: Well, I'm -- I'm just -- I'm confronted, as I think the administration is, with the utter futility of negotiating with these people for any reason other than kidding ourselves that we're doing something to manage this problem.

KUPCHAN: Well, what's the choice?

GAFFNEY: I think the choice is containing them.

BEGALA: What about the argument -- Congressman J.D. Hayworth was on our program the other night. He's an Arizona Republican congressman. He said, Well it was Clinton who gave them the reactors in the first place. I mean, you worked for the president when that was going on. How do you respond to that?

KUPCHAN: Well, Clinton didn't give them the reactors. Basically, what happened is the North Koreans went down the road of building the Yongbyon reactor, and then we said, if this happens in an uncontrolled fashion, they're going to be able to go nuclear. Therefore, we need to get a deal. We need to negotiate with them. Did he break the agreement? He certainly did. He went for uranium enrichment...

NOVAK: You agree with that?

GAFFNEY: Absolutely.

KUPCHAN: All right. But the question is, just to contain leaves them with all their weapons. We can't afford to do that. We've got to take action. Temporarily is the point. Temporarily.

NOVAK: Frank Gaffney, I just want to ask you one question on this whole scale of the "axis of evil" and trying to understand it. I begin to see some kind of a scale that the weaker the country is, the more likely we are to use military force. The stronger they are, the less likely we are. It would be sort of like in World War II, we'd avoid trouble with Nazi Germany, but we'd really knock the hell out of Bulgaria. Is that the -- or am I wrong on this? I mean, you're saying that we can attack Iraq because they don't have nuclear weapons, but we can't attack North Korea because they do have them.

GAFFNEY: No, what I tried to say, and I thought I had said, Bob, is I think it may come down to having to attack North Korea.

NOVAK: But that's isn't what the administration says.

GAFFNEY: I wouldn't do it now. The administration certainly doesn't want to do it now. But also just call to mind -- I mean, you use this analogy of World War II. When we were attacked by Japan, we regarded Germany as the first priority. We didn't go directly to Germany. We wound up going to North Africa, then to Italy, and only finally across the Channel.

This is a question of strategy. And when you have limited resources, which are much more limited than I would liked to have had them be, you have to use them in a manner that I think maximizes the chances of success and deals, as best you can, with these more dangerous circumstances...

(CROSSTALK)

NOVAK: ... troops in Iraq.

KUPCHAN: I think, Bob, the question goes to the heart of a contradiction in the Bush policy. And that is, you've got one country that's kicking its inspectors out and has nuclear weapons, Another country that has inspectors all over the place, checking under the carpet and no nuclear weapons. And we're being told, we've got to go attack Iraq, and this other problem, well, let's just push it under the table. And something's wrong about that story.

(CROSSTALK)

GAFFNEY: Dealing with that one is the obvious way to start.

(CROSSTALK)

(APPLAUSE)

BEGALA: Charles Kupchan from the Clinton National Security Council, thank you very much. Frank Gaffney, from President Reagan's Defense Department. Thank you both for a very enlightening but frightening debate.

Still to come: A straight-ticket Democrat will offer to switch parties if Bob Novak can answer one simple question. That question will come in our "Fireback" segment.

But first: The man has followers who call him "His Holiness." The rest of us may be calling him something very different, indeed. He claims to have met with aliens in the 1970s and to have cloned a baby who was born just last week. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

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

If you believe the reports, today marks one week since the birth of the first cloned human being, supposedly, a baby girl named Eve. And why wouldn't you believe the reports? They're only made by a group that's offered no pictures, no scientific evidence, and whose members follow a former French journalist and race car driver who says he flew on a UFO back in the 1970s, where the extraterrestrials revealed they created all life on Earth through genetic engineering.

Joining us now from Canada, it is his holiness, Rael, as he has asked us to call him, the spiritual leader of the Raelian movement and who hopes to be known as the father of cloning.

(APPLAUSE)

BEGALA: Rael, thank you very much for joining us.

RAEL: It's a pleasure.

BEGALA: I do hope you'll understand why we are skeptical. Let me read to you from your own organization's Web site, the Raelian Web site. This is how they describe your organization. "On the 13th of December, 1973, French journalist Rael was contacted by a visitor from another planet, asked to establish an embassy to welcome these people back to Earth. The extraterrestrial was about four feet in height, had long dark hair, almond-shaped eyes, olive skin and exuded harmony and humor."

If, in fact, we are cloned from these folks, how come we're not four feet tall with olive skin and exuding harmony and humor, sir?

RAEL: I cannot hear you very well. I am very sorry. I thought maybe you asked me about the Web site, right?

BEGALA: Yes, the Web site says that you met aliens and that they were four feet tall with olive skin and really kind of funny and happy. Why aren't we -- and we are presumably cloned from them. Why aren't homo sapiens four feet tall with olive skin and exuding humor and harmony?

RAEL: Yes, these people are not alien. They are the Elohim of the Bible, these extraterrestrial, who came on the Earth a long time ago. And through DNA and genetic engineering, they did create life on Earth. If you check in the original Bible in Hebrew, you don't have the word "God," but "Elohim," E-L-O-H-I-M. It means in Hebrew "those who came from the sky." And the bible is the oldest atheist book, godless book describing the creation of life on Earth by a very advanced civilization, the Elohim.

BEGALA: But why don't we look like them? If we are cloned from them, why don't we look like them?

RAEL: We look like them. They created us in their image, if that's a question. And they send a lot of messenger, like Moses, Ezekiel in the Bible describe contact with UFO and the Elohim, and Jesus, who was a son of one of them and a girl from the Earth. NOVAK: Sir, I'd like to ask you some very practical, concrete questions. It was -- when you announced the cloning of the baby Eve, it was announced that she would be revealed in eight days. That would be, if my count is right, on Saturday. Will we see the baby on Saturday?

RAEL: I don't think so because there was some very bad news two days ago. I heard that -- first of all, I want to be very clear. The cloning company and the Rael movement is completely separate. And the cloning company belongs to Dr. Brigitte Boisselier, who is a bishop in our organization, but it's a private company. And the Raelian movement, our religious organization, is completely separate. There is no link, no investment. I don't know where is the laboratory. I don't know the name of the scientist. I don't know the mother of the child. And I know absolutely nothing. We support her...

NOVAK: Tell us what the bad news was. You said you had some bad news a couple of days ago.

RAEL: She -- Dr. Boisselier made a public announcement about that. The bad news two days ago was that a judge in Florida signed a paper saying that the baby Eve should be take from the family, from her mother. And when I heard about that, Dr. Boisselier was about to start with Michael Guillen some DNA testing to prove the world that it was true. And I called her immediately because to take away this poor baby from a mother, I think this is completely crazy, just because she was cloned. I understand when you take away children because the mother or the family abuse a child or when there is violence, but just because she's a clone.

So I called Dr. Boisselier, and I said, If I was you, I would not test anything. Because for sure, like last year, when she was about to clone a baby already in America, her telephone was taped by the FDA. And then they find the laboratory, and they ask the first customer to cancel the company. And I am sure they will do the same this time and find the baby.

NOVAK: So in other words, we will not see the baby or any evidence of the baby on Saturday, correct?

RAEL: I cannot hear you very well. But a judge in Florida signed a paper saying that to protect the child, it has to be take away from the mother. And I cannot understand why something like that should happen. And I think every family in America, if there is a healthy baby, even if it's cloned with the mother, I don't see why this would be separated.

BEGALA: Well, but Rael, even if that's the case, and if you produced her bodily, she would be taken into custody, why can't you show evidence? Why can't you show tests? Why can't you show photographs? Why can't you show videotape? Why can't you show DNA evidence that would prove this? Because, you know, I'm telling you, you're not persuading a lot of people so far.

RAEL: Maybe Dr. Boisselier will do that. But my -- she was about to do it with Michael Guillen, this journalist, and with an independent team, and I don't know what she will do. Once again, she's in Europe right now. I called her, and I said, If there is any risk that this baby is taken away from the family, it's better to lose your credibility. Don't do the testing. Because what is important is the child and not to prove the world that you are right. And I think she agree with me.

NOVAK: So I just want to -- I just want to get your connection. You were the founder of the cloning company, were you not?

RAEL: I'm sorry. I...

NOVAK: You founded the cloning company?

RAEL: I cannot understand you. I am very sorry.

NOVAK: Did you not found the cloning company?

RAEL: At the beginning, I created a company which was canceled by the Bahamian government because it was just a PO box and a Web site, and that (UNINTELLIGIBLE) feasibility because maybe at this time, we're only giving a-- say to people we're against cloning after Dolly the sheep was cloned. And so I created a seed company, if you like, to see the feasibility. And then the Bahamian government canceled the company because there was strong pressure from French government because, as you know, I am French.

There is a lot of religious persecution, not only against the Raelians, but against the Jehovah Witness, the Scientology church. There are terrible law in France. And Dr. Boisselier herself lost her job in France because she was a member of our religion and lost custody of a child. I cannot imagine that happening in America, and the judge written on the paper, because you are Raelian, we should take away your child. That's France today, where you have no more freedom. And so the company was canceled, and then Dr. Boisselier created this private company to do it.

BEGALA: So -- I'm sorry to interrupt you, sir, but we're running out of time. So no baby, no proof, no evidence, no DNA. This is, in fact, an enormously successful but publicity stunt, nonetheless, isn't it. It's just designed to get publicity for yourself and your beliefs, right?

RAEL: I am so sorry, but the sound is so bad, I cannot hear.

(LAUGHTER)

BEGALA: Well, let me try again. And I appreciate you bearing with us through these technical difficulties, sir. What else am I to conclude when you cannot offer any evidence of your claim, a rather outlandish claim that you've cloned a human baby, but that this is, in fact, just a publicity stunt, and a damn successful one, at that?

RAEL: You know, Dr. Boisselier, one more time, created a private company. And her reputation is at stake, and I think she will do everything she need to make her company. She's Raelian. If she was a Christian, you would not ask the pope. If she was a Jew, you would not ask her rabbi. I just support her psychologically, spiritually...

(CROSSTALK)

BEGALA: We're asking for proof, sir, with all due respect. If she were -- no matter what her religion or yours, we would ask for proof to back up a claim that you cloned a human being. And we're just not going to get it, are we.

RAEL: I am, one more time, not involved in the company. I don't know where is the laboratory. I don't want to know where is the laboratory. I don't want to know the scientists. This is her business. She will make a lot of money, I hope, with that. But we, as a religious organization, don't want to be involved in any company. But we support her. Why do we support cloning? Because thanks to cloning, you will be able soon to give the world eternal life.

BEGALA: That will be the last word. I thank you very much. Given that you're going to have eternal life, I want your commitment come back on CROSSFIRE in 200, 300 years.

(LAUGHTER)

BEGALA: I really do want to thank you, Rael, who joined us, despite technical difficulties, from Montreal. Thank you very much, sir.

Coming up in "Fireback," one of our viewers suggest someone they'd like to see cloned, and you're going to love the reason why. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BEGALA: Welcome back to CROSSFIRE, fellow earthlings. We are now with our "Fireback" phase, where we will be setting just the phasers to stun.

Hunter Piel of St. Louis, Missouri, writes, "I'd like to see Michael Jackson cloned so he could dangle himself out of a window."

(LAUGHTER)

BEGALA: Wow, Hunter, that is an outstanding idea!

NOVAK: The only danger is that he might live forever then, and we'll really be in trouble. OK, Mark McCarrell of Houston, Texas, says, "Bob, you must be made of steel to sit next to Paul and listen to him spew off countless lies and degrading remarks about Republicans. Keep him on his toes in '03."

Mark, I know that there are many Texans who are ashamed of Paul, and I'll try my best.

BEGALA: You have a steel spine, Bob, that's true. You're a man of steel.

Sam Dickens in Van Buren, Arkansas, writes, "We Democrats have numerous excellent candidates for president. It's easy to find someone to replace Dubya because he's the most pathetic excuse for a president our nation's ever had. Hell, I'd choose Homer Simpson over Bush."

(APPLAUSE)

NOVAK: Sam Dickens!

NOVAK: Then why do you put down my man, Al Sharpton?

(CROSSTALK)

NOVAK: There's Homer. Homer in 2004! There we go.

NOVAK: OK.

BEGALA: You started something, Mr. Dickens.

NOVAK: Mike Heater of Tuscumbia, Alabama, says, "Bob, I've always voted straight Democrat in every election. I will vote Republican if you can answer one question. Name me one thing that a Republican has ever done for the working man or woman?"

Mike, from your attitude, I know your type. You want a handout for the working man. The working man doesn't want a handout. He wants a right to move up, and be as rich as Paul Begala.

(APPLAUSE)

BEGALA: I'm as rich as Paul Begala because I had a government with public schools and public education...

NOVAK: All right...

BEGALA: ... and student loans.

NOVAK: ... question in the audience.

BEGALA: Yes, sir? What's your question or comment?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm Matt from Oakton (ph), Virginia. And do you think the Democratic nominee for 2004 might simply be a sacrificial lamb while the party bides its time, preparing Hillary Clinton for a run in 2008?

NOVAK: You got that exactly right. That is the plan. They're going to get somebody as weak as John Edwards -- can you imagine that? -- and then preparing the way for the holocaust with Mrs. Clinton...

BEGALA: This is the...

NOVAK: ... 49 states.

BEGALA: This is the biggest myth I've ever heard. George W. Bush is a lovely man and he's a talented politician, but he got fewer votes than Al Gore the last time. Gore not the strongest candidate my party's ever fielded. He will lose in 2004. He was at 90 percent. Now he's at 61 today. And very soon -- you watch -- he'll be below 50 percent. And then he will lose.

(APPLAUSE)

NOVAK: Question?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: My name is Dominick (ph). I'm from Washington, D.C. And watching Bob Novak ridiculing John Edwards tonight reminds me of how Bob Novak ridiculed Bill Clinton in 1991. When will the Novaks of the world realize that one Southern Democrat in hand is worth two one-term Bushes?

BEGALA: Oh!

NOVAK: You know, you must...

BEGALA: Oh!

(APPLAUSE)

NOVAK: In the first place, you must -- you must be getting the propaganda from the Carville-Begala machine. I never ridiculed Bill Clinton until he got to be president because I was never ashamed of him until he disgraced the White House.

(APPLAUSE)

BEGALA: Oh, that's such a load of hooey! Republicans went around the country, and this is what they called him. The Bush campaign called Bill Clinton "the failed governor of a small state." You know what they called him after that? Mr. President.

NOVAK: You find -- you find...

BEGALA: That's what's going to happen...

(CROSSTALK)

NOVAK: I never ridiculed...

BEGALA: No, I said the Bush campaign.

NOVAK: Oh, all right.

BEGALA: I did not attack you personally, Mr. Novak.

NOVAK: All right. Thank you.

BEGALA: You're my hero. But the Bush campaign made a big, big mistake doing that. They should not have done it. And I think the Republicans are underestimating this Democratic field.

From the left, I am Paul Begala. Good night for CROSSFIRE.

NOVAK: From the right, I'm Robert Novak. Join us again next time for another edition of CROSSFIRE.

"CONNIE CHUNG TONIGHT" begins right now.

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