Disappointment Over Bush's Decision To Renominate Judge Charles Pickering; FTC to Set up List to Block Telemarketer Calls
Aired January 9, 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: is President Bush playing politics with the courts or playing the race card? You be the judge.
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UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm still scratching my head in amazement that they actually nominated him.
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ARI FLEISCHER, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Judge Pickering has an excellent record and deserves support from the Senate.
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ANNOUNCER: Sure they're annoying, but do we really need Washington telling telemarketers to hang up?
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UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The last thing we need is for two separate agencies with different jurisdictional scope crafting their own (UNINTELLIGIBLE).
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ANNOUNCER: Are you watching "Joe Millionaire," are you a bachelorette, a survivor or a loser? It's time for another look at reality TV.
Ahead on CROSSFIRE.
Live from the George Washington University: Paul Begala and Tucker Carlson.
PAUL BEGALA, CO-HOST: Welcome to CROSSFIRE. Tonight: the Bush administration's in-your-face decision to resubmit all 31 judicial nominees to the United States Senate refused to confirm last year. Also, sex, lies and humongous ratings. That's us here on CROSSFIRE, but it's also reality TV.
We will take that on in just a minute. But let's start with another dose of reality: our CROSSFIRE "Political Alert."
Chief U.N. Weapons Inspector Hans Blix told the U.N. Security Council today that he is "unsatisfied with Iraq's weapons declaration," but that his team has not found any smoking gun yet. Meanwhile, British Prime Minister Tony Blair has reportedly said that without a smoking gun his government will not support an attack on Iraq until as late as autumn of this year, a very different timetable from President Bush, who some say wants to attack within weeks.
News on the home front was not much better for our president. His tax cut for the rich is losing supporters faster than Trent Lott in an Al Sharpton rally. Democrats who supported the last Bush tax cut, like Senators Feinstein Breaux and Landrieu, are now criticizing or outright opposing version 2.0. And Republican Senators Lincoln Chafee and Olympia Snowe are reportedly prepared to oppose their president as well.
In response to the loss of support, both in England and on Capitol Hill, White House aides say they're drawing up plans to invade both great Britain and the U.S. Senate. Always an option.
TUCKER CARLSON, CO-HOST: First of all, let me point out what you know, and that is that the opposition of Lincoln Chafee is a badge of honor. But the first part of your "Political Alert" I think is wrong, because we don't know what Bush's timetable is.
BEGALA: I said some say. You're right.
CARLSON: We don't know when the United States plans to go to war. And, in fact, we don't know if this report about Tony Blair is true. It was in one British newspaper. It may be true, it may not be true.
BEGALA: That's why I said reported. Look, the question is, does Bush want to attack sooner rather than later? I think it's pretty obvious the answer is yes.
CARLSON: Reported. Democrats are reported to have mental illness. I like that.
BEGALA: Well some of us read newspapers and then report the news.
CARLSON: OK. Speaking of news, in news from the U.S.-North Korean nuclear crisis, two North Korean diplomats have just arrived in the state where the first atomic bomb was developed to talk about peace with the governor of New Mexico. This is not quite as bizarre as it sounds, at least by North Korean standards. New Mexico's new governor is the ubiquitous Bill Richardson. The Clinton administration's energy secretary, the one-time U.N. ambassador, as well as a former career adviser to Monica Lewinsky. Richardson's resume is varied. But apparently the Bush administration trusts him to carry out sensitive diplomacy. A senior White House official tells CNN that Richardson has informed his guests that the U.S. may be willing to give written assurances it has no intention of attacking North Korea. And the North Koreans may be receptive to that. In a statement issued from Pyongyang this afternoon, North Korean officials said they looked forward to meeting with their old pal Bill Richardson, blood thirsty capitalist, insect and running dog of imperialist oppression that he is.
BEGALA: I think this is a bizarre, but hopeful development. Bill Richardson, I served with him in President Clinton's administration. He's one of the ablest guys I know. He's the only guy I know who can simultaneously be the governor of New Mexico and an international diplomat.
CARLSON: I must say, he is a pretty smooth guy. If anyone can confuse and cajole the North Koreans, it's Bill Richardson.
BEGALA: Watch him for him on the Democratic ticket, by the way. I bet you he's the vice presidential nominee in my party.
"The New York Times" this week has been documenting the abuses of one very nasty corporation: the McWane Incorporated. Men whose arms were ripped off in conveyor belts, others whose heads were crushed in powerful and dangerous machines. And at the center of it all, a secretive corporation that a former plant manager says treats its people like they're nothing.
So it shouldn't surprise you that federal election records show the folks who own and run McWane Industries donate some of their obscene profits to the Republican Party. In fact, prominent Republicans show up on McWane's donation records like a rash on a baby's bottom. George Bush Sr., George W. Bush, Alabama Republican Senator Jeff Sessions, the Alabama State Party, all have received donations from the fine folks at McWane.
And why not? Chewing working folks up and spitting them out is the essence of modern Republicanism.
CARLSON: Not only was that stupid and unfair, it was also misleading, because, as you probably know, Senator Jay Rockefeller of West Virginia and other Democrats have received money from McWane. And the point is, nobody who receives money from McWane is responsible to the abuses detailed in that "New York Times" piece two days ago. That's ridiculous.
BEGALA: They are, though, and of course they're not. Of course they're not. But McWane is emblematic of the values of President Bush and Republican...
CARLSON: Emblematic. You always know that somebody doesn't have an argument when he says, "Well, it's emblematic." It's not actually true, but it's emblematic. It's a metaphor. It's a metaphor. BEGALA: So every night when you say that Al Sharpton is the perfect embodiment of my party...
CARLSON: Al Sharpton. Al Sharpton is literally running as a Democrat.
BEGALA: ... I'll say McWane Industry is a perfect embodiment of the Republican Party.
CARLSON: Al Sharpton is literally running as a Democrat. That's a little bit different. The McWane gives money to both parties.
CARLSON: Another Democratic leader, speaking of, has come out against the war with Iraq tonight. Movie director Martin Scorsese currently on a trip to London has accused the Bush administration of seeking to "wipe out a lot of innocent civilians in order to get control of Iraqi oil." With his comments, Scorsese joins other key members of the Democratic Party's foreign policy brain trust, including Barbra Streisand, Susan Sarandon and singer George Michael in condemning George Bush's attacks on Saddam Hussein.
As Scorsese put it, "The U.S. has become unduly insensitive and judgmental towards Saddam. I think it really has to come down to respecting how other people live." In other words, American political leaders run campaigns against their opponent, Saddam tortures his to death with pliers. It's just a different kind of leadership, Scorsese says.
BEGALA: Well, let me respond by showing you the Republican's idea -- look, the Democrats -- Martin Scorsese is one of the great directors of all time. At least we have people...
CARLSON: I agree, but he ought to be quiet about thing he doesn't understand. It's embarrassing. And you ought to be embarrassed.
BEGALA: Well, speaking of which, let me point out to you the Republicans' idea of a talented artist. During the Clinton administration, we were often criticized by the right for celebrating artists like the poet Maya Angelou or the filmmaker Steven Spielberg. President Bush it appears has different tastes.
His favorite artist it seems is Bo Derek. Ms. Derek, of course, gained fame for running topless through B movies. She has recently received a coveted presidential appointment to the board of the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. She's also, allegedly, a deadbeat.
"The Washington Post" reliable source column today reports that a Philadelphia animal shelter is suing Ms. Derek for refusing to return money that the charity paid her to headline a fundraiser that she couldn't show up for. The charity is planning a protest in front of the Kennedy Center. You can be sure CROSSFIRE will cover it. We'll also be happy to report Ms. Derek's defense when she reveals it. We'd love to have you on, Bo, come see us. We'll put your defense on the air.
CARLSON: First of all, you just described Maya Angelou as a poet, meaning you never read what she writes.
BEGALA: She's an award winning poet.
CARLSON: I don't know whose awards. I've actually read her poetry. That may be the difference.
BEGALA: I have too.
CARLSON: I think Bo Derek is sort of cute for a woman her age. But you'll notice the key difference here, though, is she's been appointed to the Kennedy Center. To an entertainment-related post. Whereas in the Democratic Party, Barbra Streisand is actually consulted about her views on foreign policy. It's ludicrous.
BEGALA: For the arts. But "Ten" was a great movie when I was a teenager. But for the arts?
CARLSON: She's not doing position papers on global warming, like every moron Democratic actor.
BEGALA: No, even worse. (UNINTELLIGIBLE), that's more frightening.
CARLSON: The list of Democrats who believe they could be president has grown by one tonight: former Colorado Senator Gary Hart. Hart has not made an official announcement, instead he has chosen to speak through his travel schedule. Later this month, Hart is headed to Iowa to deliver a speech entitled, "In Search of National Security." Three days after that he'll fly to New England, where he'll address a crowd just miles from the New Hampshire border.
Hart's theme will be foreign policy, though he will also address some of the hard-earned lessons he has learned since he last ran for national office. Later in the week, Hart will head to Key West, where he's scheduled to give a speech tentatively titled, vacation tips for aspiring presidents, dos and don'ts. Afterwards, he'll be joined by his running mate, the Reverend Jimmy Swaggart, for a private cocktail reception. I'll be there.
BEGALA: You know one of the things he did in service to his country since running for president last time was chair a commission that President Clinton and Newt Gingrich set up...
CARLSON: I'm fully aware.
BEGALA: ... on terrorism. The report was wholly ignored by the Bush administration. One of the many enormous mistakes.
CARLSON: Actually, everything -- it was a critique, essentially, of the failures of the Clinton administration. Having read it, I can tell you, Paul, it's very damning in what he says about what the Clinton administration didn't do to protect the country.
BEGALA: You know, it's simply not true. It's now about the Clinton administration. It's about what the government should have been doing. And the Bush administration put it on a shelf and ignored it because they didn't want to be responsible for reforming our system.
CARLSON: That's really ludicrous.
BEGALA: And Gary Hart, god bless him for doing it.
CARLSON: God bless him anyway. The head of the Congressional Black Caucus did what he does best today and expressed "grave disappointment" over President Bush's decision to re-nominate federal district Judge Charles Pickering for a post on the court of appeals. Maryland Democrat Elijah Cummings added that many of the president's judicial nominees have failed to demonstrate support for civil rights.
Cummings wouldn't explain his slur or offer evidence to support it. Maybe we'll hear more about it tonight. Joining us in the CROSSFIRE are Nan Aron, president of the Alliance for Justice, and Jay Sekulow, chief counsel for the American Center for Law and Justice -- welcome.
BEGALA: Jay, good to see you. Have a seat. Jay, you may recall, because you're a gifted attorney with a brilliant mind, a couple of years ago, a few right wing cranks were going after President Clinton alleging that he had misstated things under oath about a girlfriend. It was in all the papers. Do you remember that?
JAY SEKULOW, CHIEF COUNSEL, AMERICAN CENTER FOR LAW AND JUSTICE: Vaguely, yeah.
BEGALA: Well, Judge Pickering is...
SEKULOW: I think he apologized for that.
BEGALA: Judge Pickering has not apologized, though, for stating things as fact that were false under oath before the United States Senate when he was nominated for the federal bench. This is what "The New York Times" says. "Judge Pickering testified in 1990 that he had no contact with the sovereignty commission -- it was a commission devoted to maintaining segregation and opposing civil rights. But a document disclosed in 1998 showed that, as a state senator, he had asked a commission official in the 70s to be informed about labor unrest in Jones County, in his home state of Mississippi."
Now this is a material fact. He was asked directly about it. He said no. And the answer is yes. What will we tell the children? What will we tell the children, Jay? Judge Pickering lied under oath.
SEKULOW: Well, here's what we're going to tell the children, don't read "The New York Times" completely without understanding the whole story. The rest of the story is, in 1970, Judge Pickering, when he was a state senator, voted to get rid of the sovereign commission, wanted it removed. He also testified that it was a contact, the way the word contact was described to him.
And he said -- look, he made a mistake. He did speak to one person 24 years before. He forgot that.
BEGALA: So he swore under oath that the answer was no. The answer was yes.
SEKULOW: I don't think you should be talking about people swearing under oath.
BEGALA: You all impeached the president about it, but you want to put him on the most powerful court in the land.
SEKULOW: Well he's not in the most powerful court in the land. He's in certainly one of the most powerful courts. But let me tell you this. This man had has a stellar record with regard to race relations.
BEGALA: I'm not talking about race. I'm talking about lying under oath, Jay. Don't change the subject.
SEKULOW: He did not lie under oath. You know what, your folks were -- your Democratic leaders, Janet Reno, certainly if he thought he violated the law could have brought some kind of proceeding against him. Nobody did. Why? Because he had no intent to lie and Bill Clinton did have the intent to do it.
BEGALA: He lied under oath, Jay, so he could get confirmed.
SEKULOW: No he did not. By the way, confirmed unanimously.
BEGALA: Because he lied.
CARLSON: OK, wait. Slow down. Nan Aron, the crux of the case that liberals are making ,that the left is making against Judge Pickering, is that he's bad on civil rights, implying he's a racist. This stems from a cross burning that took place in Mississippi, as you know, in 1994, committed by three men. Two of them were let off and allowed to strike plea bargains with the Clinton Justice Department at the time and serve no jail time at all. And before we go further, I wonder if you could explain why.
NAN ARON, PRESIDENT, ALLIANCE FOR JUSTICE: Yes, I mean, one -- I mean, I think we should just talk a little bit about the case. There were three white men who went on the lawn of an interracial couple in Mississippi, burnt a very large cross. The three of them were arrested for this crime and one was under age.
One was a person of some mental disability. And one insisted on going to trial. He was charged with several counts of important crimes, and he was found guilty by an all-white jury. When it came time for his sentencing, Judge Pickering did something he had never done before in all his eleven years as a district court judge in Mississippi. And that was he tried to grant leniency and cut, reduce the sentence for this convicted cross burner.
CARLSON: Actually, before you go on, the sentence that the Justice Department was seeking was seven and a half years.
ARON: That's correct.
CARLSON: He contacted the Justice Department and asked -- Judge Pickering did -- what are the sentencing guidelines. The Justice Department did not call back. So he called a friend of his at the Justice Department -- that's right -- and this is really the crux issue. He called this guy at the Justice Department. You know who that person at the Justice Department was.
ARON: Yes, I did. It was Frank Hunger.
CARLSON: Who, A, is Al Gore's brother-in-law. And at the time was the head of the civil division. Read what he had to say about Judge Pickering and his so-called racist past. This is Frank Hunger, former Clinton official.
"I have known Judge Pickering for nearly 30 years and have the utmost respect for him as a fair-minded judge who would never knowingly do anything improper or unethical. He is a person of great integrity, strong moral character, courage and compassion, who treats all who come before him in a fair and dignified way. Is Frank Hunger lying or mistaken or...
ARON: Well, no, but Frank Hunger isn't up for a judgeship.
CARLSON: What about his assessment of Pickering? Why would he say this?
ARON: I think he's a friend.
SEKULOW: No. People that know him consistently say this.
ARON: He's a very close friend. And Judge Pickering has a lot of friends in Mississippi. That's something to applaud. But the fact is, what's at issue here with Judge Pickering is not what his friends say about him, because one would expect his friends to say nice things.
SEKULOW: What about what the American Bar Association says about him, which you all said was the gold standard? Well qualified, the highest ranking by the ABA.
ARON: His record is one of routinely, consistently voting against plaintiffs and employment discrimination cases for eight years.
BEGALA: It is a violation of the canons of judicial ethics for a judge to directly contact the Justice Department in the middle of a criminal case without the lawyers being involved.
SEKULOW: That's not correct. First of all, the lawyers were involved.
BEGALA: No, they weren't.
SEKULOW: Yes, they were. Both sides were.
BEGALA: Aside from the fact that they're not -- I think you're entitled to your own opinion, but not your own facts.
SEKULOW: Let me give you something else about.
SEKULOW: Well, Paul, let me give you a fact you have seem to have forgotten in your analysis. Do you know that when these people pled out, the two that -- by the way, one of them was the primary defendant who was 17. And under every state's law you can be tried as an adult. You know what the Justice Department decided to prosecute them for? Misdemeanors. The guy that says I want to go to trial gets a seven-year sentence. Everybody's concerned about...
BEGALA: He violated the canons of judicial ethics.
SEKULOW: He didn't violate the canons of ethics. He was in contact with both lawyers. They knew what was going on. A judge says I want to know what the Justice Department's position issue is with regard to this issue. He contacted the lawyers (ph) and tells (ph) them. No one filed any complaints about that either.
CARLSON: Wait a minute. Let's get right to the center of this. You know as well as I do there's no evidence Judge Pickering is a raist racist. What you and other left wing groups object to is the fact this guy does not pledge allegiance to abortion.
ARON: That is absolutely wrong.
SEKULOW: Well let me ask you this. Would you accept a candidate if we knew the candidate was pro-life?
CARLSON: That's a great question. Answer it, Nan.
SEKULOW: OK? Pro-life, you know he's pro-life, gets a well- qualified rating by the ABA. And you're going to say that person could serve on a court of appeals or district court?
ARON: I would want to know many things about this person.
SEKULOW: The person tells you I am pro-life in my position.
ARON: I would want to know many things.
SEKULOW: He said -- here's the words: I'm pro-life.
ARON: This is a man... (CROSSTALK)
SEKULOW: Nobody wants to answer the question. If you're pro- life you're disqualified. That's what it's about.
BEGALA: Excuse me. The Senate Democrats last year confirmed 100 Bush nominees. Were any of them pro-life?
SEKULOW: I'm sure many of them were.
BEGALA: I'm sure most of them were. So you can't say the Democrats have a pro-life litmus test...
SEKULOW: Most of them, by the way, were district court judges.
BEGALA: But confirmed 100 judges. I'm sure most of them were pro-life.
SEKULOW: Most of them were district courts. We're talking about court of appeals here. That's the primary issue. And let me ask you this. If a pro-life nominee...
ARON: If an individual is a state senator, voted consistently to overturn Roe vs. Wade...
CARLSON: No, please. I wish you would, actually, Nan, answer the question. Because it's a good question. You're evading it or attempting to. Would you support a judge qualified in every other way...
ARON: Who was opposed to Roe vs.Wade?
CARLSON: ... who differed with you on the orthodoxy of abortion? Wasn't enthusiastic about abortion, as you apparently are?
ARON: I want to know what this person's views are with respect to Roe vs. Wade, with respect to other Supreme Court candidates.
SEKULOW: Let's say the person says, Nan, I am pro-life.
ARON: This is not just a single issue debate.
SEKULOW: OK. Let's say you like everything else about the person. You like their decisions in civil rights cases, you like their decisions in employment cases, but they say I am pro-life in my convictions and I think Roe vs. Wade was wrongly decided. Does that person get qualified?
ARON: Let's look at what we want courts in this country to do.
BEGALA: Excuse me.
ARON: Let's look at what we want courts to do. We want courts to accept the progress that we have made in civil and women's rights.
SEKULOW: But what if somebody disagrees with you on that...
BEGALA: What's wrong with that? President Bush campaigned saying that he was pro-life. Just a minute. President Bush campaigned saying he's pro-life. I don't believe he's nominated a single pro-choice judge. That's his prerogative. He's the president.
Senators have the right to have the same litmus test. What's wrong with that? Who has Bush nominated that's pro-choice for the federal bench?
SEKULOW: I don't -- in most of the judges it did not even come up as an issue, and you know that.
BEGALA: How many has he nominated who are pro-choice? Zero. That's his prerogative. Good for him.
SEKULOW: You have no idea.
CARLSON: The opinions about abortion that most of the people...
SEKULOW: It was the same organization that's saying David Suiter (ph) was going to undo Roe vs. Wade.
CARLSON: Unfortunately, we're going to have to get a quick commercial break. And then we'll get back to growling in just a second. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas is getting a lot of money to write his own opinions, legal and otherwise. We'll ask our guests about it in just a moment.
Later, telemarketers. It's so much fun to harass, mistreat and mislead them, why should Washington even get involved? That will be our debate.
Then later, moles, survivors, bachelors and phony millionaires. Sounds like the CIA. It's not, it's reality television. And we're going to debate it. We'll be right back.
BEGALA: Welcome back to CROSSFIRE. Harper Collins has won the bidding war to publish Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas' autobiography by reportedly promising to pay him more than a million dollars. Justice Thomas started writing the book in 2001. It is due in 2005. Reports say that the justice has finished the part of growing up in Georgia during the days of segregation. But unlike Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, whose memoir focused exclusively on her remarkable childhood growing up on an Arizona cattle ranch, Justice Thomas' book promises to get into more controversial issues, including the bruising battle over his confirmation.
Still in the CROSSFIRE, Jay Sekulow, the American Center for Law and Justice; and Nan Aron the president of the Alliance for Law and Justice. Thanks for staying with us.
CARLSON: Nan Aron, Justice Thomas has been the subject of really remarkable abuse from the left in the 10-odd years he's been on the bench. He was called by Joycelyn Elders of the Clinton administration Uncle Tom. Spike Lee called him a chicken and biscuit-eating Uncle Tom. The ACLU called him Uncle Tom and compared him to Hitler.
Pretty outrageous. Beyond outrageous, actually. And I wonder what's wrong with him responding in a book?
ARON: Oh, I think there's nothing wrong. In fact, this has been a Supreme Court justice who rarely asks a question from the bench, or says anything. I'm interested in knowing, I think along with other people, what does this man think? What are his views? I think we would like to hear about it.
SEKULOW: That's not fair. He's written a number of opinions that are very significant.
CARLSON: I'm sorry, Nan, that he hasn't boiled it down into the (UNINTELLIGIBLE) for you, but he actually does produces things that are written. The other point I guess I would make -- is that what they're called?
SEKULOW: They're called Supreme Court opinions.
CARLSON: Is it unlike the two rich people appointed to the Supreme Court by President Clinton, Stephen Breyer, worth up to $15 million, and Ruth Bader Ginsburg, worth tens of millions? Justice Thomas is actually not a rich man, and this is an opportunity for him to make some money. Is there anything wrong with that?
ARON: Oh, I don't fault him for wanting to make money in writing a book. I don't think that's the issue. I think we're all interested in knowing what this Supreme Court justice has to say. I certainly am. From one of the organizations that led the battle against his confirmation, I'm very interested in knowing what he thinks.
CARLSON: I bet he's got the chills watching this right now.
BEGALA: I'm kind of with Nan. I don't have a bit of a problem. I think he's frankly worth more than a million, if you ask me. I mean, my friend Tim Russert is getting $3 million for his book and he's worth every penny. SEKULOW: And justices of the Supreme Court have consistently written books throughout history. The Supreme Court is part of what they do. There's no problem there.
BEGALA: I don't have the slightest problem with that. I'm wondering, though, if he will resolve one dispute that came up in his testimony. He swore under oath, under oath, that he had never...
SEKULOW: You really like that "under oath" now, don't you? You didn't like it much in 1998.
BEGALA: You bet I do, because that man is sitting on the United States Supreme Court. He swore under oath that he never debated the Roe vs. Wade case, even though it was decided while he was in law school. I think he was lying.
SEKULOW: I don't think so.
BEGALA: He never debated it?
SEKULOW: Did you go to law school?
SEKULOW: OK. How much debating did you do about this?
BEGALA: Every bloody day. That's what law school is, Jay. Don't you remember?
SEKULOW: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) I argued cases of the Supreme Court, and let me tell you something. We had Roe vs. Wade when I was in law school. It was a half a day of one class.
BEGAL: ... had no opinion on it.
SEKULOW: But, you know what? The only problem, he's already been confirmed. Sorry, you lost that one.
CARLSON: Hold on. I think Nan wants to add to this.
ARON: He is a cautionary tale for our times, though, because he was able, at his hearing, to say, I will follow the law. I will apply precedent, in spite of years, years, where he, as the head of the EEOC, the Department of Education...
SEKULOW: If someone disagrees with your position that means they're violating the law? Give me a break.
ARON: No. But I think we cannot as a country, and we cannot let the Senate accept at face value... (CROSSTALK)
BEGALA: Wouldn't that be great? I'd be all for that nomination.
SEKULOW: I think it would be great.
BEGALA: Because I'd like to see (UNINTELLIGIBLE) one more time. In the book, will there be any movie reviews? Because (UNINTELLIGIBLE).
CARLSON: That's an awful thing to say. And Nan, what do you think of the fact that...
CARLSON: What do you think of the fact that his enemies refer to him as an Uncle Tom?
ARON: Well I don't like anyone engaging in name calling. I think it's inappropriate. I think people ought to look at what he's done on the court. What opinions he's written.
I think they ought to be looking at the fact he's part of a wing of the court that has sought to overturn Roe vs. Wade. That tried to overturn the Miranda case, which we all in America have come to respect.
BEGALA: That will have to be the last word. Nan Aron, thank you very much for joining us.
ARON: Thank you so much.
BEGALA: James Sekulow, thank you as well. Thank you very much.
There's breaking news tonight on yesterday's commuter plane crash. Connie Chung will have the details in a CNN "News Alert."
Then, the battle to break the telemarketer siege of our home phone lines.
And just in from the vast wasteland, a new crop of half naked losers in ridiculous humiliating circumstances. I love it. No, it's not Congress in a late-night session. It is more reality TV. You will not want to miss it.
BEGALA: Washington regulators want to help you get rid of pesky calls from telemarketers. The Federal Trade Commission wants to set up a list that you can put your name on to block 80 percent of those unwanted calls. They often come during dinner time or worse, during CROSSFIRE. But to do so the Feds need $16 million to get started, and Republican Congressman Billy Tauzin the chairman of the committee involved says hold the phone.
He's worried that the FTC's crackdown may duplicate efforts under way by the FCC and other agencies in Washington. In Chicago, Robert Bulmash, the president and founder of Private Citizen and the author of a 39-page book called "So You Want to Sue a Telemarketer." And here in Washington, Fred Smith, president and founder of the Competitive Enterprise Institute.
CARLSON: Mr. Bulmash, it's hard for me to believe and I didn't even know until today that at this point in American history when the country is under siege from foreign threats, from terrorism. There are people who really believe the federal government ought to spend millions of dollars, not to mention energies protecting people from telemarketers. Doesn't strike me as a huge threat.
ROBERT BULMASH, PRES. & FOUNDER, PRIVATE CITIZEN: It doesn't have to be a foreign threat to be invading our homes. We have a right to be left alone. We have a right to be left alone some place. And if that right doesn't exist at least in our homes that right doesn't exist at all in America. We're people. We're human beings. We're not walking wallets. And that's how the telenuisance industry is treating us.
CARLSON: Do you have evidence? I mean, have people been killed by telemarketers? No, let me ask you a real question and that is. In this age when people have caller I.D. among other things, when there are electronic ways for the individual, the individual citizen to repel telemarketers why should the federal government get involved?
BULMASH: Because first of all I estimated that over $2 billion a year are spent by residents spending that money with telephone companies to get caller I.d., unlisted numbers, privacy manager, call intercept services. It's like an arms war. The telephone companies are selling equipment and phone numbers to the telenuisance industry, and then they're selling the residence equipment in order to block the calls that are helped along by the telephone companies. Everybody's making money off of this and we are losing our privacy. Our right to be left alone.
BEGALA: Thank you. It's always good to see you. One of the things I love about you is you're not afraid to defend the indefensible. Telenuisance, I love that phrase that Robert has just coined. Help us out, what's your home phone number? Would you broadcast on TV, so everyone can call you and bother you at home.
FRED SMITH, PRES. COMPETITIVE ENTERPRISE INSTITUTE: 232-4009. Call at any time of night.
BEGALA: That's probably his ex-wife's number. How many of you think these telenuisance guys are a huge pain in the ass? We're swimming against public opinion here.
SMITH: A degree. But there are a lot of irritating things in America. There are people who don't like talking head talk shows. Horrible!
BEGALA: Lock them up, too.
SMITH: But the fact is we don't have federal laws. Nuisance is part of a free speech society. It's a society that recognizes that advertising and the ability to reach people, even people who don't think they want to hear what you have to say can be very useful. It breaks some of the monopolies we've seen in the past. Without telemarketing would the telephone deregulation have gone as far as it has? You have to find some way to get the new person on the block.
And crazy Eddie TVs and telemarketers are nuisances, they're irritating, they're maddening, but they're part of the competitive process, part of free speech, and we jeopardize our rights. Bounty hunters who basically are going to get paid because they didn't essentially put your list on the name right are really assuming that government knows how to list manage. After 9/11, one of the things we found out, the government's not all that good at list management. Indeed government lists have a pretty sordid record in history. Do we really want another government list where if they make mistakes, what will happen? They'll get a bigger budget, a bigger agency, more power.
CARLSON: But Mr. Bulmash, it seems to me that in your attacks on an entire industry, what you're really attacking is the elderly, students, people who need extra money, in short, telemarketers who are people, too. And you're going after them like they're not even human beings.
BULMASH: And what about the elderly, the ill, the infirm at home, trying to recover after a hospital stay with arthritis, with emphysema that can't get to the phone. These telemarketers know before they make their next call that the most likely result of that call is going to serve only to disturb the person called in their home.
CARLSON: Aren't they offering companionship, too?
CARLSON: Well, sure, they're calling to say, look...
BULMASH: They're a bacteria.
CARLSON: I'll talk to you. I'll listen to you as long as you like, I'm here for you. That doesn't count?
SMITH: One of my families pointed out that a Smith would talk to a lamp post. There are people who like the conversation.
BULMASH: You know, there are hundreds of cigarette outlets in mini marts and businesses throughout the country. What if all 100 million of them started calling all the phone numbers in our homes? I mean, we would be running to the phone like pavlovian dogs on an hourly basis, responding to these substances.
SMITH: You've never taken your phone off the hook like some of us have. You pick it up, you put it there it beeps for five or ten sends.
BULMASH: And what about the emergency calls? (CROSSTALK)
SMITH: When I call my niece. When I call my niece, when I call my brother, when I call CROSSFIRE. Why did find out? They know it's me. They can either answer or not. Maybe I'm an unwanted guest on your program.
BEGALA: Always answer to you.
SMITH: Basically, look, we have technologies, and they're rapidly improving. Rather than rush in with an FTC rule, incidentally, by a Republican FTC, just shows the seductiveness of this city. Even conservatives come here and get seduced in a matter of moments.
BEGALA: My friend, Laurence, a brilliant professor of law at Stanford, reminded me the other day that the word phony came from at the advent of the telephone. Con artists and ripoff artists who called people up and tried to fleece them. That's gotten so bad that I want to read you a few strategies that another friend of mine came up with. This is one of the most brilliant strategies from one of the most brilliant people I know.
Some guy named Carlson wrote an essay recently. This is what he says to telemarketers.
"Well to tell you the truth, Brandon, I can't. I'm kind of busy. I am having my other leg amputated in the morning. Got to pack for the hospital."
He also told one, "I'm out on bond right now. Maybe you read about it. I killed three people in a drug-related murder spree a couple of years ago. I'm out now trying to beat the charges."
This is what people have been reduced to. Decent citizens having to make up claims that they're murderers.
SMITH: No, no, no. You missed it. What we're seeing in telemarketing now is a creative outlet for the talented people like yourself who can come up with those stories. We basically have to recognize that advertising is not something we love all the time. But it is something that is essential. It is essential to essentially a free society. It's the only thing that breaks up a invested monopoly.
CARLSON: Mr. Bulmash the name of your (UNINTELLIGIBLE) threat, "So You Want to Sue a Telemarketer, " you making some money on that by the way?
BULMASH: We sold thousands.
CARLSON: So somebody's profiting from telemarketing.
BULMASH: Our members have collected over 1.7 million dollars since 1996 from telemarketers.
SMITH: Bounty hunters. CARLSON: But my question is to you, I assume, that you're telling people you ought to sue a telemarketer. And isn't this exactly the kind of frivolous lawsuit ties up the court from letting people file real lawsuits?
BULMASH: What is frivolous about our fundamental, human right to be left alone in our homes? What is frivolous about that?
CARLSON: You don't have that right, I not sure if you noticed. You don't pay your taxes, Mr. Bulmash and actually armed guys from the IRS come to you and take you out of it and take your home away. You don't have that right in this country. Maybe in Venezuela, not here.
BULMASH: I think you do have that right if you're following all the laws. We are, indeed, citizens of a country. Justice Louis Brandeis said in 1890 that the right to be left alone is the most comprehensive of rights, and the one most valued by civilized man. We've got an entire industry out there barging into our homes. This is not appropriate.
BEGALA: There's a particularly odious practice in America, right. Citizens don't like that practice, they petitioned their government for redress of grievance, the government is acting on it to outlaw it, it's called democracy.
SMITH: 64,000 people petitioned the FTC. There's 280 million Americans who didn't petition the FTC.
BEGALA: 279 million of them hate these telemarketers.
SMITH: They hate them, but they basicly use them. And they use them because one of the ways we learn about new telephone services, let's take other areas. We're not going to try to regulate political callers yet. We are not going to regulate charitable callers. But if I want to use a professional to raise money for my organization that does get regulated. When government starts filtering out the kind of people who can call us, where do they stop? Are they going to start having laws that families with small children can't have calls from adult.
CARLSON: Robert Bulmash, we are almost out of time. And I want to ask you about cell phones. No telemarketer has called me yet on a cell phone. Many Americans, maybe most now have and use cell phones, many of them as their primary phone. It kind of makes this argument we're having almost obsolete, doesn't it?
SMITH: In November of this year phone numbers will become portable. You'll be able to transfer your land line to your cell phone line and we're going to start getting telenuisance calls on our cell phones. It's going to cost us money.
When we talked about political calls, in the last election cycle, President George W. -- or George II, he was making prerecorded telemarketing calls, trying to get people out to get the vote out. Those calls were illegal, because they did not include an address or phone number as required by the federal telephone consumer protection act.
CARLSON: Do you think he's -- because of that do you think he's an illegitimate president? What should be the penalty for that?
CARLSON: Mr. Bulmash is telling us what the penalty is.
BULMASH: The penalty is spelled out in the federal law: $500 per violation. If he only called 20 percent of America's 100 million residential lines, that means he would be in debt to about $5 billion if the state AGs would go after him.
CARLSON: Well, on that note I want to wish you luck collecting, Robert Bulmash and thank you for joining us. We really appreciate it.
Fred Smith, thank you.
SMITH: My pleasure.
CARLSON: Coming up in "Fireback," yet more fan mail from our friends to the far frozen north. It's a different country. It's Canada.
But next, it's crude, rude, and nearly as salacious as the Clinton administration. We're putting reality TV in the CROSSFIRE. We'll be right back.
CARLSON: Welcome back to CROSSFIRE. We're coming to you from the George Washington University here in downtown Washington, where your family hour is safe.
But switch the channel and you're likely to be sucked into a web of scandalous deception, gritty lust, and bald-faced lies. Yum.
In other words, reality television. Nearly 19 million people watched as 20 million groveled over Fox TV's "Joe Millionaire." last night on ABC, 25 eager suitors and millions of viewers ogled the 29- year-old bachelorette named Trista.
In CROSSFIRE's ever-continuing quest to provide topical, in-depth analysis of important social trends, we're joined from Seattle, Washington tonight by film critic and radio talk show host Michael Medved.
With us here in Washington is Sandy Rios of Concerned Women For America.
BEGALA: Thank you both. Michael, thank you for joining us.
I'm going to start with Sandy, though. Sandy, I hope you're taping the show and that you save it, because I'm going to do something I very rarely do: praise and quote our president, who had terrific, terrific advice on this.
George W. Bush was asked about troubling things that are on TV. And this is the advice that he gave. I'll put it up on the screen.
"Put the off button on."
I love that. Now, in his sort of profoundly brilliant Yogi Berraesque way, he was right. What's wrong with that advice? Put the off button on, Sandy.
SANDY RIOS, CONCERNED WOMEN FOR AMERICA: You know, it's a great thought. But the problem is not enough people are putting the off button on and so we've got -- we have really this dearth of information that I think is really undermining our culture.
And all joking aside, we've got some bad stuff on television. And I think our culture is reflecting that. We've got a 50 percent divorce rate at least. And, you know, so when you present programs like these where the end game is marriage, based on marrying this fake millionaire or a marriage based on picking out of 25 girls the one who, you know, rings your chimes the best, that's a terrible reason to choose a mate. And I think it's a feeding...
BEGALA: There used to be arranged marriages, right? I mean, who...
RIOS: Yes, but arranged marriages were arranged because of -- who is this Michael? Hello, Michael. Michael, how could you and I disagree on anything?
MICHAEL MEDVED, FILM CRITIC: We disagree on this very firmly, because I agree with you that there's terrible stuff on TV. The real problem in America, though, isn't so much the low quality of TV, it's the high quantity of TV. People watch too much altogether.
And I want to say that I actually looked at a tape of "The Bachelorette." And "The Bachelorette" isn't one of the worst things on TV, it's one of the better things on TV. And I'll tell you why.
RIOS: Oh, dear.
MEDVED: Because this is a young lady who's very likable who says repeatedly her big dream in life is to get married and to have children. She says the biggest fear I have in life is that I wouldn't have children. I want to have two children. I want to have three kids. And she's interviewing these guys based on their values, and making those choices accordingly.
CARLSON: Michael, come on. Step back a little bit. Hold on here.
I mean, admire all those sentiments and like you I've done a great deal of personal research on this topic, including last night. But step back. She's doing this, searching for these values you described, trying to find the perfect man, trying to build a family with children and a white picket fence on television. OK, with like nine cameramen surrounding her and it's on primetime.
BEGALA: And it's in a hot tub.
MEDVED: OK, look. I'm very grateful that I was able to meet my wife 18 years ago not on TV, OK?
But the point about this is right now, at any time that you have some kind of popular culture, which holds up as the ideal, the notion of two people, man and woman, getting married, having children, raising a family, I think that's a positive message.
RIOS: Yes, but Michael the downside of that is the reasons for the choice. Like she also said last night she declared -- or whatever night it was -- which one turned her on the most. He's got the right look, she said.
And that is the wrong reason to choose a mate. And that's my premise.
MEDVED: Of course it is. Of course it is.
But again, when there are so many things like "Temptation Island" you could criticize...
RIOS: Yes. Let's do that, too.
MEDVED: ...so many things that emphasize experimentation outside of marriage, the kind of material that Concerned Women for America exist to discourage -- look, every once in awhile you're reminded in this country that for the average American child, it is still considered a dream to get married and get married for a lifetime.
And there's another aspect of this, which is all-American. Which is, look, these shows exist for one reason only and that's to humiliate really good-looking people. And that's a totally all- American desire.
I mean, as far as the beautiful women on "Joe Millionaire" are concerned, all women hate them because they're beautiful and thin. All men hate them because we've all had our hearts broken at one time or another by some beautiful woman or another. So why not indulge that American desire for revenge on people who are popular and great looking?
RIOS: No! Michael...
BEGALA: The basic premise of, like, "Joe Millionaire" is that they lied, right? That "Joe Millionaire" is going to get these girls because he's not really a millionaire. He's lying.
Let me see how he could -- my wife is here. She married me. I lied my ass off. I told her I was an astronaut, I had won the Congressional Medal of Honor. Jeez, I said every thing.
RIOS: Why does that not surprise me?
BEGALA: Shot down 48 MiGs over Nam. Whatever it took, man, that's what we do. We're guys. We lie. What's the shock?
BEGALA: You think she'd marry me if I wasn't a big fat liar?
RIOS: Can we talk to her for a minute? I have a feeling that's not good news.
You know, I think the thing of it is...
BEGALA: She still doesn't know about the Medal of Honor.
RIOS: You know, the thing of it is, I would maintain that both of these shows, whether it be "Joe Millionaire" or the other one, that they both humiliate men and women. I believe that. This guy Joe, whoever he is, makes $19,000 a year, as a construction worker. But the joke is Ha, ha, he's really worthless. Ha ha ha. Everybody thinks he has money, he has power, but he really doesn't. He's a jerk. He's worthless. Joe might be a very good guy. This is the wrong value system.
MEDVED: I want to speak out on behalf of gold diggers. Gold diggers need defense. Because any woman who claims or tries to show on TV that it doesn't matter to me how much my man earns, or how much he is capable of earning -- any woman who says that is either a liar or a fool.
Obviously it's very important and very relevant for a woman to consider what a guy's earning potential is.
CARLSON: That goes without saying. Here's the problem I have, though, with these shows.
Is it -- there's a pornographic quality to the emotions shown. They're so intense. For instance in "The Bachelor," not that I watched it, let's just say I did. There's a point in it where the one girl is just crushed.
MEDVED: That's Trista. She is then turned over and used it to get revenge in "The Bachelorette".
CARLSON: But there's something deeply creepy and, again, pornographic about watching someone at her moment of being crushed. Watching her cry in the limousine.
MEDVED: You're right. The negative part of all these shows is they make us all into peeping Toms.
But the point is, compared to the rest of the stuff on TV, I mean...
RIOS: Michael, that's the lowest -- that's very un-Michael Medved. to say the lowest common denominator pleases you.
MEDVED: It doesn't please me. Sandy, what I'm saying is that I think that what you do is you point out it's appropriate to point out the worst of TV. And to talk about the need for people to watch less. And everybody should be watching less in America.
But the truth of the matter -- except people who watch CROSSFIRE. But the truth of the matter is that this does in the represent the worst of TV. People say, Oh, they made us peeping Toms. Reality TV is so horrible. So horrible compared to what? Compared to the latest idiot sitcom or cop show?
RIOS: The point is that I think it's doing a great amount of damage. I also -- it makes me concerned about our culture. What are people doing with their lives that they can sit and watch hours of people doing nothing?
BEGALA: We only have one hour on CROSSFIRE so we've got to fill the other 23 with something.
MEDVED: People are not doing nothing, Sandy. People are busy making what you and I would agree is the most important decision in life, which is who you're going to marry. And look...
RIOS: On the basis of their looks or what they have or what they earn? That's what this is encouraging, Michael.
MEDVED: Again,that's the down side.
MEDVED: However the point that you're getting everybody fascinated by this question of marriage absolutely takes...
CARLSON: Michael, I want you to address the question of "Celebrity Mole Hawaii." And (UNINTELLIGIBLE) you didn't watch this, actually I really didn't watch this last night. Apparently it's a bunch of celebrities by definition getting together.
MEDVED: D-list celebrities.
CARLSON: D-list. Robert P. Laurence of Copley writes this: "Now what kind of celebrity spend six weeks getting embarrassed in public, hoping to win $250,000? Isn't that pocket change to a real celebrity? Doesn't a real celebrity spend a weekend playing golf in a celebrity tournament and give the money to charity?"
The point here is that shows like this exist in part for the same reason "Love Boat" existed, and that is to give a -- washed-up celebrities a place to go. Isn't that the service that they provide?
MEDVED: Actually they shot "Jurassic Park" in Hawaii, too. As far as "Celebrity Mole Hawaii" is concerned, the problem in America is as I've started off saying the average American watches 27 hours a week of television.
And frankly, it doesn't matter if you're spending all that time watching reality TV, or watching PBS. It's too much. Because what television does is it takes you out of real relationships.
One of the things about reality TV and one of the reasons I think it is so popular is people right now do turn to the people on television for significant relationships. For significant contact. And they get to know the people on TV better then they're own neighbors and sometimes family members.
So naturally, when you actually see who look like real people, nonprofessional actors going through even moments of pain and embarrassment, that creates this illusion of false intimacy that's very attractive.
RIOS: Yes, but, Michael, let me just say one thing. You've just made a case that people made for years about time spent with children. It's not the quantity, it's the quality. And I reject that argument. I think it doesn't -- you're right, too much television. But the right kind of television at least if you're going to watch it, it does make a difference.
MEDVED: Sandy, what's the right kind of television?
BEGALA: Who watched "The Bachelorette" last night? Oh, liars! Tucker was watching, I know, just for strictly research purposes.
CARLSON: It's true.
BEGALA: I would have but it was up against the Georgetown/Duke game. Once you're hard you're not interested in hot dates, it's just basketball. when you're an old guy like me.
MEDVED: "The Bachelorette" got higher ratings than "The Left Wing" (sic). And, Tucker, you ought to celebrate that.
CARLSON: Well I do. Thank you.
BEGALA: Michael Medved, thank you very much for joining us, syndicated columnist, film critic, radio talk-show host. Sandy Rios from Concerned Women for America. Thank you very much for joining us.
Next in "Fireback", one of our viewers, who apparently has gotten to know us very well makes a canny comparison between Jim Traficant and North Korean dictator Kim Jong Il. You'll see why in a minute.
BEGALA: Welcome back to CROSSFIRE. I'm still pondering Michael Medved's notice that folks get to know people on TV very well. It shows up in "Fireback" which is this segment.
Look at your e-mails. Mary Smith in St. Louis, Missouri writes to her old pals, Tucker and Paul, "TV programing gets worse by the second. `Joe Millionaire' and `The Bachlorette' are good examples of the moronic nonsense that is pushed in front of viewers everyday. I'm turning off the tube."
No, no, no. Mary, Mary. Stick with CNN, babe. We have fully clothed boobs here on -- like Tucker and me on here. We don't have bachelorettes.
CARLSON: Would not be improved by nudity on our network.
OK, Greg Novak of Darien, Illinois writes, "If the Republicans are in, New York where will they smoke their fat-cat cigars? At least the Democrats will have a choice in Boston."
Actually, Greg, they won't, because authoritarian health nuts in most cities have made it illegal to smoke virtually anywhere.
BEGALA: Well, maybe they'll live a little longer and breathe a little freer.
CARLSON: Telling people what to do is like a liberal pastime. I just don't under stand it.
BEGALA: Al Fraser writes, "I would have written sooner but I'm all `Tuckered' out from helping the FBI locate nonexsistant terrorists with in our borders. Mr. Carlson, you must by justifiably proud at having pinpointed our country's location twice in a row. You have a standing invitation to rest your ego here when we can find a parking lot big enough." Al Fraser, New Glasgow, Nova Scotia, that's in Canada.
CARLSON: I can find Canada. It's the frozen wasteland to the north. And if the parking lot he refers to is the satellite parking lot into which the U.S. will turn Canada when we invade.
BEGALA: No, it's liberation. Liberation.
CARLSON: I'm sorry, you're absolutely right.
BEGALA: President Bush has the right phrase. (UNINTELLIGIBLE)
CARLSON: Karen Begwe of Sunnydale, California writes, "Have you noticed that Kim Jong Il and James Trafficant have the same hairstyle? Do you think this means something?"
I don't know, Karen.
CARLSON: Look at that. Look at that.
BEGALA: It is uncanny.
CARLSON: Traficant never posed a nuclear threat. That's why I liked him.
BEGALA: They both go to the prison barber. Just Kim Jong Il kills him if he doesn't like the cut.
Yes, sir? Your question or comment?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: My name is Ryan Anderson, I'm from Phoenix, Arizona, and my question is, what do you think about a reality television show following the lives of telemarketers and the hardships and frustrations they face selling their products?
CARLSON: I think that would be one of the grimmest shows ever to be on television. My impression is, don't know for certain, telemarketers have sad, hard lives, which is why I'm defending them.
BEGALA: It would be a great show if one person they called, and they don't know which one, would have the ability to send an electronic shock right into their little brains. I would tune in to that.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: My name is Matt Hawkins. I'm from Perrysberg (ph), Ohio. I was wondering if you think President Bush is being more of a divider than a uniter by renominating his failed judicial candidates.
CARLSON: Wait a second, he nominated them in the first place because he believed they were the most qualified people for the job. So if he didn't nominate them the second time simply because there were some absurd obstructionists in the Senate in control three months ago, that would be telling. He renominated the same guys because he thinks they're the right ones.
BEGALA: I'm perverse about this. One of the things I like about Bush is that he's so in your face. What I don't like is he pretends that he's a uniter, not a divider. He has a right to be a divider. He represents a party as well as the country. I think he's going to fail in this effort...
CARLSON: I wish somebody would explain to me, and hopefully it'll happen on this show, what exactly Charles Pickering did wrong to be called all these names. I spent all day reading about this and I didn't see one single thing that made me think he was bad on civil rights. I really want to know the answer.
BEGALA: Are you untroubled by the fact that he swore he never contacted a sovereignty commission and then we find out that he did?
BEGALA: From the left, I am Paul Begala. Good night for CROSSFIRE.
CARLSON: From the right I'm Tucker Carlson. Join us again tomorrow, that would be Friday, for yet more CROSSFIRE.
"CONNIE CHUNG TONIGHT" begins right now. Have a great night.
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Charles Pickering; FTC to Set up List to Block Telemarketer Calls>