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CNN CROSSFIRE

President's Job Approval Rating Down; Ryan's Pardons Spark Debate Across the Nation

Aired January 14, 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: emptying death row.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE RYAN, FMR. GOVERNOR OF ILLINOIS: I had to act. Our capital system is haunted by the demon of error.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ANNOUNCER: Should other governors follow the lead of Illinois' George Ryan?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He's done nothing courageous. He is, if anything, a coward and a liar.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ANNOUNCER: We'll ask Jesse Jackson about issues of life and death row.

Trying to turn around the numbers.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: And as the economy grows, it's more likely we're going to have success at helping people.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ANNOUNCER: And helping his declining poll numbers.

And if you're lonely, is the best date just a click away?

Ahead on CROSSFIRE.

Live from the George Washington University: Paul Begala and Tucker Carlson.

(APPLAUSE) PAUL BEGALA, CO-HOST: Welcome to CROSSFIRE. Tonight, the Reverend Jesse Jackson joins us to debate the death penalty and the departing governor's decision in Illinois to commute every death sentence to life without parole. Also in the CROSSFIRE, President Bush's incredible shrinking poll numbers. How low can they go and how fast will they get there? First, the best little political briefing in television, our CROSSFIRE "Political Alert."

President Bush today said he is sick and tired of Iraq's lies about its weapons of mass destruction. A clearly agitated Mr. Bush told reporters today that time is running out for Saddam Hussein, despite the fact that Saddam has allowed weapons inspectors full access to his country. The president struck a more conciliatory tone about North Korea, however, whose communist dictator is restarting his nuclear weapons program and who has kicked out weapons inspectors.

Bush supporters point out the president is sometimes forced to pursue two widely divergent strategies at the same time. They say our president can walk and chew gum at the same time. This, of course, ignores the fact that Mr. Bush can't even eat a pretzel and watch a football game at the same time. It's too much for him, Tucker.

TUCKER CARLSON, CO-HOST: Well, actually Paul, you had one accurate remark in there. And that is you do need to pursue two wildly different strategies when they're two wildly different countries, one of which has nuclear weapons. There's absolutely nothing wrong with that.

BEGALA: How's he doing?

CARLSON: Well, we'll find out how he's doing. But the idea that it's somehow inconsistent and therefore wrong is not a deep point.

BEGALA: It's incompetent as well as inconsistent is what it is.

CARLSON: Well that's untrue. "The Washington Post" reports this morning that Iraq is replacing Martha's Vineyard as the hot new vacation spot for liberals, many of whom have traveled to Baghdad in recent weeks to denounce American imperialism and express solidarity with Saddam Hussein. Countless college professors, as well as leading Democrats like Sean Penn and Bianca Jagger, are being welcomed with open arms by the Iraqi government, which has been kind enough to help organize anti-American demonstrations.

And of course here at home, liberal intellectuals continue to speak out about foreign policy. At the American Music Awards last night singer Sheryl Crow took the stage wearing a t-shirt with the words "War is not the answer" spelled in sequins. "The best way to solve problems is to not have enemies," Crow explained. I think war is based in greed and there are huge karmic retributions that will follow.

As of tonight, the Democratic Party had not revised its position on karmic retributions. We'll keep you posted.

BEGALA: You know this is an interesting thing on the right. One of the things I hate about the left is this political correctness. You can't say this, you can't say that. Now the right has imposed its own political correctness; maybe it's patriotic correctness.

Anyone who speaks out against a policy of war, you know, you mock them, you attack them. You say that they're not legitimate. She's a taxpayer, she's an American citizen. She's an enormously talented artist. And god bless her for having the courage to speak her views.

CARLSON: That's not a fair criticism. I don't feel that way. There are many people whose opinions I respect who disagree with the war in Iraq, and you know that. However, I do think it is disloyal to go to Baghdad right now and denounce the United States government. I think that's wrong. I think karmic retributions is a dumb thing to say. Those are fair criticisms. I'm not being PC (ph). That's accurate.

BEGALA: But Sheryl Crow has a right at the American Music Awards, which is where she was. It didn't happen in Baghdad. It was in Hollywood or somewhere.

CARLSON: But karmic retributions? Come on, Paul. Draw the line somewhere here.

(CROSSTALK)

BEGALA: President Bush's job approval rating has sunk to a post- 9/11 low. The percentage of Americans who think our president is doing a good job was once nearly 90 percent. It is now just 58 percent in today's CNN-"USA Today" Gallup poll.

Now some analysts believe it's because of Mr. Bush's poor stewardship of the economy, where for two years now he's given handouts to the rich while pink slips have gone to the middle class. Others fault an incoherent and incompetent foreign policy bringing us to the brink of war with Iraq, which has allowed weapons inspectors in, while ignoring North Korea, which has kicked them out. Bush aides insist they're not worried and say if Mr. Bush's job approval goes much lower they can always rely on the Supreme Court to rig the next election. See, they got that ace in the hole.

CARLSON: A, I think it's time you get over the next election. The last election, rather. And B, I'm actually glad that this White House pays attention to polls but a lot less than the previous administration did.

BEGALA: No, they just lie more about them. They poll everything all the time, but they just pretend that they don't.

CARLSON: But actually, Paul, you know as well as I do -- I think they do poll quite a bit, and they may not tell the full truth about that. But I don't think they make their decisions based on polls the way the previous White House did. The president, for instance, doesn't choose his vacation spot based on polling, the way Clinton did. And that's heartening to me.

BEGALA: No, but Bush polls everything. He really does. And I think it's ingenuous. Clinton polled everything but didn't lie about it. Bush polls everything and lies about it.

CARLSON: But he acted on it, which was terrifying, I think.

Call the shrinks. Speaking of, Democrats are in denial again. Unable to face the consequences of their defeat at the polls last November, Minority Leader Tom Daschle and friends have come up with an unprecedented way of bringing virtually all Senate business to a halt. They're fighting the so-called organization resolution, which allocates office space and money.

As a result, new committee chairmen can't get their gavels, new senators can't get committee assignments, and committee meetings on vital legislation have to be put off. Republicans rightfully are furious.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. BILL FRIST (R), MAJORITY LEADER: Democrats are doing something that is totally unprecedented, unprecedented in the history of the United States of America.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. RICK SANTORUM (R), PENNSYLVANIA: It's tantamount to an attempted coup right here in the floor of the United States Senate.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. KAY BAILEY HUTCHISON (R), TEXAS: I think this is clearly an organized plan.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. GEORGE ALLEN (R), VIRGINIA: What we see right now is something that James Madison would look upon as a very shameful, petty, partisan, power grab.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CARLSON: Well, Democrats got tossed out by voters. They ought to listen to the will of the voters they talk so much about.

BEGALA: As George Bush senior once said, whine on harvest moon. These guys need to get over it and get a life. Here's what they're whining -- here's what the dispute is about, and it's a legitimate one. When Democrats controlled the Senate, Republicans had nearly the same level of funding and staffing. Now that Republicans control it, they want a two to one advantage.

It's not fair. What are they worried about? They ought to give the Democrats the same amount of money in the minority that the Republicans had when they were in the minority.

CARLSON: But you see I suppose one of the differences is that Democrats, as you may remember, because it was only two years ago, regained control of the Senate not at the polls, not because the voters gave it to them, but because one man, Jim Jeffords from Vermont, switched parties and became an Independent. That's very different than reacting to the mandate that voters gave. You may not like it, but they did give a mandate to Republicans to control the Senate. And Democrats ought to just accept it, it seems to me.

BEGALA: So if Republicans control the Senate, they can have a two to one financial advantage in staffing -- this is what this is about -- in committees. But if Democrats control it, there should be rough parity. Because they got control because one senator was so upset with Bush's ultra right wing agenda that he left his own party.

CARLSON: Paul, we're talking about people who literally are still upset about the election of 2000, who really need psychological help. I'm not an expert, but I will say the people were still saying, oh, the Supreme Court, the thieving Supreme Court...

BEGALA: That's me, not the Democrats in the Senate.

CARLSON: Well we'll talk about you later.

BEGALA: The Democrats in the Senate I think have the better point that you should have the same funding for Democrats in the minority that Republicans had in the minority. If Dr. Frist and the Republicans would just simply be fair this thing would be going, they'd be in the majority.

Well a striking GE worker was killed this morning when she was hit by a car while walking a picket line outside a GE plant in Kentucky. Twenty thousand employees of General Electric went on strike today. The walkout is designed to protest an increase in healthcare copayments.

GE has decided to stick its workers with an increase in their healthcare costs of up to $400 per worker. This at a time when GE is posting record profits. Now, lest you think that GE is nothing but an avaricious, amoral heartless corporation, keep in mind GE doesn't mistreat all of its employees.

One of them, CEO Jack Welch, was paid $900 million while he worked there. And then, even after he retired, GE was generous enough to continue to pay for his apartments, his dry cleaning, his tickets to Knicks basketball games, even for Welch's dinner with his wife, not to mention Welch's dinners with his mistress. GE ought to be ashamed of itself.

CARLSON: Well you're not going to catch me defending Jack Welch. It's just sad, though, that the workers in this case are represented by labor unions. And if there's one group more corrupt than Jack Welch, it would have to be labor unions.

BEGALA: They're doing the work of the lord here. CARLSON: Actually, they're doing the work of the Mafia in some cases.

BEGALA: Oh, stop.

CARLSON: Ask the Justice Department.

BEGALA: The only Mafia union was the teamsters, which is a Republican union.

CARLSON: Since when?

BEGALA: The folks here think it's unfair to get stuck with rising healthcare costs when profits are going up. And CEOs are making a billion dollars.

CARLSON: Look, I don't disagree with that. I'm just saying...

BEGALA: So power to the people, you're with the strikers.

CARLSON: ... just pretend that labor unions have the interest of their workers all the time.

BEGALA: Of course they do.

CARLSON: First on their mind.

(CROSSTALK)

CARLSON: In international news tonight, the search for a new chairman of the United Nations Human Rights Commission has ended. As of next week, Libya will take over the post. Libya does, indeed, know a great deal about human rights, having violated almost all of them.

Torture is common in Libya, freedom of speech; religion and assembly are not. So far only the United States has noted the absurdity of Momar Khadafi, the man responsible for blowing up Pan Am Flight 103, among many other things. Lecturing the rest of the world on human rights. Algeria, China, Cuba, Syria and Zimbabwe, all fellow authoritarian states and human rights commission members disagree. They're delighted to have Libya as their leader.

All of this is true, by the way. Like the U.N. itself, it only sounds like a parody. Remember that the next time you hear Democrats imply, as they often do, that the U.N. has the moral authority to lead a war, and the U.N. alone.

BEGALA: I was with you every step of the way until you decided to throw in the silly attack on the Democrats.

CARLSON: But it's true.

BEGALA: Let me finish my point. It is true that Libya is a cesspool of human rights violations. They have no business chairing this. I totally agree with that. But Democrats say we should go to the U.N. not for moral reasons but for prudential reasons. The same reason that George Bush Sr. did. We need allies. We don't want to be the world's policeman. If we have the world with us it's a lot easier to win the war on terrorism. That's why Bush Jr. went, and I saluted him for going there.

CARLSON: I would say virtually every single night on this show a Democrat says to me -- I'm paying attention essentially -- we don't have the moral authority to act unilaterally. It's wrong. We need the U.N. to do it. And I'm just saying the U.N. has no moral authority to tell this country what to do in any sphere at any time.

BEGALA: But the argument is not about morality. It's about what's in America's best interest. Having lots of allies and a world united in a global fight against terrorism. When Colin Powell assembled 15 to nothing vote for tough sanctions, and for the inspections, I was the first to stand up and salute. He didn't do it for moral reasons. He did it for political reasons.

CARLSON: I think as I remember you took credit for him doing it.

BEGALA: I wouldn't go quite that far.

CARLSON: He's got problems like Iraq and North Korea to worry about. So why should President Bush be concerned with a tiny blip in his poll numbers? We'll debate that next.

Later, an otherwise ignominious governor hits on a way to go out with a splash. And if you're lonesome tonight, and if you're watching us you may be, instead of putting on Elvis you can head for your computer and get a date. But the question is, should you? We'll debate it. We'll be right back.

(APPLAUSE)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CARLSON: Welcome back to CROSSFIRE. Democrats are chortling today, because President Bush's approval rating is merely 58 percent. Well that's not the whole story. There are some other numbers contained in the poll. Here are a few.

Eighty-three percent think the president makes hard decisions. Seventy-six percent call him a strong leader. And 67 percent say he's brought dignity back to the White House. So, in fact, is there really anything to worry about?

In the CROSSFIRE tonight are Ann Lewis of the Democratic National Committee and Republican Strategist Terry Holt.

(APPLAUSE)

BEGALA: Terry, good to see you. Thank you all, both. This is probably the first of many, many election era polls. But a useful one for a variety of reasons. First, the president's job approval rating down just days after he announced his economic package. Ann and I were talking about this back stage. We served a president who proposed many bold ideas. I think Bush's is bold but wrong.

And usually your poll numbers go way up at first, and then maybe over time people pick the package apart and find things they don't like about it. Why is the president down after announcing his big economic package?

TERRY HOLT, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Well I don't know if I'd call 58 percent down. Ronald Reagan was reelected in a landslide with a 58 percent approval rating.

BEGALA: No, but -- it's not bad, but it's down from 63. It is down. It's down from 90. But in a week it's down from about 63 to 58.

HOLT: Well, we're 21 months out from his reelection. So I don't think I'd be too worried about this poll. The fact of the matter is anybody who doesn't know that the economy is struggling along hasn't been paying attention. The president was, in fact, one of the first guys to say our economy is in rescission, and he's been dealing with that from day one.

And the tax package last Congress, the first thing out of the box this Congress. I think he's on the right track. And you know, I think he'll be OK over time.

BEGALA: You make an important point that the election is 21 months away. So I don't want to overhead this. But let me show you. If the election were held today, it would be a hell of a shock. But if it were, the CNN Gallup people asked folks, "Would you vote for Bush to reelect him in 2004?"

This is a fundamental test. This is 50 years of polling. (UNINTELLIGIBLE), we call it in the business.

His reelect -- look here, Terry -- is 34. Now, 32 definitely against him. A third are open to him. So I mean, he could conceivably very easily win. But his reelect is down to 34. That's got to trouble you.

HOLT: Well I think Tucker's numbers are really important. Large numbers of people think that this president is a strong and decisive leader. At the end of the day, people will pick somebody that they can count on, that they think is out there for them. And one number that a lot of people picked on his father for was vision.

And three out of four Americans believe that this guy has vision. And that's very important leading up to an election.

CARLSON: Now, Ann, I'll admit I felt a little twinge of sadness today as I watched Democrats get excited about this. The president down to 58 percent. As you know, Bill Clinton was reelected in '96, he was at 52 percent. ANN LEWIS, DEMOCRATIC NATIONAL COMMITTEE: Then he kept going up.

CARLSON: Yeah, he did. He actually did. But this is still relatively high.

LEWIS: That's because he was doing a good job on the economy.

CARLSON: But isn't it true that Democrats, who have no economic plan at all, who have no coherent foreign policy at all, have spent the last couple years sort of waiting around for Bush's numbers to go down, and that's why their pleased because that's all they have?

LEWIS: No. The fact is the Democrats have an economic plan. It's a better one, it's a smarter one. It makes a lot more sense. It puts money in the hands of the people who will spend it.

This economic plan that President Bush came out with last week has no stimulus, has nothing to do with jobs. This is the first president in how many years to lose private sector jobs? We have lost two million jobs since George W. Bush became president.

He comes out with his big new economic plan. There's nothing in there for job creation. And second, the impact on the states, there's nothing in there for the states that are struggling with their budget. So people look at this, and they say, wait a minute, what's going on here? This isn't going to make the economy better.

And that's what you're seeing. It's the erosion of trust in George Bush as steward of the economy. And that's a very important job for president.

CARLSON: It's interesting, Ann. Democrats have from the very beginning put all their hopes in the economy basket. Because, again, they have no foreign policy. I'm not sure...

LEWIS: So we do now have an economic plan.

CARLSON: ... that's a wise -- well, I'll give you a pass on that.

LEWIS: Thank you, Tucker.

CARLSON: Because it's not even worth arguing. And you know it's not true, and I do too. But here -- I want you to see a fascinating poll seen on "USA Today" Gallup, and it asks, "What's the most important issue before us?" Terrorism is number one, 59 percent, beating the economy by 10 points.

I want to show you a second poll, and this shows why Democrats truly are in trouble. This is also a CNN-"USA Today" Gallup poll, and it asks, "Which party would do a better job on terrorism?" Fifty-five to 27. Almost 30 points Republicans are beating Democrats on the single most important issue to voters. This is a disaster for your party, isn't it?

LEWIS: No, this is a debate that we want to have. Remember who first stepped forward and said we ought to have a homeland security department? It was a Democrat named Joe Lieberman. Whose budget is coming forward right now and saying we ought to cut the funds for homeland security, cut the funds for the FBI, cut the funds for first responders? It's the Republicans.

Because you know what? We you look at George Bush's budget, when you look at George Bush's economy, all of a sudden, whoops, we don't have enough money for homeland security. So Democrats look forward to this debate. Not, unfortunately, because we like the idea that the president's budget is going to try to cut back on homeland security, but because we want to say to the American people, you know what? You're right. Being secure is important.

We have a responsibility as elected officials to keep you secure. And this administration and this budget fall short. Let's have that debate and come back and let's look at the numbers again.

BEGALA: Now, Terry, now we may disagree about the merits or demerits of each plan, but it's undeniably true that President Bush has put forth an economic plan. Equally undeniably true that House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi has put one forth for her party and a variety of other freelance Democrats have, as well. Each party has a variety of plans.

And predictably, Republicans tend to like the president's plan; Democrats tend to like my party's plan. So I want to read to you from a leading Republican, the Treasury Secretary of the United States up until a few weeks ago, Paul O'Neill, who today spoke out on this -- yesterday, rather.

"Former Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill said the president's plan to eliminate taxes on corporate dividends will do little or nothing to improve the nation's economy. 'I would not have done it,' he said. Speaking out for the first time since being forced from his post, O'Neill said some of the money from the president's $674 billion tax cut plan would be better spent to shore up Social Security."

Paul O'Neill seems to be closer to the Democratic position than his own president's. Why?

HOLT: Well I don't know was going through Paul O'Neill's mind, but obviously, you know, he may still be feeling some of the bitter disappointment of having lost his job. But, look, the president is really doing the same thing that he did when he first was elected. And that is put together a tax cut package, and I would say, is the budget tight? Certainly it is.

The economy has shrunk, and we all know that when the economy shrinks, everybody suffers. What's important right now is getting more money back into the hands of investors and people who can actually create jobs. And I wouldn't say there was nothing for the states. There was -- the president recently extended unemployment benefits. That's billions of dollars that are going to go directly to states to help people who are suffering without jobs.

BEGALA: But why this Republican criticism of the president's (UNINTELLIGIBLE)? You're right, he's doing much in the same spirit as he began. When he began, he had solid support in his own party and a fair amount of support in my party. Today, he has almost none in my party and he's losing support in his party.

We have -- liberal Republicans, like Lincoln Chafee from Rhode Island, conservative Republicans, like John McCain of Arizona. He's losing support in the Senate faster than Trent Lott at an Al Sharpton rally. What's going on with him and his economic plan?

HOLT: I love that Al Sharpton mention.

CARLSON: I love Al Sharpton.

HOLT: Oh, jeez. But look, there are always going to be guys that disagree. Hopefully we have a party that's vibrant enough that we can survive disagreements and come at the end of the day to an agreement about what we should do for the economy overall. But I'll tell you this. Though there have been several Democratic plans that have been proposed, I haven't seen word one out of the Democratic candidates for president endorsing or decrying these plans. They're just simply not talking about the economy.

CARLSON: Now Ann, you just said a moment ago that Democrats are losing by 30 points on the question of terrorism because there hasn't been a debate. Of course there's been a debate...

LEWIS: And we're looking forward to the debate...

CARLSON: Well, there's been a debate going on, and your party seems to have lost it. But let me give you an example of why I think Democrats simply aren't trusted by the American public to keep the country safe. North Korea. The new Democratic talking point is that President Bush somehow pushed North Korea into developing nuclear weapons when he called that country part of the axis of evil.

Senator Levin of Michigan actually said that on CNN. That's an outrageous thing to say and it's wrong, isn't it? And third, that makes voters distrustful of the party that would say something like that, don't you think?

LEWIS: Welcome to the new Democratic talking points. And I'm happy if you haven't heard them yet to let you know. Which are that after two years of beating up rhetorically on North Korea and beating our chest and announcing we're not going to put up with this, we're not going to stand for this, and calling the president of North Korea names, not that the guy was that well rooted to begin with, we now have the new Bush policy, which is talk to them.

And you know what that is? That's also called the old Clinton policy. So North Korea is a problem. It's a serious problem. I am glad to see this administration understands that we need to be -- to use diplomatic means to engage them, to walk them down. But it's sort of interesting to see them take after two years in which people have been reading every day escalating...

CARLSON: Two years? LEWIS: Two years. George Bush has been president for almost two years.

CARLSON: Then how come nine years ago today...

LEWIS: And escalating a war of words, people -- threats going back and forth. And now, yesterday and today they're saying, my gosh we're going to talk to them. (UNINTELLIGIBLE), that's where we were with the Clinton administration.

(CROSSTALK)

CARLSON: We drove North Korea to it by being mean to them. But why then...

LEWIS: No, that isn't the implication and that isn't what I said.

CARLSON: Wait -- but, Ann, why does...

(CROSSTALK)

LEWIS: That is exactly why -- it's a Stalinist regime. That's why you have to be careful with him and that's why the newest policy, which I guess was the Colin Powell policy, on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays...

CARLSON: But wait. Hold on. But you're -- this is a classic Democratic talking point. The president is being inconsistent, he was -- he had this policy then this policy. But what is your policy? What should we be doing with North Korea? I'd be really interested to know.

LEWIS: What we should be doing is what we are now doing, and we should have been doing it for the last two years. Not calling names, not standing up and saying boy look how tough we are, we're not going to put up with this. No sir. We're not going to talk to them.

CARLSON: So you're happy but you're also critical?

LEWIS: No. Then we went to the second stage, which is we're not going to talk to them, we want China to talk to them. Now that made me feel really reassured. And now this week we have, by gosh, we're going to talk to them. Well welcome back to the real world, folks.

BEGALA: Right. And what happened is, of course, President Bush abandoned President Clinton's policy, relations deteriorated. You know, Pyongyang has to be responsible for North Korea's actions, not President Bush. Nobody has said that.

But President Bush ought to be accountable for his own policies. He keeps trying to blame President Clinton, as Tucker just did. Let me read to you from Fareed Zakaris, who is a very smart thinker on these things. He wrote in "Newsweek" magazine this week the following -- let me put it up on the board. "Soon the administration" -- that is the Bush administration -- "will return to a version of the Clinton policy it condemned. Senior officials have already told CNN that while they would not negotiate with North Korea, they could well talk. I suppose it all depends on what the definition of the word negotiate is."

The problem is, it has been an incoherent and incompetent foreign policy.

HOLT: Well, the fact of the matter is, this is on the list of a lot of unfinished business that the Clinton administration left.

BEGALA: And that's all their fault.

HOLT: Sure. Whether it was trade -- but to be fair, we can talk to them and give them our position clearly to their face. Do we give them something for coming to the table for that? I think that's the difference between talking and negotiating.

CARLSON: OK. Well we are unfortunately out of time. Terry Holt, Ann Lewis, thank you both for joining us. We appreciate it.

(APPLAUSE)

CARLSON: Next, how does the governor distract attention from the corruption trial involving his campaign committee and former chief of staff? Simple, let off everyone on death row. Jesse Jackson and former U.S. Attorney Joe Digenova face off. It's going to be a great segment.

And then, we use it for e-mail and even banking, but can the Internet supply you with a mate for life? Some people believe it. We'll debate it. We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BEGALA: George Ryan is now the ex-governor of Illinois. But before he left office, Mr. Ryan cleared out the state's death row. He commuted 167 death sentences and gave outright pardons to four men whose confessions had allegedly been obtained by police torture.

Now Governor Ryan came into office four years ago as a death penalty supporter. But he imposed a moratorium on executions a year later, ordering a comprehensive review. In the end, Mr. Ryan said it was extraordinary action that was needed to correct what he called manifest wrongs.

In the CROSSFIRE tonight from New York, Reverend Jesse Jackson of the Rainbow Push Coalition. And with us here in Washington, former U.S. Attorney Joe diGenova.

(APPLAUSE)

CARLSON: Jesse Jackson, thanks for joining us. There is, of course, a principled argument against the death penalty. And I'd be willing to buy that argument. In fact, often I do buy that argument. But Governor Ryan did not make that argument. Instead, here's what he did. I'm going to quote Richard Devine, who is the Cook County state's attorney.

Here's what he said. "In one stroke the governor tossed aside the work of trial judges, juries and appellate judges. The system is indeed now broken, and he walks away where the rest of us remain and it is up to us to rebuild the criminal justice system that has been seriously undermined in just a few days."

The point is, if you don't like the death penalty, there is a democratic process you can go through. You can convince voters that it's wrong. And you can change the law. What he did was undemocratic, wasn't it?

REV. JESSE JACKSON, PUSH COALITION: A Lincoln Republican at the crossroads made a marvelous decision. He's found 18 men who were wrongly convicted, who would have been killed. They had been tortured by John Berge (ph) who was represented by Dick Devine's (ph) law firm, by the way, who is the state's attorney. They would have been killed had it not been for the research of lawyers at the DePaul and Northwestern. And so he spared their lives.

That's a good thing. He further found that there was disparity based upon race. He further found that in different counties you might not get the same charge (ph). It was arbitrary.

And it does not mean that all men will walk free. It means that those who are innocent will be freed. Others will have a fair trial for the first time, and others will remain in jail.

They did not all walk. But they all are spared from a death sentence that is in fact capricious and immoral that he chose to stop.

CARLSON: Reverend Jackson, you're only telling part of the story here. He commuted a 167 death sentences. Now you can think that's good or bad, but the bottom line is he overturned the will of the peole who spoke through juries and judges. And as someone who claims to be committed to the democratic process, I think you'd be bothered by that.

JACKSON: Well, sometimes he found in cases that they were race- driven juries, all white juries, and some come (UNINTELLIGIBLE) and some just because they were black. He found instances of incompetent lawyers, half the lawyers who sentence these, who argue these cases, were disbarred.

He is a death penalty advocate. But he found racial disparity. He found incompetent lawyers. He found (UNINTELLIGIBLE). And he found innocent men about to die.

For that he deserves, the noble prize.

BEGALA: Joe diGenova, first let me thank you for coming on the broadcast.

JOE DIGENOVA, FORMER U.S. ATTORNEY: Delighted to be here, Paul. BEGALA: Let me play you a piece of videotape from Governor Ryan so you can see for yourself why he says he did what he did.

We'll play a piece of videotape. Want you to listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RYAN: I can't imagine it. Half, half, if you will, of the nearly 300 capital cases in Illinois have been reversed for a new trial or for some resentencing. Now how many of you people here today that are professionals can get by and call your life a success if you're only 50 percent successful?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BEGALA: Pretty good question for you. You're one of the best lawyers in America. Would you trust your life to a system that's wrong 50 percent of the time?

DIGENOVA: Well, let's put it this way. I think, first of all, what Governor Ryan did, was actually getting out of town ahead of the posse. As you know, Governor Ryan's tenure as secretary of state is the subject of a massive federal investigation which started a number of years ago.

What I think Governor Ryan did was he took as opportunity to give himself an opportunity to influence future jury pools for himself.

That aside, however, what he did do -- what he did do, was in 167 cases, he issued a generic commutation of sentence. That is absolutely the worst public policy you have any state.

When you say that your system doesn't work, doesn't work. That's what the governor said. He said the system in Illinois doesn't work. He said it as he was leaving office, ahead of the posse. The way you do commutations, is the way he did the four pardons. You review the individual cases, you determine if there was error. You determine whether or not there's innocence, or if there's overreaching by the government.

And on the basis of an individual case-by-case determination, the same you do guilt or innocence, you decide whether or not some form clemency is warranted.

I think in this case, the governor made very bad public policy, tried to surround himself with the patina of anti-death penalty, and he did it as he was worried about his own future.

BEGALA: Again, none of us can see...

JACKSON: Attacking his integrity, attacking his integrity is a diversion. It is -- you have no right to attack his integrity...

DIGENOVA: I have every right, Jesse. I have every right.

JACKSON: You do not know... DIGENOVA: I have every right, just as you have the right to say what you say.

JACKSON: He looked at...

DIGENOVA: Don't tell me I don't have the right. Don't you tell me I don't have the right.

JACKSON: ... ..

DIGENOVA: How dare you, how dare you.

JACKSON: It doesn't make you right...

DIGENOVA: How dare you, how dare you. What do you mean...

JACKSON: It doesn't make you right. You can jump up and down, but when you get through jumping you're just as wrong (ph).

DIGENOVA: ... I don't have the right?

JACKSON: He did study (ph)...

DIGENOVA: Jesse will talk as long as he wants; he always does.

BEGALA: Reverend Jackson, go ahead and respond to Mr. diGenova, please.

(APPLAUSE)

JACKSON: I'm going to respond to the issue that 18 men wrongfully convicted would have died had he not in fact spared their lives.

Secondly, he found that there were these disparities based upon race, inadequate legal representation, the kind, Joe, that you in fact offer people. It was inaccurate in that case.

It was arbitrary. The system was broken. He did not run the risk, as Pontius Pilot did, of killing any more innocent people. That seems to me to be a reasonable thing.

DIGENOVA: He didn't have to do that. You know you do this, Jesse?

JACKSON: How do you do it?

DIGENOVA: You do the -- you review each -- now I want you to listen to me, Jesse, this is going to be real tough. You review it case by case and you make a decision based on the evidence in that case. You got that?

BEGALA: But, Joe, I think that's (UNINTELLIGIBLE)...

JACKSON: But you know, I think about the Central Park jogger for these young black men or (UNINTELLIGIBLE) were driven to be on death row, and this thing citizens took full page ads out in the New York Times. These young men had to die. They were innocent. So why rush to kill people, when in fact you can review a system and spare lives?

DIGENOVA: I don't -- by the way, I agree with Jesse. There is no reason -- there is absolutely no reason to rush to kill people. In fact, that's why we have a judicial system. That's why we have clemency for governors. And there job is to individually review cases so that they do not slap the face of jurors, and other people involved in the process who acted in good faith.

BEGALA: Let me...

JACKSON: Joe, Joe, the reason I challenge you, and I respect you very much, let me say this. The reason why I said you should not challenge his integrity, the character. He said he did review them. He said he reviewed them. He reviewed those who were wrongfully convicted. He reviewed those who were racially tainted. He reviewed those who tortured. He reviewed those where it was arbitrary.

He did review, and he did conclude. Let's deal with his judgment, not attack his character.

That's fair.

DIGENOVA: Well, I do think, by the way -- by the way, I agree looking at the individual cases is very important. I also believe -- we're talking about a politician here Jesse. We're not talking about the pope. We're talking about a governor who is under federal investigation with an indictment looming sometime in the near future.

Please, don't tell me that didn't have anything to do with his decision.

BEGALA: Yes, you have a perfect right to raise that, but even a pope can't see into his heart and know why .

What I want to do is show you a piece of videotape from the last presidential campaign where Governor Bush of Texas, who presided over more executions than any governor in my state's history, perhaps in American history, was asked about a particularly troublesome problem in his state -- lawyers sleeping through the cases of these accused murderers.

DIGENOVA: Yes.

BEGALA: Let me play you this piece of tape. The question from Jeff Greenfield; the answer from Governor Bush and just get your response.

DIGENOVA: Jeff Greenfield.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JEFF GREENFIELD, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Press reports say that the idea of lawyers sleeping through death penalty cases that it's common enough that's it's -- that there's a phrase for that in Texas. It's one of those "sleeping lawyer's cases." Now in light of this, are you still confident that the 458 prisoners on death row have had their legal rights protected in these life and death cases?

BUSH: I'm absolutely confident that everybody has been put to death has two things -- one, they were guilty of the crime charged, and secondly they had full access to our courts, both state and federal. I support the death penalty because I believe when the death penalty is administered surely, swiftly and justly, it will save lives.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BEGALA: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) are comfortable as Governor Bush suggested...

JACKSON: It, it, it...

BEGALA: ... let me let Joe respond first Reverend. I'm sorry, but is the government infallible as Governor Bush suggested, that they can never make a mistake.

DIGENOVA: The government is absolutely not infallible. And I can attest to that through my practice of law every day as a defense attorney and when I was a prosecutor and stopped prosecutions.

Here's the way this work. The death penalty, until the American peole decide it in their individual states -- remember the death penalty is federal law. The Congress of the United States, with Republicans and Democrats voting for it -- in fact they just added the death penalty for certain terrorism crimes -- that's the law of the land.

It must be administered fairly. I'm all for all of the reforms that people want to do. I want to have better lawyers, and everybody should have a right to a lawyer paid for by the government. I have no problem with any of those reforms?

BEGALA: Would you sign a warrant -- would you sign a death warrant for a man whose lawyer slept through the trial?

DIGENOVA: Absolutely not.

BEGALA: Good for you. That's (UNINTELLIGIBLE).

CARLSON: Now Jesse Jackson, one of the things...

JACKSON: One of the things that happened in Texas in the case of Gary San Kofa (ph), he'd been on death...

CARLSON: ... hold on. I want to ask you a question.

JACKSON: ... for 18 years and one woman said...

CARLSON: ... Jesse, I'd love to get into that and Ricky Ray Rector, but let me just ask you this quick question here. One of the problems of people who are against death penalty use as a moral cudjual (ph) to bash America, and Governor Ryan did the same.

Listen to what he said during his rambling semi-coherent statement the other day.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RYAN: And today the United States is not in league with most of our allies when it comes to the death penalty. We're not in league with Europe or South Africa or Canada or Mexico. Most South and Central American countries, these countries have rejected the death penalty. We're partners in death with several third world countries. And you all know even Russia has now called a moratorium.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CARLSON: In other words, the United States is morally equivalent in the way it metes out justice to say Brazil or Russia. That's a slander. That's a slur. That's outrageous, isn't it?

JACKSON: Well, I would hope it's not taken that way, but the system is stacked. I mean, there are 900,000 black men in jail tonight and 600,000 in college. There's a few who are black or brown or poor, without adequate legal representation who are likely to go to jail.

And guess what people do when...

CARLSON: Wait, hold on. Are you saying that people who are black or brown and poor are yanked off the street for no reason and sent to jail? Is that what you're saying?

JACKSON: Oh, often time that is the case. In the case of Central Park five young men were yanked off the streets and given a death sentence. Come to find out 14 years later they were innocent. Yet they are often yanked off the street and sent to jail. And that is -- that is ugly and it's not right.

BEGALA: Joe, we're almost out of time. You said that you should go through the democratic process. Governor Ryan did. He sent three different bills to the legislature with 58 reforms. Do you know how many they enacted? Zero.

So what does a person of conscience do having spent three years studying this with an expert panel that he put in place offering 58 reforms to make the death penalty more fair the way think you would as well. And nothing happens. Doesn't he have a moral obligation then to act on his conscience?

DIGENOVA: I think the governor had every right to do what he did under the constitution of Illinois. The question of whether or not his judgment was correct in doing so, is what I'm talking about.

Jesse thinks it was great. I think was an abysmal exercise of gubernatorial power in an effort to get ready for what's coming down the road for him.

The governor was in essence a fleeing felon here. That's what this is all about.

JACKSON: You can disagree with, you can disagree with...

BEGALA: Joe diGenova, former federal prosecutor, I'm sorry to cut you off, Reverend Jackson.

JACKSON: ... his judgment without attacking his integrity, Joe. He deserves better than that.

BEGALA: Joe, thank you very much.

DIGENOVA: Well, you (UNINTELLIGIBLE).

BEGALA: Reverend Jesse Jackson, joining us from New York.

Thank you very much.

JACKSON: You can disagree with his judgment without attacking his integrity.

BEGALA: Thank you both very much. I'm sorry to cut this off, but we're going to have to stop it there. Thank you Reverend, thank you Joe.

DIGENOVA: Thank you.

BEGALA: Coming up later, "Fireback", with a viewer that's noticed the odd similarity between that kookie company that claims it cloned a baby and the way our president is running our government.

But next, why wait for Cupid's arrow when you can use your computer's mouse? High-tech romance comes into the CROSSFIRE next.

(APPLAUSE)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(APPLAUSE)

BEGALA: Welcome back to CROSSFIRE. We're coming to you as we always do from the friendly confines of George Washington University, Washington, D.C.

On just about any college campus, probably including this one, getting a date ranks right up there with classes and homework. I know it did for me in my days at the University of Texas. But these days, instead of meeting at the library, more and more and people are meeting and making dates online.

Joining us from New York to talk about is Elle Magazine advice columnist is E. Jean Carrole, co-founder of the Web site "GreatBoyFriends.com." And with us here in Washington, nationally syndicated radio talk show host, Blanquita Cullum.

(APPLAUSE)

Thank you both ladies. Thank you.

(APPLAUSE)

CARLSON: Now, Jean Carrole, I have nothing of course against people going on line for dates. I feel sorry for them. But as a general matter, it strikes me there's something depressing about it because increases a person's isolation. You know, you stay home you order pizza on line. You order clothing on line. Now you order spouses or boyfriends or girlfriends online.

I mean, there's something kind of lonely, even lonelier than a singles bar about that, isn't there?

E. JEAN CARROLE, GREATBOYFRIENDS.COM: No, no, no, Tucker. For once in your life you couldn't be more wrong. It is a fabulous way to look at array, at hundreds and thousands and delectable people who you wouldn't have seen, who you wouldn't have known existed unless you saw them on the Internet.

BEGALA: So Blanquita, that means your four sleazy, smoking, singles bars right...

BLANQUITA CULLUM, RADIO AMERICA NETWORK: Absolutely not.

And I went to the University of Texas too.

BEGALA: God bless you .

CULLUM: I loved it because it was...

BEGALA: Well, see we didn't need the help because we're so good looking there, but the rest of the shucks (ph) around the country, they've got to go somewhere.

CULLUM: It's lonely out there for a lot of people, but you don't sit like Tucker said, in isolation. Get out and get a life. Go out there and join clubs, get -- go to places where you're going to start meeting people. Get involved with life.

You sit there and you know, you get on the computer, you may think you're talking to some big stud, then all of a sudden he shows up, and it's like "Oh, my." We've made a little -- and I have friends who have done that, and been incredibly disappointed.

CARLSON: Well, Jean Carrole, I want to read you a quote from someone who did just that. Hilly Blindheim (ph), he went to a site called JDate.com, and here's his experience summed up in a couple of pithy sentences. "I went on five, maybe 10 dates," he told the "Atlanta Journal Constitution," "and they were bad. But I loved it because I got a good story out of it. There is one woman who smelled like malt balls."

(LAUGHTER)

BEGALA: And I guess the bottom line here is, it's a freak show. And that's a good thing about... CARROLE: No, no Tucker. Tucker, I agree with you a little bit because over the last 10 years I have gotten horror invested nightmares of letters from young women who have gone out with men from the Internet, and found out that they were married. So in order to get around that my sister and I created Great Boyfriends dot com.

And this is not a bunch of wankers and blowhards talking about themselves.

CULLUM: You know what the problem is...

CARROLE: Now wait a minute, this is women recommending their ex- boyfriends or husbands, their brothers and their very good friends to other women. It's women talking to other women and recommending men.

BEGALA: It sounds like the used car lot of dating though, Jean.

(LAUGHTER)

CARROLE: But Paul...

BEGALA: This Malibu is a sweetheart; you've got to buy it off of me, right.

CARROLE: The problem is, now you know the feminists hurt the relationship between men and women a little bit because when you and I were at the University of Texas, we could flirt. I mean, flirting has become a lost art.

You know, part of the problem why women and men aren't dating is they're afraid to look each other in the eye and say, "You look really cute today. I love that."

(CROSSTALK)

BEGALA: Where I used to work you say that boy, you had to go to the penitentiary.

CARROLE: You know, that's really said, because now we have to go get videos to figure out how to communicate with each other. We have ti find out -- we have to talk to each other about does this really mean, when really one of the healthiest forms of Vitamin C is somebody looking at you and saying, "You look great."

CULLUM: Oh, the kiss the butt...

CARROLE: It's chemistry. It's good men and women chemistry.

CARLSON: Well, wait, Jean Carrole, can't we take this...

CULLUM: One of the most erotic exciting things in the entire world is to get a love letter, is to get a love letter, and that's basically what e-mails are.

CARROLE: Get a love letter from someone that you've actually eyeball to eyeballed. And why can't people be a little cuter with each other? Why are they afraid to smile at each other on the street? Why can't you talk to people in the airports? Why can't you talk to people that you're in the office with?

Because you know what, we have these stupid rules that prevent us from acting like men and women, and that's the real chemistry?

(APPLAUSE)

CARLSON: Well, Jean Carrole, I went to Great Boyfriends dot com, your site this afternoon, which you just said a moment ago, is a proclamation...

CARROLE: Tucker, we're so honored that you came and looked at our site. Thank you, Tucker.

CARLSON: Just part of my daily research.

(LAUGHTER)

CARLSON: But it's recommendations. People say, "I've had this boyfriend, I've test driven this guy. You should take him out."

I want to put up on the screen some of the recommendations from your site.

CARROLE: Thank you, Tucker.

CARLSON: "Charming, good looks, smart, well-mannered and funny, loyal, loving and dedicated, knows how to listen. An eager listener, a caring soul, a woman couldn't ask for more in a man."

Now those are all lies of course, because...

CARROLE: No, no, Tucker...

CARLSON: ... if they were true, why are they advertising these guys for other people to take? This is all made up.

CARROLE: Because they have a -- they have affection. This may be her brother. It may be her very good friend. IT's somebody that she wants to see fall in love and...

CARLSON: (UNINTELLIGIBLE)

CARROLE: ... do well.

It's women -- they have affection for these men, and they want to see them fall in love.

CULLUM: But the other part of it is, don't you think we've all had this high expectation of feeling so good about ourselves that we're supposed to be tall and thin and beautiful and perfectly shaped. And we go to the computer because we kind of feel that we're not, that we're less than perfect.

If people would start looking into the kindness of people's spirits instead and starting to get to know their souls, maybe we wouldn't have to go a computer to try to hide who we are to meet someone we think we're going to meet.

We have life out there. I mean there's a whole audience of people out there who potentially have chemistry to meet some other person just by eyeball to eyeball.

CARROLE: The key to online...

BEGALA: How many here would...

CARROLE: ... dating...

BEGALA: ... just a second Jean. I'm going to ask our audience. How many here -- now you're not going to want to admit it because your mom is watching but...

(LAUGHTER)

BEGALA: ... there we go. You would try that? Now many are just going to stick with the smoking singles bars trying to get her drunk and take her home?

CULLUM: Hey, hey, hey.

(APPLAUSE)

BEGALA: There we go.

CULLUM: You're not going to find somebody -- in the majority of cases you've got to go to places where you're going to want to be with someone.

BEGALA: The Internet would work better if there were (UNINTELLIGIBLE). I have to say I could have never picked up a date, certainly not my wife, if I didn't keep her hammered the whole time we were dating.

(LAUGHTER)

CULLUM: Did you meet your wife in a bar?

BEGALA: No, actually, I met her in the geography building. I was too young to drink at the time, but...

CULLUM: There you go.

CARLSON: But Jean, isn't this the problem with Internet dating is it allows a very high level of specificity. If you're looking for someone who has say a toupee (Ph) and is slightly overweight, then you can go onto fake hair dot com, or something. You can pick exactly what you want, but of course the joy of life is finding someone who isn't what you expected, but maybe better.

CARROLE: Tucker, that's the exact thing. I would think that Internet dating is less superficial because you get to know the person beyond their looks, because you're writing back and forth. You're finding out about each other.

CULLUM: Yes, but you find out a lot a problems too, E. Jean. I had a friend who was courting this gal online. He gave up his job. He moved to go see her, then he found out that she was not even 18 and he could -- he lost everything.

CARLSON: No, way. What happened to him?

CULLUM: But wait...

(CROSSTALK)

CARROLE: That can happen...

CULLUM: No, he lost his job.

CARROLE: But that can happen if you meet somebody at a church social.

(CROSSTALK)

CARROLE: It doesn't necessarily...

BEGALA: Doesn't Jean have a point that this kind of -- actually kind of hearkens back to the sort of Victorian era of high romance because people were separated. They wrote love letter to each other. IT's just a different technology, right.

CULLUM: Yes, but that they saw each other, and they enjoyed each other. We've become so hung up on one hand of trying to be ultra sexy. On the other hand, we're more Puritan. We won't even do the whole courtship thing. We don't even like to flirt.

CARLSON: Well, apparently -- well, by we we're obviously are not talking about your friend with the underage girl.

CULLUM: No.

(LAUGHTER)

CARLSON: But unfortunately we are out of time. Blanquita Cullum, E. Jean Carrole in New York, thanks so much for joining us. We really appreciate it.

CULLUM: Thank you.

CARROLE: Thank you.

(APPLAUSE)

CARLSON: Next, a more traditional use for your computer. Some of you, including another offended Canadian -- there are millions in fact -- have a date to "Fireback" at us. So don't go away. We'll be right back.

(APPLAUSE) (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(APPLAUSE)

CARLSON: Welcome back to CROSSFIRE. Time for our "Fireback" segment when we throw open the floodgates and let your e-mail pour in.

In an attempt not to drown, first up, Doreen Siddle (ph) of Forest, Ontario, that would be in Canada, writes, "Here's one more disgusted Canadian who thinks you are just a rude, crude dude" -- this must be me -- "when it comes to your comments about your great neighbors to the north. You couldn't have a better neighbor than Canada, and it's time you looked very closely in your own backyard for the solution to your problems and not automatically blame them on your neighbors."

Actually don't automatically blame them all on the Canada. I'd be happy to start.

BEGALA: No, you're always banging on Canada.

CARLSON: No, but I don't blame them for -- I don't know -- for global warming, though.

BEGALA: No, that's our fault. OK, good.

CARLSON: No, that's tomorrow's show.

BEGALA: Actually might be good for Canada, to heat them up a little.

CARLSON: Yes, they need it.

BEGALA: Ralph Nader, by the way, substituted for James and for me last night.

CARLSON: Yes, he did.

BEGALA: We were busy. We're in a mentoring program. We're teaching the president how to read. And so he could only meet with us...

CARLSON: You were at Barbara Streisand's house having a vegan cookout...

BEGALA: ... at the 7:00 hour. But I do want to thank Ralph for filling in, and Jay Fultz (ph) however, was not as happy.

"Damn, I missed Paul Begala's amiable wit last night and James Carville's passion."

Well, Jay, we will be here every night, but thank you for that thought. And thank you, Ralph, for filing in.

CARLSON: He calls himself a liberal Democrat from a very liberal Democrat, this, and oh, it's out of the screen, but I will read it nonetheless.

Abdul from Arlington, Virginia writes, "I truly believe the U.S. should not be considering actions in North Korea nor Iraq. Have we once even remotely considered that we are more of a threat to them than they are to us?"

No.

(LAUGHTER)

BEGALA: Pablo Colz (ph), another Canadian, Ottawa, Ontario, writes, "The United States government is a lot like Clonaid (ph)." Now for those of you who are not keeping score at home, you remember Clonaid (ph) was the goofy religious cult that claims that they cloned a baby, but they wouldn't show us the proof. "Clonaid, they say they have proof of Saddam Hussein's weapons of mass destruction, but have not shared it with anyone."

Wow, Pablo (ph).

(APPLAUSE)

We just have to get...

CARLSON: Now I wonder if Pablo, now I know this might be hard for your to grasp as a Canadian, but perhaps there's a reason the U.S. government hasn't shared that information. I mean, perhaps...

BEGALA: They haven't got it.

CARLSON: ... well, if we're going to execute a war, Paul, maybe that's information that we don't necessarily want to give to the Iraqi government.

I mean, I think that's sort of a valid...

BEGALA: So we're going to go to war because they have weapons of mass destruction, but we're not to prove that they do because we have to go to war.

CARLSON: Prove that to who? To you or to Hans Blix and the...

BEGALA: IT's totally circular.

Yes, sir.

CARLSON: Yes.

QUESTION: Yes, my name is Mike Clark (ph) from Bellair (Ph), Texas. And I'd like to know who anyone can believe they're not innocent people on death row in places like Texas after looking at what happened in Illinois.

BEGALA: That's a very good...

CARLSON: Well, I think people do believe that. I believe that there are innocent people probably on death row. Absolutely, but that doesn't mean you ought pardon everybody without looking individually at the cases.

BEGALA: No, but the governor only pardoned people who he believed were innocent after a careful review. The others, he gave them life in prison without parole. If my home state and yours of Texas, had life without parole, we wouldn't be leading the world in executions.

We would be putting people away for the rest of their lives.

CARLSON: Leading the world in executions?

BEGALA: Yes, ma'am.

CARLSON: OK.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Hi, I'm Carlee Senisee (ph) from DePau (ph) University, Greencastle, Indiana. I was wondering why do Democrats refuse to look at the big picture in regard to Bush's economic package if corporate America can grow because and thus stimulate the economy because will be buying up heaps of stock because their dividends will no longer be taxed?

CARLSON: Well, the Democrats haven't even addressed the actual economic policy because Democrats have no ideas, not a single one other than the desire to win in 2004.

BEGALA: This is not fair.

There's an honest debate going on here.

CARLSON: It's actually true.

BEGALA: Republicans believe the economy is driven by wealthy investors. Democrats believe it's driven by middle class consumers. The Democratic plan helps middle consumers. The Republican plan helps wealthy investors.

We'll see who is right. I happen to think it's the middle class.

CARLSON: But that right there is a distortion of the truth.

BEGALA: No, it's an absolute truth.

We will do lots of shows on this. From the left I am Paul Begala. Good night for CROSSFIRE.

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

"CONNIE CHUNG TONIGHT" begins right now. Have a great night.

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