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CNN CROSSFIRE

U.N. Weapons Report Indicates Iraq Has not Complied; Which Super Bowl Ads Were Hits?

Aired January 27, 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, report card day on Iraqi disarmament.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

HANS BLIX, U.N. CHIEF WEAPONS INSPECTOR: Inspection is not a game of catch us catch can.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ANNOUNCER: Telling it like it is at the U.N., and getting ready to tell it like it's going to be at the White House.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ARI FLEISCHER, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Time is running out.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ANNOUNCER: Will there be war? We'll ask a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee.

And if he were president, what would he do about Iraq, terrorism, the economy and his image?

Plus...

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (singing): I'm a little bit country...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I was marooned on an island for five years. By the way, what's in the package?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ANNOUNCER: Which Super Bowl ads were really super?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: GPS locator, fishing rod, water purifier...

(END VIDEO CLIP) ANNOUNCER: Tonight on CROSSFIRE.

Live from the George Washington University, Paul Begala and Robert Novak.

PAUL BEGALA, CO-HOST: Welcome to CROSSFIRE, where Monday morning quarterbacking is always in season, even on Monday night. Tonight, we will see which Super Bowl scored touchdowns and which ones should have been sacked.

There are, of course, more serious matters to discuss as well. We'll ask Gary Hart how he would handle those matters if he were the president of the United States.

But first, a matter of the utmost national importance, the "CROSSFIRE Political Alert."

The chief U.N. weapons inspector today told the United Nations that Iraq has failed to disarm and has not accounted for a wide range of chemical and biological weapons and missiles. He said there is, quote, "strong evidence," unquote, that Iraq maintains quantities of anthrax as well. Still, Hans Blix, the weapons inspector, said that Iraq has cooperated, quote, "rather well," in giving inspectors access.

Meanwhile, the chief nuclear inspector said he has been unable to verify whether Iraq has an active nuclear weapons program. Dr. Mohamed ElBaradei argued for more time, saying that a few more months, quote, "could help us avoid a war," unquote.

The Bush administration called for a reassessment of U.N.'s approach, and CNN has learned the State Department is drafting a new U.N. resolution authorizing the use of force.

Kind of makes you wonder what they would have done if the inspectors had found a smoking gun, doesn't it?

ROBERT NOVAK, CO-HOST: Well, I really think that the question of proving the negative, proving that they don't have weapons is a very difficult burden for the inspectors. And I guess the whole question is were we expecting Iraq to turn itself in.

BEGALA: I think the report was more negative that we had been led to believe from leaks, but I also -- I hope I'm not being too cynical -- in saying the White House talking points were prepared before the report was even issued. They knew what they wanted to say.

NOVAK: That's something you don't know. But you say a lot of things you don't know.

The two top Democrats in Congress, Senator Tom Daschle and Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi, couldn't wait for President Bush's State of the Union address tomorrow night. They appeared at the National Press Club today to beat the president to the punch, jointly accusing President Bush of failing to make the case for attacking Iraq, using the rhetoric of more than 40 years ago that two Democrats claim a presidential credibility gap. What makes their joint address peculiar is that Senator Daschle voted for the resolution authorizing the use of force against Iraq, while Congresswoman Pelosi voted against the same resolution. Credibility gap, anyone?

BEGALA: Well, Bob, credibility is when you say one thing and do another. Credibility is not having a diversity of views in your party, which the Democrats do, and candidly, the Republicans do as well on this war. Credibility is when our president goes to the world and says Iraq has aluminum tubes it uses to make nuclear weapons, and then the weapons experts in our government say, no, that's not the case. That's a credibility gap.

NOVAK: Explain to me, explain to me, Paul, how they can -- I think it's ludicrous for them to appear together like Sonny and Cher or something of politics at the Press Club to give this joint speech. But how in the world can they concentrate on Iraq when they have divergent views on it? How can they give a joint address? I guess if you're a Democrat, anything's possible.

BEGALA: Well, they just did, by saying Bush at least has to make his case better, which even his strongest supporter in my party, Joe Lieberman, had to admit today as well.

Well, President Bush's proposal to eliminate all taxes from all dividends is about as popular as the Reverend Jerry Falwell at an Eminem concert. "The Wall Street Journal" reports today that Fed Chairman Alan Greenspan has quietly told senators that Mr. Bush's proposal would do little or nothing to stimulate the economy. And influential Republican Senator Pete Domenici of New Mexico was openly dismissive of the Bush dividend tax cut, saying, quote, "surely you can come up with a better stimulus than that."

He could, senator, and the Democrats have. They would stimulate the economy by putting cash in the pockets of middle class consumers instead of the idle rich. There is only one problem. Helping middle class consumers would kind of take all the fun out of being a Republican.

NOVAK: Read my -- read my lips, Paul. This is not a stimulus bill. It's never been portrayed as a stimulus bill. It's a long-term growth bill to help investors. And the Democratic plan doesn't put money in the hands of middle class consumers. It gives $300 to everybody, whether they pay income taxes or not. They might as well go in an airplane and just throw the money out across the country, because nobody knows what is going to happen to it.

BEGALA: Oh, everybody knows exactly what's going to happen to it. What do you suppose those poor people are going to do with that 300 bucks? They're going to spend it.

NOVAK: They're going to buy lottery tickets.

BEGALA: That will generate the economy. That will make Bill Gates and the rich people all the richer. We need a stimulus, and that's what the Democrats propose.

NOVAK: They'll probably buy lottery tickets.

A possible seven Democratic presidential candidates, Congressman Dennis Kucinich of Ohio, yes, has sent out a letter to Iowa labor leaders alerting them to his interests. Kucinich is no household name nationally. But they remember him in Cleveland. Back in 1977, that city elected Kucinich mayor, the boy mayor of Cleveland, only 31 years old. He performed so erratically, he was known as Dennis the Menace and was defeated for a second term just two years later.

He since has made a comeback in Congress, where he heads the progressive or more accurately the left wing caucus. Like Al Sharpton, Dennis Kucinich reflects the real face of the Democratic Party.

BEGALA: Bob, I don't know if you've noticed, but it's been 20 years since a liberal in the Democratic Party won in the primaries for president against a moderate. Every single time, in '88, in '92, in '96, there was no primary, the 2000, the moderate won. So Dennis Kucinich, welcome to the race. I think he is the liberal wing of the Democratic Party, but I think that the Democrats are going to elect a much more moderate nominee.

NOVAK: Do you remember when he was mayor of Cleveland?

BEGALA: I do.

NOVAK: He put a couple of gals who worked in a fast food place in as the budget directors -- remember that?

BEGALA: I do not remember that.

NOVAK: OK.

BEGALA: I'll take your word for it. Bob spends a little more time in fast food than I do, but along with Attorney General John Ashcroft, Alberto Gonzales has been, in my opinion, the man behind the worst right wing assault on civil liberties since J. Edgar Hoover hung up his brassiere. It was Al Gonzales, the White House counsel, who put a legal gloss on Dick Cheney's cover-ups of his secret meetings with lobbyists for Enron and big oil. It was Al Gonzales, as White House counsel, who advanced the theory that the president can declare anyone an enemy combatant and throw you in jail without a lawyer, or a trial, or proof. And my friend Bob Novak is on the front lines of a conservative effort to keep Mr. Gonzales off the Supreme Court, because, get this, he's not right wing enough. Bob, who are you holding out for, Attila the Hun?

NOVAK: Well, Attila was much misunderstood, of course. But as a matter of fact, you wouldn't understand this, Paul, but being tough on civil liberties does not make you a conservative. Conservatives like Dick Armey, Bob Barr, Phil Gramm are very strong on civil liberties. And as a matter of fact, what I criticize Judge Gonzales about and I hope he doesn't get on the Supreme Court is his weak position on abortion and racial preferences. That's why we're holding out for a more conservative person. Can you understand that?

BEGALA: Avenging angel. Who? Who are you holding out for?

NOVAK: Miguel Estrada. He is a young Hispanic lawyer in this town, and your people, the Democrats in the Senate, have been preventing his confirmation because they're afraid he might bring the Republican Party some Hispanic votes.

BEGALA: Miguel Estrada is a brilliant lawyer, but he's a 41- year-old guy that's never even heard a traffic case. He never even sat on a traffic judge...

NOVAK: You don't like 41-year-olds?

BEGALA: I'm 41 myself. I don't put me in the Supreme Court. I don't think we should put Miguel Estrada on there either.

NOVAK: God forbid.

Martha Stewart, facing trouble from the law in Congress, has found a soul mate, none other than Hillary Rodham Clinton. We learn from a "New Yorker" magazine article by CNN legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin that Senator Clinton has been backing Martha in her time of stress, one of the first people to call her when the billionaire homemaker got in trouble. Martha Stewart said of the former president's wife, she's worthy, she's great. You know, that's what I hope I'll be thought of as. Does she mean being able to lie about your conduct and escape unscathed with a seat in the United States Senate?

BEGALA: She's the most -- Hillary Clinton is the most investigated woman in history and cleared on all accounts. Ken Starr and all the rest of the right wing crowd went after her. She was cleared of all of it, and now she's in the Senate. And you just can't stand it. Truth is, Bob, you're not half the woman Hillary Clinton is. God bless Hillary.

NOVAK: Well, I would say that Martha Stewart wants to have the same kind of luck that Hillary had to get out of deep trouble when it looks like you've been lying yourself wild.

BEGALA: You and I have both defended Martha Stewart in the past. I'm surprised to see you flip-flop.

NOVAK: I didn't know she was a Hillary-ite.

BEGALA: Well, degenerate gamblers, wife beaters and other losers crowded around their TV sets yesterday to watch the Super Bowl. As is usually the case, the game was a bloated over hyped snoozer made worse by the endless droning of Al Michaels and John Madden. Now, we ought to broadcast those guys on Radio Free Iraq. In three hours Saddam Hussein would surrender just to shut them up.

Now To show you how truly dumb NFL fans are, they made the Oakland Raiders the favorite. A few of us, though, knew better.

NOVAK: You know, some...

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I was wondering who you think's going to win the Super Bowl?

NOVAK: Well I think Oakland's going to win the Super Bowl because they've got all the old guys and I like old guys.

BEGALA: Tampa Bay, they're tougher on defense.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BEGALA: The Buccaneers did, in fact, go on to win on the strength of their defense. Now, thank God, pro football is over. I for one am going to go home and watch a real sporting event, NCAA basketball. Bob, the Longhorns take on Kansas tonight. Who you for? You're an expert on college basketball.

NOVAK: I go for the Kansas Jayhawkers. I say this, I'm really bad on these sports predictions. But I'm pretty good in politics. I know Republicans are going win. You thought the Democrats were going to win.

The Bush administration may give U.N. weapons inspectors a little bit more time. But does Saddam Hussein really need another deadline? In a minute, we'll ask a member of the Senate Arms Services Committee and later we'll ask Gary Hart why the American people should look him over for president again.

And the Super Bowl was pretty dull. But were the commercials any better?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

NOVAK: Chief U.N. Weapons Inspector Hans Blix says Iraq has not accounted for its chemical and germ weapons. Beyond that, Blix says Iraq has not reached what he calls a genuine acceptance of its obligations to disarm.

The leaders of France and Germany, among others, are calling for weapons inspectors to be given more time. But White House Spokesman Ari Fleischer today repeated President Bush's opinion that time is running out.

First in the CROSSFIRE tonight is Republican Senator James Inhofe of Oklahoma, member of the Senate Arms Services Committee, as well as the Select Committee on Intelligence.

BEGALA: Good to see you, sir. Thank you. Welcome back to CROSSFIRE.

SEN. JAMES INHOFE (R-OK), ARMS SERVICES COMMITTEE: Thank you, Paul.

BEGALA: As you well know, better than I, the weapons inspectors gave a preliminary report today. It was mixed. On the one hand they said Iraq had been cooperating... INHOFE: Any surprises?

BEGALA: Yes, I thought was more hawkish than they led to believe by the leaks. But there was certainly no smoking gun.

And in fact, let me read you a comment out of "USA Today," what our intelligence officials, not U.N. bureaucrats, what American intelligence officials say is this: "Intelligence officials said repeatedly in interviews in recent days that they have no unqualified `smoking gun' evidence that would prove Iraq has chemical and biological weapons or a program to develop a nuclear bomb."

Should we send your constituents into battle when we don't have...

INHOFE: First of all, I'm so tired of listening to people talk about the smoking gun that has nothing to do with it. There never was supposed to be a smoking gun. Even back in 1991 when they were operating under this Resolution 687, they said, they're under the obligation to expose everything they have, destroy everything they have, open the doors. And they haven't done that. And so how you to find a smoking gun?

If you did need a smoking gun they have found one. They have found smoking guns. First of all, we know that there is some 15,000 chemical rockets. They've only found 12. Where are the other 14,988? They're out there somewhere.

They also -- we also know they have some 6,000 nuclear or chemical bombs. So we know those things are out there. And we know that they have already found some. If you have to have a smoking gun, they found 12 smoking guns. Let's do it.

BEGALA: That's enough. Go ahead.

INHOFE; No, no, that isn't enough there are so many more out there. They're not cooperating. They're not opening up and not showing -- they're not doing what they're supposed to be doing. And if we sit around and wait for another six weeks or another six months, you're not going get any more cooperation than we have had since 1991.

NOVAK: Most Americans, what they think of, when they think of weapons of mass destruction, they think of nuclear weapons. And I want you to listen to what Mohammed ElBaradei, the director general of the IAEA, the international agency said. Let's listen to it.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MOHAMMED ELBARADEI, DIRECTOR GENERAL, IAEA: We have today found no evidence that Iraq revived its nuclear weapon program since the elimination of the program in the 1990s.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

NOVAK: And I think everyone I talked to is a scientist said there is no nuclear weapons program. So there is not a cause for war, is that correct?

INHOFE: Well, Bob, first of all, why do you really distinguish between a chemical warhead, nuclear warhead, a biological warhead...

NOVAK: Isn't there a difference?

INHOFE: ... because you can -- as was stated by Richard Butler just in the last week, we do know that they have missile warheads that would hold up to 140 liters of VX, which enough to kill a million people. So if you kill a million people with a chemical or biological agent, does it make much difference?

NOVAK: How do they deliver them among the United States? They can't, can they?

INHOFE: Sure they can. You mean how can Iraq do it?

NOVAK: Iraq, yes.

INHOFE: I wish we knew. Wouldn't that be great if we did know?

NOVAK: But they don't have those missiles.

BEGALA: A missile goes 400 miles and by my calculation Iraq is a hell of a lot more than 400 miles away.

INHOFE: That isn't true. That isn't true. The Al Hussein missile goes further than that. And by the way, that would reach every capital in that whole region out there.

How do you know they don't have a missile? We know one thing for sure, China has been trading technology and systems with Iraq, Iran, Syria, Libya, Pakistan, North Korea now for years and years. Indigenously? No they're not going to have one. But they're getting dangerously close to having one. We can all have reason to suspect. Why would they not if they're trading with these countries?

It was your guys back during your president, Bill Clinton's time in 1998...

BEGALA: He was your president too, we're all Americans.

INHOFE: Well, you make that determination...

BEGALA: I just -- you look like American to me. United States senator.

INHOFE: That's when they said -- and this was Bill Clinton's intelligence group -- said it was going to be somewhere between 5 and 10 years before the North Koreans would have a missile -- a (UNINTELLIGIBLE) rocket. Seven days later on August 31 of 1998 they fired one.

Now if they were that far off then, how do we know, how you to really know they're not ready to have something? And I think this administration has a responsibility. If you sit around and wring your hands as they're all doing now until something happens to a major American city, then it is too late.

NOVAK: President...

INHOFE: I really think that Rumsfeld said it right. He says the consequences of making the wrong decision now is not like it was in conventional war days.

NOVAK: On that point, Senator, president is going to make this decision. And Ari Fleischer his spokesman was asked today about the president's position and this is what he answered.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

FLEISCHER: He does not want to lead the nation to war. He hopes it can be averted. But he is also clear about the fact that one way to save American lives is to present -- prevent Saddam Hussein from engaging in something that can be far, far worse than the price that we have already seen on September 11.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

NOVAK: Now, since he does not -- I think everybody agrees he does not have either the nuclear weapons or the ability to deliver them, what is this something that is far, far -- what is far, far worse than what happened on September 11?

INHOFE: Far, far worse would be a nuclear warhead on a missile that hits an American city. I was talking to your crowd before this things and I said, If you remember on tv the two planes going into the world towers, if they had had the weapon of choice of a terrorist, which is a nuclear warhead on a missile, then we would be talking about 2 million people, not 3,000 people.

That's far, far worse.

BEGALA: Well, let me actually show you an ad from a peace group that is running right now that suggested there is no direct threat to the American mainland. This seems to be now what the debate is about. Does Saddam Hussein pose a direct threat to the United States of America, not to neighboring capitals, but to our country.

Let me play you this ad and ask you to respond.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, TRUE MAJOIRTY AD)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I've got nothing to do with 9/11; nothing to do with al Qaeda. Its neighbors don't think it is a threat. And invading Iraq will increase terrorism, not reduce it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BEGALA: Pastor Peck (ph) was America's ambassador to Iraq. He says --

INHOFE: I know him too. You know, what -- I would just love to believe that. I just think that would be a great euphoric thing. I asked some of your people here who were marching in the anti-war thing, I said, You know if the choice is go to war or have peace, we want peace. We all want peace. I would be marching out there with you.

But if the choice is go to war or end up with an American city hit by weapon of mass destruction, then the choice is easy. So I think it's a tough thing. We will sit around and listen to guys like this and what are you going to do if this happens?

BEGALA: Senator Jim Inhofe, that will be the last word. Thank you for joining us very much. Always good to have you on CROSSFIRE.

In just a minute, we will be joined by the once and perhaps future Democratic presidential candidate, former Senator Gary Hart. We'll ask him if America's prepared for another terrorist attack, the likes of which Senator Inhofe has just been describing. We'll also ask him if he's maybe preparing for another run for the White House.

Later, we'll see who cooked up the best Super Bowl ads. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BEGALA: Welcome back to CROSSFIRE.

Gary Hart was, perhaps, best known for his ideas driven and later scandal-plagued pursuit of the presidency until he co-chaired a commission on terrorism and national security that was created by President Clinton and then-Speaker Newt Gingrich back in 1998.

Senator Hart and his co-chair, former Republican Senator Warren Rudman, warned that devastating terrorist attacks on the U.S. were likely, a prediction that tragically came true on 9/11.

Last fall, Senator Hart co-chaired another task force that warned -- quote -- "America remains dangerously unprepared to prevent and respond to a catastrophic terrorist attack."

But would America turn to President Gary Hart to fix things? He's testing the waters and tonight, he joins us from Denver, an obligatory stop for every body who's serious about running for presindent.

Welcome back to CROSSFIRE, Senator.

GARY HART, FORMER SENATOR: Great pleasure, thank you.

NOVAK: Senator Hart, I don't know if you heard Senator Inhofe on our -- in our interview, but he raised the question, the possibility of Iraq sending missiles, perhaps even nuclear missiles, but missiles into New York City and creating millions of deaths as opposed to just thousands in the 9/11 tragedy.

Do you believe that's a realistic danger? HART: Not in the near term or even in the midterm. I suppose in theory, years from now, that could happen. I certainly don't think it is going to happen without our satellites and other intelligence sources telling us they're prepared for that and our ability to knock those out.

NOVAK: Well, among the Democratic presidential candidates who belong to either the House or the Senate, every one of them, I believe, four, voted for the Bush resolution to authorize an attack on Iraq.

If you were a member of the Senate, sir, would you have voted for that resolution?

HART: I would have considered it if the president had answered at least four questions.

One is, Who'ss going with us and I don't mean who's holding our coat, but boots on the ground.

Second, How long will we be there?

Third, How much will it cost? And, of course, we recall Mr. Lindsay said 100 billion to $200 billion and he lost his job. And I don't think it was for telling the truth.

And fourth and most importantly, How many casualties? Now I don't -- I know the president doesn't know exactly how many, but we do know in the Pentagon our casualty estimates and those have..

NOVAK: Senator...

HART: May I finish? May I finish?

NOVAK: Yes, you can.

HART: It matters to the American people how many casualties, how many Americans and civilians on the Iraqi side will die. That has not been told to us.

And finally, we should not invade Iraq until this country is prepared for the inevitable retaliatory attacks and we are not today prepared.

NOVAK: So you would have voted no. As you know in the Senate, you vote yes or no, not maybe.

HART: I'm sorry.

BEGALA: So you would have voted no is what Bob said, senator.

HART: No, it depends on what the president's response was. If those are reasonable answers, I could have voted for it.

BEGALA: But given the facts as we know them, he didn't -- did he answer those questions to your satisfaction in the debate, Senator? HART: I'm sorry, I did not -- I'm having trouble hearing the question.

BEGALA: Did President Bush answer those questions about duration and casualties in preparation for retaliatory terrorist attacks that you just mentioned, in the debate you watched unfold last fall? Did he answer those questions for you?

HART: No, I didn't hear answers to any of those questions. He has suggested we would be out in 18 months, but there are those in the administration who suggested a longer term strategy of semipermanent positioning of American military forces in Iraq and replacing Saudi oil with Iraqi oil.

If that is in fact our policy, I think the American people ought to know about it.

BEGALA: Let me switch now to terrorism.

Are we prepared for another attack -- to prevent another attack the way we saw 9/11?

HART: Well, not in the judgment of those of us who examined that problem last fall and, as you indicated, reported to the American people, the end of October.

We documented, for example, in our sea ports, which are much more vulnerable than our airports that very little has been done. National Guard, the first responders, have not been trained and equipped. Databases and communications systems have not been coordinated.

I think the federal government has been preoccupied with the important and necessary amalgimation of the 42 federal agencies, but they've done so at the expense of the vertical integration of federal, state and local governments and the state and local law enforcement people I've talked to allacross this country have not heard anything from Washington.

NOVAK: Senator, I don't mean to harp on a question I've asked a couple of time, but let me put it another way. Do you consider the Iraq government and Saddam Hussein a part and a dangerous part of the terrorist threat in the world?

HART: Well, I think they are a threat, but I think they're separate from the war on terrorism that the president announced. It seemed to me that he migrated from Afghanistan to Iraq very quickly, and somehow we lost track of al Qaeda in the process. I know there are efforts made to connect Iraq to al Qaeda and that -- those connections may or may not exist.

If they do, I don't see what the reason why the president and the administration can't reveal those to the American people. I understand sources and methods as well as anyone. But if the president of the United States has information that links Iraq to al Qaeda or other terrorist organizations, then I think he's obliged to put that before the American people. BEGALA: In fact, Senator, news accounts today suggest from the administration that they did put information forward to both the French and the Germans and they remained unpersuaded. If you were president, would you give intelligence information to allies but not to the American people?

HART: I wouldn't give it to allies before the American people. I would give it to the American people. I'm not -- I frankly don't know what the president could have in the way of answering Mr. Novak's question of the linkage that would jeopardize sources and methods. That is to say, I think if the president has hard information that makes that connection, then he can present it to us, as well as our allies, and he should do so. We are -- it is in fact America's sons and daughters that are being risked here.

NOVAK: We're going to have to take a break. And in just a minute, we'll ask Gary Hart whether he really is going to run again for the Democratic presidential nomination.

Later, were any of those expensive ads really worth an interruption of the wonderful Super Bowl?

(APPLAUSE)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

NOVAK: Welcome back. Most Americans forgot about Gary Hart after he dropped out of the 1988 presidential race. He went back to practicing law. And these days he's giving speeches about national security, the economy, and civic duty. Sounds like that old presidential bug has bitten him again. Gary hart is in the CROSSFIRE tonight from Denver, Colorado.

BEGALA: Senator Hart, will you run for president, and when and how will you make up your mind?

HART: What I'm doing now is in fact giving what are usually called major policy speeches. I spoke Tuesday night in New York on national security, on the 10th of February in San Francisco on foreign policy, and probably in Los Angeles fairly soon on a new economic restructuring plan. End up the series with a speech on restoration of our republic at the University of Virginia. And then I'll make a decision sometime in March. And I generally do not know what that will be, and I'm not trying to be coy about it.

BEGALA: Well what will you base that decision on? The groundswell of support that comes from these ideas that you put out in your speeches, the money you can raise? I mean, what are you looking at as benchmarks?

HART: The reason I was candidate in '84 was I had the opportunity to travel the country in '82 on behalf of other Democratic candidates, and I heard people say they were looking for someone that had not announced at that point at that time a newer, younger face. I think it is quite the opposite now. Of course I would think so. But it was based on the '82 experience that I then decided to run in '83. So what I'm trying to do now is compress that experience of the fall of '82 into about a six or eight-week period in the early part of '03.

NOVAK: Senator, the renowned Democratic pollster, Peter Hart, no relation, I believe, said of you recently, "He is a man of the past. The real question he faces today is simply, why Gary Hart? He has to answer that." How do you answer that?

HART: First of all, I seem to recollect some things like that being said about Ronald Reagan when he was running the first time. In any case, I think it is all a question of ideas. If I don't have anything different to say from the other Democrats, then I shouldn't run. But I do have a feeling of intensity about the issue of homeland security, and it is a genuine one.

I've said to many of the journalists who have been kind enough to interview me in recent days and weeks, if it had not been suggested that I was running for president, would you be here? And they said no. So in a way, I'm not -- I'm seeking a platform, but not by tricking anyone. I genuinely think I would be a very good president, probably better today than 15 years ago. But if I don't have anything different to say and people don't resonate, there is no resonance from what I have to say, then I shouldn't run for president.

NOVAK: Senator, the thing that a lot of people remember about you and your last campaign unfortunately is how it ended with allegations of an affair with a woman who wasn't your wife. How do you get beyond that, how do you get rid of that?

HART: Well I keep repeating, as you know, over the past number of days and weeks, indeed, over the past number of years, reminding people that I undertook -- I assumed full responsibility for that. Apologized to everyone concerned on national television and went on with my life. And frankly, what a lot of people are interested in is what I did in the last 15 years.

I didn't disappear. I chaired these commissions which you were kind enough to mention. I earned a doctorate degree. I wrote seven books. I've lectured and talked all over this country and the world and mentored students. And I helped pioneer in building economic bridges to Russia and other countries.

And I think that's a pretty active 15-year life. So I haven't disappeared from the public or the private scene. I've tried to make a contribution. I believe in public service and I simply continue to try to find a way to serve my country.

BEGALA: Senator, let me ask about your political activity during that period. Who did you vote for in the Democratic primaries in 1992?

HART: Bill Bradley, I believe. Yes it was Bill Bradley.

BEGALA: No, no, Senator. He wasn't running in '92. HART: Actually, by the time the contest got to Colorado there wasn't a chance to vote, as I recall. I think it was all over.

BEGALA: With respect, it was a very tough three-way race between Jerry Brown, Paul Tsongas and Bill Clinton in the Colorado Democratic primary.

HART: Oh yes.

BEGALA: I was there.

HART: Oh, yes. It was Clinton.

BEGALA: Good for you. You were a visionary, too.

NOVAK: Let's take a question from the audience.

(CROSSTALK)

HART: As you know very well, I've known President Clinton for about 30 years, and we have been good friends over the years.

NOVAK: Question.

TODD: Hi. I'm Todd (ph) from Strongsville, Ohio. And my question is that, given that Democratic performance in the 2002 elections, what you to feel would be the most successful platform or message for the Democrats in 2004?

BEGALA: Senator?

HART: I felt for a long time, since I worked for George McGovern 30 years ago, that about that time, sometime in the late '60s or early '70s, the Democratic Party failed to produce a coherent and comprehensive economic proposal that replaced the great society in the new deal. And we have been kind of adrift for the past 25 years ago experimenting with centrism other things, but there has been no coherent message.

And I think, secondly, the Vietnam War so shattered the democratic consensus on defense, that that has never been put together either. And I felt very strongly over the past quarter century that the Democrats have to come up with a comprehensive defense program that isn't just throwing more money at defense.

NOVAK: Senator, you were asked on the NBC "Today" show this morning whether any of these candidates running were qualified. And you said two or three of them were. Which ones do you think are qualified by name if you could name them?

HART: Let me say what I think being qualified is. Uniquely, the job of president is managing the domestic economy or at least the fiscal policy of the United States. That, of course, encompasses all the domestic issues, at least to the degree the government is involved. But there are two other parts of the job. The president is the chief diplomat, the head of state, and the manager of our foreign policy. And, third, and equally importantly, the president is commander-in-chief. So I think you to know public economics. You have to know foreign policy. And you have to know defense.

And of that group, I would say, certainly Senator Kerry comes close, perhaps Senator Lieberman. One or two others. What I'm trying to get at is I don't think you should run for the job until you've reached a minimal qualification on the grounds that you can learn those other things once you're in office. It is a little late. And, by the way, George W. Bush didn't qualify in a couple of those categories himself.

(APPLAUSE)

BEGALA: He had a little on the job training. Yes, sir, what is your question for Gary Hart?

CHRIS WILKS: Chris Wilks (ph), Little Rock, Arkansas. If you're making another presidential bid, do you anticipate that you're going to be on the receiving end of another media witch-hunt, a la the Donna Rice scandal? And if so, how do you anticipate responding to that?

HART: Well, I would certainly hope not. I think "witch-hunt" is kind of a loaded phrase. I said earlier that I accepted responsibility for that event. And I continue to do so.

I regret what happened to everybody involved. Not just my family, but everybody involved. And I think it was too bad.

Whether things have changed in this country since then, given all that has happened, is really up to the American people to say. I do believe it is going to be very hard to keep -- for anyone to keep hounding on that event if we are in fact in war in Iraq or if the economy continues to deteriorate, because it simply won't resonate with the American people. So I think every journalist, if you will, will have to make his or her own decisions.

BEGALA: Senator, briefly, we're almost out of time, but George W. Bush in running for president pointedly refused to answer questions about whether he had used drugs in the past. I supported that decision. I thought it was great to try to help these candidates reclaim some sort of zone of privacy. Do you think you'll be able to make the same sorts of claims as then Governor Bush did in.

HART: Well I would certainly hope so. Interestingly enough, you know the U.S. Commission on National Security for the 21st century, which included 14 people ranging from Andrew Young (ph) to Newt Gingrich, concluded that one of the most serious detriments for our national security was the declining caliber and people in public life. And there were great barriers to entry to public life, not just elected office but appointed office, including the so-called scrutiny that everybody has to go through.

Now, we ought to begin to think seriously about that. If our national security is being hurt by people who refused to go through that, then everybody involved has got to rethink their position, I think.

BEGALA: Senator Gary Hart, thank you for joining us.

HART: My pleasure.

(APPLAUSE)

BEGALA: Potential presidential candidate. Please come back to CROSSFIRE.

One of our viewers has fired back an e-mail about a minority group that qualifies for affirmative action, even under the Bush administration. But before we get to that, we're itching to tackle the subject that all of America is talking about today on this day after the Super Bowl. Stay tuned for our favorite Super Bowl ads.

(APPLAUSE)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BEGALA: Welcome back to CROSSFIRE. We're coming to you live from the George Washington University here in beautiful downtown Washington, D.C. Now, never mind that the Tampa Bay Buccaneers trounced the Oakland Raiders in the Super Bowl, as one of your CROSSFIRE hosts predicted on Friday. I can't remember which one.

What America's Monday morning quarterbacks, of course, are talking about today are all those Super Bowl ads. Fifty-two commercials ran during the game at a price of $2.2 million a pop. Another 29 ads aired during the endless interminable pre and post-game shows and post-post-game shows and post-toasty (ph) shows. But we're going to share a few of our favorites with you.

And joining us to dissect them and analyze them, Melanie Wells of "Forbes" magazine. She is in New York City. Thank you for joining us.

(APPLAUSE)

NOVAK: Melanie, let me start off by saying that culturally I live in a cave and I don't really understand what most of this stuff is about. So I'm really not very qualified to discuss them, but I'll do it anyway. Let's take a look at the Budweiser dreadlocks ad.

MELANIE WELLS, "FORBES" MAGAZINE: You got it.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Max, you're killing me. Hey, everybody jamming. Hey, man. She's jamming. They jamming, too. Can a buddy get a Bud Lite, man?

ANNOUNCER: For the great taste that won't fill you up and never lets you down, make it a Bud Lite. (END VIDEO CLIP)

NOVAK: Did you like that ad, audience? Did you like that?

(APPLAUSE)

NOVAK: All right. Melanie, in my younger days I drank vast quantities of Budweiser. So I like Budweiser. But I can't find anything in that ad to say, boy, you ought to go out and buy a Budweiser.

WELLS: No. You know what, Bob, neither can I. But we're not the target. Your audience there is the target.

Anheuser-Busch was the game's largest advertiser. They had 11 spots. And, you know what, they couldn't all be winners, and that one wasn't a winner in my opinion.

BEGALA: Well let me show you one -- another Bud ad that I -- I'm already prejudicing you -- but I thought was a winner. Take a look at the Clydesdales not really playing football but standing on the sidelines. It was a hilarious ad. Take a look.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This referee is a jackass.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No, I believe that's a zebra.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BEGALA: Who liked this ad better?

(APPLAUSE)

BEGALA: Melanie?

WELLS: You know animals are always a big winner in Super Bowl ads. And we saw a lot of them last night. People love the Clydesdales. What was most surprising to me about that is they actually said "jackass" in the commercial.

BEGALA: Well I thought that was great, because I'm trying to teach my children to curse. I'm pro-cursing as a liberal. So I thought that was very helpful that my 2-year-old now says "jackass."

NOVAK: We'll take a look at a Visa ad, of all things.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

YAO MING, BASKETBALL PLAYER: Can I write a check?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yo.

MING: Yao.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yo.

MING: Yao.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yo.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yo.

MING: Can I write a check.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yo.

MING: Yao.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yo.

MING: Yao.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yo.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yo.

MING: Can I can write a check?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yo.

ANNOUNCER: Next time, use the Visa check card instead of cash. It's going to get you in, out, and on with life.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yo.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Gi (ph). Yogi (ph).

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yo.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

NOVAK: Now that's kind of funny, Melanie. But isn't it stupid? Isn't it really stupid?

WELLS: Yes, it is really stupid but it is important. Yao Ming is going to be the biggest celebrity endorser since Michael Jordan when he learns to speak English a little bit better. He was one of two Chinese-born celebrities in the Super Bowl last night. Jackie Chan, if you recall, was in a Hanes spot.

I think it is important for that reason, you know, even if we don't remember that it was a Visa check card. I think it was important for Yao Ming, important for Chinese-Americans.

BEGALA: Well now let me show you one that was very important to me as a Texan. It featured the greatest living American. No, not a former president or Nobel prize winner. Willie Nelson, did an ad for H&R Block. Willie, of course, had been hammered ruthlessly and viciously by the IRS for some technical details. Let me let you watch the ad.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Willie, we want you to be the spokesperson for Smoothie (ph) shaving cream. You can make huge money.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It is not about the money. This is Willie Nelson.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Willie, we've got a small problem. We made a little mistake on your taxes. You owe $30 million.

WILLIE NELSON, SINGER: I what?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Action.

NELSON: This play calls for a smoothie (ph).

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Cut.

NELSON: So have a smooth move.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Cut. Willie, "Make a smooth move." Action.

NELSON: My face is burning.

ANNOUNCER: Don't get bad advice. Let H&R Block double-check your taxes for free. We'll find what others miss.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (UNINTELLIGIBLE).

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BEGALA: How great was that, Melanie?

WELLS: That was great. What a wonderful way to kick off tax season. You had Willie Nelson making fun of his own mistakes. And an advertiser making fun of advertising. I thought it was terrific.

NOVAK: Melanie, here is a Pepsi ad, believe it or not.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OZZY OSBOURNE, SINGER: Stupid, bloody (UNINTELLIGIBLE).

KELLY OSBOURNE, DAUGHTER: Hey dad...

O. OSBOURNE: Not now. I'm (UNINTELLIGIBLE). I've got something to do.. I'm trying to...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You really should see this.

O. OSBOURNE: What is it then? What is it?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: These aren't Pepsis. They're Pepsi twists.

O. OSBOURNE: You're a bunch of bloody magicians.

K. OSBOURNE: Oh, we're not the Osbournes.

O. OSBOURNE: You're not?

MARIE OSMOND: We're the Osmonds.

DONNY OSMOND: We're the Osmonds.

M. OSMOND: I'm a little bit country.

D. OSMOND: I'm a little bit rock 'n' roll

O. OSBOURNE: Sharon. Sharon, the kids have turned into the Osmonds.

SHARON OSBOURNE: Oh, there, there, dear. Go back to sleep.

ANNOUNCER: Like twists? Pepsi twist and Diet Pepsi twist. It is a twist on a great thing.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

NOVAK: Melanie, would that garbage sell more Pepsis?

WELLS: Garbage? What are you talking about? That was great. And it was a great way for Pepsi to show us about -- tell us about Pepsi twist, a new product.

NOVAK: OK. Melanie Wells, we're out of time. Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts. We appreciate it.

BEGALA: Melanie, thank you.

NOVAK: When we come back, a word about our showdown with Al Sharpton. You fire back with more proof why Begala and his liberal cohorts might be running scared.

(APPLAUSE)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

NOVAK: Time now for "Fireback." The first fireback from Joanna Peterson of Coral gables, Florida. "Paul said Friday night that Jerry Springer was thinking of running for the U.S. Senate from Ohio appeals to Reagan Democrats. Is the term "Reagan Democrat" a Washington euphemism for moron?"

BEGALA: Wow. No, you know a lot of good people in my party voted for Reagan. Clinton brought them back. And then some Republicans for Clinton. That's what it takes to win elections.

So those are not morons. Those are smart people. D.P. Jones in Miami, Florida writes, "You're wrong, Paul. The president and his brother do support affirmative action for a minority group: millionaires and billionaires." So you're right, there is two minority groups.

(APPLAUSE)

NOVAK: The difference between you and me is I want to make more millionaires and more billionaires. You want to make everybody poor.

BEGALA: Oh no, I want everybody to be rich. Yes, sir?

NOVAK: Go ahead.

RICHARD SAWHILL: Richard Sawhill (ph) from Fontana, California. My question is, we waited too long to end a World War I. We waited too long to enter a World War II, which resulted in Pearl Harbor. As a country, we lacked national resolve in Vietnam, and we did not react to the security agency's knowledge prior to September 11. And I want to know what it is going to take to America to reach a resolve to take Saddam Hussein out in Iraq? Do we have to wait until we have another September 11 incident resulting from Iraq?

(APPLAUSE)

NOVAK: Well one of the good things about this country is we're very reluctant to go to war. Very reluctant.

BEGALA: And I think the case the president has to make that he has not yet made is that Iraq represents a threat to the United States of America. Senator Inhofe tried to make that case tonight. He did a good job, but I'm not buying it. I don't...

NOVAK: Question, go ahead.

MAX: Hello. I'm Max (ph) from (UNINTELLIGIBLE), Wisconsin. My question is, is Iraq damned if they do and damned if they don't? If we don't find something, obviously they're lying. If we do find something, we're just going to attack. So either way, it seems like we're just going to attack them.

NOVAK: I would say that Saddam Hussein is in bad shape, Max (ph). (UNINTELLIGIBLE) Republican Party, is it not?

MAX: That is true.

NOVAK: Congratulations.

BEGALA: Well I'm sorry to hear that. At least one good thing came out of it, you, not the Republican Party. Thank you for that question, Max (ph).

From the left, I am Paul Begala. Goodnight for CROSSFIRE.

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

TO ORDER A VIDEO OF THIS TRANSCRIPT, PLEASE CALL 800-CNN-NEWS OR USE OUR SECURE ONLINE ORDER FORM LOCATED AT www.fdch.com



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