Reaction From Capitol Hill to Colin Powell's Presentation to U.N.; Interview With Eric Alterman, Brent Bozell
Aired February 5, 2003 - 19:30 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
On the left, James Carville and Paul Begala.
On the right, Robert Novak and Tucker Carlson.
In the CROSSFIRE tonight.
Showing it and telling it like the Bush administration says it is.
COLIN POWELL, SECRETARY OF STATE: Iraq never had any intention of complying with this council's mandate.
ANNOUNCER: Did Secretary of State Colin Powell make his case?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The pronouncement in Mr. Powell's statements on weapons of mass destruction are unrelated to the truth.
ANNOUNCER: And is Congress convinced that disarming Iraq might take a war?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Secretary Powell made a very powerful and irrefutable case today.
ANNOUNCER: Plus, are the media telling it like it is? Or is there bias showing?
Tonight on CROSSFIRE.
ANNOUNCER: Live from the George Washington University, Paul Begala and Tucker Carlson.
PAUL BEGALA, CO-HOST: Hello, everybody, welcome to CROSSFIRE tonight.
A former secretary of state for the first President Bush critiques the job done, today at the U.N., by the current secretary of state for the current President Bush. And later the author of a hot new book on the media will join us to debate one of the most unreported stories around, the media's true bias in favor of conservatives.
But first part of the our show that allows Tucker and me to show our own biases, the "CROSSFIRE political alert."
BEGALA: Using the full force of his considerable persuasive talents as well as satellite photos and intercepted Iraqi conversations, Secretary of State Colin Powell told the U.N. Security Council and the watching world that Iraq has, quote, "An active and systematic effort," unquote, to hide weapons of mass destruction and has given training to al Qaeda terrorists.
Secretary of State Powell was the right man for the difficult job. He is by far, the most respected and trusted figure in America, perhaps the whole world, but his boss, President Bush is now suffering from a full blown credibility crisis. In the latest CNN/Gallup poll, about half of all Americans said they think the Bush administration would present evidence it knew was inaccurate. And a whopping 58 percent said Mr. Bush would even conceal evidence that went against his position to persuade us to go to war in Iraq.
Said Mr. Bush, if we could have reached him for current, I promised in the campaign I wouldn't lie about sex. I never said anything about war. Of course, he never actually said that, I should be clear.
TUCKER CARLSON CO-HOST: This says -- this truly, I say this more in somewhat anger, this is yet Democratic party has no credibility on terrorism or foreign policy. Today we learned...
BEGALA: Because the American people think Bush would lie?
CARLSON: Because, we know today for certain that Iraq has weapons of mass destruction they have chemical and biological weapons. And the question remains what do we do about it? Neither you nor any Democrat I know has the answer to that question.
BEGALA: Tucker, we've known for 20 years the guys had chemical weapons.
CARLSON: What are we doing, about it, Paul we quote some stupid poll saying people don't believe -- I mean, come on.
BEGALA: The question here is the presidents creditability. He wants to lead us into war, and the majority of his countrymen and women are worried that he's lying to us, and for good reason.
CARLSON: That is not the question. The question is there's a lunatic with weapons that could kill the civilized world. What do we do about it. And I await an answer.
(CROSSTALK) CARLSON: I'd be interested in your opposition.
CARLSON: In his address this morning, secretary Powell warned the U.N. Security Council, quote, "This body places itself in danger of irrelevance if it allows Iraq to continue to defy its will without responding effectively and immediately," end quote. Many in the community responded by proving Powell's point. The French minister from posed doubles or tripling the number of U.N. inspectors in Iraq. Russia's foreign minister made a similar statement, so did China. When the German foreign minister was asked if secretary Powell convinced him, he said, quote, "I'm not an expert."
Saddam Hussein continues to deny doing anything wrong. In a notably puffy interview on British television last night, he told many of the western defenders that his country possesses no weapons of mass destruction, at all. None.
Do you believe it?
Apparently many on the left, do they must because they haven't given any idea of what we should do about it.
BEGALA: The same policy that we've had for a dozen years which has worked for a dozen years has been containment. It's the policy we had against 70 years in the Soviet Union that brought them to the knees.
CARLSON: The Clinton administration allowed the inspectors to be kicked out for two years and did nothing about it. That is not a good policy.
That is actually not true. We launched air strikes, and the right we attacked them for doing it.
Now, this question of France and other allies. It's easy, it's fun for me, fun for you to bash the countries. Here's the problem. I believe the biggest threat to our security is al Qaeda. It's probably in France and probably in Germany. If we alienate the countries in our rush to go to war to Iraq it will make it difficult for us to win the real war they think we should fight against al Qaeda.
CARLSON: That is actually notable for the -- that is not a sophisticated view of this. In fact...
BEGALA: Call me simple, but I think we should kill al Qaeda, successor, instead of screwing around with Saddam Hussein.
CARLSON: Nobody disagree's with that. And as you put it the children are our future. The point, is, look, the rest of the world is on our side. We are talking about France and Germany, who for their own internal political reasons are opposing this. Why Italy? Why is Spain? Why is Great Britain? Why is Australia?
BEGALA: Why is Bulgaria?
CARLSON: You mock Bulgaria. OK.
BEGALA: I just said they spoke out in our defense today, Tucker. I'm saying we need as many allies as we can get for the war against al Qaeda. It's al Qaeda.
CARLSON: Of course, but we shouldn't let the internal politics of France and Germany to determine our response in threat.
BEGALA: We should decided what's in America's interest. America interest is going against al Qaeda first. Saddam Hussein has been in a box for 12 years he. He is can stay for 12 more.
BEGALA: The Bush White House has issued a blistering indictment of its own Drug Enforcement Agency. The agency the White House says, quote, "Is unable to demonstrate progress in reducing the availability of illegal drugs in the United States," unquote. The report, according to today's "New York Times," also says the DEA lax long-term goals and strategies, fails to hold managers accountable, and has poor financial controls and didn't meet other federal standards, either.
President Bush's response has been to promote the incompetent director, former Republican Congressman and Bob Jones University graduate, Asa Hutchison to the number two position at, get this, the Department of Homeland Security. Mr. Hutchison joins former Pennsylvania Governor Tom Ridge who is secretary of that depend. CNN has learned that counterintelligence officials say that the terrorist threat today is, quote, "definitely up, unquote.
So, your life is in the hands of two career politicians who have no prior experience in terrorism. Mr. Bush defended promoting Mr. Huchison, noting, quote, "If it weren't for meritless promotions based political contacts I wouldn't be president today."
I made that quote up. I made the quote up.
CARLSON: To call Asa Hutchinson incompetent is so unfair and dumb and unsupportive.
CARLSON: And the problem, as you know, is drug policy itself in this country is flawed. I would think you would gift Bush administration some credit for critiquing its own federal bureaucracy.
BEGALA: And promoting the guy who screwed it up.
CARLSON: He didn't screw it up.
BEGALA: He's only the director. You can't hold him accountable.
CARLSON: This is actually beneath comment. Senate Democrats will attempt to block a vote on the nomination of Miguel Estrada to the Federal Bench. Only one other judicial nominee has been filibuster. But Democrats say that this case it is worth it. Why? Not because Estrada isn't qualified. He graduated from Columbia and Harvard law school, clerked on the Supreme Court and argued 15 cases before it. The American Bar Association gave him its highest rating. He received flawless performance reviews during his years in the Clinton administration.
Yes, the Clinton administration, where he worked. What is the problem with Miguel Estrada? Democrat Patrick Leahy summed it up this way, Estrada did not exactly share in the experiences of most Latinos. Leahy who lives in the undiverse state of Vermont apparently believes that, quote, "Most Latinos are poor, uneducated and those are aren't are unauthentic." Estrada succeeded in an Ivy League University so therefore he's not a real Latino. Fellow Democrat Robert Byrd of West Virginia is said to have agreed with the assessment.
BEGALA: Here is the problem with Mr. Estrada...
CARLSON: Talk about a vicious stereotype.
BEGALA: Miguel Estrada will not say his position on issues. I do not believe that a seat on the second highest court in America is a right or entitlement for anyone. He should convince the Senate that he has views that comport with the majority of senators. If he does then he can his seat on the court.
But he won't answer simple questions, why not?
CARLSON: Then I hope you answer this question. Do you think it's fair that Senator Leahy say that he is not an authentic Latino.
BEGALA: That's what he said at all.
CARLSON: Do you think that what he said that he did not grow up sharing is the experiences of most Latinos.
BEGALA: Of course that's true, he not, he grew up the wealthy son of a banker. Just like a wealthy son of a banker in America doesn't grow up...
CARLSON: So, what's the point?
BEGALA: The point is he won't tell us his views.
CARLSON: What's the point of that statement? I don't understand it.
BEGALA: The point is he should tell us his views on issues. He should testify truthfully his position on issues.
CARLSON: He worked for the Clinton administration. He argued 15 times in before the Supreme Court. We know exactly what he thinks.
BEGALA: I worked for the Clinton administration... (CROSSTALK)
BEGALA: President Bush's budget includes a billion dollar increase in funding for primary education. The trouble is Mr. Bush promised a $7 billion increase this year when he signed the leave no child behind education reform act.
And even the one billion increase is abolished by accomplishing 45 other education programs from dropout prevention to rural education which saves 1.5 billion in all. One expert who supported Mr. Bush's education, noted to the "New York Times" that since the president's tax cut for the rich cost $674 billion, quote, "If money indicates priorities, the president believes no child left behind is 1/67th as important in cutting taxes."
A spokesperson for Mr. Bush said, that while it's regrettable, the president has broken his word on education, he does care deeply about children and is particularly interested in helping those stand to inherit billions by giving them more tax cuts.
CARLSON: So, are you going to tell me that the Pentagon should hold a bake sale? That is the perfect story. Actually, Bush's budget contains more education than Clinton's. But you don't even address the essential issue which is why is it that the states with the highest test score, in other words, states with who learn the most do not have the highest spending in education.
BEGALA: You know, Tucker, we can argue education policy....
CARLSON: It's an interesting question.
BEGALA: I'm arguing veracity. Our president gave his word. Our president broke his word. That matters. It matters abroad. It matters at home.
CARLSON: What are you talking about?
BEGALA: He pledged a $7 billion increase this year. He delivered a $1 billion increase. That's...
CARLSON: I don't know. I don't know, Paul. I mean, not to go back to the....
BEGALA: I'm trying to do use everything except lie, because it's too strong a word. I don't want to say lie. But my goodness Tucker!
CARLSON: But, Paul, I'm not sure if you're aware that the White House actually doesn't appropriate money. That is the job of the legislature...
BEGALA: I actually know how a bill becomes law, but I also know how a promise becomes broken. Get Bush to make it, he'll break it the next day.
CARLSON: Outside of Baghdad, almost no one in the world applauded the attacks of September 11, except in New York State prisons, where according to this morning's "Wall Street Journal," Muslim inmates cheered as 3,000 Americans were murdered. The festivities were led by prison chaplains, government employees who explained that America got what it deserved and that the Qu'ran endorses terrorism against non-Muslims. One Muslim chaplain preached that Osama bin Laden is -- quote -- "A soldier of Allah, a hero of Allah."
"The Wall Street Journal" story went on to cite a textbook disseminated within prisons that accuses Jews of organizing a conspiracy to undermine Islam. The literature is paid for by the government of Saudi Arabia, which has an extensive -- quote -- "outreach program to American prisoners."
Saudi Arabia, you may recall, is supposedly our ally. It is defended at great expense by the American military. April 15 is coming up. Keep all of this in mind when you write your tax check.
BEGALA: This is one of the few areas where I agree with you. And it's been more -- the criticism of Saudi Arabia, I have to say, has been coming more even from the right than from the left. But I think both sides of the political aisle make a good point when they say Saudi Arabia pretends to be our friend, as you just did, but they spread this kind of hate around the world and in our country....
CARLSON: Do you know what happens if you were to go to Saudi Arabia and attempt to proselytize for your religion? You'd go straight to jail. Absolutely right to jail.
BEGALA: And I think it's wonderful that we have freedom and it's terrible that they don't. I do hope the government will begin to stand up to Saudi Arabia the way some commentators have, the way you and I just did. I hope our president will make that case the next time he's sucking up to the crown prince.
CARLSON: One of these days, Paul, and I think deep and hard about this, I am going to come up with a "News Alert" that will not elicit on attack on Bush.
BEGALA: It's about foreign policy. The president leads our foreign policy.
BEGALA: Has the United States made its case for going after Saddam Hussein right now? Well, in a minute we will ask the former Secretary of State Lawrence Eagleburger, who served in that capacity under President Bush's father. We'll ask him what he thinks of Colin Powell's U.N. presentation.
Later, a hawk and a dove fly in from Capitol Hill. They will debate about what should be done about Saddam Hussein.
Stay with us.
BEGALA: Welcome back to CROSSFIRE.
The White House says President Bush watched the last 45 minutes of Secretary of State's Colin Powell's presentation to the U.N. Security Council today. The first 45 he was meeting with the foreign head of state. White House spokesman said the president reviewed the presentation in advance and said little as Powell spoke. Not surprisingly, of course, our president thought our secretary of state did quite well.
First in the CROSSFIRE tonight to give us his impressions, Laurence Eagleburger, secretary of state under George Herbert Walker Bush.
CARLSON: Secretary Eagleburger, I just want to call you a quick clip from something the current Secretary of State said today at the United Nations. Here's Colin Powell.
LAWRENCE EAGLEBURGER, FMR. SECRETARY OF STATE: It's back here?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
POWELL: This body places itself in danger of irrelevance if it allows Iraq to continue to defy its will without responding effectively and immediately.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CARLSON: Don't you think -- don't you think that's true? This, is a referendum on the U.N.? It's high had its eye poked by Iraq, done nothing about it, and don't you think it does to do something about it soon?
EAGLEBURGER: Yes, I think it's -- there's no question it proves its irrelevance. I think its done that in some other cases, like electing Lybia to head the human rights commission -- but, yes this is clearly something that the U.N. is going to step up to -- even if they were to decide that they were not going to agree with us, they have to at least step up and make the decision. None of this waffling that we've seen as a result of the speech today.
CARLSON: Well -- what, I mean, are you surprised, having watched the speech, that the rest of the world hasn't fallen in line behind the United States?
EAGLEBURGER: No, I'm not surprised by that.
Remind yourself, first of all, we all focus on Germany and France, for example. There are a lot of the other countries out there that have, in fact, supported us and as far as I'm concerned, Germany is totally irrelevant. They're not on the Security Council and the chancellor of Germany has opted out of the whole debate long since with his campaign against us when he was re-elected and the French are being French.
So I don't -- I don't know that I -- and let me just -- you know, it is also true that they've had this has gone on, particularly with the French before. They were not enthusiastic about Desert Storm, but in the end they came around. I won't fall over in a dead faint if they do this time.
BEGALA: Well, let me ask you about your own response. He also was speaking to the American public, average citizens, but also elites like you who have -- you have...
BEGALA: I mean that in the best sense of the word, former secretary of state.
EAGLEBURGER: Thank you very much. My wife doesn't agree with you, but that's all right.
BEGALA: You have expressed skepticism in the past about a war in Iraq. Did the Secretary persuade you?
EAGLEBURGER: Well, I was persuaded before that. I don't want to have waste your time on much here, but my problems at the beginning of this whole thing was that I thought when Vice President Cheney, when he came on on this issue in the first place, with his chest thumping and talking about nuclear weapons and then saying we must do something right away and then nothing happened and indicating unilateralism right down the line, I thought it was the wrong way to come at this. We should've gone -- we should have started talking with our allies and the American people in a much different tone.
I think the administration is still paying for that earlier, I think, erroneous way to approach the problem. I was objecting to the way in which it was being dealt with at first. Once the president spoke to the U.N., in what I thought was one of the best speeches I've ever heard him give, I was convinced. I was convinced before that we were going to have to do something, but I was convinced then that the administration was on the right track in terms of how to deal with both the U.N. and the American people.
And I know that the polls right now are not good from that perspective. No. 1, I think they'll probably change if we go in, and No. 2, I think you have to expect it as this went on and on and once the president decided to go to the U.N., spend some time letting the inspectors go in. I think it was inevitable the polls were going to decrease.
BEGALA: But I do think you're right, as a former pollster, that the polls will go way up as soon as the bullets start flying. I mean, every body's going to support anything our commander in chief tells us to do once men and women are in harm's way.
What's, I think, more troubling for the president politically is, while he was very wise to send Secretary Powell, rather than go himself, is the president is suffering from a credibility crisis.
Here's what our CNN/Gallup poll asked people. They came to two conclusions on this matter. Forty-nine percent of us, almost half of all Americans believe that the president would knowingly present evidence that he knew was not accurate in order to build his case and 58 percent of us believe that the Bush administration would conceal evidence that goes again their position.
Now when his countrymen and women have that low an opinion of his credibility, isn't that difficult to lead us into war?
EAGLEBURGER: Sure it's a difficultly and I find it tragic because I do not believe for one minute that if that's the view of the American that they're right on either case. And I suspect if I pushed you you wouldn't agree with it either although you may not be prepared to admit it in public.
BEGALA: I say yes to one and no to the other, to tell you the truth.
EAGLEBURGER: But the president of the United States, this president doesn't lie to the American people. And the fact that Colin Powell got up there and made the speech he did, I admit that, given the questions about the president, that reinforces the president's position.
But I find it tragic when we have deteriorated in this country, and this applies to any president, when we have deteriorated in this country to have so little confidence our governors. I think it's too bad. Much too bad.
CARLSON: But, Secretary Eagleburger, to the extent the Democrats have a position at all, it appears to be that we would continue to contain Iraq. but the administration says that while the Clinton administration was attempting to contain Iraq, Iraq actually sent military officers into Afghanistan in the early '90s to train al Qaeda in chemical weapons making. Do you think the idea that Iraq can be contained is credible?
EAGLEBURGER: No, I don't. I will tell you if after the first war with Iraq the U.N. had been -- and that really means the United States -- had been very, very strict on the sanctions ever after that, I think we might have been able to contain them.
But this -- and I don't want to make this a political issue. I don't think the issue of war with Iraq should be a political issue, between the parties, I mean. But if we had held firm to those sanctions throughout that whole 10-year period it might be different now, but it's not and I don't think it can be contained.
CARLSON: At this point does it mean that do you think that we'll have to go to war?
EAGLEBURGER: Yes. I think, unless Saddam Hussein falls in a hole one day or somebody shoots him in the head, I personally think he is prepared to go down with his ship. I don't think he's going to give up. I don't think he's going to do what the U.N. demands.
And I don't know -- I don't know why that's deserving of applause but my point is I think we have to understand that he's not likely to compromise in any way that will mean anything. So either our bluff gets called or we do what we've said we're going to do even if we don't get total international support, including from the U.N.
CARLSON: OK. Former Secretary of State Larry Eagleburger, thank you very much for joining us.
EAGLEBURGER: My pleasure.
CARLSON: What is the next step against Iraq? In a minute we'll let a hawk and a dove from Capitol Hill debate that.
Later we'll ask is the press too liberal? This is not a trick question. We'll be right back.
CARLSON: Welcome back. Secretary of State Colin Powell may not have wowed them at the U.N. today, but he certainly impressed people on Capitol Hill. Both Democrats and Republicans were praising the secretary's presentation calling it powerful and irrefutable. Joining us from the Hill tonight for more on the mood is Ohio Democratic Congressman Dennis Kucinich and California Republican Dana Rohrabacher.
BEGALA: Congressmen, both, thank you very much for joining us.
Congressman Rohrabacher, let me start with you. We spoke a minute ago with Secretary Eagleburger and he called it a tragedy that the majority of Americans think that our president would be willing to mislead them. But it is good that we have faith in our secretary of state. I know you're a supporter and you were before the speech, but how do you think he did talking to doubters?
REP. DANA ROHRABACHER (R), CALIFORNIA: Well, he was powerful and irrefutable. This was a very powerful message. This gave credence to this effort.
But I will tell you that there are some people who will never be convinced no matter what the United States is trying to do they have an inclination against the use of force and that's fine especially if it's caused on moral grounds that they are opposed to force.
But when you live in a real world with people like Saddam Hussein and who have -- who bear a blood grudge against the United States, if, as we found out on 9/11, unless we prevent them from having nuclear weapons and chemical and biological weapons, it puts our country at great risk. This president's doing what's necessary for our security.
CARLSON: Congressman Kucinich, we learned today in Secretary Powell's speech that Saddam Hussein has weapons of mass destruction and that containment, the policy of the past dozen-odd years, has not prevented him from keeping them or developing more. In light of that what do we do next this?
REP. DENNIS KUCINICH (D), OHIO: Well, first of all, Secretary Powell himself said with respect to chemical weapons, what we don't have is evidence from Iraq, that they've been destroyed or where they are. And we have to realize also that he doesn't have nuclear weapons. The CIA itself has said it'd be ten years away.
So, there's still question, and the obvious answer is more inspections. Inspections worked for seven years. We had a situation where Saddam with all his cat and mouse games was overcome by the inspectors.
The truth is it can be done again, otherwise we're going to be looking at not only war in Iraq, but maybe war in some of the other states that also have weapons of mass destruction.
BEGALA: Let me come back to Congressman Rohrabacher. I am one of those people that you mentioned a moment ago who thinks we ought to fight a war in a real war. My question is why Iraq instead of against al Qaeda? It seem to me, you mentioned September 11, we'll never forget that date, but Iraq had nothing to do with September 11, nor did North Korea or any other number other potential enemies. Why are we being distracted from a war against al Qaeda by going to war against Iraq?
ROHRABACHER: We;;, that because you're using the wrong language. You're calling it a war. There's nobody proposing war. War's when we make war on the Iraqi people. We are going -- what we are doing is we're...
ROHRABACHER: The same thing we did in Afghanistan in liberating those people from the Taliban, the president of the United States is leading us in an effort to along with the people of Iraq, liberate themselves from this monster. And the reason we're doing that and not just attacking every dictatorship in the world is this monster has a blood grudge against us and we know if he gets his hands on the chemical, biological weapons which we believe he has, he will be transmitting them to people who are willing to use them against the United States.
So again, we're not talking about going to war. And if it was -- all right. We'd have to think about it. When we go to Iraq, if we do, those people would be throwing flowers and waving American flags. And by the way, let me put it this way, the best possible thing is for them, and the president has suggested this, to take care of the problem before America has to act. And if they do that...
ROHRABACHER: ... if they do that, those people who were opposing us right now will be responsible for advocating the policy that would have kept Saddam Hussein in power.
BEGALA: (UNINTELLIGIBLE), go ahead, Congressman Kucinich. KUCINICH: First of all, Dana, you're a good friend, but I really disagree with you on this. I think we have to ask what the threshold for war is. That threshold has not been met. There ought to be an imminent threat to the United States.
Secretary Powell did not demonstrate that. He demonstrated there's reasons for inspections. If we are in a position where we are going to commit 300,000 of our -- the treasury of our country, young men and women into battle, we better have a good reason that the United States is at risk. And they haen't done that. The administration has not made that case.
CARLSON: Wait a second. Mr. Kucinich, hold on. But you said a second ago that inspections worked during the 1990s, and yet we learned this week that during the 1990s, during those very inspections that you are alluding that Iraq sent members of its secret police to Afghanistan to train members of al Qaeda in using chemical weapons. So by what measure did inspections work and why do you think they would work again to prevent that kind of activity?
KUCINICH: Inspections worked for a seven-year period. And we also know -- look, we don't trust Saddam Hussein. There's no reason to trust Saddam Hussein. But we know that the inspectors in the last time we went around over a seven-year period, they didn't trust them either, and they tracked down most of Iraq's weapons and they think the rest of it was bombed out in the war.
ROHRABACHER: That was not indicated by the facts at all.
KUCINICH: But it is.
ROHRABACHER: We have lists of massive stores of chemical and biological weapons, and it has not been accounted for. Now that's what we ask him to do. If Saddam Hussein wants to make sure that his country is not under this type of pressure, all he has to do is give us a list of what -- of how he disposed of the anthrax and the other chemical, biological weapons that he had. No, we haven't got that list and he didn't tell the inspectors.
KUCINICH: Dana, I think there's an inspection process that's needed. But if the measure of going after a country is that they have weapons of mass destruction and we don't like their leaders, there are 17 nations that either have or are capable of possessing nuclear weapons, 20 nations that either have or are capable of possessing biological weapons, 26 with chemical weapons, 17 with missile technologies. Are we going to wage war all around the world when we don't like their leaders? That's what we're looking at here.
ROHRABACHER: None of them has a blood grudge against the United States.
KUCINICH: I mean look at North Korea. What would you do with North Korea, Dana?
ROHRABACHER: Let me tell you something. This monster, Saddam Hussein, has a blood grudge against us and this is the bottom line. The president has made the demand, and if we back down because there are some people who out of moral reasons will find every reason never to act, if that's the kind of leadership we end up with and we back down there will be no respect for the United States by any of those dictators in the world. And we'll have 10 times as much of a threat a few years down the road.
KUCINICH: Dana, here's the letter the CIA sent to Bob Graham on October 9, and they said -- here's a quote from the letter from the CIA to the head person of intelligence in the Senate then. "Baghdad, for now, appears to be drawing a line short of conducting terrorist attacks with conventional or chemical and biological weapons against the United States." That was the CIA saying that. Nothing that was given today in any way contradicts that.
ROHRABACHER: Seems to. The operating words are "seems to."
KUCINICH: Then you know what he said? Then he said, what happens if the United States attacks Iraq? And then the CIA turned around and said, well, look, there's a pretty good chance.
ROHRABACHER: Yes. Well if the United States attacks Iraq, that means we're liberating that country from Saddam Hussein.
KUCINICH: Liberating with what, nuclear weapons?
ROHRABACHER: No, no.
KUCINICH: With 8,000 rockets? Please.
ROHRABACHER: Did we do that in Afghanistan? In Afghanistan, the people welcomed us as liberators, they'll do the same in Iraq.
KUCINICH: There is no reason for war here, Dana.
BEGALA: Hold that thought, Congressman Rohrabacher. Hold that thought, Congressman Kucinich. We love having you; we love this debate.
We have to take a break, though. Please keep your seats. Keep that energy, but we'll have to come right back to you in a minute. And when we do, we will ask our guests about new reports on CNN of an increased threat of another terrorist attack against America.
Later, why has the media become so cowed by the Bush White House and the right wing kooks? An author will tell us why in a minute. Stay with us.
BEGALA: Welcome back to CROSSFIRE. U.S. counterterrorism officials tell CNN that they believe terrorists may use the potential war with Iraq as a pretext to launch a new attack here on American soil. Is the Iraq threat the right one to deal with first? We are debating that with Ohio Congressman Dennis Kucinich -- he's a Democrat. And California Congressman, Republican Dana Rohrabacher.
CARLSON: Congressman Kucinich, you said just a second ago that the United States can't run around the world waging war on countries when it doesn't like their leaders. That's almost exactly what you said, as if this whole enterprise is frivolous, like we're going after Saddam because we don't like the way he dresses or he's got bad table manners or something.
KUCINICH: Are you saying it's now about regime change?
CARLSON: Well hold on. I'm saying it's precisely about regime change. And I'm saying you voted for regime change twice. Once in 1997, when you voted for a war crimes tribunal to try Saddam Hussein for war crimes, and again in 1998 with the Iraq Liberation Act, for which you voted, according to records (ph).
KUCINICH: It's one thing for making a foreign leader accountable. It's another thing to wage war upon his people.
CARLSON: Accountable? No, no. You're calling him a war criminal. In 1997 you called him a war criminal. And...
KUCINICH: Thanks for establishing he's not one of my favorites.
CARLSON: No. No. But my question to you is what in the last six years has changed so dramatically? Now that we have more evidence than ever that he's a monster, that now you're saying, no, he should have another chance. I'm missing something.
KUCINICH: I'm not saying Saddam Hussein deserves another chance. I'm saying that before we commit 300,000 troops and put our men and women at risk in the field, before we put millions of innocent Iraqis at risk, before we start talking about using nuclear weapons against Iraq, and before we go into the shock and awe defense strategy which involves the launch of 8,000 missiles in two days on Baghdad, I would think we should stop, go forward -- stop war and go forward with inspections.
Inspections have worked before. We need to contain Hussein. We don't like him. Let's contain him. We don't have to punish the people in Iraq because they have a leader who is unacceptable to the rest of the world.
BEGALA: Congressman Rohrabach, let me...
BEGALA: Excuse me, Congressman. Let me pay you, Congressman Rohrabacher, the compliment of having examined your record, as well. I'm sorry, but you said something in the "Dallas Morning News" in October 2001 that I could not have agreed with more. I cheered when I read it.
Here's what you said back in October 2001, Congressman Rohrabacher. "The Taliban have to go. Bin Laden has to be killed or our fight against terrorism will not be taken seriously."
CNN is reporting tonight, Congressman, that terrorist threats here at home are increasing. Those threats are from al Qaeda and not from Iraq. Why are we distracting ourselves from the real fight. You said we wouldn't be credible until we killed bin Laden. Let's go kill bin Laden.
ROHRABACHER: Well, let me be very frank. I just came back -- not just -- I was there a few weeks ago; I was in Afghanistan. It has been a tremendous victory. None of the woes that people predicted happened. Instead, the people joined us and helped liberate themselves from their tormentors. I believe that there's -- the probability is, is that bin Laden is in a thousand pieces up on the Tora Bora plateau.
BEGALA: But al Qaeda is -- sorry to cut you off -- but al Qaeda is reconstituting. Why aren't we launching 8,000 missiles against al Qaeda camps? They tell us from the press that they're in Yemen, they're in Iran, they're in Pakistan. They're in lots of countries but not Iraq. Why aren't we going after them?
ROHRABACHER: Listen, there have been numerous and many victories over this last year against al Qaeda, but the president is absolutely right in utilizing this now -- this willingness of the American people to make the tough decisions that need to be made, to move against Saddam Hussein and free the people of Iraq from this monster, because he poses a threat to us.
He has a blood grudge against us and we can't permit him to have chemical and biological weapons. Or the next time we have a September 11, it's not going to be just 3,000 people. It will be 300,000 people.
KUCINICH: Well if we could use diplomacy with North Korea, we could sure use it with Iraq.
CARLSON: But Mr. Kucinich, we're running out of time. But quickly, you said a minute ago -- and I think you were right -- that if we do wage a war against Iraq, Iraqi civilians will die. That's a sad thing. But don't you think the Iraqi people would be better off without Saddam Hussein as their leader, and don't you think they'd welcome the liberation of their country from his rule?
KUCINICH: I think what we need to do is use diplomacy. We don't need to avoid war. We don't need to wage war against the people of Iraq. That one plan that's been talked about, the shock and awe plan, could result in the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Iraqi citizens.
They don't like Saddam Hussein, but why should we punish them with a war? We need to work through the United Nations, continue the inspections, the inspections have worked in the past. We need to avoid war.
War will damage our country's reputation. It will ruin our economy, and it will put the United States in a position where we're expected to be the policemen of the world. That's not what America's been about in our history. We are not supposed to be the police.
CARLSON: Well unfortunately we're out of time. And when we come back, Mr. Kucinich, we'll ask you what you really think. Kind of draw you out a little bit.
We appreciate you coming, Dana Rohrabacher. Thank you very much.
BEGALA: Thank you, guys. Great job.
CARLSON: One of our Canadian viewers was listening to Colin Powell today. Reaction from north of the border is coming up later in the "Fireback" segment. But next: a man who claims the myth of the liberal media is just that. Has the press become right wing? That's the claim. We'll debate it. We'll be right back.
BEGALA: Welcome back to CROSSFIRE on a night I bet you're glad you paid the cable bill. The debate's been that good tonight. We're going to keep it coming. We are live, of course, from the George Washington University here in downtown Washington, D.C., home of the Colonials.
During the Clinton administration, it was part of the right wing's mantra to chant and whine endlessly about the supposedly biased liberal media. But a new book argues that the facts state just the opposite. The book is called "What Liberal Media? The Truth About Bias in the News."
The author is Eric Alterman. He says the media have grown increasingly cowed by false complaints of liberal base, and hence, progressively more sympathetic to the most outlandish conservative complaints. Eric Alterman steps into the CROSSFIRE tonight with Brent Bozell, the president of the Media Research Center, the conservative watchdog group.
CARLSON: All right. Eric Alterman, let me say, there are some honest parts in your book. Right at the very beginning.
ERIC ALTERMAN, AUTHOR, "WHAT LIBERAL MEDIA?": I spelled your name right, Tucker. Didn't I?
CARLSON: You did. All 12 times. ALTERMAN: Well you say a lot of silly things.
CARLSON: And so do you. But let's start with the one honest thing you say. At the very beginning on page 20 you admit what all of us who work in the press know, and that is that most reporters are liberal. You concede that most of them voted for Clinton you think.
"The vast majority are pro-choice, pro-gun control, pro separation of church and state, pro-feminism, pro affirmative action, and supportive of gay rights." It kind of cuts against your argument, doesn't it?
ALTERMAN: Well, socially liberal, yes. Economically conservative. And the fact is that, while I admit and agree that most elite reporters are socially liberal, it's not up to reporters what gets on the news, Tucker. Do you think that the owners of most corporations that own media corporations are liberal?
CARLSON: Actually, having worked in media corporations and grown up around the, for one, and worked in them all my adult life, I can tell you, as I think you already know, most reporters don't take orders from the owners of their companies. Most reporters don't know who the owners of their companies are and have zero contact with them. So that's not a plausible claim.
ALTERMAN: Well, Tucker, who hires the pundits, who hirs the people that determine the agenda? Why is it that virtually all of the people that appear on network television as pundits are conservatives, not liberals?
CARLSON: Well I'll tell you why. Because the talent pool -- there are only two that I know of -- good liberals and they work on the show. It's a tiny talent pool.
BEGALA: Let me move this, Brent, into the realm of quantitative data. First off, congratulations, Eric. I think it's a terrific book.
ALTERMAN: Thank you.
BEGALA: And it inspired me and actually Josh Cowan (ph), who is this very able research man on our staff, to punch up a couple of stories to just look at the 2000 campaign and how the media covered Mr. Bush and Mr. Gore. And we contrasted different negative stories about the two men. Take a look. We'll put it up here.
There were 1,282 stories about Al Gore going to a Buddhist temple. Bad story for Gore. There were 10 stories about Dick Cheney selling oilfield equipment to Saddam Hussein in Iraq, to Momar Kadafi in Libya and to the Ayatollah in Iran. There were 817 stories about Al Gore claiming he invented the Internet.
BRENT BOZELL, PRESIDENT, MEDIA RESEARCH CENTER: Which he never claimed. BEGALA: Which he never claimed. Fourteen stories about George W. Bush avoiding service in the National Guard. There were 263 stories about Al Gore wearing earth-tone clothes. Not the most important thing in the world. But only 12 about George W. Bush allegedly committing insider trading at his oil company. Tell me again about the liberal media, because it cracks me up, man.
BOZELL: Let me stop you right now. Let me ask you a question. In that very last point you made, allegedly with insider trading.
BEGALA: Because his daddy found him not guilty. He ran the SEC. His father said, oh, we'll drop everything. That's why...
BOZELL: Did George Bush, this president, commit insider trading?
BEGALA: I said he was investigated for it. He won't release the records.
BOZELL: Is there evidence that he did it? Stop accusing this man of doing things he didn't do.
BEGALA: I said...
BOZELL: You don't have the evidence. The problem is -- the media are not. I will grant you this, most reporters are not as liberal as you or you. Now, that does not make them conservative. The reality is...
BEGALA: How do you explain the disparity (UNINTELLIGIBLE), Brent?
BOZELL: I can give you thousands...
BEGALA: Give me one.
BOZELL: I can give you thousands of examples of anything we've ever put out, where no one has ever refuted the evidence we've put out. I don't believe -- Paul, I'm sorry, I don't believe what you and your researcher put on the table. I don't believe it. I don't believe what you and the political operative put out.
BEGALA: Does anybody here think there are more stories about Dick Cheney selling oilfield equipment to Iran than Al Gore in earth tones? Does anybody think? Apparently not.
CARLSON: Of all the explanations you have and evidence you provide that the press is secretly right wing, this has to be my favorite.
ALTERMAN: It's no secret. CARLSON: I read your Web site and I pulled this off your site this very morning.
ALTERMAN: It's called altercation.
CARLSON: I guess dot-com. If you have a 1-800 number I'll throw it out there. "The problem with self-flagellation in the face of an ignorant and dishonest conservative offensive has grown much worst over the past decade."
Your evidence? "When I originally published "Sound and the Fury" -- an earlier book -- "as a relative unknown in 1992, I was invited on "The Tonight Show," "The Today Show," "Nightline," "All Things Considered," "Fresh Air," "C-Span's Book Notes," et cetera. The book was even excerpted in the women's fashion magazine, "Mirabella."
Now your evidence is that you haven't -- the "Miraella" (UNINTELLIGIBLE), but you haven't been on television enough for this book. Therefore the press is right wing.
ALTERMAN: Tucker, two things. First of all, this is the problem with the conservative onslaught. A, I didn't right the "Sound and the Fury," William Faulkner did. I wrote a book called "Sound & Fury," which actually is an accurate rendering of the Shakespeare (UNINTELLIGIBLE), not Faulkner's.
ALTERMAN: Second, you left out the introduction to what I said. That's not a direct quote. It is a direct quote, but it has an ellipsis in it. I said I'm not one to believe in single anecdotes as evidence of anything. I said if you take my example -- and then I took myself out of it and I made the larger case about a media that takes people like Anne Coulter and Bernard Goldberg seriously, is evidence that the most ridiculous conservative arguments can be...
CARLSON: But the flip side here is...
ALTERMAN: Tucker, my point...
CARLSON: You're saying, I'm being discriminated against.
ALTERMAN: No, I'm not. What I'm saying is that the media is somehow more receptive to someone like Anne Coulter -- who I admit is very good looking; I used to work with her -- but whose book is a travesty and a shame.
CARLSON: Maybe she had better arguments than you do.
ALTERMAN: Well, no, Tucker, I have evidence. I have 30 or 40 pages of footnotes which you can check. She's got nothing but nonsense. Bernard Goldberg doesn't even have evidence. He doesn't believe in it. And yet these books are embraced by the media because they attack the media, and I think it's evidence of self-flagellation.
BOZELL: I'm confused. Today, we are talking about this onslaught, this vast right wing onslaught. Just a few years ago it was a quiet conspiracy. What which one is it?
ALTERMAN: I never use the word "conspiracy."
BOZELL: But you did.
BEGALA: No I didn't. It's not conspiracy. Conspiracy, Brent, suggests it's hidden. It's very overt.
BOZELL: Then why were you guys talking about a vast right wing conspiracy?
ALTERMAN: Why am I being held responsible for what Hillary Clinton said?
BEGALA: Because they hate Hillary and they bring her up in every argument.
ALTERMAN: Wasn't there another word for that, McCarthyism?
BOZELL: Oh my goodness.
BEGALA: Brent, let's take a look at another story from this week. OK. The day that our president was traveling to Houston, where he spoke wonderfully at that memorial service for the astronauts on Columbia, I believe it was "The New York Times" that wrote that Mr. Bush had never visited Johnson Space Center in Houston.
As somebody who grew up outside of Houston I found that odd. I know that he flew fighter jets right next door, he lived in Houston. He was the governor. It's one of the largest employers in his state.
Well apparently the White House staff didn't like it either and they pushed back very hard. And they said, no, the president went there in 1995 or 1996. It turns out that's not true. He never has been.
Now that's not very important, but there were 10 stories about that. Ten in the whole wide world. It never went on CNN, except for me, never went on any other TV network that I saw. But when Al Gore said he went to Texas with the director of FEMA instead of the assistant director, who he actually met with there, there were 139 stories about that. Now why is a simple misstatement by Mr. Gore a major news story for several days after the debates, why is a minor misstatement from our president not a story at all?
BOZELL: Because George Bush does not have a reputation for lying, Al Gore did. And why is that?
BEGALA: The majority of the American people...
CARLSON: Because there was a campaign going on, is the real answer.
BEGALA: No, you're right. He said there was a campaign going on and the Republican campaign was more effective at cowering the media.
CARLSON: I don't want to put words in your mouth. I'll just ask you a simple question. Do you believe that this conspiracy -- or call it what you will -- these right wing forces in the press helped lose the election for Al Gore?
ALTERMAN: Yes, absolutely. But it's not about right wing. In the case of Al Gore, it's about the media for some reason -- or for reasons that we all probably understand -- hating Al Gore. It wasn't political, it was personal.
CARLSON: We're almost out of time. But in one sentence, tell us what those reasons were. I'm interested.
ALTERMAN: I wrote a 336-page book. I can't do things in one sentence.
CARLSON: Well maybe that's -- yes. Well thanks very much for joining us.
BEGALA: It is a terrific book, though.
CARLSON: We are completely out of time.
CARLSON: That's right. Thank you both very much for joining us, Brent Bozell. Eric Alterman, thank you.
CARLSON: One of our viewers has been observing the slant in the press. We'll let him fire back at us next. We'll be right back.
CARLSON: Welcome back. It's time for our "Fireback" segment, when we throw open the doors and invite you in. And you come.
First up: Joshua Lovell (ph) from Kitchener, Ontario -- that would be in Canada -- writes, "Until today I was inclined to dismiss most of the accusations against Iraq as your typical American trigger happiness. Colin Powell has convinced me, though, that a failure on Canada's part to support a military resolution would not only be irresponsible, but inhumane. Negligence in this case would be fatal.
Paul, I think we brought the Canadians around.
BEGALA: I know you like to bang on the Canadians.
CARLSON: I like the Canadians, in spite of themselves.
BEGALA: I will say, I remain a skeptic, but I do think our secretary of state did a terrific job today. It was a very impressive presentation.
Pete from Chandler, Arizona says, "The slant of the media, especially talk radio, has tilted to the right, which hasn't had a new idea since the Reagan administration." No it's actually the Hoover administration. "But the difference between then and now is Reagan didn't have to go to war. Diplomacy worked."
Well he did attack Grenada or something, didn't he?
CARLSON: He won the Cold War, yes. Something minor like that.
BEGALA: But JFK had nothing to do with it.
CARLSON: Jeremy Rose from Kingwood, Texas, "Do we have to pass a law stating that breaking the law is against the law? The U.N. seems content to do just that."
Ask the people of Rwanda, Cambodia. Yes, that's absolutely right. Good for you, Jeremy Rose.
BEGALA: The question is, what do we do? I am persuaded that he violated these resolutions. The question is, is that worth Americans going to war?
"I am neither Republican nor Democrat," writes Jerry Sullivan in Houston, "but I do enjoy your CROSSFIRE show with Paul's bashing from the left, Tucker's ludicrous ties and his ludicrous use of the word "ludicrous."
Those are fine ties.
CARLSON: That's ludicrous, Jerry. OK -- yes?
BEGALA: Yes ma'am?
KATHERINE ANDER: Hi. I'm Katherine Ander (ph) from Logan, Utah. And my question is, does the left have any solution to the crisis in Iraq besides opposing Bush?
BEGALA: Yes. Containment worked against the Soviet Union. Tucker just made reference to them. It took us 70 years. It won't take us 70 years with Saddam Hussein. The question is, he's had these weapons for 20 years, he's never used them against us. Why go to war now when we ought to be going to war against al Qaeda.
CARLSON: And he's been developing them in a time he was supposedly contained. There's the lesson -- yes.
RACHEL SHERMAN: Hi. I'm Rachel Sherman (ph) from Raleigh, North Carolina. And speaking about credibility, would President Bush have any credibility if he didn't follow through with his pledge to disarm Saddam Hussein? CARLSON: No. And that's an excellent, excellent question. And it points out the fact that the stakes are high at this point. And once you make threats you do have to follow through with them if you're a super power.
BEGALA: I think you're right, and it's very important. And I think it's why experienced hands like Secretary Eagleburger did not like how Dick Cheney, he said, but also I think our president began with this bellicose verbiage that makes it difficult to do anything except go to war. You make a very good point.
CARLSON: But the argument that somehow the aesthetics of it are off and he didn't speak in the proper way, avoids the question.
BEGALA: And when our president commits us to war and then tries to figure out the case, that's doing it bass ackwards, as we would say back in Texas.
From the left I am Paul Begala. Goodnight for CROSSFIRE.
CARLSON: And from the right, I'm Tucker Carlson. Join us again tomorrow night for yet more CROSSFIRE.
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to U.N.; Interview With Eric Alterman, Brent Bozell>