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CNN CROSSFIRE

Interview With Author Lawrence Kaplan; Jesica Santillan's Mother Claims Doctors Would Have Let Her Daughter Die if it Weren't For Media Attention

Aired February 20, 2003 - 19:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)
ANNOUNCER: CROSSFIRE. On the left, James Carville and Paul Begala. On the right, Robert Novak and Tucker Carlson.

In the CROSSFIRE tonight: is war with Iraq inevitable?

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: By spending enough to win a war, we may not have a war at all.

ANNOUNCER: Tonight, the effects and some of the root causes of the mess in the Middle East.

COLIN POWELL, SECRETARY OF STATE: We present our case, we don't threaten. We don't suggest that blackmail is in order.

ANNOUNCER: It's the oil capital of the world and was the home of most of the hijackers. Is Saudi Arabia America's friend or foe?

And after one life-threatening mistake and two heart-lung transplants, is it time to call the lawyers or place caps on legal liability?

Tonight on CROSSFIRE.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

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

PAUL BEGALA, CO-HOST: Hello, everybody. Welcome to CROSSFIRE. Tonight, a guest who accuses our very own lovable Bob Novak of contributing to toxic talk about a possible war with Iraq. Since when is legitimate debate toxic? We will find out soon.

Also, a brave girl gets a second chance after a botched heart- lung transplant. Why does President Bush want to limit what she could recover for all of her pain and suffering?

But first, the best political briefing anywhere in television, the "CROSSFIRE Political Alert."

President Bush has offered Turkey $26 billion in aid in return for the right to station troops in that country. The Turks want $30 billion, Jordan has asked for a billion dollars as well, Egypt, which all ready receives billions of taxpayer's money, wants more, too. And of course there's Israel, our one reliable ally in the region. It needs assistance to defend herself.

Of course, none of these billions are in Mr. Bush's budget, nor is the cost of a war in Iraq or the cost of rebuilding Iraq. But don't worry, Mr. Bush will send you the bill soon enough.

My question is not just offer Saddam Hussein the $50 billion to get the hell out of Baghdad and be done with it?

ROBERT NOVAK, CO-HOST: You know, Paul, I would be upset by that if I thought you were serious, but I know you're just kidding around because this is a serious business and money is going to be spent as you we try to make our fighting men as women as safe as possible if they go in harm's way.

BEGALA: And I think that's important, but he should budget it. He be honest with us about how much...

NOVAK: No war is ever budgeted in advance. You can tell me any war that's ever budgeted in advance, I'll give you a free dinner.

BEGALA: I'll look it up.

NOVAK: President Bush was in Georgia boosting his tax cut plan. Introducing the president was a state's most popular politician, Senator Zell Miller who happens to be a Democrat. Said Senator Miller, "Every new day that I watch our president in action, my respect grows and my support gets stronger."

When Miller co-sponsored the first Bush tax cut, his former campaign consultant, somebody named James Carville, asked for and received in return of Carville's $1,000 campaign contribution to Miller. Now what's James going to do this time? Ask Zell to pay him $1,000?

BEGALA: Look, I love Zell Miller, as you know. He is dear friend of mine. I worked for him for many years. And, you know, President Bush I didn't think even had the right to stand on stage with Zell Miller. Zell Miller's a man who led the fight in Georgia to take the racist symbol off of that state flag. President Bush today refused to take a position on whether Georgia should have a racist symbol on its flag. And it's shameful.

NOVAK: You're avoiding the question because Zell Miller, unlike you and James, is not blinded by partisanship and he says this is a good man and a good president and I'm for him. And I give Zell Miller credit.

BEGALA: I think he's a good man and a rotten president, but I love Zell Miller.

Well, while President Bush was in Georgia today stumping for his tax cuts for the rich, the government reported that the number of newly-laid off Americans each reached a seven-week high today. Another new report out today says the trade deficit is the largest in American history. And today's inflation report reflects the biggest increase in 13 years. Moreover, the Index of Leading Economic Indicators came out today. It is flat, which means recovery is not exactly around the corner.

Two million Americans in all have lost their jobs under President Bush t. Looks like they won't be getting their jobs back until George W. Bush loses his.

NOVAK: And that's exactly -- that's exactly what your strategy and what your tactics are, Paul. You want to try to drive the president out of office by a trumped up recession which doesn't exist.

BEGALA: He created the recession, not me, I'm just describing. Those are five reports out today from the government, from private sector economists. All of them say the government's -- the economy's in the tank because of Bush.

NOVAK: No economist has said we for recession right now and you know that.

BEGALA: I said we're in the tank.

Senator John McCain, who used to be the Democrats' favorite Republican, let Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton have it this week. "I have just two words," he told the two former presidents, "shut up." The senator complained that carter and Clinton don't follow the presidential code of not critiquing their successors in the White House.

McCain just doesn't understand. By violating the code, Carter won the Nobel Peace Prize and Clinton is pulling in big bucks on the lecture circuit. Why should they care about tradition?

BEGALA: Well, first off tradition honored in the breech. President Bush Senior frequently criticized President Clinton as well. And I say if Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton are trying to keep us out of Bush's unnecessary war, God bless Jimmy Carter, God bless Bill Clinton.

NOVAK: I don't know which is most obnoxious to me, Jimmy Carter getting the Nobel Peace Prize or Bill Clinton getting a million dollars for a speech.

BEGALA: He earns every penny of it.

Well if President Bush is going to war, he's going in style. Our president, who pretends to be a man of the people when he's out in his multimillion ranch, is reported to be fond of Oxford suits which range from between $2,000 to $14,000 a piece. The conservative British newspaper, "The Sun" also reports that Mr. Bush favors expensive Italian shoes made by Vito Artiloi which cost $1,000 a pair. "The Sun" says that Saddam Hussein also wears Vito Artiloi shoes.

Now, the White House vigorously denies that Mr. Bush wears the same shoes as Saddam, but then again, O.J. Simpson denied wearing expensive Italian shoes, too.

NOVAK: Now the latest that's -- of course, what you're doing all of the time, Paul, is having a nonstop attack on George W. Bush...

BEGALA: That's right.

NOVAK: ... which doesn't work. He's very popular. But before he was a Texas rube, and now he is an Italian sophisticate. Whatever works, isn't that what you're doing?

BEGALA: At $15,000 for a suit, it's kind of a lot, Bob. You've got to admit.

NOVAK: While other Democratic politicians attack President Bush for cutting taxes, New Mexico's newly-elected Governor Bill Richardson is making his state the first to cut income taxes. Said Richardson, "I want to get the word out that New Mexico is serious about attracting new business and high-wage jobs."

High-wage jobs. He knows what he's doing. Bill Richardson has been a congressman, U.S. ambassador to the U.N., U.S. secretary of the energy and, most important, a sometime CROSSFIRE host on the left. He's a possible vice presidential nominee in 2004, but he looks good to me for the top of the Democratic ballot as a tax cutter.

BEGALA: That's the kiss of death for Bill Richardson. I love Governor Richardson. I was about to say Bill, but he's a governor now and I should be respectful with that title.

NOVAK: Just as respectful as you are to Bush?

BEGALA: He's a wonderful guy, but I'm curious about the new Republican governor in Georgia. His third day in office he asked for a half a billion dollars in new taxes and Bush went down there and stumped with him today.

NOVAK: He may not get it though. I give Bill Richardson credit, but the only thing is they've a lot of bad taxes in New Mexico to cut and that's unfortunate because they've had so many bad Democratic governors in the past.

BEGALA: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) going up in Georgia with the new Republican governor.

NOVAK: Does questioning U.S. policy on Iraq automatically make you anti-Israel? Ahead in the CROSSFIRE, the man who is accusing people, including me, of what he calls toxic talk.

But first, we'll listen to some pretty unflattering opinions about another vital U.S. ally in the Middle East.

And now the doctors in North Carolina have saved a teenage girl's life. Do we really need to send in the trial lawyers?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BEGALA: Welcome back to CROSSFIRE.

When President Bush declared war on terrorism after September 11 he told the nations of the world quote, "you're either with us or against us."

So what are we to think about a nation that was home to 15 of the 19 hijackers, that may have been the incubator for radical Islam, and where some members of the ruling elite are suspected of contributing money to international terrorism?

In short, is the kingdom of Saudi Arabia, our friend or foe? Stepping into the CROSSFIRE, former Israeli ambassador to the United States, Dore Gold. He's the author of the book, "Hatred's Kingdom: How Saudi Arabia Supports the New Global Terrorism."

And in New York is Richard Murphy, former U.S. ambassador to Saudi Arabia, now with the Council on Foreign Relations.

NOVAK: Ambassador, in your being book, I think on page two, you quoted an unnamed former Iran corporation analyst giving a briefing to the Defense Policy Board saying Saudi Arabia is our enemy. And let me give you the name of the person, which you didn't mentioned. He's a little bit notorious. I guess you didn't want to mention him, Laurent Murawiec.

And here's what he said. We'll put it on the screen.

"Saudi Arabia supports our enemies and attacks our allies."

Do you agree with that?

DORE GOLD, FORMER ISRAELI AMBASSADOR TO THE UNITED NATIONS: Well, as you know, Mr. Novak, when you write a book you bring in introductory material the various issues that are related to by various authors on a particular subject and I cited, of course, the Iran study.

But what I tried to do was go one step further, not just have secondary material, but the actual documents to show the link.

NOVAK: Do you agree with the statement though?

GOLD: That's for you to judge, whether Saudi Arabia is an ally or enemy of the United States.

Saudi Arabia supports terrorism, that's documented in "Hatred's Kingdom."

NOVAK: Well, how could you possibly say that, that they support our enemies and or that even -- entertain that thought, when you may not be aware of the fact that Saudi Arabia has agreed to everything the United States has asked, that airpower for the coming attack on Iraq will be based on Saudi Arabia and that the United States is fully satisfied with that.

Are you aware of those facts? GOLD: Well, I'm also aware of a new air base that was built in Qatar because of the problems of deploying in Saudi Arabia, but that's not really the point. Whether you have AWACS or F-16s...

NOVAK: That's not the point?

GOLD: No. Whether you have AWACS or F-16s deployed in Saudi Arabia, the question is is Saudi Arabia at the same time playing the double game with you? Are they funding terrorist organizations like Hamas?

In "Hatred's Kingdom," that funding is documented for the first time.

BEGALA: In fact, Mr. Ambassador Murphy, let me bring you into this as well.

In Ambassador Gold's book, there is a good deal of documentation. Let me read to you a passage from it.

Ambassador Gold writes,"High-level U.S. intelligence officials became convinced that Saudi Arabia had struck a deal with Osama bin Laden. Dick Gannon, who served as director of operations for the State Department's Office of Counterterrorism, observed in October of 1998, less than three months after leaving his post, --quote -- 'We've got information about who's backing bin Laden and, in a lot of cases, it goes back to the royal family."

Does Saudi Arabia's royal family back Osama bin Laden, Mr. Ambassador?

RICHARD MURPHY, FORMER U.S. AMBASSADOR TO SAUDI ARABIA: Look, the Saudi Arabian royal family is not a monolithic body. You've got to start with 7, 000 princes. Are there some bad apples in the lot? Very likely. Does the Saudi Arabian royal family as an institution support bin Laden? Absolutely not, because they're first on his hit- list.

BEGALA: Well, but with respect, there are hundreds of members of Congress in America who helped to rule us and if any one of them stood up in support of Osama bin Laden, we consider that, even a member of Congress, to be an enemy of the United States. So I guess you are confirming that there are members of the royal family in Saudi Arabia who support a man who murdered 3,000 Americans.

MURPHY: Well, there may be, but, you know, I spent five, six days in Saudi Arabia this January, just a month and a bit ago and I went with two principal concerns, because I've been hearing for the last several months about the money trail, how they were doing nothing to cooperate and about their educational system, how it was producing hatred-filled students.

And I must say, I came away encouraged on both counts.

NOVAK: And as we go, I want to read from your book.

GOLD: Please.

NOVAK: "The Saudi regime has been a key backer of Wahtuabisms international terror network. Indeed, Saudi Arabia, supposedly an ally of the United States, emerges as a key to the new global terrorism, for the Saudi kingdom has not prepared not only the ideology that motivates terrorists, but also manpower and seemingly endless supplies of money for terror operations."

Now isn't it a fact, that as Ambassador Murphy said, that this terror network, one of its first goals, is to bring down the present Saudi regime?

GOLD: Well, you know, if you carefully examine the statements of Osama bin Laden, what you find is by the mid 1990s, he stops naming King Fahd, Prince Sultan and Prince Naef the -- part of the Sudari Seven as potential targets or as objects of criticism. All of a sudden that vanishes and he begins to speak about the West.

And then it is in the latter part of the 1990s that al Qaeda operations focused specifically on American targets, your east African embassies in Tanzania and Kenya, the attack on the USS Cole in Yemen and finally, September 11.

But let me add one point that I think is very important, because it relates to this program, this television show. On August 16 of last year, probably in the seat that I'm sitting in, Adel Juber appeared before both of you gentlemen...

BEGALA: A spokesman for the government of Saudi Arabia.

GOLD: He is the foreign policy adviser of Crown Prince Abdullah. I took the text of what he said from the Web site of the royal embassy of Saudi Arabia in the city in Washington, D.C. In it Mr. Juber made two assertions that I'm quoting from a previous CROSSFIRE.

"We do not allow funding to go from Saudi Arabia to Hamas. We have done everything we can try to clamp down on any money going to any evildoer, including Hamas."

Well, lo and behold, Israeli forces found checks written to Hamas charities. Moreover...

NOVAK: From whom? By whom?

GOLD: This is from the corporate account of Al Raji (ph) Banking and Investment. I'm sure Ambassador Murphy knows who they are. That is the corporate account of Al Raji Banking and Investment in Chase Manhattan Bank.

NOVAK: You want to respond to that?

BEGALA: Ambassador Murphy?

MURPHY: You know, of course, there's a big difference between Israeli outlook on Hamas and Saudi outlooks. They do not regard Hamas as a terrorist organization and that's where the paths diverge in analysis from the beginning.

(CROSSTALK)

BEGALA: But with all due respect, Mr. Ambassador, our government, in the United States of America, does. Hamas is a terrorist organization.

How is a terrorist organizations to America and Saudis are supporting --- I think it's plainly a terrorist organization in Hamas, right?

MURPHY: Well, as you know, they see it as a resistance organization. It's an old dispute between us, between the Americans and the Saudis.

GOLD: But Adel Juber, Ambassador Murphy, said on this program that Hamas is an evildoer and they don't support Hamas.

Now add one other point. In October of 2002, that's just a few months ago, one of the heads of Hamas, (UNINTELLIGIBLE), was invited to Riyadh to the conference of the World Association of Muslim Youth, WAMY, a conference under the sponsorship of Crown Prince Abdullah and one of the heads of Hamas had a personal four-eyes meeting with Crown Prince Abdullah.

We know that because we obtained the transcript in the Gaza strip when Israeli forces when in to the headquarters of the Preventive Security Organization. That transcript an that material is in Arabic and English in "Hatred's Kingdom" for anyone to read.

NOVAK: All right. We're going to have to take a break and when we come back, after Israel, you saved the lives of the government in Saudi Arabia. Who in the Arab world is next?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

NOVAK: Today's latest from the Iraqi war zone, the Bush administration has backed away from a firm deadline for Turkey to say whether U.S. troops can use Turkish military bases to prepare for war with Iraq. They were hoping for a response by today.

We're talking with former Israeli ambassador to the U.N., Dore Gold and from New York, former U.S. Ambassador to Saudi Arabia, Richard Murphy.

BEGALA: Ambassador Murphy, I want to ask you if the United States needs to revisit its relationship with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, based on Saudi Arabia's support for terrorism. On a reach of what are president said, when you met with Crown Prince Abdullah at her ranch in Crawford last April. He said there's a shared vision between the Saudis and the U.S. And as to how to achieve that vision, it's something we must consult with our friends and that's what this meeting was about. He went on to say the crown prince was a man who has a farm and he understands the land. And I really took great delight in being able to drive around in the pickup truck showing him the trees and my favorite spots. And we saw a wild turkey which was good.

With respect, Mr. Ambassador, shouldn't our president mention the 3,000 Americans murdered by Saudis or the human rights violation in Saudi Arabia or the support for Hamas and other terrorist organization by Saudi Arabia.

MURPHY: Let's spent a minute on the 15 out of 19 hijackers. When you ask any Saudi about this, they say, you know, this was the cleverest thing Osama bin Laden has done. He picked those 15 out of 19 and why? Because his goal is to split the U.S. from the Saudis, get the American military out of the kingdom. Diminish the U.S. role in the kingdom. And when that happens, the royal family will fall like an overripe fruit and my people will take over.

NOVAK: Ambassador Gold, after the United States urged on by your prime minister, changes regime in Iraq and then you move on with that oil (UNINTELLIGIBLE) to put the pressure Saudi Arabia, which Arab state is next in your plan to revise the political map of the Middle East toward Israeli specifications?

GOLD: Mr. Novak, the state of Israel has nothing to do with years of Saddam Hussein's violation of U.N. Security Council resolutions adopted by the consensus of international community. My country has absolutely nothing to do with the fact that Saddam Hussein has butchered his own people, has threatened Iran, has threatened Kuwait and invaded Kuwait and in fact, is violating the most severe resolutions of the U.N. Security Council under chapter 7 of the U.N. charter. That has as much to do with Israel as apples have to do with oranges.

The fact of the matter is, in my book, I don't recommend a regime change in Saudi Arabia. I don't recommend tossing out the royal family. I don't recommend Americans invading the oil fields. I do recommend that you hold Saudi Arabia to a standard that you have set. No one can support terrorism today. After 9/11, this is not a debating point. These are human lives that are at stake. Lives of Israelis, and lives of American citizens.

BEGALA: Ambassador Murphy, are we enforcing the Bush doctrine, that we won't tolerate the resistance to terrorism (UNINTELLIGIBLE) Saudi Arabia?

MURPHY: I came away from the visit to Riyadh somewhat encouraged, because I asked particularly about the money situation and the money trail, and what I learned was that that the crown prince has taken the position, we've got poor people in this country and the charitable foundations organized in Saudi Arabia, should be devoting the money to the poor people inside Saudi Arabia. And if the money has to go outside, it has to be coordinated by the government.

They, in effect, admit that they were careless about the charitable foundations of the past. They didn't examine them. But now any money that goes outside this, is what they say, Israel will be following this, U.S. intelligence will be following this, they say that it has to be cleared through the foreign ministry. And the best news I came away with was that permission is not going to be given. NOVAK: I just wanted to ask, if I could, Ambassador Gold, little on Israeli intentions, surely, sir, you're not denying that Prime Minister Sharon has come in closed-door meetings months ago with members of the Senate and said that it is essential to change regime in Iraq. And it's the best way to do to combat the Palestinian terrorists, it's a change that you see in Baghdad.

You're not denying he told that to U.S. Senators?

GOLD: I'm denying that that is the Israeli agenda. And I am denying he in fact said that. What I will say to you -- what I will say to you is that the issue of Iraq has very little to do with Israel. This is an issue of the U.N. Security Council, of the community of nations who set a standard of dozens of resolutions on this issue, and Iraq has systematically violated them.

You can have your David Kay. You can have your Richard Butler, the former heads of UNSCOM and they will tell you of those violations that have zero to do with Israel. But I will say this, the Saudis do present a better picture. They have many PR firms who work for them. Who are very active in the city. We know, for example, that Mr. Jabbar and the Saudi Embassy in Washington put out a report in early December, stating that, ever since 9/11, Saudi Arabia has nothing to do with suspected groups. Yet, as I told you, they invited one of the heads of Hamas to Riyadh. He's photographed by the Associated Press. They are involved with Hamas. They're involved to international terrorism. And they have to put it to an end.

NOVAK: That's the last word.

Ambassador Gold, thank you very much.

Ambassador Murphy, thank you.

Was questioning U.S. policy on Iraq automatically make you anti- Israel?

Next in the CROSSFIRE, the man who's accusing people, including me, of what he calls toxic talk.

Later, a woman gets a new chance at life. Does have to mean the trial lawyers get a new chance at the people who saved her.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BEGALA: Welcome back to CROSSFIRE. A "Washington Post" op-ed this week blasted some of this country's leading conservatives, including our own humble and lovable Bob Novak, for what the writer called toxic talk about a possible war with Iraq.

"From the musty precincts of the Old Right, the contention that Israel and a powerful 'cabal' of its American supporters have manufactured the present crisis with Iraq has become canonical."

Tonight, the man who wrote those words, "New Republic" senior editor, Lawrence Kaplan. He steps into the CROSSFIRE to defend his views and to take on Bob Novak. His new book (UNINTELLIGIBLE) is called "The War Over Iraq."

(APPLAUSE)

NOVAK: Mr. Kaplan, one of the unfortunate things about public life in America is that anybody who criticizes Israel in any way gets attacked on grounds of being not only anti-Israel, but anti-Jewish. And I was getting that kind of abuse, sir, before you were born. But I would say that you have added -- to use one of your favorite words -- a new toxic quality to this discord.

Now I just want to quote from "The Washington Post" editorial. We'll put it on the screen. "Does all this add up to an echo of Charles Lindbergh's charge that the clamor to wage war against Hitler was being stirred by the British, the Jewish and the Roosevelt administration? Not necessarily."

That's like saying, is this man a communist? Not necessarily. Isn't that really disgraceful to put people like Georgie Ann Geyer and me in the same class with Charles Lindbergh?

LAWRENCE KAPLAN, "NEW REPUBLIC": Bob, I'll tell you what I think is disgraceful. It's alleging that a cabal of members of the Bush team is doing Israel's bidding, and that but for their jewishness and their support for Israel, they would not be a supported a war for Iraq. I think you're calling the question the integrity, not the substance of their arguments. And in doing so, you are making a real fallacy.

You're saying because they are pro Israel and because they want to go to war with Iraq, they want to go to war with Iraq because they are pro-Israel. And that is not necessarily the case. These people are pro war. We both know for reasons that go well beyond Israel.

NOVAK: Well you just repeated something you had in your op-ed, which I'll read. "The problem is that they are toxic." Talking about me and my colleagues in journalism. "Invoking the specter of dual loyalty to quite criticism and debate amounts to more than the everyday pollution of public discourse. It is the nullification for public discourse, for how can one refute accusations grounded in ethnicity?"

"The charges are ipso facto, impossible to disprove. And so they are meant to be." Mr. Kaplan, on national television I want you to tell me where I have ever raised the question of dual citizenship, where I have ever said that this was a Jewish plot in the administration, when I talk about Dick Cheney who is not Jewish, when I talk about Don Rumsfeld, who is not Jewish, when I talk about Condoleezza Rice, who is not Jewish. This is the kind of smear job that the friends of Israel have been putting out for 60 years.

KAPLAN: Bob, let me tell you -- that's really good. First of all, about the friends of Israel, I'm not the one who went fishing for motives here. You did. And you assumed that, but for their support for Israel...

NOVAK: When did I ever mention jewishness? KAPLAN: You called your op-ed about Bush's pro-Israel cabinet supporting -- you called the Sharon's war. You said this war is Israel's...

NOVAK: Where have I ever mentioned jewishness by the part of any of the people who are in league with Sharon?

KAPLAN: Bob, you are one of the many...

NOVAK: Name one.

KAPLAN: ... many writers in my op-ed. Others accuse this and said the war is a product of Jewish-American hysteria.

NOVAK: That's a smear, Mr. Kaplan. You should be ashamed of yourself, because you can't name one instance, can you, when I've done that, when I've talked about dual citizenship?

KAPLAN: Bob, I didn't use the word "anti-Semitism" in this piece.

NOVAK: You implied it.

KAPLAN: You said they're doing Israel's bidding. And these officials are American, they're doing America's bidding. They are not acting in Israel's national interest.

NOVAK: But you mentioned dual citizenship that was raised, and I have never raised that. Can you admit that on television that I have never raised that...

KAPLAN: I'm not familiar with the catalogue of your writing.

(CROSSTALK)

NOVAK: But you just (UNINTELLIGIBLE).

BEGALA: Mr. Kaplan, let me -- I am not very familiar with the catalog of (UNINTELLIGIBLE) either, but you've got a new book out. It's making the case for a war in iraq. And it does so as many advocates of the war do, I think, without the slightest sense that it just might be that you're wrong.

And let me, in fact, give you a couple of comments from some people who think you are very wrong. General Joseph Hoar, a man with much greater military experience than you or I, had this to say: "I'm sometimes concerned that the neo-conservatives in Washington are very quick to play the military card."

And General Anthony Zinni, who ran the Central Command, which includes Iraq, said this: "It's pretty interesting that all the generals see it the same way, and all the others who have never fired a shot are hot to go to war. They see it another way."

What makes you think you know more than those generals? KAPLAN: It's incredible. Both of you -- one of you comes from the right, one comes from the left, but you both end up in the same place. And that's just generating excuses for inaction against Saddam Hussein.

BEGALA: I oppose war. I am for containment.

KAPLAN: So does Bob.

BEGALA: Right.

KAPLAN: So, I'm sorry, where is it written that the military has the final say? We have civilian control in this country. Civilian policymakers make our military policy, and I'm glad that's the case. Generals do not always know the political sphere best, and that is as it should be.

BEGALA: Right. Tell me the civilian experience on which you draw as a diplomat or as a civilian leader in the Defense Department or...

KAPLAN: I'm sorry, were you president? And yet you sit here commenting on presidential affairs.

BEGALA: I was an advisor to the president of the United States and I ran a presidential campaign. Yes, I know something about...

KAPLAN: I'm not a diplomat. I am a foreign affairs writer, and I don't pretend to be anything else.

BEGALA: So you're not worried about the (UNINTELLIGIBLE) of people that say -- leading generals retired, experts in the field, spent their entire career risking their lives so that guys like you and I can run our mouths on television. And you're not at all concerned that maybe -- just maybe they're right and you're wrong?

KAPLAN: Well, first of all, there are many generals who actually support this war. And among them, one who is -- a few who were in the Bush administration and left. And, second of all, do you really want generals to be running this country's foreign policy?

To be sure, they have a say. But the ultimate decision lies with the commander in chief, who is the president and, who, by this Constitution, is empowered to make decisions. So the power of the military and for national security policy lies with the civilians that control military.

(APPLAUSE)

BEGALA: That will have to be the last word. Thank you very much, Lawrence Kaplan, author of "The War Over Iraq."

A little bit later in "Fireback," we will hear from a viewer who didn't very much like what I had to say about Rush Limbaugh last night. He's not going to like what I say tonight any better, believe me. But next: an update on that teenage girl who had the wrong heart and lungs transplanted into her body. She's back in surgery today and we'll let you know how she's doing. You are watching CROSSFIRE on CNN, the most trusted name in news.

(APPLAUSE)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BEGALA: Welcome back to CROSSFIRE. We are coming to you live from the George Washington University in downtown Washington, D.C.

Doctors tried for hours today to correct a horrible mistake; a botched organ transplant. Seventeen-year-old Jesica Santillan was given a new heart and lungs with the wrong blood type. It almost killed her. Today, though, she got another transplant and perhaps a chance to live.

CNN medical correspondent Elizabeth Cohen joins us now from Durham, North Carolina. Elizabeth, what's the latest?

ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, the latest is that the Duke surgeons say that Jesica Santillan, that her surgery went well. Her heart and lungs are working and they say it went as well as can be expected.

The family says that she is on dialysis and also a respirator.

COHEN: We lost Elizabeth right now, but in a minute we will ask our CNN legal analyst, Jeffrey Toobin, about the legal fallout of this transplant story. Will medical centers be afraid to save lives because it's too expensive? Stay tuned.

(APPLAUSE)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

NOVAK: The doctors who performed the transplant operation on the girl in North Carolina were described as devastated when they found out the girl had been given incompatible organs. But now that surgeons have transplanted a matching set of heart and lungs, and hopefully saved the girl's life, they still stand to be devastated financially, thanks to the trial lawyers.

In the CROSSFIRE from New York is CNN legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin.

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Hey, Bob.

BEGALA: Jeffrey, thank you for joining us. If you can hang on with us just a minute, though, we have re-established our satellite link-up with Elizabeth Cohen, who is in Durham, North Carolina. So Jeffrey, keep your seat.

And we're going to ask Elizabeth Cohen now to give us the update. I'm sorry we lost you a moment ago due to technical difficulties. Elizabeth, what is the latest on little Jesica?

COHEN: The latest on Jesica is that the surgery went well. Her heart and lungs are working and she is not on life support. The family says that she is on dialysis for her kidneys and that she is also on a respirator. However, they said that that would be expected after a surgery like this.

Now she only has a 50-50 chance of making it through the next year. This is a very inusual operation and a very tough one. I mean this girl was born with a heart defect. She withstood one operation; she withstood two weeks of living with the wrong organs that her body was trying to reject. And now she's withstood the second operation.

The family, as you can imagine, is not very happy with Duke right now. They say they're grateful that they're trying to save her life, but a family friend says that the Duke administration has been, "piranhas." That was the word that he used.

And the mother says that she thinks Duke would have "let her baby die," as she put it, if the media had not been on the case. So there is just a huge amount of antagonism here.

Duke says that they're not piranhas, and they say that they've done everything to save her life once they realized that the mistake was made. Back to you.

BEGALA: Elizabeth Cohen, thank you very much from Durham.

And now to Jeffrey Toobin, CNN legal analyst. Jeffrey, it seems to me this is -- when the doctors get finished when we call in the lawyers. And it calls to mind President Bush's request that Congress limit the amount of pain and suffering that a little girl like Jesica can recover to $250,000, which works out to less than George Bush earns in eight months. Why should we cap the suffering that little girl's going through?

TOOBIN: Well, to put this in some context, around the country you have an open rebellion on the part of doctors whose medical insurance against malpractice has really crippled their practices. You've had virtual strikes in New Jersey and Pennsylvania and West Virginia. And the big dollars, the way doctors and hospitals lose big judgments, it's because of big awards and pain and suffering. And that's where the desire to cap the awards comes from.

NOVAK: You know Duke University has a good reputation. Everybody makes mistakes. Even CNN makes mistakes. We lost Elizabeth Cohen for a minute there.

And I just smell -- I hate to say this, but I just smell the sign of her relatives are building up for pain and suffering to get a killing, to get not $250,000, but millions of dollars for this. I mean, isn't that what this is about?

TOOBIN: Well, certainly it could be about that. But the whole idea of a torte system, of medical malpractice is that you want to create incentives for good care. And this does seem to me, as a non- doctor, as a pretty basic mistake that was made here. And maybe $250,000 is not really enough for a lifetime of suffering.

If, in fact, a mistake by a doctor creates a problem like this, you can see why jurors sometimes do award this kind of money. It's not -- jurors are not necessarily just crazy when they award this money.

NOVAK: But how can you define it, when in fact if no mistake had been made, there was no sign that this girl would have lived more than a year, anyway, it seems that this is really playing god, isn't it Jeffrey?

TOOBIN: Well, not necessarily. I mean I think the standard of negligence law usually is reasonable care. And I think, if the surgery had simply not gone well, if she was too sick and she died, I think it is unlikely there would have been any lawsuit. But here you have the kind of mistake that is so basic and so obvious that you can see why the legal system might say, look, we are willing to accept some risks, but not this kind of risk.

You don't want walk into an operation like this thinking your arm is going to be cut off. You don't walk in to an operation like this thinking that they're going to give you organs with the wrong blood type.

BEGALA: And, in fact, Jeffrey, our president has used the phrase repeatedly, lottery. The litigation lottery, he calls it. And it seems to me a remarkably callous way to talk about people who have had the wrong limb chopped off, or like this little girl, the wrong organs, the wrong blood type inserted into her chest.

I just think that certainly as a political matter, the president risks losing some of that image of being a compassionate guy when he mocks people who have been the victim of this kind of damage.

TOOBIN: Well, I'm not sure he's taking such a great risk when he's got -- like he has so many of the nation's doctors on his side. I mean there is a real liability crisis in the country. I mean this is not an invented situation.

You have many very, very good doctors who are saying, we simply can't function under these conditions. So it's not entirely a question of being unsympathetic to victims. It's a system that just simply isn't working at this point.

BEGALA: Well isn't it a question of hypocrisy, when George Bush became president because he filed a lawsuit, and now he doesn't want to let this little girl's parents file a lawsuit?

TOOBIN: Now you're really in my territory here.

NOVAK: That's ridiculous.

TOOBIN: Well I really think that is sort of apples and oranges, Paul.

NOVAK: It's just ridiculous. BEGALA: No, it's hypocrisy.

NOVAK: Jeffrey, it's the kind of stuff I have to hear every night that I'm on here with Paul. And it's just baloney. Let me say this, isn't there a question of whether -- how do you measure pain and suffering for young people? I mean I would guess her family would not make $250,000 in five years, at the most. I mean, the idea that they had to have millions of dollars for this, what is the measurement of that?

TOOBIN: Well, that's why we have juries. And, in fact, juries are a very conservative idea, Bob? Fundamentally it's the voice of the people. It's the voice of the community speaking. And the jury gets to decide what suffering is worth, and suffering is worth something.

I mean if someone is in a wheelchair unjustifiably for 10 years, for 20 years, you could see the costs there. And you could see a dollar value being assigned to that. So I think it's not simply crazy to let juries decide. Often they come to very reasonable conclusions.

BEGALA: And, Jeffrey Toobin, always very reasonable. Thank you for joining us here on CROSSFIRE tonight. Jeffrey Toobin, ladies and gentlemen.

(APPLAUSE)

BEGALA: Well one of our viewers is ready to operate on the president's plan to cap malpractice awards. We will let him fire back next. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BEGALA: Welcome back to CROSSFIRE. Time now for "Fireback." We've gotten lots of viewer feedback about this case of poor Jesica Santillan and President Bush's request to limit the damages that people like Jesica can recover.

Patrick Joseph in Columbus, Ohio writes, "Do you know if the Duke University Hospital offers stock? If President Bush gets his medical malpractice reforms passed, sign me up. They screw up a million- dollar organ transplant and the most they would pay is $250,000. What a deal."

Patrick, good point.

NOVAK: You know Duke University Hospital is very well respected. I don't like their basketball team, but they have a very good hospital.

The next is from Caren of Silsbee, Texas. "Under the Republican health care plan, there will be a cap on lawsuits. Will $250,000 be enough to cover the expenses of the family of the young lady who got the wrong transplant if she survives?"

Caren, like a lot of people, you don't understand what this is about. This is not expenses. This is pain and suffering over and above expenses. All expenses are paid.

BEGALA: No. You're right about that. The question is, should king George decide that her pain is only worth $250 grand instead of a jury?

NOVAK: It isn't a question of covering expenses.

BEGALA: We agree on that.

NOVAK: All right.

BEGALA: Chris Ruggierio in Philadelphia writes -- I made a comment last night about Rush Limbaugh, who is on obscure radio. I think he's on AM radio. "Mr. Begala, your behavior at the end of last night's show was, to put it gently, disgusting. You called Rush Limbaugh a fat idiot. Please grow up and learn some manners. You do yourself and your party a disservice with the type of behavior you displayed last night."

Chris, for the record, I called him a fathead and a lard butt, and I think a lard ass and a fat ass, but I don't think I called him an idiot. But if you'd like, I will.

NOVAK: He's lost a lot of weight.

BEGALA: He has lost a lot of weight. He's gotten control of what goes into his mouth, but not what comes out of his mouth.

NOVAK: Finally, Skip Hunter of New York City says, "Bob, what do you have against trial lawyers? Without them and labor unions, what would you beat up the Democratic Party about?"

Skip, plenty. Environmental extremists, pro-abortion people, feminists, and most of all, people who want to control the economy of the countries for big government -- question.

BEGALA: Yes, ma'am. What's your hometown and your name?

JULIE: My name is Julie (ph). I'm from Portland, Oregon. And my question is, if we don't set limits on medical liability, how are we going to deal with the thousands of people that no longer have access to care because their doctors can't afford to practice medicine?

NOVAK: You got that right. I always liked Oregon.

(APPLAUSE)

BEGALA: Actually, you have it completely wrong. The reason that insurance rates are going up, doctors all of a sudden didn't become bad doctors, and juries didn't all of a sudden go crazy. Insurance companies lost a lot of money in the stock market and they're trying to gouge decent doctors to recover for their bad investments. That's what's going on here.

NOVAK: That's a trial lawyer's spin -- question. ASHISH: Ashish (ph), Chicago, Illinois. Should the United States try to promote democracy in Saudi Arabia?

BEGALA: Yes.

NOVAK: No. I'll tell you something. Most of the countries in the world are not as well run as ours. You think ours is badly run, go around the world. I don't think we can be the nanny for the entire world or the policemen for the world.

BEGALA: We should stand for freedom in America and in Saudi Arabia. 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.

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Mother Claims Doctors Would Have Let Her Daughter Die if it Weren't For Media Attention>


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