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Is the White House Really Working With To The World?; Is Bush Listening to Governors of the 50 States?

Aired February 24, 2003 - 19:00   ET


ANNOUNCER: CROSSFIRE. On the left, Paul Begala and James Carville. On the right, Robert Novak and Tucker Carlson.
In the CROSSFIRE tonight...


GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I've come to the conclusion the risk of doing nothing far exceeds the risk of working with the world to disarm Saddam Hussein.


ANNOUNCER: Is the Bush administration really working with or even listening to the world?


HANS BLIX, CHIEF U.N. WEAPONS INSPECTOR: I think we have said that we -- there are things we can do, sanctions, inspections.


ANNOUNCER: Plus, from Medicaid to education to tax cuts. How much is the president working with or listening to the governors of the 50 states?

Plus, what she has to do with "Our Picture of the Day." Tonight on CROSSFIRE.

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

ROBERT NOVAK, CO-HOST: Welcome to CROSSFIRE. Tonight, the Bush administration wants the U.N. to tell Iraq the game is over. We'll ask former U.N. Ambassador Bill Richardson how much longer the international games can go on. And since he is now the governor of New Mexico, and a Democrat, we'll also ask Bill Richardson about begging for money from Washington.

But first, the part of our program we can't get along without, the "CROSSFIRE Political Alert."

President Bush challenged the U.N. to adopt a new resolution authorizing force against Iraq if Saddam Hussein does not disarm. The president said there is very little hope of avoiding war. The Iraqi dictator was also warned by a prominent Democrat who had voted against the war resolution. Senator Carl Levin of Michigan, top Democrat on the Senate Armed Services Committee, returned from the Middle East praising 170,000 U.S. ground, naval and air troops ready for action. The senator said of Saddam, "he will not survive the use of force against him."

PAUL BEGALA, CO-HOST: Well, I think Senator Levin is certainly right. I hope it doesn't come to it. I think it probably will. The question is and what I want to ask these congressmen when they come out later is what happens next? We'll win the war quite easily. How are we going to win the peace? That's what I want to know from these guys.

The Florida professor now under indictment for being a terrorist leader was in a White House meeting with a top Bush aide in June of 2001. Professor Sami Al-Arian has also been chummy with George W. Bush himself. Recently -- actually, during the campaign we saw the alleged terrorist and his family hanging out with Mr. Bush.

Now, Saturday's "Washington Post" played the story on page A-10. But during the Clinton administration, "The Post" gave page one play to people who slipped through the cracks in the screening process. Many of them, of course, had no business being in the White House. None of them, of course, were under investigation for terrorism. The difference, bias. "The Post" is as strong in its support of Bush's war in Iraq as it was in opposition to Bill Clinton's presidency. Next time you hear about the liberal media, you tell them about that one. Liberal media, my aunt Fanny.

NOVAK: Paul, it is not a matter of bias. It is a matter of credibility. You see, when a mistake is made by the Bush people, people talk it up as an honest mistake. But they think that when the scumbags get into the Clinton White House, they were there because Bill Clinton wanted them there.

BEGALA: See, there is the bias. That's the bias right here. That's the bias.

NOVAK: The Executive Committee of the National Governor's Association killed a resolution putting the governors on record against President Bush's tax cuts. That proposal was prepared by the association's left wing staff, and killing it prevented a walkout today by GOP governors walking out from the midwinter meeting in Washington. Two Republican governors, Rick Perry of Texas and Linda Lingle of Hawaii are quitting the association anyway, and Florida's Jeb Bush has stopped paying dues. "The Washington Times" reports that the association's new chairman, Idaho's Republican Governor Dirk Kempthorne is going to clean the liberals out of the staff and it is about time.

BEGALA: So the National Governor's Association is go going to lose a couple of light weights like Rick Perry of my home state of Texas. He didn't want to come here because they debate too many big words, like deficits, which he's got in Texas, or revenue, which Bush is choking off. It's pathetic.

NOVAK: You know, the National Governor's Association is not supposed to be a Democratic instrument or a left wing pressure group. They're supposed to discuss problems and not pass resolution attacking President Bush. You couldn't understand that.

BEGALA: President Bush is attacking (ph) our economy policy, it's attacking the states, and the governors ought to speak about it.

Well, one of President Bush's favorite fibs -- there are so many -- is that he doesn't follow polls and focus groups. He said last week about the massive protests against his Iraq policy, quote, "size of protest is like deciding, well, I'm going decide policy based upon a focus group." But Mr. Bush spent over $1 million on polls and focus groups last year. His closest White House aide is a political consultant. Bob Woodward has written that Mr. Bush is preoccupied with war policy polls. And even a loyal Republican, former senator, Alan Simpson told "The New York Times" yesterday, quote, "they do as much polling as the Clinton administration. I used to think they didn't, but they do." As we say in Texas, Mr. Bush, don't pee on my boots and tell me it's raining.

NOVAK: You know, Paul, you know, it is very interesting. You hit the trifecta tonight on the "Political Alert." All three political alerts attack George W. Bush. You try to do that every night. Some nights you don't do it. But it is amusing to me that something in which George W. Bush resembles your hero, Bill Clinton, you attack him for.

BEGALA: No, Bill Clinton lied about sex, not about polling. Bush lies to the American people about whether he's even doing polls. Why not just not -- just tell the truth? There is nothing wrong with doing a poll.

NOVAK: Thanks to ace "New York Post" reporter Deborah Orrin (ph), we learned that Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York believes political charity begins at home. She has the biggest political action committee of any Democrat in Congress, HillPAC, it's called, spending $33 million last year. But get this, only 31 percent of the funds went to Democratic candidates around the country. Almost 70 percent went to her own staff -- office, travel, direct mail, consultants. The Clinton political machine preparing a future national campaign. Now, since Bill isn't eligible for president, Hillary clearly has her eyes on the White House.

BEGALA: Let me correct one typo. It was actually $3.3 million that she's raised, but she's raised it from supporters, not from the taxpayers. God bless her. If that many people like me love and support Hillary, by God, send more money to HillPAC so she can do more good for the American people.

NOVAK: No, that's not the point. The point is, she wasn't even running for anything, she kept 70 percent, only gave 30 percent to other candidates. That's the selfishness of the Clintons.

BEGALA: It's not sticking the taxpayers for her political funds, you know, the way President Bush does. Again, Bush's got his top political consultant on the payroll, and I'm paying his salary. At least Hillary is paying her own people.

Well, Helen Thomas is a legend. She's the dean of the White House press corps, and she's known and covered every American president since John F. Kennedy. In a candid moment, Ms. Thomas spoke a powerful truth. "George W. Bush," she said, "is the worst president in all of American history." Given how Mr. Bush has squandered the surplus, trashed the economy and is now hurdling toward a war that is unpopular, unjust, unwise and unwarranted, I think I see Helen's point. Now, the GOP has moved into smear mode. The Republican National Committee urging is faithful to, quote, "call her out," unquote, which apparently means harassing Helen by e-mail, and phone, and fax. I guess nothing makes a Republican feel better than beating up on an 82-year-old woman.

NOVAK: You know, I'll tell you, Paul, Helen Thomas is a friend of mine. She's in my age bracket, I must say, but let me tell you this, when a person who has covered the White House for all those years, supposed to be objective, for a wire service, when she suddenly comes out as a columnist and turns into a screaming left winger, I'm kind of worried about it.

BEGALA: I think she's still reporting the facts when she said Bush is a terrible president. And they should not be harassing her for speaking her mind. It's still America. By God, the First Amendment still applies.

In a minute, we'll be joined by this country's former ambassador to the United Nations, Bill Richardson. We'll ask him if the Security Council is headed for a crisis because of the Bush Iraq policy.

Later, a couple of members of Congress will debate whether Capitol Hill is ready to give out the president a blank check for war on Iraq and for whatever comes next. Stay with us.


BEGALA: Welcome back to CROSSFIRE. The United States wants the U.N. Security Council to pass a resolution declaring that Iraq has failed to take the final opportunity to disarm. But the French, the Germans and Russians aren't buying it. They've come up with a competing proposal that outlines a step by step disarmament of Iraq.

Stepping into the CROSSFIRE to discuss the split in the Security Council, former U.S. ambassador to the U.N., Bill Richardson. He is now the governor of New Mexico.

Governor, good seeing you.


NOVAK: Governor Richardson, people on both sides of the aisle were afraid the president was going to order an attack months ago against Iraq, very happy that he went to the U.N. He's gone through the regular order on everything. Got a unanimous vote the first time. They're not obeying the resolution.

Surely unless you're a very partisan Democrat, you can't criticize him or fault him for his conduct in using the U.N. in this procedure, can you?

RICHARDSON: No. I think the president deserves credit. The fact that he went and got a first U.N. resolution, passed unanimously, 1441. And now that's going to a second one, under very tough odds, it is going to be tough for him to get it. I think in the end he will.

But he deserves credit for going to the U.N. and it is in our interests. We want international support for our action, with NATO, with the third world, and certainly in the Security Council.

NOVAK: Sir, I agree. I think he's going to get it, too. But let's just hypothesize that perhaps he doesn't get it, doesn't get the resolution. Do you think that really would prevent the United States from taking military action against Iraq?

RICHARDSON: Well, I was in a meeting with the president this morning with a bunch of governors. I think he's pretty much decided he's going to go.

I think it is important that we get a favorable vote. I think it is doable. If we don't get it, and we don't get approval, and we do go, we're going to lose some international prestige. We're going to lose international support. We're going to, I think, throw into question the United Nations, the Security Council. I think the United Nations is going to be tagged, if it doesn't respond...

NOVAK: League of Nations.

RICHARDSON: ... with Saddam Hussein who right now is not following up on destroying the missiles and allowing the Iraqi scientists to be interviewed and the Iraqi reconnaissance flights. It's going to be pressure on both sides.

But I think by a narrow margin, 9-6 vote, think I France will abstain, Russia will abstain. This is where the ten other countries of the Security Council that are not -- that are not permanent members are going to make the decision.

BEGALA: Well, let's go through those countries. We've listed them up here. This is based on our own reporting.

NOVAK: This is not a government document.

BEGALA: this is not a government document. Obviously the U.S., the U.K., Spain and might Bulgaria, they've lined up with us. The nos seem to be pretty serious countries here, some big countries. France, Russia, China, Germany, Syria and Mexico.

And that leaves these guys in the middle here, Pakistan and Chile, Angola, Cameroon and Guinea. We've got to get every single one of these maybe to get to nine, right?

RICHARDSON: That's right. And...

BEGALA: Who do we get and how?

RICHARDSON: Well, there's going to be a lot of horse trading. This is when countries come up to you and say, well, Mr. Ambassador, we'd like a presidential visit.

BEGALA: Right.

RICHARDSON: Or we'd like to be invited to the White House. We want an aid package.

BEGALA: but if your strategizing for him, Mr. Ambassador, I know you're governor now...

RICHARDSON: Well, what I would do...

BEGALA: ... seriously, take the pen who can you move over to the yes column (UNINTELLIGIBLE)?

RICHARDSON: I can move Mexico over by possibly offering some kind of immigration agreement. I think Syria's gone. I think you try to get Germany to abstain. China will abstain if Russia and France abstain. So you offer these three an arrangement where an exchange for abstaining they basically stay quiet. It means they won't help us in the coalition effort.

And then you get -- then you have nine votes. That's what you want. Cameroon hates France so you use that. Angola -- Angola, you know, we have a lot of energy interests. They sell us a lot of oil. Chile and Pakistan will take some persuading but I think we can get them.

NOVAK: Angola is a country we were fighting in a war for about 20 years there.

RICHARDSON: That's right.

NOVAK: That's what I thought.

Anyway, Governor, I'm a admirer of yours. And I really -- but I never thought you could turn Santa Fe, New Mexico in to a world capital bringing the North Koreans there to negotiate and so on. You know a lot about Korea.

And so I want to put up a statement about ten years ago from President Bill Clinton. We'll put it up. "North Korea cannot be allowed to develop a nuclear bomb. we have to be very firm about it."

He failed, didn't he? President Clinton failed.


RICHARDSON: You were U.N. ambassador then, too, and advising him. RICHARDSON: We failed a little bit. But we did get North Korea to curb their nuclear weapons development for several years. They did start violating the agreement a couple of years ago.

But here's a case, Bob, where I think with diplomacy, you can turn the North Koreans around. And I do think the Bush people are right, that you don't treat it as a crisis. It is a serious situation. But you talk to them face to face.

I did that several times. We got some American prisoners out, pilots. We negotiated an agreement with them. President Clinton and his people did it.

NOVAK: well, there's one other thing that is going on and that is that the new South Korean president seems to want us to get out of there. He just said the other day, "It is better to struggle than suffer deaths in a war. Koreans should stand together, although things will get difficult when the United States bosses us around."

Isn't that a complicating factor?

RICHARDSON: Well, he got elected, that new president on an anti- American platform. That doesn't mean we should leave. We should talk to him. We have 38,000 American troops. We have strategic interests in Asia and China. We want stability in that hemisphere. We care about human rights. But I think we've got to be a little more appreciated by our allies in South Korea.

BEGALA: And in fact, one of the reasons he won, the new President Roh, is he took an anti-Bush position. This is happening all around the world. The German chancellor got re-elected when he was a sure loser because he took an anti-Bush position. It's the only thing to do in a democracy around the world.

I think one of the reasons is that people in our fellow democracies, frankly, don't trust our credibility. And it is not just me. There's a guy who runs the -- a guy from the Carnegie Endowment said this to "The Washington Post" today. His name is Joseph Cirincione, he's the director of the Nonproliferation Project of Carnegie.

He said U.S. allies have been relieved when Bush appeared to embrace resolving the issue of Iraq through the U.N.last fall. "It now appears," he said, "to have been an elaborate con job. Other leaders feel manipulated and deceived."

Isn't that part of the problem around the world is they don't trust our president?

RICHARDSON: Well, there's no question that because we're the lone superpower and, you know, some of the statements by some of our secretaries of defense, calling Italy and Germany "Old Europe" and basically taking some shots at some of our allies is not helpful. There is no question we've suffered a loss of prestige.

But at the same time, I think it is very much worth it and I give credit to Colin Powell who I think is a voice of reason and really enormously competent, to try to keep the NATO alliance together to go back to the U.N., to get support for what we're doing.

Now it is not going to be a popular move. Wars are not popular. But it is an in our national interests to get the United Nations to pass a resolution. This'll be a close vote. To get it done and then to make the decision, based on what is the endgame.

The president, I think, has to go to the country to explain what we're doing in Iraq, why we should go in.

NOVAK: We're going have to take a break. In a minute, we'll ask Bill Richardson to put his governor's hat back on. We'll see whether he approves of the National Governor's Association turning into cheerleaders for the Democratic Party.

Later, does Congress think we need permission from the U.N. to go to war?


BEGALA: Welcome back to CROSSFIRE. The National Governor's Association is meeting here in Washington. A get together that always features a meeting with the president. This year's meeting comes during the worst fiscal crisis to face the states since the second World War. As governors struggle to pay for health care, education and criminal justice, while also improving homeland security, while they're getting very little from our president, except I guess "read my lip" service.

In the CROSSFIRE, New Mexico's governor, Democrat Bill Richardson.

NOVAK: Governor Richardson, I've always been a great admirer of yours. Your the only governor who's a former U.N. ambassador and the only governor who is a former host on CROSSFIRE, which is a greater distinction. So, I can't tell you how disappointed I was when I heard you on Saturday addressing the Democratic National Committee and with your tin cup out begging for federal money. And I'd like you to listen to what one of your Republican colleagues, Mike Huckabee of Arkansas, said at the National Governor's Association meeting today.


GOV. MIKE HUCKABEE (R), ARKANSAS: I don't think any of us would turn down additional assistance from the federal government. If they sent us a check, we're not going send it back and say gosh, thanks, but we really don't want it. But the fact is, we can't expect the federal government to provide for us all the resources that we need for issues that are clearly issues that the states have.


NOVAK: Isn't that true?

RICHARDSON: Mike is right. But my position and I think the governor's position, Republican and Democrat, is there has to be some cost sharing, Bob, when it comes to homeland security. Additional protection by fire and police, for a potential terrorist threat. That is new. We need resources and the Congress and the White House have given us zero, yet there could be terrorist threats out in the country. Education funds, the no child left behind. There has got to be a federal component. The federal government gives 8 percent on education. On Medicaid, I mean, you've got the swelling population...

NOVAK: You've got the tin cup out.

RICHARDSON: No, we're saying give us exemptions, federal government, give us flexibility, let us do partnerships, and cost share. That means, yes, I mean, the state, the condition of the states, if we want security internationally, we should provide economic security at home. And our people are hurting.

BEGALA: And what the president is saying don't worry, my tax cut is going to boost the economy. In fact, he said that today. Let me play you a piece of the speech that he gave to you and your fellow governors today. Here is our president today.


BUSH: As a matter of fact, the economists predicting the Blue Chip Forecast that the economy would grow at 3.3 percent if the Congress responded to a stimulus package. If it responded.


BEGALA: Now, the economists who put that out say that is not so. Here's the guy who runs the Blue Chip Economic Forecast, he told "Newsday," "I don't know what Bush is citing. I was little upset. It sounded like the Blue Chip Economic Forecast had endorsed the presidents plan. That's simply not the case."

Did you know when he was saying that he was fibbing a little?

RICHARDSON: Well, I've got to be a little (UNINTELLIGIBLE) here because in New Mexico, as a Democratic governor last week, I passed a tax cut. A tax cut...

BEGALA: But you told the truth about your tax cut, right?

RICHARDSON: It was to compete with our surrounding states. We reduced the personal income tax from 8 percent to 5 percent. Capital gains over five years over 4 percent. To make us more economically competitive because per capita, we're the poorest state in the union. So, my message here, Paul is that, I think Democrats and I'm a strong Democrat, but I don't like the class warfare arguments we make sometimes. Not you. Not you.

BEGALA: I make them, because I think the president is waging class war.

NOVAK: He makes them because he's a class warrior. But let me commend you for cutting the capital gains taxes, as it's really one of the great crimes against civilization that I've ever seen. Let me say that your campaign in the state to boost New Mexico has had commercials. And they have got a picture of you in western wear in Times Square.

Can we put that up, that picture?

Well, it is going take a second, they say. There it is. Look at that. Come visit New Mexico, the land of enchantment. Now, the Democratic governor calls this shameless self-promotion on your part.

How do you respond to that?

RICHARDSON: Totally false. You know, we're trying to boost our state, tourism wise, economically. I want to send a message to the country that New Mexico is open for business. We want a lot of people to visit. We're unique. You know, we were advertising on Times Square, sort of outside of the box to send this message. And some of my tourism people felt that I guess because of the North Korea talks and other reasons that -- and governors always advertise.

NOVAK: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) the Republican chairman says it is your campaign for vice president on the ticket in '04.

Is that correct?

RICHARDSON: No, I made four years as governor, run for re- election, no. I'm happy where I am. You guys in Washington can stay right here.

BEGALA: I'd love to see you run. Let me go on record. Who do you like in the candidacy for president, though in our party?

RICHARDSON: Staying loose right now. I think the field is not defined yet. We want to see them campaign more. I think we got too many people in the race.

NOVAK: I'm a Richardson man. That will probably kill you right there.

Thank you very much, Governor Bill Richardson.

RICHARDSON: Thank you.

NOVAK: There's still snow around. The terrorism alert is still on Orange. But Congress has returned to Washington. In a minute, we'll ask two members whether they're ready for war.


NOVAK: Welcome back to CROSSFIRE. We're coming to you live from the George Washington University in Foggy Bottom, D.C.

Members of Congress are getting back to town after a weeklong recess, and the nation is moving closer to war. Here to talk about the mood on Capitol Hill are two House members, Martin Frost, Democrat of Texas, and Jeff Flake, Republican of Arizona. (APPLAUSE)

BEGALA: Nice to see you. Thanks for coming. Good to see both of you.

REP. JEFF FLAKE (R), ARIZONA: Thank you. Good to be here.

BEGALA: As you were being introduced, CNN in my ear gave me some breaking news. Our reporter Rebecca MacKinnon has confirmed with sources in South Korea that North has just conducted a missile test. Now, Congressman, given the current turmoil in North Korea -- and there have been reports that North Korea is trying to perfect a missile that could reach the western shores of the United States -- which is the greatest and most imminent threat to our Security? North Korea, with its missile and nuclear program, Iraq, or al Qaeda terrorists?

FLAKE: Well, I say for the long term, North Korea is a vexing problem. And it is one that we have to deal with. But in order to deal with it effectively, we have to first deal with Iraq. If we go on and ignore Iraq, and go on and try to solve the North Korea problem, we just simply can't.

We won't have the credibility that we need to do so. And so it is first things first. And first is Iraq.

NOVAK: Do you have a comment on that?

REP. MARTIN FROST (D), TEXAS: Oh, I think we have to deal with both of them, Bob. But, clearly, long term, North Korea is more of a threat.

NOVAK: Congressman, there have been two events going on in this town this week in the last few days. They just finished a Democratic National Committee meeting, where it seemed like the all the Democrats there were attacking the president on his Iraq policy. And then at the National Governor's Association this morning, the president was there, and let's hear what the president said.


GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It's an interesting moment for the Security Council and the United Nations. It is a moment to determine for this body that we hope succeeds to determine whether or not it is going to be relevant.


NOVAK: Now the members of the Democratic National Committee vilely disagreed with that, but you're fair minded, patriotic American. What do you think of it, Mr. Frost?

FROST: Well, first of all, Bob, as you know, a number of the presidential candidates have appeared before the DNC. Not all of them disagree with the president. In fact, some of the presidential candidates do support his position, voted for the resolution authorizing the use of force, as I did in the House of Representatives.

I just hope the president is successful in marshalling international support. I think it is very important.

NOVAK: Can you be for that position and against -- and say the president is screwing it up? Can you have it both ways?

FROST: Bob, I think the problems I have with the president are primarily on domestic policy. I think he's made a mess out of the economy. And I want him to be successful on foreign policy. I hope he does a better job in the next couple of weeks of persuading our allies. We need that additional support.

BEGALA: Congressman Flake, let me play for you another quote from a speech by George W. Bush. This was actually in a debate when he was the governor of Texas seeking to become the president of the United States. He was asked, "When would you commit military force?" And here is what Governor Bush promised us as a candidate.


BUSH: I'm going to be judicious as to how to use the military. It needs to be in our vital interest. The mission needs to be clear, and the exit strategy obvious.


BEGALA: Congressman, what is our exit strategy?

FLAKE: Well, anybody who suggests that the president is rushing headlong into war is simply wrong. This September 11 brought a whole New world and the president is responding to that. I think he's done a masterful job and his team has done a masterful job.

As far as an exit strategy, we have to deal with the immediate first. And we're dealing with -- I mean the script isn't written here. This is a whole New world. I think he's doing the best he can, and it obviously involves long-term strategy in Iraq. And I think they'll lay that out soon.


BEGALA: So you now think it is wise to commit troops. In the campaign, the governor promised us he would not commit troops without an obvious exit strategy. You think it is OK, when he has not told us how long we're going to be there, what's it going to cost?

FLAKE: No. I think the exit strategy is clear that Iraq is disarmed. And when Iraq is disarmed, then we're clear to go.

FROST: Yes, I'd like to comment on that.


NOVAK: Go ahead. FROST: I supported what the president is doing in Iraq. I do think, however, that he has got to do a decent job of indicating to the American people what is going to happen when this is over. It is going to be very expensive. We need to know how long we think we're going to be there, and we need to pay for it.

The problem I have with what the president is doing right now is that we're running up the deficit, we're not demonstrating how we're going to pay for this long-term commitment. It's going to cost us billions and billions of dollars. Bob, you and I remember in 1968, when we paid a 10 percent one-time income tax surcharge to pay for the Vietnam War.

NOVAK: It was a mistake. It wrecked the economy.

FROST: I'm not suggesting an income tax surcharge now, but I'm suggesting that we need to pay for what we're doing. It is going to cost billions and billions of dollars, and the president needs to do that.


NOVAK: That did grave (UNINTELLIGIBLE) to the economy. Congressman Frost, I don't know if you got over to the DNC meeting, the Democratic National Committee meeting.

FROST: I didn't. I was in Texas, Bob.

NOVAK: But the hottest article there, the guy who wowed them, was the governor of the people's republic of Vermont -- former Governor Howard Dean. And I'm just going to read what he said. He said "What I want to know is why in the world the Democratic Party leadership is supporting the president's unilateral attack on Iraq."

And he just brought the house down when he said that. You got a problem in your party on this war issue, don't you?

FROST: Well, Bob, Democrats are split on this. There is no question about that. I for one have long believed that politics should stop at the water's edge and that we ought to determine what is in the best interest of this country.

I think the president in this respect has done the right thing. There is a lot of dissent in the country and there is dissent in my own party. I recognize that. But there are a number of Democrats who do support what the president is doing.

BEGALA: And, in fact, Congressman Flake, doesn't it undermine the president's cause with people even who support his position, maybe like Congressman Frost, when he says things that just aren't so? He said that there was a report from international arms inspectors that said Saddam Hussein was six months from a nuclear bomb. The inspectors had to come out and said we never issued any such a report.

He said there were these aluminum tubes that were used for nuclear weapons. The inspectors said, no, it is just not the case. And, in fact, in a recent poll, the majority of Americans said that our president would be willing to conceal information from us in order to push this war. Doesn't he have a massive credibility problem?

FLAKE: Well, if you're asking people who they trust, George Bush or the inspectors, I think overwhelmingly the people will trust George Bush and for good reason. These inspectors...

BEGALA: That's not what they're telling us in the surveys candidly, though, sir. They're telling us they think our president would mislead us.

FLAKE: I don't believe that's the case at all. If you look at the inspectors, you look at the record they've compiled over the past decade, it's one that they're willing to go along with anything to avoid a conflict. And the president has rightly said we've got to deal with this situation, and I think the American people support him on that.

And let me make a point on the deficit and running up to it. We in the Congress aren't giving anybody any help here. We just passed an omnibus bill that was just awful. And a president was a voice of reason and moderation in this. And we...


BEGALA: Oh he signed it?

FLAKE: I wish he would have. But I can tell you, to note that the Democrats believe that we're running up a deficit here and that we have to be careful, look who is pushing to spend more and more and more. It wasn't the Republicans, although we're as guilty.

BEGALA: Hold that thought. I'm sorry to do that to you. Please hold your thought, Congressman Frost, Congressman Flake. Hang on just a minute.

And when we come back, we'll ask these congressmen just why it is that our president is so darn unpopular among the other democracies in the world. Later, a basketball player takes a shot at U.S. policy on Iraq. Stay tuned for our picture of the day. You're watching CNN, the most trusted name in news.


BEGALA: Welcome back to CROSSFIRE. A federal judge today threw out a lawsuit that had been filed to keep President Bush from going to war in Iraq without a formal declaration from the Congress. Meanwhile, lawmakers returning from trips to the Middle East and Asia are warning that rising anti-American sentiment and poverty in those regions will prove effective recruiting tools for terrorist organizations.

In the CROSSFIRE, Arizona Republican Congressman Jeff Flake and Texas Democrat Martin Frost.

NOVAK: Congressman Frost, as we finished the last segment, you were enraged by something Mr. Flake said.

FROST: Well I just wanted to remind Mr. Flake that we are in the minority. The Republicans control the House of Representatives. It was a Republican appropriations committee that coughed up that omnibus bill. They're the ones that created that.


NOVAK: And I am delighted that we're bringing America Frost and Flake. It is not a new breakfast cereal, but it is pretty good anyway.

But I want to ask you this question. And that is, that you say that the Democratic Party is split on the issue of this war. I don't think they're split very evenly. I think you're in a strong minority, aren't you, Congressman?

FROST: Well, Bob, there were 81 of us who voted for -- 81 Democrats in the House who voted to give the president the authority to use force. There were 126 who voted no. A significant number of Democrats voted yes, just as 11 years ago a significant number of Democrats also voted to use force against Saddam Hussein when he invaded Kuwait.

There's a division in my party. I recognize that. But there are a significant number of us who supported what the president's doing.

BEGALA: And, in fact, Congressman Flake, is there not a significant division in your own party between those like, say, Secretary of State Colin Powell, who believe in building a worldwide coalition, and those who want to go it alone? In fact, one of the leaders on foreign policy in your party, Senator Chuck Hagel in Nebraska, had this to say yesterday. He said, "When America undertakes these large challenges, big projects with our allies, with multinational organizations under the auspices of the U.N., we are successful. When we try to do it unilaterally, we are not."

"Vietnam was a unilateral action than ended in disaster after 11 years. We need public opinion with us." Isn't Chuck Hagel right?

FLAKE: Well who is saying that we're going it alone?

BEGALA: Chuck Hagel.

FLAKE: He's wrong. He's wrong. We're not alone at all. The notion that we have to have the French and the Germans on board or we're alone is simply wrong?

BEGALA: Who decides the Brits are going to send a dollar or a man?

FLAKE: Well, you have Spain, who...

BEGALA: Not a dime; not a peso.

FLAKE: No, they introduced a resolution today. (CROSSTALK)

BEGALA: Just how many Spanish soldiers, sir? Zero, right?

NOVAK: This is a one-man truth squad. Chuck Hagel did not say we are going it alone. He did not -- he didn't said that. And I will buy you a dinner if you can find him saying we are going it alone.


BEGALA: Why do you suppose he said we went it alone in Vietnam? He was analogizing.

NOVAK: He didn't say we're going it alone, though. There is some meaning in truth.

FLAKE: That's the myth that the movie stars keep saying, that we're going it alone.

FROST: The facts are that the president does need to do a better job in bringing more countries abroad -- aboard on this. All of us have urged that this be as multilateral as possible. I want the president to be successful, and I hope he's able to bring more countries with us by the time he commits troops. I think that is important for us and I hope he will be successful.


BEGALA: But, again, what does it mean to be with us? I think it is just fine and dandy that the Bulgarians and the Spaniards are going to vote for us in the Security Council. I don't mean to diminish that. A lot of diplomacy it takes to bring them along, and it is important.

But I'm concerned about muddy boots on the ground. And it will be made in the USA and made in the U.K., and nobody else, right?

FLAKE: With all due respect, we were the ones attacked in September 11. And I applaud the president...

BEGALA: Not by Iraq, sir. I know. I lived here. I saw that attack.

We were not attacked by the Iraqis. And I do not like when advocates of this war try to say this is retribution for 9/11.

NOVAK: Well let him answer your question. Let him answer your question, Paul.

FLAKE: But you're going ahead and saying that we're alone. We're not alone. We have a lot of countries behind us.

Colin Powell has explained that again and again and again. And just because France and Germany keep coming out and popping up and saying, let's give the inspectors more time, doesn't mean the rest of the world wants us to wait. I think we need to move and we need to lead and the president is doing it right.


NOVAK: I would just ask you a political question, Martin. When you had Dick Gephardt, your former leader, going before the DNC and saying, I helped put this resolution together, and he gets shouted out shame from the audience, when you get John Edwards of North Carolina saying, you're not going like this, I am for this resolution, there is definitely silence. And this is the Democratic National Committee, it's not the young communist league that they're talking about. Isn't this a tremendous problem for the 2004 election?

FROST: I don't think it is a tremendous problem. Bob. I think that this is going to be over one way or the other very shortly. I think we will be successful. We have the best military in the world. And I hope that we will then move on to the economy.

That's what this election is going to turn on in 2004. And this president has done a terrible job on the economy, and Democrats will be clearly united on that subject.


NOVAK: And you want a put in a surtax that will -- that would really...

FROST: I said I wanted it to be paid for, I wanted us to be honest about what we're doing. I don't want to pass the cost of the war on to my children and my grandchildren.


BEGALA: Congressman Flake, we're almost out of time. But we're now two years into the Bush economic policy. How many years into his economic policy before Republicans will say his economic policy is what we should have the election about?

FLAKE: Well you forget that President Bush came into office in a recession.


NOVAK: That's the last word. Thank you very much, Congressman Jeff Flake.

FLAKE: Thank you.

NOVAK: Congressman Martin Frost, I appreciate it.

Later on "Fireback," one of our Democratic viewers explains why he's so depressed. But next, our picture of the day. With the possibility of military action against Iraq, a protest and then a counterprotest at, of all places, a basketball game.



NOVAK: At Manhattanville, a small New York college, an obnoxious member of the women's basketball team claims she is protesting U.S. policy on Iraq, but is actually revealing the end product of permissiveness. All season long, while the national anthem is played before each game, Toni Smith (ph) turns away from the stars and stripes.

Yesterday, one of the fans got fed up and staged his own protest, coming on to the floor and holding a flag in front of the girl. Fifty-six-year-old Jerry Kiley's (ph) efforts got him ejected from the gym. But for standing up for Old Glory, he does provide our picture of the day.


BEGALA: You know, Bob, it seems to me this is America. This is why all of these graves in Arlington are filled with heroes, so that both Toni Smith (ph) and Jerry Kiley (ph) can stand up and speak their minds. But the right wing only wants one side to have freedom of speech in America.


NOVAK: Well let me explain it to you if I can. It is not a matter of not permitting protests. Protests is fine. Keep the flag out of it.

Don't burn the flag. Don't turn your back on the flag. Leave the flag alone when you're protesting.

BEGALA: Only have politically correct protests, no. The point of freedom and the reason those heroes fight is so we can express ourselves, even, dare I say, criticize our government. Oh.

NOVAK: Criticize our government, but don't defame the flag.

BEGALA: She didn't defame the flag.

NOVAK: She did.

BEGALA: She did not.

Next in our "Fireback" segment, one of our viewers is worried about a rebuilding job that our country is going to have to face sooner or later, but it is not in Iraq. Stay with us.



BEGALA: Welcome back to CROSSFIRE. Time now for "Fireback."

Our first e-mail is from (UNINTELLIGIBLE) from Walnut Creek, California, who writes, "More important by far than planning for an Iraq after Saddam Hussein is defeated is planning for an America after George Bush is defeated." Well god bless you, Karin (ph). I'm with you.


NOVAK: I would say that is one of the dumbest e-mails I have ever seen. We have a democratic process, Karin (ph), whatever your name is.

Cal Simpson of Buffalo, New York, says, "After watching the DNC meeting, I'm an even more depressed Democrat than I was back in November. If this is the best we can do, we deserve to lose." But there are other troops that may come in: Bob Graham, Bill Richardson, Hillary Clinton.

BEGALA: Hillary, god bless Hillary. Maybe Wes Clark. If Democrats ever get depressed about their prospects of winning, just turn on CNN and watch a George Bush speech live, OK?

Richard Lombard of Dallas, Texas, writes, "University of South Florida professor Sami al-Arian supported George W. Bush and visited the president in the White House." He actually visited an aide to the president, not the president himself, just for accuracy. "If this had been President Clinton, it would have been all over the newspapers."

Well Richard is right about the larger point...

NOVAK: I think you made that point before.

BEGALA: Press bias.

NOVAK: And did you write his e-mail for him?

BEGALA: I did not, but I think he's a brilliant man.

NOVAK: I think he's in Texas. I know a conspiracy when I see it. This is another guy from Texas, Peter Burke, from San Antonio. "Saddam looks like he has a case of CROSSFIRE envy. Watch out, Paul and Bob, he might be trying to take one of your jobs."

Well, actually, he told Dan Rather of CBS that he wants to debate George W. Bush. But what I think he really wants to do is be here, and he would be on the left.

BEGALA: No, the right. The far right.

NOVAK: Question?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Hi. My name is (UNINTELLIGIBLE) from Guadalajara, Mexico. As we all know, the USA is a country where public opinion is a very strong and valid issue. And I would like to know why the manifestations against the war are not being taken under consideration?

NOVAK: Well, they are taken under consideration. But we don't make policy in the streets here. I like Guadalajara; I could sing that for you if you'd like me to, but better not, huh? But we don't make policy in the streets, and the polls show that a majority of the American people do support the war.

BEGALA: I think it ill behooves a president who got into office by getting fewer votes than his opponent to ignore popular opinion. I think he wants to lead the free world. These are free people expressing their views. I think the president ought to listen to them.

NOVAK: Next question. Go ahead.

MELANIE ALLEN: Hi. My name is Melanie Allen (ph) and I'm from Michigan. And my question is, as a "lone super power," does the United States need international permission to go to war if we feel it is in our best interest or in the interests -- best interests of the international community?

NOVAK: The answer is, no, we don't need permission, but it would better if we had it.

BEGALA: I agree with Bob wholeheartedly. We don't need it; we are a sovereign nation. The president has the authority from the Congress to go to war tomorrow. I just pray that he shows better judgment and doesn't exercise it.

Yes ma'am? Go ahead.

JENNIFER SCHULTZ: Jennifer Schultz (ph), Arlington, Virginia.

NOVAK: Go ahead.

SCHULTZ: We have governors begging for money. We have Americans looking for jobs. We have millions without health care. So, Mr. Bush, how are we going to pay for this war?

NOVAK: The war is going to be paid for by the same way we have paid for all the kinds of wars, including World War II. We're going to borrow the money.

BEGALA: One final point. Mike Divid (ph), our cameraman is celebrating his 15th anniversary with CNN. Mike, great job. We're honored to have you on CROSSFIRE.

From left, I'm Paul Begala. Goodnight for CROSSFIRE.

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


Bush Listening to Governors of the 50 States?>

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