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Blix Wants Months For U.N. Weapons Inspectors to Work Inside Iraq; Anti-war Protesters Flood D.C. With Million Modem March

Aired February 26, 2003 - 19:00   ET


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

In the CROSSFIRE tonight, Hans Blix wants months for his U.N. weapons inspectors to work inside Iraq. Is President Bush in any mood to put war on hold?

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Saddam Hussein will be disarmed one way or the other.

ANNOUNCER: We'll have live coverage of tonight's presidential remarks on Iraq.

Anti-war protesters flood Washington with phone calls, faxes and e-mail in a Million Modem March. Is anybody listening to the other end of the line?

Tonight on CROSSFIRE.


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

PAUL BEGALA, CO-HOST: Good evening, everybody. Welcome to CROSSFIRE on a day when U.N. Chief Weapons Inspector Hans Blix asked is this the time to shut the door on us? Well, the White House replied sure, why not?

Legions of Americans also sat down with their modems today to say we'll tell you what we think about the war here on Capitol Hill.

We also expect to bring you live coverage of a speech by President Bush beginning in just a few minutes.

We'll be joined by two Congressmen at odds at whether to start that blitz on Baghdad.

We'll also be joined by actor Mike ,Farrell one of the guys who helped organize today's virtual march on Washington.

But first, as we do everyday, let's start with the best political briefing in television, the "CROSSFIRE Political Alert." The Bush White House will ask Congress for up to $95 billion in extra funding to pay for a war in Iraq. The $95 billion figure, with a "B" does not include the $20 billion a year it will cost to occupy Iraq after the war nor the $4 billion it may take to repair Iraqi oilfields, nor does that $95 billion include $13 billion of extra money we need for the war on terror.

Bottom line is likely to be well in excess of $130 billion, bringing the bush deficit to $430 billion this year alone. Of course, Mr. Bush plans to pay for his war the same way he's paid for everything in his life from his oil company to his baseball team to the White House itself, with other people's money.

ROBERT NOVAK, CO-HOST: Actually, Paul, he did it the way most people paid for everything and that's by borrowing money. And I hate to interrupt your nightly rant against President Bush, but how did you pay for your house? Did you borrow it or did you have all that money under your bed?

BEGALA: I paid for it with my own money and I paid off the loan. Bush ain't going to be paying...


BEGALA: My children are paying off Bush's war. That's not the same, Bob. I'm not forcing my children to pay for my house.

NOVAK: Stop yelling at me.

BEGALA: I'm sorry.

NOVAK: Did you borrow the money?

BEGALA: I did.

NOVAK: Thank you, thank you. That's all I wanted to know.

President Bush today summoned Hispanic-American officials to a White House auditorium and told them judicial nominee Miguel Estrada is being discriminated against because he is a Latino. These officials were then dispatched by the president to Capitol Hill to spread that word.

Now Estrada is a brilliant young conservative lawyer who happens to be an immigrant from Honduras. Democrats are waging a filibuster to prevent a vote on his confirmation. President Bush says today the Democrats are imposing a double standard and he's right. The Democrats simply cannot give Hispanics the freedom to be conservative.

BEGALA: That's silly. George W. Bush playing the race card. He ought to be ashamed of himself.

Look, this is what we know about Mr. Estrada. He is, as you say, a very conservative lawyer, apparently. He's well educated, a very rich young man. But he won't tell us his views on issues. He's not entitled to this job. If he wants to be on the second highest court in the land, tell us his views on issues.

NOVAK: He shouldn't be told how he's going to vote on future things. But I'll tell you this, there's no question that your kind of people do not want conservative blacks, that's why they hate Clarence Thomas. And you don't want conservative Hispanics, that's why you don't like Miguel Estrada.

BEGALA: Bob, I'm an equal -- I don't like conservative white guys, either. Believe me, Bob, I'm a liberal.

The Bush credibility gap has gotten so bad that at a White House briefing Bush Spokesman Ari Fleischer was literally laughed off the podium. Mr. Fleischer was asked yesterday about a report, sourcing two U.S. diplomats that the Bush administration is using pressure tactics to bully or bribe countries into supporting President Bush's war in Iraq.

Here is what Ari said and watch carefully. See how hard Mr. Fleischer tries to keep a straight face.


ARI FLEISCHER, WHITE HOUSE SPOKESMAN: I haven't seen the story and you already have the answer about what this will be decided on. But think about the implications of what you're saying. You're saying that the leaders of other nations are viable and that's not an acceptable proposition.


FLEISCHER: Thank you.


NOVAK: I don't -- I don't think he had a difficulty keeping a straight face. I think we had to have some element of truth. He gave -- that was a silly question and he gave a silly answer. what's wrong with that?

BEGALA: He gave a sill answer. He gave false answer. Of course we're trying to bully and bribe them, that's how you get votes in the U.N. But why do they have to lie about it? Why don't they say we're pulling out all the stops because it's important to us? Instead of saying, oh no, we would never do such a thing.


Five candidates for the Democratic presidential nomination are making the trip to Hollywood, Florida this week to kowtow before the nation's labor bosses in hopes of getting their endorsement.

The AFLCIO Executive Council is spending two weeks there for fun and sun at the Old Diplomat Hotel and to hear from the candidates headed by Congressman Dick Gephardt, one of labor's favorite pinup boys for about 20 years. Why would candidates demean themselves begging for help from discredited unions who are losing membership? Because of money to finance their campaigns. Spending involuntary contributions from union members like me is what big labor does best.

BEGALA: No, what big labor does best is stand up and fight for the rights of working men and women. Like you, like me. I'm in a union, too. I'm proud to be in one. Ronald Reagan was in a union. And you know what? It's an honorable thing. thank God we have them. I'd much rather see my candidate go into big labor than Bush going to Enron and the rest of those dirtbag corporations.

NOVAK: I can't tell you how much I resent the labor bosses taking my union dues money and spending it on your candidates. That's really outrageous, not even American.

In a few minutes we expect to go live to the American Enterprise Institute's Annual Dinner here in Washington where President Bush will be making remarks, presumably, on latest developments with Iraq.

But first, we have two Congressmen here to offer some pros and cons on the prospect of war against Baghdad. Alcee Hastings, Democrat of Florida. And Dana Rohrabacher, Republican of California.


BEGALA: Thank you all both. I want to start with the math part of our exam. Congressman Rohrabacher, I hope our folks back home can see this. The White House today leaked to the press the cost of the war. It's going to be $95 billion to start with and 13 more billion for terrorism, 20 billion for rebuilding Iraq, 4 billion to repair oilfields if they're damaged. That's 132 billion.

Now how you going to pay for it? Here's your option: cut Medicare, cut Social Security, delay the Bush tax cut or increase the deficit?

REP. DANA ROHRABACHER (R), CALIFORNIA: OK, now let me have this.

BEGALA: Well give me a fifth if I can't...

ROHRABACHER: Here's $500 billion for what it will cost us if we don't take care of Saddam Hussein and he attacks the United States of America.

BEGALA: Yes, sir.

ROHRABACHER: That's minimum. Not to mention -- not to mention $10,000 to 30,000 lives. Quit playing games like this. The bottom line is 3,000 Americans were slaughtered before our eyes and we know people like Saddam Hussein are willing to do it. I think Bush is being very prudent in protecting us before the Saddam Husseins act.

BEGALA: Didn't Saddam Hussein have -- first off, you didn't answer my question. Let me try a different one then. If you won't tell me how you'll pay for it, we know you're just going to run up the deficit and send the bill to our children and grandchildren.

ROHRABACHER: I'd rather pay that price than pay with $500 billion to make up for it.

NOVAK: Let me try to say something, Congressman.

REP. ALCEE HASTINGS (D), FLORIDA: (UNINTELLIGIBLE). Thanks, Bob. Bob, first, happy birthday.

NOVAK: Thank you. Appreciate it.

HASTINGS: The fact of the matter is that Congressman Rohrabacher, my friend and he is my friend, can't bring himself to say repeal the tax cuts. That's what -- we will pay for it. You could pay for 13 Afghanistans, you could pay for 13 Iraq if we did not have this silly tax cut.

I don't know of any situation, and, Bob, you would know better than us, you've had more birthdays than most of us. That said, you don't know of any situation where we had guns and butter and it worked?

NOVAK: Yes, we did. We had in Vietnam we had guns and butter...

HASTING: And what happened afterwards?

NOVAK: Well we didn't do so well.

Congressman, I want to raise -- an alternative to this war was raised with Republican Senator Peter Fitzgerald of Illinois the other day. That's assassinating Saddam Hussein. Let's see what Senator Fitzgerald said.

He said, "That's a really good question because the administration -- I have personally talked to the president about this and if we had the intelligence on where he," Saddam, "was now and we had a clear assasinate him, we would probably do that. President Bush would probably sign an executive order repealing the executive order put in place by President Ford that forbid the assasination of foreign leaders."

What do you think of that idea?

HASTINGS: I think Senator Fitzgerald retracted a bit of that in that same interview with the newspaper in his hometown by saying that, you know, perhaps I shouldn't have said that.

I don't think it's a good idea. I think assassination leads to more assassination and I don't know that we historically find ourselves in a position of needing to do that. If Hussein's people assassinate them, that's an entire different proposition than us making a find and going in there.

NOVAK: Let's listen to what Ari Fleischer said in responding to Senator Fitzgerald.


ARI FLEISCHER, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECY.: I can't speak for every conversation anybody has. But what is not uncertain is that the executive order is in place. What's not uncertain is that the world would be better off without Saddam Hussein and the president hopes that this issue can be resolved peacefully by Saddam Hussein leaving Iraq. And if Saddam Hussein and all of his top officials were to leave Iraq, the world would be a better place.


NOVAK: Do you agree with that?

HASTINGS: No, I don't and I can tell you...

NOVAK: What don't you agree with?

HASTINGS: Well, it sounds all right. The president has authority, Bob, as you well know to repeal President Ford's executive order but all in all...

NOVAK: Certainly it would be a better place...

HASTINGS: Yes, but look -- Dana and I travel the world and we've traveled the world together and I don't want to be in a world that leaders are going to start assassinating each other.

NOVAK: That wasn't the question. The question was would the world would be a better place. Do you agree it would be a better place?

HASTINGS: Oh, it would. It would.

NOVAK: ALl right.

BEGALA: Hang on. Let me go to a break real quick. Congressman Hastings, Congressman Rohrabacher will be with us when we come back in a monment.

Also this hour, we are waiting for our president to begin his remarks at the American Enterprise Institute dinner here in Washington. He is expected to take about Iraq. We will carry that speech live.

Later, Americans opposed to attacking Iraq staged a virtual march on Washington today. Among them, the actor Mike Farrell will tell us how he did it in just a moment.


BEGALA: Welcome back to CROSSFIRE.

President Bush is about to speak to the American Enterprise Institue's annual dinner here in Washington. He'll be talking about Iraq and we will cover that live. As we wait for our president, we are joined by two fine Congressmen, Dana Rohrabacher of California. He's a Republican. And Democrat Alcee Hastings of Florida.

Congressman Rorhrabacher, in the previous answer to me, you talked about -- evoked 9/11 talked about Iraq. Now, I don't know if you did -- I lost friends on 9/11. I happened to be in the parking lot of the Pentagon when the plane hit. I take this very personally.

Iraq, we know, had nothing at all to do with it and yet -- let me put up a graphic of what we're spending now to take out Iraq. Maybe a bad country, maybe we need to do it, but it had nothing to do with al Qaeda. We're spending -- now here's the graph -- $95 billion on Iraq, $13 billion to get those SOBs who killed our friends.

Why are wen't we spending $95 billion to kill al Qaeda?

ROHRABACHER: Because al Qaeda, with much less power available to them, was able to kill 3,000 of our people. Saddam Hussein, who has a blood grudge against the people of the United States, who would kill ten times as many people and has enormously more powe -- enormously more powerful than al Qaeda. It's prudent to take him out.

BEGALA: He's had weapons of mass destruction for 20 years, and we've deterred him for 20 years. Not that he's a nice guy, but he's never used them against us because we've deterred him and contained him.

ROHRABACHER: Now isn't it time the president of the United States is able to get the support of the American people, because the American people generally are engaged with their own lives and don't want to face foreign threats. He very prudent in making sure that we take Saddam Hussein out now rather than waiting for this monster -- rather than just killing his own people by the tens of thousands, decides he's going to take out his blood grudge in the United States and murder our people by the tens of thousands.

HASTINGS: And so what do we do with Kim Jong Il? I just asked him what do we do with Kim Jong Il who already has two nuclear weapons and a whole bunch of others?

RORHRABACHER: Luckily we have some missile defense that the Democrats have opposed all of the way down the line coming online and that will protect us from him in the meantime.

NOVAK: Congressman Hastings, the Majority Whip of the House Representatives, your colleague, Tom DeLay of Texa,s had an interesting political observation the other day about the opposition of the war by you and some of your Democratic colleagues.

He said,"Their reaction to that just proves who the Democrat Party is. They are fast becoming the appeasement party of the future".

There's some truth in that, isn't there?

HASTINGS: I don't think so, Bob. I know I'm not.

First off, I offered the very first -- the very first resolution giving the president the authority to conduct this activity after going to the United Nations, and I expressed a significant numbers of groups that he would have to jump through in order to do that. That ultimately led to a resolution, I might add with many Democrats all supporting it, led by Dick Gephardt, who is running for president at this time and therefore I don't see us as a party of appeasement.

Dana will tell you I will stand in toe to toe with people supporting the effort in Bosnia. I was toe to toe with people standing for the effort in Kosovo. The same...

NOVAK: In other words, when there's a president -- a Democrat president in, you're all for war. But Republican president, you're against it. Is that it?

HASTINGS: Bob, I'm not opposed to taking Hussein out. This is the wrong war at the wrong time, that's all it is.

BEGALA: Congressman Rohrabacher, in fact, as we speak the president is listening to the national anthem, getting prepared to give his speech. We'll cut away in a minute to go to that speech. But he has apparently, from news accounts, just concluded a deal with our friends and allies in Turkey, where he's going to give them $30 billion in aid to stage 60,000 troops. That's $500,000 for a soldier. Is that a good deal for America?

ROHRABACHER: If it saves thousands of American lives, yes it is.

NOVAK: That number goes up by the media every day.

ROHRABACHER: Yes. Of course. We don't know exactly what it is. We don't know if there are loan guarantees...

BEGALA: Don't we have a right to know that?

ROHRABACHER: Well, I'm sure we will know. I'm sure we will know.

BEGALA: Do you think he'll tell us tonight?

ROHRABACHER: But the basic point is this: that the president of the United States is trying to take care of a threat to our people, to our country and I think Saddam Hussein, as I said, his -- George Bush, senior didn't do the job. He should have gotten rid of him 12 years ago when we had a chance.

Now this is a man who hates us, who has a visceral hatred for the United States. It's right for us and prudent for our president to take him out and protect us.

BEGALA: He had 20 years, he's had weapons of mass destruction. Ever since Ronald Reagan, who you served, gave him anthrax and Bubonic Plague. He's had weapons of mass destruction for 20 years and he's never used them on us -- why? Is he just a nice guy? ROHRABACHER: I think that for 20 years, I can't speak for why he acted or didn't act. All I know is it would have been prudent for us to have gotten rid of him in the first place.

Now that we have a chance to do it again, we shouldn't be whining about our president's imperfections here, or is this consistent there. When this is all is over, that threat will be done and the people of Iraq will be grateful to us for freeing them from this monster.

HASTINGS: Oh, my goodness gracious. We're going to see the flags waving in Baghdad, like they did in France? Oh, please, give me a break.

ROHRABACHER: Just like they did in Afghanistan.

HASTINGS: Bob, help!

ROHRABACHER: In Afghanistan, they waved the flags, they threw flowers at us, they were grateful that we freed them.

BEGALA: The people of China would be real happy if we liberated them from a Communist dictatorship. Should we march on Beijing?

HASTINGS: Bob sits quietly, but Bob knows that there are Turkmen in Iraq -- you know this, too, Dana. There are Shia's in Iraq, there are kurds in Iraq and there are Sunnies in Iraq, and the whole geopolitical scheme changes.

You all have not discussed, in reality, what is going to happen in regards to humanitarian concerns and I'm just looking for the Turks -- I'm just looking for the Turks in a batallion to come through Kurdistan and say to the Kurds, Let's go get the Iraqis, brother. You know that isn't going to happen.

ROHRABACHER: Let's note when all of this is over, we're going to wait and see if indeed we are welcomed as liberators and then we're going to have to see all of the Democrats apologize.

NOVAK: Just a minute, Paul.

BEGALA: Yes sir?

NOVAK: I'd like to get a word in, if they don't mind.

The hit at the Democratic National Committee meeting last week was governor -- former Governor Howard Dean of Vermont and let's listen to something he said.


HOWARD DEAN (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: What I want to know is why...


NOVAK: We'll see him later. BEGALA: We will interrupt Governor Dean's comment to go watch our president giving his address to the American Enterprise Institute live here in Washington.


BEGALA: President George W. Bush speaking here in Washington at a conservative think tank. In a moment, reactions from our guests, Congressman Alcee Hastings and Congressman Dana Rohrabacher.

And then, actor Mike Farrell will join us for his response. You remember Mike. He was on the hit TV series "M.A.S.H." He also happened to organize today's online million modem march on Capitol Hill. Stay with us.



BEGALA: Welcome back to CROSSFIRE. With us tonight to give their reactions to tonight's speech, two congressmen. Florida Democrat Alcee Hastings and California Republican Dana Rohrabacher.

NOVAK: Congressman Hastings, the president tonight painted a picture of a free democratic Iraq. Is that credible?

HASTINGS: Bob, the president gave us, as Paul said, off camera, the bold vision speech. I don't think that we will achieve a free Iraq for some years to come. And I think the president made a good speech, but I don't believe that he is capable of demonstrating exactly what's going to happen in post-war Iraq.

NOVAK: Are you that pessimistic, Congressman Rohrabacher?

ROHRABACHER: You have to have a vision and you have to set out what your goals are. You won't always achieve your goals. I think it is a noble thing that the president...

NOVAK: Realistic?

ROHRABACHER: You know what? I think it is realistic that we should work with people who live under tyranny to help them free themselves, especially when it is in our national security interest to do so.


NOVAK: OK. Congressman Hastings, thank you very much. Congressman Rohrabacher, thank you.

Next, another view of President Bush's reremarks on Iraq. Actor Mike Farrell was among the celebrities drumming up support for today's electronic march on Washington.



BEGALA: Welcome back to CROSSFIRE, coming to you live from the George Washington University in downtown, D.C. Here in the CROSSFIRE now from Los Angeles, one of the organizers of today's virtual march on Washington, actor Mike Farrell. Mr. Farrell, thanks for joining us.



NOVAK: Mr. Farrell, you listened to the president's speech. He didn't talk about weapons of mass destruction very much. He didn't talk about oil, certainly. Didn't talk about force. He did talk about a free and democratic Iraq. Isn't that pretty hard for a liberal to oppose?

FARRELL: Well, of course. I would love it if the president's policies were consistent with his statements today. It was a nice speech. He did, however, premise the entire idea on destroying Saddam Hussein and eliminating his regime.

So it is a pretty picture. We would all like too see a free and democratic Iraq. Some of us would like to see it achieved peacefully rather than going to war and wasting the lives of some of our service people and eliminating the lives of countless numbers of Iraqi civilians.


NOVAK: You really puzzle me, Mr. Farrell. You say you thought it was a pretty speech. You surely don't think that you can have a free and democratic Iraq with Saddam Hussein as the dictator, do you?

FARRELL: I think that Saddam Hussein is capable of being disarmed by the world when the world intends to disarm him. And it could be done through the use of the continued use of...

NOVAK: That isn't what I asked you. I said could they have a democratic Iraq with Saddam Hussein in power, yes or no?

FARRELL: Well, I don't think I have to answer a yes or no question. I can answer my question my way, may I not? I think that what we can achieve in this world through the use of the inspections process and through the use of -- if force is necessary -- targeted nuanced appropriate responses to any challenge that Saddam Hussein throws at us. And if we do that, and if we humiliate this man after disarming him, I think we can see a free Iraq achieved democratically. And I think we can do it without killing innocent civilians.

BEGALA: Thank you for that answer. The first amendment still applies here on CROSSFIRE. You're allowed to answer the question any way you want.

NOVAK: He didn't answer my question. BEGALA: I was struck by -- Congressman Rohrabacher was on just before you, a California Republican, and he said that it was good that the president lay out these very high aspirations even if we don't need all of them. I have to say, you know, I've seen a lot of politicians make a lot of promises, and I've heard of a pie in the sky, but this speech was a whole floating balkry.

He promised a Palestinian state, he promised security to Israel, he promised freedom and democracy. Is that useful for us to be making promises that, frankly, you know I think he broke at home and is probably breaking abroad? Is that a smart strategy for him?

FARRELL: Well, clearly, what he's trying to do for now is to carve out a space for himself within the realm of dignity and honor, because he has so outdistanced the facts by his charges against both Saddam Hussein and his assertions that supported his -- or he thought supported his war strategies, all of which have been decimated by examination.

So now he's trying to appear to be the statesman. And I think that it -- you know, all of us want the president of the United States to be a man of honor and a man of vision and a man who has hopes for the spread of democracy and freedom. I would just like to see his policies consistent with these stated visions.

BEGALA: But doesn't the right have a point when they talk about Iraqi human rights violations and how liberals should speak out against that and corporate executives like Dick Cheney who were helping to enrich Saddam Hussein by selling him oilfield equipment? Shouldn't we be talking about those issues as well?


FARRELL: Sure, of course. Of course we should. And, in my own view, Saddam Hussein is a war criminal. And I believe, as a war criminal, he ought to be tried in an international tribunal established for such a procedure.

Unfortunately, the United States has opposed the establishment of an international criminal court, so we'd have to establish a war crimes tribunal for Iraq. And I think that sort of thing could be done and should be done.

BEGALA: I'm sorry to cut you off. They're telling us we are out of time. The president's speech ran for long. We didn't want to cut him off.

We'll have to cut you off. Please come back, though, Mike Farrell. Congratulations on the modem march on Washington. We'll talk about that more.

FARRELL: Thank you.

BEGALA: From the left, I am Paul Begala. Happy Birthday to Bob Novak today. Bob, god bless you. My favorite conservative. Happy birthday. NOVAK: From the right, I'm Robert Novak. Join us again next time for another edition of CROSSFIRE.


Inside Iraq; Anti-war Protesters Flood D.C. With Million Modem March>

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