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Interview With Congressman Tom Tancredo Janice Schakowsky; Can the U.S. Afford a War?

Aired March 11, 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: it isn't exactly war...

ARI FLEISCHER, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: ... there's room for a little more diplomacy, but not a lot of time to do it.

ANNOUNCER: It isn't exactly peace.

JEREMY GREENSTOCK, BRITISH AMBASSADOR TO U.N.: Some members of the counsel are dangerously close to proposing endless procrastination.

ANNOUNCER: Tonight, the unwar at the U.N. Can it still be relevant?

KOFI ANNAN, U.N. SECRETARY-GENERAL: What is needed is united international action.

ANNOUNCER: Plus, can we really afford a war with Iraq?


Tonight on CROSSFIRE.


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

PAUL BEGALA, CO-HOST: Hello, everybody. Welcome to CROSSFIRE. Today was supposed to be high noon at the U.N. Security Council, but apparently lacking votes, the Bush administration is now asking for a little more time. Of course, if George W. Bush is entitled to more time why aren't U.S. arms inspectors? We will ask two prominent members of Congress that question.

Another hot question in Washington these days is how much will the war and the occupation to follow cost us? Our president won't say. We will try to get answers from a couple of experts. But first, a public service that comes to you each night free of charge, provided, of course, you pay your cable bill, the best political briefing on television, the "CROSSFIRE Political Alert."

In last week's press conference, President Bush was so scripted and stilted that one TV critic thought that he'd been sedated. The president did make one tiny piece of news, pledging to force a vote on a U.N. resolution in support of war in Iraq. Here's what the president said five days ago.


GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Yes, we'll call for a vote. No matter what the whip count is, we're calling for the vote. We want to see people stand up and say what their opinion is about Saddam Hussein and the utility of the United Nations Security Council.

And so, you bet. Time for people to show their cards. Let the world know where they stand when it comes to Saddam.


BEGALA: Whoops. As we just reported, the vote was scheduled for today, but instead Mr. Bush folded and postponed the vote. He promises that he'll call for another vote soon. He really means it this time. No kidding around. Card's on the table. Real soon.

ROBERT NOVAK, CO-HOST: Paul, if you could get off your (UNINTELLIGIBLE) horse for a minute, you've been in politics long enough to know that sometimes you take a little more time to try to get a vote. And try to get a vote to save Tony Blair. A negative vote would kill Blair and that's what the president is trying to do and I think you ought to understand that.

BEGALA: I do. That's a good point. But if he gives his word he ought to keep his word.

NOVAK: That's ridiculous. It's a matter of trying to save an ally. Of course, if you were Clinton, you don't care about anybody, (UNINTELLIGIBLE) your ally going down.

Will it frighten Saddam Hussein out of Baghdad? At Eglin Air Force Base, Florida today the U.S. dropped a 21,000 pound bomb in a test. It's the "mother of all bombs". MOAB, they call it. It packs 40 percent more power than the 15,000-pound "Daisy Cutter", currently the biggest non-nuclear bomb in the nation's arsenal.

But the U.S. is planning precision high tech bombing of Iraq. How does this vehement fit in? The military says the purpose of MOAB is psychological, to rattle Iraqi troops into surrendering or not even fighting at all.

We'll have the Pentagon's first pictures of the big bomb later in the hour and you'll get to see it right here on CROSSFIRE and it might even frighten you. BEGALA: I can't wait to see it. I have endless confidence in our military, with the best people, the training, the best technology. In part because for eight years Bill Clinton actually did modernize the military and make it the kind of fighting force that George Bush can now use and abuse at his discretion.

NOVAK: In fact, we just got the bomb and we're going to take a look at it right now. Looks like that's the big bomb dropping, dropping, dropping. It's pretty exciting, isn't it?

BEGALA: This is also the Dow Jones Industrial Average, I think.

NOVAK: And then -- and then -- MSNBC's ratings.

Well, the bomb is going down and it reminds me of a silent movie. Doesn't it you? Aren't you glad you're seeing this?

BEGALA: Coming down...

NOVAK: Where's the explosion? Ah, there it is.

BEGALA: That would be the explosion.

NOVAK: There it is.

BEGALA: That's dinner conversation at the Carville/Matalin household.

NOVAK: It may scare the Iraqis and it may not.

BEGALA: It is impressive what our military can do. God pray they don't have to, but thank goodness they do have the tools they need.

Well David Broder has been covering Washington almost as long, almost, as our own Bob Novak. In fact, he's widely, if somewhat inaccurately, described as the dean of the Washington Press Corp. I prefer to see Novak in that role. So it's especially noteworthy, though, that Mr. Broder weighed in today criticizing the poor performance of the White House Press Corp (UNINTELLIGIBLE) press conference.

Mr. Broder says he was, quote, "astonished and dismayed that in the first opportunity to quiz the president in four months, not one question was asked about the shaky economy or the out of control federal budget. An economically cushioned set of reporters seemingly couldn't care less about this looming disaster. Talk about being out of touch."

Well, I've had lots of disagreements in my time with David Broder, but on this one, he's absolutely right. White House Press Corp ought to stop acting like Bush's lap dogs, start acting like our watchdogs.

NOVAK: David Broder was a longtime colleague of mine and a very good friend of mine, but he's wrong. He's obsessed about this budget deficit.

And since you're really not a journalist, Paul, let me explain to you what they were trying to do. This was a press conference on the war. We thought we were going to war very soon, I still think we are. And I think the reporters were quite right to make it a one-subject press conference.

What happens to political criticism of war with Iraq once the shooting starts? Two Democratic presidential candidates say it will continue. Congressman Dennis Kucinich and former Senator Carol Moseley Braun say hell, no, we won't shut up. In the bitter tradition of Vietnam they won't let American troops under fire temper their criticism.

But another candidate, Senator John Kerry of Massachusetts, says he'll end all criticism once the shooting starts. "It's what you owe the troops," says Kerry, who is a decorated Vietnam veteran. He's a presidential front runner, Kucinich and Moseley Braun are also-rans and proving they deserve to be also-rans.

BEGALA: I'm with you on this and I'm with John Kerry upon this. I've been as vocal as I can be in criticizing this war, if God forbid it begins, though, that's the time the debate ends and we all support the troops. I think John Kerry is right on this and those other guys are wrong.

Well, the slugfest between "60 Minutes" creator Don Hewitt and your humble hosts at CROSSFIRE has entered a new round. You may have seen Mr. Carville take Mr. Hewitt to task as he discussed the new Clinton-Dole debate on CBS.

In today's "Philadelphia Enquirer", though, Don Hewitt fired back. Here's what he said. Quote, "CNN's boxing match between James Carville and Robert Novak is a crime against television," unquote.

Well, Carville told the paper, quote, "Hewitt can't even produce good TV with Bill Clinton and Bob Dole. That' the real crime against television." James went on to congratulate the show for bringing in some young blood with Dole who's 79.

Memo to Don Hewitt: Don, buddy, quit while you're ahead. Go get the early bird special at Denny's, head out to the Bingo parlor. Don't mess with CROSSFIRE anymore unless you want another ass whooping.

NOVAK: I'll tell you what. I tell you, Paul, I had my say on Don Hewitt last night so I'm not going to repeat myself. But I will say this, I think it is wrong for a former president of the United States to engage in this. It crosses the line for an ex-president, but he didn't know how to act as a president so what do you expect from him? He's an ex-president.

BEGALA: No, I think it's great that he's in the public debate.

NOVAK: Jerry Springer, the shock talk show host, figured he was a good bet to become governor of Ohio on the Democratic ticket. Everybody knows the syndicated Springer show with its vulgarity and violence. Besides, he's actually an experienced politician, a former mayor of Cincinnati.

The bad news just came in from the Ohio poll. In a match-up against Republican Senator George Voinovich, Springer loses 77 percent to 16 percent. And 71 percent of those surveyed had an unfavorable opinion of him.

Gee, and I thought Jerry Springer was the ideal Democratic candidate. May I correct myself? He was thinking of running for not for governor, but for senator against Voinovich.

BEGALA: Well, he has been on this program and actually did a terrific job. I want Jerry Springer to come back. I don't care what the polls say. He's got something to say, he ought to come here and say it.


BEGALA: Against those Republicans? You bet. What they do in the Senate actually looks like the Jerry Springer show, but it's real. It's our country that they're throwing chairs around in.

NOVAK: Is the United Nations going the way of the old League of Nations? We'll debate the U.N.'s relevance or lack of it in just a minute.

And later, paying for a war. Just how many billions will the treasury have to borrow?


NOVAK: Six nonaligned members of the U.N. Security Council want to give weapons inspectors an extra month or six weeks. President Bush's spokesmen says the U.S. is willing to consider a slight delay in a new u.n. resolution on Iraq, but Ari Fleischer says the idea of an extra 30 or 45 days is what he calls a nonstarter. Is the United Nations turning into a nonstarter?

Joining us from capitol hill to debate its relevance, Congresswoman Janice Shakowsky, an Illinois Democrat, who is chief deputy whip of the House, and Congressman Tom Tancredo, a Colorado Republican, a member of the International Relations Committee.

BEGALA: Thank you both for joining us. Congressman Tancredo, if I can start with you, sir.


BEGALA: One of the issues the president has raised repeatedly and I think sensibly is the credibility of the United Nations. Let me suggest that perhaps one of the reasons we're not doing very well there is the credibility of the president himself.

Case in post point: "The Washington Post" reported the other day and I'm reading from the "Post": "A key piece of evidence linking Iraq to a nuclear weapons program appears to have been fabricated, the United Nations chief nuclear inspector said yesterday, in a report that called into question U.S. and British claims about Iraq's secret nuclear ambitions. Documents that purportedly showed Iraqi officials shopping for uranium in Africa two years ago were deemed not authentic after careful scrutiny by U.N. and independent experts.

Why are we offering evidence that's fabricated?

TANCREDO: Well, first of all, I'll tell you there is -- if you can condense it -- I know that we have a very short time to talk about a very important topic, but there's really only one word that I can describe or use to describe the U.N.; It is, in fact, irrelevant. It doesn't matter. It doesn't matter that this information has been deemed to be fabricated or anything else because the U.N. doesn't matter. It is nothing but a debating society that has really taken now its lead in kicking the heck out of the United States. That's its main focus.

But in terms of what really happens in this world or whether or not we should care one way or the other about how it votes, that is ridiculous.

BEGALA: But surely you're not saying...


BEGALA: Surely you're not saying that because you don't like the U.N. it's OK to say false things.

I'm sorry, Ms. Schakowsky. Go ahead, Congresswoman, .

REP. JANICE SCHAKOWSKY (D), ILLINOIS: Well, I just think that is absolutely ridiculous. It is in the United States' interest to have strong international bodies in order to isolate rogue nations and rogue states. And just to say it's my way or the highway, or if the United Nations won't rubber-stamp what we believe is right, then good- bye, Charlie. That is ridiculous. It is in our interest to do it and certainly not in our interest to present false information.

The United States itself is becoming isolated, and unless we decide we're going to be the policemen every where and go in guns blazing, it's going be might and that' going to be -- rather than diplomacy, then I think we need to be helping to strengthen the United Nations.

It's really our call. We can make it relevant or not.

TANCREDO: We have absolutely nothing to do with this relevance, frankly.

You know, it's interesting to me. It's interesting to me to hear that kind of discussion -- how important the U.N. is today on this issue with Iraq. How important it is where you, you know, when cowboy Bill decided that we should go ahead and bomb Yugoslavia, a country that absolutely had no threat to the United States whatsoever. Now, bad guy there. That is absolutely true. But did Yugoslavia ever pose a threat to the United States? No.

Bill Clinton decided to bomb Yugoslavia and he did not ask for the U.N., as a matter of fact, the U.N. didn't support it. It didn't matter then to the people here on the Hill. I saw not one bit of protest on the street.

It's because, of course, the issues are all political. Thy aren't really based on whether or not we have right -- might makes right or anything else. It's a political society. That's all it is.

NOVAK: All right! All right! Yield! All right! All right!.



NOVAK: Time!

All right, Ms. Schakowsky, I want you to listen to something that President Bush said in his news conference Thursday night. Let's listen to him.

I'd like to listen to him.


BUSH: I want the United Nations to be effective. It's important for it to be a robust, capable body. It's important for its words to mean what they say and as we head into the 21st Century. Mark, when it comes to our security, we really don't need anybody's permission.


NOVAK: Ms. Schakowsky, do you think we need anybody's permission to a particular or bomb Iraq? Do you believed we need permission of the U.N. to go to war?

SCHAKOWSKY: No, the president keeps talking about United States security as if Saddam Hussein were Osama bin Laden or responsible for 9/11, an immediate threat.

NOVAK: I'm sorry, your answer was no to this question? I asked the question, Do you think we need the United Nations' authority to go to war and I didn't get your answer.

SCHAKOWSKY: No -- no, no, no, No, you didn't say that, you said to go into Iraq.

NOVAK: It said we really -- just a minute. Let's just get what the question is and then I -- you can give the answer.

He says when it comes to our security about attacking Iraq, we really don't need anybody's, that is, the U.N.'s permission. Now I'm asking you a simple question. Do you agree or disagree with that?

SCHAKOWSKY: If U.S. security is at stake I agree with the president. If it is not at stake, which I don't believe it is, in this situation with Iraq, then I think we should work with the international community. That's my answer.

BEGALA: Congressman Tancredo, let me come back to your earlier comment, because I was stunned about by it. I know you don't like the U.N.; I know you think it's a debating society. I got that.

But surely you're not saying that because you don't like the U.N., it's OK for the government of the United States, the good guys, to be spreading things that are false, for our president to be telling us, not just the U.N. to be telling the people who pay his salary -- just a second -- falsehoods like this argument he gave us that the International Atomic Energy said Saddam Hussein is six months away from a nuclear weapon. Not true, says the IAEA. Like this nonsense that these aluminum tubes can be used to make nuclear weapons. Not true, say the weapons experts. Like a whole lot of very false thongs. You don't think just because we don't like the U.N. it's OK to say falsehoods, do you?

TANCREDO: Well, I'm not willing to accept their protestations here. I'm not willing to accept their statements about it or whether or not -- in fact, whether or not it is true, you know?

BEGALA: Well, but he said the U.N. agency, the IAEA, had a report that they didn't have. That's just -- that's either true or false, right?

TANCREDO: OK. Let me tell you. It is -- that's a relatively insignificant issue. I don't know -- I don't think we did that -- I wouldn't say...


TANCREDO: It's insignificant in the total scheme of things here as to whether the U.N. is relevant in this debate.

BEGALA: Insignificant falsehoods about nuclear weapons are OK, but you voted to impeach President Clinton about lying about a girlfriend. Just so we can get your record there, Congressman.

NOVAK: Paul -- Ms. Schakowsky -- I mean, you always criticize me for bringing up Clinton, you're bringing up the impeachment now.

All right. Ms. Schakowsy....


NOVAK: I just want to get back to this

TANCREDO: I wasn't here to vote against him or I would have.

NOVAK: Ms. Schakowsky, I just wanted to get back to your question. I believe you were in Congress when president Clinton said, as Mr. Trancredo said, bomb the former Yugoslavia who intervened in Bosnia. Bombed Kosovo, intervened in Kosovo. And we have looked high and low for you saying he should have gotten U.N. approval, the U.N. was opposed to this. Why was it OK to move there without U.N. approval and its not good to move against Iraq without U.N. approval? Can you explain that?

SCHAKOWSKY: Because at that moment genocide side was taking place. Active cleansing -- what do they call it cleansing was taking place. And there was an immediate action that needed to be taken. I think that was the right thing. I am not saying that for every single thing the United States needs permission, but certainly when we have not been attacked. This would be the first time the United States actually invaded a country that has not threatened it. That has not...

NOVAK: You didn't think Kosovo and Bosnia threatened the national security of the United States. May I suggest, Ms. Schakowsky, that your standard is that you need permission when you've got a Republican president and you don't need permission when you have a Democratic president.

SCHAKOWSKY: No. No. That is not the case. Active genocide was taking place. Ethnic cleansing was taking place. The United States does have a certain moral obligation to act when those happening, and in this case it was justified. We should look at case by case. But this time the United States is absolutely isolated, in a position now to make Americans less safe by invading Iraq.

By isolating ourselves from all of our allies. By antagonizing them with immature ridicule and inflaming the Muslim world that could unite against us. I think this is a very dangerous thing for the United States to be doing. Doesn't make us safer it makes us more at risk than before.


BEGALA: Let you respond when we come back. I am sorry we have to do it. We have to take a break.

And when we come back we'll ask these members of Congress why George W. Bush. had not been quite as successful as his daddy in winning friends and influencing people.

We'll also take another look at that huge new bomb the United States tested today.

And later, how will the country pay for our president's war?

Stay with us.


BEGALA: Welcome back to CROSSFIRE.

The United States Air Force said this afternoon that it successfully tested a new 21,000-pound bomb that may be used in a war with Iraq. The massive ordinance air blast, MOAB, for short, generated so much noise that Eglin Air Force Base in Florida, that nearby resident his to be warned in advance. Of course, the Iraqis would not be so lucky. The United States wants a U.N. vote authorizing a war in Iraq by the end of this week even though signs still point to a veto to the resolution.

We are talking about the U.N. and American security with Illinois Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky. And she is the Democrats chief deputy whip in the House. And Congressman Tom Tancredo, a Colorado Republican.

NOVAK: Congresswoman, Schakowsky, you are a Chicago Democrat. A very distinguished daughter of Sullivan High School.

SCHAKOWSKY: That's it.

NOVAK: You have to be a good politician in touch with the ordinary people. So I'm going to show you what the ordinary people think of this issue including to a poll taken just this week.

Is the U.N. doing a good job or a poor job handling Iraq? Good job, 34 percent. Poor job, 58 percent. That ain't close! People have turned down the U.N., haven't they?

SCHAKOWSKY: Well, I'm looking at a question from a poll as of today that's saying that 91 percent of Americans think it's either necessary or desirable to go to the United Nations before going to war with Iraq. And I have to tell you, Bob, that everywhere I go all of the intensity that I see from people in fact, I have thousands and thousands of letters and e-mails and I go to a lot of places, not just liberal areas and I can't find people who favor this war. The intensity is against war because Americans understand, we need to go together. That it makes sense today that we work in conjunction with our allies around the world, that that is the only successful way that we can really disarm and isolate rogue countries like Iraq.

What are we going to do? Then we're going to go to Iran. And what about North Korea? And should we move across the Middle East? We can win these wars. We've got these big bombs. We got bigger bombs. We got bigger bombs than anybody has, but is that the way we want to move through the century with bombs and with might and with arms? I think that's crazy and I think the American people agree with that.

BEGALA: Congressman Tancredo, President George H.W. Bush Senior, in his long life of public service to our country, including tour of duty as the American Representative, our ambassador to the United Nations. And think it stood him in good stead when the first Gulf War came about in 1991. It was President Bush personally who met with the Soviet then leader Mikhail Gorbachev and delivered his support. It was Secretary of State James Baker at the time, who took three trips to Turkey. We've seen none of that -- and delivered the support of the Turks. We've seen none of that kind of diplomacy here and look at the results.

Back in the last Gulf War, I'm going to run for our viewers a list of the countries that contributed troops who are willing to despite and die for the cause. There were 35, from Afghanistan, Argentina, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Norway, Oman, Pakistan, Portugal, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Senegal, Turkey and it goes on and on. We checked today the number of countries who are willing to commit troops fight and god forbid die along side American troops and this is a list. Seven Australia and Britain, Bulgaria and Czech Republic, Denmark, Romania and the UAE. Of course, Italy won't commit troops. These -- the sum total, 7 countries, and by the way, most of them are like Bulgaria, giving us 50 troops. Why are we so isolated in what -- the fighting here?

TANCREDO: There's no doubt that the circumstances today are different than they were then. They issue of Saddam going into Kuwait. It was clear. It was indefensible. It is no doubt harder to make the case today. I'm not saying it isn't. But I will tell you this, that when we get done with this, when all of the smoke clears, literally and figuratively, there will be 40 or 50 countries that would have participated or will participate after the event in whatever reconstruction effort has to go on there. It's not just the United States going it alone.

There will be a lot of other countries. It is harder now because, of course, there hasn't been this blatant thing like the invasion of Kuwait, but it doesn't mean that our national interest isn't at stake. And it doesn't mean that if in fact this country face that kind of an issue. If the president of the United States believes that this countries vital interests are at risk, then it is his responsibility, it is his duty to do everything can to in fact protect those interest whether the U.N. likes it or not.

NOVAK: That's going to have to be the last word. Thank you, Congressman, Tancredo. Thank you, Congresswoman Schakowsky.

SCHAKOWSKY: Yes to diplomacy, no to war.

NOVAK: When we come back, the cost of war. Rebuilding Iraq may cost the U.S. billions of dollars and take years, not months. Next we'll debate whether we can afford all that. And later, our Quote of the Day is one congressman's very controversial theory about the source of pro-war sentiment in the U.S.



BEGALA: Welcome back to CROSSFIRE. We're coming to you live, as we always do, from the home of the Colonials, George Washington University, downtown Washington, D.C.

Now President Bush refuses to put a price tag on his war with Iraq, not because the bean counters and the propeller heads haven't totaled it up yet. He just doesn't want to worry your pretty little heads about it until the bullets start to fly and the bill comes due. What ever happened to the George W. Bush who used to say, It's not the government's money, it's your money?

Well, former top Bush economic aide, Larry Lindsey, did estimate the cost of war. He said it was between $100 and $200 billion. Shortly thereafter, President Bush fired Mr. Lindsey. Of course, those hundreds of billions will be on top of what's likely to be the biggest deficit in American history already.

To debate this tonight, you'll be glad you paid your cable bill. Two of the smartest people in this country, Stephen Moore of the Cato Institute and the Club for Growth, and former Clinton Labor Secretary Robert Reich.


NOVAK: Mr. Reich, I've been appearing with you on television for more years than I can remember.

ROBERT REICH, FMR. LABOR SECRETARY: And, Bob, you're always wrong.

NOVAK: You used to be a co-host occasionally on CROSSFIRE, and I never, ever heard you worry about budget deficits. You said that was for the silly old Republicans worrying about Herbert Hoover politics.

REICH: Well certainly the Republicans got my religion (ph).

NOVAK: Let me ask my question. What is this revisionist policy? Is it just a cheap political trick to do away with the needed supply- side tax cuts?

REICH: Well, firs of all, supply-side economics, we know -- when the 1980s -- it does not work. It's a failure, and people who believe it's...

NOVAK: It worked then.


REICH: It's called trickle on economics, not trickle down economics. And that's because most people don't get anything out of it. In the 1980s it didn't work, and here the administration is trying it again. Now wait a minute. Let me get to your answer.

And that is, deficits -- as long as the economy is struggling, when you have a lot of underutilized capacity, as we do now, a deficit is not bad because it stimulates the economy. But the deficits that are now inside that budget are $300, $400, $500 billion, as far as the eye can see. We're talking about a giant tax cut and spending $100 to $200 billion on the war in Iraq.

NOVAK: As a share of the Gross Domestic Product, it's smaller than it was at the beginning of the Clinton administration.

REICH: Bob, spending is growing and there is a great deal of worry in capital markets -- and Steve can confirm this -- that in fact inflation may be around the corner. This is deficit spending as if you have a bunch of drunks who just don't know how to stop, and these are Republicans. These are Republicans. Republicans who are running -- they're like kids in a candy store.

STEPHEN MOORE, CLUB FOR GROWTH: But you're right about one thing. It's deficit spending, with the emphasis on spending. And, therefore, what needs to be done is get the spending under control. The tax cut is important for two reasons. One, is it will help stimulate the economy and put people back to work. And, two, it will put a leash on these big spenders because, you're right, they are spending.

REICH: Wait a minute. It's not going to help stimulate the economy because most of the tax break goes to people who are very rich, and the definition of being very rich is you're spending as much as you want to spend.

BEGALA: But we're also going to spend on a war, Stephen. We don't have a choice in that. The president does. I pray to god he chooses not to, but he's taking us to war on top of the deficits he's already given us.

Let me put it up on the screen here. Because of Bob Reich's hard work, Bill Clinton's hard work, Al Gore's hard work, George W. Bush walked into office inheriting a projected $5.6 trillion surplus, $5.6 trillion. Today he has blown all of that plus another $1.8 trillion. A $7.4 trillion reversal.

Now, by the way, all of World War II...

REICH: I don't think those number include the war.

BEGALA: It doesn't include the war. All of World War II cost about $2.5 trillion. This guy blew $7.5 trillion -- and he inherited all of it. I thought he could handle inheritance.

MOORE: This is your fuzzy math again. But, look, I mean the fact of the matter is, if you look at what's happened with the budget, don't forget we had something that intervened there called 9/11.

BEGALA: It wasn't $7 trillion.

MOORE: That's what caused a huge damage to the American economy. That's why this war is so important. Once we get this war behind us -- and I don't know what it's going to cost, but we better spend what it takes to win it. And once we do that, and once we get this Bush tax cut passed, what worries I think liberals like you is that Bush is going to be unbeatable in 2004, because he's going to be riding a crest of prosperity and...


NOVAK: Just a minute. Mr. Reich, I want to ask you a very simple question. Do I just -- I'd just adore you if you gave me a simple answer.

REICH: I will give you a simple answer because I want you to adore me.

NOVAK: Oh, good. Where would you cut this budget?

REICH: I would cut the budget in terms of -- I'll tell you, right now, this budget is bloated, number one, in terms of pork. There's more pork in the new spending bill than we saw in any Clinton administration spending bill, and that's the amazing thing. The Republicans, who for years cried wolf about pork...

NOVAK: But you know it doesn't add up to much.

REICH: Bob, it does add up to a lot.


REICH: Wait a minute. Wait a minute. Can we just talk about this tax cut for a second? Because we're talking about $1.35 trillion going to people who are already extremely wealthy. What about sacrifice and wartime?

NOVAK: We're going to take -- their going to make you sacrifice, because we're going to have you quiet while we take a commercial break. Later on Fireback, one of our viewers has a request of all the new deficit hawk Democrats, like Mr. Reich.

Next, Democrats are complaining about the budget, but what spending are they really willing to cut? You're watching CROSSFIRE on CNN, the most trusted name in news.


NOVAK: Welcome back. Minority Leader Tom Daschle says the Senate Democrats won't raise the government's debt ceiling or act on proposed tax cuts until President Bush gives Congress estimates of the cost of a war with Iraq. That's just the Democrats usual obstructionism, but even the Republican chairman of the Senate Budget Committee is reported to be considering scaling back the president's new tax cut.

Can we afford a war or should we just cut spending? Former Labor Secretary Robert Reich and Stephen Moore of the Club for Growth are in the CROSSFIRE.

BEGALA: Stephen, here's why it's just a canard to say we should cut spending. The president is going to lead us into war. The CIA tells us that that will increase the threat here at home from terrorists.

MOORE: I think it's a pretty high threat already.

BEGALA: I do too, but the CIA says it will even get higher.

MOORE: You don't want to (UNINTELLIGIBLE) the terrorists?

BEGALA: No, no, no. I want to spend more on that. That's my point.

Here are the president's priorities. You know President Kennedy said to govern is to choose. Here's how President Bush has chosen. $41 billion for homeland security, $100 billion for tax cuts for the rich. That is insanity. How about $100 billion to keep us alive and maybe spread $40 billion to the rich? MOORE: What you don't understand, Paul, is that when we had those terrorist attacks on 9/11, this wasn't just a terrorist attack against America's buildings and so on. It was an attack against the capitalist economy that we have.

BEGALA: So cut taxes for the rich and the terrorists win.

MOORE: Because it works every time we've done it, Paul. We've had more growth in the economy. It was true in the '60s under JFK, it was true in the '80s under Reagan. It will work again. You know you keep saying -- Bob Reich keeps saying, well we can't cut taxes for the rich.

I'd like to ask people out there. How many people out there have ever been hired by a poor person? Poor people don't do the hiring.

BEGALA: How many people out there would rather give a tax cut to Donald Trump than get your ass shot off by...


MOORE: I didn't hear a lot of people say they were hired by a poor person.

REICH: Stephen, in the 1980s we did try. We did try supply-side economics. And what happened in the 1980s is that the poor got poorer and...

MOORE: That is not true.

REICH: ... the (UNINTELLIGIBLE) basically stayed where they were, and we ended with a huge deficit. And Paul and I and others in the Clinton administration, we came in, it was like coming into an administration with a giant pooper scooper with a big pile that we had to get rid of. We had to get that deficit down in order to get the economy going.

NOVAK: Mr. Reich, of course this is not just a tax cut for the rich. It's a tax cut for everybody. Everybody gets a tax cut.

Now I just want to -- and you pay taxes, and you have to pay taxes. But I just want to say, I think this is an interesting debate, but let's -- Mr. Moore and I don't fly under false colors and you do. And I want you to just say what you are really after. You are after bigger and bigger government and a redistribution of being income from the successful to the unsuccessful. Isn't that right?

REICH: No. If you want a tax cut, how about -- because more people pay more in payroll taxes than they do in income taxes, then have a payroll tax cut for one year. It would put more money into more people's pockets and the would...

NOVAK: That's a redistribution of income.

REICH: No it's not redistribution.

NOVAK: It certainly is.

REICH: And that's a tax cut for everybody and it means also that average working people can actually have more to spend. Rich people are not going to spend. Working people will spend, and that will stimulate the economy, and let's do it.



MOORE: Here's what you are missing. What is ailing this economy right now more than anything is a two-year bare market in the stock market. We now have 55 percent of Americans -- I bet most of the audience -- who own stock. They're losing money. Their wealth is evaporating.

If you do the dividend tax cut and you do the capital gains tax cut, that is going to put more wealth into people's hands and they will spend it. It works every time.

REICH: Wait a minute. We have to correct the rhetoric. And that is, that most people have a 401k plans if they are middle class. They already get tax benefits. This new dividend tax cut is not going to benefit anybody except people who are at the top.

MOORE: It does if the stock market rises.

BEGALA: We are running out of time. I've got 30 seconds left. Today on Capitol Hill, the Bush administration refused to send anyone up to the Republican-chaired committee toe testify about the costs of the war. Shouldn't the president level with the American people? Isn't it our money he's spending?

MOORE: We don't know exactly how much it's going to cost. Do you know how lo9ng it's going to take to...

BEGALA: He has estimates, believe me, Steve. Shouldn't he share his estimates with the American people?

MOORE: A lot of Democrats don't want to spend that money to evacuate Saddam out of Iraq.

REICH: Here is the big danger.

BEGALA: It's our money.

REICH: Here is the big danger, and it happened in Vietnam.

MOORE: Do you want to spend what it takes to win this war?

BEGALA: I don't want to fight the war. I want to win the war.

REICH: The president's low ball, what the real risks and real costs are with a war, and the public comes to think it's going to be quick and easy and then it's not quick and easy, public sentiment changes. There is not support at home. You get tremendous polarization at home. That's what the Bush administration is now setting us up for.

MOORE: I'm in favor of spending the money on the war, but we ought to not go in and lose the peace, because that's what we always do.

REICH: The president has got to be honest with the risk and cost of this. This could be a long, drawn-out affair. And if we're going to occupy Iraq and we're going to try to keep the Sunnis and the Shiites and the Turks and the Kurds and anybody else from having a bloodbath, and we want to create a relief agency there, this is not one year, it's not two years. It's going to be a decade, and you know it.

MOORE: If you want to make America safe, we have to go in there...


BEGALA: Stephen Moore from the Cato Institute, thank you very much. Professor Bob Reich, my old pal from the Clinton administration. Thank you very much.

One of our loyal viewers is ready to defend CROSSFIRE from the likes of CBS's Don Hewitt. We will let her fireback in just a minute. But next, our Quote of the Day landed a U.S. congressman in a lot of hot water. Now when you hear what he had to say you'll know why.


NOVAK: New polls show Americans continue to support a war against Iraq. At a recent forum, Congressman James Moran, Democrat of Virginia, was asked why he thought opposition to a war isn't any greater. Moran, a seven-term congressman, gave an answer he's been backpedaling away from ever since. It's our Quote of the Day.

"If it were not for the strong support of the Jewish community for this war with Iraq, we would not be doing this. The leaders of the Jewish community are influential enough that they could change the direction of where this is going, and I think they should."

BEGALA: Well Moran later apologized, as well he should. That's an outrageous statement. And think about it. Who's he talking about? Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Rice, Powell. These are all Protestants. I don't know why he's attacking Jewish leaders.

NOVAK: Jim Moran has been saying outrageous things for a long time. He's from a solid Democratic district in Northern Virginia, but there is such a thing as a Democratic primary. He ought to ask Cynthia McKinney of Georgia what happened. I think Mr. Moran's going to have primary opposition this time.

BEGALA: That's coming from a guy who's covered more than one campaign in his life. That's a stern warning for Jim Moran.

Well in the House dining room, Mr. Moran's colleagues, that is the neo-isolationist Neanderthal Republicans, have renamed French fries as -- gets this -- freedom fries. Next, a viewer fires back at this French bashing. Stay with us.



NOVAK: Our Fireback segment, when the viewers fire back at us.

Jeremy Cole of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania writes, "Democrats howl about the cost of tax cuts and a possible war in Iraq. I guess they think that giving us back some of our hard-earned money and defending us from our enemies is a waste of money compared to the big government handout programs they're more than happy to fight tooth and nail for." Way to go, Jeremy.


BEGALA: There has never been a bigger government handout program than George Bush's tax cuts for the rich. That's who he's handing out our money to. It's our money and he wants to give it to his rich friends.

Johnny in Sacramento writes, "Why are we so willing to spend an estimated $1.3 trillion to liberate and better the lives of the Iraqi people, when we readily cut millions of dollars of our own educational system that would better the life of future voting Americans?" Good point, Johnny.


NOVAK: Ed Ayres, of Norwalk, Connecticut, says, "Now that Congress has done away with French fries and French toast, can German potato salad and Russian dressing be far behind?" Ed, what worries me, as somebody who loves to go to the Austin Grill and eat Mexican food, what if Mexico votes no? Mexico votes no in the Security Council? Am I barred from eating Mexican food, then?

BEGALA: You know if Scotland goes against us, nobody will have a drink in Washington again. We'll have to pour our scotch down the drain. I hate that patriotic correctness form the right. I hate it.

NOVAK: How about the left?

BEGALA: I don't like political correctness either. That's a good point. Mary Henry of New York, New York writes about this little (UNINTELLIGIBLE) we're having with "60 Minutes," "Don Hewitt" -- and I'm not sure who he is; some obscure CBS executive -- "called you guys a crime against television. Let's hope that your sentence won't be to watch the CROSSFIRE wannabe segment they tried to pull off with Clinton and Dole." Ooh.

NOVAK: And that serves Clinton right for abusing his privileges as a former president.

BEGALA: Oh, as opposed to like going and sucking up to corporate America, like other former presidents?

NOVAK: Question, please.

DAPHNE PONTE: I'm Daphne Ponte from Carlinville (ph), Illinois. Why do we need a bomb this big if we're targeting military operations only? Won't civilian lives be sacrificed?

BEGALA: Well, here's the bomb.

NOVAK: Why do we need a bomb this big? There's the little bomb.

BEGALA: I have to say, I'm not in favor of this war, but I worked in the White House and I worked with many of the same generals who are running this, and they're going to do everything they can to limit civilian casualties, believe me.

NOVAK: And that does scare the hell out of the troops. Do you think you can scare an Iraqi soldier? Yes, I think you can.

BEGALA: Easily, yes.

NOVAK: Question?

PATRICK BURKE: Hi. It's Patrick Burke (ph) from Toronto, Canada. I'm wondering, do you believe the U.N. is only relevant when the U.N. bows to the wishes of the U.S. and does what the U.S. tells it to do?

NOVAK: Are you a Canadian from Harvard?

BURKE: Well, I bought this at Harvard.

NOVAK: You what?

BURKE: I bought it at Harvard.

NOVAK: Oh, you didn't go to Harvard. OK. Yes, you got that right.

BEGALA: Yes, that's the point. I mean they love to bash the U.N.

NOVAK: No, they are only relevant when they do what we want. OK -- next.

BEGALA: No, the question is, is George W. Bush relevant? His daddy got those same countries to come along with us. Bill Clinton got those countries to come along with us. Bush is irrelevant.

SEAN STILMAN: Hi. My name is Sean Stilman (ph) from Toronto, Canada. I just moved to Alexandria.

NOVAK: What is this Canadian night?

BEGALA: Well now he's here.

STILMAN: As a Canadian...

NOVAK: You forgot what you were going to say, I know.

STILMAN: ... I know I would rather trust the world security to the U.S. than Pakistan, Syria and France.

NOVAK: That's my kind of Canadian.

BEGALA: Well, we do trust American security to Americans. And the question is, why has this president been so bloody incompetent in trying to -- on September 12, the whole world was on our side and he's alienated every single one of them.

NOVAK: One more question.

BEGALA: Yes, ma'am.

SUZANNE VELIG: Hello, my name is Susan Velig (ph) from San Jose, California. I've come a long way. I want to know what do you think the U.S. government could do to realistically convince France to join them in a war against Iraq?

NOVAK: Give them money, that's what they want. Make up for what their oil losses with Iraq will be.

BEGALA: But, you know, make the case. In war against Afghanistan, it was the French who flew more combat air support missions than any other country except the U.S. The French were with us in Kosovo, they were with us in our revolution against Great Britain.

They have been great allies to us for 200 years. And only George W. Bush could drive them into the arms of the enemy. Shame on him.


NOVAK: Can I ask you a question? Are you going to vote to recall Governor Gray Davis?

VELIG: I'm sorry?

NOVAK: Are you going to vote to recall Governor Gray Davis?

VELIG: I plead the fifth.

BEGALA: This is what Republicans do. When they lose the vote, they either steal it from the Supreme Court, or now they're going to try to go and steal it in a recall effort in California. You know they ought to get used to losing when voters reject them.

NOVAK: I think she's going to vote to recall him. That's my opinion.

BEGALA: He's a good governor. He's learned that election. He got more votes than anybody, unlike Bush. So he deserves his job.

From the left I am Paul Begala. Good night for CROSSFIRE.

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


Can the U.S. Afford a War?>

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