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Is Bush Unbeatable?

Aired May 2, 2003 - 16:30   ET



On the left, James Carville and Paul Begala.

On the right, Robert Novak and Tucker Carlson.


Who can top pictures like these?

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It's been a heck of a trip out here to California.

ANNOUNCER: Can anyone out there take him on? Or even win the Democratic dog fight?

And the man behind the book of virtues may have a vice. We'll tell you what it is.


Live, from the George Washington University, Paul Begala and Tucker Carlson.


JAMES CARVILLE, CNN CO-HOST: Welcome to CROSSFIRE on day two of George W. Bush's grand triumphal tour. Those pictures on the aircraft carrier sure do look nice to commander-in-chief and his victorious troops. You can't beat that. And did you notice the banner that said "mission accomplished"? Hardly anyone would question that, would they?

But hold off the coronation just for a minute. We're going to debate whether anyone can beat George W. Bush. Joining us are Republican strategist Terry Holt and Democratic consultant Vic Kamber.

Welcome to CROSSFIRE.

ROBERT NOVAK, CNN CO-HOST: Mr. Kamber, before -- before we get to the things that James' was talking about, there's some breaking news today. A federal court ruled unconstitutional the McCain- Feingold bill on campaign finance reform. It appears that they have ruled most of it unconstitutional as a violation of free speech, which was hardly a surprise.

Now since the liberals have been working on that bill for years and years and years, is this a terrific setback for the left wing cause in America?

VIC KAMBER, DEMOCRATIC CONSULTANT: Well, I think it's a setback for American politics, period. I think we've got to get rid of money as we've known it to be, as it actually damages the system. But frankly, until we read what Feingold -- McCain Feingold, what we've they've done to it, what's been thrown out, what hasn't, I don't think it's fair to truly comment, Bob.

But I am disappointed because I believe we need campaign finance reform in this country.

CARVILLE: I'm all stunned at Mr. Novak's question and maybe we can go back to 9th grade Civics. In order for a bill to become law, what happens to it after Congress passes it?

TERRY HOLT, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Well doesn't the president sign it?

CARVILLE: Ah, thank you.

HOLT: That's my understanding.

CARVILLE: My understanding too. Now, I mean, so we got this big kind of rant about it's a great defeat for the liberals. But it's my understanding the president signed the bill.

HOLT: This ruling today is good for everybody. Before this, under this law, this audience could have gotten together and wanted to run TV ads to make you president. But they wouldn't have been able to.

KAMBER: Not a bad idea. Not a bad thought.

HOLT: That freedom of speech was altered by this ruling. And the fact of the matter, this ruling today was joined by the AFLCIO, the Democratic Party of California, the Republican Party. It's a bipartisan victory.

CARVILLE: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) tells me it was probably a pretty bad ruling.

NOVAK: Let's turn to what we've been talking about before. The president was just terrific on the aircraft carrier Abraham Lincoln last night. Some tremendous pictures in the paper today. "The New York Post" had on page one the president in a jump suit, top gun, and let's take a look at George Bush and who is the guy next to George Bush? Can we put that up on the screen? Well, we're having a little trouble. What's going on here, folks?

CARVILLE: It's the liberals in Atlanta.

NOVAK: Yes, take a look. Take a look. Yes. Now can you see there's two different people there? What can you do to cope with that?

KAMBER: First of all, "The New York Post" three days ago they had the Dixie Chicks on the front page, so I'm not sure -- stark naked. I'm not sure what that -- "The New York Post" is a barometer of.

Also, the American public doesn't vote on photo ops. I mean, there's -- the president had his day. He rightfully should crow. We ended a war with a third world power that we all expected to win anyway. The fact is now he's got to deal with the real wars in this country: the war on poverty, the war on lack of education, the war on unemployment.

NOVAK: So that wasn't a big political coup for the Republicans?

KAMBER: I -- it is -- coup what? To have a picture taken on an aircraft carrier? The plane landed, he got out in a jumpsuit and he looked good. And I'll give him all the credit in the world that's possible for that.

CARVILLE: As he was having this great triumph, how goes it with the occupation, Terry? We having any problems over there?

HOLT: Well, there's a lot to be revealed yet on the war on terrorism. it's not over in the long term.

CARVILLE: I don't understand. How goes it with the occupation in Iraq?

HOLT: Well, it's dangerous over there.

CARVILLE: How goes it? On the day he comes out, we're occupying -- what else do you call it? We're there. They fired after three weeks on the job, on our triumphant day, they fired the American viceroy and replaced him with somebody else.


NOVAK: I'm James' personal truth squad. General Garner has not been fired. That was an incorrect report.



CARVILLE: Well, I read it in the paper.

NOVAK: Well, and you believe everything you read in the papers, Carville?

CARVILLE: Who is this guy they're bringing in? Who is this guy they're bringing?

NOVAK: He's -- that's Paul Bremmer. He's a terrorism expert. General Garner is still...


CARVILLE: Oh, I see. Oh they're getting read to bring him some help then.

HOLT: Well, there's a DOD guy and there's a State Department guy.


NOVAK: I want to show you some polls.


NOVAK: Mr. Kamber, the -- the poll taken by -- who did the first poll? Not the best day. "Washington Post"/ABC/NBC/ABC News poll shows approval rating for the president -- well, we've got the wrong one up. See that. There it is. Approval rating -- we're doing good today, aren't we? Approval rating of the way that George Bush is handling his job, 71 percent. Disapprove, 26 percent.

And then the other one I showed you, only if war with Iraq justified if the U.S. does not find weapons of mass destruction, they say it's justified even if they don't. Yes, 79 percent. No, 19 percent. That's all the liberals were hanging their hat on. Gee, you haven't found the weapons of mass destruction. You're in bad shape on the polls aren't you?

KAMBER: I'm not sure exactly what you're exactly asking, Bob. I mean, if we're comparing him to his own father, he's 20 points down in the polls from his father at the same time after a war.

It's not a matter of polls. People today, we support our president and we're happy the fact that the war has ended, hopefully it's ended. I'm where James is. Until we know what happens with the occupation, until we get our troops back -- not 150,000 still over there. Until we get them back safely in this country, this process isn't over.

But we have major problems in this country. You notice he talked about unemployment today and he blamed the Congress for it. The fact is he's got no program for an economic recovery in this country and that's what people are going to vote on.

NOVAK: Every time we're talking about the right of people, people like the president and they like the way he ran the war you go back to unemployment.

KAMBER: We like a lot of people in this country, Bob. It doesn't mean we elect them president of the United States.

CARVILLE: I agree. I agree -- I agree that we need more time to find chemical and biological weapons. I've always said that, you have to give him a chance.

But I want to show you something Vice President Dick Cheney said on "Meet The Press." "We know that he's been absolutely devoted to try to acquire nuclear weapons and we believe he has, in fact, reconstituted nuclear weapons." Vice President Cheney, March 16, NBC's "Meet the Press."

Now, what do you think the chances are that we're going to find that this country had advanced nuclear weapons program?

HOLT: Well, what's advanced mean?

CARVILLE: It means reconstituted nuclear weapons.

HOLT: So far, we've found terrorism. We've found evidence...

CARVILLE: What terrorism? We found a memo in 1996. Come on, man.

HOLT: We fond -- we found evidence of links with al Qaeda.


What do you think are the chances that we're going to find that he has an advanced nuclear weapons program?

HOLT: Well, I don't know what advanced means.

CARVILLE: Well, he has the capability to make a nuclear weapon.

HOLT: I don't think there's any question in the world...




CARVILLE: I'll ask it this way: are we going to find out or not?

HOLT: Yes.

CARVILLE: Yes. We got you on that.

NOVAK: OK. We're going to have to take a break.

Next is "Rapidfire," the fastest question and answer segment in television.

Later, the left's new campaign to smear the author of the book of virtues. Boy, oh, boy. Is nothing sacred?

And is it time they had a new election for the show that used to be America's favorite political drama?


CARVILLE: It's time for "Rapidfire," the fastest question and answer session in politics. We're talking about how quickly President Bush will lose his aura of political invincibility. Our guests, Republican strategist Terry Holt and Democratic consultant and my dear Vic Kamber.

NOVAK: Vic Kamber, if the Democrats trying to look like "Top Gun" George Bush, isn't this what they look like?

That is Michael Dukakis who a few years ago was a candidate for president, and he was riding this tank and everybody laughed at him. You captain do that kind of stuff, can you?

KAMBERS: I think it depends who you're talking the candidate is. I think if John Kerry is the candidate, he can wear his medals very proudly in this country and there's several others also.

CARVILLE: Terry Holt, compare John Kerry's war record in Vietnam with that of President Bush's, quickly.

HOLT: Well I wouldn't care to. Kerry was a hero in Vietnam.

CARVILLE: You wouldn't care to. OK. And President Bush


HOLT: ... served his nation proudly...


NOVAK: Vic Kamber we had this great picture in "The New York Post."


NOVAK: Of George Bush in the jump suit. Do you think your big hawk, Joe Lieberman, can look good in a jumpsuit?

KAMBER: I have no idea how Joe Lieberman dresses or Al Sharpton or anybody.


KAMBER: As good looking as George Bush, yes.

NOVAK: You think so?

KAMBER: Absolutely.

HOLT: I love this thing.

CARVILLE: Should the Republicans be able to use footage from this last night on Abraham Lincoln in a campaign commercial?

HOLT: Well we certainly used Michael Dukakis with great effect. I think that will be their call.

CARVILLE: They should be allowed to?

HOLT: I think so.

CARVILLE: And should the Democrats be allowed to use it also?

HOLT: Free speech.

NOVAK: Vic, do you think (UNINTELLIGIBLE) economic collapse in America, something like the Great Depression to elect an Democrat?

KAMBER: No, I think collapse we have right now will elect a Democrat. We're in trouble.

HOLT: Unless you elect George McGovern again.

NOVAK: OK, thank you very much, Vic Kamber, Terry Holt. Thank you so much.

Next, the CROSSFIRE guide to television. There's the "Antiques Roadshow" featuring guess who? The Democratic presidential candidates.

And is it finally time for a regime change in the "West Wing." The TV program that is.

Plus, James Carville's salivating to take on one of America's most moral men.


NOVAK: Now that our guests are gone it's time to let everyone know what we're really thinking. So here come the best political briefing in television, our "CROSSFIRE Political Alert."

It's nine months before anybody votes for a Democratic candidate for president, but the nine Democratic hopefuls are conducting their first debate tomorrow night in Columbia, South Carolina. While President Bush makes patriotic speeches on aircraft carriers and defense plants, the Democrats argue about trivia.

Those at the debate will hear Carol Moseley-Braun and Dennis Kucinich, but not Lyndon LaRouche who claims he's running for president as a Democrat. What makes Lyndon so different from Carol Moseley and Dennis that kept him out of the debate? I guess it's because he's served a prison term and they didn't.

CARVILLE: You know, I remember when in those Republican debates when you had such luminaries such like Gary Bower an Alan Keyes who had really a real a chance to be elected president too sitting in there.


CARVILLE: By the way, I don't think unemployment, I don't think America's position in the world, I don't think schools, I don't think the environment are trivial issues, Bob. I think they're serious issues that concern a lot of people. And I'm going to tune in to listen to this debate... NOVAK: You may tune in, but you're going to have a lot of trouble, because it ain't on television. You'll have to take a train down to Columbia...


CARVILLE: Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum is falling all over himself on the gay rights issue. "The New York Times" reports Santorum had a meeting with four parents of gay children to try to explain his views equating homosexuality with incest and bigamy.

The paper said after a heated 30-minute exchange Santorum was in such a hurry to get out of the room he tripped on a chair on the way out. Actually, the reason Santorum tripped was that he was in a hurry to get to an inclusion meeting at the White House. Remember, bush Called him inclusive.

NOVAK: I tell you something, I think Senator Santorum is not only one of the finest members of the Senate, he's one of the finest young men I know in politics.

And I tell you something else, you and "The New York Times" and the Democratic Party and the homosexual lobby are after him. But the Republicans are not going to shoot him in the back like they did Trent Lott.

CARVILLE: You know what? Let me say this right now, so there's no mistake about it. I believe -- I believe homosexual people have every right in the world. I think what he said is I think is insane. I think what he said makes no sense at all. And I tell you what, most gay people I really like and I will stand with them and under attacks from the likes of you and Rick Santorum and all of these other people. These are fine Americans, tax paying Americans and I'm with them.

NOVAK: All he said was -- wait a minute.



NOVAK: All right. You filibustered me out again.


NOVAK: Aaron Sorkin is quitting as writer for the NBC dramatic series "The West Wing" and so is the lead director, Thomas Schlammy. Could it be the program's failing ratings? "The West Wing" is a precious self-indulgent exercise in network liberal bias.

When Bill Clinton was in the White House, liberal characters in the "West Wing" were fictional versions of reality. They still are, even though George W. Bush is president. A Hollywood agent noted in today's -- quoted in today's "Washington Post" calls the "West Wing" as currently screened a whole other alternative universe. Why not adjust to reality 2003? Because they're Hollywood liberals, stupid. CARVILLE: You know, let me tell you something. You were right when you claim that most of the people in Hollywood are liberals. And I am right when I tell a you that almost all the people in the tobacco and pollution industry are Republicans.

Now this is my question to you. What would you rather a child grow newspaper America to be: an actor or a cigarette addict or a polluter? OK. So I agree.

NOVAK: Wait a minute. Let me think about it, James, because....


NOVAK: ...I think Hollywood are mental polluters.

CARVILLE: Right. OK. Right. I guarantee you.

William J. Bennett is a right wing's favorite moral scout. He's gotten rich by giving us inspirational readings like "The Book of Virtues," "The Death of Outrage," "The Moral Compass," and according to the Washington Monthly Online, Bennett also has blown millions of dollars gambling -- $8 million dollars according to magazine sources.

The article says Bennett is a preferred customers at casinos in Atlantic City and Las Vegas, where he prefers to play the $500 pull slot machines. The article quotes Bennett as saying he adheres to the law. don't play the milk money and reports his gambling to the IRS. In short, Bennett says gambling isn't a problem.

Want to bet? The two biggest gamblers in Las Vegas are value czar Bill Bennett and porn czar Larry Flynt.

NOVAK: Well, I guess you've never gambled very much in your life...

CARVILLE: All the time.

NOVAK: your life, James. I don't know if you read the article. The read the article. The article says there's no evidence he's ever lost any money.


NOVAK: Wait a minute. Let me finish my sentence. What I think right now is that this is an attack by the left wing Washington Monthly on one of the person who is very, very respected by the young people of America. So what if he gambles?


CARVILLE: So wait -- a $1,000 pull on the slot machine? I mean, come on, man. I mean you're telling me that's like the guy don't have a problem? Woo!


NOVAK: Next in "Fireback," we'll hear from a viewer who thinks Harry Potter and Hillary Clinton have something in common.


CARVILLE: Welcome back to CROSSFIRE.

Now, "Fireback." We've been telling you what we pink. Now it's your turn to tell us what you think.

"Mission accomplished. I thought the mission was to find Saddam Hussein and his weapons of mass destruction. Talk about short-term memory." Sarah Reich, New York, New York.

Actually, Sarah, I think we got to give them more time. I think it's fair and I suspect they'll find some chemical and biological. I doubt seriously if they'll find anything like an advanced nuclear program. but let's give them a little more time.

NOVAK: The mission was really regime change and they sure accomplished that. No question.

OK. Sheryl of New York City says," So Hillary Clinton has written a non-fiction memoir. That's a good one. I'm sure Harry Potter sticks closer to reality."

That may be the truth, but fiction or not, I'm dying to see what Hillary says about Monica.

CARVILLE: Oh really? Well you'll have to fork out 28 bucks to find out, Bob.


CARVILLE: "Bush needs to stop acting like a cockpit cowboy trying to lasso ratings and get to work on the economy." Julie Bowles, Portsmoth Ohio."

Actually, Julie, I think this is a great example of spiking the ball too soon. I think I would have preferred -- I think they would have done better by having a more modest thing. But they certainly got regime change.

NOVAK: Yes. Bill Clinton wouldn't have done that.

CARVILLE: I don't think he would have.

NOVAK: Not really.

Michael Hall of Dayton, Ohio says, "Bob, I love it when you ring the bell!"


"Sometimes I wish it was Carville's head you were tapping on when he interrupts you in the middle of a good point."

Michael, you and me both, baby. You and me both. CARVILLE: Michael, he's never had a good point.


CARVILLE: So how can I do that? Go ahead.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hi. I'm Doug (ph) from Omaha, Nebraska.

The question I have is the D.C. District Court just struck down the major provision of McCain-Feingold campaign finance law. Do you expect the Supreme Court to upheld the ruling or do you think they will return it?

NOVAK: Mr. Omaha, I tell you something. That bill was dead the minute it was passed. It was unconstitutional on its face. Everybody knew that. There was one lawyer at this table, Mr. Carville, and I think he'd agree with me.

CARVILLE: Well, I didn't know that and apparently there was one judge on the appeals court that didn't know that. It was 2 to 1.

You know, my guess is that the Supreme Court will change things in the ruling. What and how much, we'll have to wait and see.

NOVAK: Go ahead.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm Kevin (ph) from Carleton (ph), Michigan.

If we don't find weapons of mass destruction, then how will the war with Iraq be justified?

NOVAK: Regime change. That's what they were really after in the first place.

CARVILLE: Let me tell you the problem here. No, they told us that our intelligence service told them that they had these nuclear weapons in particular. If they don't find them, then we have to revamp the entire intelligence community in the United States, because alternative would be something I wouldn't even want to think about, and that is American people being lied to about nuclear weapons. We all know that that -- no one would be capable of that. My mind would not even go there.

NOVAK: That's really silly. I said right at this table many times I didn't think they had any weapons of mass destruction.

CARVILLE: Why was the vice president, secretary of state saying that.

NOVAK: That's for another -- we're out of time. We'll have to save it for another program.

Go ahead.

CARVILLE: From the left, I'm James Carville.

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

"WOLF BLITZER REPORTS" starts right now.


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