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CNN CROSSFIRE

Had War on Terror Been Forgotten?

Aired May 13, 2003 - 16:30   ET

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

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

In the CROSSFIRE, the terrorists are still out there.

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The ruthless murder of American citizens and other citizens remind us that the war on terror continues.

ANNOUNCER: But until yesterday, had the war on terror been forgotten?

Plus, the eyes of Texas are looking everywhere for them, and we'll have one live.

And, Clinton meets Elvis in a big hunk of cross promotion. Today on CROSSFIRE.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

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

(APPLAUSE)

TUCKER CARLSON, CO-HOST: Welcome to CROSSFIRE on a day we've all gotten a sober reminder that the war on terrorism continues. Actually, despite some politically motivated wishful thinking, it never stopped.

Nearly 200 people were injured and 29 people died in Monday night's terrorist bombings at a housing complex in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. Among the dead, seven Americans and nine people identified as the attackers. The working assumption in the U.S. is that this is the work of al Qaeda.

In the CROSSFIRE to discuss what's next in the war on terrorism, Democratic Congresswoman Maxine Waters of California and Republican Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen of Florida.

PAUL BEGALA, CO-HOST: Congresswomen, thank you both for joining us.

(APPLAUSE) BEGALA: Congresswoman Ros-Lehtinen, Tucker just mentioned politically motivated wishful thinking. I really don't know what the motive was, but we did get a lot of wishful thinking out of the Bush administration just eight days ago. One of the leading Bush administration officials on terrorism said -- and I'm quoting him here -- "The global war on terrorism has been effective, focused and it's got these guys on the run."

They described al Qaeda as "crippled." Was the Bush administration simply ignorant or were they misleading us?

REP. ILEANA ROS-LEHTINEN (R), FLORIDA: No, neither one of them. The Bush administration has been ever vigilant, and President Bush has laid out his map of action very clearly when he said you are either with us or you're with the terrorists.

He has said there are terrorist cells all around us. He's not having wishful thoughts that the war on terrorism is over. Nor is it going to be over when we catch these culprits.

It's going to continue because we have a lot of anti-American sentiment out there. Many of them have been fueled by religious fanaticism. And there's going to be no end to it until we root it all out. But I don't think that either (ph) were misguided or wishful thinking or they were wrong. I think they are relentless and I think Bush is on the right track.

CARLSON: Congresswoman Waters, in 1996, terrorists killed Americans at Khobar towers in Saudi Arabia. Two years later, there were bombings at two American embassies Africa, in Kenya and Tanzania.

It was not made immediately into a partisan issue, though it could have been by Republicans. Republicans pulled back and gave the president at the time, Bill Clinton, the benefit of the doubt. Whether they should have or not is a question. But my question to you is, will Democrats now show that same restraint and not attempt to make partisan hay out of this tragedy?

REP. MAXINE WATERS (D), CALIFORNIA: Well, first of all, let me just say that I think all of us are so very, very concerned, and our sympathies go out to the families and to the victims. We want this president to be successful with his war on terrorism. But I want to tell you a lot more needs to be done.

The first thing that needs to be recognized is, this relationship that we have with the House of Saud in Saudi Arabia must be looked at and re-evaluated. We are sleeping with the enemy because they have been found to be connected to al Qaeda and to terrorists, and we know that a high-ranking official in that government coordinated a $100 million package to the Taliban.

So are we going to make oil our only concern, and no matter what they do we are going to remain friends with them? This is a monarchy. This is not a democracy.

When are we going to say to the Saudis, enough is enough, you can't have it both ways? You can't be our friend?

(APPLAUSE)

BEGALA: Congresswoman Ros-Lehtinen, I could not agree more with Maxine Waters (UNINTELLIGIBLE) this is why it's not a partisan issue. An organization called The Wall Street Journal Editorial Board, probably the most right wing of all in the country, echoes Maxine Waters' views. Shouldn't this president get tougher on the House of Saud?

ROS-LEHTINEN: Well, I think that the Saudi Arabians themselves have been the victims of a lot of these terrorist organizations. And I think that they should look within themselves and say, what is it that they are doing?

They have been funneling money to organizations that are supposedly refugee or groups here in the U.S. and in other countries, when they're really just front groups for terrorist organizations. So I am no apologist for the Saudi regime. I consider them to be many times part of the problem and not part of the...

BEGALA: Shouldn't the (UNINTELLIGIBLE) toughen up with them?

ROS-LEHTINEN: But, they have also been victims of these same terrorist activities. So they're not so much the culprit, as victims themselves. But if they are funneling money to these terrorist organizations, then the Bush administration must get tougher on the Saudi family. I am not...

WATERS: It's not if they are. They are. It is documented.

(CROSSTALK)

CARLSON: But it's also documented, Congresswoman -- it's also documented that the government of Saddam Hussein in Iraq had ties with al Qaeda. Documents found since the fall of Baghdad show that an envoy from al Qaeda came to Baghdad in 1998. This proves the White House point that there was a connection, doesn't it?

WATERS: No, no, no. Let's not deflect this issue. First of all, you've got to understand that...

CARLSON: OK. Congresswoman, I'm sorry to ask a question and interrupt you. We're going to go now very quickly to the president in Missouri, touring tornado damage.

BUSH: Al Qaeda is a group of people that they don't care about taking innocent life. And obviously these killers didn't care about innocent life. And we'll find out. We'll find out and we're going to find them.

QUESTION: Are you satisfied with the cooperation that the Saudis have giving you and do you believe they did all they could...

BUSH: Well, we'll sort the facts out and find out what the facts are. Colin Powell is over there now. I'm confident when I get back to Washington tomorrow that George Tenet of the CIA will give me a full briefing on what I know, and we'll just find out. Let me get back to Washington and sort through the facts.

QUESTION: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) Saudi Arabia?

BUSH: Let me get back to Washington and find out the facts. We'll assess all the threats. We'll take necessary precautions.

But one thing is for certain. The people that killed the Americans and other innocent life will be tracked down and they will be brought to justice. It doesn't matter how long it takes.

The war on terror goes on. And this incident in Saudi Arabia shows the country that we still have got a war to fight. And we will fight it and we will win it, just like the people of this city are going to rebuild this city. This country is going to defend our security and fight these terrorists.

QUESTION: The bombing looks like it was pretty well planned.

BUSH: It was very well planned.

QUESTION: So these guys have a little bit of money, they've got the infrastructure...

BUSH: It doesn't take much money to put a car bomb together. It takes hatred. It takes hatred in your heart.

It takes an absolute disregard for innocent life. And that's the nature of al Qaeda. I can't say for certain it was al Qaeda yet, but I wouldn't be surprised if it was.

QUESTION: (UNINTELLIGIBLE)?

BUSH: Iraq?

QUESTION: Iran.

BUSH: Oh, I have no idea. It's way too early. Let me get back to Washington and get the facts and we'll work on it. In the meantime, my heart is right here in Pierce City, Missouri.

CARLSON: That was President Bush in Pierce City, Missouri, touring tornado damage. We're back on CROSSFIRE debating the political fallout from the latest terrorist attack in Saudi Arabia with two members of Congress, Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, a Republican from Florida, and Maxine Waters, a Democrat from California.

Congresswoman Waters, I just asked you if it is in fact true what the administration said all along, there was a connection between Saddam's government and al Qaeda and recently unearthed documents prove it, no?

WATERS: I think the House of Saud is more dangerous than Saddam Hussein because they have more money, they spend 50 percent of their budget on weapons. They do have weapons of mass destruction. CARLSON: Time for a regime change in Saudi Arabia, do you think?

WATERS: It's time for the president of the United States to say to the House of Saud, no matter what the relationship is for oil, we can no longer tolerate your relationship to terrorists around the world.

Fifteen of the 19 terrorists of 9/11 came from Saudi Arabia. We know about the 1995, 1996 attacks in Saudi Arabia. Enough is enough.

We can't talk about Saddam Hussein now. We've got to talk about the ruling monarchy in Saudi Arabia, all of the strong ties that they have to terrorists, and the fact that we are refusing to admit it.

ROS-LEHTINEN: But Maxine, when do you see the torture chambers? I mean all that we have seen about what Saddam Hussein has been doing, the torture cells, the chambers of horrors, mass graves that they've unearthed of dissidents, people who were just trying to practice their religious faith. I don't know that you can put a degree of classification of who is worse and who is less worse.

BEGALA: Oh yes you can.

(CROSSTALK)

ROS-LEHTINEN: But Saddam Hussein was a terrible, ruthless dictator.

BEGALA: And he had nothing to do clearly with this attack today because he's gone. He's either dead or incapacitated. And yet the al Qaeda attacks continue.

Your senior senator, Bob Graham -- among others -- the former chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, has been saying for months that the president has diverted too many of our intelligence assets and military assets away from the war against al Qaeda, which he thinks is more important, and over toward Iraq. Doesn't it look like tragically Senator Graham's warnings were right?

ROS-LEHTINEN: No. I think that we've got to fight terror at all fronts. Because this is on the front pages today and because it's on the leading news does not mean that tomorrow we won't find that Hezbollah is going to blow up a school bus of 100 children.

And Hezbollah is a problem as well, and Hamas and Islamic Jihad. There are so many terrorist organizations. And I think we have a responsibility as the world's superpower to do everything we can to bring stability, to bring freedom to people and to root out terrorism so that we can ensure our national security. Which terrorist group is worse than the other? They are all horrible and we should do all that we can to focus in on them.

BEGALA: I'm sorry to cut you off. We're go to go to break. And then we'll come right back to both of you. Both congresswomen keep your seat. And when we come back we will do our "Rapid Fire" segment, which is the fastest Q&A segment in all of television. And later, we've tracked down the lone star state's most wanted fugitives. We'll talk with him live. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BEGALA: Welcome back to CROSSFIRE. Time for the quickest question-and-answer segment in politics. We call it "Rapid Fire." We are discussing the war on terrorism with Republican Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen of Florida and Democratic Congresswoman Maxine Waters of California.

CARLSON: Congresswoman Waters, is the world a safer place now that Saddam is gone?

WATERS: The world is not as safe as it should be and it could be. As a matter of fact, Saddam Hussein did not have the ability to reach the United States with weapons or with nuclear power.

But I want to tell you there are some others who do have that capability, including North Korea, including the ability by the Saudis, should they desire to fund any terrorists who want to reach the United States. The Saudis are the ones who are fueling the (UNINTELLIGIBLE) in Pakistan.

(APPLAUSE)

BEGALA: Congresswoman Ros-Lehtinen, is Saudi Arabia our ally or our adversary in this war?

ROS-LEHTINEN: Well, I think that once we take out our U.S. troops from Saudi Arabia, which is a very important strategic decision of President Bush, we will have a better regional stability in that area. They have cooperated with us when it was in their best interest. They have not cooperated with us fully, as they should, and they are funding many of these terrorist groups. They are a burden on national interest.

So, yes and no. It depends when it's in their best interest, and that's not for our best interest.

CARLSON: Not many Saudi defenders here on the table. Thank you both, though. Congresswoman Waters and Congresswoman Ros-Lehtinen, thank you. We appreciate it. Thanks.

ROS-LEHTINEN: Thank you.

WATERS: All right. Thank you.

CARLSON: Just ahead, a check of the headlines with Wolf Blitzer. Then, in the CROSSFIRE Political Alert, Bill Clinton's latest monument to himself is going up and so are the warning signs.

But first, the Texas Rangers can't find them, but CROSSFIRE has. The fugitive Texas lawmakers joins us live, secure and undisclosed. We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CARLSON: Welcome back to CROSSFIRE.

It is now or never. So we won't be cruel, even to suspicious minds. Catch the Elvis references; we bet you do. Here comes the best political briefing in television: our CROSSFIRE Political Alert.

You knew unfortunately that it would happen sooner or later. Alas, the Bill Clinton-Elvis Presley marketing alliance is taking shape even as we speak. The Associated Press reports the Bill Clinton presidential library, park museum and egoplex is in negotiations for a cross-promotion agreement with, yes, Graceland. Clinton's collection of Elvis records is already set to go on display this fall in the Arkansas library system, not that anyone would care.

Meanwhile, Clinton billboards have gone up in Memphis and other southern tourist spots, alerting wary travelers that the Clinton library is set to open in November of 2004. Bumper stickers, snow globes (ph) and oil on velvet paintings are certain to follow.

How cheesy can it get, Paul Begala? That's my question to you. How cheesy can it get?

BEGALA: Elvis was the king and Clinton is the king of politics. Bush, of course, his musical hero Milly Vanilly because he sort of lip syncs Dick Cheney's words.

At least Clinton is a by-god American (UNINTELLIGIBLE), just like Elvis. I love Elvis and I love Bill Clinton.

CARLSON: It's so -- I'm an Elvis fan, but Clinton doesn't approach the majestic coolness of Elvis...

BEGALA: Well none of us do. We're all a shadow of the king.

CARLSON: ... who died in the men's room, I will point out. However, if anything, he is Elvis the later years and it sort of makes him...

BEGALA: No.

CARLSON: Yes, he is.

BEGALA: You never travel with the man. Bill Clinton, like Elvis, can set a room on fire.

How many of you would go to a Bill Clinton concert here? What do you think, huh? The king.

CARLSON: Oh god.

BEGALA: All right. Well at least 50 Democratic members of the Texas legislature have fled the lone star state. They are boycotting the session and halting all legislative business for the lack of a quorum. All this to block a congressional redistricting plan pushed by House Republican Leader Tom DeLay.

The current Texas map was drawn by a bipartisan panel of federal judges and was approved by the U.S. Supreme Court. But DeLay and his fellow right wing thugs will stop at nothing, and so the Democrats are left with no alternative. Let's hope this move catches on and maybe Democrats here in Washington walk off the job rather than allow President Bush to ruin the economy or pack the courts and declare war on, say, France.

Well, in a few moments -- a few moments ago, rather, Texas Republican Governor Rick Perry issued a statement where he was angrier than a cow poke at a vegetarian convention.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GOV. RICK PERRY (R), TEXAS: It's unfortunate that they would run and hide, rather than stay and fight for their constituents. Every day, Texans who face difficult challenges at work, they keep showing up. When the going gets tough, Texans don't back down. They rise to the challenge.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CARLSON: So the Democrats in the Texas legislature didn't like what was happening so they ran away to Oklahoma, holed up in a hotel playing Indian bingo and drinking malt liquor and not doing their jobs. I mean you are actually endorsing -- running away?

BEGALA: It was their job. Their job is to protect and defend the Constitution.

CARLSON: Oh, come on.

BEGALA: Tom DeLay is going to put it in the shredder with his right wing plans to take over the Congress.

(CROSSTALK)

CARLSON: Bumper sticker rhetoric aside, your job as a legislator is to argue it out, is to debate it, is to be involved in the great questions of the day. It's not to run to Oklahoma and hide in a motel.

(APPLAUSE)

BEGALA: What Tom DeLay was trying to do is take away the rights of citizens for...

(CROSSTALK)

CARLSON: You want to blame it all on Tom DeLay.

BEGALA: Let me make my point; I let you make yours. DeLay has forced this through because he doesn't like democracy. That's why he rigged the election in Florida. He's trying to now rig the election it in Texas. He must be stopped. God bless the Democrats. CARLSON: Tom DeLay, this may be news to you. The (UNINTELLIGIBLE) is in a different body. He's in the federal government.

BEGALA: Maybe he's driving his train a little less -- well now that we have heard from the governor of Texas, stay with us. You'll hear from the other side.

We have found a Texas Democrat who has the guts to appear on national television and take on his governor. He's risking his freedom to do it, so don't go away.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BEGALA: Welcome back to CROSSFIRE. Joining us now is a Texas lawmaker with the guts to stand up to Tom DeLay and the rest of the knuckle-dragging thugs in their attempt to gerrymander his state's congressional map. In Ardmore, Oklahoma just across the border from his beloved home state of Texas, Representative Steve Wolens, a courageous Democrat. Thank you for joining us, Steve.

REP. STEVEN WOLENS (D), TEXAS STATE HOUSE: You're welcome. Happy to be here.

CARLSON: Thanks for revealing your location. Is this what Texas Democrats do when they get in an argument? Sort of run away and hide in a motel? And is that what Texans did at the Alamo?

WOLENS: Listen, you can't say that we're hiding. We've got more media here than the time I saw when the Cowboys went to the Super Bowl or George Bush went to the White House.

This is what the Democrats here won't stand for. We're not going to stand for a gerrymandered bill, a congressional map that was gerry- rigged out of Washington, D.C. We simply won't be an accomplice to a partisan heavy-handed power grab by the Republican Congress in Washington. That's all it is.

BEGALA: Well Representative Wolens, you're a veteran legislator. I worked there in Austin many years ago. And politics is the art of the compromise. Surely the Republicans have offered you some sort of a deal, haven't they?

WOLENS: No, there have been no deals made. We compromise on a lot of things, but there's very little compromising to be done over redistricting. It's the DNA of partisan politics, and we ought to move beyond this.

There are a lot of issues that all of us care about. We care about homeowner's insurance. You know we in Texas have the highest homeowner insurance premiums of any state in the country. Here we are first, we ought to be last.

We need to be concerned about health insurance for our children. We're last. We wish we were first in terms of coverage. We are so concerned about taxes. We have a lot more work to do on taxes in Texas, and instead of that we are worried about the silly redistricting.

CARLSON: I bet you do. Well, actually, instead of that, you are hiding in a motel in Oklahoma. Why don't you get back to Austin and improve your state? I mean why don't you fight it out on the floor of the Texas legislature if you care about those issues so much?

WOLENS: Because we've got a lot of places that we can be relevant. And we are relevant pursuing the House rules. The House rules say that it takes a third of us to object legislation simply by not being on the House floor, and that's what we're doing now. And it seems to have an effect.

BEGALA: Well, Congressman, we're almost out of time. But doesn't the Constitution say we change the map every 10 years, not just every time Tom DeLay wants to pick up a few seats?

WOLENS: I can't hear you.

BEGALA: I'm sorry go ahead. Don't you already have a redistricting plan? Why do you need a new one?

WOLENS: Listen, the rules are the same for all the states in the country. We have to redistrict every 10 years. We did that two years ago.

Federal judges said that there was a congressional map for Texas. The U.S. Supreme Court said there was a map for Texas. And as late as six months ago, all these congressman ran and got elected from districts here in Texas.

We ought to go beyond this. We played by rules of the game. There's no other state in the country except one who is trying to go backwards to deal with redistricting.

BEGALA: State Representative Steve Wolens, originally from Dallas, now in Ardmore, Oklahoma. Thank you very much for joining us. Believe me, we will have more on this story. Thank you, Steve Wolens.

Time now for our "Fireback" segment. The first e-mail we got is from Charles Moore in Columbia, Maryland. "The president has wrecked the economy, forgotten Afghanistan, ignored al Qaeda, and his having a hell of a time trying to secure Iraq. Not to mention that we haven't found any weapons of mass destruction. Wow. This president makes me feel all warm and fuzzy inside."

(APPLAUSE)

CARLSON: Well, he sounds like a warm and fuzzy guy, old Charles Moore of Columbia, Maryland.

Next up is Lee Clark from Columbus, who writes "The only thing more annoying than Tucker Carlson is that (expletive deleted) gong."

Well, thank you, lee. I do think the gong is more annoying than I am.

BEGALA: You're not at all annoying. You're wrong, but you're not annoying.

CARLSON: But that bell, yes, it is more annoying than me. Yes ma'am?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes. I'm Aloyce (ph) from Langsford (ph), Michigan. Could you tell me, do you think our president is going to put his head on the block with this situation in Texas and step in? He is a Texan.

CARLSON: I can't imagine. I mean it's such -- it just falls -- well you saw the governor of Texas, Governor Perry, look delighted that the Democrats had run away crying and sniffling, hiding in some little motel in Oklahoma. It's good for (UNINTELLIGIBLE).

BEGALA: And when Bush was the governor, as a Republican, the Democrats ran the legislature and they worked in a bipartisan way. That's how Bush got to become president. Now we see what happens when Republicans take over. They use these thuggish right-wing tactics, and that's why the Democrats...

CARLSON: And burst into tears and leave the state.

BEGALA: Yes ma'am?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm Michelle (ph) from Cincinnati, Ohio. I'm wondering, we just heard President Bush say that it doesn't take much money, it just takes hatred to foment terrorist attacks. Shouldn't we be dealing with the anti-American sentiment that seems to be increasing around the globe?

CARLSON: A lot of that sentiment comes from American support for Israel. And if you think that support is a good idea, it's sort of -- you know, what, are we not going to support Israel simply because people hate us for it?

BEGALA: No, but also a lot of it has come from the president's incompetent foreign policy around the world.

From the left, I'm Paul Begala. That's it for CROSSFIRE.

CARLSON: From the right, I'm Tucker Carlson. Join us again tomorrow for yet more CROSSFIRE.

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