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CNN CROSSFIRE

Where Are Iraq's WMDs?

Aired June 6, 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: where are Iraq's chemical, biological and nuclear weapons?

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We're going to look. We'll reveal the truth.

ANNOUNCER: Today, the politics of mass destruction.

REP. DENNIS KUCINICH (D-OH), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I think it's really important for the administration to produce this information in order to regain public confidence.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Anyone who doubts that Saddam Hussein had weapons is either deaf, dumb or blind.

ANNOUNCER: Plus...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: ... paradigm, leave no millionaire behind.

ANNOUNCER: ... should millionaires get a tax cut?

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

(END VIDEOTAPE)

PAUL BEGALA, CO-HOST: Welcome to CROSSFIRE. A new report says we've lost more than three million jobs under President Bush. Not only are those jobs missing. So are Osama bin Laden, Saddam Hussein and tons of Iraqi weapons of mass destruction.

Well, President Bush says that we will find them soon enough. We will debate our president's WMDs, whoppers of massive dimensions, in a minute.

But first, the best political briefing in television, the "CROSSFIRE Political Alert."

As we reported a moment ago, the Labor Department announced today that unemployment has risen to 6.1 percent, a nine-year high and a 49 percent increase from the Clinton presidency. Three million, fifty- three thousand Americans who had jobs under President Clinton have lost their jobs under President Bush.

As humorist and author Al Franken notes, if you combine the negative jobs growth under the first President Bush with the loss of jobs under Bush Junior, it means that 6 1/2 years of Bush economic policies have yet to create a single job.

And if you extrapolate that out, Franken continues, it means that if the Bush family had been running the country since the founding, it means no American would ever have worked.

TUCKER CARLSON, CO-HOST: There you go. You have summed up nicely the entire platform of virtually every Democrat running for president right there.

BEGALA: Get rid of Bush! Yes.

CARLSON: No. An Al Franken line. You know, I would take it more seriously if Democrats had any idea what to do about rising unemployment, had any plan. I work on this show almost every day, Democrats on. The Democratic plan. There is no Democratic plan.

BEGALA: I wrote an entire book about it. It's called "It's Still the Economy, Stupid." You should read it. Everybody should read it.

CARLSON: I did read it, Paul. The idea I hear on the set every night is we need tax cuts, just a sort of different sort of tax cut, maybe a little less tax cut. Because Democrats have no clue.

BEGALA: By the way, they created 23 million jobs under a Democratic president. How are we doing under a Republican? Bush is the one who doesn't have a clue.

CARLSON: In today's campaign news, speaking of the presidential race, Democratic presidential candidate Howard Dean of Vermont was passionately opposed to the recent war in Iraq. And that, Dean told an audience in Washington yesterday, is why he voted against President Bush's Iraq resolution in Congress. There's only one problem. He isn't in Congress.

A former governor, Dean hasn't been elected to a legislative body in almost 20 years. And that was the Vermont state house. The governor misspoke, explained Dean's spokeswoman, adding that Dean may have been referring not to his years in Congress but to his previous career as the pope.

BEGALA: Well, that's the sort of innocent misstatement that politicians make all the time. I contrast that with then Governor Bush who told us he spent a year in the National Guard in Alabama, which he never showed up for. Or President Reagan, who said he freed a Nazi death camp at Berkinau (ph), when he never left Culver City, making Army training clothes. Those are serious lies.

CARLSON: But fact, Paul, the whopper about the National Guard stuff has been exposed as a lie in "The New York Times." But the point is, it's not an innocent misstatement. It may be innocent but it's kind of ludicrous. He imagined he was in the Congress voting against the resolution when he's not even a member of Congress?

BEGALA: And Bush imagined he was in the National Guard when he never showed up for a year.

CARLSON: Bush did it, is that your defense? Come on.

BEGALA: This is a simple misstatement. He said -- I'm sure he meant to say that he opposed it. I'm sure he didn't vote against it. But what did Bush mean when he said I showed up to serve my country and he was AWOL?

CARLSON: Actually, it turns out he did show up.

BEGALA: Except that he didn't.

For years the gay employees of the Department of Justice have held their gay pride event at DOJ's headquarters in Washington but not this year. Attorney General John Ashcroft has denied them a chance to gather, citing the lack of a presidential proclamation.

According to today's "New York Times," President Bush has issued proclamations on behalf of Leif Erikson Day, Save Your Vision Week and Greek Independence Day but he refuses to do so for gays. Of course, gays are understandably upset.

A spokesman for the Taliban applauded President Bush and Ashcroft and suggested they continue to follow in the Taliban's example by burning gays at the stakes, pushing them off a cliff or crushing them with a toppled wall. That's actually what the Taliban says.

CARLSON: Opposing a gay pride parade is not the same as hating gays, much less wanting to hurt them.

BEGALA: ... the department.

CARLSON: It is absolutely not. I don't think there ought to be Episcopalian Day parade at DOJ, an Irish American day. I think they just ought to go ahead and enforce the law. CNN does not have a gay pride parade here.

BEGALA: That's at least a principled position.

CARLSON: And we are not a hate filled organization.

BEGALA: That's a principled position. But when we have Asian American Day and Hispanic Day and Leif Erikson Day, why the heck shouldn't we have Gay Pride Day?

CARLSON: Why should I pay for any of that? Their job is to enforce the law, it's not to celebrate whatever ethnic persuasion or sexual preference they have. It's to do their jobs as federal employees. And they can knock it off, and I don't want to pay for it. BEGALA: In that case there shouldn't be any of them. They shouldn't be PC and discriminate against gays just because they're homophobic.

CARLSON: Homophobic.

In the "it doesn't get much better than this" category, Cynthia McKinney, the former Democratic member of Congress you may remember accused the Bush administration of planning and profiting from the September 11 terrorist attacks, is back.

McKinney has filed paperwork that will allow her to run again for her Georgia congressional seat, which she lost in the last primary. And if that doesn't work, members of the Green Party have expressed interest in having her head their presidential ticket next year.

McKinney may never be elected to anything again, but that's not the point. The point is that within the Democratic Party Cynthia McKinney has a constituency.

BEGALA: The point is, the Democratic Party rejected her in a Democratic primary. The Republican Party has not rejected Rick Santorum, another homophobe who said gay people were like those who practice incest. When the Republicans drive him out of the party the way Democrats drove Cynthia McKinney out of mine, I'll have more respect for the Republicans.

CARLSON: Actually, Rick Santorum, you use that ludicrous talking point every night. You may not agree with what Rick Santorum said, but if actually you read the text of what he said, raised, maybe ineptly, a pretty interesting point.

BEGALA: Bigoted point. Cynthia McKinney said something hateful about our president -- I oppose President Bush as much as anybody but Cynthia McKinney said something hateful and false around him and I decried it. In fact, I climbed under this desk when she did it, so outraged was I at what she said.

Why can't principled Republicans say that it's outrageous for Rick Santorum...

CARLSON: I'll tell you.

BEGALA: ... to attack every gay American.

CARLSON: He didn't attack every gay American. It's valid to have a religious objection to it.

BEGALA: I share his religion, just not his bigotry, Tucker.

CARLSON: Next, will the U.S. government find Iraq's weapons of mass destruction before Democrats turn the hunt into yet one more negative campaign issue? We'll debate that.

Later, they aren't "Joe Millionaire," they don't even play him on the TV. So what are they doing at the vice president's house? You'll find out; we'll interview one.

Be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CARLSON: Welcome back to CROSSFIRE.

While experts hunt for Iraq's weapons of mass destruction, members of the Democratic Party are desperately hunting for something else: an excuse, no matter how flimsy, how pathetic, to claim there's been some kind of conspiracy, a cabal, a cover-up.

Here to talk about the politics of mass destruction are Democratic strategist Peter Fenn and Republican consultant Ed Rogers.

BEGALA: I thank you both very much...

PETER FENN, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Good to be here.

BEGALA: ... for joining us on a Friday afternoon. Ed, in his State of the Union address, our president promised the American people and the world that our intelligence says that Saddam Hussein had -- and this is a rough quote from him -- 500 tons of sarin, mustard and VX chemical weapons.

We now know that several months before that speech his own Defense Intelligence Agency told him this -- and I'm quoting from a Defense Intelligence Agency report CNN has found, "There is no reliable information on whether Iraq is producing and stockpiling chemical weapons, or where Iraq has -- or will -- establish its chemical warfare agent production facilities."

The president was briefed and he told us something opposite of what the intelligence said. Isn't that misleading?

ED ROGERS, REPUBLICAN CONSULTANT: Well, what you read was a news account of a much broader report that perhaps is taken out of context.

But suppose it isn't taken out of context? All that means was perhaps there was conflicting intelligence. Do you want your president to give the benefit of the doubt to the terrorists? Do you want him to give the benefit of the doubt to...

BEGALA: I want him to tell go to the people and say, "Look, the intelligence is mixed, my fellow Americans." Just tell the truth.

ROGERS: ... had a proven record of building and using weapons of mass destruction. Does he get the benefit of the doubt? Absolutely not. Intelligence...

BEGALA: But the president should level with us. He should tell us the truth, Ed. That's what I want.

ROGERS: They have found two mobile chemical weapons labs. The fact that he may have tidied up and either hidden some weapons...

(CROSSTALK)

BEGALA: Stop.

CARLSON: Peter Fenn, I'm going to ask you a question here. Here's my question.

One of the reasons people don't take the Democratic Party seriously in national security, and they don't, is because you don't make serious arguments. The current argument is the suggestion that Saddam never had, at least recently, weapons of mass destruction.

To put that into context, France in the U.N. expressed its belief that Saddam had WMD. The Democratic Party is taking a position further to the left of Jacques Chirac. How do you explain that?

FENN: Well, I can explain it by saying it's not true.

But first of all, as you know, the reason he had chemical and biological weapons was because we gave them to him in the '80s.

ROGERS: No, no, no. I don't stand for that. That's not true. That's not true at all.

FENN: But let me just make this one great point. His last week -- last week we had the president of the United States saying, "We found the weapons of mass destruction."

ROGERS: Sure.

FENN: But unfortunately, you had the prime minister of Britain, Mr. Blair saying, "Well, we will find them, I think. We're still looking for them."

So I love the way the allies can't get their act together.

CARLSON: Democrats are alleging, as Senator Byrd -- who is really getting to be an embarrassment for your party, by the way -- said on the floor of the Senate recently that there never were weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.

FENN: Nobody that I know is making that serious argument. The point -- because they have been used -- chemical weapons, if you call those weapons of mass destruction, have been used against the Kurds.

ROGERS: You can call them that.

FENN: So we have records of that. But the point is the entire policy starting at the U.N., with the State of the Union address was that we are going in there because they have these weapons of mass destruction.

Now we may still find them. They may still be there. This is a state the size of California. But right now, it doesn't look good for Bush...

ROGERS: Nothing has happened that is inconsistent with what the president said.

FENN: OK...

ROGERS: Nothing has happened.

FENN: Except that the intelligence agencies now are under the gun.

I work for the Senate Intelligence Committee. I have great respect for the intelligence community. They have been put in a possibly uncompromising position, because their information may have been politicized.

ROGERS: Well, you're accusing people...

FENN: We'll find out when we look at -- I'm saying it may be, but we ought to look at it.

BEGALA: The argument was whether Saddam Hussein threatened America. I think any reasonable person would have concluded he did have weapons of mass destruction. As Peter points out President Reagan sent him anthrax. Donald Rumsfeld went to visit him in 1993 when he was gassing the Iranians.

ROGERS: That's not true.

BEGALA: But that's a prudent belief, that he had them.

ROGERS: That's an outrageous thing to say.

BEGALA: President Reagan authorized the sale of anthrax to Saddam Hussein. That is an historical fact.

FENN: It is a fact.

BEGALA: And Donald Rumsfeld went to visit him and asked for closer relations on behalf of President Reagan in 1983 when he was gassing the Iranians.

ROGERS: So how close did you guys get? What happened in the Clinton White House?

BEGALA: This is what happened. In 1998 President Clinton bombed every known or suspected weapons site. And that's why he didn't have them when we invaded in 2002 -- 2003. That's what happened, isn't it?

ROGERS: No, not at all.

BEGALA: We bombed them in '98, and the right wing said it was wag the dog. It turned out he actually destroyed all the weapons.

ROGERS: Is that right? So he did have them and destroyed them all? Clinton destroyed all the weapons?

BEGALA: The weapons inspectors...

ROGERS: Nobody is making that argument.

BEGALA: Yes, they are. What happened to them, Ed?

ROGERS: They found two mobile weapons labs.

BEGALA: Two Winnebagos.

FENN: They had tuna fish in them.

ROGERS: You're choosing to believe that he doesn't have them, that he didn't have them. You're choosing to believe that.

FENN: One thing we can all agree on. Let's all agree on one thing and that is that the fear of loaded weapons of mass destruction, ready to be put out there on our troops...

ROGERS: Was our driving (ph) fear.

FENN: It's -- but it was a false fear, correct?

(CROSSTALK)

ROGERS: I wouldn't say that at all.

BEGALA: Yes, we do know that.

CARLSON: Hold on. Let me interrupt you. I want to argue about the future here for a minute. I want to talk politics for a second.

Eliot Spitzer, who's the attorney general of New York state, said something in "Newsday" that I thought was telling. He still speaks for a lot of moderate Democrats who can think clearly. When he said, quote, "The American people will not elect somebody who opposed a war that they supported."

Polls show that Americans believe by 40 points Republicans protect them better from terrorism than Democrats. Eliot Spitzer's on to something. The candidates, by and large, are not, right?

FENN: No, most of the candidates did support the war, as you know. Only one candidate -- well, serious candidate, if you count -- come on, get real.

CARLSON: Address the point.

FENN: Let's get real. I'm not talking about Kucinich and Carol Moseley Braun.

ROGERS: Let's talk about them.

FENN: No. This is a very important point. You know, one of the interesting things is, if you look at the way this war was conducted, the weapons that were used, how terrifically accurate they were, a lot of this was done during the period of the Clinton administration. A lot better weapons in '91. And also if you look, we have just passed the largest budget for defense ever, $400 billion. They got more than the Defense Department asked for. And the vote in the Senate of the United States was 99 to 1. So what I'm telling you...

ROGERS: So why do the Democrats want to debunk the victory that has been ours in the last couple of months?

BEGALA: They're debunking the rationale the president gave us. Only 31 percent of American people in the CNN poll this week said they believe that President Bush gave us accurate information about that war.

Is that not a credibility crisis for George Bush?

ROGERS: The American people have passed judgment on this.

BEGALA: Only a third of them...

ROGERS: The American people have passed judgment on the legitimacy of this war, the rightness of this war. They have passed judgment on Bush as a leader in the whole national security forum. The degree to which the Democrats want to continue talking about this is good for us politically, not bad for us.

BEGALA: We're happy to have you help your party politically. Ed Rogers, Republican strategist, thank you very much.

Peter Fenn, my friend, Democratic strategist. Thank you very much.

Hot debate. Right after a very quick break -- Wolf Blitzer will bring us all the headlines -- then we'll come back here for "Rapid Fire," where the questions and answers come faster than a bunch of greedy Republicans grabbing for another tax cut from George Bush.

Speaking of which, hundreds of self-professed millionaires dressed up in their best top hats and tuxedos and gathered out in front of the vice president's residence today. I have my doubts as to whether they could every actually get into a country club. They didn't look very millionairesque to me. So why were they putting on the Ritz? We will speak with one of the millionaire marchers live from outside Dick Cheney's house in just a minute.

(NEWSBREAK)

BEGALA: Welcome back to CROSSFIRE.

You know, it's not unusual for Vice President Dick Cheney to attract millionaires. Of course, ever since Chief Justice Rehnquist gave him Joe Lieberman's house he's used it to entertain his fat cat friends.

But the people who paraded outside his home this afternoon weren't the usual crowd of porcine felines. These mock millionaires were, in fact, trying to make a point about the Bush administration's tax cuts for the rich. One of them joins us live for "Rapid Fire," the fastest Q&A session in television. His name is William McNary.

Mr. McNary, thank you for joining us, sir.

WILLIAM MCNARY, PROTESTER: Thank you for having me. Tucker, let me first say I love your tie.

CARLSON: Well, I love your hat and I'm tempted to ask you about that but we're short on time. So instead I'll ask you, Mr. McNary, will you send your portion of the tax cut back to the U.S. government and send us here at CROSSFIRE a copy of the canceled check?

MCNARY: Well, the fact of the matter is that, you know, my $90,000 I bought and paid for it fair and square. I gave money to Vice President Cheney and President Bush and we own the Congress. If the people don't like it, the people can change it.

I'm personally keeping mine. You can ask my other millionaire friends what they want to do with theirs. I bought and paid for it so I'm keeping it.

BEGALA: Mr. McNary, after all that money Dick Cheney made selling oil field equipment to Saddam Hussein, doesn't he need a tax break?

MCNARY: Well, you know, personally you're speaking to the choir, Tucker. I guess if I was one of the eight million taxpayers that didn't get a tax break, if I was one of those 12 million children of the working poor who got stripped out of the tax cut, then I might be disappointed. But personally I'm pretty grateful. And that's why we're here, to say thank you.

CARLSON: Really? Mr. McNary, since you care about people so much, I wonder if you don't see the contradiction in harassing a man in his home. Why don't you go to his office and stage a demonstration there? Why bother his wife and children, too?

MCNARY: You know, we're standing outside of his home because that's how we were told to be hospitable. If somebody is hospitable to you, you go to his house and show him. We're saying thank you.

There is no harassment here. We just came here to say, even at the expense of health care, at the expense of education and even at the expense of homeland security, they passed the tax cut and we're thankful.

CARLSON: OK. Mr. McNary, I just want to point out to our viewers that you may be speaking tongue-in-cheek. You might not necessarily be a millionaire who wears a top hat. Nevertheless, we appreciate your joining us on CROSSFIRE.

BEGALA: Leave the man alone.

CARLSON: Thanks a lot.

BEGALA: Good job. CARLSON: It's time for today's "Ask the Audience" question. Pull out your voting devices and tell us should millionaires get a tax cut? Press one for yes, they pay taxes like the rest of us and they deserve a tax cut. Part with socialists who prefer to soak the rich then press two for no. We'll have results in a minute.

And "Fireback" will hear from a viewer who has noted yet another discrepancy in Hillary Rodham Clinton's book.

We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CARLSON: Welcome back to CROSSFIRE. Time for "Fireback."

But first the results of our audience poll, in which we should millionaires get the tax cut, the most loaded question ever asked. Just checking to see if you were paying attention.

And the results are yes, say 61 percent of Republicans, only 7 percent of Democrats agree. Not surprisingly. No, say 39 percent of Republicans; 93 percent of Democrats say no.

BEGALA: I would say, as someone who has written poll questions, that's an unfair question. But even so, most of the Republicans are willing to stand up for their ideology and say that tax cuts are good things.

CARLSON: But it's like asking, "Should child molesters get free birthday cake."

BEGALA: Nobody's going to do that.

CARLSON: They should pay for their own cakes, that's right.

BEGALA: We'll do better on the question next time.

Gary in Las Vegas, Nevada, writes, "If Republicans are he-man advocates of personal responsibility, why do they cower like my poodle in a thunderstorm and blame this gutterball economy on everything except our Republican president, Republican Congress and Republican policies?"

Gary, good point.

CARLSON: All right. Next up is -- next up should be another question. Kevin from Nevada writes, "I think anyone who describes himself in an interview as 'really private' just after publishing a tell-all memoir is hard to take too seriously."

I have the sense that maybe you're referring to the junior Senator from New York.

BEGALA: Well, Kevin should buy the book and judge for himself. I know I will. Charles Lasster of Fulton, Kentucky writes, "Evidently the Iraqis were so advanced militarily, that they could produce invisible weapons."

Good point Charles. There is no gap that they didn't threaten us. I thought they had weapons. I think Bush was reasonable to think they did but should have told him if the intelligence, as we learned today, told him otherwise.

CARLSON: It took 5 1/2 years to find Eric Rudolph. He was found by a 21-year-old patrolman.

BEGALA: These are bombs and weapons and missiles and nuclear weapons.

CARLSON: Actually, enough of anthrax to kill all of Washington could fit in a suitcase.

BEGALA: Five hundred tons he promised us.

CARLSON: Harriet J. Brown of Bayside, New York, writes, "Even if they don't find the weapons, they did find mass graves, which was reason enough for what we did. But, eventually, we will find the weapons."

BEGALA: I wonder if Dick Cheney saw those mass weapons when he was over there supplying Saddam Hussein.

Yes, sir. What's your question or comment?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: My name is Thomas from New York City. And I was wondering if no weapons of mass destruction are found, how do you think President Bush will justify the attack on Iraq and, in particular, how do you think this will affect relations with France?

CARLSON: Let me just say Dick Cheney never traveled to Iraq to supply Saddam's regime with anything.

BEGALA: That's true. He did supply them. He just didn't go personally.

CARLSON: Completely untrue.

BEGALA: He sent a foreign subsidiary based in London, sold oil field equipment to Saddam Hussein. He made $73 million off of it, his company did. And that's a fact.

President Bush already I think is already trying to scramble and find another rationale for it. But I do think it hurts his credibility.

CARLSON: There were a number of rationales for it and Iraq's link with terrorism, Abu Nidal and al Qaeda, was -- it's true.

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

CARLSON: And from the right, I'm Tucker Carlson. Join us again tomorrow for -- indeed on Monday for yet another edition of CROSSFIRE.

"WOLF BLITZER REPORTS" starts right now. Have a great weekend.

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