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CNN CROSSFIRE

Where Are Iraq's Weapons of Mass Destruction?

Aired June 11, 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 Saddam's weapons of mass destruction, and were they there in the first place?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Anybody who is looking for infallibility in the intelligence community had better reexamine their thinking, because we make mistakes.

ANNOUNCER: The Senate gets ready to ask some questions.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I am concerned by the number of anonymous officials that have been speaking to the press, alleging that they were pressured by the administration to skew their analysis.

ANNOUNCER: And will book buyers force Tucker Carlson to eat his shoes? 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. And, no, the junior Senator from New York state has yet to sell a million copies of her book, nor is it likely that she ever will. And so we're moving on to happier topics, such as the hunt for weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. But first, you have found the best political briefing in television, our CROSSFIRE Political Alert.

A Palestinian terrorist disguised as an Orthodox Jew blew up a bus in central Jerusalem today, killing at least 16 civilians. Later, Israel launched helicopter attacks in Gaza, killing two Hamas militants and five others.

President Bush condemned the Jerusalem bus bombing and called on the world to cut off funds to terrorist groups that "hate so much they're willing to kill". Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas called on Palestinian militants and Israel to stop all attacks and to take immediate steps to implement the road map to peace. Tonight, it seems it's going to be a very long road. PAUL BEGALA, CO-HOST: I have to say, as somebody who criticized President Bush for the first 15 months of his term when he disengaged from the Middle East, his engagement here is very important, it's very laudatory. He's going to have setbacks.

This, of course, is not President Bush's fault. He did the right thing in trying to pressure the parties. And I pray that he proves his own aides wrong who told "The Washington Post" that he didn't have the knowledge or commitment to work in the Middle East. I hope he proves them wrong.

CARLSON: Well, that was ludicrous from the beginning. I think the most significant thing Bush has done is alienated Arafat and help give rise to someone who seems like a potentially reasonable person, Abu Mazen, Mr. Abbas, the new prime minister, who seems like someone you can work with.

I think the long-term question for those of us who support Israel pretty strongly is, is holding on to the West Bank and Gaza long term, is it good for Israel's security? And I'm beginning to think maybe it's not.

BEGALA: Well, we'll have to wait and see how long Mr. Bush continues this engagement. I hope it's a long, long time.

Well, in all of the great cop shows: "Dragnet," "Hill Street Blues," "Starsky & Hutch" -- to name one of my favorites -- they play the old good cop-bad cop routine. Well, you're seeing that cliche performed live in Washington these days, as President George W. Bush, who conquered Afghanistan and Iraq, pretends to whimper powerlessly as he reneges on his promise to give tax cuts to 12 million poor children.

Reason? Mean old House Republican Leader Tom DeLay, who announced, "it ain't gonna happen." Truth is, if Mr. Bush gave a rat's patootie about those kids, they would have their tax credit already. They don't because Mr. Bush is either a wimp, afraid to challenge DeLay, or he's a phony who breaks his promises to impoverished children. Take your pick.

CARLSON: Paul, that is so unreasonable. First of all, you're going to Bush's motives, which, as you know, you can't know. Second, the president from the White House said really directly, I want this tax cut to apply to low income -- OK.

It actually happened, Paul, believe it or not. It is hard to see how he can be more strong than that. And third, as you know, the executive doesn't write the laws in this country, Congress does. I'm not sure what else Bush could do.

BEGALA: Here's what he could do: pick up the phone. All he needs is 12 Republicans -- 12. Every Democrat is for helping these poor kids. He can't lead 12 members of his own party? Baloney.

This is a phony good cop-bad cop routine. Bush doesn't give a darn about the poor. And if he did, he'd pick up the phone and get the votes.

CARLSON: You know that's such an awful thing to say. It's totally untrue. It's something you can't know. And as you know...

BEGALA: So that means he's an ineffective leader. He can't deliver 12 guys in his own party.

CARLSON: OK. It may not boast the harmonies of the Dixie Chicks, the distinctive sound of Norah Jones or the raunchy edge of Eminem, but how many other presidential candidates can you name who are issuing their very own compact disc and are willing to sing to promote it?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. BOB GRAHAM (D), FLORIDA: You've got a friend in Bob Graham, that's what everybody is saying all across...

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CARLSON: Yes, the Bob Graham charisma tour 2004 is only days away from release. This is not a joke, we could not make it up, of course. The senator from Florida recently stunned an Iowa audience into silence, followed by hysterical laughter, when he ended his speech by singing a few lines of, You've Got a Friend in Bob Graham, which is on the CD.

Other songs include, I've Done Every Job, Man. And for those who appreciate a Latin beat, Ariba Bob. Good luck, Senator Graham.

BEGALA: You know I remember the days of Orrin Hatch. He ran for president in the 2000 election in the primaries. He had a CD, songs. And he had actually Bono of U2 give him a special rock 'n' roll nickname: Johnny Trapdoor (ph). So both parties...

CARLSON: No, that was really sweet. And I think virtually everyone who lives in Washington, likes Senator Hatch, because he's such a nice guy...

BEGALA: He is?

CARLSON: Senator Graham, though, is being touted as the most serious Democratic candidate running for president. That tells you a lot.

BEGALA: He is a very serious candidate. He knows a lot about national security and he can run Graham with singing. Good enough for me.

In culinary news, Hillary Rodham Clinton sold an astonishing 200,000 copies of her terrific new book, "Living History," in just its first day of sales. Simon & Schuster, which had ordered a whopping one million books for its first printing, is already reportedly ordering a second printing of more than 300,000.

Why then do I call this culinary news? Here's why. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CARLSON: If she sells a million copies of this book, I'll eat my shoes and my tie. I will.

BEGALA: And your tie, too?

CARLSON: Yes, and I'll enjoy it. A million copies.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BEGALA: Tucker, my friend, get ready to be munching on a little shoe leather coming up pretty soon, huh?

CARLSON: Actually, Paul, I will, in fact, eat my shoes, because I'm a man of my word, as you know. But I don't think there's any chance that's going to happen. This is book publishing hype.

They're already ordering 350,000 copies. From the reviews, the review yesterday in "The New York Times," one of the most savage reviews I have ever read of any book published ever in my lifetime, this book is not going to sell a million copies.

I truly don't believe it is. And if it does, it can be verified, I'll eat them, I'll be happy to do that.

BEGALA: No weasel words, if it can be verified. If there's honest reporting in the media...

CARLSON: Well actually if they say a million copies. I don't want to eat wing tips if I don't have to.

BEGALA: Guess what? You're going to be eating those shoes. This is a terrific book.

Everybody in the audience, by the way, who wants to watch Tucker eat his shoes, buy Hillary's book. We're going to let our audience actually vote right now. If you've got your voting devices, tell us whether Tucker Carlson will have to eat his shoes.

Press one for yes, Hillary Clinton will, in fact, sell a million books. Tucker's going to be munching on filet of sole. Or, press two, Republicans, if you find a way to stop the vote count. Perhaps call Chief Justice Rehnquist and spare Tucker a leather lunch. We'll have the results a little later in our program.

But next, we're going to debate a more serious topic, whether the Bush administration may have spun the intelligence of whether Iraq had weapons of mass destruction. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CARLSON: Welcome back to CROSSFIRE. Saddam Hussein and his weapons of mass destruction remain unaccounted for. So beginning next week, the Senate Intelligence Committee will hold closed-door hearings to review U.S. intelligence prior to the war in Iraq. However, Chairman Pat Roberts of Kansas is not giving into Democratic demands for a formal joint inquiry and accompanying media circus.

Meanwhile, U.N. weapons inspector Hans Blix says the U.N. had faulty information before the war. Blix also whines that he has been the target of a smear campaign by "bastards in Washington." He is not the first and, of course, no one cares.

We're going to put all of this in the CROSSFIRE tonight with Illinois Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky, a member of the Democratic House Leadership, and Indiana Republican Congressman Mike Pence.

(APPLAUSE)

BEGALA: Thank you both for joining us. I know you've got votes on Capitol Hill, so thanks for taking the time.

Congressman Pence, let me begin with you. As Tucker mentioned, Senator Pat Roberts is the Republican Chairman of the select Committee on Intelligence in the United States Senate. By tradition, the Senate runs its intelligence community in a very, very bipartisan manner.

Sources on the Hill today told me that Senator Jay Rockefeller, the vice chairman of that committee, a Democrat, was not even informed about the press conference, much less the plans that Roberts has. Doesn't that suggest this is actually just partisan and maybe even a rigged deal?

REP. MIKE PENCE (R), INDIANA: Well, I'll tell you what, it may be partisan, but in a peculiar way, Paul, I mean, quite frankly, I talked to members of the House Intelligence Committee today here on the House floor and they thought that the suggestion that the Senate Intelligence Committee or the House Committee, as you know, Paul, work very closely together, needed to begin to look into this kind of information when they have all along, members of both parties, of both chambers' intelligence committees, have been all along studying the evidence for over a decade of the clear presence of a WMD program in Iraq was really questionable.

I was disappointed when Senator Roberts made the pronouncement that he made. The Intelligence Committee has a role to play. They've been playing it all along.

CARLSON: Congresswoman Schakowsky, the implication for many on the Democratic left is that there was some sort of conspiracy or cover up, the administration misled the public into thinking Iraq had weapons of mass destruction. I want to read you a quote from Dick Gephardt, a Democrat in the House.

He said this on Sunday on CBS. "I think we have plenty of evidence that these weapons" -- that being weapons of mass destruction -- "were there and are there. And if they're not, if it's not true, there will be lots and lots of people who will be proven wrong."

In other words, it's not the Bush administration who misled America if those weapons turn out to be there, everybody thought they were there. This is true, isn't it? REP. JAN SCHAKOWSKY (D), ILLINOIS: Well, it's not just the presence of weapons. It's whether or not they posed a serious and imminent threat to the United States and the rest of the world. And that was the pretext for the war.

And, for heaven sakes, if they weren't going to be used when we invaded, then clearly they were not a threat. And either, one, the intelligence was bad; two, the intelligence was manipulated, i.e. maybe there was some lying going on; or, three, they do exist, have been unprotected, our troops there are still at risk, or they've fallen into the wrong hands and do pose a serious threat, and we failed to protect them.

BEGALA: In fact, Congressman Pence, let me give you a few specifics. Our president told us before the war that Iraq had biological weapons. We now know that before the war his Defense Intelligence Agency told him there was not conclusive evidence of bioweapons production.

He told us that the IAEA, an inspection regime, said that Saddam Hussein was close to a nuclear weapon. The IAEA tells us that that's false.

He told us that these aluminum tubes were used for weapons. Even Condoleezza Rice, the president's national security adviser, says that that was false.

He told us Saddam Hussein tried to buy uranium in Africa. We now know that that was a forgery and false.

He said that there were close links to al Qaeda. We now know from two top al Qaeda leaders before the war that there were no such links. And he told us that these trailers that had been found were used to produce biological weapons and chemical weapons. We now know that that is false.

Isn't that enough to demand an inquiry, at least?

PENCE: Well, it might be enough for you, Paul, but I'd rather put my confidence in the overwhelming evidence of over a decade, beginning in 1991, when Saddam Hussein admitted to possessing 10,000 chemical warheads to UNSCOM. He also admitted to possessing 412 tons of chemical munitions.

And Paul, if you'll remember, I think you were in the Clinton administration in those years when Saddam Hussein threw out the weapons inspectors in 1998. President Clinton, your old boss, ordered a bombing of Iraq to protect our interest against the nuclear, chemical and biological weapons that Iraq possessed. And so there is overwhelming evidence spanning two administrations, Paul, that these weapons were there.

BEGALA: That's right. They were there in 1998. President Clinton did, in fact, launch four days of massive air strikes against every single known or suspected weapon site. Isn't it logical to presume then that those strikes worked and destroyed his weapons and the inspections and the sanctions kept him from reconstituting it, so that, in fact, the (UNINTELLIGIBLE) were right that there was no imminent threat, right?

PENCE: Well, Paul, that is wishful thinking. It doesn't explain why Saddam Hussein then for five years continued to resist to provide any evidence that he had in fact destroyed those weapons or they were otherwise destroyed. It really defies logic and common sense and the overwhelming consensus of the intelligence community of the western world to suggest that a weapons program, weapons of mass destruction was not present in Iraq leading all the way up to Operation Iraqi Freedom.

CARLSON: Congresswoman Schakowsky, you said a minute ago -- and I want to pick up on this -- that you suggested that the administration was "lying" in its representation of the threat that Iraq posed. I want you to think about what you just said.

This conspiracy that you just posited would include the president, the vice president, Condoleezza Rice, the national security adviser, Secretary of State Colin Powell. It would include the head of the Defense Department, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, untold generals in every branch of the armed services.

It would also include France and Iran. The leaders of both countries said, yes, they believe Saddam had Iraq had weapons of mass destruction. That's a pretty huge conspiracy. Do you want to rethink the allegation?

SCHAKOWSKY: Well, now Donald Rumsfeld himself has said that perhaps they were in fact destroyed. We said, oh, we're not going to let the United Nations play a cat and mouse game. That's exactly what it looks like we're doing.

Look, this is war we're talking about. Whether -- if this administration and all those that you've said decided that they were only going to pick and choose, cherry pick the information that they wanted to make the case to send hundreds of thousands of our young men and women off to war, some to die, then they ought to have told us exactly what the truth was.

CARLSON: It's lying that we're talking about. You accused someone of lying. Do you think Colin Powell was lying?

SCHAKOWSKY: I said there are three options. The intelligence was bad, that they manipulated or even lied about the evidence, or that the weapons are there. Those are three options, and we ought to have a full investigation to find out if the truth was told and what we knew.

And if there are intelligence failures, let's find out about it. If not, why politically did we hear about this drumbeat to go to war when in fact those weapons -- we may have had intelligence. In fact, we know that there was no reliable evidence.

BEGALA: I'm sorry to cut you off. We're going to have to go to a quick break. And Congressman Pence, you're going to have a chance to respond in just a minute, because when we come back, Wolf Blitzer will have the latest on the headlines, including the latest on today's attacks in the Middle East.

And then here on CROSSFIRE, we will have "RapidFire", where the questions and answers are going to be even faster than President Bush's excuses for finding weapons of mass destruction or not.

And of course we have not forgotten our audience question. Stay tuned and see if Tucker Carlson has to start looking at a few cookbooks to find recipes for filet of sole. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CARLSON: Thank you, Wolf, for those headlines. We look forward to your report at the top of the hour. But it's time now for "RapidFire", the fastest Q&A session in television.

We're talking about the Bush administration's intelligence, or perhaps lack thereof, about Iraq's alleged weapons of mass destruction. Joining us from Capitol Hill, Illinois Democratic Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky. And she is, by the way, my party's chief deputy whip in the House. And Indiana Republican Congressman Mike Pence.

CARLSON: Congresswoman, the public overwhelmingly supported this war. Do you really think Democrats are going to get political mileage out of questioning it now?

SCHAKOWSKY: Don't you think it is important that we know the truth? The truth about whether or not we were misled about going to war? That's the important thing.

BEGALA: Congressman Pence, it is a fact that Saddam Hussein didn't use weapons of mass destruction, as Ms. Schakowsky said earlier. Did he not use them because either, A, he didn't have them, or B, he's just too nice a guy?

PENCE: Well, it's probably, C, he may have been either killed or neutralized early in this engagement. The reality is, while we haven't found weapons of mass destruction yet, Paul, we did find literally hundreds of chem bio-suits that were deployed along the Baghdad border, as well as empty munitions that were created suitable for chemical weapons. And we found those mobile labs that Secretary of State Powell predicted that we would find. We found evidence of a program, if not the weapons themselves.

CARLSON: Congresswoman, don't you think it is a bit fishy that none of the people who claim they were pressured into a certain point of view by the administration is willing to go on the record?

SCHAKOWSKY: Well, you know you were talking -- you were making fun of Hans Blix before. He talked about the kind of pressure that was put on the U.N. inspectors to shape the information in a different way that suited the administration. And we talked about browbeating by Paul Wolfowitz. You know this administration has been known to use retribution. And I don't blame them, necessarily, for not wanting to step forward. And if we're going to use this now to go into other countries, they may start thinking we're crying Wolfowitz.

BEGALA: Congressman Pence, do you support an open process and an open report about weapons of mass destruction?

PENCE: I support process that is open, in a way, Paul, that is consistent with our national security interest. The reason why we have secrecy on the House Intelligence Committee and among our leadership is to protect and promote our national interest.

But I think Jan and I both agree that it is important that the American people have confidence in our leadership. When all the facts are known, I know they will know President George W. Bush did the right thing in Operation Iraqi Freedom.

CARLSON: OK. Congressman Pence, Congresswoman Schakowsky, thank you both very much. We appreciate it.

(APPLAUSE)

CARLSON: Well, our viewers are firing back their thoughts about Hillary Clinton's extremely long book and my diet. Stay with us and find out if the members of the audience think she'll sell a million books. Be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BEGALA: Welcome back to CROSSFIRE. Here is how our studio audience voted on the question of the day. The question was, will Tucker have to eat his shoes? That is, will Hillary sell a million books?

Ninety percent of the Democrats say, you bet. I hope everyone of them buys the book. It's called "Living History," available in book stores all across the country. Eighty-two percent of Republicans, though, say no.

So Tucker, your folks are on your side. They don't want you to have to eat leather.

CARLSON: Apparently they are. But more to the point, Paul, America is on my side. They don't have the free time to read 579 pages.

BEGALA: See I think she'll sell a million to Republicans, who will just want to burn them. That's what they do, they burn books over in that party. Just kidding. Just kidding.

Erica Cook of Wichita Falls, Texas writes "My question for Tucker is, now that Senator Clinton's book is selling so well, which type of wine goes best with sole? Bon appetit."

CARLSON: I know he means it in the best way. And Greg Monitz (ph) of Tiverton, Rhode Island -- a great town -- writes "Tucker, you are really a Democrat in disguise. In fact, you are Hillary Clinton's secret top adviser. By telling America you will eat her shoes when her book sells one million copies, you are boosting her sales. Your trick certainly worked on me. Thank you for your continued, but secret support for the Democratic Party."

Greg, that's why I'm a Sharpton man. I'm just trying to help.

BEGALA: Well (UNINTELLIGIBLE) if Al Sharpton is my party nominee, I'll eat my cowboy boots. How's that, Tucker?

CARLSON: Yes. I just hope so. Yes, sir?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: My name is Dan Warner (ph) from West Des Moines, Iowa, and I have a question for Paul. Paul, what will you eat if Hillary's book doesn't sell a million copies?

BEGALA: Oh, I never made that pledge. I said my pledge is about if Tucker's man Sharpton becomes the Democratic nominee, I'll eat my cowboy boots.

CARLSON: But you know I'm not even sure Al Sharpton needs to become the nominee to teach America something really important about the Democratic Party. And that's why I so strongly support his candidacy. And, also, he's promised to make me the head of Amtrak if he (UNINTELLIGIBLE). And so I'll admit, I have a personal investment in that campaign.

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

CARLSON: And from the right, I'm Tucker Carlson. Join us again tomorrow for yet more CROSSFIRE. "WOLF BLITZER REPORTS" starts right now. Have a great night.

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