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CNN CROSSFIRE

Is Liberalism on the Rise?

Aired June 20, 2003 - 16:30   ET

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

ANNOUNCER: CROSSFIRE. On the left, James Carville and Paul Begala. On the right, Robert Novak and Tucker Carlson. In the CROSSFIRE, Hillary's book is a hit, benign or on the attack, and everyone's talking about Gore TV. Is this liberalism on the rise or the left's last gasp?
Plus, what are you reading this weekend? We've got someone who says it had better not be Harry Potter.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You're a wizard, Harry.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ANNOUNCER: Today on CROSSFIRE.

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

PAUL BEGALA, CO-HOST: Hello, everybody. Welcome to CROSSFIRE.

You can almost feel the electricity in the air, not only because it's Friday or because my Democrats have been revitalized lately, grabbing all the headlines this week, but because in a mere seven-and- a-half hours, "Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix" finally goes on sale.

Later in our show, we will talk to a man who thinks the Harry Potter phenomenon is downright evil. He's coming up in our "Rapidfire" segment.

But, first, we conjure up the best political briefing in television, our CROSSFIRE "Political Alert."

We've all heard President Bush and Vice President Cheney proclaim that our occupation of Iraq is going well, but our heroic soldiers on the ground tell a different story.

Quote, "What are we getting into here?" unquote, one sergeant asks in today's "Washington Post. Continue quote, "The war is supposed to be over, but every day we hear of another soldier getting killed. Is it worth it? Saddam isn't in power anymore. The locals want us to leave. Why are we still here," unquote.

In a test of credibility, I'll take the word of our soldiers over the promises of right-wing draft dodgers like George W. Bush and Dick Cheney any day.

ROBERT NOVAK, CO-HOST: In the first place...

BEGALA: This occupation is trouble, Bob.

NOVAK: In the first place, they were not draft dodgers. In the second...

BEGALA: They were.

NOVAK: In the second place, I -- it really makes me sick to my stomach when I hear people like you, Paul, trying to take political advantage of the fact that some of our soldiers are still dying there.

In the third place, much as I love our soldiers, they are professionals, they signed up for this, they were not drafted, and they ought to shut up and do their duty.

BEGALA: They have a commander in chief who ought to level with us about why he's sending them into this occupation, how long it's going to last, what it's going to take to keep those boys safe. That's what our president ought to do, that's his job, not just landing on aircraft carriers.

NOVAK: Well, you're...

BEGALA: He's got to be the hard job of being the president.

NOVAK: You're not -- you're not fooling anybody, but you're trying to take political advantage over the ordeal...

BEGALA: No. In fact, what's political is...

NOVAK: ... the ordeal...

BEGALA: ... is the vice president landing on an aircraft carrier like Bush.

NOVAK: ... the ordeal that our troops are going through.

Democrats still haven't forgiven Ralph Nader for his 2000 presidential campaign which siphoned off the lunatic fringe vote from Al Gore. Now Nader is threatening to run for president again. But, this time, he says he might do it as a Republican to challenge George W. Bush in the primaries.

Democrats will breathe a sigh of relief if he isn't taking votes away from their nominee, but Ralph Nader as a Republican might have unusual results. Could it be that associating with people who believe in the market system, limited government, and low taxes would have a therapeutic effect on Ralph? Nah! But it would be fun anyway to see Ralph in contact with the real America.

BEGALA: The real America in the Republican Party? I -- you're right, though. You make a good point. Many Democrats, myself included, are still very annoyed that Ralph Nader siphoned off enough votes to make the election close enough for thief Justice Rehnquist to steal. Gore won an overwhelming victory and yet should have had...

NOVAK: That's a good point. You know, Janet Kennedy said that -- one time that party loyalty asks too much sometimes, but -- but you -- I think, Paul, you would vote for a sick pig if you were a Democrat, wouldn't you?

(LAUGHTER)

BEGALA: No, but I think we've got a few too many healthy pigs in the Republican Party.

Anyway, it is not often, though, that I praise Republicans, and I'm about to. So follow closely.

Hats off to several key Republicans on the Senate Commerce Committee. Led by Chairman John McCain and Democrat Byron Dorgan, the committee has voted to overturn the giveaway to big media conglomerates that had been rammed through by the right-wing majority of the Bush FCC.

Republicans, like Ted Stevens of Alaska, Kay Bailey Hutchison of Texas, supported the Dorgan amendment to restore sensible limits on the number of TV stations corporate conglomerates can own. Good to know that at least some Republicans still believe that competition in the marketplace is better than letting right-wing corporations play monopoly.

So good for the Republicans.

NOVAK: Actually, that is a vote against competition, Paul, but let me acquaint you with a few facts of life. I think it is going to be very difficult for that pass in this Senate. It takes -- it will take 60 votes to pass that in the Senate.

Number two, even if it passes the Senate, it is dead as a doornail in the house. And even if it revives in the House and gets to the president's desk, veto.

BEGALA: I think you're right on all three points. That just means that there -- too many Republicans, the majority of them, don't believe in competition. They could do whatever their right-wing corporations tell them to do for all the big money that they raise, but...

NOVAK: Too many -- too few of them.

BEGALA: God bless them. Stood up to the corporations.

NOVAK: Two many Republicans were elected by the people, you know.

(APPLAUSE)

NOVAK: The presidential campaign of Ohio Congressman Dennis Kucinich is no landslide. In fact, he just picked up his very first endorsement from Congresswoman Lynn Woolsey of California. Now why would anybody endorse Dennis Kucinich for president? Well, let's take a look at Lynn Woolsey, one of the most left-wing members of Congress from an ultra-left district in northern California.

Ms. Woolsey is the only known former welfare recipient in Congress, has lobbied against banning gays in the military, and wants to revoke the federal charter from the Boy Scouts.

Now Kucinich for president would really be taking off, if only there were more Democratic extremists like Woolsey.

BEGALA: Well, would -- now wait a minute. This is a woman who worked her up way up from welfare to the United States Congress as opposed to our president who was born with a silver spoon and a trust fund.

And good for him he made a success, but he started out on third base. He thought he hit a triple, as my friend Jim Hightower likes to say.

NOVAK: The...

BEGALA: God bless Lynn Woolsey...

NOVAK: And then...

BEGALA: ... for coming up from poverty.

(CROSSTALK)

NOVAK: I think that was Ann Richards' line before Jim Hightower...

BEGALA: I figure it -- it might have been Ann. One of my great fellow Texans.

NOVAK: It was Ann Richards. But, as a matter of fact, you -- do you make it your business to take every issue and attack our good president of the United States on that issue?

BEGALA: You attacked a woman who raised herself up from poverty. I find that admirable.

NOVAK: The Democratic Party has been making a lot of noise lately. In a minute, we'll debate whether they actually have any ideas.

And later, even CROSSFIRE can't get away from Harry Potter mania. We found someone, however, who isn't wild about Harry and says none of us should be either.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BEGALA: Welcome back to CROSSFIRE. I've been informed that when Bob and I were debating Lynn Woolsey's endorsement of Dennis Kucinich in that previous segment, we actually rolled a piece of tape of Oregon Congresswoman Darlene Hooley. So I apologize to Darlene Hooley. I apologize to everybody who we got mixed up. It happens sometimes on live TV.

As Candy Crowley reported on "INSIDE POLITICS," on our previous show before this, Democratic party officials from around the country are in Minnesota plotting strategy and being courted by the party's presidential candidates.

Senator and bestselling, huge-selling author Hillary Clinton today turned on the tables on her health-care opponents, using a chart to attack Republican efforts to turn Medicare into a confusing bureaucratic Medicare maze.

Just about everywhere you look, the Democratic Party is brimming with new energy, new ideas, and at CROSSFIRE to talk about all this -- but, first, Congressman Mike Pence --he's an Indiana Republican -- and from my party, President Clinton's former chief of staff John Podesta.

NOVAK: John Podesta, let me -- let me see if I can put this into perspective. President Bush is raising $200 million. You have a bunch of lackluster candidates with Howard Dean apparently the -- having the most luster. You don't have any ideas, the economy is coming back, and -- do you think you're in bad shape, or are you as deluded as Paul Begala?

JOHN PODESTA, FORMER CLINTON CHIEF OF STAFF: Well, I think -- I think that the lobbyists are lining up because they're getting the government that, you know, money can buy. So I'm not surprised that the president has been able to raise all that money.

But I think that our candidates are doing well. They're out there. They're talking about the economy. They're talking about a new foreign policy. And I think that Hillary's book has actually been helpful because it actually reminds the American public that you can actually manage the economy, create jobs, create growth, and produce...

NOVAK: And sell a lot of books at least.

PODESTA: ... and at least sell a lot of books.

BEGALA: Let me pick up on that. I know in the House, there's a rule that you shouldn't call the Senate anything but the other body. But over at the other body, there is Senator Clinton, my hero, my favorite senator.

In addition to being the bestselling author in America, she had a very interesting critique. I mentioned it before. Let me show you a piece of videotape of Senator Clinton today talking about the Republicans' Medicare plan.

There -- you can see in this monitor there it's an impenetrable box. Congressman Pence, isn't it true that anytime Republicans are proposing more bureaucracy and larger entitlements, it's a victory for liberals?

REP. MIKE PENCE (R), INDIANA: Well, Paul, it -- I have to tell you, anything too complicated for Hillary Clinton to understand, we ought to rethink today.

(LAUGHTER)

BEGALA: That's a good point. That's your party's proposal, though.

PENCE: And we're rethinking it. We're -- we're going to have a busy week this week sorting out how it is we can provide a prescription drug benefit for seniors as the president has promised but do it in a way that protects the market forces and the strength of the private economy.

But, look, the reality is that Hillary Clinton's predictably popular book notwithstanding, I -- I think Bob is right on the money that it's not so much what the Democrats are lacking, though. It is that President George W. Bush has led this nation with courage and with tenacity and with compassion, and the American people are responding to his leadership.

NOVAK: Mr. Podesta, everywhere I go when I'm out on the speaking tour, all people want to ask me about -- they don't want to ask me any of these nine candidates. They ask me about Hillary Clinton.

And the very esteemed, very able Susan Estrich, who as I -- I believe you have a great deal of respect for as a campaign operator, said she is sucking the oxygen out of the lungs of the nine candidates. She is -- she is really ruining the campaign, isn't she?

PODESTA: Of course -- of course, Susan put Mike Dukakis is the White House, so I think we have -- we have to remember from whence she speaks. But, you know, no, I don't think she's sucking the oxygen out.

As I said, I think that, first of all, they've gotten more coverage about being overshadowed than when they were campaigning in the sunshine, but I think that...

NOVAK: That's right.

PODESTA: I think -- again, I come back to my earlier point, which is I think she's reminding people that, with the right kind of economic policies, people actually could get money in their pockets, jobs, see some real economic growth.

And the -- you know, it reminds me of Al Gore's line that when everything was going -- you know, everything that was supposed to be going up is now going down on the economy, and I think she reminds people of that. That will ultimately be quite helpful to the Democratic nominee.

BEGALA: Congressman Pence, you mentioned President Bush, and the good job you think that he's doing, and it seems to me, not just as a partisan, but as an analyst, his two principal claims on the American people's people affection are, first, he tells us that he's a truth teller and, second, we sense that he is a strong leader on national security.

Isn't it, therefore, a special political problem when many Americans begin to believe that he may well have misled us about the weapons of mass destruction in Iraq and even his own troops are Iraq are saying that they're bogged down in an endless occupation? Isn't that an enormous problem for the president?

PENCE: Well, it would be a problem if the American people actually started to believe that, Paul.

I think the American people recognize that the very nature of intelligence gathering is a complex art, and the truth is that the intelligence service of every nation that is a member of the Security Council, including France and Russia and Germany, all came to the same conclusion that our intelligence community came to in that Iraq was in possession of enormous quantities of weapons of mass destruction. The American people know that. They believe this president to be a man of integrity.

With all due respect to John Podesta and every veteran of the Clinton administration, I'm glad to see Hillary out there. I think she is bringing back lots of bad and noxious memories that emanated from the White House.

NOVAK: Speaking of...

PENCE: That's good for us.

NOVAK: Speaking of noxious memories, the person who's getting the second most buzz -- second most to Hillary is Wes Clark, the former -- General Wes Clark, former supreme commander of NATO. I didn't even know he was a Democrat, and he -- he's getting ready to run for president.

Now here's -- explain this to me, if you can. He was kicked out of NATO in your administration. You can maybe explain why. Was it incompetency, or did they feel he was no good? How can a guy you kick out of his office at NATO -- how is he qualified to be a Democratic nominee for president?

PODESTA: That's ridiculous, Bob. He did a great job at NATO. He led the...

NOVAK: Why was he kicked out then?

PODESTA: He wasn't kicked out. He -- Joe Ralston was put into NATO. He was done with his tour, and he was nominated to go over and serve out the term.

NOVAK: Will you tell Wes that, that he wasn't kicked out?

PODESTA: Well, you know...

NOVAK: It would be a great surprise to him.

PODESTA: He -- I don't think Wes Clark was kicked out. He did great service to this country, and I think that, you know, you're -- sort of sullying his record over there is just -- is the wrong thing to do because, you know, he led the forces that liberated Kosovo, and he did a tremendous job, and I think he's a great asset.

Now you told me something new, which is that -- he's going to run as a Democrat, but...

NOVAK: You don't think he is?

PODESTA: Well, I don't know.

BEGALA: Congressman Pence, isn't this your worst nightmare? Here's a four-star general. Already my party is putting forward as one of its many candidates John Kerry, who won a bronze star, a silver star, three purple hearts.

Dick Cheney, you remember, testified under oath that he had other priorities in the '60s, and George W. Bush didn't show up for his National Guard duty.

Isn't that a terrible nightmare for you, to be running against Democratic war heroes?

(LAUGHTER)

PENCE: Well, it's -- it's more of a dream for you. I...

BEGALA: It is?

PENCE: Look -- look, the reality is I have a lot of respect for General Clark and for his career and all four of his stars, but the -- what the American people know is that this president was faced with the collapsing buildings on September the 11th, and he stood atop the ash heap in New York City, and he led America with courage in Afghanistan and in Iraq, and they'll vote for him to lead us again.

NOVAK: We're out of time.

Mike Pence, thank you very much.

John Podesta, thank you so much.

We're going to take a break.

And then Wolf Blitzer will have the news headlines, including new information about a terrorist plot.

And then it's "Rapidfire" where the questions and answers come faster than Harry Potter books flying off the shelves at your local bookstore. But our next guest won't be buying any and doesn't think you should buy any for your kids. We'll ask him if he thinks the boy wizard is in league with the prince of darkness.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

NOVAK: Harry Potter is a teenage wizard, meaning he isn't old enough to vote, and, since he lives in England, he's neither a Republican nor a Democrat.

Still, a lot of Americans seem to be interested in him anyhow, but not if the Reverend Joseph Chambers can help it. He's joining us for "Rapidfire" from Charlotte, North Carolina.

REV. JOSEPH CHAMBERS, PAW CREEK MINISTRIES: Hello, gentlemen.

BEGALA: Thank you for making yourself available, sir. Isn't this just...

CHAMBERS: I'm delighted.

BEGALA: Isn't this just a simple tale of good versus evil and the good triumphing over evil?

CHAMBERS: Well, that's not really what it is. It's absolutely a how-to course for children in the darkest art of the world. That's Satanism and witchcraft.

BEGALA: With respect, Reverend, I've tried it. It's not how-to. You can do those potions, and nothing flies. You can say "Wingardium Leviosa," and nothing actually works. So isn't it harmless?

CHAMBERS: Well, potions are never harmless when you're teaching children how to do them. You're talking about drugs. You're talking about teaching them how to conjure up drugs. You're teaching them things that children absolutely need to be taught against, not how to do.

NOVAK: Reverend Chambers, have you actually read the book?

CHAMBERS: I have reviewed the book.

NOVAK: Have you read it?

CHAMBERS: I've reviewed the books very much, but, no, I've not read all of them. They're too dark, and they literally depress you to read them.

BEGALA: Well, Reverend, I have. I've read the first one. I thought it was terrific. And I wonder do you have a problem with "Cinderella"? There's magic in that as well. A fairy Godmother.

CHAMBERS: No. No, no. I'm just dealing here with witchcraft and teaching children things that is absolutely not good for them, absolutely training them -- all you've got to do is go to Harry Potter Web site, and it takes you directly to how to join a coven, how to become a witch, how to have a name of a wizard or a... NOVAK: Reverend Chambers...

CHAMBERS: ... a witch.

NOVAK: Reverend Chambers, the Catholic Youth Service puts it on its recommended reading. I'm a Catholic. Should I be upset by that?

CHAMBERS: Well, you know, I -- this is not a picture of any kind of genuine religion. It has no relationship to Christianity. In fact, it's teaching children how to believe in necromancy, how to believe in all kinds of astrology, all kinds of matters that we know are definitely connected to Satanism and witchcraft.

BEGALA: Reverend Joseph Chambers, North Carolina.

Thank you very much for joining us. Thank you. It was a brief debate but an enlightening one. Thank you very much, Reverend Chambers.

CHAMBERS: I'm delighted to be here.

BEGALA: And it's time...

Yes, sir. Thank you.

It's time now to ask our audience have you read a Harry Potter book. Press one if you have. Be honest if you've read at least one of the four. And -- or if you've just seen the movies, that doesn't count. You'll have to press two for no along with the rest of our folks. If there any besides Bob Novak who haven't read any of the books, I'll be surprised. We'll have results after a break.

And in "Fireback," one of our viewers offers a donation to help feed Tucker Carlson. Now what do you suppose he'd be offering on the menu?

Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

NOVAK: OK. "Fireback." We asked the audience if they ever read a Harry Potter book. Forty percent said yes. Sixty percent, no.

BEGALA: But the 40 percent -- and there's very few kids in this audience. She's selling -- that's why J.K. Rowling is going to sell eight-million books.

NOVAK: Yes. We should be so lucky.

BEGALA: Exactly.

NOVAK: OK. Our first e-mail from John Michels, Sioux Falls, South Dakota.

"Mr. Novak, I agree fully with you on the stupidity of Al Gore TV. It's bad enough that Bill and Hillary are all over television. The last thing we need is Al Gore. The only good it could do is help insomniacs get to sleep."

That's right, John. And I'll tell you something else. My conservative friends -- they think the funniest thing in the world is Al Gore saying we need a liberal television network. Come on.

BEGALA: A lot...

NOVAK: Get serious.

BEGALA: A lot of very smart businessman and women are talking to him about it, so there must be a market for it. Look at Hillary's book. It's selling a million copies. There's a market out there for my side.

Bob Dean of Lancaster, Pennsylvania, writes -- Lancaster, I should say -- "I am one of 27,000 registered participants in a Democratic Web forum. Many of us would like to send Tucker our old footwear, thousands and thousands of pairs of them. When can we look forward to watching his gastronomical feast?"

Mr. Dean, of course, referring to Tucker's promise to eat his shoes when Hillary sells her one millionth book, which is fast approaching.

NOVAK: He can always ask for a recount, though.

Question from the audience. Go ahead, please.

BEGALA: Yes, sir. What's your name and hometown?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mike from Rockville, Maryland. My question is whether the Senate will confirm any nominee to the Supreme Court by President Bush?

NOVAK: Well, that -- that is a very good question, and this is all a preliminary going on now, and there may be a real effort to have a straight majority vote. Let the people rule, 51 votes to confirm, and we'll see how that goes.

BEGALA: I hope not. If the people ruled, then Al Gore should be president. The Supreme Court picked Bush. Bush should not be able to pick anyone (UNINTELLIGIBLE) Supreme Court have abolished the separation of powers.

Yes, sir.

NOVAK: What's your name?

BEGALA: What's your name is hometown?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hi. I'm Scott from San Francisco. And I'm wondering if you feel that the Democrats have to nominate a centrist candidate and that liberal candidates don't stand a chance against Dubya.

NOVAK: Well, they ought to name a centrist, but there are no centrists out there. They're all acting like left wingers, and they have a death wish, I believe.

BEGALA: I think the answer is that Democrats need to be tough. It's not about being left or right or center. It's about being tough. President Bush is tough. Democrats need to be tougher. That's my solution for the Democrats.

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

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

"WOLF BLITZER REPORTS" starts right now.

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