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Is America Prepared For More Terror?

Aired July 2, 2003 - 16:30   ET


On the left, James Carville and Paul Begala.

On the right, Robert Novak and Tucker Carlson.

In the CROSSFIRE -- if terrorists strike again, will our police, fire departments, and hospitals be ready?


WARREN RUDMAN (R-NH), FORMER SENATOR: We do know this. They are vastly under funded.


ANNOUNCER: Warren Rudman brings his controversy on Homeland Security into the CROSSFIRE.


RUDMAN: If we don't get ready for this and something happens, there will be a political earthquake.


ANNOUNCER: Plus, the fat police have declared war. But we found someone willing to defend fast food.

Today, on CROSSFIRE.

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

PAUL BEGALA, CO-HOST: Hello, everybody. Welcome to CROSSFIRE. A blue ribbon panel this week issued a devastating report call calling our country's emergency responders, quote: "drastically under funded and dangerously unprepared", unquote, to cope with a new terrorist attack. Our guest tonight is that panel's chairman. He is distinguished Republican former Senator, warren Rudman.

First, we'll start with the best political briefing on television, our "CROSSFIRE Political Alert".

President Bush today was filled with macho bravado as he all but begged Iraqis to kill American troops.


GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: There are some who feel like that, you know, the conditions are such that they can attack us there. My answer is, bring them on.


BEGALA: But sources on Capitol Hill tell me that Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld last week told a group of Senators he had no plans to change his force protection policies in Iraq, and that American casualties are something that we'll simply have to accept. Certainly hope President Bush overrules Mr. Rumsfeld. The job of the commander and chief, after all, is to protect the men and women who risk their lives for our country, not to play dress-up fighter jock on an aircraft carrier.

ROBERT NOVAK, CO-HOST: Paul, you know, I'll tell you something. I know you have this compulsion to attack our president on every single story and every way you can, but I personally feel, and insulted, when you say the president of the United States had told the Iraqis to kill our troops. I think you want to take that back, don't you.

BEGALA: I think Mr. Bush does. I played the tape, Bob. You can see it for yourself. I think our president misspoke. I think he made a mistake. You should not talk that way about American lives at risk.

NOVAK: He did not. He said bring them on. He didn't say kill our troops. And you owe the president of the United States an apology.

BEGALA: Bring them on. Bob, he owes those young men an apology.


NOVAK: ... so macho out there ...

BEGALA: All right, Mr. Novak. Yes, sir.

NOVAK: You can yell, Paul, but that's disgraceful.


NOVAK: The Center for the Advancement of Women is an advocate of abortion rights. Consequently it was stunned by the results of it's new nationwide poll of women. Fifty-one percent said the government should prohibit or limit abortion to such extreme cases such as rape, incest, or life threatening complications. That is up from 45 percent when the center took its last poll two years ago.

The new survey also shows only 30 percent in favor of unlimited abortion, down from 34 percent the last time. The message is that most women really hate abortion. The pro-abortion lobby is losing the war of ideas and that's the best news I've heard in a very long time. BEGALA: Well, if that's true, why don't Republican nominees for the federal judiciary tell the truth when they testify in the Senate, and tell the truth, which is they want to outlaw abortion. Instead they say, I don't have an opinion, which is, of course, is not true. If that were true, they wouldn't be qualified for the federal bench. Why don't they tell the truth and say, I hate abortion? I want to outlaw it if you put me on the court? Why don't the tell the truth?

NOVAK: Because you're trying to trap them into some kind of suggestions - some kind of situation where you get the pro-abortion lobby to pound on them, to give pressure to these Democratic Congressmen. But I'm telling you, the tide is going against your way of life.

BEGALA: Tell them to tell the truth, Bob. That's all I'm saying, of this odd notion.

Sounds like a headline from an online tabloid, doesn't it. President Bush gets down on his knees with sex therapist. But don't worry, it was all perfectly innocent. Noted sex therapist, Dr. Ruth Westheimer, showed up at a recent Bush fund-raiser in Florida. Mr. Bush, being a good sport, knelt for a picture with the 4'7" doctor. (UNINTELLIGIBLE) fellow Democrats, Dr. Ruth is still a Democrat. She didn't even pay the $2,000 that fat cats got charged to get into the Bush event. Besides, Mr. Bush did replace a president who misled us about sex with one who misleads us about everything but sex. So there is some balance there.

NOVAK: You know, Paul, you have said on many occasions, that the conservatives -- I know you don't mean me, but some conservatives are obsessed about Clinton. If anybody is obsessed about George W. Bush, it's you. The first time we had one of these alerts that you don't attack our president, I'll buy you a super sized Big Mac.

BEGALA: Bob, get used to it. I don't support him. I just did this because it was cute. I thought it was being a good sport. I said he was being a good sport.

NOVAK: That's obsession. That's obsession.

BEGALA: No. It's cute. And by the way, he is our president, but I oppose him and I'm ain't going to stop, because it is still a democracy, Mr. Novak, and you can't shut me up.

NOVAK: You're obsessed.

BEGALA: No, I'll stand up for my rights. I have to disagree with what he's doing, and I am going to stand up for my rights.

NOVAK: Well, in today's "Wall Street Journal", leaders of the Democratic leadership council, Al From, and your buddy, Paul, ex- Clinton aide, Bruce Reed, urged Democratic presidential candidates not to veer left. The old cortinites (ph) point out that more Americans consider themselves Republicans than Democrats, and then they add this. Quote: "We won't overcome those odds by continuing to preach to the converted, only louder." End quote. What are they worrying about? Well, it's left wing candidates for president are generating all the excitement. Former Vermont governor, Howard Dean, is now a first-year candidate even though Ohio little Congressman, Dennis Kucinich, is picking up steam. The Democrats must choose between the exciting and dangerous leftist on one hand or the safe, but deadly dull Senators on the other.

BEGALA: As a former Clintonite myself -- by the way, both of those guys, Al From and Bruce Reed, are friend. I think they are brilliant guys. President Clinton proved that you can be both a very exciting candidate, generate enthusiasm, increase turnout for the first time in 40 years, and be a census. So, fear not.

NOVAK: Let me give you the scoop. Bill Clinton is not running for president this year.

BEGALA: Thank god.


NOVAK: Constitution prevents it. So, I'd like to know, you kind of - very -- artfully dodge that dilemma. Which way do they go this time?

BEGALA: You know what. They go right at Bush and attack him, because see how you scream when I attack him? That's what they're scared of, anybody who will stand up to Bush. That's what my Democrats ought to do.

NOVAK: I hope they follow your role.

BEGALA: Me, too.

NOVAK: Boy oh boy. In a minute we'll debate whether the U.S. would do better to send billions of dollars getting ready for another terrorist attack or just get rid of the terrorists in the first place.

Later, what's to blame for making Americans fat? A super sized helping of fast-food restaurants or a big lack of self-control?


BEGALA: Welcome back it CROSSFIRE. This week, a task force set up by the Council on Foreign Relations warned that the United States, quote: "remains dangerously unprepared to handle a catastrophic attack on American soil, particularly one involving chemical, biological, radiological, or nuclear agents" unquote. The report estimates it will take between $151 and $201 billion over the next five years to establish an effective response. Bush administration, which is budgeted only $27 billion over five years for that same purpose immediately circled the wagons to protect its highest priority, tax cuts for the rich.

In the CROSSFIRE today, the chairman of that task force, Warren Rudman. He is a Republican, a former United States Senator from New Hampshire. Senator, thank you for joining us. (APPLAUSE)

NOVAK: Senator Rudman, I want to have you listen to a comment by the secretary of Homeland Security, Tom Ridge. Let's listen to it.


TOM RIDGE, HOMELAND SECURITY DEPARTMENT: It's fashionable, very appropriately in the political world, to assess how well you're doing by how much you spend. That's one barometer.


NOVAK: Senator, if anything, you're one of the most sophisticated people around. You must know that all these local governments have had a wish list of how much money they can spend long before 9/11, and they're using you for their spending demands, aren't they?

RUDMAN: Wrong, just wrong. All their requests came into us. We talked to the chiefs of police, fire, hospitals. All the people who deal with disaster. They tell us what they needed. We scrubbed it and came out with about one-third of what they actually recommended. Fact is, that the biggest problem we had was not to assess the federal contribution. The problem we had is that the states and the locals really don't know how much they're spending on...


NOVAK: So there...

RUDMAN: ... now. That's why the range that we set up, Bob, many people using a figure of $98 billion addition over five years. That's just...

NOVAK: So therefore they're just asking for the moon. That's what they're really asking for and you're giving them one-third of the moon.

RUDMAN: They may ask for the moon, but our report says about a third to 40 percent. And I will tell you this, Bob. There isn't a place in America today, that if we had a nuclear, a biological, or a chemical attack that the fire and the police departments could respond to it and survive the response. Now that is disgraceful. I'm not criticizing the administration. I'm simply saying we have got to speed this up.

NOVAK: Well, that's what's wrong with your whole proposal, Senator, because it is not a matter of preventing this. It's a matter that after the damage is done, just say, how many firemen can get to the scene.

RUDMAN: Well, Bob, let me tell you. If you think that this country is able to prevent all terrorists acts from taking place, then you are wishful thinking. No one in this government, including the director of Central Intelligence, believes that we can prevent all of it. We can prevent a lot of it, but not all of it.

BEGALA: Well, you were gracious enough to say you're not attacking the administration. You are a Republican, a distinguished Republican Senator. You are also..

RUDMAN: Or extinguished. I'm not sure which.

BEGALA: Well, but you also served with great honor and valor in the Korean War in combat. And so I wonder how you reacted when you issued your report, and some snotnosed spokesman for the Bush administration said this. A direct insult to you. I think the council would like to install gold plated telephones.


BEGALA: How does it feel to be dismissed like that, by some snotnosed spokesman.

RUDMAN: Well, now, look. Look, I'm dealing with - I am used to dealing with public relation's flack, who don't understand the issues. But my response was, we don't want gold plated telephones. We would like radios that work between firemen and policemen. That's not too much to ask. Look. Governments since time in memorial, are always defensive.

The smartest thing this administration could have done, and they started to do it yesterday, was say, you know, this report has a lot in it that makes a lot of sense, and we'll look at it very closely. You can disagree about numbers, but nobody can disagree with the basic premise of this report with some very distinguished people that you cannot rely on our police and fire departments today to be able to respond to that kind of attack.

NOVAK: Senator, when Paul Begala calls a Republican distinguished, you know there's a problem going on, a serious problem. And the problem is this. There's a philosophical difference here. The Democrats want to give as much money to the union members and the fire departments and the police departments, as they can. It's all politics, and the Republicans want to try to spend the money for intelligence to prevent this from happening. Why are you on the side of the Democrats?

RUDMAN: Because we have to spend it on both, Bob. We have to try to prevent it in every way we can. But let me just say this to you. When we sent those brave young men and women into Iraq, the Secretary of Defense told the country, accurately, that they were going to be equipped with the finest chemical and biological equipment to defend against chemical and biological weapons so that they would not be harmed or killed. We don't owe the firemen and the policemen, men and women of the emergency workers one dime less, and that's all we are talking about.

BEGALA: Amen. Let me ask you about another expert who spoke out on this. A man named Rand Beers, who I know you know. He served President Reagan in counter terrorism, so Bush senior served President Clinton and President Bush, Jr. Here is what he says about the current president and his approach who he served. He says the administration was not matching its deeds to its words in the war on terrorism. They're making us less secure, not more secure. "As an insider, I saw the things that weren't being done. And the longer I sat and watched the more concerned I became until I got up and walked out."

RUDMAN: Yes. Of course, I don't agree with that, Paul I am intimately familiar with what the FBI and CIA have been doing to improve our prevention. I think they're doing a good job. I don't criticize Tom Ridge in the department. It is only - it is less than two years since 9/11. But we got to speed up our efforts to make sure that if something happens in Minneapolis or San Francisco or god only knows where, that police and fire and hospital and EMS people are able to respond to help their fellow citizens. That is the basic part of this report. There is not a police or fire organization in this country that disagrees with that.

NOVAK: Senator, Michael Bloomberg, the mayor of New York City, said the other day, one of the problems is, we take the money and try to spread it across the country evenly, or in some formula that gives everybody something and that dilutes the effect of the money. Now, isn't it true that there's a much greater danger of another terrorist attack in New York City than in Hollis, New Hampshire, where you live?

RUDMAN: Absolutely.

NOVAK: So why are we spreading it all over the country?

RUDMAN: As a matter of fact, we shouldn't. And we agree with Secretary Ridge who said we have to have new formula of national need that goes on population density, and risk and response capability. Obviously, New York and Washington and San Francisco and Los Angeles have a bigger problem than Manchester, New Hampshire. It should -- but, unfortunately, dealing with political people and the Appropriations Committee, you're talking about looking to spread it out evenly, and it should be done that way.

NOVAK: Senator Warren Rudman, thank you very much.

RUDMAN: Thank you both.

BEGALA: Thank you Senator.

NOVAK: After the break, the news headlines including breaking news out of the White House.

Then we'll give fast food the rapid-fire treatment. Stick around to find out why it's not okay for you to eat all the Big Macs you want.

And later, one of our viewers wants to know, just how far government's intrusion is going to go. I'd like to know, too.


(APPLAUSE) NOVAK: It's time for "Rapid Fire", which is a CROSSFIRE equivalent of fast food. Not a full-course debate, just something quick to nibble on.

Speaking of fast food, the United States Chamber of Commerce today, put out a report saying you shouldn't blame fast food restaurants for making Americans fat. You can count on lawsuits to help people - you can't count on lawsuits to help people lose weight. Our guest is the report's author, Todd Buchholtz.

BEGALA: Mr. Buchholtz, welcome to CROSSFIRE.


BEGALA: As Bob pointed out, your study was sponsored by the big businesses that make this. AOL/Time Warner owns CNN. They are a big business. Would you do a study for me that says watching cable TV makes you smart, because that's about how much credibility this is. This is junk science about junk food, isn't it?

BUCHHOLTZ: This hasn't made you any smarter, so I suppose I wouldn't turn down the study.


BUCHHOLTZ: The studies about the factors - this caricature the trial lawyers want to create that says fast food preys on dumb, uneducated people. They parade a bunch of plaintiffs in front of the judge, say these poor people couldn't read the menu. And you know what the study finds is that obesity is a problem in this country, but, in fact, the degree of obesity has increased far more greatly among college-educated people.

NOVAK: How many -- what would you do with those 300,000 people who are dying of obesity every year?

BUCHHOLTZ: What would I - well I -- obviously, people should be watching what they eat. There's no doubt about that. The question is, is fast food the culprit? And the culprit not - the culprit is super sizing everything in American life. What we eat at home as well as what's eaten in fast foods...


BEGALA: Tell me where you studied nutrition?

BUCHHOLTZ: Where did I study nutrition?

BEGALA: Right.

BUCHHOLTZ: This was a study. Your...


BEGALA: You're an economist, right?

BUCHHOLTZ: I am an economist, yes.

BEGALA: So you - we will have nutritionists come on and tell us where - how the Dow Jones is doing.

BUCHHOLTZ: You know what.

BEGALA: Why would an economist tell people what to eat.

BUCHHOLTZ: Paul, let me tell you. A nutritionist would do a better job of telling you about the Dow Jones than a financial economist these days. The fact is - the facts of this study come from the U.S. Department of Agriculture conducted during the Clinton administration. The facts are then looked at in an economic point of view. I wasn't diagnosing the content of fat in the french fries. That's not what it was about.


NOVAK: Well, you know, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce headquarters about a block from McDonald's. Do you think they go over there and when they get the Big Mac, do you think they order, instead of the fries, the fruit?

BUCHHOLTZ: Look. This is about Americans and choice. Hey, Jim Carville, your partner, used to have a restaurant. Do you think he should have been shut down because he had fried food.


BUCHHOLTZ: He went out of business, anyway though.

BEGALA: All right. Mr. Buchholtz, thank you very much for joining us.

NOVAK: Thank you, Todd.

BEGALA: Todd Buchholtz from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. Thank you very much, Todd.

Let's see, now, how you in our studio audience -- how much you know about fast food. You have that little voting devise. Get it out. Here is our trivia question. Which of these three foods has the highest fat content. The most fat grams. Press one if you think it's a medium avocado, press two if you think it's a McDonald's quarter pounder, or press three if you think you get the most fat grams from a one ounce serving of Planter's Peanuts. We will have the results for you after a break. And then our "Fireback" segment. One of our viewers has a thought about the fat content of one of Tucker Carlson's upcoming meals. You won't want to miss that.


NOVAK: Welcome back to "Fire Back". Here's the results of our poll of the audience. Forty-six percent say the avocado has the most fat, second, Planter's Peanuts 34 percent, McDonald's 20 percent. Well, not too bad for this audience. Avocado does have the most fat, but McDonald's has the second most. Planter's Peanuts has hardly any fat at all, but so much for fast food fattiness.

BEGALA: But of course, people too, sit down and eat up a whole Big Mac. Very few people eat a whole avocado in one sitting.

NOVAK: I do.

BEGALA: Well, I mean, maybe you do.

NOVAK: OK. The first e-mail is from Marg of Prince George, British Columbia. "I think all restaurants should install a mirror on the entrance door. Many people would think twice about going in to eat." Surprisingly perceptive for a Canadian.

BEGALA: That may be. I used to be a bartender and if someone showed up too drunk and I couldn't serve them. Could - would you have to do that as a waiter? Say, I'm sorry sir. You have already had too much to eat.

Mary Sheen -- I'm just kidding - Mary Sheen in New York, New York writes, "I worry about an administration that decides it is more important to give people a tax cut instead of making sure they are safe from another terrorist attack." She is right.

NOVAK: Did you write that for her?

BEGALA: She is right.

NOVAK: Did you write that for her?


BEGALA: She is just a very wise woman.

NOVAK: I think she is a Begala shell. Mark Walker of Kansas City, Missouri: " The government wants to tax my Twinkie, take junk food away from my kids, and won't let me smoke in the bar. What's next? Is someone going to come and check if I brush my teeth before bed?" That's exactly right.

BEGALA: Yes, conservatives never have been big on personal hygiene, I guess, so...

Patricia Stewart of Lansdowne, Pennsylvania writes: "Paul, if there is a tax on fat food, are Tucker's shoes in that category?" She writes that because, of course, Tucker will soon be dining on his shoes. He promised to eat his shoes when Hillary Clinton sells a million books. She is nearly there. I don't think there's too much fat in shoe leather, but we will know soon, won't we, Tucker?

NOVAK: Question.

CAROLYN: Yes, my name is Carolyn from Moultrie (ph), Georgia. I was just curious as to how one can argue that fast food restaurants - by eating there makes American fat. Wouldn't Americans still be fat if there weren't any fast food restaurants?

NOVAK: Absolutely. A very smart - I never met a dumb person from Moultrie, Georgia, and you are - so you follow the line.

BEGALA: Well, all people are saying is that they ought to be accountable for the content of their meals. You go to grocery store, and there is a little label that says, there is this much fat in a Twinkie. When you go to McDonald's, why not put a little label on the wrapper that says, hey, dummy, there's 30 grams of fat...


NOVAK: ...on what you say. And that is...

BEGALA: Oh, my goodness. It's pure genius. One hundred percent.

MITCH: Hi, my name is Mitch. I am from Omaha, Nebraska. My question is, of the nine Democratic presidential candidates, which ones, in your opinion, are best prepared to defend the United States from terrorism?

NOVAK: The best prepared, Joe Lieberman is. Joe, by far, he is the best prepared, and I think he is very good on that subject if nothing else.

BEGALA: Yes. I can't take favorites among those Democrats, because I am a Democrat and I just want to beat Bush. But Bush has been surprisingly unserious...


BEGALA: ... Mr. Bush has been surprisingly unserious about defending us, as a Republican Senator, Senator Rudman proved this afternoon. It has been disgraceful how he's walked away from Homeland Security.

NOVAK: You know, I would say this. If you asked somebody who in the world started World War II, you would say it was George W. Bush.

BEGALA: I would say that is insane to spend $1 trillion of our money on tax cuts for the rich and $20 billion on people…


NOVAK: The tax cuts are not the...

BEGALA: It's insane. My kids are going to grow up...


NOVAK: ... pay the estate tax when I am killed by a terrorist?

NOVAK: They are not for the rich.

BEGALA: From the left, I am Paul Begala. That is it for CROSSFIRE.

NOVAK: On the right, I am Robert Novak. Join us again next time for another edition of CROSSFIRE.


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