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War Over President Bush's Words Heats Up

Aired July 16, 2003 - 16:30   ET


ANNOUNCER: CROSSFIRE. On the left, James Carville and Paul Begala; on the right, Robert Novak and Tucker Carlson.

In the CROSSFIRE: America's top spy takes the hot seat. And the Democrats are waiting.

SEN. JOHN KERRY (D-MS), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: It's not just the 16 words. It's all of our intelligence.

ANNOUNCER: Beyond the line in the State of the Union, how much longer will the U.S. go it alone in Iraq?

GEN. JOHN ABIZAID, COMMANDER, U.S. CENTRAL COMMAND: It's low- intensity conflict in our doctrinal terms, but it's war, however you describe it.

ANNOUNCER: Plus, if you think the deficit is big now, just wait until next year. Is all that red ink worth worrying about? -- today on CROSSFIRE.


ANNOUNCER: Live from the George Washington University, James Carville and Tucker Carlson.


And the news is pretty grim these days. There's no surprise, no jobs, and no end in sight in Iraq. In a little bit, we'll debate whether it all adds up to no second term.

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

If you have anything to do with this administration and you want to spend some more time with your family and make some money in the private sector, there is one thing you can do to guarantee an early exit. Tell the truth.


CARVILLE: A column in today's "Wall Street Journal" by Gerald Seib examples of three truth-tellers in this administration who are no longer in this administration. General Anthony Zinni, our special envoy to the Middle East, said that a war in Iraq would distract us from the war on terrorism and we would get bogged down in a quagmire. He's gone. Larry Lindsey was the chairman of the president's Council of Economic Advisers. He said the war in Iraq would cost over $100 billion. He's gone. General Eric Shinseki was the Army chief of Staff. He said the occupation of Iraq would take several hundred thousands troops to keep us -- he's gone, too. This administration is Tom Cruise in "A Few Good Men." They can't handle the truth.


TUCKER CARLSON, CO-HOST: I know, James, that it serves your political ends to paint the president as a liar, but those are not good examples.


CARLSON: Wait. Wait, if I could just rebut your silly political words. Not one of those resigned as a matter of principle. In fact, Larry Lindsey, you called for him to resign. Democrats spent his entire term complaining that he was fat and incompetent.


CARVILLE: He was, but he told the truth. And that's why he got fired.


CARLSON: That's not true.

CARVILLE: He didn't get fired because he was fat. He got fired because he told the truth. General Zinni got sent back from the Middle East because he told the truth. Rumsfeld and Wolfowitz will, to this day, not speak to Shinseki. So you don't know what you're talking about.


CARVILLE: And this administration wouldn't know the truth if it hit them in the head.

CARLSON: You can make up all you want. It doesn't change the basic facts.

CARVILLE: Right. Right.

CARLSON: Like these: Seven of the nine Democrats running for president made a pilgrimage to the Human Rights Campaign yesterday to swear their loyalty to the cause of gay rights, but only partial loyalty, it turns out.

Among the major candidates, only one, just one -- that, of course, is Al Sharpton -- believes that gays ought to be allowed to get married. The rest are hypocrites. But that did not prevent them from pandering. According to a remarkable account in "The Washington Post" this morning, these opponents of gay marriage spent most of their time bragging about the great accomplishment of having gay relatives, acquaintances, and employees, very much of the "Some of my best friends are" variety.

And then there was Dennis Kucinich. Kucinich, a vegan congressman from Ohio, boasted that he would like to -- quote -- "appoint any lesbian, bisexual, or transgendered person to the Supreme Court, just as long as they would be willing to uphold Roe vs. Wade." So there you have it: cross-dressing and abortion, two great Democratic values that go great together.

CARVILLE: You know...

CARLSON: So why aren't they for gay marriage, James, if they're so pro-gay? Seriously.

CARVILLE: You know what? You and Santorum and the...

CARLSON: Oh, Carville, give me a break.

CARVILLE: ... whole little hashish, pipe-smoking, objectivism, disgusting little frat boys in college, you know what I mean? You don't want to deal with anything real.


CARVILLE: And you know, what's real is two gay people in love with each other that want protection.


CARLSON: Why doesn't John Kerry want to give it to them?

CARVILLE: Because John Kerry is a war hero. And you don't like him because he's going to win and he's going to beat Bush. And you can't stand John Kerry.

CARLSON: That's so dumb, I laugh in your face.


CARVILLE: You laugh anywhere you want, young man, but you don't like gay people.


CARVILLE: The 3rd Infantry Division in our Army was told by the Pentagon today that their stay in Iraq has been extended again -- again -- sending even further morale in the toilet. What they're not being told is that George Bush is planning on treating them just as poorly when they get home.

While they've been fighting in Iraq, George Bush has proposed cuts in military family housing, schools and -- for military kids, all kinds of veterans health care. Heck, he even wants to cut pay for soldiers who are in harm's way. That's right. The man who says that he can afford trillions of dollars in tax cuts says that we can't afford a $225 a month for people who are getting shot at. President Bush is perfectly happy to use our young men and women in uniform as props for his political speeches. But when he's faced with the choice, he supports his fat-cat contributors over our troops.


CARLSON: Now, who writes that stuff? That's like Soviet. Are you going to tell me I don't soldiers now, too? I don't like gay people?

CARVILLE: Yes. No, you really don't. You don't care much about soldiers.

CARLSON: Yes, yes, I don't like soldiers. I don't like gay people.


CARVILLE: As long as they're protecting you, that's fine.

CARLSON: James, James, James, James, James, James, James, James, James.

CARLSON: You have never stuck up for an enlisted man in your life. You don't stand up for these people in Iraq. You don't stand up for these families. And you won't speak out against the lies that were told about how long they were going to be there.


CARLSON: James, you knock it off before I throw my coffee on you.


CARLSON: The fact is, in fact, James, that, when the 1st Armored Division spent a full year in Bosnia, a full year under Bill Clinton, you, friend of the enlisted man, said nothing, that's right, nothing, because soldiers are an all-volunteer...

CARVILLE: You don't like enlisted men, do you? You don't much care. They don't fit into your world view of rich people sitting around. That's -- more tax cuts for rich people, less pay for enlisted men.


CARVILLE: I'm going to stick up for the enlisted men.

CARLSON: I'm not even sure I can read this, because that was just so dumb.


CARLSON: But I'm going to pull myself together and keep going.

Calling all surrogates. Due to disappointing fund-raising results, Dick Gephardt is making travel plans for you, Dick Gephardt supporters. The Gephardt For President campaign has fallen $1 million short of its quarterly fund-raising goal. Gephardt's response? "Roll Call" reports that Gephardt, in a conference call to the 31 members of Congress who have already endorsed him, asked everyone to come to Iowa and New Hampshire as soon as the House adjourns.

It doesn't sound like a very fun trip. Using your vacation time to wander around the chillier parts of the country stumping for a candidate with no hopes for winning is pretty grim. The moral of story: Think before you endorse a presidential candidate. There could be consequences.

I know you're going to say I hate Dick Gephardt, along with enlisted men and gays and Mexicans.

CARVILLE: You don't like -- you don't like...


CARLSON: I must hate somebody, James, so just accuse me of hating him.

CARVILLE: You know what it is? Dick Gephardt doesn't do what President Bush does.

CARLSON: You don't have an argument. Is he a war hero, too?

CARVILLE: He doesn't sell out our enlisted men to give tax breaks to his campaign contributors and run around the country collecting $34 million in campaign...


CARVILLE: Let me finish -- $34 million in campaign contributions, while he's cutting the benefits to the very troops that have been lied to again and again and who are victims of incompetent leadership in the Pentagon.

CARLSON: I must say, I do think...

CARVILLE: And I don't suck up to power like you. Power is not the thing that I want to please in this world.

CARLSON: Really? Is that right?

CARVILLE: That's what you love to please, is power.


CARLSON: A man -- a man who spent -- a man who spent eight years kissing the butt of Bill Clinton is accusing me of being a power suck- up?

CARVILLE: You're a power suck-up? No, power sycophant, I call it, a power sycophant.

CARLSON: All right, that's me, the gay-hating, anti-military guy.



CARLSON: Coming up: restlessness about Iraq. The troops are complaining to reporters. The CIA director is explaining himself on Capitol Hill. The Democrats are whining in chorus, even on our show. We'll debate it all in just a minute.

And later: A $455 billion deficit, is that really something to lose sleep over?

We'll be right back.


CARVILLE: Another U.S. soldier was killed today in Iraq. That brings the death toll to 148, the same number as in the first Gulf War. Meanwhile, CIA Director George Tenet was on Capitol Hill testifying behind closed doors about mistaken intelligence that got in the United States Senate -- State of the Union speech. I've got some darn good intelligence for all of you. And it is plain and simple.

To debate how we get out of it, we're joined by Republican strategist Alex Castellanos and Democratic strategist Peter Fenn.

CARLSON: Peter Fenn, the big news in Washington today, Senator John Kerry of Massachusetts, running for president, gave a speech that was both obvious and not so obvious. The obvious part is, there are intelligence problems in the United States, bipartisan consensus on that.

The not so obvious part, though, is that it's the Bush administration's fault. That was his charge. A couple of facts. I want you to respond to them. Senator Kerry has repeatedly, throughout his career, sought to defund the intelligence community. In 1995, he proposed cutting $1.5 billion from the intelligence budget. In 1995, he proposed slashing $80 million from the FBI. A year before that, he wanted to slash another $1 billion.

How can someone who has been an avowed opponent of the intelligence community come back now and say, they're not doing a good job?

PETER FENN, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: I think what you have to look at, Tucker, is where the cuts come and where additions would come.

And one of the problems we have in the intelligence agencies is, we have spent a lot for gimmicks and silliness and not enough for intelligence gathering. But, right now, the real battle going on is the misuse of intelligence information. I tell you, either this is the greatest intelligence failure in our history that is reflected in that State of the Union address or these guys took the intelligence and manipulated it.

And I hate to tell you, but, looking at this, it looks to me like the latter, because we can't find -- we have the State of the Union address here. Where are the 25,000 liters of anthrax?

CARLSON: They used them to kill people.

FENN: Where are the 500 tons of mustard gas? Where are the 30,000 munitions capable of delivering chemical weapons that he talked about? Clearly, clearly, clearly, there is no...


ALEX CASTELLANOS, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Well, it's buried in the desert with the dead Iraqis that he used -- that he used to kill.

FENN: Maybe we'll find it, Alex. But this -- what we've got going here.


FENN: Let me just finish this one point, James, because, first of all, it's this thing about, OK, buying stuff from Niger. And now we find out that the aluminum tubes aren't there. We're going to go down this list.


CARVILLE: Let's just shoe clerk in a poker game here a second, OK?

We all politicize this. You're right. And somebody is going to do this. Democrats are going to run the spot. We got our talking points. You got your talking points. You and I agree this is a matter -- we all can agree this is a matter of grave national concern and security, right?

CASTELLANOS: I think so.

CARVILLE: Let's cut all the spin and the talking point and let's just have an investigation. Let's just march in. Let all God's children go right up Pennsylvania Avenue. Let's have -- in public. Let's get the vice president up there. Let's get Mr. Tenet. Let's get Ms. Rice. Let's get all the people and find out what happened. That way, that way, we don't have to worry about the spots and the talking points.


CASTELLANOS: James, let's start the investigation where it ought to start, which is -- the Democrats can't keep shooting you in the foot and then complain you can't dance. They have cut intelligence now for 20 years. And now they're whining


CASTELLANOS: Excuse me. Excuse me.

CARLSON: Let him finish.

CASTELLANOS: Second of all, second -- second of all, the intelligence -- there's a difference between evidence -- what the Democratic candidates don't understand, there is a difference between evidence and intelligence. Evidence is the stuff that's here in front of us. We've been gathering...

CARVILLE: All I'm saying is -- no problem. No problem. We ought to -- you don't have a problem at all with investigating this whole thing about the uranium cake and who knew what. You don't have a problem.

CASTELLANOS: How much uranium have the Iraqis bought from Africa? Two hundred and seventy tons. There's just not enough evidence for you guys.

CARVILLE: You don't have problems having a congressional investigation. You don't have a problem with that? You don't have a problem?


CASTELLANOS: I turn on CNN, James, and you know what I see? I see Iraqi biological weapons scientists


CARVILLE: Alex, Alex, Alex, you know what? You're too smart a guy.


CARLSON: Peter, I'm wondering -- I'm wondering if you can answer this question. Everybody agrees that there were profound intelligence failures. I would support an investigation into why they occurred.

But the implication that the White House intentionally manipulated this intelligence for propaganda effect is a pretty heavy charge. And I think you just made it.

FENN: I did. And now I'll back it up.

CARLSON: If follows, then, that Tony Blair, from whose government this information came, was complicit in that manipulation. He was part of the big lie. Do you think that's true?

FENN: I think that Tony Blair and his group had bad intelligence. They didn't come to the conclusions


CARLSON: But did they manipulate it or was it just bad intelligence? FENN: Oh, they had bad intelligence initially. But you do not put something in the State of the Union address after you have been told to take it out on October


CARLSON: By the way, Tony Blair is defending it. Is he lying?

FENN: Yes, I think he's -- look, he's the only one -- no one else is defending it. These are forged documents.


CASTELLANOS: Wait a minute. No, no, let me address something you have already raised, guys, which is, there's a difference between intelligence and evidence. Evidence is in -- but we are trying to gather stuff from spying, which you've cut, from communications, which Democrats have cut.

But, overall, the intelligence has been good. I turn on CNN and I see biological weapon scientists


CASTELLANOS: ... in Iraq. They weren't making underarm deodorant. I see nuclear scientists. They weren't making microwave ovens. He has killed people with this stuff, so we know he has it.

CARVILLE: Again, all I'm saying is, we'll have the Castellanos- Carville hearings. And we'll have the vice president testify as to what he knew. We'll have the whole crowd up there. And then all God's children will know the truth and it will all be great. And we'll march into the


CARLSON: I'm sorry. On that confusing, yet elevating


CARLSON: I'm going to have take a quick break. And sorry to break this up here for a minute. We're going to take a quick break, as advertised, and then Wolf Blitzer will check the headlines.

When we come back, we'll ask our guests what's wrong with a little red ink, even if a little in this case is $455 billion.

We'll be right back.


CARLSON: Welcome back to CROSSFIRE.

The administration this week revised its budget deficit projections, due largely to the sluggish economy and the war on terrorism. The government is now projecting a record $455 billion deficit this year and a $475 billion next year. Considering that each year's deficit is only about 4 percent as large as the entire economy, White House Budget Director Joshua Bolten calls them -- quote -- "manageable."

We're managing with Democratic strategist Peter Fenn and Republican strategist Alex Castellanos.

CARVILLE: The foremost fiscal conservative group in the country has announced -- it's called the Concord Coalition. They have been fighting for fiscal responsibility for years and years and years. And they gave this administration some grades here, Mr. Castellanos. I just want to see if they are sort of up to you. And they probably grave on a curve up.

Overall fiscal responsibility, they got an F. In short term, they managed to get it way up to a D, median term, an F, and long term, an F. Is that -- in terms of the Bush administration, is three F's and a D considered a passing -- is that a passing grade under a pass/fail or is that a little short of the mark?


CASTELLANOS: Well, that may be how they graded the economy. But I think, on the war, you would have to give the president an A. When you fight a war, actually, wars do cost money. And since not a lot was budgeted for our military during the Clinton years, we have certainly left ourselves in a hole. So it's understandable.


CARLSON: For you, James. For you, James.

CARVILLE: That looks like -- looks my grades in college.

CARLSON: It doesn't mean anything.

CARVILLE: I wish I had you talking to my daddy when I got my report card.


CARLSON: Now, Peter Fenn, at this point, now that we are in the middle of a war on terrorism and the economy is sluggish, Democrats want to add this massive new Medicare entitlement. Is now really the time? Shouldn't we wait until the war has been successfully prosecuted and the economy is...

FENN: If we hadn't had the worst mismanagement of this economy since Herbert Hoover, we would be able to do


FENN: There has been a $789 billion turnaround.

CASTELLANOS: Speaking of Herbert Hoover...

FENN: This guy took -- this president took lemonade, nice, sweet, wonderful


CARLSON: This is so -- come on, Peter, seriously.

He took lemonade and he's making lemons out of this thing. And I'll tell you, if we let him keep going, if we let him keep going and not invest -- you have got to invest in the economy and in education and then invest in health care.




CASTELLANOS: The interesting thing to me is that the Democrats have become the party of Herbert Hoover. They're blaming the American people for the economy. They're saying, you know what the problem is?


FENN: Yes, I'm blaming George Bush.

CASTELLANOS: No. They're saying that the problem with the American economy is, the American people have too much money in their pockets and we need to raise taxes.

CARLSON: Exactly.


CARVILLE: You know what? I want to be fair. I want to give them all the credit in the world for this D. That's an awesome D.


CARVILLE: I want everybody to look at that.


CASTELLANOS: It's hard for me to take your...


CARVILLE: You shouldn't be so negative.


CASTELLANOS: When Democrats are out on the campaign trail -- when Democrats are out now on the campaign trail, drunk with spending, proposing more spending than anyone has ever proposed in history.

FENN: You have got your own prescription.

(CROSSTALK) CASTELLANOS: When these Democrats have spent $2 trillion more than the Bush budget.


CARVILLE: Do you think Tucker knew that it was Republicans that passed the Medicare plan? Do you think he has the foggiest idea what goes on on the Hill? He don't know nothing.


CARVILLE: He gets his talking points and that's it. That's all he's got.

CARLSON: I beg your pardon.


CARLSON: Truly, as a political matter, the deficit, leaving aside the effect it might have in real life, but just pure politics here, every poll shows -- I'll just read one -- only 3 percent of Americans polled think the budget deficit is the largest problem facing Americans. Can you win on it, is the question?

FENN: This is very important, because the deficit, in and of itself, has never been a great voting issue. But, as a mismanagement of the economy, it will be a big issue, because it is coupled with 3.1 million lost jobs, a tripling of long-term unemployment. That's people who have been in office -- office -- we'll get him out of office in a minute -- six months or longer.

This is a devastating economy. He has one answer. It's George one-note. And that's tax cuts. And they didn't work. The first set didn't work. We all got our 300 bucks and it didn't do jack.


CARLSON: You've got seconds to make your last point.

FENN: Seconds.

CASTELLANOS: I agree with you. The American people have too much tax money in their own pockets. You guys should campaign on that.


CARLSON: All right. Good luck on it.

And Alex Castellanos, Peter Fenn, thank you very much.



CARLSON: I'll get your hand in a minute. Washington is playing host to a special guest today. Former President Gerald Ford is visiting his former job sites on Capitol Hill and the White House, all in honor of his 90th birthday, which was Monday.

And that brings us to our audience question this afternoon. Pull out your voting devices and tell us, how many former presidents have reached the age of 90? Press one if you think only two former president have lived that long. Press two if you think four have. And press three if you think the number of truly senior statesmen who once occupied the White House is really six.

We'll tell you who they are, along with the "Fireback" from a viewer who has a memory test for James Carville. You'll definitely want to stay around for that.

We'll be right back.


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

But first, the results of our audience quiz. Gerald Ford turned 90 this Monday. Our question was, how many American presidents have reached the same age? Two have, said 30 percent of our audience. Four, said 57 percent. Six, said 13 percent -- more evidence we have the most erudite audience in all of television. It is, in fact, four. And they are John Adams, Herbert Hoover, Ronald Reagan and Gerald Ford.

Amazing. Pretty impressive.

All right, time for "Fireback."

And the first up is Tom from Linthicum, Maryland, I think. "I find it ironic," he writes, "with the attacks on Bush's comments about nuclear program in Iraq. I just looked at transcripts of Clinton saying the exactly same thing in his speech to the nation in 1998. Do I smell a double standard here?"

Well, indeed you do, Tom. You have a key nose.

CARVILLE: You know, I liked the administration so much that it's following Clinton. If they had done that on the economy, we wouldn't be in such trouble now.

"Doesn't it seem a bit ironic that the biggest controversy of the Bush administration involves intelligence?"



CARVILLE: Every now and then, we get a "Fireback" that sort of takes your breath away. That would be one.


CARVILLE: I'll keep that one for


CARLSON: Good point, Ralph.

CARLSON: Yes, sir?

CARVILLE: It's brilliant.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm Bill from Rutland, Vermont.

My question is, Democrats seem to be real eager to attack the tax cuts of President Bush. My question is, why don't the Democrats just propose a tax increase then?


CARLSON: Because they have no idea what they think about the economy or what to do about it.



CARLSON: They literally have no plan at all. It's kind of sad. So, instead, they get vicious, because, in the absence of ideas, you


CARVILLE: I'll tell you what. The thing is


CARLSON: The thing is what?

CARVILLE: It's not true. If it was, it's better to have no idea than have a bad one. And that's what this administration had.

CARLSON: Yes, sir?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hey, Tucker. I was just wondering if your side of the stage is red because that's how you like our federal budget.

CARLSON: Our side of the stage is red?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, sir, right behind you.

CARLSON: Yes, that's exactly why. It's all part of the plan.

No, look, there are -- truthfully, there are many conservatives who are upset about the growth of government under Bush. And it shows how ludicrous the Democrats' attacks on Bush as a right-wing maniac who wants to destroy government. It doesn't track with reality at all.

CARVILLE: Well, he hasn't destroyed government. He's just destroyed the economy and he's destroyed the truth. The government is intact. It's that we ain't got much of an economy and got no truth left in this country.

From the left, I'm James Carville. That's it for CROSSFIRE.

CARLSON: And from the right, I'm Tucker Carlson.

Join us again next time for another edition of CROSSFIRE.


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