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CNN CROSSFIRE

American Entertainment Beyond Hope?

Aired July 28, 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.

BOB HOPE, ENTERTAINER: This is Bob "First commercial television broadcast" Hope.

ANNOUNCER: In the CROSSFIRE: He was an American icon, a friend of presidents, and he spread laughs, from Vaudeville theaters to theaters of war.

HOPE: Osan, that's Korean for take it and stuff it.

Very happy to be back here. I don't know the where the hell we are, but I'm happy.

ANNOUNCER: As we thank a comic legend for the memories, has the current world of entertainment gotten beyond Hope? Whatever happened to clean family entertainment? Legendary entertainer Pat Boone joins the debate -- today on CROSSFIRE.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

(APPLAUSE)

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

(APPLAUSE)

JAMES CARVILLE, CO-HOST: Welcome to CROSSFIRE.

Many of us grew up in an era when Bob Hope was everywhere, on radio, TV, and America's movie screens. It was a far cry from what passes for pop culture today. We've just out -- not just outgrown Bob Hope's classy style of entertainment. Or is it time to do something about it, all the garbage that we're exposed to today?

None other than singer Pat Boone joins the CROSSFIRE. But, first, the best political briefing in television, our CROSSFIRE "Political Alert."

Let me give you a little update. This administration has invaded Iraq, a country that had nothing to do with the 9/11, and it's Saudi Arabia, a country that had quite a bit to do with 9/11. That's right. The Bush administration is refusing to release 28 pages of a 9/11 report that is said to contain information about Saudi Arabia's support of the terrorists and refusing to cooperate with our investigation afterwards.

Two Republicans have finally got up the courage to ask a simple question: Why? Senator Richard Shelby of Alabama and Senator Pat Roberts of Kansas have both said the only reason not to release that part of the report is to protect Saudi Arabia, a country that didn't seem to care too much about protecting Americans. This administration should not only release that part of the report. It should also stop slow-walking the work of the 9/11 Commission.

Only a sycophant would defend an administration that would release their national intelligence estimate to the world, but refuse to tell the United States what the president was told about a specific threat of al Qaeda hijacking an airplane. Who on the right will have the courage to speak out about this kind of duplicity?

TUCKER CARLSON, CO-HOST: This kind of duplicity -- I mean, there's no evidence or suggestion of duplicity.

I actually tend to -- first of all, political consultants shouldn't call anybody else sycophants, in my opinion. But I do agree with you that those 28 pages ought to be released. And if there's a bipartisan effort to protect Saudi Arabia, that's bad, indefensible, really. So I hate to agree with you on this, but I do.

CARVILLE: You think -- you think they ought to release the intelligence briefing that the government seen on August 6? Obviously.

CARLSON: Yes, I'm sure it will show that we knew all about it before it happened.

CARVILLE: We did.

CARLSON: Almost everyone agrees the 2004 presidential election will be fought over security. A candidate whom voters believe will protect them is likely to win. A candidate who is seen as unable to defend the nation is almost certain to be teaching a course at the Kennedy School come January of 2005.

(LAUGHTER)

CARLSON: With that in mind, recent comments by a leading Democratic presidential candidate, Dennis, Kucinich, tell you all you need to know about where to bet your money next fall.

At a forum in Iowa yesterday, Kucinich called for cutting the defense budget a full 15 percent, presumably because America no longer faces threats from abroad. No, that is not a misprint. In fact, as Kucinich himself put it -- quote -- "I'm not talking about trimming around the edges here." And, indeed, he was not, which is not to say that Mr. Kucinich is in favor of reducing the size of government. In fact, while he would defund the military, Kucinich would also spend untold billions to fund what he calls a Department of Peace.

Do you feel safer already?

(LAUGHTER)

CARLSON: Do you feel safer, James?

CARVILLE: Is Kucinich -- who is the leading -- who is the front- runner, Sharpton or Kucinich?

CARLSON: Well, Sharpton. Sharpton.

CARVILLE: Sharpton. Kucinich is second, I take it.

CARLSON: Sharpton in the hearts of Americans. But I'm saying, Kucinich actually...

CARVILLE: So you say he's the leading -- he's the...

(CROSSTALK)

CARVILLE: He's second. That's your credibility.

CARLSON: You can beat up on Dennis Kucinich all you want. You can savage his name. You can drag him through the mud.

(CROSSTALK)

CARVILLE: Nobody -- no one has been paying attention to him, right.

(CROSSTALK)

CARLSON: The fact is -- the fact is, he represents a serious constituency of liberals.

(BELL RINGING)

CARVILLE: Rick Santorum is the embodiment of the Republican Party.

(APPLAUSE)

CARVILLE: There's been...

(APPLAUSE)

CARVILLE: There's been a lot of talk recently about how Howard Dean is really sticking it to President Bush. Let me remind my disheartened Democratic friends, there's another candidate in the Democratic field who has been both courageous and correct in his criticism of President Bush. And that's Senator Bob Graham of Florida.

Thanks, Senator Graham was asked on "Meet the Press" why the Bush administration has tried to keep so much about what it -- led to the 9/11 secret. He said simply -- and I quote -- "One of the ways you avoid accountability is by secrecy." That's the kind of straight talk America needs more of.

Senator Graham is a serious man. He's running a serious campaign, dealing with serious issues. And he's one of the Democratic candidates who deserves serious consideration. And there's one other thing Democrats should consider and Republicans should fear. Unlike this president, Bob Graham has demonstrated an ability to win Florida.

CARLSON: I do hope...

(LAUGHTER)

CARLSON: I hope...

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

CARLSON: I'm a Bob Graham supporter, for whatever it's worth. I hope Bob Graham -- I hope that Bob Graham is the nominee.

(CROSSTALK)

CARVILLE: I don't support one candidate over another candidate. But I'm telling you, he's a very serious man. He's got a very good economic plan. And he is...

CARLSON: I agree with you. He's a serious guy, James.

CARVILLE: He's a very serious guy.

CARLSON: But for a serious guy, his rhetoric has gotten almost comic in its overheated nature, calling for -- suggesting impeachment.

CARVILLE: He never did.

CARLSON: Calling Bush a liar.

CARVILLE: He never did. He said, by using the idiotic stance the Republicans used to try to impeach Clinton, that you ought to impeach Bush.

CARLSON: James, James...

CARVILLE: He didn't apply that standard.

CARLSON: He's actually kind of embarrassing himself, James.

CARVILLE: The man says something that you don't like. He tells the truth about America to Americans.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

CARLSON: Well, it's all pretty sad. How pathetic, just how pathetic, is this year's lineup of Democratic presidential contenders? Pathetic enough to spawn a grassroots movement to draft Jim Traficant, yes, Jim Traficant, the longtime Ohio Democrat who last year took leave of the House of Representatives to begin an eight-year sentence in federal prison for racketeering, bribery and tax evasion. A group of concerned Democrats in New Jersey has started Draft Jim Traficant for President 2004 Inc. The necessary papers were filed this week with the Federal Election Commission. Traficant has reportedly said he'd be delighted to represent the Democratic Party, as he did so ably for so many years.

(LAUGHTER)

CARLSON: We say reportedly, because Traficant himself has been too busy making license plates to respond. Last week, we invited Mr. Traficant to make his official announcement right here on CROSSFIRE. A prison spokesman says -- quote -- "Mr. Traficant got the request and he declined."

And that is the problem with so many leading Democrats. They can't respond because they're in prison.

(LAUGHTER)

CARVILLE: You know what?

(APPLAUSE)

CARVILLE: I'm talking -- I'm talking about 9/11, Saudi Arabia terrorism, the economy. And you're talking about Dennis Kucinich and Jim Traficant.

(BELL RINGING)

CARLSON: The future of your party. No, the future of your party, James.

CARVILLE: That's the -- that's the -- the -- how pitiful the right wing is today. That is the nature of how pathetic you are.

(CROSSTALK)

CARLSON: Well, I must say. You win the argument. You're a much more serious person than I am. That's absolutely right.

CARVILLE: That's right. You're right.

CARLSON: When we come back: He made us laugh without making us cringe. Would Bob Hope have been able to find stardom if he were starting out in today's entertainment world? And what about those who think it's time for the government to step in and clean up popular culture?

Singer Pat Boone and Sandy Kenyon will join us to debate whether our concept of entertainment is getting beyond Hope.

We'll be right back.

(APPLAUSE)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) HOPE: Nice to be back working for a civilian audience again.

(LAUGHTER)

HOPE: You don't laugh as easy, but you don't shoot as fast either.

(LAUGHTER)

HOPE: Academy Awards, or, as it's known at my house, pass-over.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I remember when makeup for you meant just a touch-up, not special effects.

(LAUGHTER)

HOPE: Well, I hope I look that good when I'm your age.

RONALD REAGAN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I hope I look that good when I'm your age.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

HOPE: Guantanamo is a Navy term meaning, I hear you knocking, but you can't come in.

(LAUGHTER)

HOPE: Osan, that's Korean for take it and stuff it.

NATO, that's a Latin term meaning get your cotton-picking hands off my border.

I saw some people in Beirut eating lunch at an outdoor cafe; 30 seconds earlier, it had been an indoor cafe.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(APPLAUSE)

As we mourn the passing of Bob Hope, maybe it's time to mourn something else, the passing of class and common decency represented in pop culture. Today's TV is full of reality shows where people eat bugs and try to break up other people's marriages in resort hotels. Is it time to say enough is enough and do something about it?

Into the CROSSFIRE, singer and actor Pat Boone is joining us from Los Angeles; and, from New York, Sandy Kenyon, contributing editor for "Parade" magazine.

(APPLAUSE)

CARLSON: Mr. Boone, thanks for joining us.

PAT BOONE, SINGER/ACTOR: Thank you, guys.

(APPLAUSE)

CARLSON: I don't think anyone would disagree that popular culture is vulgar, unacceptably so in a lot of cases. But I guess the argument is about what we ought to do about it.

I was driving in this afternoon and heard a re-air of a radio program that Bob Hope did during the Second World War. And in it, he told a joke that actually is probably too crude even to tell on CROSSFIRE, but it had to do with a soldier's gun, so to speak.

BOONE: Yes.

CARLSON: And I thought, as I was listening to this, boy, wouldn't it have been a loss for America if a joke like that had been censored? I'm sure it was considered vulgar and risque at the time. But it wasn't censored. And isn't that a good thing?

BOONE: No, I don't think it would have been a loss for America. In fact, I don't know what joke you're talking about, and I doubt that anybody else does. So it wouldn't have been a great loss.

Bob was a wonderful example of self-restraint, self-censorship. He and Bill Cosby and all the comedians, they could be just as dirty as anybody if they chose, but they chose not to for the sake of their audiences and I think for their own image as performers. So, I greatly admired Bob. And I knew him well. And we were good, close friends. So...

CARLSON: But it doesn't make you nervous, the idea of some group of federal bureaucrats sitting around, trying to determine what's acceptable and what's not? Doesn't that make the hair on your arms stand up?

BOONE: No. No. In fact, I think we've come to the place where we need some kind of censorship.

And before anybody's screams, because the media hates that word, but I call for censorship with three provisos: that it be voluntary, self-imposed, and majority-approved. The FCC is the logical entity to impose some definite, strict guidelines on what can be said and shown on television, at least on the broadcast channels, for the sake of our nation, sake of our kids, and what the rest of the world thinks about us.

We're presenting the worst possible image. And no wonder the Muslim world thinks we're all depraved, corrupt and demonic.

CARVILLE: Sandy, is there any type of restraint on television shows that you would accept to favor? SANDY KENYON, CONTRIBUTING EDITOR, "PARADE": Well, before I get to that, I want to say, who knew? Pat Boone is a socialist. All these years, I thought Pat was rather conservative.

But, of course, the socialists are the ones that have tried to impose this government censorship. On Mr. Hope, I would like to say that Bob was of his time. He was not ahead of the curve. He was with the curve. On turning 70, Mr. Hope once said, you still chase women, but only downhill. And he knew exactly where the standards were for his time.

I think probably Bob Hope seemed a little off-color to the Victorian generation, as people seem off-color today. The line moves forward. And I say to Mr. Boone, if you want to stop it, go down to the seashore, sir, and try and stop the tide from coming in, because, in actual fact, this is a very competitive television environment that we have now. It's good capitalism at work.

You might not like it. I might not like it. I say to you, then don't watch it, because, with all of the competition these days for the attention of the public, these public corporations are going to be moving the line forward.

(CROSSTALK)

CARVILLE: ... Mr. Boone here -- Mr. Boone, let's give you a chance to respond to what Mr. Kenyon said here. He seemed to take a while.

BOONE: Well...

(CROSSTALK)

BOONE: Well, I certainly agree that everything is -- I don't say it's moving forward. I think we're moving backward. But the

(CROSSTALK)

KENYON: But what do you do about that?

BOONE: You do what we did before.

And that is, the general public selects somebody to make some rules which we approve and can change. But the FCC ought to say, you cannot say certain four-letter words on broadcast television in prime time. You cannot show frontal or even rear nudity, as they do on some of the shows. And you cannot show people, as they do on daytime soaps now, simulating sexual acts right there for kids to see.

It's one thing to say that morals are evolving. It's another thing to say, we don't care and we're not even going to try.

KENYON: May I ask you this, sir?

BOONE: We're not even going to try to protect our kids. I can turn off the set. And millions of Americans are. CARLSON: Wait. Wait. Wait. Wait. Mr. Boone, I think the world you're describing already exists in Europe. I don't know if you saw "The New York Times" piece yesterday. The European commissioner for employment and social affairs has proposed a regulation that would apply to the entire European community that would make illegal sex discrimination of any kind on television, in films and in newspapers. This is something that actually might happen.

BOONE: Sex discrimination.

CARLSON: Sex discrimination.

So define this. That would mean, for instance, that a weight lifting show, for instance, might be deemed illegal because its audience is primarily male. And the point is, as soon as you apply censorship, you have to have censors. And their definition of what's unacceptable varies.

BOONE: Wait a minute. Every healthy society has its forms of censorship.

The red light at the corner is a form of censorship. We still impose limits on what people can say in public. You can't stand up in a theater and yell, "Fire." You can't walk nude down a street. So there are still some laws and regulations, because a healthy society has to impose laws. Ben Franklin, no prude by any stretch, said, the more corrupt and vicious a society becomes, the more it has need of masters. But we as a society...

KENYON: Well, let me ask you this. Let me ask you this, then. If it is of such great concern, why does this Republican administration greet this issue with a big yawn? Contrast, a former attorney general, Ed Meese, and his Commission on Pornography tried to stop it then and the current attorney general, John Ashcroft, the issue is a nonstarter.

Why? Because pornography...

CARVILLE: Sandy, I want to be fair to John Ashcroft. He covered up the breast of lady just -- come on, let's go. That's taking some action here.

KENYON: But that's one gesture, Jim. And the fact is, it's not the commission, like the Ed Meese commission. And the reason why is that porn, like it or not, is in the mainstream these days.

As "The New York Times" says, porn has gone into prime time -- and for a reason, because people are much more accepting of it. Times have changed. I remember when Pat Boone dressed in full leathers and recorded a heavy metal album.

BOONE: Sure, wasn't that a shock?

KENYON: And God -- and God love you for it. That was your attempt.

CARVILLE: Sandy, Sandy, Sandy, Sandy, let Pat -- what do you got to say, Pat?

BOONE: Thank you, James.

We carp so much about the First Amendment. And people like Larry Flynt and Hefner, they say: We're actually defending the First Amendment, because we are -- it's free speech. You can take a freedom, a liberty and abuse it so much that it becomes license. And people say, hey, I'll forgo it. We know that television viewership is diminishing, certainly on the broadcast channels and even cable channels. Lots of folks are just tuning out, because they're so offended.

But the point is, if we say, simply because, like grade- schoolers, look, everybody does it, and don't give the normal parents' answer, does that make it right? We know the rhetorical answer is no. Therefore, if we say, well, it's happening, so we can't do anything about it, then we are guilty of letting our kids and our future generations down. We can do something about it. We can. And Ashcroft does care. But the media...

CARLSON: Pat -- Pat Boone, I'm sorry, on that note, Larry Flynt, John Ashcroft, we're just going to take a quick break. We're going to take a commercial break. We'll be back with you and Sandy Kenyon in just a second.

Up next, we'll put our guests into the "Rapid Fire," as we debate the state of entertainment beyond Bob Hope. And later, in our "Fireback," our viewers share their reasons for missing the late Bob Hope.

We'll be right back.

(APPLAUSE)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

HOPE: You know that Milli Vanilli had planned to be over here Thanksgiving, when President Bush was here? But they were afraid people wouldn't know whose rips to lead.

Miniskirts are bigger than ever. Even some of the fellows are wearing them.

(LAUGHTER)

HOPE: Don't laugh. If you'd have thought of it, you wouldn't be here.

(LAUGHTER)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(APPLAUSE) CARVILLE: Bob Hope was known for great one-liners. As we're in our "Rapid" segment, that's we're looking for, one-line answers to our questions.

Back with us from Los Angeles is entertainer Pat Boone. And joining us from New York is Sandy Kenyon.

CARLSON: Pat Boone, you once followed Bob Hope on tour. Have you ever done anything harder than that?

BOONE: No. He said to me -- I said, Bob, you got a standing ovation when you came off, when you went on, when you came off, and then you did an encore. What's that like?

He leered at me. He said, you'll never know. And he was right.

(LAUGHTER)

CARVILLE: Sandy, could Bob Hope make it today? If he was a 30- year-old entertainer, could he make it in this culture?

KENYON: Absolutely, because he would tailor his routines to fit the time. And he was one of the first to do political topical humor. And he would be just near that cutting edge again today.

CARLSON: Pat Boone, you used to live next to Ozzy Osbourne. Here's what his wife, Sharon, said about you -- quote -- "The best neighbor that we've ever had was Pat Boone." Did you feel the same way about the Osbournes?

BOONE: You know, I really enjoyed them. And I think the reason they said that was, I may be the only neighbor that never called the police.

(LAUGHTER)

CARVILLE: Sandy, give me the estimated date that we will see people having sex on prime-time television.

KENYON: Within five -- a couple of years.

CARVILLE: So can we just say July -- let's just say July 27, 2005.

KENYON: I think that's where we're headed. And if you had asked me six months ago or a year ago, I wouldn't have said the same thing. I think we're headed very soon.

CARVILLE: Good thing or bad thing?

KENYON: I think, if you don't like it, turn off the set.

(CROSSTALK)

KENYON: If enough people turn off the set, then that's the only restraint. This is capitalism. There's a lot of competition. They must compete. The way they see to compete is to get more and more risque, unless America en mass sends them a message.

CARLSON: Now, Pat Boone, you said yourself that we could only really censor broadcast television. But nobody watches broadcast anymore. The future is cable. Doesn't that mean that there's no way for government to control television?

BOONE: No. I really think we ought to censor all forms -- I call for censorship, voluntary, majority-approved, self-imposed censorship. That means it can be changed. But the public has the final say about our airwaves, whatever form, cable, broadcast, whatever it is, music, music. "Bitches, ho's, kill cops," all that stuff ought to be illegal. And the public, I think, will back it up.

CARLSON: OK. Mr. Boone, on that upbeat note, we're out of time.

(LAUGHTER)

CARLSON: Pat Boone in Los Angeles, thank you very much. Sandy Kenyon in New York, you were terrific.

CARVILLE: Thank you.

(CROSSTALK)

(APPLAUSE)

CARLSON: It is time for our "Ask the Audience" question. Bob Hope is the only person to ever receive this honor. Which president made Hope an honorary veteran? Take out your audience voting devices. Press one for Richard Nixon. Press two for Ronald Reagan. And press three for Bill Clinton. We'll have the answer right after the break.

We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(APPLAUSE)

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

But first, the answer to our audience question, in which we asked, which American president made Bob Hope an honorary veteran? Was it Richard Nixon? Yes, said 19 percent. Was it Ronald Reagan? Yes, said 72 percent. Was it Bill Clinton? Yes, said only 9 percent. But that very small minority was, in fact, correct: Bill Clinton.

(APPLAUSE)

CARVILLE: Bill Clinton, Bob Hope. All right. Thank God he got it, and we mourn the passing of a legend here.

"Bob Hope was truly a funny man whose comedy was never offensive and never got laughs at anyone else's expense. He was just blessed with a talent which he used to the fullest and made people feel wonderful wherever he went" -- Loretta De Rosso, Pompton Plains, New Jersey. I thought I knew everywhere in New Jersey, but I don't know where Pompton Plains is. But, Loretta, I know the Hope family and the Hope friends appreciate your kind thoughts.

CARLSON: Yes.

Next up, Robert Deininger of Teaneck, New Jersey, writes: "Bob Hope spent every Christmas with the troops. He was a very special man with a heart of gold and what I think was a true love for our boys. He was, in a word, a saint to those men. No one did it better or fought harder to keep it going and growing. We will miss this true American hero."

Well, that's awfully nice.

CARVILLE: If I could say something, if I die 100 with $1 billion in the bank, you don't have to mourn too long for me.

(CROSSTALK)

CARLSON: That's exactly right. Everyone in New Jersey who writes in to mourn your passing...

CARVILLE: The guy did it. And it's amazing to think that -- how long. And he was on Broadway. He was in movies. He did -- he did it all.

From the left, I'm James Carville. And that's all for CROSSFIRE.

CARLSON: From the right, I'm Tucker Carlson.

Join us again tomorrow for yet more CROSSFIRE.

TO ORDER A VIDEO OF THIS TRANSCRIPT, PLEASE CALL 800-CNN-NEWS OR USE OUR SECURE ONLINE ORDER FORM LOCATED AT www.fdch.com




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