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CNN CROSSFIRE

Will Gray Davis Be Recalled?

Aired August 11, 2003 - 16:30   ET

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

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

In the CROSSFIRE...

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I am running for governor.

ANNOUNCER: Now playing in California and around the nation, the wild, wild west.

ARNOLD SCHWARZENEGGER (R), CALIFORNIA GOVERNOR CANDIDATE: What an exciting situation this is, what an exciting day this is.

ANNOUNCER: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Governor Gray Davis, and what seems like a cast of thousands.

CRUZ BUSTAMANTE (D), LIEUTENANT GOVERNOR OF CALIFORNIA: I'm here as an alternative.

ANNOUNCER: Is there any alternative to political chaos?

Today on CROSSFIRE.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

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

(APPLAUSE)

ROBERT NOVAK, CO-HOST: Welcome to CROSSFIRE.

A new poll from California puts Arnold Schwarzenegger's favorable rating at 79 percent. Only 29 percent say Governor Gray Davis should be kept in office. We'll ask a couple of guests if the terminator will really terminate the Democrats. But first, the best political briefing in television, our CROSSFIRE Political Alert.

For now at least, it's still nine Democrats running for president, not ten. Senator Joe Biden of Delaware, the top Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, decided it was just too late to get in the race. I don't really mind the senator. Look at the record. He knows a lot about national security and foreign policy. He can criticize President Bush without being mean-spirited and partisan. He knows there are two sides to the Israeli-Palestinian question. What possible chance would an intelligent and reasonable person like that have in representing the Democratic Party?

PAUL BEGALA, CO-HOST: Now, Bob, tell me, what would you be saying about Joe Biden, who is a terrific guy, if he was running? You'd be out there with the right-wing hit machine attacking him every single day.

NOVAK: Oh, that's not true. You can tell people what you would do. Don't tell people what I would do, because Joe Biden is an old friend of mine. You want to call him, ask him. I wouldn't be attacking him.

BEGALA: How about John Kerry or John Edwards? They're not intelligent or reasonable?

NOVAK: They're not old friends of mine.

BEGALA: But are they not intelligent or reasonable?

NOVAK: They're not as good as Joe Biden.

BEGALA: Well, that's your opinion. But I think it's unfair to say the Democrats wouldn't nominate Joe Biden because he's intelligent and reasonable.

NOVAK: Yes, I think that is the problem. He doesn't go and shoot at people, like some Democrats I know.

BEGALA: Actually, they're deer, not people. That's my idea of fun.

Well, in a blockbuster expose, "The Washington Post" has documented President Bush's campaign to mislead the American people about the threat posed by Iraq. In yesterday's paper, "The Post" cites, "A pattern in which President Bush, Vice President Cheney, and their subordinates made allegations depicting Iraq's nuclear weapons program as more active, more certain and more imminent in its threat than the data they had would support."

From claims that Iraq sought uranium from Africa to allegations about aluminum tubes to telling Americans that defectors described a nuclear program when, in fact, those defectors had said there was no program, "The Post' proves that President Bush looked you in the eye and deceived you.

NOVAK: You know, Paul, I do believe that they overstated the nuclear threat. But there are a lot of other reasons to go into Iraq, if you wanted to go in. There were chemical weapons, there were biological weapons, there was the brutality of that regime, there was the threat it posed to Israel. All those things could be other reasons for going in. And I believe that the nuclear threat was probably the worst reason to go in. BEGALA: It was completely hyped. You make a good point, but our president said there was an imminent threat to America, not to Israel, not to anybody else. An imminent threat to us, and we lost lives in that war. And now we learned there was certainly no nuclear threat and no chemical or biological threat.

NOVAK: The Democrats really came under attack on Sunday. It was suggested that Democrats may not deserve to govern the country because they are embracing their failed solutions of the past. What Republican said that? No Republican.

It was Democrat Joe Lieberman, running for president. And that same day, African-American Democrats were accused of being lazy and ungrateful. What white extremist said that? No white extremist, it was African-American Democrat Al Sharpton running for president. That's the charm of Democrats, telling the dirty truth about each other.

BEGALA: Well, now you don't give Reverend Sharpton his full due. What he actually said was -- he was speaking at a church, predominantly African-American -- "You're just too lazy and ungrateful to use something that folks died to give you the right to do. That is, vote. Folks got to beg you to vote when others died to give you that right to vote."

He is right. That applies to white audiences as same as black audiences. Al Sharpton is right and I'm glad to see you agree with him.

NOVAK: I'll tell you something, Paul. If I said that African- Americans were lazy and ungrateful, you would have a new person on -- just a minute, let me finish my sentence -- you'd have a new person on this show, I guarantee you.

BEGALA: He didn't say that. He said people who don't vote.

NOVAK: He said lazy and ungrateful.

BEGALA: If you don't vote, and he is right. If you don't vote, you're lazy and ungrateful and unworthy of the sacrifice of the heroes of this country.

Well, election-stealing Republican and Cruella DeVille look alike, Katherine Harris, is now a freshman congresswoman. And in her new job, she is showing the same contempt that made her infamous in the Bush v Gore case. Ms. Harris was booed by her own constituents at a town hall meeting in Bradenton, Florida, when she refused too directly answer their question. Congresswoman Harris also handed out her own propaganda at the meeting, but confiscated literature from independent groups like the AARP.

"This is wrong," said Tony Fransetta (ph), the head of the Florida AARP. And Becky Martin of the League of Women Voters, proclaimed herself disappointed in Harris' performance. Harris, of course, could not be reached for comment. Perhaps she was busy kidnapping Dalmatian puppies. She's a disaster. NOVAK: Let me make two points. I believe that political criticism based on the physical appearance of people is juvenile and beneath anybody who portends to be a serious commentator. Secondly, I would say that the AARP and the League of Women Voters are liberal groups. They weren't just constituents, they were people who were trying to undermine Katherine Harris, and they deserve what they got.

BEGALA: I'd say stealing an election and then not answering your constituents' questions is a whole lot worse than making fun of how she looks. You know that's just one person's opinion, though, Bob.

Well, in this afternoon's lottery for ballot positions in the California recall, "S" as in Schwarzenegger, came up in 11th place. But, get this: the ballot positions will be rotated, and so they'll be different in California's 80 state assembly districts, which means the ballot will be about as goofy as the whole recall election itself.

In a minute, we'll ask a couple of guests to debate the recall mess that has turned California into a national laughing stock. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BEGALA: Welcome back to CROSSFIRE.

I, for one, can't wait for the debate in the California governor's race. Among the 190-plus candidates likely to be on the recall ballot, are a billboard pin-up girl, porno king Larry Flynt, the actor who plays Father Guido Sarducci, watermelon-smashing comedian Leo Gallagher, and Michael Jackson, Edward Kennedy and Bob Dole, none of whom is a singer, a senator or a Viagra pitchman.

Along with all of them is former child star Gary Coleman and 1984 Olympic impresario Peter Ueberroth, as well as a 100-year-old woman and, of course, a bodybuilder-turned-movie actor who turned up in New York City today.

In the CROSSFIRE from the wild, wild, and endlessly entertaining state of California, state Democratic Party chairman Art Torres, joining us from San Francisco. And in Los Angeles, California Republican Congressman David Dreier.

(APPLAUSE)

BEGALA: How are you all doing?

NOVAK: Art Torres, we have found just any number of quotations by you saying that Democrats of substance should stay off of this ballot so you can concentrate on saving Governor Davis. Most recently, in a conference call on July 31 -- and we'll put that up on the screen -- when you say, "At the end of the day, there will be no Democrat on the ballot other than Governor Davis. That is, no Democrat of any substance that can win the statewide election."

Well, instead, Lieutenant Governor Bustamante is on the ballot. Did you change your mind because you realized you could not stop the recall of Gray Davis?

ART TORRES, CHAIRMAN, CALIFORNIA DEMOCRATIC PARTY: No. What frankly happened was that this party is not a party of discipline, and we don't march lockstep like Karl Rove does to the Republicans. We're a party of diversity and we make different opinions. And that's exactly what happened.

I appreciate that Insurance Commissioner Garamendi chose not to run, but that leaves us with Cruz Bustamante. But we're for a "no" on the recall, and that's where we're sticking.

BEGALA: Congressman Dreier, in fact, "TIME" magazine today reports that you, David Dreier, spent three hours with former L.A. Mayor and Republican Richard Riordan plotting his race up until the time Schwarzenegger sandbagged you after having misled lots of people and then (UNINTELLIGIBLE) his announcement.

REP. DAVID DREIER (R), CALIFORNIA: So much for Karl Rove's dictatorial policy that Art was just talking about.

BEGALA: Well, here's what "The New York Post," not exactly a liberal paper, one of Rupert Murdoch's newspapers, said about it. They ran a (UNINTELLIGIBLE) today online that said, "Jay, it ain't so. Arnold liked to Leno."

Why do you want to make a guy governor when his first public act as a politician is to tell a lie?

DREIER: He didn't tell a lie. That's absolutely ridiculous. The fact of the matter is he did make his decision at the very last minute, and that's come forward based on a lot of factors and obviously consultation with his great Democratic wife, Paul Begala and Art Torres, Maria Shriver Schwarzenegger.

TORRES: Like we don't know that. Give me a break.

DREIER: And obviously the decision that Dianne -- the decision of Dianne -- well, no, that's come forward. That has clearly been said.

TORRES: I love Maria, but we've got a better first lady, Sharon Davis.

DREIER: Oh, I'm sorry, go ahead. Do you want to ask him a question, Paul?

BEGALA: Go ahead. Actually, Bob wants to jump in, I think.

DREIER: Let me just say that I happen to believe that this really is an issue about leadership. This has to do with a failed governor, and obviously with this, you know, incredible 69 percent number of people who are likely voters who are going to be in that poll that you just mentioned, Bob, supportive of the recall.

NOVAK: OK. DREIER: I'm not a big proponent of the recall, but it's inevitable. It's going to happen, and I think the best candidate is Arnold Schwarzenegger.

NOVAK: Mr. Torres, I'd like you to explain something to me. Your colleague and the spokesman for the Democratic Party, Bob Mulholland, told ABC News -- and I'll put that up on the screen, too -- "Schwarzenegger is going to find out that, unlike a Hollywood movie set, the bullet's coming at him. And in this campaign, they're going to be real bullets" -- real bullets -- "and he's going to have to respond to them."

Now, explain to me, Mr. Torres, does Mr. Mulholland really plan to shoot at Arnold Schwarzenegger or is he...

TORRES: Oh, come on. You know that's not the case. Bob, you know Bob Mulholland as well as I do. He was talking about political bullets, and he's not going to say that word again, because I talked to him this afternoon and told him we don't need that kind of stuff.

DREIER: So you're dictating things, Art.

NOVAK: Does that mean smear attacks, going into stuff out of the tabloids?

TORRES: Bob, I'm keeping my commitment that this campaign is going to rest on the issues, not a government by tantrum, which is basically we have the terrible twos going on in the Republican Party. But let's talk about the facts. Let's talk about the facts.

Arnold says we're losing businesses. Department of Employment development figures that I just got today from 2000 and 2001, businesses were increased in California, and 0.2 percent lost jobs between July 2002 and 2003. And...

DREIER: Are you, Art Torres, satisfied with the economic growth that we've got going in California today?

TORRES: Well, of course nobody is, for heaven's sake.

DREIER: Good. That's why we need stronger leadership to make it even better.

TORRES: But the spending growth -- but the Republicans continue to say that we spend too much money. Give me a break. The spending growth under Mr. Davis is significantly less than the average growth for each gubernatorial officer since 1959.

DREIER: So explain to me, Art Torres, why is it that 69 percent of the likely voters want to recall this guy?

TORRES: Gallup Poll said 64 percent. Does that hurt? Of course it hurts. Ouch, of course it hurts. But we're...

BEGALA: Well, let me get to some of these issues.

TORRES: What I want to know is, is George Bush going to campaign with Pete Wilson in California?

DREIER: I'm listening, Paul.

TORRES: Is George Bush going to campaign with Pete Wilson in California?

BEGALA: All right. I'm going to have to go to the bell. Because, actually, let me ask you about Pete Wilson.

Pete Wilson, your former governor, Congressman Dreier, supported Proposition 187, which would have denied health care and education to the children of illegal immigrants. Arnold Schwarzenegger, himself an immigrant, who loves to talk about his wonderful American success story, he supported that. What kind of a man pulls up the ladder behind his fellow immigrants like that?

DREIER: Well, that's just a total mischaracterization of Proposition 187. It was designed to say that the federal government, not the state government, should be shouldering the responsibility of the cost of illegal immigration. And there is a cost to the state.

Arnold is clearly focused on the future. He is very pro immigrant. And you know, we are...

TORRES: Dreier, you're going to talk about the past.

DREIER: No, I just talked about the past. I just talked about the past, and I will tell you that we have seen obviously a very strong commitment to those who are immigrants in this country. But everyone is opposed to illegal immigration. Everyone is opposed to illegal immigration.

TORRES: What has he done?

DREIER: I think that he is a great testament to the success that immigrants can have. And he said on Jay Leno so well...

TORRES: Of a movie star.

DREIER: No. He was successful as a businessman and in the motion picture industry.

TORRES: Where is his plan on the budget?

DREIER: Well, it's going to be coming forward. I promise you, Art Torres, it's going to be coming forward. He's been a candidate for four days.

TORRES: How is he going to judge the fact that Pete Wilson gave us the energy crisis by supporting -- as Pete Wilson said, I take credit for being the driving force to launch deregulation. Thanks a lot, Pete.

(CROSSTALK)

NOVAK: Mr. Torres, I want to show you a couple poll results from the CNN-"USA Today" Gallup Poll just taken in California. We mentioned before, favorable rating of Arnold Schwarzenegger, 79 percent. That is really phenomenal.

But here's the one I really like. "Would Schwarzenegger do a better job than a career politician?" Yes, 52 percent, no, 26 percent. Isn't what you're fighting, Mr. Torres, that the people are sick of you career politicians like you and Governor Davis?

TORRES: Well, quite frankly, I'm not in office anymore, Bob. The Republicans took care of that with their almost indicted insurance commissioner a few years ago. But the problem is here that we have a situation where we're going to concentrate on the issues.

We're not going to do personal attacks on the candidates. We want to know where they stand on the issues. And if they can't come up with answers, we already have the answers.

Test scores gone up in four years. Seventeen new power plants established here in California. And 18 years of Pee Wee Wilson and George (UNINTELLIGIBLE), not a one.

DREIER: Oh, come on. You know that kind of...

BEGALA: Congressman Dreier, we're almost out of time in this segment. Let me ask you this: You have a principled record. One hundred percent pro-life, you voted against the Brady Bill, you voted against gay adoptions in D.C. Arnold Schwarzenegger is pro-abortion rights, pro-gun control and pro-gay rights. Who's right, you or Arnold Schwarzenegger?

DREIER: He's running for governor of California to turn the economy around in this state, to focus on education. Those are the priority issues. And I'm very proud to be supportive of him on all the way across the board.

I think he's going to do a great job as governor. And I'll tell you, Democrats and Republicans alike have been saying that they understand what the priority issues are, and it happens to be education and economic growth.

NOVAK: All right, Mr. Chairman. We're going to have to take a break.

And after that break, Wolf Blitzer will have the latest news headlines. And then it's "Rapid Fire," where we try to pack in more questions than there are candidates on California's recall ballot.

Later, a Californian who thinks we outsiders are having too much fun gets a chance to fire back.

(APPLAUSE)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

NOVAK: It's time for "Rapid Fire," one of the few things shorter than what's left of Governor Gray Davis' time in the governor's mansion. In the CROSSFIRE from San Francisco, California Democratic Party champion...

TORRES: That's right, champion.

NOVAK: Champion, Chairman, Art Torres. And in Los Angeles, California Republican Congressman of the powerful House Rules Committee, David Dreier.

BEGALA: Congressman Dreier, what social spending program will Arnold Schwarzenegger cut as governor to balance the budget?

DREIER: Well, I will tell you that he's going to look at a wide range of things. I can't tell you; he's been a candidate for four days. But in the next two weeks we're going to see some proposals unveiled.

He's focusing on workers' compensation. And there is a real problem there, and that's one of the issues that he's brought forward.

NOVAK: Chairman Torres, Rush Limbaugh says that Arnold Schwarzenegger is not a conservative. Do you agree with that?

TORRES: No, he's not, and that's why Bill Simon and poor Senator Tom McClintock are just apoplectic. I mean, they can't believe that big Arnold is taking away their steam. And, quite frankly, August 18, workers' compensation is on the table and it will be resolved by September 30.

DREIER: So Art Torres says that Arnold Schwarzenegger is a mainstream Californian.

BEGALA: This is "Rapid Fire."

DREIER: Mainstream Californian.

BEGALA: Congressman Dreier, Arnold's financial adviser told "The San Francisco Chronicle," "Arnold likes paying taxes. He always says, 'If I'm paying a lot of taxes, I must be making a lot of money." Do you agree with Arnold's pro-tax philosophy?

DREIER: It's not a pro-tax increase philosophy. I'll tell you what it is. It's recognition that we need to get people on the working side of the economic so they can generate the revenues to deal with a lot of the priorities we have, on homeland security and other areas. He's not for increasing taxes.

NOVAK: Chairman Torres, it looks as though Governor Davis is going to lose the recall. Should he resign and make Lieutenant Governor Bustamante the governor of California?

TORRES: Well, legally that doesn't matter whether he resigns or not. The election still has to take place, and the winner of that election is going to be the next governor of California.

But I don't think Governor Gray Davis is going to be recalled. As a matter of fact, I think and I predict on this show that you'll see numbers for Arnold decreasing as people find out where he really stands. And don't underestimate Bill Simon and McClintock and the conservative right. They're working hard beneath the radar.

DREIER: It's going to be Gray Davis launching all those attacks against Arnold. That's what worries me.

BEGALA: We're almost out of time. As a chairman of the Rules Committee, will you support legislation in Washington to allow the American people to recall President Bush if they want to?

DREIER: Oh, come on. That's absolutely ridiculous. No, I'm...

TORRES: A $455 billion deficit?

DREIER: I'm not a big proponent of the recall, anyway. And I have difficulty with the initiative and referendum out here.

TORRES: Talk about high crime.

BEGALA: Art Torres, Chairman of the California Democratic Party, David Dreier, Chairman of the House Rules Committee, thank you both very much.

DREIER: Always great to see you. Have a nice summer.

TORRES: Great seeing you, David.

TORRES: See you, Art.

BEGALA: You're good Californians; we hope you come back soon.

It's time now for our Ask the Audience question. Take out the little voting devices we gave you when you came in and tell us this: Do you think the recall makes California look foolish? Press one if yes, this fiasco tarnishes the golden state, press two for no, the recall does not make California look bad.

And we will have the results after our break, along with an e- mail from one of our viewers who wants to know when the Republicans are going to stop trying to have things both ways. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

NOVAK: Time for "Fireback." But first, we asked our audience, does the California recall make California look foolish? Democrats, 93 percent said yes. Republicans, a little more tolerant, only 66 percent said yes.

BEGALA: One of the few times, though, the Rs and Ds agree. We all agree California looks pretty silly.

Although, J. Feldman, writing from California, disagrees. Here's what Jay says. "The media is having a field day with the California mess. I have to live here. And it's dead serious for all of us. Please stop having so much fun with the nuts who are running and look at the issues seriously. Or else, shut up about the whole embarrassing situation and let us work it out." You know, J., no. Wait, wait. Don't set up a circus and then complain when people look at the freak show. I'm sorry. This is your fault.

NOVAK: Jim Striegel of Las Vegas, Nevada, says, "What I really want to is, when the candidates for California governor finally have a debate, will Arnold be allowed to use his stunt double?"

Well, you know, I'll tell you this, when you have stand-ins it sometimes comes out different. When Paul was a stand-in for George W. Bush, Al Gore won that debate.

BEGALA: Josh Friedman in Colorado Springs writes, "Let me get this straight. Republicans are telling us California's budget deficit is the fault of Gray Davis, while trying to convince us that the federal deficit is not George Bush's fault. They can't have it both ways."

He's right.

NOVAK: And Steven Furland of Montreal, Canada, says, "Paul, give the terminator a break. Arnold will share his strategies soon enough. Davis has been in politics for 30 years and he hasn't a clue how to turn the economy around. Can't you take off your Democratic hat for a minute and admit that Arnold may be the right man for the job?"

Can you, Paul?

BEGALA: No, he doesn't give any idea says. It's about ideas. How many I supposed to say maybe he -- go be a mayor of Montreal there, Steven.

But no. The guy should put some ideas in front.

NOVAK: Audience question, please?

BEGALA: Yes, sir?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hi. Harry Ampilitas (ph) here.

NOVAK: Where you from?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm from Wilmette (ph), Illinois. The question is, has the California recall set a dangerous precedent? Does anyone doubt if Schwarzenegger is elected he'll be subject to his own recall in two years?

NOVAK: You know, it's really very dangerous when you let the people have their say, isn't it?

BEGALA: And when it gets hijacked by a bunch of right-wing cranks who don't want to honor election, whether Al Gore wins it or Gray Davis or any Democrat ever wins.

NOVAK: Last question. Come on.

BEGALA: Yes, sir?

NOVAK: Last question.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Paul Nixon (ph) from Pensacola, Florida. With more than 90 percent likely of the media air time going to Schwarzenegger, what chance do any of the 192 other candidates have?

NOVAK: Life is really unfair, isn't it buddy?

BEGALA: On that charitable view point, I am from the left, 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.

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