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CNN CROSSFIRE

Debating California

Aired September 3, 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: Let the debates begin, but without you know who.

ARNOLD SCHWARZENEGGER (R), CALIFORNIA GUBERNATORIAL CANDIDATE: It's not all about debates. And we have a very, very packed schedule in the next four weeks.

ANNOUNCER: Will skipping tonight's debate hurt Arnold Schwarzenegger's chances? And will getting the questions in advance for a later debate hurt the voters' chances to learn anything about their would-be governors?

Plus, why is Tucker Carlson asking Britney Spears about the kiss? -- today on CROSSFIRE.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

(APPLAUSE)

ANNOUNCER: Live from the George Washington University, Paul Begala and Tucker Carlson.

PAUL BEGALA, CO-HOST: Well, if you're watching at home, that was Tucker on the right-hand side of that dance sequence from the MTV Music Awards.

Welcome to CROSSFIRE, everybody. Just a few hours from now, Arnold Schwarzenegger will be dodging his first debate in the California recall campaign. But he will be answering reporters' questions in just a couple minutes. We'll bring that press conference to you live. So don't touch that remote. We'll also ask a couple members of California's congressional delegations why the he-man is behaving like a girly man by ducking debates.

And, yes, Tucker Carlson interviews Britney Spears. You have got to see this to believe it.

But, first, we pump you up with the best briefing in television, our CROSSFIRE "Political Alert."

By now, the many Bush falsehoods on Iraq are familiar: Saddam Hussein posed an imminent threat to America. Nuclear weapons programs existed. Chemical and biological weapons could be sprayed on America by unmanned aircraft. And there were links to al Qaeda. But today's "Washington Times" reveals a new Bush whopper. According to a secret Pentagon document, Mr. Bush actually approved the Iraq war plan weeks before Congress authorized force and eight months before the first bomb fell, all while he was telling us that war was -- quote -- "his last option" -- unquote. It turns out war was Mr. Bush's first option, his only option, and telling the truth was his last option.

(APPLAUSE)

BEGALA: The document also faults the Bush administration for poor planning on weapons of mass destruction and on the occupation, saying planners were rushed. Of course, though, it was Mr. Bush who rushed us into that war. He owes us an explanation, both for his failures and for his falsehoods.

(APPLAUSE)

TUCKER CARLSON, CO-HOST: Here's the missing piece of the conspiracy puzzle, as I see it. And it's motive. I don't really see any other motive for what the president did, other than a sincere belief that Iraq posed a threat to the United States. You can argue that he was wrong, but the idea that somehow he brought us into war, risking his entire presidency and legacy for what under false pretenses? I don't just understand the argument.

(BELL RINGING)

BEGALA: He said many things that were factually false. And, today, from the conservative "Washington Times" and the Pentagon, we learned one more falsehood. It's a shame.

(APPLAUSE)

CARLSON: I still don't see why.

Just minutes ago, on CNN's "INSIDE POLITICS," retired General Wesley Clark shocked the political word that he is, believe it or not -- and you would have never guessed it -- a Democrat.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "INSIDE POLITICS")

RET. GENERAL WESLEY CLARK, CNN MILITARY ANALYST: I have to say that I'm aligned with the Democratic Party. I like the message the party has. I like what it stands for.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CARLSON: Well, he sort of announced it.

The other Democratic candidates, meanwhile, have been traveling the country for month, raising millions of dollars. But only now has Wesley Clark told us what everyone else has suspected all along. Well, by this timetable, we can expect the general to announce he is entering the presidential campaign by some time in late fall of 2004. And his vice presidential pick should be forthcoming some time in the year 2006.

BEGALA: I saw Judy Woodruff's very fine interview with General Clark. And I thought -- I think he did a terrific job.

He seemed to be just what he is, a man who spent his career in uniform and is only now entering politics and only now deciding what party he is. I am thrilled he chose the Democratic Party, just as I'm sure Republicans were thrilled when General Powell chose the Republican Party. I think it's a wonderful thing for Democrats. And Wes Clark is a great man.

(CROSSTALK)

CARLSON: I actually think it probably is good for Democrats. And I like General Clark. I guess you just would expect him to be a little bit more decisive. And it is hard to see at this stage how he enters the race. I, of course, hope he does. I don't think nine candidates is enough.

(BELL RINGING)

(LAUGHTER)

CARLSON: I think you need a 10th.

BEGALA: Well, he has been on CROSSFIRE before, which means at least he is not afraid to debate Tucker Carlson.

CARLSON: Amen.

BEGALA: Which is more than I can say for some of these guys.

Well, President Bush must really love the poor. After all, he's created so many of them.

(LAUGHTER)

(APPLAUSE)

BEGALA: He's cost us three million jobs. He's cut six million of our poorest children off of the child tax credit. And a new census report out yesterday says the number of Americans in poverty shot up by 1.3 million last year, which means 34.8 million Americans in all now live all year on less money than Mr. Bush makes in three weeks of his presidential salary.

Meanwhile, Mr. Bush's new rule on emergency room care means that more poor people will be denied speciality care, like neurosurgery, orthopedics and ophthalmology. But, of course, that's because Mr. Bush really loves the poor. You see, since they can't go to work or the emergency room, they're free to spend more time with their families, until they go broke and die.

(CROSSTALK)

CARLSON: I don't know. I think there is -- first of all, the president is not personally responsible for people being poor. That's ludicrous and everyone knows it.

But I do think there is a real problem with emergency rooms. And in border states, such as the one I'm from, it comes from illegal immigration, which is overwhelming emergency rooms that are not -- in some cases, not allowed to turn anybody away. I think securing our borders is one of the solutions to the emergency room crisis. And nobody on either side is willing to bring it up. And I wonder why.

(BELL RINGING)

(APPLAUSE)

BEGALA: It's not what President Bush -- I think President Bush is right about immigration. We disagree on that. President Bush supports more open borders. I think he's right about that. But he's hammering the poor. And that's a sin. He ought to be ashamed of himself.

CARLSON: You know that that's...

(APPLAUSE)

CARLSON: ... ludicrous.

Well, Michael Moore's interminable documentary "Bowling For Columbine" -- if you haven't seen it, don't.

(LAUGHTER)

CARLSON: It's just about to come out on DVD. But it is not the same version you may, unfortunately, have seen in movie theaters. As Brendan Nyhan points out on the spin site Spinsanity, on the new corrected version, Moore changes a phony caption he had superimposed over a 1998 Bush-Quayle campaign commercial.

Moore's original version was designed to portray the elder Bush as a race-baiter. It was completely made up, as were other things in that film. Is Michael Moore contrite? Is his Oscar in the return mail? Of course not. During a recent interview, Moore blustered -- quote -- "Absolutely every fact in the film is true. And anyone who says otherwise is committing an act of libel" -- end quote, which is, in itself, untrue, Michael Moore. So go ahead and sue me.

(LAUGHTER)

(APPLAUSE)

CARLSON: You know what? He is also the worst boss ever. I have known who worked for him, say he berates his staff like no other person in show business. And it's appalling, I think.

BEGALA: I don't know anything about that.

CARLSON: I do.

BEGALA: I'm interested, though, if you are going to be consistent and attack President Bush for changing the White House Web site away from what was originally said on May 1, President Bush announces end of combat, to now has been Orwellianly changed to, president announces end of major combat operations. It's a lot more important when the president...

CARLSON: What are you talking about? What does that have to do with

(CROSSTALK)

BEGALA: I don't know care about a filmmaker.

(CROSSTALK)

BEGALA: No, because you get so outraged when a filmmaker changes his film. How about when the president changes his

(CROSSTALK)

CARLSON: You have lost me. You are so past the grassy knoll at this point.

(APPLAUSE)

BEGALA: Why don't we just have a president who tells the truth? You're worried about filmmakers not telling the truth. Who cares?

CARLSON: OK.

Coming up, we're standing by for Arnold Schwarzenegger's live press conference in California. We'll bring it to you the moment it arrives.

Plus, tonight's Arnold-less -- Arnoldness less -- no Arnold in tonight's debate.

(LAUGHTER)

CARLSON: Are California voters really missing out? We'll debate that.

And later, why is a nice girl like Britney Spears doing a lip lock with Madonna? On the other hand, why not? That's the question all America wants answered. Your roving CROSSFIRE correspondent -- that would be me -- interviewed Britney Spears this afternoon.

We'll bring you her answer coming up.

(APPLAUSE)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(APPLAUSE)

CARLSON: Well, it's a funny state, California. Governor Gray Davis is running television commercials against the recall, but he isn't in them. There's a debate in just a few hours among the major candidates, but Arnold Schwarzenegger is not in that. Later this month, Schwarzenegger will take part in a debate that has an unusual twist. He and the other candidates are getting the questions in advance.

Even though he is skipping the debate, he is holding a press conference any moment. We'll bring you that live when it occurs. Is this any way to run a recall?

We're going to debate that with California Democratic Congresswoman Ellen Tauscher and California Republican Congressman Randy Duke Cunningham.

(APPLAUSE)

BEGALA: Thank you, all, both, for joining us.

As Tucker, said, when Arnold begins his press conference, we'll probably take some of that. And we'll be interested in your two very different views on it.

But let's start with Congressman Cunningham.

In addition to being a congressman, you are one of our country's legendary warriors, a Top Gun fighter jock in our Navy.

REP. RANDY CUNNINGHAM (R), CALIFORNIA: I am a legend in my own mind, anyway.

BEGALA: No, sir. I think, from way on the other side of the political fence, you're a great hero to this country.

You never shied away from a fight. Why is your fellow Republican, Arnold Schwarzenegger, running and hiding like a scared little girl?

(LAUGHTER)

CUNNINGHAM: In a campaign -- and I think Helen would tell you -- there's some basic rules. You have got 30 days left. You meet people, you raise money, and you meet people. And 30 days to go, when you're way out in front, as the dynamics work out, the Republicans are going to beat up on the leader and so is Bustamante. So why?

BEGALA: Well, it's opening him up to some very rough criticism.

The campaign manager -- or strategist, rather -- for Bustamante, who is the lieutenant governor, the one Democrat on the recall ballot in the recall, had this to say to "TIME" magazine, quite an amazing quote. Richie Ross is his name. And he told "TIME" magazine, about Arnold: "He is a sissy, is what I'm saying. He's a scaredy-cat."

Now, after that, Randy, American Societies of Sissies, ASS, protested, saying they're much tougher than Arnold. (LAUGHTER)

BEGALA: Doesn't this open him up to criticism like that?

CUNNINGHAM: I don't think I would ever call Arnold a sissy.

I worked with him on his bill to help after-school kids in six by six. And I support -- I support Arnold. And I came on board a little bit late, but he supports public education. He supports our men and women in the military. That's not sissy. He supports our veterans. He does pretty good business wise. And I think, also, he'll help President Bush, which we feel California is winnable in the election for President Bush.

So all of those things. I think he is a good candidate. I think he's good for kids and for public education. And that's why I'm supporting him.

(APPLAUSE)

CARLSON: Congresswoman Tauscher, I don't think anybody would say Gray Davis is a great candidate. He has run a really interesting new campaign ad. I'm sure you've seen it. I think we have got a picture that we can put up in the big screen right behind you.

There's the ad. You'll see it is popular Senator Dianne Feinstein of San Francisco. And you will notice, way down in the corner, there's a little black-and-white picture. You can't quite make it out. It looks a little bit like Gray Davis. He is afraid to put his own face in his own ads, because just hate him so very much. Doesn't that say it all?

(LAUGHTER)

REP. ELLEN TAUSCHER (D), CALIFORNIA: No, it doesn't, Tucker, not at all.

The truth is, I'm shocked to see that a good conservative like Randy is for a moderate, kind of liberal guy like Arnold Schwarzenegger. But the truth is, Dianne Feinstein is one of the most popular candidates and senators in California history. And Gray Davis is not running for governor. He has already run and won twice. This is a fraudulent recall. And Dianne, as the most popular of all of the people in California, is trying to make it straight with the voters about how bad this is for our state.

CARLSON: You are taking a principled position. And congratulations, because I think there is absolutely a principled position that this is a bad idea, the recall. Why not stick to it? Why run Bustamante, the lieutenant governor of the state? That sort of makes it impossible to be principled.

(CROSSTALK)

CARLSON: Gray Davis' wife said she's voting for the lieutenant governor. TAUSCHER: Don't forget -- this wasn't our idea, don't forget. This was put on the ballot by a very small number of Republicans that want a shot, as Randy said

(CROSSTALK)

CARLSON: No, but I'm talking about your response to it.

TAUSCHER: My response basically is, as a Democrat, I believe that you should vote every time you're asked. And there are two questions on this ballot. The first question is, do you want to recall the governor? The answer should be no.

And the other is, if he is recalled, who would you put in his place? And I believe that the responsible thing is to put the person that's been elected twice by the people of California to succeed the governor if he should not be able to serve. That's Lieutenant Governor Cruz Bustamante. Democrats want people to vote every time they get the chance. And they want all votes counted.

(APPLAUSE)

TAUSCHER: So we're suggesting no on the recall, yes on Bustamante.

(APPLAUSE)

BEGALA: Congressman Cunningham, let me pick up on the first point that Congresswoman Tauscher made. And that was about conservative Republicans supporting Arnold. I know the squishy, wishy-washy, wimpy Republicans are going to be for Arnold. But why is Duke Cunningham, one of the most conservative men in the Congress, supporting a pro-gay, pro-abortion, pro-gun-control liberal? And does that mean you'll support the Democrats on those same issues from now on?

CUNNINGHAM: I supported Brian Bilbray, who was pro-choice.

I think Republicans need to adopt in under the tent and not get so picky.

BEGALA: So then you all, your party, will no longer attack Democrats on issues like abortion rights, gun control, and gay rights?

CUNNINGHAM: I didn't say that. I am personally pro-life. I am -- on gun control, I think there needs to be limited gun control.

But I will tell you, the key thing that I stated on the Education Labor Committee,-- because I was a teacher and a coach. And public education needs help. Gray Davis cut Title I money and put it to county mental health. Dianne Feinstein...

(CROSSTALK)

BEGALA: ... money for poor schools.

CUNNINGHAM: No, it's for underprivileged children for poor schools, you could say.

BEGALA: Right.

CUNNINGHAM: But Gray Davis cut that money and took it away. Dianne Feinstein actually helped me in the conference get that extra formula money for California.

IDEA is cutting state funds and using the federal money, which we increased to help children with disabilities to raise. And he's cutting that. Arnold is helping the president with Leave No Child Behind and these after-school programs, not just baby-sitting, but it actually goes in and helps kids that are behind the power curve, so that they're not left behind. And who does that hurt? It hurts the poor, disenfranchised children in the state of California.

And, yes, I support Arnold, because he's helping the military, the veterans, education. And I think he'll get us out of the doldrums. Now, I don't necessarily like Warren Buffett.

(LAUGHTER)

BEGALA: His economic adviser.

(CROSSTALK)

CARLSON: If you believe that there's a valid argument to be made against Arnold Schwarzenegger, then -- I'll finish my question in a moment.

First, we're going to see the man himself. This is in Long Beach, California, an Arnold Schwarzenegger press conference in progress. There's the candidate walking up.

Let's listen.

(JOINED IN PROGRESS)

QUESTION: ... asking the CBA to allow questions at the debate?

SCHWARZENEGGER: We always have left it open to them. They came up with that idea. So we are looking forward to that debate. And we are looking forward for everyone to get together and to express their opinions and to share their philosophies, so the people can then choose who will be the best one.

QUESTION: We understand they turned down the request, though, to have the pre -- advance questions.

SCHWARZENEGGER: That's something you have to ask my team about.

I'm not part of the negotiations. I just know that we want to have the debate. And we want to have it any way that want it. It makes no difference to us. And I'm really looking forward to that, because that's one of my favorite things to do, is to stand there with people and debate over the issues and then let the people decide.

(CROSSTALK)

SCHWARZENEGGER: And I think, and I think -- and I think that today -- because my plan is to go up and down the state and just let the people know what I stand for, what I want to do and all that stuff.

So, I think that the most important thing is, is that I get out there, like I said in my speech, to go up and down the state, to go to businesses, to go and visit schools, to go and visit universities and campuses, and to go and visit the farmers and the people, knock on doors and really let the people know what I want to do, how I want to make changes.

I believe in education. I believe in reform. I believe in getting rid of the special interests that are controlling our politicians and all of those things. So that's what I want to do by traveling up and down the state.

(CROSSTALK)

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE) You said that you are going to take corporate donations. Why are corporate donations better than donations from unions and Indian tribes? And if you're taking corporate donations, how do you avoid doing what President Bush did by lowering the pollution standards

(CROSSTALK)

SCHWARZENEGGER: It is very, very important that we get in a situation where we don't accept any money from people that we will sit across the table and negotiate with.

We will negotiate with the Indians, with their gaming tribes. We will negotiate with the unions. So, therefore, it is not good to take money from them, because what you do is, like I said in my speech, you're selling off pieces of California in return for campaign contributions. And we cannot do that. I'm against it. I will not accept any money from unions or from Indian tribes that are into gaming. It's as simple as that.

I will accept all other campaign contributions. I have nothing against that. There's a lot of great supporters out there that want to support me and contribute. That's fine, but not -- I'm against, I'm against taking any money from unions or Indian tribes.

(CROSSTALK)

TAUSCHER: But everybody else.

CARLSON: There he is, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Republican candidate for governor, speaking live in Long Beach.

Congresswoman Tauscher, you saw the candidate. He looks like a pretty descent guy. We had the head of the Democratic Party of California on this show the other day, Art Torres, who got up and on live television accused Arnold Schwarzenegger of being -- quote -- "a sexual predator and cheating on his wife," on the basis of zero evidence. A spokesman for your party said -- quote -- that his father is a "Nazi." Therefore, don't vote for him.

Why attack this man personally so viciously? Why are Democrats doing that?

TAUSCHER: Well, I don't know of any other Democrat that said anything like that.

CARLSON: The head of your party.

TAUSCHER: Arnold Schwarzenegger is qualified, like millions of Californians are, to be governor. The question is, does he have the experience to do the job now when we have such tough times, many of the tough times, frankly, delivered by the federal government?

We had no help from the federal government when we were getting poached and pushed and scammed by Enron. We have no help from the federal government now, when we have budget problems, like 47 other states do. And the federal government has given big tax cuts to the most wealthy people in this country and can't provide help to the states.

(APPLAUSE)

TAUSCHER: We have a governor -- we have a governor who is a Vietnam veteran, an army captain. He certainly understands. He has worked very, very hard.

But there's nobody more special-interested than Arnold Schwarzenegger. There's nothing more craven than a special interest that is a self-interest. He has his hand in the cookie jar that he is accusing everybody else of having. He's talking millions of dollars from people all over California. And he invested in the recall, which was the ultimate...

CARLSON: Is he taking millions from Indian or for gambling?

TAUSCHER: He's taking it from everybody else.

(CROSSTALK)

BEGALA: The question he was just asked, Congressman Cunningham, which I found interesting in the evasive way that he didn't answer it was, why are you taking corporate money? You said you wouldn't take any special interest money. Aren't corporations special interests? And he said no. Aren't corporations special interests, just as much as a union or an Indian tribe?

CUNNINGHAM: Oh, they can be. But when it came to Enron, there's only one person that got $130,000 the week that he signed the energy bill at the highest level in history. And that was Gray Davis.

CARLSON: Yes.

(APPLAUSE) BEGALA: Now, we're going to have to...

CUNNINGHAM: And let me tell you something else about his Vietnam work. Only Gray Davis got a deferral, which I don't know how he did, in the middle of his Vietnam service to come back to law school. And he shows campaign ads

(CROSSTALK)

BEGALA: Gray Davis spent more time in Vietnam than George W. Bush, who was AWOL for his National Guard duty.

(APPLAUSE)

BEGALA: And a hero like you knows that, Congressman Cunningham.

CUNNINGHAM: Gray Davis, the closest he was to combat is 75 miles away.

BEGALA: We have to wind it up.

Congressman Duke Cunningham, Republican from California, Ellen Tauscher, Democrat from California, in whose district the Arnold-less debate will occur, thank you both very much for a terrific, fun debate.

(APPLAUSE)

BEGALA: Just ahead: Tucker Carlson's adventures in pop culture. He asks Britney Spears about the kiss, in her first interview since that fateful event, right after this break.

Stay tuned. You won't want to miss the interview or the kiss.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(APPLAUSE)

CARLSON: Welcome back to a very special and very grave edition of CROSSFIRE.

There are serious questions about war and peace in the Middle East. There are questions about how to fix the electricity grid, how to reform Medicare and shrink the deficit. But last Friday, all those questions took a back seat to the one question all of America was asking: Why did Britney Spears kiss Madonna during the MTV Music Awards show?

This afternoon, your roving CROSSFIRE correspondent was on the scene to pop the question.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

CARLSON: Tell me -- give me the chronology of the kiss. How did you decide to kiss Madonna? BRITNEY SPEARS, SINGER: Well, actually, in rehearsals, it wasn't something that was, like, this is what we're going to do. It was just kind of like, we played around a little bit. And she said before the performance: Let's just feel it out and see what happens.

So I didn't know it was going to be that long and everything. It was cool.

CARLSON: Had you ever kissed a woman before?

SPEARS: No, I have never kissed a woman before.

CARLSON: Would you again?

SPEARS: Would I again? No. I would not do it -- oh, maybe with Madonna.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

CARLSON: Well, with business out of the way, I went on to ask the pop music diva for her views on matters more pertinent to CROSSFIRE.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

CARLSON: A lot of entertainers have come out against the war in Iraq. Have you?

SPEARS: Honestly, I think we should just trust our president in every decision that he makes and we should just support that, you know, and be faithful in what happens.

CARLSON: Do you trust this president?

SPEARS: Yes, I do.

CARLSON: Excellent. Do you think he's going to win again?

SPEARS: I don't know. I don't know that.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

CARLSON: She's a Bush supporter, Paul. Can't argue with it.

BEGALA: She's pro-Bush. It was a brave, courageous interview, Tucker, one of the highlights of your journalistic career.

(LAUGHTER)

BEGALA: You're the envy of teenage boys -- and middle-aged men, I suppose -- everywhere. So congratulations.

CARLSON: You're making me nervous, Paul.

(LAUGHTER)

CARLSON: Thank you.

You can see the entire interview with Britney Spears, including her take on the Iraq war and the 2004 presidential race, tonight at 7:00 Eastern on "LIVE FROM THE HEADLINES WITH ANDERSON COOPER."

(LAUGHTER)

CARLSON: Paul and I will be right back.

BEGALA: The Iraq war.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BEGALA: I'm still recovering from that kiss that Tucker gave me during the commercial break. That wasn't on the air, was it?

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

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

Join us again tomorrow for more CROSSFIRE, without Britney Spears.

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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