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CNN CROSSFIRE

U.S. Change of Plans in Iraq?

Aired September 4, 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. Help wanted. Dictator gone. Country's a mess. Apply at United Nations.

COLIN POWELL, SECRETARY OF STATE: We've been floating the idea of a resolution for many, many weeks.

ANNOUNCER: Is asking for international help really just part of the plan or a Bush administration about-face engineered by Colin Powell?

POWELL: That is absolute fiction, total fiction.

ANNOUNCER: Today on CROSSFIRE.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

(APPLAUSE)

ANNOUNCER: Live from the George Washington University, James Carville and Robert Novak.

(APPLAUSE)

JAMES CARVILLE, CO-HOST: Welcome to CROSSFIRE.

President Bush is back from a vacation with a whole new Iraq policy. Instead of waiting for the Iraqis to throw roses at the U.S., we're going to ask the United Nations for help. Suppose they'll throw roses. We'll debate it in a little bit.

But first, we've got something to throw at you, the best political briefing in television, our CROSSFIRE "Political Alert."

ROBERT NOVAK, CO-HOST: The gang of nine Democrats running for president hold what the party's leaders call the first official debate tonight in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Well, you may ask, what were all those earlier debates, preseason games?

Well, it's the first debate where the trailing eight candidates will pretend that front-runner Howard Dean is really George W. Bush and attack him like a pinata. There is no empty 10th chair for Hillary tonight, even though somebody in Florida has launched a draft campaign for Senator Clinton.

Is it a problem that the Democrat, the only Democrat who generates excitement is not running?

CARVILLE: Well, she makes your heart go flutter, flutter, so what can I say, you know?

(LAUGHTER)

NOVAK: Oh, isn't that a problem?

CARVILLE: No, it's not a problem. It's not. We've got a good field of candidates. Some get out there. And I'll tell you, of all nine of them, none of them ever lied to get us into a war they had no plan to get us out of

(CROSSTALK)

CARVILLE: ... for the current president.

NOVAK: You have a lot of experience with the Clintons, James. You think there's any chance she'll run?

CARVILLE: No. She'll run in 2008. She'll run at some point.

NOVAK: No, I'm talking about in 2004.

CARVILLE: I don't think so.

NOVAK: All right.

CARVILLE: But who knows?

(BELL RINGING)

CARVILLE: In what passes for campaigning, Arnold Schwarzenegger recited his favorite movie lines and tosses out a few platitudes during a three-minute-and-10 second speech at a voter registration rally this afternoon. Boy, he sure knows how to go in depth.

Maybe that's the best way to get him to show up for a debate. Make it the less than four minutes long, give him the questions in advance, so he can memorize short answers, and he'll be there.

(LAUGHTER)

CARVILLE: As each day goes by, this California recall is getting to be a bigger and bigger joke. Too bad it costs 60 some million dollars that could go to schools, paving roads or just about anything useful.

(APPLAUSE)

NOVAK: Well, I think it's always been -- I think it's always a mistake when the candidate doesn't show up for a debate. I mean, it gets the wrong kind of attention. But if you watched any of that debate -- no sane man would watch the whole thing -- but if you watched some of it, they all looked pretty bad. I don't think anybody helped themselves. And it may be the biggest joke of all on Gray Davis. I think he may be out there.

CARVILLE: Well, he might be. But, you know, Bob, you're right. If you're going to tackle big problems like California has and you're a big enough man to play in the movies, it looks like you ought to be big enough to take on the pathetic other gubernatorial candidates they have in California.

(LAUGHTER)

CARVILLE: And his problem is, is that people have a thing that the guy might not be up to it; he may just be a movie actor running. And he's coming across like that and he's not doing anything to dispel it.

(CROSSTALK)

NOVAK: Of course, you've got to remember that the greatest president of the 20th century was a movie actor.

(BELL RINGING)

CARVILLE: Bill Clinton was never a movie actor, Bob.

(LAUGHTER)

NOVAK: This is a -- this is a -- this is a sad day for politics and a sad day for America. Miguel Estrada asked for withdrawal of his nomination by President Bush for the nation's second most important court. He is a brilliant 42-year-old lawyer who is part of the American dream. He came here as a 15-year-old refugee from Honduras, could not speak a word of English.

Nobody denies that he is superbly qualified, but he is a conservative Latino. And the Democratic plantation bosses cannot permit such a breakaway and would not let his nomination come to a vote. Will such an outrage stand? It's up to the American people.

CARVILLE: Yes, I think the American people don't want extreme right-wing judges on there. And, of course, this is nothing new. The Republicans held up a lot judges in the Clinton administration and other administrations, because they disagreed with their ideology.

And I think what people are saying is, the man wouldn't even release his papers or anything. And it's probably a good idea to wait until President Bush actually wins another election before he gets away with appointing

(CROSSTALK)

(APPLAUSE)

NOVAK: Well, James, there's a lot of judges who have been confirmed by the Senate who are no less -- no more conservative than Estrada. Do you deny the reason

(CROSSTALK)

(BELL RINGING)

CARVILLE: I think they have approved too many of these right- wing judges.

NOVAK: But he's a Latino.

CARVILLE: What difference -- so what? I thought you -- I thought -- I thought conservatives were colorblind or whatever, ethnic-blind.

Houston, Texas, is the home of George W. Bush's education miracle. Now it turns out that Bush's education miracle was a fraud. Relying on recent news report, Richard Cohen writes in today's "Washington Post" that Houston schools simply made up numbers to show the attendance was rising, dropout rates were falling and more students were heading to college.

Unfortunately, George Bush didn't leave the mess in Texas. Houston's superintendent, the architect of the made-up miracle, is now America's secretary of education. George W. Bush talks a lot about holding schools accountable. When it comes to all the lies about taxes, war and weapons and now education, maybe it's time to start holding George W. Bush accountable.

(APPLAUSE)

NOVAK: James, you know, I wish you would rely on more than Richard Cohen's column in "The Washington Post."

(CROSSTALK)

NOVAK: Because if you had read the Associated Press story and "The New York Times" story, you would have found there was one high school involved, Sharpstown High School, one principal, one accountant. They have been -- they have not taken orders from anybody. They made up this stuff on their own.

And I'll tell you something else. I know Rod Paige, the secretary of education. He's a fine man. And I resent you slandering him.

(APPLAUSE)

CARVILLE: I'll slam the hell out of him. George Bush promised that schools would get more money. They're getting less money.

(BELL RINGING)

CARVILLE: And the secretary of education don't have the guts to speak out and stand up to his own president and stand up for these schoolkids. And I'm not offended at all to attack the secretary of education or the secretary of defense, anybody else (CROSSTALK)

(BELL RINGING)

NOVAK: All right, that's enough.

(APPLAUSE)

NOVAK: Coming up: The Bush administration is looking for help in rebuilding Iraq. Will the United Nations, or, for that matter, the Democratic Party, actually lend a hand in the rebuilding?

(APPLAUSE)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(APPLAUSE)

NOVAK: Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld is getting a firsthand look at the situation in Iraq.

Talking to reporters in Baghdad today, he called for speeding up the process of letting Iraqi troops and police deal with security problems inside their own country. Tomorrow, the U.S. asks the U.N. Security Council for help with the occupation. No surprise, France and Germany are already saying the U.S. proposal doesn't go far enough. Is everybody a critic or is somebody actually going to help rebuild Iraq?

In the CROSSFIRE: Joe Cirincione of the Carnegie Endowment For International Peace, and U.S. Defense Policy Board member Ken Adelman.

(APPLAUSE)

(CROSSTALK)

CARVILLE: Ken, let me show you what a friend of yours had to say about a friend of yours. Things are not very happy over on your side of the street right now.

But let's go ahead and post this up, what Mr. Kristol had to say: "Rumsfeld lost credibility with the White House because he screwed up the postwar planning. For five months, they let Rumsfeld have his way. And for five months, Rumsfeld said, everything's fine. He wanted to do the postwar with fewer troops than a lot of people advised. And it turned out to be a mistake" -- William Kristol, fellow pax Americana, American might, power, go to war with everybody, unilateralism soul mate of Mr. Adelman.

What's going on over with your buddies over there, man? Pax Americana is having a tough go.

(LAUGHTER)

KEN ADELMAN, DEFENSE POLICY BOARD: I don't think there's any idea of a pax Americana. I think there's an idea of standing for democracy and liberating a country and having the first country in the Middle East besides Israel...

(CROSSTALK)

ADELMAN: The first country in the Arab world that's prosperous, that's freely elected and that's legitimate, the first one ever.

(CROSSTALK)

CARVILLE: What's going on with Mr. Kristol and Mr. Rumsfeld?

(CROSSTALK)

ADELMAN: I think he's just wrong on this. I think...

CARVILLE: Don't you think Mr. Rumsfeld -- I think Mr. -- I think Wolfowitz ought to resign, because he's the biggest idiot to serve in this government in my lifetime. Do you think Mr. Rumsfeld should resign?

(CROSSTALK)

ADELMAN: And I think he's terrific.

No, I think he's wonderful.

(CROSSTALK)

ADELMAN: I worked for Rumsfeld three times in my life.

(CROSSTALK)

(BELL RINGING)

NOVAK: Come on.

ADELMAN: OK.

NOVAK: All right.

ADELMAN: Well, he asked me a question and he didn't give me a chance to answer.

NOVAK: In Iraq, the left-wing, radical, young Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr says, right now, the U.S. troops should get out. With all the criticism of the administration, does he have a good idea?

JOE CIRINCIONE, CARNEGIE ENDOWMENT FOR INTERNATIONAL PEACE: We can't get out now. That's the whole problem. We're stuck.

This -- I'm sorry -- but this pax Americana, unilateralist crowd have driven us off a cliff. We're now in a foreign policy disaster. And we're trying to figure out how to get out of it. There's only three things you can do. One, Bill Kristol says, bring in more troops. I think that's a big mistake. Two, you could build up an Iraqi militia, arm them with guns, have them take over security. That could turn disastrous. You don't know how long you're going to be able to control them.

And, three, you have to admit that you made a mistake and go to the U.N. for help.

NOVAK: Yes, go to the U.N.

CIRINCIONE: And is what the president is doing. And I applaud him for it. He's doing the right thing. This is a step in the right direction.

NOVAK: How long is it going to be before you're on Mr. Muqtada al-Sadr's side and saying, let's get out, just like you kind of people did in Vietnam?

CIRINCIONE: We're in a mess and we do want to get out of there. And the Joint Chiefs want to get us out of there.

The problem is, we have to figure out a way to get out of there safely, preserve U.S. credibility, and do the right thing by the Iraqi people.

(CROSSTALK)

ADELMAN: I love the three against one right here. I love the fact -- I love the fact that Bob asks Joe, my buddy Joe, a question and gives Joe a chance to answer the question.

(CROSSTALK)

ADELMAN: You yell at me. You say what about this and then say, OK, shut up.

(APPLAUSE)

CIRINCIONE: Just give him a good answer.

(CROSSTALK)

ADELMAN: It's 3-1. And with the quote, it's 4-1.

(CROSSTALK)

CARVILLE: I'll give you a chance. Things are not -- things are pretty unsettled over on your side of the street. We've got Rumsfeld shooting at Kristol and everybody shooting at everybody.

ADELMAN: Rumsfeld is not shooting at Kristol.

CARVILLE: I mean Kristol is shooting at Rumsfeld.

ADELMAN: Right. OK.

CARVILLE: So is it -- are we ever going to get anything together over there?

ADELMAN: Yes. CARVILLE: Take a shot. Tell us how.

ADELMAN: OK.

What we are doing is taking a country that, for 30 years, has been oppressed, has been repressed, has been backwards, has been underfunded, has been just a wreck, OK? And now, 10 minutes after liberation, you're saying, oh, my gosh, it's just too bad that things aren't perfect. Well, it's not going to be Switzerland anytime soon, OK? And it didn't start out as Switzerland. It started out as a disaster. And now at least it's a free disaster, OK?

CARVILLE: Ken, I'm not William Kristol. I'm not William Kristol.

ADELMAN: William Kristol has his own opinion. Big deal. So...

CARVILLE: OK. But he and I happen to have the same opinion on this.

ADELMAN: OK, well, you're both wrong. So what do I care about that, you know?

(LAUGHTER)

(APPLAUSE)

NOVAK: Mr. Cirincione...

ADELMAN: The fact is -- the fact is that, when you look at the development of Iraq, it is going to take a long time. No one ever promised that, at 10 minutes after liberation, it was going to be Switzerland.

(CROSSTALK)

NOVAK: I'd like you to explain to me what your friends the Germans and the French are doing in the United Nations. We go in there. We ask for help. And they say they don't like the American- appointed council. Who is going to appoint the council? Are you going to have a grassroots -- are you going to have Mr. Gallup come in there and do a poll of the Iraqis, who is going to sit on the council? Aren't the Germans and the French just being obnoxious?

CIRINCIONE: No.

They've been conned before and they're being very careful this time. They want to make sure they know what they're getting into here. They were sold a bill of goods last time by this president.

(CROSSTALK)

NOVAK: You don't think they just -- they're just dogs in the manger? You don't believe that, huh?

CIRINCIONE: Look, we all have a stake in making sure Iraq turns out right. This is a catastrophe. And it is not getting better. It's getting worse. And there's a real danger the whole thing could fall apart.

(CROSSTALK)

NOVAK: You think Iraq would be better if Saddam Hussein were still in control?

CIRINCIONE: There were ways to get Saddam out of control that didn't...

NOVAK: That's a question. That's a question. Do you think it would be better than we are now if Saddam Hussein were still in control?

CIRINCIONE: It would be better if Saddam was in and we had a determined and united effort to get him out. He'd be in a box, just like we have...

ADELMAN: Joe, you're just talking nonsense. Come on.

(APPLAUSE)

CIRINCIONE: No, I'm not talking nonsense.

ADELMAN: You really are talking nonsense.

CIRINCIONE: I...

ADELMAN: It's airy-fairy.

The French were never going to go along with us, Joe.

CIRINCIONE: That's not true.

ADELMAN: The Germans were never going to go along with us. They had a stake in Saddam Hussein staying in power. That's why they're not going to help any time soon.

(CROSSTALK)

ADELMAN: They -- if it was up to them, Saddam Hussein would still be there. And those mass graves that you see would be filled up with bodies now, instead of being unveiled.

(CROSSTALK)

CARVILLE: You know what happened is, we wouldn't have lost all our credibility telling people they had nuclear bombs that they never had and we wouldn't be spending no $70 billion.

(APPLAUSE)

(CROSSTALK)

ADELMAN: ... is not over yet. Let me go back to what

(CROSSTALK)

ADELMAN: Those kids who are in jail because of what their parents said who are 10 and 11, 12 years old would be in prison today if it weren't for the liberation by the Americans and the British.

(CROSSTALK)

ADELMAN: We should feel good about this country. I feel good about it.

CARVILLE: Why should the French and Germans come along now?

ADELMAN: I don't think they should. I would like them to, but I don't think they want us to succeed. I think they want us to fail, OK?

(CROSSTALK)

CARVILLE: I want to ask you a serious question. There's a story in this morning's "Washington Post" that shows -- that has Colin Powell walking into the Oval Office and telling Bush, you need to change the policy and him not asking questions and just sort of mindlessly going along with it.

The story also makes the secretary of defense looks like an eunuch that has no power. Now, why would the State Department leak a story making its own president look like a goat and its own secretary of defense looking like an eunuch? What's going on in our government?

ADELMAN: Were you born yesterday?

CARVILLE: No. Well, tell me. Tell America.

ADELMAN: OK.

The State Department has those kind of stories. I worked for Don Rumsfeld three times in my life.

CARVILLE: OK.

ADELMAN: That's the first time I've ever said -- I've heard anybody say that he looked weak and like a eunuch.

(CROSSTALK)

CARVILLE: I didn't say he was. I said the story made him look

(CROSSTALK)

ADELMAN: The fact is that Bush wanted to go to the U.N. to call the bluff of these countries who have said, if only we have a U.N. mandate, we'll contribute. And that's fine.

(CROSSTALK)

CIRINCIONE: Look, Donald Rumsfeld is in Baghdad today because we are in trouble. Things are not going right. This isn't the happy, wonderful, "Wizard of Oz" land that he's...

ADELMAN: No one ever said that, Joe.

CIRINCIONE: You said it. You said they would welcome us as liberators. You said we would find weapons of mass destruction within five days of going in there. Nothing is going right.

(CROSSTALK)

NOVAK: I've got bad news for you. Time is up.

Mr. Cirincione, thank you very much.

CIRINCIONE: My pleasure. We'll be back.

NOVAK: Mr. Adelman, thank you very much.

ADELMAN: Very good.

(APPLAUSE)

(CROSSTALK)

NOVAK: Do you think the Democratic presidential candidates will have anything constructive to say about Iraq during their debate tonight? You can probably guess the answer. And that's why we saved that topic for "Rapid Fire," right after the break and Wolf Blitzer's headlines.

(APPLAUSE)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(NEWS BREAK)

(APPLAUSE)

NOVAK: It's time for the quickest part of the show, "Rapid Fire."

The Democratic presidential candidates are debating tonight, which means we'll get criticism of President Bush's Iraq policy in nine-part harmony. Will we hear anything constructive?

I want you to listen to something one of the candidates said, James, when he relaunched his campaign the other day, John Kerry. Let's listen to him.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. JOHN KERRY (D-MS), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I voted to threaten the use of force to make Saddam Hussein comply with the resolutions of the United Nations.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

NOVAK: Now, he says he voted to threaten the use of force. I got the resolution right here. He said the president is authorized to use force. That's just baloney, isn't it?

CARVILLE: No, it's not baloney at all, Bob. And you know it's not baloney, because, unless you have a credible authorization, the threat is no good.

How would John Kerry know that this president would be lying to get us into war? How would John Kerry know he had no plan what to do in postwar Iraq? How could John Kerry know that Rumsfeld spent five months planning for the war, 28 days planning for the occupation? He couldn't know that. And he thought, when he was casting the vote, that they would make a real effort to get the United Nations involved in this. They didn't. They wanted to go it alone. They wanted to do these things.

And John Kerry was very smart in what he said about this.

(APPLAUSE)

NOVAK: James, James, he's trying to middle it. You've seen that

(CROSSTALK)

NOVAK: Just a minute. Let me talk.

They have never -- they just never work. Joseph Lieberman says, yes, I was for it, OK. Dean says, I was against it. You know where they stand. Isn't Kerry just trying to get in between?

(BELL RINGING)

CARVILLE: I don't think so at all, because no one -- who would have thought that he would have gone in there without any international cooperation? Who would have thought he didn't have a plan for it?

NOVAK: OK, it's time for our "Ask the Audience" question. Take out your voting devices right now and tell us if you think France should have a say in rebuilding Iraq. Press one for, oui -- that means yes in French -- even though they were no help before the war, we should let them come in and dictate now. Or press two for, non -- that means no in French -- let the French eat all the freedom fries they want, but don't give them a say in rebuilding Iraq. We'll have the answer after this break.

And one of our viewers suggests something James Carville could do in Iraq. Now, what could that be?

(APPLAUSE)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) (APPLAUSE)

NOVAK: OK.

The answer to today's audience question: "Should the French have anything to do with taking care of Iraq after the war? Yes, 39 percent, no, 61 percent. So much for the French.

(LAUGHTER)

(APPLAUSE)

NOVAK: And speaking -- speaking of Iraq, our first "Fireback" question is from Vivian Pace of Jacksonville, Florida: "James, why don't you go to Iraq? Your mouth would make a good cannon."

(LAUGHTER)

(APPLAUSE)

CARVILLE: Just goes to show you the power of my arguments, Robert.

NOVAK: OK.

CARVILLE: All right. This is on Tucker Carlson's interview yesterday with Britney Spears: "Was anybody really surprised that Britney Spears is a Bush supporter? After all, she did write the Bush White House theme song, "Oops, I Did it Again."

(LAUGHTER)

(APPLAUSE)

(CROSSTALK)

NOVAK: Who exactly is Britney Spears?

CARVILLE: She's from Kentwood, Louisiana. She's one of the hottest rock stars.

(CROSSTALK)

NOVAK: I never heard of her. All right.

(LAUGHTER)

NOVAK: OK. OK.

CARVILLE: Have you ever heard of Elvis Presley?

NOVAK: Yes. I knew him.

Go ahead.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Hi, I'm Erica (ph) from Greensboro, North Carolina.

And my question for you guys is, the U.N. didn't fully support U.S. presence in Iraq to begin with. Do you honestly think that maybe they're going to help us now, after maybe we've screwed up a little bit?

NOVAK: Well, who helped us, did you say?

CARVILLE: The U.N. The U.N.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The U.N.

CARVILLE: Will the U.N. help us now?

NOVAK: Well, we're hoping so, because we need more bodies there. And I think they probably will. It's something that the world has to live with.

CARVILLE: Well, they're going to help us, but they're going to get some skin out of us before they do it. So we've just got to wait and see how much skin they demand from us.

NOVAK: Go ahead.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hi, I'm Jeff from Poughkeepsie, New York.

I was wondering, do you think Miguel Estrada's decision today will have a negative effect on Bush's other filibuster nominees?

NOVAK: I don't know. I think it's a disgrace. How's the regatta coming?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I have no idea what you're talking about there. I'm sorry.

(LAUGHTER)

CARVILLE: Estrada, regatta.

(CROSSTALK)

NOVAK: All right. All right.

We've got one more question.

CARVILLE: They're all in the same thing.

Here we go.

NOVAK: Go ahead.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hi. My name is Avi Amard (ph). I'm from West Bloomfield, Michigan.

My question is, is it possible for the U.S. to give up some control of Iraq to please the U.N. and the rest of the world? NOVAK: Sure, we're going to do that, but we're not going to have any Frenchmen commanding U.S. troops in Iraq. That's a no-no.

(APPLAUSE)

CARVILLE: No, we're just going -- we're just going to beg them and say, we're really sorry for all the nasty things we said about you. Please help us.

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

NOVAK: From the right, I'm Robert Novak.

Join us again next time for another edition of CROSSFIRE.

(APPLAUSE)

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