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CNN CROSSFIRE

Democrats' Bush Bash

Aired September 10, 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: They bash the president.

SEN. JOSEPH LIEBERMAN (D-CT), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: George Bush is the most fiscally irresponsible president in the history of the United States of America.

ANNOUNCER: And, occasionally, they bash one another.

REP. DENNIS KUCINICH (D-OH), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Dick, I just want to say that, when you were standing there in the Rose Garden with the president and you were giving him advice, I wish that you would have told him no.

ANNOUNCER: So who, if anyone, did themselves and their party a favor?

HOWARD DEAN (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The whole game here is not among the nine of us. This is to beat George Bush.

ANNOUNCER: Today on CROSSFIRE.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

(APPLAUSE)

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

(APPLAUSE)

PAUL BEGALA, CO-HOST: Hello, everybody. Welcome to CROSSFIRE.

The Democratic presidential campaigns generated a little heat and shed a little bit of light as well in their debate last night. We'll let you judge for yourself who won. It's clear to me who lost, President Bush, because, rather tearing each other from limb to limb, as Mr. Bush might have hoped, the Democrats were in strong agreement with Dick Gephardt's assessment that our president has been -- and I quote -- "a miserable failure."

We will do some post-debate Wednesday-afternoon quarterbacking in a little bit. But, first, no debating where you will find the best political briefing in television, the CROSSFIRE "Political Alert."

In last night's Democratic presidential debate, Senator Bob Graham was prescient. Even before today's release of a purportedly featuring Osama bin Laden, the 10-year veteran of the Intelligence Committee said that President Bush's unprovoked war on Iraq degraded America's ability to fight the war on terrorism by removing intelligence and military assets away from bin Laden and other targets in Afghanistan.

Apparently, the American people agree. In a new ABC poll, the American people say that Mr. Bush's war has made America more vulnerable to terrorist attacks, not less. Of course, Mr. Bush promised weapons of mass destruction. He said there were close ties to al Qaeda. He said Saddam threatened America with chemical and biological weapons. He said his war would bring peace to the Israelis and the Palestinians. False, false, false, and false. At this rate, it will be breaking news when we learn Mr. Bush told the truth about anything.

TUCKER CARLSON, CO-HOST: To call it an unprovoked attack, as if Saddam Hussein was an innocent victim, is a bit over the top.

You'll remember that the world community, in the form of the U.N. Security Council, demanded that he disarm. He didn't. And Bush did something about it.

BEGALA: Something?

CARLSON: But I would say, last night -- he invaded the country and took him out of power.

BEGALA: And took it over and put 150,000 of our boys there with no exit strategy. That's what he did.

CARLSON: That's partly right.

BEGALA: And they did not attack us. Mr. Bush had allowed the country to believe the myth that 9/11 was associated with Iraq, when we all know it wasn't.

(BELL RINGING)

CARLSON: But, Paul, to call it unprovoked is an outrage.

(CROSSTALK)

CARLSON: It's like totally unserious.

OK, we're out of time, sadly. I heard the bell. I want to teach you more, but I can't.

(LAUGHTER)

CARLSON: Democrats don't control much in Washington anymore. The White House, the Senate, the House of Representatives, they're all in Republican hands these days, and they probably will be for some time. But that doesn't mean liberals are powerless.

They're still welcome in Barbra Streisand's cabana, and they're still firmly in control of Santa Cruz, California. Santa Cruz, a coastal town south of San Francisco, is famous for its homeless problem and its radical politics. Last year, the city council came out against the Patriot Act and the war in Iraq, as well as for medical marijuana.

Now that same council has decided to impeach George W. Bush. Yesterday, the council asked Democratic members of Congress to file articles of impeachment against the president of the United States. The Democratic members may take them up on that, just as soon as Ben and Jerry second the motion.

(LAUGHTER)

BEGALA: This is the new...

(APPLAUSE)

CARLSON: It's such a ridiculous party. You would admit that.

BEGALA: This is what the right does. You see, you all don't want -- some on the right, I should say, particularly our secretary of defense, Donald Rumsfeld, does not want free speech or criticism of our president.

CARLSON: Oh, Paul, that's ridiculous.

BEGALA: Just like some don't want the people in Santa Cruz to be able to say they don't support Mr. Bush.

(CROSSTALK)

BEGALA: Donald Rumsfeld, who should be more serious than this, flying back to America, says, people who criticize the president are helping the terrorists.

CARLSON: You're off on some tangent, but you'll never...

BEGALA: No, the right-wing is trying to suppress debate, suppress criticism, suppress democracy.

CARLSON: That's ridiculous.

BEGALA: That's what they're doing.

(BELL RINGING)

(APPLAUSE)

CARLSON: That's not even worthy of debate. I have spent my life defending the First Amendment.

BEGALA: Yes, you do. Yes, you do.

CARLSON: I'm making fun of them. I'm not questioning their right to express their stupid views.

(LAUGHTER)

BEGALA: This is where you're different from Donald Rumsfeld. You believe in debate. Rumsfeld does not. That's the difference.

CARLSON: Please. Come on.

(CROSSTALK)

BEGALA: So Tucker Carlson for defense secretary. What do you think, guys?

Well, if Congress overturns the Federal Communications Commission's giant giveaway to big media organizations, President Bush will veto it. Now, how do I know this? Not because a White House statement says so, but Rupert Murdoch says to. You see, Rupert Murdoch is the media mogul who controls, among many other things, the right-wing "New York Post" and the ultra right-wing Fox News Channel, allegedly a cable channel.

Murdoch offered -- or, rather, ordered Mr. Bush to veto the bill in a speech to a conference in Boston recently. And you can be assured, his loyal servant, our president, will comply with citizen Murdoch's commands. Now, how can I be so sure? Because George W. Bush may break his word to poor kids, whom he promised a tax credit, and he may break his word to soldiers, whom he promised help. He may break his word to young volunteers, to whom he promised to boost AmeriCorps.

But when a billionaire says jump, President Bush is in the air before he asks: How high, boss?

(APPLAUSE)

CARLSON: It's funny, though. You just said a minute ago, you came out in favor of the First Amendment. And yet, in that "Political Alert," you're in favor of government control of the media, the one thing you would think the First Amendment expressly prohibits.

The idea that the federal government can control news organizations, where we work, is an outrage. And I must say, this president, he's done things wrong, but defending the First Amendment in this case is not one of them.

(BELL RINGING)

BEGALA: This is not the First Amendment. It's not about the content in the media.

CARLSON: Yes, it is.

BEGALA: It's about who controls it. He wants a few right-wing billionaires to control all the media. And a few people in both parties, including John McCain in the Republican Party, are trying to stop him. CARLSON: The government shouldn't control news, no.

BEGALA: No, Murdoch shouldn't control news.

CARLSON: Keep government out of news, period.

(CROSSTALK)

CARLSON: The most offbeat question during last night's debate was also the most revealing. The candidates were asked to name their favorite songs. Here are some of their answers.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CAROL MOSELEY BRAUN (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: What's my favorite song? "You Gotta Be."

AL SHARPTON (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: James Brown song on the Republican Party, "Talking Loud, Saying Nothing."

SEN. JOHN EDWARDS (D-NC), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: John Cougar Mellencamp, "Small Town."

SEN. JOHN KERRY (D-MA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Bruce Springsteen, no surrender.

DEAN: Wyclef Jean, "Jaspora."

LIEBERMAN: "Don't Stop Thinking About Tomorrow." You remember that one? And the old, the classic, Frank Sinatra, "My Way."

KUCINICH: John Lennon, "Imagine."

REP. RICHARD GEPHARDT (D-MO), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Bruce Springsteen, "Born in the USA."

SEN. BOB GRAHAM (D-FL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Jimmy Buffet, "Changes in Attitude, Changes in Latitude."

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CARLSON: You have got to be kidding.

(LAUGHTER)

CARLSON: There you have it, proof-positive that our would-be presidents are in fact a group of middle-aged yuppie dorks.

(LAUGHTER)

CARLSON: And the biggest of them all, the biggest of them all, Dennis Kucinich. He picked John Lennon's "Imagine," thereby snubbing the one person in America who has endorsed him, his future agriculture secretary, Willie Nelson.

(CROSSTALK) CARLSON: How depressing. Bruce Springsteen? What a bunch of dorks. Come on.

BEGALA: We're going to ask our audience what George W. Bush's favorite son is. Here's a hint, it begins, "the itsy bitsy spider."

Middle-aged dorks. Give me a break. We have an Andover cheerleader in the White House who has never gotten over that phase of his adolescence.

CARLSON: Seriously, Paul, I like John Cougar Mellencamp. No, I like Bruce Springsteen.

BEGALA: What's your favorite song?

CARLSON: Well, Jerry Garcia, obviously.

(CROSSTALK)

CARLSON: While we're playing name that tune, let's see how many of our studio audience members can answer this question. Take out your audience voting devices. Tell us the name of President Bush's favorite song. Press one if you think it's "Ring of Fire." Press two if you think the president's favorite song is "Wake Up, Little Susie." Press three if you think he picks "Yellow Rose of Texas."

We'll have the answer in just a moment.

But next, we debate whether any of the Democratic presidential candidates can possibly answer the musical question, where are they now?

We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(APPLAUSE)

BEGALA: Welcome back to CROSSFIRE.

As Reverend Al Sharpton pointed out during last night's Democratic debate, Osama bin Laden has more videos than a rock star. And, indeed, a new video allegedly of bin Laden has surfaced today. In fact, President Bush has only uttered bin Laden's name in public twice in the last year. And both of those times were in response to reporters' questions. Osama been forgotten, indeed.

Well, Mr. Bush's failure to get bin Laden was just one of many issues that came up in last night's debate. Stepping into the CROSSFIRE to analyze it from both sides of the aisle, Republican strategist Terry Holt and Democratic strategist, former Gore presidential campaign spokesman, Doug Hattaway.

(APPLAUSE)

BEGALA: Terry, we start with you. Bob Graham, let me play you the tape of Bob Graham talking about bin Laden and then we'll take a look at this bin Laden tape.

Here's Senator Graham in the debate last night.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GRAHAM: The president knew or should have known that there was no relationship between 9/11, there was no relationship between Osama been forgotten and Saddam Hussein.

(LAUGHTER)

GRAHAM: The president also abandoned the war on terror in the spring of 2001 by moving military and intelligence resources out of Afghanistan to begin the war on Iraq.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BEGALA: Now, Bob Graham was the chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee at the beginning of the Bush presidency. He's got a 10-year history of working on intelligence issues. And he said before the war that a war in Iraq would degrade our ability to get al Qaeda and to get bin Laden.

And isn't the fact that a new tape is out today purportedly of bin Laden and his top deputy, al-Zawahiri, isn't that proof that Senator Graham was right and President Bush was wrong, that it has hurt our ability to get bin Laden?

TERRY HOLT, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Well, the war on terror is about making America more secure and fighting the battle against terrorists, wherever that battle takes us, on the eve of September 11.

The battleground was New York City two years ago. Now the battleground is the Middle East. The president has taken the offense,. Where the Democrats were in a low crouch and simply forgetting that terrorism could hit our shores, we're now on offense and we're going after terrorists where they live.

CARLSON: Doug, the fireworks broke out last night, as you saw, between Senator Lieberman and Howard Dean on the topic of Israel. And the argument stemmed over a statement that Mr. Dean, M.D., had said last week, in which he said, of the Arab-Israeli conflict -- quote -- "It's not our place to take sides."

In other words, you have on one side Hamas, Hezbollah terrorists. On the other side, you have the Likud Party. We can't really pick a side. Do you think that's a viable position?

DOUG HATTAWAY, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: I haven't heard any big difference among the candidates myself on this issue. I think the Democratic position has been, we are strongly in support of Israel and we're going to play the U.S.' traditional role in bringing...

CARLSON: That's not what Dean said. HATTAWAY: ... bringing the two sides together to move forward, as opposed to Bush, who pretended the region did not even exist the first year of his presidency, totally ignored the Middle East.

I think that's one reason that the region is in the powder-keg situation it is today.

(CROSSTALK)

HATTAWAY: The Democrats have been for a strong support of Israel and bringing both sides together to move forward. That is not an easy thing to do. It's Democratic leadership that has gotten it done. Bush has failed on this.

BEGALA: In fact, Dean, I think it was, made a good point last night that, for the first 15 months of his presidency, our president walked away from the Middle East.

I have to say, since then, I've been supportive. As the president has engaged in Israel, I've been very impressed and supportive of how he's done it. But didn't he make a mistake, Terry, in trying to build the case for his war in Iraq, this obsession he had, by promising to us in a speech to American Enterprise Institute that a war in Iraq would help bring peace to Israel and Palestinians? That plainly hasn't happened. And didn't he overpromise...

HOLT: I disagree.

(CROSSTALK)

BEGALA: We got two bombs yesterday.

HOLT: Well, but that's always been true.

(CROSSTALK)

HOLT: The dynamic in the Middle East has changed fundamentally.

The Syrians bent over backwards to cooperate with us after we went into Iraq. These folks have gone back to the table. And, yes, people are still dying and it's still a dangerous place. But the dynamic, I would argue, has changed.

BEGALA: For the better?

HOLT: And it's never been a safe place and it's always been terrible there, but at least it's changed. And we are on offense.

CARLSON: Now, Doug, Dennis Kucinich, as he often has over his years in public life, made a terrific point last night about Dick Gephardt's position on the war in Iraq.

I want you to listen to Mr. Kucinich, future nominee of your party. Here he is.

(CROSSTALK) (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KUCINICH: Dick -- who is a good friend of mine -- Dick, I just want to say that when you were standing there in the Rose Garden with the president and you were giving him advice, I wish that you would have told him no, because as our Democratic leader, your position...

(APPLAUSE)

KUCINICH: As our Democratic leader, your position helped to inform mightily the direction of the war.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CARLSON: Boy, Gephardt looked unhappy, didn't he?

(LAUGHTER)

CARLSON: But it's an excellent point, isn't it, that Gephardt supported the war, supported the president in the Rose Garden? Kind of hard to come out now and pretend he didn't, isn't it?

HATTAWAY: I think it is not inconsistent to support taking out Saddam Hussein acting militarily in Iraq and also think it's not OK to mislead the American public about the threat, to mislead us about the costs and the burdens we were going to be bearing, and to not build a real coalition to fight that war, and instead put all the burden on U.S. taxpayers and troops.

That is where Gephardt and those Democrats who supported going after Hussein -- and let's understand, there's going to be debate in the Democratic Party over this. Unlike the Republicans, the Democrats are democratic.

(CROSSTALK)

HATTAWAY: And we debate issues, as opposed to the Republicans, who try to slap down anybody who disagrees with the people at the top. And there's no inconsistency in saying, yes, it was right to take out Hussein, but to disagree with misleading the people about the level of the threat and the burdens our troops and taxpayers are going to have to bear.

(CROSSTALK)

BEGALA: Well, let me ask you why your party is trying to have it both ways, though, Terry? I'll take it back home to domestic politics.

Your party chairman, Ed Gillespie, an otherwise sensible and sane man, has been whining like a little girl that the Democrats are practicing hate speech. That's his words, hate speech, because they're criticizing the president.

HOLT: Did you see the debate last night?

BEGALA: I watched every minute of it.

HOLT: It was ridiculous.

BEGALA: When did Republicans become wussies? When I was a kid, Republicans were tough. But now they're a bunch of wimpy, whiny wussies. What happened you to all?

HOLT: I would say that the people of this country want a reason to support someone. They want hope and they want a vision for the future.

BEGALA: Come on, man. Toughen up.

HOLT: You can't get that out of calling the president names, out of degrading the president in front of an audience.

(CROSSTALK)

BEGALA: What did the Bush people do to McCain in South Carolina? That was the most vicious campaign I ever saw in my life.

HOLT: This is fundamentally a choice between someone who is offering a vision vs. someone offering name-calling.

(CROSSTALK)

(APPLAUSE)

CARLSON: Doug, we're just going to take a quick break. We'll be right back in just a minute. I'll be mean to you, I promise.

Wolf Blitzer will check the headlines, including the latest on that new video showing apparently Osama bin Laden. Then we'll give our guests the "Rapid Fire" treatment, subjecting them to the fastest question-and-answer session on television. And if that is not cruel enough -- and it is -- nonetheless, we'll also let our viewers fire back at the debating Democrats.

We'll be right back.

(APPLAUSE)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(NEWS BREAK)

(APPLAUSE)

CARLSON: Welcome back.

It's time for "Rapid Fire," short questions, short answers, no time to sing second verses. Our guests are Democratic strategist and former Gore presidential campaign spokesman Doug Hattaway, along with Republican strategist Terry Holt.

Doug, poignant scene in "The New York Times" today. Yesterday, Senator Kerry gave a press conference. Asked exclusively about Howard Dean, he walks off stage. An open microphone catches him muttering to himself, talking to himself, saying, "Dean, Dean, Dean, Dean."

He's gone completely insane, hasn't he?

(LAUGHTER)

HATTAWAY: I think he's doing a great job. And it's tough in a situation with nine other candidates to stand out from the crowd and look presidential. He's doing a good job at it, under tough circumstances.

BEGALA: Terry, is it politically tenable for President Bush to run for reelection spending $1.5 trillion on tax cuts on the rich, but only $28 billion for homeland security?

HOLT: If the economy is going to be the No. 1 issue, it sure is. Tax cuts are going to stimulate the economy and create jobs for Americans.

CARLSON: Doug, John Kerry likened Bush to Jefferson Davis last night and called John Ashcroft a racist. I'm wondering how much longer the party is going to use race-baiting like that in public.

HATTAWAY: I think the biggest mistake last night was Gephardt saying Bush was a miserable failure, when in fact Bush is a colossal failure of epic proportions.

(LAUGHTER)

(APPLAUSE)

BEGALA: Wesley Clark, Terry...

HOLT: I need my adjectives

(CROSSTALK)

(LAUGHTER)

BEGALA: General Wesley Clark, four-star general, has been a Democrat for about a week or two. How long before the Republican attack machine starts savaging Wesley Clark?

HOLT: When he gets interesting. I've seen a couple of his interviews. And they're pretty boring. And he hasn't put together much of an agenda yet. I think the Democrats will attack him before we do.

CARLSON: I think that's a very interesting question. Doug, do you think General Wesley Clark is going to get in? And isn't it a sad commentary he is even thinking about it?

HATTAWAY: I think it's great. Again, Democrats have a big tent and we allow people to get in primaries.

(BELL RINGING)

HATTAWAY: When Bush ran the first time, there were 10 candidates. The Republican hierarchy virtually shut everybody out. We're going to have a good primary. We're going to let the voters choose. He hasn't ruled it out, so he could very well get in. I think he would add interest to the race.

BEGALA: Terry, we're out of time, but, quickly, will Bush fire Rumsfeld to help his reelection?

HOLT: No. No.

BEGALA: We're saving this tape. Terry Holt, Republican strategist, Doug Hattaway, Democratic strategist, thank you all both very much.

(APPLAUSE)

BEGALA: In a minute, we will find out how many people in our audience know what President Bush's favorite song is. Remember? "Itsy bitsy spider."

Then, in "Fireback," one of our viewers points out the standards for who does get fired from the Bush administration and who gets to keep their jobs.

Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(APPLAUSE)

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

But first, the results you've been waiting for, our audience "Question of the Day," in which we asked, what is the president's favorite song? "Ring of Fire," said 18 percent. "Wake Up, Little Susie," said 26 percent. "Yellow Rose of Texas" guessed more than half, 56 percent, of our audience. But they're wrong, as the majority often is.

(BELL RINGING)

CARLSON: "Wake Up, Little Susie," he told Oprah.

BEGALA: "Wake Up, Little Susie." And Oprah would know. She is the most powerful -- by the way, the Yellow Rose is a high-class strip joint in Austin, by the way,.

(CROSSTALK)

CARLSON: Is that true?

BEGALA: I don't know. I'm just kidding. It sounds like it, doesn't it?

CARLSON: Back in campaign mode, Paul.

BEGALA: No, not -- but anyway.

Tony -- oh, my goodness, Tony -- Tony Kaczmarek of Pawtucket, Rhode Island, writes in: "I don't get it. Lawrence Lindsey," former economic adviser to the president, "says the war on Iraq could cost $200 million and he's forced to resign. General Shinseki" former Army chief of staff, "predicts it will take hundreds of thousands of troops to secure Iraq, and he's ignored. Yet Secretary Rumsfeld plans for postwar Iraq like a drunken monkey, keeps his job, and has the nerve to say questioning the war aids the enemy."

I think you figured out the Bush strategy right there, Tony.

CARLSON: OK.

BEGALA: The drunken monkey strategy.

CARLSON: I like Pawtucket, but I'm going to pass comment on that.

Fil Feit of Annandale, Virginia, weighs in on the California recall: "Whenever I see the "no on recall, yes on Bustamante" slogan, it comes across like, don't drink and drive, but, if you do, drink Coors."

(LAUGHTER)

(APPLAUSE)

CARLSON: That is so true. It is so phony, I have to say.

Yes, sir? A question.

(CROSSTALK)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: First question that I have is -- hi. My name is Chris Dose (ph). I'm from Charlotte, North Carolina.

One of the Democrats needs to rise to the top. Is it going to take more than Bush bashing to get them there?

CARLSON: I don't know. It's worked for Howard Dean. He is going to raise -- he may raise $15 million soon. It's incredible. And I think the whole key to it is Bush bashing. It seems to work.

BEGALA: It's not Bush bashing. It's drawing principled distinctions with a guy you disagree with. What are they supposed to do, praise him? It's a democracy. We disagree with him, it's our duty to oppose him.

(CROSSTALK)

CARLSON: He basically came out for treating Hamas the same as Israel.

Yes, sir?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hi. I'm Michael Ward (ph) from Saint Louis, Missouri.

Do you think President Bush should keep Cheney as V.P. or groom some younger Republican for the 2008 presidential election?

CARLSON: I don't know. I think Vice President Cheney -- who knows -- but appears to have a pretty significant role in the administration. I don't see any evidence he's going to get dumped.

BEGALA: As I say every night, Dick Cheney sold oil field equipment to Saddam Hussein, our sworn enemy. It makes him unfit for high office in this country. He should go.

CARLSON: That's so stupid. It's unbelievable.

(APPLAUSE)

BEGALA: From the left, I am Paul Begala. That's it for CROSSFIRE.

CARLSON: From the right, I'm Tucker Carlson. Join us again tomorrow for another edition of 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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