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Last Call For Telemarketers?

Aired September 25, 2003 - 16:30   ET


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

In the CROSSFIRE: Can telemarketers continue to bombard you with dinnertime calls?

REP. BILLY TAUZIN (R), LOUISIANA: I think you can see how fast this Congress is prepared to move when 50 million Americans are angry.

ANNOUNCER: Is the no-call list a real hangup on annoying sales calls or just a Band-Aid that is going to cost a lot of jobs?

In California, the best moments weren't in the script, as the candidates for governor go on the attack.

ARIANNA HUFFINGTON (I), CALIFORNIA GUBERNATORIAL CANDIDATE: Arnold's analysis fits perfectly the Bush administration in Washington. They keep spending, spending, spending.


ARNOLD SCHWARZENEGGER (R), CALIFORNIA GUBERNATORIAL CANDIDATE: Arianna, you keep talking about Bush. If you want to campaign against Bush, go to New Hampshire. Go to New Hampshire. It's the perfect place for you.




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



Score one for any yuppie community. They've won the right to trample on free speech. Congress is bypassing yesterday's court ruling to put the national do-not-call list on hold and today, passed a new law designed to hang up on telemarketers once and for all. That issue and the latest on California's chaos. You'll get a direct line to the CROSSFIRE in just a moment. But first, we patch you through to our CROSSFIRE "Political Alert."

First, a story so significant that we hope it will rise above the partisan fray, at least momentarily. According to news accounts this morning, government search teams will soon announce that no chemical, biological or nuclear weapons have been found in post-Saddam Iraq. Almost no one expected this result.

In the coming weeks, some may suggest that the war in Iraq was never about weapons of mass destruction. This is not true. Finding Saddam's weapons of mass destruction was at the heart of the administration's public justification for war. Those of us who supported this war should press for answers. Did the weapons exist, as everyone from Hillary Clinton to Dick Cheney assumed? If so, why have they not they have been located? Is it possible that the deadly agents have been moved to potentially more dangerous locations, like Syria or Lebanon?

Some in the presidential race will shamelessly continue to use the missing WMD to enhance their own political career. Ignore them. But keep pressing for answers, because they're too important to ignore.

PAUL BEGALA, CO-HOST: You make a couple of very good points there.

First, it was reasonable for the president to conclude that Saddam did have weapons of mass destruction. What was misleading was when he said that he was a grave and gathering threat. What was misleading was when he said he had a nuclear program, which the president knew he didn't have, or should have known from his intelligence. What was misleading was when he said he had links to al Qaeda.



BEGALA: When he said that he could attack with unmanned


CARLSON: First of all...

BEGALA: So the falsehoods behind this war were myriad. And the president should be held accountable.


CARLSON: Those are all, first of all, open -- they are open to debate and they're all subjective. But the fact is, America and the world have a vested interest in finding out what happened to these weapons. We know they existed. The Clinton administration said they existed. Where are they know? Everybody has a stake in finding out. And I hope we will find out, without partisan rancor and silliness. BEGALA: I certainly agree with that. And if the president would cut down on the partisan rancor and silliness, we will all be better off.

CARLSON: Oh, please. Come on.


BEGALA: Well, speaking of our president, his defense secretary -- that would Donald Rumsfeld -- took the case for the president's $87 billion spending bill for Iraq to the pages of "The Washington Post" today.

In an op-ed article, Secretary Rumsfeld writes -- and I quote -- "To help Iraqis succeed, we must proceed with some humility" -- unquote. That's right. Donald Rumsfeld called for humility.


BEGALA: The man who insulted our allies, dismissing them as old Europe, dissed the Congress, stiffed the press, is contemptuous of Secretary of State Colin Powell, one of the real heroes of this administration. Now, now, this most arrogant member of this most arrogant administration is calling for humility! Inspired by Rumsfeld, Madonna today called for chastity and Ozzy Osbourne called for sobriety.



CARLSON: I'm confused. Did I just hear you refer to Colin Powell as one of the heroes of this administration?

BEGALA: Oh, he's a wonderful man.

CARLSON: Well, that's interesting, because he was, of course, the public face of this war. He was the one who helped convinced the rest of the world, to the extent they were convinced, to come with us.

He gave that speech at the United Nations, parroting the line of the president, Dick Cheney, and, indeed, Donald Rumsfeld. What makes him a hero and the rest villains?

BEGALA: Well, first, because he was a hero in war. He served in war honorably. And that makes him a hero, in my eyes. Second, he not -- he doesn't take responsibility ultimately. It's the president. I'm old-fashioned. The buck stops with the commander in chief.

CARLSON: The same with Rumsfeld. But you beat up on Rumsfeld, but why not Colin Powell?

BEGALA: Because he's an arrogant secretary of defense who has alienated our allies. Powell went around the world trying to build allies. Rumsfeld tried to tear them down. CARLSON: I'm totally confused. Powell like pushed the same line everyone else did. I don't know what makes him a hero and the rest evil.

BEGALA: I think Powell misled us, too, I agree, but he was on Bush's orders.

CARLSON: He's a hero, but a liar. OK.

BEGALA: He got shot at in defense of our country.

CARLSON: So have a lot of people. It doesn't mean they're right.

BEGALA: Well, we shouldn't dismiss them as anything less than what they are, heroes.



John (ph) and Blanch (ph) are getting married next month. Those of you who know them know that John and Blanch are committed to fiscal responsibility and social justice, or, as they themselves put it -- quote -- "hope and promise is what John and Blanch are all about." By this point, you may have guessed that John and Blanch are not planning a perfectly traditional wedding. That's because John and Blanch are members of the church of Howard Dean.

A notice they posted on the Dean For America Web site says this to friends and family -- quote -- "We thank you for your treasured gift, your donation to the Howard Dean campaign." That's right, no toasters or soup ladles. Just send a love offering to Minister Howard Dean. And who says liberals aren't religious?

BEGALA: Oh, you know, they're trying to live their political values. I think that's nice.

CARLSON: At their wedding?

BEGALA: Well, OK, so they're not Republicans.

CARLSON: That is just sick. It's sick, Paul

BEGALA: That is to say, they're not greedy. They're actually interested in somebody else benefiting.


BEGALA: Let's all -- I have an idea. Let's all send just money straight to Halliburton. Oh, we're doing that already.


(CROSSTALK) CARLSON: Paul, Paul, there ought to be -- no, you're missing it. This is really important. There ought to be a private sphere in a person's life into which politics doesn't intrude. And we could say a wedding ceremony might be within that sphere.

BEGALA: Who are you to decide what they should with their wedding gifts? If they want to give money to Howard Dean, I say, God bless them.

CARLSON: I'm not deciding it. I'm saying that it's actually not only revolting. It's also typical of a world view that makes politics a religion. And that's wrong, in my opinion.

BEGALA: What about judging people's private lives? My goodness. If Blanch and John...


CARLSON: But it's not private. They're posting it on the Internet saying, our private life is commingled with our political life. And that is sick.

BEGALA: Well, President Bush's job approval rating is a little sick itself. It is at the lowest point thus far in his presidency. And that's just thus far. It's going down.


BEGALA: This according to the latest NBC News/"Wall Street Journal" poll. Just 49 percent of Americans believe that Mr. Bush is doing a good job. So, why is it that a very talented politician like Mr. Bush is not trying something different to fix the jobless economy or our endless occupation?

Perhaps -- and it's just a theory -- it is because our president has grown too isolated. In a recent interview with a right-wing propaganda network whose name begins with F and ends with X, the president said -- and I quote him directly here -- quote -- "The best way to get the news is from objective sources. And the most objective sources I have are people on my staff."


BEGALA: Falling in the polls, failing in his job and surrounded by sycophants. For once, I actually feel sorry for George W. Bush.


CARLSON: I wish there wasn't so much partisan hackery on this show, or I would admit -- I would feel free to admit that I'm disturbed by the fact that the president doesn't read a daily newspaper. I think every president ought to. I think every American who votes ought to read a daily newspaper or not vote. That's my strong feeling. So, I hate to agree with you. And, officially, I don't.


CARLSON: But let's just say I did.

BEGALA: And as a former presidential staffer, I know I used to have to bring the bad news to Bill Clinton. And it wasn't easy. And it's not fun. And staffers hate to do that. He's got to have access to information. I happens to know he watches CROSSFIRE.


CARLSON: But for all Bill Clinton's knowledge, he couldn't make a decision about anything.


BEGALA: He made the decision to save the economy.


CARLSON: That's ridiculous, Paul. The dot-com boom was responsible. And then it blew up.

Speaking of blowing up, your government -- and this is a news flash -- is trying to take away the constitutional rights of telemarketers to make a living. They have rights, too. Will today's action by Congress really change the number of times your phone rings during the dinner hour? And should it?

Also: Arnold and Arianna and the rest of the "Star Wars" bar barked at each other last night in California. We'll tell you who won, if anyone, later on CROSSFIRE.




CARLSON: Welcome back.

Congress made a special house call today, passing a new anti- telemarketing law faster than a busy yuppie can hang up on a prerecorded sales pitch. It gives the Federal Trade Commission explicit authority to create a national do-not-call registry. That's a big victory for millions of Americans who have already signed up. But is it a big setback for free speech and the last call for telemarketers?

We'll put those questions in the CROSSFIRE right now. Joining us from Massachusetts, Congressman Edward Markey and Tim Searcy, executive director of the American Teleservices Association.


BEGALA: Gentlemen, thank you both for joining us.


BEGALA: Tim, my pal Tucker says this is matter of free speech. So let me strike a blow for free speech and put your phone number here on national television. Sam, can we put Tim -- here's Tim phone number, 317-816-9336. Do you have a problem with that, Tim?



SEARCY: Because...

BEGALA: You want to call me.

SEARCY: I want to give you an opportunity to buy something. You want to give me an opportunity to listen to you complain.

BEGALA: No. No. Everybody wants to sell Tim something. I want to sell you stuff. I want to sell you books or ads or...

SEARCY: I have already bought your book.

BEGALA: Tucker has got a great new book you should buy. Everybody should buy it.

CARLSON: Thank you.

BEGALA: But you can understand the invasion of privacy. That, by the way, is, of course, not your home phone number. We wouldn't do that. But your industry does that. You call us at home. You bother us. You take us away from our children and important cable television watching and bother us.


BEGALA: If people want to buy stuff, why shouldn't they be the ones who initiate the transaction?

SEARCY: If we want to listen to the voice of the American customer, I don't think anything speaks louder than money.

The fact is, they buy $654 billion in goods and services every year, there's 360 million transactions made by phone just in response to an outbound call. Let's face it. Customers say they don't want unwanted calls, but they do want wanted calls. This one-size-fits-all legislation, it's a waste of time. It's not constitutional.

CARLSON: Congressman Markey, I'm so glad you joined to give us an update on what's happening on Capitol Hill. I don't think you have fixed Social Security. You haven't allocated the money for our troops in Iraq. Not clear you can keep the lights on. But, in record time, you responded to the pleas of a couple grouchy yuppies to keep telemarketers from bothering them. Why can't you do anything else but special interests legislation like this? REP. EDWARD MARKEY (D), MASSACHUSETTS: Well, if you mean by special interests legislation, helping the 50 million Americans who signed up in the first three months, after they were given the opportunity of walling out all of these unwanted calls that come into their home, you're right.

And if we didn't change it, then we would have to change the number of capital...


MARKEY: Hold it. Excuse me. I'm sorry. I'm sorry. I'm sorry. I'm sorry. Excuse me. Excuse me. Excuse me. Excuse me. Excuse me.


MARKEY: Hello? Excuse me. Excuse me. Hello? Hello? No, I'm not interested in buying a bow tie.


MARKEY: I don't even wear bow ties. Don't call me again!

Tucker -- this must be for you, Tucker. You like these calls.


CARLSON: You know what? Actually, I'd make an exemption for bow tie calls.

But you also made and exemption for yourself, Congressman. This is the -- this is the part -- I would have thought this would be beneath you, Congressman Markey, one of my favorite Democrats. Democrats and Republicans' committees are exempted from this legislation. If it's so bad for everyone else, why did you exempt yourself from it?

MARKEY: Favorite Democrats. That's like jobless recovery, all right?

CARLSON: Well, it may be.

MARKEY: That's a Republican oxymoron.

But, look, for better or worse, when Jefferson and Madison and Monroe were sitting around drafting the Constitution, what they decided was that political free speech was at the very top of the list of speech that was going to be protected in the United States. And commercial speech was going to be put at the very bottom.

So, as Congress is deciding what they're going to protect, the ability for America to debate whether or not we should continue to support the president, because he hasn't yet found the weapons of mass destruction in Iraq or al Qaeda, is a much more important discussion than whether or not I get to change my long distance carrier with calls coming in to me 10 times a day. And I think that Jefferson and Madison were right on that distinction, which they made.


BEGALA: Wait. I've got to be honest with you. I didn't get the idea of putting your phone number originally. It came from Dave Barry, who is a columnist, who did put your phone number in the paper. And...

SEARCY: Is he a columnist? I thought he was joke.

BEGALA: Well, he's a humor columnist. And I thought it was screamingly funny, because here's how you responded. We called the number the Mr. Barry put in his column. And here's the recording that your industry gave us.



SEARCY: Hello. You have reached the offices of the American Teleservices Association. Due to overwhelming positive response to recent media events, we're unable to take your call at this time.


BEGALA: I now recognize that voice, Tim.

SEARCY: Do you recognize that voice, Paul?

BEGALA: Overwhelming positive response. So people just calling in and saying, by golly, Tim, we love you. Please bother me some more.


SEARCY: I've spent so much time -- I've spent so much time with politicians, I figured out that positive can mean almost anything. It's like what the definition of is is.

My problem when I look at this is, as much as I'm going to look forward to working with Congressman Markey when this is ruled unconstitutional on trying to come up with something that makes sense, he's part of the Energy and Commerce Committee, a group that, in the last five years, has watched 420,000 jobs be lost in America. On October 1, we are going to lose two million more. I haven't seen that committee create a job. But they're amazingly quick at losing them. It's frustrating.

CARLSON: Well, what about that, Mr. Markey?

And these are mostly jobs, low-end jobs. These are not $70,000- a-year job. These are probably a little bit above minimum wage jobs. These are the -- hurting people you seek to protect, apparently. And now you're putting them out of work. Why? MARKEY: Well, Tucker, your concern for the low-end worker really touches my heart.



MARKEY: I really -- I want to just tell you that there are jobs and there are jobs. So there are jobs...

CARLSON: Is this a job that is beneath you? Is that your point?

SEARCY: What jobs are there? We've got


SEARCY: ... unemployment rate. I'm not sure where they are.


MARKEY: How many Americans -- how many Americans want the right to keep all these phone calls from coming into their homes everyday? How many people want that?


MARKEY: Well, so, what people -- what people say, Tucker, is this. I don't want people having jobs which have the right to bother me every day. And there are also jobs selling cigarettes to children. Those aren't good jobs either.

It's just not a job. It's a job that has to fulfill some need that society is willing to expect and not pay the price for.

CARLSON: So you really think it's more important that people not to be bothered during dinner than people work to support their families? It's a trade-off. You really think it's that important not to be bothered during dinner that you put people someone out of work?

MARKEY: No. What we do on this list is, we -- people here who don't want to be called are willing to tell all the telemarketers in America that they're going to say no when you call.

Now, you tell me, which business wouldn't love to know in advance who's going to say no, so they can just go to the people who are going to say yes? That's what every business wants to know from the very beginning. And what we're doing here for the American people is allowing those that love to talk to telemarketers...


BEGALA: Congressman Markey, I'm sorry to do this. We're out of time. I don't mean to cut you off like a telemarketer, I would.

But Congressman Ed Markey, Democrat from Massachusetts, thank you very much. MARKEY: Thank you. Appreciate it. Thanks.

BEGALA: Tim Searcy, the spokesman for the beleaguered telemarketing industry, thank you very much.


BEGALA: Telemarketers like Mr. Searcy's industry may be making the headlines today. But we want to know: Who do you dislike the most, telemarketers, lawyers, or smart-alecky talk show hosts? OK, now, we know you love us, but we'll have the answer coming up.

And just ahead: great moments from the great debate. Was this really a golden moment for the Golden State or more like a reminder of what a circus the California governor's race has become?

But next, on a serious note, a warning for Iran. Wolf Blitzer has the latest on the U.S. discovery of the weapons-grade uranium found in Iran.

Stay with us.




CARLSON: Welcome back.

Last night in Sacramento, Arnold Schwarzenegger proved that he can speak without a script, sort of. Apparently, his performance in the big debate impressed some former rivals so much that he now has their support. Fellow Republican Bill Simon endorsed Schwarzenegger just moments ago. We're told Congressman Darrell Issa, who started the recall, will do the same tomorrow.

So did Arnold give himself the big push he needs to win over skeptical Republican voters? We'll debate it.

I'm not sure he did, Paul. But before we even get to that, I just to want to put up quickly the lowest moment of the entire debate. And there were many to choose from. But this really took the cake. This is Arianna Huffington, a frequent guest on our show. This is the first thing she will do if she becomes governor. Here it is.


HUFFINGTON: Well, the first thing I will do is close corporate tax loopholes.


CARLSON: Now, the hutzpah required -- the hutzpah required to say something like that, this is a woman who paid about $800 in taxes herself. Why? Because she wrote off things like makeup and parties against her income, using loopholes and the most shameless corporate loopholes in a shameless way.

CARLSON: She looks great. And you've probably been to some of those parties. They're probably good parties.



CARLSON: I'm all for her parties, but hypocrisy, even in Washington, can reach a level that is just nauseous.

BEGALA: But Arianna had a strategy. She is at 2 percent in the polls. She wanted to engage Arnold.

Arnold, it seemed to me, should have had a strategy to fight up -- or fight out at Gray Davis, who wasn't allowed to participate. Instead, he engaged with somebody at 5 percent, 2 percent in the polls.

CARLSON: I agree.

BEGALA: Let me show you a clip of Arnold I think making a strategic error, even though he was quite witty and his stage presence was very good. Take a look.


HUFFINGTON: It's completely hypocritical of Arnold...



HUFFINGTON: Let me finish. Let me finish. Let me finish.


HUFFINGTON: This is completely impolite. This is the way you treat women. We know that. But not now.

STAN STATHAM, MODERATOR: That was a direct and personal attack on Mr. Schwarzenegger. So would you respond?

SCHWARZENEGGER: I would just like to say that I just realized that I have a perfect part for you in "Terminator 4."



BEGALA: I found that charming. I thought it was witty. I think he did a very good job tactically. But his strategy should not have been to engage somebody who is at 2 percent.

CARLSON: He couldn't help it. She was all over him like wallpaper. She just wouldn't lay off. You wanted to say, hey, knock it off.

BEGALA: That's the job of the candidate. If he would have done that, he would have done better.

Well, anyway, just ahead, we'll have the results of our question we asked a while ago. Who you dislike the most, telemarketers, lawyers, or your humble and lovable television talk show hosts?

Then, in our "Fireback" segment, we'll find out if Tucker will be hearing a lot more about one of our viewers and what he or she keeps in their garage.

Stay tuned.




CARLSON: Welcome back.

Mirror, mirror, on the wall, who's the most annoying of them all? We have the results of our audience poll, asking just that question. Telemarketers are the most annoying, say 56 percent. No, lawyers are, say another 26 percent. And a cruel and misguided 18 percent believe talk show hosts are annoying. Boy, are you wrong.

BEGALA: Boy, I don't know what I can do to be morning annoying, but I'll try.

Paul, as a father of four children, I can tell you, just turn off the phone when the kids are asleep.

Valerie Gould in San Jose, California, says: "Tucker, it isn't yuppies sipping wine who have a problem with telemarketers. It's grandparents who try to get to the phone when it rings, only to find no one there when they pick up. It's the moms who finally got their babies to sleep, when the phone rings and awakens them."


CARLSON: Paul, as the father of four children, I can tell you, just turn off the phone when the kids are asleep. That's the easy way to handle it.


CARLSON: Darryl Edington of Eagle Point, Oregon, writes: "Why don't Tucker and that judge give me their phone numbers? I have some junk in the garage they might be interested in."

That's actually an excellent point. And I've defended...

BEGALA: Oh, I dare you. I dare you. I dare you.


BEGALA: Wait. What is it?

CARLSON: Get out your pen: (TEXT DELETED). You can reach me there any time. That's fine. I've defended telemarketers. Feel free to call me. Someone is always there, (TEXT DELETED).

BEGALA: This is a bold...


CARLSON: Yes, sir. A question.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes. I'm Chuck (ph) from Columbia, South Carolina.

And I understand, even if someone is on the do-not-call list, it will still only eliminate about 50 percent of the calls. Why would it not eliminate 100 percent of the calls?

CARLSON: That's an excellent question. Maybe it's just a deeply silly law in the first place.

BEGALA: No, it may be -- just a hunch here. Maybe some of these folks aren't very ethical. I don't know, just one man's opinion.

Yes, sir.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hi. I'm Alistaire (ph) from Chicago, Illinois.

I'm curious. Is there any distinction between telemarketing and junk mail? And should both be banned?

CARLSON: That's an excellent question.


CARLSON: A lot of people are against junk mail, too. I've never heard of any effort to ban it. What's the difference between junk mail and direct mail from politicians? Not much.

BEGALA: Right. Well, no, first, political speech, as Congressman Markey said, should be protected more than commercial speech.

But, also, I think the theory is that junk mail is a lot less intrusive and invasive. It doesn't wake your babies up, doesn't interrupt your supper. You can look at it or not as you choose at your own leisure. Thank you for that question.

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

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


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