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Leak Firestorm Intensifies

Aired October 1, 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: Who leaked? And how hard will the Bush administration try to find the leaker?

SCOTT MCCLELLAN, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: The president is most interested in determining what happened, in getting to the bottom of this investigation.

ANNOUNCER: Not everyone thinks so.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If a situation ever cried out for a special counsel, this is it.

ANNOUNCER: Who should investigate the CIA leak? And should White House staffers have to take lie-detector tests?

Today, on CROSSFIRE.



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


TUCKER CARLSON, CO-HOST: Welcome to CROSSFIRE and a city obsessed by questions about what Bob Novak knew, when he knew it, and, most important, who told him. We don't know the answers, but we'll speculate in just a moment.

But first, the best political briefing in television, our CROSSFIRE "Political Alert."

Well, for a military man, retired General Wes Clark has a habit of being incredibly late. It took him close to six decades to decide which political party he belonged to. Clark joined the presidential race a full year after nine more qualified Democrats had already gotten in. Now Clark has headed west to endorse Gray Davis, the governor of California. The only problem: Davis is only going to be the governor of California for another six days. After five years of systematically destroying his state's economy, Davis is about to be bounced out of office by a bipartisan movement of angry voters. But don't tell Wes Clark that. It's a secret. Next week, General Clark will come back to Washington, where he will declare disco dead, endorse the Equal Rights Amendment, and call for the return of the Panama Canal to Panama.


PAUL BEGALA, CO-HOST: I think it's great that a man who spent 33 years in uniform -- of course, our uniform military doesn't choose up sides in politics. But I think it's great, when he got out of the Army, that he chose the Democratic Party. It's good for the Democrats. I think it's good for America.

And the fact that he's going out there now continuing to defend our liberty and democracy by stopping these thugs who are trying to overturn the election in California shows that he's my kind of Democrat.


CARLSON: Paul, look, as I have said a thousand times, I don't have to tend to be a populist, so I don't support the recall. I think, if you voted for Gray Davis, you ought have to suffer with him for four years.

However, this is not a thuggish attempt at anything. This is pure democracy.


CARLSON: And he's attempting to thwart it, along with Gray Davis.

BEGALA: It is pure foolery.

Well, Congressman Rahm Emanuel, Democrat of Illinois, has made a new T-shirt that's the talk of Capitol Hill. On the front is a list of new spending items President Bush is proposing for Iraq; on the back, a list of spending cuts Mr. Bush is proposing for America. For example: $5.7 billion for an electrical grid in Iraq, blackouts for America; $120 million for job training in Iraq, a $130 million cut in job training for America; $4 billion for a new police in Iraq, ending the 100,000 cops program in America.

As for what Mr. Bush is doing for Americans who have lost their jobs because of his policies, well, that wouldn't even fill up a bow tie, Tucker.


CARLSON: You know what, Paul?

BEGALA: Here's the shirt, by the way.

CARLSON: That is really unattractive.


BEGALA: This is why we don't do fashion on CROSSFIRE.



BEGALA: The talk of the town.

CARLSON: I can barely even read it.

But I would say, I can remember a time not very old when Democrats actually had some idealism in their foreign policy, cared about the rest of the world, sort of knew about the rest of the world, weren't this kind of isolationist no-nothings you see today, and would have been not hard-hearted, but delighted that America was trying to help the destitute people of Iraq. What happened?

BEGALA: I think it's wonderful that we were trying to help Iraq. I think we never should have gone to war there. They were no threat to America. And the president misled us desperately about that.


BEGALA: But we should also invest in our own people instead of tax cuts for the rich. And that is President Bush's one and only economic idea, more tax cuts for people like him.


CARLSON: Well, the Howard Dean juggernaut rolls forward. The scrappy Vermont doctor, a fireplug of a man, is on the West Coast tonight campaigning for a nomination that increasingly looks like his for the taking.

Here's tape look of Howard Dean, M.D., doing his things in Los Angeles.


JAY LENO, HOST: His fund-raising is rather unorthodox. I caught you fund-raising earlier today. Do we have that tape?



LENO: Quite a gifted guitar player.


CARLSON: A Renaissance man all around. Not only can Howard Dean bark at the president. He can play guitar, a natural. It's no surprise that his mere presence sends the other Democratic candidates scurrying away in terror and tears. Deanzilla, he's going to be a great nominee.

BEGALA: I'll tell you what. I prefer somebody who raises small amounts of money from ordinary Americans to George W. Bush and Dick Cheney, who shake down big oil companies, then give them no-bid contracts in Iraq, and then raise $200 million.


BEGALA: This is the sleaziest thing I've ever seen in politics. It's crony capitalism.


CARLSON: I can't take you seriously as a Clinton man when you get on the fund-raising thing.


CARLSON: But I will just say, the doctor is in.


CARLSON: I am pro-Howard Dean. I just hope he gets your nomination. You both deserve each other, truly.


BEGALA: Well, Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Donovan McNabb has only been in the NFL for four seasons. But, already, he has led his team to two NFL title games and been named to the Pro Bowl three out of his four seasons.

However, right-wing blow-hard and newly minted football commentator Rush Limbaugh thinks McNabb is overrated. Rush says the media goes easy on McNabb because he's black. Well, former Republican Congressman and former pro quarterback J.C. Watts called Limbaugh's accusation on CNN earlier today -- quote -- "just stupid" -- unquote. And for ESPN to allow a right-wing moron to drag his retro-racial views into a football game, well, that's stupid, too. I only wish Limbaugh would eat his words as voraciously as he eats doughnuts. We'd all be a lot better off.



CARLSON: What he said may be stupid. I have no idea if it's true or not. I don't know anything about football. I will say, this is the tragedy of racial preferences pushed by your party, is that they


BEGALA: Racial preferences? He's a Pro Bowl quarterback!

CARLSON: Let me finish what I'm saying. And that is that the racism espoused by the Democratic Party makes people suspicious. When you promote people based on race, nobody


BEGALA: What about the racism espoused by Rush Limbaugh. Why does ESPN -- why does ESPN give this hate-monger a platform on a perfectly good football game, huh?


CARLSON: Look, Paul, you're not even -- you're not even addressing what I'm saying.


CARLSON: And that is, affirmative action makes people hate each other, makes them suspicion of each other.


CARLSON: And it makes it valid to say, well, I don't know, why was he promoted or whatever? It's bad


BEGALA: Colin Powell became a general because of affirmative action. Nobody hates him.

CARLSON: It's poisonous for our country, as you know.


BEGALA: Get rid of fat boy Limbaugh, ESPN.

Well, after 10 weeks of doing nothing about an alleged traitor in his administration, our president now is promising full cooperation in the leak investigation: "Trust me." And he says the best person in the whole country to oversee this very politically sensitive investigation is the always independent, never partisan John Ashcroft.

When we come back: the leak investigation and all the political fallout.

Stay with us.




CARLSON: Welcome back.

White House staffers have started going through their records and phone logs, looking for information relevant to the Justice Department's criminal investigation into the leak of a CIA employee's name. President Bush's spokesman today strongly intimated that aides would be expected to take polygraph examinations if asked.

None of this, of course, has proved good enough for congressional Democrats, who, in a bone-jarring change of position and desertion of principle, are now calling for -- brace yourselves -- you won't be able to believe it -- a special prosecutor.

Well, in the CROSSFIRE tonight: Illinois Democratic Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky and Virginia Republican Congressman Eric Cantor.


BEGALA: Thank you both very much for joining us.

Congressman Cantor, I will say, even though I'm in the party opposite of you, your credentials as being anti-terrorist are impeccable. I think you help lead your party's efforts in the House on anti-terrorism.

So tell me why...

REP. ERIC CANTOR (R), VIRGINIA: Well, thank you.

BEGALA: You're a serious person on a serious topic. I'm grateful you would come on.

Why is it that our president knew for 10 weeks that he had a traitor in his administration and did nothing about it?

CANTOR: Well, you know, Paul, I think, first of all, you have to look at what happened.

It was, I think, 10 weeks ago where the column first appeared, indicating something about Mr. Wilson's wife being a part of the CIA. And then we find Joe Wilson going around town discrediting the administration about, they perhaps leaked this information to discredit him.

And the fact of the matter is, what we've got here is a situation in our reports where it has been widely known that this individual, Mr. Wilson's wife, worked at the CIA. But, nonetheless, if there was anyone in the administration who leaked the information, and if that person who they spoke of was connected with undercover operations, then, yes, there perhaps could have been something that needs to be investigated and needs to be pursued. And since then, the...

BEGALA: I appreciate all that, but let me press the point. The question was -- and I'll repeat it -- the president knew on July 14 that he had a traitor in his government. Someone revealed the name of one of our CIA employees in the middle of a war on terrorism. And yet, for 10 weeks, the president did nothing.

CANTOR: No, no, Paul.

BEGALA: Isn't that dereliction of duty by the president of the United States, Congressman? CANTOR: They were strictly anonymous sources now who have alleged that there was someone inside the administration who has done that.

But this president has taken the bull by the horns and has said there will be a complete and thorough investigation of everybody on his staff to get to the bottom of this. And the bottom line is, this is a man of integrity. He is the president that brought integrity back to the White House.

BEGALA: The guy who waited for 10 weeks? No. I'm sorry, where's the integrity -- where's the integrity of covering it up for 10 weeks?


CARLSON: Gentlemen, I'm sorry.


CANTOR: ... will be a complete and accurate investigation. And I think that the American people trust in this president and we'll get to the bottom of it.

CARLSON: Congresswoman...


CARLSON: Hold on, Congresswoman. I want to ask you a question, before you take off here.


CARLSON: At the very center of the story, it seems to me, is a question as yet unanswered. And that is, what exactly did Mrs. Wilson do for the CIA? Was she a secretary, in which case revealing her name would mean nothing? Was she an operative under deep cover, in which case it would be a crime to give out her name? We don't know the answer. You don't know it. I don't know it. Bob Novak doesn't know it.


CARLSON: So shouldn't we reserve judgment before we start running around calling people traitors?


There is a former CIA operative who did say that she served for as many as three decades undercover and that now she's an agent at the CIA. I think there's little doubt that we're talking here about a serious crime that has been committed. And the president has not initiated...

CARLSON: Wait a second, Congresswoman. How old do you think Mrs. Wilson is? SCHAKOWSKY: Well...

CARLSON: There are also reports that she's 40 years old. So, if she served for three decades in the CIA, that would make her an awfully young CIA officer.


SCHAKOWSKY: That doesn't work, does it?


CARLSON: No, it really doesn't. and the point is that we don't know. So before we run around calling people names, shouldn't we really know what she did at the CIA? And we don't.

SCHAKOWSKY: Well, but the point is, why didn't the president, after he knew that there might be something, do his own internal investigation, which he still resists doing right now, that still saying that he's not going to do anything internally.

And "The Washington Times," hardly a Democratic stronghold, is saying that the president has an obligation himself to do some investigating. He's saying, oh, fine, we should have this investigation. But yet there are things that he could be doing that he's not.

BEGALA: Congressman Cantor, let me try it this way. As I said before, you are a person of integrity. You care deeply about our war on terrorism.

If you were the president of the United States and you picked up "The Washington Post" and you saw a column from a serious journalist like Robert Novak that said someone in your government had betrayed the cover of a CIA agent, would you sit on your butt for 10 weeks and do nothing, Congressman? Or wouldn't you get into gear and find out who the traitor was?


CANTOR: Well, again, I think, again, that the focus of the Novak column was this individual Joe Wilson, whose story seems to have been changing over the course of the past 10 weeks, that, first of all, he was sent to Africa by the vice president. We have absolute statements from Vice President Cheney that he knows nothing of this Joe Wilson, nor did he ever ask for him to go and travel to Africa, nor did he ever receive a report.

BEGALA: The question was, what would you do? The question was, what would you do?


BEGALA: If you were President Cantor and you picked up the paper and you found out that someone in your administration had blown the cover of a CIA operative in the war on terrorism, what would you do, sir? What would be the first thing you would do?

CANTOR: Well, Paul, first of all, I don't think that that is what was in the article.

But what I would do is exactly what the president is doing now. He's asking for a full and thorough investigation of the matter. But let's face it. There has been an awful lot of scandal-mongering over the past few days by the Democrats on this issue. And I think it just reflects a desperate situation on the part of the minority party in Congress, and certainly of the nine in line who are out there running, trying to get into the White House, that they are bankrupt of ideas.

The fact of the matter is, this president has taken action to make America more secure. You mentioned terrorism. He has been the one to shape national policy, national security policy, to ensure that Americans are safer. And that is what the situation in Iraq is all about.

BEGALA: Congressman...

CANTOR: That's what Afghanistan is all about.


CANTOR: And, frankly -- and, frankly, this...

CARLSON: I'm sorry, Congressman, to cut you off. We're running out of time. I just want to get Congresswoman Schakowsky in here to address what might be another scandal.

And it's this, Congresswoman. I'll be interested to know what you think. There were allegations last year that Saddam's government was buying uranium, nuclear materials, from Africa. In response, the CIA sends not a team of investigators, not even one of their own employees, but a retired foreign service officer named Joe Wilson, who may be a delightful guy personally, but he is not a professional investigator.

He spends only a week there sipping tea in a cafe, talking to people. But, again, he's not a professional investigator. Doesn't that seem negligent to you? Why would the CIA send Joe Wilson in the first place? Kind of a big deal, isn't it?

SCHAKOWSKY: Well, let's cut down Joe Wilson. Is that the plan? That is a pathetic


CARLSON: I'm not. No, no, I asked you a serious question. I want your answer.


SCHAKOWSKY: I understand that. And this is part of condemning and discrediting and, when they can, firing people who don't agree with this administration. (CROSSTALK)

CARLSON: What are you talking about? I asked you a serious question, Congresswoman, and you're not answering me. I'm not trying to beat up on Joe Wilson. I'm just asking why they would send him.

SCHAKOWSKY: I think it's absolutely possibly that you send a former ambassador to investigate a situation in a place where he does know something about it, and that he came back and made a report. No one denied that.

Now it is just, let's undercut him. Let's undercut his wife. Let's say she was just a secretary now, or whatever she was. The point is, a crime was committed. We need to find out, get to the bottom of it. A special prosecutor, a special investigator is what we should be doing, special counsel, an independent investigator, separate from the administration.

This is nothing less than what the former -- what the attorney general said, when Janet Reno wanted to have a -- an investigation. This is being politics on the side of the Republicans. What could be more political than discrediting someone in a typical revenge kind of statement, outing his wife, outing his wife?


BEGALA: I'm sorry to cut you off. Hold that thought. We're going to come back, both to Congresswoman Schakowsky and to Congressman Cantor. We've got to take a quick break, though.

And this programming note. Our CROSSFIRE colleague Robert Novak will be on "WOLF BLITZER" next.

And when we come back, it's time for "Rapid Fire," quick questions, rapid answers, but no polygraphs yet.

Also just ahead: Reaction is pouring in to lard butt Limbaugh's comments about Philadelphia Eagle quarterback Donovan McNabb.

And then Wolf Blitzer will have all the latest just after this break.

Stay with us.





BEGALA: Thank you, Wolf.

We're looking forward to Limbaugh's defense. I suspect it will be, "I'm a fat sissy who is jealous of the star quarterback." But, anyway, here on CROSSFIRE, it's time for "Rapid Fire," where the answers and questions come even faster than Republican excuses for leaking a CIA operative's name.

In the CROSSFIRE: Virginia Republican Congressman Eric Cantor and Illinois Democratic Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky.

CARLSON: Congresswoman Schakowsky, for 11 years, Democrats have explained to America that independent counsels are bad, evil, corrosive of the democratic process. Now you're for them. Has party just given up any principle at all, any pretense at all?

SCHAKOWSKY: This isn't just another leak. This isn't just another story. We're talking about national security, putting in danger the lives of an operative, and maybe others who are still serving our country.

This is a serious enough matter. And this is an administration that we have to -- I would think would want the credibility of having someone independent look into this matter. I would think that the president and the attorney general himself would be supporting the notion of a special counsel. Take politics out of it.


BEGALA: Excuse me, Congressman.

Let me jump in and ask Congressman Cantor, since I gather you oppose an independent counsel investigation, will you tell our audience if you support congressional hearings into this alleged act of treason?

CANTOR: Well, again, I think we ought to let the investigation process take place. This president has integrity, has credibility. And the American people know that he came to the White House restoring integrity to a White House that had been badly damaged.

BEGALA: But do you support hearings?


BEGALA: But do you support hearings?


CANTOR: I think that, if we want to get to the bottom of this, let the investigators do their job. Let the investigations take place with the staff and get to the bottom of it. The president has said there will be full cooperation. And I think that that's where it ought to be. And we ought to let the DOJ do it.

CARLSON: Excuse me, Congressman, I just want to get Congresswoman Schakowsky one last question.

Congresswoman Schakowsky, Joe Wilson told "The Washington Post" he and his wife are planning the movie of this. He wants to know who should play his wife. Who do you think ought to play his wife in the movie?


SCHAKOWSKY: You guys are just too cute. Let's make...

CARLSON: I'm quoting Joe Wilson, Congresswoman.


SCHAKOWSKY: So let's make fun. Let's make fun of it. Let's make a joke out of this.

CARLSON: OK. You -- you give up. I'm sorry. We're out of time, Congresswoman.

SCHAKOWSKY: No. Absolutely not. This is serious. We're talking national security.


CARLSON: I hope you will come back and tell us who in the movie.

Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky, thank you so much.

Congressman Eric Cantor of Virginia, thank you. We appreciate it. This won't be the last time.


CARLSON: We want to know what you think about the leak investigation. Should White House aides have to take lie-detector tests? Your answer is just ahead.

And in "Fireback," one our viewers is worried about the health and safety of Democrats who might be in too big a hurry. We'll explain.

We'll be right back.



BEGALA: Welcome back to CROSSFIRE.

Before the break, we asked our audience whether they think White House aides should be forced to take polygraphs in this leak investigation? Pretty interesting response. Take a look. Both parties agree; 55 percent of Republicans and 67 percent of Democrats say yes. So I guess Congressman Cantor's comments about how much we trust our president a little behind the times.


CARLSON: Well, those are people who have never had to take a polygraph exam. BEGALA: Oh, well, these...

CARLSON: Anybody who has had to take one would not want to wish it on anybody else.

Mike Collins of Baltimore writes: "I hope the Democrats don't hurt themselves pushing each other out of the way to get to the podium to call for an independent investigation on this leak." Well, first, they'd have to get Chuck Schumer out of the way. And that's hard.


BEGALA: Look, I hate independent counsels. But when you have a case where the president goes 10 weeks without investigating anything, and the congressman here wouldn't even say he would hold a hearing on it, there's other check or balance on a government that is out of control and smearing a good citizen and harming the war on terrorism.


CARLSON: That is oh so crazy, I can't -- I don't have time to refute it.

BEGALA: Tony Kaczmarek of Pawtucket, Rhode Island, writes: "I hope this administration has better luck finding the leakers in their midst than they had finding WMD, bin Laden and Saddam Hussein." Pretty good point, Tony.


CARLSON: All right, good point, Tony.

Yes, ma'am? Yes?

BEGALA: Hi. What's your name and hometown?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Hi. I'm Meredith (ph). I'm from Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania.

And my question is, do you think that the independent counsel statute should be resurrected?

BEGALA: No. I think this is one of those rare cases the president ought to do it himself for the good of the nation. But the law was fatally flawed in the past. It was a bad law and poorly applied in the past. But this is the kind of bad laws that happen in bad situations like this, no congressional oversight...

CARLSON: Right. It's bad when it hurts Democrats, good when it hurts Republicans.

BEGALA: The president is not doing his job. The attorney general is not doing his job. And the Congress is not doing their job. So we need somebody to investigate this.

CARLSON: That's also premature. We don't even know what the story is at this point.

BEGALA: Because, for 10 weeks, they wouldn't investigate the thing.

CARLSON: Stay tuned.

BEGALA: Well, be sure to join us tomorrow, when Indiana Republican and professional Clinton investigator Dan Burton -- he's the chair of the House Government Reform Committee -- will step into the CROSSFIRE.


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

CARLSON: I almost said, from the left, Paul Begala, but that wouldn't be true.

From the right, I'm Tucker Carlson. Join us again tomorrow for yet more CROSSFIRE.


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