Political Warfare Over Iraq
Aired October 14, 2003 - 16:30 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ANNOUNCER: CROSSFIRE. On the left, James Carville and Paul Begala; on the right, Robert Novak and Tucker Carlson.
In the CROSSFIRE: Iraq, Congress, and the $87 billion price tag for reconstruction.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What about our needs for building roads and bridges and repairing roads?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Now that we've removed a government from Iraq, we are the government, and we have the responsibility to provide the services.
ANNOUNCER: Is the president's request a case of pay now, pay more later?
Today on CROSSFIRE.
ANNOUNCER: Live from the George Washington University, James Carville and Tucker Carlson.
TUCKER CARLSON, CO-HOST: Welcome to CROSSFIRE.
Well, there has been difficult news out of Baghdad recently. But does that mean, as some Democrats have been suggesting, that it's time for the United States military to cut and run? That will be our debate. We'll get to it right after we dive into the best political briefing in television, our CROSSFIRE "Political Alert."
JAMES CARVILLE, CO-HOST: Today, in the Middle East, the road map is derailed. The Bush administration is absent. Hamas killing Israelis and Sharon is attacking Syria. Looking at the situation there, you'd think that peace is impossible. It isn't.
It turns out, while all this was going on, a former member of the Israeli Knesset and a Palestinian got together and drew up a plan for peace. It's 50 pages. It keeps the Palestinians a state. It keeps war refugees out of Israel. Both sides would have to make concessions, but the hope is, they would get peace in return. Today's Jerusalem reports -- "Jerusalem Post" reports that both Yasser Arafat and Shimon Peres seem to support it.
The truth of the matter is that, despite what the Bush administration would have you believe, the war in Iraq wasn't the answer to problem in the Middle East. But this peace plan just might be.
CARLSON: And perhaps it is.
I must say, it's gratifying to see the Bush administration deviate from the Clinton administration policy and not treat Yasser Arafat like a legitimate world leader deserving of the Nobel Peace Prize. That is nice.
CARVILLE: I think what the Clinton administration -- what the Bush administration has done is ridiculous. I think what they need to do is what the Clinton administration did, bring the parties together, force them to sit down, use this plan that these people have worked out as a basis and we can have peace.
CARLSON: Should they treat Yasser Arafat as Clinton did, as a legitimate world leader or as
CARVILLE: If Yasser Arafat brings peace to the Israeli- Palestinian conflict, treat him as anything you want.
CARVILLE: It's more important to have peace in the Middle East than it is how you treat Yasser Arafat.
CARLSON: Really? Because it's been 40 years and he hasn't yet done that, so he's probably not going to.
Well, John Kerry has a problem. Not all that long ago, the Massachusetts senator and presidential hopeful voted with President Bush to send hundreds of thousands of American troops to Iraq. Those troops, of course, went. Now, with the Democratic primary dragging its participants further and further to the left, into Dennis Kucinich world, Kerry has decided he didn't mean it after all.
This Sunday, Kerry announced that he'll likely vote against sending money to support the very troops he helped to send. John Edwards, incidentally, recently said the same thing. As a political matter, this is stupid. As an ethical matter, it is indefensible, both of which former Governor Howard Dean pointed out yesterday in a conversation with reporters -- quote -- "I find it amusing that Senator Kerry would even have the nerve to say that," Dean said. "The fact is, we wouldn't be there if it weren't for Democrats like Senator Kerry."
Every word of that is completely true, incidentally. And so it's no surprise the Democratic establishment hates Howard Dean so much.
CARVILLE: I don't know how to blow your bubble here, but both Kerry and Senator Edwards both support the $60 billion for the troops. What they don't support is the uncounted $20 billion, which is the start of the $80 billion that we're going to spend on Iraq. But neither one don't support sending money for troops. In fact, both of them are outraged and disgusted by this administration's inability to get Kevlar jackets to protect these troops, as are any number of other people.
So it's better not to lump everything.
CARVILLE: Understand there are two parts to that thing the president asked for, to support our troops and to rebuild Iraq. And what they have is real questions about rebuilding Iraq.
There have been a number of books out attacking George W. Bush. And come November, there will be another one, mine. However, the newest and one of the best of these books is called "The Lies of George W. Bush" by David Corn. It is a devastatingly well-researched look into this administration's constant and ongoing inability to be honest with the American people.
Any American that cares about his or her country, be they Democrats, Republicans or independents, should go out and purchase this book and read it thoroughly, so they can know the true nature of this administration that governs us today.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
CARLSON: Well, James, I like -- I like David Corn a lot. And, believe it or not, I like you a lot.
CARLSON: But I see the same syndrome unfolding as it unfolded in the 1990s, when there was a spate of Clinton-committed-murder books. These books all cater to the paranoid and craziness of the far left, which has taken over your party.
CARVILLE: Tucker, let me tell you what I'll do. You tell me that you have read this book substantially.
CARLSON: I have not even looked at it yet.
(CROSSTALK) CARVILLE: If you do that, I will donate $1,000 to your favorite charity. Just once you come in and say, James -- and I trust you. You're an honest guy.
CARLSON: All right.
CARVILLE: Said: I've read the Corn book.
CARVILLE: And when you do that and you just say, whatever the charity is, I'll donate $1,000 in your name.
CARLSON: Literally, I plan to read that. As I said, I like David Corn. I'll suffer through your book as well.
CARLSON: But the point is, books like this are really selling because the Democratic Party has gone completely insane with Bush hatred.
CARVILLE: In your name, your favorite -- your favorite charity, I'll donate $1,000, if you read it.
CARLSON: Well, I'm going to get it in writing.
Well, speaking of the fervid left, you often hear them complain that Attorney General John Ashcroft is the greatest threat to civil liberties since the departed Senator Joe McCarthy. This is a lie. It's a grotesque overstatement. And more than anything, it's a direct-mail pitch used to raise money from paranoid liberals in Hollywood.
But that doesn't mean that Ashcroft is the perfect attorney general. He's not. Case in point, last week, Tommy Chong of 1970s comedy team Cheech & Chong, reported to federal prison, where he'll spend the better part of the next year. Chong, who is 65 years old and the married father of six, was caught earlier this year in a Justice Department sting aimed at bong retailers.
Chong was not caught with drugs of any kind. He did not commit any act of violence. He's going to prison because he sold bongs, and that's it. So, to recap, members of al Qaeda are roaming free tonight, some of them on American soil. Meanwhile, a senior citizen is behind bars for a nonviolent crime, selling a bong. Feel safer? I don't think so.
CARVILLE: You know, what people are going to say is, this guy sells a bong and goes to jail, and Rush Limbaugh buys 40,000 pills and doesn't. I don't think Rush...
CARVILLE: Let me finish.
CARVILLE: I don't think Rush Limbaugh ought go to jail. And I said I feel sorry for him. I hope Rush Limbaugh goes to get well.
CARLSON: Well, then don't make fun of him, then. Come on.
CARVILLE: I'm not making fun of him. I'm saying people are going to draw that analogy, Tucker. And I'm saying, I don't think -- I don't think either one of them ought to be in jail.
CARVILLE: And I hope Rush Limbaugh gets well. I have compassion for him.
CARLSON: Well, good for you.
Free Tommy Chong. That's my
CARVILLE: Both of them.
CARLSON: Next: Are Americans getting the full story from Iraq or just the Democratic Party's cartoon version, which is pretty depressing? We'll debate that. You won't want to miss it.
We'll be right back.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
CARVILLE: More soldiers were reported dead in Iraq today, today, bringing the total number of Americans killed there to 331. Meanwhile, the Bush administration wants Congress to rubber-stamp an $87 billion check for Iraq, Afghanistan and who knows what else.
We're going to put all this in the CROSSFIRE with our guests, former Pennsylvania Congressman Bob Walker and former Clinton administration official Ann Lewis. She now chairs the Democratic National Committee's Women's Vote Center.
CARLSON: Ann Lewis, thanks for joining us, as always.
CARLSON: I just read this as a "Political Alert," but I really want to get your take on it.
As you know, Senator Kerry and also Senator Edwards, both of whom voted to send troops to Iraq, now say they're not going to fund those troops. I want to read you what Howard Dean, the sparky Vermont insurgent, said about this move yesterday.
This is the exact quote: "I find it quite amusing," Dean said, "that Senator Kerry, who has been on every side of this issue, would even have the nerve to say that. But suppose if you have the nerve to cover your own vote and then try to pretend you didn't vote that way, you'd have the nerve to do anything. The fact is, we wouldn't be there in Iraq if it weren't for Democrats like Senator Kerry."
Every word of that is true. I imagine you must be supporting Howard Dean, because he tells the truth.
ANN LEWIS, DEMOCRATIC NATIONAL COMMITTEE: Well, I can tell you are. And I'm glad to know he's your candidate.
CARLSON: Yes, he is.
LEWIS: But, look, we do have American troops in Iraq. We do have an obligation to keep them safe. I wish they had more troops there, coalition partners, maybe, which the Bush administration has been unable or unwilling to provide.
I wish they had a little better equipment. We learned today that the ceramic vests that the Congress voted for last March, a quarter of our troops still don't have them. The Pentagon is too busy with other plans.
LEWIS: But if you look at this $87 billion request, will you tell me what $33,000 apiece for pickup trucks has to do with our keeping our troops safe, when you can buy them for $14,000 here? Will you tell me what $10,000 a month for business
LEWIS: ... have to do with keeping our troops safe?
CARLSON: Those are all excellent Republican talking points. I couldn't agree with you more.
LEWIS: No, those are actually Democratic talking points.
LEWIS: It is the White House who made these pork-ridden requests and is trying to
CARLSON: I support your efforts to get rid of waste, fraud and abuse at the Pentagon.
LEWIS: Bless you. Keep going.
CARLSON: But should presidential candidates be playing politics with money that will go to support hundreds of thousands of American men and women now living in Iraq? That's pretty low. In fact, it's hard to imagine anything lower, isn't it?
LEWIS: Politicians should not play politics with
CARLSON: Well, tell John Kerry that, please.
LEWIS: That's why I'm so disappointed in this White House that could be doing a better job of securing our troops, instead of going around and asking for, again, $1 million for a museum in Iraq and then they turn around and say, oh, it's national security? No, it is not. It's a slush fund.
CARVILLE: Congressman Walker, everything is going wonderful. Let me show you what the president said about how things are going in Iraq. Can we get that, please?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: But I do think it's important for people to know that there is a positive thing that's taking place inside Iraq. There's been tremendous progress since Saddam Hussein fell.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CARVILLE: Now, things have really -- so things are really going great. Schools are opening. Everything is -- so how much of that $87 billion are we not going to have to send over there, and how soon can -- next week, can we bring 40,000 of these kids back to their families, because everything is going wonderfully in Iraq?
This place is -- this is the most wonderful -- this is like being in Switzerland.
CARVILLE: I mean...
BOB WALKER, FORMER U.S. CONGRESSMAN: Well, James, there are a lot of people like you who opposed the Marshall Plan back in the late '40s, too, and a lot of people in the Congress against that.
WALKER: And the fact is that, after a war, you also have to aid in rebuilding and assuring that the United States wins not only the war, but wins the peace. And that's exactly what's going on here.
And the kind of blood and treasure that we have put on the ground in both Iraq and Afghanistan deserves to be followed up with a victory, both in the war and in the peace.
CARVILLE: Let me say this. The great -- at 4 years old, I was bitterly opposed to the Marshall Plan, as was that great Republican president, Harry Truman, who was so opposed to the Marshall Plan. Come on, Congressman...
WALKER: The fact is, James, that there were people who were against the Marshall Plan back in the late '40s who proved to be wrong.
CARVILLE: Why are you attacking for me for being against the Marshall Plan? I was born in 1944. Come on. I'm not
WALKER: Because, as an adult, because, as an adult right now, James, you are sounding very much like the people who, when you were 4 years old, were wrong.
CARVILLE: Congressman, I never lied to get us into a war that we had no plan to get out of. That is this administration.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
WALKER: And the fact is, James, that nobody lied to get us into this war either.
CARVILLE: That's the point, OK?
WALKER: Well, see, that's your point. And so -- it's just a wrong point.
CARVILLE: We'll see.
CARLSON: Ann Lewis, before, I was actually, believe it or not, listening very carefully to what you said. And at the very end of your last answer, you alleged a crime. And I just want you to expand on that a little bit.
You said, this money is going -- quote -- "to a slush fund." Just quickly, what -- whose slush fund?
LEWIS: Oh, I'm sorry. In terms of whose slush fund, what I know is that this money is being ostensibly over -- shall we say overpromised. When I look at, again, $33,000 each for trucks here cost $14,000.
CARLSON: So you have no evidence there's a slush fund. You were just throwing that out.
LEWIS: I was using it in a picturesque way. But if you'd like me to be more specific, let me be very clear.
CARLSON: Well, it is an allegation of a crime. So I just wanted to be sure. OK.
LEWIS: It is an allegation that the requests that this administration has made clearly is over budget. It is for items that Americans here can't afford.
CARLSON: I'm sorry.
LEWIS: Is it a crime to ask for $1 million for a museum?
CARLSON: No, it's actually wrong to allege a crime when you have no evidence. But let me ask you this question.
LEWIS: Is it a crime to ask for $1 million for a museum?
WALKER: Just a few months ago, Democrats in Congress were criticizing the Bush administration for not having protected that museum.
LEWIS: Is it a crime to us to spend $1 million to build a museum? No. It's stupid. (CROSSTALK)
LEWIS: It is not a crime. It is stupidity.
WALKER: But the point is, the Democrats just throw out criticism all the time, whatever's convenient. And this their most convenient target now, obviously.
CARLSON: Wait. Ladies and gentlemen, I'm sorry. We can't hear anybody here.
CARLSON: Ann, let me just finish my question here. My question is this. The new John Edwards for president, his doomed, kind of pathetic campaign, is alleging this -- quote -- "billion-dollar giveaways for the president's oil industry friends like Halliburton," implying a crime. Do you believe this was a war for oil, as this ad so sleazily alleges?
LEWIS: I know that Halliburton, which is the company that is still paying Vice President Cheney, by the way, has gotten $1.2 billion in no-bid contract, $1.2 billion, no-bid contracts. And nobody else had a chance to compete.
I think certain facts speak for themselves. And if you wonder why we
CARLSON: So Cheney...
CARLSON: ... for his own profit? Is that your point?
LEWIS: That isn't what I said. I said, for the American people...
CARLSON: That is what you said.
LEWIS: No, what I say is, the facts speak for themselves.
Why don't we have bidding on these? Why don't we have an open, competitive process? Why don't we have, again, some other of our coalition allies? One reason is, because they think this has all been sewed up.
CARVILLE: We have a bone of contention, but you say no on lies.
I want to show you one a quote by one of the great liars of our lifetime, Mr. Paul D. Wolfowitz, a man who ought to be run out of town: "And, on a rough recollection, oil revenues, that country could bring between $50 billion and $100 billion over the course of the next two or three years. We're dealing with a country that can really finance its own reconstruction and relatively soon."
Now, worst than that, when Mr. Wolfowitz said that, he was appraised by the intelligence report from his own Defense Department that said that's not true. Now, why don't we run this man out of Washington for the incompetence and the lying and everything else that he did?
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
WALKER: Well, the fact is that -- the fact is that, because, during the Clinton administration, we spent a lot of our time into destroying our intelligence services, we were not able to get very good intelligence that
CARVILLE: They told him. They told him.
WALKER: We found out -- we found out -- we found out when we got there that the infrastructure for producing the oil is far worse than anybody ever imagined. And so these kinds of numbers and so on
CARVILLE: He had an intelligence report on his desk that said that when he said it. He knew it was a lie when he said it. We need to quit defending these liars and run them out of town. We have 200,000 people pinned down in Iraq. We're spending all of our treasure over there. And the whole thing was based on a pack of lies. And we just have to change that.
WALKER: Well, the fact is -- the fact is, what we have done is, we have gotten rid of Saddam Hussein.
And if you take that position, James, then it seems to me that what you're for is keeping Saddam Hussein in place. You think we were better off during that time.
WALKER: I tell you that I don't think that's an appropriate policy.
CARVILLE: I think it was a boneheaded
CARLSON: We're going to have to take a quick commercial break. We're very close to agreement. Maybe we'll achieve it when we return. (LAUGHTER)
CARLSON: After Wolf Blitzer, we'll have the headlines. Wolf will bring them to you, including word of a possible comeback for the silicone breast implants, big news, 40-DDD news.
And then in "Rapid Fire," we'll ask our guests for a yes-or- question on whether American troops ought to be pulled out of Iraq.
We'll be right back.
CARVILLE: Time for "Rapid Fire." We're trying to get in 87 billion questions and answers in just a few minutes. Our guests are former Pennsylvania Congressman Bob Walker, and Ann Lewis, of the Democratic National Committee.
CARLSON: Ann, despite a lot of talk about the professed love for the Iraqi people, our European allies, France, Germany, have put essentially no money into Iraq. Their NGOs are not there. Why is that? If they care so deeply about the Iraqi people, why aren't they stepping up? Is it our fault?
LEWIS: Well, you might want talk to our State Department.
CARLSON: So it's our fault?
What I will say and what I think they have said is, people would like to be helpful if it were genuinely something which they felt they would have something to say about the outcome. Human nature, as well as national interests, suggests that you're not just going to write a blank check. And what our other allies have said and the reason we're now going back to the U.N. for a resolution, as I understand it -- and I think Powell has announced that we're going to do it -- is that we're looking for a structure in which other countries would be willing to work with us.
And I think it is definitely the fault of this administration that we've been unable to come up with one so far. You may remember that, before we finally went into Iraq, the word out of this administration was, oh, once we win, everybody will want to be on our side. They can't even get allies after we've won.
CARVILLE: Congressman, we have 130,000 troops in Iraq right now. Give us a date when you think we could reduce that number to, say, 50,000. WALKER: I don't know, because it depends on when you can provide enough security for the country and have enough infrastructure that they can manage on their own. And I don't know what that date is. But I do know it's important to keep our people there as long as is needed in order to have a victory on behalf of the Iraqi people.
CARLSON: Ann, I'm just going to give you more chance to side with America over France. Don't you think France could at least maybe fund some medical clinics or schools? Do they need really control of the country to do that? Couldn't they just help the Iraqi people, do you think?
LEWIS: Let me tell you, I am so much on the side of America and I am so much on the side of our troops that I want them to have help out there.
LEWIS: I don't want American troops to be out there alone. I am so much on the side of America and so much on the side of our troops that I want them to get the best life-saving equipment they ought to have that the Pentagon has been unable to send this them. So, yes, I am on our side.
CARLSON: OK. OK.
CARLSON: Ann Lewis, former Congressman Bob Walker, thank you both very much.
CARLSON: We want to know -- and this is the question we're asking -- should Congress approve the $87 billion that President Bush wants for reconstruction in Iraq and Afghanistan? We'll find out what our audience thinks after the break.
And then, in "Fireback," find out why one of our viewers has "The Three Stooges" on his mind. We suspect most of our viewers have "The Three Stooges" on their mind as they watch. We'll explain.
We'll be right back.
CARLSON: Welcome back to CROSSFIRE. Time for "Fireback."
But, first the results of our audience poll, in which we asked: Should Congress approve the $87 billion to support our troops in Iraq? Yes, say 79 percent of Republicans that are in our audience. No, say 77 percent of Democrats. They ought to find a way to support themselves, apparently. OK. That's appalling.
CARVILLE: I think people have every right to question this thing.
"One senator recently said he couldn't think of four better people than Bush, Cheney, Powell, and Rumsfeld to be in charge of policy in Iraq. He even called them a four-star lineup. I can't think of four worse people, given their track record of incompetence and dishonesty. Moe, Larry, Curly, and Shemp could do a better job" -- Dr. Daniel Spiegel, Allentown, Pennsylvania.
CARVILLE: They wouldn't be very -- I don't know how they could do a worse job.
CARLSON: More deep analysis from the left.
Mike Offit of New York City writes: "I can't help being amazed by the portrayal of almost 100 American soldiers' deaths over five months in Iraq as a failure. Iraq is 10 times safer than New York City in the 1990s."
CARVILLE: Well, if it's so damn safe, why do they need $87 billion and why do they need 130,000 troops? Let's bring them all home and bring the money home. It's all wonderful. This is a Garden of Eden over there, ladies and gentlemen. It's Switzerland.
CARLSON: I don't know. Improving the world is a noble goal, I think.
CARVILLE: "I think it's ironic that Bush is complaining about the media 'filter.' He didn't mind using that filter when he was hyping his war, nor did he mind using a filter when he was selecting intelligence to be used to go to war" -- Shawn, Denver, Colorado.
Shawn, you're a very bright person. I don't know if you're a man or you're a woman, but you're damn smart.
CARLSON: Yes, I must say, I'm against blaming the press.
CARVILLE: Right. Its' wonderful. It's a Garden of Eden over there. I think I will go to Iraq on my vacation.
CARLSON: A. Lam of New York writes: "In response to those who think that Michael Moore should run for president so the U.S. can adopt the foreign policy of Canada, the only reason Canada can afford to have a gentler international policy is because Canada is defended by the most powerful military in the world, the United States, without having to pay a penny for it."
CARLSON: That's right, A. Lam. Ditto for France, Germany, Japan, all of Western Europe. (CROSSTALK)
CARVILLE: Don't go to Canada for your vacation. Go to Iraq, because it's safer than it's ever been and everything is going swimmingly well. It's wonderful.
CARLSON: But, actually, James, there's value in improving the world. I thought that was a liberal idea. Maybe I bought it. I don't know why.
CARVILLE: Now you're telling the truth.
CARVILLE: From the left, I'm James Carville. That's it for CROSSFIRE.
CARLSON: And from the right, I'm Tucker Carlson.
Join us again tomorrow for yet more CROSSFIRE.
TO ORDER A VIDEO OF THIS TRANSCRIPT, PLEASE CALL 1-800-CNN-NEWS OR USE OUR SECURE ONLINE ORDER FORM LOCATED AT www.fdch.com