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Bush Bashing Overload?

Aired October 20, 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: Democrats love Bush bashing.

REP. RICHARD GEPHARDT (D-MO), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: He is failing us on the economy and he's failing us on foreign policy.

ANNOUNCER: Are the Democrats going overboard or just telling it like it is?

HOWARD DEAN (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: This country's too far to the right. And one of the reasons it's too far to the right is, we have not provided opposition to this right-wing presidency.

ANNOUNCER: The great divide over President Bush -- today on CROSSFIRE.



ANNOUNCER: Live from the George Washington University.

JAMES CARVILLE, CO-HOST: Welcome to CROSSFIRE. On the left, I'm James Carville.

Since when is it un-American to criticize the president, especially one as incompetent as George W. Bush?


TUCKER CARLSON, CO-HOST: And from the right, I'm Tucker Carlson.

And, as may have just noticed, the Democratic Party's dislike of Bush has become monomaniacal. Hatred will not win them the election, but does it imperil their mental health? That's our debate.

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

Well, Hillary Clinton is not running for president for this year, but that doesn't mean she can't screw things up for the other candidates who are.


CARLSON: First, Mrs. Clinton selfishly released her book in the run-up to an election year, thereby stealing attention that might have gone to rising stars in her own party.

Now she's hogging the spotlight in Iowa. Next month is the annual Jefferson Jackson Dinner in Iowa. With the caucuses just weeks away, it's a big deal. And with the exception of Joe Lieberman and Wes Clark, whose doomed campaigns have decided not even to compete in the state, most of the other candidates will be there. But they won't be the star of the event. That honor is reserved for Mrs. Clinton, the night's emcee.

"Outrageous," a high ranking Democratic told "The Washington Post." And that's not true. But notice that not one Democrat has had the guts to complain about it in public. Embarrassing.

CARVILLE: Wait. You say it's weeks away? Just guess. How many weeks away is it?

CARLSON: I think it's 10 weeks from the date of that dinner.

CARVILLE: Ten. All right. That's kind of -- that's two and a half months. Well -- but that's all right. What does monomaniacal -- what the hell does


CARLSON: It means that their hatred has become the focus of their lives. It's actually a clinical description. And I think it applies to you.


CARVILLE: Kind of the way you feel about Hillary.


CARLSON: No, I like Mrs. Clinton. I just wish she wouldn't overshadow the people in her party struggling to become leaders. It's embarrassing. It's mean to them. She should let Howard Dean be Howard Dean.


CARVILLE: There you go. I sure she's going to stop it.


CARVILLE: The more of a quagmire we have in Iraq, the more you have to think someone must have predicted this would be bad. It turns out someone did. Who was that someone? The United States Department of State.

It was recently learned that the State Department spent a year studying what a postwar Iraq would look like and found that, after a battle, there would probably be looting and the electrical and water systems would be a mess and that the people might not like having Americans soldiers there. They shared their findings with the Pentagon and they were ignored.

So if the State Department knew and the Pentagon knew and the president knew, it seems to me there was only one group of people that wasn't told what this mess might be. The American people. In Louisiana, we call it being treated like a mushroom. You get kept in the dark and fed a bunch of manure.



CARLSON: Now, James, this is -- this is the least surprising news flash I think you've ever given us. So the idea is that the reconstruction might be difficult, that they might face resistance, they might have having getting electricity? You said that yourself before this war started. So the idea that this was a surprise is ridiculous.


CARVILLE: Dick Cheney went on TV and said we would be greeted with roses. Paul Wolfowitz said we could finance the whole reconstruction with oil revenues.

CARLSON: Come on. No, he didn't say that.


CARVILLE: Tucker, of course he did.

CARLSON: He said it's possible that, within two to three years, we might be able to do that.

CARVILLE: He said, relatively soon, $100 to $200 billion a year. If they would just please stop the lying. That's all I ask.


CARLSON: I know it -- I know it serves your political ends to describe them as liars.


CARLSON: But, in the end, that's a lie itself.

Well, it's not a secret that tens of thousands of California Democrats voted for Republican Arnold Schwarzenegger two weeks ago. But did you know that one of the state's highest ranking Democrats was among them?

Well, this weekend, California Attorney General Bill Lockyer confirmed that he, too, voted Republican. As he put it, in the end, even though he opposed the recall, he just couldn't bring himself pull the lever for Democrat Gray Davis or Cruz Bustamante. Why? Well, because he knows them too well -- quote -- "You know who works hard and who doesn't," Lockyer said. "You know who's honest and who isn't."

In other words, Davis and Bustamante were just too lazy and corrupt even for him. If only he had told the rest of us sooner.


CARVILLE: Just like you don't know -- Tucker, it's just like you call months weeks, he couldn't vote for Gray Davis. He voted against the recall. Gray Davis' name wasn't on the ballot.

CARLSON: No, no, but you're totally missing it.


CARLSON: In the end, he said he thought that Arnold Schwarzenegger would be a better governor than Gray Davis.

CARVILLE: Why did he vote against the recall?

CARLSON: I'm not sure he did vote against...

CARVILLE: Well, he said voted against the recall and voted for Schwarzenegger. He said it.


CARLSON: In the weeks running up to it, he defended Davis and Bustamante. And...

CARVILLE: Were those weeks or months?


CARLSON: They were weeks, actually. And then now we learn that he thinks both of them are corrupt and lazy. I wish he had told the truth earlier. And I think it might have given you pause for support for them, those lazy and corrupt Democrats that he just described.




CARVILLE: When George W. Bush passes his budget plan, you should have heard him crow. Talking to the people of Omaha, Nebraska, he says -- quote -- "It pays down our national debt in a record way" -- "rate." At the signing ceremony, he said he was proud that the tax cut passed in record time.

Today, a Treasury Department official reported that America has its largest budget gap in history. That's right. America finished fiscal 2003 $374 billion in the red. It gives me great pleasure to report that this is one occasion where what our president said wasn't a total lie. See, that tax cut was a record-breaker. It's responsible for a record fiscal reversal, ended up today a record deficit. President Bush shouldn't be crowing. He should be eating crow.

CARLSON: Well, I'm bothered by the deficit. I actually think it's a big deal. And I think the Bush administration spends too much money. I don't think they're fiscal conservatives, despite your efforts to characterize them as right-wing maniacs.

But I do think it would be nice if there were some sort of alternative. You're mad at the president for his fiscal policy. But what's the alternative?

CARVILLE: I'll tell you what


CARLSON: More tax cuts. The Democrats haven't put out an alternative that makes sense.


CARVILLE: I'll tell you what it is, is get a lot of these things that he did back on the books and let people that have over a $4 million estate pay some taxes, like everybody else. And I'll tell you what we need to do, is we need to stop skewing these taxes toward the wealthy, keep the middle-class tax cuts in there and reverse these things and get some fiscal sanity in this United States.


CARLSON: That's -- that's just -- those are more -- I mean, that's what -- you know, look -- truly, the fact is, rich people, by and large, put in a lot more than they get back.


CARVILLE: They don't make enough money. Believe me.

CARLSON: I know you do. The rest of us don't.

There's no doubt that hatred will make you crazy. But will it get you anywhere in politics? Up next, the writer who freely admits he stays up late loathing George W. Bush and a debate about whether hatred is a legitimate element of debate or a sign of worsening mental illness -- next.




CARVILLE: George W. Bush had people steal the election for him, squandered the surprise, can't find Osama bin Laden, led us into a quagmire in Iraq. I could go on, but the right wing would whine that this is Bush bashing. Sorry, guys. What goes around comes around.

In the CROSSFIRE, radio talk show host Laura Ingraham, author of a new called "Shut Up and sing." And also with us is "New Republic" senior editor Jonathan Chait, who, in his column "Mad About You," made the case for Bush hatred.



CARLSON: Jonathan Chait, boy, did you make the Bush case for Bush hatred. But before you did that, you described your own Bush hatred. I'm going to read you a collection of lines from the very first paragraph of your piece. Keep in mind, I'm not making these up.

Quote: "I hate President George W. Bush. I hate the way he walks. I hate the way we talks. I hate his lame nicknaming- bestowing. I suspect that, if I got to know him personally, I would hate him even more."



CARLSON: Now, not only is that, of course, irrational, you're also starting to write like Dr. Seuss. A bad sign. I think, 20 years from now, you're going to embarrassed about writing this. But, in the meantime, shouldn't you recuse yourself from writing any more about Bush, because, clearly, you're not rational on the subject?

JONATHAN CHAIT, SENIOR EDITOR, "NEW REPUBLIC": I'm obviously not irrational. First of all, I backed Bush on the biggest single question of his whole presidency, which was the Iraq war. And I conceded in the peace that there are ways in which Bush hatred can make liberals irrational.

But I also wanted to say, look, this is a pretty valid emotion. If you look at the events of the last few years, it's pretty clear why liberals have reacted the way they did.

CARLSON: Well, you explained why you reacted that way. In fact, right again in the first paragraph, I think you get right to the psychological underpinning of all of this. Let me quote you again.

CHAIT: Please. Go ahead.

CARLSON: I will, mean as it is -- quote -- Bush "reminds me of a certain type I knew in high school, the kid who was given a fancy sports car for his 16th birthday and believed that he had somehow earned it."

CHAIT: Right.


CARLSON: So just to make sure I understand the reasoning correctly, you had a socially awkward time in high school. Therefore, he's a bad president?


CHAIT: I had a wonderful time in high school.

I'm trying to distinguish between policy and personal. Personally, I don't like him. I don't respect him. But I say, the main thing here is his policies. And -- but you can hate him on both. And I do. There's plenty of hatred to go around.


CARVILLE: Laura, let's be honest here. Let's be honest here. This is a man whose daddy got him into college. His daddy's friends bailed him out of business. The Supreme Court put him in office, not the American people. He's run us into a record negative fiscal situation. He lied to get us into a war that he has no idea how to get us out. And he continues to lie.

Isn't it rational that somebody like Jonathan and some of his friends -- I don't hate him, because I've met him. He seems like an affable guy to me. He's just wrong and can't tell the truth.


CARVILLE: But isn't it rational that these people would have this kind of emotion, after this is the greatest failure in American presidency?

LAURA INGRAHAM, AUTHOR, "SHUT UP AND SING": I actually agree with you.


INGRAHAM: I think it makes complete sense that the Democrats hate George Bush, because what they really hate is the ideas that he stands for. They don't like the people who vote for him. They don't like their patriotism. They don't the fact they support the military. They don't like their religiosity.

This is not about hating Bush. It was a cute column. And I'm glad you were honest about it. But just like conservatives, it wasn't about hating Bill Clinton. It was for what he stood for. It was about the '60s and 1970s and all the values that that brought forward.

CARVILLE: Bill Clinton had record surpluses.


CARVILLE: Bill Clinton never lied to get us into a war that he had no idea how to get us out of. Bill Clinton had record prosperity.


INGRAHAM: Bill Clinton was great at getting al Qaeda, James. He worked hard on the war on terror. He knew what the war on terror was. CARVILLE: You know, Laura, I'll tell you what. Osama bin Laden -- you know, Laura, there's not one person -- and you know this -- that served in the Clinton and Bush White House didn't say Clinton was much more serious about terrorism than Bush was prior to 11th of September.

INGRAHAM: When and where?

CARVILLE: Now, let me go -- let me show you something. I want to show you a quote from a famous Republican when things were much better, when we didn't have this kind of hatred, when it was great. This is by not somebody writing for a magazine, but by the speaker of the House of Representatives of the United States of America.

And let me show you, in this golden era of Republicanism: "How a mother can kill her two children" -- talking about Susan Smith in South Carolina -- "14 months and 3 years, in hope that her boyfriend would like her. It's just a sign of how sick the system is. And I think people would want us to change. The only way you can get that change is to vote Republican."

And let me further remind you that Susan Smith was molested by her father, who was a right-wing Republican.


INGRAHAM: I don't think you should talk about molestation and politics to defend Bill Clinton.


CARVILLE: Is there anything that Jonathan Chait has ever said that is equivalent to blaming the Democrats for Susan Smith?


INGRAHAM: Maybe you weren't listening to what I just said, James. Just listen to someone for a change.

The point is, I think Jonathan's column was right on point. I think he was very honest for writing what he did. What I'm saying is, this is a war. This is a culture war in this country between the blue states and the red states. People think that's cliche. It's not. It's what's really going on. You have every right to despise what George Bush stands for. I think that's fine.


CARLSON: Let's let Jonathan respond to that.

CHAIT: Thank you. I have nothing against religious people. I have nothing against patriotism.

INGRAHAM: You love the values that undermine the Bush

(CROSSTALK) CHAIT: I'm a patriot just as much as you are.


CHAIT: And I think what people hate about Bush is the sense that: Only we are patriotic and you're not patriotic.


CHAIT: It's the partisanization of patriotism that's so offensive.


CARLSON: Let me get a question in here edgewise.

Jonathan Chait, here's the problem I have. I have read your stuff a long time. I think you're a good journalist. And it bothers me that your judgment is getting impaired, as hatred always does. It always impairs your judgment. Let me give you a great example.


CARLSON: From your piece, you said that Bush has governed as the most partisan president in history. The pillars of his compassionate conservative agenda.

CHAIT: Right.

CARLSON: You give, for example, the faith-based initiative having been abandoned or underfunded.

CHAIT: Right.

CARLSON: He abandoned, effectively, the faith-based initiative because of opposition from the left.

CHAIT: No, that's not right. No, no, no, no, no.

CARLSON: Actually, it is right. So to blame him for that is insane.


CHAIT: The biggest single item in his faith-based initiative was the charitable tax credit. We're going to give people money -- want the low incomes to give money to charity. But then they had all this money that they wanted give to tax cuts. And it was a fixed amount. So they said, we want to give more to the upper income and cut that out completely, because they wanted more for the upper-income tax cuts.

CARLSON: That was one component, but let me ask you this.

CHAIT: No, it was the biggest component.

CARLSON: This is a president who is effectively pro-choice. He's pro-gay. He's pro-affirmative action. And he's a


CHAIT: He's not pro choice.

CARLSON: Look, he's effectively pro-choice. He hasn't done a single thing about it.


CARLSON: And he's a big spender. So in what sense is he a right-wing maniac?


CHAIT: I don't like the fact that he's a big spender on farm subsidies and steel tariffs and all these other attempts to buy off swing voters. He's completely unprincipled. So that doesn't buy anything in my book.


CARVILLE: I have a question. We hate him because of his patriotism. I want you to tell America what makes you and Tucker better patriots than Jonathan and I.

INGRAHAM: I think the fact that the Democrats are still harping on the fact...


CARVILLE: You're a better patriot. Tell these people why you're a better patriot than me.


INGRAHAM: The demagoguery


INGRAHAM: ... not going to happen.

CARVILLE: It's not demagoguery. You said we hate him for his patriotism.


INGRAHAM: No, we're having a rhetorical argument about the culture wars between the right and left.

When Bill Moyers had such a fit, who is the darling of the elites in the media, when he had such a fit because people were wearing a flag lapel pin on their lapels, who cares if people wear a flag lapel pin? I don't care if people wear flags of any type on their lapel. Let them. Why was that such a big issue for Moyers? Why do you think? CARVILLE: All I want you to do is tell us why you're a better American than this man.

INGRAHAM: I didn't say that.


INGRAHAM: I agree with the way he wrote his piece. I think he was being honest.

CARVILLE: You said we hate Bush because of his patriotism.

INGRAHAM: No. You don't like the fact that the military is getting more respected today than they have in the past.

CARVILLE: Of course we're not. The military is furious at the administration. They've been severely compromised.



CARLSON: If I could just get one thing -- David Brooks -- doubtless a friend of yours, a friend of mine -- said something very thoughtful, I thought, to Howie Kurtz of "The Washington Post" today.

This is a -- quote -- "I get the feeling that some Democrats had so much hatred for Bush, they had no hatred left over for Saddam." I think that's absolutely...


CARLSON: No, but truly, I think that's true.

CHAIT: I think that is true. I think that is true. In fact, I wrote that. I wrote an op-ed in "The Washington Post," "Blinded By Bush Hatred," that some Democrats were indeed doing that. I'm not one of them, though. I was a supporter of the war.


CARLSON: I'm not attacking you, but I'm just saying, isn't this where Bush hatred ends up, this kind of crazed monomania where they can't see anything except Bush and how bad he is?

CHAIT: Sometimes. But there are two sides of the coin. You want to say, look, you want to let it go too far. You don't to become pro-Saddam.

INGRAHAM: Has he done anything that's good?

CHAIT: But, on the other hand, it's pretty legitimate.

Yes, going to war in America.

CARVILLE: You're not a patriot, Jonathan. I'm not a patriot. Only Republicans are patriots.


CARLSON: We'll take a quick commercial break, let James regain his sanity.

We'll be right back.

Next, in "Rapid Fire," we'll ask why, if Democrats hated Clinton bashing so much, they now so enjoy Bush bashing. And right after the break, Wolf Blitzer has the latest on the stunning decision in the D.C. sniper trial.

We'll be right back.




CARLSON: Welcome back.

It's time for "Rapid Fire," where we require that hatred of George W. Bush be expressed in crisp, declarative sentences. In the CROSSFIRE, "New Republic" senior editor and admitted Bush hater Jonathan Chait and radio talk show host Laura Ingraham, the author of "Shut Up and Sing."

CARVILLE: Yes. Do you think that the hatred of Bush is more than -- that the hatred the Democrats of Bush is more than the hatred that Republicans had for Clinton?

INGRAHAM: I think it's about on par, because I think what Bush represents vs. what Clinton represents, just two visions of the world.

CARLSON: Jonathan, lefties often say that Bush is not the legitimate president. He stole the election. If they really -- they don't really believe that. If they really believed that, they would join a cell to overthrow him. That would be their moral duty, wouldn't it?


CARLSON: Because he's sending men to die in Iraq and he's not the real president? That's a pretty big deal, isn't it?

CHAIT: Yes, but I don't follow your reasoning.

CARLSON: Wouldn't it be their obligation to overthrow an illegitimate president? Take your own words seriously.

CHAIT: Well, that's ridiculous.

CARLSON: Why is it ridiculous?

CHAIT: Well, would we do that?

CARLSON: Well, because he has subverted the essence of American public life. Do something.


CHAIT: Just wait for the next election. Just wait for the next election.

CARVILLE: Vice President Cheney said that Saddam Hussein had reconstituted nuclear weapons. How long do you think it will be before we find those nuclear bombs over there?

INGRAHAM: I don't know. I think if the administration continues to make the only issue of their reelection Iraq, it could be problematic.

CARLSON: Jon, in your pieces, you said -- quote -- "I have friends who have a viscerally hostile reaction to the sound of his voice. They describe his existence as a constant oppressive force in their daily psyche." Have they sought help, those friends?

CHAIT: No. I think that's the point, is that normal people, healthy, adjusted people, are suddenly feeling this People have been radicalized.


CHAIT: That's the whole point, is that people who aren't normally radical have been radicalized by a very radical president.

CARVILLE: Laura, why did the president abandon his position on North Korea and adopt the Clinton position? Why didn't he just do that from the beginning and save us all the trouble?

INGRAHAM: I think he wanted to get the regional partners involved. They did get involved. And who knows whether -- do the Democrats wish that we had some type of aggressive, violent response to North Korea? I don't think so.

I think they had to get the other players involved. If they didn't get involved, it would be once again on our shoulders completely in North Korea. I don't think we could have done that.

CARLSON: Jonathan, isn't the lesson of the Clinton years that personal attacks, even when if they're justified and legitimate, in some strict sense, don't work politically?

CHAIT: Maybe they don't work. But it doesn't mean they're not legitimate, though. I try to make a distinction between what works and what's right.

CARVILLE: Do you think that the State Department should have made the report clear to the American people before they voted that pointed out about all the trouble that they were going to have in Iraq after this war was over? INGRAHAM: I think we're going to continue to see more come out about that.


INGRAHAM: And again, if the Bush administration makes this the only issue for their reelection, I think it's going to be problematic. But the State Department I think is going to keep jockeying with the Defense Department. And we're going to see that fight play out in the next several months.


CARLSON: OK, Laura Ingraham, Jonathan Chait, thank you both very much.


CARLSON: The hatred has passed through us. We are no longer seething.

We want to know what you think. Who's been bashed more, President George W. Bush or former President Bill Clinton?

We'll have the results right after the break.

Also ahead, in "Fireback," one of our viewers says President Bush and Rodney Dangerfield have a lot in common. Bet you haven't heard that joke before.

We'll tell you when you come back.


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

But first, the results of our very scientific audience poll, in which we asked, who has been the focus of more crazed hatred, the current president or the one who preceded him? Well, Republicans in our audience, by 77 percent, believe their man, George W. Bush, gets more hatred, Democrats almost exactly the opposite.

Each side feels aggrieved, it looks like, James.

CARVILLE: Well, maybe we are. We're in the victimization of America. I say it's politics and CROSSFIRE. And if you come here, everybody is going to get bashed a little bit.

CARLSON: But, you know, it doesn't work, honestly. They won't get elected president on that.

CARVILLE: "Not only is the Bush bashing not out of control. It isn't even close to how loud it should be" -- Buzz Anderson, Solvang, California.

Buzz away, Buzz. Buzz will be buzzing out there with him. CARLSON: You've got to wonder -- you've got to wonder, how loud does Buzz think Bush hatred ought to be?

CARVILLE: Well, it could get a little louder.


Lorraine Solimine of Elgin, Illinois, writes: "I am personally tired of listening to the Bush bashing. He's our president and should be shown some respect. My son is in the Army. Find any parent of a soldier who doesn't want the $87 billion spent to help insure their son or daughter's well-being."


CARLSON: Interesting point.

CARVILLE: Actually, only $60 billion is for your son and daughter's well-being; $20 billion of it is going to Iraq.

"How quickly would the troops come home if the tax cuts for the wealthy were used top pay for the Iraq debacle? I say go for it" -- Dennis Kaiser, Loveland, Ohio.


CARVILLE: Very smart man, Dennis.

CARLSON: I don't understand that at all. I'm not an accountant, but I don't think that e-mail made sense.

CARVILLE: I think it made a lot of sense.


CARVILLE: If you made the rich people pay for it, they would raise enough hell and everybody would come home.

CARLSON: Soak the rich. They don't pay enough.

Chris Roberts of Saint Louis, Missouri, writes: "It is time for all those against Howard Dean to come to grips with the fact that he will be the nominee. Wes Clark has stumbled and is giving up in Iowa. Don't forget, Howard Dean has been underestimated before."


CARLSON: You know, I agree with that, James. The Democratic elite, the smart eggheads who run your party, say they hate Howard Dean so much. He's the authentic voice of the people, and they ought to let him speak.

CARVILLE: This from the man that said Suzie Terrell would be the next senator from Louisiana.

CARLSON: Truly. I've been wrong before. This is matter of principle. They ought to let the scrappy little physician from Vermont have his say.

CARVILLE: I didn't know he couldn't speak.

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

CARLSON: From the right, I'm Tucker Carlson.

Join us again tomorrow, Tuesday, for yet more CROSSFIRE.


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