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CNN CROSSFIRE

Can Any Democrat Beat George W. Bush?

Aired October 21, 2003 - 16:30   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

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

In the CROSSFIRE: Can any Democrat beat George W. Bush?

SEN. JOSEPH LIEBERMAN (D-CT), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I believe if we nominate a candidate like myself...

ANNOUNCER: The president's mother says, they're a pretty sorry group. What will the voters think?

Today on CROSSFIRE.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

(APPLAUSE)

ANNOUNCER: Live from the George Washington University.

(APPLAUSE)

TUCKER CARLSON, CO-HOST: Welcome. I'm Tucker Carlson on the right.

Today, we're talking about the Democratic Party's oversized and underwhelming crowd of increasingly desperate presidential candidates.

JAMES CARVILLE, CO-HOST: I'm James Carville on the left.

And if you really want to see a presidential candidate whose chances get smaller every with passing day, check out who is running on the Republican ticket.

We'll get to the presidential race right after the best political briefing in television, our CROSSFIRE "Political Alert."

If you want to know why the Bush administration is having such a hard time finding Saddam Hussein's supposed weapons of mass destruction, read Bob Drogin's piece in this week "New Republic" magazine. Drogin's 3,900-word article looks closely at the possible weapons, germs and chemical, aluminum tubes and whatever the Bush administration claimed Iraq had and shows how postwar inspections have debunked the claims.

Drogin writes that, when CIA's top weapons searcher David Kay was asked directly if U.N. sanctions had stymied Saddam's ability to produce weapons of mass destruction, Kay replied -- quote -- "I think, by and large, that's close to where we are now" -- unquote. In short, the only smoking guns found in Iraq point to the Bush administration's inability to tell the truth.

(APPLAUSE)

CARLSON: Look, I think -- and I've said on this show -- that I think it's a big deal that quantities of WMD have not been found in Iraq. But the idea that the Bush administration was the only group who believed Saddam had weapons of mass destruction is a lie. As you know, there was bipartisan agreement that he had these weapons. And if it turns out Bush was wrong, everyone was wrong.

CARVILLE: No. But the problem is, is, no one went to war over it. And you think something, but before you go to war and put the credibility of the United States on the line and the American lives on the line in this occupation we have, Tucker, you ought to more than think that they might have them. There have to be some degree

(CROSSTALK)

(BELL RINGING)

(APPLAUSE)

CARLSON: There was no debate about it. There was no disagreement.

(CROSSTALK)

CARVILLE: People just thought it. You're putting people's lives, you're putting our prestige on the line.

(CROSSTALK)

CARLSON: OK.

Careful readers of "The New York Times" have been worried for some time about the state of columnist Paul Krugman's grip on reality. Week after week, Krugman fulminates against the Bush administration, growing angrier and angrier, until his hatred threatens to blossom into insanity. Well, today it finally happened.

Krugman begins with a defense of Mahathir Mohamad, the Malaysian prime minister who declared last week that -- quote -- "The Jews run this world by proxy." According to Krugman, anti-Semitic statements like this are in fact America's fault, the result of -- quote -- "America's war in Iraq and its unconditional support of Ariel Sharon," the prime minister of Israel.

The column gets crazier from there. It winds up this way. Again -- quote -- "Donald Rumsfeld has gone a long way toward confirming the Muslim world's worst fears." Huh? Donald Rumsfeld somehow convinced the Islamic world that 9/11 was an Israeli plot, that Jews secretly control the world? Apparently, that's the point of the column. Apparently, Paul Krugman badly needs a long vacation. We hope he gets it very soon.

(APPLAUSE)

CARVILLE: I find this amazing, because I actually have Mr. Krugman's column here. And let me see what he says about it. I'm quoting Krugman. "Indeed, these remarks were inexcusable" -- unquote.

(CROSSTALK)

CARLSON: No, no, but keep going, James, to the part where he's explains that he's playing to his domestic constituency and he was forced to this by the Bush administration.

(CROSSTALK)

CARVILLE: Let me repeat to you.

(BELL RINGING)

CARVILLE: The first sentence of the second paragraph: "Indeed, these remarks were inexcusable" -- unquote.

CARLSON: James, you're missing it.

(CROSSTALK)

CARLSON: He's blaming Donald Rumsfeld for Malaysian anti- Semitism. It's insane.

(CROSSTALK)

CARVILLE: Congressman Zach Wamp is a Republican from Tennessee. He's a leader of the compassionate conservative wing of the Republican Party and a fighter for tolerance, a man who embodies all the principles of modern conservatism.

Now he's reaching out to gay Americans in an Associated Press article, calling homosexuality -- quote -- "a sin" -- quote -- "a sickness" and -- quote -- "unnatural." He calls for homosexuals to change their behavior and change their ways. Congressman Wamp, there is someone who is sick. And it's not homosexuals. It's you and the vast number of people in your political party who agree with you and tolerate this stupidity and bigotry.

(APPLAUSE)

CARLSON: Really? Because, actually, I think the bigotry is coming from you. Zach Wamp gets those views from the New Testament. He is a believing Christian. Those are his religious beliefs. He's not condemning gays.

CARVILLE: He's not condemning, no.

(CROSSTALK)

CARLSON: So why are you attacking the man's religious beliefs? CARVILLE: He says they're unnatural, that they live in sin. I'm telling you...

CARLSON: You may not agree.

CARVILLE: If your religious views -- if your religious views say that you call people unnatural, that they're sinful, that they don't have that -- I'm sorry. You can't hide under that.

(CROSSTALK)

(APPLAUSE)

CARLSON: No, no, no, wait a second, James. Wait a second. Wait a second.

CARVILLE: I don't believe in that at all.

CARLSON: Wait a second. I know you don't believe it. And I may not believe it either. But the fact is, a lot of Americans and a lot of evangelical Christians believe that homosexual acts are wrong. You're not a bigot for believing that.

CARVILLE: Again, he's

(CROSSTALK)

CARLSON: That's outrageous.

CARVILLE: I'm telling you, when you tell people what they do is unnatural, I'm telling you that that's not the way to reach out to people.

(CROSSTALK)

CARLSON: It may not be. You may be right.

CARVILLE: It's not the way that America ought to be.

(BELL RINGING)

(CROSSTALK)

CARLSON: Well, that -- you may be right. But it doesn't mean he is a bigot.

(APPLAUSE)

CARVILLE: No. I understand that he's the hero of modern conservatism.

(CROSSTALK)

CARLSON: Not a hero. It's his religious beliefs, which I respect and you don't.

(CROSSTALK)

CARLSON: Well, CBS Entertainment today announced that it will be airing a two-part miniseries based on the life of former President Bill Clinton. Called "The Clintons," the program will not touch on the extended economic recovery that shadowed the Clinton administration. In fact, it won't even mention the economy or Mr. Clinton's role in restoring it.

Instead, the show will focus on Clinton's personal foibles, his attitudes about women, the abusive way he treated subordinates, his complicated marriage. Incidentally, the actress who plays Hillary Clinton in the series is none other than Newt Gingrich's wife.

(LAUGHTER)

CARLSON: Outrageous? Well, liberals would say so, in the unlikely, in fact unimaginable event that such a miniseries were actually made.

So you can understanding how conservatives might feel about CBS' "The Reagans," which apparently has a similar and unflattering plotline. President Reagan will be portrayed in that -- and we're not making this up -- by Barbra Streisand's husband, James Brolin. CBS doesn't think any of this is strange. Of course not.

(LAUGHTER)

CARVILLE: I'm just one of these people that believe that you ought to see something before you attack it.

CARLSON: I knew you were going to -- I knew you were going to say -- I knew you were going to -- I knew you were going to that.

CARVILLE: It's just a flaw of mine. You always attack something you haven't seen. It's like people that attack books they haven't read. After you see...

(CROSSTALK)

CARLSON: You are so predictable, James. Look...

(CROSSTALK)

CARVILLE: I agree. I think that, before you attack something, you ought to read it. Before you attack a movie

(CROSSTALK)

(BELL RINGING)

(CROSSTALK)

CARLSON: "The New York Times," "The New York Times," as you know...

(CROSSTALK) CARLSON: You're not defending it, James.

CARVILLE: You should read Krugman's column before you attack it.

(CROSSTALK)

CARLSON: Unfortunately, I read it three times. And I think it's insane.

(CROSSTALK)

CARVILLE: Quote: "Indeed, these remarks were inexcusable"

(LAUGHTER)

CARLSON: There we go. I'm sorry to have to interrupt Paul Krugman for some reality.

The race for president may or may not go through the state of Iowa, but it certainly is heating up. Will any of the Democrats find a way to convince the public they can do a better job running the country than the current president, George Bush? We'll debate it.

We'll be right back.

(APPLAUSE)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(APPLAUSE)

CARVILLE: Welcome back.

The road to the presidential nomination usually starts in Iowa, picks up momentum in New Hampshire, is fine-tuned on Super Tuesday, and over by the end of March. Will 2004 be any different?

In the CROSSFIRE to do debate on presidential politics are Republican Congressman, in for a penny, not a pound, Mike Pence of Iowa -- in for a Pence and not a pound, I guess I should say from Indiana, one of those I-states. And Democratic Congressman Jim Moran of North Carolina -- I mean Virginia.

(LAUGHTER)

(APPLAUSE)

CARVILLE: My congressman and Tucker's congressman, by the way.

CARLSON: That's right. My Congressman.

Nice to see you, Mr. Congressman.

(CROSSTALK)

CARLSON: Howard Dean, not only is he the front-runner for the Democratic nomination...

REP. JIM MORAN (D), VIRGINIA: Yes, yes.

CARLSON: But he really is the only candidate with a claim, a legitimate claim, to grassroots support. He's almost as many donors as George W. Bush, 234,000 to 262,000. The average donation to Howard Dean is $73. These are small-money donations. It is really like a prairie fire of support for Howard Dean. Given that, why has the Democratic establishment spent most of its time for the past six months tearing this man down?

MORAN: Well, because he's the front-runner. And I think that they're all divided among their own favorite candidates. A lot of my colleagues, for example, went with Dick Gephardt, because he was our leader in the House of Representatives.

But I think, once they see that Dean has viable chance of getting the nomination, you'll see them coalescing behind he or whoever comes out front.

(CROSSTALK)

MORAN: Right now, it's -- I think you're exaggerating that, too.

(CROSSTALK)

CARLSON: The argument they're making, as thank , is that Dean is way too far to the left. He's kind of a crackpot. His ideas won't stand up in a general. But, in fact, he's the perfect representation of the views of most Democrats, isn't he, far to the left and crackpot? He's legitimate in that way.

(LAUGHTER)

(APPLAUSE)

MORAN: Howard Dean is opposed to gun control. He is certainly a fiscal conservative, if you look at his record in Vermont. I think he's a very viable candidate personally. And the fact that he's got now almost half a million people that have enlisted in his campaign -- and almost half of those are not consistent voters -- he's doing the kind of thing that every Democratic candidate needs, that we need to bring more people in and we need to energize our base and expand the base.

And Howard Dean is doing that. So I give him credit. And I hope my colleagues and some of the Democratic leaders will start doing so as well.

CARLSON: Amen.

CARVILLE: Congressman Pence, let me show you something that Senator Chuck Hagel, a Republican of Nebraska, a war hero, had to say about America's standing in the world: "The great reservoir of pro- American good that has existed in the world since World War II, that reservoir is now down very low." Do you think it was a legitimate issue -- it will be a legitimate issue for Democrats to point out that, as a result of the policies of the administration, goodwill toward America around the world is at an all-time low and we need a change in administration to bring it about when America is not just feared, but respected all over the world?

REP. MIKE PENCE (R), INDIANA: James, I think it's absolutely legitimate that, in the next presidential debate, that we debate America's standing in the world, that we go to the American people and ask them, do you appreciate the decisive leadership that President George W. Bush has brought to not only the war on terror, but to the entire initiative of freedom on the planet, taking on the tyranny Saddam Hussein, throwing aside the Taliban in Afghanistan?

These are legitimate issues, James. I believe they're arguments that George W. Bush will win in 2004.

(APPLAUSE)

CARVILLE: Well, that's very interesting here. But why -- do you think it's a legitimate criticism of this president that America has never been more reviled and disliked around the world under any other president than him? And do you think it's a legitimate criticism that he has gotten us into a war that he lied to get us into, that he has no idea how to get us out of? It's just a simple fact.

(CROSSTALK)

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

PENCE: James, I don't think that is legitimate on either count.

I think this president, as Tucker was reflecting at the beginning of the show during your gentle discussion, this president only articulated intelligence that was supported by the intelligence service of every nation in the Western world. We all came to certain conclusions about Saddam Hussein. I believe, at the end of the day, when David Kay is done, that we will find ample evidence of a WMD program that the president argued for.

But I think these are legitimate issues.

(CROSSTALK)

CARVILLE: Do you think we'll find those nuclear bombs?

PENCE: I think, if Howard Dean ends up being the Democrat nominee...

(CROSSTALK)

PENCE: ... a man who opposed the war, a man who, along with Senator John Kerry and others, would cut off our troops funding right now and pull us out of Iraq, I think the vision for America's role in the world and whether the American decide that or the U.N. or France decides that is absolutely fair game in the next presidential election.

(CROSSTALK)

CARLSON: Congressman Moran, let me just jump in here.

MORAN: Yes.

CARLSON: Really, the only Democratic candidate I've seen who has articulated a vision of postwar Iraq has been Dennis Kucinich, who has essentially said, let's pull our troops out and just give it back over to Saddam Hussein or his followers or whomever. But that's his vision.

No other candidate really has. And it's gotten so bad that "The New York Times," not exactly a hotbed of hawkishness, has weighed in an editorial yesterday. Let me read part of it to you -- and I'm quoting now -- "Those who want to take over the making of foreign policy" -- that would your candidates -- "should spell out their own ideas for fixing what's wrong in Iraq and suggest how they would respond to similar crises."

That's a very fair criticism, isn't it?

MORAN: I don't think it is.

Now, Dennis Kucinich has been consistent throughout. He opposed the war. He opposed the Bosnia conflict. He's against a war.

(CROSSTALK)

CARLSON: Yes.

MORAN: So I don't blame Dennis for his position. I don't think that's the majority position.

I do think that the Democratic candidates have articulated a vision. But they are not going to articulate unilateral vision. Part of their vision is working with the other nations of the world, the free nations of the world in -- so that they will own what happens to Iraq after we pull out. And I do think that -- I appreciate what Mike says about decisiveness, but many of the axis powers leaders were pretty decisive.

But it's the decisions that you make that's the problem. And it was George Bush's father that I think did it the right way in the Persian Gulf War. He got the American taxpayer reimbursed for over 80 percent, almost 90 percent of the cost.

(CROSSTALK)

MORAN: He got all of Iraq's neighbors involved. We didn't get any of Iraq's neighbors. We didn't get Europe involved. That was the problem.

(APPLAUSE)

(CROSSTALK)

PENCE: But, Jim, we had 16 separate -- 16 separate resolutions of the U.N., though, Jim, including U.N. Resolution 1441 that authorized, James, serious consequences would flow...

(CROSSTALK)

CARVILLE: I understand, Congressman.

(CROSSTALK)

PENCE: At what point do we get to be called bilateral.

CARVILLE: I disagree with you. I don't think it's the role of the United States to unilaterally enforce U.N. resolutions. You do. You believe that the United States made a wise decision going into Iraq.

(CROSSTALK)

PENCE: Unilaterally with 32 other countries, James.

CARVILLE: I agree with Wesley Clark.

(CROSSTALK)

CARVILLE: Well, 32 other -- they sent us nothing.

(CROSSTALK)

CARLSON: No, I'm serious. If we're going have an adult conversation about what to do next, to still be arguing about whether or not we should have gone in. The question now is, do we see it through to success or not? And there is no Democratic vision.

MORAN: You know, Tucker, I think there's far more involved than Iraq here. We have to look at the precedent.

CARLSON: Well, let's start with Iraq, shall we?

MORAN: No, I think we have to look at the process, so that we don't repeat this. We've got to learn from our mistakes.

I do think that going into Iraq in the manner in which we went in was a mistake. I don't think going after Saddam Hussein and getting rid of him was a mistake. I do think the situation we have left ourselves in cries out that, yes, this was the wrong way to go about it.

(APPLAUSE)

(CROSSTALK)

PENCE: Jim, the answer is not to cut and run.

(CROSSTALK) PENCE: What Tucker is saying is, the answer is not to cut and run. We can't walk away.

(CROSSTALK)

PENCE: Senator Kerry, if I remember right, Howard Dean and even Wesley Clark said, let's cut the funding and get out. That's not acceptable.

(CROSSTALK)

CARVILLE: You know what a lot of people like me think is, we thought this was a colossally stupid thing to do -- said we're unpatriotic.

(CROSSTALK)

CARVILLE: So then we go in there and we get stuck on a pack of lies. And we say, you know what? We ought to think long and hard before we send $87 billion. "Well, you can't say that. You're not for America."

So what do we do? We get into a war that everything was exaggerated. We don't come clean with the American people about the oil revenues, the difficulty of the occupation. We bring it up and we're not patriotic.

(APPLAUSE)

(CROSSTALK)

CARLSON: We're almost out of time.

Will you respond to that ludicrousness, very quickly?

PENCE: Yes, James, I'm the first to say that the Congress has fulfilled its role in questioning the $87 billion. As you know, I authored the Pence amendment, which would convert in the House of Representatives 50 percent of the reconstruction dollars as a loan. Congress is going to work its will on that. It's going to be a little different from the White House. That's the process.

But we have to support the troops, James.

(APPLAUSE)

(CROSSTALK)

CARVILLE: I would have supported them by not sending them there.

CARLSON: We've got to go to a commercial break. We'll be back soon. And when our guests return in "Rapid Fire," we'll find out if they agree with former first lady Barbara Bush's assessment of the Democratic Party's presidential candidates.

But after the break, Wolf Blitzer has the latest on efforts by Florida politicians to save the life of a brain-damaged woman whose feeding tube has been removed.

We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(NEWS BREAK)

(APPLAUSE)

CARLSON: Welcome back to the mother-knows-best edition of "Rapid Fire". Sit up straight. Keep your answers short. Pay no attention to those Democrats running for president. After all, former first lady Barbara Bush calls them -- quote -- "a pretty sorry group."

And our guests, Virginia Democratic Congressman Jim Moran, Republican Congressman Mike Pence of Indiana.

(APPLAUSE)

CARVILLE: Congressman Pence, there's great speculation in the papers who the Republicans would most like to run against for president. Which Democrat would you most like to see the Democratic Party -- or the Democrat Party, as you all refer to it -- nominate for president?

PENCE: James, selfishly, I would love to see Howard Dean be the nominee, signing the first gay marriage law in America, if memory serves, a man who opposed the war in Iraq from stem to stern, a man who has a liberal agenda on economics and on social policy. I think the bright-line contrast between President George Bush's positive, mainstream

(CROSSTALK)

CARVILLE: "Rapid Fire," Congressman.

(CROSSTALK)

CARLSON: Congressman Moran, you had nice words to say about Howard Dean.

MORAN: I did.

CARLSON: I thought that was pretty magnanimous, considering he described you as -- quote -- "one of a bunch of cockroaches."

(LAUGHTER)

CARLSON: How does that make you feel?

MORAN: You have got this selective interpretation of the things that you read.

CARLSON: Members of Congress are going to be scurrying

(CROSSTALK) CARLSON: ... cockroaches. That's you, the cockroach.

(CROSSTALK)

CARLSON: No?

MORAN: I think Howard Dean is doing a good job in energizing particularly the Democratic base, but a lot of independents. And I'm happy to have good words to say about him. I'm happy to have good words to say about any Democrat that's out there on the hustings and taking flak and working hard.

And I think that, on the issue of civil unions, for example, that's going to be viewed as a civil rights issue. I think, personally, that it is. I don't think it is going to be the kind of handicap you think it is, Mike, maybe in Indiana, not on the East or West Coast.

(APPLAUSE)

CARVILLE: Do you agree with Mrs. Barbara Bush that the Democratic field is a pretty sorry lot?

PENCE: I never disagree with either my mother or the mother of the president of the United States, James.

(LAUGHTER)

PENCE: And...

CARVILLE: That is a pretty good answer.

(CROSSTALK)

PENCE: That was a little tough.

CARVILLE: I don't want to say anything against her, because I'm kind of scared of her myself, to tell you the truth.

(LAUGHTER)

PENCE: That was a little tough. I'm kind of with Jim in admiring anybody out on the hustings.

(CROSSTALK)

CARVILLE: I think a mother has the right to defend her son.

(BELL RINGING)

CARLSON: But, Congressman, you got to admit that Wes Clark's popularity is a sign that the field is pretty weak, isn't it?

MORAN: I think Wes Clark's popularity is a sign of how strong he is. He's a Rhodes Scholar. He was first in his class at West Point. And I think he's had good positions. I think he's surprised people that he's articulate.

(CROSSTALK)

CARLSON: That is another show.

(CROSSTALK)

CARLSON: Congressman Mike Pence of Indiana, thank you very much.

Congressman Jim Moran, Alexandria, Virginia, thank you very much.

(CROSSTALK)

(APPLAUSE)

CARLSON: Since some of the Democrats don't think it's worth their time to campaign in Iowa, we want to know, which Democratic candidate has raised no money -- meaning zero money, none -- in the state of Iowa? Is it Wesley Clark? Is it Carol Moseley Braun? Or is it the only vegan in the race, Dennis Kucinich? We'll have the result right after the break.

And in "Fireback," one of our viewers says a couple of the Democratic candidates for president may want to consider face-lifts.

We'll explain.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CARLSON: Welcome back to CROSSFIRE.

Time for the results of our deeply scientific audience poll, in which we asked: Which candidate for presidential has raised no money in Iowa, not one dime? The three choices were Wesley Clark; 19 percent said him, Carol Moseley Braun, said 50 percent. Dennis Kucinich, the only vegan in the race, 31 percent.

The audience was right, of course, James. The people have spoken. Carol Moseley Braun raised not a dime in the state of Iowa.

CARVILLE: Pretty sophisticated audience here. It goes to show you, when you're in Washington, come see CROSSFIRE, because that puts you in the elite.

CARLSON: Yes. Quite a dating scene here, too.

CARVILLE: All right.

"The Republican Party is not even offering a choice in '04. Their only candidate ran on honesty and integrity in the last election. He has proven to be deficient in both" -- Justin Shockey, Glendale, Arizona.

(LAUGHTER)

(APPLAUSE) CARLSON: OK, kind of a talking point. I'm not sure it's going to work.

CARVILLE: From the left, I'm James Carville.

CARLSON: The show's over.

CARVILLE: And that's it for CROSSFIRE.

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

Join us again tomorrow for another edition of CROSSFIRE.

TO ORDER A VIDEO OF THIS TRANSCRIPT, PLEASE CALL 800-CNN-NEWS OR USE OUR SECURE ONLINE ORDER FORM LOCATED AT www.fdch.com




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