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Mr. Schwarzenegger Goes to Washington

Aired October 29, 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: Hey, buddy, can you spare a dime, and several billion dollars besides?

ARNOLD SCHWARZENEGGER (R), CALIFORNIA GOVERNOR-ELECT: There's a happy moment also, when you come here and you ask for help and people open up their arms and say, we're there with you.

ANNOUNCER: Arnold Schwarzenegger says, show me the money. Should the federal government show him the way back home?

SCHWARZENEGGER: I will be back many more times, believe me.




ANNOUNCER: Live from the George Washington University, Paul Begala and Robert Novak.



Arnold Schwarzenegger came to Washington today, lobbying his fellow Republicans, as well as Democrats, for federal money to fix California's problems.

PAUL BEGALA, CO-HOST: Who would have thought the first thing that the muscle-man-turned-governor would do would be to come to Washington to whine? Well, we will debate governor-elect Schwarzenegger's trip to our nation's capital right after the best political briefing in Washington, the CROSSFIRE "Political Alert."

The banner-gate scandal has entered its second day. Yesterday, President Bush tried to blame the brave soldiers of the Abraham Lincoln for that stupid triumphalist and inaccurate sign he stood under after playing dress-up and landing on the aircraft carrier.

Mr. Bush said the banner did not come from his advance staff. In fact, it did. "The New York Times" reports today that a White House communications aide named Scott Forsa (ph) actually produced the banner, which had the same typeface and style as other White House- produced banners.

Now, for our president to blame his arrogance on our sailors is particularly outrageous. I'm surprised President Bush didn't do what he usually does when he screws something up, blame President Clinton.



NOVAK: Well, Paul, typically, you left out something from "The Washington Post" story. And the something was that Scott McClellan, the White House spokesman said, the sailors of the ship asked for that sign to be made.

Now, you don't know whether that's true and I don't know whether it's true. But you are conducting a campaign against George W. Bush, and you assume it's true.

BEGALA: I'm not conducting a campaign.

NOVAK: Assume it's not true.

BEGALA: I don't believe -- I like Scott McClellan. He's a great guy.

NOVAK: You're saying he's a liar.

BEGALA: Our country -- our country is lucky to have him. I don't believe that our sailors are spending time thinking of P.R. slogans.


NOVAK: The latest debate on the Bush Iraq policy -- in opposition to that policy, Senator Joe Lieberman:


SEN. JOSEPH LIEBERMAN (D-CT), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Eighty- seven billion dollars is a lot of money for Iraq, too much, in fact. That's the price we're paying, because George Bush antagonized our allies and had no plan to win the peace.


NOVAK: Now, the opposition in support of the Bush Iraq policy, Senator Joe Lieberman:


LIEBERMAN: I voted to support our troops and finish the job. I'm Joe Lieberman. And I approved this message, because leadership means doing what's right, even when it's not easy.


NOVAK: Now, both sides are found in the same TV ad for the Lieberman presidential campaign. That's what happens when a moderate Democrat runs for president and can't figure out what he really believes.

BEGALA: Well, Bob, I think they're totally consistent.

Mr. -- Senator Lieberman says that the president -- we're spending too much money now, because we have no allies, because our president antagonized our allies. But we're there and we have to win it. I think, actually, I think Lieberman is right on both points.

NOVAK: Well, what he says was that they're spending too much money, but I'm going to pay for it. You can't have it both ways. And that's why his campaign is sinking. And, by the way, his fellow Democrats are criticizing him for the same things I'm criticizing him for.


BEGALA: There's an honest debate there, but I -- anyway, we'll go on. I think it's a good debate we should have on this show.

Back to yesterday's news conference, though. In that news conference, Elisabeth Bumiller of "The New York Times" had this exchange with President Bush.


ELISABETH BUMILLER, "THE NEW YORK TIMES": ... second question, can you promise, a year from now, that you will have reduced the number of troops in Iraq?

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The second question is a trick question, so I won't answer it.


BEGALA: No, sir, Mr. President. A trick question is, have you stopped beating your wife? Or, if I said you had a beautiful body, would you hold it against me?


BEGALA: See, those are trick questions. Ms. Bumiller asked you an important question. It was a serious question. And it deserves a serious answer.


NOVAK: I'll tell you why the president is right. I'll tell you why it's a trick question, because the same question was asked repeatedly of President Clinton. "How many troops are there going to be in Bosnia next year?." He wouldn't answer it. "How many troops are going to be in Kosovo next year?" He wouldn't answer it, because nobody knows. So that is a trick question.


BEGALA: He should say that, which is honest. He doesn't know. But he promised us an exit strategy. He ran for president. He said: I will never commit troops without an exit strategy.

He has no exit strategy. No, he misled us.

NOVAK: How many times did your president ever say how many troops were going to be in Bosnia or Kosovo the next year?


NOVAK: He refused to answer the question.

BEGALA: That doesn't mean it's a trick question. You can honestly say: I won't answer your question. But you can't say it's a trick question, because it's not. It's a legitimate question and the president should have answered it.


NOVAK: It's an absolute phony.

George W. Bush is still bashed most by the nine Democrats running for president. But the second most likely target is one of their own, former Vermont Governor Howard Dean. The Reverend Al Sharpton accuses Dean of having an anti-black agenda based on what Dean said about eight years ago.


GOV. HOWARD DEAN (D), VERMONT: I think we ought to look at affirmative action programs based not on race, but on class and opportunity to participate.


NOVAK: That's anti-black?

Sharpton also complains Dean supports gun rights and the death penalty. Heaven forbid. Congressman Dick Gephardt joined in to claim Dean is Bush-like on Medicare. Their real problem with Dr. Dean, though, is that he is the front-runner for the nomination.


BEGALA: I think that's a wise point. I think you're right, that any time you're the front-runner, people are going to shoot at you. The question will be now, how does Governor Dean handle it? Does he remain calm? Does he defend his record? Or does he get all angry and attack them or mislead people? This will be an interesting test to see how he performs as a front-runner. He's been great as an underdog, but now he's the front-runner.


NOVAK: The Democrats only know how to attack. They are like vicious dogs.



NOVAK: They attack -- they attack the president. They attack each other. They may even attack you, Paul.


BEGALA: ... President Bush attacks a country that was no threat to us and misleads us to get into the attack.


BEGALA: Well, movie star and soon to be California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger came to Washington today. He was hoping for a big fat check to pump up California's treasury.


BEGALA: We'll ask a couple of members of Congress if they gave him a reality check instead and told him, go home and figure out whether you're going to raise taxes or cut spending, like real governors have to do.

Stay with us.



NOVAK: It isn't easy turning heads on Capitol Hill. But even members of Congress brought cameras to get a picture of California governor-elect Arnold Schwarzenegger today. Schwarzenegger's hoping for more than snapshots. He needs money to fix the natural disaster of the California fires and the political disaster created by Democratic Governor Gray Davis. Will Congress show him the money?

In the CROSSFIRE are Congressman Marty Meehan, Democrat of Massachusetts, and Congressman Darrell Issa, the Republican of California.

BEGALA: Gentlemen, thank you for coming on. I know you're busy on Capitol Hill, so we're very grateful.

Congressman Issa, your governor-elect -- hard for me say it, but he is -- he won fair and square -- was on Capitol Hill today. Here's one of the many things that he said. Take a look.


SCHWARZENEGGER: I will be back many times. I didn't want to say exactly the line, "I'll be back," but, I mean -- but I will be back many more times, believe me.



BEGALA: Please help our folks back home understand why people, say, in Missouri City, Texas, where I grew up, should send their tax dollars to keep your governor from making hard decisions.

REP. DARRELL ISSA (R), CALIFORNIA: Well, Paul, in Missouri City, Texas, you get 92 cents on the dollar back. In San Diego, California, we get 76 cents on the dollar back. The bottom line is, we're sending money to your district by comparison.

We could go a little further. And, in fairness, Massachusetts, you're in the same boat we're in, although you don't give quite as much. You have states like New Mexico. For every dollar they send us, we send them back $2.37.

Now, governor-elect Schwarzenegger is not trying to skew to any extreme level. However, if Texas can get 92 cents on the dollar it sends in back, why can't California get to 80 or 85 cents? It's over $1 billion. It's $2 billion per percent. So, if we just got $7 billion -- 7 percent more, got from 76 to 84 percent, we in fact would take care of our deficit by just getting back what's fair.


BEGALA: I'm sorry. I wanted to give you plenty of time to make that case, because it's rather complicated, but it's an important argument. But if it's true, then the recall was a fraud. That means California's problems are the result of federal funding formulas, right, Congressman? As the man who started the recall and funded it, wasn't it a fraud?



ISSA: Paul, once again, you're doing revisionist history. The recall was because Gray Davis spent more than was coming in.

BEGALA: Well, I thought it was Washington's fault now?

ISSA: The level of money we've been getting has been less than it should be. But it was less than it should be under Pete Wilson.

What Arnold Schwarzenegger ran on was on a number of things. One of them was, he wasn't going to spend more than we brought in. But he also made it clear that, for example, when we get back less than 30 cents on the dollar of the cost of incarcerating illegal immigrants, people who are not a state responsibility -- they're a federal responsibility -- and the federal government gives us in SCAP (ph) funds far less than it costs to incarcerate them. Those are the kind of funds that he's asking for. NOVAK: Marty Meehan, I'm going to you another clip. Everybody likes to watch Arnold, so I'm going to show you another sound bit from him today.



SCHWARZENEGGER: I came basically to Washington to establish relationships and to make sure that we are getting more federal money to California, as I promised in my campaign. But, of course, the recent events, the huge, disastrous fire, have changed my mission a little bit, that I'm now more looking for federal money for the people, for the victims of the fire.


NOVAK: Now, Mr. Meehan, if God forbid a fire swept through the Berkshires to the gates of Boston, wouldn't you want your governor to come to Washington and say, we need some money to help the victims of this fire?


And the fact of the matter is, the federal government should step up to the plate. And I think people across the country are willing to do that. When the NFL changed the...

NOVAK: So what Paul says is just demagoguery when, he talks...


MEEHAN: You're talking about the fire tragedy.

When the NFL changed the site of the "Monday Night Football" game from San Diego to Arizona, you saw an outpouring of support. People are willing to give for a natural disaster. I think that, probably, Arnold's going to get the same answer he got from the president initially, which is, no thanks. The fact is, the administration had a great opportunity with a stimulus package, with a huge tax cut, to provide money for states.


NOVAK: He's giving him help. They're going to help him.

MEEHAN: Look, they've provided $20 billion, when we insisted that they provide the money.

The bottom line here is, I think that Arnold's going to find out quickly that it's a tough job to govern, because this administration has not done anything to help states.

BEGALA: Let me come back to this question about Washington vs. California, though. One of the reasons, for example, Texas does better is because Texas has high property taxes, but no income tax. Your state chose by Prop 13 to cap property taxes and rely more on income taxes.

The problem with that is, when Congress cuts and President Bush cuts income taxes, it hurts California more than it hurts Texas. Let me put up a couple of statistics. First, here's a proposal by a Democrat, Rahm Emanuel of Illinois, to match dollar for dollar for the money we're investing to rebuild Iraq to rebuild America.

That would have given California $2.4 billion. Republicans opposed that. The Bush tax cut alone cost California $2.6 billion. So, again, isn't the problem Republican policies in Washington, not anything that Gray Davis did, or even that Arnold Schwarzenegger can do?


BEGALA: These are positions you took in the Congress.

ISSA: I think small economics lesson. Texas not taxing income, which is tax deductible, actually, Texans pay more federal income tax as a result of the tax policy, not less. So the figures actually should be less favorable to Texas or Florida, where there's no state income tax. Instead, it's 92 cents on the dollar in Texas and $1.01 in Florida that they get back compared to what they send in.

BEGALA: But that's because there's a disproportionate number of old people.


ISSA: Wait. Wait. You're going to write everything off based on


BEGALA: You voted for a tax cut


BEGALA: ... that took $2.6 billion out of your state's revenue. So repeal the tax cut, if you want the revenue.


ISSA: It's not a matter of tax cuts. It's a matter of fairness state to state. What Arnold Schwarzenegger did is, he shed light on something on a bipartisan basis today. He did it very effectively, not just Republicans. He called in all the Democrats, including Senator Feinstein and Senator Boxer and, said, look, Texas as a delegation has been real smart about getting money to Texas.


ISSA: California has to be that smart. I'm calling on all of you to help me do this.

We are the largest delegation in the country. And the fact is, California has not been standing united to get its fair share. That's what he's asking for.


NOVAK: Congressman Meehan, I want to show you a chart that backs up what your colleague from California said. Let's take a look at that. These are the worst six states on getting money back from the government. That figure is how much out of every dollar is spent comes back and -- is paid in taxes -- comes back. New Jersey is the worst, Connecticut, Nevada. Massachusetts, that's fourth, and California fifth.

MEEHAN: New Hampshire should be up there as well.

NOVAK: Yes, New Hampshire should be. It was a mistake by CNN, 66 cents.

MEEHAN: Right. Exactly.

NOVAK: Now, isn't it a fact, Marty, that the -- you're in the same boat as California and you ought to be cheering on Arnold Schwarzenegger?

MEEHAN: Well, look, I think that we need more money for states and for local governments. And there are fewer firefighters on the streets of America today than there was before September 11.


NOVAK: I love your speech, but you didn't answer my question. I'm talking about disparity between the states, which are giving a lot back. Isn't Massachusetts getting screwed by the federal government, the same as California. And you're not doing anything about it.

MEEHAN: Massachusetts is in the same position, in the sense that states are hurting right now.

NOVAK: Well, you won't answer my question.

MEEHAN: So they need more assistance.

To the extent that Arnold does that, then that's great. I don't think, though, that Arnold's going to be able to go to Washington and say: Here I am. Give me a check and forget about the other states. We need to change national policy.


NOVAK: We're going to have to take a break. We're just out of time in this segment.

And Arnold Schwarzenegger was such a hit on Capitol Hill, what could he do at the other end of Pennsylvania Avenue? Next, in "Rapid Fire," we'll ask our guests if it's time to amend the Constitution and let him run for president.

Also coming up, Wolf Blitzer with a quick update on what's happening along California's fire lines.




BEGALA: Time now here on CROSSFIRE for "Rapid Fire,' where there are no feature-length answers, just short subjects. We're debating the new movie "Mr. Schwarzenegger Goes to Washington" with California Republican Congressman Darrell Issa and Massachusetts Democratic Congressman Marty Meehan.

NOVAK: Mr. Meehan, since Arnold Schwarzenegger is such a hot article, would you be in favor now of repealing the provision in the Constitution which requires -- which bars a foreign-born person from being president of the United States?

MEEHAN: No. I think we ought to see how he does in California.


BEGALA: Congressman Issa, the car tax funds firefighters and cops. With 200,000 acres in your district on fire, isn't it unwise to cut funding for firefighters?

ISSA: That's a very disingenuous. The fact is that those are fungible tax funds. They're not predetermined. So the idea that it does get funding -- our problem in California right now is the residual brush that we're not allowed to get rid of because environmentalists won't let us do any kind of controlled burns. These fires would not have spread had we been allowed to do preventive maintenance.


NOVAK: One of the hot issues, Mr. Meehan, in California in the last campaign was giving driver's licenses to illegal aliens. Would you give them driver's licenses?

MEEHAN: It depends on the circumstances.



MEEHAN: There's not a yes or no


MEEHAN: You can't give a yes or no answer. It depends on the backgrounds, criminal backgrounds.

NOVAK: You're lucky you're not running in California, then.

(CROSSTALK) ISSA: The answer to that is, would you give it to al Qaeda if they needed to drive?

BEGALA: Let me ask you a question about California. Mr. Schwarzenegger ran against raising taxes, for cutting spending. What's the first program he's going to cut spending in?

ISSA: The first program he's going to cut spending in are going to be some of the discretionary programs the governor put in. He's also reviewing...

BEGALA: Can you name me one he's going to eliminate, one spending program he's going to eliminate?

ISSA: The overly aggressive increases for the prison guards that were bought and paid for with his predecessor's


BEGALA: Lay off prison guards?

ISSA: If necessary. They got a 39 percent increase...

BEGALA: Criminals across America should know. They're going move in there.


NOVAK: Mr. Meehan, there is going to be an initiative in California on a spending limit for the state. Do you think that would be a good idea for Massachusetts, to have a limit on spending by the politicians in Massachusetts?

MEEHAN: No. I don't think that's a good idea. I think that's what you send people to vote on, to make those determinations. One of the problems California -- one of the reasons California is in this mess is because people have voted mandatory increases in spending...


MEEHAN: ... at the same time they're cutting revenue.


NOVAK: Time is up.

Thank you very much, Martin Meehan, Darrell Issa.


NOVAK: And do you know which current governor loaned Arnold Schwarzenegger his budget adviser? Was it Florida's Jeb Bush, New York's George Pataki, or Rick Perry of Texas? I'll bet you know that. We'll tell you after the break.

And one of our viewers is shocked -- shocked -- that the Democrats are calling each other names. We'll let her fire back in a minute.


BEGALA: Welcome back to CROSSFIRE.

Before the break, we asked you, which governor loaned Mr. Schwarzenegger his budget adviser? We asked the audience to take a vote on this trivia question. It comes in about a third, a third, and a third. The answer is George W.'s favorite brother, Jeb. Not only is he -- he's nice enough to loan his budget director. So he's a generous Republican, which...

NOVAK: OK, our first e-mail, from Buzz Anderson of Solvang, California. I spent some wonderful nights in Solvang, yes.


NOVAK: He says: "I really believe the primary financial problem in California is due to incredible waste, and, more to the point, lobbyists who get the state to spend money needlessly. Time for the state well to be disconnected."

Buzz, you got it. And the test of Arnold Schwarzenegger is whether he puts a stop to the corruption in Sacramento.

BEGALA: The question is, what would he cut? Congressman Issa was candid enough to say he is going to cut prison guards. So, criminals out there across America, flock to California. No more prison guards, or at least no decent pay for them.

Another Californian, Ramona Ojeda of Carmichael, writes: "It's too bad President Bush didn't help California when we needed it about two ago with the energy crisis. Now that Arnold is almost governor, he jumped on the chance to say that he would help California financially with the fires. If Governor Davis were not recalled, I doubt he would even have paid attention" -- he, that being President Bush -- "would even have paid attention to what the governor had to say."


NOVAK: Isn't that the way politics works, though?


NOVAK: You told me you wouldn't give any aid -- you told me off camera you wouldn't give any aid to a state run by a Republican.

BEGALA: Or a Democrat, if they ran such a fraudulent campaign.


BEGALA: No. It's not a partisan thing.

NOVAK: All right.

BEGALA: It's President Bush playing partisan politics.

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

NOVAK: From the right, I'm Robert Novak.

Join us again next time for another edition of CROSSFIRE.


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