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Are Democrats Losing Today's Elections?

Aired November 4, 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, it's Election Day. And debate day. Will the Democrats have anything to cheer about tonight?

MAYOR JOHN STREET, PHILADELPHIA: I think we're going to have a good turnout, and I feel real good about it.


Live from the George Washington University, James Carville and Tucker Carlson.

TUCKER CARLSON, CO-HOST: Welcome to CROSSFIRE. And happy Election Day. Well, it's a sad day for the Democratic Party. That's good news for us. James Carville may put a trash can on his head again. Stay tuned.

JAMES CARVILLE, CO-HOST: But the guy who ought to be holding his head is the one who blew the economy (ph) and got us into a quagmire in Iraq. Just wait till next year. But you don't have to wait for the best political briefing in television.

Here comes the CROSSFIRE political alert.

A series of explosions after dark in Baghdad wounded four people. Earlier, another U.S. soldier was killed in Iraq, bringing the total for the month of November to 21.

Sunday's "New York Times" that reports every day forces in Iraq will net as many as 45 attacks. That's a lot different from what the Paul Wolfowitz and the Keystone Kops who planned this war said we'd be met with. Now it's becoming clear just how poor the planning for the post-war period was and how much they ignored people telling them exactly what it was going to be like.

I have a new idea for what Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld and Paul Wolfowitz can do when they resign. They can spend the rest of their lives changing bedpans and caring for the soldiers who were wounded in Iraq.

CARLSON: Well, I mean, look, it couldn't be sadder that Americans are dying in unacceptably large numbers over there. But you still, night after night, refuse to even address the question of what do we do now? I mean, it's so important that we not fail. CARVILLE: The first thing is, let me say this. American soldiers have died a lot of times and a lot of American soldiers have died under good leadership. The fact that they're dying because of inept planning, because they were told by the State Department this was going to happen and that they got hustled by a charlatan like Chalabi and went into this thing like that is an outrage. And I'll tell you...

CARLSON: What does Carlson have to do with it?

CARVILLE: He was the one -- If you read the Sunday "New York Times," you read every account of this, he's the one that told them that. It is an outrage that our kids are over there penned down.

CARLSON: We're going to go to war whether it was Chalabi or not. Anyway.

Well, when Howard Dean wanted to appeal to urban voters, he had the stage of his New York City rally spray-painted. Do you get it? Black people love graffiti. That's what Howard Dean believed.

When he wanted to appeal to Southern white voters he called himself, quote, "the candidate for guys with Confederate flags in their pickup trucks." Get it? Rednecks are racist. Dean can play that card, too.

Well, Howard Dean sees the world in the most vulgar stereotypes. And this time, he's paying for it. It turns out it's no longer acceptable for Democratic presidential candidates to embrace the image of the slave owning South.

Al Sharpton all but called Dean a racist. So did John Kerry, whose struggling campaign has sent out virtually hourly e-mails, reminding reporters that Howard Dean is a race baiter.

Well, the Democratic circular firing squad has begun. You can see the next installment at 7 p.m. Eastern here on CNN when Anderson Cooper hosts America Rocks the Vote, a candidates forum. It ought to be uncomfortable television.

CARVILLE: You know, that news alert is silly. This whole issue is silly. We're faced with a foreign policy debacle. We have a deficit that's going to go $5 trillion over the next ten years.

CARLSON: You're mad about Bush, OK.

CARVILLE: Health care costs going up 14 percent a year.

CARLSON: You can filibuster all you want, but it's an interesting point.

CARVILLE: All you want to do is talk about what Howard Dean does. He'll be the candidate...

CARLSON: No. Actually, James.

CARVILLE: It is so silly, trivial, small, minuscule, unworthy of the men who...

CARLSON: If you can't have the argument, shout it down. That's ludicrous.

CARVILLE: No, I'm telling you you've got a little nickel dime thing here.

In this week's edition of "Newsweek" magazine, veteran correspondent Evan Thomas writes that most folks knew that a Western style democracy might never work in Iraq. In fact, he says now instead of nation building, he thinks we should try nation bribing. In his words, quote, "An old-fashioned Chicago-style machine, dispensing patronage in return for favors, is a more viable model than one man, one vote."

Here's a highly respected Washington journalist actually suggesting that bribery is an appropriate strategy to salvage this debacle. And frankly, given the mess we have, it's the best idea I've heard in a long time.

CARLSON: I think I understand this. Arabs are incapable of democracy? This is a popular idea on the left now, that they are not capable. There will never be a democracy in Iraq.

CARVILLE: Every time -- every time...

CARLSON: That is the most cynical and sad thing. It's exactly what you're saying. And I think it's depressing. I mean, you ought to hope it becomes a democracy.

CARVILLE: Evan Thomas is hardly on the left.

CARLSON: I'm talking about you, not Evan.

CARVILLE: Look, I didn't lie to people to get us into war that I had no idea how to get out of. I didn't get hustled by Chalabi. I didn't go and stick my thumb in the face of everybody in the world.

CARLSON: The point is...

CARVILLE: These guys ought to resign and go change bedpans.

CARLSON: That's great, James, but honestly, there could be a democracy in Iraq. And it's the kind of things that liberals like you ought to be hoping for. And your cynicism, your dismissive...

CARVILLE: They'll be there tomorrow, I promise you. Wolfowitz and your oil revenues. You and your boy, Wolfowitz, you all go ahead. He's a genius.

CARLSON: What are you talking about? You've gone completely insane. We switch topics before the men with nets take James away.

Well, Mayor John Street will likely be reelected mayor of Philadelphia today. And it's a victory of sorts for Democrats. But you've got to wonder if it was worth it. Street, you'll remember, was on his way to losing, having spent the last four years doing basically nothing for the city. And if you've been there you know what I mean.

Then it was revealed that the FBI had been conducting an investigation into corruption in Street's administration. Well, Street responded by, of course, needless to say, it goes without saying, alleging a white racist conspiracy against him. Democrats believed him; his numbers soared.

Now comes news that Street volunteers are engaging in violence on Election Day. The "Philadelphia Inquirer" reports that a Street supporter beat one of the mayor's opponents this morning with a 2x4. Another was punched in the face. Mayor Street had promised to send police to monitor polling places but apparently that didn't happen and none showed up.

Presumably, Mayor Street will open an investigation into these alleged crimes the moment he's sworn in again. Except, of course, he won't.

CARVILLE: Well, if you look into it, I actually know John Street well. I went to campaign for him. It's Rick Santorum's campaign manager that's leading this investigation. John Street's been in public life for 25 years. He's won 14 consecutive elections. I guess you're saying that the people of Philadelphia are too stupid to...

CARLSON: What I'm saying.

CARVILLE: That's what you're saying, that they're incapable.

CARLSON: What I'm saying is...

CARVILLE: ... mayor of Philadelphia, and he's a very accomplished man.

CARLSON: What I'm saying is...

CARVILLE: Rick Santorum's campaign manager.

CARLSON: It's immoral for John Street and his supporters to allege a racist conspiracy.

CARVILLE: I never heard John Street say that. Did you? Did John Street say it?

CARLSON: His chief campaign adviser -- John Street's chief campaign adviser said it was racial profiling. It's true and it's disgusting.

CARVILLE: You don't have any...

CARLSON: What's going on in Mississippi and Kentucky that has so many in the political world watching closely? Voters here actually voting, and that spells disaster for the Democratic Party.

What will today's election result mean for those who want to be president? We'll answer those questions and more.

We'll be right back.


CARVILLE: The late Tip O'Neill said all politics is local. Today, there are a bunch of local elections around the country. Don't read too much into them. We have to wait another year before the whole nation passes judgment between President Bush and whichever Democratic candidate finally stands out from the field.

In the CROSSFIRE to talk about elections present and yet to come, Republican consultant Cheri Jacobus and Democratic strategist Peter Fenn.

CARLSON: Peter, awfully, awfully bold and nice, as always, of you to come on our show, considering it's another black day in the history of the Democratic Party. It's a sad day. It's a black armband day.

PETER FENN, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: You're talking about Philadelphia when you're talking about...?

CARLSON: Not at all. It's too depressing even to talk about that. I will say, though, the Democrats look very, very likely of losing both Kentucky and Mississippi today and Louisiana a couple days from now. It's the job -- I think it's likely to happen. We don't know. But pretty sure.

Sort of the job of the party to win elections, but your party for the last two major elections has lost. Isn't it time for new leadership?

FENN: You must have been for getting 2001 when we won Virginia and New Jersey.

CARLSON: No, I'm just saying 2002 midterms and this one.

FENN: I would tell you that I agree with Ed Gillespie, the chairman of the Republican Party, who said last week, Mississippi is Mississippi, Kentucky is Kentucky. These races are local, very local, if I have an almost verbatim quote.


FENN: So, you know, what he's saying is I'm not going to nationalize these elections.

CARLSON: I tend to agree with him. But still -- hold on -- at least admit that, you know, it's not determinative. It doesn't mean you'll have a bad year in 2004, but it's not a good sign to lose two elections in a row.

FENN: No. Who wants to lose?

CARLSON: It's pathetic, isn't it? FENN: Look, you've got two Southern states where Al Gore lost to George Bush by double digits. And they're tough states for Democrats, no question.

And you also have a situation now where incumbent governors, be they Republican or Democrat, are in trouble all over the country, because of George Bush's policies, which have the states going into deficit and taxing, taxing, taxing.

CARVILLE: Cheri, I'm a little bit confused. Maybe you can straighten me out. But obviously, this president lied to get us into war that he had no plan to get us out of. How in the hell who gets elected governor of Kentucky or Mississippi is going to overcome the greatest, most colossal foreign policy debacle since Vietnam? That this president has all over his hands?

CHERI JACOBUS, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: First of all, you need to understand that the governors don't do foreign policy.


JACOBUS: So that's a little civics lesson for you.

CARVILLE: I'm trying to say -- No, I'm saying just that, the fact that the president has led this nation into a foreign policy debacle unlike any since Vietnam, how does it matter who the governor of Mississippi or Kentucky is? The president is going to have to, at some point, explain to the American people why he lied so much and screwed up so bad.

JACOBUS: This president didn't lie.

CARVILLE: He didn't?

JACOBUS: You just seem to want to forget what he said in the very beginning when we went into this war, when we went into Iraq. He didn't say that this would be easy and pretty and have smooth edges.

CARVILLE: We found all those nuclear bombs over there, did we?

JACOBUS: So what he told us, James, was that this was going to be hard.


JACOBUS: This was going to be drawn out. This was going to be painful. They were very up front with us, and I think most of the American people understand that war is not going to be pretty. I think they're...

CARVILLE: Dick Cheney said we'd be greeted with roses. And Paul Wolfowitz said we'd pay for the reconstruction with oil revenues of $100-200 billion a year. They were dissembling the truth.

JACOBUS: The polls in Iraq show that the people of Iraq are behind us. They don't think this is going to be easy. It's only people on your side that want this...

CARVILLE: Wolfowitz said it would be a bed of roses.

CARLSON: Peter, I'm sorry to interrupt this soliloquy of James' to ask you this question. And this is mean, but I'm going to put it up anyway.

CARVILLE: This is mean.

CARLSON: This is a quote from the "Boston Globe." This is a measure of the disarray in which your party finds yourself. This is a quote from a senior Kerry strategist, quoted in the "Boston Globe" about the presidential campaign, Senator John Kerry.

I'm quoting now. "You need to have people who have passion for you. Dean clearly has that, but John doesn't have that. The passion thing is tough. Remember, people didn't have passion for Mike Dukakis. But against people like Dean and Clark, you've got to have people more excited for you."

So here you have one of the key employees of Senator John Kerry comparing to him a too a loser like Mike Dukakis and admitting that no one really likes him. Is there any worse sign for a presidential campaign than that quote?

FENN: Listen, I think you've got real passion out there to defeat George W. Bush in this campaign. No question about that.

CARLSON: I agree.

FENN: And whoever that nominee is, you're going to see real passion, and instead of, you know, the compassionate conservative, you know, they're going to now be saying this is compassion for the conservative.

JACOBUS: His own campaign -- His own staffer is saying he's boring.

FENN: He's not saying he's boring at all. He's saying, look...

JACOBUS: He lacks passion, Peter. What does that mean?

FENN: Who knows who this guy was?

CARVILLE: Cheri, let her say a little bit. Then Peter, we're going to go back to you. But we're being instructed by the big cheeses. Go ahead, Cheri, take 30 seconds and tell us why the United States should elect a president that lied to us to get us into war.

CARLSON: What does that have to do with anything? I mean, this is insane. Don't let this mad bald guy push you around here.

JACOBUS: Look, the American people don't like this issue politicized, and I think that the Democrats are going to pay a big price if they continue to do so. When it comes to the war on terrorism, when it comes to the war on Iraq, the American people don't want this to be about politics. It's not partisan. It should not be.

FENN: Listen, you know, the difficulty here is that we have a government that has gotten us into a war in the wrong way, without international support. They planned it because they thought they could go alone. And it's the guys at the Pentagon who said, "We don't need foreign help." We don't need -- now, we need that kind of help to get out.

CARLSON: I've heard this before. Let me just say one thing.

FENN: You're going to hear it again for another year.

CARLSON: I understand that. But I want to put up, actually, an astute observation about your party from one of its own members, Senator Zell Miller, still a Democrat, of Georgia. Here's what he wrote yesterday in the "Wall Street Journal". And I'd be interested to know what you think of this.

And I'm quoting, "I find it hard to believe, but these naive nine" -- the nine presidential candidates on your side -- "have managed to combine the worst feature of the McGovern campaign -- the president is a liar and we must have peace at any cost -- with the worst feature of the Mondale campaign -- watch your wallet, we're going to raise your taxes."

Losers, says Zell Miller. You can't write him off as a right wing whacko, can you?

FENN: James -- James did his campaign and elected him. But look, here's the thing about the Democratic Party. It's a big tent. We've got a big tent. And he's still a Democrat. And he announced on "Meet the Press" on Sunday he's not switching parties, because he's still a Democrat. So I'll tell you what. We have a nice big tent. We take criticism in our party.

CARLSON: But why would he say something like that? That's so devastating.

FENN: He's dead wrong.

CARVILLE: Can I put that quote back up there, please? Can we do that? We have the technical ability to put it back up? Because I think there's something interesting on there.

The McGovern campaign, worst feature, calling Richard Nixon a liar. Now where would someone get that idea from, that Richard Nixon is a liar?

I tell you what, I bet you that Bush has lied more in a month than Nixon lied in his entire lifetime.

JACOBUS: That's a bet that you'd lose, James.

CARVILLE: Why would anybody get the idea that Dick Nixon was a liar?

JACOBUS: You know, if you want to keep pounding that Bush is a liar, Bush is a liar, come up with the proof. You know, you guys...

CARVILLE: I do. There's a whole book. David Corn's got a whole book.

JACOBUS: You guys are losing credibility, James. The people on the far left, especially those that are running for president are up there in the Peanut Gallery, shooting you know, spitballs at the president. You've got to be a part of the solution.

CARVILLE: You know, but they must be hitting him, because his approval rating has dropped about 20 points in the last three months.

JACOBUS: None of them have a positive vision for...

CARVILLE: Sure they do. They already do.

JACOBUS: Nobody has a positive vision for the future...

CARVILLE: Gephardt has an incredible health care plan. Joe Lieberman has an incredibly environmental plan. All kinds of plans.

JACOBUS: They're downers, all of them, no uplifting message, no vision.

CARLSON: Peter, does it bother -- there is a message, I totally disagree with Cheri, with all do respect. I think there is a message, which is the same message Democrats always use in urban elections. That's race baiting. And the one election Democrats are going to win today is the election in Philadelphia where the mayor is using race as a wedge issue on no evidence at all.

FENN: No, the reason he's going to win -- One of the reasons he's going to win, is you've got a Republican Justice Department and a Republican FBI that's going after him. And the public has said, "Nuts to you guys."

CARLSON: His campaign said, quote, "It's racial profiling." They're making a racial issue out of it. And defend that. I want to hear how you think.

FENN: Listen, you tell me -- And I love him dearly; he's a good friend. I like Haley Barbour. Good guy. Nice fellow, but he shouldn't be governor. But he's wearing a pin down there with that wonderful flag. Now I tell you, I am...

CARLSON: I'm not going to defend that. I'm asking you about John Street. Attempt to tell me why this is...

FENN: You're talking about Georgia and the last election.

CARLSON: Tell me why this is a racial issue in this campaign.

FENN: What's a racial about it?

CARLSON: They said it's racial profiling.

FENN: The FBI coming down on his case.

CARLSON: John Street's campaign manager said that.

CARVILLE: Let me ask you. Louisiana in 1991, David Duke, did he ever use race as an issue? He ran a race neutral campaign.

JACOBUS: The Republican Party -- the national Republican Party repudiated that candidate. He wasn't our kind of Republican. He decided to put an "R" after his name.

CARVILLE: Jesse Helms thought he was all right.

CARLSON: Ladies and gentlemen, I'm sorry. We're going to have to go to a commercial break.

Ahead in "Rapid Fire," we'll debate whether any of the Democratic candidates for president can convince young voters they like hip-hop. You can see for yourself when you tune into America Rocks the Vote, hosted by Anderson Cooper tonight at 7 p.m. Eastern.

And after the break, Wolf Blitzer will have the latest on today's attacks against the coalition headquarters in Baghdad. We'll be right back.


CARLSON: Welcome back to CROSSFIRE. Tonight on CNN, eight of the nine Democratic presidential candidates will try to connect with an audience of young voters. Good luck with that.

We're going to give the debate a Rapid Fire once over with Democratic strategist Peter Fenn and Republican consultant Cheri Jacobus.

CARVILLE: The president, the secretary of defense, the vice president, all have gone to visit the war wounded at Walter Reed Hospital. Do you think it would be a good thing if they took time out to go over there and see them and thank these young men for the sacrifices they've made for their country?

JACOBUS: Sure, absolutely.


CARLSON: Peter, do you agree with Howard Dean that more Confederate flag-waving young people need to vote for the Democratic Party?

FENN: I agree with Howard Dean that more American flag waving people should vote for the Democratic Party. But...

CARLSON: That's not what he said.

FENN: No, it was not what he said. And I'll tell you, I think it was a condescending statement, and it was an unfortunate statement. And I'd like to see him correct it. CARVILLE: This president is changing the fiscal nature of the United States by ten trillion dollars and piling five trillion dollars of additional debt on young people. Why in hell would any sane young person vote to reelect George W. Bush?

JACOBUS: You know what? Because the American people understand that deficits can happen when you've been attacked by the terrorists and when you go to war. They don't understand what your party was in charge, James, when they ran up the deficit because of outrageous spending...

CARVILLE: I really don't how tell you this, but I'll explain to you. We took the office and the deficit was $270 billion. We left a $5.6 trillion surplus. You got to get back in the history books.


CARLSON: We're almost out of time.

FENN: The Democrats are going to get elected next time so we can clean up the mess of this president's economic policies. [ talking at the same time ]

When you give two trillion dollar tax breaks, 50 percent of which go to the top five percent, you have a serious problem.

CARLSON: Quickly, do you think Terry McAuliffe will be replaced by Dean when Dean gets the nomination?

FENN: You got a lot of what-ifs in there. I tell you, whoever it is going to be our chairman, they're going to lead to us victory.

CARLSON: Good luck.

Cheri Jacobus, thank you very much.

Peter Fenn, as always, thank you.

Young people haven't always had the right to take part in elections. We want to know, "When did 18-year-olds get a right to vote? Was it 1920? Was it 1956? Or was it 1971?

And in "Fireback," should CBS have pulled the plug on "The Reagans" miniseries?

We'll be right back.


CARLSON: Welcome back to CROSSFIRE. Time for "Fireback," but first the results of our audience quiz in which we asked what year did 18-year-olds get to vote by constitutional amendment? Was it 1920? Yes said six percent of our audience; 1956, 22 percent believe that; 72 percent knew the right answer, 1971.

CARVILLE: You know what goes to show you, young Tucker? CARLSON: What does it go to show me?

CARVILLE: CROSSFIRE viewers are smart.

CARLSON: Of course they are. That's exactly right.

CARVILLE: They wouldn't be if they didn't watch CROSSFIRE. That's true.

CARLSON: This is an educational program.

CARVILLE: Yes, indeed.

OK. "Maybe the Republican Party should spend a fraction of its time checking the accuracy of Bush's remarks as they do reviewing the historical accuracy of the Reagan miniseries." Roy M. Stein, San Diego, California.

You know, CBS, they should have known what they were getting into.

CARLSON: Actually, CBS issued a statement today admitting that it was inaccurate. It's interesting.

CARVILLE: They said they're not running it or something.

CARLSON: It's on cable.

Julie Nolte of Monterey Park, California, writes, "When liberals shout Dr. Laura off television, it's called 'free speech.' When conservatives shout a leftist CBS smear campaign off TV, it's called 'censorship.' The left wing's double standard is as laughable as it is transparent."

CARVILLE: What censorship is, is transparent. People can shout anything they want. It's when the government does something that it constitutes censorship.

CARLSON: I agree with you.

CARVILLE: But I think they have every right, they don't want to, you know, Wal-Mart doesn't want to put "Playboy" in there. That's their own business. That's not censorship. That's just a company doing something. And I don't think the government had anything to do with this.

All right. "Please thank the congressional Republicans for the recent tax cut. I now have more money to give to the DNC. It's my personal jobs program to get Democrats back to work." Theresa Gordon- Knapp.

CARLSON: This is why some argued for targeted tax cuts.

CARVILLE: I have a serious question for you. Where is Second Lake, Illinois?

CARLSON: Second Lake, Illinois?

CARVILLE: It's -- Theresa's from Third Lake, Illinois. I wondered if you see...

CARLSON: It's right nearby.

CARVILLE: Have you ever seen the third...

CARLSON: It's slightly bigger, slightly better.

CARVILLE: ... national bank or the Third Baptist Church? They have a Third Lake, Illinois. That's something. It's one of those...

CARLSON: Wow! Deep thoughts from CROSSFIRE.

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 next time for yet more CROSSFIRE. "WOLF BLITZER REPORTS" starts right now. Rock the Vote tonight at 7 p.m. Watch it. Lot of good music. See you tomorrow.


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