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Big Labor Backs Dean

Aired November 12, 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: Look who's getting big labor support.

HOWARD DEAN (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We need to start with our base.

ANNOUNCER: What about him?

REP. RICHARD GEPHARDT (D-MO), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I never expected to get every union. That's impossible.

ANNOUNCER: Does it really matter which candidate has the union label? -- today on CROSSFIRE.



ANNOUNCER: Live from the George Washington University, Paul Begala and Tucker Carlson.


Well, the Howard Dean juggernaut/slow-motion political suicide continues tonight now with the endorsement of organized labor, mob- controlled and otherwise.

PAUL BEGALA, CO-HOST: Well, of course, the Bush-Cheney right- wingers prefer to hang out with the fine folks at Halliburton and Enron, say, while accusing unionized janitors and police officers of being mob-controlled. Well, go figure.

We'll debate the fight for the hearts and minds and votes of people who actually work for a living right after we work our way through the best political briefing in television, the CROSSFIRE "Political Alert."

In what appeared to be a panic, America's viceroy in Iraq, Paul Bremer, made a hasty and unscheduled trip to meet with President Bush today. But in what may be a hopeful sign, American forces in Baghdad today attacked a pair of targets in that city, including what is described as a meeting, planning and storage facility used by enemies of the coalition forces. This is proof positive that major combat operations are not in fact over. And the mission is not in fact accomplished. But, amazingly, the Bush administration still maintains that we don't need any more troops, we don't need any different troops, we don't need foreign troops. Of course, we do. But what we need most of all is a commander in chief who knows what in the world he's doing. And this guy



CARLSON: Well, I'm glad you've actually moved out of the past into the present and accepted the fact we're there and that we need to succeed. I'm not sure it's clear we need more troops. I know it's clear we're not going to get foreign troops.

And I don't think the fact that Paul Bremer is taking a brief break to come back to the city where he lives is a sign that he's panicked at all. I don't see any evidence of that.


BEGALA: There's some very fine reporting by CNN, by Dana Bash of CNN, and John King, who say that, now the Bush administration is going to decide that they want to move up an Iraqi government there. I don't think the problem there is political. I think it's security.


BEGALA: I don't think we have the right troops or enough troops. We're not winning on the ground, the fight. We ought to win the darn fight.

CARLSON: It's probably a little early to make those determinations.

Retired General Hugh Shelton was once retired General Wesley Clark's boss. Asked earlier this year whether he would be supporting Dean's presidential bid -- Clark's presidential bid, rather -- General Shelton responded the same way many of Clark's soldiers have responded -- "No way, no how, no dice." Wesley Clark has problems with -- quote -- "integrity and character," Shelton said. "Wes won't be getting my vote." Ouch.

Well, it's hard to respond to a comment that utterly damning. And, for the most part, Clark did not respond. But now General Shelton has turned up as an adviser to the flailing John Edwards for president campaign. And Clark's aides are crying foul. It turns out that, once you criticize Wesley Clark, you're no longer a legitimate person. Clark's campaign has written a letter to Senator Edwards demanding that he distance himself from General Hugh Shelton.

Nice try. Generals get to give orders. Dude presidential candidates do not.



BEGALA: Well, General Shelton, of course, has a perfect right to support whoever he wants.

CARLSON: Of could he does. It's ludicrous.

BEGALA: I'm in the enviable position of actually knowing both of those generals a little bit from my time serving President Clinton. But what's more interesting, I think, is the generals who have said good things about General Clark, including General Colin Powell, General Alexander Haig, who wrote glowing reviews of his performance in the military.


CARLSON: There are generals who support him, but there's absolutely no spinning this. General Schwarzkopf, Tommy Franks came out against him in a really damning way.


CARLSON: He does not, by and large, have the support, unlike John Kerry.

BEGALA: Haig and Powell, those are not exactly liberal Democrats. Those are successful


CARLSON: Read "The New Yorker" this week, Peter Boyer. Excellent piece. Held in contempt by his former co-workers, truly.

BEGALA: Well, speaking of contempt, the group I like to call the hypocrisy in broadcast networking announced today that right-wing radio talk show host Rush Limbaugh will return to the airwaves on Monday, November 17.

Limbaugh, of course, has been in rehab to try and break an addiction to prescription painkillers. I'm looking forward to Rush's return. I'm sure he'll still be a pompous, hypocritical, right-wing blowhard. But at least he'll be a drug-free pompous, hypocritical, right-wing blowhard.


BEGALA: And this might even shock you, Rush, but liberals are pulling for you, too. And we are praying for you for a successful recovery.

But you should know, people breaking an addiction sometimes gain weight, old pal. So, beware, America. The most dangerous place in your country Monday will be between Rush Limbaugh and the Ding-Dong aisle in your local Safeway. So stand back. Rush is back. Welcome back, Rush. CARLSON: You know what? I don't know what the problem you have with fat people is. I really don't know what it is.

BEGALA: It is hypocrites I have a problem with.

CARLSON: It is not a moral category, fat. It is an aesthetic category. There's nothing wrong with it. Much of America is fat. You want their votes, too, presumably.

BEGALA: Well, I don't run for anything, thank goodness. But, no, it's hypocrisy that Rush has shown. But, look, God bless him.


BEGALA: I actually believe that rich people and poor people should be able to get drug treatment, not just rich people. But God bless him for getting it. Actually, poor people go to jail. Rich people go to rehab. That's not fair.



CARLSON: Simply not true. I'm not -- I think I'm probably less...


CARLSON: ... anti-drug than you are. But I can just tell you that, that right there, as a blanket statement, is false.


BEGALA: It's absolutely true. Rich people go to rehab. Poor people go to jail.

CARLSON: Actually, poor people who go to jail when they commit crimes, violence crimes.


BEGALA: Well, Rush is accused of a crime. I don't know if he's guilty.


BEGALA: ... accused.

CARLSON: Well, the planets over Northern California fell into an unusual alignment Sunday night, an astrological pattern known in the rock-worshiping community as harmonic convergence.

Most people did not notice. Democrat Dennis Kucinich did notice. He chose that night to hold a fund-raiser at a commune in Marin County, California. According to "The Marin Independent Journal," the event included vegan appetizers, Native American flute music, group visualization, and all sorts of other details you literally couldn't make up.

Kucinich eschewed the usual campaign rhetoric about taxes and Medicare. Instead, he promised to -- quote -- "truly create the world all over again into something so powerful, so transcendent that the light forever shines in the darkness and the darkness never comprehends it." Amen.

Actually, Kucinich didn't really say amen, though, doubtless, many of his followers did. Kucinich did suggest that he has psychic powers. And who knows, maybe he does. He definitely has the grooviest campaign of 2004.



BEGALA: Well, you got to help me out with this, because I'm from Texas. But you are from California.

CARLSON: Yes, I am.

BEGALA: If the light shines in the darkness all the time, when do we sleep?

CARLSON: That's an excellent point. You'd really have to go to Alaska to answer that question.

BEGALA: Well, there you go. Maybe he is going to run for president


BEGALA: ... Alaska.

CARLSON: But I will say, it's nice to see someone who is not ashamed of being a Democrat, who embraces the values of the party, vegan appetizers and all.


CARLSON: Native American flute music.


CARLSON: Do you know what I mean?


CARLSON: He's from the Democratic wing of the Democratic Party.

BEGALA: God bless him. I love him. Good for him.

CARLSON: Well, the Democrats running for president have been laboring to break out of the pack. Now big labor is weighing in. And it's been a good day for Howard Dean. We'll debate the impact of the union label just ahead. We'll be right back.



BEGALA: Welcome back to CROSSFIRE.

This afternoon, two major labor unions formally endorsed Howard Dean for president. The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees joined with its sometimes rival, the Service Employees International Union, in endorsing the Vermont governor. Congressman Dick Gephardt of Missouri has been actively courting big labor and has the backing of about 20 unions.

In the CROSSFIRE to talk about the help of the union label, New York Democratic Congressman Jerrold Nadler. He supports Howard Dean. And he joins us from our bureau in New York City. With us in Washington, here on the stage with us at CROSSFIRE, Gephardt campaign manager Steve Murphy.



BEGALA: Steve, thanks for joining us.

We just ran a bite of Gephardt saying, you know, he didn't want these unions anyway. He never expected to get them. But let's be honest. This is humiliating. Don't even take my word for it. This is Chris Christoff, a "Detroit Free Press" columnist. This is his take.

And I'm quoting now: "Dick Gephardt must feel like the faithful boyfriend watching his girl go to the prom with the new kid in school. No presidential candidate has been more closely aligned with labor than the longtime congressman from Missouri."

This really is like Liberace not getting the human rights campaign endorsement, isn't it? And it's pathetic.


What this is, is, there's a little split in the labor movement, because there's two candidates emerging now as potential nominees, Dick Gephardt and Howard Dean. We don't deny that. And it's a good get for Howard Dean. But just a few minutes ago, in Iowa, the autoworkers in Iowa decided to endorse Dick Gephardt. And they're the biggest union in Iowa.

CARLSON: But why does Dean have that Gephardt doesn't? Why did they endorse Dean over Gephardt?

MURPHY: You got me. It's a couple of unions jumping on a stalled strain -- train -- excuse me.


BEGALA: Congressman Nadler, let me bring you into this.

Perhaps one of the reasons the autoworkers in Iowa may have endorsed Congressman Gephardt is, he led the fight for the Democrats against NAFTA, when President Clinton -- I was working for him at the time -- was trying to get it passed. Governor Dean supported Clinton on that. He was a strong supporter of NAFTA. But when George Stephanopoulos on ABC reminded him of that and said, Governor, you were a strong supporter of NAFTA, here's how your candidate responded.


DEAN: I supported NAFTA. Where did you get this "I'm a strong supporter of NAFTA"? I never did anything about it. I didn't vote on it. I didn't march down in the street demanding NAFTA. I simply wrote a letter supporting NAFTA.


BEGALA: Well, in defense of my old pal Georgie, here's where he got it from, quoting from the governor himself in 1995: "I was a very strong supporter of NAFTA. I believe it's going to create jobs in the United States of America. And to let our trading partners go down the tubes, I think, would be a big mistake."

Why is he running away from his record of supporting President Clinton on free trade?

REP. JERROLD NADLER (D), NEW YORK: Well, I don't know -- I didn't know Governor Dean in 1993. I was a freshman congressman then. I voted against NAFTA, against the president, which I hated to do.

But people learn over time. And, obviously, at this point and for the last few years, at least, Governor Dean has been saying, along with other Democratic candidates, that we can't have trade agreements that don't have adequate protections for labor rights and for labor standards and environmental standards in them, and he wouldn't support anything that did.

And I think, at this point, the question isn't what someone did 10 years ago. The question is, where are they positioned now and are they -- how strong a candidate are they against President Bush? And I think it was Dennis Rivera, one of the major leaders in the SEIU, which is one of the largest local unions in the AFL-CIO, who said that they have decided that, in order to beat President Bush, we have to change the political configuration and bring new people into the process. And Governor Dean is doing that. And Dick Gephardt, as good a person as he has been on many issues over the years, is simply not doing that.

CARLSON: But, Congressman, there's a strong consensus, as you know, since you work here in Washington, that Governor Dean, while he's capable of winning the nomination, doesn't have a great shot of actually becoming president of the United States.



CARLSON: It's not really imaginable.

But let me read you a quote from James Carville, who's often at this table. This is what he said to "Newsweek" this summer about interest groups, like labor unions. He said: "The interests groups don't really like to win. They just want a big ass-kissing festival" -- end quote.

And the point is, Howard Dean is hot in the left-wing world right now. But labor is shortsighted enough not to see that he can't win. He just has sucked up to them. They're rewarding him. That's what's going on. It doesn't mean anything, does it?

NADLER: No, I disagree with that totally.

I don't agree with what has become partly the conventional wisdom that Governor Dean can't win. I was an early supporter of his, precisely because, among other reasons, I think he has the best chance of winning of any Democratic candidate. He's the only Democratic candidate who's bringing enthusiastic, large numbers of new people into the process, as Dennis Rivera said.

And if you look at the demographics, a lot of those people are people who are similar to the McCain supporters of four years ago, which means they're independents and swing voters. Secondly, he's the only Democratic candidate who, it appears, on the basis of millions of small contributions, might be financially competitive with George Bush.

He's got a clear, straight message of support for the war on terrorism, opposition to our war in Iraq, which is a diversion from the war on terrorism, not the centerpiece of it. And I think -- I think, personally, he's the strongest candidate and the most likely to beat President Bush. And I think these leaders of these two unions, who are very political and want to win, they're not looking for an ass-kissing contest.


MURPHY: Tucker, you've got it dead right. You are dead right.


NADLER: They're looking to win. And that's why they're support -- they're looking to win over Bush, and that's why they're supporting Dean.


BEGALA: Hang on just a second.

Go ahead, Steve.

MURPHY: No, Howard Dean is not the best candidate to beat George W. Bush.

If you support the Republican position to cut Medicare by $270 billion, you oppose the assault weapons ban, you oppose the Brady Bill, you support NAFTA, which Howard Dean did in March of this year, not 10 years ago, but in March of this year -- he's contradicted himself on almost every issue. And we're not going to beat George W. Bush with that kind of double-talk.


BEGALA: I am going to let Congressman Nadler respond to that in just a minute. But I want you to respond to this.

Wasn't -- isn't Dean right when he says Gephardt was wrong -- Congressman Gephardt was wrong -- to give President Bush a blank check on the war? That's the issue that's driving the support to Dean, the fact that Congressman Gephardt stood in the Rose Garden with the president of the United States and asked for a blank check for the war?


MURPHY: He didn't give him a blank check on the war.

BEGALA: I read that resolution, Steve.

MURPHY: No. What -- that resolution said that we have to have a plan going in. We have to have a plan going out. And he has to go to the United Nations.

Dick Gephardt believes it was the right thing to do to remove Saddam Hussein from power. But George W. Bush has completely botched this, by alienating all of our allies, not getting NATO in there to help right now, not getting the U.N. in on civil administration. That's the problem that's occurring right now. It's not the fact that we removed Saddam Hussein. And, again, we're not going to beat George W. Bush without a candidate who stands up for what he thinks is right.


BEGALA: Let me get Congressman Nadler to respond to this question about Medicare.

Let me read to you what Governor Dean in fact said about Medicare in 1995, when you were in the House, Congressman Nadler. You were fighting for President Clinton and Dick Gephardt's position to preserve Medicare. Governor Dean endorsed a $270 billion cut in Medicare, saying this to his local paper. Dean said "he could defend the GOP approach to reducing Medicare costs. He said he supported requiring some Medicare recipients to pay a greater share of their medical services -- quote -- 'I fully subscribe to the notion that we should reduce the Medicare growth rate from 10 percent to 7 percent, or less if possible,' Dean said."

Congressman Nadler, you fought that position. Were you wrong or was Howard Dean wrong? NADLER: Well, I don't know about the 10 percent to 7 percent. I don't know if that's the position I fought. I don't remember


BEGALA: That was the Republican position, sir. That was the Republican position.


NADLER: I think -- I think -- my recollection is, their position cut it a lot more. But let me say this.

BEGALA: No, sir.

NADLER: I'm really less interested in ancient positions, frankly. I don't think it's fair to talk about the fact that, once upon a time, Dick Gephardt was a violent opponent of abortion. He changed his position. That's fine.

I think that you look at the position that people have had over times, how they have changed it, how they are these days, what they're supporting now., unless you believe and have good reason to believe that, when those people say what their position is now, they're not -- they're not telling the truth. And I have no more reason to believe that Dick Gephardt isn't telling the truth about his support for a woman's right to choose today


NADLER: ... than Dean is telling about his support for Medicare and Social Security today. I think we look at where people are now.


CARLSON: Congressman, I am going to cut you off here. I want to get -- hold on, Congressman.

Steve Murphy, "The Washington Post" reports this morning that, according to one person, Mr. Gephardt -- quote -- "fumed" that Gerry McEntee -- Gerald McEntee, the union leader -- quote -- "had just turned over the country to the Republicans for four more years" by endorsing Howard Dean. Did Congressman Gephardt say that?

MURPHY: Congressman Gephardt, I'm sure, talked to Gerry McEntee. I didn't hear that conversation. I didn't know what was said. But I'm sure that Dick Gephardt...

CARLSON: Do you believe he said it?

MURPHY: I'm sure that Dick Gephardt is making very clear that he strongly believes he's the best candidate to be the Democratic nominee and to beat George W. Bush. We can win in the Midwestern states and the border states that are the swing electoral votes.

(CROSSTALK) CARLSON: OK, if you all will just hold on just two seconds, we're going to take a quick commercial break.

When our guests return in "Rapid Fire": Has Dick Gephardt run for president one too many times -- or perhaps two too many times?

And, right after the break, Wolf Blitzer will have the latest on U.S. military retaliation in Baghdad.

We'll be right back.



CARLSON: It's now time for "Rapid Fire," where the questions and answers need to be even shorter than Dick Gephardt's doomed presidential campaign will be. Wow, that was nasty. We don't fully mean it, but sort of.

In the CROSSFIRE, from New York is Democratic Congressman and Dean supporter Jerrold Nadler. With us here in Washington is Gephardt campaign manager Steve Murphy.

BEGALA: Congressman Nadler, was it wise for your candidate, Governor Dean, to call your fellow congressmen cockroaches?

NADLER: No, it was not wise. But I don't know that he meant all the congressmen. He meant some are.


CARLSON: OK. I hope, Mr. Nadler, you'll come back next time and tell us who's a cockroach and who's not.


NADLER: No, that I won't do.

CARLSON: Steve, Tony Coelho, who was a supporter, as you know, of Dick Gephardt's first run in 1988, said, to a great extent, the novelty of it is no longer there. Are people bored of Dick Gephardt by now?

MURPHY: No, absolutely not. Dick Gephardt's experience is appealing to voters. And his bold ideas to get rid of the Bush tax cuts and give every American health care that they never could have taken away, to establish an international minimum wage to stop this race to the bottom by multinational corporations, now, Dick Gephardt is today's news.

BEGALA: Let me ask you about yesterday's news. You and I worked together, our audience should know, for Dick Gephardt in 1988. In that year, he won Iowa, lost New Hampshire, ran out of money, and got beat by a New England governor with more money. Hello? Deja vu, Murph. MURPHY: We've got -- we've got seven states on February the 3rd, great states for Dick Gephardt, Oklahoma, Missouri -- hello -- South Carolina, North Dakota. Those are all terrific states for us. We're going to take that momentum out of Iowa and New Hampshire into those states and win. And, at that point, we're going to be firmly ahead of Howard Dean.

CARLSON: OK, Congressman Nadler, worst double-talk I've seen all week. Terry McAuliffe, chairman of your party, said the other day, you know, he likes Howard Dean now. But Howard Dean, of course, doesn't like him. Dean is going to bounce him out of there and replace him the second he gets the nomination, isn't he?

NADLER: I have no idea.

CARLSON: Oh, come on. Guess.

NADLER: I don't know.

CARLSON: Should he?

NADLER: No, I don't...


BEGALA: Congressman Jerry Nadler from New York, saving Terry McAuliffe by the bell and saving his job.


BEGALA: Thank you very much for joining us from New York in support of Howard Dean.

Steve Murphy here in Washington, campaign manager for Congressman Gephardt.

Thank you, guys, both very much.

MURPHY: Thank you.


BEGALA: Now, some of the candidates running for president in my party are skipping Iowa. Others are skipping New Hampshire. Still others have skipped some of the debates. But no one is skipping the Jay Leno primary.

Just ahead, we'll take a look at John Kerry's appearance last night on "The Tonight Show," which brings us to our "Question of the Day." Who was the first presidential candidate to appear on "The Tonight Show"? Was it John F. Kennedy, Gerald Ford, or my old boss Bill Clinton?

We'll have the answer for you right after the break.


Before the break, we asked you, who was the first candidate for president to appear on "The Tonight Show"? John Kerry was on last night. Well, we asked our audience that. And it turns out, the answer is -- wow, they all got it wrong -- John F. Kennedy. Only 21 percent of our audience thought it was him. JFK appeared on the old Jack Paar-hosted "Tonight Show." There he is, man, handsome, erudite, brilliant, funny, not at all like our current president, I have to say. But God bless him. It's amazing to see that old tape of him.

CARLSON: And it worked for him. It doesn't work for anybody.

For those of you who missed John Kerry's appearance on "The Tonight Show," it was hilarious, but for all the wrong reasons. Kerry made his entrance riding a borrowed Harley-Davidson and dressed, unbelievably, in blue jeans, a leather jacket, and, yes, of course, a helmet with a full face mask.

He told reporters he picked "The Tonight Show" because -- quote -- "I think it's important to go out and show people who you are," as if we needed any clear indication of just who John Kerry is.

BEGALA: John Kerry is...

CARLSON: And there it is.

BEGALA: And there he is. He's a guy...

CARLSON: Michael Dukakis with his helmet, John Kerry with his.

BEGALA: Well, now, first off, the reason -- you know the reason Kerry had to war the helmet is, they had a stunt man riding through a fence before that. The stunt man wasn't going to ride through a fence at 60 miles without a helmet. So, for continuity, they had to have the guy in the helmet.

CARLSON: But what a dopey-looking helmet.


BEGALA: Everybody wearing -- riding a motorcycle ought to wear a helmet, unless they want to be an organ donor.

CARLSON: No, no. That's, first of all, a complete crock. As someone who rides a motorcycle


BEGALA: I'm not going to get into a helmet debate with you.


CARLSON: But I will say, this is exactly like John Kerry's...

BEGALA: You must have ridden that motorcycle without a helmet too many times, Tucker.


CARLSON: Like John Kerry's presidential campaign itself, the campaign is less than he is. He's more impressive than he seems on the campaign. He's -- this will be studied for years as how not to run for president, how to make your guy look less than he actually is. It's pathetic.

BEGALA: I thought he did a good job. People made fun of Bill Clinton when he went on "The Arsenio Hall Show."


BEGALA: Now -- he did a great job, by the way. He did -- he played saxophone. Then he talked about race relations and the riots in L.A. for 30 minutes.


CARLSON: You mean the uprisings. It was so embarrassing.

BEGALA: No, it wasn't.

CARLSON: I'm still embarrassed by it.

BEGALA: Yes, well, he's not embarrassed by you. He likes you, Tucker.

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

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

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


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