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Presidential Ad War Heats Up

Aired November 24, 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: The Democrats cry foul, as the Republicans stand by their man.


GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Our war against terror is a contest of will in which perseverance is power.


ANNOUNCER: Today, the man behind the Republican Party's tough new ad.


ED GILLESPIE, REPUBLICAN NATIONAL COMMITTEE CHAIRMAN: The Republican National Committee is responsible for the content of this advertising.


ANNOUNCER: Plus, guess who's heading for frying pan park?




ANNOUNCER: Live from the George Washington University, James Carville and Robert Novak.



Today, the chairman of the Republican Party is here to talk about his first TV commercial of the presidential campaign. We'll call him on the amount of truthfulness in what it says. And maybe we'll also...

ROBERT NOVAK, CO-HOST: And maybe we'll also call the guy who's doing a counter ad for the Democrats. He's sitting right across the table from me.


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

U.S. senators usually work as little as possible. So it was remarkable that they were in session all weekend, debating a Medicare bill with prescription drug benefits. Teddy Kennedy and the other left-wingers vow they will filibuster to stop this dreadful handout to pharmaceutical companies. But the usually full-throated Kennedy hardly said anything as the Senate cloture to cut off debate.

Now, why should left-wing Democrats oppose the first big new addition to the federal welfare state in 38 years? Are they saying, please don't throw me into the briar patch? The real issue is President Bush trying to inoculate himself for the 2004 campaign with a $400 billion handout to the geezers.

CARVILLE: You know, Bob, this -- this Gingrich pharmaceutical company HMO bill doesn't -- is not a handout to seniors. It's a handout to HMOs, pharmaceutical companies, people like Newt Gingrich who supported this at the behest of HMOs and pharmaceutical companies and insurance companies. The seniors are going to get very little on this. That's why we need a Democratic president to strip this special interest junk out of here...


CARVILLE: ... and get this benefit to the seniors.


NOVAK: For left-wingers like -- for left-wingers like you, James, it's never enough.

CARVILLE: You're right. You're right. It's never enough to help our seniors. You're doggone right. They deserve it.

Senate Energy Committee Chairman Pete Domenici recently met with several dozen oil, gas, and other energy lobbyists. When he entered the room, he got a standing ovation. It figures. After all, the energy bill that he is leading is a $26 billion sugar treat for these pigs. My question is this. Do you think that the parents of those soldiers killed and maimed in Iraq are giving him standing ovations?

Do you think that the future generations who are going to have to deal with this debt are giving him a standing ovation? I've got a use for those military tribunals the Bush administration likes so much. They ought to use them to try the energy company lobbyists and their lackeys in Congress for war profiteering, because that's exactly what this is.


NOVAK: Well, you know, James, could I give you a cautionary note? We're a year away from the election. So I think your left-wing invective and demagoguery, I think you're in absolutely November fettle. But it's November of 2003, not 2004.

CARVILLE: And you know what makes -- you know what make me sick, Bob? When we have kids that have been put into a war that they didn't have a plan how to get out of, that they wasn't leveled with on how to get there, and these lobbyists are sitting there, raking -- giving -- getting hundreds -- billions of dollars to the Republican Party, who's returning taxpayer money for them...


CARVILLE: ... while this is going on. This is an outrage and an affront to the American public.



NOVAK: Then Tom Daschle, the Democratic leader, shouldn't have voted for it, then.

CARVILLE: He shouldn't have.

NOVAK: The congressman strikes back, Congressman Dick Gephardt's first counterattack ad of the Democratic presidential campaign season. The first attack ad by former Vermont Governor Howard Dean assailed Gephardt for approving $87 billion for the war in Iraq. Gephardt uses Dean's own words when asked whether Dean would support the $87 billion.


HOWARD DEAN (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We have no choice, but it has to be financed by getting rid of all the president's tax cuts.


NOVAK: Then Dean is shown saying this nearly a month later.


DEAN: I don't intend to make whether they voted for or against the supplemental appropriation a campaign issue.


NOVAK: Game, set and match to Dick Gephardt. Shall we call Dean "Tricky Howard"?


CARVILLE: The boy's been campaigning hard out there, Bob.



NOVAK: A little tricky, Howard.


CARVILLE: I'll tell you, you can't remember everything you said a month ago. I mean, come on.

NOVAK: Or even a day ago.


NOVAK: You know, I would say -- I would say this, that he is going -- he is going to get -- when he gets nominated, he is going to be put through the wringer by the Republican dirt-mongers so bad that you can't believe it.

CARVILLE: You know, actually, I'll just say this. I was tongue- in-cheek about using these tribunals for this. But I'll tell you, the Republicans are going to pay for what they're doing in a time of war...


CARVILLE: ... in this unmitigated greed.


NOVAK: Oh, you never give up, do you?

CARVILLE: No, sir.

The best thing that can be said about using the BCS computer system to select the college football national champion is that it hasn't killed anybody. Short of that, it's the dumbest system that the mind of man has ever come up with. If my alma mater, Louisiana State, beats Arkansas and wins the SEC championship game, only to be stopped by BCS computers, there will be an outrage from this CROSSFIRE host and the people of Louisiana, the likes of which the sports world has never seen.

Football championships shouldn't be decided by sportswriters or Bowl Committee members in ugly blazers. And they sure in the hell shouldn't be decided by computers. If anybody wants a plan that lets football players determine national championships, get in touch with me and I'll forward you a plan that I've devised myself to save the BCS from its own stupidity. Until then, I think the BCS should drop the C.


CARVILLE: Because that's what this system is, B.S.


NOVAK: James, there's two points. One is that the -- that your prejudice for the Southeastern Conference football.

CARVILLE: Absolutely.

NOVAK: I don't think they have had a national championship since Paul "Bear" Bryant.


NOVAK: And, secondly, everybody who knows -- who understands football knows that USC is a much better team than LSU.

CARVILLE: Everybody...


CARVILLE: Everybody that understands football knows that Florida and Tennessee have both won a national championship within the last 10 years. And everybody that understands football says, why don't we let football players decide who has the best team, instead of, like, saying, well, gee, you're just in favor of the Southeastern Conference?


CARVILLE: And if Southern Cal beats LSU, than the hell with it. But let's have a system that lets kid decide it, not us.


NOVAK: Party politics are heating up. And America's TV screens are becoming the main front in the campaign battle. We'll talk to Republican National Chairman Ed Gillespie about his party's opening blast.

And later: Thanksgiving doesn't have to be the end of the line if you're the official bird -- pardoning the real turkey.


ANNOUNCER: Get ahead of the CROSSFIRE. Sign up for CROSSFIRE's daily "Political Alert" e-mail. You'll get a preview of each day's show, plus an inside look at the day's political headlines. Just go to and sign up today.


NOVAK: The Republican Party has started running its first TV commercial to support President Bush's reelection. It focuses on the war on terrorism, an important issue. So, of course, Democratic presidential candidates are whining about it.

In the CROSSFIRE today, the man behind the ad, Republican National Chairman Ed Gillespie.



CARVILLE: Ed, as opposed to talking about your ad, I'm suggesting that the DNC run this ad, which is 100 percent accurate. I want to show you some footage of the president on the Abraham Lincoln.

This is the voice-over: Mr. President, mission not accomplished, sir. You lied to get us into a war you had no idea how to get us out of. You're disrespected around the world. You've trashed America's name. You've done nothing about rising health care costs. You've exploded the deficit and trashed the environment. You've given thousands and billions of dollars of tax breaks to your campaign contributors. Mr. President, America's mission will not be accomplished until you're voted out of office and sent back to your ranch in Texas and America changes its policy.


CARVILLE: Now, what's wrong with that ad?

GILLESPIE: Well, James, the fact...

CARVILLE: That's the ad that I'll -- that's the ad -- I'll be glad to do the voice-over for the DNC ad.

GILLESPIE: Well, I understand you are doing the ad for the DNC. So I suspect we'll see


CARVILLE: I understand, but that's not tough enough. It's too easy.

GILLESPIE: Let me tell you something.

NOVAK: Did they pay you for that?

CARVILLE: No, sir.


CARVILLE: But if they send me a check for it...


GILLESPIE: The fact is, James, that this economy is moving again, thanks to the president's policies. We're creating jobs. And the Democrats would reverse that by raising taxes on the American people.

CARVILLE: How many jobs have been created since


GILLESPIE: Well, we had 250,000 since -- since the... CARVILLE: Since he's been president, how many were created?

GILLESPIE: Well, 250,000 since the last two months.


CARVILLE: Bill Clinton created that in a day.

GILLESPIE: The fact is -- we've got lots more time here for the president's policies to take effect.


CARVILLE: Right. And what happened to the deficit? What happened to the deficit since he's been there?

NOVAK: All right, all right, all right, all right, all right.


GILLESPIE: Wait. Wait. can I -- can I just make a couple of points?

NOVAK: Can you let him...


GILLESPIE: A 7.2 percent economic growth rate in the last quarter, projections of economic growth.

CARVILLE: You know, you're


NOVAK: Let him talk!



GILLESPIE: Thank you, Bob.

The fact is that housing starts are higher than they've ever been in history. And the fact is, also, that we are now seeing tax revenues coming up at a higher rate because of the economic growth. That's going to bring the deficit down, as the president said it would.



NOVAK: Wait a minute. It's my turn.


GILLESPIE: No, I'm saying -- I'm saying that the...


NOVAK: In the first place, I believe that it will be a great break for you if they let James do that commercial. I think we'd have another -- another Reagan landslide if it happened.

But I want to show you a real commercial, not a make-believe commercial, that one of the candidates is doing, John Kerry. And let's take a look at it.


NARRATOR: George Bush's ad says he's being attacked for attacking the terrorists. No, Mr. President, America is united against terror. The problem is, you declared mission accomplished, but had no plan to win the peace and handed out billions in contracts to contributors like Halliburton.

SEN. JOHN KERRY (D-MA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I'm John Kerry. And I approved this message because we can't go it alone. We have to share the burden.


NOVAK: OK, now, the thing that the whining Democrats are worried about is that the president is questioning their patriotism.

Aren't they questioning the president's patriotism?

GILLESPIE: Well, look, they question the president all the time. And the president didn't have anything to do with this ad. I'm responsible for the content of the ad. And I've never questioned their patriotism.

In fact, I believe that all those Democrats who are running for president think that their policies are in the best interests of the United States. I also believe they're wrong about that and that there's a clear choice in policy here between the president's policies of preemptive self-defense in the world after September 11. He's right about the need to act if we need to. We should encourage international support, as we've had in Iraq, in both the reconstruction and in the liberation of Baghdad. And we should prosecute the war against terror through things like the Patriot Act.

Democrats are wrong when they oppose those policies. And I'm free to air that in an ad. That is not a question of their patriotism. That is a question of their policies. That's what elections are about.

CARVILLE: All right, let's just let the record show that nobody objected to any fact in my ad, because everything that I stated is absolute truth.

Let me show you -- I think you were involved in the president's election campaign, the one that he came so close to winning, but fell about -- oh, about half-a-million -- you said trust was the issue. Let's see what the American people say at this point. George W. Bush, a leader you can trust, 44, doubts and reservations, 54.

So he can't get the job done. He got us into a war he has no idea -- no -- no -- no idea how to get us out of. And now people are saying you can't trust him. What the hell is he going to run on?

GILLESPIE: James, you're absolutely wrong about that.


GILLESPIE: The fact is that he's getting the job done on every one of these fronts on national security and economic security and homeland security. He's waging an effective war against terror.


CARVILLE: He is getting the job done in Iraq?

GILLESPIE: Yes, he is getting the job done in Iraq.

You know what? There's a new -- a new currency in circulation in Iraq. The people of Iraq are free and they're liberated today. There is a civilian police force being established.


GILLESPIE: It is a more stable country. You may believe that the world is better off with Saddam Hussein in control in Iraq and our country would be better off with Saddam Hussein in control of Iraq, but you're wrong about it. And there's a...


CARVILLE: Ed, you're a friend. You're a serious guy. You could run an ad saying: Reelect George W. Bush. Iraq has a currency.


GILLESPIE: No, I'm going to say -- I'm going to say...

CARVILLE: What an accomplishment. Geez.

GILLESPIE: We're going to say, reelect George W. Bush because the fact is, the president is waging an effective war against terror.


GILLESPIE: And the fact is that the Middle East will be more stable today as a result of Saddam Hussein being gone.


CARVILLE: It's really stable now.

(CROSSTALK) GILLESPIE: It's not going to happen overnight. I know that some want to cut and run. I think that's a mistake. And the president's right to maintain our presence there until we're finished.

NOVAK: Mr. Chairman, as I mentioned before, the Senate is moving -- they may be passing it right now -- a huge Medicare bill, handouts to senior citizens, which gives a lot of conservatives heartburn.

I want to show you quotations from Senator Judd Gregg of New Hampshire -- I think he's one of the most thoughtful Republican senators, former governor -- and Mike Pence of Indiana, congressman. He's a deputy -- he's only in his second term. He's a deputy whip of the House.

Let's see what they say about this bill that the president is pushing.


SEN. JUDD GREGG (R), NEW HAMPSHIRE: It shouldn't be sugar- coated. It is a massive tax increase being placed on working young Americans and Americans who haven't yet been born in order to support a drug benefit for retired Americans and Americans who are about to retire.

REP. MIKE PENCE (R), INDIANA: The bottom line is that the bill would add a universal drug entitlement to a largely unreformed Medicare program and warns for a fiscal disaster.


NOVAK: What do you -- what do you -- how do you respond to that?

GILLESPIE: These are two men I respect immensely.

But the fact is, when it comes to this policy, this is the exact right policy. We have to save Medicare for future generations. That's what this bill does. It reforms Medicare to save it for future generations. It's a cost-effective way of providing a much-needed prescription drug benefit to America's seniors.

You know, the fact is that Democrats campaigned on this problem for years, but they campaigned on it one too many times, because now Republicans are going to be the ones who fix it for America's seniors. And they're going to do it in the right way, in a targeted approach, in a cost effective-manner, and in a way that matters to a lot of seniors, and make their lives better.



NOVAK: In all due respect, you didn't -- you didn't respond to these two conservatives who say that you have -- you've had this huge handout out there and you haven't fixed the Medicare program. It's not reformed. (CROSSTALK)

GILLESPIE: They're wrong about that. This is not a tax increase. And it does fix the Medicare program. It is a reform. It injects market principles into the Medicare system in a way that makes it more efficient and more cost-effective.

CARVILLE: Let's leave the slogan at, since Bush has been president, the dollar has lost 20 percent of its value, but Iraq has a currency, and move on to a man that I know you...


CARVILLE: ... I know you respect, Vice President Cheney, and see what he says about a potentially contentious issue coming up in this election campaign.

Can I see it, please?


DICK CHENEY, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: And I think that means that people should be free to enter into any kind of relationship they want to enter into. It's really no one else's business in terms of trying to regulate or prohibit behavior in that regard.


CARVILLE: All right, that's the vice -- the vice president talking about gays in terms of gay marriage and saying it should be left up to the states.

Can we agree right now that the issue of gay marriages ought to be left up to the states, and, given the fact that we have exploding deficits, exploding health care costs, American is disrespected around the world, and so many important things to talk about in the national campaign, that you, as chairman of the Republican National Committee, allow me to go to Terry McAuliffe and let's say, let's take this off the table and let the states decide it, and so we can focus on fixing the mess that Bush has got us in?

GILLESPIE: James, the fact is -- I'm going to have to blow past all of your rhetoric about the president


GILLESPIE: I'll go right to the issue about gay marriage.


GILLESPIE: And whether or not what the president -- the vice president said is accurate. The vice president is right. People should be left and free to do what they want to do in the privacy of their own home.



GILLESPIE: What's going on here is that we have these judicial activists in the state of Massachusetts...

CARVILLE: Right. Right.

GILLESPIE: ... who are now putting into play the notion that gay marriage may be government-sanctioned across the country.


GILLESPIE: If gay activists try to use this to nationalize the institution of gay marriage, I believe it will be an issue in the campaign.

CARVILLE: So you disagree with the vice president.


NOVAK: We've got to take a break.

When we return, Ed Gillespie tells us what he really thinks about Howard Dean.

And after the break, Martin Savidge has the latest on today's jury decision in the John Muhammad sniper case.



CARVILLE: It's time for "Rapid Fire," where we try to ask questions even faster than corporate lobbyists ask the White House for favors.

Our guest is Republican Party Chairman Ed Gillespie.

NOVAK: Chairman Gillespie, you're a New Jersey guy. Don't you have a sneaking admiration for Howard Dean, a little guy out of Vermont, coming up and being the front-runner for the presidential nomination?

GILLESPIE: Look, I -- whoever emerges from the Democratic Party primary process is going to be a viable nominee, whether it's Howard Dean or Dick Gephardt or John Edwards or Kerry or Clark or any of the others. The fact is, we're anticipating a close contest.

So whoever -- look, it's a big party. They have a big party. We have a big party. Whoever gets their party's nomination, we're going to respect and understand it's going to be a close contest.

CARVILLE: Mr. Gillespie, you would agree with me that the Democrats have every right to use footage from the carrier Abraham Lincoln in spots attacking the president, don't you? GILLESPIE: Democrats are -- it's a free country. They're free to use whatever they want in television advertising.

NOVAK: Do you believe it's a good process for the Republicans to inoculate themselves against Democrats by adopting as many liberal programs as they can, such as prescription drug subsidies?

GILLESPIE: I don't believe that adopting liberal policies is the right way to go.

But the fact, this is approach for the prescription drug benefit saves Medicare for future generations. It's targeted in a way that the Democrats wouldn't. It's $400 billion, which is a lot of money, but it's a -- it's the appropriate priority for our government. And it would have been $900 billion had the Democrats had their way.

CARVILLE: What do you think the president has done a better job on, controlling the deficit or getting health care costs under control?

GILLESPIE: Well, I think the health care costs are going to be under control and less expensive under this administration than if the trial lawyers get to run wild under a Democratic administration and bring lawsuits and drive people out of health care.


NOVAK: Quickly, name one state that Gore won in 2000 that you think Bush can win in 2004.

GILLESPIE: Iowa, Wisconsin, New York.

NOVAK: OK, thank you very...

GILLESPIE: I gave you three. Do I get extra credit?

NOVAK: Gave three. All right.


NOVAK: Thank you very much, Ed Gillespie.

Thanksgiving is known for its traditions, but this one is really for the birds, which brings us to today's question: Which president was the first to pardon the Thanksgiving Day turkey, Herbert Hoover, Harry Truman, John F. Kennedy?

See how good you history students are.


NOVAK: We asked the audience here, who was the first president to pardon a turkey? And they are really keen students of history; 70 percent said Harry Truman. And they were right.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE) CARVILLE: Well, it took a Democrat to pardon.

You know what? I think -- I think that -- I think that President Bush ought to break traditions, because, after all, one turkey in the White House is enough.


CARVILLE: If he pardons this, they'll be two.


NOVAK: Well, I'll tell you. I've been around this town a long time. And I've seen a lot of screwy traditions. That is the dumbest of all of them.


NOVAK: Because it has no relation to anything. But you probably like it.

CARVILLE: I said, it took a Democrat to pardon the first turkey, I guess.


CARVILLE: That turkey was a Republican, Bob.

NOVAK: I think Truman was a turkey, anyway, so how's that?

CARVILLE: What is that? All right.

NOVAK: OK, is this show over? I think it is.


CARVILLE: All right.

From the left, I'm James Carville. And I think we're out of here. Good night for CROSSFIRE.

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

Join us again next time for another edition of CROSSFIRE.

And next, coming up, who is it?




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