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Is Dean Hiding Something?

Aired December 3, 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: Dean hiding something? Democratic presidential hopeful Howard Dean faces growing pressure to unlock some of the sealed records from his 11 years as governor of Vermont. Will he give in?



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


TUCKER CARLSON, CO-HOST: Well, hello. And welcome to CROSSFIRE.

Facing growing criticism, Howard Dean is now weighing his options. He's considering whether to end the secrecy and open some of those sealed records from his 11 years in the Vermont governor's office.

PAUL BEGALA, CO-HOST: Of course, Republicans who want to hide the Bush-Cheney energy task force and stonewall the 9/11 Commission and censor arrival ceremonies of our war dead, has suddenly found the virtues of open government.

We will debate whether this is principle or partisanship, but, first, the best little political briefing in television, our CROSSFIRE "Political Alert."

"The Washington Post" reports today that President Bush is prepared to roll back Clinton-era rules that reduced the levels of mercury in our environment. Now, a fraction of a teaspoon of mercury can contaminate a 25-acre lake. And coal-fired power plants currently belch about 48 tons of the stuff every year. Forty-one of the 50 states have already issued advisories against eating local fish because of the risk of mercury poisoning.

And nearly five million women of child-bearing age have unsafe levels of mercury in their blood, putting 320,000 newborns at risk because mercury damages the brains and the nervous systems of children. It also harms the cardiovascular and immune systems of adults. But, rather than be intimidated by brain-damaged babies, President Bush has the courage to reward his big polluters who contribute millions of dollars to him.

You know, he's got a point. President Bush did warn us that we faced a threat of chemical weapons. We just didn't know they were coming from him.

CARLSON: Now, I don't know if you didn't read anything about this...


CARLSON: ... or you're intentionally distorting it.

BEGALA: I read a lot about it.

CARLSON: What you said is actually false.


CARLSON: The standards the Bush administration's EPA have proposed would lower the levels of mercury in the environment by 30 percent in the next seven years.


CARLSON: Moreover, that's more than ever happened in the Clinton years. If it was such a good idea...

BEGALA: That's not true. He's repealing...

CARLSON: That actually is true.

BEGALA: What President Clinton said is, they have to use the best technology to clean it what Mr. Bush's...

CARLSON: Clinton waited eight years to put those


BEGALA: It's sound science, Tucker. It takes a while to do public policy. You have to want to do good.

CARLSON: Paul, Paul, what you said was so dishonest, it's just shocking.

BEGALA: No, he's just whoring out for the polluters. He ought to be ashamed of himself.

CARLSON: I can't believe you would say that, because it's untrue.

Anyway, an advertisement in the Washington, D.C. subway system has provided Oklahoma Congressman Ernest Istook, chairman of the House Transportation Subcommittee


CARLSON: ... threaten almost $100,000 from the federal government's annual payment. The ad, posted as part of the Metro's policy providing free ad space for public service announcement, declares -- quote -- "Enjoy better sex! Legalize and tax marijuana" Well, Change the Climate, the pro-pot legalization group behind the ad, threatened to sue if it was not given the space to air its views.

Opponents of the ad claim it glorifies drug use and promotes an illegal activity, points that are pretty hard to dispute. On the other hand, most experts expect that the ads will remain exactly where they are. Truth is, after all, still a defense.

BEGALA: The problem is, the message is not true. It's a dangerous public health message to be sending out.

I went and looked. There was a Kaiser study in 1997 which stated the obvious. People who use pot oftentimes engage in risky sexual behavior. D.C. has an enormous AIDS problem as it is. There have been cases, many cases documented in the medical research, of men actually getting breast enhancement out of smoking pot.

CARLSON: For free?


BEGALA: I don't think that's anybody's idea of a sexual turn-on. And there's a lot of cancer-causing agents in marijuana. It's a dangerous drug.


BEGALA: ... illegal.

CARLSON: You're -- you're on the Republican side of this?




CARLSON: Good for you.

BEGALA: I am. It's a dangerous message.

Well, speaking of happier things, Kinky Friedman is thinking about running for governor of Texas. Who is Kinky Friedman, you might ask? Well, he's the author of mystery books and great country songs, including the legendary "They Ain't Making Jews Like Jesus Anymore."


BEGALA: Now, Kinky ran for justice of the peace in Kerr County back in 1986 with the slogan, "If you make me this county's first Jewish J.P., I'll cut the speed limit from 55 down to 54.99." Now, Kinky told "The New York Times" last week that his slogan for his gubernatorial campaign might be, "Why the hell not?"

Indeed. After all, what other author can claim to be a favorite of both President Bill Clinton and President George W. Bush? Nobody but the Kinkster. Look, Texas could do worse. Our last governor, his only experience was running a baseball team, from which he promptly traded Sammy Sosa. I'll take Kinky any day. Go Kinky for governor.




CARLSON: Truly, a state that elected Ann Richards will do anything. I'm actually for this, not because I like to see states destroyed, but because, now that Jim Traficant is, sadly, behind the reach of the camera, there are not enough colorful people in politics left anymore. Kinky Friedman, I think, would raise the bar for all of us who work in cable news.

BEGALA: Oh, he's about as colorful as a box of Crayolas. He's on the funniest -- we need to get him on. Where's the cam -- Kinky, come on CROSSFIRE. We'll do his first gubernatorial announcement right here. Get the Kinkster in the rink.

CARLSON: We are raising the tone.



CARLSON: As we do every single day here on CROSSFIRE.

Well, Supreme Court Justice Antonin Antonin Scalia was called a bigot back in June, when he warned that, by striking down a Texas sodomy law, the high court ruling would be used as a justification for polygamy, among other unusual civil arrangements. Well, of course, it turns out Mr. Scalia was right. Tom Green, a Utah man with five wives, is serving a five-year sentence on bigamy charges. This week, he was back before the Utah Supreme Court, wondering what exactly, under the new standards, he had done wrong.

Well, it's a good question. How can government judge what consenting adults, even a pack of them, do in a bedroom? Just because Green's marriages are untraditional, does that make them wrong? Nope. Under the new rule, just because you happen to find it icky doesn't mean government can make it illegal.

So what is wrong with polygamy? If you can think of a good argument using the new Supreme Court-endorsed rules of engagement, we'd like to hear of it. E-mail us at

And I can't wait to find out what is exactly wrong with it.

BEGALA: Well, here's one. Polygamy is almost always, as in the case here, a man with many women. And, very often, those cases are men who take advantage of women often much, much younger.


CARLSON: Really? So you don't like it. But nobody is claiming


BEGALA: Very often, very often, we're talking about an iniquitous relationship, not a fair-level one.

CARLSON: We're talking about consenting adults. A lot of us are in relationships where it's not a fully equal partnership. It doesn't mean government can make it illegal, however.

CARLSON: And, if it's consenting adults, I want to know, under your rules, why we can make it illegal.

BEGALA: My rules are Dick Cheney's rules. I have the same position that Dick Cheney has on gay civil unions. We ought to let gay people have equal rights under the law.

CARLSON: And polygamists.

BEGALA: Dick Cheney thinks so. And so do I. Let the other bigots in the Republican Party argue against that.

CARLSON: God, you're always calling someone a bigot. That's a shame.


CARLSON: Howard Dean, is he hiding something? That's our question. Facing heavy criticism, the Democratic presidential candidate is now considering whether to give in to his critics and open some sealed records from his time in the Vermont's governor's office.

We'll debate the issue when we return. We'll be right back.


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.

Join Carville, Begala, Carlson and Novak in the CROSSFIRE. For free tickets to the live Washington audience, call 202-994-8CNN or e- mail us at Now you can step into the CROSSFIRE.



BEGALA: Welcome back to CROSSFIRE. He is facing criticism from some of his Democratic rivals and taking flak from some Republican hacks. So, now Howard Dean says he's considering whether to open more of the sealed records from his 11 years in the Vermont governor's mansion. So, when will President Bush come clean about the Enron lobbyists who wrote his energy plan?


BEGALA: In the CROSSFIRE to talk about the issue, Republican consultant Ed Rogers, and, in New York, Democratic Congressman and Howard Dean supporter Jerry Nadler.

CARLSON: Congressman Nadler, thanks a lot for joining us.


CARLSON: The thing I love about this story, one of the many things, is, you don't need to wonder what the motives were, because Governor Dean said them right out loud.

He was asked in January by Vermont Public Radio: Why are you keeping all these records secret? Here was his response verbatim -- quote -- "Well, there are future political considerations. We didn't want anything embarrassing appearing in the papers at a critical time in any future endeavor."


CARLSON: Well, it turns out he is a straight shooter, isn't he?

NADLER: Well, I think he's a straight shooter. But he's also someone who sometimes talks tongue in cheek. And I suspect that was one of those times.

First of all, the fact is that the vast majority of his public records are on public view in the Vermont state archives. Some have been kept private. And I think he has said, or the campaign spokesman has said, that they're now looking as to how they can balance transparency with the need to keep some things -- to protect the privacy of third parties, people who wrote to the governor about AIDS, or whatever.

CARLSON: Wait, wait, wait. Congressman, Congressman, there's no -- there's no indication...

NADLER: And they have to do that.

CARLSON: Excuse me.

There's no indication at all in this remark or in the surrounding remarks that it was a joke at all. So, are you saying he was lying when he said this? I don't understand your explanation.

NADLER: No, I think he was -- I think -- I think he said, or someone said, that he was talking tongue in cheek. He wasn't lying. But I think -- and what he's said now, or what a spokesman for the campaign now has said, is that they're looking to figure out how to protect the privacy of third parties, while achieving maximum transparency. And I think that's pretty clear.


NADLER: And I don't think that this is a real issue. I don't think it's going to be an issue for very long. I think, by the way -- and I have to say this.

BEGALA: I'm sorry, Congressman. I am going to let Ed Rogers respond, though, because I think you raised a very important point.


BEGALA: Ed, isn't this is a great contrast, where here you have Howard Dean, the Democrat, who has already opened up 60 percent of the records? His staff says, now they're going to go through to protect people's privacy, but, otherwise, they're interested in opening them up more.


BEGALA: What a stark contrast between our president and vice our president, who, as we speak, are at the Supreme Court fighting now for the second year or third year to keep secret which Enron and other oil company lobbyists they met with. Isn't that a dramatic difference?


ROGERS: The analogy between White House record management, White House record keeping and White House confidentiality and executive privilege, and Governor Dean's records that he has stated, through his own admission, he wants to keep secret because of some political consequences that may be in the records, the analogy is ludicrous.

Governor Dean has handled this poorly. It's going to change. The records are going to come out. He must know that. And it's probably driving Congressman Nadler and his other handlers crazy. It's going to come out. He's handled it poorly.

And, hey, I'm for Governor Dean getting this behind him. As a Bush loyalist, I'm all for John -- Governor Dean handling this.


BEGALA: No, but let me press this point, though. Where -- I don't see the consistency, frankly, of the principle.



BEGALA: ... just partisan attack.

My principle is open government. I think Howard Dean should release more of these records. And I'm glad that he's going to.


ROGERS: ... Clinton White House, open government.


BEGALA: Good lord, we opened everything. You people, you right- wing people, went through the man's sock drawer, for God's sake.



BEGALA: We opened everything.

ROGERS: At the point of a subpoena. At the point of a subpoena.


BEGALA: I want to know -- I want to know what Enron lobbyists Dick Cheney and George Bush allowed to write our energy plan. I have a right to know. I pay their salary, don't I?


NADLER: Can I get a word in here?


ROGERS: That smokescreen and that volume doesn't confuse the issue with the problem and the clumsy way Governor Dean has handled this problem.

CARLSON: Now, Mr. Nadler, you wanted to jump in?

NADLER: Well, yes.

I think it takes incredible gall for a spokesman for the Bush administration to even be talking about this subject, when the Bush administration has been the most secretive administration in history. Never mind just the fact that all the records of that energy commission that wrote the energy legislation are totally secret. Never mind that they're stiff-arming the 9/11 Commission on White House records with regard to seeing who was saying what and what information there was before 9/11.

Never mind the fact that...


NADLER: If they wanted to, they could find out in five minutes who leaked the name of a White House -- of the CIA undercover agent...


NADLER: ... and endangered lives.

CARLSON: Excuse me. Hold on. Hold on. The Justice Department, incidentally, is investigating that, as you know.

But you're making almost exactly the same point that Howard Dean made just the other day, when he said, look, I'll show you mine if you show me yours. If President Bush opens up all of his records as governor, I'll open up all of mine.

NADLER: As president.

CARLSON: And here's what -- here' what -- no, no, as governor, is what he said. And here is how...


NADLER: And I'm saying he should open up his records as president.

CARLSON: Well, I'm saying, Mr. Nadler, this is what Joe Lieberman...

NADLER: I care less about what he did as governor. He's the president now.


CARLSON: Well, I'm just quoting Howard Dean.

ROGERS: Do you think he should keep these records secret? Do you think these records should stay secret, Congressman?

NADLER: No, I think that they've already said that, consistent with...

ROGERS: Of course not. And they're going to come out.


NADLER: I think that they've already said -- this is a false issue, because they've already said that they're going to achieve maximum transparency, consistent with the -- protecting the privacy of third parties.

CARLSON: Actually...

NADLER: What I'm saying...

CARLSON: Mr. Nadler, if I can just correct you, what he said was, when Governor -- when President Bush releases his gubernatorial records, I'll release mine. That's almost verbatim.

Here's what Joe Lieberman said -- quote -- "Governor Dean said today" -- this is Monday -- "he'd release his records when George W. Bush released his. Well, it turns out that George W. Bush's records from Texas are in fact available to the public. So I hope Governor Dean will honor his word and unseal his words and letters and the rest of his records as governor of Vermont."

NADLER: And in today's -- and in today's...

CARLSON: When's that going to happen?

NADLER: And in today's "Washington Post," a spokesman for the Dean campaign said that they are now looking at that portion of the Dean records that are not yet public to see how they can achieve maximum transparency, consistent with the privacy rights of third parties. So I think they're going to do that.

BEGALA: Well, Ed, you are one of the best in the business.


BEGALA: And I think you make a good point when you say Governor Dean has -- no, no, I think you make a good point when you say Governor Dean has mishandled this. I think you're right they're going to come out. And he is a guy who is going to be on the side of open government at the end of the day.

I wonder if you'll concede that our president has mishandled desperately how he has released information about his pals in Saudi Arabia.

Let me read to you a comment criticizing him not from a partisan Democrat, but from a Republican committee chairman, Richard Shelby, senator from Alabama, says of his fellow Republican, President Bush, of a report that the president censored: "You see the blank pages. They're classified. I think they're classified for the wrong reason. I went back and read every one of those pages thoroughly two or three days ago. My judgment is, 95 percent of that information should be declassified, become uncensored, so the American people would know."

Why are even Republicans criticizing President Bush for covering up for the Saudis?

ROGERS: Senator Shelby is a wise man. And I'm sure that he knows what he's talking about, being on the Intelligence Committee, like he is.

Having said that, I don't know the particulars of what is in this report. But none of that...

BEGALA: It's censored.

ROGERS: But none of that has anything to do with how Howard Dean is bobbling this, how he has admitted, through his own admission, he has something to hide. He's handled it in a poor way. It's going to come out. It's chewing up days in his campaign that are valuable days at this stage of the game.

The name of the game in the Democrat primaries is, stop Howard Dean. He is playing into his opponents' hands. And it's fun to watch. But having said that, given that I'm for Howard Dean, I don't want him to handle it too poorly. CARLSON: Congressman Nadler, there is talk in Washington that there are things in those papers. And it may not be true, but there is still talk that there are things in those papers that might be damaging to Governor Dean. Have you ever heard that? And do you believe, if they are released, it would hurt him politically, as he said?

NADLER: I have no idea what's in those papers. I haven't heard that talk. I can't comment on that.

All I can say is, again, the Dean campaign said today that -- or at least said yesterday -- it was in this morning "Washington Post" -- that, consistent with protecting the privacy rights of third parties, they're going to achieve the maximum transparency. So I think this is a...


CARLSON: Why wouldn't he have done that two years ago, when he left office, I wonder.

ROGERS: I'll bet you wish he would hurry up.

NADLER: I think this is a tempest in a teapot.

But, again, I have to say that the Bush administration, which is the current governing administration of this country, is doing grave damage to this country by keeping a lot of very important things secret, such as why the report on the Saudis, such as -- there's a Justice Department investigation, but the president, obviously, in five minutes could find out, if he wanted to, and publicize who fingered that CIA agent.

BEGALA: Also, Congressman Nadler, in your district, ground zero is located. An EPA report on the health hazards of ground zero was censored by the White House.

NADLER: Absolutely.

BEGALA: Another EPA report about global warming was censored by the White House. The Education Department is running a political correct censor through its Web site.

ROGERS: Then why you give that advice to Howard Dean about how to manage his records?


BEGALA: Dean should open the records, too. But isn't Bush an ultimate hypocrite on this, to be trying to attack Howard Dean?

ROGERS: Hey, Bush has got the standard of an aggressive White House press corps that you're very familiar with. He's got the Paul Begalas of the world chasing him around every day.

Whatever is in there is going to come out at the end of the day. But none of that has impacted Bush politically the way this has the potential impact Dean politically.


ROGERS: He is handling it poorly. He needs to stop.

CARLSON: And that's a shame.

OK, we're going to take a quick break. We'll be back just momentarily.

Up next: And is Howard Dean arrogant? Find out what our guests think when we put them in "Rapid Fire."

And Wolf Blitzer has the latest on a racially charged controversy in Cincinnati, Ohio.

We'll return in a moment.




BEGALA: Time now for "Rapid Fire," where the questions and answers fly faster than Bush administration excuses for secrecy.

We are talking about allegations of Republican hypocrisy in the GOP's push to get Howard Dean to open some of those sealed records from his time in the Vermont governor's office.

In the CROSSFIRE, Republican consultant Ed Rogers and Democratic Congressman Jerry Nadler.

CARLSON: Congressman Nadler, on Monday, Governor Dean, in an interview, made reference four times to the need for the United States to pressure -- quote -- "the Soviet Union." Do you think Governor Dean is aware the Soviet Union has not existed for a dozen years?

NADLER: Oh, I think he's aware of that. I think that he was thinking probably of some of the remaining impacts of the Soviet Union and he misspoke, instead of saying Russia, but obviously.

BEGALA: Ed Rogers, if our president so believes, all of a sudden, in open government, why doesn't he at least open up those arrival ceremonies, so we can honor our war dead, the way President Reagan did, the way his father did, the way President Clinton did?

ROGERS: I'm not familiar of the arrival ceremonies. The flag- covered coffins?

BEGALA: Right.

ROGERS: I was in the Bush White House when some of that was going on. And that was becoming, in my view -- I don't know about this current incident that you're talking about -- but, in my view, that was becoming disrespectful.

They were breaking into soap operas. They were breaking into game shows and suddenly going to flag-covered coffins. I thought that was disrespectful. I thought the families didn't deserve that. I certainly didn't think the victims deserved that. Whatever they have done to make that more dignified, to make it more respectful of the families, I think, is a good thing.


CARLSON: Congressman Nadler, this is a verbatim quote from Howard Dean speaking to President Bush -- quote -- "Mr. President, if you will pardon me, I'll teach you a little about defense."

My question is, has there ever been a presidential candidate as arrogant as Howard Dean? Ever?

NADLER: I don't consider that terribly arrogant. And I think there have been a lot of very arrogant presidential candidates.

And the fact is that he's entirely right to say to President Bush that, you know, you're not spending the money on defending our country. You're not inspecting the containers that are coming into this country that could have weapons of mass destruction in them. You're refusing to spend the money because -- to defend to this country, because you care about the tax cuts for the rich more than defending the country. I think it's an eminently sensible comment.

BEGALA: Ed, Senator Warner, a Virginia Republican, Congressman Stevens of Alaska, a Republican, criticized President Bush, saying that they would no longer tolerate disrespect and secrecy on military matters. Are they arrogant and are they playing politics, too?


ROGERS: I don't know the particular incident, but I would suspect those guys support Bush to the 99 percentile. And I'll take that. And I bet Bush will, too.

BEGALA: Ed Rogers, Republican consultant, thank you very much.


BEGALA: Congressman Jerry Nadler, up in New York City, thank you, too, sir.

Good debate. Appreciate it, guys.



BEGALA: Welcome back to CROSSFIRE.

He couldn't let a mistake get by without speaking up. A young boy makes sure our president gets it right. We'll tell you what happened next on CROSSFIRE.


BEGALA: Welcome back to CROSSFIRE.

Showing a toughness absent among the grownups in the White House press corps, young Terrance Martin just could not let President Bush get away with a mistake. It happened at the White House yesterday, when Mr. Bush signed the Adoption Promotion Act. Terrance and his family were attending the ceremony when they were singled out by President Bush.


GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Four of them adopted at ages 6, 8, 10, and 11 years old.


BUSH: You were six.

MRS. MARTIN: That's right.

BUSH: And how old are you?


BUSH: Okay, 7.


BUSH: I'll take it up with the fact-checker.



BEGALA: I don't say this often. God bless President Bush, the Adoption Promotion Act.


BEGALA: He's extending tax credits created by President Clinton. God bless him. He's doing a good job on adoption.

CARLSON: I couldn't agree more. And there's no substitute for a little shoe-leather reporting. Ask him.


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

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

Join us again next time for another edition of CROSSFIRE.

"WOLF BLITZER REPORTS" starts right now.

Have a great night.



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