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Can Dean Beat Bush?

Aired December 11, 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: He's running ahead of the Democratic pack, but what will happen if Howard Dean wins the nomination and runs into George W. Bush?

Plus: Dennis Kucinich aboard the CNN Election Express -- today on CROSSFIRE.


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


TUCKER CARLSON, CO-HOST: Welcome to CROSSFIRE. James Carville and Paul Begala remain in Barbra Streisand's Malibu compound. And so we give a very special welcome to today's host on the left, Margaret Carlson. When you -- we'll keep you up to date on the explosions in Baghdad as we get more information on those.

Also today, we're looking ahead to the distinct possibility of Bush vs. Dean in the presidential race and what a fun and ultimately deeply satisfying race that would be.

MARGARET CARLSON, CO-HOST: On the other hand, Tucker, Karl Rove and company could do well to remember the old saying: Be careful what you wish for, because you just might get it.

But if you've been wishing for the best political briefing in television, wait no longer. If we do say so ourselves, here comes the CROSSFIRE "Political Alert."

T. CARLSON: Well, the left wing of the U.S. Supreme Court has confirmed what the left wing of the Democratic Party has been saying for years, that, somehow, it is not unconstitutional to restrict a person's right to express his political views. How is that? Well, that is pretty murky still. This much is clear.

According to the court, the McCain-Feingold campaign finance reform law is what the framers intended, in fact. Not that anyone cares anymore, because, after decades of attacking the corrupting influence of money in politics, liberals have decided they don't really mean it and never did. Both Howard Dean and John Kerry have opted out of the voluntary good government system and are trying to raise as much cash as they can, Dean with much more success.

In other words, its chief backers now find campaign finance reform ridiculous. So who still supports it? Well, selected community college professors do. A few left-wing think tanks do, and liberals on the Supreme Court. With supporters like that, it sounds like a winner.

M. CARLSON: Tucker, and me.

T. CARLSON: And you, Margaret!

M. CARLSON: And straight talker John McCain and Senator Russ Feingold.

Listen, what the Supreme Court affirmed is that a legislative body can self-regulate and try to get the sewer of money out of the system. They -- above all, they know they're corrupting themselves by taking...


M. CARLSON: ... all this money.

T. CARLSON: But what -- OK, I'll give the last word to you.

M. CARLSON: Why, thank you, Tucker, in honor of my first appearance with you here.

The Bush administration, Tucker, is dispatching James Baker to Russia, France and Germany next week. He wants to convince those countries to forgive Iraqi debt. The trip comes on the heels of this week's announcement that only countries who helped with the U.S. war effort will be allowed to bid on contracts to rebuild Iraq, in other words, not Russia, France and Germany.

It's so typical of the Bush administration, a full-frontal roundhouse punch before asking for a favor. German Chancellor Gerhardt Schroeder says -- quote -- "International law must apply." Our President Bush retorted: "International law? I better call my lawyer." I don't know if he was smirking when he said that, Tucker.

T. CARLSON: He might have been. But the point still remains that, look, these are countries that made tens of hundreds of millions of dollars off the Saddam Hussein regime. These debts are owed to that regime, which no longer exists. If they claim to care about the future of Iraq, they ought to forgive these debts. They have no moral ground upon which to stand here. They ought to forgive them.

M. CARLSON: I'm all for it being forgiven, but we need these countries. There has got to be a more diplomatic way to go about it.

T. CARLSON: There may be. But there's no way...

(APPLAUSE) T. CARLSON: There's no way to get around the fact they're motivated by greed. They were willing to do business with one of the worst dictators in human history.


T. CARLSON: They ought to be ashamed of that.

M. CARLSON: Last word, Tucker.

T. CARLSON: Amen. Thank you.


T. CARLSON: Well, there's probably no one in the world, including Saddam Hussein, that the Democratic establishment in Washington loathes more than Ralph Nader, the Green Party candidate who, three years ago, helped Al Gore lose the election. Nader savaged by Democrats at the time and now as selfish, crazy, disloyal and, more than anything, hopelessly left-wing.

Some of that critique was true. Nader is pretty far out politically. But none of it had an effect on Ralph Nader, who is now considering yet another run for the presidency. Tonight, in fact he's hosting a $100-a-plate fund-raiser in Princeton, New Jersey. Well, Godspeed, Ralph Nader. Hope you win.

Of course, there's just one problem with Nader's plan to run again. This time, he will not be the only "old fashioned, no nukes, go wind and solar, these arms are for hugging, the Pentagon should hold a bake sale, visualize world peace" liberal in the race. This year, there's Howard Dean, which may mean that the market has been saturated.

M. CARLSON: Listen, I was a Nader raider when Nader was the guy he really is. Politics has kind of distorted him. He shouldn't run again. But at least it's $100 fund-raiser and not a $2,000-a-plate- fund-raiser that your guys do, Tucker.


T. CARLSON: OK, ringing defense. I'm all for Ralph Nader.


T. CARLSON: I think he ought to run again. I just do think that the people who supported Ralph Nader in 2000 probably are, by this point, powered by Howard.


T. CARLSON: And there's no way that much of that constituency...


T. CARLSON: ... constituency still exists. M. CARLSON: Ding.

T. CARLSON: But on that note, we are going to break.

The Dean juggernaut is gathering steam. As Howard Dean looks more and more like the Democrats' choice, the Bush campaign team is getting prepared for the fight. Up next: Can Dean beat Bush?

And later: Happy birthday, John Kerry. Can you make the celebration pay off? We'll answer that question.

We'll be right back.




M. CARLSON: Welcome back to CROSSFIRE.

Last August, President Bush's political guru, Karl Rove, reportedly joined a group of Democrats in chanting -- quote -- "We want Howard Dean." It's starting to look like the Democratic Party and the White House may give him his way. And Republicans, as well as Democrats, are asking, can Howard Dean beat George W. Bush?

In the CROSSFIRE today, Republican strategist Charlie Black, along with Dean supporter and Virginia Democratic Congressman Jim Moran.

T. CARLSON: Welcome.


T. CARLSON: Thanks for joining us.


T. CARLSON: I take Howard Dean seriously. I really do. I think it will be a real race if he's in. On the other hand...

REP. JIM MORAN (D), VIRGINIA: He's an intelligent guy.

T. CARLSON: On the other hand, 11 months to go and already Dean has said a number of potentially career-ending things. Already, he referred to Hamas terrorists as soldiers. He said we shouldn't take sides in the Middle East. And most damning of all, he suggested that President Bush knew about 9/11 before it happened. Is he too reckless to be your nominee? For real. Tell me the truth.

MORAN: Yes, but, you know, that's not -- that really is a mischaracterization of what he said.

T. CARLSON: Those were reckless things to say, though.

MORAN: If that's exactly what he said, and it's really not exactly what he said.

I think Howard Dean is, in many ways, everyman, because of his righteous indignation. There's a lot of people out there that felt that George Bush was going to be a moderate, middle-of-the-road guy, work from both ends of the political spectrum. And he hasn't been at all. I think he squandered so much goodwill around the world. He certainly squandered the fiscal surplus that he inherited.

And I think people are angry and they want somebody that's going to bring it right to him, not that's going to find ways to improve things around the edges. I think they want a conflict with what George Bush represents, that kind of ideology that doesn't -- it isn't representative of mainstream America.

And I think they feel that Howard Dean is the kind of guy that's going to speak his mind, whatever the consequences. And I think they trust his integrity and his intelligence.

M. CARLSON: Charlie...


M. CARLSON: Charlie, let's get back -- let's get back for a moment to beware what you wish for, say, unless it's world peace and a cure for the common cold.

In 1980, Democrats wished for Ronald Reagan. They thought they could paint him as a right-winger and a rookie on foreign policy, a little bit dangerous, a little bit wild. And they got him. And I think it was -- was it 50-41?


No, listen, it's always dangerous to try to pick your opponent when there's a contest on the other side. And the good news is that this campaign, the Bush-Cheney campaign, is not doing that. We do believe that the electorate is very...

M. CARLSON: Karl Rove didn't -- Karl Rove and Ken Mehlman aren't kind of hoping that Dean is their guy?

BLACK: Last summer, Karl was amused that Dean was out there to the left of France and the U.N. on the Iraq issue. That was a joke.

But, listen, we believe the electorate is closely divided between Republicans and Democrats. It's going to be a close race, no matter which Democrat is nominated. Dean is the front-runner, but that's not over. I personally happen to believe Dick Gephardt still has a decent chance to get nominated. But whoever it is...


M. CARLSON: ... tell him. It will cheer him up.

BLACK: Well, whoever it is, Dean, Gephardt or one of the others, does start out to the left of the mainstream in this country. Every one of them has promised tax increases.

It's unclear that any of them want to finish the job in Iraq, which the American people want to. There's a lot of issues. It will be an issue-oriented election with a clear divide against Dean, Gephardt or any of the others.

And, you know, Jim, it's President Bush who is in the mainstream. His compassionate conservatism is the mainstream of thought in this country.


MORAN: Well, I hope like heck they don't listen to you and they listen to Karl Rove, because Karl Rove is still playing Texas-style politics. That doesn't work at the national level. That's why...

T. CARLSON: Wait. Wait a second. To imply that it's simply Republicans who are beating up on Howard Dean, as you know, Congressman, Democrats in Washington hate Howard Dean. And they hate him because they think he's too left-wing. But don't just take my word for it.

Republicans call him the new McGovern. George McGovern calls him the new McGovern. This is a quote from the "U.S. News & World Report."

MORAN: McGovern said that? No. Oh, geez.


T. CARLSON: George McGovern, former South Carolina senator, -- quote -- "Dean's campaign reminds me a lot of what we did 30 years ago."

MORAN: That's different.


T. CARLSON: Now, you remember, 30 years ago, what we did was lose by one of the greatest margins


MORAN: That was exciting stuff. Yes, but we were right.


M. CARLSON: Howard Dean can't worry about who admires him.

MORAN: We were right. And sometimes it takes a whole generation to realize you were right.

I think that George McGovern

(CROSSTALK) MORAN: I think George -- the fact -- whether or not you win or lose is not necessarily the measure of whether you were successful. George McGovern had a lot of new ideas. He had a vision for the country. And I think there's still a lot of legitimacy to that vision.

The fact that he lost doesn't mean that there weren't some very important values that he espoused.



M. CARLSON: Charlie, let me ask you a serious question. Let me ask you a serious question.

We just saw the -- in the Green Zone in Baghdad explosions. If Iraq is like it is today in November, won't Howard Dean, being the anti-war candidate, look prescient on foreign policy and that George Bush got us into the wrong war?

BLACK: Margaret, he's not going to look prescient for being -- for saying that the national security interests of the U.S. should be subject to veto by the U.N. and by France and Russia, No. 1.

Look, the American people, even though things are messy, we have some difficulty in Iraq right now, the American people still say it was the right thing to do. And they still say we should finish the job. Dean's been all over the map. He said we


M. CARLSON: He says we should finish the job.

BLACK: He doesn't. He says we should starting pulling troops out and all this.

M. CARLSON: We're there. We should finish the job.

BLACK: He doesn't have a clue how to do it.

M. CARLSON: Republicans say we should pull troops out.

BLACK: Real quick. The difference in George McGovern and Howard Dean, George McGovern was an honorable man. He never would have suggested that the president knew in advance about 9/11. That is reckless and it's unpresidential. And he's going to have to quit doing that kind of thing if he's going to run a competitive race.

MORAN: I have so much respect for Charlie. I really like him. And I'm crazy about his wife, Judy .


MORAN: But I got to tell you, you guys -- you guys spin some of this stuff. What he was referring to was the fact that the Saudis were warning us, there's likely to be a terrorist attack. We were getting warnings from a lot of people. And I don't know that it was specific enough that there's really a lot we could have done about it. But I do think that there were a lot of warnings that went unheeded because we had never been attacked before.


BLACK: He said it more specific than that.

T. CARLSON: He did.

BLACK: And he was spreading rumors, which is -- it's dishonorable and unpresidential. He was basically accusing the president of treason. He's not going to win a general election if he acts like that.

M. CARLSON: He was not accusing the president of treason by saying there were warnings.

T. CARLSON: OK. Well, on that -- on that note, we, unfortunately, are completely out of time.

Congressman Jim Moran of Northern Virginia was my congressman


MORAN: I haven't gotten started yet.

T. CARLSON: Charlie Black, thank you very much.

BLACK: Thank you, Tucker, Margaret.


T. CARLSON: Well, presidential candidates love the Election Express. That is our bus. Next, you'll hear what Dennis Kucinich -- he's running for president, too -- had to say when he dropped by.

And right after the break, Wolf Blitzer has the latest on those explosions within the last hour in Baghdad, Iraq.

We'll be right back.



T. CARLSON: Welcome back. And thank you, Wolf.

The CNN Election Express will take to the road again soon. Our trip to New Hampshire this week had so many presidential candidates flocking to our bus, beating on the door, begging to get in, it was simply impossible to cram all of them into a single edition of CROSSFIRE yesterday. So now we're going to take you back a mere 24 hours or so to the snows of New Hampshire, where Paul Begala and I were visited by Ohio Congressman, committed vegan and presidential Dennis Kucinich.

Here's what he had to say about challenging Howard Dean on Iraq.


REP. DENNIS KUCINICH (D-OH), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I thought that the challenge that I made to Governor Dean on the issue of Iraq was pretty significant, because I've called for the United States to end the occupation.

The governor says he was against the war, but he's for keeping our troops there. I think that's the wrong position. We need to get out of Iraq. We need to get the U.N. in, the U.S. out. I put that plan on my Web site six weeks ago, Tucker, at that shows how we can get out. We can be safe as a nation, but we can't be safe as long as we're in that occupation mode in Iraq.

T. CARLSON: Quickly, then, the U.N. is not there now. Most U.N. personnel have left.

KUCINICH: Right. Exactly right.

T. CARLSON: How would you, as president, convince them to come back? They don't want to be there. That's why they left.

KUCINICH: And you know why they don't want to be there? Because the U.S. is controlling the oil. It's controlling the contracts, wants to privatize Iraq. We have to take a new approach, go with a new resolution that says we're not going to control the oil, we're not going to control the contracts, no privatization, have the U.N. handle those things on an interim basis, the U.N. develop the cause of governance, a new constitution, a new election in Iraq.

At that point, we can get the U.N. interested in coming in. We have to take a new approach, though. And that's the only way we're going to be safe. And, frankly, Tucker, sooner or later, we're going to have to get out of Iraq. And why not do it now, before we lose thousands of more troops, before we spend hundreds of billions of dollars more money?

The plan that I put on my Web site is the plan that will work. And, frankly, it's the only plan out there.

PAUL BEGALA, CO-HOST: Well, so, let me ask you, though. If you're the president of the United States, you're in the Oval Office, you've pulled our troops out, what do you do if a radical theocracy, an anti-American terror state does take hold in Iraq, the way it did in Afghanistan after President Bush Sr. pulled our troops out of that state -- country?


BEGALA: What do you do? Do you go to war? How do you protect America against a radical, fundamentalist, terrorist state in Iraq?

KUCINICH: See, I would suggest, Paul, that that kind of fear- mongering is what put us there.

We were told there were weapons of mass destruction, so we got everyone all in a dither and we invaded Iraq. What I suggest that we have to do is, you get the -- if you get the United Nations in to stabilize Iraq, they stay there until Iraqis can, in effect, be self- determining and so they can take care of their own affairs. I'm not saying you just pull the troops out with no one else being there.

The U.N. has to be there. You get the U.N. in, the U.S. out. Once that happens, then the world community has a stake in what happens.

T. CARLSON: Now, Congressman, there was a report last month about a fund-raiser you held in Marin County, California, that ended with something called collective visualization. Can you tell, what is collective visualization?

KUCINICH: Well, I'm not sure of what you're talking about, but I know that there are people who support my campaign who are really working at trying to make this a better world and who believe that, through touching their -- the deepest part of themselves, that they can somehow visualize a new world.

And you know what? I think that kind of an approach is very open-hearted and something that -- that ought to be encouraged. Each one of us...


KUCINICH: ... is connected to another. I view the world as being interconnected and interdependent.

And I think that, as a president, people want to know, does our president have vision? The answer here would be, not only yes, but that we can draw forth other possibilities, that we can create peace. But you have to be able to see it. You can create health care for all, but you have to be able to see the kind of system and how that would work. So, if we're going to lift this country up, if we're going to meet the challenge of creating a more perfect union, then we have to have the kind of vision that the founders expected of us.

And that vision is something that comes from within us, but it also has a spiritual dimension. Tucker, if you look at the back of a dollar bill -- there can't be anything more material than a dollar bill -- you'll see, at the apex of that pyramid, the eye of divinity and the inscription in Latin which says, "Annuit coeptis," which means, "He has favored our undertaking."

The founders believed that there was a connection between America and something spiritual. But they also believed in the separation of church and state. We should never let the separation of church and state cause us to believe that this country has no connection to spiritual values. We do. T. CARLSON: OK.

BEGALA: Congressman Dennis Kucinich, candidate for president, thank you very much for coming on the CNN Election Express. Good to see you.

KUCINICH: Good to be here. And I'll see you again.

T. CARLSON: Thanks for joining us, one of the first candidates. We appreciate it, Congressman. Thank you.

KUCINICH: It was my honor. Thank you.

BEGALA: And be safe on the campaign trail.


T. CARLSON: Welcome back. That was Congressman Dennis Kucinich talking about collective visualization.

Well, in politics, the birthday game can really pay off. We'll show you how John Kerry is playing it next.

We'll be right back.



T. CARLSON: Welcome back.

Well, today is John Kerry's 60th birthday. He's observing that by -- what else? -- trying to raise money. Visitors to the campaign's Web site are being asked to fork over 60 bucks in honor of his 60 years. The campaign says $60 buys pizza for 20 volunteers or peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and sodas for 200 canvassers or 100 yard signs. What fun.

M. CARLSON: Tucker, I just had a birthday. There's still time for a gift. I would have wished myself older, instead of younger, had I known that I could raise some funds with it.


T. CARLSON: That's a good point.

M. CARLSON: Kerry should be 75 years old.

T. CARLSON: It is kind of a perverse incentive.

The tragedy of John Kerry, it's just, you know, his campaign is not as impressive as he is in person, which makes me sad.

M. CARLSON: I know. But let's hope he has a happy day anyway.

T. CARLSON: Yes, I think it's unlikely with Dean, Dean, Dean, Dean, Dean in the race, yes.


T. CARLSON: It's sad.


M. CARLSON: From Washington, I'm Margaret Carlson. That's it for CROSSFIRE.

T. CARLSON: And from the right, I'm Tucker Carlson.

Join us again next time for yet another edition of CROSSFIRE.

"WOLF BLITZER REPORTS" starts right now.

Have a great night.



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