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Candidates Jumping on Dean; Iraqis Argue Over Saddam's Surrender

Aired December 16, 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, taking aim at the White House by firing broadsides at their own party's frontrunner.


SEN. JOE LIEBERMAN (D-CT), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I'm afraid Howard Dean has climbed into his own spider hole of denial.


ANNOUNCER: Have Howard Dean's opponents found a weak spot?

Plus, Tucker Carlson's first whole day in Baghdad. He'll give us a live update. Today on CROSSFIRE.

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


This week, the Democratic presidential wannabes are giving long- winded speeches about how they would run the world. They can't even agree among themselves. But it's all pretty scary.

JAMES CARVILLE, CO-HOST: What's really scary is that policies are being dictated by those big old big business going along crowd that didn't even get elected in the first place.

We'll look at the alternatives after the best little political briefing in television, our "CROSSFIRE Political Alert."

Buddy Cianci, the former mayor of Providence, once said, "The toe that you step on today may be connected to the ass you have to kiss tomorrow." That's the lesson that former Secretary of State James Baker is learning today.

After bad-mouthing the French and Germans, cutting them out of deals to rebuild Iraq, and trying to get French fries called freedom fries, President Bush has sent Baker to go talk to France and Germany about reducing Iraq's debt.

Now, it surprised me they weren't in the mood to do us any favors, although they did agree to some debt reduction. President Bush sure didn't make James Baker's trip easy.

Imagine just a moment how helpful our European friends would be, had we not spent last year alienating them. I'll tell you what. If Baker's ultimately successful at reducing Iraq's debt, maybe President Bush should bring him home to get to work on ours.

NOVAK: You know, James, I think maybe he that he should have sent somebody else. If this is a matter of butt kissing, maybe he should have sent you.

CARVILLE: That's right. And you know what?

NOVAK: You're pretty good at that.

CARVILLE: You know what? I don't -- And I don't mind doing it, because I think that we're a lot stronger when we get along with people around the world as opposed to unilateralism and arrogance that we have now. It's getting us absolutely nowhere.

NOVAK: Well, you don't know -- You don't know...

CARVILLE: I wrote a book saying you got to suck up. So what are you talking about?

NOVAK: Nobody read it. So it doesn't make any difference.

CARVILLE: Well, that's what you say. The bestseller lists says it was the seventh best business best seller of the year.

NOVAK: Remember Congressman Jim McDermott, a Democrat from the state of Washington? He went to Baghdad last year to say President Bush would mislead the American people but they could count on Saddam Hussein.

So what does Congressman Jim think of finding his Baghdad buddy in a rat hole?


REP. JIM MCDERMOTT (D), WASHINGTON: It's surprised they waited but then I thought, well, politically, it probably doesn't make much sense to find him just yet. I'm sure they could have found him a long time ago if they'd wanted to.


NOVAK: Jim McDermott is a non-practicing psychiatrist. I would say to him, "Psychiatrist, heal thyself, because you're nutty."

CARVILLE: They must have -- My only defense to that is it had to be taken out of context. I have no idea. But if they could have found him before, I'm sure they would have found him.

NOVAK: See, your allies are a bunch of conspiracy guys. And Jim McDermott leads them. They will go on the Web. They say crazy things. CARVILLE: Who does he lead?

NOVAK: He leads the nut bags.

CARVILLE: Name me who he leads? He's not Tom DeLay, the biggest nut bag, in the world who leads the Republican Party in Congress.

NOVAK: Don't change...

CARVILLE: I'll change whatever I want. He's not the leader of the Democratic Party. I don't know how to tell you that, Bob. David Duke leads the Republican Party. What do you want me to say?

NOVAK: He's a prominent...

CARVILLE: David Duke is a Republican.

NOVAK: He's a prominent...

CARVILLE: Why do you think David Duke is a Republican?

Well, the French and the Germans may not be getting paid to help rebuild Iraq, but I'll tell you who is. Halliburton. That's right.

The U.S. military just reported that Halliburton was paid an additional $222 million for their work in Iraq. Now, that's a total of nearly $2.3 billion in no-bid contracts for a company that's being investigated for overcharging for fuel by as much as $61 million.

The best joke of last night's television was Jay Leno said that the time of the capture Saddam Hussein had $750,000 on him. You'd think he was trying to buy three gallons of gas from Halliburton.

Right now, President Bush's former campaign manager is busy setting up an influence peddling shot in Baghdad. I'll tell you who should be setting up a shop in Baghdad: the United States Department of Justice go after this shameful war profiteering.

NOVAK: You know, if you had anything to do with the federal government and trying to get money from them, as I think you may have, you know that they are really nasty on trying to cut a deal with you.

CARVILLE: How did I get money from the federal government?

NOVAK: Didn't you, from the White House, when Mr. -- Didn't they pay you a little bit?

CARVILLE: No, no. The federal government never paid me a penny man. You better go back and do your reporting. I never made a plug nickel.

Let me tell you my family (UNINTELLIGIBLE) government, because my wife worked for the vice president for two years and it was a hell of a lot less that we'd have made out there giving speeches at the time.

But you've got to bone up on your facts there, Robert. I never got a plug nickel from the federal government.

NOVAK: Not even...

CARVILLE: Not even a reimbursement check. No, sir.

NOVAK: I stand corrected, then.


NOVAK: Democratic presidential frontrunner Howard Dean will be collecting another endorsement soon from New Jersey Governor James McGreevey, but Wesley Clark, chasing Dean, can top that already.

He got an endorsement today from Madonna! Yes, the Madonna! She sat down with General Clark and, after 90 minutes of intense discussion about politics, and who knows what else? She emerged and endorsed him.


MADONNA, SINGER: I enjoyed meeting him. I think he's a great guy.

I think he's a natural-born leader. I think to be the general for as long as he's been, this is a man who knows how to deal with pressure and make decisions under pressure. I think he has a good handle on foreign policy.


NOVAK: Madonna did not say anything about how Wes rates on domestic affairs. And I always thought that was her specialty.

CARVILLE: Bob, let me show you a picture of Madonna and Bush supporter Britney Spears here. Can we run this tape here, please, guys? There they are. A Bush supporter and a Clark supporter in a lip lock.

So what is wrong with Madonna endorsing Wesley Clark and Britney Spears endorsing George W. Bush?

NOVAK: This is what you've done to politics. Your kind, yes.

CARVILLE: What did I do?

NOVAK: Yes. With Saddam Hussein in custody, do the Democrats running for president have one last weapon to use in taunting President Bush?

For the time being, the Democrats are turning on each other, with Howard Dean catching most of the flack. We'll have the latest on who is saying what, just ahead.

And later, our CROSSFIRE co-host, Tucker Carlson, is in Baghdad. He'll tell us about going out on night patrol in Iraq. We hope he's OK. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CARVILLE: Among the Democrats running for president, a vigorous debate is underway this week on how the U.S. should treat the rest of the world.

Everyone agrees President Bush has blown it. But today, Senators Lieberman and Kerry fleshed out their differences with the way Howard Dean would run things.

Stepping into the CROSSFIRE, Lieberman adviser Kiki McLean, along with Dean adviser Maria Echaveste, who was deputy chief of staff to President Clinton.

NOVAK: Maria, your candidate, Governor Dean, after the capture of Saddam Hussein, which a lot of people thought was really something, he said the capture of Saddam has not made America safer.

Joe Lieberman says that that's crazy. If he thinks we're not having removed a homicidal maniac, a brutal dictator is not making America safer. Was Governor Dean off his medication when he said that?

MARIA ECHAVESTE, DEAN ADVISER: My goodness, no, absolutely not. What he meant was what most Americans agree with, which is the Bush administration got us into this war in the wrong way at the wrong time, with inadequate planning.

And remember the -- Bush is giving us all kinds of different reasons for why we needed to go to war. Look, Hussein was a bad man. But in terms of America's safety, I think the threats that Dean has talked about, like North Korea, under his watch, the Bush administration has let North Korea be a nuclear power.

NOVAK: See -- See, you think the people who go to the Dean rallies are what America thinks. But I'm going to give you the NBC/"Wall Street Journal" poll, one of the more respect respected polls. And here's what they say.

Did the war in Iraq make the U.S. more secure? Yes, 62 percent. No, 32 percent. So that's what America thinks. And Dean is just opposite. He's on the wrong side, isn't he?

ECHAVESTE: Well, I have to say, I believe Dean is right when he talks about the fact that more people are becoming terrorists as a result of this invasion.

NOVAK: What about what I just -- What about my question?

ECHAVESTE: As the truth comes out, as the facts come out, the reality is that Bush went into this war unilaterally, and that preemption doctrine of his is dangerous for America for the future.

CARVILLE: Kiki, I think Senator Lieberman said if Dean would be elected, Saddam Hussein would still be in Baghdad.


CARVILLE: In fairness to Dean, the observation, we wouldn't have 120,000 American troops in Baghdad being pinned down. We wouldn't have had everybody in the world mad at us.

MCLEAN: No, we'd be...

CARVILLE: We wouldn't be blowing hundreds of billions of dollars over there, and Halliburton wouldn't be overcharging for gas and everything else, would they?

MCLEAN: Hundreds of human beings would be being killed a day, just as they were by Saddam Hussein.

CARVILLE: Never said that...

MCLEAN: The Middle East and the region would be more unstable than it is today.

And look, there's a lot Maria and I agree about, OK? But there are some very clear differences here, and we're in a Democratic primary.


MCLEAN: And one thing that Joe Lieberman said today in an address he made in New Hampshire was, right now, it's time to understand and we have an obligation to make people understand the difference.

That Joe Lieberman believes there's a way for America to go forward, both in foreign policy and pro-growth, fiscally responsible, socially progressive ways, versus what Governor Dean would say and do, which would take us backwards in places.

CARVILLE: But again, in fairness to Governor Dean, Saddam Hussein would be there but we wouldn't have 120,000 people pinned down over there and spending hundreds of millions of dollars.

MCLEAN: We could be in war in about ten other places if we didn't have Saddam Hussein out of there right now, James.


ECHAVESTE: Actually, we do agree on a lot of things. But...

NOVAK: Let's stipulate that agreement and not say it again, OK?

ECHAVESTE: The Lieberman thing is this. Lieberman was one of the strongest advocates for going into war with Iraq...

MCLEAN: For a long time.

ECHAVESTE: ... for a very long time.

And what I want to say to Democrats out there is you've got a choice between Senator Lieberman, who agreed with Bush, got us into a war with poor planning, in which soldiers are dying every day, that we only hope they have an exit strategy.

And if they want to have the same policies, they can elect Joe Lieberman. I say that Governor Dean has a different plan.

MCLEAN: This is where Maria has it wrong, because it's Joe Lieberman who actually gave the post-Iraq exit strategy, long before Bush even thought about it. And Howard Dean never stepped up to the plate on that front.

What happens when you look at these two candidates and what they have to offer America is the plan of where we go forward. And right now, that's not what we get from Governor Dean.

NOVAK: My turn. Maria, I want to show you what I consider one of the -- part of what I consider one of the strongest TV ads I've seen in a long time. I think even James will agree.

And this is a Democratic ad by a Democratic group. Let's take a look at it.


ANNOUNCER: Wake up every morning, determined to destroy western civilization. Americans want a president who can face the dangers ahead. But Howard Dean has no military or foreign policy experience. And Howard Dean just cannot compete with George Bush on foreign policy. It's time for Democrats to think about that.


NOVAK: That's devastating, isn't it?

ECHAVESTE: It's awfully sad, because that's an ad that the Republicans could run.

And I want to say one thing. The Bush White House, with Cheney, with Rumsfeld, with all that foreign policy experience, got us into a war that the verdict as to whether it really is a success -- I mean, he declared on May 1 that the war was over and we've lost more people since then.

MCLEAN: You know, Maria makes some good points, but the most important thing she noted was, that's an ad the Republicans could run.

NOVAK: Let me ask you a question.

MCLEAN: That affects his electability in the fall.

CARVILLE: Let me tell you, I think that's about the stupidest ad I've ever seen. I'll tell you why. Name me what foreign policy experience that George W. Bush had when he was elected president that Howard Dean doesn't have.

MCLEAN: But do you endorse his foreign policy experience today, James?

CARVILLE: Of course I don't. I think the real question is we have a president who had no foreign policy experience who's the most colossal foreign policy failure we've ever had in modern American history.

I think the way to ask Governor Dean is, we've gone down this disaster with Bush, whose administration is an utter foreign policy disaster. What is it about you that's going to make you different?

MCLEAN: And I think that's what Governor Dean did yesterday. He gave a foreign policy speech. And look, I'm not here criticizing Governor Dean personally. I have a lot of respect for the man. And if he's our nominee, I'll be proud it to support him.

CARVILLE: He couldn't be any worse than Bush.

MCLEAN: But let me -- Let me tell you this. What he did do is he said what he believed. And what he said he believed was that America is no safer today because Saddam Hussein is in prison. I just happen to disagree with that.

He also has laid out a set of policies on foreign policy that I don't believe are the strongest for America, and Joe Lieberman's, I believe, are stronger, James.

NOVAK: Kiki, I'd like to ask you a question.

NCLEAN: I'm always excited about a question from you, Bob.

NOVAK: I bet you are.

Senator Lieberman was on "Meet the Press" Sunday.


NOVAK: And he said, "With all respect, this is now down to a choice between Howard Dean and me."

MCLEAN: That's right.

NOVAK: I mean, where did he ever come up with that? I mean, because in the polls, Clark's ahead of him, in some places Kerry's ahead of him. I mean, poor Joe's about fifth place.

MCLEAN: Let's talk about that esteemed poll you just cited, the "Wall Street Journal" and another network, shall we say, which, in fact, showed Governor Dean dropping in the polls and Senator Lieberman rising in the polls.

NOVAK: But he's not in second place anyway.

MCLEAN: But the reality, he believes substantively, as do I, that this primary is down to Dean and Senator Lieberman. And we'll know when the votes are cast. Because, much to everyone's chagrin here, not one single vote has been cast yet. CARVILLE: Maria, Governor Dean may -- Time will tell, Dean may very well be right that the world is no safer with him in a hole than a jail cell. It's certainly more a just place.

But the question is, why -- my question is politically, why would he say something like this at this time? I mean, just let the thing go, and it's already been 18 more attacks.

I don't think we're any safer -- I tend to think he may be right in what he said. But it was a politically dumb thing to say when he does.

Can you give America, or its Democrats, any assurance that he's politically adept enough to run for president?

ECHAVESTE: Well, as we've seen, Governor Dean is learning and growing every day with the good experience, because the primary is going to result in the best candidate.

And the thing that Dean has that people are reacting to is he speaks from the heart; he speaks honestly.

And we know that the threat to America is al Qaeda. It's the terrorists. And the connection between Saddam Hussein has not been made at all.

CARVILLE: Maria, you're not just a bright woman, you're an honest woman.

NOVAK: I speak from the heart, too, and I want to thank you from being here.

CARVILLE: Thank you.

NOVAK: Thank you, Kiki.

CARVILLE: Thank you.

NOVAK: He's been to the police academy and gone on a night raid. Next, CROSSFIRE's Tucker Carlson checks in with a live report from Baghdad.

And right after the break, Wolf Blitzer has the latest on what President Bush might want to see happen to Saddam Hussein.

CARVILLE: Thank you.


WOLF BLITZER, "WOLF BLITZER REPORT" HOST: I'm Wolf Blitzer in Washington.

Coming up at the top of the hour a (AUDIO GAP). I'll speak with an Iraqi who asked him a bold question.

We're getting new information coming in right now. The president of the United States says what he thinks should happen to Saddam Hussein. I'll speak with the communications director at the White House, Dan Bartlett.

And a dramatic escape from death. We'll show you more of these amazing pictures.

Those stories, much more only minutes away on "WOLF BLITZER REPORTS." Now back to CROSSFIRE.

NOVAK: Thank you, Wolf.

Tucker Carlson is spending the week -- this week before Christmas in hazardous territory. And we don't mean the sales counter at the mall. Tucker's visiting Iraq, and he joins us live from Baghdad, where it's going on 1 in the morning.

CARVILLE: Tucker, my understanding...


CARVILLE: Tucker, my understanding is that you spoke to the head of the Iraqi Governing Council, whose name I don't know, and you can tell us and this man had spoken to Saddam Hussein.

CARLSON: That's right. Muafak El-Rabei (ph), who is a member of the Iraqi Governing Council and saw Saddam today in a sort of confrontation orchestrated by the coalition.

The one interesting thing I learned from him, talking to him at the CNN bureau, was apparently, Saddam's first words, as reported widely were, "I am Saddam Hussein, president of Iraq. I am ready to negotiate."

In fact, apparently, what he said was, "Don't shoot. I'm surrendering."

And it's a subject of some controversy here, because of course, those are not the words of a brave Arab fighter. And it's causing resentment and of course, conspiracy theories, which are endemic here anyway. And this is the state of the debate, is what did Saddam say when captured?

NOVAK: Tucker, I understand you went out with U.S. troops and Iraqi police on a patrol tonight. Tell us about it.

CARLSON: Well, it was interesting. There was a roadblock not far from here in downtown, in which -- it's a random road block in which cars were pulled over.

They are particularly on alert for ambulances. Five have been stolen recently here in Baghdad. Three of them have already been used in car bombings. They're on the lookout for other two, as you can imagine.

All of this went right over my head. I was taking notes when all of a suddenly started scurrying away because an ambulance pulled up. It turned out to contain nothing but gauze bandages.

But we had a guy pull up drunk, very drunk, screaming, "I want to kill Americans. I love Saddam Hussein," which it turns out is the wrong thing to say when approaching an American checkpoint. He was yanked out of the car and sort of questioned for a while. He screamed at a staff sergeant who was there, and then they put him back in the car and let him take off.

It's hazardous during the day, too, because the traffic here is terrible, mostly because of gas lines, which you really have to see to believe them. They go on for miles and miles and miles.



CARVILLE: Why didn't they give the guy a DWI?

CARLSON: This is Iraq, James. I mean, you know, it's a bit wide open. Everybody carries automatic weapons. People smoke in elevators, and drunk driving, you know, not so bad, relatively speaking.

CARVILLE: The New Orleans of the Middle East.

CARLSON: It's that way, less cheery.

NOVAK: How do the Iraqi police look to you?

CARLSON: The Iraqi police looked -- they looked fine to me. I didn't get a chance to assess them, really. In fact, I was today at the Iraqi police academy.

And two interesting things struck me. One, there were many, many crates of Russian ammunition, all of which, by the dates on them, were imported right before the war, which I thought was fascinating.

The second thing was, I was out on the shooting range and the berms behind the targets, which go up about 35 feet, were totally destroyed by automatic weapons fire, which gives you a sense A) of why it would be a good idea not to live behind the shooting range. And B), not great shots.

That's the general feeling among the military here. They're going to need...

NOVAK: Tucker, you take care of yourself. Thank you, Tucker Carlson.

CARLSON: Thanks, see you.

NOVAK: Next a proposal goes before Congress that we can't even read out loud on CNN. That's next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) CARVILLE: Normally the language in a congressional bill is so dry, boring and legalistic, you wouldn't dare read it on television. Now a couple of blue nosed Republican Congressmen have come up with a bill that's chock full of colorful language.

They want to make it illegal and actually punish people for going on TV and saying words you hear on any street corner: the "F" word, the "S" word, various terms of parts of your anatomy and what you can do with them.

You can probably imagine what they are. Just don't say them on TV; the language police will be waiting to take you away.

NOVAK: You know, James, my colleague, Mark Shields twice on CNN has used an eight-letter word, the first part of it starts about "B", the second starts with "S". And under this, would Mark go to prison?

CARVILLE: That could be. Bullsave (ph) is not that bad a word. I mean, come on.

NOVAK: I don't know.

CARVILLE: I don't think -- I don't think.

NOVAK: You're a lawyer; would you defend him on that?

CARVILLE: I would defend Mark Shields on anything. He's a damn good man. I think this bill is going nowhere, but it's kind of fun to talk about.

NOVAK: It's good news.

CARVILLE: Yes, it is.

OK. From the left, I'm James Carville. No more bad words. That's it for CROSSFIRE.

NOVAK: From the right, dammit, I'm Robert Novak. Join us next time for another edition of CROSSFIRE.

"WOLF BLITZER REPORTS" starts right now.



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