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A Look at Whats Ahead in 2004
Aired January 1, 2004 - 16:30 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ANNOUNCER: CROSSFIRE. On the left, James Carville and Paul Begala. On the right, Robert Novak and Tucker Carlson.
In the CROSSFIRE, need a good book to start the new year? We've got one from the left, and we've got one from the right. James Carville and Tucker Carlson throw their books at us.
Plus, some political crystal ball gazing. Today on CROSSFIRE.
From the George Washington University, James Carville and Robert Novak.
ROBERT NOVAK, CO-HOST: Welcome to CROSSFIRE. And happy new year.
You're sure to have more time on your hands now that the football season is wrapping up and winter is setting in. So today we're looking at a couple of books you may want to add to your reading list. Merely coincidental, they're by co-hosts of this program.
James Carville's latest book sounds like it's written for Democratic presidential candidates, called "Had Enough? A Handbook for Fighting Back."
You know, James, you are very seldom uncertain about anything, not correct about anything. But you ask a question, which is very rare for you. And you ask, why is it that Democrats were calling on Al Gore to concede the election when no Republicans called on George Bush to concede?
Let me answer that question for you. Because Democrats knew that Gore had really lost the election, and the Republicans knew that Bush had won it.
JAMES CARVILLE, CO-HOST: Of course, Al Gore won the election. Every recount that accounted all the ballots he would have won. He would have won by 25,000, had they contested the Palm Beach thing. It's ridiculous.
And one of the problems that people have with the Democratic Party is that we look too weak and too confused. And what they need is Democrats need to start operating from a position of strength, and that's one of the points I make in the book.
This is not from some weak-kneed Democrats that want to go around and apologize to everything. It's the greatest political party found in the history of the world. NOVAK: It strikes me, James, that you want them to just misrepresent things all over...
CARVILLE: I don't want them to misrepresent anything. It's about winning the recount.
NOVAK: Here's an example. Here's on page 50 -- I'm sorry, 56 and 57. What type of leader likes wearing a military uniform? And you have Gadhafi...
NOVAK: Castro, Arafat, Mao Tse-Tung, Arafat, the little guy from Korea, Saddam Hussein, then you end up with George W. Bush.
CARVILLE: Right. Right.
NOVAK: Now, I might add somebody else you didn't put in there is Winston Churchill, who always liked to have his -- always liked to go around in the navy uniform, even though he never served in the navy.
But here is another guy I'd like you to see. Here he is, in his naval uniform. He never served in the navy. And he was a great man.
Now I want to show you somebody else that liked to wear a uniform who never served in anything except the ROTC band. Let's take a look at that. How do you like that flight jacket? Is that a dress-up, pretend military guy?
CARVILLE: First of all, Bob, you're getting gassed up about nothing. He has a jacket on.
NOVAK: That's one thing we're clear on.
CARVILLE: The second thing -- are you asking me about my book, or are you just answering the question anyway because you're scared I'm going to answer it.
NOVAK: You don't have an answer, do you?
CARVILLE: OK. Do you mind me answering the question?
The point I was trying to make is most people usually outgrow this kind of foolishness.
The other point I was making, when he had a chance to wear the uniform when he was in the Air National Guard he never showed up. So why in the hell, if you got the chance to do it, why not do it?
It's a tongue-in-cheek thing; it's something we Democrats understand. Humor is something you Republicans can't, because you go through life taking yourselves so damn seriously.
NOVAK: I know you well enough to know when you don't have an answer...
CARVILLE: I gave you an answer. I gave you an answer.
NOVAK: When you don't have an answer you yell.
CARVILLE: Most people outgrow it. When he was a young man and had a chance to wear it, he...
NOVAK: How about that guy in the flight jacket?
CARVILLE: It's a flight jacket. I have a jacket that says "United States." It don't mean that I'm president. You don't know the difference between a flight jacket and a uniform? I do.
NOVAK: I have sat at this table...
CARVILLE: I'll explain to you the difference between a flight jacket and a uniform.
NOVAK: He didn't have a uniform on the carrier either.
CARVILLE: Yes, right.
NOVAK: You know that too. You know that. You admit that.
CARVILLE: He had a flight suit on when he went through the -- Why didn't he show up for the National Guard meetings, Bob? Why didn't he show up?
NOVAK: He did show up.
CARVILLE: No, he didn't. His own general said he never saw him.
NOVAK: He never saw him. My general...
CARVILLE: You don't have an answer. You don't have an answer, Bob.
NOVAK: My general...
CARVILLE: The president of the United States tells (UNINTELLIGIBLE) National Guard meetings. This is not the "Wall Street Journal" editorial page. I speak the truth.
NOVAK: My general never saw -- My general never saw me when I was on active duty, because I kept out of his way.
All right. Now, you say, as one of the advises that you give to Democrats, "Be positive." You say be positive. I have sat across from you for a year and a half, hearing reams of negativity, of attacking people. Isn't that hypocritical for you to say be positive?
CARVILLE: Did you read the book?
NOVAK: I read it. I stayed up all night reading it.
CARVILLE: There are 42 separate proposals I talk about, how Bill Clinton is the greatest president we ever had. How he helped create a $5.6 trillion surplus, how he helped create the largest economic expansion we had in history, how he created an America that was respected around the world, how he did the family and medical leave, about how he really led this nation.
I talk about positive things all the time. This audience has sat here, heard me time and time again talk about positive things. I've talked about how these Democrats can contrast themselves with the administration.
Now, am I going to sit by and let an administration lie about getting us into a war they have no plan to get us out of? Of course, I'm not going to say that. It was the 3rd Infantry Division that said when they got to Baghdad, they had no plan and no idea what to do.
So I'm saying yes, I have relentlessly been positive.
NOVAK: Can I ask another question, James?
CARVILLE: Go ahead.
NOVAK: You know, James, you have a lot of humor in the book, I've got to admit. I do. But some of it's black humor.
CARVILLE: All right.
NOVAK: And let me just show you an example of black humor. You write, "I think if Al Gore was president, it is significantly less likely that the attacks of September 11 would have happened in the first place." Are you trying to be funny there?
CARVILLE: No, I'm not trying to be funny at all. And if you look in the King (ph) Report -- there's already a story in the paper -- you will find that President Bush had many indications that this was happening and didn't act on it.
They're going to be several books that are going to be coming out this year that are going to say the same thing.
Al Gore would read the intelligence reports when he was vice president so thoroughly, that he would go to McClain and ask for backup. I really believe, and I pointed out in there, I think very well. I said I can't say for a certainty. How do I know if something would have happened or something else wouldn't have happened?
But every person that studied terrorism said the Clinton White House was much more aggressive than the Bush White House ever was in fighting terrorism prior to September 11. That's just a fact, and what I do is I report facts in the book.
I don't report facts to make you feel comfortable, Bob. I report facts that are there for people to look at, that are part of public record. Facts that are going to come out increasingly this year.
NOVAK: James, I always am very candid with you. And I think you appreciate it. I think this book is mostly worthless.
NOVAK: And -- but let me say -- I said mostly, not entirely. Interspersed through the books there are some really good recipes.
CARVILLE: That's right.
NOVAK: And on page 200 -- there's no 200 in this book. On page -- what is it? -- twenty-three, there's a recipe for red bean soup that you got from your momma...
CARVILLE: That's correct.
NOVAK: ... in Louisiana. And I -- my mouth watered just watching the directions. I think the book is worth buying just for this red bean soup.
Now, the question I have is after...
CARVILLE: I don't give a damn why you buy it. Just buy the thing.
NOVAK: After you have -- We have onions and garlics and ham hocks and smoked sausage and Worcester sauce all going in this soup. What do you do about heartburn after you have some of Carville's red bean soup?
CARVILLE: See, heartburn is for wimps, man. That's for these guys that get attacked and want to get Terry McAuliffe in there. When you eat a little red bean soup, I've got, like, a nice salad recipe in there. If you have, like, a little nice bottle of wine to go down, that will soothe your heartburn just fine. And at the end, you have some bread pudding, another recipe I have.
NOVAK: OK, James, thank you very much.
CARVILLE: Thank you, Bob.
NOVAK: In just a minute, we'll switch hosts and books. Tucker Carlson will be here to tell us about his book and his adventures in the cable news business, from the spin room to CROSSFIRE.
CARVILLE: Welcome back to CROSSFIRE. We're looking at some notable books by some of our favorite authors.
My colleague on the left, Paul Begala, joins me to talk to Tucker Carlson about his latest book, "Politicians, Partisans and Parasites: My Adventures in Cable News."
PAUL BEGALA, CO-HOST: Tucker, welcome to CROSSFIRE.
TUCKER CARLSON, CO-HOST: Thanks for having me, Paul. I like your set.
BEGALA: Isn't this wonderful? CARLSON: It's fantastic.
BEGALA: Look, this will probably tank sales. Not a turkey; it's a damn good book.
CARLSON: Thank you.
BEGALA: I read it; I loved it. It's terrific. It's very funny, but it's also very true.
You talk -- You go through a lot of it. One of my favorite passages, you go through an interview in a seminal story you did in the 2000 election, I think the year 1999, with my governor in Texas, George W. Bush, who went on to obscurity after the interview.
But in the interview -- Well, here's how you describe it in the book. Let me read it to you. "Bush hadn't liked the piece at all. In fact, I later heard from someone who was with him at the time, he was wounded by it. He was surprised by a couple of faintly critical lines. I'd pointed out that he dresses like someone who just got back from an afternoon shoplifting at Sears. He found the tone annoying. Most of all, he didn't like being quoted using profanity."
Now, there's not much I like about George W. Bush, but I like that he cusses. He's cussed me out before. Why is he so -- I mean, he's supposed to be this Texas cowboy. Why was he so wigged out about being quoted accurately using bad language?
CARLSON: Well, I don't know the full answer. I think part of it is that people are always surprised when they hear the way they speak. It's almost like when you listen to yourself on tape for the first time, you think, "Who is that guy with squeaky voice?" You don't recognize your own voice.
And I think people almost never like what you write about them, even if you mean it to be positive. The day before I filed the piece I showed my wife the story, and she said people are going to think you're sucking up, aren't they? Because I thought, and she thought, that it was that positive a piece.
I liked the guy; I found him charming. I like people who, you know, use the "F" word from time to time. Didn't bother me at all.
BEGALA: Yes. Use that one with me with an "m" in front of me, as well. And that's fine with me. I don't mind a president with a temper. I wish he had a little higher intellect, perhaps, a little better plan to get us out of the war in Iraq.
But what did that presage for his presidency, that temper?
CARLSON: Well, I don't know. I mean, all politicians -- you know, no politician I've ever covered likes to be contradicted. I mean, if you had sort of a, you know, kind of weak ego, you probably wouldn't be running for president in the first place. They're all the same. I just -- And I've certainly been yelled at by politicians before. I don't think I've had many politicians like stories I've written about them.
The striking thing about this one, though, was again that I thought it was positive. It just wasn't taken that way at all. They really overreacted. I think the Bush administration, like the Bush campaign, if it can be said to seen in its relationship with the press, tends to be a little bit too controlling, way too controlling, and I think it hurts itself by doing that.
CARVILLE: You pathetic worm of a human being that spends all their time sucking up to power and spitting down on average hardworking Americans, who's a lackey for every right wing thing that comes along, do you think that the tone in Washington has gotten out of hand? Or do you think...
CARLSON: Let me just first point out to be called a lackey by one of our age's great throne sniffers is really a compliment.
No, I don't think the tone is out of hand. I don't mind a little barking. Obviously, I work on CROSSFIRE. It's a well-known political debate show on CNN at 4:30 Eastern.
I guess what bothers me, though, is barking in the service of partisanship. I don't mind ideology. If somebody comes on the show and says, "Look, I believe the Earth is flat, and I will die espousing that view." If you believe that, even if it's demented, I'll respect you for it.
It's people who come on and lie in the service of a team: "I'll say anything because I want my team to win." There's nothing noble about that at all. Partisanship, in my opinion, is completely different from radical ideology and just much less admiral. I just am not a fan.
CARVILLE: So anytime that you see something that you disagree with, you just bring it up, whether or not it's on your team or not. You're never sensitive to kind of pressure from Republicans...
CARLSON: I don't have a team at all.
CARVILLE: You don't?
CARLSON: No. I mean, I have my beliefs, which I'm really up front about. I mean, there are certain things I believe are true. But when I see evidence that contradicts what I believe, I hope that I'll be man enough to admit it.
I mean, for instance, the war in Iraq. I'm open to the idea that it was a mistake. I haven't reached that conclusion, but if the evidence becomes overwhelming, I will change my view. And I will. BEGALA: Let me suggest -- You say you don't have a team.
BEGALA: I think you do. First off, you're conservative.
CARLSON: I'm very conservative.
CARLSON: I'm much more conservative than this administration.
BEGALA: I believe that. And yet, you've pretty much endorsed Al Sharpton to president. He's not the conservative candidate, actually, of my party. So much so that Sharpton himself has a quote praising the book on the back. He says, "It's an exciting book by an exciting author."
Now, he's a minister of the gospel.
CARLSON: Well, you've got to actually spend...
BEGALA: You spent a lot of time with Sharpton. You traveled to Africa with him, wrote an amazing piece for "Esquire" about it. Why -- You're a deeply principled conservative. We debate this every night? Why are you such a fan of the most liberal guy running for president?
CARLSON: Actually, the rest of the quote you didn't read answers that.
BEGALA: There's not enough time. There's not enough time.
CARLSON: He says, "If I win, if I become president I will make him head of Amtrak." Me. So I do have a financial interest in this.
I took my daughter, actually, to see Sharpton preach in Anacostia (ph) in Washington, D.C., last week. Really one of the great preachers, one of the best preachers I've ever seen. He has a lot of talent. I think he's amusing as hell. I think he tells the truth a lot of the time. He is kind of an ideologue.
And he drives Democrats crazy, and I love that. Nobody dislikes liberals as much as Al Sharpton does. He just absolutely hates them. They bug him.
CARVILLE: Tucker, let me ask you something. When the public buys your book, and they're going to buy it, because it is a hell of a book, what insight -- what is it that you -- that they're going to find out about Washington, about all of this, that they didn't know before they bought the book?
CARLSON: My adventures in cable news, that's the subtitle. It's an adventure, working in cable news. And nobody, you know -- Every book you read about, you know, my life in television -- I'm only been doing it three years so I couldn't write much of a book of that -- but they're all platitudinous (ph), children are our future, did you know that? They're all boring and antedyne (ph).
And I figured I would tell the truth. I mean, whenever I go places, I'm on airplanes, people say, "What is James Carville really like? What is Paul Begala really like?"
CARVILLE: I'm a sniveling snake.
My answer is always they're exactly the way they appear on television, except more so, which in your case is, you know, disturbing.
CARVILLE: Tucker, you really do think I should be one of the sexiest men alive?
CARLSON: Actually, we were talking about this on the show last week. It's upsetting to me, as the father of three daughters, husband to a marvelous wife, I think you know, you think you understand women.
But when you become, you know, one of the sexiest men in America, it just shows I know nothing about women and what they like.
CARVILLE: What can I say, Mr. Carlson? I'll tell you what. You wrote a hell of a book, and it deserves to be widely read. And it's very good, and I congratulate you on the accomplishment.
BEGALA: Let me read another excerpt out of it, though. It's a sort of poignant part you wrote about Alan Keyes.
BEGALA: An amazing speaker, a conservative Republican, maybe the most conservative guy who ran against President Bush. But here's how you assessed covering his race.
"There's something humiliating about hopeless candidacies. No matter how obvious it is that you're going to lose, you still have to pretend in public that you're going to win. It's enough to erode anyone's self-respect after awhile."
Do you see that happening to Keyes or to this current crop, to the Kucinich's, Sharpton, your man, the guys who obviously have no chance?
CARLSON: Yes. I mean, to some extent. When I was a full-time magazine writer, I spent a number of years on the freak beat, sort of not covering the main candidates, but covering people like Alan Keyes or Steve Forbes.
And a lot of the time I respected them, because they were running because they believed in something and they wanted, you know, a billboard for their beliefs. And there's something admirable about that. But there is something sad about watching a guy schlep from little town in little town in Iowa, flying in these little prop planes -- a hard life running for president, as you know better than I -- with no hope, no expectation he'll get even any delegates.
Alan Keyes, I loved simply because he's one of the greatest speakers in American history, I think. Alan Keyes would begin sentences that were so complex, with so many independent clauses, that you would sort of sit on the edge of your chair waiting to see if he could bring it all back home.
BEGALA: He's stunning.
CARLSON: And he could.
BEGALA: And he's spell binding, but the problem is there are no electoral votes on Mars, which is where he's strongest.
CARLSON: There's the dementia problem. No. I must say, though, Alan Keyes, I agreed with everything he said.
BEGALA: Well, OK. Hang on just a second, Tucker. Keep your seat. Tucker's adventures in cable television would not be complete until he has been on the receiving end of our "Rapidfire" treatment.
We know little Tucker can dish it out. But can he take it? We'll find out right after a quick break.
CARVILLE: It's time for "Rapidfire," where, as Tucker Carlson knows so well, the questions come even faster than you can turn the pages of his new book. It's called "Politicians, Partisans and Parasites: My Adventures in Cable News."
BEGALA: Tucker, you write really well. You create wonderful pictures of some of the politicians that you've covered. And you like the characters, you like the odd balls. Who can fill Jim Traficant's toupee?
CARLSON: Boy. That is tough, now that he's gone. I would say Dennis Kucinich who opens every fundraiser with a tantric prayer and ends it with, quote, "collective visualization." He's the closest to Jim Traficant, I think.
CARSLSON: Other than Al Sharpton, who is your favorite non- incarcerated Democrat?
CARLSON: I would have to say Zell Miller. We need to get Zell Miller on our show. There is a brilliant Democrat.
BEGALA: Well, he and Al Sharpton have so much in common.
CARLSON: Right. BEGALA: One of your predecessors hosting on the right here in cable news, Patrick J. Buchanan, ran for the presidency. Are you ready to run?
CARLSON: I think ultimately most television show hosts decide, you know, I ought to be president. That will not happen to me. I couldn't get elected to my city council. And this book will prevent it for sure.
CARVILLE: Who is your least favorite Republican?
CARLSON: Who is my least favorite Republican? Oh, boy, there are probably a lot of them.
CARVILLE: Well, name one.
CARLSON: I would say, the -- probably Alan Simpson from Wyoming, who has yelled at me twice.
CARLSON: That will...
BEGALA: Slightly different, who is the most annoying politician of either party?
CARLSON: Barney Frank. I saw Barney Frank scream. I saw Barney Frank scream and make cry a producer at CNN who tried to fix his collar. He batted her hand and said, "Get your hands off me. I'm not an actor." And made her cry. Now, I felt like punching him out.
CARVILLE: Barney Frank has always been nice to me, and I really do like Barney Frank.
If Al Sharpton is elected president, he offers you the position of the secretary of the state, will you accept?
CARLSON: No, I'll hold out for head of Amtrak. I think I'm more qualified for that.
CARVILLE: Saved by the bell.
BEGALA: Tucker Carlson. The book, "Politicians, Parasites" -- I'm sorry. "Politicians, Partisans and Parasites: My Adventures in Cable News." Liberals will love it. Conservatives will struggle with some of the bigger words, but you can try.
CARVILLE: Don't go away. In just a minute, Bob Novak and I have some 2004 predictions you don't want to miss. Can you guess which one of us is going to be right? All right.
NOVAK: Will the new year bring a new trash can for James Carville and the Democrats to hide their heads in, or could it even bring, heaven forbid, Howard Dean to the White House? We've got time for some quick predictions, starting with who will be the Democratic nominee.
James, the Democratic Party is like a man steering his car into a horrible fatal collision, doesn't know how to stop it. Howard Dean?
CARVILLE: Well, I think what's going to happen is we're going to have a very interesting primary. I think it's going to get bogged down. I think the improbable is going to happen.
The party's going to turn to United States Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York, who will be the nominee and pick New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson.
NOVAK: The second prediction is who will the running mate be. And I say the running mate of Howard Dean will be John Edwards of South -- of North Carolina. They need a southerner on the ticket, and I don't think Wes Clark is really thought of as a southerner.
CARVILLE: I don't think we're going to have a New York and a New Mexico. No, I don't. I think that we'll know after Iowa. I suspect whoever runs second in Iowa will stay and challenge Governor Dean, and we'll see what happens from there.
NOVAK: Wait a minute. What happened to your Hillary and Bill Richardson case?
CARVILLE: That could happen. It's not impossible.
NOVAK: All right.
CARVILLE: That's my long shot prediction.
NOVAK: All right. Who will be president in November results? Get out your trashcan. George W. Bush with 53 percent of the vote. That's a landslide for Bush.
CARVILLE: The Democrats will win their fourth straight time of winning the presidency in 2004, from '92, '96 and 2000 and 2004.
NOVAK: And the Sugar Bowl for the contested national championship, the winner, Oklahoma! Boomer-Sooner, they'll have that boomer wagon running around New Orleans, all the Cajuns will be mourning.
Will you be there for that serenade, James?
CARVILLE: Let me say hot bull, cold coosh coosh. Come on tigers, push, push, push.
NOVAK: And who's your prediction?
CARVILLE: My prediction is the Fighting Tigers of Louisiana State University, under the orchestration and direction of the greatest coach in the history of college football, Nick Sabin.
All right. From the left, I'm James Carville.
NOVAK: From the right, I'm Robert Novak. Join us again next time for another edition of CROSSFIRE.
"WOLF BLITZER REPORTS" starts right now.
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