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CNN CROSSFIRE

Howard Dean on the Attack

Aired January 13, 2004 - 16:30   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)
ANNOUNCER: CROSSFIRE. On the left, James Carville and Paul Begala; on the right, Robert Novak and Tucker Carlson.

In the CROSSFIRE: Howard Dean gets prickly.

HOWARD DEAN (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I'm going after everybody, because I'm tired of being the pin cushion.

ANNOUNCER: We'll ask his campaign manager what to expect.

Plus:

SEN. JOHN EDWARDS (D-NC), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: You give me a shot at George Bush, I will give you the White House.

ANNOUNCER: Is John Edwards' campaign finally getting noticed?

Today on CROSSFIRE.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ANNOUNCER: Live from the CNN Election Express in Ames, Iowa, Paul Begala and Tucker Carlson.

TUCKER CARLSON, CO-HOST: Welcome to CROSSFIRE.

Well, the CNN Express has pulled into Ames, Iowa, which the new "Rating Guide to Life in America's Small Cities" ranks as the second most livable small city in the country.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

CARLSON: We can vouch for that. It's also the home of the Iowa State University Cyclones.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

CARLSON: We're here to talk about that cyclone from Vermont, Dr. Howard Dean.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

(BOOING)

CARLSON: We'll go... PAUL BEGALA, CO-HOST: We will go inside the Dean campaign with his campaign manager, Joe Trippi.

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

The Bush administration has launched an investigation of truth- telling Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill, darkly hinting O'Neill may have violated national security by leaking documents that prove Mr. Bush's dishonesty, a charge Secretary O'Neill strongly denies. Of course, President Bush himself revealed classified secrets to Bob Woodward to get a flattering portrayal in one of Mr. Woodward's books.

So, if you tell the truth about George W. Bush's dishonesty, beware. The Bushies will get you. They leaked the identity of an undercover CIA operative to punish her husband for revealing Mr. Bush's falsehoods about Iraq. Of course, it took 74 days for the Bush administration to begin an investigation into that alleged crime and just one day to go after Paul O'Neill. Perhaps Mr. Bush needs a special unit to punish his enemies. After all, it worked for Richard Nixon.

CARLSON: I think you've got to pick a principle to stand behind here, Paul.

If you're upset about the idea that people are leaking secret information, then you've got to be upset in all cases, whether the Bush administration allegedly did it to Joe Wilson's wife -- and it was not to punish him, by the way. It was, as you know, for completely different reasons.

BEGALA: No, it wasn't.

CARLSON: However, if you're upset about that, you've got to be upset about Paul O'Neill leaking more than 10,000 documents. Some of them may have been classified.

BEGALA: None of them were classified, according to the

(CROSSTALK)

(BELL RINGING)

CARLSON: Well, first of all, we don't know that.

BEGALA: The secretary says that the Treasury Department's attorneys looked at all of that. But these are both efforts to destroy people who have criticized George W. Bush. It's thuggish tactics. It's what the Bushies do best.

CARLSON: Somehow I suspect Paul O'Neill won't be destroyed.

Well, Democrats love to complain that the District of Columbia has been politically disenfranchised by mean, racially insensitive Republicans. D.C. statehood is in the Democratic platform. You have heard the talking points many times before. And yet Democrats don't mean it at all. Case in point, the D.C. primary is today. And apart from Howard Dean, only three Democratic candidates even bothered to get on the ballot.

They are Carol Moseley Braun, Dennis Kucinich and Al Sharpton. The other candidates couldn't be bothered. Apparently, the support of the city's mostly poor, mostly black population doesn't matter to them. The really important Democratic constituency lives in Malibu. Well, it's all hypocritical. What can you do about it?

Well, if you live in the District of Columbia -- and what the heck, even if you don't -- vote for Al Sharpton today. He's witty. He's smart. And there's no better way to send a message to the corrupt Democratic establishment. Go, Al Sharpton.

BEGALA: Democrats made a pledge that we would begin the process in Iowa and in New Hampshire, hardly Malibu. We're sitting here in Ames. This is not Malibu.

CARLSON: Well, then why is Howard Dean running?

(CROSSTALK)

BEGALA: But -- well, I don't think he should be. No delegates will be awarded in Washington. It's a beauty contest. It is not a primary.

CARLSON: It's a matter of principle, Paul.

(CROSSTALK)

CARLSON: If you believe it ought to be a state and the people there ought to have federal voting rights, then you should have a primary there. The Democratic Party could have a primary there, but it decided not to.

(CROSSTALK)

BEGALA: But it won't be the first.

By the way, Washington, D.C. would be a state. George Bush would support it if it were all...

(BELL RINGING)

BEGALA: ... white Republicans. But since it's a Democratic city, they don't want to give it voting rights in the Congress.

CARLSON: That's actually

(CROSSTALK)

BEGALA: Well, in the current issue of "The New Yorker," George W. Bush declares -- quote -- "No president has ever done more for human rights than I have" -- unquote -- not Lincoln, who freed the slaves, not Jefferson, who wrote the Declaration of Independence, not FDR, who defeated the Nazis, not LBJ, who signed the Civil Rights Act, nor Kennedy or Reagan, who rallied the world against communism, and certainly not Bill Clinton, who waged war to stop genocide in Kosovo.

The Bush White House, it's kind of become a little like North Korea, where the addled son of the former leader suffers delusions of grandeur while...

(LAUGHTER)

BEGALA: ... sycophantic toadies tell him he's infallible and then viscously attack those who criticize him. George W. Bush is Kim Jong Il with better hair.

CARLSON: That's almost beneath contempt to comment like that, comparing the United States president, no matter who it is, Bill Clinton or anybody, to Kim Jong Il.

I will say, to defend the Clinton administration on human rights grounds, when they averted their eyes what was happening in Rwanda, there's really no excuse for that, while they allowed the Middle East to completely disintegrate, while they coddled -- while they coddled Yasser Arafat and did nothing about Saddam Hussein as he was killing hundreds of thousands of people.

(BELL RINGING)

CARLSON: It isn't that much, I'd say.

BEGALA: I'll tell you what. Bill Clinton did a better job on human rights than and everything else than George W. Bush ever would. And I'd love to repeal the 22nd Amendment and let Clinton run again.

CARLSON: There you go.

Well, there have been whispers about it for weeks, that the pressure, the high pressure, of running the Dean campaign for president has started to get consultant Joe Trippi. Well, until now, this has been a nasty rumor. Now there's proof. At 1:02 this very morning, Joe Trippi sent an e-mail to supporters outlining the core mission of the Dean campaign -- quote -- "The thing we're fighting is larger than George W. Bush. It's larger than any of the establishment candidates,' Trippi wrote.

"What we're up against is a political system that does anything in its power to make you so disgusted with the process that you won't participate in your own democracy." Pretty sinister. In other words, there was a massive, diabolical, and, catch this, bipartisan conspiracy afoot, and only Howard Dean can stop it. Does Joe Trippi really believe this? Could he really believe this? We have the good fortune of being able to ask him. He will be joining us in just a moment.

BEGALA: Yes, Joe can defend himself.

But I have talked to some other people in the Dean campaign. And they say that their supporters really do want Dean to go back to kind of railing against the establishment. A lot of Dean supporters are people who he is bringing into the system. Good for him. If that motivates them, then...

(BELL RINGING)

(CROSSTALK)

CARLSON: Well, I have no problem with that. I'm not quibbling with it.

The idea that the system itself is arrayed against you in a conspiracy, that's a pretty heavy thing to say.

BEGALA: Well, we ask Joe about that in just a second.

CARLSON: Well, Joe Trippi himself joins us next in the CROSSFIRE. We'll ask him how things are going for his candidate as we get closer to caucus day.

And later, is John Edwards starting to get noticed and will it be enough to save his campaign at this late date?

We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CARLSON: Welcome back to Ames, Iowa.

The Iowa caucuses are next Monday. The New Hampshire primary is two weeks from today. Arizona, South Carolina, and more vote in three weeks. But Howard Dean is taking today off. He needs it. He's tired.

But Dean campaign manager Joe Trippi soldiers on, sending midnight e-mails and now stepping into the CROSSFIRE.

Joe Trippi, thanks for joining us.

JOE TRIPPI, HOWARD DEAN CAMPAIGN MANAGER: Great to be here.

BEGALA: Joe, good to see you again.

TRIPPI: Good to see you.

BEGALA: Your campaign is running a new ad today. First, I like it because it's negative. I'm not one of these wusses who doesn't like -- it goes on the record. It's factual. It's not personal. And it's accurate.

It says that the Washington candidates who are running, the congressman -- the senators, particularly, and Dick Gephardt, voted for the use-of-force resolution and, therefore, they're -- they're wrong, right, the Washington establishment?

TRIPPI: Yes.

BEGALA: Tom Harkin voted for that resolution, too, and you accept his support. Why? TRIPPI: Tom Harkin actually said he would change his vote if he knew the facts as they are today, that it was a mistake and he would oppose the war.

That's what's kind of interesting about Kerry, Gephardt, and Edwards, is that, in the face of overwhelming evidence now -- the Carnegie Endowment saying there were no weapons of mass destruction, deterrence was working, war -- the Army War College report that says that the war was a strategic error of the first order, O'Neill saying that they planned it all along, and -- I mean, look, the thing is a mistake.

It was the wrong war at the wrong time. Howard Dean said so. We're going to make that difference clear. And, in fact, the other three continue to say in debate after debate how proud they were that they made that vote. So it's -- how could it be negative?

(CROSSTALK)

BEGALA: Well, it's negative in that it's not positive.

TRIPPI: No, no, no.

(CROSSTALK)

BEGALA: I love negative campaigning, Joe. Don't get me wrong. It's not unfair. It's perfectly fair.

(CROSSTALK)

TRIPPI: If you say, I'm proud I voted for the war and we say, OK, you voted for the war, we had a different view, we're against it, let the people decide. That's what this thing is about.

(CROSSTALK)

TRIPPI: There's nothing negative about it. It's the facts.

CARLSON: Joe, I have wanted to ask you about this for the last couple of days. The other night in the debate, Governor Dean was asked, should the United States grant automatic citizenship to foreigners who fight in the United States military?

Here's how he responded -- quote -- "You have to be a bit careful about how you do that, because, otherwise, you will have a disproportionate number of people who are Hispanics joining the Army simply to do that?"

What's wrong with having a disproportionate number of Hispanics in the Army, if they are there voluntarily? They don't shoot well or what's the -- I don't understand.

TRIPPI: Oh, I mean, Tucker, come on.

(CROSSTALK)

CARLSON: I literally don't understand the answer.

TRIPPI: Well, then, let me explain it to you.

CARLSON: Please do.

TRIPPI: OK.

You have people who want citizenship. You get citizenship if you join the Army.

CARLSON: Right.

TRIPPI: But you're going to get sent over to fight in a war. What you're asking people to do, you're giving him incentive to put their lives on the line.

CARLSON: To fight for America. And that's bad?

(CROSSTALK)

TRIPPI: But there's no one else who has that incentive. We're all volunteering for a different reason.

There's something wrong -- you don't want to have poor folk who can't make it, who are struggling, to say, my only way out is to be one of the guys that goes and fights. That's the not the reason to have them go over there. To have them join is to get a citizenship card? I mean, you want them to get automatic -- automatic citizenship if they for -- or a -- a quicker citizenship if they join the service, but you don't want it to be such an incentive that -- that it's a -- an enticement into a life they don't want to lead.

BEGALA: Joe, let me come back to this question of the...

(CROSSTALK)

TRIPPI: That's what he was trying to say.

CARLSON: It's a pretty honorable thing to serve in the military.

BEGALA: I'm sorry to interrupt, but let me come to this question of the Washington establishment, Joe.

(CROSSTALK)

BEGALA: Our researchers went and looked up today. Bennie Thompson, establishment congressman from Mississippi, endorsed your man, Governor Dean. He is the 24th member of the House to endorse your candidacy. You've got more support...

TRIPPI: Thirty-five.

BEGALA: Thirty-five. Forgive me. I'm miscounted, then.

(CROSSTALK) BEGALA: You've got more support among the Washington establishment than any other candidate. Why are you attacking the establishment, while you're sucking up to them to get their endorsements?

TRIPPI: No, that's not what's going on.

What's going on here is, the establishment are people that do things in the established way. That's what's going on here. The establishment -- there's nothing bad about people in the establishment. They just do things in the way they've always been done. And this campaign, our campaign, hasn't done anything the way it's supposed to be done.

And we're doing it in a new and different way. We're getting hundreds of thousands of average Americans to join a campaign at the grassroots level, building it from the bottom up, not the top down. We're doing it totally differently. We're not funding our campaign solely with $2,000 checks. It's hundreds of thousands of people giving $77 checks.

We're not going on bended knee to the usual places you go to.

(CROSSTALK)

BEGALA: But you have 35 congressmen and senators?

TRIPPI: No.

Those people are saying, you know what? There's a new and different way to do this. There's a new and different way to make our party stronger. There's a new and different way to take on George Bush and stand up for what we believe in. And I'm joining that cause. And there are hundreds of thousands, millions of people doing that right now. They're -- they go to our Web site. They join our campaign. They're mobilizing, leafleting, working for this party.

That's not going to just strengthen the party in terms of the White House. It's going to help us take the House and Senate back.

CARLSON: But, Joe...

TRIPPI: And we believe we can take the House and Senate back.

CARLSON: But, Joe, one thing Governor Dean is...

TRIPPI: A lot of guys in Washington don't believe that.

CARLSON: Governor Dean has been doing something that many people in Washington do, which is whining about attacks on him.

(CROSSTALK)

CARLSON: He said the other day, after months of attacking his opponents: "I'm a pin cushion. People are being mean to me. It's unfair." Do you think that's an effective strategy for getting new votes?

TRIPPI: He's just saying what's going on.

Everybody and their brother has got an attack, a new attack, on us every day. That's not how we're going to do this, though. I think, yesterday, he came back and he said, look, I'm going to stand up and I'm going to fight this stuff. There's a reason the establishment -- the folks that are trying to stop us, there's a reason they're trying to stop us, because this thing is not just about the war.

It's about power and who owns our government and who runs the damn thing.

CARLSON: But Jimmy Carter is a member...

TRIPPI: And the lobbyists and the special interests do not like the fact that...

CARLSON: But, but...

TRIPPI: ... there's hundreds of thousands of Americans.

The other candidates -- by the way, you can see them. They're all now -- got ads up talking about how they're going to take on the special interests. They've been in Washington for a hell of a long time and we still don't have health care.

CARLSON: But to follow up on Paul's question, for a campaign that's against the establishment, you've racked up a lot of establishment endorsements. Is Jimmy Carter the next one? Will Jimmy Carter endorse Howard Dean?

TRIPPI: I -- I don't believe so, but you'll have to tune in Sunday to find out what's going to happen when we're down in Plains, Georgia.

BEGALA: Sunday?

CARLSON: Sunday in Plains, Georgia?

TRIPPI: Yes.

BEGALA: Sunday in Plains, Georgia. But you don't believe he's going to endorse you?

TRIPPI: I don't believe so, no.

CARLSON: Is he going to attack you?

(LAUGHTER)

TRIPPI: I don't think so.

CARLSON: OK. Well, the... TRIPPI: That, I'm pretty sure he's not going to do.

CARLSON: Well, the mystery remains unresolved.

Joe Trippi, thanks a lot for joining us. We appreciate it.

TRIPPI: Thank you, guys.

BEGALA: Thanks, Joe. Good job.

(CROSSTALK)

TRIPPI: Good to see you.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

CARLSON: John Edwards is hoping to steal a little of Howard Dean's thunder coming out of Iowa.

Edwards' campaign spokesman joins us next.

Also ahead, Wolf Blitzer has more on the clash between former Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill and the Bush administration.

We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(NEWS BREAK)

BEGALA: Welcome back to CROSSFIRE.

After months of being dismissed and dissed by various right- wingers as the "Breck Girl," Senator John Edwards has a new energy here in Iowa. He has won the coveted endorsement of "The Des Moines Register." And his Mr. Nice-Guy Approach is winning converts here, where folks are just so doggone nice, I can't stand it.

One woman who helped mastermind Edwards' resurgence joins us now in the CROSSFIRE. She is Edwards' campaign press secretary, Jennifer Palmieri.

Jennifer, good to see you again.

JENNIFER PALMIERI, JOHN EDWARDS CAMPAIGN PRESS SECRETARY: Nice to be here, Paul.

CARLSON: Jennifer, congratulations on the boost recently. But I think, by any measure, Senator Edwards has underperformed from expectations.

I am wondering now, in retrospect...

(LAUGHTER)

CARLSON: ... if you wish he hasn't campaigned to the degree he has on his biography, which he has done a lot of. Howard Dean has done none of that and he's killing him. Do you think, if you had to do it over again, you wouldn't have run on the son of a

(CROSSTALK)

PALMIERI: Do I think, if I have to do it over again, I would rather peak in July of 2003, as opposed of February of 2004? No.

Our strategy was that we would -- that, you know, Senator Edwards is a candidate that people didn't know, particularly people in Iowa. And we needed to spend the summer introducing him to voters and the fall talking about the policy, what he wanted to do as president, how he was going to, you know, his plans to -- very specific plans to change America.

And January would be about the closing argument, making the -- taking all of those arguments, putting them together, and making his most forceful case for why Iowans should be for him. And I think that was the -- that's the right thing -- that was the right thing to do. It takes longer. When you have a positive message and you want to talk policy, it takes longer to break through. But, in the long run it's -- it's -- it's what -- it's what win elections. So we feel very good about it.

(CROSSTALK)

BEGALA: Let me ask you about the strategy.

PALMIERI: Yes.

BEGALA: Governor Dean running an ad now that attacks your man and other folks for supporting the war.

PALMIERI: Right.

BEGALA: Fair, true, accurate.

PALMIERI: Sure.

BEGALA: Dick Gephardt says Governor Dean supported cuts in Medicare. Fair, true, accurate.

Why aren't you in there attacking? Where did all this Mr. Nice Guy -- I want a tough guy in the White House. If he's not going to attack in the primaries, is he -- how I can trust him to go after Bush in the general?

PALMIERI: I don't think you have to attack to be tough. John Edwards

(CROSSTALK)

BEGALA: God, it's fun, though.

PALMIERI: I know you hate it. I know you guys hate it. I know you hate it that positive is working. But positive -- positive does work. And John Edwards is somebody who is a tough fighter and has fought for people all his life in Washington and outside of Washington. And the positive -- you know, the positive message is what we hear over and over again from Iowans about what they really like. You know, we have at our town halls, at our house parties, the caucus-goers come up to us. A lot of people are switching from other candidates.

And over and over again, we hear, you have a real plan for how you want to change America. You're not from Washington. And you stay positive. And that's what they like.

CARLSON: But wait.

(CROSSTALK)

CARLSON: Jennifer, with all due respect, Wesley Clark can say all of those things. If I'm a Democrat voter who recognizes that Howard Dean is not electable...

PALMIERI: Yes, but Wesley Clark couldn't make it in Iowa, could he? He had to leave.

(CROSSTALK)

CARLSON: He couldn't. But I was over

(CROSSTALK)

PALMIERI: If you want -- if you want to be a national candidate, you have to compete nationally. And John Edwards understands that he's a -- that he's a newcomer to the political process and that he needs to prove -- if he's going to be our national nominee he needs to prove himself everywhere in the country.

And so he came -- he came here to Iowa. You know, we had a tough time, too, breaking through. But we stuck it out and now we're reaping the benefits of it. Wesley -- you know, Wesley Clark has a different rationale for his presidency. And I think that Edwards' is based on a vision for what he wants to do as president, how he wants to change America. He's got a very specific plan to do it.

And that's what -- I mean, it's -- I know it's boring and I know you guys hate it, but it works.

CARLSON: I don't hate it at all.

PALMIERI: You hate it. It's boring. You know, every -- every debate, are you guys going to do anything different? No. We never do anything different.

(CROSSTALK)

BEGALA: Well, I'll tell you, you're doing something different now. Jennifer Palmieri, the press strategist for John Edwards.

PALMIERI: Wow.

(LAUGHTER)

BEGALA: Congratulations on your surging campaign.

PALMIERI: Thank you, Paul. Thank you very much.

BEGALA: Thank you for joining us on CROSSFIRE. Come back again soon.

(CROSSTALK)

PALMIERI: Tucker, always a pleasure.

(LAUGHTER)

(CROSSTALK)

BEGALA: Coming up, Howard Dean is not the only doctor in Iowa. In a minute, Iowa State University's Dr. Politics himself will join us here in the CROSSFIRE.

Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CARLSON: Well, do a Google search for Dr. Politics and the first name that comes us is Steffen W. Schmidt. It just so happens that he teaches political science right here at Iowa State University and hosts a political talk show on the radio. So, of course, we looked him up.

Welcome, Dr. Schmidt.

STEFFEN W. SCHMIDT, IOWA STATE UNIVERSITY: Thank you.

BEGALA: Dr. Schmidt, good to see you.

SCHMIDT: Thanks.

BEGALA: If you have noticed a recurring theme in this show, it's that I like negative campaigning. I'm from Texas. I'm not from Iowa. Why are Iowans so doggone positive and nice?

SCHMIDT: Well, I don't think we are.

I think they try to make the candidates be nice and they never are. And then we punish the one that's too cruel.

BEGALA: Who has been cruel in this race?

SCHMIDT: I think that probably Gephardt has launched some campaign ads that are pretty vicious. Actually, I think Dean has been pretty nasty. And, of course, it's paid off for him to some extent.

CARLSON: Well, I'm wondering, couldn't Iowa have devised an easier way for people to exercise democracy? The caucuses are intensely complicated and time-consuming. Why not just vote?

SCHMIDT: But you have to have someplace where people can actually discuss this stuff before they vote.

CARLSON: Isn't that what bars are for?

SCHMIDT: Yes, that's what bars are for.

(LAUGHTER)

SCHMIDT: Actually, the caucuses are a lot like bars. You go in, you sit around, you try to talk somebody into or out of something.

And it's the only time that you can do that. The rest of the time, you're prohibited from campaigning in the polling place. Here, you're required to campaign in the polling place. And that's kind of a cool thing to do. And I think you need to have one place in the country where that happens. Keep the candidates honest.

BEGALA: But isn't the public aspect of this really kind of a chilling effect? It's not a secret ballot.

You're standing there in a gymnasium, in a church base, in a union hall, and you look across the room and there's your boss for another candidate, or there's your mistress over there, maybe, and your wife's for somebody else. That's kind of a tough thing to make people do, declare publicly like that, isn't it?

SCHMIDT: It is.

In other words, what we want is for people to justify why they're taking the position that they are. And if they can't do it, then maybe they should switch and vote for somebody else. The whole deal is to try and argue for the guy that can beat the incumbent president and to argue other people out of stupid positions that they've taken, because people take a lot of stupid positions when campaign time comes around.

BEGALA: They do on cable talk shows, too.

(LAUGHTER)

(CROSSTALK)

BEGALA: I certainly have done that myself a lot.

Professor Steffen Schmidt of Iowa State University, Dr. Politics, thank you very much.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

BEGALA: Thank you for joining us, Doctor.

(CROSSTALK)

SCHMIDT: Thank you. BEGALA: From the left, I am Paul Begala.

Tomorrow, the CNN Election Express will be in the home of the Hawkeyes, Iowa State's rival. That is the University of Iowa in Iowa City.

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

Also tomorrow, we'll talk to Rob Reiner and Martin Sheen. They're in Iowa campaigning for, who else, Howard Dean.

"WOLF BLITZER REPORTS" starts right now. Have a great night.

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