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CNN CROSSFIRE

New Hampshire Gets Set For Primary

Aired January 26, 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: New Hampshire gets ready to vote.

SEN. JOHN KERRY (D-MA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We're down to the last hours here.

ANNOUNCER: Will John Kerry become a solid front-runner? If so, can he stand up to President Bush and the Republicans?

KERRY: If the worst thing they can say about me is that I'm -- quote -- "a liberal" or something, let's go. Bring it on. Bring it on.

(APPLAUSE)

ANNOUNCER: Will New Hampshire Democrats revive Howard Dean's campaign or leave it in need of life support?

HOWARD DEAN (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: That's a lot of hooey.

ANNOUNCER: And what is Wesley Clark's battle plan after New Hampshire?

WESLEY CLARK (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: If you want someone to get us out of a war, you elect a general who's been in a war.

ANNOUNCER: Today on CROSSFIRE.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ANNOUNCER: Live from the CNN Election Express at Dartmouth College in Hanover, New Hampshire, Paul Begala and Tucker Carlson.

TUCKER CARLSON, CO-HOST: Welcome to CROSSFIRE. The CNN Election Express has careened onto the campus of Dartmouth College, a place some of us tried to get into many years ago, unsuccessfully.

(LAUGHTER)

CARLSON: Dartmouth was founded in 1769 and quickly became the subject of one of the most important court cases in early U.S. history, a case that resulted in state governments being told to keep their noses out of a private institution's business. And hooray for that.

PAUL BEGALA, CO-HOST: But we're not here to relitigate old admissions decisions or old lawsuits, but, rather, to cover who will be the next president of the United States. Who will the famously flinty Granite State voters choose tomorrow? Well, we'll talk with representatives of the campaigns of John Kerry, Howard Dean and Wesley Clark.

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

David Kay, the man the Bush administration promised would find the truth about Iraqi weapons of mass destruction, has found the truth. Dr. Kay has concluded that the combination of sanctions, inspections, containment and occasional bombing runs -- that is the Clinton Iraq policy -- made it impossible for Saddam to stockpile weapons of mass destruction.

Dr. Kay says there were no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq before President Bush launched his unprovoked invasion. Through a spokesman, Mr. Bush said he still believes there were weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, despite what Dr. Kay has found. He believes they were weapons that so greatly threatened America that he had no choice but to invade and occupy Iraq.

Apparently, the evil Saddam has hidden them by painting them with invisible paint. But no word yet on whether Mr. Bush also still believes that alligators roam the sewers or that, if you eat pop rocks and drink Coke, your head will explode.

(LAUGHTER)

BEGALA: He needs to get off of these myths and deal with reality.

CARLSON: Well, I have to say, Paul, first of all, don't try pop rocks and Coke.

(CROSSTALK)

BEGALA: That's a true

(CROSSTALK)

CARLSON: But more to the point, President Clinton himself was quoted as saying, this October, after the war, that he believed there were weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. I think

(CROSSTALK)

BEGALA: But that it didn't justify a war.

CARLSON: No, but that's a different question.

BEGALA: There's weapons in China. There's weapons in Cuba. There's weapons in North Korea. CARLSON: That's a different question than the one you raised.

The point is, I think there was a massive intelligence failure.

(BELL RINGING)

CARLSON: Obviously, there was. We ought to find out why. But there was a consensus that those weapons existed. Everybody thought it.

BEGALA: But Bush pushed us into a war which we did not need.

(CROSSTALK)

CARLSON: But that's a different question

(CROSSTALK)

CARLSON: Well, less than 24 hours before the first primary here in New Hampshire, and candidates John Kerry and Wesley Clark are still arguing about the war, not the recent war in Iraq, the Vietnam War.

Both Kerry and Clark served honorably in that conflict. Both were wounded in action. Both received medals for their bravery on the battlefield. Both are proud of their service, as they well deserve to be. Neither seems aware that the Vietnam War ended 29 years ago.

(LAUGHTER)

CARLSON: Last week, Clark derided Kerry as merely a -- quote -- "junior officer." Last night, Kerry struck back, pointing out that, during wartime, it is junior officers who do most of the bleeding. John Kerry, of course, is completely right.

On the other hand, just how relevant is this conversation? This is a presidential campaign, not an argument at the VFW. It's great that John Kerry and Wes Clark are war heroes. It would be even greater if they stopped boasting about that every hour and joined the rest of us in present-day reality.

BEGALA: No, I think matters a lot. It was clearly -- Vietnam was a seminal experience in both John Kerry and in Wes Clark's lives. And, as you say, good for them. They served with great distinction. And I think to -- to talk about how it affected them is great.

CARLSON: It is so -- you know, it is so

(CROSSTALK)

BEGALA: I'd like to know how Bush was so affected by being AWOL from the National Guard. That clearly had a big effect on him.

(LAUGHTER)

CARLSON: It's so unseemly. You never made the argument that just because Bill Clinton avoided the draft, he shouldn't be president. Clearly, that is not the measure of a man or a president. And more to the point, it's unseemly. It's a bad example for heroes to brag about their heroism.

(LAUGHTER)

(BELL RINGING)

CARLSON: I'm serious.

BEGALA: Well, I'm not a hero, so I'm not in any position...

CARLSON: It's unattractive. It's a bad lesson for children.

(CROSSTALK)

BEGALA: I'm not a hero, so I'm not in any position to rebut that.

But former Assistant Secretary of State Jamie Rubin, who will be on the show in a moment, has called for an investigation into statements by Vice President Dick Cheney that -- when -- in which Cheney praised and validated the leaking of highly classified material.

Citing classified documents, a "Weekly Standard" magazine article alleged that there were links between al Qaeda and Iraq. Vice President Cheney praised that magazine article, calling it -- quote -- "the best source of information" -- unquote. But the Pentagon disagrees, called the article's conclusions inaccurate, and called the leaking of classified material to the magazine -- quote -- "deplorable and possibly illegal" -- unquote.

But what's deplorable and possibly illegal to national security experts is apparently just fine with Mr. Cheney. It is a felony to leak classified information, but I guess Cheney figures what the heck. After misleading 200,000 soldiers into invading and occupying a country and costing the lives of 500 troops, what's one more felony?

It's a disgrace.

CARLSON: You know what's outrageous about what you just said? That piece was written by Steve Hayes, one of the great enterprising and responsible writers around.

That piece was vetted by a bipartisan intelligence panel before it went to the press to take out anything that might be damaging to American national security. Nobody is alleging anything in that piece hurt the United States, or no person has alleged specifically that it was illegal. More to the point, the question is, are there ties between Saddam's government and al Qaeda? That's what we should be looking at.

(BELL RINGING)

CARLSON: Not whether

(CROSSTALK)

BEGALA: Even the vice president -- I mean -- not the vice president -- the secretary of state has said that they're not.

CARLSON: Actually, the secretary of state has said no such thing.

BEGALA: Yes, he did.

CARLSON: It's a completely open question.

BEGALA: He said there's no smoking-gun conclusion that there was any links between al Qaeda...

CARLSON: Maybe at MediaWhores.com or something, but in newspapers

(CROSSTALK)

(LAUGHTER)

BEGALA: That's a great Web site. It's MediaWhoresOnline.com, by the way,.

CARLSON: Well, what a difference a caucus makes. Before Iowa, Wesley Clark was widely expected to play a major role in the Democratic primary season, if not win it outright.

Well, he has turned out to be as relevant as, say, Dennis Kucinich, and much less interesting.

(LAUGHTER)

CARLSON: And here's why. Unlike Dennis Kucinich, Clark has never even bothered to come up with consistent positions on the major issues of the day. Take the war in Iraq, for example, a subject on which Clark is running for president.

Clark says he would have voted against that war had he been in Congress. Yet, as it turns out, at that very same time the vote was coming up, Clark advised a candidate for Congress to vote for the war. Well, asked by George Stephanopoulos to account for this embarrassing discrepancy, Clark said this yesterday -- and this is a verbatim quote -- "It depends on what 'the' is. I would have voted for leverage" -- end quote.

Well, whatever that means.

(LAUGHTER)

CARLSON: Wes Clark is new to politics. The funny thing is, he talks like he's been in politics for a lifetime. You know, he is more political than the politicians running. You cannot get a straight answer out of that guy, possibly under torture. Short of that, no. BEGALA: Well, as I said before, Jamie Rubin, one of his foreign policy advisers, is going to be on here soon. But what Clark has said...

CARLSON: If he can explain that, I'll pay him 20 bucks.

BEGALA: What Clark said is, it depends on which resolution -- not what the -- what he said is, it depends on which of the resolutions came forward. He did want to have leverage. I think that's a consistent position.

CARLSON: Paul, on -- on -- on this subject, on so many subjects, on abortion, all the way to the war, he cannot pick a subject. It's insulting to the rest of us...

(BELL RINGING)

CARLSON: ... to run for president without having thought through why you're doing it. And he hasn't, obviously.

BEGALA: We'll be able to put those questions to Jamie Rubin later in the show.

But time is running out for the candidates here in New Hampshire. New Englanders John Kerry and Howard Dean are ahead in the polls. And just ahead, two of their key supporters will square off, as this campaign goes down to the wire. And General Wesley Clark pulled out of Iowa to focus here on New Hampshire. Will his Granite State gamble pay off? We'll talk to one of General Clark's top advisers.

Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CARLSON: Welcome back to Dartmouth College here in icy Hanover, New Hampshire.

No fewer than seven polls today indicate that Senator John Kerry of Massachusetts will defeat Howard Dean, M.D., in tomorrow's New Hampshire primary. But depending on which poll you look at, Kerry's lead is between three and 21 points. That's quite a discrepancy.

The final CNN/"USA Today"/Gallup has an 11-point spread, with Kerry at 36 percent and Dean at 25. Well, how big a win does John Kerry need to meet everyone's expectations, mostly ours in the press?

In Manchester is Massachusetts Congressman and Kerry supporter Marty Meehan, along with Karen Hicks, the New Hampshire director of the Dean campaign.

Welcome.

BEGALA: Thank you both for joining us.

Congressman Meehan, let me start with you. I actually ran into Karen Hicks this morning. I was watching Governor Dean on the stump. And he said something quite striking to me. He said, in 1991, John Kerry was wrong about the Gulf War, that he voted against it. Governor Dean said even though there were troops in Kuwait, foreign troops, that is, and the oil wells were burning, he went on to say that -- point out correctly that John Kerry voted for the Iraqi resolution for use of force for George Bush Jr. in '03.

Governor Dean says that's a sign of bad judgment on foreign policy in the two most important decisions of the last 15 years. How do you respond?

REP. MARTY MEEHAN (D), MASSACHUSETTS: Well, it's kind of interesting.

I don't remember any statements that Governor Dean made during the first Gulf War. It's always easy when you don't have a voting record to criticize somebody who does have a voting record. I think Senator Kerry was right both times. It's also interesting to me that Governor Dean criticizes and says that Dick Gephardt and John Edwards and John Kerry aren't qualified to be president because they voted for the resolution, the resolution that did the same thing that Governor Dean says that he wanted to do, which is, put the inspectors back in.

The other thing that's interesting is, the vote of Senator Harkin didn't bother him, because Harkin voted the same way, as he marched all around Iowa with Senator Harkin.

(LAUGHTER)

MEEHAN: So it's kind of interesting how this works.

CARLSON: Huh.

Now, Karen Hicks, it's Tucker Carlson. I want to bring you back a long, long, long time, all the way back to last week, when Governor Dean of Vermont was saying, boasting, that he was not going to use his wife as -- quote -- "a prop" in his campaign and he wasn't going to drag her around. Then he went back on his word. Now, you personally and other members of the Dean campaign are handing out copies of the Diane Sawyer interview the governor's wife did, where they sit cuddling on a couch.

Isn't it embarrassing to go back on a promise like this so quickly?

KAREN HICKS, NEW HAMPSHIRE STATE DIRECTOR, HOWARD DEAN CAMPAIGN: It's not embarrassing at all.

Governor Dean has been out on the trail here in New Hampshire. He's traveled the state over and over again. He's always said that Judy Steinberg Dean would come out on the trail and would be part of the campaign. She just has a full practice, a full family at home. She's making the decision that's best for her. And we're glad to see her here in New Hampshire.

She is a nice addition to the trail. It helps us understand a different part of Governor Dean, a part that the public hasn't seen. And we welcome her any time that she wants to take a break from her very busy practice and home life -- life -- to come out and meet New Hampshire voters.

BEGALA: Congressman Meehan, let me come back to foreign policy again. The speech that Governor Dean gave this morning took another shot at Kerry. He said, I guess Washington is the only place in the world where sitting on a committee counts as experience.

How do you defend Governor Dean's obvious contempt for Senator Kerry's service on various committees on intelligence and national security in Washington?

MEEHAN: Well, I don't think that anyone has any doubt that Senator Kerry is an expert on foreign affairs and foreign policy. All you have to do is listen to Senator Kerry talk about the national security issues and I think it's clear that he is superior to Governor Dean on this issue.

Now, I'm not surprised that the governor would give a speech claiming that, somehow, he's almost as good as Senator Kerry on this, because the polls clearly show, if you look at exit polls in Iowa...

BEGALA: No, he claims he's better.

(CROSSTALK)

BEGALA: I'm sorry to interrupt, Congressman, but he claims he's better. He claims that he's got better judgment and experience than your man, John Kerry. Do you agree.

MEEHAN: But the reality is -- the reality is -- no, I don't agree.

The reality is that Howard Dean has been all over the place. He said he was for the first Gulf War. I haven't seen any evidence of it. Maybe he made some statements in his doctor's office to some of his patients. I'm not sure. But I never saw any statements on it.

The other thing that's interesting to me is, he says -- Governor Dean has been all over the place on which particular resolution he was for. Those who have to vote on these difficult questions of resolutions are the ones that -- that have to actually take a vote yes or no. The reality here is...

HICKS: Let me just take a second to set the record straight here.

MEEHAN: ... John Kerry's foreign policy expertise is what's bothering Governor Dean.

(CROSSTALK)

HICKS: Let me just set the record straight here.

CARLSON: Let's bring Karen in here. HICKS: Governor Dean -- Governor Dean supported the first Gulf War because one of our allies had been attacked. He has spoken out consistently against this war, has been outspoken from the start, when it wasn't popular in the polls.

John Kerry almost has a need to be on every single side of an issue. And, yes, you can listen to him and feel like you understand where he is one day. And then, the next day, he shifts, takes a subtle shift, because he needs to be an every side of the issue. What's clear coming out of Iowa is, the message of change really won. And the question now for the voters of New Hampshire tomorrow is, who's capable of delivering that change?

Governor Dean is a governor that we know very well in the state of New Hampshire. We've watched him balance a budget. We've watched him provide health insurance for every American -- or every Vermonter in his state.

CARLSON: OK.

HICKS: He's provided prescription drug coverage for senior citizens. Let me just finish.

CARLSON: I'm sorry to cut -- cut you off.

HICKS: And he's capable -- he's capable of delivering that change that the voters so desperately want.

CARLSON: OK.

HICKS: And he's the only candidate

(CROSSTALK)

HICKS: ... who can beat Bush.

CARLSON: Thanks a lot, Karen. I'm sorry to cut you off right there. I'm going to have to do that. Excuse me.

I'm just going to have to go to the congressman quickly.

Every Democrat as you know, Congressman, has to pretend to be a son of the working class. Wes Clark recently said he's the only man running for president on the Democratic side whose family was so poor, he had to pay for his own college, or couldn't pay for Yale. It was a dig at Senator Kerry. Is it difficult, do you think, for your campaign that Senator Kerry did grow up rich and in a socially privileged family?

MEEHAN: No, it didn't.

In fact, that's one of the reasons why Senator Kennedy is for -- Senator Kerry is for cutting the taxes for middle-class Americans, lower-class Americans. He's not in favor of increasing taxes...

CARLSON: Because he grew up middle class? Are you going to (CROSSTALK)

MEEHAN: ... as Governor Dean has. Because he has demonstrated that he supports the interests of middle-class people.

That's one of the reasons why he's been fighting in the United States Senate to cut health care costs. It's one of the reasons why he's such -- been an outspoken advocate for education in the United States Senate. Senator Kerry's record is very, very clear on education, on issues that affect working families. And the people of Iowa did vote for change. They voted for John Kerry, No. 1. In fact, Howard Dean was third.

They voted for John Kerry because he can actually win this election and beat George W. Bush. And that's why Americans all over the country are giving a second look...

HICKS: John Kerry has to loan himself a huge amount of money.

MEEHAN: ... to Senator Kerry.

HICKS: Because he wouldn't raise the money he need to be competitive.

MEEHAN: So it's clear what happened in Iowa. They looked at

(CROSSTALK)

MEEHAN: ... Kerry and said, we want to win.

BEGALA: I'm sorry -- I'm sorry. to break this up. Congressman Meehan...

HICKS: John Kerry has to cut himself a big check

(CROSSTALK)

BEGALA: Congressman Marty Meehan from Massachusetts -- I'm sorry -- Karen, I'm going to have to cut both of you guys off. I'm sorry that we have to do this, but we are out of time.

Congressman Marty Meehan, Massachusetts, supporting John Kerry, Karen Hicks, with the Howard Dean campaign, thank you both very much. It was a fun debate.

HICKS: Thank you.

BEGALA: I wish we could give you more time.

HICKS: hank you.

BEGALA: Please do come back. Thanks, guys.

Well, Wesley Clark has staked an awful lot here in New Hampshire. The question is, will the voters give the Clark campaign the boost it needs? We will hear from one of General Clark's top advisers just ahead.

And then, right after the break, Wolf Blitzer has the latest on the winter weather. My guess is, it's wicked cold.

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

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(NEWS BREAK)

BEGALA: Wolf Blitzer, thank you for that update. We look forward to your report at the top of the hour and that interview with the Deans.

Polls here in New Hampshire show, retired General Wesley Clark has been losing a little ground here in the Granite State ever since the Iowa caucuses, which he had passed up. General Clark is in a tight race now for third place with Senators John Edwards and Joe Lieberman.

Here to talk about General Clark's battle plan for New Hampshire and beyond, we are joined from Manchester by the senior foreign policy adviser of the Clark campaign, Jamie Rubin, who was also assistant secretary of state during the Clinton administration.

Mr. Rubin, good to see you, sir.

JAMIE RUBIN, WESLEY CLARK CAMPAIGN ADVISER: Glad to be with you.

CARLSON: Jamie Rubin, thanks for joining us.

There was a devastating front-page piece in "The New York Times" today on General Clark's candidacy. I know you read it and anguished over it, doubtless. But I just want to read you one quote that I think speaks for a lot of Democrats. Bill Carrick, who is a longtime Gephardt adviser, sums up General Clark's candidacy this way: "He sounds better in a resume than he is in reality."

And the point is, a lot of Democrats wanted, liked the idea of a general as a candidate, but, in fact, he hasn't gone very far. Don't you think a lot of Democrats feel that way?

RUBIN: Well, no. I'm sure Bill Carrick feels that way.

But, look, General Clark has never been a politician before. After tomorrow, he can't say that. He'll face the voters for the first time. And we believe his message of being a different kind of leader, not a Washington politician, will resonate. And then he'll take the campaign around the country. And we'll know, in a number of weeks, whether Bill Carrick is right or not.

BEGALA: Well, but, Jamie, he may just be facing the voters for the first time, but he's been in politics since about the day he left the military.

And, in fact, his opponents point out that, in 2001, after the very hotly contested election, he went to a fund-raiser, spoke at a fund-raiser for the Republican Party, in which he praised Rumsfeld, Rice and Cheney as a dream team. Now, as an expert in foreign policy, do you believe that that group of knuckleheads is a dream team, Jamie?

RUBIN: Well, it certainly is true that, at that time, the conventional wisdom was that they were an experienced group.

And when the administration successfully defeated the Taliban, you can find quotes of me praising President Bush and Secretary Rumsfeld for conducting a perfectly successful operation against Afghanistan. All Americans wanted us to succeed at that time. But when they moved from the Taliban to Iraq and drove us in a rush to war, used misleading intelligence information, didn't have an international coalition, and alienated the planet, imagine. We were in a war against one of the worst dictators in the modern era and much of the world wanted us to lose.

That's not good diplomacy. That's not good leadership. That's when General Clark and a lot of other people began to say that the Bush administration was taking us down the wrong road.

CARLSON: Wait. Wait a second. So what you -- what you just admitted point blank is that this is a candidate who regurgitates what you described as -- quote -- "conventional wisdom."

But why -- how can General Clark account for the fact, he was advising a congressional candidate during the vote in Congress to vote to authorize war, how can you reconcile that with his claim now that he's always been opposed to the war in Iraq?

RUBIN: Well, I hope you're going to pay me the $20, Tucker.

But the -- it's very clear. He said he would vote for a resolution that embodied the policy of diplomacy, backed by force, not a resolution that authorized the president to initiate military action. That's very simple. That's the resolution he would have voted for, one that supported diplomacy, backed by force, because he wasn't in a rush to war. He didn't think we needed to rush into this without allies, without a realistic plan to succeed, without dealing with the al Qaeda problem first.

It's a coherent position. And I'm waiting for my 20 bucks.

CARLSON: OK. Well, we'll be back in Manchester tonight. I may not deliver.

(LAUGHTER)

CARLSON: Jamie Rubin, senior foreign policy adviser to General Wes Clark...

BEGALA: Did he just say senior porn adviser

(LAUGHTER)

(CROSSTALK)

CARLSON: You know, among many other things, Jamie Rubin, thanks a lot for joining us. We appreciate it.

(LAUGHTER)

BEGALA: I'm sorry.

(LAUGHTER)

CARLSON: Well, which Democratic presidential candidate, speaking of, would you prefer to be stranded with on a desert island? Hold that horrifying thought. We'll have some poll results next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CARLSON: Welcome back to CROSSFIRE.

Well, finally, there's a poll where they ask questions we genuinely care about. The Lifetime Poll asked -- quote -- "Which candidate would you like to invite to family dinner?"

Joe Lieberman came in first with 13 percent, followed closely by Dr. Howard Dean with 12. Only 1 percent of people asked wanted to cook vegan meals for Dennis Kucinich.

(LAUGHTER)

CARLSON: But when pollsters asked which candidate people would most prefer to be stranded on a desert island with, Wes Clark topped that poll, followed by Howard Dean, Joe Lieberman and now ex-candidate Carol Moseley Braun.

Stranded on a desert island with Howard Dean, that sounds dangerous. That guy would cook you and eat you in about a day.

(LAUGHTER)

CARLSON: Can you imagine?

BEGALA: Well, John Kerry, I guess, could get you off, because he's a wind surfer.

CARLSON: That's exactly right.

BEGALA: Actually, he's on the cover of "Wind Surfer Dude" magazine, which is just a step away from the presidency.

CARLSON: Well, having -- having eaten dinner with Al Sharpton, I have to say, he wins that poll just...

BEGALA: Is that right?

CARLSON: Oh, yes. Talk about an entertaining guy to eat with. BEGALA: Did he stick you with the bill?

CARLSON: Yes, well, of course.

(LAUGHTER)

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

CARLSON: From the right, I'm Tucker Carlson.

Join us again next time -- that would be tomorrow, day of the New Hampshire primary -- for yet more CROSSFIRE.

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

TO ORDER A VIDEO OF THIS TRANSCRIPT, PLEASE CALL 800-CNN-NEWS OR USE OUR SECURE ONLINE ORDER FORM LOCATED AT www.fdch.com


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