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Super Bowl Fallout Continues

Aired February 11, 2004 - 16:30   ET


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

In the CROSSFIRE: Janet Jackson's Super Bowl exposure gets U.S. lawmakers' attention.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Never let it be said that I wasn't part of political piling on. That's why I'm here today. This is a big issue.

ANNOUNCER: Does the Super Bowl halftime show prove that TV needs better taste or more government regulation?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We received 200,000 complaints on the Super Bowl incident alone.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I guess because I don't watch MTV, it was shocking.



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


PAUL BEGALA, CO-HOST: Hello, everybody. and welcome to CROSSFIRE.

Janet Jackson's breast was a rather touchy subject on Capitol Hill this morning. Members of the House and the Senate and the Federal Communications Commission all agreed that they were shocked, shocked, about what had happened at the Super Bowl.

We will debate whether Janet Jackson's moment of overexposure will bring back family hour, lower cable rates, possibly even cure the common cold in a moment. But, first, we're going to rip the bodice off the best political briefing in television, the CROSSFIRE "Political Alert."

TUCKER CARLSON, CO-HOST: Retired General Wesley Clark officially left the presidential race today, mostly because he had to. His aides were quick to blame the defeat on Clark's decision not to run in the state of Iowa. At best, that is revisionism. From the start, the Clark campaign never quite made sense. He was a registered lobbyist running as a Washington outsider, a military man fired by the Clinton administration for bad judgment running as a confident leader, a self-described foreign policy expert who could never quite decide where he stood on Iraq, an erstwhile Republican posing as a Democrat, a man farther to the left than Howard Dean claims to be a centrist.

Here was a man who combined the arrogance of Bill Clinton, the conspiracy theories of Ross Perot, with the impenetrable euphemisms and double-talk of a career Washington politician. Here, in other words, was a man who, thank God, could never be elected president and now he's gone. Thank you, Wes Clark. We support your decision to get out.


BEGALA: Nonsense. He is a great leader.

CARLSON: Really?

BEGALA: He's an American patriot. He's an American hero. And...


CARLSON: He was fired by your administration for incompetence.


BEGALA: He spoke the truth. Wrongly. No, he was wrongly fired. Shouldn't have been. He spoke the truth against this unjust, unwise, unwarranted war. And that's why the right wing hates him.

CARLSON: Paul...


BEGALA: God bless Wes Clark. I'm glad he ran. I hope he continues to speak out.

CARLSON: You know, that's actually -- that's -- I like a lot of people much further to the left than Wes Clark because I think they're decent men who believe what they say.


CARLSON: His position on Iraq was five positions on Iraq. It was never clear what he thought.

BEGALA: He spoke the truth about it, which was, it was an unjust, unwise war. God bless you, Wes. Come back to CROSSFIRE. We'd love to have you on again.

Speaking of the war, former weapons inspector David Kay has called on the new commission on Iraq to examine the alleged misuse of intelligence in the Bush administration's rhetoric. For example, these are my examples -- not Mr. Kay's, you should know -- President Bush claimed that Iraq could launch chemical weapons on 45 minutes notice. U.S. intelligence doubted the charge and mistrusted the source.

Mr. Bush and Vice President Cheney repeatedly claimed that Iraq might arm terrorists with weapons of mass destruction. But U.S. intelligence said Saddam would only do that if he was under attack by the U.S. Mr. Cheney said with -- quote -- "absolute certainly" -- unquote -- that Saddam was using aluminum tubes to build nuclear weapons. But our intelligence had warned that those tubes were more likely being used for nonnuclear, conventional rackets.

Unclear -- rather, it's unlikely that Mr. Bush's hand-picked whitewash commission will investigate such fibs. After all, WMD has come to stand for Mr. Bush's whoppers of massive dimensions.

CARLSON: You know, U.S. intelligence, whatever that is...


CARLSON: U.S. intelligence never had any idea whether Saddam was going to arm terrorists. Neither did the Bush administration. The Bush administration bet that he might and they went to war because of it. Maybe they were wrong, but it was an honest mistake.


BEGALA: Honest mistake? Five hundred Americans are dead! Honest mistake?

CARLSON: No, no, listening to Democrats, Paul...


CARLSON: Listening to Democrats, you would think that there is no terrorist threat, that the biggest threat to America, to world peace is the civil rights of Muslims in the United States being trampled.


CARLSON: There is a terrorist threat.

BEGALA: Yes, there is. And it is al Qaeda, not Iraq. And we got -- we got 130,000 sitting in Iraq, when we ought to be going after al Qaeda.

CARLSON: Well...


CARLSON: ... everyone agrees that John Kerry has all but cinched the Democratic nomination, for one reason. Democratic voters believe that he can beat President Bush in the fall. But can he? Well that's the question posed in a fascinating piece in "Slate" magazine by reporter Will Saletan. In the exit poll data collected during the primary, Saletan concludes what you may have suspected all along. That is, people voted for John Kerry because they think he can win. And that's pretty much the only reason they voted for him.

Quote: "The electability factor wasn't just big," Saletan writes. "It was decisive." Meanwhile, voters who said they cared most about issues and ideas, that is, about principles, rather than tactics, the things campaigns used to be decided on, they tended to support Howard Dean. As Saletan put it -- quote -- "Among voters who picked the candidate they wanted based on the issues, not the candidate they thought somebody else wanted, Kerry did not win the New Hampshire primary."

Well, in the primaries, tactical voting may have helped the Democratic Party, probably did by getting Howard Dean out early. But will the same be true in November during that election, which will be decided not by very partisan voters, but by swing voters, who actually care about ideas? Will it help then? Probably not.

BEGALA: Well, the problem with that analysis is, it's very silly and it's very superficial. Here's why.

CARLSON: No, it's not.

BEGALA: Most Democrats broadly agreed in this race. There were a few nitpicking disagreements. But they broadly agreed that the Iraq war was wrong and ill-conceived.


BEGALA: That the economic policy needs to be changed. And so they want to change those things. So, of course, they're going to vote for the guy who's most likely to win.

CARLSON: No, but that's not true. On every single issue, it was the economy, the war, health care, even more specific...


CARLSON: No matter where you felt, you tended to support John Kerry for one reason. You thought he could win.

BEGALA: Because there's broad agreement on those particulars.

CARLSON: But that's not -- that's not an idea. That's a tactic.


BEGALA: Let me tell you something. There's agreement on the ideas. So they all agree on that, so they want to pick the guy who can win.

CARLSON: I think it could be a house of sand, Paul. I think it's a -- it's a bigger deal than you admit. BEGALA: No, it's a smaller deal than you suggest.

Well, we have a saying back home. A hit dog barks. And what we mean by that is, you can tell when a criticism hits home. Here's an example. The White House press secretary today barked when he was asked about the fact -- and it's a fact -- that there's absolutely no record of President George W. Bush's ever showing up for duty in the Alabama National Guard.


SCOTT MCCLELLAN, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: This is nothing but gutter politics. The American people deserve better.


BEGALA: Whoa. Scott, buddy, calm down. Today's "New York Times" reports -- and I quote "The Times" here -- "The records show that Mr. Bush did not report for service from mid-April to late October 1972. One of Mr. Bush's commanding officers," "The Times" goes on to report, "Lieutenant colonel William Turnipseed, has said that, while he is not sure, he does not remember Mr. Bush reporting for duty. The Alabama Guard, meanwhile, has no record of Mr. Bush's service in the state" -- unquote.

Bottom line, George W. Bush did not show up for duty then. And he certainly isn't telling the truth about it now.

CARLSON: I think, in the short term, this -- the Democratic Party obviously will savage the character of anybody it needs to in order to get what it wants. I wonder, though, if this is a debate you want to really have, where everybody was 30 years ago during the Vietnam War.


CARLSON: Is that really -- truly, is that a debate Democrats want to have? It's a pretty low debate, actually.

BEGALA: The debate should be whether he is telling the truth today.

CARLSON: It's not.


BEGALA: And for Scott McClellan to say that it's gutter politics, yes, it's an attack on his character.

CARLSON: Actually...

BEGALA: A man who lies like that is lacking in character, yes.

CARLSON: Paul, you have no evidence. You have no evidence that he lied.

BEGALA: That he showed up.

CARLSON: I know it serves your partisan purposes to call people liars constantly. But, actually, it's unattractive and I don't think it gets you anywhere.

BEGALA: Well, I appreciate your advice on manners, Tucker.



BEGALA: The fact is, what he's saying is not true.

CARLSON: Attacking people's character, I think, is unattractive and it's wrong. It's better to argue over ideas. I do think that.

BEGALA: I do think that Mr. Bush is lying. And there's ample evidence that he is.

Well, the Republicans, of course, can't find Osama bin Laden. They can't find weapons of mass destruction. They can't find the anthrax or the ricin terrorists. So, why do they want to spend their time and our money searching for Janet Jackson's wayward breast?


BEGALA: We will debate this very revealing issue in just a moment.


CARLSON: At hearings on not one, but both sides of Capitol Hill today, lawmakers developed wardrobe malfunctions, profane language, and sex in the media -- they denounced them, not developed them -- all of which are regular features of CROSSFIRE, needless to say.

However, the incident drawing most of the attention, indeed, creating a rare display of bipartisan unity, was the Janet Jackson- Justin Timberlake portion of the Super Bowl halftime show. Now, no doubt you're familiar with that. But what should we as a nation of couch potatoes do about it exactly?

Well, exposing themselves to the CROSSFIRE today are radio show host Doug Tracht, better known to his nationally syndicated audience as the Greaseman, along with Pat Truman of the Family Research Council.


BEGALA: Gentlemen, thank you for joining us.


BEGALA: Mr. Trueman, you know, when I was raised to believe that the Republican Party was the party of Lincoln, who freed the slaves, Eisenhower, who liberated the war from -- the world from fascism, Reagan, who opposed the evil empire of Soviet communism, I look around today and here's what Republicans stand against.

They don't -- they are interested in investigating Bill Clinton's wiener, Janet Jackson's boob, and whether two gay guys make out in Massachusetts. That's a little sad and a little sick, isn't it?


PATRICK TRUEMAN, SENIOR ADVISER, FAMILY RESEARCH COUNCIL: So, is your point that the Jackson family ought to be teaching my kids about sex? Because I disagree with that.

You know, we have a right in our own home to control what comes into that home. And because I can't always sit there with my kids with four televisions in the house, the United States Congress has passed a law prohibiting indecent material. The Supreme Court has upheld it. The FCC is supposed to enforce it. They haven't been doing it. But Janet Jackson...

BEGALA: So it does take a village. It takes a government to raise a family. This is the new conservative position.

TRUEMAN: Look, this is not a promo for Hillary Clinton here.

But this is simply a statement that it's not too much to expect entertainers today, during a time when kids are in the audience, to rely on something other than indecent material and sex, with someone exposing themselves, to entertain the public.


CARLSON: OK, Mr. Tract, Mr. Greaseman, let's put this to what I think of as the Spike Lee test, Spike Lee, famous director, creator of the movie "She's Gotta Have It." If Spike Lee thinks it's over the top, it's probably too much.

Here's what he says about the Janet Jackson performance: "What's going to be next? It's getting crazy. And it's down to money, money and fame. Somehow, the whole value system has been upended."

It's not about artistic expression, is it? As Spike Lee suggests, it's about making money, isn't it?

TRACHT: It always is about making money.

But I think, in this instance, geez, it just shows what a humorless nation we are at this point. Rather than have the FCC investigate obscenity, I think we should have the FBI investigating as to what happened to the talent on that show, the chaotic screaming, yelling and whooping.



CARLSON: Well, I agree. I mean, I think we're probably in agreement, then. There are nice ways to display breasts on television. But there are also sort of boring, vulgar ways to do it. And this


TRACHT: But don't you think -- I mean, I was watching the Super Bowl. It went by in such a flash. As I put another Dorito in my yap, I thought, did I -- no, it couldn't have, and then went on.

It wasn't until this brouhaha. And I've seen Janet Jackson's rather nice and succulent appendage many times...


TRACHT: ... since they showed it over and over. It's on the Internet, every time you turn around. I think, if just let it go by and then, maybe in retrospect, we could all say, you know what? Maybe it wasn't the right venue. It was the Super Bowl. Maybe it shouldn't have been MTV. Maybe we should have gotten Dwight Yoakam out there or some more mainstream entertainment.

Everybody could have said, whoops, sorry, we made a mistake. But, instead, this pounding, this grinding, someone's gotta give a pound of flesh. Can't we just have a couple of chuckles and move on? Are we so consumed with this?

BEGALA: And, in fact, Mr. Trueman, it seems to me that some of our friends on the right -- I'm curious as to whether you fall into this category -- are very, very concerned, of course, about sex, but a lot less concerned when there's money at stake.

For example, there's a story on the AP. "One father who watched the Super Bowl game with his 12-year-old son said the Jackson dance passed without comment," just as Doug suggested. "But he was caught short when the boy turned to his father and asked, 'Dad, what's erectile dysfunction?'"

Apparently, it's this disease that hits Republican men. I don't really know much about it myself.


CARLSON: Like you haven't struggled with that your whole life. Come on, Paul.


BEGALA: What in the world -- why are you all whining about a half a second of a booby exposed, when we have commercial after commercial about this other stuff?

TRUEMAN: Let's join together and try to do something about the commercials, if you're so upset.

But it wasn't just that one- or two-second display of Janet Jackson's breast. There was simulated sex. There was simulated S&M material. And, really, what happened here is this. The FCC last year said that the F-word -- I won't use it on the program -- I don't use it at all -- was fine on network television, so long as it was an expletive, not a verb. And that set the public off. That set Congress off.

It even got the attention of Michael Powell, who's always opposed to any enforcement of indecency regulations on television. So, when the -- when that came, then the Super Bowl comes, and you get 20 minutes of real disgusting material, not just the breast. Then, the public is upset. And that's why you have Congress finally doing something about getting the FCC to enforce indecency law, simply because kids are in the audience.

If you want to see breasts, there's plenty of places to do it. If you want to see simulated sex, there's plenty of places


BEGALA: Don't go past that.


TRUEMAN: Not on network television.

CARLSON: OK. Now, Doug, I want to put this in some context. I want to show you two quick clips. One is from Bono at the Golden Globes last year. The next is Nicole Richie at the Billboard Music Awards. You may have seen them.

Here they are.


BONO, U2: That is really, really (EXPLETIVE DELETED) brilliant.

NICOLE RICHIE, ACTRESS: Have you ever tried to get cow (EXPLETIVE DELETED) out a Prada purse? It's not so (EXPLETIVE DELETED) simple.


CARLSON: So my question is, Doug, A, why are there so many award shows? And, B...



CARLSON: Is it -- is it -- I mean, that's totally -- that doesn't add anything. That's just -- that's just, look at me. This is -- these are fading celebrities attempting to get publicity. It's pathetic, isn't it?

TRACHT: I agree.

I think the art to communication, if you're going to be adult and spicy, is to do it in a way that little kids and old grandma watching wouldn't be offended. I think, just to throw out profanity for profanity's sake, as they did on those particular shows, shows a lack of ability with the English language and a lack of ability to impress any other way than to shock, which is endemic throughout our broadcast industry now.


BEGALA: Mr. Trueman, let me suggest, the guy who's got the real answer to this is not Michael Powell, who wants to be everybody's nanny. It's his boss, George W. Bush. A man I don't often praise has exactly the right solution.

Let me quote our president on February 14, 2000. He said: "Put the off button on." Now, in his own Forrest Gumpian way, that's a very wise statement.


BEGALA: Isn't it up to moms and dads, not nanny-state, to decide what their children watch? Isn't President Bush right?

TRUEMAN: Obviously -- obviously, you don't have kids or you don't have older kids, because...

BEGALA: Well, I have an off button that I know how to work.


TRUEMAN: Well, I can't -- I can't walk around the house with my 12-year-old and my 10-year-old and my 15-year-old.

BEGALA: So you want the government to raise your children for you.

TRUEMAN: And it's just -- it's a simple thing to say, just don't put this stuff. Don't use the F-word. Don't use nudity on network television.

You know, you can get that on cable. You can -- if you want to buy your kids "Playboy" magazine, that's your business. But you know what? Janet Jackson doesn't have a right to come into my living room and get


BEGALA: But turn it off. I turned off that halftime show when I saw Kid Rock when desecrating the American flag, because I'm an engaged parent.


BEGALA: So don't go whining to me. You want the government to be a parent for you, right?

TRACHT: Apparently, if you are a parent, your kids aren't -- what are they, 3, 4? You don't have much to watch them. But if your kids -- as I have, a 15-, a 10-, and a 12-year-old, they're around the house. They're looking at this stuff. And it's not too much to expect that, on network television, that my house is not invaded with this kind of material.

BEGALA: Pat Trueman gets the last word.


BEGALA: I thank you very much for joining us from the Family Research Council. Doug Tracht, radio's Greaseman, thank you very much.


TRACHT: Thank you.

BEGALA: Thank you very much, Mr. Trueman.

And up next, our audience will get a chance to fire back on us. I'm curious as to what they thought about this topic.

And then, right after the break, a more serious matter. Wolf Blitzer will have the latest on an angry exchange involving Secretary of State Colin Powell and a reference at a House hearing today to President Bush's lack of a military record.

Stay with us.

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 Now you can step into the CROSSFIRE.



BEGALA: Thank you, Wolf.

Time now for "Fireback," where the audience -- well, you get the idea.

Go ahead. Fire away, sir. Tell us your name and where you're from.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm Max from Brooklyn, New York.

And I would like to know if you guys think that Senator Clinton would accept a vice presidential nomination or is she holding out to run for president in 2008?

CARLSON: I'd like to see her run as soon as possible. But, sadly, I think our dreams are going to be dashed. I don't think she will.


BEGALA: She's holding out to run for reelection in 2006. And, as a resident of Brooklyn, I hope you vote for her. She's the best senator in America. I love her.


BEGALA: She's great.

CARLSON: Yes, sir.

BEGALA: Yes, sir.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hi, I'm Jeff from San Antonio, Texas.

As John Kerry looks more and more like Bush's rival for the 2004 election, how much will a military service involvement play in the election?

CARLSON: Well, he's run -- John Kerry's basically run a campaign as a Vietnam veteran up to this point. I suspect he'll take it as far as he possibly can, until people grow tired of hearing about it.

BEGALA: Well, at the end of the day, it is very illustrative as to his character and what helped formed him and make the person that he is. It's important that he not only run as a senator of the last 20 years or so, but as a whole person.

But, at the end of the day, it's going to be about whether he's going to change this jobless recovery and this endless occupation. Those are the two big issues, the economy and Iraq.


CARLSON: About which you've heard almost nothing. It's been, I'm the manly character who fought in Vietnam.


BEGALA: Wait. No.


BEGALA: That's unfair.

CARLSON: No, it's not unfair.

BEGALA: No, the speech last night, Kerry talked about the economy and Iraq and issues at great length.

CARLSON: And he said, I know about aircraft carriers for real, Paul.

BEGALA: He does.

CARLSON: The other guy is a wussy. (APPLAUSE)

BEGALA: No, he does. George W. Bush is the biggest phony in the world.

CARLSON: That is so -- attacking a man's character is not going to get you president.

BEGALA: Bush wearing a flight suit is the political cross- dressing since J. Edgar Hoover.


CARLSON: You're making fun of his clothes? I mean, literally...

BEGALA: He's a phony.

CARLSON: Yes, sir.

You know, that's so awful to say that.

BEGALA: Yes, sir. Yes, sir. What's your question?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hi. I'm Jason Cohen (ph) from New Rochelle, New York.

I was wondering, doesn't Wes Clark's total failure as a candidate indicate that parties should look more towards seasoned, tested political veterans, as opposed to these flavor-of-the-month outsiders, to run for president?

CARLSON: It indicates that the Clintons, who put him up for the job, may not have as good political judgment as people suspected they did, truly. And they may be skilled politically, but I don't think putting Wes Clark in as a candidate was a wise move in the end.

BEGALA: Well, I'll defer to Tucker, since he knows the Clintons so much better than I do.


CARLSON: I think there's a lot of truth in what I said, Paul.

BEGALA: I think you made it up out of whole cloth, and I know better.


CARLSON: You know that it's not true. And it did hurt John Edwards.

BEGALA: Would you stop? When's the last time you talked to Hillary Clinton? When she came on the show and fed you a cake.


BEGALA: You didn't ask her about Wes Clark then.


BEGALA: I mean, come on.

CARLSON: Well, what happens next, when presidential candidates are forced to take a pop quiz on culture? Sometimes, it isn't very pretty. We'll explain what we mean when we return.

We'll be right back.



CARLSON: Welcome back.

Well, they both may have been born to run, but there is a reason why John Kerry is still in the running for the White House and Wesley Clark is not. It has nothing to do with their military experience, campaign organizations, or even stands on the issue. But it does have something to do with Bruce Springsteen and "Harry Potter."

Watch how Clark and Kerry did on the popular culture quiz on VH- 1. Here it is.


QUESTION: What team does LeBron James play for?


QUESTION: What is Eminem's real name?

CLARK: Don't know.

QUESTION: Who wrote the "Harry Potter" books?

CLARK: Don't know.

QUESTION: What boy band is Justin Timberlake a member of?


QUESTION: Whose nickname is the Boss?

KERRY: Bruce Springsteen?

QUESTION: Who starred in "Total Recall"?

KERRY: Arnold.

QUESTION: And what team does LeBron James play for?

KERRY: Cleveland, is it?


BEGALA: There you go, four for four.


CARLSON: I have to say, that's the best I've ever seen Wes Clark, I mean, that little clip right there.

BEGALA: Why do you hate Wes Clark?

CARLSON: I don't. I'm being dead serious. I'm being dead serious.


CARLSON: That actually made me like Wes Clark. He was sort of smiling and happily admitting his ignorance about things that he has every right to be ignorant about.

BEGALA: Nobody -- nobody who doesn't know that LeBron James plays for Cleveland should be president. I'm sorry.


BEGALA: He's a phenom. He's amazing. You don't have to know about "Harry Potter" and 'N Sync. But you got to know LeBron.

CARLSON: But I have to say, it was a bit of a setup. I did think that Kerry's questions were a lot easier than the ones they were giving to General Clark.



CARLSON: No, truly. VH-1...

BEGALA: They were pretty much the same questions, weren't they?

CARLSON: ... part of the anti-Clark conspiracy.


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

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

Join us again tomorrow for another edition of CROSSFIRE.

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


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