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Dirty Presidential Campaign Ahead?

Aired February 13, 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: Better take your coat off. The fight's getting pretty rough. From Internet ads, to Vietnam, to outright attacks, is this going to be one of the dirtiest presidential campaigns ever?



ANNOUNCER: Live from the George Washington University, Donna Brazile sitting in on the left and Robert Novak.



Paul Begala and James Carville are AWOL today.


NOVAK: So, sitting in on the left is "Roll Call" columnist and democratic strategist Donna Brazile.

We'll debate just how low the presidential campaign can go right after the best political briefing in television, our CROSSFIRE "Political Alert."

Republican National Chairman Ed Gillespie went to Reno, Nevada, last night to say this.


ED GILLESPIE, REPUBLICAN NATIONAL COMMITTEE CHAIRMAN: The Democrats have used some of the most vicious rhetoric in the history of presidential politics.


NOVAK: He didn't try to match the vicious Democratic rhetoric. Instead, he dealt with facts, facts about Senator John Kerry's voting record. Time after time, Kerry has voted to cut defense spending, to cut intelligence spending, to cut FBI spending. That sounds more important than how many National Guard drills Lieutenant Bush attended or how close ex-Lieutenant Kerry was to Jane Fonda at an anti-war rally. What's the explanation for Kerry voting with the liberals against money to protect America?

DONNA BRAZILE, GUEST HOST: Well, Bob, you know, earlier this week, the Bush administration top economist bragged about how great it is that United States jobs are disappearing overseas. Well, unemployed workers all across the country are probably upset that they have something to brag about.

Look, just think about this. I think President Bush is now concerned about what's happening to his own jobs.

NOVAK: You're as bad as Begala and Carville...


NOVAK: ... about not sticking with the subject. What's that got to do with John Kerry voting against defense, against intelligence, and against the FBI? How can you defend that?


BRAZILE: That has everything -- three million Americans have lost their jobs. Two million Americans don't have health care. Millions of Americans


NOVAK: So you can vote against


BRAZILE: The president has been AWOL on leading the charge here in this country to provide jobs.

NOVAK: I'm going to tell you something.


NOVAK: You're going to have -- you're going to have to do a much better job of defending how John Kerry's voting record was on the far left.

BRAZILE: I would love to defend John Kerry's record, because John Kerry is ready to stand up and take on the right.



NOVAK: Ever since left-wing agitator Michael Moore defamed George W. Bush as a deserter, the White House has been taunted to come up with just one person who saw the president on National Guard duty in 1972.

Well, he appeared today. Retired Lieutenant Colonel Bill Calhoun told the Associated Press he remembers Bush fulfilling his training obligations in Alabama. Colonel Calhoun distinctly remembers Lieutenant Bush. He told AP -- quote -- "He was very aggressive about doing his duty there. He never campaigned about it. He was very dedicated to what he was doing in the Guard. He showed up on time, and he left at the end of the day" -- end quote.


NOVAK: Well, that shut up the Democratic smear artists?

BRAZILE: Well, Bob, first of all, we're glad to know that President Bush took great care of his teeth while in Alabama.

But you know something about Alabamans? They love to eat. And I can't believe that this president did not find more people to chew the fat with in Alabama. One person in a big state like Alabama? I'm sorry, Bob. We need to see the whole records.

NOVAK: Well, wait a minute. This -- wait a minute. You don't answer my questions. This colonel appears. He says he saw the guy, he was -- he was deputy commander of the unit. Case closed. This is over. We've got a witness.



BRAZILE: No, no, no, Bob. I'm sorry. We need -- the president said he would release all his records. He should go ahead and put all his facts out on the table for the American people to see.



BRAZILE: All right.

Ladies, you probably won't like this, but there are strangers now rooting around your medical files. Especially if those strangers is Attorney General John Ashcroft, too bad.

John Ashcroft is defending his Justice Department tactic of trying to obtain the confidential medical records of women whose doctors sued to block the Bush administration's ban on a certain form of late-term abortion. Doctors, lawyers and the government have every right to get into a legal fight. But snooping around, peeping into private citizens' private lives is disgusting. And just like the Bush administration, they're going to try to cover it up.


NOVAK: Donna, you're on the wrong side of this issue. What you're -- what you're defending is partial-birth abortion. It's a barbaric process. My -- one of my favorite Democrats, the late, great Pat Moynihan, said, it is close to infanticide. Please, for your own sake and your party's sake, because I want to see a strong Democratic Party -- I really do -- get away from partial-birth abortion. Only the feminists, femi-Nazis really like that, believe me.


BRAZILE: Well, Bob, first of all, this is about -- this is about privacy.

And I know the Bush administration has a problem with -- with other people's privacy, not their own privacy. This is about a woman's right to choose.


BRAZILE: This is about the Roe v. Wade and...


BRAZILE: ... not suing doctors, Bob. What's wrong? It's about privacy.

NOVAK: It's the law. It's the law of the land. The president wrote it into law. You got to obey the law, Donna. You really do.

As the race for president moves forward, George W. Bush and John Kerry are turning their sights on each other. We'll take a look at which jabs are hitting home as the campaign heats up. How's that for a mixed metaphor?

BRAZILE: Absolutely.

NOVAK: Good.


ANNOUNCER: Get ahead of the CROSSFIRE. Sign up for CROSSFIRE's daily "Political Alert" e-mail. You'll get a preview of each day's show, plus an inside look at the day's political headlines. Just go to and sign up today.



NOVAK: The election is nine months away. John Kerry hasn't even clinched the Democratic nomination yet, but the mudslinging, misquoting, outright smear campaign, God bless them, are already going full-throttle. There isn't much hope, but we're going to be looking for the high road.

In the CROSSFIRE, Ann Lewis of the Democratic National Committee's Women's Vote Center and former Republican National Committee Deputy Communications Director Cheri Jacobus.

NOVAK: Ann...


NOVAK: Ann Lewis, I've got a treat for you.


NOVAK: It's only February, but, already, the Republicans are out with a terrific ad. And I want you to take a look at it.


UNIDENTIFIED ACTRESS: More special interest money than any other senator? How much? Whoa. For what? Nominations and donations coincided. Wait. Watchdog groups. Facts. Kerry, brought to you by the special interests, millions from executives at HMOs, telecoms, drug companies. Caching. Unprincipled?


NOVAK: Isn't that delicious?


NOVAK: That you people have been demagoguing about special interests, and, bang, you get it right in the yap.

LEWIS: Boy, I think it's delicious, too. Can I say that we now have bipartisan agreement that who is doing what for the special interests should be a serious issue in this campaign?

It is, after all, George Bush who took $1.4 million from the drug companies. And what did they get? They get a Medicare prescription bill that forbids the government from negotiating with drug companies to lower drug prices. It is the oil companies that gave $1 million to George Bush. And what do they get? They get an administration who's just determined to drill in ANWR.

Now, of course, Halliburton got, it sounds like, a really good deal. They gave only, oh, less than $20,000, almost $20,000 to George Bush in 2000. And what do they get? Billion dollar no-bid contracts.

NOVAK: Aren't the -- aren't the..


NOVAK: Aren't the schoolteachers union and the pro-abortion lobbies special interests as well?

LEWIS: Well, when I bring my children to school and I look at the people who are going to teach those children all day, every day, let me tell you, I see some very important people. I am happy to have them looking after my interests. BRAZILE: That ad put the P in pitiful, by the way, Bob. That ad was so bad, the president couldn't stand behind it. They had to put it on the Internet and not go forward and pay for it, because they know it's misleading and it distorts John Kerry's record.

Now, Cheri, I'm sure you saw today's "Washington Post" poll, which showed that the president is facing a large credibility gap. Let me just ask you a question. There's a growing storm now facing this administration. You all don't have a record to run on. You don't have any Democratic issues to co-opt. How do you intend to convince the American people that this president deserves a second chance?

CHERI JACOBUS, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Donna, I doubt very much that this administration thinks it needs to co-opt any of the Democratic issues, because, right now, the only thing the Democrats are doing are trying to slam the president on a personal level.

The fact of the matter is, to get to this ad, the Internet ad was brilliant. And these aren't Republican attacks. These are media reports. And this is why the Kerry campaign and folks like you are having such a problem with it. You know, the Kerry campaign has spent almost $5 million, $4.9 million, slamming this president in ads that have run about 10,000 times around the country.

So, if you think that the president at some point isn't going to respond, then you know, you certainly -- you've been around politics long enough.


BRAZILE: Well, that's my -- that's my question. Why won't the president -- you all have $140 million in the bank. You're not going to spend it any time soon.


JACOBUS: We're taking these ads to the Internet that Al Gore invented for us.



JACOBUS: I think it's brilliant. You know, I think that there's a lot of smart people in the Bush campaign. And I think advertising on the Internet, it's new, it's different. People are paying attention.

And one of the reasons that we're talking about it today and that it's all over the news is because it is different. And I think you guys just might be a little bit stunned because you didn't think of it first.

(APPLAUSE) NOVAK: Ann Lewis, I'm going to give you a couple of -- I'll show you a couple polls that I think are very interesting from "The Washington Post"/ABC poll.

Who's doing a better job campaign against terrorism? Who would do a better job? Take a look at it, Bush 53 percent, Kerry 37 percent. People care about terrorism. But here's another interesting, is the Bush's National Guard service a legitimate issue in the '04 election? Yes, 30 percent, no 66 percent.

Doesn't that say that you people ought to get off this silly National Guard issue and worry about the fact that the people don't trust the Democrats on terrorism?

LEWIS: Let's see if I've got this right.


LEWIS: A poll comes out that shows that the American people really don't think that George Bush is leveling with them, that his credibility is eroding, and you find two numbers that you can pull out and say, wow, we must be doing something right.

So let me get back and say, A, I do agree with Cheri. I think that ad, by the way, is brilliant. I hope you use it a lot, because the more often we say, let's talk about who's getting what from special interests, that's a debate I want to have.


LEWIS: But, second, I do have to go -- I do have to -- I do have to go back to Bob's question, which is on the issue of the National Guard. What we're not talking about is no longer 30 years ago, Bob. We're talking about this week.

On Sunday, George Bush looks at Tim Russert and says, absolutely, I'll reveal all my records. His words were "absolutely."

NOVAK: Do you think people -- do you think people really, really -- do you think people...

LEWIS: This week, the White House says, we won't do it. No, I think


LEWIS: ... care about.

NOVAK: Aren't you awful deep inside the Beltway, Ann, when you think people are really interested in the nuances of how much the president said he was going to give away in documents of 30 years ago? You think that ordinary people are really interested in that?

LEWIS: I think ordinary people, when they see a president who says, boy, the economy's doing great, we're doing a heck of a job, and they know that they're losing jobs and it's hard to get jobs, wonder if he knows what he's talking about.


LEWIS: And I do think, when the president goes out...


LEWIS: When the president goes out on -- when the president goes out on television, highly watched news show, and uses the word absolutely, that is not a nuanced word, even outside the Beltway.


LEWIS: And then it turns out he didn't mean it, then people wonder, what's happening to his credibility? That's the issue.

BRAZILE: One hundred twelve thousand jobs last month, up from 1,000 the previous month, but, 24,000 manufacturing jobs lost this past month. We can talk about jobs, because this administration...

JACOBUS: Three hundred and sixty-six thousand created just in the last five months.

BRAZILE: Twenty-two million created in eight years, 22 million created in eight years.



JACOBUS: What this president has done...

BRAZILE: This president has not created jobs.


BRAZILE: He's the first president in the history of this country has not created a job under his watch.

JACOBUS: This economy and what this president has faced in a post-9/11 world is something that no other president, nobody could have ever anticipated.

BRAZILE: Five trillion-dollar surplus.


JACOBUS: His performance since 9/11 and what that -- what that did to this country and what this did to our economy...

BRAZILE: A balanced budget.

JACOBUS: Donna, we're talking about...

BRAZILE: Keep going. Keep going. Keep going. Keep going. Look, look... NOVAK: All right, Ann Lewis, let me ask -- Ann Lewis, let me ask just you a quick question. When Howard Dean says, hey, if John Kerry is nominated, he's another Republican, you might as well vote for George Bush, what do you say to Howard? Do you say, Howard, shut up and sit down or sit down and shut up?

LEWIS: What I would say to Howard Dean -- and, by the way, he's perfectly capable of speaking for himself, because you know what? Whoever the nominee is going to be, Democrats are going to be so united, because we know we have to change the direction of this country. We cannot continue in the direction we're going.


LEWIS: We've got to turn it around. And we will be there.

BRAZILE: Cheri, this president campaigned as someone who could unite the American people. As you well know, this week, I guess the White House has indicated that they are about to flip-flop and embrace the marriage amendment.

What will the president tell Vice President Cheney's daughter in terms of embracing the marriage amendment?

JACOBUS: First of all, I don't think that this is kind of a flip-flop. I don't think that he -- this isn't a flip-flop. I think you're putting words in the president's mouth.

And in terms of what the vice president has said, he said that he will support the president on this issue. Now, I think that we all know that


BRAZILE: It's not a flip-flop? In the State of the Union, the president said that, unless something happens in the states -- what has happened? Nothing has happened in Massachusetts.


JACOBUS: He put the specter out there that he would consider a constitutional -- backing a constitutional amendment. And he wasn't the first one out there to say. He waited to see what other people were saying, how this was -- how this was playing in the country. He found out. And now he's taking another step forward. I think that's the responsible thing to do, Donna.

BRAZILE: Will the Republicans use it as a wedge issue in 2004?

JACOBUS: I don't think the president


BRAZILE: Will you capitalize on this issue, the way you've capitalized on other wedge issues, affirmative action, welfare reform?


JACOBUS: Look, just when you guys are losing an issue, you call it a wedge issue. I don't think that's the smartest thing to do with the American people. They're paying close attention right now.

The fact of the matter is, it's not a wedge issue. There are people who care about it. There are some people that care about it a lot and there are some people that could care less about it, quite frankly.

NOVAK: Well, let me ask -- if we can -- if we can just, I would really like to do an answer on this, because John Kerry says he is against gay marriage. He didn't say maybe. He says: I'm against gay marriage.

LEWIS: Right.

NOVAK: What are -- what are all the homosexuals, who are so strong in the Democratic Party, what are they going to do? They've got no place to go, do they?

LEWIS: Wait a minute. In fact, what John Kerry says, three things. One, he is against gay marriage. Two, he does believe state by state that gay couples should have legal and financial rights. You ought to be able to visit your partner in the hospital. You ought to have inheritance rights. And, three, he is against amending the Constitution.

NOVAK: Do you that will satisfy -- satisfy the gay lobby?

LEWIS: And you know what? That's where the American people are.

NOVAK: You think that will satisfy the gay lobby?


NOVAK: You know it won't.

LEWIS: I think gay people understand that.


LEWIS: And that's where we're going to be.

NOVAK: All right, we're going to take a break.

And when we return, in "Rapid Fire," we'll ask our guests if it's time for John Edwards and Howard Dean to get out of the race.

And right after the break, Martin Savidge has the latest on new plans which may lead to the release of some detainees at Guantanamo Bay.


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.




BRAZILE: It's time for "Rapid Fire," short questions, short answers and, today, a short supply of men.


BRAZILE: Our guests are Republican consultant Cheri Jacobus and my good friend Ann Lewis, of the Democratic National Committee's Women's Vote Center.

NOVAK: Ann Lewis, is it time for Howard Dean and John Edwards to get out of this race, if they don't win in Wisconsin on Tuesday?

LEWIS: No, they're going to make that decision. And you know what? The longer this has gone on, the longer the American people hear Democrats talking about the issues and debating the direction of our country and their positive ideas, the better we do.

BRAZILE: Will Vice President Cheney make it on the ticket this fall?

JACOBUS: Of course he'll make it on the ticket. Of course he'll make it on the ticket. That commitment has been made and we have no reason to believe otherwise at this point.

NOVAK: Ann, now that Colonel Calhoun has shown up, he saw Lieutenant Bush, can we drop this issue and get to discussing the serious questions facing the country?

LEWIS: Well, we now have a more serious question, which is why George Bush, having said on national television he would absolutely release all his records, is now trying to go back on his word?

BRAZILE: Dennis Hastert this week disagreed with the president on outsourcing of jobs. Will Dennis Hastert pay a price for disagreeing with the president?

JACOBUS: No, nobody's going to pay a price for disagreeing with this president. That's not how the Republican Party works. And, by the way, dental records...


JACOBUS: Dental records -- dental records count. And so I think that the president has released plenty of information to show how he served in the National Guard. And you guys are getting into silly waters there. NOVAK: Ann, no -- the last time the Democrats ran for president without a Southerner was the Mondale-Ferraro ticket, carried one state. You ready to try it again with no Southerner on the ticket this time?

LEWIS: I think we're going to have a presidential and vice presidential candidate who are going to be able to talk about the economy, talk about jobs, talk about health care and education and national security all over the country, wherever they were born.


BRAZILE: Your war chest is larger than many Third World countries. When do you plan to spend it to promote the president's record and not attack the Democratic Party?

JACOBUS: I'm glad that Karl Rove and Ed Gillespie and other Republicans running this campaign know that this is going to be close. They're taking this seriously. Nobody ever thought this was going to be easy.

They've raised the money. They're going to run a good campaign. And they'll start spending it when they feel it's necessary.

NOVAK: Can you promise, Ann, that the people who are the most productive people in America, make the most money...


NOVAK: ... will definitely get a tax increase if we elect a Democrat?

LEWIS: Oh, absolutely not. We want to roll back taxes for working people.


LEWIS: We want tax cuts that are targeted on those working families. And, by the way, those low-income working families who were left out of the child tax credit, they're hardworking. They're productive.


NOVAK: Ann Lewis -- Ann Lewis, thank you very much. Cheri Jacobus, thank you.

BRAZILE: Thank you.

NOVAK: Up next, a romantic comedy starring presidential candidate Dennis Kucinich.




NOVAK: Running for president isn't all fending off attack ads and making the same speech over and over and over. This year in particular, the presidential wanna-bes have to make fools of themselves on the late-night talk shows.

The latest case in point, Dennis Kucinich was part of a dating game spoof on Jay Leno's "Tonight Show."


REP. DENNIS KUCINICH (D-OH), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Bachelorette No. 1, if I win the Democratic nomination -- could happen.



KUCINICH: So I win the Democratic nomination, but I have laryngitis.


KUCINICH: So I ask you to make the victory speech. What do you say?

TILLY: I say, good evening, delegates. My husband, Dennis, thought he was going to lose, so he didn't write a victory speech. And now he's pretending like he has laryngitis.



KUCINICH: That's really funny.

JAY LENO, HOST: You want an honest woman.


NOVAK: That prospective so-called date was actually actress Jennifer Tilly. She's the one he picked. They get a vegan dinner for two. Lucky her.


BRAZILE: Absolutely. Especially if she doesn't have to cook the meal, I think it would be great. John Edwards is on tonight, by the way, in case you're tuning in.

NOVAK: Let me be a -- let me be a killjoy. I think candidates who get less than 5 percent of the vote ought to be out of there. And that includes little Dennis.

BRAZILE: What about Al Sharpton, your good friend? NOVAK: Well, we can't get rid of Al Sharpton, can we?




BRAZILE: From the left, I'm Donna Brazile. That's it for CROSSFIRE.

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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