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President Bush Backs Ban on Gay Marriage

Aired February 24, 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: President Bush says "I do" to a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage.

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: On a matter of such importance, the voice of the people must be heard.

SEN. EDWARD KENNEDY (D), MASSACHUSETTS: By endorsing this shameful proposal, President Bush will go down in history as the first president to try to write bias back into the Constitution.

ANNOUNCER: Should a gay marriage ban with part of the Constitution? Today on CROSSFIRE.


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



President Bush today called on the country to forego bitterness and remember kindness as it debates a constitutional banning same-sex marriage. Good luck. We'll all need it.

PAUL BEGALA, CO-HOST: But is it the institution of marriage that Mr. Bush wants to protect, or is it his support from conservatives, who are increasingly disgusted with Mr. Bush's deficit and his deceit?

We'll start our debate right after the best political briefing in television, our CROSSFIRE "Political Alert."

With public trust in him at an all-time low, President Bush last night proclaimed a new campaign theme -- quote -- "steady leadership in times of change" -- unquote. Times have changed, indeed. Mr. Bush has changed from being a uniter to being a divider. He's changed Bill Clinton's record surplus into a record deficit. He's changed from the candidate who promised to tell the truth into the president who fibs about war, weapons of mass destruction and Iraqi links to al Qaeda.

(APPLAUSE) BEGALA: And steady? Well, first he dressed up like Top Gun on an aircraft carrier. Then he dressed up like Mr. Green Jeans on his phony ranch. And then he dressed up like a NASCAR fan before leaving the Daytona 500 early, before the checkered flag.

So here's my suggested slogan for Bush: the biggest right-wing cross-dresser since J. Edgar Hoover hung up his brassiere.


BEGALA: That should be the slogan Mr. Bush uses.

CARLSON: First of all, I don't think, as a Democrat, you're in any position to criticize cross-dressing.


CARLSON: Second, beating up on the president's clothing, it's almost as shallow as the rest of the attacks on him. This was a war for oil.



CARLSON: We were doing Israel's bidding in the war.


BEGALA: I never said either of those things. I said Bush is a phony.

CARLSON: OK, great.


CARLSON: Great. Great.

BEGALA: Mr. Bush is a nice guy, but he's a big, fat phony.


CARLSON: You know, it's interesting, though.

BEGALA: He is.

CARLSON: You're anticipating the attacks on John Kerry. Whatever Mr. Bush's problems, his faults, he's actually not a liar.


CARLSON: He's not a phony.

BEGALA: He's not a NASCAR fan, he's not a rancher he's not a Top Gun pilot.

CARLSON: Who cares?


BEGALA: So why does he dress up like one? He's an Andover cheerleader. Wear that uniform.



CARLSON: You're upset with his clothes. OK.


CARLSON: Well, more evidence today that the Clinton administration, amusing as it sometimes was, neglected its most basic duty, and that is to protect America.

According to a report now being prepare bipartisan September 11 Commission, German intelligence officials asked the U.S. government in 1999 to track a man they suspected of terrorism. They included his name, as well as his phone number. No one from the Clinton administration ever responded.

Two and a half years later, that same man, Marwan al-Shehhi, rammed Flight 175 into the south tower of the World Trade Center. Shocking, not when you consider what else we know about the Clinton administration's response, or lack of it, to terrorism. According to a remarkable series this week in "The Washington Post," Clinton administration lawyers once tried to prevent a rocket attack on Osama bin Laden's headquarters, believing it was just too forceful.

At another point, the Clinton administration turned down a chance to take bin Laden into custody for fear it might be illegal under international law, and so on and on and on. At this point, it's clear all along that Monica was not the real scandal in the Clinton administration. You were right there.

BEGALA: If the CIA dropped the ball in the '90s, we need to know that.

CARLSON: Dropped the ball? Dropped the ball?


BEGALA: Excuse me for talking while you're interrupting.


BEGALA: I want to know what George W. Bush did after August of 2001, when he...

CARLSON: You're not going to respond to any of that, are you?

BEGALA: When Mr. Bush was warned that al Qaeda had a plot to hijack American planes... CARLSON: You're just ignoring all of that. OK. Great.


BEGALA: ... did he improve airport security? No. Did he put out a word? No. You know what he did? He went and played golf. That's what our president did when they warned



CARLSON: You know what? You didn't respond to any of that because you can't.

BEGALA: Hold George W. Bush as accountable as anybody.

CARLSON: That's...

BEGALA: Well, speaking of terrorist organizations, when you think of them, I'll bet you al Qaeda comes to mind or maybe Hamas or Hezbollah or perhaps even right-wing white guys like Oklahoma City bomber Tim McVeigh.

But what you probably don't think of when someone says terrorist organizations is my uncle George. You see, uncle George was a schoolteacher. For decades, he thought children, many of them poor, all of them in public schools, none of them in the elite private academies attended by the likes of George W. Bush.

But, apparently, Mr. Bush thinks that teachers like uncle George are terrorists. His education secretary yesterday called the National Education Association, the nation's largest teacher's group -- quote -- "a terrorist organization" -- unquote. For 147 years, the NEA has been at the forefront of social change, from women's rights to civil rights to quality public schools.

And if Mr. Bush does not fire his education secretary for comparing these underpaid, underappreciated patriots to terrorists, well, then, maybe we should fire Mr. Bush.

CARLSON: You know...


CARLSON: He obviously shouldn't have called them terrorists. It was a joke. It's not a very funny joke at all. And I don't think there's any defending it.


CARLSON: But NEA is really an impediment to education.

You said they're at the forefront of social change.

(CROSSTALK) CARLSON: Just let me finish. I send my kids to school to get educated, not to agitate for women's rights or any kind of rights.


CARLSON: I want them to learn to read. And the NEA gets in the way of that. That's why people who can afford it send their kids to private schools.

BEGALA: What if Hillary Clinton -- I can afford it and I don't. But what if Hillary Clinton called the NRA a terrorist organization, right? People would go bananas.

CARLSON: I would be against it.

BEGALA: As they should.

CARLSON: Just as I said I was right then.

BEGALA: Well, good for you. That's a good point.

CARLSON: When John Kerry called the Republican terrorists, I was against that.

BEGALA: He did not.

CARLSON: Yes, he did in 1994.

BEGALA: He did not.

CARLSON: Well, if there is one incontestable fact of human existence, it is that men look utterly ridiculous in women's underwear. Everyone knows this. But if you're a Democrat running for president, you're not allowed to say it. Men who wear women's underwear are one of your most reliable constituencies.

They're known as the transgender community. And you're required to take them very, very seriously. Anything less than that is bigotry. At a campaign event the other day, John Kerry took a question from the Transgender American Veterans Association, a group that lobbies the V.A. to spend tax dollars on voluntary castration -- sorry, sex reassignment -- for service members.

"Would your administration support the transgender community?" he or possibly she asked Kerry? "Absolutely," Kerry seemed the say, promising to -- quote -- "fight for men who wear women's clothes if elected president." Come on, John Kerry, why can't anyone just tell the truth? You've got an Adam's apple, you shouldn't be wearing a dress. If you do, fine, but don't expect the rest of us not to laugh. Please. Come on.

CARLSON: Well, if you got an Adam's apple, you shouldn't be wearing a bow tie. But it's not for me to tell other people how to dress, Tucker.


BEGALA: Let me make my point. You attack these people. This is what right-wingers do.


BEGALA: They attack the most vulnerable, hated, ostracized people in society. Don't go after Halliburton. Don't go after the big guys. Don't go after big corporations like General Electric. Go after guys who dress differently from you.



CARLSON: I know. I know. Get a sense of humor, Paul. You just mocked George W. Bush for the way he dressed.

I'm just saying, at a time of war, the V.A. shouldn't be paying for castration.


BEGALA: He's a big guy who deserves ridicule for dressing up


CARLSON: The V.A. shouldn't be paying for castration at a time when the wounded are coming back from Iraq. Lighten up, Paul.



BEGALA: Because George W. Bush sent them over there.


BEGALA: Well, speaking of our president, I think he's trying to distract you from the jobless economy at home and the endless occupation in Iraq. So today, he announced that he wants to amend our United States Constitution with the first amendment in American history that would limit the freedom of individuals and expand the power of government over our private lives. We will debate that issue just ahead.

And, on a lighter note, the battle for Hawaii sometimes makes certain sacrifices required of the candidates. Well, we will look how one candidate is roughing it in the Aloha State later in the program.

Stay with us.


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.



CARLSON: President Bush announced this morning that he supports a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage, saying the notion must -- quote -- "prevent the meaning of marriage from being changed forever."

Despite his call for the debate to be conducted with kindness, goodwill and decency, Democrats, predictably, repulsively, went into full-shrill attack mode. It's going to continue. We'll try to do better this afternoon.

In the CROSSFIRE are Cheryl Jacques, president and executive director of the Human Rights Campaign here in Washington and along with Arizona Republican Congressman J.D. Hayworth.


BEGALA: Thanks to both of you.


BEGALA: Congressman, welcome back to CROSSFIRE.

HAYWORTH: Thank you, Paul.

BEGALA: You're looking good.

HAYWORTH: Thank you.

BEGALA: Not a gay thing, but, just, you've been working out. You look good.

President Bush today, as Tucker points out, called for this amendment and he said that we have to amend Mr. Madison's masterpiece because of activist judges. Don't you think it's a little hypocritical for a guy who is president today because activist judges put him there to be criticizing activist judges?

HAYWORTH: Well, Paul, that's very clever, but we know what's happened in this case.

Four justices of the Massachusetts Supreme Court have essentially told the people of Massachusetts, their legislatures, the people at large that they're not qualified to make this decision.


BEGALA: But just like the Supreme Court told us -- most people voted for Al Gore in this country.


BEGALA: But he's in a special position of happen to be criticizing judges, isn't it?

HAYWORTH: Well, I always appreciate the heckling about 2000, but let's take a look at the case we're dealing with today.


HAYWORTH: And that is the fact, if you want to respect what goes on at the ballot box, take a look at California; 61 percent of the voters in California said no to same-sex marriage. And now you have Mayor Newsom, as a renegade mayor, saying, come on to San Francisco and get married. And, gee, just down the road, there's the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals.

What happens when a federal court gets ahold of this and suddenly says this is the law of the land? It's a legitimate concern. That's why many of us back this. That's why the president reluctantly chose to back a constitutional amendment.

CARLSON: Now, Cheryl, I think you will agree with me that it's good for America to have this conversation to sort out what it thinks about marriage and that it's also good to do it in the spirit of comedy, you know, with good manners.

And so I -- in light of that, I want to put up on the screen a page from a Web site called DearMary. This is an attack, a direct attack on Mary Cheney, the daughter of Dick Cheney. She is gay. You will notice it says -- it describes her as a -- quote -- "professional homosexual" and savages her for not lobbying her father on this issue of gay marriage.

That's hateful. That's fascist behavior. Will you agree?


But I do think we should call the vice president to task. The vice president said to this country in a debate that states should be allowed to do their thing, allow couples to have benefits and protections. And today, he's saying just the opposite. He's saying, let's amend this precious United States Constitution. Let's enshrine discrimination in it for the very first time through an amendment.

And I do think we should focus on the vice president. We voted for him. He's out there.


JACQUES: He should answer to that.


HAYWORTH: Well, that's been interesting charge.


HAYWORTH: Enshrining discrimination. Let's wait and take that to the full extension, Cheryl.

Let's take a look at the Constitution of the United States. Already, two governors I know of, Governor Granholm of Michigan and Governor Schwarzenegger of California, are not allowed to be president under the Constitution. I've not heard them shout discrimination. It's the Constitution.


BEGALA: Actually, Arnold called for a change in it this weekend.


HAYWORTH: Well, on another network. But the fact is


BEGALA: Let me come back to what Vice President Cheney actually said.


BEGALA: Let me show you exactly...


BEGALA: A short clip. He was asked by Bernard Shaw, formerly lead anchor of this network, in a debate. Both he and Joe Lieberman were running for vice president, you'll recall.

And Bernie Shaw asked him, should a male who loves a male and a female who love a female have all -- all -- the constitutional rights enjoyed by every American citizen?

Here is part of what Dick Cheney said to that question.


DICK CHENEY, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I think that means that people should be free to enter into any kind of relationship they want to enter into. It's really no one else's business in terms of trying to regulate or prohibit behavior in that regard.


BEGALA: He went on the say that it's a state matter. There should not be a federal policy in this area. "I think we ought to do everything we can to tolerate and accommodate whatever kind of relationships people want to enter into."

Is Dick Cheney a threat to marriage, sir?


Here's what we're looking at. And, again, it goes back to the Constitution. No one has said homosexuals don't have the right to vote. No one has said gay folks are only three-fifths of a person. The fact is, what we're looking at right now is the full faith and credit of the Constitution. And when you have four justices on the Massachusetts State Supreme Court in a very narrow decision saying there's going to be gay marriage, when you have the mayor of San Francisco, when you have a justice of the peace


BEGALA: The question is about our vice president, who has the same position that I do and that most Democrats do.


HAYWORTH: Let's complete the record.


HAYWORTH: He gave an interview to "The Denver Post," where he said, upon further reflection, just this year.


BEGALA: I don't think Dick Cheney is a liar on this.


HAYWORTH: He talked to "The Denver Post." Listen to what he said now.

BEGALA: So, we can't believe him what he said then?


CARLSON: Let me just ask you. I want to follow up on something you said a moment -- a second ago.


JACQUES: Wait, Tucker, please, please, with all due respect, the Massachusetts judges looked at a Constitution, the Massachusetts Constitution, a very precious and simple document that says all people shall be treated equally.

Then they said to the state of Massachusetts why can't these loving, committed couples, many raising children, like my own family, why can't they have Social Security survivor benefits? Why can't they visit a loved one in a hospital emergency room? Why can't they care for each other and have each other's health insurance?

The state couldn't give an answer. That's why


CARLSON: Well, then, let me ask you this question. Cheryl, I want to ask you a question that I've asked


CARLSON: I beg your pardon. I want to -- I want to ask you a question. And I want you to answer it. No one ever answers this question. And perhaps you will.

The standards that the Massachusetts Supreme Court set was intimacy. People are intimate, share intimacy, they deserve to be married. Why draw the line at two people, say? Why shouldn't a group of three men, for instance, by that standard, be able to be married? It's an honest question. I'd like an honest answer, please.

JACQUES: Here's an honest answer. Tucker, I'm raising two sons. I want them to be in love with a committed partner. I want them to have a family. I want grandchildren. I want them to take care of each other. I want them to share each other's health insurance. I want, when one of them dies, the other one to be able to receive Social Security survivor benefits, because they'll pay into it, as I do.

CARLSON: OK, but you haven't answered the question yet.

JACQUES: I just answered it.

CARLSON: No, no, why not three?

JACQUES: I want two committed parents, like every family.

CARLSON: But why deny the right of free people


JACQUES: Because I don't approve of that.


CARLSON: Why don't you approve of it?

BEGALA: Who is asking for it?

HAYWORTH: Well, I'll tell you who is asking for it.

JACQUES: The American Pediatrics Association, all the leading groups say two committed parents.

CARLSON: But give me a reason. I don't understand.


JACQUES: That's what makes for a healthy family and a loving family and that's what I want. HAYWORTH: Paul asked, who is asking for this? And the sad fact is, right now, polygamists are petitioning the courts in Utah.

JACQUES: That's not what this is about.


HAYWORTH: No, it's precisely what this is about.

CARLSON: Why isn't that what it is about?


JACQUES: Because that's a different show with different advocates. This is about two loving, committed people.


HAYWORTH: I listened to Cheryl. Please let me offer an answer.

Because the standard the Massachusetts's court gave us was simply the establishment of intimacy. They did not go beyond that. They did not stipulate two people. And so you've opened the door. And when you do that with runaway courts and the judicial activists we have today, you are asking for trouble. It's already happening in Utah.

We're seeing that there, just as we saw marriages in New Mexico, just as we're seeing these ceremonies in San Francisco. And there will be an effort -- it gets back to the full faith and credit clause in the Constitution. There will be an effort by some of the elites in this country to ram this down the throat of the American people, rather than letting the people decide.

BEGALA: Now, let me ask you about one of your -- I think one of your of heroes -- you've described him that way -- Barry Goldwater. Patron saint of conservative Republicans, your party's nominee, in fact the man who contributed to your early political career, gave you donations and supported you.

HAYWORTH: He sure did.

BEGALA: Barry Goldwater..

HAYWORTH: His brother Bob still does.


BEGALA: God bless him and God rest Senator Goldwater's soul.

But here's what he said about this topic. I'm quoting him here. "The Constitution says that all men are created equal, and it doesn't say that all men are created equal except for gays. Just like everyone else who is born in this country, gays are endowed by their creator, God, with inalienable rights, and among those are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. At birth, whether your are born in Russia, Cuba, South America, or New York, you are born equal. The difference is that our American babies grow up to live free."

Barry Goldwater, a supporter of gay rights, another opponent of the American family?

HAYWORTH: Now, I don't hear anything in there about marriage.

What I do hear -- and there are folks that -- you know, I don't know how you classify Barbara Boxer or Dianne Feinstein or if we take the latest machination from John Kerry, I don't see you defining those guys as discriminatory. And yet, in some -- when you check on some of their evaluations, they say they don't believe the same-sex marriage.

CARLSON: What about that, Cheryl?

HAYWORTH: I just think it's very interesting


JACQUES: With all due respect, I bet, Congressman, 10 years ago, you wouldn't have supported any benefits, equal protection, civil unions, domestic partnership, anything.


JACQUES: America has moved forward, as they have understood that gays and lesbians are their next-door neighbors, their brothers, their sons, the vice president's daughter, their pediatrician, their former state senator. And they're getting it.

They're getting that me and my partner and our two little boys wake up worried about the same thing as any other family. We want safe community, safe schools. We want our children to grow up to be good contributing people, but we have none of the protections. I pay out of each and every check into the Social Security system. Explain to me why, when I die, my or my family won't get that



BEGALA: I want to give you time to answer, but we'll have to do it after this break.



BEGALA: I understand. That's an important point.


JACQUES: Why is that fair? That's discrimination.

HAYWORTH: I look forward to answering the question, Cheryl. Thank you.


BEGALA: Because just ahead, we'll come back after this break and put our guests through what we call the "Rapid Fire," where the questions are shorter than one of Newt Gingrich's marriage.

And, right after the break, Wolf Blitzer has the latest on chilling new tapes warning of new terrorists attacks.

Stay with us.



BEGALA: Thank you, Wolf.

Welcome back to CROSSFIRE. Time now for "Rapid Fire," where the questions and answers are shorter than a Britney Spears marriage.

In the CROSSFIRE, Arizona Republican Congressman J.D. Hayworth and Cheryl Jacques. She's the president and executive director of the Human Rights Campaign.

Congressman, before the break, Cheryl asked you, why shouldn't she and her partner have to right to inherit each other's property and collect Social Security?

HAYWORTH: Because we can actually move through law. What Cheryl wants to do is petition the government, her representatives, actually let the people decide.

BEGALA: Do you support that?

HAYWORTH: I think we can take a look at it. I am also dealing with a Social Security deficit that's pretty huge we're having to deal with on the Social Security Subcommittee.

JACQUES: So I should pay in, but not collect. That's fair?


JACQUES: You don't think that's discriminating


HAYWORTH: What I'm saying is this. What I'm saying is this, Cheryl. You have the right as a citizen vote. You have freedom of association. If there are laws in place in your home state and you have protections and we can continue


JACQUES: This constitutional amendment would forever prohibit that. That's the goal of this constitutional amendment.

(CROSSTALK) CARLSON: Cheryl, you said a minute go that you think, like Dick Cheney, it ought to be up to the states.


CARLSON: But the state of California has made gay marriage illegal and yet the city of San Francisco has ignored that law.

JACQUES: It actually hasn't.

CARLSON: Actually, it has. I have the code right in front of me. And it says marriage is between a man and a woman, period.

JACQUES: California said that they can't recognize -- that they don't have to recognize other state's rulings on gay marriage. We're talking about the Knight Amendment. And that is why Mayor Newsom


CARLSON: No, we're talking about California Defense of Marriage Act, which reads, only a marriage between a man and a woman is only valid in the state of California, period.

JACQUES: No, I believe it spoke to marriages from other states didn't have to be recognized, like the federal DOMA, which says one state doesn't have to recognize another state's marriage.


CARLSON: But then shouldn't -- the people of California said they don't want gay marriage. Shouldn't they leave it there?

BEGALA: Congressman Hayworth, just let me ask you a question about simple fairness. Why does Rudy Giuliani get to be married three times and Newt Gingrich three times and Rush Limbaugh three times and a gay man never once? Why is that fair?


HAYWORTH: Well, that's always fun and cheap. You can take a look at people and their individual failings in terms of marriage. But you don't


BEGALA: My people, straight people have not


BEGALA: ... lit the world on fire in terms of fidelity of marriage. So why not let gay people try it?


(BELL RINGING) HAYWORTH: You don't improve marriage by fundamentally weakening it. No matter what happens with the people involved and the fact that people have failings in the institution of marriage. You don't strengthen marriage by pointing out where people have had problems.

CARLSON: OK, I'm sorry. Congressman, we're completely out of time.

Congressman J.D. Hayworth of Arizona, Cheryl Jacques of the Human Rights Campaign, thank you both for joining us. We appreciate it.



CARLSON: Wanted, one presidential candidate determined enough to travel all of the way to Hawaii in search of votes. We have your man next.


CARLSON: Well, you may not have known it, but Hawaii's Democrats are holding presidential caucuses today. Just one candidate has seen fit to fly all the way over to the Aloha State. And that man, well, we think you know who he is, Dennis Kucinich.

He told supporters that Hawaii could turn the political tide in his favor. You never know. Turnout is expected to be held down because a Hawaii resident is appearing tonight on "American Idol" -- that talent show apparently more popular than the Democratic caucuses, which are estimated to draw 3,000 people at best.

BEGALA: I hope Dennis gets a little time on the beach. Maybe, like President Nixon, he could wear a suit and black shoes and walk along the beach.

CARLSON: Dennis needs a little time on the beach.

BEGALA: He's a fine man.

CARLSON: But you know what ties together this trip with the rest of his campaign? The chicks.


CARLSON: Dennis Kucinich -- Dennis Kucinich, in it for the ladies. He's admitted it.


BEGALA: Well, God bless Dennis Kucinich.

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" is next. Have a great night.



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