The Web      Powered by
powered by Yahoo!


Return to Transcripts main page


Will Super Tuesday Be Super Blowout?

Aired March 1, 2004 - 16:30   ET


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

ANNOUNCER: In the CROSSFIRE: Will Super Tuesday add up to a super blowout for Senator John Kerry?

SEN. JOHN KERRY (D-MA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We ought to subtract George Bush from the political equation of the United States.


ANNOUNCER: But, first, will voters subtract John Edwards from the Democratic race?

EDWARDS: I intend to be in this until the end.



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


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

Well, we are on the eve of Super Tuesday. Millions of Americans from New York to California will stand in line to choose the Democratic Party's nominee for president, that is to say, the person who will beat President Bush in November by so many votes that even thief Justice Rehnquist won't be able to steal it for Mr. Bush.


TUCKER CARLSON, CO-HOST: Well, at this point, polls indicate that most of those voters, like cute, but suicidal lemmings, will support John Kerry, pushing their party nearer to the cliff of electoral irrelevance.

But before anyone jumps, we have the best political briefing in television, our CROSSFIRE "Political Alert."

Well, an update today from the Department of Government Overreach. This morning, the federal Health and Human Services Department held a press conference to announce the kickoff of a national anti-bullying campaign. The surgeon general was there. The campaign even has its own slogan -- quote -- "Take a stand. Lend a hand. Stop bullying now!" There's an exclamation point on the end, of course.

The event was designed to coincide with No Name Calling Week, which -- we're not making this up -- started today. All of this is the brain child of gay rights activists, which would like to see greater government regulation of the language children use during recess. Well, there are a couple of problems with this. First, one person's taunt is another's political or religious statement. Attempts to control what people say are almost invariably attempts to control what they think.

That's called thought control. Maybe schools ought to stick to teaching kids to read. Maybe government should stick with its core mission: beat the terrorists, keep us safe, improve the DMV, and while you're at it, why don't you hire some employees with decent manners? Then go ahead and lecture the rest of us about bullying.


BEGALA: Well, Tucker, first off, you don't point out that the people doing this are not gay rights activists. It's the Bush administration, unless Bush and his team are gay rights activists, which I would love.


CARLSON: Actually, actually, anti-bullying week is started by gay rights activist.


CARLSON: It's not government's place. Back off.


BEGALA: Secondly, it's not government's place to try to prevent another Columbine, but it is to tell Bob and Steve they can't get married?

CARLSON: No, wait.

BEGALA: Because that Bush wants to do.

CARLSON: Prevent another Columbine? Leave the kids alone. Why do liberals always want to meddle with kids? Leave them alone.

BEGALA: That was what behind Columbine


BEGALA: Well, five months ago, on Labor Day, President Bush took a bold step toward dealing with the hemorrhaging of manufacturing jobs during his presidency. He said he would appoint a -- quote -- "manufacturing czar" -- unquote. OK, so that's what passes for bold under Mr. Bush on the economy.

But what's worse is that, five months later, he still hasn't even kept that phony-baloney promise. Senator Chuck Schumer of New York notes that, since Mr. Bush made that promise, we have lost another 225,000 manufacturing jobs here in America.

Now, Mr. Bush likes to portray himself as a straight shooter. This is one more example, though, that, for Mr. Bush, the WMDs are his own whoppers of massive dimensions.


BEGALA: Or, as we say in Texas, Mr. President, please don't pee on my boots and tell me it's raining.


CARLSON: Well, we're going to lose a lot more manufacturing jobs than that by the time it's over, because the American economy has completely changed from a manufacturing-based economy, as you know, to something much different, in some ways better, in some ways, worse. And no czar is going to fix that.

BEGALA: Shouldn't he keep his word?

CARLSON: It is something the control of government.


CARLSON: He never should have promised something so stupid in the first place. A manufacturing czar, what is that?


CARLSON: Who cares?

BEGALA: I agree it's a stupid idea.

CARLSON: I have no idea what you're talking about.


BEGALA: He made a promise.


CARLSON: So, maybe he could appoint a new manufacturing czar. Good luck.


BEGALA: I'd turn the economy around, if he would get out. The first thing I would do is fire him.


CARLSON: But, you know, you couldn't. No person can change...



CARLSON: No person -- no person can change an inevitable process that's beyond all of our control.

BEGALA: The president should keep his word.

CARLSON: Uh-huh. Manufacturing czar.

Well, as critics have often pointed out, moderate affirmative action isn't all that different from good old-fashioned segregation. The notion of fighting racism with racism is unprincipled. It's immoral. And it's also just plain dumb. Ultimately, it will collapse under the weight of its own absurdity, just like segregation did. But, in the meantime, the grim comedy of affirmative action continues, this time in liberal suburban Washington, right around here, where the local sanitation authority recently decided that the racial spoil system is more important than clean water, literally.

Last month, the Maryland Sanitary Commission came close to running out of a key chemical used to make tap water safe for drinking. The reason? The commission could not find a minority-owned company to deliver the chemical. There are plenty of other companies willing to deliver it, but their owners just had the wrong skin color. In other words, liberals in Maryland would rather have dirty water than patronize a white-owned company.

How is that not wrong? How is that not racist? It is both wrong and it is racist, also. And Democrats support it.

BEGALA: Well, first off...

CARLSON: There is no defense.

BEGALA: ... Republicans support affirmative action for Halliburton and Republicans don't want it for a black-owned company.


CARLSON: No, actually, actually...

BEGALA: Why is that? And, by the way, on affirmative action...

CARLSON: That's a total lie, Paul.

BEGALA: How did George W. Bush get into Yale? How did he get into Harvard? How did he get into the National Guard? Affirmative action.



CARLSON: Are you defending liberals in Maryland refusing to buy chemicals...


CARLSON: ... to clean the water until they can find a black- owned company?


BEGALA: Why not? That is a no-bid contract...


CARLSON: They're not related. I've never -- I've never defended that.

BEGALA: That's affirmative action for Dick Cheney's old company.

CARLSON: And they're not related. And you can't defend affirmative action, so you don't. You attack Halliburton.

BEGALA: I love affirmative action.

Well, Mel Gibson's movie "The Passion of the Christ" took in $117.5 million at the box office in just its first few days. Christians who have been raised on the Gospel according to Matthew, Mark, Luke and John are now being exposed to a more graphic and stunningly violent Gospel according to Mel, a Gospel which some say downplays Christ's message of love, forgiveness and redemption.

And right-wing evangelicals who have been flocking to the movie may be surprised to learn that Mr. Gibson thinks they're going to hell, as he believes all Protestants are and all Jews and Muslims and Buddhists and don't forget the Hindus. Hell for Mel is a very crowded place, indeed. Still, Mr. Gibson stands to make millions and millions of dollars from the suffering of Jesus, although one suspects Jesus might have actually wanted him to give the money to the poor.

Then again, Jesus didn't charge eight bucks apiece for the Sermon on the Mount.


CARLSON: Well, how selective is that?

BEGALA: Come on, now.

CARLSON: Here -- here Jesse Jackson has been going down shaking companies down in the name of God, in the name of God, for 30 years.

BEGALA: Oh, nonsense.

CARLSON: And you've not said one thing, running around pretending to be a preacher and taking people's money. (CROSSTALK)

BEGALA: He's a wonderful preacher. But what about Mel Gibson making $100 million off the suffering of Jesus?

CARLSON: What's wrong...

BEGALA: That's monstrous.

CARLSON: So people who sell the Bible shouldn't profit from it? Peoples shouldn't get paid? What are you saying?



BEGALA: In my church, priests take a vow of poverty.

CARLSON: OK, but yours isn't the only church.


BEGALA: I understand that. Mel Gibson thinks everybody else is going to hell. All these Protestants who are going to the movie, you should know, Mel thinks you're going to hell. He'll take your money now, but he wants you to burn in hell later.


CARLSON: Why are you attacking Mel Gibson?


CARLSON: I don't know.

OK. For Democrats, the race for president has come down to Super Tuesday. Will tomorrow's contest result in a super showdown between John Kerry and John Edwards or will Kerry achieve a super shutout? It's going to be super either way. And so will our segment to come.

We'll be back in a super moment.


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.


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: Welcome back to CROSSFIRE.

Voters in 10 states all across the country will go to the polls tomorrow. They will divide up 1,151 delegates, the biggest one-day haul of the entire primary season. Mathematically, John Kerry cannot quite clinch the nomination, but, practically, some are saying John Edwards' chances of being the nominee are slim and none.

In the CROSSFIRE from Chicago, Edwards campaign senior strategist David Axelrod. Here in our Washington studios, Kerry campaign strategist Mark Mellman.


CARLSON: Mark Mellman, thanks a lot for joining us.


CARLSON: Fascinating, really fascinating moment at the debate yesterday in which John Kerry was asked about "The National Journal" magazine here, totally nonpartisan magazine. It had ranked him the most liberal member of the Senate. It's done that four times in the 19 years he's been in the Senate, based on his voting record.

And here's what Senator Kerry said in response. Amazing response.


KERRY: First of all, they measured 62 votes. I voted 37 times; 25 votes, they didn't even count, because I wasn't there to vote for them.


CARLSON: In other words, John Kerry is happier to admit he's not doing his job, that he doesn't even show up for 25 votes, than he is to admit he's a liberal, which he is. He's liberal. Why not just say so? Why not admit it?

MARK MELLMAN, JOHN KERRY CAMPAIGN STRATEGIST: What John Kerry, I think, is really saying is the only people that care about fitting people into little boxes with little labels on them are people -- extremists, extremists on both sides. Most people care more about what you stand for, who you stand for.


MELLMAN: Than they do about labels that you guys choose to apply.

CARLSON: Get real. "The National Journal" is not an extremist organization, A. B, he's not sort of liberal. He was the most liberal based on his voting record in the entire Senate.


CARLSON: Now, are you saying he's not liberal? Is that what you're saying? Or only on extremist things, he's liberal? What are you saying?

MELLMAN: Is voting for an original co-sponsor of Gramm-Rudman- Hollings deficit reduction, is that liberal? Is standing up for a strong anti-terrorist policy in this country liberal?

These words just don't mean anything anymore. The reality is, you've got to look at the man's record, got to look at the man's character, and not look at the labels. If you can't look past the labels, you really shouldn't be doing the looking.


BEGALA: David Axelrod, first, good to see you. Thank you for coming in.

Your man, John Edwards, won the South Carolina primary and nothing else. He hasn't won another since then. He may well win Georgia tomorrow. It's a Southern state. He seems to be doing pretty well there. But doesn't Edwards have to win a primary somewhere where they don't eat grits and think wrestling is on the level?


BEGALA: I say this as a Southerner myself.

DAVID AXELROD, JOHN EDWARDS CAMPAIGN SENIOR STRATEGIST: I don't want to be part of impugning wrestling, first of all.


AXELROD: But the fact is that we have said from the beginning that once the field narrowed down that we would start winning primaries. And we will start winning primaries.

We think we're going to do very well tomorrow, not just in Georgia.


AXELROD: And I think this race is going to go on to -- go on to March 9, when we have Texas and Louisiana and Mississippi and Florida. I think we're going to do very well in Ohio. I think we're going to do well in Minnesota. I think we're going to do better than you think in New York state.

And -- and, you know, we think we are going to have a very good day tomorrow. John Edwards is speaking to the economic distress of a lot of Americans under the policies of this administration, under an economy that's not working for them. And he's drawing large and enthusiastic crowds, people responding to his message. We think they're going to come out and vote tomorrow.


CARLSON: David hold on. Let me just ask David -- oh, I'm sorry.


MELLMAN: You can't lose your way to this nomination. And the reality is, you have to win some contests, and not just a few contests, a lot of contests.

To get this nomination at this point, John Edwards has to win over 60 percent of the remaining delegates. If he doesn't win 60 percent -- 63 percent tomorrow -- that number goes up to 65, 70, 75 percent. The reality is, people look at John Edwards and they say, here's a wonderful guy. He's a great lawyer, doesn't necessarily have the experience you need in this time to deal with problems of foreign policy, to deal with problems of terror, to deal with problems of the economy.

Those are problems that are serious and real. John Kerry has a record of dealing with those problems successfully. John Edwards doesn't. People see that as a difference.


CARLSON: But, David Axelrod


AXELROD: Mark, Mark, Mark, Mark, you're a good friend of mine and I respect you a lot. But you've been in Washington too long.

You think that people view experience as how many years you've spent in Washington. I don't think that's the way it is. I think people understand that Washington is part of the problem. It's not just Republicans, but it's also Democrats.


AXELROD: And what we need is a president who's going to challenge the system, and John Edwards is that kind -- that candidate. He'll be that kind of president.

MELLMAN: But there is -- experience does matter here, David. And John Edwards is a great trial lawyer. But the reality is


AXELROD: I agree experience matters.


AXELROD: The question is, what kind of experience?

MELLMAN: Four years ago, he was sitting in a law office. He wasn't dealing with foreign policy. He wasn't creating jobs. He wasn't dealing with economic policy. He wasn't dealing with environmental policy.


CARLSON: First of all, it was six years ago.

But, second, David Axelrod, isn't this part of the problem here?


CARLSON: Washington Democrats have contempt for anybody who challenges the power structure? Let me give you a perfect example. This is a quote from Terry McAuliffe, chairman of your party, your party. Now maybe you'll leave it. Hope you do.

Here's what he said: "Clearly, at some point in the near future, we need to have a nominee of the Democratic Party. We need at some point to be unified, to go together with one message." If this was a "New York Post" headline, the headline would be: "McAuliffe to Edwards: Drop Out."


CARLSON: Are you going to take this? Are you going to be bossed around by party bosses or are you going to stand on your own beliefs?

AXELROD: No, Tucker, I think we're going to take your advice and do whatever you tell us to do.


CARLSON: That's the spirit. That's the spirit, David.


CARLSON: I'm glad you're finally heeding the call.


AXELROD: No, I mean, the reality -- the reality is that we have a primary process going on. The voters will decide when that process is over. We're gratified by the fact that Senator Kerry now runs around the country saying, I'm right where John Edwards is on the issue of trade, regardless of where I was before.

We have the same policy moving forward and so on. I think we've really influenced this debate in the right way. I think this race is going to go on beyond next week. And I think the worst nightmare for Mark Mellman is to meet us in Texas, in Florida, in Mississippi and Louisiana next week. But that's where we're going to be.


BEGALA: Let me sharpen David's point, if I can. It's a pretty sharp point.

But your guy has done less well -- he's done poorly -- among Republicans and independents who vote in open primaries. Isn't that something Mr. Axelrod has a point about? Your guy is great with Democrats. But to be the president, you've actually got to get some independents and some thoughtful Republicans.

MELLMAN: It's actually not true, Paul.

If you look at the 10 states in which there have been exit polls, John Kerry's beat John Edwards in six of the 10 among independents and in eight of the 10 among moderates. The reality is, it's not the Washington power structure that's choosing this nominee. Two months ago, everybody said John Kerry was dead. The reality is, it's voters out there who are meeting John Kerry and meeting John Edwards, met these other candidates, and they reached a conclusion.

And they reached a conclusion that John Kerry has the experience, has the ability, has the judgment, and has -- to be a great president -- and has the positions on the issues that agree with theirs. That's why he's moving up in this race. It's why he's won 18 of 20 contests. It's not because of anybody in Washington.

CARLSON: Now, David -- David Axelrod, everybody agrees, particularly in the press, that you've got a pretty appealing, pretty attractive candidate.


CARLSON: Isn't the lesson here that his message is bad? You hear him on the stump, he talks about, in every speech, that his father was a mill worker. Isn't the lesson here, nobody cares what John Edwards' father did for a living?


AXELROD: Well, first of all, I would say that the problem is not with his message. If the problem was with his message, I don't think that Senator Kerry would have embraced it so wholly, as he's done.


CARLSON: His father wasn't a mill worker, though. He hasn't embraced the message. He can't.


AXELROD: No, but I -- I think -- I think -- actually, I think, if we win three or four states tomorrow, by next week, his father will have been a mill worker.



BEGALA: David, in point of -- in point of fact -- Mark Mellman, in point of fact, does anybody believe George W. Bush would be president if his father hasn't been president? Talk about the father primary. It's W. who has been running on his father's name all of his life, right?


MELLMAN: I second that emotion.

But the reality is, here, very simple, and that is, John Edwards is the guy who's really been moving around here. He goes out on the stump and says, I'm against NAFTA. Then he goes to "The New York Times" and says economic -- NAFTA is an economic necessity. How are you against an economic necessity? It doesn't make sense.

John Edwards went out and said, I'm the positive candidate, not going to say a negative word about anybody. You saw yesterday's debate. For political reasons, political calculation, David told him, you can't win delegates unless you beat up on John Kerry, even if that means distorting his record, even if that means personal attacks that have no validity whatever. That's what he did. And he did it for political reasons.

CARLSON: Well, David -- David Axelrod, you counseled your candidate to distort John Kerry's record? That's appalling. Is that true?


AXELROD: Actually, I did something even more effective. I told him to tell the truth about John Kerry's record.


CARLSON: Well, tell us about that. What's the truth?

AXELROD: But my candidate -- I must say this to Mark -- and I think he knows this -- that was not what I would call a slam-bang, rock-'em-sock-'em debate. And if Senator Kerry, with all due respect, found that discomforting, I think he's going to have a very hard time if he becomes the nominee, because the Bush


AXELROD: There are a lot more -- a lot more -- a lot more -- a lot more rough, a lot more rough than that.


MELLMAN: ... Edwards attacks Kerry. People don't want attacks. They'd like to know what John Edwards' real positions are. They have changed. They'd like to know what his experience is. He doesn't have it.


MELLMAN: They're talking about his positions. He's been talking about his experience. That's what the debate ought to be about.

(CROSSTALK) AXELROD: Mark, Mark, Mark, Mark, Mark, your candidate...


BEGALA: Let me get in this question here. I went to your Web site and looked up the two biggest economic speeches that your candidate, John Edwards, has given.

The first was at the Fortune Global Forum on November 12, 2002, the second at Georgetown University on June 17, 2003. In neither of those speeches does the word trade appear. Nor does the word NAFTA. Isn't he Johnny-come-lately on this one issue of NAFTA and trade?

AXELROD: One of the first positions that he took in this campaign was to eliminate these tax breaks that encourage companies to move their jobs overseas.

It's been an integral part of our campaign. But the bigger thing is


AXELROD: The bigger thing -- the bigger thing -- the bigger thing -- the bigger thing is that, when these treaties came before them in the Senate, John Kerry voted for every trade treaty that came before him, every single one.

John Edwards voted against most of them for the reason that John Kerry now says that they were flawed. So I think you have look at the record. You can't -- you can't look at two speeches. You have to look at the records of these two candidates.

CARLSON: OK, now, Mark Mellman quickly, John Kerry, whatever his position on trade in the past, has come out pretty strong, almost on the Edwards side. He's referring to companies and the people who work for them and move offshore as Benedict Arnolds, as traitors, as nonpersons. That's disgusting rhetoric, isn't it?

MELLMAN: Well, you're not listening to what he's saying, Tucker.

CARLSON: I have listen to him many times. Benedict Arnold is what he says.


MELLMAN: He's using that term, but he's describing people who move offshore to avoid paying U.S. taxes.

CARLSON: Are they traitors?

MELLMAN: To avoid paying U.S. taxes. I think if you move offshore, if you've gotten wealth from this country, if you've been able to run your business in this country because of the protections that this country provides and you move offshore...

CARLSON: You're a traitor? MELLMAN: ... just to avoid paying taxes, that's right. I think you are a Benedict Arnold.


MELLMAN: And I think you have no right to take advantage of what this country offers if you're not willing to pay your fair share.


CARLSON: You're making a mistake in calling people names.

MELLMAN: You pay your fair share, don't you?


CARLSON: I don't call anybody a traitor, ever.


BEGALA: Mr. Mellman, hang on just a second.


BEGALA: Hang on a second, Mark and David. Hang on just a second.

Just ahead, we're going to take a quick break. We'll get a moist towel and cool off. And then, when we come back, we'll put our guests into the "Rapid Fire." And I'm going to ask David Axelrod what John Edwards has against Washington insiders.

And then, right after the break, Wolf Blitzer will have the latest for you on the U.S. military's role in Haiti.

Stay with us.


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Wolf Blitzer in Washington.

Coming up at the top of the hour, in Haiti's capital, the rebels are in. U.S. Marines are also in. President Aristide is out. But was he taken out against his will? The accusations are flying.

Voting by touch-screen. It will be widespread tomorrow on Super Tuesday. But there are new concerns about just how reliable electronic voting really is.

The Kennedy mystique. A new documentary shows how the president's family used the power of the media to its advantage -- those stories, much more only minutes away on "WOLF BLITZER REPORTS."

Now back to CROSSFIRE.

CARLSON: Well, it is time for "Rapid Fire," where we attempt to ask more questions than the number of primaries and caucuses on Super Tuesday. That's a lot, almost endless.

Our guests are Kerry campaign strategist Mark Mellman here in Washington and, in Chicago, Edwards campaign senior strategist David Axelrod.

BEGALA: Mr. Axelrod, John F. Kennedy, LBJ, FDR, all Washington insiders, George W. Bush, outsider. Why are insiders so bad?

AXELROD: Look, I wouldn't say George W. Bush is an outsider.


BEGALA: ... Crawford, Texas...


AXELROD: Washington is run by the special interests today. And the only way -- and John Edwards ran headlong into it when he led the fight for the patients bill of rights against the insurance industry in the Senate.

He has never taken a dime from lobbyists or PACs. He said, let's ban lobbyist money, so you can't give people a bill to pass in the day and a check at night. And that's how we're going to start changing the culture in Washington. But you have to be able to do that. That's a fundamental difference between these candidates. Senator Kerry accepts that lobbyist money. And we're trying to change that.

CARLSON: Mark Mellman, Iraq, the Iraqi people get their sovereignty this summer. The country may fall apart. It may split and a civil war may start. John Kerry has not explained at all what he would do under those circumstances. How can he pretend to be a serious candidate?

MELLMAN: Well, I don't think anybody can explain what they'd do under a variety of alternative futures.

What John Kerry has said is that he has a plan to actually make Iraq a whole and to move Iraq -- to win the peace in Iraq. There's a plan to bring in other countries, including the Arab world, to help us solidify the situation in Iraq. If we had done what John Kerry wanted to do from the beginning, we wouldn't have been in this mess.

CARLSON: And he voted


BEGALA: David Axelrod, David Axelrod, the debate -- last two debates, it looks to me, just as a viewer, like John Kerry is starting to get pretty annoyed with your guy.


BEGALA: Are you worried that you're screwing your chance to get your guy as the vice presidential candidate on the ticket? AXELROD: My guys is not running for vice president. He's running for president of the United States. And so I'm not concerned about that at all.

CARLSON: All right.


CARLSON: David Axelrod in Chicago, good luck tomorrow.

AXELROD: Thank you.

CARLSON: Mark Mellman here in Washington.

MELLMAN: Thank you.

CARLSON: Good luck. Not sure you'll need it, but anyway.

Next, find out what the Oscar-winning movie "Lost in Translation" and CROSSFIRE, this program, have in common.

We'll be right back.


BEGALA: Finally, we want to wish a happy first anniversary to CNN Japan. Our daily CROSSFIREs are seen and heard in the land of the rising sun, although perhaps something is lost in the translation.




BEGALA: Now, we do not need a translator for the rest of the way out. (SPEAKING JAPANESE) Paul Begala (SPEAKING JAPANESE)



CARLSON: Join us tomorrow for a special Super Tuesday edition of CROSSFIRE. We'll be in Atlanta.

"WOLF BLITZER REPORTS" starts right now. Happy March. See you tomorrow.



International Edition
CNN TV CNN International Headline News Transcripts Advertise With Us About Us
   The Web     
Powered by
© 2005 Cable News Network LP, LLLP.
A Time Warner Company. All Rights Reserved.
Terms under which this service is provided to you.
Read our privacy guidelines. Contact us.
external link
All external sites will open in a new browser. does not endorse external sites.
 Premium content icon Denotes premium content.
Add RSS headlines.