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CNN CROSSFIRE

Political Ad Wars

Aired March 4, 2004 - 16:30   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)
ANNOUNCER: CROSSFIRE. On the left, Paul Begala; on the right, Bay Buchanan.

In the CROSSFIRE: She's out of prison, back at home and cooking up her comeback.

QUESTION: What did you miss?

MARTHA STEWART, MARTHA STEWART LIVING OMNIMEDIA: The idea of cappuccino.

ANNOUNCER: Would she do better to sip coffee at home or rev up her career in the fast lane? We're offering advice today on CROSSFIRE.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ANNOUNCER: Live from the George Washington University, Paul Begala and Bay Buchanan.

(APPLAUSE)

BAY BUCHANAN, GUEST CO-HOST: Welcome to CROSSFIRE, everyone.

Now that she's out of prison, Martha Stewart is already launching her comeback, but will her new projects remind us of everything that we didn't like about her in the first place?

PAUL BEGALA, CO-HOST: Well, perhaps. But Martha is out of prison and under house arrest -- in a mighty nice house, I might add. The government was also good enough to give her a nice piece of jewelry as a lovely gift. It is called an ankle bracelet.

(LAUGHTER)

BEGALA: It links her electronically to the Feds for every move she makes. I, for one, want to congratulate Martha on her freedom and invite her to join us here in the CROSSFIRE, if that bracelet can be broken.

(LAUGHTER)

BEGALA: Any time she wants to come. It would be a good thing, Martha. We love you.

We will debate whether Martha Stewart can make herself the comeback cookie baker in just a moment.

But, first, we begin, as we always do, with the best political briefing in television, the CROSSFIRE "Political Alert."

At the swearing-in ceremony of Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff, President Bush yesterday finally mentioned the name Osama bin Laden.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Bin Laden's message is a telling reminder that al Qaeda still hopes to attack us on our own soil. Stopping them is the greatest challenge of our day. And under Mike's leadership, we will do everything in our power to meet that challenge.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BEGALA: Everything in our power, Mr. President? In the 1,261 days since Mr. Bush swore that he'd get Osama bin Laden dead or alive, he has spent about 10 times more on tax cuts for the rich as he has on homeland security.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

BEGALA: At a House hearing yesterday, even the Republican chairman of the House Subcommittee on Border Security expressed disappointment over Mr. Bush's lack of funding for border security.

I suppose Mr. Bush's logic is, sure, you might be killed by terrorists, but at least your orphaned children won't have to pay any estate tax.

(LAUGHTER)

(APPLAUSE)

BUCHANAN: You know, on the border -- on the border issue, I agree. The president has a blind spot. He does not put the kind of money we need. We should have the 2,000 additional border patrols funded, border agents funded down there. I couldn't agree with you more.

BEGALA: They called for 2,000. He is only funding 200.

(BELL RINGING)

(CROSSTALK)

BEGALA: And this should be a bipartisan -- the Dems and R's yesterday were united on this. I hope the Congress fixes...

(CROSSTALK)

BUCHANAN: Absolutely. We were supposed to get up to 10,000. And we can't do that at 200 a year, I'll tell you. BEGALA: Right.

BUCHANAN: The economy added 262,000 new jobs in February, better than anyone expected. While it is always good to be adding new jobs, the news is not all good when it comes to working Americans.

Unemployment is up and hourly wages remain flat. The problem is, we're exporting our good jobs, the middle-class jobs, and replacing them with lower-paying jobs with no benefits. In the last four years, we have shipped nearly three million manufacturing jobs overseas. That's three million jobs that paid a living wage to working Americans, providing for their families.

They are gone. And more are to follow if Congress passes the latest trade deal, CAFTA, in the next few months. Today, you'll hear both Republicans and Democrats, oh, talking about giving their 2 cents about these job numbers. But don't believe a word of it, because, when it comes to your jobs, those for working people in this country, neither party is fighting for you.

BEGALA: Oh, let me take up for my Democrats.

BUCHANAN: Oh, yes, take up for them.

BEGALA: When Bill Clinton was the president of the United States, we had NAFTA and other free trade agreements, but we increased jobs and incomes here at home, because we had a sensible economic policy that invested in people, in education, in training.

(CROSSTALK)

BEGALA: Paid a minimum -- a higher minimum wage. We can do both -- have free trade and create jobs at home -- but not under George Bush.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

(CROSSTALK)

BUCHANAN: Those -- those jobs are gone overseas because of those deals the president, your president and my president, have supported.

(BELL RINGING)

BUCHANAN: It is a terrible thing, free trade, when it comes to -- fair trade is what we're looking for, Paul, not free.

(APPLAUSE)

BEGALA: Well, today's "New York Daily News" says it all -- quote -- "In a rare Washington moment, something actually got done yesterday on Capitol Hill."

(LAUGHTER)

BEGALA: "Where Senator Hillary Clinton won agreement from military bureaucrats to stop messing with the pay of wounded troops" -- unquote.

Senator Clinton, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, hammered Pentagon pencil-pushers with story after story of how the Bush administration has cut off the combat pay allowance for wounded Guardsmen and Reservists when they're in the hospital, if you can believe that.

Senator Clinton rode to the rescue of Army Specialist Robert Loria of her state, of Middletown, New York, who lost his arm in Iraq and then lost his pay, until Hillary saved the day. You know, President Bush loves to talk about how he loves our troops, but it took Senator Clinton to stop this Bush administration abuse of our wounded men and women.

I guess if you want something said, get a Bush. If you want something done, call a Clinton.

(LAUGHTER)

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

BUCHANAN: You know, I'll -- I'll say two things to that. One, we got to take care of our vets. I am with you. I would stand with you, Democrats, Republicans, Independents alike. We have got to take care of our vets.

The second thing is, Hillary Clinton is one smart politician.

(LAUGHTER)

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

BEGALA: She is. I love her.

BUCHANAN: I have to admit that.

(CROSSTALK)

BUCHANAN: She picks up those populist issues and she runs with them.

(LAUGHTER)

BEGALA: This is a guy from her state. That's how she first found out about it. It turns out there are hundreds more across the country.

(BELL RINGING)

BEGALA: She hammered those bureaucrats and she saved those troops their money.

BUCHANAN: Good for her. Good for her.

BEGALA: So, God bless Hillary.

BUCHANAN: You can get -- I don't care who it is. Good for them, anyone who can help out our vets.

President Bush is back on the trail making his case for reforming Social Security. He believes private accounts are a great idea, that they are good for Americans. And he's willing to spend some of that political capital to make them a reality. He's speaking to a crowd in Indiana this hour after visiting New Jersey this morning.

You have to give it to President Bush. You have to give him credit. He is willingly fighting for what he believes, in spite of the opposition. And he's taking his case right to the people. And to be honest, that's when he's at his best, a true leader.

Democrats on the other hand, recognizing a pending Social Security crisis, have offered no solutions, only opposition to the president -- a-do nothing party, you might say. The president's idea is a good one. And while the devil is surely in the details, he has at least tried to hammer out a plan. And that is the direction we should go in -- Paul.

BEGALA: Well, first off, I checked with Senator Reid's office, the Senate Democratic leader. It's not true. He has a plan. First, do no harm. Don't let Bush borrow $4 trillion. Don't let him cut the benefits.

BUCHANAN: Yes.

(APPLAUSE)

BEGALA: But, second, repay the trust fund. President Bush's federal budget deficit is stealing from the Social Security trust fund today. We should pay it back. And, third, they want to have investment accounts that don't require you to give up part of your Social Security.

(APPLAUSE)

BEGALA: Why not have investment accounts that don't steal your Social Security? That's the Democratic plan. And I like it.

(BELL RINGING)

BUCHANAN: The Democrats -- Clinton took all of that Social Security money just as much as any Republican ever did.

BEGALA: No, no, no. Because we balanced the budget. We weren't stealing from Social Security, actually. We helped save the trust fund.

(CROSSTALK)

BEGALA: Well, anyway, Martha Stewart is out of prison. We're happy about that here at CROSSFIRE and ready for her to make her comeback.

Next, we will debate what she's cooking up for the future and whether her new reality series can rival the Donald's. And later, the mayor of Las Vegas, one of my faves, tells elementary school students about his favorite hobby. So, why is everyone so upset? Stay with us to find out.

(APPLAUSE)

ANNOUNCER: Join Carville, Begala and Novak in the CROSSFIRE. For free tickets to CROSSFIRE at the George Washington University, call 202-994-8CNN or visit our Web site. Now you can step into the CROSSFIRE.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(APPLAUSE)

BUCHANAN: Martha Stewart says it feels great to be home. That's after five months in prison. She even asked reporters outside her home if they'd like coffee and doughnuts. How very gracious.

Stewart's willingness to take her lumps has done wonders for her image. The question now, can she cook up a successful comeback?

In the CROSSFIRE from New York, Forbes.com Senior Editor Penelope Patsuris, and -- along with author Christopher Byron, whose book about Stewart's empire is called "Martha Inc."

Both of you, welcome to the -- glad to have you with us.

(CROSSTALK)

PENELOPE PATSURIS, SENIOR EDITOR, FORBES.COM: Thanks.

CHRISTOPHER BYRON, AUTHOR, "MARTHA INC.": Thank you very much.

BEGALA: Thanks for coming.

Mr. Byron, it's Paul Begala. May I start with you first?

BYRON: Paul.

BEGALA: Ms. Stewart, upon her release from prison, issued a statement. And I'm going to read you part of it. I'm sure you heard it, doubtless, but maybe some of our viewers have not. Perhaps they've been in a cave all day.

(LAUGHTER)

BEGALA: Here's what Martha said upon leaving: "Some day, I hope to have a chance to talk more about what all that has happened, the extraordinary people I have met here" -- that would be in prison -- "and all that I have learned.

"I can tell you now that I feel very fortunate to have had a family that nurtured me, the advantage of an excellent education, the opportunity to pursue the American dream. You can be sure that I will never forget the friends I met here, all that they have done to help me over these five months, their children and the stories they have told me."

I have to say, that is remarkably gracious.

BYRON: Yes.

BEGALA: Don't you think?

BYRON: Yes, it sure is. It sounds almost as if it was written for her.

BEGALA: Oh, now, as opposed to like our president, who never utters an unscripted -- well, he does it once in a while.

(CROSSTALK)

BEGALA: When he's dropping the F-bomb on Dick Cheney or something, but otherwise...

(LAUGHTER)

BYRON: It didn't have the feel of spontaneous sincerity. This is a woman who left the joint at 12:01 in the morning. She got on her private plane.

(CROSSTALK)

BEGALA: You don't expect her to hang around for extra time, do you?

(LAUGHTER)

BEGALA: I mean, I don't blame her.

BYRON: Well...

BEGALA: Why is this animus out there? I have to say, I don't understand it. I don't know Martha.

BYRON: Oh, Paul...

(CROSSTALK)

BEGALA: She seems like a lovely person.

(CROSSTALK)

BEGALA: She bakes cookies. What's...

BYRON: Paul, try convicted, unrepentant criminal felon. And then you're going to be in the zone of how a lot of people feel about her.

BUCHANAN: Penelope, I want to get you into this.

I called a gal that works for me, a very lovely gal, 23 years old, college grad. And I said to her, what do you think? What would your question be if we were talking to Martha Stewart? And she says, what is a criminal being glamorized for?

PATSURIS: She's not a criminal.

BUCHANAN: She thinks the media is wrong.

PATSURIS: She wasn't convicted of a crime.

BUCHANAN: She wasn't?

PATSURIS: She was convicted of lying about perhaps a crime, but we don't even know if it was a crime.

(CROSSTALK)

BUCHANAN: She was found guilty by a jury of her peers. That's pretty -- pretty -- she went to prison. Mostly, you're a criminal when you go to prison.

PATSURIS: Those weren't her peers, number one. Number two, half the country doesn't think she did anything wrong.

And, number three, I think there's an enormous amount of goodwill for her -- that's out there waiting for her to spin it in a positive fashion. Right now, her awareness is through the roof according to the folks at the -- who devise the Q factor. So, the trick is for her is to spin it in a positive fashion.

What's fascinating is that her positive and negative ratings have not shifted at all since this whole drama began. Considering how negative it's been for her, I think that's really tremendous. I think that means that there's an opportunity for her to get in there with something positive.

BEGALA: In effect, Mr. Byron, in defense of Ms. Stewart, what she was convicted of was lying to the government. She was not convicted of illegal stock trades. That's what she was investigated for. The government did not convict her of that. In fact, they only convicted her of lying to the government.

Now, if it's a crime to lie to the government, I wish it were a crime for the government to lie to us. Then Mr. Bush would be in prison.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

BEGALA: But one of her defenders -- I'm not alone in defending Martha -- Donald Trump, himself a fairly flamboyant figure, had this to say: "That she should be in jail and O.J. Simpson is playing golf in Florida is ridiculous. But she took it standing up. There were no tears, no dropping to the ground. I've seen very strong men who can't handle that."

Don't you admire Martha's strength, Mr. Byron?

BYRON: Before we get to her strengths, let's go back to the question of criminality here. Look, it's -- it's fun to have these kinds of debates, I agree with you. But we are dealing here with a felony crime. Come on. This is a woman...

BEGALA: A crime of what? Of lying to the government.

BYRON: Hold it. No. Time out, Paul.

PATSURIS: I have to say that I think...

BYRON: This is a crime called -- a 1001 crime. Many, many people have gone to prison for this. This is -- this is a crime of making false statements to government officials in the course of their duties.

And there was an additional charge in there called conspiracy. So, we have a felony crime in which she lied to the cops twice and a conspiracy with her stockbroker, who is also in the can now because of that conspiracy.

(CROSSTALK)

BEGALA: Maybe I'm just too much of a lawyer, but Jeffrey Rosen, who is a real professor of law, has written extensively that there ought to be a right to an exculpatory note.

In other words, if the cops ask you, did you shoot him, you ought to be able to say no. Make the government prove it. That's really at the heart of the Fifth Amendment. We're getting into legal philosophy here. But I don't think it should be a crime to lie to those investigators.

(APPLAUSE)

BEGALA: I just don't.

BYRON: No.

BUCHANAN: You know, Paul has a -- Penelope, Paul has a problem with this crime because it's one his president committed, even though he wasn't convicted of it. And so he doesn't see this...

(APPLAUSE)

(CROSSTALK)

PATSURIS: I agree with Paul. I agree with Paul 100 percent.

BUCHANAN: I mean, you can't -- you can't thwart an investigation. We cannot approve now of Americans thwarting investigations.

But let me go to something here.

PATSURIS: Well, wait. You know what? I just want to point out...

BUCHANAN: You talk about her image. Let's go to another issue here. You talk about her image, what she can do to turn this thing around. If she is going to do "The Apprentice," that shows the harder side -- not the softer, not the humble, not the apologetic, but somebody who is going to be a tough character. Is this going to be in her best interest?

PATSURIS: OK. But I think -- I think -- I think that we're not going to see a clone of "The Apprentice." I think that we're going to see -- reality TV in general has been shifting to sort of a softer side.

We're seeing, you know, "The Big Loser" where it's all very heartbreaking and everybody loses weight, and "Extreme Makeover," where they take a family who has got some hard times and turn their house around. I think they're going to do something warmer and fuzzier with the reality TV show, number one.

Number two, everyone is focused on "The Apprentice," but what is more important is her syndicated show. That show is entirely owned by Omnimedia. Susan Lyne is creating it. Look what she did for ABC. She turned that network around. She is going to do for "Desperate" -- for Martha -- Martha Stewart what she did for "Desperate Housewives."

She also is going to expand Omnimedia's television presence, I guarantee you, in daytime. You're going to see her take other personalities and create other how-to shows. She sees a hole in daytime programming. It's all talk. She wants to do how-to.

BUCHANAN: Penelope, I agree with you. There's a lot of things here she has proven herself to be extremely good at. And I don't understand why she's taking a big risk with this "Apprentice" show. But maybe you're right.

And we're going to come back in just one minute. But -- and when we do, we're going to ask, did Martha Stewart have a jailhouse makeover? She certainly looks like she did on the cover of "Newsweek," but looks can be deceiving.

(APPLAUSE)

BUCHANAN: And right after that, we're going to be leading -- what is it? -- the troops to fire on a car carrying an Italian journalist who had just been released from captivity.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

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

Coming up at the top of the hour, a horrifying end to a hostage nightmare in Iraq. Right after her release, an Italian journalist is wounded by American soldiers on her way to the airport. We'll have a live report from Baghdad.

The nation's new attorney general speaking out on torture, the Martha Stewart case, the campaign on terror, and more. My extensive interview with Alberto Gonzales. That's straight ahead. Also, out of prison and now back at her New York estate. We'll go live to Bedford for the latest on what Martha Stewart is doing and what she can't do.

All those stories, much more, only minutes away on "WOLF BLITZER REPORTS."

Now back to CROSSFIRE.

BEGALA: Thank you, Wolf. We look forward to your report at the top of the hour.

Meanwhile, here at CROSSFIRE, we're also talking about Martha Stewart here at the Martha Stewart News Network.

(LAUGHTER)

BEGALA: She's home from prison and cooking up a recipe for a comeback. We're here to help Martha along with Forbes.com Senior Editor Penelope Patsuris, who joins us from New York, and Christopher Byron, himself from the Big Apple. He as well is the author of the book "Martha Inc."

BUCHANAN: All right Penelope, this week on the cover of "Newsweek," "Martha's Last Laugh". It talks about, after prison, she's thinner, wealthier and ready for prime time.

We learned -- she sure looks great here on this picture here -- but we also learned that this is her face superimposed on a model's body.

(LAUGHTER)

BUCHANAN: Now, do you believe the media might be hyping this comeback?

PATSURIS: I think so. But that's what the media does, right? I mean, isn't -- isn't that our job? I mean, I think it's -- it's -- it's overdone.

BUCHANAN: I don't know. I guess maybe it is.

PATSURIS: I mean it's overdone. But, I mean, the bottom line is that the public wants to hear a lot about it.

But I think what's way more important than how Martha looks and whether she is doing yoga and whether she's lost weight is that I think, in the long run, she truly is better off now than -- than she was before this entire ordeal hit. And I'll tell you why. If -- had this not happened, she would have just gone through life with the same sort of snooty, rose-clipping attitude that, you know, really didn't get her very far in terms of likability.

Now she has got a wakeup call. She knows that she has got to do something about her personality. And that's something that wouldn't have happened otherwise. Now, she built an incredible empire when no one -- no one really liked her. Think what she could do in terms of business if she were able to develop a likable personality. I think she has got a shot at a real makeover.

(LAUGHTER)

BUCHANAN: That's an excellent point. It's an excellent point.

BEGALA: That's an excellent point, Penelope.

And let me hand it over to Christopher.

First off, the audience should know that Martha Stewart had nothing to do with the doctored photo on the cover of "Newsweek." And "Newsweek"'s incredibly lame defense -- I heard Howard Fineman said this on the "Imus" show -- was that it was a joke. So, take that for whatever it's worth. Martha is...

BUCHANAN: Did think they would do that for me?

BEGALA: She -- I guess so.

Martha is making progress though, Christopher. Penelope mentioned her poll ratings. They are actually way up from the beginning of this ordeal. In 2003, when she was first charged with this phony-baloney crime, her favorable rating was only 33 percent. Today, it is 53 percent. She's more popular than George W. Bush...

(LAUGHTER)

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

BEGALA: ... who has never been convicted of a felony, just misdemeanor drunk driving. So, maybe it is a better to be a felon than a drunk driver. What do you think?

BYRON: Yes. What's the point of going down that road?

Let's -- if we had thrown in arson, would her numbers be at 70 percent? I mean, that's silly. Notoriety is -- you know, you can gain notoriety by committing a public crime of the most heinous sort. She's sort of on the...

(CROSSTALK)

BYRON: ... C-list there, but...

(CROSSTALK)

BEGALA: ... by committing a crime.

PATSURIS: But I think she has -- I want to say that I really think that she has more than notoriety.

BYRON: Well, I don't know. Look...

PATSURIS: She's got -- well, look, let me tell you this.

BYRON: Well, hold on.

(CROSSTALK)

PATSURIS: I talked to prisoners. I talked to prisoners who served at Alderson and -- and -- and, you know, were there with Martha. And they say she was a genuinely gracious person. Maybe she has learned her lesson. I mean.

BYRON: God bless her.

PATSURIS: I mean, she was actually gracious to people, which is something we...

(LAUGHTER)

PATSURIS: You know, we never saw before.

BYRON: God bless her. And I'm really happy that the criminal justice system of the United States came to her aid to teach the woman manners.

(LAUGHTER)

(APPLAUSE)

BUCHANAN: Christopher, do you not think she could have been humbled by this experience?

BYRON: Look, what -- I think what Paul said just a minute ago is exactly right, but probably not for the reason he intended.

That cover is -- that "Newsweek" cover is a joke. This entire thing is like a comic relief event in public affairs. This is a woman who doesn't deserve...

BUCHANAN: I'm sorry.

(CROSSTALK)

BYRON: ... one-one-hundredth of the attention that she's getting. Her media overnights...

(CROSSTALK)

BEGALA: Wait a minute.

BYRON: Her media overnights are up.

(CROSSTALK)

BYRON: Excuse me, Penelope. You were talking all that time.

PATSURIS: Chris, why are you on the show then?

(CROSSTALK)

BYRON: Let me finish my point. Her media overnights are up. They are up because she's on TV constantly now.

(CROSSTALK)

BUCHANAN: All right, we must go. Thank you, Christopher.

BYRON: We now know that her cappuccino thing doesn't...

(CROSSTALK)

BUCHANAN: We want to thank you, Penelope.

PATSURIS: Thank you.

BUCHANAN: I'm sorry, Christopher. We'll give you more time at another time.

(LAUGHTER)

BUCHANAN: Las Vegas Mayor Oscar Goodman is catching some heat for telling some elementary school students about his favorite hobby.

Stay with us and find out what Mayor Goodman's hobby is right after this.

(APPLAUSE)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BEGALA: Las Vegas Mayor and frequent CROSSFIRE guest Oscar Goodman was talking to a group of fourth graders the other day. Someone asked him what he would want if he were stranded on a desert island. Mayor Goodman -- one of my favorites -- said a bottle of gin.

(LAUGHTER)

BEGALA: Bombay Sapphire, no doubt, if I know Oscar Goodman.

He also told the students one of his favorite hobbies is drinking alcohol.

(LAUGHTER)

BEGALA: The principal, a hand-ringer no doubt, calls Goodman's remarks inappropriate. But the mayor says, he ain't going to lie to schoolchildren.

(LAUGHTER)

(APPLAUSE)

BUCHANAN: You know, it's time for this mayor to retire to his cocktails, is all I got to say.

BEGALA: Well, I -- I love Oscar Goodman.

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

BUCHANAN: And from the right, I'm Bay Buchanan. Join us again next time for another edition of CROSSFIRE.

"WOLF BLITZER REPORTS" starts right now.

(APPLAUSE)

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