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Florida Ready For Election 2004?
Aired March 9, 2004 - 16:30 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ANNOUNCER: CROSSFIRE. On the left, James Carville and Paul Begala; on the right, Robert Novak and Tucker Carlson.
In the CROSSFIRE: It has sunshine, beaches, new touch-screen voting machines and it's a favorite destination of presidential candidates. Is Florida ready for prime time this time?
Today on CROSSFIRE.
ANNOUNCER: Live from the George Washington University, James Carville and Tucker Carlson.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
JAMES CARVILLE, CO-HOST: Welcome to CROSSFIRE.
Today's Florida voters are running to the scene of the crime, their local polling places.
TUCKER CARLSON, CO-HOST: But no matter who's counting, will Florida wind up in the Bush-Cheney column once again this fall? That's our debate right after the best political briefing in television, our CROSSFIRE "Political Alert."
CARVILLE: Now, feel the power of John Kerry. Yesterday, he said this:
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. JOHN KERRY (D-MA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: If the president of the United States can find the time to go to a rodeo, he can find the time to do more than one hour in front of a commission that is investigating what happened to America's intelligence.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CARVILLE: Today, the White House was brought to its knees by Kerry. The Bush administration signaled, the president may allow more than one hour of questioning. White House spokesperson Scott McClellan said the president would -- quote -- "answer all the questions they raised" -- unquote.
Keep doing it, Mr. Kerry. Maybe next, you can get President Bush to testify publicly. He's got the time to go to a rodeo, he's got the time to do this.
CARLSON: You know what? It's a shame to take an issue as important as this on which so much rides and turn it into a political spectacle...
CARLSON: ... spectacle by asking him to testify publicly. That is ludicrous. Why would you want that?
CARLSON: No, seriously.
CARVILLE: ... want to run a TV spot. You want to keep it very tasteful.
CARLSON: This is a serious -- actually, the spot wasn't untasteful.
CARLSON: But this -- but to turn an issue of this importance into a political spectacle
CARLSON: Would you even want the president to testify publicly? Don't you think there's something wrong with that?
CARVILLE: I don't see why he shouldn't.
CARLSON: But to do it in public, pointless.
CARVILLE: He'd want the people to know all of the decisive action he took prior to September 11.
CARLSON: Well, Attorney General John Ashcroft underwent gallbladder surgery a few hours ago to treat a potentially life- threatening case of pancreatitis. He's now recuperating a few blocks from here at the George Washington University Hospital.
At about the same time Attorney General Ashcroft was being wheeled into the operating room, the a liberal think tank, Clintonite Center For American Progress, was resurrecting a blood libel against him. In an e-mail sent out this morning, the center implies that Ashcroft knew about al Qaeda's plans to hijack commercial airliners before it happened and for that reason refused to fly in anything but private planes in the months preceding 9/11.
Strictly speaking, this charge is false. Ashcroft did stop flying commercial, but it was because of domestic, not terrorist threats. But it's worse than that. It is the ugliest possible conspiracy theory and it's a destructive one, too. If you don't like Ashcroft's policy, attack them, critique them. But don't accuse him or any other American of knowing about 9/11 in advance. It's just too much.
CARVILLE: Did they say it or they quoted someone else
CARLSON: No, actually, James, what they said was that the terrorist -- that the threat policy -- that he knew about the threat, but the threat policy was not announced
CARLSON: Exactly. That's the point.
CARVILLE: About the government, not the public.
CARVILLE: ... book is going to tell you when it comes out, everyone knew about the threat.
CARVILLE: The president was told of the threat.
CARLSON: You can shout all you want.
CARLSON: Because you can look it up on the CBS Web site. That summer, it was on the Web site. Get real.
CARVILLE: Let me show you a very interesting chart. It comes from today's great Paul Krugman column in "The New York Times." It shows how far off the Bush administration has been in forecasting job growth, not once, not twice, but three years in a row. According to the column, economic forecasting isn't an exact science, but wishful thinking on his scale is unprecedented, nor can the administration use its all-purpose excuse: All these forecast date from after 9/11. What you see in this chart is a signature of a corrupted policy process, in which political propaganda takes the place of professional analysis.
CARLSON: You know, James, I have said this before. I knew a lot of perfectly decent smart people who actually became mentally ill thanks to Bill Clinton. And you're seeing the exact process happening on the other side.
CARLSON: Paul Krugman has become so obsessed with Bush, he actually accused him of causing anti-Semitism in Malaysia. After that column, I have to say...
CARVILLE: You know what?
CARLSON: As much as I thought he was smart once upon a time, he's gone crazy. It's not worth reading.
CARVILLE: Let me say this. I think -- I think Paul Krugman might be the greatest living American.
CARLSON: You don't really believe that.
CARVILLE: I think he might be the greatest living American.
CARLSON: I am so sick.
CARVILLE: I have never seen a man with more courage, willing to speak out. And, you know, Paul Krugman was willing to speak out when everybody that dared to criticize him -- and he's been right about everything.
CARVILLE: Mr. Krugman, this country owes you a debt to which I don't think...
CARVILLE: ... we can ever repay you.
CARLSON: Really? Really?
CARLSON: He really is like Jim Garrison.
(CROSSTALK) CARVILLE: He's a great, great man.
CARLSON: Boy, it's just sad. There used to be serious people on the left. I don't know what happened to them.
Well, think about all that's wrong with American government today. Ask yourself this question. Is the basic problem that voters are just too serious and mature and informed? Well, that's the conclusion of California State Senator John Vasconcellos. The Northern California Democrat has introduced an amendment to the state's constitution that would lower to voting age of 14.
CARLSON: Ninth graders would get a quarter-vote. Tenth graders would get half. Vasconcellos calls the idea a matter of civil rights.
Here's the reasoning. First came the Civil War, then women's suffrage, now 14-years old in the ballot booth. Well, it makes sense, but why stop there? Why not 8-year-olds or how about kindergartners? Aren't they Americans, too? Indeed they are. And they are also, as one California Republican pointed out the other day -- "easily deceived by political charlatans," which, of course, is exactly why Democrats favor the amendment.
The great thing about childhood is, it's not very political. Let's keep it that way.
CARVILLE: You know how many co-signers he has on this piece of legislation?
CARLSON: I hope none.
CARVILLE: Well, then how do Democrats -- how do you say -- this one guy -- one guy puts an amendment in and you have the entire Democrat Party for it. It's ludicrous.
CARLSON: Here is -- this is an idea, actually, that Congressman Tim Penny, a federal congressman, no longer in the Congress, introduced a couple years ago.
CARLSON: The idea that children should be politicized is a liberal idea. And I just think it's wrong.
CARVILLE: You know what?
CARVILLE: They didn't lie to get us into a war that they have no idea how to get us out
CARVILLE: It might be a slightly silly idea, but they didn't kill anybody.
CARLSON: OK. All right.
Do you remember Florida? Democrats want to make that a battle cry. Will it work? The chads are gone, but what about the controversy? Coming up, what role will Florida play in November and which candidate for president will voters in the Sunshine State choose?
And why are so many politicians suddenly so interested in seeing you sweat? Shouldn't they get off your case and mind their own business? We'll debate it.
We'll be right back.
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 CNN.com/CROSSFIRE and sign up today.
CARLSON: Welcome back.
Well, if it's Tuesday, Democrats must be having a presidential primary somewhere. In today's case, there are four somewheres. They are Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Florida. The first three don't mean much. They're safely heading into the George W. Bush column this November, but what about the state of Florida?
To debate it, we're joined by two of the sunniest members of the Sunshine State's congressional delegation, two of our all-time favorite guests, Democrat Robert Wexler and Republican Ileana Ros- Lehtinen. REP. ILEANA ROS-LEHTINEN (R), FLORIDA: Thank you.
CARVILLE: Congresswoman, the chairman of the Federal Reserve Bank, of course, with approval in the Republican Party, said that they should cut taxes on millionaire TV talk show hosts like me and also, at the same time, cut Social Security benefits for middle-class people in Florida and around the United States. I notice it's not playing at all in Peoria. How is it playing in Pensacola or Plant City or Pompano Beach?
ROS-LEHTINEN: Well, I'll tell you what's not saying it.
CARVILLE: Are people in Florida rallying to the cause of tax cuts for the wealthy and Social Security cuts for middle-class people?
ROS-LEHTINEN: The people in Florida are rallying toward the economic message of President Bush, which is to eliminate the government strangulation of bureaucratic controls on small businesses, to make tax cut permanent, to make sure that we can help American families save more money, create more jobs, send their kids to college.
These are dreams of every American family. And I think that's why Florida's going to go to the Bush column because of the strong economic package, along with a good defense package that the president has.
CARVILLE: So you're saying...
CARVILLE: ... that Floridians approve of the economic policy that gives me a tax cut and cuts middle-class people's Social Security benefits, that this has got a lot of support all over the length and breadth of the great Sunshine State in, the Panhandle State, or whatever it is?
ROS-LEHTINEN: Well, as you know.
CARVILLE: This is what they want?
ROS-LEHTINEN: As you know, we are one of the states that has the largest number of senior citizens. And we will know in November, which is a state that has proven to be conservative in terms of economic policies and conservative in terms of defense policies also.
And that's why Floridians will reject a president like John Kerry, who has voted to slash funding for intelligence and then attacks this president for saying we're not using intelligence wisely, a president who has stood firmly and -- for our military and not gone both ways, like John Kerry has, consistency.
CARVILLE: I want to thank these old people in Florida for giving me my tax cut.
CARLSON: OK. All right.
CARLSON: Congressman Wexler, thanks a lot for rejoining us. We haven't seen you in a while, one of our favorite guests. Thanks.
Now, you were one of the first members of Congress to endorse Joe Lieberman in April of 2003. Good for you. But he, as you know, ran almost on the idea that he had national office stolen from him. In speech after speech, he said, essentially, they stole Florida from us. And it didn't work. He dropped out after New Hampshire. He was one of the first to drop out. This message that it was stolen from us doesn't work, does it?
REP. ROBERT WEXLER (D), FLORIDA: Well, facts are facts.
And I saw it with my own eyes. There were more voters that intended to vote for Al Gore than George Bush. I was with John Kerry yesterday in West Palm Beach. The energy for the Kerry campaign is enormous. And I would beg to differ with my good friend from Florida. Senator Kerry voted for $200 billion of increases in intelligence funding. What he didn't vote for was a slush fund for defense contractors like Halliburton.
CARLSON: Wait. Wait. Wait. Let's get back to Florida very quickly.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
CARLSON: You said -- you said facts are facts, meaning the election was stolen from Gore and Lieberman.
I want to read you the first paragraph of the definitive analysis of that election. It's from a multiple newspaper consortium. This is the lead of "The Miami Herald" piece November 2001 -- quote -- "Democratic Al Gore likely would have narrowly lost last year's presidential election even if he had gained the partial recounts of Florida's uncounted ballots that he sought."
WEXLER: No, the definitive study actually said that, if you counted all the votes in Florida, Al Gore would have had the most.
CARLSON: There is no study more definitive than this.
WEXLER: But you know what? No member of Congress knows his district like -- everybody knows their own district. I know that seniors who have grown up through the Depression, who have voted Democrat their whole life, 3,000 of them didn't vote for Pat Buchanan, Tucker, as much as you want to
CARLSON: Well, how do you know?
CARLSON: They love Pat down there. Come on.
WEXLER: "Miami Herald" -- "Miami Herald" two days ago had John Kerry up seven points in the state of Florida. The state of Florida is going Democratic.
The good news is, it won't even be close this time. We're probably going to win in a landslide. And that's why some of us want to count all the votes in Florida. We're going to court to count the votes. We want a paper trail, because we're not going to allow Jeb Bush and his brother to steal another one.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
CARVILLE: ... poll where Bush is getting 43 percent in Florida.
My question is this. Since George W. Bush has taken office, the dollar has collapsed. The deficit exploded. They've not created a single job. Health care costs have gone up by 14 percent. They've completely trashed the environment. And we can't get anybody to do anything around the world. My question is, how in the hell could 43 percent of the people in your state even say they're going to vote for this guy?
CARVILLE: What are they thinking?
CARVILLE: This has got to be the dumbest 43 percent in the world.
ROS-LEHTINEN: No, no, no, no, no, no, no.
It may be 43 percent now, but it's going to be 50 percent-plus come November. And I'll tell you why. The economy is improving. And even the Federal Reserve has said, in a report that was just issued, that the economy is coming back. And, as all of us know, the job indicator is one of the last ones to go -- ones to show an improvement.
Now, Robert was saying that facts are facts. And I'll tell you a couple of facts about John Kerry. As a senator, he filed two bills to decimate the intelligence community. And he did it in '94. He did it in '95. And this is after the first bombing of the World Trade Center. And now he's criticizing President Bush by saying we didn't have enough intelligence, when he was saying -- and saying on the Senate floor, the Cold War is over. Why is our intelligence budget mushrooming so?
And yet now he's attacking the president for intelligence failures.
ROS-LEHTINEN: It makes no sense.
CARLSON: That's an excellent point.
WEXLER: It is an excellent point. That's right.
ROS-LEHTINEN: It's double speak. And that's a fact.
ROS-LEHTINEN: Two bills. Two bills.
WEXLER: Fact. Fact.
ROS-LEHTINEN: Having nothing to do with Halliburton.
WEXLER: Fact, the nation's two largest intelligence failures in our history have occurred in the last 3 1/2 years. You would think this president would simply offer the American people a legitimate investigation, so we don't, God forbid, have it happen today.
ROS-LEHTINEN: Isn't it a fact that John Kerry has filed two bills, in '94 and in '95, more than $2 billion in cuts of the intelligence community?
WEXLER: No, no, no, no, no.
ROS-LEHTINEN: Facts are facts.
CARLSON: ... and get back to Florida very quickly here.
CARLSON: I just want to talk about how the race is going to play out in your home state. Democrats have real contempt for your state, as you know. James Carville, you just heard, described Florida voters as -- and I'm quoting now -- as -- quote -- "the dumbest in the world."
CARVILLE: Forty-three percent
CARLSON: Oh, I'm sorry, only half.
Here's what John Kerry...
CARVILLE: It's not half. It's 43 percent. That's not half, Tucker. That's a Republican
CARLSON: Here's what John Kerry said about your state. Feel the contempt.
He said this at Dartmouth January 26: "Everyone always makes the mistake of looking south toward Florida. Al Gore proved he could have been president of the United States without winning one Southern state, including his own." In other words, John Kerry to Florida: Drop dead.
WEXLER: No. No.
CARLSON: How can he win saying things like this about your state?
WEXLER: First of all, when people talk about the traditional South, they're not talking about Florida.
CARLSON: You're above the traditional South? It was part of the Confederacy. What are you talking about?
WEXLER: Look, Florida, is -- as Ileana and I both know, is a conglomeration of the whole country. Florida is a swing state. What John Kerry is saying is also fact. Al Gore could have won, of course, without winning any state in the traditional South. Had Al Gore won West Virginia and New Hampshire, that would have been the case.
CARLSON: No, he said, "People make the mistake of looking South." He's showing contempt. And, by the way, Florida is part of the South. I'm sorry if it embarrasses you, but it's true.
WEXLER: I was with John Kerry yesterday in Florida, in the South. He has nothing but passion and love for what's happening in Florida.
CARVILLE: I have a question. All right, you say that John Kerry wants to gut the whole intelligence thing. (CROSSTALK)
CARVILLE: Senator Bob -- you're saying that Senator Bob Graham, who is I think one of the great Americans of all time, who has passionately endorsed John Kerry, who knows more about intelligence than anything, is actually someone who wants to just gut the entire CIA?
ROS-LEHTINEN: Well, Bob Graham
CARVILLE: Senator Graham must be -- is he off his rocker?
ROS-LEHTINEN: Well, Bob Graham was intelligent enough not to get on John Kerry's foolish, reckless, irresponsible bill.
CARVILLE: Did Senator Graham endorse him?
ROS-LEHTINEN: Senator Graham did not endorse that bill.
CARVILLE: Did Senator Bob Graham of Florida endorse Senator Kerry?
CARLSON: He ran against him.
WEXLER: This is not a serious discussion. John Kerry is a war veteran who was tested under fire.
WEXLER: All this administration can do
ROS-LEHTINEN: What about his record as a senator?
WEXLER: Yes, $200 billion in increase.
CARVILLE: Can I ask a question? You were in Florida with Senator Kerry.
CARVILLE: Did Senator Graham not show up or is he for Senator Kerry? Could you just clear this up? WEXLER: No. No. Senator Graham has traveled throughout the state with Senator Kerry. Nobody knows, in Florida, intelligence
CARLSON: Sorry, we're almost out of time.
Very quickly, Congresswoman Ros-Lehtinen, do you think, if Senator Graham loved John Kerry so much, he would have run against him in the primary
ROS-LEHTINEN: That's right. If he thought that John Kerry was this wonderful person with the great ideas for economics, for defense, for the vision for after 9/11...
ROS-LEHTINEN: ... would he have run against John Kerry?
ROS-LEHTINEN: The answer is no.
WEXLER: You guys have lost so many jobs, you can't even talk about.
CARLSON: Thank you. We're going to take -- we're going to take a quick commercial break. We're very close to settling this, very close.
CARLSON: Congressman Robert Wexler of Florida, thank you very much.
Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, thank you.
ROS-LEHTINEN: Thank you. Thank you, Tucker.
CARLSON: All right, up next, it's your turn to fire back on whether Ralph Nader could be the deciding factor again in Florida. Keep your fingers crossed.
And right after the break, what is former U.N. weapons inspector Hans Blix saying about President Bush in his new book? Bet you won't read it, but Wolf Blitzer will tell you.
We'll be right back. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Wolf Blitzer at the CNN Center in Atlanta.
Coming up at the top of the hour, a potentially dangerous move by U.S. Marines in Haiti. We'll tell you what they're planning to do and about the concerns on the ground right now.
The Pentagon says a notorious terrorist dies of natural causes in U.S. custody, a name you definitely will recognize.
And a former U.N. weapons inspector comes out firing against President Bush and Tony Blair, details on a new book by Hans Blix -- those stories, much more, only minutes away on "WOLF BLITZER REPORTS."
Now back to CROSSFIRE.
CARLSON: Welcome back to CROSSFIRE.
Time for our own experiment in radical democracy and experience, where we open it up to questions.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: How do you think the entry of Ralph Nader will affect the outcome of the election in Florida this November?
CARLSON: Well, some of us are rooting for Mr. Nader pretty strongly. We intend to have him on CROSSFIRE and buck him up a little bit.
CARLSON: I have to say, though, I don't think he's going to have a huge effect. The Democratic Party has moved left. There's less reason for Ralph Nader.
Obviously, Tucker is very enthusiastic, as are -- all the people that clapped for Ralph Nader were Republicans in the audience.
CARLSON: Of course.
CARVILLE: And the reason is because they know Bush can't get reelected on their own. And they're hoping Ralph Nader can help him. And that's fine.
CARVILLE: You know, you need hope. Ralph Nader's the only hope you got. You hope for Ralph Nader. I understand that.
CARLSON: There are still people in this country who vote out of principle rather than political expedience. Vote for the guy you believe in, no matter who it is. If it's Ralph Nader, vote.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hi, my name is Nick Webb (ph) from Algona, Iowa.
If John Kerry were to pick Senator Bob Graham from Florida, would he be able to carry the state?
CARLSON: Possibly. He may carry it anyway. I actually sort of agree with Congressman Wexler that the state is probably becoming more Democrat, maybe slightly more. It was pretty close last time, as you may remember. Yes, that could help. I think Senator Graham has his own problems. Senator Graham moved way left during the primary season.
CARVILLE: I think -- I think Senator Graham is one of the great Americans. I think that Senator Kerry will carry for Florida regardless. But Senator Graham would certain help. And, therefore,, I think he would make not just a superb vice president, but a superb president.
CARLSON: Boy, I don't see -- I don't think there's evidence for that at all.
CARVILLE: Well, we like Senator Graham.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hi. I'm Ford Basiri (ph) from Tallahassee, Florida.
Do you gentlemen think that voter turnout will increase in that Florida, specifically because of the previous outcome?
CARLSON: I would think so.
CARVILLE: Yes. It will increase.
CARVILLE: There will be a huge voter turnout.
CARLSON: Yes. There are a lot of Democrats who think the president is there illegitimately.
CARLSON: And it seems to me, if you think that, you ought to be trying to wage a coup. If you don't think this president is not really the president, you ought to start a revolution.
CARVILLE: I think he's really the president, but I think he was put in there by Scalia and Rehnquist and that whole crowd of bandits they got up there at the Supreme Court.
CARLSON: Then I think you ought to start a revolution, then, because that's not just a talking a point. That's a big deal.
CARVILLE: You know what? Bam.
CARVILLE: The revolution has started right here.
CARLSON: What does your governor want you to do after work today? You won't believe it, but we're going to tell you anyway.
We'll be right back.
CARLSON: Welcome back.
Well, inactive citizens, beware. You know who you are. The nanny state has tied on its cross-trainers and is coming for you. Anywhere you look, elected officials are nagging, haranguing, and preaching the joys, the supposed joys anyway, of weight loss to their bewildered constituents.
A few examples, Georgia's governor has thrown away his Snickers bars, ruefully. Michigan's governor and lawmakers have taken to wearing devices to measure the number of steps they take. They've got some free time. And in Texas, the governor wants people to train for a six-mile race. South Carolina's governor, meanwhile, is even going farther. He's heading up a 300-mile bike ride.
Nothing wrong with exercise. But I have to say, my free time and the free time of any citizen is sort of that citizen's business. Maybe government can leave one sphere where they just leave you alone.
CARVILLE: They're not making you do it. I think it's fine.
CARLSON: Stop preaching.
CARVILLE: If the governor wants to have a bike ride or the governor wants to have a six-mile run, as long as they're not passing a law saying you got to do it, it's a nice thing.
CARLSON: The idea that you're using your time in public office to sit and preach to people about how to spend -- a lot of people are really busy. they don't have Secret Service details to get their dry cleaning for them.
CARVILLE: Then don't go run six miles. Stay home. They're not making you do it.
CARLSON: They're not. I'm just saying -- I'm not saying it's a crime. I'm saying it's annoying.
CARVILLE: They have the choice to be fat. You have the choice to be stupid, which you are.
CARVILLE: From the left, I'm James Carville. That's it for CROSSFIRE.
CARLSON: From the right, I'm Tucker Carlson.
And so concludes another high-toned edition of CROSSFIRE. Join us again tomorrow for yet another.
Stay tuned for "WOLF BLITZER REPORTS." Have a great night.
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