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CNN CROSSFIRE

America's Food Fight

Aired March 10, 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, James Carville and Paul Begala; on the right, Robert Novak and Tucker Carlson.

In the CROSSFIRE: John Kerry's visit to the doctor is all political, while other doctors say it's time for America to go on a diet. But should it be a law?

TOMMY THOMPSON, HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES SECRETARY: What we need to do is, we need people to start taking care of themselves.

ANNOUNCER: Do we need fewer calories, fewer fast-food lawsuits or more people minding their own business?

Today on CROSSFIRE.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

(APPLAUSE)

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

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

Scientists say that pretty soon more Americans will be dying of obesity than from smoking. Republicans are moving swiftly not to protect our kids' health, but to protect big corporations who are fattening up our children.

TUCKER CARLSON, CO-HOST: Of course it is the corporation's fault. But do we need the nanny state, or more to the point trial lawyers, deciding what we should and should not be allowed to eat?

We'll chew on that right after the best political briefing in television, our CROSSFIRE "Political Alert."

John Kerry met here in Washington with former Governor Howard Dean of Vermont. Aides say the Vermont fireplug plans to endorse Kerry some time in the next week. The question is, why would Dean do such a thing? He loathes John Kerry. He has said so many, many times.

During the primary, Dean derided Kerry as a weak-willed whiner, an indecisive wimp who -- quote -- "doesn't have the nerve to make tough decisions," a hack who has been bought and paid for by the special interests. Not only that, said Dean -- quote -- "Senator Kerry is insensitive to the plight of workers." Gasp. Then, just a few weeks ago, Dean went all the way.

He accused Kerry of being corrupt, someone who was surrounded by -- quote -- "ethically challenged advisers," like disgraced former Senator Robert Torricelli, who's been accused of having links to the mafia. Overall, Dean said Kerry is -- quote -- "just like George Bush." Now, why would Howard Dean ignore such a monster? Why would John Kerry accept an endorsement from someone who despises him? Interesting questions. Maybe the two will hold a press conference to explain it to the rest of us.

BEGALA: Look, it is a ritual of politics. Classy people who are good losers, like Howard Dean, like Bush 41, when he lost to Ronald Reagan. No one was more gracious, in fact, even joined the ticket.

CARLSON: No, but that's -- I agree with you.

BEGALA: I think that's a noble tradition in American politics that Dean is carrying out today.

(CROSSTALK)

CARLSON: Well, wait a second. Dean accused him of consorting with Robert Torricelli.

(BELL RINGING)

(CROSSTALK)

CARLSON: Wait. Is that true, though?

(LAUGHTER)

CARLSON: Oh, I guess it is true. OK.

(CROSSTALK)

BEGALA: You've interviewed Bob Torricelli. And I hope we do again.

Well, thief justice William Rehnquist told "The Today Show" this morning he's thinking about stepping down. He will, of course, be remembered as one of the finest legal minds of the 12th century.

(LAUGHTER)

BEGALA: Rehnquist was the only justice to support Bob Jones University's tax exempt status, despite its racist policies. And, as a clerk to the Supreme Court during the school integration case back in the '50s at Brown vs. Board of Education, Rehnquist wrote a memo supporting the racist 1896 ruling that affirmed racial segregation -- quote -- "I think Plessy vs. Ferguson was right and should be reaffirmed" -- unquote.

In confirmation hearings for the court, Rehnquist claimed that he was merely reflecting the views of his boss, Justice Robert Jackson, not his own. But Jackson voted to outlaw segregation in the Brown case and his longtime legal secretary said Rehnquist had -- quote -- "smeared the reputation of a great justice" -- unquote.

In his book, "The Rehnquist Choice," former White House counsel John Dean concludes that Rehnquist lied to the Senate in order to get confirmed. But at least he didn't lie about something important, like sex.

(LAUGHTER)

(APPLAUSE)

CARLSON: So it's all about -- it's all about justifying the Clinton years. I will say

(CROSSTALK)

BEGALA: No, it's about one of the worst justices in American history.

(CROSSTALK)

CARLSON: For the past 40 years, the left has -- essentially, anybody who disagrees with your policy positions, he's a racist. You don't like his position on abortion.

(BELL RINGING)

CARLSON: That's what it's really about. He's a racist.

BEGALA: He said Plessy vs. Ferguson was good, Tucker.

CARLSON: Look, I don't think anybody

(CROSSTALK)

BEGALA: Segregation was good, he wrote.

CARLSON: Actually, he didn't say that. And to say he's a racist is an outrage.

BEGALA: I didn't say racist. I said he supported a racist ruling.

(CROSSTALK)

CARLSON: OK.

BEGALA: He said Plessy vs. Ferguson was right and should be reaffirmed.

CARLSON: Well, despite the populist rhetoric, the Democrat Party has traditionally been funded by a very small group of very rich people, most of whom live in Hollywood. The GOP by contrast has a much larger base of middle-class donors. You'd never guess this from the talking points, but it's true. It's indisputably true. For this reason the McCain-Feingold campaign finance reform law, which sought to limit the influence of very rich people in politics, has hurt the Democratic Party. That's also indisputably true.

The Democrats' solution, ignore the law. As "The Washington Post" points out this morning, a group of left wing organizations led by the abortion lobby is spending millions on anti-Bush ads, in clear violation of McCain-Feingold. Here's the irony. Liberals, who claim to love campaign finance reform, aren't saying a single word about it. In other words, principles are fine, but when they get in the way of your political objectives, it's best to ignore them.

BEGALA: Mr. Justice Carlson, it is not at all clear that anybody's violating

(CROSSTALK)

BEGALA: ... the law here.

(CROSSTALK)

BEGALA: And I appreciate your ruling on the legal matter here, Tucker.

CARLSON: I don't think you need to be a Supreme Court justice

(CROSSTALK)

CARLSON: I'm for it. I'm for the ads. I'm for the ads. I think, if you have a political point of view, you ought to be able to express it, period.

BEGALA: Well, I agree with that.

(CROSSTALK)

CARLSON: However, liberals don't feel that way.

BEGALA: President Bush's party is suing to try to stop criticism of President Bush. That's the soul of Stalinism, is to try to censor and silence your critics. That's what Mr. Bush is trying to do.

(APPLAUSE)

CARLSON: Actually, I'll tell you the soul of Stalinism. I'll tell you the soul of Stalinism, is campaign finance reform.

(BELL RINGING)

CARLSON: Supported by your party and unfortunately by Bush, which seeks to limit people's ability to express their political views. It's an outrage and I'm glad that they're appealing it.

(APPLAUSE)

BEGALA: Well, CIA Director George Tenet told the Senate that he only learned last week that, back in August of 2002, Vice President Cheney's office was given information purporting to link al Qaeda terrorists with Iraq, inaccurate and misleading information, by the way, that was never cleared by the CIA.

The falsehoods reportedly came from something called the Office of Special Plans in the Pentagon. And today, in "Salon" magazine, a former lieutenant colonel for the Pentagon's Near East South Asia Policy Office writes that -- quote -- "The OSP was used to manufacture propaganda" -- unquote. Lieutenant Colonel Karen Kwiatkowski says she witnessed ideologues in that office -- quote -- "promulgate what were in fact falsehoods" -- unquote -- about Iraq and that -- quote -- "senior appointed civilians were willing to exclude or marginalize intelligence products that did not fit the agenda" -- unquote.

The colonel goes on to write in "Salon" -- quote -- "The reasons given to Congress and the American people for this war were inaccurate and so misleading as to be false, false by design"; 554 heroic Americans have died because of those falsehoods so far.

CARLSON: John Kerry must be pretty upset about voting for it.

I will say, did you movie to Washington like 20 minutes ago? Here we have George Tenet, the CIA director, saying, oh, my gosh I had no clue. It must be all Dick Cheney's fault. This is like laughable, Paul.

(BELL RINGING)

CARLSON: This happens every year here.

BEGALA: It's an amazing expose in "Salon."

(LAUGHTER)

BEGALA: Everyone should read it about how we were lied to into this war. It is a disgrace.

CARLSON: We had no idea. We had no idea.

BEGALA: It is a disgrace.

CARLSON: It was all lies. OK.

(APPLAUSE)

BEGALA: Well, does Ronald McDonald belong on the witness stand? Next, we'll have a political food fight over fast-food lawsuits.

And then later, what role can a TV star play in our country's fight against terrorism? We'll let you know after this.

(APPLAUSE) 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 CNN@gwu.edu. Now you can step into the CROSSFIRE.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CARLSON: Welcome back.

This afternoon, the House of Representatives serves up the Personal Responsibility in Food Consumption Act, otherwise known as the cheeseburger bill. It blocks junk lawsuits against junk food. The suit is accusing the food industry of making people fat against their will.

Government health officials, meanwhile, are complaining that Americans could and perhaps should eat less. Should we supersize the nanny state? That's our debate.

Here to engage in it, George Washington University law professor John Banzhaf, Michigan Republican congressman Mike Rogers.

Welcome.

BEGALA: Guys, good to see you.

(CROSSTALK)

(APPLAUSE)

BEGALA: Congressman, let me start with first the principles. Help me understand why our president, a very nice guy, who I happen to like -- he's from Texas.

(LAUGHTER)

BEGALA: Why does this man...

REP. MIKE ROGERS (R), MICHIGAN: I see that in a lot of your commentary.

(LAUGHTER)

BEGALA: No, honestly. He's a lovely guy. He's a horrible president, but he's a lovely guy.

(LAUGHTER)

BEGALA: Why -- help me understand why he wants to limit consumers' rights to sue big corporations who injure them when he became president because he filed a lawsuit? That's the only reason he's in there is because he won a lawsuit. Why can't the rest of us file lawsuits, too, if it's so good for him?

RODGERS: Consumer rights -- consumer rights will be protected. But this is a tax on jobs. (LAUGHTER)

ROGERS: And this is one of the most egregious examples that you can find.

JOHN BANZHAF, ATTORNEY: Even the audience is laughing.

(CROSSTALK)

BANZHAF: Even the audience is laughing.

ROGERS: Those are lawyers for John in his class I think right there waiting to happen right there.

(LAUGHTER)

(APPLAUSE)

BEGALA: Go ahead, sir.

RODGERS: Well, to give a great example, it takes 36,000 boxes of cookies that the Girl Scouts have to sell in Detroit, Michigan, just to pay their liability insurance. And what you're saying now is, lawyers want to make more money. They want to step up and say, look, you eating a lot of McDonald's and you're fat, it can't be your fault. You're sitting on the couch in that La-Z-Boy and you're not getting out and exercising, but it's McDonald's fault for going in and getting -- who cares if it's a biggie fries or a small fry or a big Coke or a small Coke.

(APPLAUSE)

(CROSSTALK)

ROGERS: This is about personal responsibility.

(CROSSTALK)

BANZHAF: It's not what those suits say.

BEGALA: Those are all important -- those are all important points. None of them were responsive to the question.

(CROSSTALK)

BEGALA: My question was about our president's hypocrisy. He sued his way into the White House, but he doesn't want consumers to protect their rights in courts. Help me defend that hypocrisy, Congressman.

(APPLAUSE)

ROGERS: There are two very, very, very different issues. You're talking about two different types of tort law.

And I think that the counselor here can certainly tell you that. (CROSSTALK)

BANZHAF: Yes, but your characterization of the suits is wrong.

ROGERS: No, it is not wrong. Absolutely, it is not wrong.

BANZHAF: Nobody's claiming McDonald's should be liable for all of it. There's only been one suit...

(CROSSTALK)

ROGERS: Just the money that goes in your pocket. That's right.

BANZHAF: ... that was tossed out. We've won five of these so- called fat lawsuits. And you're bill doesn't even touch it.

(CROSSTALK)

CARLSON: John Banzhaf. Wait, John F. Banzhaf III.

BANZHAF: Go ahead.

CARLSON: If I could just ask you a question.

Now, the one thing I like about you is, you have undisguised contempt for ordinary people.

(LAUGHTER)

CARLSON: Your contention is...

BANZHAF: No, no, just you.

(CROSSTALK)

CARLSON: Your contention

(CROSSTALK)

BANZHAF: I like the audience. They're cheering. They're laughing at this.

(CROSSTALK)

BANZHAF: Listen to them, Tucker.

CARLSON: Let me finish answering my -- rather, asking my question.

(CROSSTALK)

BANZHAF: Get to your question. Go ahead. OK.

CARLSON: Your contention is, people don't know that fats food makes you fat.

BANZHAF: That's not what I said.

CARLSON: I want to put two polls up on the screen, kind of demolish your case, weak as you're already is.

Is fast food good for you? No, say 78 percent of people asked.

(APPLAUSE)

CARLSON: Second question, do you think fast-food companies should be liable for the health problems of obese people? No, say 89 percent of people.

(APPLAUSE)

BANZHAF: No, you misquote that.

(CROSSTALK)

CARLSON: Now, apart from rich trial lawyers like you...

BANZHAF: You misquote that survey. That survey asked, are they the primary cause, 89 percent. Asked whether they were a major cause, 60 percent.

(CROSSTALK)

CARLSON: That's actually not what it says.

BANZHAF: Sixty percent said they are a major cause.

CARLSON: But you're evading the question.

BANZHAF: Well, why not let us tackle it out in court, rather than taking people's rights away?

CARLSON: Because I want your opinion.

(CROSSTALK)

BANZHAF: One lawsuit by one law professor is threatening these defenseless corporations like McDonald's.

(CROSSTALK)

BANZHAF: Come on! Come on!

(APPLAUSE)

CARLSON: Wait. Isn't there a principle here, John?

ROGERS: The average cost of a lawsuit to the American family of four is $3,000 a year. That's a tax on American families.

BANZHAF: What is the average cost of obesity, Congressman, quickly?

ROGERS: Well, you tell me

BANZHAF: You have no idea, do you? You're voting on this

(CROSSTALK)

BANZHAF: You have no idea.

(APPLAUSE)

ROGERS: Is that your fault or is it McDonald's fault?

(APPLAUSE)

BEGALA: Let me give you some of the -- first off, I suppose I should disclose, I own some minimal amount of stock in McDonald's, because I have a million children and they eat this garbage every day.

And here's what's going into them. Here's what it can cause. According to our own government, the Centers for Disease Control says these are health problems related to obesity, high blood pressure, high blood cholesterol, diabetes, heart disease, stroke, infertility, apparently a huge problem if you watch football games -- they advertise that stuff all the time.

(LAUGHTER)

BEGALA: Bladder control problems, stress incontinence, which I guess is -- Tucker pees his pants before every show, stress incontinence.

CARLSON: That's fear, though.

(CROSSTALK)

BEGALA: On and on. This is an enormous...

(CROSSTALK)

BEGALA: I know I'm making fun of it. I shouldn't. This is an enormous public health problem.

(CROSSTALK)

ROGERS: You really shouldn't. This is about lawyers making money. This has nothing to do with -- you know what? When he goes to sue McDonald's, he's going to make the majority of the money; $50 billion are at stake for lawyers. That isn't going to make one fat person skinny. It's not going to make McDonald's one bit healthier. It's not going to make America one bit healthier. It is going to make a lot more lawyers rich. And that's the unfortunate thing.

(CROSSTALK)

BANZHAF: Congressman, you're wrong.

ROGERS: No. BANZHAF: Just last week, McDonald's undid supersizing. McDonald's changed their Chicken McNuggets. Every -- every paper that I read says it is the cause of the lawsuits which is doing it.

ROGERS: So I go in and order two fries, which I get in trouble?

BANZHAF: It is the cause of the lawsuits which is doing it.

ROGERS: No.

BANZHAF: Congress hasn't done squat about obesity.

CARLSON: Lower your voice, John, please.

ROGERS: We are doing something about it. You want to stop the one thing which is doing something.

(CROSSTALK)

ROGERS: Suing McDonald's isn't going to make anybody skinny. Getting them off the couch is.

BANZHAF: It did with tobacco. We raised the price of tobacco. Consumption is plummeting.

ROGERS: Are you going to sue the gyms for not dragging me from my house to the gym?

(APPLAUSE)

(CROSSTALK)

BANZHAF: No, we're going to sue Congress for misrepresenting themselves.

CARLSON: But let's back to the bottom-line question here.

BANZHAF: Your thing is broken. Tell me about it.

CARLSON: And that is why people get fat. Isn't it true that we're not really sure, are we?

BANZHAF: No. We know exactly

(CROSSTALK)

CARLSON: We're not -- hold on. Let me finish my

(CROSSTALK)

CARLSON: Actually, we don't.

BANZHAF: Well, let me give you the answer, because if you don't know, you just shut up and you listen.

(LAUGHTER) BANZHAF: People get fat because they eat too much and don't exercise enough. Those are the reasons why people are fat.

CARLSON: Is that true?

(CROSSTALK)

BANZHAF: Why do they eat too much? Part of the reason is because they misrepresent the foods. They don't tell people what's in it. They don't provide the same warnings that other manufacturers do.

(CROSSTALK)

CARLSON: But wait a second. Nobody -- in the words of the U.S. District Court -- Robert Sweet, judge, he says -- and this says it all -- nobody is forced to eat at McDonald's. Nobody is contending the food is addictive or that anyone's eating there at gunpoint.

(APPLAUSE)

ROGERS: There it is.

CARLSON: It really is because you want to buy a new sports car.

(CROSSTALK)

BANZHAF: Tucker, read the rest of -- read the rest of the opinion. He says McDonald's should be liable because people go in there thinking that a Chicken McNugget...

CARLSON: Actually, he doesn't say that.

BANZHAF: Yes, he does.

CARLSON: I don't know what you're talking about. You know that's not true.

(CROSSTALK)

BANZHAF: You don't remember the

(CROSSTALK)

BANZHAF: I read the opinion. You haven't read it.

(CROSSTALK)

ROGERS: A fried piece of chicken is good for you? Who believes that?

BEGALA: Well, you know what -- what's not on here. If we were to go into the grocery store and buy any kind of packaged product, it would say the percentage of fat. It would say carbohydrates.

(CROSSTALK)

ROGERS: You can get all that.

BEGALA: No, I can't.

ROGERS: Absolutely.

BEGALA: Why not -- not to tell you how to do your job, but I am a taxpayer, so you guys do work for me.

(CROSSTALK)

BEGALA: Why doesn't Congress make these big corporations put a little logo on here, a little label that says, here's how much fat, how much salt, just arm us with information?

(APPLAUSE)

ROGERS: You can get that at the counter.

(CROSSTALK)

ROGERS: If we do that, will he stop suing Girl Scouts? That's what I want to know.

BANZHAF: Oh, come on.

(CROSSTALK)

BEGALA: Why not label the food?

ROGERS: You get this wacky label kind of thing going on.

This year alone, this year in Michigan, they had a wacky label contest for lawsuits, of which we all pay for. Everybody pays for that, every car, every tool for your home, every ladder.

BANZHAF: Why not take the information off the food then, Congressman?

ROGERS: Well, let me tell you. Well, it was a hook, fish hooks. This was the winning prize. Fish hooks came out and said, harmful if swallowed. Thank you very much. I really appreciate that. You've done a lot for your country.

(CROSSTALK)

(APPLAUSE)

BANZHAF: Hey, it's your state, buddy. If you don't think telling people about fat and calorie content is good, why don't you sponsor a bill to get it off food?

(CROSSTALK)

ROGERS: It's available. It's available on the counters. It's available on the counters.

BANZHAF: No, it's not.

ROGERS: And 89 percent of Americans understand its not good for you.

BANZHAF: In two-thirds of it, they were not there. And they're certainly not up on that menu. How many people have you ever seen go into McDonald's, oh, I think I'll look on the back wall while I figure out what I have? They look up on the menu board. They don't see what is there.

And, as this paper says today, a lot of people who are trying to get thinner are being tricked into buying salads.

(CROSSTALK)

ROGERS: You even said on your Web site that

(CROSSTALK)

BANZHAF: I'm glad you read my Web site.

ROGERS: I do. It was really fascinating -- and wrong, most of it.

(LAUGHTER)

ROGERS: You quoted -- you said that anything in moderation eaten in food is OK. Well, now, why would you go and sue McDonald's after your own words tell you.

(CROSSTALK)

ROGERS: That, I know if I eat that in moderation I'm going to be fine?

(CROSSTALK)

CARLSON: John Banzhaf, I want you to take a look at an ad put out in part by the Department of Health and Human Services about weight and about the crisis of obesity in this country. Here it is. This just came out.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, AD)

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: Can I help you, sir?

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: I found these over by the stairs.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: Love handles. Lots of people lose them taking the stairs instead of the escalator.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(LAUGHTER)

CARLSON: Now, the federal government is doing a pretty good job by itself scolding the rest of us about what we eat.

BANZHAF: They're doing nothing.

CARLSON: Why don't you

(CROSSTALK)

BANZHAF: Tucker, they didn't do anything about tobacco. We did it with lawsuits.

CARLSON: Why don't you take these cases pro bono? Then why don't you take them pro bono?

(CROSSTALK)

BANZHAF: I am. I have not made a penny out of any obesity litigation. I have not made a penny out of any tobacco torts litigation.

(CROSSTALK)

BANZHAF: To the extent that you argue, Congressman, that these are lawsuits that make we money

(CROSSTALK)

ROGERS: You're a member of

(CROSSTALK)

ROGERS: Making $200,000 a year from them, being funded by trial lawyers.

(CROSSTALK)

BEGALA: We'll be right back. We're going to let these guys continue to slug it out and maybe

(CROSSTALK)

BANZHAF: If you want to call me a liar on the air, I can sue you, because you're off the House floor, buddy.

(LAUGHTER)

BEGALA: Give me just a minute here. We're going to take a quick break. We'll get a little refreshing soft drink and maybe some fries for our guests.

And then, afterwards, we'll put them through our little fat-free "Rapid Fire."

And then, after the break, Wolf Blitzer will tell us about the new role being played by American troops in Haiti.

Stay with us. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

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

Coming up at the top of the hour, President Bush defends his economic program, but do the numbers bear him out? We'll hear from both sides.

U.S. Marines have a new role in Haiti. Is this part of the solution or is it mission creep?

And Iraqi athletes train for the Olympics. This time, the focus is on hope, not fear. Those stories, much more only minutes away on "WOLF BLITZER REPORTS."

Now back to CROSSFIRE.

BEGALA: Time now for "Rapid Fire," where we downsize the questions and answers in order to get a little more in. We're talking with Michigan Republican Congressman Mike Rogers and George Washington University law professor John Banzhaf.

CARLSON: Now, Professor Banzhaf, one of the reasons the tobacco cases worked is because tobacco is addictive. But there's no evidence fast food is addictive?

BANZHAF: Actually, if you read the new "Scientist," you'll find out there's lots of evidence. Addiction was not the only basis for the lawsuits. We brought many different lawsuits. We brought the price of tobacco up. We brought consumption down. We're now going to be using the same tactics on obesity.

BEGALA: Congressman Rogers, as a supporter of the death penalty, explain to me why you trust a jury to take a human life, but not to fine a corporation?

ROGERS: The difference is, it's legalized extortion. You're taking these cases -- they're winning more of these cases, unfortunately, or losing, but they're not

(CROSSTALK)

BEGALA: You don't trust juries. You trust a jury to kill a man or a woman, but you don't trust a jury...

ROGERS: The judges are throwing them out like crazy, but you know what? Every time they go in, it costs money.

BANZHAF: Congressman, there's only been one suit, one suit, one suit.

(CROSSTALK)

BANZHAF: ... losing all these suits. One suit.

ROGERS: But, John, you just told us you won five. How you'd do that?

BANZHAF: No, they're not the ones covered by your bill. Your bill is screwed up. They're not going to cover the suits we're winning.

CARLSON: Now, John, because of people like you, Burger King has now introduced something called the light combo. It is your goal to make all American food taste bad, isn't it?

(LAUGHTER)

BANZHAF: No, sir.

(CROSSTALK)

CARLSON: What is your goal? Why don't you leave people alone?

BANZHAF: It may be your -- it may be your goal to reduce the level of discussion to those kind of comments. My goal is to try to do about the problem of obesity what we did with the problem of tobacco.

(APPLAUSE)

BANZHAF: Yes, tell him. Tell him what you think of that kind of argument.

BEGALA: Congressman, I understand, we have this dispute on whether corporations should be held responsible in lawsuits. Can you give me any issue...

ROGERS: That's not the issue.

(CROSSTALK)

ROGERS: We're talking about, if I eat too much, do I get to sue somebody for it?

(LAUGHTER)

(APPLAUSE)

BEGALA: Tell me any issue on which you and the Republican Party support consumers against big corporations?

ROGERS: Well, absolutely.

(CROSSTALK)

BEGALA: Name one.

(CROSSTALK)

ROGERS: Let me tell you what. The litigation tax cost the average American family $3,000

(CROSSTALK)

BEGALA: Are corporations infallible or is there an issue on which you agree with consumers against corporations?

ROGERS: Sure. When we did the telecom stuff, I stood up for consumers when they have their right and ability to have local public service commissions handle the regulatory issues.

BANZHAF: And to win in court, to sue? That's what he's asking you. You're bucking the question.

ROGERS: No, regulations...

(CROSSTALK)

BANZHAF: I don't duck Tucker's question. You ducked

(CROSSTALK)

CARLSON: Actually, you haven't answered one of them, John Banzhaf. Maybe you can answer this one. Is there any sphere of American life into...

(BELL RINGING)

CARLSON: ... which you would not meddle and try to control?

(LAUGHTER)

(APPLAUSE)

BANZHAF: Sure. I think you can be -- as dumb questions as you want and you have a First Amendment right to do it. And the audience has a right to laugh at it.

CARLSON: Thank you.

(APPLAUSE)

BANZHAF: I support

(CROSSTALK)

CARLSON: Congressman Rogers, John Banzhaf, nice to have you very much. Thank you.

A delightful guest, you are.

(LAUGHTER)

CARLSON: OK.

Would you take career advice from a television actor? We'll show you why the government hopes you will right after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) CARLSON: Well, the CIA wants somebody, perhaps even you, on its Web site. It has posted a help-wanted ad, featuring none other than Jennifer Garner, who plays a CIA officer on the TV series "Alias." She says the CIA has important and exciting jobs, especially for people with foreign language skills. "It takes smart people," Garner says, "creative, innovative people with wide-ranging talents, integrity and courage."

That's you. The secret's out. Your government needs you.

Paul, I have seen CIA case officers. They're almost exclusively supermodels who kickbox, exactly like her.

(LAUGHTER)

BEGALA: Yes, but if you criticize President Bush, then the White House will leak your identity and then your whole career will be ruined.

(LAUGHTER)

CARLSON: I don't know what you mean, but the good news is...

BEGALA: That's a downside.

CARLSON: Yes, yes, that's right, because that's exactly what happens.

BEGALA: That is what happened. And somebody ought to go to prison for that. I'm sorry to get on my high horse, but that is treason.

CARLSON: You know what? They're in the middle of this terrible investigation.

(CROSSTALK)

BEGALA: President Bush 41 said it's right. It's treason to disclose the name of an undercover agent.

(APPLAUSE)

BEGALA: Well, 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" starts right now. Have a great night.

TO ORDER A VIDEO OF THIS TRANSCRIPT, PLEASE CALL 800-CNN-NEWS OR USE OUR SECURE ONLINE ORDER FORM LOCATED AT www.fdch.com


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