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CNN CROSSFIRE

Bush, Kerry Battle on Multiple Fronts

Aired March 26, 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: The Bush-Kerry battle is being fought on many fronts, from campaign speeches.

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: First, our economy is growing. It's strong and it's getting stronger.

SEN. JOHN KERRY (D-MA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The truth is, this president doesn't have a record to run on, but a record to run from.

ANNOUNCER: To Capitol Hill hearing rooms.

RICHARD CLARKE, FORMER COUNTERTERRORISM ADVISER: I think it's a question of politics.

ANNOUNCER: Democrats are trying to unite their forces, as the president comes under fire for comments he made about the search for weapons of mass destruction.

Today on CROSSFIRE.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

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

(APPLAUSE)

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

While the Bush administration is trying to destroy Richard Clarke for daring to tell the truth about President Bush's failings on foreign policy, Democrat John Kerry was talking about the president's failures on domestic economic policy with a strikingly new and moderate plan to create 10 million new jobs.

TUCKER CARLSON, CO-HOST: As if.

Does even a single American believe that John Kerry is capable of -- quote -- "creating" 10 million new jobs? Of course not. That's part of our debate, more on that in a moment.

But, first, the best political briefing in television, our CROSSFIRE "Political Alert."

Well, as we mentioned, John Kerry has a brand new plan to create jobs, cut taxes for the rich. In a speech in Detroit today, Kerry promised to cut the corporate tax rate from 35 percent to 33 percent as an incentive for companies to bring jobs back to the U.S. from overseas. But hold on a minute. Aren't these the very same companies that Kerry has repeatedly accused of being -- quote -- "Benedict Arnold" corporations, traitors to America? That's right.

But rather than sending them to prison, Kerry now wants to reward them. John Kerry says his plan would create 10 million new jobs. This is a joke and he knows it or he should know it. America has lost manufacturing jobs for many reasons, free trade, endless regulation, the cost of lawsuits, higher wages, and productivity. The list goes on and on. It is a complex problem that's probably beyond the power of any president to solve.

John Kerry won't admit this, of course, but he should at least try to be kind of consistent. You can punish Benedict Arnold corporations or you can reward them. You don't do both. Pick one, John Kerry.

BEGALA: Well, first off, he has. What he is going to do is remove the tax incentives for shipping jobs overseas and replace them with sound tax incentives to create jobs.

CARLSON: Tax cuts for the rich. I understand.

(CROSSTALK)

CARLSON: This is a tax cut for the rich, Paul. That's exactly

(CROSSTALK)

BEGALA: It's a very moderate -- it's a very moderate, pro-jobs, pro-business plan. But we're no longer going to do what Bush does, which is subsidize the export of American jobs. We'll subsidize the creation of American jobs.

(BELL RINGING)

(APPLAUSE)

(CROSSTALK)

CARLSON: Maybe there could be at least one principle, just one, that John Kerry believes in, just one.

BEGALA: That's an important principle, creating jobs. That's one.

Well, President Bush yesterday repeated the spin that if only his administration had known that there was a plan to use planes as weapons, he would have done more to stop it. But, in a blockbuster story, "Salon" magazine today reveals that a former FBI translator has testified to the 9/11 Commission that the Bush administration indeed have what "Salon" calls -- quote -- "detailed information prior to September 11, 2001, that a terrorist attack involving airplanes was being plotted" -- unquote.

The translator herself told "Salon" -- quote -- "There was specific information about use of airplanes, that an attack was on the way two or three months beforehand, and that several people were already in the country by May of 2001. They should have alerted the people to the threat we were facing" -- unquote.

Now, Republican Senator Charles Grassley for one has once described this translator as -- and I'm quoting Senator Grassley here -- quote -- "very credible." I just wish I could say the same thing about George W. Bush.

CARLSON: Well, good luck with this one, Paul. I believe Howard Dean already tried this, suggesting, claiming that President Bush had knowledge of 9/11, but failed to act on it. It's a disgusting

(CROSSTALK)

BEGALA: I said a translator. I said the administration had information.

CARLSON: That's exactly what the implication is. They knew or had reason to know that this crime was

(CROSSTALK)

BEGALA: So she's lying? Is she is a disgruntled former employee? Is she a Democrat? Let's attack her. Let's wheel out the attack machine, Tucker.

(BELL RINGING)

CARLSON: All I'm saying...

BEGALA: Someone else told the truth.

CARLSON: I'm saying it's an extremely heavy allegation. And to throw it around is irresponsible.

BEGALA: It's an important news story.

CARLSON: In "Salon" magazine.

BEGALA: Salon.com.

(CROSSTALK)

CARLSON: We'll find out where it goes. Good luck with that one.

Well, millions of pregnant women may be surprised to learn that John Kerry doesn't believe they are carrying children. That's right. John Kerry made a rare appearance in the Senate yesterday to vote against a bill that would make it a separate federal crime to murder a pregnant woman and her baby. Why did John Kerry do this? Well, because protecting children would set a dangerous precedent, or, as Kerry himself put it -- quote -- "would clearly impact a woman's right to choose."

In other words, outlawing the murder of a child, even moments before he is born, at the point at which no one denies that it is, in fact, a child, is bad because it might endanger the holy sacrament of abortion. And so John Kerry is forced to pretend that babies are somehow not human.

This is grotesque logic. It's also unspeakably cruel, something that all of us in America will be deeply ashamed of 50 years from now. And on some level, John Kerry must be ashamed of his vote even now and he should be. I'm not much for moral outrage, Paul. This actually is outrageous.

BEGALA: Well, first off, it is the politics of abortion. States should make these laws, not the federal government.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

BEGALA: You don't need a federal law on this.

CARLSON: That's a total -- that's a total

(CROSSTALK)

BEGALA: I happen to think it's a good idea for states to punish the murder of an unborn baby.

(CROSSTALK)

BEGALA: I think it's a good states

(CROSSTALK)

BEGALA: But for the feds to get in the middle of this, it's political grandstanding. That's what is going on right now.

(APPLAUSE)

CARLSON: You know what? That's the most disingenuous thing I've heard this week.

BEGALA: No, it's not. It's not a federal issue.

CARLSON: The Senate of the United States passes moral statements every single day.

(BELL RINGING)

(CROSSTALK)

CARLSON: And to say that killing children -- to say that killing children is wrong, I think we can agree on that. John Kerry can't.

BEGALA: So it's a new federal crime? CARLSON: He's going to regret this. He's going to regret this.

BEGALA: If I murder you, it's not a federal offense.

CARLSON: Actually, it can be a federal offense.

BEGALA: If you were a federal agent

(CROSSTALK)

BEGALA: ... in the line of duty.

(CROSSTALK)

CARLSON: But I can't believe you'd want to defend this.

BEGALA: No.

CARLSON: I think it's an outrage.

BEGALA: No, I think the Republicans are playing abortion politics

(CROSSTALK)

CARLSON: No, they're not. They should be playing abortion politics. They're not because they're cowardly. That's why.

BEGALA: Well, families of soldiers who have been killed in President Bush's war in Iraq are outraged that Mr. Bush is actually making jokes about the lack of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BUSH: Those weapons of mass destruction got to be somewhere.

(LAUGHTER)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BEGALA: George Medina of Orange County, New York, for one, is not amused. His son, Specialist Irving Medina, was killed serving our country in Baghdad -- quote -- "This is disgraceful," Medina told "The New York Daily News." quote: "He doesn't think of all the families that are suffering. It's unbelievable how this guy tries to run the country" -- unquote.

You know, I was honored yesterday to speak to cadets and professors at the United States Military Academy at West Point. And one colonel who I spoke to was not laughing at all. "I've been to too many funerals at the cadets cemetery," he told me. Funny, Mr. Bush hasn't attended a single funeral. Maybe that's why he's making jokes about it.

(CROSSTALK)

CARLSON: No, actually, I don't think he's making jokes. Paul, look...

BEGALA: It speaks to character.

CARLSON: I think -- I think if the president was getting up there and somehow joking about all the men who've been killed in Iraq and some women unfortunately who have been killed in Iraq, that would be revolting. This is clearly a speech in which he's making jokes. You could say it was wrong of him to do it. But to get hyper self- righteous about it and to say it gets to his character....

BEGALA: It's wrong because these families are insulted.

CARLSON: It's ridiculous.

(CROSSTALK)

BEGALA: The fact that he won't go to a funeral, but he will make jokes about it, yes, it goes to character.

(BELL RINGING)

CARLSON: Lighten up, Paul. I don't think in any way he's mocking the families.

(CROSSTALK)

BEGALA: He should go to one of those heroes' funerals. He owes them that.

CARLSON: Well, that's a separate -- this is so -- talk about demagoguery.

(APPLAUSE)

(CROSSTALK)

BEGALA: When we come back, John Kerry breaks his silence on Richard Clarke's explosive new book. We will ask our guests about Senator Kerry's comments and more next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(APPLAUSE)

BEGALA: Welcome back to CROSSFIRE.

As Senator John Kerry pointed out today, President Bush doesn't have a record to run on, but rather a record to run from. At last check the president has ran as far as Arizona, where he talked to supporters today. But here in Washington, folks are still buzzing about allegations of incompetence and even dishonesty made by Mr. Bush's former top terrorism aide before the 9/11 Commission.

Here in the CROSSFIRE to debate it all, Republican strategist Charlie Black, along with Kerry campaign senior adviser Tad Devine.

Guys, good to see you.

(CROSSTALK)

CARLSON: Tad, thanks for coming. I want to hit you with the weaselist thing I've heard this week. Now, the Dick Clarke story has been the center of the news...

TAD DEVINE, SENIOR JOHN KERRY CAMPAIGN ADVISER: Right.

CARLSON: ... the center of the presidential race. John Kerry finally asked about it today. He said, not only had he not read the book, but he hadn't even...

DEVINE: Yet. Yet.

CARLSON: Yet.

(CROSSTALK)

CARLSON: But he hadn't even heard the testimony. He didn't know enough to make really any judgment at all.

And, instead here's what he said: "My challenge to the Bush administration would be, if he is not believable" -- that is Clarke -- "and they have reason to show it, then prosecute him for perjury, because he's under oath. They have a perfect right to do that."

In other words, if the Bush administration doesn't like what Clarke says, throw him in jail. What is Kerry's position on the claim that the White House knew about 9/11 and didn't stop it?

DEVINE: His position is that we should let the 9/11 Commission do its work, you know? And it could do its work if Condoleezza Rice, for example, appeared under oath and testified.

(APPLAUSE)

DEVINE: That's -- that's really -- we should get to the bottom of this. This is the worst terrorist attack against America in history.

(CROSSTALK)

DEVINE: Instead of cooperating, this president has done everything to delay and...

CARLSON: So what you're saying is, not only can he not take a position on the Spanish election, the single most important foreign policy development this year or really the war in Iraq, but he can't even judge claims that are made in public that everyone's talking about? He can't talk about them for some reason?

(CROSSTALK)

DEVINE: He talked very directly about it.

Listen, Tucker, we should get to the bottom of this and we could if this administration cooperated, instead of stonewalled, OK?

(APPLAUSE)

DEVINE: And that's all they did. They have stonewalled all the way.

CHARLIE BLACK, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: She's already been up there for four hours and she's going to go back for as long as they want.

(CROSSTALK)

BEGALA: But Dr. Rice has never testified under oath about this, Dr. Rice being the president's national security adviser. But she has written an op-ed. She began this week with an op-ed in "The New York Times" in which she says among other things that there was no intelligence on a plot to use airplanes.

Now we have a former FBI translator who says that's false. She also said that the plan for al Qaeda before 9/11 included military attacks. Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage also under oath said, no, that was false. So she told two lies in 500 words. Can you name me two lies in Dick Clarke's 50,000 word book? I haven't found any.

BLACK: Well, first of all, what she said was nobody in the White House knew that there were plans to use airplanes as missiles.

Now, maybe the FBI knew it. Even Dick Clarke didn't claim that he told Condi or the president that. Nobody knew it. Let's talk about the facts. Let's talk about Mr. Clarke for a minute.

(CROSSTALK)

BEGALA: Well, no, no, I want to talk about Dr. Rice. Why won't she testify under oath before the 9/11 Commission? Doesn't she owe that to us as an officer of the United States government?

BLACK: Most people -- most people in this town, Republican and Democrat alike, believe her and trust her.

(CROSSTALK)

BEGALA: No, they don't. She's a liar. She lied twice in "The Washington Post" op-ed.

CARLSON: Whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa.

(APPLAUSE)

BEGALA: Well, sir, they don't. I'm sorry. She's a proven liar. She should testify under oath.

BLACK: She's not a proven liar. I just knocked the one point down.

BEGALA: The secretary of -- undersecretary of state says she is.

BLACK: Look, what they were talking about was the five suggestions that Mr. Clarke made to Condi Rice and the president. They implemented all five, now, not at the suggestion of Mr. Clarke. The president on his own said, I want a strategy, a comprehensive strategy not just to roll back al Qaeda, but to eliminate al Qaeda. And they put all the agencies to work with a complex, strategic plan.

Unfortunately, that plan got back in September, too late to stop 9/11. That's what Armitage was talking about. Use of military force kicked in after 9/11. In 60 days, the Taliban was gone, we controlled Afghanistan, al Qaeda was on the run. Since then, we've eliminated two-thirds of the al Qaeda leadership, disrupted their finances. Al Qaeda is crippled. They're not gone, but they're crippled.

BEGALA: That's actually not what Secretary Armitage testified to.

CARLSON: Now, Ted, I'm not going to give you...

(APPLAUSE)

(CROSSTALK)

CARLSON: ... an opportunity to call members, senior members of the White House staff, -- quote -- "proven liars."

Instead, I'm going to ask you about John Kerry's speech today.

DEVINE: Sure.

(CROSSTALK)

CARLSON: About how he's going to create 10 million new jobs. Obviously, he can't do that. There's a lot of evidence instead that he's going to -- his policies would take jobs away.

DEVINE: Maybe Bush can't do it, but Kerry can certainly

(CROSSTALK)

(LAUGHTER)

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

CARLSON: Well, I want to give you -- I want to actually -- don't listen to me. Listen to the United Auto Workers, a labor organization which has endorsed Senator John Kerry. Here's what they say about his new CAFE standards that he's proposing -- and I'm quoting now -- new fuel efficiency standards.

"These provisions could result in the loss of thousands of additional automotive jobs in this country." I think virtually everyone who studied the question agrees with that. If his own supporters think his policies are going to kill American jobs, I don't need -- I don't even need to make the argument, do I? DEVINE: Tucker, you always like to say John Kerry blows with the wind. CAFE is a tough issue...

(CROSSTALK)

CARLSON: But he's wrong

(CROSSTALK)

DEVINE: ... in a state like Michigan.

But he's taken a position and he's sticking to it because he believes in it. He has a plan to create 10 million new jobs in this country. And it can be done if we have a president who cares more about creating jobs than creating profits for corporations.

OK, that's a big difference between these two candidates for president.

(APPLAUSE)

(CROSSTALK)

DEVINE: It's a comprehensive plan and it targets American companies that are shipping jobs overseas.

CARLSON: In one sentence, tell me the sectors -- tell me the sectors in which those 10 million jobs will be created.

DEVINE: Mostly manufacturing.

CARLSON: Mostly. Oh.

DEVINE: Because it's going to assist manufacturing. He's got a tax credit for manufacturers. He's got a whole plan to invest in manufacturing and education and health care and small businesses, too, which desperately needs help, what this administration has turned its back on.

(CROSSTALK)

BLACK: How's raising taxes on small businesses going to create

(CROSSTALK)

DEVINE: Ninety-nine percent of the businesses in this country get a tax cut from John Kerry's plan. That's fact.

BEGALA: This is part of the Bush strategy and it is part of politics -- and I think it's fair -- is to attack John Kerry.

(CROSSTALK)

BEGALA: But what's remarkable is not what the president says about his political opponents. And I think that's fair game in a campaign, OK? It's what he says about his own people from his own administration. Let me put up a list of people who've been attacked by the Bush attack machine who come right out of the Bush administration, Paul O'Neill, who was secretary of the treasury, viciously attacked, Joseph Wilson, an ambassador under Bush's father, viciously attacked, Lawrence Lindsay attacked and fired for telling the truth about the cost in Iraq.

Anthony Zinni dumped from his job as coordinator in the Middle East because he told the truth about the Iraq war. Eric Shinseki, the Army chief of staff, viciously attacked by Paul Wolfowitz for telling the truth about the occupation. Richard Foster, the chief Medicare actuary, says that he was intimidated into withholding information from Congress. And John DiIulio, a top domestic policy adviser, savagely attacked when he told the truth about what called the Mayberry Machiavellis in the Bush White House.

Now, that's quite a list of people that the president and his team have attacked, isn't it Charlie?

DEVINE: Richard Clarke, too.

BEGALA: Well, Richard Clarke most obviously.

(CROSSTALK)

BLACK: Let me get this straight. You, the co-creator of the war room rapid response operation, don't think the president and the White House ought to defend themselves when they're under attack?

(APPLAUSE)

BEGALA: That's not defending.

BLACK: Is that what that is?

BEGALA: That's attacking. That's attacking patriotic Americans, including two very senior generals who committed the sin of criticizing the president.

BLACK: Well, I think we'll continue to believe in good debate under the First Amendment.

Let's talk about Kerry's plan, though. Let me get this straight.

BEGALA: OK.

BLACK: John Kerry's going to cut taxes on big corporations while he's raising taxes on small businesses and individuals by $1 trillion and that's going to create jobs? Right.

CARLSON: Amen.

(APPLAUSE)

CARLSON: OK. Well, on that -- on that very true note, we're going to take a quick break. We'll be back just momentarily.

Bill Clinton says Democrats have a lot to learn from Howard Dean. But Howard Dean is insane, remember? We'll ask our guests about that next in "Rapid Fire."

DEVINE: I don't think that was on the card.

(LAUGHTER)

CARLSON: Plus, the political fight over Dick Clarke's testimony may be turning into a fight over classified documents. The latest right after the break.

We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MILES O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Miles O'Brien in Washington.

Coming up at the top of the hour, the gloves are off in the political battle over the 9/11 attacks with a move to take the wraps off some secret testimony.

The jurors just can't get along and the judge in the Tyco trial tells them to get over it.

And Wolf goes one-on-one with music mogul Sean "P. Diddy" Combs. You won't want to miss that. Those stories and much more just minutes away on "WOLF BLITZER REPORTS."

Now back to CROSSFIRE.

CARLSON: Welcome back.

It's time for "Rapid Fire" where as usual, we're taking the lead from Senator Kerry, promising to create 10 million new questions.

(LAUGHTER)

CARLSON: Here to answer them are Kerry campaign senior adviser Tad Devine and Republican strategist Charlie Black.

BEGALA: Charlie, my buddy Michael Sheehan (ph) called me today with the smartest question I have ever heard. I wish I had thought of it.

He said, since the White House approves the release of the name of the confidential source Dick Clarke for a briefing back in 2002, will the White House approve the name of the source for Bob Novak who outed that CIA agent in an act of treason? Shouldn't they do the same thing for that leaker?

BLACK: Well, the...

(APPLAUSE)

BLACK: The reporter involved there went along with it. We can't ask other reporters to divulge their confidential sources.

BEGALA: So Fox News is your sort of hand puppet and so

(CROSSTALK)

BLACK: It was up to Fox.

CARLSON: Now, Tad, "The Boston Globe" today has a story about John Kerry's testimony when he was head of Vietnam Veterans Against the War in which he called his fellow veterans that year murderers for killing...

DEVINE: No, he didn't. That's false.

CARLSON: Actually, he said, 200,000 Vietnamese people were -- quote -- "being murdered by the United States of America." How do you account for that? That's a pretty tough thing to say, isn't it?

DEVINE: Tucker, not only was John Kerry a hero in Vietnam and the war, he came back and demonstrated the courage to stand up to his own country and his own government against it. And I think the leadership that he demonstrated...

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

CARLSON: Calling the United States government murderers?

DEVINE: .. is one of the principal reasons that he should be elected president of the United States.

CARLSON: So you're standing by this?

(CROSSTALK)

DEVINE: Absolutely.

(CROSSTALK)

BEGALA: Charlie, Dick Cheney says that Richard Clarke was out of the loop on terrorism. Condoleezza Rice said he was at every meeting. Who's lying, Cheney or Rice?

BLACK: Well, she said that he was in every meeting of the people at his level. The first meeting in the morning is the president, the vice president, Condi Rice, George Tenet and Andy Card. He was not in those meetings.

(CROSSTALK)

BEGALA: So the chief of terrorism was out of the loop? Cheney is telling the truth?

BLACK: The president took a number of actions, including...

BEGALA: What does that say about their management? BLACK: The president took a number of actions, including asking Pakistan to get the Taliban to throw al Qaeda out three weeks into the administration, apparently without Clarke knowing it. And, by the way, I'm glad you didn't say Novak was a hand puppet of the Bush administration.

(LAUGHTER)

BEGALA: Well, he's not.

CARLSON: Now, Tad, last night, former President Clinton heaped praise on Howard Dean at this fund-raider, saying, "It is Dean who legitimized it for the rest of us to say what we think." As you know, Howard Dean, at best, was a completely loose cannon. Do you really want your candidate and other Democrats to emulate his style?

DEVINE: I think what he did was remarkable in the nominating process.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

DEVINE: And we've got a lot to learn from the way that he brought people into this party.

(BELL RINGING)

DEVINE: So, yes, he's an important contributor and I think he's going to help to defeat George Bush.

CARLSON: Amen. I hope we see a lot of Howard Dean.

(CROSSTALK)

CARLSON: That is terrific.

(APPLAUSE)

(CROSSTALK)

CARLSON: Charlie Black, Tad Devine, thank you very much.

Well, he's a heavyweight in the boxing business. Now the king of promoters is turning to politics. We'll tell you who he's getting into the ring with next.

We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CARLSON: Well, Retired Bishop Thomas O'Brien, the man convicted last month of leaving the scene of a fatal hit-and-run accident, has learned his fate in a Phoenix courtroom just moments ago. Here's the judge's sentence.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) JUDGE STEPHEN GERST: ... order. The defendant will be placed on supervised probation in this case for the longest period allowed by law, which will be four years.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CARLSON: OK. There's the end of that story, one of the more depressing to come through here in a long time.

BEGALA: On a happier note, I mentioned earlier I was at West Point yesterday. I was in the company of heroes. And the day before that, the Secret Service had me out to their training academy in Beltsville, where they had a new class of Secret Service agents.

CARLSON: Do they have a training center for politeness? Because I think they need one.

BEGALA: They have people who will save our president's life. They are heroes of the first rank.

CARLSON: If they could get better manners, that would be nice, too, I think.

BEGALA: God bless their service.

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

CARLSON: And from the right, I'm Tucker Carlson.

Join us again Monday for yet more CROSSFIRE.

"WOLF BLITZER REPORTS" starts right now. Have a great weekend.

(APPLAUSE)

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