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More U.S. Troops in Iraq?

Aired April 5, 2004 - 16:30   ET


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

In the CROSSFIRE: Coping with violence and continued opposition in Iraq.

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We've got to stay the course. And we will stay the course.

ANNOUNCER: Should the U.S. send in more troops?

SEN. EDWARD KENNEDY (D), MASSACHUSETTS: Iraq is George Bush's Vietnam, and this country needs a new president.

ANNOUNCER: Plus, Tucker Carlson puts his reputation in jeopardy.



ANNOUNCER: LIVE FROM the George Washington University, Paul Begala and Robert Novak.


While Democrats are whining and wringing their hands about the events in Iraq, President Bush says America won't turn and run in Iraq.

PAUL BEGALA, CO-HOST: Well, of course, nobody supports a plan to turn and run. How about a plan for winning, Mr. President?

We will debate the terrible and tragic news from Iraq right after the best political briefing in television, our CROSSFIRE "Political Alert."

Senator Edward Kennedy has served under nine different presidents. He is he widely regarded as one of the finest U.S. senators in 100 years. And today, the legendary lion roared on the issue of President Bush's credibility.


KENNEDY: They repeatedly invent facts to support their preconceived agenda, facts which administration officials knew or should have known were not true. This pattern has prevailed since President Bush's earliest days in office. And, as a result, this president has now created the largest credibility gap since Richard Nixon.


BEGALA: God bless Senator Kennedy. He's following, of course, Harry Truman's old maxim: Don't give 'em hell. Tell the truth and they'll think it's hell. Go, Teddy, my hero.


NOVAK: You know -- you know, Paul, I think the -- just by accident, the Bush people agree with you on one thing. They would really like to have Teddy Kennedy out there campaigning all the time. Outside of your little liberal cells, he s so unpopular around the country. The more he campaigns for Kerry against the Bush, the better



BEGALA: I'll tell you what. He never misled us into a war. Ted Kennedy is one of the greats in the United States Senate. I love him. He never misled us into a war.

NOVAK: John Kerry is the first Roman Catholic on a major party ticket in 44 years. But he may not be able to take communion back home in Boston on Easter Sunday.

The archbishop of Boston, Sean O'Malley, been saying that pro- abortion Catholic politicians are in a state of grave sin and, therefore, should be refused communion. That includes Senator Kerry, who violates the church's teaching on abortion and stem cell research. Most recently, he voted against a bill making it criminal to harm a fetus during an assault on a pregnant woman. However, the candidate may be working out a solution. Instead of going to Catholic mass the last two Sundays, he politicked in black churches.

BEGALA: I hate to see religion be made into a football like this, particularly as a Catholic, as you are. We're brother Catholics. This is as bad as when George Bush began his campaign in South Carolina by going to Bob Jones University, the hotbed of anti- Catholic bigotry.


BEGALA: And we should not have anybody I think hold Kerry's Catholicism against


NOVAK: Somehow, I think that Archbishop O'Malley is a great man. I think you will agree with me.

BEGALA: He is. NOVAK: And I believe is he correct that these Catholic politicians owe a higher standard in following the teachings of the church and they should be denied communion.

BEGALA: They should follow the teachings of the church, but they have to follow their conscience in voting.


BEGALA: We have a division between church and state in America. And I think that's the way it should be.


BEGALA: Well, Karen Hughes, President Bush's communications guru, is, believe me, a truly decent person whom I genuinely like. And I hope that her new book -- it's called "Ten Minutes to Normal" is a big success for Karen. She's a good person.

But in her appearance on "Meet the Press" yesterday, Karen told this whopper about President Bush and the 9/11 Commission.


TIM RUSSERT, HOST: But now in hindsight, the president believes the commission's a good idea?

KAREN HUGHES, BUSH-CHENEY CAMPAIGN ADVISER: Well, I think, Tim, I don't know that the president ever opposed the creation of the commission.


BEGALA: What? Of course he did, Karen. President Bush opposed the creation of the 9/11 Commission. He opposed extending its deadline after commission members requested more time in the face of White House foot-dragging. He also opposed even allowing his national security adviser to testify under oath before the commission.

Now, why would such a decent person as Karen Hughes say such a dishonest thing to Tim Russert? I don't know. But I know this. The closer people get to George W. Bush, the farther they get from the truth.



NOVAK: Well, the problem -- the problem is that, the closer people get inside the White House, the farther they get from the truth. There's sort of a selective memory which is bipartisan in the White House.

I really believe that these independent commissions always end up as partisan tug-of-wars. I don't think they accomplish anything. But guys like you... (BELL RINGING)

NOVAK: ... who are trying to make political hay out of it, you love it.



BEGALA: I just want the truth. I just want the truth.

NOVAK: Vice President Dick Cheney today threw out the first pitch in the baseball opener in Cincinnati. Two hours later, President George W. Bush did the honors in Saint Louis.

Now, Ohio and Missouri are swing states in this election. But the Republicans were taking a big risk. In 1931, the year I was born, another Republican incumbent, Herbert Hoover, threw out the first ball at Griffith Washington, D.C., and he was booed mercilessly. Cheney and Bush certainly weren't booed. They were cheered.

In 1931, America was suffering from the Great Depression with massive unemployment. As much as the Democrats whine and claim, that's not the case today. All the economic indicators are up. And so Bush and Cheney could go to the ballpark without fear of being booed.



BEGALA: You know, it was an afternoon game. And there was a pretty good crowd at the afternoon game. I think it's because there's still eight million Americans that are unemployed. About two million of them had jobs under Clinton. They've lost jobs under Bush.

NOVAK: But they didn't boo.

BEGALA: I'd like nothing more than to have an election that's all about whether Bush has botched the economy, as we know he has.

NOVAK: But there was no -- there was no booing. There was no booing.


NOVAK: They cheered him.


BEGALA: Baseball fans are polite. I think that's great.

NOVAK: They booed Herbert Hoover.

BEGALA: Well, they booed -- you know what? They're going to boot George W. Bush. They're not going to boo him, but they'll boot him on November the 4th.


BEGALA: Well, the United States Army is examining options for more troops in Iraq and violent attacks are becoming an almost daily ritual. But the Bush administration insists things are going so well that they will be able to turn over sovereignty to Iraqis on June 30. Just who will we turn control over to and how will that happen? Well, we'll debate that and the political fallout of all of this just ahead.

And later, is CROSSFIRE's own Tucker Carlson in jeopardy or did he use his special bow tie power on the popular game show?

Stay with us.

ANNOUNCER: Get ahead of the CROSSFIRE. Sign up for CROSSFIRE's daily "Political Alert" e-mail. You'll get a preview of each day's show, plus an inside look at the day's political headlines. Just go to and sign up today.



NOVAK: Military planners are making plans to react strongly to the increased violence in Iraq over the past week. And that includes options for additional troops. That's a big difference between George W. Bush and John Kerry. The Democratic candidate can sit on the sidelines and kibitz. The president has to take action.

In the CROSSFIRE today, Tom Andrews, national director of the Win Without War Coalition, former Democratic congressman from Maine, along with Bob Walker, former Republican congressman from the state of Pennsylvania.


BEGALA: Gentlemen, good to see you both again.



BEGALA: Congressman Walker, the news of the day is that will General Abizaid, our commander in the field, may be asking -- has asked aides -- to look at options over the next 48 hours for bringing in more troops. This follows on the heels of yesterday, Republican Senator Richard Lugar saying that, yes, maybe in fact we need more troops.

Let me bring you back in time. This debate was held before the invasion. And General Eric Shinseki, a distinguished Army officer, the Army chief of staff, testified to Congress that it would take an awful lot of troops to successfully occupy.

Here is General Shinseki.


GENERAL ERIC SHINSEKI, ARMY CHIEF OF STAFF: I would say that what's been mobilized to this point, something on the order of several hundred thousand soldiers, are probably, you know, a figure that would be required.


BEGALA: Now, General Shinseki not only has four stars and served with great honor in combat in Vietnam. He ran the peacekeeping occupation force in Bosnia.

Now, instead of taking his advice, here's what the Bush administration did. They sent out some professor who never finished the Boy Scouts, a guy named Wolfowitz, who insulted General Shinseki with this comment.

Here's Paul Wolfowitz.


PAUL WOLFOWITZ, DEPUTY DEFENSE SECRETARY: Some of the higher-end predictions that we have been hearing recently, such as the notion that it will take several hundred thousand U.S. troops to provide stability in post-Saddam Iraq, are wildly off the mark.


BEGALA: Well, of course, we know they were right on the mark. Shouldn't Paul Wolfowitz apologize to General Shinseki?

WALKER: Well, we have our own four-star general in the administration, too, in Colin Powell, who also gave some good advice along the way. And I think that Paul Wolfowitz and Colin Powell probably agree on what should be done.

Now, given that, though, I think it's also important to listen to the commanders in the field. And the commanders in the field have said that if they need more troops, they will ask for them. So far they haven't seen that need. And so therefore, it seems to me that one of the lessons we should have learned along the way is, let's trust the men who are in command and who are in the field and doing their job.


BEGALA: But they should have treated General Shinseki with more respect. He was right and Wolfowitz was wrong. Shouldn't there be accountability for policy-makers who put our troops in harm's way without sufficient force protection?

WALKER: Well, that's your an assertion, that one's right and one's wrong. At the present time, our commanders in the field are taking the steps necessary to deal with violence in Iraq. I think we ought to trust the people who are the ground, who are in the field, and who are trying to make certain that they keep the soldiers secure and that they set up a situation where we can in fact over a period of the next few months hand over more of the governance of that country to the Iraqis.

NOVAK: Tom Andrews.

ANDREWS: But, Bob, they are working for the commander in chief, who is running for reelection. I served on the Armed Services Committee.

And what the generals are going to tell you in public is going to be quite different from what they are going to tell you in private. And they're always going to be following the lead in this case of the Bush administration or they're going to end up like General Shinseki in losing their job.

WALKER: Colin Powell is not any longer in uniform. Colin Powell can give advice without having to have those kinds of concerns.

NOVAK: Tom, just as a little truth squad here, when he said that, he had already resigned.

BEGALA: He hadn't resigned. He got pushed out.

NOVAK: No, no, no, no, I'm sorry. He had already been -- was leaving when he said that. He didn't -- as you imply, you know that, he didn't say it and then got pushed out.

ANDREWS: He was...

NOVAK: He was gone when he said that.

ANDREWS: Perhaps he was going to be going somewhere.

NOVAK: It was announced.

ANDREWS: He was in office.

NOVAK: Let's have some facts.

BEGALA: He was pushed out.


NOVAK: The facts -- the fact had been -- I mean, I hate it when we just make up these things, because he had already -- he was already leaving. He was a lame duck when he said that.


WALKER: I'm amazed to hear you arguing against civilian control of the military. I thought that was an

(CROSSTALK) NOVAK: When we have atrocities by these barbarians in Iraq, it's very interesting that the president and his officials have attacked the barbarians. And the Democrats have attacked the president. So I would like you to listen to the president and tell me, just tell me after -- listen to him first and then I'll ask you the question.


BUSH: We will stay the course. We will do what is right. We will make sure that a free Iraq emerges, not only for our own security, but for the sake of free peoples everywhere. A free Iraq will make the world more peaceful. A free Iraq will make America more secure. We will not be shaken by thugs and terrorists.




BEGALA: Tell me what you disagree with in that statement.

ANDREWS: What I disagree with is, the president says, we're going to stay the course. What he won't tell us is what that course is.

We have less than three months to go before this handover and it took the chairman, the Republican chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, to come before a national television audience yesterday to say, will the president please tell us who we're going to transfer authority to. There is no coherent plan. And you'd think that, if you set a deadline, June 30, you would think through exactly what you're going to do, why June 30 makes sense, and proceed accordingly, unless the plan was less about Iraq than about American politics.

And I think that's exactly the problem we're facing here, Bob...


ANDREWS: ... is that you've got these barbarians taking advantage of the fact that we've got an arbitrary deadline tagged by virtue of an American election and they're going to do everything they can to kill Americans leading up to June 30.


NOVAK: Isn't it true what we're really about, what we're really talking about, is a handover of sovereignty with keeping American forces there? We kept American forces in Europe and Germany and Japan for years after the sovereignty was turned over.


ANDREWS: Who are we turning it over to? What entity are we turning it over to (CROSSTALK)

ANDREWS: And are we going to give sovereignty to the United Nations, as the secretary-general has asked?


ANDREWS: And are we going to support -- are we going to take U.S. troops and have those U.S. troops support that sovereign government?


ANDREWS: You can't answer any of those questions, Bob.


NOVAK: Well, I don't answer the questions here. You answer them, Mr. Andrews.


NOVAK: Do you think France and Germany -- Do you think France and Germany are willing to send troops to there maintain order? Somebody has to maintain order? Do you think they're going to?

ANDREWS: Yes, they will if we...

NOVAK: Yes or no.

ANDREWS: They will if we become credible.

WALKER: Oh, please.


ANDREWS: If we become credible. And we're not credible as long as we are going to continue the course we're in right now.



BEGALA: Let's come to the point that Tom made, which is, what is the plan? Our president -- this is some months ago -- but he said a truly remarkable thing on another day when many soldiers were attacked by these barbarians. Here's what the president of the United States said.


BUSH: The more successful we are on the ground, the more these killers will react.

(END VIDEO CLIP) BEGALA: So these attacks are a sign of our success. Of course, we didn't lose a single soldier occupying Japan or Germany to attacks by barbarians.

WALKER: That's wrong.

BEGALA: So this is our plan? We sit there as sitting ducks?

WALKER: We had soldiers killed at the end of World War II after the war was over.


BEGALA: No, not by Germans


BEGALA: We had car accidents and such.

NOVAK: Yes, they were. Yes, they were.

WALKER: Yes, they were.


NOVAK: Oh, yes, absolutely.


BEGALA: Certainly not 601, which is how many we've lost so far in Mr. Bush's war.

WALKER: Well, instead of focusing on some of the negative, let's focus on some of the positive things that have happened there. The positive thing is the fact they actually sat down and put together a document among themselves to move toward governing.

It took our forefathers nearly two decades to begin to pull together their government after the Declaration of Independence was signed. These things are hard and so on. And that country is moving pretty aggressively to try to find a way to govern themselves. We ought to be supporting that...


WALKER: ... rather than sitting on the side and carping at it.


BEGALA: The fact is, I don't care what kind of constitution Iraq has. I care about 600 Americans who are dead, when our president says attacks against them are a sign of success. If they were attacking, would we be failing?

WALKER: I care what kind of government the Iraqis have. I think freedom in Iraq is a very important part of our security. I think that having a Middle East that begins to respond because there is a free country operating under new standards


NOVAK: Wait a minute. Wait a minute. Wait a minute.

I want to ask you the question. Do you worry about Iraq going back to the kind of totalitarianism under Saddam Hussein? Do you think that's a


ANDREWS: I'll tell you what I worry about, Bob.

NOVAK: No, I'm asking you if you worry about that.

ANDREWS: Yes. Let me tell you. Let me tell you what I'm worried about.

I'm worried about the fact that this administration took a fiction, something that was false, that Iraq


NOVAK: You won't answer my question.



NOVAK: You're attacking them. I said...

ANDREWS: That Iraq was a witch's brew of terrorism and they made it a reality. That's what I worry about.

NOVAK: You won't answer the question.


ANDREWS: That's what I worry about. And that's what we all should be worried about.



Up next in "Rapid Fire," we'll ask our guests if it's time for U.S. troops to withdraw from Iraq.

And the latest on efforts to arrest a Muslim cleric has been labeled an outlaw by the U.S.-led coalition. Wolf Blitzer reports just ahead.


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Wolf Blitzer in Washington. Coming up at the top of the hour, instability on the ground in Iraq and the top U.S. commander seeks the option of sending more troops. I'll talk about the consequences with former Defense Secretary William Cohen.

President Bush is resolute. If he could have stop the 9/11 attacks, he would have. As his national security adviser prepares to testify before the 9/11 Commission, I'll speak live to a key member of that commission, Bob Kerrey. Two mothers who kill their own children, two horrifying cases with eerie similarities. Why is one mother acquitted and the other in prison?

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

Now back to CROSSFIRE.

BEGALA: Thank you, Wolf.

Time now for "Rapid Fire," where we ask questions even faster than the Bush administration can make up excuses for the mess they've gotten us in, in Iraq.


BEGALA: Our guests, former Republican Congressman Bob Walker of Pennsylvania and former Democratic Congressman Tom Andrews of Maine.

NOVAK: Mr. Andrews, Dennis Kucinich, in his campaign for president, said, let's just move those troops out of there right now. Agree or disagree?

ANDREWS: I think what he really said was, we should end the U.S. military occupation of Iraq. I agree with that. We should move the U.N. in. I agree with that. We should have international credibility in taking and rebuilding that country. I agree with that. We should not be we rebuilding Iraq from the Pentagon.

BEGALA: Bob, is this June 30 date to hand over sovereignty driven more by the reality of strategic planning on the ground or by the American election at home?

WALKER: I think it's more on the reality of what's going on in Iraq. The more that we can hand over to the Iraqi people and the further we can bring us down a road toward freedom, the better off we will be and the better of that Iraqi people will be.

NOVAK: Do you think the people of Iraq would have been better off if Saddam Hussein was still there?

ANDREWS: No. But I think they're going to be worse off if the chaos that threatens that country and the tremendous terrorism that is affecting all of us is allowed to continue. And the roots of those problems and the roots of Iraq falling apart as it may -- very well may -- lie in this occupation and this very, very unfortunate illegal invasion of Iraq. BEGALA: Bob, when Dick Cheney said we would be welcomed as liberators, his words, was he intentionally misleading us or he was just hopelessly naive?

WALKER: No, I think that many people in Iraq are welcoming us as liberators right now. There are many people who have gone back to their normal lives. Business is thriving. The economy is doing better. There are lots of people there who are finding...

BEGALA: Do you get CNN?



WALKER: Well, the fact is, that there are lots of good things happening there. CNN covers a lot of the negative. The negative needs to be seen, but we ought to also look at the fact that there's lots of good things happening in Iraq.


NOVAK: No, no, no, no, no, no, no, no.


NOVAK: Mr. Andrews, do you believe that the Marines should take over Fallujah by force and take those people out? Or should we kind of back off from Fallujah right now?

ANDREWS: Well, I think we shouldn't back off certainly, Robert, but we shouldn't be doing just the opposite of what we -- we shouldn't be doing the opposite of what we should be doing. We should be smart in Iraq. For example, you don't shut down a newspaper. You don't deny -- establish censorship.



NOVAK: That was the last word.

Tom Andrews, thank you very much.

Bob Walker, thank you.

Just ahead on CROSSFIRE, our very own Tucker Carlson took part in a special edition of "Jeopardy" over the weekend. How did he do? He didn't sound too confident beforehand.


TUCKER CARLSON, CO-HOST: I think the odds are, I'll be crushed, spanked, destroyed, beaten. And I'm prepared for that.



BEGALA: Welcome back to CROSSFIRE.

You know, over the weekend, our own Tucker Carlson taped a "Power Players Week" edition of the popular game show "Jeopardy." Tucker was up against some heavy hitters, Bob Woodward of "The Washington Post" and former Reagan speechwriter Peggy Noonan. You may remember, we helped Tucker practice on Friday a little bit. But, still, our beloved sidekick wasn't exactly brimming with his usual self- assurance.


CARLSON: I watched "Jeopardy" for the first time in maybe 10 years the other night, and it's much harder than it used to be. The topics are not like "Colors" for 800.


BEGALA: Well, the "Power Players" "Jeopardy" episodes will run next month. We're going to have to keep you in expense how it all turned out. Even though we are a news network, we promised to keep this one secret.

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

NOVAK: From the right, I'm Robert Novak.

Join us again next time for another edition of CROSSFIRE.

"WOLF BLITZER REPORTS" starts right now.



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