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President Bush Goes Prime-Time

Aired April 14, 2004 - 16:42   ET


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

In the CROSSFIRE: searching for answers. The 9/11 Commission hears from the CIA and the FBI.

And President Bush goes prime-time to defend his policies on Iraq and the war on terror.

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We'll stay the course. We'll complete the job.



ANNOUNCER: Live from the George Washington University, James Carville and Tucker Carlson.



The failure to prevent the 9/11 attack haunts America's intelligence experts, that word from today's CIA Director George Tenet, as the 9/11 Commission heard more testimony.

TUCKER CARLSON, CO-HOST: And is the real truth coming out in the process, or is this all a massive blame game?

In the CROSSFIRE today, former Democratic Congressman Vic Fazio, along with former Congressman Vin Weber, now a Republican consultant.


CARVILLE: Congressman Weber, as I understand it, I heard Chairman Kean and Vice Chairman Lee Hamilton talk. They're really going to strive to get a unanimous report. If there is a unanimous report or a near unanimous report, what effect do you think its findings will have on American public opinion?

VIN WEBER, FORMER U.S. REPRESENTATIVE: I think it's a very positive thing.

First of all, I think that the chairmen, co-chairmen, who we both know very well, are excellent individuals. They've conducted themselves well. Some of the members of the commission, in my view, got a little partisan in the course of the hearings, but the two chairmen are conducting a good job. I think that their findings should be taken seriously. And I think that their findings should be a part of the ongoing response to the war on terror.

We're fighting a new kind of enemy. We've never had to do this before. There's a certain necessary element of making it up as we go along. And they can contribute to that.

CARLSON: Congressman, I agree that most members have been serious, are serious people. I think the whole proceedings, however, have been almost spoiled by the behavior of one man, Richard Ben- Veniste, who has been so wildly partisan, asking questions to which he already knows the answers, like he's a prosecutor, that it sort of spoils it.

He's also been relentlessly promoting himself and his partisan position. Over five days, five days taken at random in the last two weeks, here's just a sampling of the shows he's been on to promote himself, "The News on CNBC," "AMERICAN MORNING" here on CNN, "LATE EDITION," "Fox News Sunday," NPR, CNN International, "LARRY KING," "PAULA ZAHN," "On the Record With Greta Van Susteren," "AMERICAN MORNING" again, and MSNBC. That's just a sampling over five days.

Can't someone control this guy? He's destroying the credibility of these proceedings.

I wonder why a cable network would be arguing about people going on cable.

VIC FAZIO, FORMER U.S. REPRESENTATIVE: You know, I was wonder why a cable network would be arguing about people who go on cable.

CARVILLE: I was wondering the same thing. Vic, we're attacking people for going on television.


CARVILLE: What are you doing here? Are you shamelessly promoting yourself?



CARLSON: This is too -- this guy ought to exercise some self- restraint, some self-control. And members of his party ought to call him off because he is undermining, I think, in the view of the public, the seriousness of these proceedings.


WEBER: A self-restrained, self-controlled Democrat. That's a contradiction.

CARLSON: Well, that's a solid question.



CARVILLE: This is the first time on cable TV that we've ever attacked somebody for going on TV. But guess what? We'll attack for anything on their side.


CARLSON: Well, I think it's serious enough to do that. What do you think?

FAZIO: Everybody's got a different style. And Veniste, Richard, is a kind of interrogator, investigator by training. This is what he's been trained to do. This is what he's done. He did it when he was on the Watergate committee staff. And so I think it is his style.

But I think, as a group, they have hung together. They continue to interact with each other in a positive way. I think this commission has really done a good job. And, sure, some of the players get a little more partisan than others. Styles differ. But I think, frankly, they're going to have a lot of impact on the body politic. I think they will have an impact on Congress.

I haven't seen a group of people focusing on issues like the culture of the FBI bureaucracy and whether or not we really need an umbrella agency for intelligence in this country. These are fundamental questions. The president seems to be waiting for their report. I hope Congress will, too, because change could be in the offing.

WEBER: Only disagree a little bit.

I think they do have to worry about mission creep. Their mission was to investigate 9/11 and find out if we could have done things to prevent it before that, not necessarily to decide we should reorganize the entire intelligence community, create a new superintelligence agency. I heard today the chairman, who is a good friend of mine, talking about reworking the presidential daily briefing. Well, that gets into the whole organizational structure of the White House.

Pretty soon, they'll be reorganizing the entire federal government. That's not their job.

CARLSON: Well, they could start with the DMV, I think. Yes.



FAZIO: But if you look at where these problems came from, we've had problems because Congress hasn't done a decent job of budgeting or doing oversight. The entire government is culpable, to some degree. And it's going to take a group of people who are not privy to any particular point on the compass, who don't have any job at stake to step out and make some fundamental recommendations. I think it's healthy.

CARVILLE: Let me look forward here a little bit, Congressman. I might add, interestingly enough, I did not notice, but you two gentlemen have worked for the same firm together. So anytime that anybody needs anything in Washington, these are two of the best that there is. Give them a call.


WEBER: Can you imagine, a Republican and a Democrat living together under the same roof?

CARVILLE: I can't imagine.


CARVILLE: I actually heard there's some Democrats that actually sleep in the same bed as Republicans. But I'm not



WEBER: We'd rather


CARVILLE: You bet.

Let me turn to something -- we're 2 1/2 months away from June 30. And last night, the president said he didn't know -- we'd wait and see who the turnover to -- now the turnover on June 30 would be. My question is two parts. No. 1, do you believe there will be a turnover on June 30? And, obviously, the president doesn't know. So I'm not asking you to tell me. If there is one, what kind of group are we going to hand it to, do you think?

WEBER: I believe that there will be a turnover, because, as difficult as it is, I believe the risks of not turning it over are greater than the risks of turning it over. As the president said last night, the Iraqis are a proud people.

They don't like any outside powers occupying their country for any extended period of time. It is a very difficult process. I do not think they should be coming forward with any more details about what they're doing right now, because part of the process is negotiating with all the different elements within Iraq to get some consensus behind what they're going to do on June 30. And that's probably not best done in front of the cameras.

CARLSON: Now, Vic, the president last night put his finger right on an assumption that many people -- and I'll confess, including me -- sometimes have.

Here's what he said.

That's not at all what he said. Let me read what he said. He...


BUSH: Some of the debate really centers around the fact that Iraq don't believe Iraq can be free, that if you're Muslim or perhaps brown-skinned, you can't be self-governing and free. I strongly disagree with that.


CARLSON: I don't -- you know, the thing about brown-skinned or Muslim. But I think a lot of people, again, sometimes including me, just assume that it's very difficult for a place like Iraq to have democracy. And I wonder if that's too cynical and if he doesn't put his finger on something pretty important.

FAZIO: Well, I do think it's going to be difficult.

We have a country that was created by the British in the colonial era without regard to a very volatile mix of Sunni and Shiite and Turks and Kurds. It's not going to be easy, but it can be done and we have to make it happen. I don't know what's going to happen on the 1st of July. Obviously, the president and Paul Bremer don't have an answer as to what kind of government we'll hand it to.

We're relying now on the U.N., on their representative, Mr. Brahimi, to sort of sort all the players out and provide a patina at least of credibility beyond what we can provide.

CARLSON: I'm sorry, Congressman...

FAZIO: And he's been very critical today of the way the current governing structure is working and failing, as a matter of fact.

CARLSON: Will you save that thought? We're going to come back to it.

In just one moment, we will put our guests through the "Rapid Fire" and ask whether John Kerry believes a free Iraq will create a more stable Middle East. He hasn't quite said so.

And later, politics gets personal for actor George Clooney. We'll show you how.

We'll be right back.


CARVILLE: It's time for "Rapid Fire," where the questions come faster than a New York second.

Our guests, former Congressman now consultant Vin Weber and former Democratic Congressman Vic Fazio. CARLSON: Congressman Fazio, the president last night made a sort of stirring pitch that, if we get Iraq right, the whole region and the whole world will be better. I've never heard John Kerry say anything like that. Why?

FAZIO: Well, I don't think it's that simplistic.

I think the region is very complex and I think to succeed in Iraq will be important to the Iraqis. I'm not sure what effect it has on the Syrians or on the Iranians. I think it's just too simplistic. And I don't want to see expectations raised to a point where we'll be perceived as having failed.

CARVILLE: Congressman, do you think that Army Four-Star General Chief of Staff Eric Shinseki was right when he said we would need 200,000 troops to successfully occupy Iraq?

WEBER: I think he was prescient in noting we needed more troops than we had. Whether or not 200,000 is the right number or not, I don't know. But we're going to send more troops over there. The president said that the other night.

But I do think it was wise to wait and until the military commanders actually said we needed them. To send more troops over there in response to polling or newspaper headlines was a mistake. The president waited and until the commanders on the ground said that we needed the troops. And thank God that this president is not trying to micromanage the battlefield from Washington.

CARLSON: Congressman...


CARLSON: ... as part of my ongoing effort to convince you that Richard Ben-Veniste is indeed completely out of control, yesterday, he actually asked the sitting attorney general if it was true that he stopped flying commercial before 9/11. In other words, did you know about it ahead of time and tried to save yourself and let everyone else die? A question like that, come on.

FAZIO: Yes, that's a little -- it seems to me on the surface to be a little troublesome.


FAZIO: But I guess I was more interested in the fact that the FBI interim director said that, on three occasions, he tried to brief the incoming attorney general on al Qaeda and was rebuffed.


FAZIO: Now, he, of course, rejected that, but it does seem that that needs to be looked at much more carefully.


Well, that will be a topic of another show. Sadly, we are completely out of time.


CARLSON: Congressmen Fazio, Congressman Weber, thank you both very much. We appreciate it.

Politics and entertainment go back a long way, of course, but why is George Clooney getting involved in a Kentucky congressional election. He has a good reason. We'll explain it to you.


CARVILLE: Now to Tinseltown.

My good friend and look-alike George Clooney has turned the tables...


CARVILLE: ... on a critic of his father, Nick, who is running for Congress in Northern Kentucky.

A Republican leader referred to the actor's role in the -- quote -- "Perfect Storm" -- unquote -- saying his father and son would go down with their ship. My friend George says, appropriately, that the campaign shot was insensitive to the fisherman who died in that storm. He said some of the other movie roles might make for a more appropriate jab. Batman and his father are going to be taught the facts of life about Kentucky politics. The peacemaker and his old man have been campaigning from dusk 'til dawn to prove that a deficit that is out of sight can hurt your paycheck.

All right, George, my man. And Nick Clooney is a great man.

CARLSON: Yes, I mean, you've got to feel for the Republican in this race. You know, George Clooney running against you, I don't know, difficult or...


CARVILLE: From the left, I'm James Carville. That's it for CROSSFIRE.

Good luck to you, Nick Clooney. You're a great man.

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

Join us again tomorrow for yet more CROSSFIRE. Have a great night.



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