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CNN CROSSFIRE

President Bush Attempts to Rally Republicans

Aired May 20, 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: President Bush goes to Capitol Hill trying to rally Republican lawmakers around his Iraq plan. With continued fighting and the prisoner abuse scandal, are they still willing to support him?

SEN. GEORGE ALLEN (R), VIRGINIA: He's resolved. He's going to stand strong for freedom. And it was a good team meeting.

ANNOUNCER: Also on the hill, John Kerry. It's not his meetings with supporters, but what he said about abortion and the U.S. Supreme Court that's creating the buzz.

And it's time for CROSSFIRE's interactive Thursday. You can take part. Log on to CNN.com/ITV.

Today on CROSSFIRE.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

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

(APPLAUSE)

JAMES CARVILLE, CO-HOST: Welcome to CROSSFIRE and to those who logged on to our interactive site at CNN.com/ITV.

In a rare visit, President Bush was on Capitol Hill today in a bid to rally Republican lawmakers around his plan -- what plan? -- for Iraq. He sends this warning. Expect more violence with the approach of the June 30 deadline for handing over at least partial governing authority to the Iraqis.

TUCKER CARLSON, CO-HOST: The president also restated that the Iraqis are ready to have the training wheels taken off their government. The meeting comes as lawmakers prepare to head out of town for Memorial Day recess.

Also on Capitol Hill, John Kerry, which raises the question, just who is king of the Hill? More on that just ahead. But, first, the best political briefing in television, our CROSSFIRE "Political Alert."

John Kerry came up with a new campaign slogan this week, let America be America again. The line comes from the title of a Langston Hughes poem. Kerry explained the significance this way -- quote -- "Talking about let America be America again is tapping into the value system that people think makes this country great," whatever that means.

It is Kerry's ninth campaign slogan so far. Do you remember the other eight? There was, bring it on, obviously stolen from a Schwarzenegger movie. There was, change starts here, and a fighter with results, and the courage to lead. Of course, there was also the real deal, which was odd coming from a man who went to a Swiss boarding school.

There was courage to do what's right for America, not to mention, together, we can build a stronger America. Most recently there was, a lifetime of service and strength. Doubtless there be many other slogans, maybe many other slogans. Maybe Kerry should save us all the trouble and come back when he finally figures out just who he is.

(APPLAUSE)

(CROSSTALK)

CARLSON: Wait, let America be America again?

CARVILLE: Can I ask you a question. Whatever happened to a reformer with results or compassionate conservative? I haven't

(CROSSTALK)

CARVILLE: I know what Bush's slogan is. Stuck in Iraq and stuck in health care and deficits.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

(CROSSTALK)

CARLSON: Actually, I must say, Bush makes a pretty straight case for who he is. Now, compassionate conservative, I never like it.

(CROSSTALK)

(BELL RINGING)

CARLSON: America be America? If we're not America, what are we?

CARVILLE: Stuck in Iraq and stuck with the deficit, that's the Bush slogan.

The investigative arm of Congress is slamming the Bush administration's promotion of a new Medicare law through videos made to look like news reports. The General Accounting Office says the use of these videos made by the Health and Human Services Department violated a ban on using public money for propaganda. The videos were aired on at least 40 television stations in March, but their source was not identified.

John Kerry says all of this is another example of the White House's misrepresenting the Medicare plan. That's not all. Earlier this month, the Congressional Research Service said the administration's efforts to keep estimates of the cost of the Medicare bill from Democratic lawmakers last year was -- violated federal law.

You know, it's against the law, the law. They broke the law.

(CROSSTALK)

CARLSON: For Democrats, who actually in public advocate socialized medicine for this country, to complain about the new Medicare bill is a little over the top, I have to say.

CARVILLE: Tucker, it's against the law.

(LAUGHTER)

CARVILLE: And if you break the law...

CARLSON: Are you against the law now, James?

CARVILLE: The children of America -- what are you going to do about the children of America? I mean, my God, my God

(CROSSTALK)

CARLSON: You are stuck in 1998, as always. Wake up, James. It's a brand new millennium.

(CROSSTALK)

CARVILLE: ... Bill Clinton. It's against the law.

CARLSON: You're still...

CARVILLE: What do we tell the children?

(APPLAUSE)

CARLSON: You're still mad about Bill Clinton. I must, say, James I must say...

(CROSSTALK)

CARVILLE: How are you going to explain to your children that they have these people breaking the law in the White House.

(LAUGHTER)

(BELL RINGING)

CARLSON: James, I think it's time to get over impeachment. Yes, it is.

Well, John Kerry returned briefly to Capitol Hill today before heading back out on the campaign trail, where he is certain to find friendlier audiences, because after two decades in Washington, Kerry still doesn't have many close friends in the U.S. Senate, fellow Democrat Zell Miller, for instance.

This is what Senator Miller said about John Kerry just the other day -- quote -- "This man wants to be the leader of the free world. Free for how long? This man is so out of touch with the average American, it would be comical if it were not so dangerous. They've got Kerry wearing a canvas hunting coat with a pink power tie. Have you ever seen that kind of garb anywhere on main street USA? Look, Kerry couldn't find main street USA with both hands. You can't make a chicken swim and you can't make John Kerry anything but an out-of- touch, ultraliberal from Taxachusetts" -- end quote.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

CARLSON: Again, that was not Tom DeLay speaking. That was fellow Democrat, lifelong Democrat and member of the U.S. Senate, Zell Miller. No wonder John Kerry left town so quickly.

CARVILLE: Now, let me get this straight. Did he say that before he came for saying the people -- people should not be allowed to vote for United States senators and

(CROSSTALK)

CARLSON: Why are you attacking Zell Miller? Why are you attacking Zell Miller?

(CROSSTALK)

CARVILLE: I'm trying to get the chronology straight. I'm trying to get the chronology.

(CROSSTALK)

CARLSON: ... great man. Why are you attacking him?

CARVILLE: Can you tell me the chronology? Did he say that people should not vote for the United States Senate...

(BELL RINGING)

CARVILLE: ... or did he say that Senator Kerry?

CARLSON: Why are you attacking a decent

(CROSSTALK)

CARVILLE: I'm not -- I'm asking you for the chronology. Which one came first?

CARLSON: I don't even know what you're talking about. You're beating up on a great senator. And I think it's a shame.

CARVILLE: No, I'm asking you a question. You can either answer it or you can do what you're doing.

CARLSON: I like the guy.

CARVILLE: I like him fine. I just don't know what he was first, attacking Senator Kerry or attacking people who vote for United States senators. I'm just trying to get a thing.

OK.

(LAUGHTER)

CARVILLE: Republican unity may be breaking down a little bit during this crucial election year. The latest example, House Speaker Dennis Hastert's snide remarks about Senator John McCain.

Yesterday, after McCain admonished Republicans for wanting to cut taxes during a time of war, Hastert said if McCain wants to see sacrifice, he should visit the wounded men and women at the two military hospitals in the D.C. area. McCain, who was a POW for five years in Vietnam, responded, saying in part -- quote -- "I fondly remember a time when real Republicans stood for fiscal responsibility."

On top of this, even my CROSSFIRE colleague Bob Novak is writing about doubts among true believers. In a "Chicago Sun-Times" column today, he points out that the vice chairman of the American Conservative Union, Donald Devine, refused to applaud President Bush during his remarks to the ACU's 40th anniversary banquet last

(CROSSTALK)

CARLSON: Look, James, the problem is government spending. Why is it immoral for you to keep your money, but it's moral somehow for the government to take it and waste it? The reason we have a deficit is because government spending is out of control.

(CROSSTALK)

CARVILLE: Why is Dennis Hastert, who graduated from high school in 1964, has never served in the armed forces, attacking John McCain?

CARLSON: What does that have to do with anything?

CARVILLE: Why is he attacking John McCain, a fellow Republican, for saying that

(CROSSTALK)

CARLSON: If you have served in the armed forced, you can't be attacked by someone who hasn't? What are you saying?

CARVILLE: No, you don't attack people about sacrifice. He's saying, well, it's a sacrifice. He says John McCain doesn't know anything about sacrificing for his country. That's a ludicrous thing.

(CROSSTALK)

CARLSON: What are you talking about? They're arguing about tax cuts, nothing to do with war.

CARVILLE: It's ludicrous. That's ludicrous.

(CROSSTALK)

CARVILLE: Don't vote for the United States Senate, don't be fiscally responsible, the Carlson agenda for America.

CARLSON: And, ladies and gentlemen, don't be surprised if the men with nets come and take James away during our show.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

CARLSON: Until then, the race for president moved to Capitol Hill, at least for a short time today. Both President Bush and Senator John McCain spent time with lawmakers trying to build support, for their respective campaigns. Find out how it played with Congress next with two members of Congress.

And it's interactive Thursday, in case you didn't know. Log on to CNN.com/ITV and let us know what you think John Kerry's campaign slogan ought to be. Keep it clean and we'll read it.

We'll be right back.

(APPLAUSE)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ANNOUNCER: Join Carville, Begala, Carlson and Novak in the CROSSFIRE. For free tickets to CROSSFIRE at the George Washington University, call 202-994-8CNN or visit our Web site. Now you can step into the CROSSFIRE.

(APPLAUSE)

CARLSON: Welcome back.

Making the rounds on Capitol Hill today, not only President Bush, but his Democratic rival, John Kerry. Bush's visit was aimed at rallying Republican lawmakers around his plan for Iraq. They're nervous. He tried to make them feel better. The cornerstone of that plan, handing over at least partial governing authority to the Iraqis on June 30.

In the CROSSFIRE today to debate all of this, Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky, a Democrat of Illinois, and Republican Congressman John Shadegg of Arizona.

Welcome.

(APPLAUSE)

REP. JOHN SHADEGG (R), ARIZONA: Thank you.

REP. JAN SCHAKOWSKY (D), ILLINOIS: Thank you.

(APPLAUSE)

CARVILLE: Congressman Shadegg, the president went up to speak with you guys today to give you a briefing on how his brilliant policy for the occupation of Iraq is working. Would you tell us some of the highlights the president told you about how well things are going in Iraq?

SHADEGG: Well, I think you missed the point. He came because it's the beginning of the break and he's speaking to his troops on Capitol Hill. He came a year ago at the same time. I think it's almost now become tradition for the president to come to the Hill on the beginning of a break, a break like this, where we will discuss national policy.

He got a couple of standing ovations talking about how we're proceeding both in the war in Iraq and in the overall war on terror.

(CROSSTALK)

CARVILLE: Well, what good did -- what would -- what would -- his policy, you must be -- you think it's working brilliantly. What are some elements of how well it's working? What examples did he give you of how well this thing is going?

SHADEGG: Well, James, I think you can look at the fact that everybody knows that the battle plan goes out the window the minute the first shot is fired.

Quite frankly, what his plan is, is to hand over power to the Iraqi people as we planned to do on the schedule that we announced and then begin to have them take responsibility for themselves, to assist that government, to have the United Nations play a role in the selection of that government to enhance its credibility and to allow the Iraqi people to begin the process of self-determination.

And that's exactly the road we're progressing down. With regard to what we predicted, he predicted and he predicted that the violence would get much worse between now and the handover. And it is. And they're trying to do everything they can to disrupt us. And the question will come, what happens after the handover. Will the people who despise the idea that Iraqis might govern themselves and might make their own decisions continue to kill wantonly their fellow citizens as we go forward after the handover of power?

Hopefully, they won't. And, hopefully, we can move forward to achieve a self-sustaining Iraqi government that reflects the people and doesn't repress them.

CARLSON: Congresswoman Schakowsky, I'm struck, as I'm sure you are, by the frenzy of hatefulness Democrats have been driven into by Bush.

To give you one example, this is what Nancy Pelosi, the House minority leader, your leader, said about Bush after his visit today to Capitol Hill -- quote -- "Bush is an incompetent leader. In fact, he's not a leader. He's a person who has no judgment, no experience, no knowledge of the subjects he has to decide on. He has on his shoulders the deaths of many more troops because he would not heed the advice of his own State Department of what to expect after May 1, when he declared combat over. The shallowness he has brought to the office has not changed since he got there."

In other words, he's an idiot and a murderer. She sounds like Michael Moore. And I'm wondering, I'm wondering, can you be this irresponsible and run a party?

CARVILLE: When are we going to take the gloves off and quite this mealymouthed talk about Bush? Congresswoman Pelosi, hit the man if you're going to hit him.

(CROSSTALK)

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

SCHAKOWSKY: Well, I agree with you, James. How about Trent Lott, who said, leadership is fine, but leadership to do what? They're running short on fuel in terms of ideas that turn people on; 62 percent of Americans now say that the country is going in the wrong direction.

Over half of Americans say that this war was not worth it in terms of dollars and lives that have been lost. And now we're there creating posters for al Qaeda recruitment with the kind of abuses that we're bringing to the prisons in Iraq. So this is a bloody mess.

(CROSSTALK)

CARLSON: Congresswoman, I think you actually -- those are totally fair points, worth debating. We debate them a lot on CROSSFIRE.

I don't think it's fair to call a person an idiot, as Nancy Pelosi called the president. He's incompetent.

(CROSSTALK)

CARLSON: He has no knowledge and that he's responsible for the deaths of our troops.

SHADEGG: The extreme rhetoric

(CROSSTALK)

SHADEGG: It was the extreme rhetoric that was so offensive. That kind of extreme rhetoric, calling the president names, saying he isn't a leader, he has no experience in anything, doesn't add to the debate over the legitimate points that we have just discussed here and were just brought out by my colleague's points.

SCHAKOWSKY: I think many Americans welcome fact that our leader is telling the facts about this president and in fact they agree with her.

CARLSON: So he's an idiot?

CARVILLE: No, she said he was incompetent, which is the truth. Why can't people speak the truth in America?

(APPLAUSE)

SCHAKOWSKY: She did not say he was

(CROSSTALK)

CARVILLE: Congresswoman Pelosi, all she did was tell the truth.

CARLSON: He has no judgment, no leadership and no knowledge? Do you believe that, Congresswoman Schakowsky?

SHADEGG: She clearly attacked him personally, but not on the merits. She didn't say that...

(CROSSTALK)

SCHAKOWSKY: Leadership -- leadership is fine, but leadership to do what? That's Trent Lott. OK, so he's softened it a little, same message. The man is not a leader in the right direction.

SHADEGG: I absolutely disagree. The man is in fact leading in the war on terror and taking the country where we need to go in the war on terror. And your candidate, John Kerry, has no different agenda for either the war on terror or the war in Iraq.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

SCHAKOWSKY: That's exactly not true. That's exactly not true.

(CROSSTALK)

CARVILLE: Congressman Shadegg, let's go back to the president's meeting, because maybe -- one of the big issues that Americans are facing every day are health care costs have gone 40 percent since this administration came in. Give me some things that the president told you guys about a plan that he has to bring down health care costs today.

SHADEGG: Well, health care costs have been going up not just in this understand, but for years, long years before this administration was in place.

The president brought about a restraint in terms of helping people with health care costs in the passage of the Medicare prescription drug bill. And, again, talk about the style of the debate, rather than talking about the fact that the drug discount card is doing some American seniors some good and helping on the issue, all the Democrats want to do is attack it.

(CROSSTALK)

SCHAKOWSKY: Congressman, you did not vote for that bill.

SHADEGG: No, you talked about what the president has put on the table. He's put on health care tax credits for America's most needy people, given them a tax credit, a refundable tax credit, to allow them to go out and get the held care they need. That's a positive agenda item. And it's part of the president's agenda to move forward. You asked what

(CROSSTALK)

SCHAKOWSKY: If I could, the congressman did not vote for the Medicare bill. I think he was saying right away himself that this was not a bill that was going to lower costs for seniors, that this was a bill that was going to

(CROSSTALK)

SHADEGG: I don't think you know why I didn't vote for the bill. I think I know why I didn't vote for the bill.

But I did in fact draft the language that was the drug discount card. And I think the drug discount card is doing something for America. I had my problems with the bill.

(CROSSTALK)

CARLSON: Congresswoman Schakowsky...

SCHAKOWSKY: Yes.

CARLSON: Congresswoman Schakowsky, John Kerry made news fairly recently. It hasn't been much noticed. I want to bring it to your attention.

He told the Associated Press recently that he actually has a plan to get American troops home soon from Iraq. Here's what he said. He promised to avert a quagmire saying -- quote -- "It will not take long to do what is necessary in Iraq. It will not be like Vietnam. I'll get our troops home from Iraq with honor and with the interests of our country properly protected."

He essentially is saying what Ralph Nader is saying, I'm going to bring home our troops soon. He hasn't explained how he's going to do this. Do you have any insight into that? It's probably the question everyone wants to know.

SCHAKOWSKY: What he is saying is that this president is incapable of ending this war in Iraq in any kind of way that brings dignity to the United States of America.

And that is because it is going

(CROSSTALK)

CARLSON: No, this was not an attack on Bush. He was saying what he was going to do. No, Kerry was saying what he is going to do.

SCHAKOWSKY: Now let me answer that.

(CROSSTALK)

SCHAKOWSKY: He has been saying that it's going to take an international effort in order to bring some stability to Iraq. Our president right now cannot in any meaningful way bring in the world community. John Kerry can. And when we do, then we can put an Iraqi face on it. We can help, have the international community, and our troops can come home.

SHADEGG: With all due respect, that's not what the question was about. The question wasn't about Bush. The question was about John Kerry.

(CROSSTALK)

SCHAKOWSKY: I just said that's how Kerry is going to do that.

(CROSSTALK)

SHADEGG: ... pull our troops out and come home no matter what, as have you. Your position is, pull out, give up, go home, do nothing.

SCHAKOWSKY: No, absolutely...

SHADEGG: And indeed you opposed the war to begin with, which I understand is a position

(CROSSTALK)

SCHAKOWSKY: And I was right. And I was right. And most Americans think that this war was not worth fighting, absolutely.

(CROSSTALK)

SHADEGG: I think the people of Iraq would say that they're free now. They're out from under a repressive dictator. And we need to..

(CROSSTALK)

(BELL RINGING)

CARLSON: I'm sorry. Congresswoman Schakowsky, Mr. Shadegg, we are just seconds away from consensus. I feel like you're almost agreeing.

(LAUGHTER)

(CROSSTALK)

CARLSON: We've got to take a quick commercial break. And we'll be right back.

(APPLAUSE)

CARLSON: Next, in "Rapid Fire," we'll ask our guests if John Kerry will ever be able to settle on a campaign slogan.

And if you log on to CROSSFIRE's interactive Thursday, tell us what you think about the presidential campaign. We'll be reading some of your e-mails later. Again, no profanity. We can't read it, FCC regulations.

Right after the break, what more U.S. troops and Iraqi troops were looking for when they raided Ahmad Chalabi's compound in Iraq, Wolf Blitzer will tell us.

We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

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

Coming up at the top of the hour, a huge falling-out with one of America's top Iraqi allies after a raid on his house, what it means for the future of Iraq.

Bloody battles in Gaza, with Palestinians now reporting 40 dead in three days of relentless violence.

And with the Athens Olympics now just 85 days away, heightened concern about guarding the Games from terrorism.

Plus, President Bush's twin daughters deciding they now want to become more visible, pitching in for their dad's campaign.

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

Now back to CROSSFIRE.

CARVILLE: It's time for "Rapid Fire," where we ask the questions faster than Donald Rumsfeld can make excuses about Iraq.

(LAUGHTER)

CARVILLE: We're talking about visits to Capitol Hill today by both President Bush and Senator John Kerry.

In the CROSSFIRE, Congressman John Shadegg, Republican of the great state of Arizona, and Democratic Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky of the equally great state of Illinois.

CARLSON: Congresswoman Schakowsky, John Kerry picked his ninth campaign slogan this week. It's, let America be America again. Briefly, do you have any clue what that means?

(LAUGHTER) SCHAKOWSKY: Yes, it means that this -- it means that this administration has turned the clock back on all the values that America holds dear.

(LAUGHTER)

SCHAKOWSKY: Exactly, human rights, civil rights, environment, our commitment to education and health care. And so we want America to be what it was and to live up to its values.

CARLSON: Back to the future. All right.

CARVILLE: Congressman Shadegg, in the president's remarks to the Republicans on the Hill today, how many times did he mention the word deficit?

SHADEGG: He did not mention the word deficit.

CARVILLE: Oh.

(LAUGHTER)

(APPLAUSE)

CARLSON: Congresswoman Schakowsky, the grade moral leader of the Democratic Party, Senator Robert Byrd, a former recruiter for the Ku Klux Klan, said the other day about John Kerry: "All he needs to say is, I was there in Vietnam. I went to fight. I fought. I carry the scars of battle."

Do you think that's all John Kerry needs to say? Is former kleagle Byrd right?

SCHAKOWSKY: You know, John Kerry is a war hero. I think that fact stands up very well when you're running for president of the United States in a time of war. And I think that that is a very important part of his message and far better than this president, vice president or anyone else around him can say.

(APPLAUSE)

CARVILLE: Why do people -- Congressman Shadegg, why do people like Tucker Carlson attack Senator Byrd for something that he did 60 years ago, but say it's unfair for us to attack President Bush for something he did 32 years ago?

(BELL RINGING)

CARVILLE: Hello?

CARLSON: That's an excellent answer, Congressman.

(CROSSTALK)

SHADEGG: Nobody said it's unfair for you to discuss -- to attack President Bush. You can attack President Bush all you want. As a matter of fact, one of Tucker's questions was that your attack on President Bush was nothing but a personal attack. It had nothing to do with the merits of this administration.

(CROSSTALK)

CARLSON: We are out completely of time.

(CROSSTALK)

SHADEGG: ... the economy is coming back very strong.

CARLSON: Thank you.

Congresswoman Schakowsky, Congressman Shadegg, thanks a lot for joining us. We appreciate it.

(CROSSTALK)

(APPLAUSE)

SCHAKOWSKY: Thank you very much.

CARLSON: Well, you typed it in. We'll read it next on the air. Your interactive e-mails are next on CROSSFIRE.

We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CARLSON: Welcome back.

It is time to get interactive, dig deep into our CROSSFIRE e-mail bag. Here's what some of you had to say.

First up, from Bob...

CARVILLE: Bob.

CARLSON: "He has not shown leadership in the past with a generally lackluster performance in the Senate, so how can he lead us?" Bob asks about Senator John Kerry. That's a great question, Bob. Keep asking it.

CARVILLE: I'll tell you what. He'll lead us in a different direction than President Bush did, and that will be great for the country. And he's a great man.

What's the next person we're got here? Bingo. "A vote for Kerry is a vote for more slogans."

(LAUGHTER)

(APPLAUSE)

CARVILLE: Tucker

(CROSSTALK)

CARLSON: That's an excellent -- that's an excellent point.

CARVILLE: What is it, reformer with results or compassionate conservative?

(CROSSTALK)

CARLSON: Those were so dumb. I agree. I'm not going to defend it.

"How did Bush go to Capitol Hill without Cheney to speak for him?"

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

CARLSON: Oh! All right.

CARVILLE: They let him speak to Republicans by himself.

CARLSON: Is that right?

(LAUGHTER)

CARVILLE: It's just people and investigators

(CROSSTALK)

CARLSON: Before we go, here's a look at our CROSSFIRE interactive Thursday ledger board. We want to thank everyone who logged on.

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

CARLSON: From the right, I'm Tucker Carlson. Join us again tomorrow -- that would be Friday -- for another edition of CROSSFIRE. Have a great night.

(APPLAUSE)

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