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John Kerry Promotes Anti-Terrorism Plan

Aired May 27, 2004 - 16:30   ET


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


SEN. JOHN KERRY (D-MA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: If President Bush does not secure new support from our allies, we will once again feel the consequences of a foreign policy that has divided the world instead of uniting it.

ANNOUNCER: The terror war. Democrat John Kerry begins an 11-day quest to convince America his plan is better than President Bush's.

Another suspected terrorist is indicted. The Bush team insists its way is working.

JOHN ASHCROFT, ATTORNEY GENERAL: The United States will use every diplomatic, legal, and administrative tool to pursue and to prosecute those who facilitate terrorist activity.

ANNOUNCER: And it's interactive Thursday. Log on to




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

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

It's our favorite day of the week, interactive Thursday. You can log on at and let us know what you think in real time. As we're blathering, you can blather back.

Well, there are 32 months since the 9/11 attacks. And in that time, President Bush has alienated our allies, frightened little children and given endless speeches. John Kerry countered with a major address today. Will the election come down to the cheerleader vs. the real leader?

(LAUGHTER) TUCKER CARLSON, CO-HOST: A major address? Talk about a major overstatement. In fact, if you listen to it, you know Kerry revealed today that, when it comes to national security, he agrees with just about everything President Bush says, for the moment, anyway.

But we'll debate it. First up, the best little political briefing in television, our CROSSFIRE "Political Alert."

Well, the first thing you noticed about John Kerry's much hyped national security speech today was that he didn't scream. He didn't slick back his hair with Vaseline. He didn't shake his fist at the crowd and demand the removal of the entire executive branch of the federal government.


CARLSON: So, in that way, it was a lot less exciting than Al Gore's speech yesterday. As usual, Mr. Kerry droned like a man who has just had an unusually heavy lunch. Those who stayed awake until the end may have noticed the remarkable similarity between what John Kerry says about national security and what George W. Bush say about national security.

Both of them think we ought to stay the course in Iraq. Both think preemptive wars can be necessary. Both think we should limit our dependence on foreign oil. Both say they are opposed to al Qaeda and for international cooperation in the war on terror. Both publicly admire Teddy Roosevelt, but it's not clear if Kerry knows much about him.

What exactly do they disagree on when it comes to national security? It's not clear, except that John Kerry says George W. Bush is evil. So that must be the difference.

BEGALA: Well, of course, Kerry said nothing of the kind. And he has deep disagreements with President Bush, first of all, on international cooperation. The president went around the world and thumbed his nose. The whole world wanted to help us after 9/11. He went around the world and alienated them.


BEGALA: So now we are alone


CARLSON: Where have you been



BEGALA: John Kerry will be a relief.

CARLSON: Do you read the paper?


CARLSON: Look...

BEGALA: Or I watch CNN.

CARLSON: You watch CNN.


CARLSON: That's even better. The president is avidly trying to get the rest of the world to cooperate.

BEGALA: And he's failed.

CARLSON: France said last week under no circumstances, not under Kerry, not under Bush. No dice.

BEGALA: Well, he's failed.

Well, anyway on Monday night, speaking of our president, Mr. Bush endorsed the work of a United Nations bureaucrat in Iraq.


GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The special envoy intends to put forward the names of interim government officials this week.


BEGALA: Well, today, nearing the end of this week, we learn that the Bush administration is in fact undermining Mr. Brahimi. According to today's "Financial Times," Bush administration officials leaked the name of a leading candidate to become prime minister of Iraq, nuclear scientist Hussain al-Shahristani.

The U.N. enjoy reportedly reacted with fury at the Bushies' leak and shortly thereafter, Dr. Shahristani withdrew his name from consideration. Nice work, Mr. President. Look, looking at the president's crew in Iraq, I can of feel like Casey Stengel when he was the manager of the 1962 Mets. He looked down at the bench and he said, Tucker, can't anybody here play this game?


CARLSON: It's interesting, though, Paul. I think you're neglecting to ask -- you're neglecting to ask the key question. And that is, is Mr. Brahimi, as you put it, pro-American? Are his interests the same as ourselves? That's the only question that matters, as far as I'm concerned and I think probably as far as you're concerned.

And I'm not sure I know the answer to that, actually.


BEGALA: He is the person who the president has entrusted to do this work. And I have to agree with the president on this point.


CARLSON: Sometimes his interests intersect with ours and sometimes they very, very much don't. Some of his criticisms of the way we've waged the war in Iraq have been completely outrageous and anti-American.



CARLSON: Maybe he's worth being undermined.


BEGALA: They publicly promote him and then they secretly undermine him.

CARLSON: Maybe they are undermining him.

Well, if you watched the Academy Awards ceremony, you might get the impression that every celebrity in the whole world is liberal. That's not true. It's sort of true, but not totally true. Sure, the Democrats have Barbra Streisand. And, frankly, they can keep her, but the GOP has star power, too. His name is Don King, yes, the boxing promoter with the hair. The 72-year-old Mr. King will soon hit the road with RNC Chairman Ed Gillespie, also a frequent CROSSFIRE guest.

They'll be promoting the Republican Party. And the party ought to be proud. A self-made multimillionaire many times over, Don King began his career somewhat near the edge of the legitimate business world. During the 1950s and '60s, he did kill two men, one of them in justifiable self-defense. But he served his time and went on to became one of the great entrepreneurs in the history of sports, if not America, promoting over 500 world championship fights.

Don King is a legend. He's a fascinating person. And is he one tough guy. He's more than a match for "Yentl" any day of the week.



BEGALA: I love Don King. Of course, I've had the pleasure of interviewing him on CROSSFIRE, where he declared himself to be a Republicrat. That is to say, he supported Bill Clinton.


CARLSON: No. He's on the road with Ed Gillespie. He's supporting the president. How cool is that? There are not a lot of celebrities on the right.


BEGALA: I think it's great. I love Don King.


CARLSON: If you're going to pick one, Don King, I mean, truly. He is going to win people over and he'll at least entertain them.


BEGALA: But you know what? I think he was hanging out with a higher class of criminals when he was in the joint than Enron


CARLSON: Oh, come on.



BEGALA: The Enron lobbyist who runs the Republican Party these days.


CARLSON: I like Ed Gillespie. And I think he's a good man.

BEGALA: I like him fine, but he lobbied for those crooks at Enron.

Well, President Bush today campaigned at Vanderbilt Children's Hospital. But while Mr. Bush publicly touts his support for increased spending on health care, his budget actually cuts grants to children's hospitals. "The Washington Post" today reveals a secret Bush White House document that outlines cuts in many of the programs that Mr. Bush pretends to support.

Mr. Bush says, for example, he plans to increase funding for the Department of Education. But in private he's planning to cut it, same with veterans affairs, increase by $519 million in '05, but then cut by $910 million in '06. Mr. Bush also secretly plans to cut Head Start and the Women, Infants and Children's Program. So now we know, America, who Mr. Bush wants to pay for his fiscal recklessness and his foreign adventurism, poor women, sick children and America's veterans.


BEGALA: On the campaign trail, he poses as a compassionate conservative. But, in reality, George W. Bush is just a duplicitous deceiver.

CARLSON: Well, you know why? It's because he hates women, infants and veterans.


CARLSON: No, no. It's true. It's true. I just wish that he would -- I wish he would have cut...

BEGALA: He lies.

CARLSON: You know, it's such a campaign slogan. I hope it works for you.

But I must say, I wish he had cut domestic spending three years ago. I will say, it's sort of weird for you to argue that the deficit is this big problem and then, on the other hand, if he even thinks about any secret document cutting any domestic spending at all, oh, my God, he hates women, he hates infants, he hates veterans.




BEGALA: He could cut corporate welfare and he could make rich people pay their fair share in taxes.

CARLSON: That's ridiculous.

BEGALA: Don't go savage women and children and poor people.

CARLSON: Savaging women and children.


BEGALA: He should have an honest debate. I think we can agree on that.


CARLSON: We're going to savage some more women and children today on the show.

But, first, John Kerry spent the day trying to convince voters he's every bit as tough on terror as President Bush. In the process, he sounded almost like exactly like, that's right, President Bush. Is aping your opponent enough to win? That's his question and it's also our debate.

And if you haven't already logged on to, /ITV, and we hope you have, tell us what you think. We'll read some of your comments later on the air on CROSSFIRE.

We'll be right back.




BEGALA: Welcome back to CROSSFIRE.

John Kerry today more than answered critics who had called for him to outline his vision for America's foreign policy. In a major speech in Seattle today, Senator Kerry said President Bush's ill- planned war in Iraq and his inability to assemble or lead a real anti- terror coalition have made America less respected in the world and less safe at home.

In the CROSSFIRE to talk about the war of words over the war in Iraq, Republican Congressman Mike Pence -- he's from Indiana -- and Wendy Sherman. She's a foreign policy adviser for the John Kerry campaign.


BEGALA: Thank you both.


CARLSON: Wendy, I want to read you my absolute favorite quote of the week.


CARLSON: It's from "The Washington Post" and it's about the effort that you're involved in, Senator Kerry outlining his foreign policy views.

"Kerry will devote the next 11 days to national security issues," writes "The Post." Aides said that none of Kerry's speeches, the first of which he'll deliver today in Seattle, will deal directly with Iraq. In other words, other than that, Mrs. Lincoln, how was the play?


CARLSON: How can you ignore the issue that's at the very center of American foreign policy?

SHERMAN: You know what, Tucker?

Almost 600 days ago, John Kerry on the floor of the Senate gave a speech outlining what we should do in Iraq, and it took President George Bush nearly 600 days to take Senator John Kerry's advice. So I think he's been talking about Iraq for a long time. And he's got it just about right.


CARLSON: Well, this would be an opportune time to do it. Your answer is in fact deeply revealing, because I asked you about John Kerry and you immediately took it to President Bush.

Harold Ickes, very smart guy, worked for Bill Clinton, doubtless, you know him well, said this the other day to "The New York Times." And I thought it sort of summed it up: "Kerry has got to lay out a positive case. It has got to be more than just bashing Bush." I think you probably agree.


CARLSON: When is he going to do that?

SHERMAN: I think he's done that, Tucker.

CARLSON: I haven't noticed.

SHERMAN: He spoke on Iraq. He talked what we need to do there.

But, you know, he also believes that there's one commander in chief at a time. And right now, it's President Bush. And he's not going to do something that's going to undermine our alliances, which he thinks we need. President Bush does not. He's not going to do things that are going to make it harder for our troops. He wants the troops to be successful. He wants us to be successful in Iraq.

So I think John Kerry has laid out his vision for a very long time in quite a lot of detail. What he did today was critical, which was to lay out the imperatives for the future. He's not just about the past. He's about the future. Iraq is a piece of that, but we have a broad agenda in the world and John Kerry is the leader to make it come true.


BEGALA: Well, and in fact, Congressman Pence, one of the things that my fellow Democrats are criticizing Senator Kerry about is the argument that he has refused to really bash Bush on the war in Iraq. And, in fact, one of the things he said today, actually, I think you'll agree with, because, our viewers should know, you're one of the strongest supporters that our soldiers in the front line have in the Congress. We're in different parties, but I admire your commitment to our soldiers.

REP. MIKE PENCE (R), INDIANA: Thank you, Paul.

BEGALA: Senator Kerry, himself a war hero, said to our troops today, you'll never be sent into harm's way without enough troops for the task or asked to fight a war without a plan to win the peace.

PENCE: Right.

BEGALA: That's a wonderful commitment to make, isn't it?

PENCE: Well, it's a wonderful commitment.

And I have to tell you, there was much that Senator Kerry said today that I appreciated. I think it's extremely important, as the ambassador just said, that the world understand that, while we are having an election, our nation is truly unified in our commitment to defeating worldwide terror, to confronting weapons of mass destruction, and to building alliances around the globe, and all of which Senator Kerry said today with great eloquence. I just have to tell you, with great respect to the ambassador, I know France and Germany had a problem with Iraq. We've got 30 countries on the ground in Iraq right now. John Kerry talked about developing apparently not coalitions of the willing, but a coalition of the able. He mentioned in his speech, well, France and Germany were able to come with us in Iraq, as they did in Afghanistan. They just weren't willing.

And I just don't think we should ever subordinate America's vital national interests to the whims of a couple of European countries.


BEGALA: Isn't it the job of the president to lead them?

Ronald Reagan, doubtless a president you admire greatly.

PENCE: Right.

BEGALA: In the '80s, wanted to station intermediate nuclear forces in Europe. The Europeans hated it. He brought the French along.

PENCE: Right.

BEGALA: Isn't that what a leader does? Look, when you become president, you get the White House, you get the limo and you get the French.


BEGALA: I mean, isn't it the president's job to bring them along? And why isn't Bush up to that job?

PENCE: Well, I always thought you got the French, too.


BEGALA: Yes, every president has had problems. Even Washington had problems dealing with the French. This president has fail more miserably than any of those presidents.


PENCE: I'll tell you, it's the one thing that really bothered me the most about John Kerry's speech today, was that he -- he laid out four imperatives.

And the chief among them was the building of alliances. I think the American people want a commander in chief who says, the chief imperative is to protect the people of the United States of America.


PENCE: If we can do that with alliances, we do it. If we can't have people in alliances committed to our vital national interests, we will go with who will go with us.


CARLSON: Now, Wendy Sherman, I read that speech. I read every word of it. And there wasn't really a great...

SHERMAN: I'm glad, Tucker.

CARLSON: I thought it was interesting. And a lot of it sounded a lot like Bush to me, honestly.


CARLSON: There wasn't much about Iraq. And I'm wondering why. And I think -- here's my theory. Tell me what you think. Kerry is under a lot of pressure from the left of his party, which is active louder than really it's ever been, to come out for pulling troops out of Iraq.

The latest poll, ABC News/"Washington Post" poll on this, says that 53 percent of Democrats want to pull troops out now. And isn't that the problem Kerry faces? That's irresponsible. So he's not going to say it. But he's under all this pressure from the lefties to come out for that.

SHERMAN: I think what John Kerry is seeing and what I wish President Bush would see is the confusion that people feel, the frustration that people feel.

And what you see in those numbers and what you see from members of Congress in both parties when they say, let's pull the troops out, is the leading edge of dissent in this country, that people don't know what President Bush is doing. They don't know how our troops are going to be protected. They don't know how freedom is going to come to Iraq, and they don't know what we're doing there. And that is a failure of presidential leadership.


CARLSON: I actually agree with -- I agree with a lot of...


CARLSON: Well, hold on. Let me follow up here. I agree with a lot of what you've said.

But I just want to clarify one point. It's not, at this point anyway, a bipartisan movement to pull troops out of Iraq. This same poll says only 22 percent of Republicans think we ought to pull our troops out. It is the left that's pushing it. And I'm wondering, can John Kerry withstand for the next six months calls from the left wing of his party to come out for pulling troops out?


SHERMAN: I think Senator Kerry well understands what people are feeling in this country. That is why, today, he laid out the imperatives for the future and presented the kind of leader that he is that will get us there. And I think that's what we're seeing in the polls.

The polls are reflecting their feelings about President Bush. And I think that will translate into a change in leadership and John Kerry will become president of the United States.



PENCE: May I respond to what the ambassador said, Paul?

BEGALA: Go ahead.

PENCE: Would that be all right?

BEGALA: Yes, sir.

PENCE: The ambassador says that the president hasn't laid out a vision. I heard John Kerry's speech.

SHERMAN: Oh, I think he's laid out a vision, just no steps to get there.

PENCE: Well, the president said on Monday night at the War College, he said, history is moving. It's a choice between hope and disaster.

And he laid out a timetable. The president is committed to handing over authority to the Iraqi people, the partnership in Fallujah, bringing around security. Holding back our own forces and allowing Iraqis to govern the transition away from violence in Fallujah has been a success story. We are in the process of working with the United Nations, an international body, to have verifiable and credible elections. The president has a vision.

The truth is, John Kerry and the Democrats just don't like the vision.


BEGALA: Well, here's a comment on the president's vision. One analyst looked at this and called it dereliction, negligence, irresponsibility at worst, lying, incompetence and corruption. That wasn't John Kerry. It wasn't Gore. That was General Anthony Zinni, a four-star Marine general who President Bush asked to serve in the Middle East.

Now, when a four-star general, no liberal, he, says that the president's been lying, incompetent and corrupt in his administration in this war, that's a catastrophe, isn't it?

PENCE: Well, it's not a catastrophe. That's America, Paul. As we say in NASCAR, rubbing is racing. (LAUGHTER)

PENCE: And it happens. People get criticized. It comes with the job.

CARLSON: Rubbing is racing.

PENCE: Rubbing is racing.

CARLSON: I like that.


PENCE: The truth is, this president has led the nation boldly. He's pursued our vital national interests in Iraq. And I believe history will acquit his leadership and his


CARLSON: OK. And on that note, we're going to take a quick commercial break.

Next, in "Rapid Fire," we'll ask our guests if they can help us make some sense, any sense, of Al Gore's speech yesterday. It was amazing.

Also ahead, another nightmare for island of Hispaniola. We'll show you what is being done to help.

We'll be right back.


MILES O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: Hello. I'm Miles O'Brien at CNN Center in Atlanta.

Coming up at the top of the hour, a radical cleric in Britain is indicted for allegedly plotting to train terrorists in the U.S. We'll tell you more about Abu Hamza al-Masri and why U.S. officials think he is so dangerous.

Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry unveiling a four- part plan for dealing with terrorists.

And there's a deal in Iraq to end the fighting in Najaf. Question: Will it work?

Those stories and much more just minutes away on "WOLF BLITZER REPORTS."

Now back to CROSSFIRE.

CARLSON: Welcome back to CROSSFIRE. It's time now for "Rapid Fire," where we dish out questions quickly and hope for crisp answers.

Back in the CROSSFIRE, Kerry foreign policy adviser Wendy Sherman and Republican Congressman Mike Pence of Indiana.

BEGALA: Congressman Pence, "The Washington Post" reveals today that the president is going to ask for a $1 billion cut in funding homeland security for his '06 budget. Will you support cutting homeland security when we're at war against terrorists?

PENCE: Probably not, Paul. It probably doesn't send the right message. But a lot of this rhetoric gets confusing. "The Washington Post" usually gets it right. But I don't even know if we're going to get a budget out of the House and Senate this year.

CARLSON: Wendy Sherman, help me, please. Al Gore said this yesterday. I don't know what it means -- quote -- "He planted the seeds of war and harvested a whirlwind and now the corrupt tree of a war waged on false premises has brought us the evil fruit of Americans torturing and sexually humiliating prisoners," extended metaphor. But beyond that, huh?

SHERMAN: I think yesterday, Vice President Gore was expressing the frustration of all of those folks in the MoveOn audience who are -- just don't know what to do with themselves.

CARLSON: Shouldn't he do that at home locked in the bathroom?



BEGALA: You know what? He didn't say anything that Anthony Zinni, four-star Marine general, hasn't said. So god bless Al Gore for speaking the truth.


CARLSON: What does it mean?

PENCE: He got a little bit caught of up in the crowd. I thought it was a little bit of Howard Dean yelp of a moment for Al Gore. The MoveOn crowd got him a little bit overexcited.

BEGALA: Let's go back to Senator Kerry. Senator Kerry today, as one of his principles, said that America needs to become independent of Middle East oil, I think, within 10 years. Do you support that goal?

PENCE: I absolutely support the environmentally responsible exploration of the Alaska National Wildlife Region, delighted that Senator Kerry seems to be leaning in the direction of increased domestic production.


SHERMAN: Oh, no, that's a little bit of an oxymoron, the environmentally safe exploration of ANWR.


CARLSON: Wouldn't it even help?


CARLSON: There is petroleum there. Why not drill it? It would make us slightly less dependent.

SHERMAN: I think you just got the most important poll you can get. I think there was nobody in this audience who did not applaud when I said it was an oxymoron.

CARLSON: Who cares? Shouldn't we do the right thing, no matter what people think?


PENCE: But I'm delighted, I'm delighted to see Senator Kerry -- I'm delighted to see him suggesting that we need to end our dependence on foreign oil.


PENCE: Domestic production is the key.


CARLSON: OK. Congressman Mike Pence, Wendy Sherman, thank you so much both for joining us.

SHERMAN: Thank you all.

CARLSON: Thanks.


CARLSON: Next, it is your turn to fire back. We'll see what our interactive viewers have to say.

We'll be right back.


BEGALA: Welcome back to CROSSFIRE and this interactive Thursday.

Let's take a look at some of your comments from our CROSSFIRE interactive participants. Here's the first one.

"Every time G.W." -- that would be George W. Bush, I'm sure, our president" -- "has poor poll results, he parades John Ashcroft to scare everyone so he can look like a leader. Wow." That's D. in Ohio.

(APPLAUSE) CARLSON: You know, I think that's awful thing to say. The threat is real. The threat is real. And I just think -- I don't know. To ascribe it to politics, that's just too much.


BEGALA: I haven't done that, but the spokesman for the Department of Homeland security did say that there's no new information and no increase


CARLSON: The threat is real.

Well, Jane from Georgia writes: "Kerry will never win if he bases his entire campaign on the pitfalls of the Bush administration."

Well, Jane, keep in mind, George W. Bush is evil, evil. He's like Satan. That's right. That's why you need to vote for Kerry. He's evil.

BEGALA: Jane, you need to log on to, I guess it's and read the speech.

CARLSON: Oh, he's evil.

BEGALA: It's a very affirmative, pro-America speech.

CARLSON: That's right. He's evil.

BEGALA: Bush is not evil, by the way. Tucker is wrong. He is incompetent, but he's a very decent guy.


CARLSON: He's evil.

BEGALA: Stephanie in Virginia writes: "It is not our job to make the world like us, but it does need to respect us. And we've lost all respect that we've once had."

She's right about that. We were the most respected nation in the world and Bush has squandered that asset.


CARLSON: Really? I don't know. I think, actually, America -- I travel a lot abroad. I don't think people like us. I do think they respect us. And millions of people want to come live here, despite George W. Bush and the fact that he's evil. He's evil.

BEGALA: And no one wants to help us in the war on terror. No one wants to help us in the war on terror.

CARLSON: Oh, that's such a gross overstatement.


BEGALA: He's a failed president. And we'll visit you when you're back in Crawford, Mr. President.

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 -- that would be Friday -- for another edition of CROSSFIRE. See you then.



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