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Competing Presidential Visions

Aired June 15, 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: competing candidates and competing visions.

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: My job is to say to the American people, follow me. The world is going to be better.

SEN. JOHN KERRY (D-MA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I will restore trust and credibility to the White House, my friends.

ANNOUNCER: We'll get the take on the presidential race from, among others, our special guest host on the left, the Reverend Al Sharpton today on CROSSFIRE.


ANNOUNCER: Live from the George Washington University, the Reverend Al Sharpton and Tucker Carlson.

TUCKER CARLSON, CO-HOST: Welcome to CROSSFIRE. James Carville and Paul Begala can't be with us today. They're at a deep tissue massage seminar in Santa Cruz with Barbra Streisand.

But never fear. Sitting in on the left today is American folk hero and former presidential candidate, the Reverend Al Sharpton.


CARLSON: We begin our show, as always, with the best political briefing in television, our CROSSFIRE "Political Alert."

During a speech in Florida yesterday, Vice President Dick Cheney made the point that Saddam Hussein's government had -- quote -- "long- established ties to al Qaeda." Democrats snickered, but, in fact, Cheney was merely parroting the words of another well-known Washington politician. On October 10, 2002, Hillary Clinton took to the Senate floor during a debate over the Iraq resolution.

And this is what she said. Saddam Hussein has -- quote -- "given aid, comfort and sanctuary to terrorists, including al Qaeda members" -- end quote. And with that, Senator Clinton voted for war. You can find Mrs. Clinton's words in the congressional record or in a fascinating new book called "The Connection" by "Weekly Standard" reporter Stephen Hayes. In other words, if the Bush administration lied to get us into war, so did Hillary Clinton. It must have been a pretty big conspiracy. So they're all in it together, Bush and Hillary.

AL SHARPTON, GUEST HOST: Haven't you eaten enough shoe leather messing with Hillary?

CARLSON: Yes, I have. But I still think -- look, the point is, I think mistakes and false assumptions were made in the run-up to war. However, the idea that they lied about this...

SHARPTON: The mistake is that we listened to George Bush and we listened to the people that George Bush told us to listen to. That was the mistake.

CARLSON: Well, also, Hillary Clinton, don't you regret listening to Mrs. Clinton in the run-up to war?

SHARPTON: I regret that she and many Democrats in the Senate were misinformed by President Bush and his people. That's the only thing I regret.


CARLSON: But don't you think you're letting her off too easy? She's an adult, right?


CARLSON: She made the wrong choice, didn't she?

SHARPTON: And she's correcting it by getting Mr. Bush out of the White House in November.


SHARPTON: Chances are, you don't pay much attention to what's happening in Afghanistan. It's a land of insurgent attacks, of resurgent warlords, a land that leads the world in opium cultivation and heroin production, where Osama bin Laden and his friends may still be hiding.

And, if you believe the allegations, Afghanistan is a land of government corruption. Of course, that was all swept under the rug today when President Bush showed off Afghan President Hamid Karzai and touted Afghanistan as a model of what the Bush administration wants the rest of the world to be. The American public may not be paying attention. Unfortunately, for President Bush, the rest of the world is.

CARLSON: Look, I don't think -- I don't have any trouble believing that Afghanistan is a hotbed of government corruption and of opium cultivation. It always has been. I suspect it always will be. The point is that it is no longer the threat to America that it was. And that...

SHARPTON: But it is not a model.


CARLSON: Oh, it's not a model of democracy. And, in fact, I would bet my house that Afghanistan will never be a model of democracy or a even a place I'd like to live. But I'm just glad that they don't threaten us in the way they used to.

SHARPTON: OK, so let me get this right. Afghanistan is not a model. You would get your house on that. We go in.


SHARPTON: We go in. We have to do the job. And we go to Iraq for your second never-will-be-a-model adventure.

CARLSON: All I care about is America's safety.


CARLSON: I don't want to move to Afghanistan. I just don't want to get blown up by them.

Well, accurate or not, there is a consensus now forming in Washington that John Kerry has already picked his running mate. That would be Senator John Edwards of North Carolina. That's what people are saying. And Edwards would be a smart pick, not least because he would add charm to a campaign that just desperately needs it.

There's only one problem. Like Kerry himself, John Edwards is a rich white guy. And if there's one thing the Democratic Party stands for, it's that rich white guys are, in general, bad, very bad, hence, racial quotas and all that.


CARLSON: By picking John Edwards, the Kerry campaign would be breaking its own rules against rich white guys. And that would be an outrage, especially when there are so many talented black Democrats out there, some of them with religious backgrounds and years of well- publicized activism...



CARLSON: ... and ready-made constituencies, particularly in the Brooklyn, New York, area, not to mention a proven ability to perform on camera, even while hosting "Saturday Night Live." People like that are out there. Indeed, they are. And let's hope John Kerry picks him.


(APPLAUSE) CARLSON: And I think -- you know what? I'm not naming names, but I think you agree with me. He can do better. And why isn't he picking, as you put it, a candidate of color?

SHARPTON: First of all, if we're talking about John Kerry picking someone to run against Dick Cheney, there's -- probably most registered Democrats would be better candidates for vice president.


CARLSON: Well, why not you? Why not you? You'd be great.



SHARPTON: Well, first of all, I'm not running for vice president. And rich white guys are not all bad. John Kennedy was a rich white guy.

CARLSON: I like them, personally. Democrats don't.

SHARPTON: America has a long history of active, dynamic, opinionated and even sexy first ladies.


SHARPTON: The voters are getting just that with Teresa Heinz Kerry.

But, trust me, she will be a perfect addition to that list. She qualifies on all counts. Check out Mrs. Kerry on CBS tonight when she tells correspondent Byron Pitts -- quote -- "I'm cheeky. I'm sexy. I've got a lot of life inside" -- end quote. Some of us already know that. I've said it before and I don't mind replaying it again.


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Who would you like to party with of this group?

SHARPTON: Probably the best person I've met in the campaign to party with, Mrs. Kerry. I'm sorry.




CARLSON: You know what? To me, that was right there -- that moment was the highlight of the primary season. Did you ever party with Mrs. Kerry and, if so, how was it?



SHARPTON: In fact, Mrs. Kerry did come to our National Action Network convention. She spoke for our (UNINTELLIGIBLE) luncheon, headed by Marjorie Harris, who you know well.

And what we do when we party is, we register voters and we make sure Americans that your guys have ignored can come to the party, rather than charge them for the party they weren't invited to.


CARLSON: That's what you do when you party? You register voters?

SHARPTON: Absolutely.

CARLSON: Oh, Reverend, you're -- you're upsetting me.


SHARPTON: I know you would rather we get drunk and forget to vote, but that's not the kind of party we're going to do this year.



CARLSON: That was good.

When it comes to presidential candidates, it takes one to know one, or it helps, anyway. That's our theory. When Al Sharpton and I return, the battle between George Bush and John Kerry is heating up again. Who's doing the better job of connecting with voters as we head into summer? And look who's singing the praises of his favorite candidate. Does he have a hit on his hands or is he just living on a prayer? We'll tell you.

We'll be right back.


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.


CARLSON: Now that Ronald Reagan has been laid to rest, so has last week's remarkable spirit of political unity and mutual respect. It was too good to last, of course.

John Kerry is back on the road, pessimistic and gloomy and dour, as always. America is in a full-blown economic recovery, but you would never know it from listening to Kerry, whose every speech evokes images of bread lines and Hoovervilles. Meanwhile, George W. Bush seems more optimistic by the day. The question is, which vision will voters find more appealing and compelling? That's our debate.

We are joined by two of our all-time favorite guests, Democratic Congresswoman Loretta Sanchez of California and Republican Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen of Florida. And, of course, joining me here is our special guest host, none other than the Reverend Al Sharpton.

SHARPTON: Tucker, we have two Latino women and one black man. You're the minority here, so behave yourself.


CARLSON: Whoa! I'm outnumbered!

REP. ILEANA ROS-LEHTINEN (R), FLORIDA: It's about time. And we're growing by the numbers, so watch out.


SHARPTON: That's right.

Congresswoman, let me ask you a question. Don't you think that the president is going to have a hard time explaining to Americans going to war and there really was no weapons of mass destruction? How's he going to overcome the premise that we went to war in the first place?

ROS-LEHTINEN: Well, that's the same kind of overcoming that Hillary Clinton has to do and that a majority of members of Congress and senators have to do, and the U.N. members as well, because all of us were going on that intelligence.

Now, whether it was faulty intelligence or not, we're taking steps to correct it. However, there is no debate that Saddam Hussein was a threat to his own people and to the international community. And he should have been dealt with. We dealt with him. And he's going to go to trial. And we are better off now that he's not in power.


SHARPTON: But that's not why we went to war.

You can't, in the middle of the war, change the premise. We were told that we were in imminent danger, we had to go to war. How many troops did Hillary Clinton send to war? She was not the commander in chief. George Bush was.

ROS-LEHTINEN: Hillary Clinton, just like I did, voted to give that authority to our commander in chief. And she has the same responsibility as I do and all of your Democratic colleagues do as to our vote. I stand by that vote. It was the correct vote. And were I to cast it today, I would vote the same way. This is a global war against terrorism. We're fighting it in Iraq. We could have easily been fighting it elsewhere. It's better to hit them there than have them hit us here.


CARLSON: Congresswoman Sanchez, I don't think there's any question that there are problems with the prewar intelligence that was available not just to the administration, but to everyone, to members of Congress.

REP. LORETTA SANCHEZ (D), CALIFORNIA: And there were also problems with people who read that intelligence and didn't understand that it didn't make any sense.

CARLSON: Well, that's indeed the point I'm about to make. And that is simply that the mistakes were honest mistakes. It was not a conspiracy.

And to make that point, I want to read you -- I read it a minute ago -- read it again -- this is Hillary Clinton October 10, 2002, standing in the Senate -- you probably heard her say it live -- Saddam Hussein has -- quote -- "given aid, comfort and sanctuary to terrorists, including al Qaeda members." There she is drawing the explicit connection between Saddam and Osama bin Laden, the much- derided connection.

Don't you think it's time to just admit that the administration, if it made mistakes, made honest mistakes, not lies?

SANCHEZ: What I think is important is for this administration to admit that it has made mistakes all along.

It made mistakes in not understanding that, once the battle was done in Baghdad, that people would go out looting and it would be a harmful place for the Iraqi civilians. They made mistakes by not understanding that the insurgents were coming together and that it was a guerrilla attack.

It took me six months to get out of our generals that there was a guerrilla warfare going on in Iraq and that they were trying to make it look like it was a normal battle or a normal situation. So, they should have understood what was going on. They made a mistake in not listening to General Shinseki and saying that we needed over 200,000 troops there and only sending in about 100,000. They made a mistake.


CARLSON: Well, if I could stop here.


SANCHEZ: It's one mistake after the other.

CARLSON: And I'm familiar with the charges. (APPLAUSE)

CARLSON: And, actually, I think, in some of the cases, you're right. I agree with some of the things you said. But hold on. But what I don't agree with and what I sort of resent, honestly, is the finger-pointing when it's unfair.

For instance, you said that the administration should have listened to General Shinseki. Where were congressional Democrats when General Shinseki gave his testimony? I didn't notice Hillary Clinton standing up and saying, actually, you know what, we need 300,000 troops. She didn't.

SANCHEZ: You know, I was sitting there saying, I believe General Shinseki. And where is the plan?

And if you look on the House Armed Services Committee, where I sit and where we tried to debate this issue, but, of course, the chairman doesn't allow very many hearings. But whenever they do, I'm asking the same questions. Where is the plan? What are we going to do? How much is it going to cost us, how many more lives?

And you know what? They sit up there and they're like, Fallujah. Oh, Fallujah, Fallujah, is going so well now. That's after my Marines went in there from Southern California. That's after I lost 19 going street to street to try to get back that town. And then they say, oh, let's retreat. Let's put some other general -- an Iraqi general in charge with all the Iraqi army people there. And, oh, but we're winning there now. I mean, get real. That's the way they talk.



CARLSON: But do they wave their hands when they talk and talk in a high-pitched tone and voice?

SANCHEZ: Well, you know, my mother says I'm part Italian, so...




SHARPTON: Well, you know, I'm amazed at how now, all of a sudden, those of us that were misled by the Republican commander in chief, all of a sudden, it's our fault for believing him.


SHARPTON: So are you now, Congresswoman, are you going to say that -- did Hillary Clinton bring Vice President Cheney over and tell him, let's give Halliburton all of these contracts? Was Hillary part of that deal, too?

ROS-LEHTINEN: Well, how about let's talk about this deal? How about the oil-for-food scandal?

SHARPTON: No, let's talk about Halliburton.

ROS-LEHTINEN: Fine. I say investigate them and let's make sure that that problem is not -- is resolved in a positive way for the taxpayers.

But how about the scandal that was taking place in the U.N. with the oil-for-food money? What was happening there? They were taking -- the French, the Germans, all the ones who were against us in the U.N. Security Council in all the debate, they were the ones who were voting against us at the same time that they were getting rich off of Saddam Hussein's misery.

SHARPTON: Very good move.


SHARPTON: You know, very good move. I learned that move growing up in Brooklyn. A guy breaks into my house. I go find the guy. He said, but what about the guy around the corner that broke in three houses? That has nothing to do with my house.


SHARPTON: Halliburton, not the U.N.


SHARPTON: Vice President Cheney has to run reelection. He's not running for his U.N. position. He has none. How do you explain Halliburton? And don't tell me Hillary Clinton and John Kerry helped cut that deal.


ROS-LEHTINEN: We have had many -- we have had many hearings on Halliburton. I'm sure that we are going to have many more.

How many hearings have we been able to have on the U.N. oil-for- food scandal? Hardly any at all. Why? Because the U.N...

SHARPTON: I want President Kerry to do that now. Halliburton.

ROS-LEHTINEN: No, no, no, no. Because the U.N. is stifling that report. And they say, oh, Paul Volcker is in charge, so no one else can touch it. Why aren't the Democrats calling for papers and investigations of that scandal?


CARLSON: I'm sorry.


SANCHEZ: Because we want to find out first, why Halliburton? Don't change the subject. Why Halliburton?

CARLSON: I'm not changing -- we are going to do a whole show on Halliburton and how it's responsible for the Kennedy assassination.


CARLSON: But, until then, I want to play you a political ad. I never play political ads. They're mostly boring. I think this one's pretty good.

SANCHEZ: Does it star me?

CARLSON: It ought to. This is the new spot from the George W. Bush campaign. Here it is.


NARRATOR: After recession, 9/11 and war, now our economy has been growing for 10 straight months, the largest tax relief in history, 1.4 million jobs added since August, inflation, interest and mortgage rates low, record homeownership. John Kerry's response? He's talking about the Great Depression.


CARLSON: I mean, the economy is growing at its fastest clip in 20 years. It's impossible to argue with that. Does Kerry -- does he himself a service by telling us we're about to enter another Great Depression? Come on.

SANCHEZ: You know, as an economist -- and you would know this because of numbers -- it's easy for you to grow fast when you've gone down to the deepest level you possibly could. In fact, under Bush, he lost almost three million jobs. So the fact, if he's touting now that I've gained a million or whatever, it's not even yet to the point when Clinton left office.

CARLSON: That's true.

SANCHEZ: And there's the problem.

CARLSON: The bubble exploded.

SANCHEZ: There's the problem.


CARLSON: Let me test you. I want to test something that I think of to myself as an irony meter.

I want to read you a description from "The Los Angeles Times," from today's "L.A. Times, and you tell me if your irony meter goes off. Here it is. This is John Kerry's address he gave to donors last night -- quote -- "'The fact is that the middle class is going backward. And those trying to get into it are sliding backward, working harder, two or three jobs, can't get ahead, while the people at the top are doing better and better,' Kerry said. Speaking at a fund-raiser, he struck a similar note in his speech to more than 300 donors milling around the pool and whirlpool at the castle-like New Jersey estate."


CARLSON: A long list of Hollywood celebrities there.

Does the irony meter go off, John Kerry telling a bunch of rich white people how the middle class is suffering?

SANCHEZ: Yes, rich white people who understand that, when the middle class gets better, when its kids are getting an education, it builds hope in the United States. It becomes the America that we all believe in, the place where you can go and you can make a difference, where you can get an education, where you can get ahead.

CARLSON: Who disagrees with that? Who disagrees with that?

SANCHEZ: Well, certainly, when I look at Bush and I see the fact that the middle class has disappeared and he's made a whole bunch of new poor people and he's made some people, his friends, basically, very, very rich, then, yes, I'm wondering, where is the middle class?

CARLSON: The middle class is disappearing? Well, you know what? We're going to do a whole segment on that.

SANCHEZ: Where is the middle class?

CARLSON: Where is the middle class?

SANCHEZ: Where is the middle class?

CARLSON: They are gone. We're going to find them.


CARLSON: Hold on. We've got to take a quick commercial break.

Just ahead, we're going to find the middle class for you. Then, our guests will enter the "Rapid Fire." We'll ask whether they agree with one official calling for Kerry's resignation, in Massachusetts, by the way.

Right after the break, is the U.S. preparing to give up custody of Saddam Hussein? Wolf Blitzer will tell us.

We'll be right back.


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

Coming up at the top of the hour, Iraq's new leaders may have to wait a while before they get custody of Saddam Hussein. President Bush says the former Iraqi president will be turned over at the appropriate time when there's appropriate security.

With the violence continuing, Iraq and the United States are counting down the days until the June 30 handover, but what happens then? We'll ask retired U.S. Army General Wesley Clark.

And is your local shopping mall safe from terrorists? We'll talk it over with Asa Hutchinson of the Homeland Security Department. He'll join me live.

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

Now back to CROSSFIRE.

SHARPTON: It's time for "Rapid Fire." We keep the questions and answers short, because, just like the Bush administration, we don't have much time left.



CARLSON: Congresswoman Sanchez...

SANCHEZ: I'm sorry. I'm laughing too hard.

CARLSON: Well, it's a pretty good line. Not true, but good line.

The lieutenant governor of Massachusetts, Kerry Healey, is a Republican, but not any kind of right-wing crazy. He makes a really good point -- and Bob Dole backs him up on this. Why doesn't John Kerry resign? He's running for president. He never shows up for votes in the Senate. He's not serving the people of Massachusetts. Why doesn't he just resign? And, if he's going to win, why not?

SANCHEZ: Oh, I think that he's been a great senator and he's got lots of time there. And I think he'll win and then we'll put in another Democrat in Massachusetts. And I don't know who these other guys are.

CARLSON: And the people of the state will just suffer with their representation until then.

SANCHEZ: They've had great representation. They'll continue to have great representation. They know how to pick their senators.

SHARPTON: Well, Congresswoman, if not showing up to work is a basis of resignation, don't you think President Bush should resign?


SHARPTON: He doesn't show up as president.

ROS-LEHTINEN: Oh, now, now, listen, listen, he has -- I think that the people approve of the work that he's done. I think that he's been a stand-up guy.


SHARPTON: On the golf course, down at his ranch.

ROS-LEHTINEN: No, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no. The...

SHARPTON: He hasn't stood up in the Oval Office most of the time.

ROS-LEHTINEN: Well, I know that Bill Clinton had a fun time when he went to Martha's Vineyard and when he went off to all of his jaunts and buying gifts for all his friends.


SHARPTON: You can't compare Bill Clinton and this man, who most of his time in office he's spent doing other things. But let me ask you...

ROS-LEHTINEN: One thing that we can compare him to is that Bill Clinton served eight years and President Bush will serve eight years.

SHARPTON: That's true. Will serve four years. You're right.

ROS-LEHTINEN: Eight years. Eight years.

SHARPTON: Both Bushes together, eight years.

ROS-LEHTINEN: And President Bush understood the war on terror.

SHARPTON: He's doing his father's second term. Eight years of Bush is enough.

ROS-LEHTINEN: While President Clinton ignored the bombs in the USS Cole, ignored the bombs in the World Trade Center, ignored the bombs in our U.S. embassies in Africa.

SHARPTON: That's why, under Bill Clinton, we had peace and prosperity.



ROS-LEHTINEN: That's right. You can have peace if you don't pay attention.

CARLSON: I am going to have to interrupt, because we are going to be talking about all these topics for the rest of the month up and until the Democratic Convention. Bill Clinton's book, 900 pages of talking about himself, is coming out. Admit to me that the Kerry campaign...

SANCHEZ: Everybody wants to buy it. Everybody wants to buy it.

CARLSON: I'm going to buy it. I'm interested in how...

SANCHEZ: You're going to buy it.

CARLSON: I am. But it overshadows the Kerry campaign. Please just admit it. It's obvious.

SANCHEZ: I think it's going to help Kerry.

CARLSON: Do you really think that?


SANCHEZ: I think -- I think Clinton is going to go out there. He is going to go around the country. He's going to remind America about how prosperous we were, about how wonderful life was, about how we believed in America, about how the world loved us.


CARLSON: I'm sorry. We are going to bring you both back.


CARLSON: You are our all-time favorite guests. Loretta Sanchez, Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, thank you both very much. We appreciate it.



CARLSON: The Reverend Al Sharpton and I will be right back and we'll tell you about a million-dollar concert. Next, Bon Jovi tries to turn a political campaign into a hit. Did he succeed? We'll let you know.

We'll be right back.



CARLSON: Well, Jon Bon Jovi sings about living on a prayer, but you won't be surprised to learn he lives on a whole lot more than that.

Just like the Democratic Party's aforementioned stand that rich white guys in general are bad, very bad, John Kerry had no reservations about hosting a fund-raiser last night at the mansion, indeed the castle, of the rock star, a certifiably rich white guy. Among the 300 or so guests were James Gandolfini, who, surprise, surprise, plays a rich white mob boss on the TV show "The Sopranos." The list goes on and on, including actress Meg Ryan. Kerry took in $1 million.

Did he visit a homeless shelter yesterday? No.

SHARPTON: From the left, I'm Al Sharpton. That's it for CROSSFIRE

CARLSON: From the right, I'm Tucker Carlson. Join us again tomorrow for more CROSSFIRE.

And, on Friday, the Reverend Al Sharpton returns for another spectacular show.

Have a great night.



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