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Al Gore on the Attack

Aired June 24, 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: Al Gore's latest indictment of the Bush administration.

AL GORE, FORMER VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: President Bush is now intentionally misleading the American people.

ANNOUNCER: Does he have a point or is he going too far?

And it's interactive Thursday. Be sure to logon to



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

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

Al Gore today demonstrated why he won the election against George W. Bush. In a well reasoned and well researched speech, Vice President Gore asserted that the president either knowingly misled us about al Qaeda's ties to Iraq or that he lied us into war because he believed a preposterous charge based on flimsy scraps of evidence.

TUCKER CARLSON, CO-HOST: Well reasoned. Can you imagine?

Well, we'll put Al Gore's paranoid ramblings in the CROSSFIRE.


CARLSON: But we'll first start with the best little briefing in television, our CROSSFIRE "Political Alert."

Just when you thought the Bush administration would never catch a break, Al Gore reappears to remind you why voting for George W. Bush in 2000 wasn't such a bad idea. In a long, angry and irresponsible speech at Georgetown University today, Gore accused the Bush administration of everything from subverting the Constitution and destroying our national honor. At times, he implied the Bush administration is becoming a dictatorship. And then Gore said this -- quote -- "The greatest challenge facing our republic is not terrorism, but how we react to terrorism." In other words, al Qaeda may be scary, but Bush is scarier.

History will show that Gore is not just wrong, but he is hysterical. In the meantime, some friendly advice for the hyperventilating former vice president. Your time is over in American politics. Get back to your cable network. Get off the stage quick. You're humiliating yourself.


BEGALA: No, I actually went to the speech. And I'm not going to let you mischaracterize what the vice president said.

On that particular count -- on that particular count, he has a very...

CARLSON: I've got it right here, Paul.

BEGALA: He has a very optimistic view that, yes, we're going to triumph over the terrorists, but we don't need to shred the Constitution in order to do it. We don't need to panic people in order to do it. We are going to win this war once we get a competent and truthful president in there, unlike the guy that we've got in there now.



CARLSON: The greatest challenge -- the greatest challenge facing the republic is not terrorism, how we react to terrorism.


CARLSON: That's a lie.


BEGALA: No, it's not. No, it's not.

CARLSON: And what is he going to say the next time we have a terrorist attack on our soil? It's an outrageous thing to say.

BEGALA: No. We have to be able to protect our liberty even as we protect our country.



BEGALA: At least 92 people were killed and 285 wounded in a coordinated series of attacks in Iraq today. Insurgents used rocket- propelled grenades, bombs and suicide attacks and ambushes in locations as varied as Fallujah, Mosul, Baquba and Ramadi. Meanwhile, a senior CIA official in the Bush administration who is remaining anonymous has written an explosive new book that claims, among other things, that Saddam Hussein posed no threat to America and that President Bush's war in Iraq has undermined the war on terror by playing right into Osama bin Laden's hands.

Now, curiously, that's the same case made by filmmaker Michael Moore in his terrific new movie, "Fahrenheit 9/11," which I saw last night.


BEGALA: Now, I hope every fair-minded American will see it, too, because, you know, who would have thought Michael Moore and the leader of George Bush's CIA would agree on so many things?



CARLSON: I have to say, Michael Moore has also alleged repeatedly, as you know, that the United States went to war in Afghanistan and in Iraq to preserve American oil interests. He's also alleged a conspiracy involving Bush and the family of Osama bin Laden.

It seems to me, as someone who admires his movie, you would say that both those statements are so completely over the top, so completely irresponsible, you would try distance yourself from them.


CARLSON: And instead, you're backing them up here.


BEGALA: It's a deeply patriotic movie. And any


BEGALA: ... ought to see it.

CARLSON: There's nothing deeply patriotic about Michael Moore, who has attacked this country.


BEGALA: He loves this country. And the movie is a love letter to America, not to George W. Bush, but to America.


CARLSON: Well, not surprisingly, John Kerry is miles ahead in this year's celebrity/rich guy primary.

First, Kerry picked up the endorsement of former Chrysler Corporation chairman Lee Iacocca. Yes, he's still around. Tonight, Kerry attends a star-studded concert and fund-raiser, tons of rich people there. Ben Affleck, Billy Crystal, Robert De Niro, Barbra Streisand and Neil Diamond will team up for the first time in 24 years. Don't you wish you could come?


CARLSON: But for the real news, read the fine print. Willie Nelson will be there, too. But, wait, isn't Willie Nelson pledged to the pro-hemp peace candidate, Dennis Kucinich? Yes. Until today, he was, but no longer. Uncle Willie has sold out and joined the establishment.

How depressing. It's one thing for John Kerry to have views that are silly and wrong, and he does, but to corrupt Willie Nelson, that is unforgivable.



CARLSON: It's outrageous.

BEGALA: Oh, well, I love Willie Nelson.

CARLSON: He used to stand for principle, a candidate who actually believes something.

BEGALA: And he's found a man of principle in John Kerry.

CARLSON: Oh, you know that's not true.

BEGALA: Don't forget, President Bush has his supporters. In Michael Moore's movie, there's an interview that Tucker Carlson conducted with a big Bush supporter from the world of celebrity, none other than the noted foreign policy expert Britney Spears. So the president has his supporters, Britney Spears on geopolitics with you, Tucker.


CARLSON: I have to say, that guy never asked my permission to put my interview in his movie. And I think that's pretty annoying.

BEGALA: Oh, it's a fair use. It was broadcast on the public airwaves.

CARLSON: Fair use? Nothing about Michael Moore is fair.



BEGALA: Well, Britney Spears is for Bush. God bless her.

Well, it's getting to be a tension convention, apparently, over at the old Bush/Cheney White House. President Bush today met with the Justice Department official who is investigating the allegedly criminal leak of the name of a CIA undercover agent which was allegedly done to punish Joseph Wilson, the agent's husband, for revealing that Mr. Bush made a false claim about Iraq in his State of the Union address.

Meanwhile, Vice President Dick Cheney blew a gasket on the Senate floor this week, telling Senator Pat Leahy of Vermont to -- quote -- "go 'F' yourself" -- unquote.


BEGALA: Look at it this way, though. Maybe Cheney was just telling Leahy the Republican version of safe sex. I don't know.


BEGALA: That could -- but, as for me, that is not...


BEGALA: I'm trying to defend Dick Cheney here, folks.

That is not the kind of language that I want to hear coming from a vice president. It's the kind of thing that should be kept between an Illinois Republican Senate candidate and his actress wife.



CARLSON: You know what?


CARLSON: I absolutely, first (AUDIO GAP) vice president's use of vulgarity.

BEGALA: I do, too.


CARLSON: I do. I think it's a welcome addition to our political discourse. Moreover, I understand it.

That guy, the vice president, has been attacked on a personal level so


CARLSON: I'm serious. So unfairly.

BEGALA: The attacks will end once he goes back to private practice.

CARLSON: If you don't like his ideas, that's one thing. But to allege, as Democrats have, that we started this war in Iraq to benefit his company, Halliburton, is such an outrage.


BEGALA: But I do. I applaud his language.

CARLSON: Good for him. Good for you, Dick Cheney.

BEGALA: I just hope he can control himself a little bit better.

CARLSON: You can come on our show and swear on our show any time.

BEGALA: I agree, any time.



CARLSON: The question today is, what happened to poor Al Gore? Do you remember? Well, today, he made yet another hysterical, rambling speech attacking the man who spanked him in 2000. Is anyone listening? And more to the point, aren't Mr. Gore's friends embarrassed for him? We are. And we'll debate his impact next.

And it's CROSSFIRE's interactive Thursday. Logon to That's We'll read some of your comments on the air later in the show.

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.



BEGALA: Welcome back to CROSSFIRE.

Speaking with the clarity of a scholar and the moral authority of a man who had the presidency stolen from him by a disgraceful Supreme Court ruling, Al Gore today analyzed some of the falsehoods and fabrications President Bush used to lead to us war.

Building his case carefully, Gore showed why members of the Bush administration -- quoting Gore here -- "dare not admit the truth, lest they (AUDIO GAP) complete fools for launching our country into a reckless (AUDIO GAP) against a nation that posed no immediate threat to us whatsoever."

In the CROSSFIRE today to discuss the vice -- former vice president's speech, former Virginia Governor, former Republican National Committee chairman Jim Gilmore, who also chaired a panel that assessed America's capabilities for response to terrorist activities, and Ron Klain, who was a chief of staff to Vice President Gore in the White House and was a senior adviser to his presidential campaign. Gentlemen, good to see you.


CARLSON: Ron, thanks for joining us. You're a very brave man.


CARLSON: Let's address some of what the former vice president or I guess, in your view, the current president, because many Democrats believe he's the president, actually said today. I want to read you a quote that I find literally remarkable.

Quote: "The greatest challenge facing our republic is not terrorism, but how we react to terrorism, not war, but how instead we manage our fears and achieve security without losing our freedom." That's just, on its face, wrong. The biggest threat we face, I think you would agree, in fact is terrorism, isn't it?

RON KLAIN, FORMER GORE CAMPAIGN ADVISER: Tucker, I think what he's saying is that we have to both combat terrorism without sacrificing our values.

You know, I was struck as we listened to the celebration of Ronald Reagan's life last week and the week before, that here was a man able to defeat the greatest threat known to freedom in the 20th century, communism, without sacrificing our civil liberties and our civil rights.

CARLSON: I think that's an excellent...

KLAIN: And I think, if Ronald Reagan can fight communism without trashing the Constitution...


KLAIN: George Bush should be able to fight terrorism without trashing the Constitution.


CARLSON: I think that's an excellent point. And as a small- government conservative, I agree with you that we need to fight terrorism without trampling civil liberties.

But that's not what he says. Let me read it again: "The greatest challenge facing our republic is not terrorism, but how we react." And I wonder if that has something to do with the fact that, while Mr. Gore was vice president, Osama bin Laden declared war on this country five times. Four separate times, al Qaeda took American lives. The Taliban became entrenched in Afghanistan. And what did that administration do about it? Not much. Maybe that's what he is saying.

KLAIN: Well, that's not true, Tucker.

CARLSON: It is true, actually.

KLAIN: That's not true, OK?

This is the administration that came into office, waited to convene a terrorism task force and that had no meetings on it in the first five months, when Vice President Cheney was chairing that task force. So, if we want to get into which administration did or didn't act, I think this administration's record of inaction before 9/11 speaks for itself.

What Vice President Gore was saying today was that this country can take on the terrorists and honor its values and honor its Constitution. They're not mutually exclusive.

CARLSON: No one disagrees with that.


KLAIN: Well, unfortunately, the Bush administration does.


BEGALA: Governor, let me come to the fundamental point of the vice president's speech. What he did, I think -- and I was at the speech, so I was able to listen carefully.

He went through and showed meticulously how every credible expert concluded that there were no operational links between the al Qaeda terrorist network and Saddam Hussein's thuggish regime. But the president made the argument that there were anyway. And here's the conclusion -- or the question, rather -- that Al Gore asked today. Then I want to pass it on to you.

Here's Vice President Gore.


GORE: If they believed these flimsy scraps, then who would want them in charge of anything?


GORE: Are they too dishonest or too gullible? Take your pick.


BEGALA: Take your pick, Governor. Were they too dishonest, knowing there were no ties, but telling us anyway, or are they so gullible they believe that there were when there were not?

JAMES GILMORE (R), FORMER VIRGINIA GOVERNOR: Well, I think Al Gore has to make up his mind. What he's talking about, is he accusing the president of being dishonest and a liar? Is he accusing him of being naive.

(CROSSTALK) BEGALA: He's asking you that question. Rather, I am.


BEGALA: Was he gullible or was he dishonest? I think he was dishonest, OK, but what


GILMORE: And the answer is that this speech is over the top. It accuses the president of war crimes. It accuses the president and the Congress of being irresponsible. After all, Paul, didn't John Kerry vote for the war? He did, you see. So what's


BEGALA: That's not what the president -- what the vice president said.

What he asked is, why did the president tell us there were links between Saddam and al Qaeda when the experts said there weren't? Either because he believed that there were, in which case, he's too gullible to lead us, or he knew he was trying to misleading us, in which case he's too dishonest.



BEGALA: Which do you think? Do you think Bush honestly believed there were links between al Qaeda and Saddam?


BEGALA: So he's too gullible?

GILMORE: No, and I think that there was...


GILMORE: No. And I think -- no. And I think there was legitimate -- there was legitimate evidence also that there in fact were these kind of links.

BEGALA: Where? Name one piece.


CARLSON: Hold on. I'm sorry.


CARLSON: I'm just going to have to cut this off.

GILMORE: There were. There were, in fact, links. There was, in fact, alleged meetings that went on. There were training opportunities that went on inside Iraq. And that's really not hardly the point of the war in the first place. This is all a distraction from the main point, which is that Iraq is a danger in the Mideast, that Saddam Hussein was a danger in the Mideast.

And until you bring stability into the Middle East, this country is in danger, as was clearly demonstrated at 9/11. But this speech is over the top, Paul.

CARLSON: You know, Ron Klain, I think even you'll agree it's over the top.


KLAIN: I don't. I think it was actually right what we need to hear.


CARLSON: Here's my question. I think it's fair to debate the significance of the ties between Iraq and al Qaeda, absolutely. Gore does not give his enemies any benefit of the doubt.

For instance, listen to this. "In the end, for this administration," he says, "it's all about power. This lie about the invented connection between al Qaeda and Iraq was and is the key to justify the current ongoing constitutional power grab by the president." In other words, he made it up in order to subvert the Constitution.

Hillary Clinton said publicly she believed in that connection. Israeli intelligence also before the war said they believed in this connection. I wonder if Israeli and Hillary Clinton were saying this as some part of a power grab, too.

KLAIN: But, Tucker, that's the point, which is that a lot of Americans believed their president when he said these things. And now we know that they're false.

And so the question is, did the president tell us a knowing falsehood or was he simply duped by the people around him? And let's also remember, this is not on a blank slate. This nation went to war because we were also told by this administration that we were going to find WMD in Iraq, we were going to find an imminent threat of nuclear attack in Iraq.


KLAIN: And all those things turned out to be...


CARLSON: ... rise above politics for just a second.

KLAIN: No, let's not rise above the facts. The facts are, we were misled as a basis to go to war.


CARLSON: I don't think there's any question -- I don't think there's any question that there were false assumptions on the part of this administration and many other people. There's no question about that.

My question to you, however, is, on the specific question of the connections between al Qaeda and Iraq, Hillary Clinton said publicly during the Senate debate about the vote to authorize war and Israeli intelligence said up until the war the exact same thing. Were they lying? Was it part of a power grab? Why did they say that?

KLAIN: They were misled by this administration.

CARLSON: That's just not true.


KLAIN: They were told.

BEGALA: Let me tell you, Governor. I won't read you all the language, but when the president of the United States sent his letter to the Congress when he began the war -- he's obliged under the War Powers Act to notify the Congress in writing. When he did, he cited links to the al Qaeda and the attacks of September 11 as one of the reasons to attack Iraq.

But this is what his officials told Knight Ridder newspapers. The vice president cited this today: "Senior U.S. officials now say there never was any evidence that Saddam's secular police state and Osama bin Laden's Islamic terrorist network were in league. At most, there were occasional meetings." So the president in his own letter misled the president -- misled the country, according to his own staff.

GILMORE: Well, we know this. We know that the president felt that he had to act decisively in Afghanistan, he had to act decisively against dictators...

BEGALA: He was right to act in Afghanistan.

GILMORE: Against dictators like Saddam, who was not only brutalizing his own people, but was a stated enemy of this country, an unstable type of situation in the Middle East.

But you know what I think is a lot more interesting than any of this, frankly, bizarre, over-the-top stuff in this speech? What's really interesting is, what is Al Gore doing?

BEGALA: He's speaking the truth to power. It's the most patriotic thing you can do.


BEGALA: God bless him, man. He ought to be sitting in the Oval Office. (CROSSTALK)

GILMORE: No, no.

What he's doing is, he's doing one of two things. He's doing one of two things. He's either distracting everybody from the good news of the economy and what's going on with the president or -- or he is diverting people away from John Kerry, which is a very interesting


CARLSON: Wait a second. We're almost out of time and I need to get in a question.


BEGALA: The president of the United States asserted links in the letter declaring the war. That doesn't trouble you?

GILMORE: What troubles me is trying to understand what this strange speech is really all about, this strange -- war crimes, all this strange stuff? What is the purpose of this speech?


CARLSON: Now, Ron Klain, on February 5, 2004, Al Gore accused George W. Bush of manufacturing the threat from Iraq and indeed taking us to war in order to gain advantage in the midterm elections of 2002. Do you believe that?

KLAIN: I believe that this administration had a strategy. Karl Rove acknowledged they had a strategy of playing the war card in the midterm election. And they did play the war card in the midterm election. And my party did a lousy job of responding to it, unfortunately. And that's why we have Republican majorities in both houses.

CARLSON: So you think the election had something to do with our going to war?

KLAIN: I don't think the election had something to do with our going to war.

What I do think is, the administration tried to exploit the war for political advantage. And that's one of the reasons I think they're paying a political price for the politicization of the war right now.

CARLSON: That's a lot of politics.

OK, we're going to take a quick break. Next, in "Rapid Fire," Bill Clinton says he would have voted for going to war in Iraq. How would Al Gore have voted? As if we don't know. Tonight, Bill Clinton will appear on CNN's "LARRY KING LIVE" at 9:00 p.m. Eastern. He will be taking your calls during that hour. And just ahead, Iraq's prime minister has a chilling analysis of what's ahead for his country in the days leading up to the handover. Wolf Blitzer will tell us about it.

We'll be right back.



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

Coming up at the top of the hour, it's been an extremely bloody day in Iraq. A series of attacks there have left about 100 people dead, many hundreds others wounded. And the next commander of the U.S. forces is warning that the bloodshed could continue for the rest of the year.

President Bush is questioned for more than an hour by government prosecutors. They're trying to figure out who leaked the name of a secret agent.

And more on a controversial new book by an anonymous CIA official. Are we really losing the war on terror? We'll get reaction from the former CIA Director James Woolsey.

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

Now back to CROSSFIRE.

CARLSON: Well, it's time for "Rapid Fire," where the questions come faster than Al Gore descending into hysterics. Our guests are former Gore adviser Ron Klain and former Virginia Governor and former National Republican Committee chairman Jim Gilmore.

BEGALA: Governor Gilmore, today's just out CNN/"USA Today"/Gallup poll asked this question. Has the war with Iraq made America safer from terrorism? Back in December, 56 percent of Americans said yes. Today, only 37 percent do, a collapse in people's views about how that war has gone. That's a disaster for your party, isn't it?

GILMORE: Well, it's a good thing we don't govern by polls. We govern by what we think is in the best interests of the society and the American character and the American


BEGALA: But the American people have decided that this thing has not made us safer. That should matter in a democracy, shouldn't it?


GILMORE: But the fact of the matter is, if Al Gore had been president, we wouldn't have seen this kind of decisive action after 9/11.

BEGALA: Thank God. I agree with that.


GILMORE: And we have seen that.

BEGALA: I agree with that.

CARLSON: Now, Ron Klain, the other -- just the other day, former President Bill Clinton said, "If I had been in the Senate, if I'd voted, I confess, I would have voted to give the authority to attack Iraq."

When did former President Clinton and former Vice President Gore get so far apart?

KLAIN: Well, I guess you weren't reading the newspapers in 1999. But...

CARLSON: They do hate each other. That's a good point.


CARLSON: No, I agree.

KLAIN: I don't know about hate each other.

CARLSON: I'm surprised you're admitting it.

KLAIN: I don't know about hate each other. I think they obviously have some differences.

Look, Vice President Gore made it very clear before -- Vice President Gore made it very clear before the Congress voted on war that he would have voted against the resolution authorizing the attack.

CARLSON: But he was unemployed at that point, so it doesn't matter.

KLAIN: And I think the events of the past -- the events of the past three years have proven out how right he was. We were taken to war under false premises.

The war has not made the country safer; 900 Americans have died in Iraq. And all we've done right now at least is destabilize the region and according to most of the experts increased the numbers of fighters in al Qaeda and in some ways increased the threat to this country.


KLAIN: This hasn't been a success.

BEGALA: That is all. (APPLAUSE)

BEGALA: Ron Klain, former adviser to Vice President Gore, Jim Gilmore, a former governor of Virginia, thank you both for a fun discussion.

Well, now we want to know what you have to say. You get to weigh in on our discussion about Al Gore. We will share some of the very best interactive comments from you next.

Stay with us.



BEGALA: Welcome back.

Al Gore's speech clearly worked today. It has inspired great debate on the show and now a lot of e-mails from our viewers on interactive Thursday.

Let's go the first one here.

Jane in my home state of Texas e-mailed us, saying: "Gore has kept a low profile, considering that he was elected president in 2000."



CARLSON: He's the real president.

BEGALA: He is. Good to see you admit it.

CARLSON: That means we should overthrow Bush.


BEGALA: Welcome to reality.

CARLSON: Philip from Montreal, Canada -- that's a foreign country -- writes: "Al Gore and Bill Clinton should both disappear into the shadows of history." Those Canadians, they just -- they sum it up.


BEGALA: John in Pennsylvania, which happens to be part of America, says:


BEGALA: "A case of the tail wagging the dog. Terrorists are in Iraq because we invaded." Well, it's certainly a bad day today in Iraq.

CARLSON: It was a great country before we invaded, as I think Michael Moore makes the case.

BEGALA: No, it was a mess. But now it's our mess.

CARLSON: Thorburn in California writes: "Al Gore needs a hobby."


CARLSON: Actually, I think this is his hobby, isn't it, lecturing the rest of us? I mean, that is Al Gore's...

BEGALA: No. You know, what he needs is a Cabinet. He needs to be the commander in chief. We would have never -- Jim Gilmore said it. We would have never gotten in this god-awful war.


BEGALA: Jim Gilmore was right.

CARLSON: OK. In your heart, you know that Al Gore would have been a terrifying president.


BEGALA: No. George W. Bush, who I like, is a nice guy, he terrifies me as president. Al Gore was smarter and more experienced and got more votes. Other than that...

CARLSON: He's a total extremist.

All right, let's look at our leaderboard. Xenapeel is on top. We want to thank everyone participating today. Those who take part are eligible for prizes, including an all-expense-paid -- that means beer -- trip to Washington to watch CROSSFIRE live. Thanks a lot.

BEGALA: Excellent. Tucker is buying the beer, though, eh?


BEGALA: 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, Friday, for yet more CROSSFIRE.



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