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What Next For Iraq?

Aired June 28, 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: The U.S. gives Iraq back to the Iraqis.

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: This is a great day of great hope for the Iraqis and a day that terrorist enemies hoped never to see.

ANNOUNCER: Is today a victory for the Bush administration or an example of putting the best face possible on a bad situation?



ANNOUNCER: Live from the George Washington University, Paul Begala and Robert Novak.



The critics said it never would happen. Two days ahead of schedule, the U.S. granted sovereignty to Iraq's interim government. President Bush said it best. The Iraqi people have their country back.

PAUL BEGALA, CO-HOST: Well, but if Mr. Bush is right, then when will we have our soldiers back? Sadly, Mr. Bush has no idea. John Kerry summed things up I think more accurately today, saying -- quote -- "The world is far more tattered and volatile than when Mr. Bush took office. And one of the reasons is the ill-advised way he went about Iraq" -- unquote.


BEGALA: We will debate what happens next in Iraq and to American troops there next, but, first, the best political briefing in television, our CROSSFIRE "Political Alert."

As we mentioned, Coalition Provisional Authority administrator Paul Bremer formally handed sovereignty over to Iraqi officials today. It's not clear exactly what that means, since Iraqis will not control the use of military force in their country and sovereignty usually begins with a monopoly on force. The surprise ceremony was conducted under heavy security in private two days ahead of schedule.

Immediately afterwards, Ambassador Bremer got in a helicopter and got the hell out of Dodge; 138,000 American troops there, however, were not so lucky. They remain on the front lines of Mr. Bush's war, with no timetable for their return.

Unluckier still is U.S. Marine Corporal Wassef Hassoun, who is reportedly being held captive by insurgents who are threatening to behead him. Insurgents are also threatening to behead an employee of an American contractor working in Iraq.

Given the disaster Iraq that is today, I think it's wise they didn't throw a party.

NOVAK: You know, Paul, I know that all Democrats want to make all the good news bad news as they can. But I noticed that Senator Kerry is not taking your position.

And I think you're making a mistake on this if you want this to help the Democratic Party. I think you ought to say that this was a very good plus, not only for George Bush, but for America.

BEGALA: We'll wait and me. I want help for our troops.


BEGALA: That's what I care about more than the election. I think Mr. Bush may have an eye on the election on this.

NOVAK: John Kerry wants to have life-and-death decisions -- wants to make life-and-death decisions as president. But, last night, he had a hard time choosing between labor bosses and city hall politicians. He was supposed to address the U.S. Conference of Mayors in Boston, but police and firefighters threw up a picket line in a long-pending wage dispute with the city.

Senator Kerry after a day of suspense declared he would never cross a picket line, and didn't. It was described as extortion by Salt Lake City's mayor, Rocky Anderson, a Democrat. Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick said he was disappointed, verging on angry. Host Mayor Thomas Menino of Boston was extremely disappointed. John Kerry made clear that, as president, he would always back the labor bosses.

BEGALA: No, made clear that he'll do what he thinks is right, even if it offends his friends, Kwame Kilpatrick, great Democrat, Mayor Menino of Boston, great Democrat. When's the last time President Bush stood up to his friends Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell and the leaders of the far right?


BEGALA: I would like to see Mr. Bush show that kind of political courage.

NOVAK: I would say -- I would say that this was an outrageous example of muscle by the police and firefighters union. (LAUGHTER)

NOVAK: You may laugh, but it's not a laughing matter to Mayor Menino and the people in Boston. And it just shows that he is in hock to the labor bosses.



BEGALA: Democrats back the cops. Republicans don't. That's the difference.


BEGALA: Well, Ralph Nader has criticized one of his strongest supporters from the year 2000. That is filmmaker Michael Moore. And he has criticized him for this, being fat, believe it or not.


BEGALA: Mr. Nader told "The Washington Post"'s Dana Milbank -- quote -- "I've been at him for years," saying, "You've got to lose weight. He's like a giant beach ball" -- unquote. But Moore's hot new anti-Bush movie, "Fahrenheit 9/11," is doing boffo box office, earning $21.8 million in just its first weekend, making "Fahrenheit" the No. 1 movie in America.

So, Michael, congratulations. And, you know, have a Ben & Jerry's on me.



BEGALA: But Mr. Nader -- Mr. Nader has gotten pretty cozy with different kind of fat cat, the right-wing group Citizens For a Sound Economy, headed by former Republican Majority Leader Dick Armey. It's working to get Nader on the ballot in Oregon. It's telling its members -- quote -- "Ralph Nader is undoubtedly going to pull some very crucial votes from John Kerry and that could make the difference in a razor-thin presidential election" -- unquote.

NOVAK: Paul, I really don't care how much Michael Moore weighs. I think, Paul, Ralph Nader think I'm a little too fat, too.


NOVAK: But as a matter of fact, what I care about Michael Moore is that he's a demagogue. He's anti-American. He lies.


NOVAK: He puts out -- he puts out horrible propaganda.

And I'll tell you one other thing. My rule in politics is, anybody that wants to run should be able to.


NOVAK: And I think it's a shame to keep anybody off the ballot.

BEGALA: That's why Dick Armey is helping him and a right-wing group?


NOVAK: The measure of today's national political convention is its speakers. And Republicans announced an all-star cast for their get-together in New York at the end of August.

The first night's session, we'll hear from two of the most attractive Republicans, Senator John McCain and former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani. The next night features a new political superstar, California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger. On Wednesday, delegates will hear from a Democrat who is sick and tired of liberals who have taken over his party, Senator Zell Miller of Georgia.

The Democrats, meeting in Boston a month earlier, open up with Al Gore.



NOVAK: Followed by Bill Clinton and Teddy Kennedy. Boy, is that ever exciting.

BEGALA: I can't wait for the Republicans. John McCain can talk about how he disagrees with President Bush on his tax cuts and on his support for radical right-wing preachers. Rudy Giuliani opposes Bush on gay rights. Schwarzenegger opposes President Bush on gun control and abortion. Hey, nobody is speaking of the Republican Party who supports Bush on the issues. Why don't they get a Republican who supports him?



NOVAK: I tell you what the difference...


NOVAK: If I could -- please, if I could just say a word.

BEGALA: Certainly.

NOVAK: I would say that the difference between Republicans and Democrats is, Republicans let all kinds of people in. Your party, like your friend, the former governor of Pennsylvania, Casey, wouldn't even let him speak because he was pro-life.



BEGALA: No, sir.


BEGALA: I was there. It's a point of personal privilege. I was there. He was my client. We did not let him speak because he would not endorse the ticket. Nobody gets to speak at any convention unless they support the candidate for president. That's the only


NOVAK: He wouldn't speak because he was pro-life.

BEGALA: That's not true, Bob. I was there. I helped make that decision. And you did not. This, I know firsthand.

BEGALA: Well, let's go on with your show.

President Bush says it's a day of great hope in Iraq. But any general will tell you, hope is not a strategy. So what will the so- called handover of sovereignty mean for 138,000 American troops still stuck in Iraq and what will it mean for Mr. Bush's dream of a second term in the White House. We will debate those questions in a moment?

And then, could shock jock Howard Stern really make a difference in who wins the race for the Oval Office? Find out why some experts say yes later on CROSSFIRE.


ANNOUNCER: Get ahead of the CROSSFIRE. Sign up for CROSSFIRE's daily "Political Alert" e-mail. You'll get a preview of each day's show, plus an inside look at the day's political headlines. Just go to and sign up today.

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.



NOVAK: Iraq rejoined the family of independent sovereign nations today, beginning what President Bush calls a new phase in progress toward full democracy. That's a big improvement from when Saddam Hussein and his murderous thugs were calling the shots in Baghdad 15 months ago.

To debate what's next in Iraq, we're joined by P.J. Crowley, a former Clinton special assistant for national security affairs. Also here, Ken Adelman, member of the Pentagon's Defense Policy Board. BEGALA: Ken, let me shock you by saying I agree with Bob says. Certainly, this group that is now running now, we hope it will be running Iraq, is a whole lot better than the murderous thugs who were there before. But the question is not that. The question is, isn't the very fact that the so-called handover of sovereignty had to occur in private, in secret and out of schedule proof that the security situation on the ground is still out of control?

KEN ADELMAN, FORMER DIRECTOR, U.S. ARMS CONTROL & DISARMAMENT AGENCY: Well, the security situation on the ground is bad. There's no question about that.

And what this is trying to do is to show, first of all, by speeding up the timetable, that the Iraqis have the responsibility themselves right now. And I think that is a very good sign. And the fact is, it has to have the Iraqis be responsible and take responsibility. Before, we were in the -- they were in the very nice situation of blaming everything on America.

And now they have to blame it on their fellow Iraqis or the foreigners who are coming to the country to -- you know, to perpetuate terrorism.

BEGALA: But help me out with this. The American military is the finest fighting force in the history of the world. We've been unable to pacify the country. How are a bunch of ill-trained, ill-equipped Iraqis going to be able to do what we haven't been able to?

ADELMAN: Well, two things. One is, they can get better intelligence than our troops can, because they're part of the community right there.

And, No. 2, they're fighting for things longer. They're fighting for the future of their country, where our troops are going to be out of there in X amount of time.

NOVAK: P.J. Crowley, just 35 days ago, you were seated there and I was seated there. And we were talking about the handover. That was on May 25. And I want to read something you said at that time.

You said: "It is 37 days away. We do not know who will govern. And we do not know what the Iraqi people will think of that government. There's every reason to believe that the Iraqi people will look at the interim government with the same sense of illegitimacy as they do the Iraqi Governing Council that we have right now."

Now, P.J., in all


NOVAK: Just a minute. Let me ask the question. Then you can answer it.



NOVAK: In all fairness, don't you think that was an overly pessimistic view, and we do -- and all the evidence is that this is a great improvement?

P.J. CROWLEY, SENIOR FELLOW, CENTER FOR AMERICAN PROGRESS: Well, all right, it is a great improvement, no question about it.

But you also have to recognize who in fact is governing. You have an Iraqi interim government. You also have 100 edicts that Paul Bremer has left behind, from who should qualify to be a future leader of Iraq, to in fact, literally, telling the Iraqis how they're supposed to drive, keeping two hands on the wheel and not using -- overly using the horn.

So these kinds of edicts are actually undercutting the legitimacy and functionality of this new government. They're off to a good start. But even today, as the Bush administration is declaring victory, this new Iraqi government is preparing to declare martial law.

NOVAK: Well, one of the journalists...


ADELMAN: People should drive with one hand?


NOVAK: One of our journalists asked, how is it possible to have a sovereign government and have all these American troops there? Ask the Japanese about that.


NOVAK: Ask the Germans about that.

CROWLEY: By no means are we off the hook, because, over the next six months, hopefully, the election process will be about who will govern Iraq, not who is responsible for a lack of security that we have today. And...

NOVAK: But those are not inconsistent, sovereignty and having American troops there, as in the case of many other countries.


CROWLEY: So if we become the subject of the election, this will open the door for extremists. And this will not be in our long-term interests.

BEGALA: Ken, Larry Diamond, you no doubt know he's an adviser -- was an adviser to the coalition provisional authorities with the Hoover Institution, a conservative think tank at Stanford.

(CROSSTALK) ADELMAN: He's a good guy.


BEGALA: Here's what he said, very candidly admitting their errors: "We blatantly failed to get it right. When you look at the record, it's impossible to escape the conclusion that we squandered an unprecedented opportunity."

Why isn't our president being this candid about his failures?

ADELMAN: Well, I think that there were failures. And I think that, to tell you the truth, the president should say we did this right and we did this wrong.

I think the de-Baathification immediately and the dismissal of the army was something that we could have done a lot better. But the overall idea that P.J. opposed and lots of people opposed -- John Kerry was on both sides of every fence on this issue -- but the overall idea...


ADELMAN: ... that something had to change in Iraq, that we could not continue to have all these troops in Saudi Arabia, we could not continue to have the kind of $35, $38 billion a year expenditure that we had year after year, the kind of


BEGALA: ... $200 billion now into the war, though.


BEGALA: We didn't do the war to save money.

ADELMAN: But now we have hope. Now we have hope, Paul, that the situation there can be better. For the last 12 years, under the U.N. sanctions, the situation was getting worse and worse. And should Saddam have died, instead of celebrating, you would have had his totally pathological kids taking over. And that would have been worse.


CROWLEY: It's important for Iraq to change. And part of that change also is what's happening back here. We're going from a Coalition Provisional Authority that's been literally making its up for the last 12 months under the direction of Don Rumsfeld now thankfully responsibility transfers to a real United States Embassy under the direction of Colin Powell.

So perhaps now we'll have a government that believes in using all of the elements of our American power, not just one, not just the military. I also think today is a very important day for democracy.



CROWLEY: Today -- there's also a lesson -- we can't forget there's a lesson in democracy happening back here as well. Today, the Supreme Court gave the Bush administration a lesson in democracy that, with this war on terrorism...

NOVAK: All right, you can't really...

CROWLEY: Every captive is entitled to a day in court and a lawyer.


NOVAK: We're going to be lucky to cover this ground, than go on -- Mr. Crowley, I know that Clintonites and Democrats like you don't ever like to say that things look better.

But I want you to listen to a Democrat who knows foreign policy and talks about it a lot. And that's the ranking Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and what he said on television yesterday. Let's listen to Joe Biden.


SEN. JOSEPH BIDEN (D), DELAWARE: Look, there's some good news. If you look at the drastic change in the polling data in terms of whether or not the Iraqi people believe they have a shot at having a government now, the answer is, yes. It's completely flipped. So there's been a psychological change.


NOVAK: Doesn't that repudiate the thing -- the quote of yours I read when you said it will be the same as it is for the provisional council?

CROWLEY: Well, let's hope it differs. Let's hope it changes. But the reality is, tomorrow, life is going to look an awful lot like it did yesterday for the average Iraqi. That remains our challenge. We have to in fact make their average daily lives better. We need to...

NOVAK: So do you disagree with Joe Biden on that?


NOVAK: He says things have changed.

CROWLEY: There is hope. But I think the recognition here has to be that hope in Iraq is helping -- is happening despite the Bush administration, not because of the Bush administration.

(APPLAUSE) BEGALA: Ken, in fact, the Bush administration articulated four policy principles going in this. This is according to analysis today by "The Washington Post."

And they are as follows. First, the United States should act preemptively to prevent strikes against American targets. Second, we should act unilaterally when the U.N. or our allies don't want to go along. Third, that Iraq is a cornerstone in the global war on terrorism. And, fourth, that a new Iraqi democracy would spark change across the region.

A Former Reagan Security Council, Geoffrey Kemp, was asked about those four principles and here's what he said.

ADELMAN: Yes, but I never agreed with Geoffrey on much of anything. So


BEGALA: Well, I think you should tell me why he's wrong. But here's what he said.

ADELMAN: I'll tell you why he's wrong.

BEGALA: First, let me tell you what he said.


BEGALA: He says: "Of the four principles..."


BEGALA: Let me tell you what he said first.

"Of the four principles, three have failed. And the fourth, democracy promotion, is hanging by a sliver."


BEGALA: Now, he's no liberal. He worked with you for President Ronald Reagan.

ADELMAN: No. No. There's a whole group, what we were talking about before, that were in the Reagan administration I think by mistake all of them.

CROWLEY: The secret liberals hiding with Ronald Reagan.

ADELMAN: No. No. By mistake, they were there. And they have made a career out of criticizing Republicans ever since. And it is a very good career. I'm not taking their


CROWLEY: And a good man, Larry Korb, is a member of our team with the Center For American Progress. (CROSSTALK)

ADELMAN: He's made a career out of badgering Republicans.


BEGALA: This is instructive about how far


ADELMAN: Let me go back to these schnooks -- I mean, these opinions.


BEGALA: Oh, now. These are distinguished scholars.

ADELMAN: OK, all right, not distinguished to me.

But, anyway, what alternative to preemption is there? You know that there are bad guys out in the world. They now have weapons of mass destruction. They have an international terrorist network. And I cannot believe that you have served a president faithfully in the White House, that any president, any president


ADELMAN: Excuse me one president.

CROWLEY: You can't honestly believe that Iraq is an example of where preemption has worked.


BEGALA: Wait a second. Let Ken finish


ADELMAN: That any president there would know that there's an international terrorist network and weapons of mass destruction out there, people who are willing to sacrifice themselves to destroy America and Americans.


ADELMAN: And he wouldn't do anything. And he wouldn't do anything.

BEGALA: But there wasn't. That's the problem. There were no weapons and there were no ties to al Qaeda. That's the problem, is, we were misled.



NOVAK: Before we take a break, I'd like you to listen to what another Republican says. And tell me whether you agree with this.


BUSH: The United States and our coalition partners are helping prepare Iraqis for defense of their own country. We appreciate NATO's decision to approve Prime Minister Allawi's request for assistance in training Iraqi security forces.


NOVAK: Isn't that -- in all fairness, that is a step forward.

CROWLEY: Oh, getting NATO to agree formally to help train the Iraqis is a very good thing. It would be much better if we got NATO to actually take over the whole mission. Of course, that's not something the Bush administration is capable of doing.

NOVAK: Or neither is John Kerry, I don't believe.

Next in -- next, in "Rapid Fire," you won't believe -- you won't believe what Howard Dean said about the Iraqi handover, but we'll tell you.

And the Supreme Court rules the U.S. has to change the way it detains terror suspects. "WOLF BLITZER REPORTS" on what changes have to be made right after the break.



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

Coming up at the top of the hour, Iraq gets sovereignty two days ahead of schedule. So what happens next? Two U.S. Supreme Court rulings chip away at the Bush administration's strategy for the war on terror.

And when should U.S. troops pull out of Iraq? Two famed international policy veterans clash and it gets rather personal.

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

Now back to CROSSFIRE.

BEGALA: Thank you, Wolf.

Time now for "Rapid Fire," where we ask questions even faster than Paul Bremer could get out of Baghdad today. We're debating what's next in Iraq with Defense Policy Board member Ken Adelman from the Pentagon and former Clinton national security assistant, retired Colonel P.J. Crowley.

NOVAK: Colonel, our old friend Howard Dean weighed in on the handover. Let's listen to what he said briefly. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

HOWARD DEAN (D), FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I think that we still don't know whether the Iraqi people are better off or not.


NOVAK: Do you know whether we're better off or not?

CROWLEY: They're better off today than they were the other day, yes.

NOVAK: OK. Thank you.


ADELMAN: ... "Rapid Fire."

BEGALA: Ken, 60 percent of Americans say the transfer today is actually a sign the U.S. policy is failing. How has the president failed in the eyes of the electorate?

ADELMAN: Well, there's too much violence, simple as that. I don't see how this early transfer is an indication of failure. We were going to transfer all the time on the 30s. So now we're transferring on the 28th. But there is more violence than we expected. That's for sure.


ADELMAN: No, I never said that. I was talking about the overthrow of Saddam Hussein.


NOVAK: Since we still have troops in Bosnia, Kosovo, Japan, Germany, who else knows where, can't we say that it is not an issue that the American troops are going to be there for a long time?

CROWLEY: I think the American troops will need to be there for a long time. Hopefully, this political process will work in a way that we don't become the issue. If they leave before Iraq is truly sovereign and truly capable of handling its own security, it will work to the detriment of the United States.

BEGALA: Ken, what is plan B if security doesn't improve?

ADELMAN: Just keep training the Iraqis fast, so that they realize this is their country. They can't blame us for everything. They have capabilities of getting -- listen, the number of terrorists are relatively small. They do an enormous amount of damage, but they're relatively small. And they just have to wipe them out.

NOVAK: P.J., there is -- polls show that more than half of the Democrats in the country think that the government should set a date certain for getting out of Iraq. Good idea or bad idea? CROWLEY: Bad idea. We need to go by events on the ground. But event No. 1 is going to be getting security. And that is our responsibility. The Bush administration has still not devoted enough resources to securing Iraq.

BEGALA: Is there any chance that President Bush cuts and runs before the election?



BEGALA: That's the final word, Ken Adelman. That is "Rapid Fire."

Ken Adelman from the Pentagon's Defense Review Board, P.J. Crowley from the Center For American Progress, who has a new report out today on post-sovereignty or post-transfer Iraq.


BEGALA: Next on CROSSFIRE, a "Stern" warning for the presidential campaign. You may want to have this radio shock jock in your corner if you're running for president. We'll tell you why next.



BEGALA: Welcome back.

An analysis of swing voters cited by "The New York Times" shows that the voters who may decide the presidential election like to listen to shock jock Howard Stern on the radio. Well, that would seem to be pretty good news for the Kerry campaign, since Mr. Stern is on the warpath against the Bush administration, which has been trying to shut him up or clean him up.

President Bush, of course, seems to believe that it's OK for Dick Cheney to use the F-word on the Senate floor, but Howard Stern can't tell crude jokes on the radio.


BEGALA: A Republican double standard that might hurt him in November, Bob.

NOVAK: You know, if Howard Stern is being taken seriously in politics, we are in the decline of American civilization and we have lost -- the good guys have lost the cultural war.

BEGALA: Well, I'm much more of a Don Imus man myself. But how does the vice president defend using the F-word on there and he wants to fine Howard Stern for saying the same thing on the radio? People will know that..

NOVAK: Because he said it in private. And I've heard a few people around here use it in private.


BEGALA: I love the F-word. If they would allow me, I'd say it on television, sure.


BEGALA: Absolutely, because I'm not a hypocrite about it.

From the left, I am Paul Begala. That's it for CROSSFIRE.

NOVAK: From the right, I'm Robert Novak. Join us again next time for another edition of CROSSFIRE.

"WOLF BLITZER REPORTS" starts right now.



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