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Saddam's First Day in Court

Aired July 1, 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: Saddam Hussein has his first day in court.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You should not work according to a law enacted by what you call the coalition authorities.

DICK CHENEY, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: He will face the justice he denied to millions.

ANNOUNCER: What's next for the U.S., Iraq and the world? And how will it affect the presidential race?

Today, on CROSSFIRE.


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


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

Saddam Hussein did the perp walk today in Baghdad, but will the Bush administration rush a public trial before Iraq has elections just to help President Bush in his election?

ROBERT NOVAK, CO-HOST: As Dick Cheney reminded us today, the U.S. pledged to end a dangerous regime, free the oppressed and restore sovereignty to the Iraqi people. And the United States kept its word. Isn't that worth four more years for George W. Bush?

We'll debate it right after the best political briefing in television, our CROSSFIRE "Political Alert."

On July 9, a week from tomorrow, National Public Radio is sponsoring an hour and a half debate between Ralph Nader and Howard Dean. As Gene McCarthy said long ago when two other left-wingers went after each other, hmm, trouble in the leper colony.

Governor Dean is challenging Nader's right to run for president, saying, "I am anxious to debate Ralph Nader in order to speak about why he wants to run for president." Dr. Dean, who gave you the right to run? The other day, he said he didn't know whether the Iraqi people are better off with Saddam Hussein gone. I hope Ralph Nader challenges Howard Dean's qualifications to judge Ralph's presidential abilities.

BEGALA: Well, Bob, you stated something that is just factually false. Howard Dean, Governor Dean, has not challenged Ralph Nader's right to run. He has challenged the wisdom of his candidacy, because all Ralph is going to do is the same thing he did in 2000, is make it so close enough to let Bush steal it. Well, John Kerry is not going to let him do that. He's going to win by so much. Ralph Nader can run. The Pillsbury Doughboy can run, and John Kerry is going to win this election.


NOVAK: It all depends what your definition of challenge is, because that is -- there's no question. He's saying, you shouldn't run. And that's un-American to tell another American you can't run.


BEGALA: He is not saying that. He is saying he's misleading people when he says there's no difference between Bush and Kerry. There's vast differences.

Well, anyway, speaking of President Bush, he's busy trying to tell you that the economy is really great, just trust me. It's about as credible as some of the other things he has said. Remember WMDs or Iraq's ties to al Qaeda terrorist and the 9/11 attack?

Well, official government statistics show that the number of people filing for unemployment rose this week. That means 351,000 Americans who had jobs last week don't have one this week. No doubt Mr. Bush's happy talk sounds stunningly out of touch to those 351,000 Americans.

Meanwhile, the head of the-pro Bush big-business lobby Chamber of Commerce has joined the Bush administration in actually praising the outsourcing of American jobs. Chamber President Tom Donohue is actually urging companies to ship jobs to communist China, Russia and India, where pay is lower. Well, maybe President Bush and his cronies in big business would feel differently about outsourcing if we shipped their jobs to communist China.


NOVAK: You know, Paul, it seems to me, I heard your song before over and over again. As a matter of fact, the American people, particularly the American people who have not yet decided know that the economy is improving. All the indications are, jobs are going up. All the indications are, all the statistics are going up.


NOVAK: And you're going to try for the next 17 weeks to try to convince people that things are bad when they're good.


NOVAK: John -- John Kerry is trying to run for president as a mainstream American. But that's not easy when you're the Democratic candidate for president.

Senator Kerry said he opposes giving a driver's license to illegal aliens, and most Americans agree with that, but not with Latino political leaders, who are one of the Democratic coalition's special interest groups. The problem is that Kerry just addressed the National Council of La Raza, telling them all the things they wanted to hear.

So when he then said no licenses for illegals, La Raza leader Cecilia Munoz said the senator undercut his own speech. What a dilemma for John Kerry, how to appeal to mainstream Americans and still satisfy left-wing special interest groups.

BEGALA: Unlike George W. Bush, John Kerry does not cater to the ideological extreme. George Bush doesn't disagree with Jerry Falwell on anything. Here, John Kerry disagrees with La Raza. I happen to disagree with John Kerry. I think that illegal aliens ought to have to pass a driver's test and know the laws before they get behind the wheel. I think it's just public safety. It's a good law.


BEGALA: We ought to allow people who drive here to try to get a driver's license. So I disagree with John Kerry. But Kerry is showing political courage, standing up to a Democratic constituency group for something that he believes in. When will George Bush stand up to Jerry Falwell?


NOVAK: Illegal is illegal.


NOVAK: Believe me.


BEGALA: Well, anyway, President Bush's tax cuts for the rich have taken America from the largest surplus in our history to our largest deficits. And now even retired North Carolina Republican Senator Jesse Helms has come out against the Bush tax cuts. That's right, Jesse Helms, the hero of right-wingers like Bob Novak.

Mr. Helms tells "Business North Carolina" magazine -- quote -- "I would not have voted for President Bush's tax cut, based on what I know. There is no doubt that the people at the top, who need a tax break the least, will get the most benefit. And too often, presidents do things that don't end up helping the people they should be helping and their staffs won't tell them their actions stink on ice" -- unquote.


BEGALA: Now, Bob, I never thought I'd say it, but I agree with Jesse Helms.

NOVAK: Well, I never thought I would say that you said one thing that was accurate. And it is that Jesse Helms was and has been one of my heroes. He's a great American. All the time that you and the Clintonians were trashing him and making fun of him, he was doing great things for America. Senator Helms is now over 80 years old. He's sitting back in North Carolina.

I know that, if he were in the Senate, he would be supporting President Bush's tax cuts. I guarantee you.

BEGALA: He opposes them, because he -- I disagree with him on a lot of issues. But he loves his country. He doesn't want to see George W. Bush us into the debt and deficit and make us weaker at home.



BEGALA: Which is what he is doing with his economic policies.

NOVAK: He would be voting for the tax cuts.


BEGALA: I just believe Jesse Helms when he talks about what Jesse Helms


NOVAK: Saddam Hussein gets his day in court. It's the latest step for a country trying to overcome years of oppression. Can Democrats admit that it's also a sign of progress and a good job done by George W. Bush?

And just what are they watching on that TV? We'll tell you about a new law aimed at putting the brakes on X-rated commuting.

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.

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.

Saddam Hussein and 11 other former members of his regime were arraigned today in a court in Baghdad. The deposed dictator was defiant throughout much of his hearing. At one point, he described the court as a theater designed by President Bush, whom he called a criminal. Now, I don't quite know how to say pot meet kettle in Arabic, Mr. Hussein.

But, meanwhile, two more coalition soldiers were killed in Iraq today, including an American Marine.

Two members of Congress now step into the CROSSFIRE to debate whether progress is being made in Iraq. They are Indiana Republican Mike Pence and Maryland Democratic Congressman Albert Wynn.



NOVAK: Congressman Wynn, I'd like you to listen to our vice president. He was at the D-Day Museum in New Orleans today. And let's just listen to him for a moment.


CHENEY: This is a proud moment for the United States as well. Acting with capable allies at our side, we pledged to end a dangerous regime, to free the oppressed and to restore sovereignty to the Iraqi people. And we have kept our word.


NOVAK: So is there anything you can disagree with that or do you think it wasn't a proud moment for the United States?

REP. ALBERT WYNN (D), MARYLAND: Well, I think anyone who cares about human rights has to be pleased that this bloodthirsty tyrant is going to be behind bars or worse.

But the fact of the matter is, the vice president didn't say a thing about weapons of mass destruction, didn't say a thing about al Qaeda. He didn't say anything about why we got there. And despite this particular incident, we still have 850 or more Americans dead as a result of this war, over 3,000 seriously maimed. And the American public is not going to forget it.

And most of all, most importantly, I don't think the American people believe it's worth it.

NOVAK: I want to ask you this. Do you think -- would you have preferred if we didn't go in and we still had -- that's the only way you're going to get rid of Saddam Hussein. Would you have preferred it, Mr. Wynn, if we didn't take that risk, no -- didn't shed that blood and we had Saddam Hussein still in Baghdad? Would you have preferred that situation?

WYNN: Well...

NOVAK: It's a yes or a no.

WYNN: What I would have preferred was if we had gone after Osama bin Laden. Remember him?

NOVAK: No, that isn't the question I'm asking you.


WYNN: I think -- I think -- so that's what we should -- that's what we should -- should have done.

NOVAK: But you have to answer. You have to answer yes or no. Would you have preferred that we didn't go after him and save those American lives?

WYNN: I'm going to ask you a question. I would have preferred if we had done it intelligently with a larger coalition and saved some American lives that died needlessly.



BEGALA: Congressman Pence, as see this welcome sight of Saddam Hussein in the dock...


BEGALA: ... "The New York Times" has an interesting comment today, though, on their editorial page.

"The actual trials," "The Times" opines, "should not begin until an elected government takes power, a step planned for next January. Starting them sooner might produce political dividends for the appointed interim government or the Bush reelection campaign, but it would not serve justice or to help restore Iraq's standing in the international community."

Will the White House pressure for a public trial to help the president's reelection or will they let justice take its course after the election?

PENCE: I don't think there's any question they'll let justice take its course and they'll let Prime Minister Allawi take the lead.

This has been an extraordinary week of progress in Iraq. The very fact that the Iraqi people were able to enjoy a quiet first independence day, where Prime Minister Allawi decided that he would take sovereignty two days early, was a bold statement of his leadership. And I believe that bringing justice to Saddam Hussein and his henchmen in whatever order, whether it's the henchmen first and then Saddam Hussein, irrespective of American politics, will demonstrate that this Iraqi government, a free and democratic Iraq, is ready to lead their nation to a bright and prosperous future.

BEGALA: But here's the question. Let me frame it up tougher.

It may have been peaceful independence day for the Iraqis, but five Americans have died since we so-called handed over sovereignty; 138,000 of our sons and daughters are still serving there risking their lives. Will the White House move up this trial in order to help cover its political hide at home?

NOVAK: He answered that question.


PENCE: I'm very confident. Paul, I'm happy to answer it again. I believe the White House will not -- will not move up the trial or will not in any way influence the domestic progress in Iraq for political purposes.

BEGALA: So we won't see a trial until after the new year?

PENCE: We are going to see a trial in the time and in the means that the people of Iraq, what their new leadership believe is in the interests of their nature.

BEGALA: Appointed by us.

PENCE: And the sooner we bring this monster to justice, the better for the world and the better for the people of Iraq.


NOVAK: Congressman Wynn, the deputy foreign minister of Iraq, Mr. al-Bayati, had a statement today. Let's listen to it.


HAMID AL-BAYATI, IRAQI DEPUTY FOREIGN MINISTER: I think this trial will slow down the attacks and the insurgency basically because Saddam's loyalists will lose hope. They were hoping until now that Saddam might come back.


NOVAK: So he says the trial will save lives of Iraqis and hopefully Americans. Do you disagree with that logic?

WYNN: I hope he's right. I think it's speculation, but I hope he's right. They may also see this as a rallying point.

But let's say, I think it would be great if the insurgents did begin to back off. But the fundamental problem is, we never had adequate troops in the first place. That's why were calling up Reservists. So we didn't get the security we could have had, had he we handled this foreign policy more intelligently. And that's the problem.

NOVAK: Mr. Wynn, I'm going to give you a little test. Do you mind if I give you a test on how


WYNN: Your show.

NOVAK: Thank you.

WYNN: Your test.

NOVAK: I just want to see how partisan you are. Do you agree with Saddam Hussein, as Paul seems to, that George W. Bush is a war criminal?



NOVAK: You said he was calling the kettle black.

BEGALA: I meant that Saddam is the criminal, not Bush. I don't like Bush. I don't think he should win. But he's not a war criminal. Don't accuse me of that.


WYNN: And it's a trick question to ask me if I agree with anything Saddam Hussein says. So no.

NOVAK: OK. Good.



BEGALA: Sorry. Let me defend my honor there.


BEGALA: There's a troubling story in "The Los Angeles Times" today congressman quoting a new book from a currently serving senior CIA official, who reveals that, in the wake of the September 11 attacks, CIA analysts were ordered repeatedly to redo intelligence assessments that concluded al Qaeda had no operational ties to Iraq, according to this veteran CIA counterterrorism official who has written sharply critical of the decision to go to war with Iraq.

Doesn't that trouble you? Shouldn't the Congress, which Republicans control, investigate whether there was pressure put on our CIA to mislead the country?

PENCE: Well, there's no question, as we go into this process of appointing a new director of the CIA, I think all of those debates are healthy. The accountability is healthy, Paul.

But, look, I am going to side with Lee Hamilton, also of Indiana, who serve as co-chairman of the 9/11 Commission, and a prominent Democrat.

BEGALA: A Democrat, sure.

PENCE: Who said that there was no disagreement between the 9/11 Commission -- this is Lee Hamilton talking -- no disagreement between the 9/11 Commission and the White House that there were connections between al Qaeda and the regime of Saddam Hussein, just as there were between the regime of Saddam Hussein and Abu Nidal, just as there were with Palestinian terrorists.

BEGALA: But in his declaration...

PENCE: This man did business with terrorists. And God bless every American soldier, particularly the fallen, who brought his regime to an end.

BEGALA: Wait. No, let me get to this point, because I think -- I want to make sure that I understand your position.

In his letter to Congress, the most formal declaration of the war itself, that is, after you and Congress gave him the authority to wage this war -- the president of the United States, under the War Powers Act, is obligated to send you a letter saying why he's going to war. He did. And in that, he said in part, it was to go after the people in Iraq who had something to do with al Qaeda and 9/11.

Do you think the president was right when he said that? Has history proved him right?

PENCE: I believe history will continue, just as the 9/11 Commission said, to prove that there was a connection between Saddam Hussein and al Qaeda, Paul.

BEGALA: I just think that's really


PENCE: And the truth is, to the point that Albert just made, I believe that


WYNN: Not to 9/11. That's the critical issue.

PENCE: Well...

WYNN: The connection was not made to 9/11.

BEGALA: There's a connection between Donald Rumsfeld and Saddam Hussein. He was over kissing his rings.


WYNN: And that was the allegation.

(CROSSTALK) WYNN: Yes, they met. Yes, there were connections. Were they relevant to September 11?


PENCE: Albert, you and I were both in the same briefings, the same State Department briefings. There was never a specific allegation at any meeting I ever attended that said, from this administration, that there was a belief that Saddam Hussein was involved in 9/11.


NOVAK: All right, we have to take a break. We have to take a break.

Next, in "Rapid Fire," we will ask if Saddam's trial will result in his execution and should result in his execution.

And Wolf Blitzer has the latest on who is defending Saddam Hussein.



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

Coming up at the top of the hour, the new first video of Saddam Hussein in months, as the former Iraqi president appears for his arraignment and spars with the judge. We'll take a look at how Saddam Hussein may eventually wind up defending himself.

Vice President Dick Cheney defending the Iraqi war and again saying there were links between Saddam Hussein and al Qaeda.

And the chairman of the House Armed Services Committee is just back from Baghdad. We'll talk with Congressman Duncan Hunter.

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

Now back to CROSSFIRE.


NOVAK: It's time for "Rapid Fire," where we ask questions even faster than an Iraqi court can deal with relics of the old regime. Two members of Congress assessing the progress being made in Iraqi are Representative Albert Wynn, Democrat of Maryland, and Representative Mike Pence, Republican of Indiana.

Congressman Wynn, do you think that Saddam Hussein, the mass killer, should be executed for his crimes?

WYNN: Yes. BEGALA: Congressman Pence, William F. Buckley, father of the modern conservative movement, declares today in "The Chicago Tribune, "If I knew then what I know now about what kind of situation we would be in, I would have opposed the war." Is he unpatriotic or some liberal patsy?

PENCE: No. And no one who opposes the war is ever unpatriotic. That's what America is all about.

But I'm going to disagree strongly with William F. Buckley on this issue. I believe, when the history of our time is written, that liberating 25 million Iraqis from the monstrous regime of Saddam Hussein will be to the great credit of the people of this country and our brave military.

NOVAK: Albert Wynn, the "Wall Street Journal"/NBC poll says -- asks, should U.S. have taken military action to remove Saddam Hussein? Yes, 56 percent, no, 39 percent.

And so I ask Congressman Wynn that question. What would you say, yes or no?

WYNN: I would say not the way we did it. I think we should have done with it a larger coalition.

NOVAK: You have to say yes or no in the polls.


WYNN: But I'm not on the poll. You're asking the question. The answer is, we should have done with it a broader coalition.

BEGALA: Congressman, at first, we were told, after the invasion, Iraqis would welcome us. Then we were told if Uday and Qusay were captured or killed. Then we were told if Saddam was captured or killed. Then we were told the handover would solve everything. Now we're saying, when Saddam is tried and convicted, things will get better. Are we just kind of setting ourselves up with false goals at each turn?

PENCE: No, we're not, Paul.

And the time that I was in Iraq two months ago, the literally dozens of regular Iraqis I met with who gripped my hands with tears in their eyes and spoke of their gratitude and appreciation for our nation will continue to come forward. And history will record the United States again advanced freedom bravely in this time. We had another independence day, this one for the people of Iraq.


NOVAK: Congressman Wynn, a majority -- polls show a majority of Democrats agree with Ralph Nader that the United States should set a date certain to get out of Iraq. Do you agree or not?

WYNN: I don't agree. I think we have to look at this intelligently and see whether the conditions would justify a withdrawal. We're in it, for better or worse. I think we need to stay until the job is done properly. I just think we need to do with it a broader coalition and without some of the arrogance that Bush-Cheney-Rumsfeld administration has displayed.


BEGALA: Congressman Pence...


BEGALA: ... a plurality of Americans in "The Wall Street Journal" poll say that the president deliberately misled us in making his case for war. That's a political disaster for him, isn't it?

PENCE: I don't know that it is a political disaster, Paul. There's a lot of hot rhetoric in an election year. And the subject of the war in Iraq will continue to be a major election issue.

What I'm most encouraged about is, despite a difficult couple of months in Iraq, the American people are calling this race pretty well dead even. I think, as we see the United Nations Security Council endorse this interim process, NATO is coming on board, sovereignty is returned to the Iraqi people, that, in the end, this will be a great, great part of a George W. Bush victory this November.


BEGALA: Congressman Mike Pence, Republican from Indiana, Congressman Albert Wynn, Democrat from Maryland, thank you both very much for an interesting debate.


BEGALA: Well, now, how about minivans plus pornography? There's something very wrong about that combination. We'll tell you what the state of Tennessee is doing about it next.

Stay with us.



BEGALA: Well, as of today, Tennessee is the first state in the country to put the brakes on dirty driving.

A new state law makes it illegal to play pornographic movies or videos if your car's video screen is visible to people outside the car. Well, apparently -- it beats me, but people were complaining that they were being exposed to X-rated movies at red lights. It gives new meaning to the phrase red-light district, I guess.

(LAUGHTER) BEGALA: Tennessee does not have to take anyone's rights away to play their movies in their minivans, I guess, but if you're driving and other people can see it, it's a $50 fine.

NOVAK: You know, Paul, I don't care what happens in Tennessee. But here in the District of Columbia, starting today, it's a $100 fine if they catch you using your cell phone in your car while you're driving, unless you get a little contraption I bought like this. What ever happened to freedom in America?


BEGALA: Freedom to run people over in your car.

NOVAK: Absolutely.

BEGALA: Anyway, 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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