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Holiday Politics: Political Fireworks

Aired July 2, 2004 - 15:30   ET


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

In the CROSSFIRE: get ready for some Fourth of July political fireworks.

SEN. JOHN KERRY (D-MA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Don't tell the people getting those second-rate jobs. Don't tell the people working two or three jobs at a time that we can't do better.

ANNOUNCER: Is John Kerry striking sparks with his fellow Democrats?

Will Ralph Nader rain on the Democrats' parade?

Will the economy be sizzling on Election Day?

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We don't need boom-or-bust-type growth. We want just steady, consistent growth.



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


ROBERT NOVAK, CO-HOST: Welcome to CROSSFIRE and the start of a Fourth of July weekend. Believe it or not, we're just four months away from Election Day, four months away from renewing President Bush's lease on the White House and continuing America's economic recovery.


PAUL BEGALA, CO-HOST: Well, actually, Bob, just four months today, on November 2, America will declare its independence from King George the appointed and replace him with a real New England patriot, my man John Kerry.


BEGALA: But first, let's fire up the Fourth of July grill with the best little political briefing in television, our CROSSFIRE "Political Alert."

The Labor Department announced today that job growth has slowed dramatically. The American economy added just 112,000 jobs last month. Now, 112,000 people is a good number, say, if you're talking about attendance at a University of Texas football game. But in a country with over eight million people unemployed, 112,000 is what my daddy would call spitting in the ocean.

He actually didn't say "spitting." He would use a different word, but it's a family show.


BEGALA: President Bush, though, insisted today that the economy is "strong and getting stronger." No wonder so many Americans think our president is out of touch.

We are losing our high-paying jobs, but Mr. Bush praises the outsourcing of jobs. Healthcare costs are up 43 percent, but Mr. Bush has no plan to control costs. And there are 1.1 million fewer Americans working today than were working on the day Mr. Bush was installed by the Supreme Court. Perhaps it is time for George W. Bush to experience the joys of looking for a new job.


NOVAK: Seems to me I've heard that song before. You know, Paul, you and the other compatriots in the Clinton gang, in 1992, convinced the American people that they were worse off than they really were. I don't think you can fool them twice, because things are getting better. I know you -- you rich people don't do it, but you ought to go to one of these franchise places and stand in line.


BEGALA: Rich people -- look who's talking. The rich people are the only people who are doing it.


NOVAK: And you know it's going to be a prosperous year ahead.

BEGALA: Yeah, right.

NOVAK: John Kerry's presidential campaign seems to be settling into a pattern. If you don't like what I'm saying, well, I'll just change it.


NOVAK: Last October, Senator Kerry said Israeli Prime Minister Sharon's new barrier between Israel and Palestinian territories was a barrier to police. Jewish voters didn't like that, particularly after George W. Bush endorsed the barrier. So the Boston Globe reports a new Kerry policy paper will praise the barrier as a security fence. Coincidentally, Israel's high court of justice responding to Palestinian complaints ruled that one 20-mile section of the barrier must be re-routed. John Kerry has to be more Israeli than the Israelis, but that's just Democratic politics.


BEGALA: No, John Kerry is being American. It is in America's interests to support Israel. I know some don't support Israel in the far right, but Democrats do. And actually, George W. Bush does. He's been good on Israel, I have to say that for him, because he understands it's in America's interest.

It's not about what's good for Israel. It's about what's good for America. They're the only democracy in the region. Thank God John Kerry has a 100 percent pro-Israel voting record over 19 years in the United States Senate.


NOVAK: Can I ask you a question? I ask you a question. How is it that it was a barrier to peace in October and after the polls came out it is a peaceful...


BEGALA: Ask Mr. Bush. He's been on both sides of that fence as well, Bob.

NOVAK: Vice President...

BEGALA: Well, that's -- excuse me.

NOVAK: Oh, go ahead.

BEGALA: Vice President Dick -- Dick Cheney did it again today. No, he didn't drop the "F" bomb, unless -- unless, by the "F" word you mean falsehood or fib or fabrication, Mr. Cheney once again repeated the fiction that Iraq was somehow in league with the terrorists of al Qaeda.


RICHARD CHENEY, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: In the early 1990s, Saddam had sent a brigadier general in the Iraqi intelligence service to Sudan to train al Qaeda in bomb-making and document forgery.


BEGALA: There's only one problem with that allegation, Mr. Cheney. According to today's "Washington Post," "Senior intelligence officials said yesterday they had no knowledge of this." So like his partner, George W. Bush, Dick Cheney has disgraced himself and his office by repeatedly misleading the American people. You know, the "F" word we ought to use with them is, you're fired! (APPLAUSE)

NOVAK: You know, Paul, I want to try to explain this to you really quickly. The independent commission, the Kean commission, which I think you respect, has said repeatedly there was a connection between al Qaeda and the Iraqi government, not 9/11 and the Iraqi government, but between...

BEGALA: Not an operational link. No link at all.

NOVAK: But they said there was connection. And why not tell the truth about it?

BEGALA: No. The truth is, Bob, you are misleading, just like Dick Cheney.


BEGALA: There were connections between Donald Rumsfeld and Saddam Hussein. It doesn't mean Donald Rumsfeld is behind 9/11.


NOVAK: All right. Readers -- readers of the left wing magazine, "The Nation," might be a little shocked when they see the back page of the current issue. Even the most fanatical Bush haters might be shocked.

Yes, the drawing shows George W. Bush eating a headless child. This is inspired by a 19th century work by Francisco Goya, Saturn Devouring his Children, aimed against the Spanish monarchy.

Sitting at this table, I know how emotional and relentless and mindless is the hatred directed against George W. Bush. But in the spirit of patriotism, this Fourth of July weekend, I wonder, Paul, if you can join me in deploring this treatment of any president of the United States as over the line and unacceptable?


BEGALA: In the spirit of patriotism, let me support the first amendment, which says the nation shouldn't be censored by right- wingers. And let me ask you, Mr. Novak, with your new self-founded -- newfounded self-righteousness, are you going to retract the statement you said last week on "Meet the Press," where you implied that President Clinton was involved in people's deaths over Whitewater? That's the most outrageous things I've heard said about an American president.

NOVAK: I didn't say he was engaging -- and you're lying.

BEGALA: I'll read your words.

NOVAK: And when I said that...

BEGALA: "I don't believe that the Whitewater case was ever fully investigated. People died, and I believe Bill Clinton beat the rap on Whitewater."



NOVAK: Well, I didn't say he was involved with the thing.

BEGALA: You said...

NOVAK: You...

BEGALA: ... he beat the rap and people died. Who died? Who died in Whitewater?


NOVAK: McDougal died, and...

BEGALA: He died in prison of a heart attack.

NOVAK: Well, people died (UNINTELLIGIBLE). But just a minute. You can't -- you can't say -- go on national television and accuse me of something I didn't say.

BEGALA: I read your words.

NOVAK: I did not say that, and that is a lie. And I...

BEGALA: These are your words, Mr. Novak. I read them.

NOVAK: And I'm ashamed of you for going on the air and saying that.

BEGALA: I got this from the transcript. This is the transcript from "Meet the Press", Bob.

NOVAK: That's an outrage. And it is...

BEGALA: It is an outrage. You owe Mr. Clinton an apology.

NOVAK: ... an absolute outrage because I did not say that he was responsible for those deaths. And this is not fun, Paul.

Why wait until the fourth? There have been plenty of fireworks in the world of politics this week. We'll debate who got burned this week.

And later, Secretary of State Colin Powell and art of diplomacy, or something like that.

That was over the line, Mr. Begala.



BEGALA: Welcome back to CROSSFIRE and the start of the Fourth of July weekend.

President Bush started his weekend early. He is already relaxing up at Camp David, perhaps keeping up with his record of spending 43 percent of his entire presidency on vacations. Of course, if John Kerry has his way, Mr. Bush will be on 100 percent vacation come inauguration day.


BEGALA: John Kerry is traveling in America's heartland this weekend, perhaps pondering his choice for his running mate. In the CROSSFIRE to debate a campaign that's getting hotter than Georgia asphalt in July, former President Reagan political director, Frank Donatelli, along with Democratic strategist, Mr. Kamber.


NOVAK: Mr. Kamber, there was an incident in Boston this past week, where Senator Kerry refused to pass a picket line to go into a meeting of the U.S. Conference of Mayors. The mayor of Boston, Democrat Tom Menino, host of the Democratic National Convention, was very, very disappointed.

In an interview with the "Boston Herald" on Wednesday, he said this: he said, "They" -- meaning the Kerry campaign -- "are trying to balance out their decision by saying the mayor's angry. I had no harsh words with them. They are trying find scapegoats for their incompetency. We are all on the same team, I thought. Evidently, we're not. This is typical of small-minded individuals who have to create controversy."

Is that a good description of the -- of the Kerry team?

VIC KAMBER, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: I'm not sure what you're really saying. Senator Kerry respected picket lines of union members, rank and file workers. He respected it.

The mayor, as the chief executive officer, is in negotiations with these various unions. The mayor has a responsibility to fight for what he wants, the unions have a right to fight for what they want. And Kerry has a responsibility, I think, as an elected official, and as a loyal Democrat, to respect picket lines and not cross them. I give him credit.


NOVAK: Let me try to explain to you what's going on, Vic. They came back and they attacked the mayor of Boston. He said...

KAMBER: Who is "they?"

NOVAK: The Kerry aides. And Senator -- Mayor Menino -- I didn't make this up. Do you want to read this?

KAMBER: No. He fought back. The mayor fought back. But I -- I would attack the mayor, too. The mayor should settle this strike. The mayor should take care of workers.

NOVAK: He should give into the union?

KAMBER: He should take care of workers.

NOVAK: He should give into the union?

KAMBER: These are the police, these are the firemen, these are policemen, these are building tradesmen.

NOVAK: And that's the way president -- that's the way Senator Kerry will do if he's president?

KAMBER: I just believe, knowing the issues, Bob, of this collective bargaining agreement, the mayor is wrong and these workers deserve more money.


BEGALA: Frank, let me ask you about, generally, workers across the America. I don't know how the cops in Boston are doing, but I know Americans across the country are uneasy about the economy. The president today said -- and I'm quoting here -- "Our economy is strong and getting stronger."

Now, it doesn't seem to be what the American people are saying. The "Wall Street Journal"/NBC poll asked this question: "Which statement comes closer to what view the economy? A, in the face of what I see for the future, the signs point to an economy that's going to be strong. Jobs are being created, inflation is low and the stock market is up."

Statement B, "On the basis of what I see for the future, signs point to an economy that's going to be in trouble. Jobs moving overseas, the budget deficit growing, and too many jobs don't have health insurance or pensions."

Well, by 57 to 34, they agree with B, that the economy is not doing very well. That has got to be a problem for the president when he says things are great.

FRANK DONATELLI, FMR. REAGAN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: The "Wall Street Journal" poll and some of the polls that have been out this week, Paul, are incredibly long polls. They go on 70, 80 questions. You can find other questions in the same survey that shows that the public is having a brighter outlook on the economy.

Indeed, there's one specific question I recall asking whether you think the economy is getting better. A good seven additional percentage points from the last survey agreed that the economy is getting better. Look, 100,000 jobs created, inflation is low, growth is high. We are headed in the right direction. I can tell you this...

(APPLAUSE) BEGALA: Don't you think there's enormous political risk in that message, though, Frank, when most Americans think the economy is heading into trouble? For the president to stand up there and -- you know, he's a nice guy, but he has a lot of money of his own. And doesn't he seem sort of distant when he says, gee, things are great?

Well, maybe they're great for him, but a whole lot of average Americans whose votes he needs are going to say, I don't -- I don't think he is in touch with my life. Isn't that a risk that he faces there?


DONATELLI: He has a lot of money, but he doesn't have a billion dollars, like Senator Kerry's wife does.


NOVAK: Right. Vic Kamber, since Paul has brought up the economy and talked about before about job growth, I'm going to give you the job growth figures, we'll put it up on the screen.

In March, it was 353,000; April, 346,000, in May, 248,000; in June, 112,000. Less than they expected. That, for the four months, is over a million jobs.


NOVAK: And contrary to all this stuff about them being hamburger jobs, they're really showing a significant increase in -- in -- in earning power. So, I mean, you cannot say the economy is going down when you're -- when you've got a million new jobs in four months.

KAMBER: Since George Bush has become president, we lost 3.2 million jobs. One million have been replaced, so that's still a negative 2.2 million.

In those figures, for example, using January alone, that was 75,000 strikers that went back to work in California they're counting as back to jobs. Those aren't jobs. Those are jobs they had that they went back to work on.


KAMBER: The fact is, you know, I'm not going to belittle the president's efforts in what's happening. Yes, things are better today than they were in January. We're in no way a healthy economy, and the country doesn't believe we're healthy. People are scared, and they have a right to be scared.

NOVAK: Now, can we say this? You're a -- you're a veteran political operative, you've been around a long time.

KAMBER: It just means I'm old, Bob.

NOVAK: Well, I'm older than you are. Can we say right now that what you're hoping for is a bad economy? Because if you get good news, if you get another million jobs in the next four months, you're out of business.

KAMBER: No. If we get another million jobs in the next four months, we're still a negative million from when he took office. My hope, Bob, is that the economy recovers tremendously and we get the troops out of Iraq, and that we settle the problem. That's my hope. And my other hope is we beat George Bush.


BEGALA: Frank, in fact, let me pick up on that little segue that Vic raised, and that is talking about Iraq for a minute. Very good news this week, to see Saddam Hussein in the dock, getting ready to stand trial, stands indicted in Iraq.

But a troubling story in today's "New York Daily News." I want to share part of it with you. "Top Republicans in Congress want the White -- believe the White House would want a Saddam show trial to linger as close to the election as possible. "I think there will be a lot of interest in the White House to let the trial go on for the next several months -- Senate GOP congressional source."

Are Republican s trying to manipulate Saddam's trial for their own politics?

DONATELLI: We just this week, Paul, turned over control of Saddam Hussein and his top lieutenants to the -- to the Iraqi people. And it's the Iraqi people that are going to try Saddam Hussein. Americans are not going to have anything to do with it.

It was good news this week not because -- it was not good news for George Bush. It was good news because this vicious dictator that has murdered millions of his own citizens is finally going to face justice.


BEGALA: I agree with that. But what I'm curious about, in another article, I can't remember where it was, there was an international law professor from Columbia University who suggested that perhaps Saddam's legal team might call Donald Rumsfeld to testify, since Rumsfeld, as an emissary of your old boss, President Reagan, went to Baghdad and met with Saddam while -- around the same time that Saddam was gassing his own citizens. Should Rumsfeld be called to testify, and if so, should he go?

DONATELLI: Defense lawyers do that all the time. That's what their job is, to take the focus off their client.

What's most important to understand here is that the prosecution of Saddam Hussein, the turnover to -- the turnover to Iraqi sovereignty, the strengthening security situation in Iraq, is a good thing. And it's something all of us, as Americans, should hope for. And everybody that voted to authorize the United States to go into Iraq, to make Iraq a better country, and to make the Middle East a safer -- a safer part of the world, deserves credit, in my opinion.


NOVAK: You know, Vic, there was a Democratic ad running for Senator Kerry, where he talked about the fact that he was the author of a strategy to win the war on terror, and an author of a plan to get rid of the Japanese Yakuza. That's the Japanese terrorist group. And I'd like you to see the response of the Bush-Cheney campaign's ad. And let's watch it.


BUSH: I'm George W. Bush, and I approved this message.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: John Kerry says he's author of a strategy to win the war on terror against the Japanese Yakuza. Never mentions al Qaeda, says nothing about Osama bin Laden, calls Yasser Arafat a statesman. The "New Republic" says Kerry's plan misses the mark. And Kerry's focus? Global crime, not terrorism. How can John Kerry win a war if he doesn't know the enemy?



NOVAK: Who are the Yakuza that -- I thought -- I thought our enemy was al Qaeda.

KAMBER: Well, I thought so, too, but we're fighting in Iraq. I didn't know we were even going after Osama bin Laden anymore. So when you're talking about George Bush and pushing the blame off, I mean, we're in a war in Iraq. Osama bin Laden, as I understand, is in Afghanistan and still getting away with everything he's getting away with.

NOVAK: Well, when...

KAMBER: So, I mean, I'm not sure what the point is, other than...

NOVAK: ... Senator Kerry say he has a plan to win the war and he talks about the Japanese Yakuza, is that why all the polls indicate that there's a lot more confidence in President Bush than in Senator Kerry in fighting the war on terrorism?


KAMBER: Number one, Bob, I haven't seen the ad you're talking about from John Kerry. I don't dispute that there was an ad. I don't -- I've never seen it, so I don't know what John Kerry is saying or not saying.

I don't know what the Yakuza -- if that's the way you pronounce it -- is or isn't. If they're bad, let's go after them, too. Let's go after all the terrorists out there, Bob. BEGALA: Frank, we're almost out of time in this segment, but in that same Wall Street Journal poll I mentioned earlier, by four to one, 51 to 14 Americans think that our war in Iraq has increased the threat of terrorism. Isn't that a problem for the president?


DONATELLI: Well, again, there's a -- there are lot of questions in that poll. The question -- the survey also shows that by a large margin, the public believes they are safer than they were four years ago. And I think that's a very, very important thing.

BEGALA: Hold that thought. We're going to come back and debate this some more. And when we're in "Rapid Fire," I'm going to ask Frank Donatelli who the Republicans fear most as John Kerry's running mate.

And then, the world is reacting to the death of Marlon Brando. We will have the latest after the break.

Stay with us.


JOHN KING, CNN ANCHOR: I'm John King in Washington. Coming up at the top of the hour, one day after Saddam Hussein made his first court appearance, the violence continues in Iraq.

Does today's employment report mean the recovery is running out of steam? We'll have a talk with Commerce Secretary Don Evans.

And legendary actor Marlon Brando is dead at age 80.

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

Now back to CROSSFIRE.

NOVAK: Time for "Rapid Fire," where we ask questions faster than people will be shooting off firecrackers on the Fourth of July, or faster than John Kerry changes his mind.



NOVAK: Our guests are Democratic strategist Vic Kamber and former President Reagan's political director, Frank Donatelli.

BEGALA: Frank, who do you fear as Kerry's running mate most?

DONATELLI: Well, Senator Kerry says he doesn't want anyone that would overshadow him, and that's very, very tough for any candidate to come up with.

BEGALA: He didn't say that. DONATELLI: No, he didn't say that. Look, I don't have a dog in this hunt, but I think, considering everything, probably Dick Gephardt makes the most sense.


NOVAK: Vic, Tom Vilsack, governor of Iowa, considered a strong candidate. He's a Catholic. Can you have two Catholics on the ticket?

KAMBER: I could. You want rapid fire. I don't have a problem.


BEGALA: Can you put our audience at ease? I think it's nonsensical rumor, but it floats around every time there is an incumbent president. There's no chance of President Bush dumping Vice President Cheney, is there?

DONATELLI: I don't have any inside information, but I really doubt it. I think it would create far more problems than anything that it would try to solve.

KAMBER: How about Vice President Cheney dumping George Bush as a candidate?


NOVAK: Ralph Nader says he wants a responsible -- responsible withdrawal of military and corporate -- of U.S. forces from Iraq over the next six months. Do you think that's a good idea to put out a date certain?

KAMBER: I'm just glad I don't have to support Ralph Nader.

NOVAK: No, that doesn't answer the question.

KAMBER: No, I don't think it's a wise move. I think we can withdraw troops when in fact we feel that there's a -- we can bring peace, when there's world participation in Iraq and so forth. If we took troops out, there would be massacres in Iraq today. And there's no question about that.

BEGALA: Frank, are Republicans worried about this massive outpouring of people going to see this movie "Fahrenheit 9/11," a very strongly anti-Bush movie? Are you worried that pop culture is going to have an effect on the election?

DONATELLI: Two things about that. Number one, it's so over the top, I predict it's going to wind up helping Bush, not hurting him.


DONATELLI: And secondly -- secondly, I would just ask, how much did "Primary Colors" hurt Bill Clinton? And that was a good movie. Not at all. NOVAK: Senator Kerry says that anybody over -- makes over $200,000 should get a tax increase. But if you make only $200,000 a year, you get a tax cut. What do -- does that make any sense to you?

KAMBER: Well, you have to have a number somewhere, Bob.

NOVAK: What is -- is $200,000 the right number?

KAMBER: I don't know what the number is. You have to have a number somewhere.


KAMBER: I do think that people make an inordinate amount of money, of $200,000 -- is a lot of money -- do probably need to pay a bigger share than they're paying now.

BEGALA: Vic Kamber, that will be the last word on this Fourth of July weekend.


BEGALA: Thank you for joining us. Frank Donatelli, Republican strategist, former Reagan aide, thank you both.

Well, our nation's top diplomat certainly has to do a lot of difficult things to advance America's interest around the world. But somehow I don't think he ever thought it would come to this. We will explain next on CROSSFIRE.


NOVAK: Secretary of State Colin Powell has been in Indonesia for an Asian security conference. It isn't as stuffy as you might think. Tradition requires conference participants to sing and dance. Colin Powell singing and dancing? Well, just take a look.




NOVAK: I think he's pretty good. I don't know.

BEGALA: Boy, don't quit your day job, Mr. Secretary. A fine secretary of state, and not much in the song and dance department.

From the left, I'm Paul Begala. Happy Fourth of July. That's it for CROSSFIRE.

NOVAK: From the right, I'm Robert Novak. Join us again next time for another edition of CROSSFIRE. And join me tomorrow morning at 9:30 a.m. for "THE NOVAK ZONE." I'll be talking to Baltimore Orioles homerun hitter Rafael Palmiero about why he won't play in Cuba. "WOLF BLITZER REPORTS" starts right now.


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