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Kerry-Edwards Duo Make Debut

Aired July 7, 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 Democrats' new team takes its first road trip.


SEN. JOHN KERRY (D-MA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: This is the beginning of our effort to talk to America and have a conversation.

SEN. JOHN EDWARDS (D-NC), VICE PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We're going to do great things for America when we take over the White House.


ANNOUNCER: The Republicans are on the campaign trail too.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How does he stack up against Dick Cheney?



ANNOUNCER: Whose campaign has the winning ticket?

Today on CROSSFIRE. Live from the George Washington University, Paul Begala and Tucker Carlson.

TUCKER CARLSON, CO-HOST: Welcome to CROSSFIRE. Today, John Kerry started campaigning alongside his new trial attorney. Unlike his boss, John Edwards can argue Kerry's case without the crowds to sleep, but no matter, it's still a losing argument.

PAUL BEGALA, CO-HOST: Well, but if that's true, then why are my Republican friends squealing like a pig stuck under a gate? Perhaps they're worried that next to the sunshine, energy and optimism of John Kerry and John Edwards, Bush-Cheney ticket looks like a remake of "Grumpy Old Men."

We will debate who has the winning ticket right after the best political briefing in television, our "CROSSFIRE Political Alert." We start with some breaking news. CNN justice correspondent Kelli Arena has learned that former Enron CEO Ken Lay has just been indicted by a federal grand jury. The indictment is still under seal but will reportedly be opened tomorrow.

Mr. Lay, of course, is perhaps the single largest patron of President George W. Bush's entire political career. During the Florida recount, Mr. Lay made Enron's corporate jet available to team Bush-Cheney. And when Mr. Bush was forming his transition team, Ken Lay worked closely with it. When energy regulators who would oversee Enron were being selected, Ken Lay was consulted. Vice President Dick Cheney's secretive energy task force was excluding the American people, it was including Ken Lay.

But when Mr. Lay got in trouble, President Bush threw him under the bus, suggesting he had only known Lay since 1994 and, gee, Ken had really supported his opponent, Ann Richards, for governor that year. Both statements were false.

Some free advice, Kenny boy, if you need a character witness, don't call your old friend George.

CARLSON: No, he ought to call former President Clinton. Unfortunately, this news broke so recently that I didn't have time to get the pictures of Ken Lay playing golf with his good friend, Bill Clinton. There are many pictures of that.

BEGALA: No there aren't.

CARLSON: Yes, actually, there are. I first saw Ken Lay at the White House in 1997 when he was there endorsing Al Gore's global warming plan, he was a close ally.

BEGALA: The single largest donor to George W. Bush in his political career, and Bush won't stand by him when he gets in trouble.

CARLSON: You know what's sad, though, maybe Ken Lay is innocent, you never know.

BEGALA: Maybe he is, so why is Bush throwing him under the bus?

CARLSON: You never know.

Well, if you've ever wondered what's wrong with American schools, take a look at what your children's teachers are doing over summer vacation. Some 10,000 delegates from the National Education Association are in Washington this week for their annual convention. You'd think these educators would be spending their time finding better ways to teach children to read, or finding a solution to depressingly low minority test scores. But no, instead they spent yesterday listening to Hillary Clinton explain what a bad man George W. Bush is. And they watched a special screening of Michael Moore's "Fahrenheit 9/11." That's right, that's the same paranoid, distortion-filled rant that blames Bush for September 11. It also accuses the U.S. government of going to war in Afghanistan against the Taliban to build an oil pipeline. That's what they're watching. Remember that this fall when you send your little kids off to school.

BEGALA: Now, do we have many NEA members here, who are here for the convention? Any teachers here in America? Thank you for your service to our country. Did you not check in with Mr. Carlson...

CARLSON: You know what, you know what...

BEGALA: ... and the right-wing thought police before you went to a movie? You have to check in...

CARLSON: Why don't you...

BEGALA: ... with the conservatives to become politically correct.

CARLSON: You know, Paul, you can pander -- you can pander to the audience if you want.


CARLSON: ... subject as important as education and politicize it, as that union has, is disgusting. And to show that film to educators...

BEGALA: Oh, and President Bush doesn't politicize education? It's a public issue.

CARLSON: Oh, honestly, Paul...

BEGALA: Some politicians believe one thing; others another...

CARLSON: Surely...

BEGALA: ... and teachers seem to support the Democrats because I think they know what's going on in our classrooms, and they want some help.

CARLSON: Actually, our public school...


CARLSON: ... union member teachers support the Democrats, Paul. Not all...


BEGALA: ... support. Well, perhaps one of the reasons that Republicans are panicking over John Kerry's selection of John Edwards, because they realize Vice President Dick Cheney is about as popular as a porcupine in a balloon factory. When the independent 9/11 Commission found out that there were no operational links between al Qaeda terrorists and Saddam Hussein, Mr. Cheney suggested that he had information the commission didn't have. Mr. Cheney has long suggested strong ties between bin Laden's terrorist network and Saddam's Iraq, but now the 9/11 Commission has issued a one-sentence statement, showing Mr. Cheney to be a fibber again. The commission says they did indeed have access to the same information Mr. Cheney had, and there is no difference in the information the 9/11 Commission and Vice President Cheney had. The difference is the 9/11 Commission told the truth.

CARLSON: Well, Paul, that's the nature of intelligence. I mean, the CIA, the Mossad and Hillary Clinton all had access to roughly -- roughly the same information about weapons of mass destruction, and all of them came to the same conclusion, that Iraq had them. They turned out to be wrong, along with the president. So your implication, or your claim that every time there is a difference of opinion the White House is lying is purely political, and it's unfair.

BEGALA: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) weapons of mass destruction (UNINTELLIGIBLE) link to al Qaeda terrorists...


CARLSON: It's the same point.

BEGALA: Completely different issue. Now, we can debate evidence...

CARLSON: It's precisely the same point.

BEGALA: But Vice President Cheney has long suggested, and the president has as well, that the 9/11 attackers are somehow linked to Saddam Hussein, that's factually false.

CARLSON: Actually, Mrs. Clinton, as you know, said that she believed Iraq had ties to al Qaeda. I mean, look, it's a difference of opinion, it's not a lie.

BEGALA: It's a fib. I try not to use the L-word about our vice president.

CARLSON: Well, if you listen carefully to this show, and we know that you do, then you've heard the claim many times -- George W. Bush stole the 2000 election. That means Al Gore really won, and that means Al Gore is actually, at this very moment, the president of the United States.

OK, let's take that claim seriously just for a minute. If Al Gore really is the rightful winner and the current president, where is he? Why isn't Al Gore standing shoulder to shoulder with John Kerry at all of their events? Why isn't Gore's face on every single Democratic television commercial, or even one? Why, according to "Roll Call," has only a single Democratic candidate this season called to ask for Gore's help campaigning? Why, in other words, are Democrats so embarrassed of the man they claim to love? You know the reason, of course. Because deep down, even Democrats know that Al Gore is pretty embarrassing.

BEGALA: Well, we love Al Gore, but we also democracy. Let me make my point before you...


BEGALA: Let me make my point before you attack.

CARLSON: Oh, you love democracy.

BEGALA: Democracy. In a democracy, it used to be, the old- fashioned way, you get more votes than the other guy...


BEGALA: ... you get to win the election.

CARLSON: Just answer the question.

BEGALA: President Bush now is banging on Mr. Edwards for being a trial lawyer. If it weren't for lawyers, George Bush wouldn't be in the White House. He lost the election and won a lawsuit.

CARLSON: It's not...


CARLSON: It actually makes for a buoyant conversation. My conversation is, where is Gore? He should be a political hero.

BEGALA: He's speaking out on public issues with great courage and clarity. You would do well to read and listen to what he says.

CARLSON: I've listened to every speech.

BEGALA: He's speaking the truth, something pretty rare out of Mr. Bush...

CARLSON: I know, but (UNINTELLIGIBLE). Why haven't more candidates asked for his help? It's an interesting question.

BEGALA: Today those candidates hit the road. Perhaps they want to run their own campaigns. The question for voters is, which side has the winning ticket? Kerry-Edwards, self-proclaimed new team for a new America, or the Bush-Cheney old team for a very old America?

Later, imitation, they say, is the sincerest form of flattery. We will show you that that's true, with the latest program trying to ride the mighty and long coattails of your humble program, CROSSFIRE. Stay with us.


BEGALA: Welcome back to CROSSFIRE. Today, the Democratic dream team of John Kerry and John Edwards started their first campaign tour together as running mates. Judged by the reception they got a few hours ago in Cleveland, home of the Rock'n'Roll Hall of Fame, you'd think they were a couple of rock stars themselves on tour. Senator Kerry introduced Edwards as, quote, "a man who shares my unyielding optimism and sense of hope about our nation and about the possibilities of our future." President Bush, meanwhile, attended a $25,000 a plate fund-raiser in North Carolina today, proving that Bush and Cheney themselves have wide appeal, reaching out to both millionaires and billionaires.

In the CROSSFIRE today, President Clinton's former deputy chief of staff, Steve Ricchetti, along with ace Republican strategist Greg Mueller. It's good to see you again, welcome back.

CARLSON: Thank you. See, there's been a ton of partisan yapping today about what the Edwards pick means. So instead, I want to go to a non-partisan source, Peter Feaver, he's a political scientist at Duke, in the home state of Senator Edwards. Here is what he says. Quote: "The contrast with Cheney is extremely stark. Cheney is one of the most politically experienced vice presidents ever, with an extraordinarily long record of public service across multiple crises and situations. Edwards is probably the least politically experienced VP candidate of a major party in modern memory," end quote. Essentially, he is Dan Quayle with a lot more money. There is really no way to argue with that, though, is there? I mean, he's the least experienced


STEVE RICCHETTI, BILL CLINTON'S FORMER DEPUTY CHIEF OF STAFF: Well, I actually heard even President Bush chip in on this score today, and I thought, a pretty amazing thing from a guy whose major foreign policy experience on the way into the White House was watching the Toronto Blue Jays play the Texas Rangers.



RICCHETTI: That was about all we had coming from him on the way in.

I will say this about Senator Edwards and his experience, No. 1, four years on the Intelligence Committee, involved in 9/11, bipartisan, bicameral commission investigating 9/11. The experience that we're concerned about and the experience that this election is going be about is the kind of experiences that these guys did bring to the White House. Let me


CARLSON: I'm not sure...

RICCHETTI: Tucker, one second. Let me finish on this.


RICCHETTI: Their experience didn't prevent them from exaggerating the case on WMD and the relationship and ties between al Qaeda and Saddam Hussein. Their experience didn't encourage our allies to engage in this fight in Iraq with us. Their experience didn't allow them -- or permit them to prepare adequately for what we were


CARLSON: Right. They're bad. I understand. I understand. They've evil.


RICCHETTI: That kind -- that kind of experience is the kind of experience we need


CARLSON: Right. Right. I understand. They're evil.


CARLSON: OK, but leaving that aside, it turns out that Senator Edwards has no command experience. And that matters. For instance, September 11, Dick Cheney, for a certain point, at a critical point, was essentially in charge. In fact, it was the vice president who gave the order to the military to shoot down civilian airliners, if necessary.

I mean, the vice president can find himself thrust into a situation where he needs to make command decisions. And in that arena, Senator Edwards has no experience, unlike a former governor.

RICCHETTI: What the country needs under those circumstances is judgment, vision and honesty. Those are the kinds of qualities and those are the kinds of values and the experience that we need in our leaders under those difficult and challenging circumstances for this country.

That's what Senator Edwards brings to the game. That's what Senator Kerry will do as president.


BEGALA: And, in fact, Greg, the Constitution only allows the vice president to exercise presidential authority in the case of the death or incapacity of the president, not just if he's sitting frozen in a classroom listening to "My Pet Goat," right?


BEGALA: We asked the American people this question last night. I know -- I'm sure this professor at Duke is quite a genius, but average opinions have a right to their opinion as well. And they have a distinctly different opinion than this noted guy whose name I can't remember that Tucker cited.

We asked, the CNN/"USA Today"/Gallup poll last night, whether John Edwards was qualified to serve as president; 57 percent of the American people said yes. It turns out, when we looked back, it was precisely the same percentage in 2000 who thought the same way of Dick Cheney. So the American people think he's as exactly as well qualified as Dick Cheney ever was. It sort of suggests you guys are barking up the wrong tree, aren't you?

GREG MUELLER, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Well, no. I think -- I think, first of all, you have to take a look at vice presidential nominations and what they mean today. They don't mean what they meant decades ago.

John Edwards is not going to deliver North Carolina. He's not going to do anything for the Kerry campaign in the South. Really, what you make these decisions about today are, do no harm.

And I don't think they made the right call here. I think John Edwards is going to do some tremendous harm to the Kerry campaign. What it proves is, we're going to move in the direction now of the Great Society Democratic Party. These are the No. 1 liberal in the United States Senate in John Kerry and the No. 4 liberal in the United States Senate in John Edwards.

The party that you, Steve, Carville and Bill Clinton tried to build is gone. We now have liberalism and a liberalism movement running the Democratic Party again.


MUELLER: And I think that's going to be very damaging -- I think it's going to be very damaging, Paul, to the Democrats as they campaign around the country. Enjoy the poll numbers now. They are not going to last very long.

BEGALA: Let me also tell our audience, we're looking at live pictures of John Edwards and John Kerry about to have a big rally.

And, as we watch that, let me ask you, you said that we're going to move away -- that Republicans want to move away from the Great Society. My fellow Texan, Lyndon Johnson, was the architect of that. What part of it do Republicans want to dismantle? Certainly, not civil rights, I hope not Head Start, Medicare, Medicaid. What part of the Great Society does President Bush want to take apart?

MUELLER: Well, I think if you take a look at all the money that has moved out of Washington under the tax cuts, John Edwards and John Kerry have not met a tax cut they liked. They don't -- you talk about middle-class values. The only thing middle about


BEGALA: I understand, but what was wrong with the Great Society? Medicare?


BEGALA: Medicare, you apparently want to privatize, right? President Bush supports privatizing Medicare.

MUELLER: Yes. We're moving in a very good direction on that. BEGALA: Cutting Medicaid? Let's have a debate on it.

MUELLER: The more people learn about Medicare, they're realizing the benefits of it.

But the bottom line is, if you take a look at all the major issues of the day, these guys are to the left of Ted Kennedy, as "The Boston Herald"'s cover page said today. At the end of the day, these guys haven't met a tax cut for middle-class Americans that they liked. They're against the real estate death tax. They're against -- they're against every tax cut that they've ever come across.

And they want to keep money and power in Washington with the trial lawyers, where John Edwards is their candidate, and the unions that are about to spend $65 million to help nominate this guy. That's where they want to keep money and power.

CARLSON: Speaking of the trial lawyers, obviously, the Democratic Party understands this is a weakness in picking Edwards. People don't like ambulance chasers.

And so the talking point now is that in fact he was out there helping the weak, the poor, the victims. My question to you is actually pretty simple. If he became a trial lawyer to help the weak, why did he take tens of millions of dollars from those very same people? In other words, if a little girl gets injured in a terrible Jacuzzi accident -- and this is a real case that he was involved in -- why does John Edwards get to take tens of millions of dollars from that little girl?

RICCHETTI: Look, John Edwards was a very good trial lawyer, as you know. And, as I understand it, you have a poll today which says that most people in America think that being a good trial lawyer is a good qualification for a person to serve as vice president or president.

But let's -- look, Abraham Lincoln was a lawyer, right? You guys have a fixation with lawyers. Abraham Lincoln was a lawyer. He made a pretty darn good president, didn't he?


CARLSON: Wait. But wait a second. No, that's a nonanswer, I mean, first of all, to what most people think is relevant to my question.

And my question is a very, very simple one. And I just want your honest answer. If he is out to protect the weak, say a little girl who was injured, terribly injured, in this Jacuzzi accident, why is it compassionate for him to take tens of millions of dollars of her settlement? Why doesn't he give that money back if he cares for little girl?

RICCHETTI: Look, he cared about that little girl. He invested an enormous amount of time...

CARLSON: So why did he take her money?

RICCHETTI: An enormous amount of time and effort in that little girl and her family, more importantly. And because he was successful challenging large institutions, people who were indifferent to the concerns of regular people and who, frankly, in these cases were gruesome injuries and grave circumstances.

CARLSON: So he got rich off her money.

RICCHETTI: He prospered and was successful in an environment that permitted...

BEGALA: I for one love the contrast between Senator Edwards, who did take on big corporations who were irresponsible and hurt children, and Vice President Cheney, who ran an irresponsible corporation.


BEGALA: And I'm not the only one.

Again, we asked this question. Well, we didn't. The Pew Research Center asked a question. This was back in 2000. And it will be interesting to see if it has changed. But this is what people said in 2000.

They were asked, who has too much influence in government and politics? Trial lawyers; 53 percent of Americans thought trial lawyers have too much influence. Good point for the Republicans. But they asked some others; 60 percent think HMOs do; 69 percent think drug companies do. And 74 percent think oil companies do. Your ticket has two oil company executives. That's got to be worse than one trial lawyer, isn't it?







MUELLER: No, no, I don't think it is.

No, I think -- look, at the end of the day, we can go back and forth on trial lawyers. And, look, both parties have large donors. The unions are going to spend tens of millions. George Soros is writing checks. You want to talk about billionaires.

The only thing middle about John Kerry and John Edwards is their middle seven-figure incomes.


MUELLER: These guys are not a party for the little guy. I mean, I think to argue that out is ridiculous.

I think, at the end of the day, look, in July, the Democrats are going to have their month. You guys are going to enjoy a great season. You're going to be ahead in the polls. Then the Bush and Cheney campaign is going to come back in August. Then the real campaign is going to begin in September. I think it's going to be liberal, Mondale, Johnson-type Democrats, not Clinton, Gore, Ricchetti Democrats, vs. good conservative Republicans.


CARLSON: Clinton, Gore, Ricchetti, I like it. I can see the bumper sticker.


CARLSON: We're going to take a quick -- we're going to take a quick break.

When we come back, we will join a rally in progress, John Kerry, senator for Massachusetts, now running for president in Dayton, Ohio.

We'll be right back.



CARLSON: Well, it's time for "Rapid Fire," where we ask questions almost as fast as Democrats can run, run, run away from Al Gore.


CARLSON: Our guests are former Clinton deputy chief of staff Steve Ricchetti and Republican strategist Greg Mueller.

BEGALA: Greg, I checked the vice president's official biography on It mentions that he served on something called the Cost of Living Council in the Nixon administration 30 years ago, no mention of Halliburton. He's clearly ashamed that he ran that company, isn't he?

MUELLER: No, not at all. Those people right now are helping bring Iraq back.


BEGALA: Why doesn't he mention it?

MUELLER: Well, I don't think you're going to campaign on Halliburton. My guess is, you're not going to hear... BEGALA: I am.


MUELLER: My guess is, you're not going to hear much talk about the trial bar from John Edwards either, Paul.

CARLSON: Steve, the new Democratic platform says these things. It says, good people can disagree about Iraq. It says, we need to increase the size of the military and we may need more troops. Those are almost exactly the Bush-Cheney positions on Iraq. When are Democrats going to take on stand on Iraq and stop aping the president's positions?


RICCHETTI: On Iraq, the Democrats' position is this. I think we need additional help. We need additional support. We need allies.

There is unquestionably -- and I think it's objectively absolute now that we need a change of leadership to restore confidence.

CARLSON: To do the same thing.

RICCHETTI: To restore confidence, to get help and assistance and burden-sharing from our allies to get the job done in Iraq.



BEGALA: Greg, Al D'Amato, a Republican, former United States senator and a very smart politician, has now suggested that President Bush dump Dick Cheney. Please tell me he won't do that. I want Dick Cheney. Tell me that D'Amato is wrong.

MUELLER: No way. So do I. I'm glad you want a leader and a principled man and a seasoned


MUELLER: ... in a time of war.


MUELLER: Look, let's not forget one thing, Paul. Dick Cheney and George Bush have survived the dot-bomb economy. We now have reports out today we're going to have the best economy in 20 years. They've won the war. Saddam Hussein is on trial in Iraq and we've got two-thirds of al Qaeda behind bars.


MUELLER: Things are going very well. Enjoy it.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE) BEGALA: That is the last word from Greg Mueller, Steve Ricchetti, my old pal from the Clinton White House.


BEGALA: Thank you both for a fun debate.


BEGALA: Well, a couple of TV producers apparently decided they wanted to create a TV talk show with sophisticated and entertaining debate. Then they saw CROSSFIRE and realized that idea was a farce. So we'll show you what they came up with to spoof CROSSFIRE next.

Stay with us.


CARLSON: Welcome back.

Well, as has already been noted, imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. Actually, sometimes, it's just mocking. But we'll pretend. So here at CROSSFIRE, we were flattered to observe the premier of Comedy Central's new show, "Crossballs."


CARLSON: See what you think of their version of "Rapid Fire."


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Let's dive into the "Quick Balls" round!

Here's the question. What was the best film of all time and why?


BEGALA: That's it?

CARLSON: I like that. I want to know what the answer is. We got to get longer bites from them. Comedy Central, give us more tape. That looks like a pretty good show.

BEGALA: That was great. That network is hilarious. I'm a huge "Daily Show" fan. We've got to get Jon Stewart to come on CROSSFIRE. It might be fun. We'd have a few questions for him.


CARLSON: Yes, I suspect he -- I suspect he would not come if he's not in control.

BEGALA: But good luck to "Crossballs." I'm not quite sure how to pick that name.

CARLSON: What the name means. (CROSSTALK)

BEGALA: But I'm scared to think about it, actually.


CARLSON: This is -- let's be honest. This is a genre ripe for parody. So..

BEGALA: That's absolutely true.

CARLSON: So I suspect that is a show that is going to do well.

BEGALA: Speaking of which, so is the classic political stump speech. We're going to take a look at my guy, John Kerry, speaking on the stump in Dayton, Ohio.

CARLSON: There he is. Buckle your seat belts.


BEGALA: Let's listen to Senator Kerry.


SEN. JOHN KERRY (D-MA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Will you please welcome with me my stepson Andre Heinz, who is back here?


KERRY: My daughter Alexandra Kerry right here, standing there.


KERRY: My other daughter, Vanessa Kerry, who is standing over here.


KERRY: And Congresswoman Stephanie Tubbs Jones, who is doing such a great job for the Democratic National Committee.


KERRY: Now (AUDIO GAP) if any of you got a chance to see any TV earlier, but we had Emma Claire and Jack (AUDIO GAP) both 6 and 4, with us. And they took over the household last night.

CARLSON: Well, that is true.


CARLSON: Born in a military hospital. He's a big man. Get it? He's tough. He's strong. It's kind of pathetic.

BEGALA: He was not a cheerleader at Andover. I can't imagine who was.

CARLSON: You know what, Paul?


BEGALA: But that's true. These are manly men.


CARLSON: Paul, you know what?


BEGALA: It's true. We have the macho...

CARLSON: That level of appalling homophobia, I'm shocked. I'm disgusted.


CARLSON: I'm turning you into the thought police.

BEGALA: From the left, I am Paul Begala. That's it for "Crossballs," FIRE, whatever the heck we are.

CARLSON: And from the right, I'm Tucker Carlson. Join us again tomorrow for yet more CROSSFIRE. Have a great night.



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