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CNN CROSSFIRE

Should Cheney Be Dumped From GOP Ticket?

Aired July 15, 2004 - 16:31   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


ANNOUCER: CROSSFIRE: on the left, James Carville and Paul Begala. On the right, Robert Novak and Tucker Carlson.
In the CROSSFIRE: Should there be a new No. 2 in President Bush's future?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DICK CHENEY, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Somebody said to me the other day that Senator Edwards got picked for his good looks and charm. I said, how do you think I got this job?

(LAUGHTER)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ANNOUNCER: Joking aside, why are there so many whispers the Republicans might dump Vice President Dick Cheney?

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

PAUL BEGALA, HOST: Hello, everybody. Welcome to CROSSFIRE. John Kerry's choice of John Edwards as his running mate has energized Democrats across the country. It has also energized a few Republicans and a lot of us in the media to start talking about whether President Bush should dump Dick "F-word" Cheney.

TUCKER CARLSON, HOST: Well, it goes without saying that Dick Cheney will remain on the Bush ticket. But why let reality get in the way of a good debate? We don't plan to. We'll start right after the best political briefing in television, our "CROSSFIRE Political Alert."

As we pointed out yesterday on this program, John Kerry's refusal to let Hillary Clinton speak at this month's Democratic Convention in Boston, not simply insulting Mrs. Clinton, but a betrayal of the Democratic Party's own strictly enforced principles of feminism. Don't just take our word for, here's Judith Hope, the former head of the New York State Democratic Party.

Quote: "It's a slap in the face," Hope said, "not personally for Hillary but for every women in the Democratic Party and every woman in America."

Got that? "Every woman in America." That means you, Ms. Jane Q. Public. Wake up and smell the chauvinism in your own party. So the next time one of your liberal heroes hits on one of his 20-year-old interns or drives a car off a bridge with his girlfriend inside, don't be surprised, just remember what they did to Hillary Clinton. Free Hillary.

BEGALA: Let me set aside the more outrageous (UNINTELLIGIBLE) focus on this mistake. It's an enormous mistake for my party to not have Hillary speak at this convention, it's a huge mistake. She's the biggest star in the Democratic Party. She's the biggest fund-raiser in the Democratic Party. Democrats from all over the country are going to come together in Boston and they want to see Hillary.

CARLSON: She's the greatest person in the history of the planet Earth. And the idea...

BEGALA: She is the most...

CARLSON: Hold on -- no.

BEGALA: She is a living saint. She is...

CARLSON: Paul, Paul, you're not going to get in the way of my love for Hillary Clinton.

BEGALA: She is the most admired woman in America.

CARLSON: She is the greatest person on the planet.

BEGALA: And I know that causes you nothing but agitation.

CARLSON: I love it. I love it.

BEGALA: She's the most admired.

CARLSON: And that's why...

BEGALA: The most, the most.

CARLSON: And that's why John Kerry efforts to keep her off the stage is repellent to me and feminists like me everywhere.

BEGALA: Well, with jobless claims up and industrial production down, you might think President Bush today would have proposed a plan to get the economy moving; or perhaps given that 10 people were killed in Iraq by a car bomb, Mr. Bush might be proposing a serious plan for security in that country.

But no. Instead, Mr. Bush today signed into law stricter penalties for identity theft. That monumental goal joins fraud banned (ph) as the sum and substance of Mr. Bush's second-term agenda. No health care plan, no economic plan, no Iraq victory plan.

But in fairness to Mr. Bush, identity theft is a big issue with him. After all, he is a 58-year-old man who can't decide if he's compassionate or conservative, a uniter or a divider, Texan or a Yale- y. The truth is, George W. Bush does not have an identity crisis, he has a credibility crisis. CARLSON: Identity theft, it's one of those "Hard Copy" issues, it's almost like school uniforms. It does sound very much like something Clinton would have done. I would like to say...

BEGALA: Like balance the budget, create 73 million jobs, reform welfare, cut crime, Clinton did the big things.

CARLSON: I'm sorry, Paul, I'm sorry, not to get back into your obsession with Bill Clinton and try and justify your years there. I will...

BEGALA: You raised (UNINTELLIGIBLE) his wife.

CARLSON: I will say, though, that Bush actually does have a health plan which you attack and I attack too, for that matter, his Medicare prescription drug plan. He has a plan for the economy which you attack constantly. You just don't agree with his plans, but to say he doesn't have any plan simply is untrue.

BEGALA: He has no new plan for his second term. He has his tax cuts from the first term which have been a disaster, his Medicare plan, which has been a disaster, no new ideas for a second term.

CARLSON: Well, Bill Clinton has some advice for the latest Democratic nominee, John Kerry. In an interview with the "Financial Times" of England, the former president predicts that Kerry will win the election as long as he stays away from (UNINTELLIGIBLE) complicated social issues like abortion and gun control.

Well, Clinton may be right. There's only one problem, many Americans have strong feelings about those issues, no, not just evangelicals or isolated communities of survivalist snake-handlers in Idaho, but ordinary people. They don't think abortion up to the moment of birth ought to be legal.

John Kerry emphatically does think it ought to be legal. They don't believe government ought to over-regulate the law-abiding use of firearms. John Kerry emphatically does think that.

John Kerry is undeniably, provabily, far out of the mainstream on these social issues. There is no debate about that. And there is nothing wrong with pointing it out every single day from now until November 2.

BEGALA: Here's the trouble with pointing them out, George Bush doesn't believe in them either. He has done nothing...

CARLSON: You don't know what...

BEGALA: He bragged to you once, Tucker, that he never did anything to reduce abortion when he was governor. He's not serious about those issues. He uses them to take people of good faith, rev them up and steal their votes so then that he can rob them blind...

(CROSSTALK) CARLSON: Are you defending Kerry's stated position, stated position that abortion ought to be legal to the moment of birth? Are you defending that?

BEGALA: Oh, I disagree with Kerry's position on partial birth apportion actually.

CARLSON: Disgusting.

BEGALA: But I respect that Kerry is principled in his convictions. George W. Bush says he's against abortion and has done nothing. He bragged to you about how he did nothing about it.

CARLSON: I can't believe you would vote for a man who supports that.

BEGALA: Well, Dennis Miller is of course the court jester and chief thrown sniffer for President Bush, or as Arianna Huffington memorably put it, Miller is Bush's Sammy Davis Jr.

Yesterday, Miller suggested that John Kerry John Edwards are gay. He did that at a Bush rally. Was he trying to be hateful or was it just wishful, dare I say, lustful thinking on Dennis' part? Well, I'm sorry, Mr. Miller, the Senators are both straight and both married, not available.

Miller then tore into our own James Carville, displaying a third grade quality wit by, get this, mocking James' appearance. Gee, Dennis, that's original.

Look, when Whoopi Goldberg made jokes about President Bush last week, Republicans all got their panties in a wad. The difference of course between Whoopi and Miller that Whoopi is actually funny. Miller is so pompous and preening and pretentious that he even made "Monday Night Football" boring.

CARLSON: Talk about humorless, I think even James thought the jokes about him were funny. Miller is joking, he's not being a homophobe. I know that it's sort of the way that the left operates and conducts its arguments, you're a racist, you're a homophone, you're a wife-beater or whatever. I think the guy is actually pretty funny...

(CROSSTALK)

BEGALA: Why when Whoopi Goldberg makes a sexual joke about George Bush, the right goes into apoplexy?

CARLSON: It's a conspiracy having to do with Halliburton.

BEGALA: Dennis Miller makes a sexual joke about John Kerry and nobody says anything.

CARLSON: It's probably Halliburton. It's Halliburton again. Paul, you can't get away from Halliburton.

BEGALA: ... by the media who are cowed by the kook right. That's exactly what's going on.

Well, according to some polls, the former CEO of Halliburton, Dick Cheney, about as popular in America as a porcupine is in a balloon factory, which is why is there so much buzz about dumping Dick "F-word" Cheney from the GOP ticket.

And later, it is time for CROSSFIRE's version of the Emmy awards. I have personally nominated our president in a special category, later on CROSSFIRE, the envelope, please.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CARLSON: Welcome back. The rumors have been around for weeks. Today "The New York Times" decided to legitimize them. A front page story spins out possible scenarios by which Vice President Dick Cheney would be dumped from the Republican ticket to be replaced by Senator John McCain, Secretary of State Colin Powell, or fill in the blank. Actually don't. Dick Cheney himself tells C-SPAN he's staying. And that is our debate.

But first to our viewers watching in bars and taverns across America, a little drinking game. Every time you hear the phrase "Halliburton" on today's show, drink a beer and by the end take a cab home, you'll need it.

In the CROSSFIRE today, Democratic strategist Peter Fenn, and also Republican strategist and former Justice Department spokeswoman, Barbara Comstock.

(CROSSTALK)

BEGALA: Crack open the six-packs, Barbara, let's start with Halliburton. You are -- we disagree on everything. But we won't disagree on this. You are a great American patriot. You love your country more than you love personal wealth. Dick Cheney, however, when he ran Halliburton made a different choice.

Here's what "The Washington Post" reported. I won't even characterize it. "According to oil industry executives and confidential U.N. records, Halliburton held stakes in two firms that signed contracts to sell more than $73 million in oil production equipment and spare parts to Iraq while Cheney was chairman and CEO of the Dallas-based company."

"Two former senior executives of the Halliburton subsidiary say, as far as they know, there was no policy against doing business with Iraq."

What kind of an American would profit from trading with Saddam Hussein?

BARBARA COMSTOCK, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Paul, there you go again. If you're going to keep attacking -- and I don't want to contribute to people drinking in the bars from using the word, but you know, put up or shut up. There is absolutely not one scintilla of evidence of the vice president doing anything wrong. And you know that. We listen to these constant attacks because you know Dick Cheney is a much bigger asset to this ticket than John Edwards, who has got no bounce.

I'd like to point out that Dick Cheney, when he got put on the ticket, gave us a 12-point bounce. John Edwards' bounce is less than a dead cat bounce. He is in Louisiana today, and you don't have any bounce down there. You're dragging.

BEGALA: First of all, there's more than a scintilla, there are United Nations records and there are Halliburton executives. Dick Cheney was the CEO of the firm. They paid him millions of dollars. He traded with Iraq and with Iran and with Libya.

COMSTOCK: ... do something, you have nothing...

BEGALA: We have U.N. records.

COMSTOCK: ... allegations and innuendoes.

BEGALA: Wait a minute. You're not disputing that Dick Cheney, as CEO of Halliburton, traded with Iraq, are you?

CARLSON: I'm sorry, that's our sixth mention of Halliburton.

(CROSSTALK)

CARLSON: ... the H-word, because we've now used it eight times. That's right.

I want to just compare and contrast Dick Cheney, John Edwards, I think it's a fair comparison, an interesting one. I want to put up on the screen some of Dick Cheney's qualifications. Things he has done during his life. He was deputy assistant to President Ford. He was White House chief of staff. He was a congressman, re-elected five times. He was minority whip in the House. He was secretary of defense. He has won the Presidential Medal of Freedom. And he is, of course, now vice president.

Compare that to John Edwards, this is his background. He has served less than one term in the U.S. Senate. Before that he was a trial lawyer specializing in Jacuzzi cases. This is my favorite. This is John Kerry's rationale, he says that John Edwards ought to be vice president because, quote: He has devoted a lifetime of caring."

COMSTOCK: And better hair.

PETER FENN, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: So you are comparing to Cheney to Bush, will you, when Bush ran for president, is that what you were doing?

CARLSON: I'm actually -- I'm in the here and now, 2004.

FENN: If you look six years on the -- you didn't put six years on the Senate Intelligence Committee up there did you for John Edwards. The one thing that I think is important if you look at what...

CARLSON: Well, that's why he voted for the war because he thought there were weapons of mass destruction.

FENN: The American people right now, by 55-38, think that Edwards is more qualified to be president than Dick Cheney.

CARLSON: I'm trying to convince them otherwise.

FENN: In fact...

CARLSON: How does a lifetime of caring...

FENN: One of the reasons, because I want to answer Barbara's question here, there was a memo, Barbara, from the Defense Department, talking about coordinating the $7 billion contract with the Vice President's Office.

You like that?

CARLSON: The smoking gun, Peter, wow, man.

FENN: And here's a guy who stands for a different set of values than John Edwards. John Edwards worked himself up, stands for the little guy. And these guys are all born on third base and think they hit a triple.

CARLSON: That's not true, actually, at all.

BEGALA: Barbara, go ahead and respond.

CARLSON: Yes, sorry.

COMSTOCK: There is going to be a hearing in the House this week, and as "National Journal" pointed out this week, Halliburton is represented by a Democrat contributor to John Kerry. So direct your questions to them because they'll have the answers for whatever is going on with Halliburton. But it's -- Sue Eisenstat (ph), a Democratic contributor to John Kerry and to all of your friends.

So "National Journal" highlighted that...

BEGALA: Of course, he wasn't trading with Saddam Hussein, that was Dick Cheney's era, when they traded with Saddam Hussein. But let me bring you up to the present here. Just a couple of weeks ago, about two weeks ago, Vice President Cheney gave an interview to Gloria Borger at CNBC. And let me read you part of that transcript.

Gloria says to him: "Well, let's go to Mohamed Atta, because you mentioned him as well. You said in the past that it was, quote, 'pretty well confirmed.'" Cheney interrupts: "No, I never said that." Borger: "OK." Cheney: "Never said that."

He was referring to -- Cheney's allegation was "pretty well confirmed" that Atta had met - Atta was the mastermind of the September 11 attacks, had met with Iraqi intelligence officials in Prague. Happens to not be true. But Cheney said he never said what Gloria said.

Well, here's exactly what Gloria was referring to, a direct quote from Dick Cheney: "Well, what we now know, this developed since you and I last talked, Tim, of course, was that report that - it has been pretty well confirmed that he did go to Prague."

Dick Cheney is a liar. There is proof right here in his own words. He says, I never said it was "pretty well confirmed," and yet he did.

Why would President Bush, who is supposed to a Texas truth- teller, want such a liar on the ticket with him?

COMSTOCK: Dick Cheney -- the president chose Dick Cheney for strength and governance and he has served this president well. And you all know that the intelligence, whether it was under Bill Clinton or under this administration, we've had problems with the intelligence and we're trying time improve that. And I predict that President Bush will be putting in an excellent choice for the CIA.

And we will now be hoping to get better intelligence. But this is something that has been a problem because John Kerry wanted to gut intelligence when he was on the intelligence committee all through the '90s.

BEGALA: I understand that, but shouldn't that, but shouldn't Dick...

COMSTOCK: He had amendments that were so extreme...

(CROSSTALK)

FENN: I'm not going to let that go. I'm not going to let that go. That was the lie number one with the Bush campaign. He proposed a $1.3 billion cut because the National Reconnaissance Office took money and hid it. In fact, the Republicans passed a $3.8 billion cut the next year. It was...

COMSTOCK: John Kerry's entire record -- he is number one liberal is because he has gutted intelligence...

(CROSSTALK)

CARLSON: And Peter, I'm wondering what that has to do with Halliburton. Now let me ask you another question. Let me ask you a political question. I'm actually interested in your answer. Barbara mentioned a moment ago Cheney's addition to the ticket in 2000 gave the Bush campaign a 12-point bump. Interesting. That has not happened, as you know, with the Kerry campaign.

But look at this, these are numbers, CNN/"USA Today"/Gallup poll numbers out of North Carolina, likely choice for president, Bush 56, Kerry 41, that's after the addition of the home state of North Carolina Senator John Edwards, 15 points they're losing by. You don't think it's interesting? FENN: You know what, I do, because there's new poll out just today, Mason Dixon North Carolina poll shows Bush-Cheney up by only 3 in North Carolina. Now it's a very Republican state. And I'll tell you, 3 points, we can play there, he can win in North Carolina.

BEGALA: ... and answer with this one, "Democracy for Today," asked people, who are you going to vote for in the election, John Kerry or George Bush? Kerry leads by 3, 50-47. But when they add the names of vice president, who are going to vote for, Kerry and Edwards, or Bush and Cheney, they surge to a 7-point lead. So Dick Cheney personally dragging George Bush down. So I for one say keep him, Mr. President, let's keep Dick Cheney on there because he's a drag on the ticket.

COMSTOCK: But Paul, as you know, you sat here and attacked the vice president all through 2002, certainly in 2000. And the vice president was out campaigning the way he is now. He's in swing states...

BEGALA: Good.

COMSTOCK: He's out campaigning with John McCain.

BEGALA: Good.

(CROSSTALK)

COMSTOCK: In 2002, he had 60 races -- or more than 60 that he was working on and we ended up doing something unprecedented, we won an off-year election. We brought in many of those House seats. And that's something that never happened before. And Dick Cheney was a big part of that so...

CARLSON: We have got to take a quick commercial break. We're going to talk more about Halliburton during that time.

(LAUGHTER)

Next, John Edwards and Dick Cheney have similar backgrounds, they do indeed. And "Rapid Fire" will ask why you would never know that.

And how do Iraq's new leaders plan to stop the violence threatening their country? Wolf Blitzer has the latest on their strategy next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Wolf Blitzer in Washington. Coming up at the top of the hour, three attacks kill 17 people in Iraq and the interim government in Baghdad announces plans for a new intelligence service to fight the insurgency.

He won the America's Cup, invented cable news, and even managed his own baseball team. What's Ted Turner up to right now? He'll join me live, that's coming up. And a tragic mix-up after a car wreck. One family keeps a bedside vigil for days until another family makes a shocking discovery. Those stories and much more only minutes away on WOLF BLITZER REPORTS. Now back to CROSSFIRE.

BEGALA: Welcome back. Time now for "Rapid Fire" where we ask questions even faster than Dick Cheney can drop the F-bomb on the Senate floor, we're talking with Republican strategist Barbara Comstock and Democratic strategist Peter Fenn.

CARLSON: Peter, John Edwards never stops complaining about his childhood, reminding us again and again that father worked in a factory and they were working class. If anything, Dick Cheney comes from humble beginnings, poorer beginnings than John Edwards, but he never whines about it. I wonder why that is?

FENN: Complaining about it?

CARLSON: Yes, complaining, constantly reminding, using as a moral cudgel, hitting the rest of us with the fact that his father worked in a factory.

FENN: What he says is his parents taught him strong values. That's what he says. He talks about how tough it was to move from city to city where his father had to get a job. You know, Dick Cheney -- does Dick Cheney go around, talk about his four, five deferments to keep him out of serving in the military? No, he doesn't talk about that.

BEGALA: In fact, let me recommend to everybody they go to whitehouse.gov, they have the White House's official bio there. There's a picture of his new grandbaby, his first grandson. And it's a lovely thing. And I read the bio below that, below that beautiful family photo, it lists, for example, in such detail that in 1969, 35 years ago, Dick Cheney was on something called the Cost of Living Council, never heard of it, in the Nixon administration. It doesn't mention that he ran Halliburton. Now why is he so ashamed of running this fine American corporation, he mentions the Council of the Cost of Living but not Halliburton on his official bio. He is ashamed, isn't he?

COMSTOCK: It is a fine company, and that's why your friends on the Democratic side are representing it. I mean, this company has been attacked, you've been using it. But they're being investigated...

BEGALA: So why doesn't he brag about it? Why doesn't he at least claim it or mention it?

COMSTOCK: You have to get over it so you're not getting all these people drinking...

(LAUGHTER)

CARLSON: We're almost out of time. Quickly, as you know, Clinton and Gore kind of hated each other, particularly by the end and definitely now. Aren't you heartened by the fact that -- it's true, and you know it's true, that Bush and Cheney sort of like each other, don't you think that's good for government.?

FENN: I am glad they like each other. And I would be absolutely astounded if he dumped him from the ticket. But boy, with the numbers he has got, you know, you never can tell. He may be the most disloyal president...

(CROSSTALK)

CARLSON: ... very much.

OK. For those of you in bars or taverns across our country, that is 17 beers for you. Good luck and take a cab.

Well, we all love a little romantic comedy, especially in the world of politics. My nomination for the finest performance of its kind next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BEGALA: Welcome back to CROSSFIRE. The Emmy Award nominations are out today for television excellence, an oxymoron if ever there was one, even though there are total of 87 areas and categories for Emmy Awards, we at CROSSFIRE didn't think that was quite enough. So let us suggest a few categories of our own.

Tucker, I'm going to start with the worst political actor performance of the year. Check out this bad actor.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Let me first say that -- you know, I think the intelligi (sic) I get is darn good intelligence.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(LAUGHTER)

CARLSON: He's a bad actor, I agree, I absolutely agree, he's a bad actor, not a great speaker, but you know, he's not -- he's actually one of the least phony politicians I've ever covered.

BEGALA: He's phony as he can be, sitting there saying the intelligence he gets is good intelligence? Come on.

CARLSON: All right. Now this is my nomination for the best love scene. And I think this is touching if not a tiny bit poignant. Here we go.

(MUSIC PLAYING, "YOU ARE SO BEAUTIFUL")

CARLSON: See, and they're not ashamed. They're not ashamed, I admire that.

BEGALA: ... hate the gays, hate the gays.

CARLSON: I like the gays. Come on.

BEGALA: Hate the gays. From the left, I'm Paul Begala, that's it for CROSSFIRE.

CARLSON: We're here and we're proud of it. I'm Tucker Carlson, join us again tomorrow for yet more CROSSFIRE.

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