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Politics of Homeland Security

Aired August 2, 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: Are we doing enough to prevent terrorism?

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The elevation of the threat level in New York and New Jersey and Washington, D.C., is a serious reminder, a solemn reminder, of the threat we continue to face.

SEN. JOHN KERRY (D-MA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The question is, are we as safe as we ought to be given the options that were available to us And the answer is, no.

ANNOUNCER: Who will keep you safer and who's playing politics?

HOWARD DEAN (D), FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: It's just impossible to know how much of this is real and how much of this is politics.

KERRY: Well, he asked a question. It's not my question.

ANNOUNCER: The politics of protecting the homeland -- today on CROSSFIRE.


ANNOUNCER: Live from the George Washington University, James Carville and Tucker Carlson.



New York, New Jersey and Washington, D.C., are on alert to stop possible incoming terrorists. We're going to debate whether a Kerry administration will keep you safer.

TUCKER CARLSON, CO-HOST: Well, of course it won't. And, fortunately, people understand that. Every poll shows it. We will debate it.

But, first, we're alerting you to the best political briefing in television, our CROSSFIRE "Political Alert." Well, since the end of the Democratic Convention, Democrats have been waiting breathlessly to see how much John Kerry would go up in the polls. How big would his bounce be? Would it be huge or just be unprecedented? They predicted both. Well, the verdict is in. According to the latest CNN/"USA Today"/Gallup poll, Kerry either got no bounce at all or posted the smallest and shortest bounce on record.

Kerry and President Bush are now tied at 48 percent among registered voters. Among likely voters, Bush leads 51 percent to 47 percent. And so there you have it, the fruits of last week's convention. Democrats spent four whole days controlling their outbursts, ignoring their disagreements and saying virtually nothing about virtually everything. And, in return, they got nothing. Maybe they just should have told the truth instead.


CARVILLE: You know what I like is, this president has got 48 percent. He's satisfied with that. He's satisfied with the income growth. He's satisfied with the deficit. He's satisfied with -- that health care costs are being held


CARLSON: James, seriously, you're not


CARVILLE: This is a satisfaction president. He's satisfied.



CARLSON: Actually, from your point of view, it was a pretty effective convention. You kept the transgenders off stage. You didn't say anything completely lunatic. You kept Howard Dean to the


CARVILLE: It was a fine -- it was a fine convention.

CARLSON: Wouldn't you expect some bounce, maybe a tiny one at all?

CARVILLE: You know what? George Bush's motto


CARVILLE: George Bush's motto is, I have got satisfaction, man.


CARVILLE: I'm doing great. The country's doing great.

(APPLAUSE) CARLSON: You won't answer the -- you won't answer the question.

CARVILLE: Are the Republicans better for America's economy? Do they keep their promises about smaller government?

Well, Michael Kinsley, a former host of this show and the editorial page editor of "The Los Angeles Times," ran the numbers and found out the answer is, well, no. And before you Republicans get all up in arms, the answer comes from the president's own economic report. In the years since 1960, Kinsley found that real averaged 4.09 percent in Democratic years and 2.75 percent in Republican years. Tucker, that's more for the Democrats.

Unemployment was 6.44 under Republican presidents and 5.33 under Democrats. Tucker, that's more for the Republicans. The federal government spent more under previous Republicans and Democrats even if you exclude defense. Inflation was lower under Democratic presidents and annual deficits took more than twice as much as GDP under Republicans.

Now, a lot of Republicans will say, oh, the modern party begins with President Reagan. If you run the same numbers starting in '82, the only changes is, Democrats also win on personal income. What does all this prove? That Harry Truman was right. If you want to live like a Republican, vote like a Democrat.

CARLSON: Well, that's...


CARLSON: Yet another bumper-sticker argument from James Carville.

Look, James, people understand that the president is not in control of the economy. I will say now, as I've said many times before, that I personally am dissatisfied with the growth of government under George W. Bush. I would think you would be defending it.


CARVILLE: The worst thing is, we're luckier. That's all. We're just luckier. We're no better. Maybe we're just luckier.

CARLSON: I don't know what you're saying.



CARVILLE: Over 44 years -- over 44 years, Americans have lived better under Democrats than Republicans. That's all I'm saying.

CARLSON: Due to what economic policy? There have been six different economic policies.

CARVILLE: Because -- I'll tell you why. Because they invest in people.

CARLSON: That means nothing. That's so stupid. Come on.


CARVILLE: ... trickle down from power to people, because you're a power puppet. I believe things gush up from the people to the power.


CARLSON: OK, news flash here from CROSSFIRE. Democratic economic plan: invest in people.

Well, early in Michael Moore's movie "Fahrenheit 9/11," there's a quick shot of a newspaper headline from the December 19, 2000, edition of "The Pantagraph," which serves Bloomington, Illinois. It reads -- quote -- "Latest Florida Recount Shows gore Won election," except that isn't the case, either in Florida or at the paper.

When the editors at "The Pantagraph" checked their files, they found no such story or headline on December 19, 2000. Somewhat shaking, they kept checking the files and found a much smaller version of that headline over a letter to the editor from December 5. That's right, not over a news story, over a letter to the editor.

In other words, Michael Moore certain facts and rearranged them to suit his partisan agenda, leading you to a completely false conclusion. There is a word for that. It's called lying. It's not surprising.


CARLSON: But here's the question. Why do Democrats keep defending someone even they're embarrassed of, or ought to be? He's a total hater, James. And he's allied with your party.


CARVILLE: His movie had a lot of things in it, and people ought to watch it and conclude for themselves. And it's like a newspaper headline. Of course, Gore won Florida. Everybody knows that.



CARLSON: No responsible -- no responsible person -- no responsible person watching that movie and the allegations that we went to war because Bush is friends with Osama bin Laden -- come on, James.


CARVILLE: If he made an allegation -- if the worst thing you all have been able to find is, he had a headline that was from another part of the paper.

CARLSON: No, that's the worst. That's like -- that's a whole...

CARVILLE: Knock me over with a feather. Oh, my God.



CARLSON: Why would you


CARVILLE: Before the French Revolution, when told that the people of the country were starving, Marie Antoinette reportedly said, let them eat cake.

Today, we have a modern version of Marie Antoinette's contempt for people who are struggling. And you wouldn't be surprised that it comes from the Bush campaign. Reuters News Service recently reported when a reporter called the campaign asking about poor job quality, a press assistant was heard to say -- and I quote -- "Why don't they get a new job if they're unhappy or go on Prozac?"

Ladies and gentlemen, that's the Bush's campaign message to people who don't have good jobs. Get a new one or pop a Prozac. Here's what I think. On November 3, Americans should give George W. Bush some rejection therapy.


CARLSON: You know, the problem -- the problem I have with what you just did, James, is the woman who said that is in her early 20s. She is like some assistant. She said something stupid. And it's just classic beating up on the smallest, the littlest, the weakest, the least


CARVILLE: This is a person.


CARVILLE: This is a deputy to the press secretary of the campaign.

CARLSON: You're beating up on some girl, as always.

CARVILLE: This is a pretty senior person.

CARLSON: No, it's not a senior person.

CARVILLE: It's indicative of the way they think.

CARLSON: No, no.

CARVILLE: Take a -- pop a Prozac, baby. It's fine. You don't need a new job.


CARLSON: You're beating up on the weakest person in the whole campaign.

CARVILLE: I'm not beating up.


CARVILLE: She assistant to the press secretary.


CARVILLE: She's a big deal assistant to the press secretary who was being called for a quote by a reporter.


CARVILLE: This somebody who can respond for the campaign. She's a big person.

CARLSON: She said that privately.


CARLSON: And if you're mad at Bush, you ought to just say so, rather than picking on some intern.


CARVILLE: Pop Prozac, America.


CARLSON: Well, the politics of security. As authorities move to secure major financial centers against terrorist threats, voters are being asked inside who will keep you safer. That's the question.

And, later, as Ben Affleck steps off the campaign trail, which celebrity has taken his place in this political campaign? We'll reveal the answer to the question.

We'll be right back.

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.



(APPLAUSE) CARVILLE: With lots of phony fanfare, President Bush today announced he's signing off on many of the recommendations made by the 9/11 Commission. Of course, he never wanted the commission in the first place. And John Kerry is pointing out that the Bush administration hasn't moved anywhere near quickly enough to protect the country against terrorism.

In the CROSSFIRE to debate who will keep us safer, former Virginia Republican Governor and former Old Town Alexandria resident Jim Gilmore. He chaired the national panel on our preparedness for attacks involving weapons of mass destruction. Also here is Texas Democratic Congressman Jim Turner, who, I might add, district borders on the great state of Louisiana and is the ranking member of the Homeland Security Commission.



CARLSON: Congressman Turner, thanks a lot for joining us.

Howard Dean, as you know, sadly, didn't secure the nomination of your party. But he's reemerged as a senior adviser to John Kerry. He spoke at last week's convention in Boston. I want to play you a clip of him explaining his reaction to the latest terror alerts.

Here's Howard Dean.


DEAN: I am concerned that every time something happens that's not good for President Bush, he plays this trump card, which is terrorism. His whole campaign is based on the notion that, I can keep you safe. Therefore, in times of difficulty for America, stick with me.

And then out comes Tom Ridge. It's just impossible to know how much of this is real and how much of this is politics. And I suspect there's some of both in it.


CARLSON: In other words, Bush is making up the terror threat for his -- for political advantage. Is this the position of the John Kerry campaign? And, if not, why is this character speaking for the campaign?

REP. JIM TURNER (D), TEXAS: That's not the position of the Kerry campaign. In fact, I heard John Kerry just a few minutes ago disavow what Howard Dean said about the recent alert.

I think the recent alert was one that should have been given. It was targeted toward a threat that we've learned about. Obviously, that threat is not one that tells us there's a plan to attack those buildings. But, clearly, there was surveillance of those buildings. And I think the public had a right to know that. And I think the security measures that have put in place would deter an attack if there was one being carried out.

CARLSON: This is one in a series of alerts over the past couple of years. And after the last few -- and we've done shows on this here on CROSSFIRE -- you've heard Democrats complain that this is part of the Bush administration's attempt to kind of gin up fear in effort to help itself politically.

Is that -- what do you think of that? Is that a message the Kerry campaign wants to get behind?

TURNER: You know, I think what the Kerry campaign has done, and I think rightfully so, is talk about what John Kerry will do to make this country safer.

We have a whole host of severe security gaps that remain that should have been closed after 9/11, security gaps in aviation, port security, chemical plant security, rail, public transportation, lack of interoperability of communications equipment. All of those things have been ignored. They have not been dealt with adequately. And we need to do better than we're doing.


CARVILLE: Governor, I want to first say I'm in the John Kerry- Jim Turner camp here. But Governor Dean was saying what people in my party say -- and I'm always faced with this -- is to say, look, on Friday, you have disastrous income numbers come out of the IRS. You have the -- announcing that we're going to have the biggest budget deficit we've had in American history, that growth is nowhere near as much as we're due, that health care costs have exploded under this administration. And of course we know about the debacle in Iraq and that they just do this to try to change the subject. Now, I don't agree with it.

But I want you, because you know this, to assure these Democrats and help convince me that they're not doing this because of the disastrous economic news and the disastrous news from coming overseas to try to protect themselves. I don't think they would do that.

JAMES GILMORE (R), FORMER VIRGINIA GOVERNOR: Well, you know, I don't either.

I think that there's sort of a paranoid illness sometimes in the Democratic Party when they try to make these kinds of statements.


GILMORE: And while it's...


GILMORE: See, you can applaud that. That's right.


CARVILLE: John Kerry and Jim Turner and James Carville are not in that camp, but we deal with people that think that.

GILMORE: Well, you know, I agreed with Congressman Turner when he says the president is being responsible and forthright in coming forward with appropriate information.

Here's the facts. The facts are that threat is defined by the capabilities and the intentions of the enemy.


GILMORE: And that means intelligence becomes more and more important. That's why the president took his actions today to establish a national director. I think there's going to be a lot of work to make all that come through the correct way. But he's taken the decisive action to put together a counterterrorism center in order to put things together.

In other words, Jim -- James -- what he's doing is, he's doing the job. And so is Tom Ridge. And that's what they're supposed to do.


CARVILLE: I hope that -- I hope you can convince -- I hope you can convince some of these Democrats that...

CARLSON: Now, Congressman -- no, what they really need is psychological help, obviously.

But, Congressman Turner, I think it's totally legitimate to disagree with the Bush administration's prosecution of the war on terror, certainly to disagree with its invasion of Iraq. However, I think this line I'm about to read you from John Kerry, your candidate, spoken today, I think in Michigan, is completely over the top -- quote from John Kerry -- "I believe this administration is encouraging the recruitment of terrorists."

That's a disgusting thing to say, it strikes me.

TURNER: Well, I don't know the context in which that was made.

But let me say this, that there's no question that, even though the president would say he still would do what he did, even if he had known the facts about weapons of mass destruction, the truth of the matter is, we have made a significant investment in lives and in dollars in Iraq, where there were no terrorists.

Now, we may say, well, in the long term, maybe it will all work out. But the truth of the matter is, the president did not have a plan for peace when he went into Iraq. We've lost 775 American lives since the president declared that the mission was accomplished. And, frankly, we've got to get our eye back on the ball. That's al Qaeda. We've got to go after those terrorists more aggressively.

We've got to secure this homeland. It should be self-evident by the news that we've heard in the last few days. And we've got to have a leader who will talk about and implement initiatives to prevent the rise of future terrorism.


TURNER: We're not doing that today.

CARLSON: Then your argument, as I understand it, is, your argument is that Bush has been reckless. And I sort of agree with you in some cases. Then isn't it -- isn't it foolish...


TURNER: I don't believe -- I don't think he's been reckless. I think he's been negligent.


CARLSON: Wait. Hold on, James. Let me finish my question.

TURNER: I think he's been negligent in not implementing the kind of aggressive strategy we need to win the war on terror.


CARLSON: But is it -- isn't it -- isn't it equally reckless to make -- and also politically counterproductive -- to make charges such as, I believe the administration is encouraging the recruitment of terrorists?

That's something Howard Dean would say. Why is your candidate saying it out loud?

GILMORE: Well, I don't think that -- that statement must be taken out of context. Kerry does not believe that the president is trying to act contrary to the interest of this country. We all believe we're all moving in the right direction. We're trying to have our motives the same, that is, defeat terrorism.

But the president has not moved as aggressively as we need to do to defeat terrorism.


GILMORE: We all know it. The 9/11 Commission confirms it.

If there's one message in the 9/11 Commission, it's that we haven't done enough since 9/11 or we wouldn't have had the recommendations of that report.

CARVILLE: Excuse, Governor, because I know this boy has got a bad hand, and excuse him, but he just has to deflect.

But let me go back to judgment, because that has a lot to do with it in this whole intelligence thing. Let me show you what -- and you know something about this -- what President Bush said in July of 2003, after it was evident that there were no weapons of mass destruction or anything, what he thought of the quality of the intelligence that he got.

Can we play that, please?


BUSH: Let me first say that, you know, I think the intelligence I get is darn good intelligence.


CARVILLE: Now, he is very satisfied with...


CARVILLE: I mean, don't you think that -- I mean, the president has expressed his satisfaction with the economy, expressed his satisfaction with...

CARLSON: You sound like



CARVILLE: Well, it's too funny for words. He can't really be serious when he thinks we have darn good intelligence leading this war, can he?

GILMORE: You know, we -- you know, under the Jimmy Carter administration, we dismantled the CIA's ability to have human intelligence, and now we're paying the price for it.

CARVILLE: Well, but the president said in 2003 that he had darn good intelligence.


CARVILLE: You're arguing with your own guy.

GILMORE: But what we have seen is a reform of the FBI. We have seen the CIA begin to jettison some of these silly old rules and they're beginning to go to work now to rebuild the intelligence organizations of this country. We've got additional reforms that are being done today. The president is doing the job. And I think the American people are going to stick with him.

CARLSON: Congressman Turner, as you know, in the convention this past week, Senator Kerry said almost nothing about his almost 20 years in the United States Senate. I wonder why.

Zell Miller answered -- your fellow Democrat in the United States Senate answer that question yesterday on "Meet the Press." Here's what he said about Kerry's record in the Senate.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "MEET THE PRESS") SEN. ZELL MILLER (D), GEORGIA: I think this is a dangerous time. And I feel better having a man like George W. Bush as our commander in chief than I would as a person who has got -- had a very dangerous kind of record in the United States Senate, as far as national security is concerned. I mean, if he had had his way with his policy over the last 20 years, we would not be as strong as we are today. We would not have won the Cold War like we did.


CARLSON: It's hard to imagine anything more damning. He's got a dangerous record that would have helped us lose the Cold War had it been implemented. How do you respond to that? He's a Democrat, a faithful Democrat.

TURNER: Well, I just think he's wrong.


TURNER: I think the truth of the matter is, John Kerry has a solid record on national defense. You know, he's the only candidate in this race who's fought in a war, who has put his life on the line.


TURNER: And I think he understands. I think he understands the military in such a way that he won't use force unless it's the last resort. And I think the American people expect that kind of leadership. If you heard former President Carter at the National Convention last week, he talked very clearly about the kind of judgment, the kind of wisdom that should be exercised by our president when it comes to issues of war and peace.

And I think John Kerry has that background.

CARLSON: Jimmy Carter lecturing us on foreign policy.


GILMORE: And I think he did -- I think he had it right. I do think he had it right.


CARLSON: All right, we're going to take a quick break.

Our guests will face the "Rapid Fire" when we return.

And there's been a dramatic development in the case of a missing Utah woman. Wolf Blitzer has the details after the break.


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

Coming up at the top of the hour, security stepped up in New York, New Jersey and here in Washington, D.C. What's behind the latest terror alert?

In Salt Lake City, police investigating the disappearance of Lori Hacking arrest her husband. We'll tell you why.

And the 2004 Olympics only 11 days away. What's being done to prevent a terror attack in Athens?

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

Now back to CROSSFIRE.


CARVILLE: Welcome back to "Rapid Fire," where we ask questions faster than the Bush administration can express satisfaction with the economy, the deficit or the war in Iraq.

Our guests are former Republican Governor James Gilmore of the Commonwealth of Virginia, who chaired the national panel on domestic prepared for attacks involving weapons of mass destruction, and Texas Democratic Congressman Jim Turner, whose district abuts the great state of Louisiana, as I pointed out, and who is the ranking member of the Homeland Security Commission.

CARLSON: Mr. Turner, if George W. Bush is the evil moron Democrats tell us he is, why is he still leading in the polls?

TURNER: Well, I really think that we have a country today that's very closely divided in terms of the direction they want this country to go.

And I think that, by and large, what you see is those who have supported the president, sometimes for issues relating to maybe social issues that they feel strongly about, whereas, on the Democratic side, I think there's a strong feeling that the country needs stronger leadership and going after the terrorists and winning this war on terror and being more aggressive about it and trying to develop a country that will be respected around the world. And we cannot lose that respect and still be the kind of leader that makes all of us proud.

CARLSON: Stronger at home in respect to


TURNER: No question about it. No question about it.


CARVILLE: Governor, do you think that the -- do you think the Democrats like Howard Dean, what do you think drives them to say these kinds of things? How did we get such a distrust in this country?

GILMORE: Well, I just think they overpoliticize a lot of things they shouldn't be politicizing. I think homeland security is not a partisan issue. It's not a -- the congressman has served faithfully on the homeland security efforts. I've worked very hard on a national panel that has worked on these issues for years and years.

And this is a matter of keeping the American people safe. And I think that's what the president's priority is. And that's why I think the people are going to reelect him, because of that reason.


CARLSON: Mr. Turner, how disappointed, how crushed are you, how bereaved are you that the John Kerry campaign received no bounce from the convention last week?

CARVILLE: Bereaved?

TURNER: I really didn't expect a bounce. As you saw, the polls going into that convention showed the American public as largely decided.


TURNER: There may be 5 percent out there that haven't made up their minds. You don't expect to get a bounce when only 5 percent of the voting public has yet to decide.

And I really think that John Kerry accomplished what he needed to accomplish. And that was to show that he is a strong leader, that he intends to be very aggressive about going after the terrorists and that he has a more enlightened plan for winning this war on terror.


CARLSON: All right, Mr. Turner, Mr. Gilmore, thank you both very much. We appreciate it.


CARLSON: Up next, one of our favorite political celebrities, Ben Affleck, has decided to take a break from the campaign trail. We'll tell you who is taking his place in John Kerry's inner circle -- next.


CARLSON: Well, aside from substance, clarity and consistency, something is missing from John Kerry's latest campaign tour. Ben is gone.

Actor and CROSSFIRE favorite Ben Affleck is no longer lending his charisma to the otherwise charismatically challenged senator. Foo Fighters lead singer Dave Grohl has been tapped as Affleck's celebrity replacement. Kerry' is trying to make light of the situation.


KERRY: The last few days, we had Ben Affleck with us.


KERRY: And he's sorry he couldn't be here today, but he's going to be back on the trail. But I got to you, it's tough traveling with a vice president who is the sexiest politician of the year, Ben Affleck, sexiest man of the year. I felt like, hey, what am I, that SAT question that says, which one of these is different, you know? Remember?


CARVILLE: Right. He was a heck of a CROSSFIRE guest, Ben Affleck was.

CARLSON: I know you find him sexy.

CARVILLE: From the left, I'm James Carville. I like him.



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

Have a great night.



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