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CNN CROSSFIRE

Politics and the War on Terror

Aired August 3, 2004 - 16:30   ET

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


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

In the CROSSFIRE: Should the Bush administration have raised the terror alert based on such old intelligence? Did John Kerry go too far when he said Bush encouraged the recruitment of terrorists? Politics and the terror war. Is anyone playing politics with terror threats?

TOM RIDGE, HOMELAND SECURITY SECRETARY: We don't do politics in the Department of Homeland Security. Our job is to identify the threat.

ANNOUNCER: Today on CROSSFIRE.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ANNOUNCER: Live from the George Washington University, Donna Brazile sitting in on the left and Tucker Carlson.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

TUCKER CARLSON, CO-HOST: Welcome to CROSSFIRE.

James Carville and Paul Begala are back at Barbara Streisand's chateau in Malibu thing seaweed wraps, deep tissue massage and otherwise recovering from their week at the Democratic Convention. But fortunately for us, Donna Brazile has already recovered from her stint as a D.C. delegate to the convention. She is sitting in on the left today.

(APPLAUSE)

CARLSON: We're debating who will keep us safer in the war on terrorism. That's in a moment. But, first, the CROSSFIRE "Political Alert."

Well, it isn't easy if you happen to be the single most liberal of the U.S. Senate to spin the latest terror alert to your political advantage. But it doesn't mean you can't try. In Michigan yesterday, John Kerry accused George W. Bush of not worrying enough about terrorism. If Bush really cared about protecting America, Kerry said, then -- quote -- "He would call back Congress from its summer recess and get the job done now."

Well, it's an interesting idea. And it does raise at least one compelling question. If Bush did convene a special session of Congress, would John Kerry even come?

(LAUGHTER)

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

CARLSON: There's little evidence that he would, because, although he takes nearly $150,000 a year in Senate salary from taxpayers, you and me and Donna Brazile, Kerry almost never, ever goes to work. Over the past few years, Kerry has missed key votes on a series of vital subjects, including, yes, homeland security. So far this year, he has skipped fully 90 percent of his votes, 90 percent.

So maybe Bush should hold a special session just to see if John Kerry bothers to show up.

(LAUGHTER)

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

DONNA BRAZILE, GUEST HOST: Don't worry. Senator Kerry and Senator Edwards will show up for that important session of Congress.

CARLSON: Well, I'm glad they can take the time. That is awfully nice.

Don't you think, though, that when you miss 90 percent of the votes, you should just give up your salary? Why should he take that money from us and from the working man?

(CROSSTALK)

BRAZILE: This president has missed almost 40 percent of his work days in Washington, D.C.

(BELL RINGING)

BRAZILE: Back at home in Texas on a vacation.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

BRAZILE: That's why Democrats don't want to give up on their vacations.

You know, it's a tough job, but Illinois Republicans are finally doing it. GOP -- GOP officials are meeting today to pick a candidate to face Democratic Barack Obama in the United States Senate race. After Obama's amazing keynote speech at the Democratic National Convention last week, GOP voters may want to send sympathy cards instead of congratulations to whoever the Republicans pick.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE) BRAZILE: Now, the most unusual name being mentioned is two-time presidential candidate and talk show -- former talk show host Alan Keyes.

That would be fine, except one little detail. Keyes lives in Maryland. And, apparently, he has no connection to the land of Lincoln. Tucker, can't you all find somebody to run in Illinois?

CARLSON: You know, I don't speak for the party, Donna. I have to say, Alan Keyes is a compelling speaker. He actually speaks a lot like John Kerry. Both of them have about 90 independent clauses in each sentence.

I personally would like to see our own Robert D. Novak run. He's from the state of Illinois. He's a talk show host, though not a failed one, unlike Alan Keyes. I think he would be a great candidate.

BRAZILE: Well, that remains to be seen, whether or not Bob Novak will leave his home here in the Washington, D.C. area to go back to Illinois to run on the ticket, the land of Lincoln ticket, when most Republicans have abandoned what Abraham Lincoln preached.

CARLSON: Yes, it's...

(LAUGHTER)

CARLSON: Abandoned what Abraham Lincoln preached? Whoa!

(LAUGHTER)

(BELL RINGING)

BRAZILE: Oh, absolutely.

CARLSON: I don't -- I mean, that's so -- that's so over the top, inflammatory and extremist and insane that I'm not going to comment on it.

BRAZILE: Oh.

CARLSON: But I will say, Barack Obama, Barack Obama, he's in good shape. I think he may win. That's -- I'm calling it here on CROSSFIRE. Barack Obama may win.

Well, some of us applauded when she bragged about her ironclad prenuptial agreement. Some of us found it amusing when she described her second husband as decidedly second-string. Some of us even defended her when she told an innocent journalist to -- quote -- "Shove it."

But now Teresa Heinz Kerry, entertaining as she often is, has gone too far. At a Democratic rally in Milwaukee yesterday, a group of Bush supporters began to chant from the back of the room. Mrs. Kerry, who was at the podium, responded this way -- quote -- "They want four more years of hell."

(LAUGHTER)

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

CARLSON: Now, think about that. You may not agree -- you may not agree with George W. Bush's policies. You may not even like him personally. But can you honestly say that America, our country under his leadership, has been hell? Of course you can't.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

CARLSON: Really?

This is the language of extremism. And it's become commonplace on the left. It's wrong and it's also politically counterproductive. Ordinary people don't like it. And if George W. Bush is reelected, you can thank the hateful rhetoric of his enemies.

And that's true, Donna. That's why you kept them under control at your convention. You didn't let any of the wackos up on the podium. And all you talked about was strength and the American way and all that. And good for you. But when you let people like this get up and say crazy things like that, it actually alienates the voters.

BRAZILE: But that's not crazy at all. Anyone who has lost their job under George Bush, lost their health care, it's -- living right now, it's like living in you know where.

(BELL RINGING)

(APPLAUSE)

CARLSON: No, it's not. This country is not hell. This is a great country.

(CROSSTALK)

BRAZILE: She didn't use the F-word, like someone else. She didn't throw the F-bomb, like someone else.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

CARLSON: I like the country. I don't -- oh, come on.

BRAZILE: OK.

In February 2001, President Bush issued a declaration that racial profiling -- quote -- "is wrong and we will end it in America," which makes a recent request by the Bush-Cheney campaign sound really odd. The campaign asked "The Arizona Daily Star" newspaper for the race of the photographer who was going to cover Vice President Cheney's visit to Arizona this week. The photographer's name is Mamta Popat.

And the paper refused to tell them, and the campaign eventually had to back down. Now, the newspaper's managing editor says he's never got such a question in over 25 years of credentialing people. The campaign blames, of course, the Secret Service, which apparently has been making similar requests elsewhere.

It's a shame that the Bush-Cheney team did not get the memo that racial profiling is wrong and we ended it almost four years ago.

(APPLAUSE)

CARLSON: Really? I'm interested to hear that, because it's Democrats who keep track of racial data more assiduously than Himmler ever did. I'm totally for abolishing all of it. Take it off census forms. Take it off public school forms. Take it off tax forms. The next time I see a box that asks me what my race is, give them the finger. It's nobody's business. And I hope you agree with me.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

BRAZILE: Well, you know, Tucker, there will be a day...

CARLSON: No, the day should be right now.

(CROSSTALK)

BRAZILE: And I think the day will come when we don't have to keep statistics.

CARLSON: Then why can't the Secret Service ask?

BRAZILE: And perhaps when John Kerry's in the White House...

(BELL RINGING)

BRAZILE: ... that day will come sooner rather than later.

CARLSON: Then why can't the Secret Service ask? Well, I'm against all of it.

Well, when is a terror alert a valuable warning and when does it become just another target for political attacks? That's the question we're asking today. And we'll debate the politics of the terror war and look at just who has a better plan for defeating the terrorists.

And there's something new and very familiar -- something not so new, but very familiar about one of John Edwards' favorite gestures. You think he wore leather jackets as a youth?

We'll explore this all later on CROSSFIRE.

(APPLAUSE)

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.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(APPLAUSE) CARLSON: Welcome back.

Well, New York City, Newark, New Jersey, and Washington, D.C. remain on heightened terror alert. However, U.S. officials confirmed today that the al Qaeda threat to U.S. financial centers in those cities is based on information that's largely three years old.

Congress, meanwhile, is holding hearings on what parts of the 9/11 Commission's recommendations it wants to put into effect to improve our fight against terrorism. The House Government Reform Committee heard from commissioners Bob Kerrey and John Lehman.

Two members of the committee are in the CROSSFIRE today, Democratic D.C. Delegate to Congress Eleanor Holmes Norton and also Tennessee Republican Representative Marsha Blackburn.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

BRAZILE: Congresswoman, welcome to CROSSFIRE. And, by the way, Tucker is harmless. Don't worry about him.

(LAUGHTER)

BRAZILE: Few people would argue that the administration did the right thing in at least giving us this information the past weekend. But some people are concerned that this reeks of politics because the administration failed to disclose at the time on Sunday that this information is three years old. Do you think it smells like politics?

REP. MARSHA BLACKBURN (R), TENNESSEE: You know what is amazing to me, Donna, is that we go through this process, and we hear people say, we don't have enough information. Then others say, we don't have information at the right time.

And it's like the story of the three little bears. They want it just right in order to get it. And when there is an alert, when there is a reason, we have been given the information. Congress has come back in from recess to hold the hearing today. And we are making steps in the right direction.

(APPLAUSE)

BRAZILE: But John Ashcroft, back in May, also came out in dramatic fashion and said, essentially, the terrorists are coming, the terrorists are coming. And Ridge right came out and said, no, there's no such warning at all.

BLACKBURN: And if they weren't out there saying that, you would be saying, well, nobody told us. Nobody told us. Somebody should have been out here saying it.

And so you can't have it both ways, can't have it both ways. You've got to decide, do you want the information or do you not want the information?

(APPLAUSE) BRAZILE: So timing is not a factor? So timing is not a factor?

BLACKBURN: And people are telling -- and people are telling you what they know.

(CROSSTALK)

BLACKBURN: You need to know. Timing -- you need to look at fact that there was additional evidence that caused them to go in there and look at this. And then

(CROSSTALK)

BRAZILE: That was in January. Now this is August. That's a long time.

(APPLAUSE)

BLACKBURN: Well, there's a reason for them to come back in August.

(CROSSTALK)

CARLSON: Now, Ms. Norton, I want to get in here.

There are, indeed, a number -- there have always been a number of conspiracists in your party. But they seem to be in more prominent positions than they used to be.

(LAUGHTER)

CARLSON: They have jumped at this news and pointed to it as part of, as I just said, a larger conspiracy.

Here's Joe Lockhart, mainstream figure, former Clinton press secretary. Here's what he told "The Wall Street Journal" today -- quote -- "The White House has concluded they can't win the election unless they scare Americans into thinking they can't change presidents now." It's all part of an unseen and quite diabolical plan, in other words.

Do you agree with that?

ELEANOR HOLMES NORTON (D), WASHINGTON, D.C. DELEGATE: Well, you really had to go way down.

(CROSSTALK)

CARLSON: That's not way down. That's Joe Lockhart.

NORTON: Why don't you quote what our standard bearer had to say about this? And why don't you quote what members of Congress on both sides of the aisle had to say about this?

And let me tell you what I have to say about this. There is some credibility problem here. We can't afford, however, to think that maybe so, maybe not. But the reason there's a credibility problem is because this president,this administration, for example, didn't even tell us the whole story. I agree with you. Let's get all the information. Well, how come he didn't tell us it was three years old? When they put this information out...

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

CARLSON: Wait a second. Wait, wait, wait, wait, wait. We learned that within 12 hours of the first story.

(CROSSTALK)

NORTON: Wait a minute. Why didn't we learn it right away?

(CROSSTALK)

CARLSON: Tucker, wait a minute. No, just a second.

The fact is that they should tell us all the information. We learned two days later that the information is three years old. Now, let me tell you something. As the representative of this city, it wouldn't have made any difference to me. I would have told my folks, hey, do exactly what the president says. But I resent that they didn't tell us the whole truth, particularly when, you say you want all the information? Give us all the information.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

CARLSON: Let me just say, I'm confused by your complaint.

And, moreover, I'm confused by the two arguments Democrats appear to be making simultaneously. They can fit both in their head at the same time. And they are these. One, the president, as John Kerry explained today and yesterday, doesn't take terrorism seriously enough. He's just not worried about it somehow, A. On the other hand, they argue that the president is hyping fears of terrorism for political gain. Which one is true? They can't both be true.

(CROSSTALK)

BRAZILE: But let me ask a question. Secretary Ridge today said that we don't do politics in the Department of Homeland Security.

But we all know on Sunday, he essentially gave a political speech at the end of raising the threat level and said -- and I quote -- and let's put it up here -- that: "We must understand the kind of information available to us today is a result of the president's leadership in the war on terror."

Now, a couple months ago, I went back and found this. There was an official administration source that said that employees at the Department of Homeland Security had to find photo-ops, photo-ops. "TIME" magazine, they reported that the goal was to find one photo-op a month on homeland security, so the president can get out there and parade about what he was doing on the war on terrorism.

Don't you think that's politics?

(APPLAUSE)

BRAZILE: Come on. Well, this is from the administration. This is not from some left-wing -- some left-wing person who didn't appear on the stage. This is from the administration.

BLACKBURN: Let's go back -- let's go back and look at what has happened since September 11.

Let's go back and see what has happened since September 11. You had Congress take action. You had the Patriot Act go into place. You had -- looking at an enormous reorganization of homeland security, where different agencies have come together. You had the 9/11 Commission. We've had the report. And we have come back from here today and have started this hearing process, so that we can begin to take action on legislation. That is moving forward. What you all

(CROSSTALK)

BRAZILE: Let me ask you a question. Did you all follow some poll? Because first you opposed creating the...

BLACKBURN: Of course not, not following...

BRAZILE: ... the Department of Homeland Security. That was a Democratic idea. You were opposed to creating the independent 9/11 Commission. And then Democrats had to drag you to extending the deadline for them to finish up their work.

(CROSSTALK)

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

BLACKBURN: You're incorrect on that. You're incorrect on that.

BRAZILE: That's the facts.

BLACKBURN: What we are looking at is having the right platform in order for this debate to take place, having an orderly process, an orderly and efficient process in order for this debate to take place. That is what the American people want. They want a thoughtful process. They don't want us to jump in here and say, OK, today, we're going to change everything. This is a big -- one of the things we heard in our...

BRAZILE: It's been three years, three years. And what has changed under George Bush? What has been fixed? What has been fixed?

(APPLAUSE)

BLACKBURN: You know what? I just told you. I told you exactly what has changed. If the Democrats hadn't been growing this budget, this bureaucracy so huge

(CROSSTALK) BRAZILE: Democrats were not in charge.

(CROSSTALK)

BLACKBURN: ... over the last 40 years, then one of the things we heard today from our committee was that government has gotten so big. You look at how big this has grown, how big the agencies have grown.

BRAZILE: Under the Republicans.

BLACKBURN: No, ma'am, under the Democrats.

BRAZILE: What are we in charge of?

BLACKBURN: Under the Democrats. For

BRAZILE: Eleanor, you're in charge now.

(LAUGHTER)

BLACKBURN: For the past 10 years, we've been trying to make this more efficient, more efficient, more effective, reducing the size of government.

(CROSSTALK)

CARLSON: Before we slide into -- hold on. Excuse me. Before we get into the whole -- the deficit program, which might be interesting to watch, here's my question for you.

(CROSSTALK)

CARLSON: Here's my question for you, Mrs. Norton.

Photo-ops aside, there's no evidence, zero, that President Bush has ever made a significant national security decision based on political considerations. By contrast, there is -- we have in "The New Yorker" last week evidence that John Kerry has. I want you to listen to this.

This is, again, from "The New Yorker," pretty good magazine, pretty reliable -- quote -- says a Kerry adviser about Kerry's decision not to fund the troops in Iraq -- "Off the record, he voted against the $87 billion because of Howard Dean. On the record, he has some elaborate explanation. Senator Biden himself ultimately voted for the money and he confirmed that Kerry's decision not to was tactical, an attempt to prove to Dean's guys I'm not a warmonger."

So, again, Senator Kerry wants to be president. Yet there's evidence here. Joe Biden himself says he made this vital national security decision based on some advantage he might gain in the Democratic primaries. That's so unserious and outrageous.

(APPLAUSE)

(CROSSTALK) NORTON: Why don't we listen to -- since we're listening to what everybody says, why don't you listen to John Kerry said? Essentially, John Kerry cast a protest vote.

After the president of the United States did not do what he said he was going to do, which is go to the United Nations, gather himself a coalition, either you said, OK, I'm going along with you, just like I did before, or you cast a protest vote to say, don't do it again, because, if you do it again, you'll not get my vote again.

CARLSON: I think you're partly right.

(APPLAUSE)

CARLSON: No, I think you're partly right that it was a protest -- it was, strictly speaking, a protest vote.

The question you have to ask yourself, though, is, A, is it worth it and, B, who suffers? And, in this case, the troops in Iraq suffered. And you have to question the judgment of a man who will cast a protest vote when it in fact

(CROSSTALK)

NORTON: Tucker, how did the troops suffer? How did the troops suffer? How did the troops suffer?

(CROSSTALK)

NORTON: Overwhelmingly that money went. And they still haven't spent most of that money and he's still coming back for more.

CARLSON: If John Kerry had had his way, that money would not have been appropriated to the troops and they would have suffered. Come on.

NORTON: John Kerry knew good and well that there was going to be an overwhelming vote to fund the troops. And this was, therefore, a safe time to cast a protest vote and somebody had to do it.

(CROSSTALK)

CARLSON: So he casts votes he doesn't mean.

(LAUGHTER)

(APPLAUSE)

CARLSON: I love that.

OK, we're going to take a quick break.

Next, in "Rapid Fire," we'll ask if John Kerry should stop cashing his Senate paychecks. He doesn't earn them, so why doesn't he stop cashing them?

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

CARLSON: And who's at risk from Hurricane Alex? We'll have an update on the storm right after the break.

(APPLAUSE)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

JUDY WOODRUFF, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Judy Woodruff in Washington.

Coming up at the top of the hour, Homeland Secretary Tom Ridge previews precautions in New York's financial centers. We'll have that and talk to a former Senator Gary Hart about the war on terror.

Hurricane Alex continues to hover off North Carolina. We'll tell you what forecasters expect.

And a shark attack victim tells his dramatic story.

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

Now back to CROSSFIRE.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

BRAZILE: It's time for "Rapid Fire," where we ask quick questions and our guests cannot filibuster the answers. We're talking with two members of the House Government Reform Committee, Tennessee Republican Representative Marsha Blackburn, and my own congresswoman, D.C. Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

CARLSON: Ms. Norton, if President Bush has so alienated our allies, then why is Pakistan and its intelligence service cooperating with us to the extent that they've helped us catch all these al Qaeda figures?

NORTON: Those are not the allies he's alienated. It's all our European allies.

CARLSON: Oh, Belgium. Oh, yes.

NORTON: Oh, yes, do you think France is Belgium?

CARLSON: It's sort of Belgium. It's close.

(LAUGHTER)

(CROSSTALK)

NORTON: The fact is that, when we invaded Iraq, virtually every country in the world said no. And now everybody who went in with us is trying to get out, leaving us there by ourselves.

(APPLAUSE)

BRAZILE: Congresswoman, Senator Rockefeller said this new intelligence czar is nothing more than window dressing unless he or she controls the budget. Is he correct?

BLACKBURN: We need to look at that. We need to look at being certain that whomever is the intelligence director is going to have the ability to work quickly. Government has gotten too big. It is much too bureaucratic. That individual needs to be able to quickly respond. And it may be that we need to do that without the traditional constraints of government. We'll see.

(APPLAUSE)

CARLSON: Now, Ms. Norton, John Kerry makes close to $150,000 a year, I think $147,000. And yet he never shows up for work. He missed 90 percent of his votes. He's taken that money. It's our money. Shouldn't he give it back?

(LAUGHTER)

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

NORTON: Only if the man whom he most meets on the campaign trail gives his back, the president of the United States, who's out here every day campaigning.

(APPLAUSE)

BRAZILE: After listening to the 9/11 commissioners today, do you believe Congress should return this month before the Republican Convention?

BLACKBURN: We are here. We had our hearing today.

BRAZILE: But the entire session?

BLACKBURN: I missed a speech in Clarksville, Tennessee, where Fort Campbell is located, that I've had this on the books for five months. I missed it to be come back here. Let's do the committee work. Let's listen to our constituents. Let's be ready to take action when we come back here in September.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

BRAZILE: Will Speaker Hastert tell all members to come back?

(BELL RINGING)

BLACKBURN: Not in August. Let's do our committee work and get ready to go. We don't need everybody. There's too much hot air in Washington like it is. Inside the beltway, people seem to think one way.

(BELL RINGING)

BLACKBURN: Out in there in the real America

(CROSSTALK)

BRAZILE: That's why we need

(CROSSTALK)

CARLSON: All right.

Congress Blackburn, thank you very much.

BLACKBURN: Thank you.

CARLSON: D.C. Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton, thank you very much.

NORTON: Thank you.

(APPLAUSE)

CARLSON: Well, John Edwards has been looking a lot like the Fonz these days. Find out what the Fonz himself has to say about all this ahead on CROSSFIRE.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CARLSON: Political speechmaking doesn't just involve the use of one's mouth and brain.

Senator John Edwards, for instance, likes to use his thumb to make a point. Like any Democratic idea, it's not terribly original. Edwards seems to be taking after the Fonz, a character played by Henry Winkler on the TV sitcom "Happy Days."

(LAUGHTER)

CARLSON: Winkler himself tells "The Raleigh-Durham News and Observer" newspaper -- quote -- "Edwards' might be the second best looking guy to give the thumbs up, the Fonz, of course, being the first," if he does say so himself.

(LAUGHTER)

BRAZILE: Oh.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What does your bow tie mean?

BRAZILE: Yes.

CARLSON: That's an excellent question which I'm not going to answer since we're on the air. But thanks very much for asking.

(LAUGHTER)

BEGALA: From the left, I'm Donna Brazile. That's it for CROSSFIRE. CARLSON: And from the right, I'm Tucker Carlson. Join us again tomorrow, Wednesday, for yet more CROSSFIRE.

"WOLF BLITZER REPORTS" starts right now.

(APPLAUSE)

TO ORDER A VIDEO OF THIS TRANSCRIPT, PLEASE CALL 800-CNN-NEWS OR USE OUR SECURE ONLINE ORDER FORM LOCATED AT www.fdch.com


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