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Presidential Duel in Davenport
Aired August 4, 2004 - 16:30 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ANNOUNCER: CROSSFIRE. On the left, James Carville and Paul Begala; on the right, Robert Novak and Tucker Carlson.
In the CROSSFIRE: They're just blocks away from each other in Iowa, but miles apart on the issues.
GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The other folks talk a good game. We deliver.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
SEN. JOHN KERRY (D-MA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: It occurred to me that he could come here for a great discussion about America's future, if he were really willing to just turn the corner.
ANNOUNCER: The duel in Davenport and beyond -- today on CROSSFIRE.
ANNOUNCER: Live from the George Washington University, Donna Brazile, sitting in on the left, and Tucker Carlson.
TUCKER CARLSON, CO-HOST: Welcome to CROSSFIRE.
Paul Begala and James Carville are off this week eating canapes and prosciutto on John Kerry's yacht somewhere off the South of France. Thankfully, though, we have former Gore campaign manager Donna Brazile, who is once again sitting in on the left.
John Kerry and President Bush had a close encounter of the political kind today. We'll put their duel in Davenport in the CROSSFIRE right after best political briefing in television, our CROSSFIRE "Political Alert."
Well, as we just noted, John Kerry and George W. Bush met in the middle of the country today. Both candidates gave speeches just blocks from each other in Davenport, Iowa, just before lunch. Two presidential candidates in the same city may not be unprecedented, but it's pretty rare. And it posed difficulties for local law enforcement.
According to a Davenport television station, nearly every cop in town was assigned to protect either Kerry and Bush. For the police, it was a challenge. For criminals, it was an opportunity.
CARLSON: In the space of an hour this morning, no fewer than three Davenport banks were hit by armed robbers, the Ralston Credit Union at 10:45 a.m., the First National Bank at 11:23, and the Southeast National Bank at 11:45.
CARLSON: So far, no one has been arrested, nor have Bush or Kerry commented on the robberies. Neither candidate actually saw the crimes being committed. They were busy giving speeches promising to, that's right, keep the rest of us safe.
DONNA BRAZILE, GUEST HOST: Republican Congresswoman Katherine Harris, we all know her. She is back in the news. Recently, she was in Indiana, where she of course told a crowd that they stopped the plot to blow up an Indiana power grid when they arrested man of -- quote -- "Middle Eastern heritage" who had explosives in his suburban Indianapolis home.
This would probably be bigger news if anyone knew what she was talking about. Indiana's didn't hear about it or the suburban town's mayor or the sheriff. Harris denies leaking classified information. So we aren't sure where the story comes from, but we hear it did get a big round of applause.
CARLSON: You know, Donna, this just goes to show that there is some information that is so secret, so classified, so sensitive that only Katherine Harris is privy to it.
CARLSON: And just because -- just because the rest of us were unaware of this alleged incident taking place doesn't mean it didn't.
BRAZILE: Well, I thought she was going to finally give us information about those pregnant chads and what happened to them.
CARLSON: Pregnant chads.
CARLSON: Boy, you know what? You know what? If I were a philanthropist, if I had, say, $100 million, if I were George Soros, say, but less evil, I would donate...
(LAUGHTER) CARLSON: I would donate every one of those dollars to therapists, so every Democrat I know, every activist in your party could get the therapy she or he needs to get over the last election.
BRAZILE: And we would give it back to you in the form of a gift certificate.
CARLSON: In the form of a gift certificate. Well, Katherine Harris, I hope that turns out to be true.
CARLSON: A couple of months ago, John Kerry decided to get religion. One of the geniuses assigned to his campaign apparently noticed a longstanding fact of American politics. People who go to church a lot tend to vote Republican. People who don't tend to vote Democrats. That's a fact.
Well, in order to win over the former voters, Kerry was told to act pious and very religious. He's tried, but it hasn't always worked very smoothly.
For instance, according to this morning's "Washington Times," the Democratic National Committee's new religious outreach advisor, the Reverend Barbara Peterson, was one of just 32 people in the country who signed a friend-of-the-court briefing in favor of removing the phrase "under God" from the Pledge of Allegiance.
Keep in mind that protecting the pledge is hardly an extremist issue. You don't have to be David Koresh to oppose tampering with it. Even most agnostics oppose it. In other words, out of a nation of almost 300 million people, the Democrats picked one of about 10 who favor removing God from the Pledge of Allegiance and they made her their religious advisor. That's like making Colonel Sanders a liaison to PETA.
CARLSON: Good move, and good luck in November.
CARLSON: Can you imagine? I mean, seriously.
CARLSON: Honestly, how out of it are these people, one of 32 people to oppose moving -- removing the pledge, or to the sign the
BRAZILE: Well, perhaps her line was "praise the Lord" instead of "under God."
CARLSON: But, still, I mean, come on. If you were in charge of religious outreach -- and maybe you ought to be -- would you assign her to be the person to win over evangelicals?
BRAZILE: You wouldn't want me in charge of religious outreach, not this week at least.
The hardworking establishment is in Illinois today still trying to find a running mate to go up against Barack Obama. As we reported yesterday, they are trying to pick a candidate strong enough, bold enough to challenge Barack Obama in the Senate race. One of the two finalists is two-time presidential loser Alan Keyes, who of course is a resident of Maryland.
He's apparently willing to relocate, even though four years ago he told FOX News, quote, "I deeply resent the destruction of federalism represented by Hillary Clinton's willingness to go into a state she doesn't even live in and pretend to represent people there. So I certainly wouldn't imitate her."
BRAZILE: Or would he?
CARLSON: You know, I bet he won't. Alan Keyes, whatever you think of him -- he's a little -- he's a little very far out. I agree with almost everything he says, by the way.
CARLSON: But you probably think he's -- I do, honestly. I think he's a very smart man.
And he's also a man of principle. And I bet you, based on your political word alone, Alan Keyes will refuse to run in the state of Illinois.
BRAZILE: Well, go, Barack Obama. That's all I have to say.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
CARLSON: You know what?
BRAZILE: Go, Barack Obama.
CARLSON: I am going to lay out a prediction right here, Donna, because I'm radical. I'm far out.
CARLSON: I am willing to really put everything on the line and predict that Barack Obama will be the next United States senator from the state of Illinois. BRAZILE: I agree.
CARLSON: Considering he's unopposed.
CARLSON: Yes, I bet he's going to win.
CARLSON: And he seems like a decent enough guy.
OK, are George W. Bush and John Kerry chasing the same votes? Today, both candidates, as we said, were in Davenport, Iowa, as were a number of bank robbers. But that's where the unity ended. We'll put the campaigns in the CROSSFIRE next.
And Bill Clinton had a big surprise for David Letterman last night. We'll tell you what it was later. We know you're on the edge of your seats, but stay tuned.
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.
CARLSON: Welcome back.
In the CROSSFIRE today to debate who's profiting from the Bush and Kerry campaigns, other than bank robbers, of course, Democratic strategist Steve McMahon and Republican consultant Ed Rogers.
BRAZILE: Well, Ed, yesterday, Secretary Ridge said that there's no evidence of recent surveillance. Yet we learn again today that there's more evidence. When is this administration going to learn how to connect the dots?
ED ROGERS, REPUBLICAN CONSULTANT: The clumsy politics that the Kerry campaign is playing on terrorism should be offensive to all Americans. And the media should blow the whistle on them.
I think -- in my heart of hearts, I think that they're hoping for an attack, so that they can say, I told you so. And then, topically, yes
BRAZILE: On Sunday, they announce that there's a terror threat. On Monday, they announce that it's three years old. And then on Tuesday they announce what? More information.
BRAZILE: When are they going to connect the dots?
ROGERS: When it comes to a terror attack, then give the benefit of the doubt to the place that may be attacked, OK? Let's go ahead and release more information, rather than less information. And what does the Kerry campaign want to do? They want to say, well, gee, they issued a report saying there may be attacks. See, we're not very safe.
Or they want to say, gee, they shouldn't have issued this. There's no evidence for it. What they want -- the Holy Grail, the nirvana for the Kerry campaign would be for there to be an attack with no warning. Then they would say, I told you so. That's all the positioning they're doing.
BRAZILE: Well, what they want is preparation. They want to fund homeland security. And they want to make sure that our first- responders get information in a timely fashion, not after the fact, not after 72 hours after the threat is
ROGERS: You're exactly right. And that's exactly what the Bush administration is doing, not playing clumsy politics with terrorism.
CARLSON: Now, Steve, you've been hearing this colloquy about what Democrats really think. Let me give you an example of what they really think.
Howard Dean, I for one miss him, both because...
STEVE MCMAHON, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: So do I.
CARLSON: ... the paranoid left needs a spokesman and also because I think he says what a lot of Democrats are too afraid to say.
For instance, in today's "New York Times," he says this about the recent terror alerts, quote, "The administration is manipulating the release of information in order to effect the president's campaign. It's all part of the conspiracy, pretending there this terrorist threat in order to get Bush elected."
A, do you believe that? And B, do you think it's useful politically for Mr. Dean to say things like that?
MCMAHON: Did he say it quietly, because that's -- did he scream?
CARLSON: No, but the words themselves vibrate with craziness.
CARLSON: I saw him on a television show on another network last night for 15 or 20 minutes. And he made himself very clear in the television show that the Bush administration had this information for between three weeks and three years, depending upon who you believe and at what point it all came together.
And the story continues to change. He was praising the administration for giving finally some specificity and not just saying yellow, red, blue, orange, watch out for trucks, watch out for people who look weird.
MCMAHON: But, at the end of the day, instead of either campaign playing politics with this, John Kerry has actually put a proposal on the table. That is, take the 9/11 Commission Report, extend the commission for 18 months, and implement the recommendations of the commission.
CARLSON: Nice try, Steve.
CARLSON: No, no, hold on, Steve. You're not answering my question. I understand what Kerry's proposals are. And I think they're interesting. And we can debate them.
CARLSON: But I'm asking you -- I'm asking you about this idea, which is resonating on the left. And Mr Dean is not the only one to articulate it.
MCMAHON: There's a reason it's resonating
CARLSON: And my question is, is it out of bounds to claim that the president and the whole administration are manipulating the terror threat for political gain? It's a very heavy thing to say. Where does he get evidence
MCMAHON: He didn't say it. He didn't say it. What he said was...
CARLSON: Yes, he did say it.
MCMAHON: If it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck and sounds like a duck, maybe it's a dog, but maybe it's a not. CARLSON: What?
MCMAHON: If they had this information -- if they had this -- look, he didn't say it was duck. You can reach that conclusion if you like.
CARLSON: Oh, come on. What a weaselly way to get out of what he said. Come on.
MCMAHON: You can apparently connect the dots better than the Bush administration can.
But, basically, what he said was, isn't it a strange coincidence that they had this information for three weeks and they released it in the middle of John Kerry's bump?
ROGERS: What bump? It diminished that bump?
MCMAHON: You could say it's paranoid. You could say -- he's ahead on the key internals of commander in chief, Ed. In who will be effective in the war against terrorism, he's closed up to about one or two points. That was a big bump.
BRAZILE: Ed, there was a great book that was released yesterday, a new boo, "Our Plan For America" by Senator Kerry and Senator Edwards.
ROGERS: I'm sure it's a great one.
BRAZILE: It's a great book.
BRAZILE: Includes some pictures that Tucker will like. He reads pictures very well.
MCMAHON: If it includes pictures, the president might be able to read it.
ROGERS: I knew that was coming.
ROGERS: I'll like it. I'll like the book.
BRAZILE: Unfortunately, there's no photo-ops here for the president.
Ed, the administration today, the president said that the economy has turned around.
ROGERS: He's right.
BRAZILE: What proof, what evidence do you have, given the fact that 25,000 Iowans have lost their jobs under his administration, thousands more health care? What proof?
ROGERS: It's interesting. Both the candidates were in great proximity today in Iowa campaigning for that pivotal state.
And the biggest economic factor in Iowa today has to do with the health and viability of the family farm.
ROGERS: One candidate -- there was a lot of Kerry people in town.
One candidate supports the immediate reinstatement of the estate tax. One candidate supports the permanent abolition of the estate tax. If we bring back the estate tax, and you're not allowed to work your land and pass that land on to your family, you are going to see the end of the family farm in America, period, case closed.
And Kerry, what does he want to do? He wants to bring back the estate tax. But here again, Kerry, he is rolling out his economic plan right now. And given the
BRAZILE: Ed, what is the administration plan? John Kerry now has a plan that he has put in writing to give to the American people. What is the administration's?
BRAZILE: Do you have a plan to run on?
ROGERS: Fair question. Fair question.
Less taxes, less regulation. What's the Kerry plan? The Kerry plan wants to bring -- wants to raise taxes. They have said so. But what we don't know about Kerry is if his
BRAZILE: Only on the top 10 percent.
ROGERS: ... tax increases -- if the tax increases that he's rolling out, if they exempt himself. We don't know if the tax increases that he is proposing excuses and includes himself, because Mrs. Kerry -- Mrs. Kerry won't release her tax returns. I have a theory that she doesn't pay any taxes. (CROSSTALK)
BRAZILE: George Bush doesn't have a plan.
MCMAHON: He doesn't have a plan.
ROGERS: The Kerry campaign fears an impending sort of Leona Helmsley moment where they have to acknowledge taxes are for little people, because Mrs. Kerry ain't paying any taxes. And that's the money that is supporting John Kerry.
CARLSON: Steve, one of the things that bothers me about John Kerry and one of the reasons I prefer Howard Dean and Al Sharpton so strongly to John Kerry is, they say what they think and he doesn't.
Case in point, he said today -- and I'm quoting now -- to this crowd in the Midwest, "I'm a fiscal conservative, folks." You add "folks" when you're talking to ordinary people in the great flyover, apparently.
CARLSON: That's just not true. He's obviously a big-spending liberal. Don't trust me. Trust John Edwards, who said -- quote -- this February -- "In fact, John Kerry overspends in terms of being able to pay for all of his proposals. He overspend by $165 billion in his first term, which means he would drive us deeper and deeper into the deficit."
If that's what John Edwards says about John Kerry's spending plans, I don't think it's fair to call him a fiscal conservative. Do you?
MCMAHON: Well, I'm glad you mentioned this, because I think what John Edwards was talking is $165 billion over 10 years. But I think overspent by about $500 billion...
CARLSON: No, the first term, first term.
MCMAHON: ... this year alone, $500 billion this year alone.
MCMAHON: So, let's talk about fiscal...
ROGERS: Why did that happen?
MCMAHON: ... is because of the $200 billion war, right? ROGERS: Part of it, yes. Part of it, yes.
MCMAHON: And one of the other things the Republicans like to tell us is how the economy is improving.
BRAZILE: And the $5 trillion surplus that they inherited, but
MCMAHON: And I'll tell you one person the economy has improved for, Dick Cheney, who, after overstating...
MCMAHON: After his company overstated earnings by 49 percent...
ROGERS: But he has nothing to do with that company.
MCMAHON: No, he was CEO at the time. He was CEO at the time.
CARLSON: Are we getting into Halliburton?
CARLSON: Before you get into Halliburton, let me ask you a much broader question before we get into the grassy knoll stuff about Halliburton.
MCMAHON: Hold on a second, because Ed raised a question of Mrs. Kerry and her tax returns.
BRAZILE: That's right.
MCMAHON: Let's talk about how much money the vice president made because his company overstated earnings by 49 percent.
CARLSON: Right. He is evil. I'll grant you that. No, no, he ought to go to prison right away.
CARLSON: Right. He ought to be executed. He ought to be executed. But let me just say this.
MCMAHON: He ought to be investigated.
CARLSON: No, this is a much broader, more interesting question. And let me ask it of you.
Why is it that the left nowadays, rather than standing up -- and to some degree, you see it on the right, but mostly on the left -- you see them ashamed of what they essentially fundamentally are. They're liberal. They have a different world view. There's nothing wrong with that objectively. Why do they run away from a description, a fair description, of who they really are?
MCMAHON: Who's afraid of it?
CARLSON: John Kerry is. He gets up there, the most liberal member of the Senate by any measure of his votes, and he calls himself anything but a liberal. Why doesn't he just say it?
MCMAHON: I've heard him say before many times if providing health care for every American is liberal, I'm liberal. I'm guilty.
MCMAHON: If providing a job for every American is liberal, I'm liberal.
CARLSON: I love that. Right. If loving children is liberal, I'm liberal. Right. OK.
BRAZILE: Yes, and supporting a balanced budget is liberal, then he's a liberal.
CARLSON: Why not just say it?
BRAZILE: And supporting tax programs that benefit the middle class.
ROGERS: Raising taxes.
BRAZILE: He's raising tax
BRAZILE: What is the Bush plan? To grow the economy, to reduce the deficit.
ROGERS: Well, you've seen a lot of the Bush plan.
BRAZILE: It's a bad plan, Ed.
ROGERS: After we had the war, after we had the stock market bubble, after we had the Clinton-Gore recession that came in, you saw a lot of tax...
ROGERS: Yes, yes, it's true. It's true.
MCMAHON: That surplus they left?
BRAZILE: It's excuses, excuses, excuses.
MCMAHON: What happened to that?
ROGERS: That was a lot of paperwork on behalf of the Democrats. But the economy was in the tank when Bush came in.
And through his tax cuts, through his suppression of regulation...
BRAZILE: Through his tax giveaways.
ROGERS: Through his stimulus for the economy, the economy has come back.
BRAZILE: Dick Cheney has done much better.
ROGERS: What's the Kerry plan? Raise taxes, maybe not on Kerry. We don't know. They won't say so. And they have a narrow economy perspective.
BRAZILE: I think Ed needs a copy of this plan.
ROGERS: I would love to have a copy.
BRAZILE: You need a copy.
BRAZILE: Ed needs this.
ROGERS: They have a narrow economic perspective. There are only trial lawyers on the ticket. (APPLAUSE)
BRAZILE: You need a copy of his plan. This plan will restore America's greatness.
ROGERS: We can't have an economy that is based on everybody suing everybody and marrying an heiress.
ROGERS: You have got to have more than that.
ROGERS: You have got to produce something. You have got to add value, not just do what these guys have done.
CARLSON: Very quick question.
There -- I understand that John Edwards is a trial lawyer and that John Kerry takes a lot of money from trial lawyers.
ROGERS: He tried.
CARLSON: And maybe tried to be a trial lawyer.
But the fact is, most Americans understand there's something wrong with this tiny elite profiting from the suffering of others. And, actually, trial lawyers have a pretty negative effect on our economy and our culture. Will at some point John Kerry take even a tiny, minor stand against trial lawyers? Do you think he'll have the courage to do that, Mr. Courageous?
MCMAHON: Here's what -- here's what John Kerry is going to do. He is going to try to bring America together, not divide it.
MCMAHON: He's going to try not to divide us by race, by class, by trial lawyer, by doctors.
CARLSON: You can divide us by trial lawyer. That's fine.
MCMAHON: Or in any other way.
ROGERS: There's only so many doctors to sue.
(CROSSTALK) MCMAHON: And the Republicans win when they divide America.
MCMAHON: And the Democrats are going to try to offer an alternative vision, a positive vision, a better country, and a place where our children won't inherit $3, $4, $5, $10 trillion in debt that was run up by the so-called conservatives.
CARLSON: We're going to have to take a quick commercial break.
BRAZILE: ... trial lawyers.
CARLSON: Next, in "Rapid Fire," we'll ask our guests if Bush and Kerry are just wasting their money on advertising. Do those ads really do any good, apart from paying the people who make them?
And is Kobe Bryant's accuser about to give prosecutors some very bad news? Details right after this break.
JUDY WOODRUFF, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Judy Woodruff in Washington.
Coming up at the top of the hour: Big trouble for prosecutors in the Kobe Bryant case. The alleged victim may withdraw.
Are the Guantanamo Bay detainees being treated humanely? We'll ask Navy Secretary Gordon England.
And Mary Kay Letourneau, the ex-teacher convicted of having sex with a student, is out of prison. What happens now?
Those stories and much more are just minutes away on "WOLF BLITZER REPORTS."
Now back to CROSSFIRE.
BRAZILE: It's time for "Rapid Fire," where we ask questions even faster than the bank robbers are working in Davenport, Iowa.
BRAZILE: They hit three banks during the simultaneous Bush and Kerry campaign rallies today.
We're talking with Republican consultant Ed Rogers and Democratic strategist Steve McMahon.
Ed, let me ask you a question. The Bush campaign has decided -- they have decided to reverse course. After months of negative, mean- spirited, pessimistic ads, they have decided to go soft and gentle and optimistic. What's up?
ROGERS: I hope there is going to be some of both. There's a lot of deceit coming out of the Kerry campaign that has got to be corrected by the Bush campaign. I hope they keep it up.
BRAZILE: Such as? Such as?
ROGERS: That he's for cutting taxes, that he's for fiscal restraint, that he's for being tough on terrorism, deceit, disinformation like that.
BRAZILE: Positive news. Positive news.
CARLSON: All right, Steve, let's make television history here. Why don't you admit to me what we both know? And that is that political ads, 30-second spots, wild wildly lucrative for those who make them -- I'm not pointing fingers at you, Steve -- don't in the end actually help the candidates that much.
There's a lot of data that shows they don't move numbers at all. And isn't it true that consultants sell the candidates on these ads as some sort of panacea for their problems, but in the end only the consultants make money?
MCMAHON: It's a little longer explanation, but let me just say that media consultants perform a very important function.
CARLSON: To our democracy?
MCMAHON: There's no question -- there's no question, in presidential campaigns, they're less effective than they are down
CARLSON: Yes, I meant -- I'm sorry. I meant in the presidential campaigns. That's right.
MCMAHON: But there's also no question that this race is very polarized. There's a very small group of people. And the only way you can communicate with them effectively still to this day is by advertising.
BRAZILE: Dick Cheney served in Congress for over a decade. How many bills did he pass?
ROGERS: Dick Cheney was very effective.
ROGERS: He was rewarded by his party and he was acknowledged by his party as a leader very early on. He was put in a leadership position in Congress.
BRAZILE: Only two. Only two. John Kerry, 57. We've corrected the record today. We've corrected the record today.
ROGERS: John Kerry never acknowledged as a leader of his party ever, zero, doughnut.
BRAZILE: Two bills.
CARLSON: OK, Ed Rogers, Steve McMahon, thank you both very much.
ROGERS: Thank you.
MCMAHON: Thanks a lot.
BRAZILE: Thank you. Thank you.
Bill Clinton says he has got a way to keep David Letterman's newborn son occupied for the next two decades. Can you even imagine? We'll reveal what it is next.
CARLSON: Welcome back.
Well, nobody loves Bill Clinton more deeply, more selfless than Bill Clinton himself.
CARLSON: So, it will come as no surprise that, when he showed up on David Letterman's show last night, he brought a present for David Letterman: a copy of his own book.
Here he is.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "THE LATE SHOW WITH DAVID LETTERMAN")
WILLIAM J. CLINTON, FMR. PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I brought one for your son for his first birthday.
DAVID LETTERMAN, HOST: That's very generous of you.
(LAUGHTER) CLINTON: And here's what it says.
"To Harry. Happy nine-month birthday. With luck, you will finish this by your 21st birthday."
CLINTON: Meanwhile, carry it around and build more muscles than your dad has.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
LETTERMAN: That's about right.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CARLSON: Well, I just think that's cruel. I mean, that's just mean. What a thing to give a child, Donna. Come on.
BRAZILE: There's a lot of history in that book. And if you want to know how to become president of the United States, you should read that book.
CARLSON: Yes, but why would you want to after reading that book?
BEGALA: From the left, I'm Donna Brazile. That's it for CROSSFIRE today.
CARLSON: And from the right, I'm Tucker Carlson. Join us again tomorrow, Thursday, for yet more CROSSFIRE.
See you tomorrow.
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