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Politics and the War on Terror

Aired August 11, 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: Who will keep America safer from the terrorists? In a new ad, President Bush says it's his solemn duty.


GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We cannot hesitate. We cannot yield. We must do everything in our power to bring an enemy to justice before they hurt us again.


ANNOUNCER: Democrats in Congress say, when it comes to fighting terror, this is no time to hesitate in passing the reforms of the 9/11 Commission.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Time is of the essence. It will take a lot of work in the various committees. And we're here standing ready to do that.

ANNOUNCER: Politics and the war on terror today on CROSSFIRE.



ANNOUNCER: Live from the George Washington University, James Carville and Robert Novak.



One month before the third anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, the Bush/Cheney campaign rolls out a new ad. Playing on fears of 9/11, President Bush says it's his solemn duty to protect America. But that's a job John Kerry can do better.

ROBERT NOVAK, CO-HOST: Today, we're debating the war on terror, Bush trying to keep America safe, Kerry still trying to make up his mind about what he thinks about Iraq.

But, first, the best political briefing in America, our CROSSFIRE "Political Alert."

George W. Bush has been campaigning from coast to coast with one of his very best friends. Well, maybe John McCain is not one of his best friends, but a friend in need is a friend indeed. They were together in Florida today, in New Mexico today, and in the senator's home state of Arizona tonight, all battleground states.

Senator McCain said of the president -- quote -- "He has more than earned our support. He has earned our admiration" -- end quote. Now, what do the Bush bashers and Bush haters, who were pushing for a Kerry-McCain ticket, have to say about that? John McCain is a Republican who definitely prefers George W. Bush to John F. Kerry for president.

CARVILLE: Well, let me say some things about Senator McCain. And I'm glad that -- because he is against this idiotic top 1 percent tax cut. He is a patriotic American who understands that. He has got a very, very strong record on these environmental issues.

He's very much against this idiotic constitutional amendment, where we want to tamper with the Constitution on this gay marriage thing. So I understand that he's a good Republican. I understand he's supporting President Bush. But I am glad that you're moving out of that narrow, stupid, supply-side, gay-bashing wing of the Republican Party into a more temperate and moderate wing of the Republican Party that John McCain represents.


CARVILLE: Bob, congratulations.

NOVAK: I've always been for John McCain. I like John McCain.

CARVILLE: Congratulations.


NOVAK: Because he's pro-life, pro-gun and pro-American.


CARVILLE: If you think that President Bush doesn't have a second-term agenda, if you think that he's figured he has done enough to help the super rich in this country and hurt the middle class, then you're an idiot.



CARVILLE: Our suck-up, spit-down president has topped them all now. He's considering a brilliant new idea, a national sales tax for every American. That's right, folks. Buy a little food, that will be at least 20 percent, probably 30, more likely upwards of 30. You want to get a used car, at least 20 percent or more. Need some prescription drugs, at least 20 percent or more. Stop at Wendy's to buy your wife a hamburger on your anniversary, figure at least 20, maybe 30 percent.


CARVILLE: And, oh, by the way, you can kiss that mortgage and child deductions goodbye. President Bush, he's really for the rich.


NOVAK: Let me explain this to you, James. Let me explain this to you, James. I love the national sales tax. I hope the president comes through with it.

And I'll tell you why. There'll be no income tax.


NOVAK: I repeat. You get your whole paycheck without any deductions and the poor will not have to pay any taxes.


CARVILLE: No, who is going to pay the 30 percent on food?

NOVAK: Just a minute. Let me just explain to you. You ought to keep your mouth shut.


NOVAK: Because they will have a rebate for every taxpayer. This is a terrific idea. And I hope the president goes through with it.


CARVILLE: Thirty percent -- 30 percent sales tax, that's just what America needs, ladies and gentlemen.


NOVAK: The Democrats had counted one Senate chicken before it was hatched. The empty seat in Colorado, they reckoned, was sure to be won by the state's popular Attorney General Ken Salazar. But the Democrats didn't count on how good a cool Coors tastes in the Rockies.

Brewery owner Pete Coors, making his first run for public office, won the Republican primary in a landslide against a former congressman. He will be tough to beat in November. And in Georgia, Democrats nominated the first black Senate candidate from the state, Congresswoman Denise Majette. She is a goner, a goner, against her Republican foe, Congressman Johnny Isakson. Good news all around yesterday for the Grand Old Party.


CARVILLE: I think that -- I'm glad that -- I can't get over it. You don't like Schaffer (ph), who is a right-wing guy. Bob, you're getting to be such a moderate Republican, you might catch up with me in a couple of years.


NOVAK: Not a chance, James. Not a chance.


CARVILLE: Let me tell you this. Ken Salazar -- we have a hell of a candidate who has a hell of a life story. This is a guy that made it from nothing. Pete Coors is a man who had it made from the day he was born.


CARVILLE: A guy who is an inept candidate. And I think that we're going to do just fine out there.

NOVAK: He's going to be a terrific -- you like a cool Coors?


CARVILLE: Actually, that's not my favorite beer.

NOVAK: All right.

CARVILLE: Remember President Bush's new slogan about turning the corner? Here's a sample.


BUSH: We have turned the corner and we're not turning back.



CARVILLE: Maybe you don't remember it. In Springfield, Missouri, where he had first uttered the words, he said it seven times. That was July 30. Over the past couple of days, it was down to five times in speeches in Canton, Ohio, and Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. By August 4, it was down to just two times in speeches in Mankato, Minnesota, and Davenport, Iowa.

Yesterday, the president was in Pensacola, Florida, and mentioned turning the corner one time. Well, he may not be the sharpest knife in the drawer, but even President Bush has figured out what every American knows. The only corner we have turned is straight in the ditch.


NOVAK: James, I would like you to do something. I would like you to get away for once from your plantation in Virginia, where you and all the rest of the millionaires live. (CROSSTALK)

NOVAK: And I want you to go out with me in real America and see people on Saturday nights lined up for restaurants. They have got money to spend. There is no depression, James.


NOVAK: Let me tell you, we're in good shape.


CARVILLE: America, America, 32,000 jobs in one month, that's what America needs.

NOVAK: Six hundred and eighty thousand.

CARVILLE: That's great, 32,000 in one month. Bob Novak is satisfied with that.


NOVAK: The newest campaign ad from President Bush stresses the importance of defeating America's enemies before they strike again. While John Kerry keeps modifying, parsing, his stand on the issue of war, George W. Bush talks about keeping America safe.

And Ralph Nader has decided to make an endorsement. We'll tell you all about that exciting news later on CROSSFIRE.


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.



CARVILLE: Who can best protect America from the terrorists, George W. Bush or John Kerry? If you believe his new TV ad, solemn duty, the president wants to you think that he's up to the task. But John Kerry says he's the better man for the job.

So who is right? In the CROSSFIRE, Republican genius political consultant Tony Fabrizio and Democratic foreign policy adviser, the ever so brilliant and sharp Wendy Sherman.

Thank you.


NOVAK: Ambassador Sherman, the president came out with a new ad today. And I'd like you to take just a look at a few words out of it. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, BUSH-CHENEY CAMPAIGN AD)

BUSH: We cannot hesitate. We cannot yield. We must do everything in our power to bring an enemy to justice before they hurt us again.


NOVAK: The president is saying that he can do more to protect America than John Kerry. What's your answer to that?

WENDY SHERMAN, KERRY FOREIGN POLICY ADVISER: My answer to that is, the president ought to do more.

He invokes being a parent. I'm a parent, too. Everybody has got kids or brothers or sisters or mothers and fathers. And we're not any safer today, really, than we were.

We still have only 2 percent of the cargo that is inspected. We only have 1,000 border agents across Canada. We have all kinds of information sharing that still doesn't go on. When those terrorist threats came out last week, there were people at the local level who still didn't get the information.

And even more to the point than that, there's an awful lot that we don't know yet because we haven't done the intelligence reform three years later that we need to do. And it's time for President Bush to do it now.


NOVAK: All the polls show that the American people think that the president can protect them better than John Kerry can. Are the American people just deluded? They're just a bunch of dump saps? Is that what you're saying?

SHERMAN: No, I don't think the American people are dumb at all. I think the American people are some of the wisest people in the entire world.


SHERMAN: And, in fact, they know that, when it comes to keeping America safer, when it comes to commander in chief, the polling numbers have now shifted to John Kerry, because they see him as the person who can create the kind of alliances we need, gain respect in the world and make us stronger at home.



CARVILLE: Tony, clearly, when you're the commander in chief and there's a war on terrorism, judgment is obviously something that is absolutely critical and particularly judgment about matters like national intelligence. Let me show you what the Pentagon said about the quality of the intelligence he received. This was in July of 2003, five months after the start of the Iraq war. And we didn't find anything. This is his assessment of the American intelligence and the quality he gets.


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


CARVILLE: If this is his judgement and he really thinks that...

NOVAK: You play that thing every show.

CARVILLE: Every day between now and the election, Bob, I ain't going to ever let it go.



CARVILLE: No. I mean, he said he had darn good intelligence.

FABRIZIO: James, James, come on. The American people have already passed judgment on that. If you guys in the Democratic Party and the Kerry campaign want to make this election about terrorists and who's going to keep America safer, the Republicans, the people over at the Bush are popping champagne corks.

CARVILLE: I'm just saying, do you think that here's the president of the United States saying that the intelligence we've got is darn good. He's satisfied with the status quo of the economy. He's satisfied with the status quo in the CIA and the quality of the intelligence he gets.

FABRIZIO: No, no, no, no, no, no, no...

CARVILLE: Isn't there something wrong here?

FABRIZIO: No, no, James, he didn't say he's satisfied with the...

CARVILLE: He said it was darn good. You're not satisfied, for our sake, somebody is going good?

FABRIZIO: James, James, look, I think there is a difference -- a fundamental difference moving forward and what happened going into Iraq. And the important thing is, is how the American public looks at this, James. And I go back to what I said before.

If we want to have this election be about terrorism and who's going to keep Americans safer, they've already made that decision. And that decision is George W. Bush. Absolutely. (CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

FABRIZIO: Absolutely. I would fight that fight every day of the week if I were George Bush and not John Kerry.

NOVAK: We had -- something would have to happen that was one of the most remarkable things I've seen. I've been watching this game for about 50 years, and this is really remarkable. The president asked Senator Kerry, if you knew then what you know now would you still vote for going to war?

And to my amazement he took the question. He said, yes, he would still vote for it. And this is what President Bush said in response.


BUSH: He now agrees it was the right decision to go into Iraq. After months of questioning my motives and even my credibility, Senator Kerry now agrees with me, knowing everything we know today, he would have voted to go into Iraq and remove Saddam Hussein from power.

I want to thank Senator Kerry for clearing that up.


NOVAK: What in the world was Senator Kerry doing?

SHERMAN: I think Senator Kerry said a little bit more than you've reported, Bob. What Senator Kerry said is he would've authorized the president to go to war because we had to hold Saddam Hussein accountable. But he would not have gone to war without allies, without flack jackets for our troops, without training for our troops...


SHERMAN: ... and without a plan to win the peace. None of that existed.

NOVAK: Wait a minute. The critical thing -- and I know you don't want to talk about this, Wendy, but the critical thing that he said was that if he knew then what he knows now, he would still vote with the president.

SHERMAN: He said he would have given authority to the president. I want you to know, John McCain, the great Republican that many people have been talking about, including the president of the United States...

CARVILLE: Bob Novak...

SHERMAN: And Bob Novak...

CARVILLE: ... praising him here. Oh yes.

SHERMAN: John McCain voted authority to President Clinton all of the time because he believed in a strong commander in chief. But he held President Clinton accountable for everything he did in those wars, how he handled those wars. And John Kerry needs to hold the president of the United States, as do the American people, accountable for there being no plan, no flack jackets...


SHERMAN: ... no training and no peace.


FABRIZIO: Wait a minute, Wendy, you can't have it both ways. You can't say, holding him accountable for flack jackets and no training when John Kerry voted two different ways...


FABRIZIO: No, no, no. I didn't agree with that. When John Kerry voted two different ways on a bill for $87 billion to provide just that. Was he going to change his position a third time and flip- flop one more time?



FABRIZIO: Is it a somersault now?

CARVILLE: Let me -- you know, of course Bush doesn't want to be held accountable for the conduct of this war. And we're going to blame John Kerry for the fact that we're in a disaster in Iraq. And I guess I'll be glad to go to that question. To voters who is more responsible for the fiasco in Iraq, Kerry or Bush?

As you know, credibility, and we talk about the president being credible, and who's credible. This is in the ballyhooed Gallup/CNN poll that the Republicans are faxing all around: "Who's more honest and trustworthy?" About 48 to 43 people say Senator Kerry is more honest and trustworthy than President Bush. This is -- strikes me as a stunning situation...

NOVAK: Didn't I see that last night?

CARVILLE: You know, Bob, you're going to see it every time. And you're to see Bush sitting there, saying, I had darn good intelligence, every night.

NOVAK: I feel like I'm in the "War Room."


CARVILLE: Never going to see it again.


CARVILLE: My question is this. How is Bush going to convince the American people that he is the person to lead them when his opponent -- on the question of "honest and trustworthy," the base measure of what a president is, Kerry leads him. What is he going to do to change this -- turn this around?

FABRIZIO: Well, James, I don't mean to hearken back to history, but I think you worked for a gentlemen who had a little bit of an honesty and integrity problem himself...


FABRIZIO: ... and I don't think it impeded his reelection, did it?

CARVILLE: Well, I think President Clinton was the most honest and trustworthy person on public policy I've ever seen. I don't know how to tell you this, but he got budget surpluses.


NOVAK: I want definitely say before we take a break, Senator Kerry, the other day, suggested that Senator Carl Levin of Michigan, a respected senator, had received assurances while traveling -- this is what Senator Kerry said, that a change in administrations would change allies attitudes.

And on CNN today, Senator Levin was asked about this -- what Senator Kerry said. And let's listen to what Senator Levin's response was.


SEN. CARL LEVIN (D), MICHIGAN: I have not had discussions with leaders of countries in any formal sense.


NOVAK: How about trustworthy when he is saying things that aren't true about his own colleague?

SHERMAN: Well, I didn't hear what Senator Kerry said. And I didn't hear the whole interview with Senator Levin. I can tell you in...


SHERMAN: I'll look it up. I can tell you in my own travels around the world, and I travel quite a bit, there is no question that there is huge anti-Americanism. There is a huge sense that America is going alone...

NOVAK: Are we saying that...

SHERMAN: ... that we don't listen...

NOVAK: You talked to heads of government?


NOVAK: What heads of government told you that they wanted a change?

SHERMAN: What heads of government say is that they would like an American president who will listen, who will work and play well with others.


NOVAK: "Play well with others," that's the new the song of the Democratic Party, "play well with others."

Next in "Rapidfire," would Americans be safer if Saddam Hussein were still in power.

And Saudi Arabia makes an announcement that could affect how much you pay for gas. Wolf Blitzer has a story right after the break.


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Wolf Blitzer in Washington. Coming up at the top of the hour: There may be some relief for the high gas prices. Saudi Arabia has now decided to step up production.

Iraq braces for a big battle in Najaf. It could begin literally any moment now.

And what's the truth about John Kerry's war stories? Retired U.S. Admiral William Crowe and Kerry critic John O'Neill. They'll square off live. That's coming up right here. Those stories, much more only minutes away on WOLF BLITZER REPORTS. Now back to CROSSFIRE.

CARVILLE: It's time for "Rapidfire" where the questions and answers come hot and fast. We're talking about the war on terror and who would keep us safe, George W. Bush or John Kerry? With us today, Republican consultant Tony Fabrizio and Kerry foreign policy adviser Wendy Sherman.

NOVAK: Ambassador Sherman, if James Carville and his ilk had their way and we didn't go into Iraq, do you think the world would be safer for Americans without Saddam Hussein in power in Baghdad?

SHERMAN: Bob, I don't think anyone has said that the world would be better off with Saddam Hussein in power. That's not the issue. The issue is did we go in with a plan to make that there was a peace after Saddam Hussein was gone? Did we understand what we were doing? Were we prepared? Were we with allies? Do we have any respect left in the world? And can we get the job done for the American people both in our economy and our security?

And that's the question American voters are going to vote on.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE) CARVILLE: Tony, you're an experienced Republican hand. How much time will the Republicans spend at the Republican Convention talking about the president's accomplishments on the economy? What percent? Just give me a rough estimate.

FABRIZIO: I think...


FABRIZIO: I think, overall, they will spend probably half of the time talking about the president's accomplishments and his vision at the convention.

CARVILLE: What, we're having a half-night convention?

NOVAK: Ambassador Sherman, Ambassador Sherman.


FABRIZIO: No, the other half the time, reinforcing what a liberal John Kerry is.

NOVAK: Andrey Denisov, the Russian ambassador to the United Nations, says that Russia is not going to send any troops or anybody to Iraq under any conditions, no matter who is president.

Just tell me, with John Kerry as president, who is going to send troops to Iraq? Give me a country's name.

SHERMAN: I'm not going to give you a country name.


SHERMAN: I'm not going to play that game with you.

What John Kerry is going to do, though, is, he's going to work very hard to get other people to help with training, with resources, with programs, with infrastructure, with contracts and with troops. There's a lot and a huge job to get done in Iraq. And we cannot continue to do it virtually alone.


CARVILLE: Tony, on a scale of one to 10, how devastating is it to President Bush that he'll be the first president since Herbert Hoover not to create a single job under his watch?

NOVAK: That's not true.

FABRIZIO: That's not true.

CARVILLE: Well, sure it is.



FABRIZIO: They have created 32,000.

CARVILLE: Create 32000, yes. If you lose 40, that ain't creating a job.


NOVAK: Actually, there's 680,000 new jobs this month.

CARVILLE: Why don't you run on that?



NOVAK: Read tomorrow's paper.

CARVILLE: America, you don't know it. You're working.

NOVAK: Thank you very much, Ambassador Sherman.


CARVILLE: Thank you so much, Mr. Fabrizio.

Thank you.


NOVAK: Tony Fabrizio, thank you very much.

Has Ralph Nader sold out? We'll tell you about his decision to make an endorsement next.




CARVILLE: Ralph Nader's new endorsement. Forget the luxuries of Air Force One, or at least a Boeing 757. Consumer advocate and presidential gadfly Ralph Nader is throwing his support to Southwest Airlines.


CARVILLE: The independent candidate has picked the Texas-based carrier as his unofficial campaign airline. He says he chose Southwest for the frugal ticket prices and interesting passengers he gets to talk to.


CARVILLE: Just remember, Ralph, on Southwest, all passengers, even presidential hopefuls, fly coach.

NOVAK: You know, James, Ralph Nader may have lost my vote with that endorsement, because I only fly first class and I never fly Southwest.

CARVILLE: Well, I don't know. I like Independence Air, the great carrier out of Dulles, yes.


NOVAK: You only fly first class, too, don't you?

CARVILLE: Every time I get a chance. You're damn right I do.


CARVILLE: From the left, I'm James Carville. That's it for CROSSFIRE.

NOVAK: From the right, I'm Robert Novak.

Tomorrow in the CROSSFIRE, the controversial new book on John Kerry's war record, "Unfit For Command." We'll have one of the authors right here.

"WOLF BLITZER REPORTS" starts right now.



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