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Bush: It's Time To Redeploy U.S. Troops
Aired August 16, 2004 - 16:30 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ANNOUNCER: The campaign focuses on the military. President Bush says it's time to redeploy the troops.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Over the coming decade, we'll deploy a more agile and more flexible force, which means that more of our troops will be stationed and deployed from here at home.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ANNOUNCER: Will moving troops around help beef up the war on terror, or is it a sign the military is stretched too thin because of the war in Iraq?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: President Bush didn't tell the veterans of foreign war the details, but they're in the newspapers this morning, and they're pretty alarming. There's no question in my mind that this will weaken our national security.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ANNOUNCER: Today on CROSSFIRE, live from the George Washington University, Paul Begala and Tucker Carlson.
PAUL BEGALA, CNN "CROSSFIRE" HOST: Hi gang. Welcome to CROSSFIRE.
Two weeks before the curtain goes up on the Republican National Convention in New York and just 78 days before the presidential election, President Bush has announced plans to remove tens of thousands of U.S. troops from Europe and Korea. Apparently Mr. Bush is paying about as much attention to the threat from North Korea as he did the threat from Osama bin Laden.
TUCKER CARLSON, CNN "CROSSFIRE" HOST: And yet the president, as well as many Democrats make a pretty compelling case this is the best way to fight the war on terrorism and it will save your taxpayer dollars.
We'll debate the issues straight ahead. But first, the best political briefing in television, our CROSSFIRE political alert.
Well, New Jersey governor and self-described gay American Jim McGreevey promised to step down last week just hours before allegations that he had installed a man he had sexually harassed in a vital $110,000 a year job for which he was unqualified. Those allegations surfaced in the press immediately after.
In resigning McGreevey conceded that he is not qualified to run his state, but he apparently didn't really mean it because it turns out McGreevey wants to stay in office and in his state-owned vehicles until this November.
It is an embarrassing situation, so embarrassing that prominent New Jersey Democrats, including members of the states congressional delegation are telling McGreevey to step aside now so that Senator Jon Corzine can take his job.
So far McGreevey has refused saying he has things to do. Well according to a spokesman, the governor is spending time with his wife "still working on the issues they have to work on."
In other words, it may be a while.
BEGALA: Well, so why not give him a couple of weeks? He made a huge mistake, you're right. You should never put your -- whatever...
CARLSON: Boyfriend who's unqualified into the head of homeland security, for instance.
BEGALA: Particularly homeland security, although the guy couldn't be any worse than say, John Ashcroft or the portable hats that George Bush has appointed. I don't think he's had any relationships with them...
CARLSON: Hold on. Here's the point.
BEGALA: But Bush has appointed lots of unqualified people.
CARLSON: By introducing his sexuality into it, he makes this into a civil rights issue. The fact is if he's going to resign, let the people decide if he can use a couple of weeks to put his life together.
BEGALA: Speaking about the president, the head of the federal emergency management agency today said that it could take weeks to search through all the debris and find all the victims of Hurricane Charley in Florida. Of course, one of President Bush's first moves as president was to fire James Lee Witt, the disaster relief professional who had turned FEMA from a basket case to showcase.
Mr. Witt was replaced by George W. Bush's campaign manager, Joe Allbaugh, who was in turn replaced by another political hack, Michael Brown, whose prior experience with disasters consisted of serving as a Republican staffer in the disaster of the Oklahoma legislature.
What's worse, from the very beginning of his term, Mr. Bush has sought to eliminate something called "Project Impact." Now that was a Clinton FEMA initiative to help disaster prone communities like Florida prepare for and reduce the damage they would inevitably suffer.
So Floridians, help may be slow in coming from the Bush administration. Too bad political hacks can't rebuild communities.
CARLSON: I can barely even -- that is so wrong in every way. First of all, the president...
BEGALA: Well, these are political hacks that he's...
CARLSON: This may blow your mind, Paul. But actually the president was not, in the end, responsible for Hurricane Charley. Second...
BEGALA: He is responsible for the disaster he has made of our federal government.
CARLSON: And the second fact is that Florida is the pivotal state in this presidential election. The idea that the federal government is going to be slow to send aid money to Florida, that's a joke.
BEGALA: It's going to take weeks just to find the victims.
CARLSON: That's not true.
BEGALA: That's what the man from FEMA said...
CARLSON: Come on.
BEGALA: ... the political hack Bush put in charge.
CARLSON: Bush just ignoring Florida.
BEGALA: Put competent people in charge.
CARLSON: The American Medical Association -- again, the American Medical Association, not a political hack group, but again the American Medical Association say there's a health care crisis in North Carolina. The AMA blames the crisis not on insurance companies but on the proliferation of medical malpractice lawsuits in that state.
North Carolina, you'll remember, is the state where John Edwards, now the vice-presidential candidate made tens of millions of dollars by suing doctors for medical malpractice. The "Washington Times" today quotes one Charlotte, North Carolina surgeon as saying, "The John Edwards we know crushed obstetrics, gynecology and neurosurgery in North Carolina. As a result, thousands of patients lost their health care."
He might also have added that doctors have been driven from the state. Thousands of ill patients have seen their medical options narrowed. Keep this all in mind. John Edwards says he has the solution to America's health care crisis. And maybe he does because after all he personally helped create it.
BEGALA: That is so preposterous. CARLSON: No, it's not at all.
BEGALA: What John Edwards did was -- here's the difference.
CARLSON: Are they...
BEGALA: Here's the difference. When a person is butchered by a drug addicted or incompetent doctor, they have a right to punish that doctor in a court of law.
CARLSON: No allegation -- actually Paul...
BEGALA: I'll tell you what, if somebody comes after somebody I love, some incompetent or drug addicted doctor...
CARLSON: You know nothing about the cases.
BEGALA: OK, 99 percent of doctors are wonderful and they do terrific jobs.
CARLSON: Speak with reference to the specific cases.
BEGALA: But there's a small percentage of incompetents, and thank God we have people like John Edwards trying to rip them out.
CARLSON: You can out shout me, but you don't have the facts about the cases on which John Edwards made tens of millions of dollars. That's just not true.
BEGALA: Well, speaking of battles in the courtroom, the Bush administration did another favor for Halliburton. I know that's like a dog scratches himself.
But the Army had given Halliburton, which was once, of course once run by the foulmouthed corporate scandal Dick F-word Cheney until yesterday to resolve a billing dispute over alleged overcharging in Iraq or face a penalty from the Bush administration.
Well, the deadline yesterday came and went. Halliburton did not come clean, and so the Bush administration -- well, they suspended the penalty.
Meanwhile, Halliburton was in court today on another matter. After Halliburton canceled the health insurance for certain retirees, some of them complained. So Halliburton sued the retirees.
That's right. The same country club elite, Plutocratic Republicans who complain when a mom or dad wants to punish a drug addicted doctor, for example, for butchering their child are now in court suing retirees for complaining about eliminating their health benefits.
Well, let's hope Dick Cheney's health benefits aren't cut because in a few months he's going to be a retiree, too.
CARLSON: I'm a little surprised both by that and by the applause it's getting. I would have thought that Halliburton would just be too busy creating Hurricane Charley and to be running the federal government, as you allege.
BEGALA: They're suing their own retirees after they cut their health benefits.
CARLSON: The fact is, Paul, if you care so much...
BEGALA: That's Cheney ethics right there.
CARLSON: If you care so much about the employees of Halliburton, why do you never mention the scores that have been killed in Iraq serving in our military? Never.
BEGALA: Folks have been killed. That doesn't mean that executives like Cheney ought to be dirt bags in corporate scandals, which Dick Cheney was and is.
CARLSON: You don't even know anything about Halliburton, and you're attacking them just because...
BEGALA: They're suing their own employees, their own retirees for complaining when they got their benefits cut.
CARLSON: You don't know anything more than that simple sound byte.
BEGALA: Actually, I know a whole lot more. And we can -- I think we should do more shows on Halliburton.
CARLSON: Oh, my gosh! I can't even imagine that.
BEGALA: Halliburton, Halliburton, Halliburton.
Well military decisions and the war on terror are topics today. President Bush says it's time to move some troops around. But why is he making a major military announcement just 78 days before the election and why is he making it in the key swing state of Ohio?
Why, by the way, also is he pulling troops out of the Korean peninsula where a homicidal communist maniac just might be threatening America with nukes?
Is it possible that somehow in the middle of a war, the people in Iraq, meanwhile, have found something to be happy about?
Later, we will tell you about a celebration that they haven't even been able to think about hosting for at least 16 years.
Stay with us.
CARLSON: Welcome back to CROSSFIRE.
In the years ahead, thousands of American troops and their families will be heading home from Europe and other spots around the world. Others will be shifted to new locations to help fight the war on terror.
Is this reshuffling a good idea, or this a sign that the war in Iraq has stretched American forces too thin or is it both? That's what we're debating today.
In the crossfire to join us, P.J. Crowley. He is a senior fellow with a Center for American Progress. Also, former Virginia governor, James Gilmore, chairman of the Gilmore commission.
BEGALA: Governor, good to see you again. P.J. thank you for joining us.
The president today made this announcement at a meeting of the Veterans of Foreign Wars, the president, of course, himself not a veteran of a foreign war. But let me talk about a man who is, General Wesley Clark, who was serving in Vietnam being shot at by the enemy, not buying beers in Alabama.
And he went on to become supreme allied commander of NATO.
He said this is a very bad idea to pull these troops out Korea, particularly. And here's what General Clark said today, "removing U.S. forces from the Korean peninsula at a critical juncture in diplomatic efforts to dismantle North Korea's nuclear program will send a dangerous signal of weak U.S. resolve to Kim Jong Il," who is the murderous Communist dictator over there.
General Clark is right. President Bush is showing weakness now in the face of this Korean threat isn't he?
JAMES GILMORE, CHAIRMAN, GILMORE COMMISSION: No. Let's remember also that Wesley Clark departed his role of being a professional soldier and became a politician, as bad as that is. The fact is that...
BEGALA: I'm sorry. What message does it say, though, to the Korean dictator that while he is building up a nuclear program, we're pulling our troops out?
GILMORE: Two things, first of all, the message is that we are technically and militarily equipped to deal with any kind of attack that might come out of North Korea. And that's the message that we're sending. And that's a decisive message. There's no question.
And the second issue is the bigger one, which is that after all these years and the Cold War now being dissipated and the Russians not the threat that they were in massed armies and armor and all that type of thing, America's technological superiority is such that it's time to readjust things.
It saves on the troops. It saves on the families. And it makes the United States more secure, not less secure. This is really dramatic leadership. And I think the president is really doing a great thing by finally taking the bull by the horns and doing this. CARLSON: Now P.J., as you know, this is not primarily a debate about the Korean peninsula. We will still have troops hopefully forever in the Korean peninsula.
P.J. CROWLEY, CENTER FOR AMERICAN PROGRESS: Hopefully not, Tucker.
CARLSON: For the foreseeable future. And no one is suggesting otherwise. But it's about Western Europe. It's about Germany. And the fact is that there has been this massive realignment in the past 15 years, and this is a response to it.
But don't take my word for it, take the word of Carl Levin, Democrat from Michigan, who said this "as John Warner our chairman has said, this has been in the works for a long time. And there are some things that we should do to redeploy troops so that they are in the best position possible for what the new threats are."
The obvious, how can you make a partisan issue out of something this obvious and bipartisan?
P.J. CROWLEY, CENTER FOR AMERICAN PROGRESS: Well, put it this way, I like the idea of a strategic posture review, but it has to have a strategy behind it. Right now our strategy in North Korea is not to talk to the North Koreans.
I mean, we could have put the troop withdrawals in the context of a negotiation where you say to Kim Jong Il, we'll do something for you, you do something for us.
But here we are faced with a situation for three years, you know, King Jong Il has pulled out of the NPT. He has reprocessed bad stuff. And he has built more nuclear weapons. And he is rewarded by having us pull troops out of Korea.
CARLSON: But that is a willful, and with all due respect on your part, a willful mischaracterization on your part. You know that our policy is not simply, don't talk to the North Koreans, they're bad.
It is, in fact, up to North Korea's neighbors to apply some carrot and some stick, specifically China and Japan.
GILMORE: In fact, those negotiations are going on.
CARLSON: And you know that that's true.
GILMORE: Those negotiations are going on right now.
CARLSON: And that's not a stupid solution.
CROWLEY: But also, you know, focusing on Europe, 13 years ago I was one of the troops that easily deployed from Europe to hot spots further south. In fact, we're already half way they are.
So the idea that this is a hardship on the troops and their families is representative of a president who has never served over there and never been over there.
CROWLEY: Those of us who have been over there think that actually serving in Europe has great...
GILMORE: You can buy cheaper Mercedes and stuff.
CROWLEY: ... great perk.
I would rather if you're going to take care of family military families -- today he spent lip service on military families. The first thing you do it stop lying to your troops and telling them you're going to Iraq for six months, this is a war without any costs. You know the other thing is...
CROWLEY: And the last thing is, whatever else, those of us who have worked in government, bringing the troops home is actually not going to save any money, it's going to actually cost us more.
GILMORE: P.J. is just doing a partisan slam. That's all he's doing.
BEGALA: As the former chairman of the Republican Party.
GILMORE: Well, yes. But the simple truth is, this is a strategic redeployment. I was a soldier stationed in NATO during the Cold War. I understand what that's all about. And its high time that we actually began to use our economics and our resources precisely, use our people, our families, treat them with dignity and respect, but at the same time serve the best interests of this country.
And that means that you take them away from places where they are not going to be effective and put them in places where they can deploy faster and more efficiently to the threats of the contemporary age.
CROWLEY: But we agree to disagree because the fact is that troops in Europe since the Gulf War in 1991 have, in fact, been very effective. They've served with distinction in the Balkans.
They've been to every other campaign. In fact, we need them in Europe because Europe has been a central way station as we've been moving toward the hot spots around the world.
BEGALA: Governor, you mentioned about treating our troops with the dignity they deserve, and I hardly agree. And I take that, of course, as a criticism of President Bush who in the middle of the war in Iraq sought to cut the imminent danger pay from the men and women who are being shot at in Iraq, who tried to cut the family separation pay for these heroic soldiers who were over there, who has tried to cut veterans benefits.
Why do you suppose this president is so rotten to the troops when he is so good to Halliburton? GILMORE: Now listen. I think the president has been very faithful to these troops. He's been very -- he's been loyal to them. But that's not the issue, the most important thing is they have been loyal to us. They've gone overseas...
BEGALA: So don't we owe them the pay, the family separation pay? Absolutely.
GILMORE: And as a result of all of this, I am just confident this redeployment is going to be the kind of approach that looks forward into the 21st century, not backward to World War II. And frankly, it's big leadership.
We should have seen this years ago.
CROWLEY: I agree with that wholeheartedly. But the key is that this is a global fight that we're in. How do you fight a global fight by pulling your troops and bringing them in?
GILMORE: That's not right at all.
CARLSON: I want to pose another question to you P.J., and that is what's your reaction to this new Bush spot. I don't know if you've seen it. I don't generally like political ads. But this is pretty good. And I think it makes a pretty solid point that you'll have trouble explaining it.
Here's part of the new Bush ad.
(BEGIN BUSH-CHENEY CAMPAIGN COMMERCIAL)
AD: As a member of the intelligence committee, Senator Kerry was absent for 76 percent of the committee's hearings. In the year after the first terrorist attack on the World Trade Center, Kerry was absent for every single one.
(END BUSH-CHENEY CAMPAIGN COMMERCIAL)
CARLSON: It's sort of hard to present yourself as someone who has, you know, new and fresh and important ideas about restructuring the intelligence community when you didn't bother to show up for the meetings, don't you think?
CROWLEY: What that basically says is you can't be in two places at once. You can't be in a Senate hearing room and out there running for president, learning what's on the...
CARLSON: This is 1993. This is not -- no, this is the first World Trade Center bombing, 1993. His job was as U.S. senator. He gets paid a lot of money to do it, and he wasn't doing it.
CROWLEY: You know, Tucker, if we want to talk about track record in terms of votes...
CARLSON: John Kerry, you can't defend it, can you?
CROWLEY: We'll talk about one Senator being at work during this time and the president being on vacation in August 2001, what are you going to talk about?
BEGALA: In fairness to the facts, governor, my friends at the Bush campaign. They are my friends. The people who make these ads are some of my closest friends and they are great guys.
But they were not math makers. I went to college with them, OK. And what they did was they only looked at seven meetings. They didn't look at the whole 103 meetings. They picked seven meetings.
Now he had missed those seven, but so had a whole lot of good Republican senators missed those seven meetings. So when they say he only made 70 percent or something, they're mischaracterizing the record.
But let me ask you this. There's another ad that I want you to comment on, from a terrific grassroots group called moveon.org that goes right at President Bush on this issue of who's got the leadership ability in the military.
(BEGIN POLITICAL AD)
NARRATOR: George Bush used his father to get in to the national guard, was grounded and then went missing. Now, he's allowing false advertising that attacks John Kerry, a man who asked to go to Vietnam and served with dignity and heroism.
(END POLITICAL AD)
BEGALA: Now every word of that is factually true. The president went, got into the national guard with help from well-connected Texans. And now he's allowing ads attacking John Kerry's heroism.
You can't countenance that, can you?
GILMORE: Well, John Kerry sort of attacked his own heroism when he came back and said that he'd been a war criminal he threw all of his medals away and he did all that kind of thing. So I mean...
GILMORE: John Kerry can't have it both ways, but I will say this...
CROWLEY: He was fighting for the freedom of speech here.
BEGALA: I think what he did in Vietnam was heroic, and I think what he did here in America to try to stop that war so other men didn't have to die for Richard Nixon's mistakes was a very heroic thing to do.
GILMORE: But it is John Kerry who has tried to present himself to the American people as some sort of expert on the intelligence committee when he didn't show up. That's really what that's all about.
CARLSON: We're going to take a quick break. We'll be right back.
Next in "Rapid Fire," why John Kerry ought to think twice before saying he'll reduce troops in Iraq in just six months.
And have you ever wondered, and we know you have, what it would be like to be caught in the very center of a category four hurricane? Wolf Blitzer has a firsthand look just ahead.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN "WOLF BLITZER REPORTS" ANCHOR: I'm Wolf Blitzer in Washington.
Coming up at the top of the hour Hurricane Charley may just be a memory now, but in its furry it left behind at least a million disrupted lives and billions in damages. The Florida governor, Jeb Bush, spoke just minutes ago.
And President Bush announces a major restructuring of American military forces worldwide, tens of thousands of American forces now moving back to the United States.
And pop star Michael Jackson back in court, but this time, it's the district attorney who's on the stand.
Those stories and much more only minutes away on "WOLF BLITZER REPORTS".
Now back to CROSSFIRE.
BEGALA: Time now for "Rapid Fire" where the questions come faster than President Bush can cut and run from Korea.
We're talking about the politics of the military, the two (UNINTELLIGIBLE) guests, Governor Jim Gilmore, former governor of Virginia, and chairman of the Gilmore commission on intelligence, and Colonel P.J. Crowley, a senior fellow with the Center for American Progress.
CARLSON: P.J., you know, Senator Kerry could derail this debate over his attendance at intelligence committee hearings right now simply by authorizing the release of the attendance records of those meetings.
Why doesn't he do that? Why won't he do it?
CROWLEY: I mean, I don't speak for the Kerry campaign. I think that... CARLSON: Certainly he should do it.
CROWLEY: There's lots going on here. I think we have to look forward, you know, there are two -- there are lots of clear choices to be made in terms of how to give ourselves more effective intelligence.
All I know is so far we don't have the intelligence we need. We witnessed the orange alert that now the White House has quietly called off. It's not an imminent threat. That didn't prevent Ridge two weeks ago from disturbing our Sunday afternoon television.
BEGALA: Governor Gilmore, the senior senator from your state, John Warner, respected Republican chairman of that Senate armed services committee said he thinks it's, I'm quoting him, "It's disgusting for somebody else to challenge somebody else's medal, and I was disheartened that the president didn't disavow those ads" of those right-wing groups that are attacking.
Who do you stand with, your senator?
GILMORE: Metal or medal?
BEGALA: Medals. Medals -- Senator Kerry's heroism.
Who do you stand with, our president or your senator?
GILMORE: Well, I think that the medal challenge came from a group that is not part of the Bush campaign at all.
BEGALA: Senator Warner says that the president should disavow them, do you agree with him?
GILMORE: Yes, I think you have to look behind the scenes and see what the situation was, just like P.J. says, open discussion and debate. Let's find out what the truth was and discuss it and debate it and find out what it is.
GILMORE: And besides that, and on this other matter, by the way, with respect to Senator Kerry. Senator Kerry, if he can't go to the meetings and be a good senator, how can he be a good president?
BEGALA: Well, he could go to a ranch in Texas. He could go chop wood while he talks about Osama bin Laden's terror threats.
CARLSON: Some Democrats are indicating they'll throw up road blocks between Porter Goss in the House and, you know, the head of the CIA. He's going to be the head of the CIA, do you think they should try and block him?
CROWLEY: As far as I know, this is not an issue the Democrats plan to fight on. I think Porter Goss will be confirmed. It's a separate issue whether he's the right man for the job.
BEGALA: P.J. Crowley from the Center for American Progress, Governor Jim Gilmore from the great state of Virginia.
GILMORE: Thank you.
BEGALA: Good to see you both again. Thank you very much -- a fun discussion.
Well, why does the mere mention of the name Costa Rica make people smile in Iraq today? We will tell you the good news from Iraq and there's not much of it these days right after this.
CARLSON: Welcome back. Well, for Iraqis, the last few decades, honestly haven't been great. They've faced tyranny and war and enough other problems to turn the country into a basket case. But now there are few things for Iraqis to smile about, including soccer.
Iraq's soccer team beat Costa Rica 2-0 last night in the Olympic games in Athens. Just a few days ago the team stunned the world, or at least the parts of the world paying attention, with a win over Portugal.
Yesterday's game was halted for a while when a jubilant fan, or many of them, ran on to the field. You may recall that Iraq's Olympic committee used to be run by Saddam Hussein's less savory son, Uday, who frequently tortured athletes when they didn't get the job done. It turns out that doesn't work. When you want the team to play well, don't torture them.
BEGALA: This is great news.
CARLSON: Yes, it is.
BEGALA: It is wonderful news.
It at least makes your heart feel glad opposed to our own American basketball team, which lost to Puerto Rico. I didn't even know Puerto Rico -- and they waxed the team by 19 points.
CARLSON: Are you beating up on Puerto Ricans, the noble Puerto Rican basketball team? I thought better of you, Paul.
BEGALA: I'm going to find a way to blame George Bush for this.
CARLSON: Halliburton. Halliburton did it.
BEGALA: From the left, I'm Paul Begala. That's it for CROSSFIRE.
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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