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When Should McGreevey Step Down?

Aired August 17, 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, in New Jersey, Republicans ratchet up the pressure on Governor James McGreevey to step aside, now. But the Democrat stands his ground.

In Illinois, it's two-time presidential hopeful Alan Keyes versus rising Democratic star Barack Obama.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don't think he's a rising star, I think he's actually a fading phony. I think that there's no correspondence between what he said at the Democratic National Convention and his actual record.

ANNOUNCER: Does he have any chance of winning?

Today, on CROSSFIRE.

Live from the George Washington University, Paul Begala and Tucker Carlson.


PAUL BEGALA, CO-HOST: Hi, gang. Welcome to CROSSFIRE. The political fire storm in New Jersey rages on. Governor James McGreevey is defending his decision to stay in office until mid-November as his critics make new moves to try to get him to step down immediately.

TUCKER CARLSON, CO-HOST: And as if that wasn't enough excitement, he's a politician who gives it all he's got and keeps going and going and going. We'll hear from Illinois Republican Senate candidate Alan Keyes in a live interview from Chicago just ahead. But first, the best political briefing in television, our CROSSFIRE political alert.

Tom Harkin looks like an ordinary left-wing U.S. senator. But in fact, the Iowa Democrat is a certified fire-breathing tough guy. A man's man, a hard case, a rippling mass of unapologetic masculinity, like Rambo, but less girly. How do we know this? Because Tom Harkin himself told us so.

At an event in Iowa recently, Harkin called Vice President Dick Cheney, quote, "a coward for failing to kill communists in Vietnam 30 years ago." Got that? Here are the new rules as set forth by super tough guy patriot Tom Harkin. If you served during Vietnam, which according to Tom Harkin was a misguided, unjust, ultimately tragic war, you're a hero. If you did not serve, you are a coward.

So now that we know this, it would be interesting to know how many members of the Democratic leadership in Congress and at the DNC spent their time during Vietnam. Were they firing M-16s or were they marching for peace? In other words, were they heroes or were they cowards? Maybe Tom Harkin will get that list together for us soon and come on CROSSFIRE and read it to us.

BEGALA: What Harkin said was that it took a lot of gall for Dick Cheney who said -- I'm quoting Dick Cheney -- he said, "I had other priorities in the '60s." Although he got five drafts -- John Kerry went and served honorably. Now it's Kerry who's being attacked by Cheney for his war record? It's insane.

CARLSON: He's not being attacked by Cheney for his war record at all. He's being attacked on his plans for homeland security. But the idea of you calling another man a coward, if you can't recognize that as outrageous rhetoric beyond the bounds. It's outrageous.

BEGALA: He has no right to attack John Kerry.

Well, for months Tucker and I have had a running debate over which candidate for president has come up with more empty and pointless, meaningless insipid slogans. It's been a tough contest, I'll have to say. But this week, President Bush pulled into the lead. Now, see if you can spot the new cleverly embedded slogan in his recent campaign speech.


GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We're getting the job done. We're getting the job done. We're getting the job done. We're getting the job done.


BEGALA: We're getting the message. Forget about compassionate conservatives, reformer with results, heart and soul, moving America forward, strong leadership in a time of change, mission accomplished, a safer, stronger, better America, leave no child behind and forget about turning the corner which was last week's slogan. They were mere warmup slogans. This is the real slogan, getting the job done. Of course, that makes sense if the job is to plunge us into war through deception or plunge the economy into recession, or perhaps maybe the job is to spend seven minutes reading "My Pet Goat" while America is under attack. George W. Bush is truly the man to get that job done.

CARLSON: I hate to agree with you, Paul. But I think it's a lame slogan, too. I think George W. Bush's campaign slogan ought to be "killing the terrorists." Or perhaps, "George W. Bush, he's bloodthirsty and he means it." Or perhaps, "George W. Bush, he's infuriated by radical Islam." (CROSSTALK)

CARLSON: I mean, if he wanted to kill terrorists, he should have stayed there.

Well, as Democrats often point out, John Kerry is a deeply misunderstood man. Somehow, somehow, people have gotten the impression that Kerry is not a man of the people. Just because he spent seven years in elite boarding schools before heading off to Yale. Just because he shuttles between five mansions, purchased with inherited wealth. Just because he once monogrammed his shirt with the initials JFK, they don't think he's a man of the people.

Well, it's not true. John Kerry does care about the little people. For example, just the other day, Kerry was in Oregon on a wind surfing trip. Something little people often do. There were photographers present and Kerry wanted to look his best. For the little people of course, they like it when you look your best.

According to today's daily news, Kerry called back to Washington and summoned his French-born hairstylist. He then flew her all the way across the country at great expense to style his hair. Which she obediently did. Moral of the story, let it never be said that John Kerry doesn't care about the little people. He does. A lot of them work for him.

You have got to be kidding, Paul.

BEGALA: Both men running for president are wealthy. The difference is one of them, George W. Bush has spent his life as a toting (ph) to powerful interests, screwing middle class people when he's helped Halliburton, he helped Exxon, he helped Enron.

CARLSON: It's always back to Halliburton.

BEGALA: No, that's the difference. What will they do for the country? Who will better ideas and you can't defend...

CARLSON: I can't outshout you, Paul. I cannot outshout you.

BEGALA: I'll pick the guy with the funny hairstylist over the guy who lied us into a war. That's exactly the point.

CARLSON: When I can't outshout you, you know you're wrong.

BEGALA: The intrepid Congressman Rahm Emanuel of Illinois joined his governor, fellow Democrat Blagojevich today in launching a new web site to allow Illinois residents to order prescription drugs from foreign countries online. Residents of the Land of Lincoln will soon be free to buy prescription drugs from Ireland, Canada, Scotland and England without having to pay the exorbitant ripoff prices that big pharmaceutical corporations charge for the very same drugs here at home. Emmanuel calls the countries the coalition of the well.

The Bush administration opposes the move even though it would save consumers millions of dollars, even though the cost of health care has skyrocketed during President Bush's presidency and even though drug companies are reaping billions of dollars from ripping off Americans. Come to think of it, maybe that's why President Bush opposes Congressman Emanuel's plan.

CARLSON: Let me ask you a question, Paul. How many life-saving drugs have been invented in Canada, Ireland and Scotland lately? None. You know why?

BEGALA: Because American taxpayers subsidize the research and they shouldn't get ripped off on the price.

CARLSON: Why is it the Democratic party is always attacking the energetic, the creative people who actually make things in this country. Always under attack by your party. Why is that, I wonder?

BEGALA: Those drugs are invented with American taxpayer research. Taxpayers fund the research. Then they sell the drugs overseas cheaper. We pay for the research and then we get screwed on the price.

CARLSON: That's totally untrue. You must know that that's untrue. It's true in some cases. In a lot of cases, it's not. Actually, they spend billions producing those drugs and...

BEGALA: They spend more on advertising and marketing than they do on research and development. We pay for the research and development then they shaft us...

CARLSON: That's just untrue. I don't know how you can say that.

BEGALA: Absolutely true.

CARLSON: Well, anyway, Republicans are trying to turn the resignation of New Jersey Governor Jim McGreevey into another partisan battleground. Politicians from both parties are already posturing to succeed Mr. McGreevey. We'll talk with two of the leading lights of Garden State politics. One of whom is the man McGreevey beat in 2001.

Later, Alan Keyes bitterly attacked Hillary Clinton for running in a state she hadn't lived in. We'll ask him why the Maryland man now is running for a Senate seat in Illinois. Stay with us.


BEGALA: New Jersey Governor Jim McGreevey is facing a firestorm of criticism after announcing his plans to step down after admitting that he had had a gay affair with a man he appointed to a top homeland security job. But McGreevey is still resisting pressure to turn in the keys to the governor's office earlier than November 15.

In the CROSSFIRE today, former U.S. Senate candidate, Doug Forrester, a Republican, he is in Princeton; and Democratic Congressman Rob Andrews here in our Washington bureau, thank you.

CARLSON: Congressman, thanks for joining us. I don't care which Democrat runs your state. Not really my business. I don't live there. But it does seem to me that what your current governor did is so offensive, that I would think you would want him to leave. Installing his boyfriend as the head of your state's homeland security department, snubbing in the process the former head of the FBI. That's so over the top, I would think you would want the guy to leave just because it's so shameful?

REP. ROBERT ANDREWS (D), NEW JERSEY: Well, that's why he is leaving. I mean, the only question, Tucker, is when. And that's a decision he has got to make. A lot of people are expressing our concerns about whether the government can function under these conditions. And he's going to make that decision. But he is leaving. The only question is when. And it's the only issue the Republicans in New Jersey have. They can't talk about health care. They can't talk about jobs. They can't talk...

CARLSON: The Democrats...


ANDREWS: ... about taxes. He's going. The only question is when. One thing I'm sure of, I don't know when the governor is going to leave office, but I know the day after he does, the New Jersey Republicans will have no issues at all to talk about because that's all they're talking about right now.

BEGALA: That's interesting. Mr. Forester, first, thank you for joining us, it's good to see you.


BEGALA: The man Jim McGreevey defeated has weighed in with a rather interesting theory on how this all came to be. His name is, I gather, Bret Schundler. "He wondered aloud," I'm reading from "The Newark Star Ledger" here, "Schundler wondered aloud whether 'the Democratic bosses who run New Jersey' helped orchestrate the airing of the Golan Cipel affair as a way to clear Jim McGreevey out of the way so they can run Jon Corzine for the governor next year and keep themselves from losing control of the most powerful governor's office in America."

I'm curious, Mr. Forrester, are all New Jersey Republicans nuts, or you don't subscribe to that theory, do you?

FORRESTER: I don't think it's really helpful to talk about process. I think it's really important that we focus on the issue that we need to change governors. There's no doubt. And we will change it. Governor McGreevey should step down now. There's no question. His own words suggest that he is compromised. I'm worried about the state of New Jersey. But I'm principally worried because we need a change of direction.

You know, Congressman Andrews is absolutely wrong that the Republicans don't have anything to talk about. We have everything to talk about because New Jersey is fast heading into the rocks. We're borrowing to pay for current expenses. We're spending and borrowing at a rate that has never before been seen in New Jersey. It is a terrible situation. We need smarter government in New Jersey. We don't need bigger government. That's what all the Democrats have been saying.

This issue of corruption is very important, though. We need a government as good as New Jersey's people. New Jersey's people are good. We don't deserve this. We need a change. We need it now. And I believe that if a governor really means what he said on Thursday afternoon that he will step down now.

CARLSON: But Mr. Andrews, speaking of corruption, one of the things we learned in the last week is that a lot of Democrats in New Jersey, I know some of the Democrats in New Jersey who knew that McGreevey was gay and was having an affair, trying to have an affair with this character Cipel. And that's the reason he became head of homeland security in your state. Why didn't they do something about it say two years ago?

ANDREWS: Oh, I don't know that people knew that those were the set facts...

CARLSON: Yes, they did. They told "The New York Times" they did.

ANDREWS: No. I think there were rumors all over the place like that. I hear Mr. Forrester mention about debt. I didn't hear him complaining when Christie Whitman tripled the state's debt in New Jersey, that didn't seem to be such an issue.

CARLSON: You're not going to answer my question, are you, which is, again, it's established that Democrats around Jim McGreevey knew what was going on; this reckless behavior which literally endangered the state of New Jersey and nobody did anything about it. Don't you think that that shows corruption?

ANDREWS: It is established that he resigned for that reason and we're going to move on to the next situation. It's very regrettable, very much a negative situation for the state. But the next election is not going to be about what Jim McGreevey did or did not do. It's going to be about what the next governor should or should not do. And I would just again submit to you, on the day after the governor leaves office, the New Jersey Republicans will be without a voice because they've got nothing to say.

BEGALA: And Mr. Forrester, a moment ago you said you didn't want to talk about process. And I'm glad to hear that because many New Jersey Republicans, and in truth some Democrats, seem to be fixated on what day Governor McGreevey leaves office. It seems to me, I don't live in your state, you all can do what you want, but the time lag between now and November 15th, when McGreevey says he'll step down, about the same as the time lag for any lame duck governor after an election from November election to January inaugural. So why is everybody getting their panties in a wad up there?

FORRESTER: Well, there's no question about the fact that there's enough time to have an election. There is enough time to turn New Jersey around. We need a new direction. I've suggested that we have some structural changes as well. We should have an elected lieutenant governor. We should have an elected state auditor to give the people some additional security of independent scrutiny on the state finance. New Jersey is in terrible, terrible shape.

Congressman Andrews is doing what all the other Democrats do, is they point to somebody else and say, well, in the past something happened. We don't care in New Jersey anymore what happened in the past. We know we're heading for the rocks...

BEGALA: Let me ask you briefly, we're almost out of time. Mr. Forrester, let me ask you about the future. Will you run for governor?

FORRESTER: If my party is prepared to nominate me, I'm prepared to accept that. It's not clear whether the governor is going to do the right thing and step down. But we have a conga line of corruption in New Jersey of the Democratic leaders and they are in lockstep with regard to the policies that are ruining the state. We don't want to hurt New Jersey any more. We need a new governor. We'll get one. We need a new direction. That's the question. And I really hope that we have a special election to do that.

BEGALA: I'm sorry to cut you off, Mr. Forrester. We're out of time. Thank you for announcing on CROSSFIRE. We hope you will come back during the campaign and debate whatever Democrat is running against you. Rob Andrews...

ANDREWS: Maybe...


BEGALA: Maybe Congressman Andrews. Get you both in the race.

CARLSON: I'd like to congratulate you on "The Sopranos," great show.


BEGALA: Thank you both.

ANDREWS: Very atypical of us.

BEGALA: I bet.

Thank you both very much for a fun debate. Mr. Carlson?

CARLSON: All right. I think we are headed out. He ran for president twice, now he is taking on an up and coming Democrat in the Senate race in Illinois. Republican Alan Keyes jumped into this political battle in land of Lincoln just over a week ago. The Democratic candidate, Barack Obama, declined an interview with us today. Alan Keyes will join us just a moment from Chicago. We will be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Wolf Blitzer in Washington. Coming up at the top of the hour, they're going eyeball to eyeball in Iraq. Who blinks first? Muqtada al-Sadr snubs a delegation of Iraqi officials trying to end the fighting in Najaf. This as heavy clashes reported between the Mehdi Army and U.S. and Iraqi forces.

Turmoil in the statehouse. The governor of New Jersey, his growing scandal, and mounting pressure from both parties.

And swept away. A small fishing village on the English coast suffers as a wall of water runs fast and furious through their lives.

Those stories and much more only minutes away on "WOLF BLITZER REPORTS." Now back to "CROSSFIRE."

CARLSON: Welcome back. He's run for president twice. He's run for Senate twice. Alan Keyes, radio talk show host, one of the great orators of our time. You may recognize him. He's been coopted, pulled into the Senate race Illinois up against Barack Obama as of last week and he joins us now live from Chicago. Ambassador Alan Keyes, welcome.

ALAN KEYES (R), ILLINOIS SENATE CANDIDATE: Thank you very much. Glad to be here.

BEGALA: Good to see you again, Mr. Ambassador. Thank you for joining us. Let me begin with a rather harsh comment from one of your brother Republicans. Mike Murphy, one of the smartest strategists I know, he was campaign manager for John McCain, campaign strategist for Arnold Schwarzenegger. Here's what he says about you.

"When voters listen to Alan Keyes, they get the perception, wow, this guy is stone-cold nuts. And they run home to hide their children. We Republicans are the free market party, so let's look to Keyes' prior history in elections and trust the market."

If that's what Republicans think about you, what are the Democrats going to say, Mr. Ambassador?

KEYES: I've got to confess that quoting some pro-abortion Republican who is engaging in a fit of name-calling hardly constitutes a question worthy of respect. I think it's disgraceful that in the media these days, some people, not all, because I've been counting some pretty good people here in Illinois, but some people seem to think that casting a name-calling session in front of somebody constitutes asking a question. So I would simply say, where is the question in that? I'll be glad to answer it when you ask one.

CARLSON: All right. I want to ask you question then, Ambassador Keyes. I take you serious, I take your ideas seriously and I agree with most of them. So I was shocked the other day to see you give a press conference endorsing the idea of reparations for slavery, for tax breaks for descendants of slavery. You said, pointing out that your opponent Barack Obama is not descended from slaves and you are. This struck me as a kind of essential betrayal of the beliefs you've been espousing in public for the last 20 years. KEYES: Not at all. I have taken a strong position against schemes of extortion from the fellow citizens of people here in America, based on the idea that somehow or another that would be requital for slavery. And I made clear over the years that I think the blood and treasured sacrifice during the Civil War constituted that requital.

But I have also made clear every time I was asked that there was objective damage done to black Americans by the slave system. And there have been frequent efforts in American history not thus far successful to address the wounds that were left by that legacy.

What I have laid on the table repeatedly is a thoroughly Republican, thoroughly conservative approach that is actually borrowed from ancient history in terms of what the Roman empire used to do to respond to damaged communities. You give them tax relief. You give them a tax break to make up for the fact, for instance in this case, the black folks toiled for generations at what was effectively 100 percent tax rate.

And by doing this, you unleash their enterprise. Give them an incentive to work. Give people an incentive to own businesses without taking pennies out of anybody else's pocket, you're able to create an environment where people are encouraged to work and put a strong foundation under themselves instead of putting money in a democracy to dominate their lives that undermines the moral foundations of their families and destroys their economic incentives.

As a matter of fact, it's a thoroughly conservative, thoroughly consistent Republican approach to a very serious challenge.

BEGALA: If I could please ask you about a comment that you made just a couple of months ago. You were speaking in Utah, endorsing a candidate for governor in Oregon and you said the following quote. "Now you think it's a coincidence that on September 11, 2001, we were struck by terrorists, an evil that has at its heart the disregard of innocent human life."

You went on to say, "I don't think that's a coincidence. I think that's a shot across the bow. I think that's a way of Providence telling us, I love you all, I'd like to give you a chance. Wake up. Would you please wake up." You were, I think, saying that God wanted the September 11 attacks to occur. You can't have meant that, can you?

KEYES: What I was pointing out is an objective fact and I know that folks like to run away from them. That at the heart of terrorism lies this principle of evil, a disregard for the claims of innocent human life. At the heart of...

BEGALA: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) sending us a message on September 11.

KEYES: At the heart of abortion lies this principle, a disregard for the claims of innocent human life. If we go into a war against folks who are violating that principle, and stumble across the truth that we ourselves are violating it, consider the moral confusion, the demoralization that that represents in terms of our commitment...

BEGALA: So Providence was trying to tell us something?

KEYES: what is necessary in order to safeguard our security. I think I am justified in pointing out that if we don't address the moral evil that's at the heart of abortion really...

BEGALA: Instruments of God's will. They were God's messengers, were they?

CARLSON: Ambassador Keyes, throughout your career in public life, you've taken a pretty vigorous stand against affirmative action. You've taken a lot of flack for it, most of it pretty unfair in my view. However it seems clear to me that the Republican party of Illinois is engaging in affirmative action by choosing you -- the two finalists for the job to replace Mr. Ryan who dropped out were both black.

Now there aren't a whole lot of black Republicans in Illinois and so they go out of state to find you. I'm not saying you're not the best candidate but I am saying it does seem to be a clear example of affirmative action and it seems to me to be patronizing. Don't you agree?

KEYES: Well, the unfortunate truth is that people don't listen to what I say, and I'm not surprised. I have never said that I'm against affirmative action. I have said that I am for affirmative action and against quotas. Affirmative action is a Republican idea. It was invented under Richard Nixon. It was not intended to establish a quota. Second point, I'm not involved in this race on account of race. When they came down to two final choices, they were both of them, Dr. Barthwell and myself black Americans. They chose me because of my unique combination of qualities, the national reputation embrace that I could bring to the race to challenge what the Democrats have tried to do with Barack Obama.

CARLSON: Ambassador Keyes, I'm afraid we're completely out of time. Hope you'll join us when you win. Thanks a lot. Good luck.

KEYES: Surely will.

BEGALA: Thank you, Mr. Ambassador.

CARLSON: Next up, what links do these beautiful Hollywood stars have to a very well-known political figure with a terrific hair cut. Find out right after this.


CARLSON: What would you ask John Kerry if you could belly up to the bar with him, throw him back and just chat about women. Well, a "GQ" magazine editor got to do just that. The two men talked about a number of things including pop culture and, yes, the ladies. Among Kerry's revelations, he puts Charlize Theron, Catherine Zeta-Jones and Marilyn Monroe at the top of his, quote, "sexiest actress of all time list." Ever the politician though, Kerry also heaps praise on his own wife saying, quote, "Thank God I found Teresa" which not coincidentally is what millions of American women are also saying.

BEGALA: I think he certainly shows a lot of good taste in his choice of...

CARLSON: Marilyn Monroe, come on.


BEGALA: I want to talk about Teresa Heinz Kerry who is going to be a wonderful first lady.

From the left, that's it for CROSSFIRE, I'm Paul Begala.

CARLSON: And from the right, I'm Tucker Carlson. Join us again tomorrow Wednesday for more Alan Keyes. No, just kidding. More CROSSFIRE. See you tomorrow.


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