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President Bush Admits Miscalculation on Iraq War

Aired August 27, 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: Overhaul to U.S. intelligence. President Bush proposes changes that will reshape the spy community. But will his actions make the country safer?

Also, the president admits he miscalculated what conditions would be like in postwar Iraq. He says historians will decide how the occupation went. Voters are likely to pass judgment sooner.

And it's Miller time. A Democrat with a big role at the Republican National Convention hits the campaign trail in a key battleground state. But he's not stumping for John Kerry -- today on CROSSFIRE.


ANNOUNCER: Live from New York's Chelsea Piers in Hudson River Park, James Carville and Robert Novak.


We're in the Big Apple, just three days away from starting the Republican National Convention. And the early arriving delegates are in a good mood because the polls show signs of John Kerry cratering.

JAMES CARVILLE, CO-HOST: Not so fast. Did you hear President Bush finally admitting about Iraq? Don't go away. It's part of the best little political briefing in television, our CROSSFIRE "Political Alert."

You're not going to believe what I'm getting ready to tell you, so I suggest you out and buy a copy of "The New York Times" to verify what I'm getting ready to say. After almost 1,000 Americans have been killed, billions of taxpayer dollars have been spent and irreparable damage to our nation's reputation around the world, President Bush facing almost certain electoral defeat in November, said he made a miscalculation of what conditions would be like in postwar Iraq.

Miscalculation? After being repeatedly told by military commanders and experts in the State Department that this is exactly what would happen if you put a country in the hands of bunch of nutty right-wing ideologues, you don't miscalculate, Mr. President. You screwed up. As Dick Cheney said, you screwed up big time. NOVAK: You know, James, you know as well as I do that is nothing certain in politics and nothing certain about this election. Far from it. As a matter of fact, when people like you go around using the words nutty and ignorant, you hurt your own cause.


CARVILLE: I don't hurt myself at all. Wolfowitz and Feith are nutty and they're ignorant. And they put 1,000 people in there that should have never been there.

NOVAK: That's...

CARVILLE: They were stupid when they did this. And I will say it to anybody.


CARVILLE: And I don't hurt my party. I tell the truth. I will not be silent. I will not be silent.

NOVAK: And that's why you're going downhill, that kind of...

CARVILLE: No. We're going to win.

NOVAK: That's very


CARVILLE: ... nutty. Of course they're nutty.


NOVAK: That's venomous and it hurts politics.


CARVILLE: Nutty. Nutty.

NOVAK: As the Democrats ought to understand by now, presidential elections are decided in the Electoral College on a state-by-state basis. And polls in the battleground state show all the momentum for George W. Bush.

"The Los Angeles Times" poll shows the president has moved ahead of Senator Kerry in Ohio and Wisconsin. The CNN/"USA Today"/Gallup poll and the Rasmussen poll both show a Bush lead in Florida. And the Pew poll has Bush ahead in Pennsylvania. These are all close states. The election is a long way off. But only a blind partisan like Carville would not admit that John Forbes Kerry is in big trouble.

CARVILLE: You know, Bob, he ain't over 50 in any of them. And I will tell you what. This election is not going to be close, because when you have the president of the United States telling the American people that he miscalculated about Iraq, that's the beginning of the end of the whole thing. NOVAK: How do you explain for the fact that he is going -- that Kerry is going down in all these battleground states?


CARVILLE: You pick one thing of polls. I can show you a gazillion polls that he's ahead. He's full points in all the battleground states, according to "The Wall Street Journal."

NOVAK: Oh, no, he isn't. You know that's not true.


CARVILLE: You don't read "The Wall Street Journal."

NOVAK: It's not true.

CARVILLE: Now, all this debate about whether President Bush is stupid or not or whether we should call the president of the United States stupid isn't for me. I'll stay away from the S-word, but I'll go right to the I-word. He's just ignorant.

Proof of that in the aforementioned "The New York Times" article, when President Bush admitted being ignorant of a report by none other than his secretary of energy, secretary of commerce and his national science adviser confirming that right-wing idiots have been wrong about global warming for the past 20 years. Global warming, in a surprise to no one, is in fact caused by emissions of carbon dioxide.

Now, Mr. President, I don't know if you're stupid or not, but I sure know this. You're ignorant big time.

NOVAK: Talk about ignorant. I don't know when you got be an expert on global warning. But I do know this, that the administration has not changed its position on global warming.


NOVAK: The president was exactly right. And "The New York Times," which is a biased, left-wing newspaper, gave him a distorted question.


CARVILLE: Why did they give them the interview? (UNINTELLIGIBLE) He went in there and did the interview, Bob. And he said he didn't even know that his secretary of energy, his secretary of commerce and his national science adviser


NOVAK: Have you read that report?

CARVILLE: I'm not the president of the United States.

(CROSSTALK) NOVAK: You haven't read the report. You don't know anything about it at all.


CARVILLE: He's ignorant and Wolfowitz is nutty, nutty.

NOVAK: On CROSSFIRE August 12, Kerry spokesman Lanny Davis called John O'Neill, co-author of "Unfit For Command," a liar. He said O'Neill lied in writing that Lieutenant William Schachte was aboard the Boston whaler when Lieutenant Junior Grade John Kerry got his Purple Heart.

That contradicts the Kerry camp's contention that nobody aboard a boat with Kerry has ever criticized him. William Schachte, now a retired rear admiral, talked to me on the phone yesterday. He said he was commanding the Boston whaler, said there was no enemy fire and said Kerry wounded himself accidentally. Is Admiral Schachte credible? He is the former deputy judge advocate general of the Navy. And I think he tells the truth.

CARVILLE: He's just a right-wing Bush supporter that is kind of a Bob Jones kind of South Carolina Republican. You know what, Bob? You all are just mad because John Kerry is just a better man than Bush. Yes, he is a war hero. And what you need to do is just get over it. We got the better man.


NOVAK: James, all you do is, you call names.


CARVILLE: I'm just calling him a better name.


NOVAK: Wait a minute. I let you talk. You let me talk.

All you do is call people names, and I'm getting sick of it, too.



CARVILLE: Better man, better man, better man, just a braver man.


NOVAK: President Bush is in South Florida at this hour. That's one of the battleground states that shows the president on the upgrade, as Republicans gather in New York.

And later, one of my so-called CROSSFIRE co-hosts is featured in several questions from the 1990s edition of "Trivial Pursuit." And we'll test your trivial knowledge later. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CARVILLE: President Bush has already admitted he miscalculated how bad things would get in Iraq. But he says, despite the mess he put us in, he's sure the American people will reelect him. Guess what? That's a big miscalculation No. 2.

Joining us in the CROSSFIRE today are Congressman Anthony Weiner, Democrat from New York, and Charlie Black, a very good Republican strategist.

NOVAK: Congressman Weiner, I want to read you a couple polls taken from the CNN/"USA Today"/Gallup survey this week. Who is the stronger and more decisive leader? Bush 54 percent, Kerry 34 percent. That's 20 points difference. Who is more likely to stand up for what he believes in? Bush 52 percent, Kerry 35 percent, a 17-point difference.

What's happening to your candidate?

REP. ANTHONY WEINER (D), NEW YORK: Well, all I can say that is President isn't over 50 in any of these polls. And there's been a grand total of about a three-point swing throughout perhaps one of the most expensive smear campaigns in American history.

Listen, this is going to happen when the Republicans go out and smear people like Max Cleland, smear people like John McCain and smear people like John Kerry, it works for a while. It is going to wear off pretty quick, though, when the American people start realizing that the president has miscalculated. He's miscalculated the rise in poverty.


WEINER: Miscalculated in health care.

NOVAK: All right, well, you gave the answer. You don't have to give the whole campaign speech in one bite. You have plenty of time.

Mr. Weiner, I just wonder if you would agree with me this, though, that there was a miscalculation on the part of the Kerry strategists in bringing up his war record and opening up things that were better left unlooked upon on his conduct both in the war and after the war 20 years ago?

WEINER: Well, I agree with the president. I agree with John McCain. I agree with the Defense Department about the heroics of John Kerry.

But it's funny you use the word miscalculate, because that's the word that President Bush used today. He apparently miscalculated how poorly the economy was doing, two million less jobs. He miscalculated how many more people in poverty. He miscalculated the events in Iraq, which he freely admits. I'm just curious, what was the big calculation that he made that was correct over the last 3 1/2 years? CARVILLE: Charlie, this of course is people who were all over the country this morning. When the president of the United States after almost 1,000 young Americans have been killed, after hundreds of billions of dollars of our tax money has gone down a rat hole in Iraqi, after irreparable damage has been done to the reputation of the United States, the president of the United States says, you know what, I miscalculated.

I mean, how in the world is this man going to finish out this campaign telling the American people that he caused our nation all of this grief?

CHARLIE BLACK, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Well, James, let's talk about what he said. What he said was that his military advisers thought that the Iraqi army would fight a lot harder and longer before giving up.

Instead, we routed them in less than three weeks. A lot of them faded into the countryside and took their weapons with them. And so this so-called insurgency, the terrorist warfare, started out before we could train Iraqi soldiers and police. We're well on the way to doing that. Iraq has sovereignty. There are tens of thousands of Iraqi soldiers and police.


BLACK: And they'll be running -- they'll be running their own free country now, thanks to what we did.


CARVILLE: Charlie, you're entitled to your own opinion, but you're not entitled to your own facts.

General Shinseki, who said it would take 300,000 people, who predicted all of this. Mr. Warwick (ph), an expert in the State Department, completed a complete report saying this. Then Chalabi tells Vice President Cheney that. And Vice President Cheney goes and TV and says we expect to be greeted with roses. Charlie, this president has made


BLACK: The general who was in -- the general who was in charge of the war was Tommy Franks. General Tommy Franks was in charge of the war.

CARVILLE: No, Shinseki told them.

BLACK: And the president said, I'll take your advice. You go do what you think is right.


BLACK: And guess what? We won the war. We won the war, James. The Iraqi people are free, thanks to what we did. (CROSSTALK)

CARVILLE: He miscalculated.

NOVAK: Congressman Weiner, we're in your hometown, your hometown of New York. We're delighted to be here.

And your former mayor yesterday Rudy Giuliani, sometimes called America's mayor, but he was New York City's mayor, he said yesterday -- quote -- "I owe a great deal to President Bush for the strength that he gave to me, my city, and to my country when we went through our worst days" -- unquote. That's a strong commendation from a man who's well respected in this country, isn't it?

WEINER: It was a day of extraordinary unity. When the president came here after September 11 and made that famous speech, that was the pinnacle of the unity. Ever since then, it has been New York getting its cops funding cut, U.S. getting its -- New York getting its terrorism funding cut, not to mention the increase in homelessness, the increase in hunger.

More people since then have become unemployed. More people since then have lost their health insurance. Why, certainly, when the president came here and made that speech, it was a highlight. But ever since then, the management of this country has not only been weak on -- on terrorism, but has been terribly hostile to New York City and its districts.

NOVAK: But Rudy Giuliani, who was the mayor of this city, doesn't say that. He says that he's been good for the city. You think Rudy Giuliani is just a cheap politician? Is that what are you saying?



NOVAK: What are you saying?

WEINER: There are some immutable facts here. One, terrorism and law enforcement funds are down for New York since that day.

BLACK: That's not true.

WEINER: That is absolutely true. We are getting less because of the elimination of the cops program.

BLACK: That's not what the mayor says.

WEINER: Between the dilution of the terrorism program. The mayor of the city of New York absolutely says that.

BLACK: Mayor Bloomberg says we promised $20 billion. You got the $20 billion. That's not enough?

(CROSSTALK) WEINER: Mayor Bloomberg is famously in the bag for the Bush administration.

BLACK: Oh, I see.

WEINER: That is something that is of great concern to many of us in New York. It doesn't change the facts of the matter. And the facts of the matter are that New York has been shortchanged five or six or eight different ways by this administration.


BLACK: Twenty billion dollars.


CARVILLE: ... things are going really well in Iraq. They believe -- wouldn't you expect them to say that? Here's a man that is looking at the American people, when we lost 1,000 kids, we have lost our


NOVAK: What is your question?

CARVILLE: What I'm saying is, I think that there's something wrong


NOVAK: Why don't you ask him a question, James?


CARVILLE: When the president says that we miscalculate, when everybody in New York says that the administration has not lived up to the thing, when the speaker of the House, a Republican, calls New Yorkers greedy because they wanted help with assistance after this, is there something you all can get right?


CARVILLE: You can't get the economy right. You can't get Iraq right. Get something right for once.

BLACK: The people of New York are a lot safer than they were on 9/11 because of the president's leadership in the war on terror.

WEINER: Yes, we are. No, in spite of President Bush.


BLACK: And most of the elected officials in this city and this state will tell you that's true; $20 billion extra to New York City that no other city got. And that's not enough? We delivered. WEINER: Wait a minute. I find that outrageous. Yes, $20 billion to New York City that no one else got because no one else was attacked on September 11 the way New York was.

BLACK: Well, the Pentagon was.

WEINER: That is outrageous to imply that...

BLACK: The Pentagon was.

WEINER: ... somehow that was a benefit that we got from the federal government.


WEINER: And that reflects the Hastert-DeLay-Gingrich view of using New York as a pejorative, even when you're coming here for the convention. Outrageous.

BLACK: Congressman, you said you were shortchanged. We committed $20 billion. You got the $20 billion. We're happy. New York is doing better.

WEINER: Twenty billion dollars to rebuild. What about protecting


NOVAK: Let me just ask you this. You know, Congressman, you are a shrewd, tough politician. I admire you immensely. And you saw all these veterans up on the dais at Boston at the FleetCenter, where the veterans are going to be 100 percent for this veteran.

And let me show you what the Annenberg Public Policy poll just finished last week -- asked the veterans' opinions of Bush and Kerry. Bush 59 percent favorable, Kerry 42 percent favorable, 44 unfavorable. There's something about John Kerry attacking his own comrades when he got back from Vietnam that doesn't sit back with veterans, does it?

WEINER: You're a shrewd student of politics. I've seen you on this show many times before. Do you realize that's 11 points better than Al Gore was doing at the exact same time among veterans? And he won the general vote and, frankly, he had the election stolen in Florida.

It is not going to be that close. Veterans are moving towards Kerry in unprecedented numbers, despite the smear campaign.

NOVAK: They're moving. They're dropping. They're falling backwards.

WEINER: Despite the smear campaign against one of their own.

NOVAK: It's going backwards.

(CROSSTALK) WEINER: If I was veteran, Mr. Novak, if I was a veteran and saw the smear campaign against a fellow veteran, I would be...

NOVAK: Then why is he losing strength, then?

WEINER: Smear campaigns work for a moment. They work for a short time and eventually Americans start to divine the truth in these things. And they're going to in this case.


CARVILLE: Again, you're saying that things are going great. You think things are going great in Iraq and this has been a great planning exercise and everything. And, of course, I disagree. I think things are going terribly in Iraq.

BLACK: No, Iraq's a free country.

CARVILLE: And things are going terribly


BLACK: Iraq's a free country and terrorists


CARVILLE: Yes, you're free to get blown up. That's the one thing you're really free from.

And, of course, let me ask you, what do you think, in talking about New York? Can you tell what the president was thinking when he stood there for seven minutes and didn't do a thing after he was told that New York was under attack?


CARVILLE: I'm just asking, what do you think he was thinking?

BLACK: Let me tell you what the president did. He came back. He rallied the country to fight the war on terror.

CARVILLE: The country was rallied.


BLACK: He got the doctrine of preemption under way, so that we went to Afghanistan and cleaned out al Qaeda and their training camps.


BLACK: And the Taliban.

CARVILLE: Oh, I'm sorry. Al Qaeda is gone.

(CROSSTALK) BLACK: We have Pakistan and Saudi Arabia and other countries on our side in the war on terror, who in fact had been cooperating with al Qaeda.


WEINER: So you think he has unified the country and the world in this fight? You think we are a more united country and a more united world?


BLACK: I think we're united against the terrorists.

WEINER: You guys should have your convention in Wonderland, though, if you think that's the case.


CARVILLE: ... got rid of al Qaeda. Did you know that? They're gone.


BLACK: Who do you know who is not for getting rid of the terrorists?


WEINER: This is what they call jabberwocky in "Alice in Wonderland."

NOVAK: Can I get a question in? Congressman...

CARVILLE: Go ahead.


NOVAK: Congressman, I just wonder. Just as a straight political question, do you think -- Senator John Glenn was interviewed on CNN today. And he suggested -- he hinted that perhaps Senator Kerry made a mistake in bringing up the question of his war record, which is highly questionable. Do you think, as a fellow candidate, Senator Kerry made a mistake both in bringing it up and then not in reacting fast enough?

WEINER: Let me just see if I understand the question.

Was it a mistake at the convention where he was made the candidate and introduced to the country to talk about the fact that he was a war hero and have people testify to that, especially when juxtaposed against the cowards Cheney and Bush, who did not serve?

NOVAK: Cowards? You call them cowards?

(CROSSTALK) WEINER: Yes, I think that was exactly the right thing to have said, exactly the right thing.

NOVAK: Were you in the military?


WEINER: And I have the utmost respect for those who served. I would never smear someone like Senator Kerry. And for Cheney and Bush, it was, oh, this is so terrible they're doing it. It's their supporters. It's their party that is doing it.

NOVAK: Congressman, did you serve your country in a uniform?

WEINER: I did not. And I have the utmost


NOVAK: Well, why do you call them cowards?

WEINER: I would never smear -- because they are, oh, we're very -- oh, we're shocked that this is happening. Oh, they're 527s.

NOVAK: It's an outrage to call him a coward.


WEINER: This is the Republican Party that is doing this to John Kerry. And the American people see it.

BLACK: I bet you talk about your congressional record in your campaigns.


BLACK: Where is his 20-year Senate record in this campaign? Seventy-three words of it in Boston.


CARVILLE: You say things are going great in Iraq and we've gotten rid of al Qaeda. Now tell us how great the economy is going. I didn't know.


CARVILLE: ... in Iraq and that al Qaeda was still there. But I'm in error.


BLACK: As a matter of fact, despite the -- despite the recession we inherited from your hero, Bill Clinton, and despite 9/11 and the disruption to the markets...

(CROSSTALK) CARVILLE: ... broke the country, Charlie.

BLACK: We cut taxes.

CARVILLE: He broke the country.

BLACK: And that lightened the recession, started the recovery, a million and a half new jobs in the last year. We're growing almost as fast


WEINER: The Census Bureau said yesterday we have more poor people. You think


WEINER: ... great tax cut?

NOVAK: Congressman, we're going to take a break.

And next in "Rapid Fire," we'll ask whether John Kerry's managers have blown a golden opportunity.

And find out why investigators now say at least one of this week's plane crashes in Russia was caused by terrorists. Wolf Blitzer has the latest right after this break.


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Wolf Blitzer at Madison Square Garden in New York, the site of next week's Republican National Convention.

Coming up at the top of the hour, new polls suggest President Bush may be gaining strength. We'll have reaction from the campaign manager, Ken Mehlman, and Tad Devine of the Kerry campaign.

Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan has bad news for baby boomers about their retirement prospects.

And new evidence of possible terrorism in Tuesday's Russian air disaster.

Those stories, much more, only minutes away on a special edition of "WOLF BLITZER REPORTS."

Now back to CROSSFIRE.

CARVILLE: Welcome back.

We're talking about miscalculations of all sort, in Iraq, in the White House, and on the campaign trail. It's time for the New York minute edition of "Rapid Fire."

With us again are Congressman Anthony Weiner, an outstanding Democrat from New York City, and Charlie Black, an equally outstanding Republican strategist.

NOVAK: Congressman Weiner, just a month ago, it looked like that Senator Kerry was on his way. Did he blow a golden opportunity in August with a crummy campaign this month?

WEINER: The polls are about on average about three points difference. There's not a lot of movement in any of the polls. I'd sure rather be leading than trailing. But we know famously this is not the time of year to try to divine the final total by looking at the polls.

CARVILLE: Charlie, what do you think is the right position on gay marriage, the Kerry-Cheney-Giuliani position or the Bush-Falwell- Pat Robertson position?

BLACK: Well, the president is right. Due to the overzealousness of certain judges and certain mayors, that, if we're going to preserve the sanctity of marriage in this country, we're going to have to have a constitutional amendment.

CARVILLE: So Giuliani and Vice President Cheney and Schwarzenegger are wrong?


BLACK: They only disagree on tactics.


NOVAK: Congressman, do you think Senator Kerry is right when he is against gay marriage?

WEINER: I think Senator Kerry represents what a lot of us believe, which is, allow this to work its way through the state legislatures, through the courts. This is not something -- the Defense of Marriage Act, which President Bush cheered, hasn't been struck down. I thought that was going to be the solution to this problem.

BLACK: Kerry voted against it. He's not against gay marriage.

CARVILLE: How much time do you think President Bush will spend talking about this all-important to you guys gay marriage issue during his speech at the convention? Do you think it will be a major component?

BLACK: I haven't seen the speech, but he talks about it almost every day. And every time he's asked, he talks about it.

NOVAK: Congressman Weiner, do you think it's a good idea at this time in our economy to have a big tax increase, as Senator Kerry proposes, on the most productive members of our economy and the biggest investors?

WEINER: If you think someone making $15 million or $20 million a year deserves a tax increase, probably President Bush is your guy. (CROSSTALK)

NOVAK: increase?


WEINER: If you share -- a tax cut. Then Bush is your guy.

But if you're one of the people like the over two million people who have lost their jobs in this administration, the worst since Hoover, a tax cut for the rich probably isn't going to help you all that much.

NOVAK: Charlie, what's the bigger problem for the president, the historic job loss under him or the historic deficits that he's run up?

BLACK: Well, the deficits are not historic if you take them as a percentage of the whole economy.


BLACK: But the fact is, we have gained a million and a half jobs in the last year since his tax cut kicked in. The economy is getting better; 49 states have lower employment than they did a year ago.

NOVAK: That's the last word.

Charlie Black, thank you very much. Congressman Weiner, thank you very much.

There's a CROSSFIRE connection to the newest version of "Trivial Pursuit." And you can play along with us right after this.


NOVAK: Now, you know you've made an impact when you become the subject of a question in "Trivial Pursuit." My esteemed, yet greatly misguided colleague right now has joined the annals of "Candyland" and "Twister" with not one, but three questions in Hasbro's 1990s "Time Capsule" edition of "Trivial Pursuit." The operative word here of course is trivial.

At any rate, here's our favorite. "What Republican campaigner railed at James Carville on the night Bill Clinton defeated George Bush? 'You make me sick. I hate your guts.'" The answer? Mary Matalin. Mary, of course, is a top-notch Republican strategist and, lord knows why, she's also Mr. Carville's wife.

CARVILLE: And I say, thank God she my wife, Bob, but I guess trivial is the opposition word as I thought it is.



NOVAK: I think we have hit a new low here. CARVILLE: We've got it, Robert. OK.


CARVILLE: Well, it's an honor. It's a great company and a great game.

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

NOVAK: From the right, I'm Robert Novak. Join us again next week as we bring you CROSSFIRE live from our convention diner in downtown New York.

"WOLF BLITZER REPORTS" starts right now.


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