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CNN CROSSFIRE

Vice President Cheney Headlines Republican Convention Day Three

Aired September 1, 2004 - 16:30   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)
ANNOUNCER: CROSSFIRE. On the left, James Carville and Paul Begala; on the right, Robert Novak and Tucker Carlson.

In the CROSSFIRE: The Republicans get ready to hear from a Democratic senator. But tonight's featured speaker is the No. 2 man on the ticket.

JAN LARIMER, WYOMING REPUBLICAN PARTY: It is an honor to nominate our friend Dick Cheney for the office of vice president of the United States.

ANNOUNCER: Does Vice President Cheney help or hurt President Bush's reelection effort?

Plus, Senator John Kerry is firing back.

SEN. JOHN KERRY (D-MA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I don't think we need what President Bush has defined as a catastrophic success. I think we need a real success.

ANNOUNCER: Today on CROSSFIRE.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

ANNOUNCER: Live from the CNN diner at the New Yorker Hotel, James Carville and Robert Novak.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

JAMES CARVILLE, CO-HOST: Welcome to CROSSFIRE.

We're just up the street from Madison Square Garden, where the Republican Convention has a problem. They've run out of moderates to put on TV. Tonight, we'll see the real face of the Republican Party, former CEO and right-wing believer Dick Cheney.

But, first, we'll hear from a Democrat -- that's right, a Democrat.

ROBERT NOVAK, CO-HOST: We'll hear from a Democrat. That's my man. That's my man, James.

(CROSSTALK)

CARVILLE: You got it.

NOVAK: He's an old-fashioned conservative Southern Democrat who cannot swallow a left-wing candidate like John Kerry. We'll preview the big night right after the best political briefing in television, our CROSSFIRE "Political Alert."

Senator Zell Miller of Georgia is going to be the main speaker tonight. He makes history tonight as the first person ever to deliver the keynote address at both Democratic and Republican Conventions. He was once a buddy of James Carville and Paul Begala, and he is still a Democrat, but very stale.

He was Clinton's keynoter in 1992, and he is George W. Bush's keynoter in 1994 -- in 2004. He's a proud Marine and a Southern conservative who found today's Democratic Party just too left-wing. Tonight's program at the Republican Convention will finally bring out the conservatives. Besides Senator Miller, tonight's program includes Dick and Lynne Cheney, Michael Reagan -- he's the loyal son -- and Senator Rick Santorum. Now, that really is the Grand Old Party.

(LAUGHTER)

CARVILLE: Well, Bob, I've got to tell you, it's all highly interesting. Apparently, this party can't -- got to look to our keynoter, a Clinton Democrat like Zell Miller, to speak to it. So what the hell, you know. Who cares? It's all politics.

Democratic nominee and uber-patriot and almost certainly the next president of the United States, Senator John Forbes Kerry of Massachusetts, emerged from his campaign's committee-style decision- making and focus-driven strategy and today stepped into the bright sunshine by holding President Bush accountable for his incompetence and flip-flopping.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

CARVILLE: The president, as you might recall, said in June that we could win the war on terror, but then this week said we couldn't.

Today, in a speech to the American Legion in Nashville, Senator Kerry told his fellow veterans that, of course, we can win. And he went on to courageously hold President Bush accountable for his admitted miscalculations and incompetence in pursuing policies in Iraq that have been devastating to our men and women in uniform.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

CARVILLE: My admiration and respect goes out to Senator Kerry for being bold and courageous and truthful. Congratulations to the Kerry campaign from emerging from the stifling heat and humidity of August into the bright cool sunshine of September.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

NOVAK: You know, James, I'm glad that -- I'm glad you're back in line flacking for the Kerry campaign.

The Kerry people had to make a decision whether he continued to windsurf up there with the rich people or give a boring speech to the veterans, who don't like him anyway.

(CROSSTALK)

NOVAK: He decided to give a boring speech. But if you watched it, it was boring.

CARVILLE: It was a great speech. And now we're holding them accountable.

(BELL RINGING)

CARVILLE: And it's not boring. It's a great speech.

NOVAK: You've seen John Kerry speaking everywhere with firefighters as his campaign props. But George W. Bush tonight will be endorsed by one local group of firefighters, but just from one little town, New York City.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

NOVAK: In Queens tonight, President Bush will collect the endorsement of the Uniformed Firefighters Association of New York. Isn't it interesting that the firefighters from the area hit hardest in the 9/11 attack are backing President Bush?

Republican Congressman Peter King of New York said of these Bush- backing firefighters -- quote -- "These are the guys who are the front-line soldiers" -- end quote. Their support for the president, Congressman King said, is the -- quote -- "most dramatic evidence of who supports George Bush" -- end quote.

CARVILLE: You know, you firefighters from Ohio, you firefighters from Florida, you firefighters from Missouri, you firefighters from Nevada, you don't count. And you know what? John Kerry is glad to have your endorsement. And those people in Ohio, firefighters in Ohio, Florida, and Nevada, Missouri, you're courageous, good Americans as anybody else. And don't let Bob Novak and George Bush...

(CROSSTALK)

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

NOVAK: Isn't that an embarrassment that George W. Bush is going into Queens tonight to get the endorsement of the fire -- that's an embarrassment.

(CROSSTALK)

CARVILLE: It didn't embarrass -- it didn't embarrass the firefighters of the United States to endorse John Kerry.

(BELL RINGING) CARVILLE: Things are not going so well under the Republican big tent. Amid a parade of pro-gay speaker after pro-gay speaker at the Republican Convention in New York, they had a little Senate primary down in Florida. Former Cabinet member Mel Martinez defeated former right-wing Congressman Bill McCollum by criticizing him for being tied to extremist gays because he supported hate-crimes legislation, which is intended to stop people from getting beat up and killed.

McCollum, a conservative Republican, called Martinez's campaign tactic -- quote -- not me -- saying "the politics of bigotry and hatred." That is from McCollum. Then, Alan Keyes, who the Republicans begged -- and I repeat, begged -- to come to Illinois to run for the Senate, called Vice President Cheney's daughter a selfish hedonist. I believe that Cheney is an awful, terrible vice president, but he's a wonderful father.

While he deserves defeat at the hands of the electorate, he deserves better than that from his fellow Republicans.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

NOVAK: Well, I believe that everybody condemns Alan Keyes for what he says.

CARVILLE: Thank you.

NOVAK: I believe it was reprehensible, what he said.

But I'm telling you something. You know politics. The guy that the Democrats were cheering for was Bill McCollum, because Mel Martinez is a Cuban refugee. He's got a great story. He's going to be a tough candidate. That's going to be a terrific race. And I'll tell you something else. It makes it easier for George W. Bush to carry Florida with Mel Martinez on the ticket.

(BELL RINGING)

CARVILLE: You know, the St. Petersburg withdrew its endorsement of Martinez. He's going to...

(CROSSTALK)

NOVAK: Tonight -- tonight, Democrat Zell Miller is going to tell the country why Republican George Bush is the best man to be president. And conservative Republicans get what they've been waiting for. Vice President Dick Cheney takes center stage at Madison Square Garden. And you can bet the most influential vice president in the history of the United States will take on John Kerry.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

CARVILLE: Welcome back to the CNN diner. Dick Cheney's on a menu at the Republican Convention tonight. We all know what that means. He'll try to measure down to Dick Nixon, Spiro Agnew, and the whole line, long line, of Republican vice presidential attack dogs.

We will have a better menu on the CROSSFIRE, New Jersey Democratic Congressman Robert Menendez and Indiana Republican Congressman Mike Pence.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

NOVAK: Congressman Menendez, tonight, we have an interesting situation of Zell Miller -- he's still a Democrat -- addressing the Republican Convention with a keynote speech. He's endorsed President Bush.

And here's what he said the other day, why he's endorsing him. He said: "Unfortunately, the Democratic Party today has gone further and further to the left. It's left me. It's left moderates. And it's left a lot of people who want to support a strong commander in chief."

When somebody like Zell Miller says that, isn't your party in a lot of trouble?

REP. ROBERT MENENDEZ (D), NEW JERSEY: Absolutely not.

Zigzag Zell has been around for a while trying to sell his books.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

MENENDEZ: And he wouldn't sell books as well if he was a Republican, which he should have turned and been honest with the people of his state, if that's what he wanted to be.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

MENENDEZ: But, ultimately, I don't think that it's proud to ultimately be for a $5 trillion deficit, to be for 1.8 million jobs that we have lost in this country permanently, to look at rising health care costs of 50 percent.

NOVAK: Are you going to go through the whole talking points thing?

MENENDEZ: No, I'm going to go to the reality. If that's what he's proud about, then he should go to the Republican Convention and say, I'm proud of what the administration has done in being the only presidency since Herbert Hoover to have less job creation than any other time since the Great Depression.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

(CROSSTALK)

NOVAK: Let me ask you to address this. When you have -- Zell Miller was one of the great vote getters in Georgia. James Carville was his campaign consultant. When he says that you have gone too far, you're big spending, you're left-wing, you don't support...

(CROSSTALK)

MENENDEZ: Big spender? Who could be more of a big spender than this administration has been that has left us in record deficits?

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

NOVAK: Let me ask you. Let me ask you. Isn't that -- isn't that a problem when you have lost a Southern senator like that?

MENENDEZ: What's a problem is that Zell Miller has lost his compass a long time ago. If $5 trillion worth of debt is something that is reasonable for him to be proud of and to be able to speak at the Republican Convention, so be it.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

MENENDEZ: But that's the next generation of Americans who face enormous debt.

CARVILLE: Congressman Pence, I do know Senator Miller and advised Zigzag Zell. And Zell will be taking his last zag tonight in his political career.

And I also know him to not -- while I don't agree with his latest political things, I know him to be a man of sobriety. He's not a drinking man. But tonight, he is going to say the following thing: "It's not the Democrats' patriotism. It is their judgment that has sorely been lacking" -- this after endorsing a president who admittedly said that, I miscalculated the degree of the insurgency in Iraq, this from a president whose judgment was so poor, in June, he said we could win the war on patriotism. Then, about five days ago, he said we could not win the war on patriotism.

So my question is this.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

CARVILLE: Do you think maybe Senator Miller might be back in John Barleycorn or something, because how could anybody support George Bush and bring up the question of judgment of anyone?

REP. MIKE PENCE (R), INDIANA: Well, I think the reason is that -- with all due respect to my friend Bob, it's not zigzag Zell.

CARVILLE: It's not?

PENCE: You've known this man longer than me.

(CROSSTALK)

PENCE: He personifies, James, the problem that the Democratic Party has had with the South in presidential elections over the last 20 years.

Zell Miller hasn't changed. The Democratic Party just continues to move farther and farther away from the traditional conservative base in the South that they once enjoyed. And it's going to be in full display tonight on national television.

CARVILLE: I understand. But, like I say, he's taking his last -- how in the world, with a straight face, can a man that I know sit there with a straight face and talk about judgment and George W. Bush in the same breath?

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

PENCE: Well, because -- look, because Zell Miller, who is a strong conservative, is going to give voice to what the American people know. And that is, President George W. Bush, in this city, just blocks away from where we're sitting at the CNN diner, three years ago came and answered 9/11 with courage, with vision. He launched the war on terror.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

PENCE: And he's been a great commander in chief of the United States.

NOVAK: Congressman Menendez, I'm going to give you a chance to respond in advance.

When -- this convention, I think you'll agree, has been a very well run convention, a very heartening speech by Governor Schwarzenegger, going to have a good speech by Vice President Cheney. What are you going to do when the president gets a bounce out of that and shows a substantial lead over Senator Kerry?

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

MENENDEZ: Well, I can't agree with you, Bob, that it's been a great convention. It's been a great one-act play on Broadway for a lack of reality.

And, you know, there's only one real action figure in this election. And that's John Kerry.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

MENENDEZ: Who served his country, who went to war, and who ultimately got injured in the service of his country. That's the only real action figure, not Conan that we saw last night. And the reality is...

NOVAK: You're making fun of Schwarzenegger, with a 65 percent approval rating?

MENENDEZ: No. I'm making fun of -- I'm saying that tell the 1.8 million Americans who lost their job not to be girlie man economics. Tell the families in this country who face the middle-class squeeze not to be girlie man economics.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

MENENDEZ: Tell the seniors in this country, who still don't have a real prescription drug program, not to be a girlie man...

(CROSSTALK)

NOVAK: So you want a tax increase. You want a tax increase.

MENENDEZ: No, no, no. I want them to live up to the realities of a $5 trillion deficit, of a 1.8 million -- 1.8 million in jobs lost. That's the reality. And that isn't conservative, by the way, Bob. I'm amazed you can defend it.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

CARVILLE: Congressman Pence, this I know about you. I think you're a likable guy. I love when you come on the show. And I know that you're a true fiscal conservative.

PENCE: Thank you, James.

CARVILLE: And I think you mean that.

And I know that this deficit bothers the dickens out of you, OK? And I want you to tell me what three domestic programs is President Bush going to call on this party to cut during his second term in an effort to get this deficit down that so concerns you that you even voted against the prescription drug bill that they tried to muscle you to voting in.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

PENCE: Well -- and, look, what this president is going to do is, he's going to continue to pursue policies that will grow this economy.

James, you want to wish it away, but this economy is in recovery. We have created over one million new jobs since last fall. The president inherited the Clinton recession, and through two successive tax cuts, has created the recovery that is putting Americans back to work. It's an expanding economy that's going to lift all the boats.

CARVILLE: So he's -- in other words, he's not going to try to cut anything is what you're saying.

(CROSSTALK)

PENCE: I think he's going to fight. Seriously, I think he's going to fight for fiscal discipline in the second term, but answering the war on terror and...

(CROSSTALK)

NOVAK: Congressman Menendez, tomorrow night, President Bush, when he gets -- accepts the nomination, among other things, is going to come out for a reform of Social Security, which will enable young people to invest part of their Social Security, what they pay in taxes now, in individual investment accounts. That will create the ownership society.

Why are Democrats so afraid of ordinary Americans being able to invest, instead of the government, Big Brother, handling their money for them?

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

MENENDEZ: We're not afraid of anybody investing on their own behalf. But we are -- but we are concerned about taking that generation of Americans that has been contributing to Social Security and yanking their security away from them.

NOVAK: It doesn't affect them. It doesn't affect them.

MENENDEZ: Oh, absolutely. To say that it doesn't affect them is to misunderstand the whole purpose of how you fund those new funds.

NOVAK: That's the politics of fright and scare.

(CROSSTALK)

MENENDEZ: No, that's not. The politics of fright are what we saw in the last night. Tonight is about opportunity, supposedly, your agenda. Well, it's great opportunity for Halliburton and the vice president, who still has enormous numbers of stock options that he could cash in on.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

MENENDEZ: That's what opportunity is about in your party.

CARVILLE: Yes.

Congressman, let me go back and say, if the president's not going to talk about fiscal discipline Thursday night, he certainly...

PENCE: James, I didn't say that.

(CROSSTALK)

CARVILLE: Is he going to talk about health care? What is he going to say about...

PENCE: James, I think I said the president is going to talk about fiscal discipline, but he's not going to talk about it in the way that...

CARVILLE: But no specifics.

PENCE: ... my friends in the Democratic Party are going to talk about it, which, essentially, they're going to answer budget problems by raising taxes. This president is going to answer budget deficits by growing this economy. (CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

PENCE: And that's what George W. Bush is going to do.

NOVAK: All right, that was the last -- we're going to take a break.

And we come up next with "Rapid Fire" asking the question, does the Kerry campaign need a shakeup?

And Hurricane Frances takes aim at the Bahamas and Florida. Wolf Blitzer has the latest after the break.

(APPLAUSE)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Wolf Blitzer at Madison Square Garden in New York.

Coming up at the top of the hour, Vice President Dick Cheney and Democrat Zell Miller speak to the Republican National Convention tonight. We'll have a preview. We'll have Democratic reaction to the convention's latest developments from Iowa Governor Tom Vilsack.

And yet another hurricane heading towards the U.S. East Coast. A warning for hundreds of thousands of Florida residents: Get ready to get out.

Those stories, much more, only minutes away on "WOLF BLITZER REPORTS."

Now back to CROSSFIRE.

(APPLAUSE)

CARVILLE: Hello? Can I hear? Go ahead.

It's time for "Rapid Fire," where the questions and answers are supposed to be short, because, just like the Bush administration, we don't have much time left.

(APPLAUSE)

CARVILLE: Our guests are New Jersey Democratic Congressman Robert Menendez and Indiana Republican Congressman Mike Pence.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

NOVAK: Congressman Menendez, do you think the Kerry campaign needs a shakeup, a staff change?

MENENDEZ: Absolutely not. We're adding people to the campaign. We've got a strong message on the economy, on health care, and even on our role in the world. And those messages are going to bring us to victory on Election Day. (CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

CARVILLE: Congressman, if Alan Keyes asked you to go to Illinois to campaign for him, would you go?

PENCE: I've been a little bit frustrated with some recent comments Alan Keyes has made. I saw him today at a wonderful pro-life rally here in Washington. But some of his comments on reparations and with regard to the Cheney family were, candidly, troubling, James.

CARVILLE: Thank you. Appreciate that.

NOVAK: Congressman, do you really propose that you want to have a big tax increase on the most productive elements of society and the investing class? Do you think that's good for the economy?

MENENDEZ: We want to give middle-class families the relief that they deserve and this administration has denied.

NOVAK: Is that a yes or a no?

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

MENENDEZ: But the wealthiest people in the country have to be part of shared sacrifice in this country.

CARVILLE: Are you disappointed by the lack of job growth in this administration?

PENCE: I am very pleased that, after inheriting the recession that took hold literally in the first months of the Bush administration, President Bush came to Congress, despite opposition on the Democrats' side of the aisle, cut taxes twice, and has put over a million Americans back to work.

CARVILLE: Right.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

(CROSSTALK)

NOVAK: Congressman, on Seventh Avenue, they had anti-war protesters marching the other day saying pull out the troops now from Iraq. Should the troops be pulled out now from Iraq?

MENENDEZ: Obviously not.

NOVAK: Thank you.

MENENDEZ: And even John Kerry doesn't say that. But what he does say is that we've got to internationalize our efforts in Iraq.

NOVAK: OK.

(BELL RINGING)

MENENDEZ: And in other places in the world. You can't act alone.

NOVAK: Thank you, Congressman Menendez, Congressman Pence.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

NOVAK: Our next guest is going to the mat for President Bush.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(APPLAUSE)

NOVAK: This week in New York clearly demonstrates that the Republican Party is a big tent, or in the case of our next guest, a big ring.

We're joined by WWE champion John Bradshaw Layfield, who is in the president's corner, President Bush's corner.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

CARVILLE: You're in the president's corner. You are coming up here at the Republican political convention. You get into politics. You're a wrestler. The name Jesse Ventura comes to mind.

(LAUGHTER)

CARVILLE: Would you ever consider running for office sometime in the future?

JOHN BRADSHAW LAYFIELD, PROFESSIONAL WRESTLER: You know, I got more skeletons than a cemetery in my closet.

(LAUGHTER)

LAYFIELD: So I don't know if I need to or not. If I thought I could do any good, I would, yes.

(CROSSTALK)

NOVAK: What are most of the wrestlers, Democrats or Republicans?

LAYFIELD: Most of them are Republicans. Most of them -- actually, most are pretty much independent, but will lean one way or another depending on who's in office.

NOVAK: You know, there's a lot -- a lot of Republican politicians are ex-wrestlers. Denny Hastert was a wrestler. Don Rumsfeld was a wrestler. What does wrestling and politics have in common?

(LAUGHTER)

LAYFIELD: Well, I think, if John Kerry was a wrestler, he'd probably have several more Purple Hearts by now. (LAUGHTER)

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

LAYFIELD: And Al Franken was a wrestler, just to be fair to the left.

NOVAK: That's right. Abraham Lincoln was a wrestler, wasn't he?

LAYFIELD: That's right.

CARVILLE: You know, one of the things that these Republicans, somebody will say, they're wearing purple Band-Aids. Of course, that's President Bush's health care plan that they're promoting out there.

(LAUGHTER)

NOVAK: All right. So are you giving speeches around the wrestling rings of the country for the president?

LAYFIELD: Sure. I support George Bush. I think that their foreign policy is pretty much identical.

John Kerry lately has tried to become more hawkish than Teddy Roosevelt. But I think their domestic policy right now is the difference. The repeal of the capital gains and dividend taxes significantly hurts the economy. You grow out of a deficit. You don't tax your way out of a deficit.

NOVAK: What do you think wrestling fans are mostly, Republicans or Democrats, the fans?

LAYFIELD: They're mainly Southern people, which, you know, Southern people tend to lean toward the Republican Party.

NOVAK: So it's...

LAYFIELD: Except in Cajun country.

CARVILLE: There you go.

NOVAK: Stock car drivers, racing fans, wrestling fans, all of them tend to vote for Bush. Is that right?

LAYFIELD: We get to carry guns and we have the death penalty. So, yes.

(CROSSTALK)

(LAUGHTER)

NOVAK: And the garden clubs vote for Kerry. Is that...

LAYFIELD: Yes, they do.

(LAUGHTER)

LAYFIELD: Stereotypes -- stereotypes abound.

CARVILLE: Wow. Here's a guy with three Purple Hearts, a Silver Star, a Bronze Star, and the garden clubs vote for him, but the uber- patriots go to -- OK, I got you. No problem.

(LAUGHTER)

NOVAK: All right, thank you very much.

CARVILLE: Thank you.

NOVAK: John Bradshaw Layfield.

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

NOVAK: And from the right, I'm Robert Novak. Join us again next time for another edition of CROSSFIRE.

"WOLF BLITZER REPORTS" starts right now.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

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