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CNN CROSSFIRE

Vice Presidential Candidates Trade Punches

Aired October 6, 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 running mates trade punches in the battleground state of Ohio on Iraq and the war on terror. Edwards questions the administration's ability to lead. Cheney goes for a knockout over experience.

SEN. JOHN EDWARDS (D-NC), VICE PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Mr. Vice President, you are still not being straight with the American people.

DICK CHENEY, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: And, Senator, frankly, you have a record in the Senate that's not very distinguished.

ANNOUNCER: And, at the top of the ticket, the senator and president pick up where they left off last week.

SEN. JOHN KERRY (D-MA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We're learning every day more and more about how this administration misled us into Iraq. Every day you pick up the paper, you hear something more.

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: He said terrorists are pouring across the Iraqi border, but also said that fighting those terrorists is a diversion from the war on terror.

(LAUGHTER)

BUSH: You hear all of that and you understand why somebody would make a face.

(LAUGHTER)

ANNOUNCER: Getting ready for the next debate -- today on CROSSFIRE.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ANNOUNCER: Live from Cleveland, Ohio, with CNN's Election Express, Paul Begala and Tucker Carlson.

TUCKER CARLSON, CO-HOST: Welcome to CROSSFIRE.

We're continuing our yearlong nationwide tour. Today, we're coming to you from Cleveland, Ohio, site, of course, of last night's presidential debate, where Dick Cheney projected strength, stability and good grammar while touting the administration's accomplishments and pointing out his opponent's almost unbelievably pathetic attendance record at his day job in the U.S. Senate.

PAUL BEGALA, CO-HOST: But, while Vice President Cheney claimed he had met Edwards, a quick check of the facts shows that they met several times, at least three times before, including sitting side by side at the National Prayer Breakfast. Well, maybe our prayerful vice president should remember what the Eighth Commandment says about bearing false witness.

We will debate Mr. Cheney's veracity and then shift our attention to Saint Louis, where President Bush and Senator Kerry will have a town hall meeting debate on Friday.

But first, we'll begin, as we always do, with the best little political briefing in television, the CROSSFIRE "Political Alert."

Vice President Cheney said a remarkable thing in last night's debate.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CHENEY: The senator's got his facts wrong. I have not suggested there's a connection between Iraq the 9/11.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BEGALA: Huh?

On September 14, 2003, Mr. Cheney said on "Meet the Press" -- and I'm quoting here -- quote -- "If we're successful in Iraq, we will have struck a major blow right at the geographic base of the terrorists who have had us under assault for many years, but most especially on 9/11.

Also on "Meet the Press," Cheney was asked if he was surprised that 69 percent of Americans said that Saddam was involved in 9/11. He replied, "No, I think it's not surprising that people make that connection." And Cheney called the widely discredited charge that the 9/11 hijacker Mohamed Atta met with Saddam's officials in Prague -- quote -- "pretty well confirmed."

Boy, it's a good thing the vice president was sitting when he said those things last night, because when he was saying there was no link between 9/11 and Saddam, his pants were on fire.

CARLSON: Look, Cheney has said from the very beginning that the war in Iraq is the main front in the war on terrorism. Either you accept that or you don't. But his argument has remained consistent. He's never claimed that Saddam was involved in the planning of 9/11. But he's always said that, if we want to fight terrorism, we've got to do it in Iraq.

(CROSSTALK)

(BELL RINGING)

BEGALA: That's not what he said last night. He said I have never suggested a link. And he has repeatedly. He lied.

CARLSON: He did not lie.

BEGALA: He lied.

CARLSON: Come on, Paul.

BEGALA: Look, Dick Cheney lied.

CARLSON: Please.

Several months ago, New York Congressman and frequent CROSSFIRE guest Charlie Rangel introduced a bill to reinstate the draft. Well, since 1973, of course, America has maintained a volunteer Army. The public wants it that way and so does the White House. And so, most important, does the Pentagon, which believes that volunteers make much better soldiers than conscripts.

But Rangel kept pushing the idea as a roundabout way to attack the Bush administration. And yesterday, House Republicans did something almost diabolical. They put Rangel's bill to a vote. You won't be surprised to learn it didn't pass. In fact, a total of 402 members of Congress opposed it. Only two voted for the bill. And neither one of those was Charlie Rangel. That's right. Congressman Charlie Rangel voted against his own bill.

Yet, that did not keep Democrats from accusing Republicans of -- quote -- "cynicism." Got that? You sponsor a legislation you don't even vote for and it's the other guy who's cynical. So if you're looking for a definition of chutzpah, there you have it.

(LAUGHTER)

BEGALA: That is a fair point.

But it's also chutzpah for these same Republicans. Will they vote for a bill to stop President Bush's back-door draft of the Guard, the Reserve, the retired military, who he's dragging back in because he doesn't have enough manpower in the current Army?

(CROSSTALK)

CARLSON: As someone who opposes the I think much overuse of National Guardsmen and Reservists, I still think it's insulting to call it a back-door draft.

(BELL RINGING)

BEGALA: It is.

CARLSON: It's not a back-door draft. It's wrong for a bunch of other reasons, but wrong...

(CROSSTALK)

BEGALA: It is a back-door -- it is a back-door draft.

CARLSON: It is not a draft.

(CROSSTALK)

CARLSON: That's a campaign talking point.

BEGALA: No, these folks should be allowed to retire. Kerry wants to increase the size of the Army. That would solve that problem.

Anyway, back in June, President Bush was asked if he still thought Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction when he invaded Iraq -- quote -- "Wait until Charlie gets back with the final report," he replied. Well, Mr. President, Charlie's back. That would be Charles Duelfer, Mr. Bush's chief weapons hunter.

He's written a 1,000-page report that concludes that Saddam had no weapons of mass destruction, and the threat he posed was diminishing, not, as the president said, grave and growing. U.S. officials told today's "Washington Post" that the report concludes that Saddam -- quote -- "did not possess or have concrete plans to develop nuclear, chemical, or biological weapons" -- unquote.

No weapons, no threat, case closed, which means one of two things must be true. Either Mr. Bush deliberately misled the American people, or he desperately misjudged the threat, ignoring concrete evidence, diverting resources from the real war on terror and plunging America into a bloody and unnecessary war in Iraq. Dishonesty or incompetence, you choose, America.

CARLSON: It's an interesting question that ought to be posed to John Kerry, who supported the war on the basis of the same evidence. John Kerry never complained at the very beginning, even after he cast that vote, never even suggested that Iraq didn't have WMD. The Bush administration was totally wrong. And so was John Kerry.

(BELL RINGING)

BEGALA: But it is a canard -- it is a canard that the members of Congress get the same information.

CARLSON: And so was John Kerry.

BEGALA: They were not shown the dissenting views, the way the president was. So they did not get the same intelligence. That's not true.

CARLSON: I was here for this debate. We were engaged in it every day. Not one person, not one I ever heard suggest that Iraq did not have WMD. Not one person suggested that.

BEGALA: They were not a threat. That was the question. CARLSON: Well, there is not, as you know, if you watch this program, a single facet, not one, of your life, no matter how obscure, no matter how personal, that liberals would not like to completely control.

In recent years, Democrats have passed laws telling you what sort of words you can use in public, what sort of car you're allowed to do while, what you're allowed to do while driving it, even how much water you're allowed to have in your toilet at home, literally.

Now in California, which is, of course, the final frontier of authoritarian lifestyle liberalism, Democrats have passed a law governing what type of appetizers you're allowed to eat. Starting in 2007, the sale and manufacture of foie gras will be illegal in California, against the law, a punishable offense, like rape and grand larceny.

The reasoning? Goose liver pate is mean to geese. It kills them, for one thing. That's what animal rights activists say. To make the point, they vandalize restaurants that sell foie gras, even the home of a chef who makes it. And why not? Like many liberals, they know exactly what's good for you. And they plan to force it down your throat like a pate-bearing goose, whether you like it or not, all of which causes a problem for John Kerry. He wants to tell you what to do. On the other hand, pate is French, so he's for it. What does John Kerry do?

BEGALA: And who signed that law? Who signed that law?

CARLSON: The very liberal governor.

BEGALA: The Republican governor, Arnold Schwarzenegger, the guy who George...

(CROSSTALK)

CARLSON: Why do I care?

BEGALA: Let me make my point, the guy who George Bush asked to speak at the Republican Convention.

CARLSON: I agree.

(BELL RINGING)

BEGALA: So you libertarian Republicans, you can't be for Bush, because this is his kind of deal.

CARLSON: You know, it's Schwarzenegger's kind of deal.

BEGALA: It is.

CARLSON: Schwarzenegger is a liberal, as I think I've pointed out several thousand times. I don't care if he's a Republican or not. This is stupid, and he ought to stand up to it. BEGALA: Well, both party's partisans are claiming victory after last night's debates. We'll hear from both sides and review some of the highlights what was a just barely civil war in a minute.

And then later, why is Michael Moore giving away free underwear? That's a combination you don't want to think about in the late afternoon, do you? We'll tell you why in a minute.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BEGALA: Welcome back to CROSSFIRE.

Democrats today are pointing to several statements Vice President Cheney made in last night's debate that they say are flat-out false, including Cheney's best line, that he had never met John Edwards before the debate. I guess it wouldn't have been dramatic enough for Vice President Cheney to say, well, we've never met except for that three-hour prayer breakfast and the two other times we met.

So you've heard from the pundits. You've heard from the partisans. But how did the debate play with swing voters in this key swing state of Ohio? Well, we've got two northern Ohio mayors, both cities been hard hit by economic downturn. They're on different sides of the fence, though, in this election. Today in the CROSSFIRE, Cleveland's mayor, Jane Campbell. She is supporting my guy, John Kerry.

JANE CAMPBELL (D), MAYOR OF CLEVELAND: Absolutely.

BEGALA: And Brecksville, Ohio, Mayor Jerry Hruby. He's the regional chair for the Bush/Cheney campaign here in Ohio.

Thanks both, Mayors.

(CROSSTALK)

CAMPBELL: Good to be here.

CARLSON: Now, Mayor Campbell, the point that the vice president was making last night was that he's never met John Edwards in the Senate, which he presides as the president of the Senate, because Edwards never shows up for work. Almost 70 percent of Intelligence Committee hearings, he has missed.

I wonder, as the mayor of Cleveland, what would happen to you if you missed as much work as John Edwards has? Do you think you would be reelected?

CAMPBELL: Well, you know what? I will tell you what. I think that it was completely the wrong question.

No. 1, that's not what he said. He didn't say, I never met you in the Senate. He said, I never met you at all. And he sat next to him. It just shows what we saw. Cheney had a hard time with the truth.

CARLSON: Right.

CAMPBELL: A hard time with reality.

CARLSON: OK, he may be evil and duplicitous, but the question remains, would you be reelected as mayor of Cleveland if you had missed as much work as John Edwards has, who basically doesn't show up for his day job for which he's paid a lot of money by taxpayers?

CAMPBELL: The real question is, what is it that you do that's the most important activity?

And whether going to that particular committee meeting was the most important activity or whether working with his constituents, I don't know that particular tale. I will tell you what. In my job as mayor, on any given day, there's about four different places I should be. And I make a decision about what's the most important thing for me to do.

And I'll tell you, what we have seen in this administration is that, when we've needed the federal government, they haven't been there. When we've turned around and we're talking about protecting our people, they're withdrawing money for police on the streets. And then they're saying that that creates security. That is not security in this community.

BEGALA: Mayor Hruby, first, thank you for joining us. Good to see you.

JERRY HRUBY (R), MAYOR OF BRECKSVILLE: Thank you. Thank you.

BEGALA: Let me set aside for a second this question about whether Dick Cheney met John Edwards at a prayer breakfast, which we have film of them at together, and ask you about a more important falsehood -- I'll be polite -- that the vice president issued last night.

Here's Vice President Cheney in last night's debate. Take a look.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CHENEY: The senator has got his facts wrong. I have not suggested there's a connection between Iraq and 9/11.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BEGALA: I have not suggested there was a connection between Iraq and 9/11. Here's the vice president last year on "Meet the Press." I'm quoting him verbatim.

"If we're successful in Iraq, We will have struck a major blow right at the heart of the base, if you will, the geographic base of the terrorists who have had us under assault now for many years, but most especially on 9/11."

There's Vice President Cheney contradicting himself in his own words. Don't you think he should at least he tell the truth?

HRUBY: Well, first of all, I don't believe he lied at all. I think...

BEGALA: Really? That's not suggesting that 9/11 and Saddam were linked?

(CROSSTALK)

HRUBY: He made his facts very clear last night, and he answered the question very directly.

I think it's just -- again, it just shows the ineptness of Senator Edwards, who doesn't know the issues, who doesn't understand foreign policy, wasn't even there at the intelligence briefings to understand these facts. So...

BEGALA: OK, let me follow the Republican logic.

HRUBY: You go ahead.

BEGALA: Cheney lies and its Edwards' fault. Dick Cheney said, I never suggested that there was a link. I just read you one. I could read you five more that CNN and other news organizations have uncovered. Cheney repeatedly has tried to suggest to the American people that Saddam had something to do with 9/11. And last night, he ran away from it like the devil runs from holy water. Why?

HRUBY: Well, again, I disagree with you. I don't believe that he lied. I think he answered the question quite directly then. He explained his position.

And then that's the bottom line. I think everybody that's making a spin out of it is making a spin out of it to try to save some of the credibility of Kerry in what he said last night -- I mean not Kerry, but Edwards, what he said last night. The Kerry-Edwards team obviously has no idea of what foreign policy is. They have no idea what really is going on in a post-9/11 world. And they're pre-post- 9/11 in their thinking.

So I disagree and I reject your idea that the vice president lied. He's an honorable man. And without question, he is doing an outstanding job as our vice president.

CARLSON: Now, Mayor Campbell, the most fascinating moment for me watching last night's debate, Senator Edwards claiming that this administration has botched the war in Iraq, you rushed into it and, most important, you didn't bring along enough allies, turning then to a historic example, the first Gulf War of 1991. That's the way you wage war, John Edwards implied last night.

Of course, his running mate, John Kerry, head of the ticket, voted against that war. Do you think Edwards was aware of that when he pointed to that war as the model war? CAMPBELL: I think the bottom line is that what you saw last night was that John Edwards was saying, let's look at what's happened. There was an outline of what was supposed to happen.

First off, what were we told? There were weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. It turns out that wasn't the case. That there was a tie, some kind of a tie between Iraq and al Qaeda. Turns out that wasn't the case. And then that there was a plan. And what we see now is we have more people die every single month.

(CROSSTALK)

CAMPBELL: More people died in September than died in August.

CARLSON: No, I understand. I'm just trying to get to the...

(CROSSTALK)

CAMPBELL: It's not working.

CARLSON: The core attack -- and you may be right -- but the core attack on Kerry is, this guy doesn't really know what he believes.

And I want to know, as a supporter of his, if you are not troubled by this fact, that he is running away from a war he voted for and embracing a war he voted against. Doesn't that suggest to you that this guy really doesn't know what he thinks? Because that's what it suggests to me.

CAMPBELL: Well, I don't agree with your opinion. And let me tell you...

CARLSON: It's not an opinion. He's attacking a war he voted for and embracing one he voted against.

CAMPBELL: What we love about you is that you have firmly-held opinions.

(CROSSTALK)

CARLSON: Its true. That's not an opinion.

(LAUGHTER)

(CROSSTALK)

CAMPBELL: It's true for you. It's true for me. That's why this is a fun show, because your perception of reality and my perception of reality are different.

I'm telling you that the situation is -- and this -- Paul brought this out earlier. Here's the situation. The intelligence briefing that was given to the Congress didn't have the dissenting voices. And so the Congress that made a decision about whether they should vote to authorize the war believed that there were weapons of mass destruction. That was what was presented to them, no dissenting view. Well, we find out that they were misled. Now, in fact, what do you see? You see John Kerry saying, I voted based on the information I had. I agreed with it based on that information. They didn't give me all the information. Furthermore, right now, they're not acknowledging what's reality.

BEGALA: Let me bring Mayor Hruby back into this.

Mayor, today, "The Washington Post" reveals that Charles Duelfer, the president's top weapons hunter, has issued a report. Here's what "The Washington Post" summarized the report as saying: "The government's most definitive account of Iraq's arms to be released today will show that Saddam Hussein posed a diminishing threat at the time the U.S. invaded and did not possess or have concrete plans to develop nuclear, chemical or biological weapons."

Now, reasonable minds, I think, two years ago, could have concluded he had weapons of mass destruction. I don't fault the president for that. But he continues even this week to say that he was a growing threat, when his own report says he was a diminishing threat. Why won't the president level with us?

HRUBY: All right, first of all, the president is leveling with us.

He made it very clear when he spoke to the American public and told them that he, the president, had the same intelligence. John Kerry had the same intelligence. He knew exactly what was going on.

BEGALA: Do you believe that? Do you believe that 535 members of Congress get the same intelligence as the president of the United States? Because I worked for the president.

(CROSSTALK)

HRUBY: Senator Kerry is on the Intelligence Committee, when he shows up. And he certainly is given that briefing. And if he had an interest after 9/11 in what was going on in the world, he would certainly know that information.

But back to the weapons. Obviously, we have said, and we made it very clear that the weapons of mass destruction, the intelligence was somewhat flawed. But we made it also very clear, very clear, that Osama bin Laden was a threat and that the world is safer without Osama bin Laden.

(CROSSTALK)

BEGALA: But Osama bin Laden is still alive.

(CROSSTALK)

CARLSON: We're out of time for this segment.

(CROSSTALK) CARLSON: Mr. Mayor, Mrs. Mayor, Mr. Begala, I'm just going to have to cut you off very quickly. We're going to take a commercial break and we will return in mere moments.

Next, our guests enter the "Rapid Fire." And we ask, why was John Edwards getting into Dick Cheney's personal family life last night? What a creepy moment.

And right after the break, Wolf Blitzer has the latest on who is saying what about a new report on weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.

We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Wolf Blitzer in Washington.

Coming up at the top of the hour, weapons of mass destruction or not? We'll have the findings of a long-awaited CIA report on Iraq, and the fallout.

Two upcoming major events, why some fear they could move terrorists to attack.

Plus, a look inside the federal prison where Martha Stewart will soon make her home, at least for five months. CNN has some exclusive pictures. All those stories, much more, only minutes away on "WOLF BLITZER REPORTS."

Now back to CROSSFIRE.

CARLSON: Welcome back to CROSSFIRE, coming to live from Cleveland, Ohio.

It's time for "Rapid Fire," where we flip questions over quicker than John Kerry can flop back.

(LAUGHTER)

CARLSON: Joining us, Cleveland Mayor Jane Campbell and also Brecksville, Ohio, Mayor Jerry Hruby.

BEGALA: Mayor Hruby, you're a family values man. Do you think it's a sin to lie about a prayer breakfast?

(LAUGHTER)

HRUBY: Do I think it's a sin to lie about a prayer breakfast?

Let's talk about values. If you want to talk about values, we'll talk about values. We know where the president stands on certain issues, social issues that are there. We know where the president stands about, in his convictions, his faith and his strong faith. And I won't go any further than that with that one.

BEGALA: Amen. (LAUGHTER)

CARLSON: Mayor Campbell, last night, John Edwards comes out and says, hey, Dick Cheney, how's your gay daughter?

Why would he say something like that? I thought that was awful and very uncomfortable. Why would he say that?

CAMPBELL: Well, let me tell you, I don't ever think you should go towards someone's children.

CARLSON: Yes. Amen.

CAMPBELL: I think that's off limits.

CAMPBELL: But why did he raise the question? He raised the question because President Bush is trying to amend the United States Constitution to divide us, trying to amend the Constitution.

CARLSON: Shouldn't you keep Dick Cheney's kids out of it, though, when you talk about it?

CAMPBELL: Let's talk about the issue.

(CROSSTALK)

CAMPBELL: Who introduced this whole issue of gay marriage? This is a crazy issue to be on the public debate. The fact of the matter is that no state is required to recognize any other state's marriage. And it's straight politics for Bush to introduce this right now and try to divide us at a time when we need every citizen

(CROSSTALK)

BEGALA: Mayor Hruby, we're almost out of time.

Just real quick...

(CROSSTALK)

HRUBY: This is not a new issue and I disagree totally with the mayor.

(CROSSTALK)

BEGALA: Let me move on to another issue. Don't you think it's hypocritical for Bush and Cheney, who got their jobs because they filed a lawsuit, to try to keep consumers from filing lawsuits against big corporations? It's kind of hypocritical, isn't it?

HRUBY: No, I don't think it's hypocritical. Do you?

BEGALA: Sure. They only got -- they lost the election. They won a lawsuit.

(CROSSTALK) CARLSON: Yes, it's a great question. Do you?

HRUBY: We're a kinder, gentler and compassionate group.

CARLSON: Amen.

(LAUGHTER)

HRUBY: You just want to keep bashing and bashing.

CARLSON: Exactly.

BEGALA: Yes, I do.

(CROSSTALK)

HRUBY: In the show, we need to get to the facts of what went on last night, what was really said.

CARLSON: Exactly. We are going to have to save the facts for another show.

HRUBY: Let's talk about -- and that's what the vice president did last night, talked about the facts. And he made a...

(CROSSTALK)

BEGALA: He made them up.

CARLSON: Mayor Hruby, thank you.

Mayor Campbell, thank you.

CAMPBELL: Thank you.

(CROSSTALK)

CARLSON: We appreciate it. It's a great state you have.

Why is Michael Moore hanging around dorm rooms giving away underwear? Not an attractive picture, but there is a political connection. We'll explain right after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CARLSON: Here are a couple of images that don't go great together, Michael Moore and underwear.

Well, Michigan's Republican Party is suggesting that Michael Moore may have broken the law in a get-out-the-vote effort. The plus- sized propagandist is touring the country encouraging young people to vote. He is promising college kids free underwear, snacks or a clean dorm room to vote for John Kerry. The GOP says offering something for a vote is illegal.

Maybe he should just offer to go away if people will vote for John Kerry. I think he would find a lot of takers, maybe even me.

BEGALA: I always thought Michael Moore would go commando.

From the left, I am Paul Begala. That's it for CROSSFIRE.

CARLSON: You know, Paul, that's just wrong. I can't get beyond that.

(LAUGHTER)

CARLSON: From the right, I'm Tucker Carlson. Join us again tomorrow from St. Louis. We'll be there. See you then.

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