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White House Up For Grabs
Aired October 19, 2004 - 16:30 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ANNOUNCER: CROSSFIRE. On the left, James Carville and Paul Begala; on the right, Robert Novak and Tucker Carlson.
In the CROSSFIRE: Two weeks to go and the battle for the White House is still up for grabs. George W. Bush and John Kerry are hitting every swing state they can.
SEN. JOHN KERRY (D-MA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I believe that we need a president who defends America and fights for the middle- class at the same time.
GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: In this campaign, my opponent will say anything he thinks will benefit him politically at the time.
ANNOUNCER: The battle for the White House now in the homestretch -- today on CROSSFIRE.
ANNOUNCER: Live from the George Washington University, Paul Begala and Tucker Carlson.
PAUL BEGALA, CO-HOST: Hey, gang. Welcome to CROSSFIRE.
Senator John Kerry campaigned in Pennsylvania today, where he slammed President Bush for telling his wealthiest contributors that he wants to privatize Social Security. President Bush, meanwhile, was campaigning in Florida, which just goes to show you, Joe Friday was right on the old "Dragnet" show. They always return to the scene of the crime.
TUCKER CARLSON, CO-HOST: As the race revs up, the Bush-Cheney campaign is counting on some help from some stars of the fast track, NASCAR drivers are pushing the GOP ticket in some big battleground states. Good luck.
And then, Jon Stewart attacks us. We enjoy it. More later.
First, we begin with the best political briefing in television, our CROSSFIRE "Political Alert." John Kerry is man of principle, a senator who has deep and profound empathy for ordinary working people everywhere. He may have gone to a boarding school in Switzerland, but John Kerry cares about Joe Lunch Bucket. That's the campaign talking point, anyway. And that's why Kerry has steadfastly refused to cross picket lines in order to attend events, living his life in the spirit of Walter Reuther and all that.
Well, times have changed for John Kerry. Last night, he crossed not one, but two police union picket lines as his motorcade headed to a get-out-the-vote rally in Orlando, Florida. His explanation, the union in question is mostly Republican. And for that reason, it's not even really a union, but, in the words of one of Kerry's spokesman, -- quote -- "an organization."
In other words, the dignity of the working man is worth supporting when it helps you get elected. Otherwise, step on it. We're late for the rally.
CARLSON: Come on.
CARLSON: I think it's nonsensical, anyway. But...
BEGALA: I didn't see that story. And if in fact he did that, then good for you for pointing out the hypocrisy. But I went this weekend and went to UAW Local 600, Walter Reuther's local, and I have no doubt...
CARLSON: Oh, the mafia-controlled one?
BEGALA: ... who working men and women -- no. Jerry Sullivan is the president.
Who working men and women are going to support. See, any time working people get together, you want to say that it's the mafia. I think Halliburton is more like the mafia than a UAW is.
CARLSON: I bet you anything that the exit polling will show that John Kerry will not take more than 50 percent of union members in
CARLSON: I'm serious.
BEGALA: Strongly disagree. We'll wait and see.
CARLSON: In heavy industry and, like, manufacturing? No way.
BEGALA: We'll wait and see when the election results come back.
Well, today's "New York Times" reports that President Bush ignored former Joint Chief of Staffs Chairman General Hugh Shelton, who warned the Bush administration about post-Saddam chaos and worried that we didn't have enough troops. Mr. Bush also ignored the advice of Army Chief of Staff General Eric Shinseki, a combat hero who ran peacekeeping in Kosovo, where we didn't lose a single soldier.
Ambassador Jim Dobbins, Mr. Bush's special envoy to Afghanistan, also warned that the occupation of Iraq should be modeled on Kosovo. But Ambassador Dobbins says Mr. Bush didn't want to base any of his plans on models from the Clinton administration. One retired general tells "The Times," the insurgency was not inevitable. It happened, he says, because we did not have enough troops.
And the reason we didn't have enough troops, Mr. President, is because you didn't want to deal with reality.
CARLSON: I don't really understand the argument.
CARLSON: I think it is fair to say and it is in fact true that the administration did not anticipate the chaos that could break out in Iraq. And that's a real strike against them.
However, I don't understand your argument that the war itself was unjust, immoral, in John Kerry's words, wrong, and yet we ought to have sent more troops to prosecute that. It's insane.
BEGALA: Yes, because I think it was both immoral and incompetent.
BEGALA: Yes, it was wrong to have the war to begin with, but he should have listened to people like General Shelton, General Shinseki and Ambassador Dobbins, who knew more than Bush did and were right.
CARLSON: A lot of them were making the argument, if you remember, that we needed more troops to invade and conquer Iraq.
BEGALA: No, these were all generals who said to pacify and then do peacekeeping.
CARLSON: I remember it quite well at the time. (CROSSTALK)
BEGALA: Well, these men said that we needed more to pacify the country. They were right. Bush was wrong.
CARLSON: Well, here is a more interesting question. Who is exactly John Kerry?
With only two weeks to go until the presidential election, many voters are asking themselves exactly that. And no wonder, because it turns out that John Kerry is precisely who you would like him to be, urbane and worldly in some environments, blunt talking and earthy in others. John Kerry is willing to assume whatever persona he thinks will most effectively get your vote. He'll even speak French, as he did the other day on the campaign trail. Listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KERRY: (SPEAKING IN FRENCH)
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CARLSON: Oui, oui, whatever that means.
CARLSON: Now, contrast that John Kerry with the one sucking up to rural voters at a stop in Ohio this Saturday.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KERRY: Can I get me a hunting license here?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CARLSON: Can I get me a hunting license here?
CARLSON: Later, he doubtless asked for some moonshine. Can I get me a hunting license here? This from a man who has never conjugated a sentence incorrectly in his entire life.
BEGALA: Well, but if you're going to point that phoniness out, look at George W. Bush, a product of Andover, Yale, and Harvard.
He was an Andover cheerleader and he pretends like he's Mr. Green Jeans on his ranch.
CARLSON: But you know what? (CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
BEGALA: As I've said before, no. It's the phoniest thing I have ever seen before. As a real Texan with real cowboy boots, I can tell you, if George W. Bush is a rancher, I am a Hasidic diamond merchant, Tucker.
CARLSON: And I need a ring.
But let me just say really quickly, Bush never breaks character. He is who he is.
BEGALA: He's phony all the time.
CARLSON: No, no. He is who he is all the time.
CARLSON: In the space of one week, he does not speak French and then, can I get me a hunting license?
BEGALA: Bush speaks Spanish, which makes him bi-ignorant.
BEGALA: But the good news of today is that the government has found two million more doses of flu vaccine. The bad news is, we still need 45 million more.
President Bush is of course passing the buck on the issue, blaming trial lawyers. Now, Mr. Bush hasn't exactly teased out why trial lawyers are responsible for a plant in England producing contaminated vaccine or how trial lawyers kept his administration from acting to address the crisis. Look, if President Bush were honest, he would just say this. Vaccine makers are already given significant protection from lawsuits.
The real problem is that making vaccines just isn't as profitable as making breakthrough life-saving miracle drugs, well, like Viagra, for example.
BEGALA: Now, for the children who may be watching who don't know what Viagra is, let me put it this way. It's a special medicine for a man's, um, well, Jon Stewart would say a man's Tucker Carlson.
CARLSON: You know what, though, Paul, why is it...
CARLSON: First of all, Viagra is life-saving and miraculous. BEGALA: For Republican men, I know. It's...
CARLSON: And, second, why is it that the Democratic Party is so relentlessly anti-erection? I think it is.
CARLSON: I mean it. I mean it. It is the feminist influence. Now, you need to throw off the influence of
CARLSON: ... and all those other nut cases who
BEGALA: Of whom?
CARLSON: I'm just saying -- of the '70s feminists, who literally still have your party in its thrall. And, therefore, it's somehow, Viagra is wrong.
CARLSON: It's ridiculous.
BEGALA: We will have that debate more later, probably off camera.
Two weeks from today, over 100 million Americans will celebrate the end of negative ads and phony photo-ops and canned sound bites. But until then, we intend to bring them to you in big heaping, steaming globs.
And then, hey, Jon, how did you like your appearance on CROSSFIRE?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "THE DAILY SHOW WITH JON STEWART")
JON STEWART, HOST: Uncomfortable.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BEGALA: Tucker and I will share our thoughts on a memorable program later in this one.
Stay with us.
BEGALA: Welcome back to CROSSFIRE.
With just two weeks to go in the election, President Bush is claiming that Senator John Kerry will say anything to win. Kerry responded by saying, duh.
BEGALA: No, actually, the senator said he's worried that President Bush's reported promise to privatize Social Security is the one promise Mr. Bush will actually keep.
In the CROSSFIRE to discuss the latest from the campaign trail, Republican Congressman Mike Pence of Indiana and Democratic Congressman Harold Ford Jr. of Tennessee.
CARLSON: Congressman Ford, thanks
CARLSON: Fascinating. Nice to see you. Thanks.
Fascinating exchange, fascinating exchange on "Meet the Press" on Sunday. Tim Russert had on, among other people, Inez Tenenbaum, who is a Democrat running for the open Senate seat there. And he asked her this -- quote -- "Even without finding weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, do you still think the war is justified?"
She said -- quote -- "I do believe because we needed to remove Saddam Hussein." She went on to elaborate. She's one of many Democrats running for Senate this year who are taking a position completely opposite John Kerry.
CARLSON: What does that tell you about your party if the leading Senate candidates aren't even following the line of their nominee for president?
REP. HAROLD FORD (D), TENNESSEE: What Tim Russert didn't follow up with was, did you support how George Bush has waged the effort war after wards? And she went on in her comments, if you were to look at the entire transcript, to say that much of what was said in "The New York Times" this morning, that we didn't have enough troops on the ground, there was not enough attention paid to how we would win the peace, sustain the peace, bring more countries to the table and alleviate the burden on our troops and even our Treasury.
CARLSON: Those are all criticisms..
FORD: And I take the position that she does. I believe that removing Saddam Hussein was a smart thing to do. The question now is that we're on the ground there, are we doing the right things now? And I think it is resounding no.
CARLSON: Right. And there's almost a bipartisan consensus that the occupation has been flawed. A lot of Republicans are saying that, too.
But there's a principle here and it's one that John Kerry has articulated pretty clearly. He said, this is the wrong war. We shouldn't have gone to war. It was wrong, morally wrong.
CARLSON: And yet you, Tom Daschle, Salazar in Colorado, Brad Carson in Oklahoma, Erskine Bowles in North Carolina, all big-time Democrats all taking your position, but not John Kerry's.
FORD: I don't think the gap is as big between their argument and John Kerry's argue that you think. I think it's really about the same.
John Kerry has said over and over again if he had the opportunity to do it over again, he would have voted for the authorization for the use of force.
CARLSON: That's insane, though, don't you think?
FORD: No, I don't because he's saying, I would have done it differently.
I don't think there's anything wrong with giving the president the right to use force. The question is, how do you use it? And this president went about it in a way that not only has not won us peace in Iraq, but it's actually increased the ire against Americans all across the Middle East and for that matter the world.
BEGALA: Well, in fact, Congressman Pence -- first, good to see you again. Thanks for coming back.
BEGALA: The John Kerry campaign today -- straight from Harold Ford's lips to your TV sets -- they made a new ad about Iraq, alleging that the president -- well, let me just show you the ad. Here's a piece of John Kerry's new ad.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, AD)
NARRATOR: We see it for ourselves, the mess in Iraq created by George Bush, over 1,000 U.S. soldiers killed, kidnappings, Americans held hostage. Bush sees nothing wrong. It is time for a fresh start. (END VIDEO CLIP)
BEGALA: How can the president solve a problem when he can't see the problem?
REP. MIKE PENCE (R), INDIANA: Well, first, you have got to speak the truth here, Paul. George W. Bush didn't make the mess in Iraq. Saddam Hussein did.
Saddam Hussein, through a quarter of a century of tyranny of his people that claimed the lives of over a million Iraqis, made a mess of that nation.
BEGALA: So Colin Powell didn't tell Saddam Hussein, you break it, you own it. He told the president of the United States, you break it, you own it. The president broke it. We own it, right? Shouldn't he have
BEGALA: ... at least a plan to fix it?
PENCE: I understand the Pottery Barn rule of world politics, Paul.
PENCE: But, look, bottom line, the bottom line is that the United States of America was right to go in. Saddam Hussein had a weapons program. He may not have had WMDs, but he had a WMD program. He used WMD in the past.
PENCE: Harold even knows this.
He associated with known terrorists organizations and had an appalling record on human rights. George W. Bush was right to lead this international coalition against Iraq.
BEGALA: The question was about the president's prosecution of it.
I disagree with Congressman Ford and with you. I think the war was wrong. I think it was stupid. But, be that as it may, what is Kerry saying
BEGALA: ... is that the president has prosecuted it wrong.
Here is what General Hugh Shelton, a former four-star general, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told "The New York Times": "Some military men, though, were worried the administration would be caught short. General Hugh Shelton, who served as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff during the Bush administration, was one of them. General Shelton had contacts in the Middle East who had warned him Iraq could devolve into chaos after Mr. Hussein was deposed. He cautioned, it was important to have enough troops to deal with the unexpected."
Why did the president so pigheadedly ignore the advice of sound military leaders like General Shelton?
PENCE: Well, this president didn't ignore the advice of military leaders, Paul. This is a commander in chief who -- one of the reasons that 69 percent of American men and women in uniform support the president of the United States for reelection, according to most surveys, is because they understand this is a commander in chief who listens to his commanders in the field.
And this is a president who has made sure that our soldiers have had everything they need to get the job done and come home safe as we advance the cause of American interests and liberty in the world, even in Baghdad.
FORD: But it is hard to make that this way. I think it's hard to make that point that he's -- the president is the commander in chief. And I read some of the comments that the president and others have made that he listened to the generals and he followed their orders.
We didn't elect the generals. We elected the president. And the president has made a set of decisions that frankly have not benefited the soldiers, to the point we wouldn't have platoons refusing to protect the country and refusing to fulfill missions...
FORD: ... if indeed there wasn't something wrong on the ground.
FORD: I'll give you some of your point, but you can't have it both ways.
PENCE: When I was young and when you were younger, we had Vietnam.
FORD: I wasn't born yet, but I hear you. I hear you.
PENCE: I was pretty young. I'm not as old as I look.
But, look, we had Vietnam. And it was an example, as history records, of politicians making the decisions in the field. President George W. Bush listens to his commanders in the field. And Tommy Franks on the...
CARLSON: I want to ask Mr. Ford a question. I'm sorry. I feel like, we're not going settle the war question in the time allotted. So let me move on to something else.
Both parties, of course, use scare tactics in campaigns. I think the Democrats specialize in them, you know, elect the other guy and we'll bring back the draft, the poll tax, whatever. Social Security is a favorite.
I want to read you sort of an amazing quote from John Kerry about Social Security privatization and President Bush's plan. Citing estimates from the CBO, Kerry said Bush's Social Security plan would mean -- quote -- "benefit cuts for seniors of between 25 percent and 45 percent. That's up to $500 less for food, for clothing, for the occasional gift for a grandchild."
CARLSON: Now, occasional -- if you back Bush's plan on Social Security, you are not going to be able to buy presents for your grandkids? You're going to have to eat dog food? This is not only false. It is stupid, isn't it? They're not going to get anywhere with this.
FORD: You and I are enormously blessed. We don't have the threat of that actually happening to us.
But when you look at seniors, if the president gets his way and we're able to shift a portion of Social Security money into the markets and we privatize part of it, we run the risk of this happening, not just because we are going to privatize Social Security, but because we're running $400-billion-plus-a-year deficits as far as the eye can see.
FORD: We have commitments overseas as far as the eye can see.
And then we have an entitlement program, as you well know, Tucker, that, over the next 10 years, with the baby boomers retiring at the rate that they will...
CARLSON: Then why do 56 percent of the people asked support it?
BEGALA: Here's why. Because the president hasn't leveled with them. It costs, according to that same Congressional Budget Office study, an independent, nonpartisan group, whose head is appointed by the Republicans, who run Congress, said that to take Mr. Bush's plan and put it into effect would cost $2 trillion immediately. Where is that $2 trillion going to come from, Congressman?
PENCE: Well, I'll tell you what, Paul.
The investment in the transition that would be necessary, you're absolutely correct. It would be necessary. If we allowed younger Americans to invest a portion of their payroll taxes in Social Security, it would be costly.
BEGALA: Where is it going to come from?
PENCE: Paul, it pales in comparison to the John Kerry plan, which is to do nothing, except make more empty promises about Social Security.
BEGALA: We will argue about Kerry. I like Kerry's plan. But where is the money going to come from? If Bush is going to promise us a plan that costs $2 trillion...
PENCE: Baby boomers -- Paul, baby boomers are going to come of age in the next 15 years. And all of the promises that we have made without reform can simply not be kept without crushing the American people.
CARLSON: All right. All right. I'm sorry. We're going to have to cut you off. We're going to take a quick commercial break.
Next in "Rapid Fire," we'll ask if John Kerry went a little too far in trying to sound like the common man. Later, Jon Stewart says everyone here at CROSSFIRE ought to change his name to Richard. We'll tell you why.
We'll be right back.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Wolf Blitzer in Washington.
Coming up at the top of the hour, President Bush promises help is on the way for people who need flu shots. Can the U.S. get more vaccine from Canada? We'll ask Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy Thompson. He will join me live. Just two weeks to go in the presidential campaign. Can the Democrats expect any serious help from former President Bill Clinton, who is recuperating from bypass surgery? And actual pictures from the Madrid train bombings as they happened.
All those stories, much more, only minutes away on "WOLF BLITZER REPORTS."
Now back to CROSSFIRE.
CARLSON: Welcome back.
Time for "Rapid Fire." Joining us, two of our all-time favorite guests, Democratic Congressman Harold Ford Jr. of Memphis, Tennessee, and Republican Congressman Mike Pence of Indiana.
BEGALA: Congressman Pence, "The New York Times"/CBS poll out today asked people a simple question: Is the country moving in the right direction or are we off on the wrong track? Solid majority, 57 percent, think we're on the wrong track. Why is President Bush so out of step with where the American people are?
PENCE: Well, I think the real story is that, despite that, in that poll and in survey after survey, even though people know it is tough at home, this economy, even though we have created two million jobs, is coming back slow, the situation overseas is very tough, but the people believe in the steady, strong leadership of George W. Bush. And that's why he's leading in the polls, Paul.
CARLSON: Congressman Ford, the other day, this weekend, in Ohio, John Kerry swaggers into a convenience store, Mr. Swiss Boarding School, and says -- quote -- "Can I get me a hunting license?"
CARLSON: Now, you're from Tennessee. If he tried that in your state, he would have been beaten up before he got out the door, just on principle, don't you think?
FORD: We would have gotten him a hunting license, first off, and said, anybody that has taken a shot for the country and fired a shot for the country, we'll give you one for free.
CARLSON: Oh, come on!
BEGALA: I want you on my team.
Congressman, the president -- again, on the flu vaccine -- and I mentioned this earlier in the program -- blames trial lawyers. He hates trial lawyers. Why, then, is he endorsing Mel Martinez, a good guy and a trial lawyer who is the Republican Senate candidate in Florida? He sued a church, a school, a doctor, politics, SeaWorld, Disney World, Shamu, Mickey Mouse?
BEGALA: Why is he endorsing a trial lawyer? Isn't the kind of hypocritical?
PENCE: It's not hypocritical at all. It shows what a big tent the Republican Party has, Paul.
PENCE: And I support Mel Martinez, too.
BEGALA: I like Mel. He's a good guy.
CARLSON: Congressman Ford, I'm sure you don't cross picket lines, because you care about the common man and organized labor. Don't you think it is repulsive that John Kerry crossed two of them in one day yesterday? Isn't that just wrong?
FORD: There's not a better friend in this presidential race to working men and women than John Kerry.
CARLSON: Why does he cross the picket line, then?
FORD: I'm sure that the working men and women wherever you suggest he may have crossed that picket line know that when they go the polls November 2 and cast a vote, that John Kerry will be the one looking out for them in the White House, not George Bush.
BEGALA: Congressman, yes or no? Does the president deserve any responsibility at all for the shortage of flu vaccines?
PENCE: I think this is a president who, like Harry Truman, would say, the buck stops here. He has taken that responsibility.
FORD: Except with the generals.
PENCE: We're going to meet that need and the American people need to be confident of that. This president will see to the health of this nation, including providing flu vaccines.
BEGALA: Congressman Mike Pence, Republican of Indiana, Congressman Harold Ford Jr., Democrat of Tennessee, thank you both very much. A lot of fun.
BEGALA: It's Congressman Ford's mama's birthday.
(CROSSTALK) FORD: Happy birthday, mom.
I know she's watching. It's her birthday today. That's why I'm back in D.C.
BEGALA: Happy birthday to Mrs. Ford.
Well, Jon Stewart on CROSSFIRE, television that was just about guaranteed to make you as uncomfortable as a porcupine in a balloon factory.
Stay with us and see more.
CARLSON: Welcome back to CROSSFIRE.
You may have seen our Friday show, where Jon Stewart of Comedy Central arrived to lecture us on our moral inferiority. We're bad, very, very bad. Well, he finally left, went back to his own show, "The Daily Show." This is what he said about us last night.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "THE DAILY SHOW WITH JON STEWART")
STEWART: And, honestly, I didn't mean that just Tucker was a (EXPLETIVE DELETED) I really think they're all (EXPLETIVE DELETED) honestly.
STEWART: It's not -- and I didn't want to offend the other three by not including them.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CARLSON: You know, there is some truth in that. It doesn't bother me at all.
BEGALA: ... called a body part. I should have responded, well, he's a pituitary gland. He's a uvula. Jon is a uvula.
BEGALA: But I think it shows the power of CROSSFIRE. The man comes out here at the beginning of the show earnestly decrying how we coarsen the culture. And within 20 minutes, he is calling you a vulgar term.
CARLSON: Right. I know.
BEGALA: Welcome to the dark side, Jon.
CARLSON: It's not AIDS. It's not Iraq. It's not the deficit. Indeed, it's CROSSFIRE that is killing America.
BEGALA: Exactly. We're the reason 138,000 men are stranded in the desert, right?
BEGALA: It's because of us.
CARLSON: I feel personally responsible.
BEGALA: Well, you see, Jon, you have united right and left. You have accomplished your mission.
BEGALA: From the left, I'm Paul "Richard" Begala. That's it for CROSSFIRE.
CARLSON: And from the right, I'm Tucker Carlson. Join us again for more CROSSFIRE tomorrow. See you then.
"WOLF BLITZER REPORTS" starts right now.
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