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CNN CROSSFIRE

Too Close To Call?

Aired October 21, 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:

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: How many did you get, Senator? How many did you get?

SEN. JOHN KERRY (D-MA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Everybody got one.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Got one?

KERRY: Everybody got one.

ANNOUNCER: John Kerry bag as wild Ohio goose. Will his effort to get in touch with the common man also bag some votes? President Bush heads back to one of his favorite swing states, Pennsylvania, to talk about health care.

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We lead the world because we believe in a system of private medicine that encourages innovation and change.

ANNOUNCER: While Senator Kerry presses the case for stem cell research.

KERRY: With a dozen days to go, is this race still too close to call?

Today on CROSSFIRE.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ANNOUNCER: Live from the George Washington University, Paul Begala and Robert Novak.

(APPLAUSE)

PAUL BEGALA, CO-HOST: Hello, everybody. Welcome to CROSSFIRE.

Senator John Kerry went goose hunting in Ohio today, while President Bush campaigned on the issue of health care in Pennsylvania. Well, while Mr. Bush has great government provided health care for himself, he prefers a faith-based health care plan for you. That is, pray you don't get sick.

(LAUGHTER)

ROBERT NOVAK, CO-HOST: Senator Kerry delivered a speech today after two more staged photo-ops to show that he doesn't live like an upper-class liberal married to a billionaire.

(LAUGHTER)

NOVAK: In the camera's eye, he drank a beer while watching baseball last night. And then there was his hunting trip. And that is where we begin the best little political briefing in television, our CROSSFIRE "Political Alert."

John Kerry went hunting for geese in the battleground state of Ohio today. Hunting less than two weeks before Election Day? It's just another stunt to show that the most liberal member of the Senate is really a good old boy. Saying that he won't take your guns away from hunters is not saying that you support the Second Amendment's right to bear firearms in self-defense.

The National Rifle Association gives Kerry a grade of F, for fail. John Kerry posing as a protector of gun rights because he goes hunting with a Democratic congressman is like going to mass every Sunday, but violating the rights of the unborn. Oh, yes. John Kerry does that, too.

(APPLAUSE)

BEGALA: Well, Bob, as you know, I am a hunter, like John Kerry and like George W. Bush. And I can promise you, guarantee you, Democrats will not take your guns away. Here's why.

Because if we get four more years of Republican economics, they're going to take away your job. They're going to kill the minimum wage and your overtime, end your overtime, bust your pension, rage your union, cancel your health care. Social Security and Medicare will be -- you'll need the gun to shoot squirrels to feed your children. And so we will never take away your guns.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

(CROSSTALK)

NOVAK: You changed the subject. But, as a matter of fact, John Kerry is against the use of guns for self-defense and he votes for every gun control measure.

(BELL RINGING)

BEGALA: He's used a gun for self-defense, unlike President Bush, who only uses them on dove and deer and quail. John Kerry actually served our country and knows how to use a gun.

Well, the Bush White House today all but called Reverend Pat Robertson a liar. Reverend Robertson, of course, is a strong Bush supporter. He's also the founder of the conservative Christian Coalition. And he told CNN's Paula Zahn this week that when he warned President Bush about casualties in Iraq, the president blew him off, casualty insisting that there would be no casualties.

Three senior Bush administration aides now claim the president said no such thing, which would mean Reverend Robertson is a liar. But even before Reverend Robertson's comment, 63 percent of Protestant evangelicals, the president's base, told a "New York Times" poll in September they think the president is either hiding something or outright lying about Iraq.

Now, as a veteran political consultant, I have a theory as to why so many good Christians think the president is lying. Because he is.

(LAUGHTER)

(APPLAUSE)

NOVAK: As a veteran political reporter, I know that when you have a closed-door and a lot of different people, they come up with different impressions of what was said. It doesn't mean anybody is lying.

I happen to like Pat Robertson, just as I'm sure you don't. I think he sometimes gets something wrong. I can't imagine that the president said there would be no casualties. I think what he said was probably there would be less casualties than there were. And he was wrong on that.

BEGALA: Well, he was wrong about it.

(BELL RINGING)

BEGALA: But I don't like to -- I don't really know Pat Robertson. He's been on the show. He seems like a nice enough guy. But they shouldn't be smearing him like that.

NOVAK: In the candidates' wives' debate, Laura accepted Teresa's apology for saying Mrs. Bush never had a real job.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

LAURA BUSH, FIRST LADY: It didn't hurt my feelings. It was perfectly all right. And she apologized, but she didn't even really need to apologize. I know how tough it is. And actually, I, know those trick questions.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

NOVAK: That was classy.

But Mrs. Heinz Kerry apologized only for forgetting the president's wife was a librarian and a schoolteacher. What about the contempt for stay-at-home mothers? Four of the hardest working women I have known are my mother, my wife, my daughter, and my daughter-in- law. All left good jobs to raise children. What do so such women think of the billionaire ketchup heiress?

BEGALA: You know, they think she did a gracious thing by apologizing. Our first lady, Mrs. Bush, did a gracious thing by accepting it. But the right won't turn loose of it.

And I think it is instructive. The only working mom they seem to care about is the one who is married to George Bush. The only gay or lesbian they seem to care about is the one who is the daughter of Dick Cheney. Why don't they care about all the rest of us, except their own families? Because the only family the Republicans care about is their own.

Democrats are actually out there working for moms and dads and schoolteachers and librarians. And I think that's where the votes should be.

(APPLAUSE)

NOVAK: You avert the real issue.

The real issue is not whether she forgot she used to be a librarian. What if she never was a librarian?

(BELL RINGING)

NOVAK: Being a mother is a very tough job.

BEGALA: Absolutely.

NOVAK: And I'm sure your wife would be insulted if you said that's not a real job.

BEGALA: Absolutely. Absolutely.

(APPLAUSE)

BEGALA: My wife is insulted every time I come home from this show.

But, anyway, a new study from the Progressive Policy Institute examines the relative success of the Bush economic policy vs. the policies of President Clinton. Let's take a look at the stats.

Medium household income increased 1.65 percent every year that President Clinton was in office. It has gone down more than 1 percent every year President Bush has been in office. Clinton's economic plan created 23 million new jobs, most of them in the private sector. Mr. Bush has presided over a loss of 1.6 million jobs in the private sector. The number of people living in poverty went down by 2.3 percent every year under President Clinton. The number of people in poverty, by contrast, has shot up under President Bush by a stunning 4.3 percent per year.

And, yet, the Bush administration has claimed that this is the best economy in our lifetime, which is true if you're 3 years old.

(LAUGHTER)

NOVAK: You know, Paul, we have gone over this ground many times. But, as a matter of fact, you never can understand. I would love to give you a little tutorial on economics.

(LAUGHTER)

NOVAK: Presidents don't affect things the way you think they are. I create jobs. I take away jobs.

There are forces beyond the scope of presidents, like the war on terror, the recession he inherited. But I'll tell you this. If you didn't have the Bush tax cuts, we would not have the recovery we're having.

(BELL RINGING)

BEGALA: Well, we will forever be in his debt. That's for sure.

NOVAK: With just a dozen days to go before the election, John Kerry is hunting for votes in swing states like Ohio. Will it turn out to be a wild goose chase? And my co-host Paul should know animal acts are never safe, especially when the animal's middle name is Insult. That exchange comes up later on CROSSFIRE.

ANNOUNCER: Join Carville, Begala, Carlson and Novak in the CROSSFIRE. For free tickets to CROSSFIRE at the George Washington University, call 202-994-8CNN or visit our Web site. Now you can step into the CROSSFIRE.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(APPLAUSE)

BEGALA: Welcome back.

In just 12 days, you'll have the power to decide the leader of the free world. And on that day, all the ads and attacks will stop. All the photo-ops and the phony speeches will grind to a halt. And I have no idea what we'll do here.

But, until then, let's continue to marinate in campaign 2004. Democrat John Kerry was in Ohio to argue for stem cell research today. He was joined by the widow of his friend, actor and activist Christopher Reeve. President Bush, meanwhile, was in Pennsylvania, where the Republican Senator Arlen Specter is running ads touting his disagreement with President Bush over the stem cell issue.

Joining us in the CROSSFIRE to discuss this and everything else on the campaign trail, Ed Rogers, a Republican consultant, and Kerry adviser Ann Lewis, who is also the national chair for the Women's Vote Center of the Democratic National Committee.

(APPLAUSE)

NOVAK: Ann Lewis, I'm sure we had a sight today in Ohio that delighted you. It was the Democratic candidate with a shotgun and tromping in the woods. Now, why would he do that? The best analysis I've seen of that was made by one of my favorite political analysts, the vice president of the United States.

Let's listen to him.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DICK CHENEY, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: My personal opinion is that his new camo jacket is an October disguise, an effort he's making to hide the fact that he votes against gun-owner rights at every turn.

Because you and I know the Second Amendment is more than just a photo opportunity.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

NOVAK: Now, maybe you can explain it to me. Senator Kerry has voted against Second Amendment rights for 30 years -- 20 years, at least. Why would -- do you think that they think that people who are gun owners are that naive, they think he's suddenly a supporter of people having guns in self-defense?

ANN LEWIS, NATIONAL CHAIR, WOMEN'S VOTE CENTER: Well, I think Senator Kerry was making a very important point. He is a supporter of the Second Amendment. He's been a hunter, I think, he said since he was 12.

But you know what? You don't need an assault weapon to hunt geese. We had an assault weapon ban in effect five years, 1994.

(APPLAUSE)

LEWIS: And what happened? Nobody lost their right to go hunting. Hunters around America did not find their guns confiscated. We were safer. Our families were safer. Now we have got a president who says he is for the assault weapons ban, but refuses to stand up for it or to fight for it. That's a step backward. John Kerry wants to make clear where he stands.

(APPLAUSE)

NOVAK: You know, it is funny. Every time I ask Democrats about Second Amendment rights and I talk about guns as self-defense weapons, you always talk about hunting. I'm talking about self-defense.

But I want to give you another witness on this case to prove my point that he's not a Second Amendment supporter. It's John Kerry himself on CNN's "LATE EDITION" November 7, 1993, when you were just a young girl, Ann.

Let's look at this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "LATE EDITION")

KERRY: I think you should tax all ammunition more, personally. I think you ought to tax guns.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

NOVAK: The guy wants to tax guns. How could a gun owner possibly vote for him?

ED ROGERS, REPUBLICAN CONSULTANT: He's protecting everything else.

LEWIS: Well, maybe I missed it. But I think what he said in the Second Amendment said people have a right to own guns. It didn't say that you can't have a sales tax on them, which I think in some states you do.

(CROSSTALK)

LEWIS: Let's again be clear, be very clear. John Kerry says you have a right to own guns. That's the Second Amendment.

NOVAK: And they will be taxed. And they will be taxed.

LEWIS: And one of the votes that the NRA is complaining about and you're complaining, he voted for the Brady Bill, which says there ought to be a waiting period before people buy a gun, so we can check that they are neither a criminal, nor crazy. And he said, let's get assault weapons off the streets. That's common sense and it keeps our families safe.

(CROSSTALK)

(APPLAUSE)

ROGERS: Him posing as a hunter. I just want to say -- him posing as hunter isn't just deceptive. It is mocking people who care about guns and care about gun owner rights in America. It's ridiculous.

(CROSSTALK)

BEGALA: It doesn't mock me at all. He's a hunter. I'm a hunter.

ROGERS: You legitimately are. You legitimately are.

BEGALA: President Bush is a hunter.

(CROSSTALK)

BEGALA: All God's children are hunters.

(LAUGHTER)

(CROSSTALK)

BEGALA: Let's talk about something else, though. And that is what Senator Kerry said today in a more substantive event. He appeared, as I mentioned a moment ago, with the widow of his friend Christopher Reeve, who just passed away just a few weeks ago.

Well, here's what he -- he pointed out that President Bush opposes what Mr. Reeve had spent much of his life fighting for.

ROGERS: Not at all. Not at all. That's incorrect.

BEGALA: First, let's take a look and see what Senator Kerry said.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KERRY: You get the feeling that if George Bush had been president during other periods in American history, he would have sided with the candle lobby against electricity, the buggy-makers against cars and typewriter companies against computers.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(LAUGHTER)

BEGALA: Not a bad point. George Bush is against the progress of science, isn't he?

ROGERS: You know, but too bad his delivery is so droll and stiff.

(CROSSTALK)

BEGALA: As opposed to Dick Cheney, who is a barrel of laughs.

(LAUGHTER)

ROGERS: His news bites are really terrible.

(CROSSTALK)

BEGALA: Let's come back...

(CROSSTALK)

ROGERS: Come on. I'll put Cheney up against this guy any day.

BEGALA: We will on November 2.

(CROSSTALK)

BEGALA: I have a feeling how it's going to turn out.

ROGERS: Do you know what President Bush has called for in next year's budget for stem cell research? Do you know the number?

BEGALA: No. Tell me. ROGERS: No, you don't know the number. It is $215 million. See, the Democrats never know. They just know it isn't enough. And so they want to raise taxes.

(CROSSTALK)

ROGERS: You've asked me a question -- $215 million.

BEGALA: Sure, go ahead. Right. Right.

ROGERS: That's the biggest number for stem cell research.

BEGALA: Right.

ROGERS: It's the biggest number ever.

BEGALA: Right. OK.

ROGERS: It's unprecedented. And that doesn't count the unrestricted number that could come into private companies, pharmaceutical companies, unless they're getting sued by the trial lawyers...

(CROSSTALK)

BEGALA: I'm trying to agree with you, Ed. You're right.

ROGERS: Please. Then go ahead.

(LAUGHTER)

BEGALA: The president has put funding in this.

ROGERS: Two hundred and fifteen million dollars.

BEGALA: Which makes him -- which makes him morally incoherent. Here's the president of the United States talking about this very topic at the debate. Tell me if this makes any sense. Here's our president.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BUSH: Embryonic stem-cell research requires the destruction of life to create a stem cell. I'm the first president ever to allow funding -- federal funding -- for embryonic stem-cell research.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BEGALA: What?

ROGERS: Yes. Yes. Yes.

BEGALA: It's the taking of a life, but I'm going to fund it.

(CROSSTALK)

BEGALA: What, is he nuts? It's murder, but I want to finance murder?

(CROSSTALK)

ROGERS: That's a lot of science that you don't understand.

BEGALA: And he does?

(LAUGHTER)

(APPLAUSE)

ROGERS: Yes, obviously, he does.

(CROSSTALK)

ROGERS: Two hundred and fifteen million dollars is a lot of money, even by Teresa Heinz's standards.

(CROSSTALK)

BEGALA: If he thinks it's murder, why is he funding it?

(CROSSTALK)

ROGERS: Because the way it's being done isn't murder, Paul.

(CROSSTALK)

NOVAK: All right, Ann Lewis, let's turn to first lady wars.

Yesterday, Teresa Heinz Kerry said that Laura Bush never had a real job. And they said, oh, they got her. Even though she's a billionairess, they said, you have got to change that, Teresa. And then she came out with a new statement.

We'll put it up on the screen: "I appreciate and honor Mrs. Bush's service to the country as first lady and I am sincerely sorry I had not remembered her important work in the past," that is, a librarian and schoolteacher.

In other words, she's apologizing because she forgot she was a librarian and schoolteacher, but she's saying that it wasn't a real job to be a home mother. Is that the position? You run the women's section of the Democratic National Committee. Is that your position, that if you're a home mother trying to raise your kids, you don't have a real job? That's Teresa's position.

LEWIS: Let us be clear. One, every mother is a working mother.

ROGERS: Does Teresa believe that?

(CROSSTALK)

LEWIS: Two, this is just one more example of Republicans trying to change the subject.

ROGERS: That's what she said. That's what she said.

LEWIS: You don't want to talk about stem cell research. You don't want to talk about the discussion you were just having where George Bush tries to take credit both for funding it and for stopping it.

NOVAK: Wait a minute.

(CROSSTALK)

LEWIS: I think there's a word for that. It's called a flip- flop, something like that.

(LAUGHTER)

(CROSSTALK)

LEWIS: So you're just trying to get off on a different subject entirely.

(APPLAUSE)

NOVAK: Wait a minute. Wait a minute. I ask the questions on this program. You may not like that, but that's the way it works. And I'm not asking you about stem cell research.

LEWIS: I know that. You don't want to talk about it.

(LAUGHTER)

NOVAK: There's a lot of things I don't want to talk about. But I want to talk about this, because you're very uncomfortable.

ROGERS: Clearly.

NOVAK: Because she says that's not a real job.

LEWIS: Then, let's get back now. One, Teresa Heinz Kerry misspoke. And you know what she did? She apologized. And you know what else...

(CROSSTALK)

NOVAK: Not for that. Not for that.

(CROSSTALK)

LEWIS: Laura Bush said, I accept it. She didn't need to apologize.

(CROSSTALK)

LEWIS: Move on.

(CROSSTALK)

BEGALA: It's George W. Bush who has never held a real job.

(CROSSTALK)

BEGALA: He was bailed out by his daddy.

(CROSSTALK)

(APPLAUSE)

ROGERS: Let's not let that go.

The only person, the person that Teresa knows that has never had a real job is John Kerry.

BEGALA: Sure, because fighting those communists in Vietnam...

(CROSSTALK)

BEGALA: ... that's not a job. You just insulted every member of the military.

(CROSSTALK)

ROGERS: He made his money the old-fashioned way. He married it.

(CROSSTALK)

ROGERS: He's never had a real job.

NOVAK: All right, we're going to take a break. Let's take a break.

BEGALA: Fighting the communists...

(CROSSTALK)

NOVAK: Next, in "Rapid Fire," should Teresa Heinz Kerry be put in the deep freeze until after this election is over?

And what if you won the lottery and there was a needle -- a needle -- waiting at the other end. Next, Wolf Blitzer tells us why some people would be pretty happy with that.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

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

Coming up at the top of the hour, British troops in Iraq will move closer to Baghdad. And there's a debate about that in Britain. Is it a solid strategy or a political gift to President Bush from Tony Blair?

Just how hard is it to get a flu shot these days? So hard, one New Jersey town is holding a lottery. And Fidel Castro's fall, does it forecast the fall of Fidel? All those stories and a live debate between White House communications direction Dan Bartlett and Kerry senior adviser Joe Lockhart only minutes away on "WOLF BLITZER REPORTS."

Now back to CROSSFIRE.

(APPLAUSE)

NOVAK: Time now for "Rapid Fire," when we fire off questions faster than John Kerry can come up with new ways to mug for the cameras.

Our guests today, Ann Lewis, Kerry adviser and national chair of the Democratic National Committee's Women's Vote Center, and Republican consultant, longtime operative Ed Rogers.

BEGALA: Mr. Rogers, the president talked about health care today.

(LAUGHTER)

(CROSSTALK)

BEGALA: I didn't mean it that way.

ROGERS: It's better than Mr. Ed.

(LAUGHTER)

ROGERS: Go ahead.

BEGALA: Have the number of Americans without health insurance gone up or down under President Bush?

ROGERS: Well, they haven't been anything like the growth there was during the Clinton administration. The rate of growth was much worse then.

BEGALA: Up or down? Up or down?

ROGERS: Sideways. Sideways.

BEGALA: It's up by 5 million.

(BELL RINGING)

ROGERS: Relatively down. Relatively down.

(CROSSTALK)

ROGERS: Relatively down. I'm not going to give him what he wants.

NOVAK: Ann Lewis, should Teresa Heinz Kerry, considering all her blunders, be put in the deep freeze for the rest of the campaign?

ROGERS: No.

LEWIS: Absolutely not. She's going to be out there talking about health care.

ROGERS: Yes.

LEWIS: She's going to be talking to women about retirement and Social Security. These are issues she has worked hard on. She's going to be there and I'm glad to know it.

ROGERS: Give her a microphone.

BEGALA: Ed, the president admirably said he's not going to get a flu shot because the administration messed up the vaccines. There's not enough.

ROGERS: Me neither.

BEGALA: Was it right for Dick Cheney and Dr. Bill Frist, the head of the Senate Republicans, to get flu shots? Was that hypocritical of them?

ROGERS: The flu shot situation is just nothing but the Kerry campaign chasing a rabbit.

BEGALA: It's their fault?

ROGERS: Good luck trying to win votes on scaring people with flu shots.

NOVAK: Michael Moore, the left-wing filmmaker, says that John Kerry is the No. 1 liberal in the Senate. That's the truth, isn't it?

LEWIS: Well, I have heard you question Michael Moore's, let's say, accuracy on other occasions. And I think this is probably another one.

But, you know, he probably doesn't pay that much attention to day-to-day politics.

NOVAK: What does he pay attention to?

(LAUGHTER)

LEWIS: We're not always sure.

BEGALA: We're almost out of time.

(CROSSTALK)

BEGALA: John Kerry supports a ban on assault weapons. Does President Bush?

(BELL RINGING)

ROGERS: President Bush supports the right of gun owners. BEGALA: Does he support the assault weapons ban?

ROGERS: OK, let me answer the question. John Kerry posing as a hunter...

BEGALA: Up or down?

(LAUGHTER)

ROGERS: ... is doing nothing but mocking gun owners in America, period.

BEGALA: Ed Rogers, Republican strategist, Ann Lewis, my friend and former colleague from the Clinton White House, now with the Democratic National Committee, thank you both for that debate.

(APPLAUSE)

BEGALA: Well, Jon Stewart may have refused to be our monkey, but Triumph the Insult Comic Dog is definitely our dog. Finally a comedian who isn't full of himself steps into the CROSSFIRE.

Stay with us.

(APPLAUSE)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(APPLAUSE)

BEGALA: Welcome back to CROSSFIRE.

Well, you know you have arrived when you have been accosted by Triumph the Insult Comic Dog. Recently, I was cornered by the foul- mouthed canine correspondent for "Late Night with Conan O'Brien." The encounter happened last week after the third presidential debate.

I just tried to keep my head down.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BEGALA: No, I thought Kerry did quite well.

TRIUMPH THE INSULT COMIC DOG: He did quite well.

BEGALA: Because he actually talked about issues that middle- class people care about.

TRIUMPH: Right.

BEGALA: He talked about health care. He talked about the minimum wage. He talked about Social Security.

TRIUMPH: Come on. For Kerry, middle class is Oprah Winfrey.

(LAUGHTER) (END VIDEO CLIP)

BEGALA: And that was one of his kinder, gentler lines. Later, of course, Triumph and I shared some trenchant observations he had about fiscal policy, the Middle East, and the role of media in our democracy, because, after all, isn't that what a comedian is really all about?

NOVAK: Did you have a lot of talk with animals in the Clinton White House?

(LAUGHTER)

BEGALA: I did, actually, some of them imaginary, but some of them real, many of them in the Republican leadership on Capitol Hill, though.

(LAUGHTER)

BEGALA: The guy is hilarious, the little dog puppet. And I don't mean to pretend he's not real. He's real, but he's also real funny.

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

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

"WOLF BLITZER REPORTS" starts right now.

(APPLAUSE)

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