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New Bin Laden Tape Emerges

Aired October 29, 2004 - 16:36   ET


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

In the CROSSFIRE: new pictures and new questions surrounding missing explosives in Iraq. How will this 11th hour issue affect next week's election outcome?

SEN. JOHN KERRY (D-MA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Our troops in Iraq are doing an absolutely heroic job. They are the best trained, most extraordinary, most courageous troops we have ever seen. The problem is, our commander in chief is not doing his job.

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Our strategy to win the war on terror is succeeding. We're shrinking the area where terrorists can operate freely. We have the terrorists on the run. So long as I am your president, we'll be determined and steadfast and we'll keep the terrorists on the run.

ANNOUNCER: As we head into the final weekend of the campaign, George Bush and John Kerry are chasing every last vote.



ANNOUNCER: Live from the George Washington University, Paul Begala and Tucker Carlson.



In the past few minutes, new videotape has emerged from Al- Jazeera television of al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden.

PAUL BEGALA, CO-HOST: We are joined now by CNN senior editor for Arab affairs Octavia Nasr.

She has seen the tape, translated the tape.

Octavia, what is that bin Laden is saying?

OCTAVIA NASR, CNN SR. EDITOR FOR ARAB AFFAIRS: Well, the most important thing about bin Laden's speech is that he's addressing it to the American people. He's trying to explain why 9/11 happened, the idea and when it occurred to him, and also telling the American people loud and clear that, unless they do something about it, America could be attacked again.

Let's listen to this sound bite, which you guys will find very interesting.


OSAMA BIN LADEN, AL QAEDA LEADER (through translator): Your security is not in the hand of Kerry or Bush or al Qaeda. Your security is in your hands. And every state that doesn't mess with our security, this way, you secure your own security.


NASR: So this is bin Laden, who knows that this country is going through an election. He knows the president is re-running for office and he knows about the candidate that is his opponent.

And he's sending a message to the American people, saying security is the most important thing to al Qaeda, as he says, and it should be the most important thing to you. But he says, security is in your hands. No one can achieve that security for you, not Bush, not Kerry, not al Qaeda. It is in your hands. Basically, he is saying, if we are not attacked, we won't attack anybody.

CARLSON: Octavia, you said that, in the tape, he explains why 9/11 happened. What was his explanation for why 9/11 happened?

NASR: Well, he says it is a response to the aggression suffered by Arabs and Muslims at the hands of the U.S.

He talks specifically about the Israeli invasion of Lebanon in 1982 and how the U.S. took part in that. And he said when he saw the towers of Beirut fall, this is when it occurred to him that he had to make the U.S. pay for that aggression. And this is when he started plotting for those attacks.

Now, he did say that the attacks went better than they had planned. And he said that they had agreed on 20 minutes, within 20 minutes, the attacks should have been completed, because he said that he discussed this Mohamed Atta and told you have to finish this job in 20 minutes before the Bush administration realizes what is going on. But then he goes on to say, but the president was sitting down, more interested in listening to a child's story about a goat, rather than 50,000 U.S. citizens trapped facing the worst nightmare of their life in the World Trade Center, and that gave the terrorists 20 more minutes, he said, to achieve a lot more than they had planned.

BEGALA: Octavia, there have been reports for years that bin Laden had advanced kidney disease or some reports that he may have been wounded in the American liberation of Afghanistan. As you watch the tape and you listen to his voice, any sense that perhaps he is sick or wounded?

NASR: Well, I'm not a doctor. And I can't evaluate his health. What I can tell you, having seen, having watched bin Laden, listened to him for a long, long time for many years, in fact translated a lot of his speeches, all of them, I would say, that are available to us, this is a man that looks fine to me. We have seen a bin Laden that was tired before, especially after the Tora Bora attack. We have seen a bin Laden that couldn't move his arm, and we all thought that he was wounded at the time.

This is a bin Laden that looks very comfortable, very composed. He's sitting down behind a desk, it looks like. He's talking very calmly. And he looks fine. He looks like he's aged a bit.

And you have to remember, we haven't seen bin Laden in over two years. What we have been receiving of him were audiotapes for over two years. So it looks like he's aged a bit, but he looks to be in good health. But, again, I mean, I'm not an expert on these issues.

There were reports also that said that the idea of dialysis and kidney failure and all that were not correct, that that was made up and that was not true. But, again, we do not know and there's no way anyone is going to be able to tell what his medical condition is at this point.

CARLSON: All right. Thanks, Octavia -- Octavia Nasr in CNN Center in Atlanta. Thanks a lot.

NASR: Sure.

CARLSON: Well, what affect will this tape have on the coming presidential election on Tuesday?

Joining us today in the CROSSFIRE, Howard Wolfson, senior communications adviser to the Democratic National Committee, and also Jim Dyke, communications director for the Republican National Committee.


BEGALA: Gentlemen, thank you both very much for joining us.

First, Jim, let me say, nothing will unite Democrats and Republicans more than to see the face of terrorism and the external threat that we face. And I know that neither of you are national security experts. We are, however, four days from an election. The president's first ad showed images of the dead from 9/11. His last mailing shows nine different images of the Twin Towers burning. Are you concerned that perhaps the president has overpoliticized 9/11?

JIM DYKE, RNC COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR: Well, first, I want to say that somebody ought to come on from the White House or the CIA or wherever the appropriate place is to talk about the tape.

We're talking about sort of the political, philosophical differences between the two parties. And I think there's an important point that's been made in the difference in the two philosophies. And I think you saw that earlier this week, when the Kerry campaign, seeing a report in "The New York Times," went up less than 12 hours later running a campaign ad based on that report.

There have been a lot of flaws pointed out in that report. The Kerry campaign failed to talk about the 400,000 tons of explosives in Iraq that actually have been secured and destroyed. There have been a lot of questions about where these explosives were.

So I think there's a philosophical difference between Senator Kerry and President Bush on the approach to terrorism. President Bush believes that we needed to go into Iraq because Saddam Hussein was a dangerous man with dangerous weapons. You heard senior Kerry officials this week talking about dangerous weapons, weapons of mass destruction, to quote them, and terrorists.

The president believes and has always believed that we needed to take care of that situation. Senator Kerry has not been consistent. He has not followed the same path. He said that this is the wrong war at the wrong place at the wrong time.


BEGALA: I understand. I want to keep this on political strategy. But isn't a mistake in political strategy for the president to base so much of his campaign appeal on the heartrending, nonpolitical events of 9/11, when in fact he has gone months without mentioning bin Laden's name and, in fact, at one point, said he didn't really care whether bin Laden was captured or...


BEGALA: ... dead.

DYKE: One of the things I believe that Americans will decide this election on is the approach that they want to take in how we deal with terrorism. And I think the president has laid his out. He believes that, in a post-9/11 world...


BEGALA: But was it a mistake for the president to not mention bin Laden for months on end?

DYKE: In a post-9/11 world, he believes we have to pursue the terrorists where they are and destroy them where they are. Senator Kerry has a difficult approach. He has talked about a global test, a global test, by the way, that in 1991, it did not meet in his vote against the war.


CARLSON: Howard Wolfson, what struck me, sort of jumped out at me in our conversation was Octavia Nasr was that Osama bin Laden said, apparently, in this tape what he said before: We have attacked the United States because we disagree with American policy in the Middle East, particularly and specifically American policy toward Israel.

Now, we had Dick Holbrooke on, Ambassador Holbrooke, not long ago on this show, likely to be the secretary of state in a possible Kerry administration. And we asked him, should we respond to this in any way? Should we change our policy in the Middle East? And he said, that's off the table. We're not even considering that.

How can you say that Senator Kerry is seriously thinking about how to respond to terrorism when his chief foreign policy adviser says whole parts of American foreign policy are not even up for negotiation?

HOWARD WOLFSON, DNC SR. COMMUNICATIONS ADVISER: Well, we are not going to negotiate with terrorists or allow terrorists to determine our foreign policy.

CARLSON: It's not a question of negotiating with terrorists. It's a question of responding to reality.

WOLFSON: No, no, no.

John Kerry is going make it very clear and has made it very clear that with every fiber of his being, he's going to hunt down these people and he's going to kill them when he becomes president. There isn't any confusion about that point.

DYKE: It's just a different approach.

WOLFSON: No, there's -- the different approach...


DYKE: Law enforcement and...

WOLFSON: No, no, no, no, that John Kerry would have done things very differently in Iraq. That's true.

The war on terror isn't about Iraq. The war on terror is hunting down people like Osama bin Laden and killing him.

CARLSON: But wait a second, Howard. No on disagrees with what you just said.


CARLSON: It's very much like coming out in favor of children. But let's have an adult conversation just for a second.


CARLSON: At some point, you have to consider and then, one hopes, address the causes of terrorism. What causes people to blow themselves...

WOLFSON: Tucker.

CARLSON: Hold on.

What causes people to blow themselves up? You have to sort of take that question seriously. The terrorists are saying out loud we're doing this for a specific reason. Shouldn't we at least talk about it? Your candidate is unwilling even to talk about it out loud.

WOLFSON: You're asking me a serious question. I'll give you a serious answer.

CARLSON: Please.

WOLFSON: We are not going to change our foreign policy in order to please terrorists. We're not going to negotiate with terrorists.

CARLSON: That's not what I suggested, obviously.

WOLFSON: It is what you suggested.

CARLSON: That's not what I suggested. No one has suggested we do it to please terrorists.

It's just, don't you think we ought to begin a conversation about the root causes? Don't you think -- that's something Democrats are always for. Why are you against it in this case?

WOLFSON: We are not going to allow terrorists to determine this election. This is the greatest American -- this is the greatest democracy in the world. We are not going to allow terrorists to determine who our next president is and we are not going to negotiate with them or change our foreign policy...


CARLSON: I'm not suggesting that, for the record.


BEGALA: Jim, you mentioned it before twice -- I think you're right -- the different approach to terrorism between the two candidates. Obviously, both candidates want to fight the war on terror.

President Bush, ignoring the advice of his top terrorism expert, Richard Clarke, invaded Iraq. Mr. Clarke, who served President Bush, before him, President Clinton, before him, President Bush Sr., before him, President Reagan, said that for President Bush to invade Iraq, when Afghanistan was the focal point of Osama bin Laden, would have been like FDR invading Mexico after Pearl Harbor, that it was an essential distraction from the war on terror.


BEGALA: He was right, wasn't he?

DYKE: That's a -- that's a pretty good line. Unfortunately, I think it is more theatrics than it is reality.

I think the reality is, is that the president saw the challenges. And you can't have a single-minded approach to the war on terror. It wasn't just Afghanistan. There are terrorists in other countries. Saddam Hussein was a dangerous man with dangerous weapons. We actually heard that from the Kerry campaign...

WOLFSON: Weapons of mass destruction?

DYKE: According to Jamie Rubin this week.

WOLFSON: Where are they?

DYKE: He said 400 tons...


DYKE: ... 400 tons destroyed by the president.


WOLFSON: But you don't know where they are. You don't know where they are.

DYKE: I just said, they have been destroyed.

WOLFSON: You don't know that.


WOLFSON: That's not what the secretary of defense said yesterday.


DYKE: Four-hundred thousand tons.

WOLFSON: What about the 380 missing ones?


DYKE: Well, according the Pentagon, they were destroyed.


WOLFSON: That's not what the Pentagon said today, Jim.

BEGALA: What's going on in Iraq is important. But this is breaking news. Osama bin Laden has released a new tape. There some who had hoped that he was dead, others who had hoped he was grievously wounded.

Octavia Nasr of CNN has watched the tape, says she thinks he looks like he's actually in good shape. Hasn't it been a mistake that this president has not hunted this man down to the ends of the earth? John Kerry charges that, at Tora Bora, the president and his commander, Tommy Franks, pulled out, sent in mercenaries, and let him go. Now, that's actually true. We know that the 10th Mountain Division did not take Tora Bora when they could have, right?


DYKE: Again, I don't want to comment on the tape. I think that would be irresponsible.

But I do -- you talk about Tora Bora. And Tommy Franks has made clear that Senator Kerry was wrong to make that accusation.

BEGALA: Well, Tommy Franks was wrong.

DYKE: Well, Senator Kerry ought to say that.

BEGALA: Well, you call John Kerry. I'm here on the show.


BEGALA: Tommy Franks, on Bush's orders, pulled our troops back. They had the man. They had the man.


DYKE: Senator Kerry has talked about Tora Bora.

WOLFSON: The Pentagon has talked about a draft here.

DYKE: Senator Kerry ripped the front page of "The New York Times" this week to run an ad on something that has turned out to not be true. It is the height of irresponsibility.



CARLSON: Howard, Howard, Howard Wolfson, you know as well as I do the Pentagon is not in favor of a draft, obviously.

But let's get back -- I want to get back to policy here just for a second. Now, whether or not -- no matter where you are on the question of our Middle Eastern policy, you recognize that the fate of Yasser Arafat affects us. So John Kerry was asked I believe yesterday by a reporter, what do you think about the fact that Yasser Arafat obviously has a life-threatening illness? He may die. He will die, probably sooner rather than later. What does that mean for us?

This is John Kerry's response -- quote -- "I'm not going to speculate at all without knowing anything firsthand." I can't imagine a more pathetic dodge. This guy wants to be president. He could be president next week. And he has no idea what he thinks about Yasser Arafat's impending death? Come on.



WOLFSON: It's a very responsible answer. We have a foreign policy situation. Yasser Arafat is ill, perhaps grievously ill. And it is not appropriate for John Kerry to comment on that. CARLSON: Give me a break. He comments on foreign policy issues every single day, dozens of them every day. But why won't he comment on this?


WOLFSON: On the appropriate ones, he does. On the ones that are not appropriate to comment on, he's not going to.


CARLSON: On the politically perilous ones, he takes a dive.


CARLSON: Howard Wolfson from the Democratic Party, Jim Dyke from the Republican Party, keep your seat just a second.

We're going to have to take a quick break.

More on bin Laden and the last four days of the campaign trail as these two major stories collide here in the CROSSFIRE. Coming up next, we'll move up the pace just a little bit with "Rapid Fire."

And then Wolf Blitzer will have more on the reemergence of Osama bin Laden in an update just after this break.

Stay with us.


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

Coming up at the top of the hour, for the first time in two years, there's a new Osama bin Laden videotape with a chilling message for the American people. We'll have details. How will the bin Laden video affect next Tuesday's election here in the United States? We'll talk live with representatives from both campaigns.

And speaking of the election, we'll also meet two members of John Kerry's high school band. What do they think of their old base guitarist?

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

Now back to CROSSFIRE.

BEGALA: Thank you, Wolf.

Time now for "Rapid Fire." Our guests are Republican National Committee communications director Jim Dyke and Howard Wolfson. He's a senior communications adviser to the Democratic National Committee.

CARLSON: Howard, earlier in the year, during the primaries, John Edwards said: "I'm going to win my state." Well, in fact, Kerry is going to get spanked in North Carolina.



CARLSON: A, do you disagree with that? And, B, don't you think, since Edwards can't even carry his own state, what's the point of having him on the ticket?

WOLFSON: John Edwards has been a huge asset to this ticket. North Carolina remains competitive. And we'll see on Tuesday.


BEGALA: Mr. Dyke, the president famously promised us, you and me, all the American people, that he would get Osama bin Laden -- and I'm quoting him here -- "dead or alive." Which did he get him, dead or alive?



DYKE: The terrorists are on the run. The president has got the right policy. We have to take the fight for the terrorists. We can't go back to a time where some people think terrorism was a nuisance. We can't go back to a time where we approach it as a law enforcement approach.

CARLSON: Howard, here are two polls I thought I would never see, Kerry and Bush even in Hawaii and New Jersey. If your guy isn't ahead by 30 points in Hawaii, that is pathetic.

WOLFSON: It's quite a coincidence that, on the day that Halliburton gets investigated by the FBI, they put Dick Cheney on a long plane ride to Hawaii.



CARLSON: That's so crazy. That's so crazy that I hope you mean it, because that just shows that your campaign is insane.


BEGALA: That is a great point.


BEGALA: Now, for those of you scoring at home, the FBI, under the control of John Ashcroft, is now investigating Halliburton. A Bush administration official, the top civilian contractor at the Army Corps of Engineers, is alleging that Halliburton got special treatment just this month from the Bush administration. This is clearly a major political problem for the president, isn't it, Halliburton? DYKE: Enron didn't do it for you in 2002. Halliburton is not going to do it for you in 2004.

BEGALA: It's done it for Dick Cheney. It's made him a multimillionaire.



CARLSON: Now, Howard, you just suggested that Halliburton is in control of the political process in Hawaii. Has Halliburton implanted transmitting devices in your molars? Tell me the truth.


WOLFSON: I did not say that, no.

But this administration has given a $7 billion, five-year no-bid contract to Dick Cheney's old company that was coordinated out of the vice president's office. And I'm glad that somebody is looking into this for a change.


BEGALA: I'm sorry, Jim, to cut you off.

Howard Wolfson from the Democratic National Committee, Jim Dyke from the Republican National Committee, thank you very much for joining us.


BEGALA: And for rolling us -- rolling with the punches, rather, on a difficult day.

Tucker and I will be back with more on the new bin Laden tape just after this.

Stay with us.




BEGALA: Welcome back to CROSSFIRE.

We have been talking about the political ramifications of the new Osama bin Laden tape that has just surfaced this afternoon.

Tucker, just looking at even the small clips of it, it makes your blood boil. The notion that this man is putting out more tapes than Britney Spears, when he ought to be pushing up daisies, because we invaded Iraq instead of hunting him down and killing him is pretty outrageous.

CARLSON: Well, anything with Osama bin Laden is outrageous.

I was struck by the childish and reactionary response we got from a very smart guy, Howard Wolfson, as a reflection of his campaign's response, to my question about American policy.


CARLSON: These guys hate us for our policy. So the idea that we can't even sort of rethink our policy, reassess it and honestly consider why we're hated in the rest of the world, that is giving into terrorists, no, it is not. It is actually being realistic.



BEGALA: No. I think -- I think Howard was 100 percent right. I just disagree with you.

CARLSON: So everywhere is going great. We shouldn't change anything, nothing at all. Everywhere is going great.


BEGALA: No, I think being on the side of freedom in the Middle East with Israel, our allies, is one thing Bush is right about. He's wrong about Iraq. He's been wrong about al Qaeda. He's been wrong about everything, but he happens to right about Israel.


CARLSON: I'm not in any way suggesting we shouldn't be on Israel's side. They are our key ally in the region and ought to remain our key ally in the region.


CARLSON: I'm merely saying, we ought to think about why these people hate us. And it is not because we have a democratic process and they don't.

BEGALA: I think we ought to think about why the SOB is alive and why Bush didn't finish the job when he had him in Afghanistan.

CARLSON: Oh, give me a break.

BEGALA: Instead of invading...


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

CARLSON: And from the right, I'm Tucker Carlson. Join us again Monday for yet more CROSSFIRE. We'll be in New York.

Have a great Halloween. See you then.



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