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What Will Bush's Second Term Bring?

Aired November 4, 2004 - 16:30   ET


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

In the CROSSFIRE, as President Bush looks ahead to the next four years, rumors of cabinet changes echo through the capital.

GEORGE W. BUSH (R), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: ... great Washington sport to be talking about who's going to leave and who the replacements may be and handicapping, you know, my way of thinking. I'll just give you -- let me just help you out with the speculation right now -- I haven't thought about it.

ANNOUNCER: But he says he will. In the end, who should stay and who should go?

From the war on terror to Social Security, how big is the president's mandate? And how hard will he test it?



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

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

President George W. Bush is savoring his triumph today, and why not. He's never actually won a presidential election before, so he has a right to feel good.

At a news conference this afternoon, our president spoke of bipartisanship, then outlined an agenda straight out of the wish list of his biggest corporate contributors. And his number one priority: handing your Social Security over to Wall Street. After all, they did such a good job with Enron, didn't they?

ROBERT NOVAK, CO-HOST: The president is energized by the vote of confidence of the American people after months of the kind of trash talk you just heard.

At that press conference today, the president said he intends to use his mandate to reform Social Security and taxes. He surely won't be intimidated by the class warfare rhetoric attacking big business that the voters just rejected. And now, for the best little political briefing in television, our CROSSFIRE "Political Alert."

The reason Arlen Specter has a new, secure term as senator of Pennsylvania is that George W. Bush saved him in the Republican primary. But Senator Specter has been stabbing his benefactor, the president, in the back. He says President Bush does not have a mandate and should not pick pro-life Supreme Court justices. That might force a filibuster, he said.

Senator Specter is in line to be Senate Judiciary Committee chairman, but he hasn't got the job yet and needs support from Republican colleagues. What will the president do about judges?


BUSH: If people are interested in knowing the kind of judges I'll pick, look at the record.


NOVAK: That sounds like pro-life judges from George W. Bush.

BEGALA: It certainly does. It sounds like ultra-right-wing judges, which he has a perfect right to nominate. But you know, the people of Pennsylvania did reelect Senator Specter. You're right, President Bush saved him in the primaries, which shows that Mr. Bush is willing to put expediency over people who actually believed that he's pro-life, and I think Mr. Bush betrayed his conservative supporters by supporting Arlen Specter against the conservative primary, don't know?

NOVAK: I think he made a mistake. He thought that Arlen Specter would be a decent person, that he would be respectful to the president who had saved him. But Arlen's not that kind of guy.

BEGALA: Well, the president has to be respectful to the prerogatives of the Senate who will advise and consent. And now, even Republicans are starting to tell the president don't put a bunch of right-wing whack jobs on. I hope the president listens.

Well, there has been a lot of talk since the election about the Democrats' tin ear on the social and cultural values of middle America. I hope my fellow Democrats will have the courage to take a hard look at why so many good people with strong values mistakenly believe that we don't respect them.

And let me say this to red state cultural conservatives: In truth, it's President Bush, Vice President Cheney, and the Republicans who are dissing you. Mr. Bush cynically uses cultural conservatives to rev up the red states, deploying cultural populism as a Trojan horse for his real agenda: economic royalism. He's done nothing to outlaw most abortions, nothing to bring back school prayer, nothing to reduce divorce, nothing to repeal gun control -- none of the things social conservatives want. Mr. Bush would just like you to shut up, go back to your churches, and let the fat-cat corporate country club elite continue to ship your job overseas.

NOVAK: Well, Paul, I'm glad that you haven't been chasing by this humility -- I mean defeat. You sat at this table all year, telling me you going to win. I never made any predictions, but you were wrong, wrong, wrong. And you're wrong on these issues.

The president signed a bill outlawing partial-birth abortion. He's been for legalizing under the Constitution school prayer -- as a Constitutional amendment on that. And he hasn't gone for the Brady Law on gun control. So, you're just not telling the truth.

BEGALA: He's done nothing on...

NOVAK: He's been good on all of those issues.

The rumor is that John Edwards wanted to go to court to dispute the election rather than concede -- just like a personal accident lawyer.

Senator Edwards failed to understand the election was over when he pledged to keep on fighting -- whatever that means. Edwards's speech began little Johnny's 2008 presidential campaign for president. But just what did he do for the ticket this year? The Kerry-Edwards ticket lost Edwards's home state of North Carolina by 13 points, the same as Gore/Lieberman lost it last time. Edwards won only 34 percent in his home county and just 27 percent in the precinct where he grew up.

Johnny, the home folks knew you all too well.

BEGALA: Now, this tells me something. I've learned in the years we've done this show to read the tea leaves. When -- Bob, when you start attacking someone, it's because you fear him. Do you possibly fear John Edwards emerging now as another leader of the Democratic party?

NOVAK: You read me wrong. I attack people because I enjoy it. And I attack you, and I don't fear you a bit, Paul.

BEGALA: Oh, you're scared to death of me.

Also do want to say certainly that -- we learned today that Elizabeth Edwards, Senator Edwards' wife, has breast cancer.

NOVAK: She;s in all of our prayer.

BEGALA: And she's in our prayers, and they're a fine family. We wish them well.

Well, the headline in today's "Wall Street Journal" says it all about today's election. In addition to George W. Bush, the headline reads, quote, "Another winner is big business," unquote. Tobacco companies that poison our children are seeing their stock prices rise already. Oil companies that want to drill in the arctic wilderness are giddy. Coal-burning utilities that want to pollute the air are partying. Fast food corporations that want to fill you up with their garbage but don't want to pay a minimum wage to their employees are high-fiving. HMO's that want to maximize their profits by minimizing patients' rights are ecstatic. Insurance companies that rip you off with high premiums and low payouts are laughing all the way to the bank. And of course, in the most telling sign of all, shares of Halliburton hit a three-year high yesterday, gaining seven percent in just one day. Apparently war is not hell if you're in the executive seats of Halliburton.

NOVAK: Well, let me tell you something, Paul. There was another election going on. It's been going on on the stock exchanges of America by all the millions of Americans who own common -- shares of common stock. The Dow Jones average went up 100 points yesterday. The last I saw, it was a huge rally -- 175 points today. The ordinary Americans like me who own stock are giddy about President Bush. We said, boy, did we dodge a bullet.

The people who believe in the free market system -- are they happy? You better believe it.

BEGALA: The people who murder our children with tobacco are happy. The people who rip us off are happy. Every one of those corporate dirtbags is happy, and they should be. They've got their boy.

Well, at his press conference today, our president asked for billions for the war in Iraq, billions more for intelligence, over $1 trillion in tax cuts, and $2 trillion to privatize Social Security. What he didn't say is how we're going to pay for all of his promises. Looks like it's four more years of the same old thing.

But second terms always bring the unexpected. So, later in the CROSSFIRE, we will debate how Mr. Bush will use his new found political capital. Stay with us.


NOVAK: President Bush said today he'll start spending his political capital that he won for the American people Tuesday. The Democrats, who were repudiated by the American voters, will fight the president every step of the way.

Joining us today in CROSSFIRE, Representative Chris Van Hollen, a Democrat from Maryland, and Republican Congressman Mike Pence of Indiana.

Congressman Van Hollen -- I would like you to put up here exactly what the president said at his press conference. I thought it was very interesting. Let's take a listen.


GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I earned capital in the campaign. Political capital. And now I intend to spend it. It is my style. That's what happened in -- after the 2000 election. I earned some capital. And I've earned capital in this election. I'll spend it for what I told the people I would spend it on which is -- you've heard the agenda, Social Security and tax reform, moving this economy forward, education, fighting and winning the war on terror.


NOVAK: Honestly, Congressman, is there anything wrong with that? Those are the things that he campaigned on. It's not like he said I got something I didn't tell you that I'm going to put on my agenda. That's the agenda that by a 3.5 million vote margin the American people elected him for.

REP. CHRIS VAN HOLLEN (D), MARYLAND: I expect the president to move forward on the agenda he outlined there today. But I think the president needs to remember that 51 percent to 49 percent means we still have a very divided country. And if he wants to succeed, he's going to have to find common ground and consensus. The 9/11 commission report legislation is a perfect example. The Senate did that in a bipartisan way, the House did not. In the next couple of weeks we should get back to protecting the security of our country, take the consensus, build it past the Senate. Let's move the country forward. The president has a great opportunity in that legislation to show that he wants to find common ground.

NOVAK: I can't believe this because Bill Clinton never got 50 percent of the vote. He pushed his agenda. You people have just been repudiated -- you liberals have just -- American people said we don't want that and you said OK, now that you have won, the biggest victory, first guy to get over 50 percent since 1988, we want you to abandon your program and take ours.

VAN HOLLEN: Look, the fact that we had a great turnout in this election, the fact is that Kerry also got more votes than any successful president in the history of the country. So the point is, Bob, it was a very close election. But for 100,000 votes in Ohio, you would have Kerry as president. So let's remember that the country is divided. If we want to move forward, we need to move forward together and find common ground.

BEGALA: Congratulations on your own reelection and on your party's success on Tuesday. Well done.

One of the reasons pollsters say that your party won was something the president did not talk about today. A long press conference, did not make a lot of news, but he didn't talk about the number one issue in the minds of the voters who voted for him and that's social moral issues. The exit polling seems to be relatively clear on that. Let me -- I don't have any quotes that I can play on the board from our president talking about them because he ducked them today. So let me put up instead the man who does embody the president's agenda, really the embodiment of modern Republicanism, obviously, Reverend Jerry Falwell.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) REV. JERRY FALWELL, CHANCELLOR, LIBERTY UNIVERSITY: We early on decided this time because of the issues of faith and family, the unborn, same-sex marriage and the war on terrorism that Mr. Bush had to go back. There are 80 million evangelicals in this country. We mobilized a good number of them.


BEGALA: Those social conservatives did not vote for tax simplification whatever that is. When are you going to have hearings on abortion, when are you going to outlaw gay relationships, when are you going to repeal gun control, when are you going to reinstate school prayer? When are you going to move on the Jerry Falwell -- George Bush agenda?

REP. MIKE PENCE (R), INDIANA: Paul, I'm glad to see you like this. It is great when my side wins. And George Bush won.

BEGALA: He certainly did. And I'm wondering will he move on this agenda or did he use social conservatives -- which I think he did. I think he cynically manipulated them so he could...

PENCE: I don't think he cynically manipulated. This president earned the support of millions of social conservatives, Republicans and many Democrats around America who are frustrated with the leftward tilt of a federal court that in 1973 legalized abortion in all 50 states and seems to be on the cusp of redefining traditional marriage. The president has taken strong and principled stands. But make no mistake about this was a mandate for conservative leadership in Washington, D.C. And that includes tax reform and modernization of Social Security, putting our fiscal house in order and the cultural agenda that the president will continue to advance.

NOVAK: Congressman Van Hollen, there is somebody who disagrees with Paul on the importance of this issue of social issues and how badly the Democrats are handling them. That's a person who I think both of us like and respect. That's Leon Panetta, former congressman, former Clinton chief of staff, prominent California Democrat. He said after this election, "we cannot ignore the swath of red states across the South and Midwest. The part of FDR has become the party of Michael Moore and "Fahrenheit 9/11" and it does not help us in big parts of the country."

Agree or disagree?

VAN HOLLEN: Well, I think there are some important lessons the Democratic Party will have to learn as they look at the map of the entire country going forward. And clearly from the exit polls moral issues and moral values were of great concern and interest to people. The Republican Party does not have a monopoly on family values and moral issues. But clearly the Democrats need to do a better job communicating especially to the evangelical community throughout this country in terms of our message and how we talk about things that are important to all Americans.

NOVAK: I would like to address, sir, what Leon Panetta said that the party of FDR has become the party of Michael Moore and "Fahrenheit 9/11." Do you agree with that?

VAN HOLLEN: That's nonsense. I mean, the Democratic...

NOVAK: Leon's nonsensical?

VAN HOLLEN: It has not become the party of Michael Moore. I think that's nonsense. I think the fact of the matter is the Democratic party remains committed to strong defense, a strong national security. The Democratic party remains committed to making sure that people have economic opportunity and they want to make sure that every American family has an opportunity and they want to make sure that our resources are directed to help everybody and not just a few. That's what the Democratic party has stood for. And that's what it remains today. I think it is important that our message prioritize our issues and we do get back to the core issues that affect all American families.

BEGALA: Congressman Pence, the president was asked today about how he defines bipartisanship. He's been making these sounds or whatever it is about -- very sweet sounds I should say about bipartisanship which I think is a load of baloney. And I am not the only one. A professor of political science at Texas A&M where the George Bush Center for (UNINTELLIGIBLE) presidency is by the way said this. "Take moderate stands in order not to irritate people? There's not any chance he's going to do anything like that. That's not his style. He may make center speeches but that doesn't have a lot of staying power."

The president is just kind of being a phony when he says he's going to be bipartisan.

PENCE: Well, I don't think so. Frankly on a couple of major issues, the No Child Left Behind bill and the Medicare drug entitlement, Paul, you know that I and many House conservatives oppose the president on that and in both cases he reached across the aisle and frankly worked closely with Senator Teddy Kennedy.


PENCE: And frankly tried to on the prescription drug bill and at the end of the day it became very divisive as he commented in the press conference today. I think this is a president who had a record of reaching out across the aisle in Texas. He learned Washington is a very different place. I think having won the largest plurality in the history of the United States for the reelection of president, George W. Bush should advance his agenda...

BEGALA: He should be honest about that, right?

PENCE: I believe he should advance as Bob has said his agenda and listen to the American people who voted for Republican governance and conservative governance in Washington, D.C.

NOVAK: Congressman Van Hollen, we have been talking about taxes, we've been talking about Social Security, talking about -- I don't know, but you know, almost the entire last two weeks of the campaign was on terrorism and Iraq. He said the president was incompetent and made a mistake to go into Iraq. Let me show you the exit polls. This is the exit polls. Compared to four years ago the U.S. is safer from terrorism, 54 percent, less safe 41 percent. Next exit poll, is Iraq part of the war on terrorism? Yes, 54 percent. Yes, 55 percent, no 42 percent.

You lost that debate because those were the two points that Senator Kerry was making that Iraq had no part in the war on terrorism and we're not safer. American people disagree.

VAN HOLLEN: The fact of the matter is the Democratic party was united in the war on terrorism and Senator Kerry was absolutely right when he said that we stand firmly behind the president with respect to going after al Qaeda and Osama bin Laden but the president I believe did a very good job of misleading the American people with respect to Iraq. First he claimed there were weapons of mass destruction. There were none. Secondly he claimed there was collaboration between Saddam Hussein and al Qaeda, we all know there was none. He created an image in the American people's mind that was very difficult for erase. He did it intentionally. He did it with his...

NOVAK: We have to take a break.

VAN HOLLEN: Well, he did it through his surrogates and frankly he's been proven wrong.

NOVAK: All right. Up next in our "RAPID FIRE" we'll ask whether Democrats are really sorry that they put another liberal Democrat from Massachusetts at the top of their ticket. And just ahead, Wolf Blitzer has the latest on the grave condition of Yasser Arafat.


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Wolf Blitzer reporting from Washington. Coming up at the top of the hour, Palestinian officials knock down rumors Yasser Arafat is already dead, but a hospital official does say the Palestinian leader's condition has become, in his words, more complex.

Two days after the end of the presidential campaign, a startling health announcement concerning Elizabeth Edwards.

And President Bush talks about reforming Social Security. How his plan may affect you. Those stories and much more only minutes away on "WOLF BLITZER REPORTS." Now back to CROSSFIRE.

BEGALA: Thank you, Wolf. We look forward to your report at the top of the hour. Time now for "Rapid Fire" here at CROSSFIRE where we ask questions even faster than President Bush can offer more special privileges to the special interests who financed his campaign.

Our guests today are Congressman Mike Pence, he is a Republican from Indiana, and Democratic Congressman Chris Van Hollen of Maryland.

NOVAK: Congressman Van Hollen, with 20/20 hindsight now that the election is over, did your party make a huge mistake in nominating another ultra-liberal Democrat from Massachusetts?

VAN HOLLEN: First of all, I disagree with your assumption behind that. The answer is no, we did not. I thought Kerry did great campaign. And but for 100,000 votes in Ohio, he would be president today.

BEGALA: Congressman Pence, the voters clearly seem to want limited government and less government spending. So will you support ending the subsidies for the welfare queens in agribusiness in the Midwest?

PENCE: Thanks for that easy question, Paul. And look, we're going to take on a farm bill in just a few short years. And I'm going to work very closely with Senator Richard Lugar to modernize and change farm legislation. But coming back to limited government and the principles of fiscal discipline has to be job one for House Republicans in the next two years.

NOVAK: Congressman, Senator Zell Miller, a Democrat of Georgia has said that the problem with the Democratic Party is you have lost it in rural America. Does the results of Tuesday show that Zell Miller was right on?

VAN HOLLEN: Well, I think clearly the results show that we were weak in rural America. There is no doubt the Democratic Party has got to do much better reaching out to rural America across the board. And I think that is one of the challenges that has come out of these election results. I disagree with a lot of what Zell Miller says, but with respect to that point, I think it is true.

BEGALA: Do you believe Republicans are morally superior?

PENCE: I absolutely do not believe Republicans are morally superior. I think we're all sinners in need of grace. But today Republicans stand for moral courage and the voters recognized that Tuesday.

NOVAK: Congressman Van Hollen, Congressman Pence, thank you very much.

Can the Democrats really and truly think Hillary Clinton is the answer to their problems? We'll have the latest on the race for '08 coming up next.


NOVAK: It is barely 24 hours since John Kerry conceded and the race for 2008 is on. British bookies have made Hillary Clinton the favorite to be our next president, 5-1 odds. Betting one unit gets you five if Hillary gets elected president. Next in line, Rudy Giuliani at 7-1. They're not alone.

On the Democratic side, New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson wants to be the first Latino president. John Edwards is still campaigning.

Republicans include Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, and could John McCain be getting ready for another try?

The hottest candidate for '08 is the terminator Republican governor of California. But Arnold Schwarzenegger isn't eligible because he was born in Austria. Constitutional amendment, anybody?

BEGALA: Oh, I would support a constitutional amendment to lift that restriction, but also the one that says presidents can serve two terms. That way if George W. Bush wants to run, Bill Clinton will run against him, we'll beat him like a bad piece of meat. What do you say?

NOVAK: No deal!


NOVAK: Because we can't bring back Eisenhower and Reagan.


BEGALA: From the left, I'm 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.


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