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Democrats in Denial?

Aired November 11, 2004 - 16:30   ET


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

In the CROSSFIRE: John Kerry defeated, Congress soon to be solidly in the hands of the Republicans. After its big Election Day loss, James Carville says the Democratic Party needs to be born again. What should the Democrats do next? Can they get back on a winning track?

Plus, a sparring session with boxing promoter and Bush supporter Don King today on CROSSFIRE.


ANNOUNCER: Live from the George Washington University, James Carville and Robert Novak.


JAMES CARVILLE, CO-HOST: I've said it and I'll say it again. Last week's Republican victory was nothing short of monumental. No more denial. The Democratic Party needs to get its hand out of the sand, regroup and undergo a rebirth.

ROBERT NOVAK, CO-HOST: But the Democrats seem to have learned nothing and keep trying to cram high taxes and high spending down the voters' throats. And where is their plan to instill support in the red states and the red counties of America?

But, first, the best little political briefing in television, our CROSSFIRE "Political Alert."

Hillary Clinton last night began her 2008 campaign for president. Characteristically, it was in bad taste. Speaking at Tufts University in Massachusetts, Senator Clinton attacked Yasser Arafat who at that moment lay dying in a Paris hospital. Even one of her hosts, Tufts political science professor James Glaser, told "The Boston Globe" -- quote -- "I'm surprised, given that he's on his death bed" -- end quote.

But it is interesting why Senator Clinton thought she had to attack a dying man, not because he was a terrorist, but because he denied Bill Clinton the diplomatic triumph Clinton craved in his last days in office. If this is a sample, I can't wait for Hillary's presidential campaign. CARVILLE: Actually, Arafat denied the Palestinian people and the Israeli people peace and denied the world peace. To be so narrow as to not see that the point that she was making -- and then somebody once observed about the Palestinians, they never miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity. And that's what Arafat did.




NOVAK: The guy is dying. It isn't the time to do it. It's in bad taste.

CARVILLE: I apologize to all conservatives. I was for Tom Daschle over John Thune, because I'm a Democrat and I thought Tom Daschle was a smart guy. But no one is smarter than John Thune.

When asked by George Stephanopoulos how he would come up with $2 trillion needed for President Bush's right-wing, privatize-Social Security plan, he had the following to say.


JOHN THUNE (R), SOUTH DAKOTA SENATOR ELECT: My view would be that you set up some off-budget account and you finances it that way.


CARVILLE: Why didn't we think of this before? It shows you how stupid the Washington elites are. They thought you would actually have to come up with the money.

NOVAK: You know, James...

CARVILLE: I mean...


NOVAK: You know, James, that is a totally logical way to do it.


NOVAK: Something you don't understand.


NOVAK: But just a minute. Let me talk.

CARVILLE: Go ahead.

NOVAK: But you're not fooling anybody, James. What you're afraid of is having young people like we have in the audience with their own stock accounts.

CARVILLE: Right. Right.

NOVAK: Will you shut up?

CARVILLE: Right. I'm agreeing.


CARVILLE: I'm so for putting it off budget and not paying for it.


NOVAK: Well, just -- if you're going to interrupt me, I'll interrupt you when you're talking.

CARVILLE: Go ahead. I'm agreeing with you.

NOVAK: Over and over, Senator Arlen Specter says he really didn't mean it when he signaled he would impose a litmus test requiring pro-abortion judges if he ascends to the chairmanship of the Senate Judiciary Committee, as scheduled.

But he isn't convincing the conservative group Freedom Works, which has launched a grassroots campaign to block Specter's promotion. This group is not a bunch of guys named Joe. Freedom Works is headed by former House Majority Leader Dick Armey and includes former White House counsel Boyden Gray and former vice presidential candidate Jack Kemp.

The organization urges senators to abandon the buddy system and vote for somebody who will enthusiastically support President Bush's all-important judicial nominees.

CARVILLE: Well, why did President Bush enthusiastically support Arlen Specter when he was running against your right-wing Toomey or whatever his name was?

NOVAK: Because he made a mistake.


NOVAK: It was a mistake.

CARVILLE: Maybe he can go off budget. They can fix it.


CARVILLE: Young people, go off budget. Get anything you want and put it off budget and you can do what you want. That's the conservative way.



NOVAK: What I was trying to say when you interrupted me, like a terrorist, and you wouldn't let me talk...


NOVAK: What I was trying to say -- and you're still interrupting me -- is that you don't want these people to have stock accounts.

CARVILLE: I want them to have everything. Take it all. Just put it off budget and you can have anything you want. It's all there.


CARVILLE: The Claremont Institute, a right-wing operation, and the Heritage Foundation, which is a special interest pro-pollution and pro-deficit, anti-middle class operation, are hosting -- I want you to get this, please -- a symposium called the "Meaning of the Moral Mandate."

And I repeat, "Moral Mandate," featuring Washington fellow of the Claremont Institute and distinguished fellow in cultural policy studies at the Heritage Foundation -- hang on to your hat -- Mr. William J. Bennett. Mr. Bennett will apparently not touch on the morality or lack thereof of excessive eating or gambling. Also, the Claremont Institute later, during its values week, will honor radio talk show host Rush Limbaugh for its statesmanship award.

You might think I'm joking, but I'm not.

NOVAK: You know, James, you don't learn anything from defeat, because what you want to do is just ridicule the people who beat you.


NOVAK: And, you know, Senator John Breaux, who is getting out of the Senate when the going is good, says that the Democratic Party can't run against God and the Republicans at the same time. But you want to just do the ridicule and...

CARVILLE: William J. Bennett is God. OK.

Ladies and gentlemen, I apologize. It is off budget and William J. Bennett is God.

NOVAK: Can Democrats save their party from total disarray? My co-host says his party needs to be born again. We'll debate what if anything the future holds for Democrats as they try to connect with American voters.

And one man who is not shy about saying what he thinks, Don King, talks about his favorite presidential candidate and his next boxing extravaganza 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.



NOVAK: Can the Democratic Party learn lessons from the drubbing it took in last week's national elections?

Joining us today in the CROSSFIRE, Democratic strategist Steve McMahon and Jim Gilmore, former governor of Virginia, former chairman of the Republican National Committee.


CARVILLE: Governor, one of the things I've been saying is, the Democratic Party needs to be reborn or needs to be less beholden to the interest groups in the Democratic Party.

And I was making this point to one of my Democratic friends. And he came back. He says, can you name me a place where President Bush has ever taken on an interest group in the Republican Party? And, you know, I couldn't do that. Can you help me answer my friend's question?

JAMES GILMORE (R), FORMER VIRGINIA GOVERNOR: I didn't even hear you. What did you say?



CARVILLE: ... asking me, is there any instance that President Bush has ever taken on an interest group in the Republican Party?


CARVILLE: You see...

GILMORE: Well, the president's goal is to create a broad coalition of people and bring them together, so that he can win this big election.


CARVILLE: But he's never taken on the securities industry or the tobacco industry or the people that typically support the -- or the insurance industry. He's never taken them on in any way, has he?


GILMORE: Well, I don't know what the issue would be.

But I think what the president has done is that he has tried to put forward a positive agenda and he's tried to address the issue of terrorism and national security. And I think that's why he won the election. He had a big, broad group, a coalition of people.

NOVAK: Steve McMahon... STEVE MCMAHON, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: He did take on the Log Cabin Republicans, though.

CARVILLE: Oh, he did.



MCMAHON: That took courage.


NOVAK: He also took on the securities industry with the reforms, the transparent reforms.



MCMAHON: Have there been a lot of indictments on that Enron...


NOVAK: Yes, there have been. There have been a lot of indictments. Indeed, there have.

MCMAHON: Ken Lay, what is he doing what now?

NOVAK: He's about to go to place you don't want to go.


NOVAK: Steve, the race for the U.S. House of Representatives, the Democrats defeated two incumbent Republicans, one from a solidly Democratic district, two out of all of those seats. They're 33 seats behind. They are going into their second decade of minority status in the House.

And I want to tell you with the Democratic leader of the House said today to Judy Woodruff on "INSIDE POLITICS." Let's take look at it.


REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), MINORITY LEADER: We went after some incumbents. Our candidates did well. Many of them stand ready to go again.


NOVAK: Is Nancy Pelosi delusional?


(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE) MCMAHON: Bob, you're a baseball fan. You know about -- sometimes, you have got to work your way through AAA ball to get to the majors. And we feel that some candidates who came up a little bit short, they are experienced.

NOVAK: They lost.



MCMAHON: They are tanned, rested and ready. And they'll be back.


CARVILLE: ... playing horseshoes and hand grenades. Maybe close can count.

NOVAK: Steve, you're not beholden to anybody. You can say whatever you want.

What purpose does it serve to say, we'll do well? The Democrats, I say, look ahead and they look into an abyss. They can't see any possibility of winning the House in the next -- in the immediate future. Why don't you say we've got a -- why doesn't she take the position that Carville takes and say, we have got to have a reborn party?

MCMAHON: Well, I do think we have some rebuilding to do. There's no question about that.

The Republicans did a better job of turning out their base vote than we did. And, frankly, the question is, what form is that rebuilding going to take? Are we become Republican-light? Are we going to offer an echo of what the Republican Party offers? Or are we going to stand and fight for something? Are we going to stand up for health care? Are we going to stand again, like Clinton did, for balanced budgets? Are we going to stand for health care for -- I'm sorry.


CARVILLE: ... bring up the thinking enough, and I pointed to put out that John Thune, the new Republican senator from South Dakota, had what I thought was a startling piece of red state wisdom when he was saying, how would you fund $2 trillion? And he said, well, that's easy. We'll just put it off budget.

Do you think that's one of the things that Democrats should move toward the Republicans on, is just taking things and just putting them off budget and funding them?


CARVILLE: Or do you think the Democrats ought to say, look, we're like anybody else. A family doesn't have the option of putting its car payment off budget. Maybe the government ought to level with people. What should we do? Should we just go in and put it off budget or should we stand up, should Democrats stand up and say, there has got to be some accountability here?

GILMORE: Economy...


GILMORE: The economy is improving. More revenues are coming in.

The president is going to go to work on some very substantial reforms that are going have to be done, both in the tax code and also trying to get Social Security back up on its feet for the long run. But I will also tell you that it will be clear that, if the Democrats were running the show, would just be increasing taxes and the fact...

CARVILLE: But, so we ought to just put if off budget and don't increase taxes? Because then, if we just put it off budget, we don't have to worry about it.



The one thing you are going to have to do is, you are going to have to watch the spending side of this. There's no question about that. And we absolutely have got to get the budget balanced in the appropriate way.

NOVAK: Steve, Don Fowler, former chairman of the Democratic National Committee, a friend of mine, a very fierce and ardent Democrat, he said something this week. He said -- quote -- "The old Roosevelt Democratic majority coalition has creaked and cracked away under various kinds of racial, religious, social and international forces. I think we live in a country that is majority Republican now" -- end quote.

That is the truth. All this hand-wringing and reborn, you're the minority party, aren't you?

MCMAHON: Well, Don lives in South Carolina. And I think, if you look around South Carolina, that's probably what you see.

But as I look around America, what I saw was a president who won by 3.5 million votes. Congratulations to him. He ran a great campaign. A guy who, if 67,000 votes in Ohio had gone the other way would be an ex-president today, an incumbent at a time of war who shouldn't have ever even been vulnerable to begin with.

So, if you look what John Kerry's campaign did, it was not -- I know there's lot of hand-wringing going on in our party right now, but there's no reason for hand-wringing. It is time to stand up and fight for something and make the contrast clear.


GILMORE: That puts a nice face on it, but...

NOVAK: Steve, the Democrats I talk to don't say that they -- they think that George W. Bush was an exceedingly weak candidate. They thought that he was a guy who had made so many mistakes, such problems. He had lost three debates. They thought they should have beat him.

When they can't beat him, doesn't that indicate that, like the Republicans, you're in the wilderness for maybe 60 years?


MCMAHON: Bob, there's no question he was a weak candidate. That is why his mandate was 67,000 votes in Ohio. Ronald Reagan in 1984 had a mandate. He won 48 states. Walter Mondale won two. This guy won Ohio by 137,000 -- 135,000 votes. That's not a mandate. That's a guy who got by the skin of his teeth.



GILMORE: Do you mind if I just...

CARVILLE: Go ahead, Governor. Go ahead.

GILMORE: Let me just say that Steve is full of baloney. That's absolutely not right.


GILMORE: You can't just narrow this thing down to one small majority in one state. The fact is, the president won a strong majority of the entire nation with lots and lots of electoral votes across this whole country.



CARVILLE: Well, how many electoral votes?


CARVILLE: I disagree with Steve, but I think that Senator Kerry got 252 electoral votes. And Ohio would have -- if he had won Ohio, he would have won the presidency.

GILMORE: Yes, but he didn't.

CARVILLE: Well, I understand that.


GILMORE: And he didn't win Florida. And he didn't win Indiana and he didn't win any of these other states across the Rocky Mountains. The entire South was for the president.

CARVILLE: Again, Governor Gilmore, I am hand-wringing, but it was hardly an electoral blowout if you get 252 electoral votes. I am kind of -- I actually disagree with you both of you, but I am wringing my hands. But this was not a blowout.


GILMORE: It was...


MCMAHON: The president likes to compare himself to Ronald Reagan. Well, let's do that. In, 1984 Ronald Reagan won 48 states. How many did George Bush win?

GILMORE: The president won an election in a time of war.

MCMAHON: He's not Ronald Reagan. He didn't get a mandate.


GILMORE: He doesn't -- he needs to be George W. Bush. He's the president of the United States. And that's what he needs to be. And that's what he is.


NOVAK: My favorite -- my favorite postmortem quote is from Leon Panetta, Clinton's chief of staff. He says: "We cannot ignore the swathe of red states across the South and Midwest. The party 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."

Wasn't that a huge tactical mistake tying your wagon to Michael Moore?

GILMORE: Exactly.

NOVAK: A lying propagandist.


MCMAHON: Bob, nobody -- nobody tied their wagon to Michael Moore.

And if you take the red states and you apportion them to the number of people that they have, they're no bigger than the blue states. They just happen to cover more geography.

(CROSSTALK) NOVAK: Keep talking.


NOVAK: We're going to have to take a break.

CARVILLE: You know what? We're going off budget.

NOVAK: Next in "Rapid Fire," should Howard Dean -- should Howard Dean be the next chairman of the Democratic Party? I'm not kidding you.

Just ahead, Wolf Blitzer has the latest on what's next for the Middle East now that Yasser Arafat is dead.


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

Coming up at the top of the hour, preparations for the funeral of Yasser Arafat. What does the death of the Palestinian leader mean for peace in the Middle East?

The U.S. death toll in Falluja climbing to 18. We'll have an up- close look at the reality of urban combat.

And why you may not be able to watch "Saving Private Ryan" when it airs on network television tonight.

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

Now back to CROSSFIRE.

CARVILLE: It is time for "Rapid Fire," where we ask questions even faster than Democrats are going to rebound from this disastrous election.

Our guests today are former Virginia Governor and my neighbor and former chairman of the Republican National Committee Jim Gilmore, and my dear longtime friend and brave Democratic strategist, Steve McMahon.

NOVAK: Steve, should your old boss Howard Dean be chairman of the Democratic National Committee?

MCMAHON: If he wants to be. He could build the party from the ground up. He may run for president. He may not. I don't know what he's going to do. But I'll tell you what. He has got a role to play and it is going to be significant.

CARVILLE: Governor, the Christian fundamentalists are claiming a lot of credit for President Bush's win. Do they deserve the credit? Or should they be receiving the accolades that they are in this?


And I think that the point we really need to be making is that they're entitled to representation in government, too.


GILMORE: There's been so many people who have almost acted like the evangelical Christians ought not to have the right to vote or the right to have any opportunity to have a voice in public affairs. And I say they do, and they did.



NOVAK: Steve McMahon, did John -- did John Kerry make a mistake in establishing a litmus test for Supreme Court judges on abortion, thereby driving pro-life Democrats into the arms of George W. Bush?

MCMAHON: He said that he wouldn't have a litmus test, but he would not appoint judges -- I don't think he made a mistake. I think that's where most Americans are.


CARVILLE: Oh, I'm sorry.

NOVAK: I'm stunned.


CARVILLE: Do you know any -- what Democrat has said that Christians shouldn't vote?


GILMORE: No. What they're implying is that somehow -- no, no -- what they're implying, what they're implying is that, somehow, because of this idea of separation of church and state and government, that people who actually vote their faith and to vote the values that they think are important, somehow, there is something wrong with that.


CARVILLE: But you don't know of any Democrat that said they shouldn't vote?


GILMORE: No. But they are implying that, somehow, they have an overburdening type of a philosophy or approach.


CARVILLE: Should we teach creationism in schools, like they want to? GILMORE: Listen, we -- no, we allow people -- we should teach a lot of things. But we should allow people to have their opportunity to have a voice in the public discourse. And that's all I'm saying. I think it's the right thing.

NOVAK: Steve, you're a campaign practitioner. Was that a good idea for John Kerry to put on the camo outfit and pretend he shoot a goose?


MCMAHON: Senator Kerry is a hunter. He went hunting, Bob.

NOVAK: You thought that was a good idea?

CARVILLE: All right.


CARVILLE: We're going to blow ourselves out of here with this shotgun.

Thank you.

NOVAK: Thank you very much, Steve McMahon.

Governor Gilmore, thank you.

GILMORE: Thank you.

NOVAK: From heavyweights to candidates, Is boxing's best known promoter the next king of politics? Next on CROSSFIRE.



NOVAK: Don King has proven to be a heavyweight in more than the boxing business.

The longtime promoter of bouts headlined by the likes of Muhammad Ali, Mike Tyson and Evander Holyfield was a staunch supporter of George W. Bush in this year's presidential race. He traveled the country to promote President Bush's reelection.

Don King joins us today to bask in the victory.

Mr. King, you've called yourself a Republicrat. Now you have been instrumental in the great victory of George W. Bush, are you ready to become a Republican?

DON KING, PROMOTER: I'm ready to be whatever George Walker Bush wants me to be, because he's a tried, true-tested representative of the people. He cares about the people that he represents. He says what he means and he means what he says. You can't get no better than that. (CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

CARVILLE: Well, Mr. King, my wife, Mart Matalin, is my favorite female Republican. However, you are now my -- you are my favorite male Republican, because you're a great guy.

KING: Thank you.

CARVILLE: What did you think of my boss, President Clinton?

KING: I thought he was a very nice guy. I think Clinton was good. He was a guy that could get to the people and work.

I think that George Walker Bush took that mantle from Clinton and even did it more indelibly than Clinton did by saying what he means, meaning what he's saying and delivering. He has a giant in his senior consultant, Karl Rove, the most brilliant man in this area of politics in the history of the process of the game. He's a fantastic guy.

And then you got Ed Gillespie, who traveled with me with the blessing of Mr. Rove. And we went out and reached out and touched the people, the American people, black and white alike, asking for their vote, told them what Bush stood for, carried his message. And you have seen the results. We're now in for four more years to build a better America, black and white alike.


NOVAK: Mr. King, Mr. King, tell us about your fights in New York tomorrow -- or Saturday, rather.

KING: It is going to be great fight in New York.

But it is also a political thing coming in to fights. We have the honorable John Howard, the prime minister of Australia, who we emulated and imitated in our election pursuit for George Walker Bush. They said that he couldn't get reelected. And he come in, he got reelected and he got both parties of the house, the first time in the history of Australia.

He has sent an Australian over to fight for the heavyweight championship of the world. His name is Kali Meehan. He'll be taking on Hasim Rahman for the elimination match to be able to fight for the title. And so we said to him -- he supported us in Iraqi Freedom. He's one of our political allies. We invited him to the fight, also -- and Poland.

Aleksander Kwasniewski, the president of Poland, who used to be the minister of sports, who had Golota. And Golota won the bronze medal for Poland.


KING: He's fighting on the card. So we got the president of both of these countries. They're allies to America.


KING: And we are fighting...


NOVAK: Thank you very much, Don King.

CARVILLE: Don King for U.N. ambassador.


CARVILLE: We're going to put you in the U.N.

KING: Yes. We're going to be keep working, November 13. George Walker Bush...


CARVILLE: From the left, I'm James Carville, with Don King. And 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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