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Term Limits No More?

Aired November 19, 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: President Arnold Schwarzenegger? The founding fathers said no, but there's a growing movement to change that.

If you bend one rule, why not another? Can you say President Bill Clinton again? Is it time to tinker with the Constitution and open the White House doors a little wider?



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



The ink has barely dried on this month's election results and already there is talk about 2008, at least here in Washington. One notion that Bill Clinton may endorse, changing the 22nd Amendment so that he could run for president again, if you can even imagine.

PAUL BEGALA, CO-HOST: Well, if the American country is the home of the free, why aren't the American people free to give Bill Clinton or George W. Bush, for that matter, a third term? And, by the way, why is it that an American citizen like Arnold Schwarzenegger is barred from seeking the presidency? We will debate the politics of running for president in a moment.

But let's begin, as we always do, with the best little political briefing in television, the CROSSFIRE "Political Alert."

Fresh from his truly gracious appearance at the dedication of the William J. Clinton Presidential Library, President George W. Bush headed off for the Asia-Pacific economic summit in chile. Our president leaves behind, however, a host of economic woes. The United States of America is the world's largest debtor, and Mr. Bush today signed into law a new record-high debt ceiling of $8.18 trillion.

Meanwhile, Fed Chairman Alan Greenspan says the budget and the trade deficit under Mr. Bush are setting the table for future economic problems. The dollar tumbled to a near record low, both against the yen and the euro, after Dr. Greenspan's comments were released. Greenspan's solution -- quote -- "reducing the federal budget deficit or preferably moving it to surplus" -- unquote.

Well, if Mr. Bush wants to do that, he would do well to spend even more time at the Clinton Library studying economics from the master.



CARLSON: That is brilliant advice. I love that from Dr. Greenspan. Take the budget deficit and make it a surplus. Why didn't we think of that?

BEGALA: We did. My side did. We had the biggest surplus ever, and he blew it.


CARLSON: What he ought to do is sign up for the Clinton plan, which is allow a tech boom...

BEGALA: Yes, prosperity.

CARLSON: No, allow a tech boom to occur and then take credit for it. I love that.


BEGALA: ... been around forever. It was the Clinton economic plan...


BEGALA: It had not been around forever. There was no new technology. Personal computers had been around.

CARLSON: What do you mean there was no new technology? The Internet.


BEGALA: Al Gore invented it?

CARLSON: Come on.


CARLSON: This was new technology.,

BEGALA: This is all about business -- the same technology was built in Europe and Japan. They didn't boom. We did. Why? We had Clinton. They didn't. We had sound economic policies...


CARLSON: Yes. Clinton, genius, genius.

Speaking of Clinton, the Clinton Library opened in Little Rock yesterday. And thousands of people came from all over the world to attend and to remember very selectively the Clinton years. Unfortunately, the weather did not cooperate. It was overcast, wet and nasty, and everyone got soaked, or virtually everyone. Also on hand were a large number of Hollywood actors, singers and other show people, friends and companions of the former president, from the days when he still controlled the Lincoln Bedroom.

They did not get wet. While ordinary people got drizzled on, luminaries like Kevin Spacey, Morgan Freeman, and, of course Barbra Streisand stayed dry and cozy in a separate but definitely not equal VIP tent. In other words, Clinton's friends, like Clinton himself, may say they love the common man. They may know exactly how the average person ought to live his life, what ecologically friendly car he should drive, how much he ought to pay in taxes. But share his condition, stand out in the rain with him, no thanks. They flee to the VIP tent every time.



CARLSON: Now, I know you got your head in your hands, Paul. That was reported today.

BEGALA: It was wrong. I was there. They were soaked to the bone.


CARLSON: There was no VIP tent?

BEGALA: There was a holding tent for lots of different people.

CARLSON: A holding tent. Were ordinary people allowed in the holding tent?


BEGALA: For three hours, they sat in the rain, Tucker. I was there. You can't smear these people.

CARLSON: I'm not smearing anyone.


BEGALA: I was there. Who are you going to believe?

CARLSON: My question is, Paul, was the average person who dragged himself to Little Rock to watch this spectacle allowed in the VIP tent?


CARLSON: Was it only for Morgan Freeman? Was it only for Morgan Freeman or Barbra Streisand?


BEGALA: At every event, there was a place for people to go to get their tickets. But once they got their tickets from the tent, they sat in the rain, just like everybody else. That's...


BEGALA: ... unfair and it's completely inaccurate.

Well, Senator Tom Daschle today is going out the Senate the same way he came in, as a class act. Daschle is expected to gave his farewell address to his colleagues this afternoon. As a senator, he used his power to get South Dakotans $1.59 back from Washington in return for every $1 they paid here in taxes.

But South Dakotans plainly rejected Tom Daschle's big spending, and they bounced him from the Senate. So, I say let's give South Dakotans what they want. Let's end the billions they get in ethanol subsidy. Let's cancel the $3 billion Daschle just got them in drought relief. And how about the federal subsidies for biodiesel and timber that South Dakota enjoys? Cancel them. South Dakota wants less government? I say we give those welfare queens what they want.


CARLSON: I like this. This is a great strategy for winning in 2008.

BEGALA: I don't care about winning.

CARLSON: Attack the voters.

BEGALA: No. Give them what they want.


CARLSON: It turns out that South Dakota voters probably do want a lot of federal pork, like most voters do, unfortunately. They just don't want a screaming liberal as their senator and that's why they booted him out. That's the real answer.


BEGALA: What makes him liberal? He's for pork. He's for big spending.

CARLSON: Actually, he's for completely unrestricted abortion. He's for...

BEGALA: That's not what the election was about.

CARLSON: He's for every stupid liberal cause that you guys back. And that's why they booted him out of office.


BEGALA: If they want limited government...


CARLSON: They don't want limited government. I wish they did. I wish they did want limited government.


BEGALA: You have a principled position. That's right.


BEGALA: You, in principle, oppose that government spending.

CARLSON: No, they want stupid agricultural subsidies, too.

BEGALA: They should lose them. If they want to fire the liberals, they should lose the liberal spending. They can't have both.

CARLSON: Actually, unfortunately, the Republicans are into liberal spending, too. Yes, it's true, unfortunately.


BEGALA: Unfortunately.

CARLSON: Well, if there's one thing Bill Clinton cares about, it is his legacy, which is another way of saying himself.

There was that endless, fat-filled biography, the ridiculously oversized library crammed with everything but a Marc Rich exhibit and so on. So, when yesterday, Clinton tried to tell ABC's Peter Jennings that he doesn't really care what his historians say about him, Jennings had to step in. Oh, yes, you do, said the anchor. And Clinton promptly exploded.

Here's what he said.


WILLIAM J. CLINTON, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: You don't want to go here, Peter. You don't want to go here, not after what you people did and the way you, your network, what you did with Kenneth Starr, the way your people repeated every little sleazy thing he leaked.


CARLSON: Still whining about Ken Starr, still blaming the press, still living in 1998. The world has moved on, but Bill Clinton has not. He's the last Japanese soldier emerging from the jungle unaware that the war has ended.


CARLSON: It is more pathetic than anything. Think of that next time you're tempted to despise Bill Clinton. He is tormented enough. It's pathetic. He's whining.

BEGALA: He was asked a question about 1998, and he answered the question.

CARLSON: No, he's not. He's attacking the press.


BEGALA: He should attack the press.

CARLSON: Well, it's pathetic.

BEGALA: On September 21, 1998, all of the networks, including ours, ran the tape of President Clinton's...

CARLSON: You're still fighting this? This is so sad.

BEGALA: ... testimony before the grand jury. You know what Bill Clinton did on that day?

CARLSON: I don't know.


BEGALA: He spoke to the U.N. about terrorism.

CARLSON: He probably said that AIDS or something -- all right.


BEGALA: He said the threat of terrorism was a clear and present danger. And he talked about how all of us are potentially victims of terrorists. Who was right? The media who was covering Bill Clinton's underwear drawer or Bill Clinton, who was warning us about terrorism?



BEGALA: Who was right, guys?


CARLSON: I honestly think -- I honestly think if we could divert part of the federal budget to get therapy for Clinton and everyone who served him, we would all be happier.

BEGALA: He was right. The press was wrong. God bless him for pointing that out to Peter Jennings.

CARLSON: All right. All right.

Well, the library is already built, but some people can't seem to let go of the idea of Bill Clinton for running for a third term as president. You heard it here first, but not last, sadly. Is it time to amend the Constitution so that Bill Clinton can have a paying job? That's our debate.

And later, what does former D.C. Mayor and current city council member Marion Barry have in common with Jesus Christ?


CARLSON: We'll answer that question.

We'll be right back.

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.



BEGALA: Should the 22nd Amendment be changed to allow two-term presidents, like Bill Clinton and now George W. Bush, to run again?

Joining us in the CROSSFIRE to debate a potential amendment to the Constitution, Republican Congressman Darrell Issa of California, also from California, Democratic Congresswoman Maxine Waters.


BEGALA: Thank you both for joining us.


CARLSON: Congresswoman Waters, thanks a lot for joining us.


CARLSON: The Democratic Party, as you know, is in complete disarray, without a leader, Al Gore, John Kerry not exactly leaders. It really falls to Bill Clinton to become the standard bearer of your party. And I know there is a great deal of nostalgia for the embarrassment of his two years -- his two terms in office.

That's what this is really about, isn't it, sort of there's no one else Democrats could pick who could win in 2008? You would like to see Clinton win again.

WATERS: I beg to differ with you.

CARLSON: Go ahead and differ.


WATERS: Not only do we have Bill Clinton, who can provide leadership for the Democratic Party. We have a lot of people waiting in the wings to run for president of the United States.

CARLSON: I can't wait to meet them. But that's what this 22nd Amendment is about.

WATERS: Well, I don't know why you'd want to meet them. You wouldn't vote for them.

REP. DARRELL ISSA (R), CALIFORNIA: Dennis Kucinich is available.


CARLSON: You've got Dennis Kucinich. That's right. You absolutely -- but, truly, I mean, this is a reflection -- this new enthusiasm for repealing a constitutional amendment is a measure of kind of the pathetic state of your back bench, isn't it? Clinton is the only one.

WATERS: Oh, absolutely not, absolutely not.

Let me just tell you, some of us believe that term limits is not the way to deal with providing leadership of the United States of America. The American people should basically choose whomever they want and vote for them if they would like for them to stay in office. So it's an artificial way of trying to change leadership. And I don't agree with that.

And I think that, you know, we should take a look at how we can get rid of that part of the Constitution that would limit the ability for presidents to serve, particularly if the people want them to.


In fact, let me introduce, since both of you are from California...


BEGALA: A witness on Congresswoman Waters' side, one who, frankly, you were probably not always on his side, Ronald Wilson Reagan, president from your state of California.

ISSA: Perhaps a nostalgic statement just after leaving office.


BEGALA: Let's let President Reagan have his say. He said this about the 22nd Amendment: "It's actually a preemption of the people's right to vote for whomever they want to vote for and as many times as they want to vote. And two terms isn't necessarily enough to get done all you want to get done."

Call me crazy. I think Ronald Reagan was right. Why should we limit the people's right?

ISSA: I think it was a nostalgic statement.

BEGALA: But he's not here to defend himself. He clearly meant what he said and he said what he meant. And he, I think, was right. Why do you think he was wrong?

ISSA: I think what he was forgetting was that in fact the 22nd Amendment was passed because there was a concern after FDR's four terms that the power of incumbency had moved, including packing the Supreme Court, had moved the balance too close to the presidency and too far away from the body that Maxine and I sit in.

That's really what this is about. The people previously spoke and said they were concerned about the consolidation of power in the office of a president for a long period of time.


BEGALA: I agree with your historically analysis. But the people were wrong in the '40s. And here's why.

They didn't want any more FDRs. Sixty years later, we think FDR was one of the great presidents of the 20th century. Twenty years after Ronald Reagan, people think he was one of the great presidents of the 20th century. I guess, as a political consultant, we would have had a third Reagan term, actually, had he been allowed to run.

Why not give the people their right? We were wrong, we the people, when we tried to restrict. I would like to have another FDR. You might like to have another Reagan. Why can't people have what they want?

ISSA: I think -- first of all, like Maxine, I generally disapprove of term limits. I really do. And I think it's a mistake in California. It has ruined our legislature with the term limits in the Assembly and the Senate.

However, the limitation on the power of the executive branch was well thought out at the time. And if we want to reconsider it, I don't think it's something you run through quickly. I think it's the kind of debate that goes on for a period of time, has to have a sustained value. And if we're going to do it, we still have to decide a lot of questions, such as, will we limit to two concurrent terms, and then if somebody leaves office and wants to come back, should they be able to come back?

There's a lot of changes that could be considered. But I absolutely believe that people spoke very smart and said, we want to limit the power of the presidency, and term limits in this unique case is how they do it. It's also how they do it in the executive branches of many, many, many states.


CARLSON: And the reason they do, Congressman Waters, obviously -- and I actually agree with you on term limits generally, but Mr. Issa makes a great point. The president has powers that ordinary members of Congress don't have. One is to wage and then prosecute war.

And you don't want a president to exploit war to keep himself in power. And that's an imaginable scenario. And isn't that reason alone to limit him or her to two terms?

WATERS: No. you come up with all kind of scenarios about why you would support or would not support.

And, certainly, the president has powers that some people would like to limit, such as you're talking about now, the power to wage war. But the fact of the matter is, will the American public have the right to choose whomever they would like to have to lead this country, given all of that? President Roosevelt certainly did do a fantastic job. Some of the greatest legislation came out of that, his term in office -- his terms in office.

CARLSON: Then, would you like to see the amendment repealed in time for George W. Bush to win a third term?

WATERS: It's not about partisanship. It's not about partisanship. It's not about Bush.

CARLSON: But would you like to see that?


WATERS: Just a moment. It's not about that. We're -- this is a little bit higher level debate than that. This is about...


CARLSON: Well, it has practical effects. And that might be one of the practical effects.


WATERS: No. This has nothing to do with whether or not it would inure to the benefit of a Republican or a Democrat.

This is about a very, very serious concept of whether or not you should limit the term of office of the president. Basically, I disagree with limited. I think it's an artificial way to try and change leadership. I think, if it's left in the hands of the people, in the final analysis, they will do a better job than any artificial limits you put on them.



ISSA: But, you know, Maxine, what you've done, what you've done...


ISSA: Maxine, what you've done, though, is you've set us up for the second half of this question, which is, you've made the case for why we should not limit somebody born, let's say, in an embassy overseas from being president.

BEGALA: We're going to come to that in a minute on that topic.


ISSA: Be consistent.

BEGALA: Congressman Issa has actually predicted the future.

When we come back, we are going to debate why a foreign-born citizen, like, oh, say the governor of California, Arnold Schwarzenegger, or the governor of Michigan, Jennifer Granholm, cannot serve as our president.

Stay with us and we'll have another heated debate. This one will pump you up in the CROSSFIRE.

Stay with us.



CARLSON: Welcome back to CROSSFIRE.

Here's the question. Should the Constitution be amended so that foreign-born people, foreigners, can be elected president? It's unconstitutional now. Should we change it? That's our debate.

Joining us, Democrat Maxine Waters, congresswoman from California, also her colleague from California, Republican Darrell Issa.

BEGALA: Now, Congressman Issa, I appreciate, you support allowing foreign-born Americans like your governor to run for president, right?

ISSA: Absolutely.

BEGALA: Well, so do I, which it occurs to me that...

CARLSON: Well, I don't actually.

WATERS: And neither do I.

BEGALA: You know what? We have to switch. You stay there.




BEGALA: Here. Do you want these?



CARLSON: Thank you.

ISSA: ... ad-libbing.


BEGALA: I don't want to drink his water, is all.

CARLSON: Your seat's warm.

BEGALA: God, I feel morally superior.


CARLSON: I feel dumber.

ISSA: Again.

BEGALA: Jesus loves me more over here.

CARLSON: I've got all sorts of slogans I want to hit you over the head with.


BEGALA: I'm much better than you now.

WATERS: Oh, my goodness. OK.

BEGALA: But let me ask you, one of your colleagues and one of my favorite members of the Congress, Barney Frank...

WATERS: Exactly.

BEGALA: ... was asked about this recently, and he said something pretty interesting. He said it's -- "Barring immigrants from becoming president suggests that immigrants are less trustworthy than natural- born citizens. The public ought to be able to decide these things."

Now, you were just saying before, people should decide on a third term for a president. Why can't we extend that and let people decide if, say, your Governor Schwarzenegger could be our president?

WATERS: Well, let me just say this.

We handle a lot of immigrant constituent complaints in my office. We work very hard to try and make sure there's some justice and fairness for immigrants. So I'm not opposed to immigrants having a good quality of life and enjoying all of the benefits of this country. However...

BEGALA: They just can't move into that big White House on Pennsylvania Avenue?

WATERS: Well, when I was asked, I became very sad. I became very sad when I had to focus on this, because I realized, you know, again, that, as an African-American woman, I will probably never see in my lifetime an African-American be president, born here in the United States of America. I'll probably never see a woman born here in the United States of America. I will never see a Native American who...


CARLSON: Now do you see what it feels like, Paul, to sit across from Maxine Waters? She got you. I totally...


BEGALA: She's very smart.


WATERS: And so I became very sad.

ISSA: Which, of course, we changed every one of those laws. We changed women not being able to vote. We changed African-Americans being treated...

WATERS: We lost the Equal Rights Amendment in this country. Women were never able to get an Equal Rights Amendment in the Constitution of the United States.

ISSA: I'll sign on to yours if you sign on to mine.



CARLSON: Can I just -- since we're switching places here, let me just agree Barney Frank, actually. He makes a pretty smart point, which is that prohibition...


ISSA: You'd be switching again, you know?


CARLSON: That prohibition does imply -- Congressman, please -- does imply that foreigners are less trustworthy. That's the whole reason it's there. The idea is, if you're foreign-born, you're much more likely to have a foreign allegiance, allegiance to another government.

(CROSSTALK) CARLSON: And that's not a silly concern, actually.

ISSA: The founding fathers had a legitimate concern.

CARLSON: Yes, they did. And so do we.

ISSA: Prior to the War of 1812, they had a very legitimate concern.

However, they left doubt as to whether John McCain would have been a legal president. They left out as to whether military personnel, foreign service personnel and others serving overseas, if they don't haul themselves back to the United States.

CARLSON: No, you're debating a loophole. I'm debating a principle. That is a loophole. Those are Americans who happen to be born abroad. I'm talking about foreign citizens.

WATERS: We need to -- we need to -- we need to make sure that everyone who swears allegiance to this country and who is an American citizen is eligible to be voted for by the people. That's all we're trying to do, exactly what Maxine said.

We had a problem when we started this country. We didn't consider Indians equal. We didn't consider blacks equal. We didn't consider women equal.

CARLSON: That has nothing to do with this debate at all.

ISSA: It does.

CARLSON: No, it doesn't.

ISSA: We have changed -- Look, the Constitution did not envision a woman president. The Constitution did not envision an Indian president.

CARLSON: My question about foreign allegiances of people who once held a citizenship of another country remains unanswered. It has nothing to do with being...


ISSA: What about my legislative assistant, who was born in Korea, adopted almost at birth, has known no other country, was a citizen as a result of adoption by Americans, has no idea anything about it, except, behold, he was born in Korea.


WATERS: Yes, but the fact of the matter is that...


BEGALA: ... about foreign allegiances, though, because I think it's bigotry. WATERS: Yes. Yes.


BEGALA: Madeleine Albright was born overseas. She was born in what was then Czechoslovakia.

WATERS: Yes. So?

BEGALA: And she helped preside over, including the Czech Republic into NATO. Did she favor the Czechs? I don't think so.

ISSA: Or Tom Lantos.

BEGALA: Henry Kissinger was born in Germany. Tom Lantos was born in Hungary.


BEGALA: Henry Kissinger was secretary of state. Tom Lantos is a congressman.

WATERS: Yes. Yes.

BEGALA: These are people with enormous responsibility in our government.

WATERS: Sure. Yes.

BEGALA: They haven't -- there's never been a case, I don't think, of a government official showing allegiance to another country because he or she was born there.

WATERS: Well, you know, they might not be able to, but their children can that are born here.


BEGALA: But Madeleine would be a great president, don't you think?

WATERS: Oh, I don't know.


CARLSON: I agree. I agree.

WATERS: I don't know if she would or not.


ISSA: Tucker, have you ever sworn allegiance to the United States formally?

WATERS: I would say to you this, that, again, her children would have an opportunity that are born here... (CROSSTALK)

ISSA: They all have. All these citizens have. You haven't.

WATERS: But she -- she would not be able to. I don't know. I would say to you this, that again, her children would have an opportunity to if they are born here.


WATERS: But she would not be able to. And I think that's a fair prohibition.

Again, Arnold Schwarzenegger is a governor of the state of California. Tom Bradley, who was the mayor of the city of Los Angeles, a fine politician elected official, did everything that people said he should do, was loved, respected, but he could not be elected governor of California.

CARLSON: Exactly, Paul.

WATERS: But Arnold Schwarzenegger, who has been here, what, 20 years, could be elected...


CARLSON: You're trying to keep Tom Bradley from being governor of California. And I just think that's wrong, Paul. I think it's wrong what you've been doing. I really do. And you know what?


CARLSON: This is about Arnold Schwarzenegger. I'm glad you brought that up.


CARLSON: And, look, let's be totally honest.


CARLSON: The only reason anybody is interested in this question is because Arnold Schwarzenegger is the star of the Republican Party. Can't we find somebody else? Can't reporters find...


ISSA: The seed of this legislation was previous to the recall, previous to Arnold Schwarzenegger.

CARLSON: Because they thought it through ahead of time.


ISSA: It was authored by a Democrat.


WATERS: Oh, no. This is all about the Terminator. And I...



CARLSON: I can't believe you kept Tom Bradley from being governor of California. It's an outrage.

CARLSON: I liked Bradley. I thought he would have been a fine governor.


ISSA: You cannot say separate but equal. You cannot say separate but equal if you don't have...


CARLSON: Yes, we do.

WATERS: We have got some work to do in this country.


CARLSON: I like switching sides. All right.

BEGALA: We do have work to do in this country, until everybody is equal, including the foreign-born.


ISSA: Tucker, now you know what it's like to be on the wrong side.


BEGALA: Let me thank Congresswoman Maxine Waters.

WATERS: You're welcome. You're welcome.

BEGALA: Unusual for me to be interviewing a liberal. But you're great at it.

Darrell Issa, Congressman from California, Republican, thank you for a fun debate.


BEGALA: The first switching on CROSSFIRE, except the time Novak came out of the closet. Well...


BEGALA: Just a joke, Bob. Just a joke, Bob. Who is linking Marion Barry to Jesus Christ? You will not believe this one.

That will be story next in the CROSSFIRE.


CARLSON: Welcome back.

Very few politicians have self-esteem problems. But today's megalomania award must go to Washington, D.C., Democrat and City Councilman Marion Barry, who said this about himself recently -- quote -- "Even Jesus Christ, even he wasn't universally loved."

That's right, Jesus Christ and Marion Barry, cut from the same cloth.


BEGALA: Well, no. He was just making a factual...


CARLSON: Now, why doesn't he run for president? Why doesn't he? He's a great Democrat. I like that man.


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.

Have a great weekend. "WOLF BLITZER REPORTS" starts right now.



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