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Cleaning Up Media

Aired November 22, 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: On Election Day, many Americans said their vote was determined by issues related to moral values. But each night, as Americans pick up their remotes, they're voting for sports and entertainment programming that features plenty of sex and violence. Are Americans saints or sinners? And how far should the government go to clean up the media?



ANNOUNCER: Live from the Georgia Washington University, James Carville and Tucker Carlson.



NBA players charging into the stands to brawl with apparently drunken fans, a pre-"Monday Night Football" promotion featuring one of ABC's "Desperate Housewives" jumping naked into the arms of an NFL all-star, pretty entertaining. But not everyone is amused. It turns out that Hollywood actually does not have the same standards as the rest of America. Shouldn't viewers have some control over what's on television?

JAMES CARVILLE, CO-HOST: What makes no sense is the fact that Republicans have hijacked the moral high ground in American politics. Outrage on the kind of trash we've seen on television cuts across political lines. And so the heads of big corporations that reap big profits from broadcasting a steady diet of sex and violence are some of President Bush's biggest supporters. So why do Republicans get the values vote?

We'll try to figure that out. But, first, the best little political briefing in television, our CROSSFIRE "Political Alert."

There was a reason that I used to have a ton of respect for Colin Powell and while I still feel some affection for him, even though he's been slapped and humiliated by everyone in the Bush administration. Mark Danner in a superb op-ed piece in "The New York Times" Sunday pointed out how Powell in his memoirs wrote of Vietnam -- and I quote -- "Our senior officers knew the war was going badly, yet, they bowed to group think pressure and kept up pretenses."

Now, under the leadership of Bush, Cheney and Rumsfeld, we continue to talk about how well the war in Iraq is going, while the facts are, 13 months ago, insurgents were mounting 17 attacks a day. Last week, there were 150. In fact, the war is going so well that we say we need another 20,000 troops, in addition to the 130,000 we already have there.

I guess they'll be there to help Iraqis hand out the roses at the victory celebration. God, how I miss the old Colin Powell.


CARLSON: you Know, I don't think there's any reason to patronize Colin Powell. Colin Powell is his own man. And Colin Powell, more than any other person other than George W. Bush himself, is responsible for us going to war in Iraq. So, if you're mad about the war in Iraq, hold Colin Powell as an adult responsible for it.

CARVILLE: Well, I think I was. Tucker...


CARLSON: No. You said he's been humiliated by the Bush administration. He's his own man.


CARVILLE: But he allowed himself -- look, he allowed himself to be part of this. So, there's a certain thing called irony. And I was doing a little bit of that. But I still like the man and think he's made some contributions. But he should have...



CARLSON: Maybe he was telling the truth. Maybe he said what he thought. Maybe he's an adult.


CARLSON: Well, four years ago, Bill Clinton committed his final disgrace in office by pardoning the fugitive criminal Marc Rich in return for a $450,000 donation so the Clinton Library from Rich's ex- wife. At the time, it seemed like the final Clinton fund-raising scandal.

But no. Now it turns out that the newly opened Clinton Library was financed in part by a shadowy web of Middle Eastern oil interests. Politicians in Dubai, Kuwait, Qatar and Lebanon donated at least $1 million each to Clinton's hall of ego. So did the Saudi royal family and at least three Saudi businessmen. We know almost nothing about who these Saudi businessmen are because the Clintons will not reveal that information, despite the fact the library is not owned by Bill and Hillary Clinton, but by the public, that is, by the rest of us. So, just to recap, Bill Clinton takes untold millions from mysterious Saudis with unknown agendas. And yet it's George W. Bush who is accused of being too close to Riyadh. Michael Moore may have made the wrong movie.


CARVILLE: Tell me something. Have you reviewed the public documents from the library of president 41 Bush and Ronald Reagan? How did you find that the -- that the public contributions...


CARLSON: No. I'm sure they got tons and tons of money from the Saudis. They did. Yes, they did.

CARVILLE: Did they make it public?

CARLSON: But the question is -- no, they didn't. They absolutely did not. And they should.




CARVILLE: So, in other words, we got the Bill Clinton standard. Then we got the Republican standard.


CARVILLE: I see. I see.


CARLSON: No, we're not saying that at all. What we're saying is, the Democrats have accused the Bush administration of being in bed with the Saudis. Here you have Bill Clinton...



CARVILLE: Are you here to tell me no Saudis...


CARVILLE: Why didn't the Reagan Library and the Bush Library make their records public?


CARLSON: Oh, they did it, too? That's my favorite defense.

CARVILLE: Oh, so now they tell us. Less than three weeks after the election, I repeat, after the election, Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan slinks off to Frankfurt, Germany, to tell a pack of European bankers -- that's right, French and Germans -- that the United States is facing a looming fiscal crisis, a crisis made possible by the offices of President Bush and Alan Greenspan, who, as you remember, less than four years ago, was worried about what we were going to do with the surpluses that Bill Clinton left.

Greenspan on his knees to the European bankers seems to be begging them and the Asians to keep funding our irresponsible fiscal crisis, deficit skyrocketing, dollar plummeting, job growth staggering. And now they tell us. Remember when we had a president who had a budget surplus, record job growth and a strong dollar? I do. I went to the opening of his library. That's right, William Jefferson Clinton.

Thank you, Mr. President.


CARLSON: You know, James, I don't really think there's any reason to beat up on the people you call -- quote -- "the Asians," you know?


CARVILLE: I'm not beating up on Asians. We're asking them to fund our budget deficit.


CARVILLE: I'm not beating them up. I'm saying, thank you, Mr. Japan. Thank you, Mr. China. Thank you for funding us. We're on our knees. Please.

CARLSON: Pure, pure demagoguery.

CARVILLE: Please. Please.


CARLSON: How big was the projected surplus that Bill Clinton -- quote -- "left us"?

CARVILLE: Five-point-seven trillion bucks.

CARLSON: Really? And did it actually exist? Not true.


CARVILLE: ... Bill Clinton turned over to this administration because of his fiscal responsibility.


CARLSON: That money didn't exist, James, as you know.


CARVILLE: Thank, you Mr. Asian. Thank you, Mr. French.


CARLSON: Mr. Asian? Thank you, Mr. Asian. We need a tape of that.

After three disastrous election cycles in a row, the question is, who would want to lead the Democratic Party? The answer, not many people. Iowa Governor Tom Vilsack had said at one point that he was interested in the job. And yet today, Vilsack announced that he doesn't have time to run the Democratic National Committee, which is another way of saying he doesn't want to destroy a perfectly promising political career trying to resuscitate a moribund party. And it's just as well.

Vilsack was not the right man anyway. What the Democratic Party really needs is a leader so angry, he periodically loses control of himself, a man with an unpopular message and limited personal charisma. What the Democrats need, in other words, is Howard Dean, who, it happens, is now the front-runner for the DNC chairmanship. Just this afternoon, Howard Dean held a press conference to respond to the good news about Tom Vilsack. Here's what he said.





CARLSON: There he is, James, the new leader of the Democratic Party. And how can say it's bad? I think he's the perfect leader of your party.


CARVILLE: I'm sure that Governor Dean appreciates your endorsement.

CARLSON: He has my endorsement and my love and my best wishes and my prayers that he takes over your party right now.



CARVILLE: Thank you, Asians, for supporting this country and buying our bonds, which we desperately need.

CARLSON: Why are you beating up on the Asians again?

(CROSSTALK) CARVILLE: I'm not beating them up. I'm thanking them.

CARLSON: Why are you being mean to the Asians?

CARVILLE: How can I be mean? I'm thanking them.

CARLSON: I like the Asians.


CARVILLE: I love the Asians. We need them to fund our deficit.


CARLSON: Beating up on the Asians, always the first refuge.

Well, has American pop culture gone too far when top-rated and admittedly a pretty excellent TV show features housewives and their yard boys. Our sports lights -- features more than -- more brawling than ball game. Should anything be done about it? Can anything be done about it?

And, later, the Democrats need a new theme song. We have a few suggestions.

Stay tuned.


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.



CARVILLE: On November 2, voters said moral values were their No. 1 issue and apparently felt that Republicans and their friends in big business were the ones to clean things up. Yet, every night on television in markets across the television, viewers vote with their remotes for sex and violence. Is America conflicted over moral values?

We are joined by Brent Bozell, the president of the Parents Television Council, and radio talk show's Michael Jackson.


CARLSON: Michael Jackson, thanks for joining us.


CARLSON: For a lot of people in blue states, including people who live in my neighborhood and work in the press, this is a pretty hard subject to take seriously. It's hard to imagine being offended by prime-time television. But the fact is, a lot of people are. And they feel, I think correctly, that the people who make most television programming don't share their values and don't really care what they think.

And they put this stuff on and they have no say in what's on television. And don't you, A, understand their frustration and, B, think they ought to have some say over what's on the tube?

JACKSON: First of all, the blue states and the red states, this great divide within this nation, is not accurate when it comes to what they watch on television, the same terrible and the same wonderful shows.

I mean, this is the nation that is wrapped up in some of the most trite entertainment called "Desperate Housewives." I know as many Republicans who are watching as Democrats. But there's no sign -- if you see the pilots for the coming season, no sign of there being disarmament in the nursery, no sign of there being any lessening of the attempt to try and match cable television's being able to push the envelope all the time.


JACKSON: It's getting dirty out there.


CARLSON: I absolutely agree with that. But isn't the problem the divide not between red and blue, even, but between people who make television and those who watch it?

Let me -- I want to read you a quote from Ron Silver, who is an actor. This was in "The L.A. Times," your newspaper.


CARLSON: I thought this was a pretty good quote.

He said: "I learned a lot from traveling around the country." He traveled on the Bush campaign. "It energized me and made me realize how divorced celebrities, the media, academics are from the general population. They see themselves as the representatives of the people, when nothing could be further from the truth. There's a great heartland there for which faith and moral values are important. Popular culture doesn't reflect what half the country feels."

That's true, isn't it?

JACKSON: Sort of, but I think they're less remote from the populous than are many of the politicians, Democrat and Republican, and even Ralph Nader.

I happen to believe that many of them know exactly what the public wants. That's why they provide it. I see Steve Bochco, who has been the brain behind so many fine productions, is working on a show right now that's going to be controversial before it's even made. It's about the current war.

Now, is that dirty? Well, what is dirty? What is pushing the envelope? I'd like it to be as challenging as possible, be it in humor or in drama. We have the ability to turn off and turn away. But we're not doing so.


CARVILLE: Brent, let me go talk about this incident at the baseball game where Ron Artest and the basketball players are being blamed.

The man who owns the Detroit Pistons that failed to put security there for these fans is a man named Bill Davidson, who has given $20,000 to the Republican Party. Don't you think Mr. Davidson looks at the irresponsibility of this administration, the corruptness of running the surplus into a deficit, of all the lies that were told this country about Iraq and all of these things, and, saying, what the hell; why should I worry about affording protection to the people that pay me money when I know that the administration lets everybody else off and the pharmaceuticals and everybody; they will left me off?

So, why would Mr. Davidson afford protection to his fans?

BRENT BOZELL, MEDIA RESEARCH CENTER: Well, I didn't know that when people were throwing beer on players and players were punching the fans that they were worried about the deficit.

CARVILLE: Oh, you didn't...


CARVILLE: But why didn't Mr. Davidson have protection? Why didn't he have adequate protection to protect people? When somebody pays $350 for a seat, like these people in the front row give to Mr. Davidson, why did he feel he didn't have to have adequate police protection and security for these folks?

BOZELL: I think it's a terrible indictment of our society when you're asking that question.

CARVILLE: Why? It is?

BOZELL: Well, I think it's a terrible indictment on our society when we have to have paid security to separate fans from players. But that's the reality of today. But it doesn't have anything to do with deficits or Iraq.


CARVILLE: What about Ty Cobb? He went into the stands and beat up a man that had no hand on one hand and two fingers on the other hand and stomped him into the stands.


BOZELL: Was it a Republican administration?

CARVILLE: Actually, Ty Cobb was probably a Republican.



CARVILLE: I'm pretty sure that he was.

So why -- but again, why doesn't the ownership of this team get some responsibility for failure to have adequate protection and failure to have adequate police protection, when they've got people throwing beer on these athletes and so this breaks out? Why doesn't corporate America assume some responsibility? And why do we just want to blame everybody else?


BOZELL: I think, if you want to heap some responsibility on corporate America, I think you can in this sense.


BOZELL: That, if you look at the owners of some basketball teams and some football teams, they bring in thugs like Dennis Rodman, who is a good basketball player, but is nothing but a troublemaker, and one owner after another hires him and brings him on and then is aghast at the way he performs. So I think there's a level of corporate responsibility, but it doesn't have anything to do with Iraq.


CARVILLE: Why doesn't Mr. Davidson takes the $20,000 that he gave to Republicans and give police more?

CARLSON: I'm upset about Ty Cobb, too.

But, Mr. Jackson...


JACKSON: Michael.

CARLSON: Michael.

Michael, I want to read you a quote from Peggy Noonan, which I think is actually a pretty thoughtful quote. And I think, as someone, again, who lives on the West Coast, you'll agree with the essential trueness of it.

She says: "The amazing thing about Hollywood is how they make so much money entertaining people for whom they have such contempt."

JACKSON: I think that's nonsense.

CARLSON: That's undeniably true. Well, think of it this way. JACKSON: They don't have contempt.

CARLSON: "The Passion of the Christ," one of the largest grossing movies of the year, completely at first ignored by Hollywood, which had pure contempt not simply for the man who produced the movie, but also for his beliefs.

JACKSON: But the point was, it was ignored because he didn't put money into promotion, which he has already decided is going to be the case when it comes to seeking a nomination for the Oscar.

This has been the year with everything from Michael Moore's "Fahrenheit 9/11" to "The Passion of the Christ." It's very broad, the appeal of the movies made in the city. They know what the public wants. Otherwise, they wouldn't make it. Most films lose money.

CARLSON: But wait a second. Mainstream Hollywood did not back "The Passion of the Christ."


CARLSON: "The New York Times" had a piece that came out two days after the movie premiered that basically said, Mel Gibson will never work in this town again, people on the record saying, his film was so offensive that they would not work with him ever again. They have contempt for him and they have contempt for middle American values such as devout Christianity.

JACKSON: We don't have.


JACKSON: By the way, with devout Christianity in mind, I posed a question this morning to the Reverend Billy Graham. Exactly 40 years from my last interview, I asked the same question to open the interview. Do you believe in Santa Claus? His answer was yes.

He can still draw enormous crowds. So can these -- the young athlete, who may be brilliantly skilled athletically, who may be of enormous stature, tremendous wealth, but so many of them are emotionally immature. We make them our heroes. And it's up to corporate America to say, hey, we can put this money elsewhere.

CARVILLE: Brent, let me ask you.

The second -- we have these record trade deficits. Do you know that the second largest export of any industry in the United States is entertainment? So apparently it's not just Americans that are buying this stuff. They're buying it all over the world. And I'm sure that you're a good conservative, a good free market guy. Why does the marketplace in the United States and the world devour "Desperate Housewives" like there's no tomorrow?

BOZELL: Let's put that in perspective, because there's a lot of hype going on. "Desperate Housewives" is a big hit. It's getting play on "Monday Night Football." It's on the cover of "Newsweek" magazine. Everyone is talking about it, what a great sensation it is. Now let's put it in its proper perspective. The audience for "Desperate Housewives" is between 20 million and 25 million. Do you know what that means? That means that nine out of 10 Americans are not watching "Desperate Housewives." So let's put these great hits in perspective.


CARLSON: Wait a second. Can I just jump in here on that show?

I'll confess, I'm as conservative as anybody I know. I saw "Desperate Housewives" last night. I thought it was great. Sure, it's vulgar and kind of low, but it's good entertainment. And it's on late enough that most kids aren't watching.

Here's my question to you, Brent Bozell. Conservatives are all upset about it because, you know, I don't know, one of -- this mother sleeps with the yard boy in a pretty appealing scene.


CARLSON: But where are -- why aren't conservatives, why aren't conservatives coming out with television shows that are worth watching? They're not.

BOZELL: Well, that's a good question, Tucker.

But I think a problem is, and contrary to what Michael is saying, there is a contempt for middle America in Hollywood. Look, whenever Hollywood makes a show...


CARLSON: Why don't conservatives make something of their own, then?

BOZELL: Let me answer. Whenever Hollywood makes a show that's a success, you see all the spinoffs and everybody does the copycatting. You had "Touched By An Angel," which was the No. 1 show on CBS year after year. Now name me all the spinoffs for "Touched By An Angel."

CARVILLE: CBS is run by Viacom. Is the board of directors of Viacom Hollywood or is this corporate America?

BOZELL: But it's corporate America that has contempt for Middle America?

CARVILLE: So they don't want to make money? So no one at Viacom -- doesn't want to make money?


BOZELL: That's the point. No, James, that's the point I'm making. If that show made so much money, why didn't they copycat it? CARVILLE: I have no idea. I guess you ought to copycat it.


CARLSON: We're going to take a quick break and maybe we'll answer that question.

When our guests return, they will face the "Rapid Fire."

And what caused the crash of a jet that was on its way to pick up former President George Bush in Houston? Judy Woodruff has the latest right after this.



JUDY WOODRUFF, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Judy Woodruff reporting from Washington. Coming up at the top of the hour, serious new allegations against U.N. peacekeepers in Congo.

A plane crashes in Houston just before it is scheduled to pick up former President Bush. Was fog a factor?

And a report on a dangerous drug that could reignite the AIDS epidemic.

All those stories and much more just minutes away on "WOLF BLITZER REPORTS."

Now back to CROSSFIRE.

CARVILLE: Now it's time for "Rapid Fire," where the questions and the answers come faster than "Desperate Housewives" can lose their towels.

We're discussing morality in American politics and popular culture. Is there a disconnect? Here with us are Brent Bozell, the president of the Parents Television Council, and radio talk show host Michael Jackson.

Thank you all both for being here.

CARLSON: Michael Jackson, we were just -- right before the break, an interesting question was raised. Why don't -- if there is this great market for movies and television shows about faith, and I think there is, why aren't more of them produced?

JACKSON: I don't know.

Just as there's a tremendous growth in Christian music -- and it really is selling -- I think there's an opportunity to produce you might say more moral shows. There certainly -- there's always room for quality. And if most of the people in Hollywood happen to be liberal, I'm delighted. That means they're open-minded. That means that they're willing to explore. They're not mired in the past. CARLSON: They're not willing to explore.


CARVILLE: Brent, let me ask you a question. What is the bigger problem on television, sex or violence?

JACKSON: Violence.

BOZELL: That's that's a good question. It depends on the context, but I would probably say violence.



CARVILLE: Our guests agree on something.


CARLSON: Michael, if being liberal, if being liberal means being open-minded -- and, of course, it doesn't -- but if people in Hollywood are so willing to explore, why, then, are so many of them angry at Mel Gibson and unwilling to associate with him because he made an overtly Christian movie?

JACKSON: I don't know a single in person -- and, by the way, I can speak from personal experience. My brother-in-law produced "Braveheart" with him. I don't know anybody who would ignore the opportunity of being with Mel Gibson.

I don't know anybody in the business who would not produce a film if he was available. So where that comes with from, I have no idea. By the way, if you want to know whether we're fair and balanced on CNN, coming down the passage, there are two bumper stickers on the wall. One says vote for Pat Paulsen for the president. The other says, viva Dukakis. I know we all...

CARVILLE: Do you think that Hollywood chases ideology first or the dollar?

JACKSON: Dollar.

BOZELL: Ideology. And I think they chase...

CARVILLE: So you would give up money for ideology, you think?

BOZELL: Yes. I think they do.

And, look, "The Passion of the Christ" is the perfect example, Michael. The fact of the matter is, Mel Gibson couldn't find a distributor to distribute the film.

JACKSON: That's right, because they aren't all knowing and they're not all wise. And they make some very bad decisions.


CARVILLE: Well, didn't "Fahrenheit 9/11" lose distributors, too?


BOZELL: Of course.



CARLSON: All right, we are out of time.

Thank you very much, Michael Jackson in Los Angeles, Brent Bozell here in Washington. Thank you.

BOZELL: My pleasure.



CARLSON: Well, Democrats have been singing the blues lately. It's time they came up with a new theme song. Next, we're going to give them a little help -- right after this.



CARLSON: Welcome back to CROSSFIRE.

Since November 2, there has been a ton of head scratching among Democrats trying to figure out why their brand of liberalism is out of tune with the American mainstream, almost laughable. Now, the "Washington Post" column "In the Loop" may have found an answer. Columnist Al Kamen suggests the Democrats need a new theme song and is asking readers to send in their nominees.

James, do you have any?

CARVILLE: Yes, I got -- but this is for the old Democrats, because -- I like it because it sounds good, but says nothing. It's called (UNINTELLIGIBLE)




CARLSON: I like it. It sounds very, very Cajun. I like that. That's good. Sort of honest of you.

But you know what? My pick is also a song that...

CARVILLE: Isn't that a great -- isn't that a great song?


CARVILLE: I don't know what it says, but...

CARLSON: Well, my choice is "Love Will Keep Us Together" by Captain & Tennille, not for the words, which are moving, but because "Love Will Keep Us Together" was one of the hit songs in 1975. And that's about the era that still defines the Democratic Party, the era of, our bodies ourselves, of solar, not nukes.


CARLSON: You know what I mean?


CARLSON: A time when grouchy feminists with mustaches controlled the party, and they still do.

CARVILLE: The era of -- all right, from the left, I'm James Carville. That's it for CROSSFIRE.

CARLSON: From the right, I'm Tucker Carlson. Join us again tomorrow for yet more CROSSFIRE.

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



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