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CNN CROSSFIRE

Turkey Alert; Low-Carb v. Low-Fat

Aired November 25, 2004 - 16:30   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


ANNOUNCER: CROSSFIRE. On the left, James Carville and Paul Begala. On the right, Robert Novak and Tucker Carlson. In the CROSSFIRE -- it's Thanksgiving Day, most people know what's for dinner. But what's right the rest of the time? Low-fat or low carb? Which really is better?
Beyond pumpkin pie. Dessert tips from an expert. The pastry chef who dished up delicacies for presidents and princes at the White House.

And turkeys are not just on the dining room table. We thank our top turkeys of 2004, today on CROSSFIRE.

From the George Washington University, Paul Begala and Tucker Carlson.

TUCKER CARLSON, CO-HOST: Happy Thanksgiving, and welcome to CROSSFIRE. A lot of turkeys out there. You probably ate one today, but not all of them are stuffed and waiting for the carving knife. Politics, business, pop culture all had their share of turkeys this year.

PAUL BEGALA, CO-HOST: So why sit around the Thanksgiving table and argue with your relatives when you can have trained professionals do it for you on cable television? We will begin with -- instead of "Political Alert" today -- with CROSSFIRE's own Thanksgiving Day "Turkey Alert."

CARLSON: Well, from the heavy gloating department. Before this presidential election, my co-host James Carville said this of his fellow Democrats. Quote, "If we can't win this one, then we can't win anything."

Well, John Kerry pulled off the seemingly impossible this year, delivering yet another defeat for his party on Election Day. He now returns to the Senate without even a leadership role to promote his non-existent agenda. It was a failure well-earned. For three years, Kerry ran an entire presidential campaign as if America were still at war in Vietnam rather than in Iraq. Never has a candidate raised more money on behalf of a weaker message. John Kerry is the winner of our first turkey award of the season. He deserves it.

BEGALA: I will say this, John Kerry did not do a very good job running his campaign, but George W. Bush has not done a very good job running our country.

CARLSON: Oh, good defense. Good defense.

BEGALA: After -- after Illinois Republicans found their Senate candidate accused by his ex-wife of asking her to have sex with him in public places, sleazy sex dives, the Republicans of the land of Lincoln did the obvious thing -- they asked Alan Keyes to embody everything that they believe in. And boy, did he. Mr. Keyes, perhaps like other Republicans, believes incest awaits the children of gay couples. He said that Vice President Cheney's gay daughter was practicing what he called "selfish hedonism," and he said Jesus would not vote for his opponent, Barack Obama.

Turns out Jesus was not registered in Illinois, but millions of people were, and they turned out in droves to vote for Mr. Obama and against Mr. Keyes. There is a place for crackpots like Alan Keyes, but it's not in the Senate. It's right here, in the guest chair on the right on CROSSFIRE.

CARLSON: Thank you, Paul. I'll take that as a compliment. I guess my question is, since when are Democrats against public sex in, as you put it, sleazy sex dives?

BEGALA: It could have been classy sex dives.

CARLSON: Taking the high road now.

(CROSSTALK)

CARLSON: What about other peoples' personal lives being off limits? Who cares what the guy did with his former wife?

BEGALA: I don't. But apparently the Illinois Republicans did.

(CROSSTALK)

BEGALA: They dumped him. The Illinois Republicans dumped him.

CARLSON: Actually, after liberals wined about it, like there's something wrong with having sex in a sleazy sex dive. I thought you were for that.

All right. Billionaire George Soros tops the list of individual donors to independent groups this election cycle with a whopping $23.4 million donated to the radical left. Soros became so obsessed with this election, he described the defeat of George W. Bush as, quote, "the central focus of my life." Oh, calling a shrink. He went on to compare the president to Adolf Hitler. And what did George Soros get in return for his money and his obsession and his hateful rhetoric? Four more years of George W. Bush. In other words, the joke was on him. Good luck, Mr. Soros, on finding a new life focus.

BEGALA: That's true, he did not get much return on his investment as opposed to, oh, say, Halliburton, which got a great return on its investment in George W. Bush.

CARLSON: Actually, Soros...

BEGALA: Or Exxon, or Enron, or any of these...

CARLSON: I know. I know. I know...

(CROSSTALK)

CARLSON: I've read the bumper sticker.

BEGALA: I would rather be funded by George Soros than Halliburton. I would.

CARLSON: I read the bumper sticker, Paul. But honestly, between you and me, you know for a fact that Soros, comparing Bush to Hitler, that actually hurt Kerry.

BEGALA: Nobody ever heard of George Soros.

(CROSSTALK)

CARLSON: He was the single biggest donor in the entire election cycle.

BEGALA: No one voted because of George Soros.

CARLSON: Really? I thought he gave the impression that people who backed Kerry, like him and like Michael Moore, were a bunch of lunatics, actually, and haters.

BEGALA: Nobody voted (UNINTELLIGIBLE).

CARLSON: Well, I didn't vote for Kerry because of it.

(CROSSTALK)

BEGALA: They didn't vote for George Soros, my goodness.

Well, Harry Truman once fumed at farmers who were voting Republican. How many times do you have to be hit on the head before you find out who's hitting you? Well, apparently, the voters of Nevada need to be hit a few more times, and I'm just the man to do it.

In the 2000 campaign, George W. Bush promised that the decision on locating a nuclear waste depository in Nevada would be based on what he called sound science. But in 2002, President Bush approved taking 77,000 tons of radioactive waste from 131 sites in 39 states and shipping all of it to Nevada and dumping it in Yucca Mountain.

Despite all of that, on November 2nd, Nevada voted for President Bush anyway. So I hope these turkeys enjoy what the former senator from Nevada Chic Hecht once called "a nuclear suppository." Enjoy your nukes, Nevada!

BEGALA: I love this, Paul. You know, last week, in talking about the defeat of Tom Daschle, you attacked the voters of (UNINTELLIGIBLE). Now, you are attacking the voters of Nevada. I imagine you are going to hit Mississippi, Arkansas, West Virginia.

BEGALA: Give the people what they want. I'm not attacking them.

CARLSON: I must say, actually, when voters vote against you, maybe you should rethink your message rather than attack them as stupid or (UNINTELLIGIBLE).

BEGALA: I didn't say they were stupid. I'm saying we should give them what they want. If they want my nuclear waste, let's give it to them. Nuclear suppository, straight to Yucca Mountain in Nevada. That's what they want.

CARLSON: All right.

BEGALA: Well, while most of America engages in an orgy of gluttony, we here at CROSSFIRE are worried about your health. We're just big-hearted that way. And so we will try to get the skinny on fat and settle forever, or maybe just for the afternoon, the low-carb versus low-fat diet debate.

And then for desert, advice from a chef that used to whip up delights at the White House. The world's greatest pastry chef -- pastry chef, that is -- in the CROSSFIRE next. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CARLSON: Welcome back. Yet another food fight today on CROSSFIRE. For years, doctors have been telling us to cut the fat out of our diets, some of us haven't paid any attention. But then the craze to cut out carbohydrates came along. Atkins and other diets trumpeted the benefits of low carbs. Less pasta and bread, more red meat. Like all crazes, this one is starting to cool, but people have managed to lose weight both ways, though the Atkins obviously works quite a bit better.

In the CROSSFIRE today, two men who faced off on this issue before. On the set, Dr. Dean Ornish, founder, president and director of the Preventive Medicine Research Institute. He joins us from San Francisco, California. And Dr. Stuart Trager, chairman of the Atkins Physicians Council and medical director of Atkins Nutritionals.

BEGALA: Gentlemen, good to see you both again.

DR. STUART TRAGER, ATKINS PHYSICIANS COUNCIL: Good to be back.

BEGALA: Dr. Ornish, thanks for joining us from California, and Dr. Trager, thanks for coming to D.C.

Let's start with some things in the news this week. This is called, what, a monster burger, it's from a fast food joint. You can see -- it's Hardy's -- it's two-thirds of a pound of beef, plus bacon, plus cheese, some kind of white goo here. And you're telling me If I eat this, you're not going to open my heart up like a can of sardines? I mean, this ought to kill you, right?

TRAGER: I think we would all agree that that's not a healthy way to eat. I think that one of the biggest misconceptions about Atkins from the very beginning -- Atkins have never been about that. People like Dean and the other animal rights and vegetarian activists would like us to believe it, but Atkins has never been about that. Atkins has been about a useful, effective tool that's validated by science.

BEGALA: First off, I've known Dr. Ornish a long time, and I don't know if you can term him an animal rights activist. He seems to care about human health. And my question about human health is, tell me why the Atkins diet, if I read the research correctly, allows me to eat this bacon and this beef and cheese and fat, and tell me that my heart is going to be OK? It's counterintuitive.

TRAGER: Well, but importantly, number one, is that science is in and it shows that it works. People do lose weight when they reject simple carbohydrates, the highly refined carbohydrates that people have been eating way too many of for too long a time. When people stop eating that many carbohydrates...

BEGALA: And just replace it with pure, unadulterated animal fat?

TRAGER: No, when they replace it with protein. Protein is a wonderful source of energy for people. And in fact, it's a source that the body uses a little less efficiently than carbohydrates. So that little less efficiency lets people consume a few more calories. Studies from Harvard, studies from other universities have shown that people, when they follow Atkins, eat more calories and in fact they lose more weight.

So it works. It's time to really move beyond the fact that it does work. And when people do it, they don't worsen their health risk factors. In fact, they improve them. We've seen study after study, independent studies have shown this.

CARLSON: I mean, Dr. Ornish, you have seen the props that Paul Begala brought. (UNINTELLIGIBLE). Look, have normal things, have a steak, have some cheese. And I want to contrast that to your recommendation to dieters. Here are some multi-vitamins, vitamin supplements you recommend people following your diet take -- multivitamin with iron, vitamin E, vitamin C, folic acid, selenium, (UNINTELLIGIBLE) fish oil, the list goes on. I have got them stacked up in front of me.

How healthy can your diet be if it has to be supplemented with all these chemicals?

DR. DEAN ORNISH, PREVENTIVE RESEARCH INSTITUTE: Oh, you don't have to supplement them with all these things. And those are supplements that I think Dr. Atkins recommends as well.

But let me clarify a few things that Dr. Trager said. First of all, I'm glad that the Atkins people are moving away from the diet fad. Dr. Atkins himself advocated it. And all you have to do is look at any of the pictures of Dr. Atkins in his books or in the magazine articles, he is always sitting in front of a plate of cheeseburgers, and bacon and sausage. So give me a break, that's what he was recommending. If it's changing, more power to them.

Second, the studies that Dr. Trager cites, people can lose weight on an Atkins diet, there no question about it, because Americans eat too many simple carbs. But a study came out just last week that looked at 2,700 people, and in the studies that Dr. Trager cites, like in "The New England Journal of Medicine" and so on, people regain the weight they lost within a year. That's why people are losing confidence in the Atkins diet, is that you can lose weight on any diet in the short run.

Let me finish, please. You can lose weight on any diet in the short run, it's keeping it off. And in the study that came out last week of 2,700 people, they found the people who lost weight and kept it off were doing it with low fat rather than low carb. Now, where Dr. Atkins...

(CROSSTALK)

CARLSON: I'm going to stop you right there, Dr. Ornish. Dr. Trager said right at the very beginning -- I just want to clarify this -- he implied that you were a vegetarian and an animal rights activist? Are you? I noticed that a number of your diets are vegetarian diets. Is avoiding meat key to you think weight loss, and are you an animal rights activist?

ORNISH: I'm not an animal rights activist. And I think that to the degree -- there's a spectrum of choices that people have. Where Dr. Atkins and I agree and even where Dr. Trager and I agree, I think it's important to point out so people can see that there are some things that we all agree on.

One of which is that Americans eat way too many of the bad carbs, the sugar, white flour, white rice. And when you eat a lot of these, you tend to gain weight, because you get all these calories that don't fill you up, and you're more likely to convert them into fat.

Where we differ is where you go from there. And the goal is not to go to pork rinds and bacon and sausage, and so on. It's to go to good carbs, fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes...

(CROSSTALK)

ORNISH: Every time we have one of those debates, you act rude and belligerent and you interrupt me. And I'm not going to stand for it today, OK?

TRAGER: Boy, Dean, let me tell you, if you want to tell untruths and misrepresent Atkins and mislead people...

BEGALA: If I wanted to have an uncomfortable fight, I would stay at my in-laws. So let's just -- let me ask...

ORNISH: It's not low-fat versus low-carb is what I'm trying to say. It's not low-carb -- fat versus low-carb, and it's a spectrum.

TRAGER: But...

(CROSSTALK)

TRAGER: ... mislead people.

ORNISH: But the degree...

BEGALA: Let me -- Dr. Ornish, hang on just a second. Let me try to focus on the problems associated with the Atkins diet. This is a survey that was done by the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine...

TRAGER: Who...

BEGALA: Just a second...

(CROSSTALK)

TRAGER: ... PETA, animal rights activists...

BEGALA: Look, I have no idea. Look, I go deer hunting, OK? I'm not an animal rights activist. I like shooting animals. But I like people -- I like people to live. OK? People on your diet, sir, Dr. Trager, people on your diet live with the following -- constipation, loss of energy, bad breath, difficulty in concentration, kidney problems, heart-related problems, lower sex drive. So maybe your stomach gets smaller, but other things are getting smaller, too. That ain't my kind of life, man.

(CROSSTALK)

CARLSON: Please. Dr. Ornish, you accused Dr. Trager of interrupting...

ORNISH: I apologize.

TRAGER: That study that you talk about is a call-in or self- reported study from the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, a group that's 5 percent made up of physicians, and actually mostly made up of animal rights activists. They're closely related to PETA. They're funded and they share offices with PETA...

BEGALA: Instead of attacking other people, I'd like to...

TRAGER: I agree with you...

ORNISH: Can I jump in for a moment?

TRAGER: No, Dean, you can't...

(CROSSTALK)

TRAGER: ... from major -- from major universities, Paul, that have shown Atkins as (UNINTELLIGIBLE).

BEGALA: Dr. Trager, hold on just a second. Dr. Ornish, we're going to let you respond when we come back. But put down that drum stick if you are eating at home. We have more on this debate just ahead. And then, you can find out how to prepare the same presidential pastries that once pleased the pallets of Bill Clinton and George W. Bush from the chef himself, who frankly was once (UNINTELLIGIBLE) with Dr. Dean Ornish. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BEGALA: A lot of us are probably thinking about going on a diet after sitting down for our Thanksgiving dinner tonight. So let's get back to our diet debate. It is low carb versus low fat. With us are two of the experts in the field. Dr. Stuart Trager, he's medical director of Atkins Nutritionals, and Dr. Dean Ornish of the Preventive Medicine Research Institute in California.

CARLSON: Dr. Ornish, let's take a look at what you recommend. Your diets, at least the two I have before me, are both vegetarian. They restrict people to 10 percent calories of fat. They exclude all cooking oils and animal products, except (UNINTELLIGIBLE) milk, and they eliminate avocados, nuts, just about everything. It's not so much a diet as it is a religion. And I am wondering if it wouldn't be better to be dead than to live like that?

ORNISH: You know, the old joke is, am I going to live longer or is it just going to seem longer if I eat that way?

CARLSON: Yes, exactly.

ORNISH: But that's not the case. Let me -- let me -- first of all, the diet you are talking about is what we found is for reversing heart disease. We have proven you can reverse even severely blocked arteries by making these kinds of changes.

CARLSON: No, that's not the diet I was talking about. I was talking about the prevention diet that you recommend.

ORNISH: No, no, that isn't the prevention diet. Let me explain to you, since I came up with the diet, I know what I'm talking about. You have a spectrum of choices if you're not trying to reverse disease. If you want to indulge yourself on Thanksgiving, then try to eat more healthily the next day. It's not all or nothing.

And I want to emphasize the point that I tried to make earlier. The studies that Paul quoted earlier showing people getting bad breath, and body odor, and constipation on the Atkins diet were funded by the Atkins Center. And so you might start to lose weight...

TRAGER: There is one study, and you forgot to tell people that their cholesterol (UNINTELLIGIBLE) improved...

ORNISH: Stuart, I want to finish my point here.

TRAGER: But you made (UNINTELLIGIBLE) earlier and you didn't...

ORNISH: I want to finish my point here.

(CROSSTALK) ORNISH: Are you afraid of what I'm saying, Stuart, is that why you keep interrupting me?

TRAGER: No, I just want people to hear the truth.

ORNISH: Then let me finish. Then how about giving me about 30 seconds to make a point?

(CROSSTALK)

CARLSON: All right, go ahead and finish, Dr. Ornish. You're wasting your time complaining. Finish.

BEGALA: Oh, stop it.

ORNISH: You might start to lose weight, but you -- and attract people too, but you're going to smell so bad you are going to try to drive people away, because that's how your body excretes toxic waste.

A lot of people just had a big Thanksgiving feast. How do you feel afterwards? You feel sleepy, because your brain is getting less blood. The studies of people who have gone on the Atkins diet show their hearts get less blood, sexual organs get less blood. When you change your diet, your brain gets more blood. You think more clearly, you have more energy. We have proven your heart disease improves, your heart gets more blood, and even sexual potency improves when you eat better. For many people, those are the choices that (UNINTELLIGIBLE).

TRAGER: Dean, now it's my turn to tell people about the 37 other studies that have been done that have shown from major universities published in major journals that people can lose weight safely and effectively following Atkins. Studies and people, tens of millions of people, Dean, and in fact, the paper you talked about earlier does not talk about people following Atkins. And you know that.

You know that Atkins works.

ORNISH: What?

TRAGER: And it's time that people now moved beyond it.

ORNISH: What paper? This is your study.

TRAGER: And start recognizing that Atkins works.

ORNISH: This is your study. It was done by Eric Wessman (ph) at Duke...

(CROSSTALK)

ORNISH: ... was funded by the Atkins Center.

TRAGER: That talked about some of the minor side effects.

ORNISH: All of the papers say that. Every one of them. TRAGER: Again...

(CROSSTALK)

BEGALA: You can't do that to Mr. Happy, that's not a minor side effect, Stuart.

(CROSSTALK)

TRAGER: There's not one study that shows that when people follow Atkins they do anything but improve their risk factors. And the side effects that Dr. Ornish would like you to believe has not dissuaded people from following Atkins.

BEGALA: Let me ask you this, I don't want (UNINTELLIGIBLE) scientific studies. There was a market research study from Inside Express that said more than half of the people who were on Atkins last year have dropped off of it this year. Is this kind of last year's fad?

TRAGER: No, I think it's important time of the year. Right now people are not dieting. Everybody knows that dieting is seasonal. Come the beginning of the year, when people embrace diets, they're going to do what works. Atkins works, and...

ORNISH: I love these studies that Dr. Trager cites.

TRAGER: And science shows that it works.

(CROSSTALK)

TRAGER: All of these studies are on the Atkins Web site. People should read them, people should be educated and they should understand...

CARLSON: Unfortunately, Dr. Trager and Dr. Ornish, we are out of time. We want to recommend you two get together for a meal in the near future. Great to see you.

TRAGER: I can't eat his food.

CARLSON: I can't either. It's wonderful to have you both here.

ORNISH: Every one of those studies show that people who lose weight gain it all back within a year.

TRAGER: Dean, and following your approach is just too hard for people. Remember that.

CARLSON: Gentlemen, thank you so much. It is excellent to see you. We will see you next Thanksgiving. Thank you.

BEGALA: Thank you, Dr. Ornish, Dr. Trager.

CARLSON: Ahead, meet the man who knows how to satisfy a presidential sweet tooth. We'll be right back. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BEGALA: Welcome back to CROSSFIRE. There are a few sweet parts to living in the White House. And for 25 years, one man was on call to deal with the sweet teeth of presidents, first ladies and visiting heads of state. Many of his incredible confections are in a new book "Dessert University: More than 300 Spectacular Recipes and essential lessons.

Former White House pastry chef Roland Mesnier joins us now. Roland, it's wonderful to see you.

ROLAND MESNIER, FORMER WHITE HOUSE PASTRY CHEF: Thank you. Very nice to see you. Thank you. Thank you very much.

BEGALA: First I have to ask you, because I did work for President Clinton, who loves you.

MESNIER: I remember, yes.

BEGALA: He returned to the White House recently, very graciously President Bush had him back to unveil his portrait, but he said the best part about going back to the White House was not the portrait, it was one of your desserts. Tell us which one he loves so much?

MESNIER: The peach and blueberry cobbler. And this is something that he always liked. And that was sort of -- he liked more than just one dessert, you know. He liked a lot of them. And another one was the cherry pie. But the blackberry and peach cobbler is one that he really liked that they gave him when he came back. Yes.

CARLSON: What is the strangest request you have ever had?

MESNIER: Strangest question?

CARLSON: Request.

MESNIER: Oh, request. None. Not at the White House. Everybody is very proper there, you know that.

CARLSON: Well, which administration ate the most dessert?

MESNIER: They all did. When they first come in, they are not a dessert lover. After two weeks, they converted.

BEGALA: Even President Bush, though, who is wonderfully fit, he is a man in great shape, even he has a sweet tooth?

MESNIER: Oh, yes. Oh, yes. Very much so, yes.

BEGALA: What does he like?

MESNIER: You know, the trick of most presidents, when (UNINTELLIGIBLE) come and serves them dessert, by the time they go out of the dining room they call them right back, say to save you a trip, give me another piece. (CROSSTALK)

CARLSON: So when you live at the White House, you can order dessert whenever you want, I suppose?

MESNIER: Well, you could, but they don't. You would be amazed how they rarely take meal time for meal time. You know, there is no snacking in between.

CARLSON: You never get a 3:00 a.m. request for something sweet?

MESNIER: No. No.

CARLSON: Honestly?

MESNIER: Yes. Yes. Yes.

BEGALA: Can a normal person create some of these? These are works of art. Can a normal person back home actually take this book and use it to create what you do?

MESNIER: Every recipe in this book are so easy to make. And (UNINTELLIGIBLE), even you can probably. You know, you two...

CARLSON: I suspect not.

MESNIER: You know, I think you two would like (UNINTELLIGIBLE), because you disagree all the time. But on this dessert in the book here, I guarantee you, you would have a full agreement on that.

CARLSON: I would eat any one of those desserts more than once, but aren't you afraid that Atkins is going to put you out of business?

MESNIER: No, no, no, no, no, no, they don't have a thing up on me. Not at all. They need to read what's in this book. You will forget about that.

CARLSON: I hope your side wins, Chef Mesnier. Thank you.

BEGALA: Roland Mesnier...

MESNIER: Thank you.

BEGALA: ... the greatest pastry chef in the world.

(CROSSTALK)

MESNIER: Thank you for having me.

BEGALA: From the left, I'm Paul Begala. The book is "Dessert University." Buy it.

CARLSON: And from the right, hungrily, 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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