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Political Feast

Aired November 26, 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: It's the day after Thanksgiving and half of America seems to be looking for a holiday bargain. Well, if you're hunting for a great political debate, you've come to the right place, and the prices can't be beat.

From Congress to the CIA, the Bush administration is trying to consolidate its mandate, while the Democrats are still searching for a leader. We've got it all.

And Chicago, the ultimate holiday gift? How much would you pay for a piece of the Windy City?



ANNOUNCER: Live from the George Washington University, sitting in on the left, Donna Brazile, and sitting in on the right, Bay Buchanan.


If you're not standing in line in pursuit of the great American bargain then, of course, you're here with us for the great American debate.

DONNA BRAZILE, GUEST CO-HOST: It's better than shopping online. We're going to tackle everything from the internal chaos at the CIA to the latest from Iraq, but first, the best little political briefing in television, our CROSSFIRE "Political Alert."

The post-Thanksgiving shopping frenzy is an annual ritual for millions of Americans, people everywhere searching for bargains. Merchants say bring it on. They count on the seasonal spending to boost their bottom line at the end of the year. But don't be fooled. The dollar is in big trouble against the international currencies. It hit a record low today against the euro for a fourth straight day before bouncing back just a little bit.

That means if you're planning to travel overseas or buy European, it's going to be very expensive. What started the dollar's decline is no doubt a complex set of circumstances. But, for sure, the bucks stop at the White House, Bay.


BUCHANAN: You know, Donna, I have to agree with you. That dollar, we've been watching for a long time, a lot of us. It is without a question a signal that there's trouble ahead. It's trade policy that we've got to be looking at more carefully. And we're going to be watching that deficit here at home as well.

BRAZILE: Amen to that, Bay. Finally, a fiscal conservative speaks up for conservative values again.



BUCHANAN: Some of us never change, Donna. We've always been there.

The brave young men and women in uniform may have broken the back of Iraq's nationwide insurgency this week -- or this last month -- with their tough victory in Falluja. Our soldiers killed over 2,000 of the enemy and uncovered enough weapons in that one city to wage the war throughout the country. There's increasing evidence that the leadership of the insurgents is now in chaos and some are interested in talking with Iraq's leader, a clear sign that some of those follows over there recognize they've indeed lost.

While we hear of demands to postpone the January elections there and there is still much work to be done, it's clear that our allies and, of course, our fine troops have a major victory this month in Falluja.

BRAZILE: Well, Bay, the truth be told, our troops are doing a fantastic job. We won the war in Falluja.

But, look, there's all types of, you know, fire going on today. In the Green Zone, for example, four Brits were killed today. More bodies uncovered in Mosul. So I don't know if we are really -- I don't think if they are ready for elections, but I do know this. Our troops are doing a great job.

BUCHANAN: There's no question. They are doing a superb job. But there's -- also, there's real progress. You had to get rid of those insurgents. We finally went into Falluja. We cleared them out. And there are probably still some there and other in other parts of that city. But we really have broken their backs, I believe.

BRAZILE: I think we need more troops. If we bring in more troops right now, perhaps we can have those elections, right?

BUCHANAN: Good try, Donna.


BRAZILE: All right. Move over, conservatives. You aren't the only group in America talking about moral values. Liberals wouldn't mind adjusting the nation's moral compass as well. So, members of the Service Employees International Union, or SEIU, have launched a new Web site giving the Internet a new forum to talk about our values. Visitors to are speaking out on issues, including helping the poor and those in need of health care.

Conservatives have long held the notion that they have cornered the market on morality. It's about time that they hear from us who wear the liberal label. And now they'll hear from many others who will voice their concerns on these issues.


BUCHANAN: A liberal...


BUCHANAN: A Web site? Donna, no.


BUCHANAN: There's a Web site for liberal moral values. That is not going to take anyone too long to visit. It's very short, very precise.


BUCHANAN: Not much there, Donna.


BRAZILE: It's a great Web site.

And, Bay, you know, by the way, there is such a thing called the Sermon on the Mount. And what liberals have done is tried to put that in action. But we've been blocked by so-called conservatives.

BUCHANAN: Yes, well, perception is reality. And the voters perceived you not to be real strong in that area.



BRAZILE: Well, as you know, this past week, 63 percent of the American people say that you all don't have a lock on morality and you have no mandate to implement your strategies.


BUCHANAN: Well, we claimed a mandate. And we're moving right ahead. Move aside, fellows. We're moving ahead.

(BELL RINGING) BUCHANAN: Last night -- and this is on exactly that.

Last night, after Thanksgiving activities were over, my boys and I headed to a local theater. It's a family tradition and -- to see a movie together at the end of Thanksgiving and Christmas Day. Arriving at the theater about 9:30, we were skeptical we were going to actually find an appropriate film.

But were we ever amazed. Of the 10 shows running at this very popular theater, eight of them were PG or better. I'm not joking. One was an R. One was a PG-13, the rest PG or G. We saw "National Treasure," a great cast, entertaining, action-packed. And, as my 16- year-old son said, mom, there wasn't one bad word throughout the show. And it's much better that way.

I have to say, I thought I had given up totally on Hollywood. But they still can provide some good, clean entertainment. Let's hope it's a trend -- Donna.


BRAZILE: Now, that's something positive. There you go, finally. Are you apologizing to Hollywood to bring it on, more of the same?

BUCHANAN: No, I'm trying to encourage them. When you all do something right, you liberals, I like to make certain we make a point of saying it.


BRAZILE: Well, thank you so much, Bay.

BUCHANAN: Got to see it. There's seven others. I've got one show down, seven others to go. And I'm thrilled. I've got the whole Christmas...


BRAZILE: That will mean I'll never you again on the weekend shopping. I can go and get all those bargains, huh?


BRAZILE: Well, let me just say this. We're serving up the goods today here on CROSSFIRE. Next, we're going to debate everything from how the president is spending his political capital in Congress, to fallout from the latest shakeups at the CIA.

And have you ever wondered what it would be like to be a Playboy bunny?


BRAZILE: Well, later, we will tell you how you can look the part and support culture at the same time. We loaded up on Thanksgiving yesterday, so, today, we will be talking about this. (APPLAUSE)

ANNOUNCER: Get ahead of the CROSSFIRE. Sign up for CROSSFIRE's daily "Political Alert" e-mail. You'll get a preview of each day's show, plus an inside look at the day's political headlines. Just go to and sign up today.

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.



BUCHANAN: We loaded up on Thanksgiving dinner yesterday. Today, you're in for a political feast. We have a lot on our plate. So let's get to it.

Joining us in the CROSSFIRE today are Democratic strategist Peter Fenn, an old friend of CROSSFIRE's, as is Republican strategist Frank Donatelli.


BUCHANAN: Gentlemen, welcome.


BRAZILE: ... applause.




BUCHANAN: Better than we did.

BRAZILE: Well, Frank, as you well know, there's major news coming out of Iraq today. The leader of the Governing Council and the former leader, Mr. Adnan Pachachi, suggested that we postpone elections. Will this set the president's agenda back in Iraq?

DONATELLI: Donna, I don't think so.

One of the things that came out of the last election was I think a bipartisan consensus that whatever position you had regarding Iraq before our invasion, right now, both parties believe we have to be successful there. I think Bay talked earlier about Falluja breaking the back of the insurgents. That was very, very good. The capture of al-Zarqawi's associate done primarily by Iraqi National Guard and an improved intelligence system, I think both of those things are good harbingers. BRAZILE: But the leaders are saying that one of the reasons why the elections should be postponed is because of the security situation. They are very concerned of the instability in many of the Sunni -- so-called Sunni areas. And they're saying even the secular parties are also calling for a postponement. Shouldn't the Bush administration listen to the people on the ground?

DONATELLI: They should listen to the people on the ground, but I think it would send the wrong signal. I'm open to the idea, but I think that we have gone this far.

January 30 is still two months off. We have time to train more Iraqi police and National Guard. I hope we can keep to that deadline.

BUCHANAN: Peter, let me talk about the Democrats.

It seems to me that, in the last four years, the first two years of the Bush administration, they were obstructionists, especially with respect to judges. They really excited the right wing and they got out there and you all did very poorly in off-year elections, when you were expected to do much better. Then again, you continued to obstruct on those judges and we took out Daschle, as well as they came out and really gave the support to the president.


BUCHANAN: Are you going to continue to be obstructionists, especially with respect to judges?

PETER FENN, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Let me make two points here.

First of all, of course, you're not talking about the number of the judges that Bill Clinton appointed that did not get a hearing, let alone a vote.



FENN: They obstructed a lot more. That's No. 1.

Secondly, secondly, the ultimate obstruction right now, the ultimate obstruction, is the intelligence bill. The president says he's for it. The vice president says he's for it. The majority leader says he's for it. The speaker of the House says he's for it. The Democrats are for it. Let's pass it.

BUCHANAN: The conservatives...

FENN: That's obstructionism.



FENN: If we had Tom Daschle in there, maybe we would get it passed.


BUCHANAN: Peter, listen, when it comes to the intelligence bill, the conservatives in the House are smart and they're holding their own. And they're saying, listen, we are not rubber-stamping anything if it's not good for the America.

But let's go back to the Democrats.


BUCHANAN: You guys are a minority. You are a minority right now. If you are perceived as obstructionists and you're the ones that are getting our vote out for us, you will take another hit two years from now.


FENN: You appoint moderate, reasonable, thoughtful, judicious judges, we'll confirm them. Just don't send up -- just don't send up -- just don't send up the nutcases.


BUCHANAN: Why not send out good hard conservatives up there, pro-life judges, so you guys, being obstructionists, we'll beat you further two years from now?

FENN: No, no, no. The president says he has no litmus test.


FENN: So, you know, we don't want to have any litmus tests on this, right?

BUCHANAN: Yes. It was Kerry that had a litmus test.


BUCHANAN: Go ahead, Donna.

BRAZILE: Well, look, there's no question, Frank, that the Republicans are in charge of Washington, D.C. Even us Democrats recognize that for -- this time, they won the election.


BRAZILE: As I have said to Bay over and over again.

But, Frank, clearly, the president's is the commander in chief. He controls the Congress. He sets the agenda. Why couldn't he get Denny Hastert to call for a vote last week on the intelligence bill? This is the guy who said he's tough on terror. He couldn't -- he wasn't tough on the Republicans. How can he control these pesky Republicans? DONATELLI: No president controls Congress. Just remember that. Members of Congress have their own view on things.

The good news about intelligence though, Donna, is, there's a difference between intelligence reform and an intelligence reform bill. We're already moving forward on the former. There have been tremendous reforms in our intelligence...


BRAZILE: What, by firing everybody at the CIA? Is that intelligence reform? That's called firing.


DONATELLI: That's part of reform. That's part of reform.

I can't imagine why somebody like you so, who has been so critical of the intelligence establishment for so many years, is worried that maybe some new blood is coming into the CIA. That's a good thing.



BRAZILE: ... new blood, but why don't we have a transition from new to old?

DONATELLI: Reform is a very difficult thing to do. There's no question about it. When Porter Goss got into that job, it was with a mandate for reform. He's moving forward on that.

Frank, we all agree with this. Let me just make this point.


DONATELLI: Intelligence reform is absolutely critical right now. The problem I think we have is, we want this to be not political intelligence that comes out of that, agency but we want it to be...


DONATELLI: That's why we have an oversight intelligence committee that includes Democrats.

FENN: Porter Goss -- Porter Goss stood up on the floor of the House of Representatives with flow charts about the Democratic candidate for president. He's a very political guy.

The folks that are leaving there, I'm afraid -- now, I may be wrong about this, but the folks that are quitting, the two top guys that are quitting are leaving because they don't think this is going to be professional. They think it's going to be political.

(CROSSTALK) FENN: And I hope that's not right, because, if it is right, you're going to further damage that agency.


DONATELLI: That's why we have an intelligence reform oversight committee.

FENN: Well, I agree with that.

DONATELLI: And that includes Democrats.


FENN: I agree with that.

BUCHANAN: Democrats, and Donna being one of them, have criticized the president, and I think somewhat legitimately, throughout this campaign, said nobody was fired. Bad things happened; 9/11 happened and no one's fired. Now, of course, surely somebody is held responsible. Now we have a real upset at the CIA. I would think you guys would be saying...


BUCHANAN: Finally.

BRAZILE: But why all the fires at the CIA? What about Justice? What about some of the...


BUCHANAN: We've got to start somewhere. We got the top guy in the Justice Department.


FENN: Yes, we got the top guy at Justice, thank God.


BUCHANAN: And, by the way, he wasn't fired. He resigned.


FENN: But maybe the secretary of defense, we ought to look at that position right now, because the secretary of defense was the one that it appears from the stories in the paper who is undermining the effort to reform the intelligence plan, because 85 percent of that budget comes out of the Defense Department. And he didn't want this director of central intelligence to have that budgetary authority.

BRAZILE: But, Peter, that was the excuse last week. This week, the Republicans...

(CROSSTALK) FENN: It's immigration now.

BRAZILE: It's immigration this week.


BRAZILE: So what's going to be the excuse next week?

DONATELLI: The good thing is that the national intelligence director's functions are now being performed by the CIA director. We have many of the things that are in the intelligence bill already being implemented. On balance, I was probably for the bill. I think a national intelligence director is probably a good thing.

But by no means assume that just because the bill died that the reform of the intelligence movement is dead. That's far from the case.


FENN: I agree with that. But we should pass it now, though. We really should get this thing passed, because, if we take it into next year...


FENN: What vital thing is not happening?


BUCHANAN: You know what? There are some that consider this bill having been gutted, that a major part of the 9/11 recommendations is with respect to the driver's license, to not allow illegals from getting them. Do you not think it's a good thing to make certain that it's in there rather than gut it? This is something that America totally supports.

FENN: I think you have to look at some of those issues separately, because what I'm afraid of is that you're going to get into turf battles and turf wars.

I served on the Senate Intelligence Committee and I'll tell you, those turf battles are really tough. And what I think people are afraid of is, if you carry it over into next year, it won't get done. We'll be weaker. And I'll tell you. One thing I would say to Jim Sensenbrenner right now and Duncan Hunter is, boy, if there are more attacks in this country and you haven't solved this problem, you're going to have to look at yourself in the mirror. Now, that's a tough statement, but I believe it.



DONATELLI: Let's understand something. There's a lot of things -- there's nothing vital in this bill that isn't already being done. We're sharing intelligence. The CIA is taking an expanded role. We're improving our port security, our airport security. These things are already happening, Peter.

FENN: You're right.

DONATELLI: What vital thing is not happening because this bill hasn't passed?

BRAZILE: So are you saying that the agencies are now talking among themselves?


DONATELLI: There's no question about that, Donna.

BRAZILE: When the CIA, the spook who finally went public said the other day that they're not talking internally. The CIA, they are not even talking from one floor to the other.

DONATELLI: A situation like the beginning of 2001, where we captured this guy that ultimately was part of the 9/11 plan, then we didn't go after his computer because we thought that there was a problem sharing intelligence, that would never happen today.

Are we perfect? No, we are not perfect. But we are so much safer and so much further along than we were in 2001. And I think everybody in the government, Republicans and Democrats...


BRAZILE: So the president will spend his political capital making sure this bill is passed?


DONATELLI: No, there are many other -- no, there's other things to do.

BRAZILE: Well, will he pay a political price, like the Democrats did on homeland security?

DONATELLI: Well, we'll see. I don't think he will pay a political price.


FENN: ... they're all for it.

What I -- what bothers me is that, right now, they're not going to have a vote on this, I don't think. And the reason is because the Democrats are all going to support this bill. And then it will be, oh, my goodness, we'll have to share credit with the Democrats. What a shock.


FENN: Now, that's not a good reason not to pass a bill, in my view, but anyway.

BUCHANAN: That's not what is happening up there, Peter.



BUCHANAN: That is not what is happening up there.

Well, we are going to be right back. Next, in "Rapid Fire," the Democrats really want Howard Dean to be their new chairman. We're going to take a look and see.

And President Bush has a warning for the leaders in the Ukraine. Judy Woodruff has more just ahead.



JUDY WOODRUFF, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Judy Woodruff reporting from Washington.

Coming up at the top of the hour, President Bush puts Ukraine's leaders on notice. The world is watching them.

The holiday shopping season begins. Retailers wonder, will consumers be naughty or nice?

And what radical Islamists are teaching children about suicide attacks.

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

Now back to CROSSFIRE.

BRAZILE: It's time for "Rapid Fire," when we ask questions faster than today's bargains are flying off those store shelves.

Our guests today are Republican strategist Frank Donatelli and Peter Fenn, his Democratic counterpart.

Frank, I have to ask a serious question. The president promised to cut pork out of all of these spending bills. He hasn't vetoed one bill. Will me veto this omnibus spending bill?

DONATELLI: No, absolutely not. But there's always next year. I think he'll start that...



BUCHANAN: Peter, one of the reasons the Democrats did not do well, a lot of people think, is, they didn't come across as strong enough on the military. And, yet, you guys are actually considering Howard Dean as chairman of your party?

FENN: Listen, there are a lot of great candidates in there for party chair.

I think you're going to have -- you know, you're going to have a heck of a debate on this and we'll see what happens. But, you know, look, I think the Democrats are very strong on the military. We favored increasing the military budget. We favored increases in the intelligence budget and a new reform of the intelligence community. So I'm not worried about where Americans are going on today's military.

BUCHANAN: Peter, the election is over.

Go ahead, Donna.


BRAZILE: Hey, Frank, today "USA Today" reported that over $1.6 billion was spent on TV ads, an increase of over $700 million from the last presidential race. Will this trend continue?

DONATELLI: Yes, I think it probably will, as long as the 527s continue to operate and, indeed, might become part of the permanent political system. I don't see any reason why political spending won't continue to increase. I don't necessarily think, Donna, that's a bad thing.

BUCHANAN: Peter, another issue key in this last month was, social conservatives seemed to be very rallied and very excited about Republicans. As the party that is perceived as pro-abortion on demand and gay marriage, how are the Democrats going to change their perception out there in order to get a majority position?

FENN: You know, I read a statistic today, which was that the number of abortions actually were going down under Bill Clinton and have gone up under George Bush.


FENN: Now, I won't blame George Bush for that.

BRAZILE: There's more divorces in red states than blue states, Bay.

FENN: That's right.


BUCHANAN: You've got to deal with the perception. You know that. Perception is reality. You guys are the party -- a much more liberal party.


FENN: We're not going to go around gay bashing gay -- we're not going to go around restricting people's rights. I mean, I thought this was, you know, the conservatives. I thought this was the libertarians.

BUCHANAN: No changes.


FENN: Keep government out of the bedroom.


BUCHANAN: Listen, we want to thank you all, both, for being with us.

BRAZILE: Thank you, guys.

BUCHANAN: It's too short entirely. I'm sure you all will be back again.

But, with Thanksgiving -- if Thanksgiving dinner wasn't enough for you, so, how much would you like to pay for dinner served by Oprah Winfrey's personal chef? I'll guarantee you it will be less carbs. And will see where you could get it next on CROSSFIRE.


BUCHANAN: If you're in the market for the out-of-the-ordinary gift this season, why not own a piece of Chicago? The Windy City is about to launch an unusual auction on eBay next month. It will sell some old and new traditions to the highest bidders to raise some money for a good cause.

Chicago tourism director Dorothy Coyle joins us from our Chicago bureau with a gift list.

Donna, you have the first question for Dorothy.

BRAZILE: Hello, Ms. Dorothy, how are you?



It's a novel idea. Where did you get this idea from and how much money do you intend to raise?

COYLE: Well, two questions.

We actually got this idea -- Lois Weisberg, who is commissioner of Chicago's Department of Cultural Affairs, spoke with Burt Wolf, who is a television journalist, food and travel journalist, and they thought this was an interesting idea to partner with eBay and do the first citywide eBay auction and really showcase Chicago.


BUCHANAN: Give us some items. What's the best buy?


COYLE: Well, one of my favorites is the opportunity to come to Chicago for Saint Patrick's Day. And this is something people have never been able to do before, throw the first bucket of green dye into the Chicago River. It turns bright green on Saint Patrick's Day. And you get to stay at the Fitzpatrick Hotel, which is our Irish inn here.

BRAZILE: That's if the snow has melted, I'm sure.


COYLE: That's just one...


BRAZILE: Hey, what about this Playboy bunny? Bay's very interested, you know?


COYLE: Yes. We have an original 1960s Playboy bunny costume. We also have a brand new Gibson guitar signed by blues legend Buddy Guy.


BUCHANAN: That's great.


BRAZILE: Now, what's the minimum bid for the Playboy bunny suit, because I know Bay's very interested.


COYLE: Wow. I think it's about $14,000, so you might have to break your piggy bank for that one.

BRAZILE: Fourteen thousand.

Well, thank you so much, Dorothy.


BRAZILE: From the left, I'm Donna Brazile.

BUCHANAN: And, from the right, I'm Bay Buchanan.

Join us again next time for another edition of CROSSFIRE.

"WOLF BLITZER REPORTS" starts right now.



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