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CNN CROSSFIRE

9/11 Reform Deal?

Aired December 6, 2004 - 16:30   ET

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


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

In the CROSSFIRE: Word of an 11-hour compromise on the 9/11 reform bill. Will the measure clear its final hurdles? And how much political capital did President Bush send spend to get the deal done?

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I believe we've addressed the concerns of by far the majority of members of both the House and the Senate.

ANNOUNCER: Today on CROSSFIRE.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

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

(APPLAUSE)

TUCKER CARLSON, CO-HOST: Welcome to CROSSFIRE.

Heavy, heavy drama in Washington this afternoon. It's do-or-die time for the intelligence reform bill. And now there's word that a deal has been reached that could help the bill clear its final hurdle.

PAUL BEGALA, CO-HOST: It is, of course, the intelligence bill, the first major test of the president's second term, even though he won't be sworn in until January.

And some congressional Republicans are defying Mr. Bush as if he were already a lame duck. Perhaps our president might have fought harder for the bill fit if it had had tax breaks in it for Enron or Halliburton, instead of all that boring intelligence reform stuff.

We'll debate the issue straight ahead.

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

Militants attacked the U.S. Consulate in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, today. Reports indicate five militants threw explosives, storm passed guards and briefly took hostages inside the American compound. Saudi security forces repelled the attackers, but not before several people were killed, three of them militants. A senior Bush administration official tells CNN's Andrea Koppel that al Qaeda is suspected in the attack. Now, do you remember al Qaeda, don't you, Osama bin Laden's terrorist network? They're the ones who attacked America on September 11. But based on President Bush's rhetoric for the last couple years, you may have thought it was Saddam Hussein who attacked us. But, no, it was, in fact, bin Laden and al Qaeda.

Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf said this weekend that no one has any idea where bin Laden. He said that is partly because of the lack of U.S. troops in Afghanistan, which has left what President Musharraf called "voids" -- unquote.

Now, why is that? Well, because we have 138,000 troops in Iraq, soon to be 150,000. So now we're in the position where we cannot even defend ourselves against five lunatics with hand grenades.

CARLSON: Yes, those five lunatic, I wouldn't call them militants. I would call them terrorists. I'm struck, though, by...

BEGALA: They are. Good point.

CARLSON: I'm struck, though, by your willingness to take the word of the Pakistani government over the word of the U.S. government.

The fact is that most people who have studied it know that the Pakistani government allowed the Taliban to exist, have been catering to al Qaeda ever since, and in fact that Osama bin Laden is probably not even in -- is probably in Pakistan, probably in one of its cities, probably existing with the help of renegade elements of the Pakistani government.

(BELL RINGING)

BEGALA: The U.S. government doesn't say anything contrary to that at all. President Bush says that President Musharraf is our close ally in this deal. And Musharraf says that we dropped the ball.

(CROSSTALK)

CARLSON: Hold on.

(BELL RINGING)

CARLSON: He's better than the people who might follow were he to be deposed. But the fact is that there are renegade elements...

BEGALA: I'm not calling for him to be deposed. I'm calling for bin Laden to be dead, rather than screwing around in Iraq, where they never did attack us.

(APPLAUSE)

CARLSON: But he's probably in Pakistan, not in Afghanistan. Anyway. Well, incoming Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada is meeting in private this afternoon with the unofficial leader of the Democratic Party. Who is that, you ask? Is it Hillary Clinton, George Soros, Barbra Streisand, Linda Ronstadt? No. That's the party's brain trust.

But its real leader, its power center, its spiritual Kim Jong Il is, of course, Howard Dean of Vermont, the most excitable former governor in America. To the Washington establishment Democrats, Dean is something that happened long ago, but stubbornly won't go away, like a Mexican dinner or the herpes virus, a living reminder of an affair you would rather forget.

But to Democratic activists across America, those are community college professors, acupuncturists, people who take Deepak Chopra seriously, Howard Dean is the party's future. And for that reason, he is unignorable. Now Howard Dean wants to run the Democratic National Committee. Let's hope Harry Reid listens carefully. Howard Dean for DNC chair, because Democrats don't scream loud enough.

(LAUGHTER)

(APPLAUSE)

CARLSON: How's that for a slogan? I'm for Howard Dean.

BEGALA: Deepak Chopra. Now, I happen to know...

CARLSON: He is your guy. He is your guy.

BEGALA: I happen to know that you are quite a devotee of Deepak Chopra.

CARLSON: I centered myself this morning.

(CROSSTALK)

BEGALA: Did you have you wellness -- your aroma therapy candle burning back in your office?

(CROSSTALK)

CARLSON: Those are your people, though.

BEGALA: They are.

CARLSON: There is not a single acupuncturist in America who doesn't vote Democrat. There's not a single community college professor or a single Deepak Chopra guy.

(BELL RINGING)

BEGALA: Do you know what? Did you see -- did you see the study in "The New York Times" that actually people who water-ski and watch "Will & Grace," which are supposed to be elite activities, much more Republican? (CROSSTALK)

CARLSON: Well, water-skiing is not an elite activity.

(CROSSTALK)

BEGALA: Well, everybody hammered John Kerry for water-skiing without the boat, the wind-sailing thing. That was...

(CROSSTALK)

CARLSON: That wasn't water -- that was a dorky, elite, expensive -- come on.

(CROSSTALK)

BEGALA: Well, my friend Tucker of course loves to bash Canada when he's not bashing Democrats. But there's at least one issue where Canada is eons ahead of America, immigration.

President Bush has proposed liberalizing our immigration laws to allow workers who come here legally to gain legal residency. But the Canadians have a much more innovative program. They're recruiting a very special class of immigrants, strippers.

"The Washington Post" reports that Canadian work permits have been issued or renewed for 661 foreign strippers, many of whom are from Rumania. Now, why Rumania, you may ask? Well, industry observers say the Rumanian girls are more willing than Canadians to perform lap dances. It makes sense when you think about it. After all, Rumania is much closer to Lapland, which I gather is where this exotic foreign dance originated.

So here's the difference. Mr. Bush is trying to recruit guys to run leaf blowers at 7:00 a.m. on Saturday. The Canadians are recruiting girls to do lap dances at 2:00 a.m. Who's got a better immigration plan?

CARLSON: OK, now you're offended my jingoistic sensibility. How pathetic is a country that has to import strippers? OK?

(LAUGHTER)

CARLSON: Canada doesn't even have...

BEGALA: I think it's brilliant.

CARLSON: Doesn't even have -- it's so lacking in natural resources, it has to bring strippers in. I will say America is too proud for that.

(CROSSTALK)

CARLSON: We have our own strippers. We raise them here ourselves.

(LAUGHTER)

CARLSON: We've got the best strippers in the world.

(CROSSTALK)

BEGALA: ... corn fed.

CARLSON: That's exactly right. We don't need to bring in Rumanians. I'll tell you that much.

(CROSSTALK)

BEGALA: I guess they are close to Lapland, this kind of unique dance that they do, the lap dance.

(CROSSTALK)

CARLSON: Yes. You wouldn't want any Laplander sitting on your lap badly clothed.

(BELL RINGING)

CARLSON: All right.

They make fantastic cheese, but in the end is it really worth having the French on our side? That's a question worth considering after an incident that took place Friday at an airport outside Paris. French security officers apparently mislaid an explosive device hidden for training purposes in an unknown's passenger's suitcase.

While the French went to find a dog to sniff it out or maybe just paused for yet another glass of wine, baggage handlers loaded the suitcase on a passenger plane, possibly a flight headed to the United States. In other words, in a move unmatched in the annals of modern security, the French government committed an act of terrorism accidentally.

An Air France flight to Los Angeles was evacuated and delayed for three hours while the luggage was inspected. Several planes were searched after arriving in New York. And yet -- and here's the amazing part -- the explosives are still missing. And so, if you just flew in from Paris, our advice is, unpack carefully.

(LAUGHTER)

BEGALA: You know, you're right. This is an outrage. I'm glad you can sort of find a way to put a little bit of an amusing note to it.

CARLSON: These are John Kerry's people. Talk about a Democratic constituency.

(CROSSTALK)

BEGALA: First off, if it came into America, it came in through American security as well. I think you're right. The French need to tighten their security.

(CROSSTALK)

BEGALA: But America needs to tighten its security as well.

CARLSON: Oh, get real.

BEGALA: If they have stopped and looked at every plane that's come in, the Americans...

(CROSSTALK)

CARLSON: You've got to be kidding. Are you suggesting that America -- that at customs, at the entry point in the United States, that every bag ought to be rescreened?

(CROSSTALK)

(BELL RINGING)

BEGALA: They have screened them since they found out that the French had shipped it.

(CROSSTALK)

CARLSON: Yes, but as a matter of course, we can't do that. That's crazy.

BEGALA: Of course. We certainly don't inspect any of the containers that come into our ports, no more than 2 percent of them, which people have screaming about for three years and the president doesn't want to do anything about.

(CROSSTALK)

(APPLAUSE)

CARLSON: That has nothing to do with what I just said. You can't blame the United States for what the French just did.

(CROSSTALK)

BEGALA: This is a vulnerability. I'm not blaming the United States.

Well, next on CROSSFIRE, word of a possible deal on the intelligence reform bill. Has the president twisted enough arms on Capitol Hill or did he just pretend that perhaps the bill had some nice tax cuts in it for the rich, which really invigorates him? Well, we're expecting a live statement from the chairman of the House and Senate Armed Services Committee. CNN will carry those remarks live.

And then, we'll tell you what President Bush was doing in a tuxedo sucking up to the Hollywood elite this weekend. I thought he was the guy who said no new tuxes.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(APPLAUSE)

CARLSON: Welcome back to CROSSFIRE.

It was a day of fast-paced negotiations on Capitol Hill, with the fate of the intelligence reform bill hanging in the balance. Will stepped-up pressure from President Bush be enough in the end to get the job done? Maybe so. There's word this afternoon that negotiations have been reached, a deal that could break the impasse.

In CROSSFIRE today to debate it, Democratic Congressman Gregory Meeks of New York and also Republican Congressman Darrell Issa of California.

BEGALA: Gentlemen, good to see you both.

We're awaiting word of a deal. If the two chairman in the House and the Senate, Republican Armed Services Committee, Duncan Hunter of your state of California, John Warner of Virginia, have their press conference, we'll take that live.

But while we're waiting for that, let's go over the contours of the deal. It looks like you all have a deal which mollifies the defense critics like Congressman Hunter, but does nothing about the immigration side of it, which you seemed to be most concerned about. Are you disappointed with President Bush that he seems to have thrown you and other immigration reformers over the side here?

REP. DARRELL ISSA (R), CALIFORNIA: I'm disappointed with the Senate.

The House put together a bipartisan bill. Over 60 Democrats, 213 Republicans sent it over to the Senate. And the Senate said we're not going to deal with the tough issues. We're not going to deal with 19 hijackers having 63 driver's licenses. And they sent it back. And we're still pushing to get that part understood and addressed.

There's no question that it is important that Congressman Hunter's concerns for direct chain of command authority over assets that keep our troops alive in combat had to be under DOD control. And I understand the deal is they will be.

BEGALA: But let me press the point, though. The president accommodated the concerns from the defense critics and abandoned the concerns like yours from immigration. Is George W. Bush too liberal on immigration for your tastes?

ISSA: These are tough issues. And if the president -- and I haven't talked to the president -- if the president says he will take it up and he'll fight for it on another piece of legislation, fine. But it has to be...

BEGALA: Has he ever for the last three years?

ISSA: No, he hasn't. It has to be taken up. It has to be dealt with. I would prefer it be dealt with tomorrow in the 9/11 bill, because the 9/11 Commission found that this was a loophole that had to be filled, had to be plugged.

CARLSON: That's exactly -- Mr. Meeks, I want to raise the same question to you. I've heard people say that immigration concerns, border security, ought to be addressed in a separate bill.

But the fact is, the 9/11 Commission report, as Mr. Issa just referred to, contains a specific recommendation. We ought to deal with it now. I'm quoting from it, page 390. "Secure identification should begin in the United States. The federal government should set standards for the issuance of birth certificates and sources of identification such as driver's licenses."

The commission recommended it be addressed in this piece of legislation. And it's not. Why is that?

REP. GREGORY MEEKS (D), NEW YORK: Well, it's not.

And it's not -- I think that, when you talk about immigration, there's broader issues that probably will have to be taken up in the 109th Congress. However, it should not be something that holds up the 9/11 bill when you have a consensus. You talk about bipartisanship. Clearly, if the vote was taken on the floor of the House right now, the overwhelming majority members of the House will vote for the 9/11 bill, because it's so important, as Governor Kean has indicated.

He said that this is not a perfect bill and that we need to take up the immigration issues, but it should not be something that holds this bill hostage.

CARLSON: But you know what's really going on here. America is less safe than it should be because these issues have not been taken up.

And the reason they haven't, as you well know, is, there's a conspiracy between liberal Democrats, who want the votes...

(CROSSTALK)

CARLSON: There is a bit of a conspiracy. Liberal Democrats want the votes. Big business Republicans want the cheap labor. Both of them are allied to keep immigration off the table as an issue. That's right. And you know that.

MEEKS: No, no.

I think this is the first real test of whether or not the people are going to put their country before their parties. Now here's a time where we basically -- really, the negotiation with this bill is taking place right now with the Republicans holding the White House, the House and the Senate, that they're fighting among themselves. And I hope that they put the country before their party. And that's what's really at stake here. (APPLAUSE)

MEEKS: We need to put the country first.

ISSA: And Greg is absolutely right. We need to put the country before our party.

And when Republicans, Republican to Republican, say, hey, it's not good enough and this is why, you're standing on principle. It's very easy to say, look, we've gotten all the deck chairs rearranged on the Titanic and we have put in better pumps, but that's what the 9/11 bill is if you don't plug the hole that allows for people to enter this country illegally, stay in this country illegally, develop identification so they can move freely in this country. If we don't stop that, then there's no question we will be attacked again. We will be attacked again by people who have used what is a gaping hole and come through it.

BEGALA: I have to say, you've persuaded me. Why haven't you persuaded the president?

ISSA: He just doesn't call. What can I say?

(LAUGHTER)

BEGALA: No, but he's heard these arguments and he's not out there fighting for those kinds of security reforms in immigration. And I'm just curious as to why.

(CROSSTALK)

ISSA: Well, Paul, we're not done yet. And there's no question that one of the things we need -- and Gregory and I can have a debate about the word immigration, but, see, this isn't about immigration.

BEGALA: Right. It's about security.

ISSA: This is about the security portion of this.

BEGALA: That's right.

ISSA: And many would say, yes, it came through the Immigration Subcommittee and, yes, it was -- all that's fine.

The fact is, we have people, 10 million people in this country, we don't know who they are. We don't know where they are. And we can't even be sure they don't have I.D.s, multiple I.D.s with different names, all of which indicate that they're American citizens, when they're not. That has to be changed. It has nothing to do with whether we let a half-a-million or a million new immigrants into this country. That part of it is no problem, as long as we can identify the people who are here, so we can ensure the American people that they'll be safe.

(APPLAUSE) CARLSON: Mr. Meeks, I want to get your take on something that Tim Roemer, 9/11 Commission member, said today. It strikes me as so intemperate, possibly almost hysterical. And I wonder what you think of it.

Here's what he said about the possibility of this legislation not passing.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TIMOTHY ROEMER, PRESIDENT, CENTER FOR NATIONAL POLICY: We have a 57-year-old system that is the status quo that allowed 3,000 people to die on our homeland. We need to change it. If Congress and the White House doesn't change it, they preserve the status quo and more body bags may have to happen before we get changes in the future. That should not take place.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CARLSON: Now, that is so over the top.

(CROSSTALK)

ISSA: No, that's correct. That's exactly right. That's exactly right.

(CROSSTALK)

ISSA: But if we don't change it, and if we do only the Senate bill, we're not changing the status quo.

CARLSON: No, please. Hold on.

We have not had a terrorist attack since September 11 on our shores without this legislation. This bill, it was only available in its final form the Saturday before Thanksgiving, which means most members who are being asked to vote on it have not read it. So, why not take just some time, understand what's in it, get the best possible version of it, and vote on it, instead of engaging in grotesque hyperbole like that?

MEEKS: When you say grotesque hyperbole, it's the basically the same thing that the chair of the commission said, Governor Kean, when he said, this bill's going to pass sooner or later. The question is whether it's going to pass before another terrorist attack or after. It's basically the same thing. He's talking about the importance to the American people.

Look, the president wants this bill passed, most members of the House, most members of the Senate. And most Americans want it to pass.

(CROSSTALK)

CARLSON: We're going to have a terrorist attack if this bill doesn't pass, which is what you just implied. Sum up for me crisply in three sentences the three main things this bill will do to keep a terrorist attack from occurring on our shores.

(CROSSTALK)

MEEKS: What -- you tried to point out Tim, and I think because he's a Democrat. And I'm trying to say that...

(CROSSTALK)

CARLSON: Because what he said is so over the top, that's a joke.

MEEKS: It's not any different than Governor Kean has said. And it just shows the importance...

(CROSSTALK)

CARLSON: Well, then I think whatever he said is over the top. I want to know how this bill is going to protect me.

MEEKS: And the importance of the commission.

The commission was sanctioned by Congress and by the president to go out and do an extensive job, take an extensive testimony on what we can do to prevent another terrorist attack here in America. And they've done that. And they've come back.

CARLSON: But if you can't tell me in three bullets points, then how are you going to convince anybody that we need the bill or else we're going to die if we don't have it?

MEEKS: Well, what it does is -- by organizing intelligence so that we can prevent -- so that we have the kind of intelligence failure that we had before because one hand was not working with the other. The CIA didn't know what the FBI did. We didn't have enough intelligence on the ground and have it coordinated, so that we could make sure that we're identifying the threats before they happen to us. Then we are subject to another terrorist attack.

And what this bill does, it attempts to coordinate all of those efforts, so that we have the CIA, the FBI, as well as our on-the- ground intelligence and dealing with our military that are overseas, so that we prevent an attack from happening on our shores again.

BEGALA: Congressman Meeks and Congressman Issa, hold your seat and hold that thought, because we're going to take a quick break.

We're still awaiting word from the House and Senate chairmen of the Armed Services Committees for their press conference. When they come to hold it, we'll come to it live.

Until then, stay with us here on CROSSFIRE.

(JOINED IN PROGRESS)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Trent (ph), come on up here.

REP. DUNCAN HUNTER (R), CALIFORNIA: Well, ladies and gentlemen, today has been a good day for the people who wear the uniform of the United States. We have put together a provision for chain of command protection that accrues to the benefit of our troops in Iraq and Afghanistan and other places around the world and we think locks in this very important aspect of war fighting called chain of command.

It's a thing that keeps people alive on the battlefield because it means that when a commander calls for a reconnaissance asset for intelligence up above his troops, whether it's a satellite or an airplane, that image or that signal responds down to his troops, let's them know where the bad guys are, and gives them a chance to target them or to move very quickly in terms of accomplishing their mission.

So we have been working, as you know, over the many weeks trying to ensure that we have a good provision for chain of command protection. And we have that. We've received language that we think does that very effectively.

And so we have agreed that we will support this conference report because it has now met the standard that we were most interested in, which is protecting our troops on the battlefield.

And let me just say one thing about chain of command. The Title X that people heard about, but haven't had explained, very simply says that the chain of command in a military operation goes from the president to the secretary of defense to the combatant commander in his area. In this case, we talk about Afghanistan and Iraq, it's General Abizaid.

And that means that all of the assets that are in that particular theater, whether they're aircraft that send images down to the troops so they know where the bad guys are, or send signal intelligence down to the troops, those platforms are under the command of that particular commander and his subordinate field commanders. That means that when somebody's in a shooting battle, they get information when they need it.

And so we have what we think is very satisfactory strengthening and protection of this chain of command. We think that's going to accrue to the benefit of our troops. And as a result of that, as a conferee, I'm strongly in support of this legislation.

Now, there are lots of other aspects to this legislation. It's a multi-hundred page bill. And there are some things that aren't resolved, like the driver's license issue and other issues. And I'll let other members take positions on those particular issues and hang their hats on those issues, should they decide to do so.

And I am very strongly in favor of having the driver's license issue resolved in favor of the House's position, which is that you should have documentation of residency to be able to get a driver's license. But that's one of the big issues in this intel reform bill. But, for me, the primary issue was the protection of our troops in the field. We think that we've achieved that.

And I might say that this was of such importance to the armed services of the United States that both of us had been working on this, myself and my counter part, John Warner, who is the chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee.

And as we move this legislation, this proposals back and forth, he and I both looked them over. We both scrutinized them very carefully and made sure that we had the right legal analysis so that the chain of command is strongly preserved. That means life to our troops in the field, and we thought it was of such importance that we both work on this.

And I might say that John Warner has done yeoman's work on this bill and has been extremely supportive of the military and the need to preserve a strong chain of command.

So, John, thank you for what you've done. And, please, have at it, sir.

SEN. JOHN WARNER (R), VIRGINIA: OK, thank you. Very briefly, I commend you, Chairman Hunter. We've worked together, I think almost 25 years now -- haven't we? -- quarter of a century on behalf of the men and women of the arm forces in our respective committees. And in your position as a conferee you were instrumental in bringing this matter to the attention of the president.

Both Duncan and I spoke to the vice president, to General Myers. I compliment both the vice president and General Myers for their steadfast contribution to this difficult resolution of this matter.

Very simply, ladies and gentlemen, it was necessary to amend this language from the conference report as it is written to the new language in order to allow the members of the Cabinet and other heads of agencies and departments to simply manage their departments.

And secondly, if something goes wrong, they're the ones that are accountable.

So management and accountability were our goals. And again, I thank the 9/11 Commission for its participation in this important sequence of legislation, and I compliment our colleagues in the Senate, Chairman Collins and the ranking member, Mr. Lieberman, and other conferees.

But there were a number of senators that worked with me in achieving the clarification -- and I underline the clarification of this language -- so there could be no doubt and no challenge in court or otherwise as to the execution of the chains of command.

So I thank you again, Chairman Hunter.

HUNTER: John, thank you very much.

And we have with us the chairman of the terrorism subcommittee on the House Armed Services Committee, Jim Saxton of New Jersey, who has worked very diligently on this issue.

And when the 9/11 Commission leadership first appeared before the committee and talked about reserving tactical intelligence for the war fighter, it was Chairman Saxton who educated them to the fact that today small forces, even down to a five-man special forces team, are indeed hooked to satellites, and that they don't simply use the low- level or so-called tactical intelligence, but that we have an integrated intelligence chain.

And so, I'd like Jim to say a few words.

Jim Saxton?

REP. JIM SAXTON (R), NEW JERSEY: Thank you, Chairman Hunter and Chairman Warner. Thank you for your leadership in bringing us -- making it possible for us to be here today to discuss this extremely important issue.

Earlier this year, Chairman Hunter and I were in Iraq. And we were in Tikrit, actually, with General Odierno. And after we had spent some number of hours with him in briefings, the chairman asked General Odierno, "We're here to help. What do you need?"

He said, "My two biggest needs are armor and more access to intelligence."

And we asked him to expand on the second one. And he said, "Our intelligence-gathering apparatus is controlled here in the theater by the theater commander. And each of us who command a division on an ongoing basis have daily needs for intelligence that must be met in a real-time basis, right now."

And he said, "By the time we go to the theater commander and get the information back through the intelligence system, it's oftentimes too late."

And so, when we heard in August the 9/11 Commission report saying that we were going to add yet another layer to the chain through which our military, our war fighters, are able to obtain that information in a timely fashion, we knew there had to be a problem.

And so, when I had the opportunity to ask Governor Kean and Lee Hamilton how we would protect the ability of the war fighter to collect tactical intelligence and control that process, it became evident that we had somewhat of a problem.

Today it appears that we have come to a resolution of that problem. And frankly I would like to thank Chairman Hunter and Senate Chairman Warner for the great work that they've done in helping to solve that problem.

BEGALA: Congressman Jim Saxton, a Republican of New Jersey, chairman of the House Subcommittee on Terrorism, had a press conference summarizing the intelligence reform bill. He was joined by Congressman Duncan Hunter of California, the chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, and Senator John Warner of Virginia, who chairs that panel in the Senate.

We're joined here in the CROSSFIRE with Congressman Darrell Issa, Republican of California, Congressman Gregory Meeks, a Democrat of New York. Gentlemen, we just saw the press conference.

Congressman Issa, they were trying very hard to not gloat, those defense experts. But you're pretty upset that there's no intelligence, no immigration reform in the intelligence bill.

ISSA: Look, I'm thrilled that Congressman Hunter stood his ground and he got a compromise that means that our troops will be safer when they need intelligence to keep them alive on the battlefield.

We need to have that same level of compromise on the security portion that talks about making sure that we don't have people with fake driver's licenses, making sure that you don't have driver's licenses in five different states. These kinds of security items are just as important for people here in this country as those targeting assets were in Iraq.

CARLSON: Excuse me, Mr. Meeks. Your colleague went on, used up almost all our time.

Are you pleased with what the president has done, getting this bill through the Congress?

MEEKS: Yes, I think it was important to get this bill done. It's important for the American people. And I think in this bill we've got to put America -- as I said earlier, the country first.

And I think that is what we are doing. We're putting the country first, and that's what we've got to do, because we've got to make sure, because, when the terrorists attack, it's not Democrats or Republicans. They're Americans. And we've got to save them.

(APPLAUSE)

BEGALA: Congressman Meeks, that's the last word. Well put. I think we can all agree with that.

Congressman Gregory Meeks of New York, Congressman Darrell Issa of California, thank you both very much.

That's it.

From the left, I am Paul Begala. That's it for CROSSFIRE.

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

But now "WOLF BLITZER REPORTS" starts this very moment. See you tomorrow.

(APPLAUSE)

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