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Alberto Gonzales Grilled; Tucker Carlson Bids Farewell

Aired January 6, 2005 - 16:30   ET


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

In the CROSSFIRE: Alberto Gonzales, President Bush's nominee for attorney general, is grilled by senators about his role in the use of torture during terror investigations.

ALBERTO GONZALES, ATTORNEY GENERAL NOMINEE: Contrary to reports, I considered Geneva Conventions neither obsolete, nor quaint.

ANNOUNCER: We will debate Gonzales' fitness to serve in the nation's top law enforcement post.

TUCKER CARLSON, CO-HOST: And from the right, I'm Tucker Carlson.

ANNOUNCER: Exit stage right. Tucker Carlson bids farewell to CROSSFIRE. Yes, today is his last day. You don't want to miss our look back at Tucker's classic CROSSFIRE moments.

SEN. HILLARY CLINTON (D), NEW YORK: This is a wing tip. It's a right-wing tip.




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


PAUL BEGALA, CO-HOST: Hello, everybody. Welcome to CROSSFIRE.

Sad to say, this is Tucker Carlson's farewell show. So, we are going to make sure he goes out with all the decorum and dignity you have come to expect from CROSSFIRE. Well, I for one never liked the sun of a gun, so I am just going to have to fake it for 30 minutes. Let's see if I can.

Meanwhile, sparks are already flying on Capitol Hill at the Senate confirmation hearing for attorney general nominee Alberto Gonzales. Judge Gonzales looks likely to win confirmation, but not before answering some tough questions about whether he was too soft on torture and too tough on the death penalty.

CARLSON: That's right. Democrats accuse Mr. Gonzales of being too mean to suspected members of al Qaeda. Was he? And, more to the point, who cares.

It's going to be a very acrimonious show, because we will debate that among many other things with two of our all-time favorite guests.

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

BEGALA: The three-star general who runs the Army Reserve says that the Reserve is becoming a broken force.

In a memo to the Army chief of staff, General Ron Helmly writes of his -- quote -- "deepening concern" -- unquote -- that the Reserve -- quote -- "is rapidly degenerating into a broken force" -- unquote. He says the Reserve is in grave danger of being unable to meet its requirements if other national emergencies arise. General Helmly bluntly writes -- quote -- "The purpose of this memorandum is to inform you of the Army Reserve's inability to meet mission requirements" -- unquote -- associated with Iraq and Afghanistan.

Now, some 50,000 reservists are on active duty today, many of them serving, all of them serving with honor in President Bush's misbegotten occupation of Iraq. Most of those reservists probably voted for Mr. Bush. It's too bad President Bush does not support our troops the way our troops supported him.


CARLSON: Well, good for you for admitting they mostly voted for the president. I have to say, I think the National Guard and the Army Reserve are both overextended. And that's one of the -- that's one of the products of drawing down the military in a pretty dramatic way during the 1990s. I am going to go out on my final show still attacking Bill Clinton, because in this case, he deserves it.

BEGALA: All he did was follow what Dick Cheney as defense secretary wanted to do.

CARLSON: Was Dick Cheney defense secretary during the Clinton administration? I missed that whole chapter.




BEGALA: What happened here is, we invaded a country without the force necessary. And we did not need to invade it. It was a war of choice by Mr. Bush.

CARLSON: Really?

BEGALA: And we didn't have the force to do it. And these Reservists are being hurt by that.

CARLSON: It's funny. I don't remember the Democratic leadership saying anything like that in the roll-up to the war. But, again, maybe I missed that, too.

Well, like the Japanese soldier emerging from the jungle 30 years after Hiroshima, unaware that the war has ended, Democratic Congresswoman Stephanie Tubbs-Jones and California Senator Barbara Boxer today filed a formal objection to the validity of Ohio's 20 electoral votes. It was promptly voted down by Congress, but the utterly fruitless, pointless, ridiculous move brought the routine process of counting electoral votes for president to a screeching halt this afternoon, achieving of course nothing.

Neither Boxer, nor Jones expected to alter the outcome of the presidential race, which, again, is already over. They say they want to call attention, though, to the need for election reform. I'm sure the good senator and congresswoman would not have been so vocal if their own candidate had won. But he didn't.

By the way, Senator John Kerry, the loser, did not attend today's session, opting instead to visit U.S. troops abroad. And good for him. IN other words, even Senator John Kerry knew it was a waste of time. What does that tell you?

BEGALA: Well, I disagree. It wasn't a waste of time. Nobody was trying to overturn the election results. You're right. President Bush won this time fair and square.

CARLSON: Come on.

BEGALA: But what we need to do is call attention to the fact that, in many precincts, urban precincts, Democratic precincts in Ohio, there were not enough voting machines. In suburban Republican areas, there were.


BEGALA: Now, I think we ought to take a hard look at some of the disparities in the electoral system.

CARLSON: You know for a fact, you know perfectly well this is just whining.



CARLSON: This is another opportunity for Democrats to claim racial discrimination against Republicans in voting on the basis of nothing.

BEGALA: I think there's a partisan discrimination, certainly.

CARLSON: No, they're claiming racial discrimination, as you know. BEGALA: Well, I think we ought to look into it.


CARLSON: And it's unsupported.

BEGALA: I think we ought to look into it.

Well, during the presidential campaign, George W. Bush accused John Kerry of trying to scare people about Social Security.

But now we learn through a secret White House strategy memo obtained by "The Wall Street Journal" that it is Mr. Bush who is using scare tactics. The memo perpetuates the right-wing fiction that Social Security is in a crisis and it calls for deep cuts in benefits. That's the real Republican agenda, as well as partial privatization.

At least the memo is honest enough to reveal that the president's true priority is to cut Social Security benefits. It says so in black and white. Indeed, the White House memo disputes conservatives who have said that private accounts alone will make Social Security fiscally sound. The memo calls such accounts -- quote -- "insufficient to the task" -- unquote -- of making Social Security viable.

George W. Bush wants to cut Social Security benefits. When John Kerry said so, it wasn't a scare tactic, just a very scary reality.

CARLSON: OK, now, before I leave today, Paul, I am going to take with me a tape of you calling the Social Security crisis -- quote -- "a right-wing scare tactic," because, in my lifetime, Social Security is going to run out of money. The baby boomers are about to retire.

BEGALA: No, it's not.

CARLSON: It is. The baby boomers are about to retire. People are living almost 20 years longer than they did when it was created. The system is about to come into severe crisis. And you know it. And everyone who takes a careful look at it knows it.


BEGALA: It's not at all. It's not at all. If you only -- if you only took the amount of tax cuts that people are getting from the top 1 percent, it would be fiscally sound for 75 years.


CARLSON: That's completely apples and oranges.

BEGALA: No, it's not. People, they -- if -- Bush wants to let us put our Social Security tax into private accounts.


BEGALA: Why not his tax cuts into private accounts or into Social Security?

CARLSON: All right.

Well, as some of you may have read in the newspaper this morning, changes are coming to this show. In the coming days, CROSSFIRE will assume a new format, possibly a new time. It will still be great, though, and I hope that you will watch it.

As for me, this is my last day on CROSSFIRE and, for that matter, at CNN. I'm moving on to another network. I first hosted this show six years ago. And, in that time, we have interviewed prime ministers and polygamists, presidential candidates and people who I feared at the time might bite me.

Some of our guests have gone on to run the country. Some others have gone on to prison. But I have not been bored for a single moment. And I've also had a lot of help. CROSSFIRE has the smartest, the most decent and absolutely the most loyal staff in all of television. It definitely has the most effervescent hosts.

So, to James, Bob and Paul and to our wonderful crew standing here in the studio, thank you. To me, CROSSFIRE has always been more than shouting.

Thanks to you for watching. I can't see you from here, sitting on the set and you at home, but I will miss you anyway after today. Thanks.


BEGALA: Tucker, nicely put.


BEGALA: That was wonderful.


CARLSON: Thanks.

BEGALA: Well put.


BEGALA: We will miss you as well.

CARLSON: Well, thank you, Paul.

BEGALA: We will show some highlights from your illustrious CROSSFIRE career later in the program.

Next, the man President Bush wants to serve as his attorney general faces a grilling in the Senate today. Alberto Gonzales is under fire for legal analysis of torture procedures which critics say undermines respect for the rule of law. We will debate whether he is the right man for attorney general next. And then later, as I mentioned, now that Tucker has had a few memorable moments in the CROSSFIRE, we will take a look back before he exits stage right, far right.



CARLSON: Welcome back to CROSSFIRE.

Is White House counsel Alberto Gonzales the best man for the job of attorney general of the United States? Well, his confirmation hearing got under way today. And from the get-go, his reception by Senate Democrats, less than cordial.

Joining us today in the CROSSFIRE, two of our all-time favorite guests, Congressman Dennis Kucinich, Democrat from Ohio, who, you may remember, ran for president, and Republican Congresswoman Ileana Ros- Lehtinen of Florida.


BEGALA: Good to see you both.


ROS-LEHTINEN: Good to see you guys.

BEGALA: Thank you for joining us.


BEGALA: Congresswoman, this is a challenging day, an important day for Judge Gonzales. Let me show you what he woke up to, if he had the time to open "The New York Times," an ad from the group, the group that was more right than anybody about this god- awful war in Iraq. And here is what they are saying.

"You may not know Alberto Gonzales, but we're sure you will recognize the results of his work." And it's a photo of abusive -- abused prisoner at Abu Ghraib prison.

ROS-LEHTINEN: Absolutely wrong. Incredible.

Too bad they didn't put your quotes about Alberto Gonzales, which were very favorable, because you know him as a man of integrity. And not only is his resume and his personal own story riveting, the son of migrant workers who grew up in a humble house in Humble, Texas, with no hot water, no telephone. And he has gone on to be the success story that he is, the embodiment of the American dream.

BEGALA: He has.

ROS-LEHTINEN: He does not condone torture. He does not condone any of these violations. And he said it. And he said it today in his confirmation hearing. That ad is completely wrong, as much that does.


BEGALA: After he said that today in the hearing, Senator Kennedy of Massachusetts had an interesting retort about whether or not and why Judge Gonzales, in reviewing statements that seemed to give imprimatur to very stressful treatment, to say the least, of prisoners, why he didn't say something about it. Let me show you Senator Kennedy today at the hearing.


SEN. EDWARD KENNEDY (D), MASSACHUSETTS: Just as an attorney, as a human being, I would have thought that, if there were recommendations that were so blatantly and flagrantly over the line in terms of torture, that you might have recognized them.


BEGALA: Shouldn't he have spoken up?

ROS-LEHTINEN: Well, first of all, you have just had two examples of folks and organizations so totally out of the mainstream, first and now Senator Kennedy. My gosh, I think that exemplifies what is wrong with the Democratic Party and why President Bush won so overwhelmingly.


BEGALA: I love Senator Kennedy.


And, Mr. Kucinich -- and thanks a lot for joining us, by the way.

Let's talk about the president's victory. Democrats are making the argument that Mr. Gonzales is unfit to be attorney general because he somehow sanctioned torture, was too mean to suspected al Qaeda members. I wonder, of all the messages that voters sent this Election Day in November, I don't think one of them was, we are being too mean to suspected members of al Qaeda. Do you?

KUCINICH: Well, I think that the voters expect their government to abide by the Constitution of the United States and international law.

And the advice which Mr. Gonzales gave to the president in a memo which I have a copy of here, it's very clear that the administration was advised to ignore the Geneva Convention. This memo called the Geneva Convention quaint and obsolete. And the ad that you put up by the MoveOn group, very -- some of the sentiments expressed in today's "Washington Post" editorial raised questions about, how was it that the United States became involved in torture at Abu Ghraib?

The memo that Mr. Gonzales wrote was used, in a sense, the justification for it adopted by General Sanchez in basically approving interrogation techniques in Iraq that hooded people.


CARLSON: But wait a second.

But there's an interesting core issue here, and I wonder if you will address it, Congressman. You said that he didn't take the Geneva Convention seriously enough. Are you suggesting that capture terrorists, who are members of not of an army. They're not employees of any state. They're simply independent actors bent on killing civilians. Are they protected by the Geneva Convention?

KUCINICH: I say that the United -- yes. And the United States has the highest obligation in the world community to uphold international law. When we...

CARLSON: The Geneva Convention was not -- does not -- was not written to apply to actors like those. You're aware of that.

KUCINICH: The Geneva Convention applies to all combatants.

What Gonzales described...


CARLSON: ... combatants. They're terrorists.

KUCINICH: He described them as unlawful combatants. The president adopted that language and, as such, tried to escape not just the reach of international law, but the reach of a law that was passed by the Congress of the United States, I cite 18 USC Section 2441, which -- the reason why Gonzales gave President Bush this advice is so the president himself would not be subject to prosecution at a later date because -- for violation of a war crimes statute.

This is a very serious matter we're talking about here and one that deserves the kind of attention it's getting.


BEGALA: Congresswoman, let me bring up another very serious matter.

And that is, when Al Gonzales, Judge Gonzales, was counsel to the governor of Texas when George W. Bush was governor, he wrote the memos on clemency petitions for people facing death. As you know, Governor Bush of my state executed more people than any governor in modern American history. He did so on the basis of memorandum that were cursory at best and left out information about mental impairment and other extenuating circumstances.

Are you worried that Judge Gonzales is just a little too pro- death and a little too -- not very pro-American civil rights here?

ROS-LEHTINEN: Absolutely not. Absolutely not.

Judge Gonzales is upholding the Constitution. Judge Gonzales is upholding all of the international treaties. And when he was...

BEGALA: You are comfortable with a three-page memo to take a man's life, or a woman's life, in the case of Karla Faye Tucker?

ROS-LEHTINEN: Now, we are talking about cases that have already been heard by juries, by judges, that have been -- looked at them, that have been appealed time and time again. He has given counsel to then Governor Bush, saying these are the legal arguments where I think that the death penalty should stay.

You have a difference of opinion. That's why we have a wonderful system like we have here, where we have appeals, where we have courts of law, where we have the Judiciary Committee, where all of these issues can be discussed. And, at the end of the day, we will have, after all this discussion, we will have a fine attorney general who will uphold the laws of the United States.


BEGALA: Hold your seat just a second. We are going to come back in just a minute.

And because this is Tucker's last CROSSFIRE, we are going to do something a little bit different, a little role reversal for "Rapid Fire." We are going to let our guests, two of the smartest and funniest people we know, ask Tucker some questions and make Mr. Carlson answer them.

And then later, we will relive some of Tucker's classic CROSSFIRE moments.

But, first, is U.S. aid to the victims of the tsunamis doing anything to change America's image in the Muslim world? Wolf Blitzer reports next.


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Wolf Blitzer in Washington.

Coming up at the top of the hour, a U.N. official says we may never know just how many people died in the tsunamis. We will show you some startling new pictures of one of the deadliest waves. We just got it. The United States is spending millions of dollars to help Muslims and others in the tsunami zone, but that has not necessarily won over the trust of Muslim radicals.

And what Hollywood is doing to help tsunami survivors.

All those stories, much more, only minutes away on "WOLF BLITZER REPORTS."

Now back to CROSSFIRE.

BEGALA: Thank you, Wolf.

Time now for "Rapid Fire," where we ask questions faster than we can turn the tables on Tucker Carlson. Yes, today, our guests will ask the questions and Tucker has got to come up with the answer.

Those guests are Representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, a Republican congresswoman from Florida, and Democratic Congressman Dennis Kucinich of Ohio.


KUCINICH: Look, no mincing words. I know you said that you were pulling for Sharpton, but weren't you secretly wishing I would win?


CARLSON: Actually, my dream was you all would split the ticket. But Sharpton called me today and offered to organize a protest in front of CNN. You haven't done that.


CARLSON: So, I'm still with him, yes.

KUCINICH: He's got -- he's got a better hourly rate.

CARLSON: Yes, he does.


ROS-LEHTINEN: Now, Tucker, you were one of the few political pundits that actually saw the Dean scream live. How scared were you?

CARLSON: I was terrified.


CARLSON: Actually, honestly, I was standing there with Paul Begala, and he can vouch for it.

ROS-LEHTINEN: Can you still hear it...


CARLSON: We were standing right in front of it. It singed my eyebrows. But I didn't even notice it, because it was so in character. It seemed normal to me at the time.


KUCINICH: Is it true that you think that DNC means don't negate Carlson?


CARLSON: You know, I have a lot of -- I honestly think I -- I pray every night that Howard Dean will take over the Democratic National Committee. I think that the party deserves it. And I hope he does.


ROS-LEHTINEN: I hope so, too.

KUCINICH: And if he doesn't, will you accept?

CARLSON: I would.


CARLSON: I would take it in the same direction, right down the tubes.


ROS-LEHTINEN: OK. Tucker, I've always wanted to know, is it true what they say about men who wear bow ties?

CARLSON: You know what? Honestly, it is true.



ROS-LEHTINEN: Have you ever been a straight tie guy?

CARLSON: Yes, you are not compensating -- you are not compensating for anything when you are wearing a bow tie. You know what I mean?


ROS-LEHTINEN: He is an alpha male. He can wear it.

CARLSON: Thank you.

BEGALA: Now, as a woman and a congresswoman, now, how does that work, though? Do you think that guys in bow ties, that's kind of working for you?

ROS-LEHTINEN: I think it works.

BEGALA: Really?

ROS-LEHTINEN: And I asked your wife. She says it works.

CARLSON: Does she really?

ROS-LEHTINEN: And four kids, it works.


CARLSON: Thank you.


BEGALA: Wonderful. CARLSON: Thank you.


BEGALA: Well done. You all can sit in for us any time.

ROS-LEHTINEN: Thank you.

BEGALA: Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen.


KUCINICH: Good luck.

CARLSON: Thank you very much.

ROS-LEHTINEN: Thank you.


ROS-LEHTINEN: Thank you.

BEGALA: Congressman Dennis Kucinich of Ohio, good sports.


ROS-LEHTINEN: We are going to stick around to see the highlights.

BEGALA: Please do.

ROS-LEHTINEN: It's is a short reel, right?


BEGALA: It's a long reel.

CARLSON: Pretty short.


BEGALA: Get her a contract.

My colleague on the right has obviously said a few interesting things on this broadcast throughout the years. We will share some of those with you next.


CARLSON: Take the Democratic Party, for instance. It's composed of -- I don't know -- the militant fruit juice drinkers, the sandal wearers, the save-the-whale types, the vegetarians.




BEGALA: Well, I can think of no higher tribute to my friend Tucker on his last day on CROSSFIRE than to pay him a sartorial tribute.

But, you know, CNN doesn't call this show CROSSFIRE for nothing. It is a tough show. But, every day that Tucker Carlson sat in that chair on the right, he combined toughness with wit and decency. I have loved every minute of it. And he never stooped so low as to call anyone an unflattering name from the part of a man's body. So, take it for what it's worth.


BEGALA: Let's take a look now at a few of his finer CROSSFIRE moments.


CARLSON: Take the Democratic Party, for instance. It's composed of -- I don't know -- the militant fruit juice drinkers, the sandal wearers, the save-the-whale types, the vegetarians.

Right. It's one thing to go windsurfing on your vacation, if that is what turns you on. But to invite cameras, to invite the press to watch you windsurf, probably not a good choice on John Kerry's part.

Clearly, the aliens must know that this child has been born, if in fact she has been born. Have they hold you what they think? Have they contacted you? What is the alien view on cloning?

I would say bad night for Democrats. James Carville feels the same way.

JAMES CARVILLE, CO-HOST: Well, I'm not saying that I'm embarrassed by it.


CARLSON: Well...

CARVILLE: I have kind of got my head in the right place here.

CARLSON: Well, I must say, James, I can see why you feel that way.

A lot of entertainers have come out against the war in Iraq. Have you?

BRITNEY SPEARS, ENTERTAINER: Honestly, I think we should just trust our president in every decision that he makes and we should just support that.

BEGALA: But you are going to eat your shoes when she sells a million copies of her book.


CARLSON: If she sells a million copies, I will eat them. There's no chance she will sell...

BEGALA: Two shoes for two million?

CARLSON: Two shoes for two million.



CARLSON: Hey, Mrs. Clinton, how are you?


BEGALA: Ladies and gentlemen, Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton.

CLINTON: Hello, Tucker.

CARLSON: Thank you very much.

CLINTON: You're very welcome. Well...


BEGALA: You brought some accoutrements here.

CARLSON: Mrs. Clinton, thank you.

CLINTON: Well...

CARLSON: I'll be -- I'll be...

CLINTON: I really want you to notice, Tucker, that this is a wingtip. It's a right-wing tip.

CARLSON: That's right. That's right.

DON KING, PROMOTER: Only through people like George Walker Bush that would lead this nation. And we pay our taxes. We can pay Tucker Carlson.

CARLSON: Amen. Amen.

BEGALA: But our own Tucker Carlson is no wimp. He is outside as we speak, just daring Isabel to come and get him.

Tucker, I dare say, you are taking your life in your hands out there, aren't you?

CARLSON: For journalism, Paul, I will do it. I and our intrepid crew are about the only people here. Washington is absolutely deserted. The federal workers are gone. City workers are gone. Looking down the street, there is not a single person on the street.

Reverend Sharpton, I am not suggesting that you are going to not win the nomination. I've been boosting your candidacy all along, as you know. But let's just say you don't. Would you seriously entertain offers from the entertainment industry to, say, get your own show?



BEGALA: Who is going to do crowd surfing here? Ready?


CARLSON: Thank you.

BEGALA: All right.

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


CARLSON: Thank you. Thank you.


CARLSON: That was fun as hell.

BEGALA: Oh, that was great.

Ladies and gentlemen, Tucker Carlson.


BEGALA: Give him a round of applause.


CARLSON: Thank you, Paul.

BEGALA: Oh, look at this, a standing O.


CARLSON: Well, thank you.

BEGALA: Thank you.


CARLSON: Thank you.


CARLSON: Well, I can't sit down for that. Thanks.


CARLSON: You know, looking back, I think the thing that -- the thing I'm most struck by is how many really, really weird people we've had on our show.


CARLSON: And how many people I really liked.

I literally have not been bored a single day doing this. It's been the most interesting job I can imagine. Some people mock it, but, for me, it's been -- it's been terrific. I'll never regret it.

Thank you.

BEGALA: I can't wait to see the new show. And I will be tuning in.

CARLSON: Thanks, Paul. I appreciate it.

BEGALA: Thanks, friend.

CARLSON: See you.

BEGALA: From the left, I am Paul Begala. That's it for this edition of CROSSFIRE.

CARLSON: And from the right, finally, I'm Tucker Carlson. Thanks very much for having me.

Stay tuned for Wolf Blitzer.



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