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Uncle Sam Tells America to Lose Weight

Aired January 13, 2005 - 16:30   ET


ANNOUNCER: CROSSFIRE. On the left, Paul Begala; on the right, Robert Novak.

In the CROSSFIRE: Uncle Sam wants us to lose weight.

TOMMY THOMPSON, HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES SECRETARY: Every American is looking for NIH to come up with that pill. It's not going to happen.

ANNOUNCER: New U.S. dietary guidelines target the slimming of America. Are they realistic? And should the government even be telling us what to eat, or is it all just a waste of time? The man behind the South Beach Diet weighs in.

A royal uproar erupts over Prince Harry's choice of party apparel.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The thing is that he has apologized, so I believe a lot of Jewish organizations in Britain have accepted his apology. And I hope that the world accepts his apology.

ANNOUNCER: Does the young British royal deserve a break or a dressing down?



ANNOUNCER: Live from the George Washington University, Paul Begala and Robert Novak.



Cut the fat, eat your vegetables and exercise an hour and a half a day, that's the latest instruction for us from the federal government, big Brother, or should we call it big mother? Paul Begala may like to let the government run his life, not me. What I eat is my business.

PAUL BEGALA, CO-HOST: In point of fact, Bob, it is all of our businesses, what with obesity costing you and I over $100 billion a year in increased health care costs. So I think it's everybody's business. And on this issue, you'll be surprised to learn, I actually believe President Bush and his team are leading by example and doing the right thing. It will make an interesting CROSSFIRE debate, where Bob Novak disagrees with George W. Bush and I support him. It should be fun.


BEGALA: And then, we will discuss the latest outrage from the British royal family.

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

Major League Baseball players and owners today announced a new tougher steroids policy. All players will receive random steroid tests throughout the year. Players caught using steroids will be suspended for up to 10 days for a first offense, all the way up to being benched for a year for a fourth offense. Now, that's a big improvement over the old policy.

You may recall that about a year ago, President Bush called on sports to take a tougher stand on steroids in his State of the Union address. But in the year since then, he has only mentioned the word steroids in public once. Well, I guess it didn't poll very well, did it? So, some doubted whether Mr. Bush was really serious about the issue. After all, when he was a baseball time owner, Mr. Bush hired Jose Canseco for his team, who was described -- quote -- "the Typhoid Mary of steroid abuse" -- unquote.


BEGALA: But thank goodness Senator John McCain was willing to provide real leadership on this issue, instead of just grandstanding, like the president.

NOVAK: You know, Paul, I know that you try in every one of these political alerts to put in an anti-Bush attack.

BEGALA: I think I succeed.


NOVAK: You know that -- you know the election is over. I try to remind you of that. But I think you really stretch it this time. He said they should take a tougher stand. They took a tougher stand. What do you want him to do?

BEGALA: Well, but I noticed Bud Selig thanked Congress.


BEGALA: And it was John McCain who helped make this happen, not President Bush. So God bless John McCain.

NOVAK: Contrary to Scandinavian bureaucrats at the United Nations, the United States is not stingy. It is, rather, the most generous country in the world, sending the U.S. military to Indonesia at great cost to us taxpayers to help tsunami victims in the world's most populous Muslim country.

But does that make us their friends? Don't be silly. The government of Indonesia demands that all foreign troops should leave the country by the end of March or earlier. The sooner the better, says Indonesia's vice president. And this week, when the U.S. asked for the use of Indonesian airspace for training missions, as required by U.S. regulations, Indonesia refused. It's hard to be a good guy in today's world.

BEGALA: That it is, but at least America is trying. Our soldiers there are being greeted as heroes, as they are. Now, they're heroes in Iraq as well, but they're not being greeted as heroes there. I think it is good that the face of America for once in a Muslim country is a face of kindness, generosity, decency. And I think it's great for America.


BEGALA: I think it's wonderful. I'm proud that those guys are there.

NOVAK: They say, get the hell out, as if we have some kind of designs on trying to rule Indonesia.


BEGALA: Well, where would they get the idea that we would invade a country that has no threat to us? Where would they ever get that idea, Bob?


BEGALA: I mean, well, speaking of which, now that the fruitless search for weapons of mass destruction in Iraq has concluded, I think we ought to ask whether the major media abetted President Bush's rush to war.

Coverage of WMD claims was, in my opinion, often too uncritical and too reliant on administration officials and shady Iraqi dissidents. But there was one place in the major media where the very premise of the invasion was questioned every single day. That place was CROSSFIRE. James Carville and I spoke out from the left, Bob Novak and Tucker Carlson from the right.

Now, I know it's become fashionable among the Manhattan media mandarins to bash CROSSFIRE. Big shots say that, well, we're nothing but five-second sound bites. But you know what? We served a plate full of healthy skepticism about Mr. Bush's war claims every day before the shooting began.

Elites say that we shout too much. Well, sure, we raised our voices. We also raised tough questions. I only wish those whose sensibilities were so offended by a shout show were equally offended about being used as lapdogs for a march to war. As for me, my only regret is that I didn't shout louder.

NOVAK: Well, what we had on this program, Paul, was people talking about different views, but critical views, all of us, about the situation in Iraq, whether we should go to war. And I think it was -- it was the kind of comments on the war that you couldn't find anywhere on this network or other networks.


BEGALA: I agree. And "The New York Times" has apologized for their lack of coverage, as they should. Good for them. We don't have anything to apologize for on CROSSFIRE.

NOVAK: Vice President Dick Cheney joined the president today pushing to save Social Security. He and the president would give young workers a choice. They could give all their Social Security payroll taxes to the government, which deposits them in low-interest, non-negotiable notes. Or they could invest in personal accounts, make some money and get to keep it.

Now, why are the Democrats so furious over this? Dick Cheney explains.


DICK CHENEY, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Personal accounts hold the promise of turning every American worker into an owner, giving them a retirement fund they control themselves and can call their own.


NOVAK: Forget that. The Democrats want to keep the workers dependent on government. If not, why are they opposing this plan to make every man and woman a stockholder and a genuine capitalist?

BEGALA: Did you notice the key word in what Mr. Cheney said? It was the promise. There's a chance the stocks could go up. But there's a guarantee that they will cut your Social Security benefits.

Why should we have to give up Social Security benefits to own stock? Americans can own stock if they want to. They shouldn't have to surrender their Social Security benefits. That's what Mr. Cheney wants to do. I think it's a pig in a poke. It's a bad bet.

NOVAK: I will guarantee you one thing, that the indexing is going to change on Social Security, because it's just too heavy. Whatever happens...

BEGALA: Which is the cost of living adjustments people get every year.


NOVAK: Yes. Whatever happens, that is going to change. Pat Moynihan says it had to change. Everybody says it has to change. And I think, in your black heart, you think it has to change.


BEGALA: My black heart. Well, we'll come back to that later.

My black heart is also under study by Uncle Sam. They're worried that my black heart may stop beating unless I start eating better and lose a little weight. They feel the same way about you. So, are Americans ready to take the challenge or is President Bush beginning to practice the politics of nanny state liberalism? We'll ask the doctor who developed the South Beach Diet what he thinks.

And then, Prince Harry offends the world. Is it time for Britain to rethink the royal family and join the 18th century?



BEGALA: Let's face it. Americans are fat, 60 percent of us at least by one survey. The Bush administration, in response, has unveiled new federal guidelines for diet, nutrition and exercise. But some conservatives are telling our conservative president to, well, butt out.

Joining us today in the CROSSFIRE, radio talk show host and columnist and political consultant Michael Graham, and the author of the best-selling, world-beating, colossally huge book, "The South Beach Diet," Dr. Arthur Agatston, who is, fittingly enough, in Miami Beach.

Good to see you, Dr. Agatston, Michael.


MICHAEL GRAHAM, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: It's great to be here. Thank you.


NOVAK: Dr. Agatston, you have made fame and fortune with a diet. Now, I have my own diet. And I want to read to you what I had for dinner a few nights ago. I had, appetizer, french-fried onions, entree, a full rack of barbecued pork ribs.


NOVAK: Vegetable, french-fried potatoes. Beverage, a schooner of draft beer, and, for dessert, two scoops of vanilla ice cream with chocolate sauce. Now, what is wrong with that diet? I enjoyed it tremendously.

DR. ARTHUR AGATSTON, AUTHOR, "THE SOUTH BEACH DIET": I think it is wonderful for the cardiologists and medical profession to eat like that. It's going to create a lot more business for us. But, you know, the whole diet guidelines, you really have to understand the history. The initial guidelines were based on population studies done after World War II. The populations of the industrialized countries, Northern Europe, America, were high fat, low carbohydrate, a lot of heart attacks. Less developed world, low fat, high carbohydrate and no heart attacks.

And the initial recognition the diet pyramid was based on really that research. What happened once those recommendations were promulgated was America just got fatter and fatter and really sicker and sicker. So, the initial recommendations were a disaster. The new ones correct it. And it's a big improvement.

NOVAK: Doctor, I'm -- in another month, I'm going to be 74 years old. I'm in good health. I like to eat stuff like that. I don't like to eat vegetables. I never did when I was a kid. I've never eaten them in my life. Why are you getting in my face, telling me what to eat, when I'm that old?

AGATSTON: Well, if you've -- Robert, if you've chosen the right parents and the right genetics, you can get away with just about anything. You know, Winston Churchill was smoking and eating and drinking up until his 90s. And if you have the right genetics, that's great.

But for the majority of America, you know, you just have to visit Disney World or look at the statistics from the airline companies -- fuel is costing more because everyone is so heavy -- from clothing manufacturers and just the incidents of heart and diabetes. It's costing us a huge amount both economically and from the human perspective.


GRAHAM: Dr. Agatston, this is Michael Graham. My wife is so mad that I'm meeting you and not her. She's -- this is like meeting Bruce Springsteen. She's a huge fan of you.

I can't believe you're backing these federal guidelines. First of all, I'm going to run 90 minutes a day? Americans before have been told to exercise for 30 minutes. And we're saying no to that. We're just going to say no three times as much now.


GRAHAM: Let me finish.


GRAHAM: Listen to this. Nine servings of fruits and vegetables -- nine servings of fruits and vegetables -- and three servings of whole fibers like oatmeal and brown rice a day. Oh, the running is covered now. We're going to be running all over the place.


GRAHAM: You got to be out of your mind.


GRAHAM: Nobody eats like this, no realistic person. This is la la land.


BEGALA: Dr. Agatston, let me interrupt you for just a minute.

AGATSTON: Yes. Sure.

BEGALA: I'm sorry. It's not coming from Dr. Agatston, although he endorses them.

GRAHAM: Right.

BEGALA: It's coming from President George W. Bush, his very fine agriculture secretary, Ann Veneman, who has done a great job for our country, Tommy Thompson, A Republican former governor who heads the Health and Human Services agency. These are Republicans saying this. Why?

Well, because we are paying. The government has a cost here. And the cost is to all of us, according to the CDC, Centers for Disease Control, $117 billion. Now, why should a guy like Dr. Agatston or me, who exercises and eats right, have to pay for the health cost of lard butts who can't stop eating?


GRAHAM: Well, we finally -- there's finally something we agree on. I should not be subsidizing your health care. So, great. Paul Begala...

BEGALA: It's called the insurance system.

GRAHAM: Let's get out of it. Let's let everybody cover their own health costs.

BEGALA: So you're not for -- no, I don't say that at all. I like having a system of health insurance. And I like Medicare and Medicaid.


GRAHAM: Oh, no, no.

BEGALA: Even private insurance subsidizes...


GRAHAM: You like the system where there is this big pot of money that covers everybody.

BEGALA: I'll speak for myself. You speak for yourself. That would be the deal.

GRAHAM: But you're right. As a conservative, I don't know why President Bush runs a federal department of deal a meal. I don't think we need one.

When I saw the headline yesterday and it was, federal government says, want to lose weight, eat less and do more, I'm like, wow, there's a shocker. I'm so glad we spent millions on that.


GRAHAM: You know, even CBS' "60 Minutes" couldn't screw up that headline. I mean, come on.


NOVAK: Paul Begala mentioned Tommy Thompson, an old friend of mine. Let's put him up and find out what he actually said, because it is incredible what he said. Let's listen.


THOMPSON: We're recommending that, to maintain your current weight, 30 minutes. If you want to -- if you've lost weight and you want to continue that lost weight to stay off, it should be 60 minutes. If you want to reduce weight, it should be up to 60 to 90 minutes.


NOVAK: Now, Doctor, can you imagine anybody in the real world who isn't training for a marathon or the Olympics spending 90 minutes a day? That's ridiculous. That's silly, isn't it?

AGATSTON: Well, our basic message is that less is more. If you've not been exercising, you get a tremendous advantage from just the first 30 minutes, say, five days a week in working up a sweat. There definitely are benefits to doing more.

The extreme is Lance Armstrong, who burns 20,000 calories a day training. When he's not training, he has to eat all day just to maintain his weight. So it's still -- it's an individual choice. But certainly more exercise, up to 60, 90 minutes a day, is healthier. And it doesn't have to be at the end of the day or the middle of the day. You can buy a pedometer.

Go like Donald Rumsfeld. He goes for 10,000 steps a day, I believe. And so that's taking steps. It's...


NOVAK: What about me? I haven't exercised since I was in the Army 50 years ago.


AGATSTON: Well, Robert, we've established that you chose the right parents and you'll live forever because of your genetics.

But for most of us, it's clear, if we exercise, if we exercise more, we live longer. We have -- we also live better. We have less arthritis, heart disease.

BEGALA: We're almost out of time, Dr. Agatston, but I want to wind this up actually by quoting George W. Bush, who is leading by example, a guy I don't praise very often on this broadcast. If you watch carefully, I very rarely do.


BEGALA: He was asked by "Runners World" magazine, what do you view as the greatest health issue facing our nation? He didn't say HIV/AIDS. He said this: "Tobacco, bad food and lack of exercise. A lot of disease can be prevented. Statistic after statistic is beginning to sink into the consciousness of the American people that exercise is one of the keys to a healthy lifestyle. One of my jobs as president is to set examples."

And God bless him. He's setting an example. Isn't that wonderful?

GRAHAM: Who didn't know that? Who didn't know that already, that you should get off your butt and get some exercise and put the Twinkies down? That's not the issue.

BEGALA: That's all he's saying.


NOVAK: That's the last word, Dr. Graham -- you're not a doctor.


GRAHAM: Dr. Graham. Thank you. My mother is so proud.


NOVAK: Mr. Graham, Dr. Agatston, thank you very much.

Britain's Prince Harry has committed another royal boo-boo. Just ahead, we'll debate the fallout with a journalist based in London.

Right after the break, the CIA attempts to predict where the world is headed. Wolf Blitzer will update us on what the agency is saying.



WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Wolf Blitzer in Washington. Coming up at the top of the hour, the CIA has just released a declassified prediction about the world in the coming years. Why concerns about terror could cause huge problems for all of us. Dangerous roads are only part of the problem, as America copes with brutal weather.

And Britain's Prince Harry apologizes for a costume, why so many people around the world are so upset about what he wore.

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

Now back to CROSSFIRE.

NOVAK: Now to the trouble with Harry.

The rambunctious second son of Britain's Prince Charles really hit a sour note this time. Prince Harry went to a costume party dressed, a so-called bad-taste party, dressed in a uniform with a Nazi swastika on his sleeve. Is the anger warranted or should the prince get a pass for youthful bad judgment?

Joining us is "People" magazine's Simon Perry live from London.

Mr. Perry, good to see you. Thank you for joining us.

SIMON PERRY, "PEOPLE": Good afternoon.

BEGALA: Help me out here. I'm an American, I don't believe in monarchy. It's a puzzling and bizarre tradition to me.

This guy's whole job, as I take it, in your country is to be a role model. He doesn't have to drive a trunk. He doesn't have to paint a fence. He doesn't have to shout on television. All he has to be is a role model. And yet, here he is pictured wearing a Nazi uniform. What could be a worse role model? And why in the world does he have this job?

PERRY: Yes, you're right. There's been utter dismay here today that the third in line to the throne, who is now 20 years old -- he's not a young boy anymore -- makes such an awful decision as this, as to wear a costume like that to a party.

The papers have been full of it today. "The Sun" newspaper splashed with the picture itself for everyone to see. And there in red and black is that awful swastika on his sleeve.

NOVAK: Mr. Perry, the royal biographer Penny Junor has a different view. I'd like to read it to you.

She says that: "At present, Harry's behavior isn't too troublesome; there isn't anything sinister going on. He's a 20-year- old man enjoying the trappings of his privileged freedom. If it carries on into adulthood, it might become more serious, but I've no doubt the army will do a great job to get him back on track."

I have great faith in the British army, too. Do you agree with that? PERRY: Well, he is set to join the army in May, of course. And a lot of people are pinning a lot of hopes on the fact that he is going to have a bit of discipline and a bit structure to his life, which, too often in the last six months, unfortunately, has fallen down where he's concerned.

Having said all that, he's apologized. And he wants to move on from it, obviously.

BEGALA: Well, Simon, let me ask you...


PERRY: But I have to say, there's going to be a lot of...

BEGALA: I'm sorry to interrupt you.

In the photograph that we've seen -- and I'd to put it up on the screen if we've got it -- Mr. Harry -- whatever his last name is. Does he have a last name? Windsor, I suppose. Mr. Windsor is...


PERRY: He goes as Harry Wales, actually, but, yes.

BEGALA: Harry Wales. Mr. Wales is carrying a drink in his hand. I point that out because he is of age in Great Britain. He's age 20, as you point out. He is an adult.

How -- do Britons buy the notion that he's just a kid? If he's legal in the eyes of the law to be an adult and drink alcohol, shouldn't he be fully responsible for the kind of outrageous conduct we see in this photograph?

PERRY: Oh, I think he is. And it is he who has apologized. And lot of people are pointing fingers at Prince William, who was there with him. He's 22. Or his dad, who -- Prince Charles, who -- why did he let him go out like this? At the end of day, Harry is 20. He made a terrible decision.


PERRY: And, unfortunately, it is going to be with him probably for the rest of his life. I mean, that picture is going to come back and back.

BEGALA: I certainly hope so.

Simon Perry from "People" magazine, joining us from London, late at night for him, thank you very much for helping me figure out what on earth is going on in Great Britain. Thanks, Simon.

Well, the Motor City Madman, one of my favorites and a CROSSFIRE fave, is coming to the aid of the Crawford, Texas, high school marching band. We'll tell you why right after this.


BEGALA: Well, the high school band from Crawford, Texas, is getting a helping hand from a prominent resident of Crawford, Texas. No, not George W. Bush. It is my favorite rock 'n' roll right-winger, Ted Nugent, a CROSSFIRE fave who has been on the show. I hope he will come back.

He is going to play a benefit concert this Saturday at the Crawford High School gym, all to help raise money, so band members can travel to Washington to play in the inaugural parade of Crawford's second most famous resident, George W. Bush. The Crawford band is the only one from Texas that's been invited to participate, but they're still about $25,000 or $35,000 short of what they need to pay for airfare, accommodations and meals.

Enter the Motor City Madman. He and his wife moved to the Crawford area from Michigan about a year ago.

NOVAK: The greatest thing about the inaugural parade, Paul, is that the president, every president of all kinds, has to stand there through that whole long ordeal, watch all those high school bands, wave at them. That is what makes America great.

BEGALA: Yes, and, by the way, Crawford High School won the Division II 2A football title, state championship, in Texas this year. So, go, Crawford. I can't wait to see you in Washington.

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

NOVAK: From the right, I'm Robert Novak. Join us again next time for another edition of CROSSFIRE.

"WOLF BLITZER REPORTS" starts right now.



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