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Politics as Usual

Aired January 21, 2005 - 16:30   ET


ANNOUNCER: CROSSFIRE. On the left, James Carville; on the right, Robert Novak.

In the CROSSFIRE: The party's over and it's back to party politics in our nation's capital. Democrats put off the vote to confirm Condoleezza Rice as secretary of state.

SEN. HARRY REID (D-NV), MINORITY LEADER: We'll probably finish it next Tuesday or Wednesday. This is not a stall.

SEN. KAY BAILEY HUTCHISON (R), TEXAS: The president should have had his secretary of state on his Inauguration Day. I think there was no reason to delay her confirmation.

ANNOUNCER: Meanwhile, Mr. Bush's critics ask, why was Iraq so conspicuously absent from the president's inaugural address?



ANNOUNCER: Live from the George Washington University, James Carville and Robert Novak.


President Bush's second term is only a day old and the Democrats already are at his throat. Even before he took the oath of office yesterday, they had delayed Condoleezza Rice's confirmation as secretary by a week -- politics as usual, and petty politics at that.

JAMES CARVILLE, CO-HOST: Senate Democrats want to and should address questions they have about her and Bush foreign policy issues. That includes Iraq, President Bush's biggest foreign policy blunder of his first four years, an issue he didn't even bother to mention in his speech yesterday.

That's where we begin, with the best little political briefing in television, our CROSSFIRE "Political Alert."

In what can only be described as soaring rhetoric and a grand vision, President Bush yesterday answered the call of our time and declared that it is -- quote -- "the policy of the United States of America to seek and support democratic movements and institutions in every nation and every culture." Why, I'm sure that Saudi Ambassador Prince Bandar, standing tall at the White House, this moment is being told in no uncertain terms that his country must have an election in six months or we will buy no more oil.


CARVILLE: President Musharraf, dictator of Pakistan, will soon get an ultimatum to have elections by year's end. We won't stop with the mullahs in Iran, but continue to march right into Pakistan and liberate the people from tyranny.

And, in red China we don't care if we sell you another Boeing airplane, another DVD from Hollywood. We want freedom and we want it now for over one billion Chinese.


CARVILLE: I'm sure the president is prepared to do whatever it takes to enforce the stated policy of the United States of America.

NOVAK: That's sarcastic, James, but, as a matter...


NOVAK: As a matter -- as a matter of fact...


CARVILLE: I'm just going by what...


CARVILLE: ... said.

NOVAK: As a matter of fact, James we always in politics in this country, even people that you would you have...


NOVAK: If you'll pardon me.

CARVILLE: Go ahead. Go ahead.

NOVAK: Even people that you supported, like Bill Clinton, you talk what is the ideal.


NOVAK: You don't talk what it is necessarily just the practical limits...


CARVILLE: Oh, no. Oh, no. This man says what he means and means what he says. We're going to rack them over the coals. (BELL RINGING)


CARVILLE: Get Bandar on the phone right now.



NOVAK: The safest prediction in Washington is that Condoleezza Rice will be confirmed by an overwhelming vote of the Senate. So why are Democratic senators insisting on a nine-hour debate, delaying the vote until next week? Mainly because Senator Robert Byrd, the senior Senate Democrat insisted on it. And at age 88, Bob Byrd is a crabby old man.


NOVAK: Senator John Kerry called for both parties to work together after he was one of two senators in committee to vote against Dr. Rice.

The mood of the Democrats was reflected by Senator Chuck Schumer of New York, who pledged -- quote -- "to fight against the Republican extremist policies" -- unquote. That's what the Democrats call bipartisanship.

CARVILLE: You know, Senator Byrd may be a crabby old man, but he's a right old man. He was the one that spoke out vehemently against this war.


CARVILLE: And if we had listened to Senator Byrd, we would be a lot better off.

And, by the way, I think it's a crying shame the Democratic Party is only calling for nine hours of debate on who the next secretary of state of the United States is going to be. I think that's criminal. I think we need more than nine hours of debate to discuss the foreign policy of the United States of America.


NOVAK: Well, as a matter of fact, they can discuss the foreign policy of the United States all year long. There's going to be plenty of...


NOVAK: ... appropriations, authorization bills. But it is a crime to delay...


NOVAK: Wait a minute.

CARVILLE: No, it's not. No, it's not.

NOVAK: It is a crime to delay her confirmation. She can't even go to Ukraine for the ceremony.


NOVAK: They have to send Colin Powell.

CARVILLE: Colin Powell is the secretary of state.

Bob, she was in charge of the Iraq occupation. What so impressed you about Condoleezza Rice handling the Iraq occupation?

NOVAK: Oh, stop...



CARVILLE: What was so impressive about it?

My kids really like SpongeBob. In fact, they think so much of him that they got me a pair of SpongeBob underwear.


CARVILLE: But there are some folks at a group called Focus on the Family who think, because my kids like SpongeBob and I don't stop them, that I'm a bad parent. That's because, according to them, SpongeBob is being used to spread a homosexual agenda.


CARVILLE: SpongeBob is used by a nonprofit group called We Are Family to encourage tolerance and diversity.

How stupid am I? I thought these were actual virtues. They urge people to respect people's abilities, beliefs, culture, sexual identity and race. But it appears even SpongeBob is not immune from the culture warriors. I have a question. If I wear SpongeBob underwear that my children gave me, will that make me a homosexual?


NOVAK: Well, I'll tell you...

CARVILLE: You know what I think? I think these people have sponge brains. You think if I wear these...

NOVAK: You know, James, I was in a cave in order to keep away from the culture of America in 2005, so I don't even know what the hell you're talking about when you're talking about SpongeBob.

CARVILLE: Well, SpongeBob is kind of a square pants guy, you know what I mean? He's on TV, but I had no idea that he is undermining...


CARVILLE: He and CROSSFIRE are the two things undermining the country, if you listen to the media.

NOVAK: I don't know what -- I don't know what SpongeBob is. I do know what CROSSFIRE is.

CARVILLE: There you go.

NOVAK: The more rank-and-file Democrats see of Howard Dean, the less they like him. A year ago, as Dean's presidential campaign began to collapse, 48 percent of Democrats had a positive view of the feisty little doctor from Vermont, according to a "Wall Street Journal"/NBC poll.

Now the same poll shows a positive view of him held by only 27 percent of Democrats. What makes this remarkable is that Dr. Dean appears headed for election as the party's chairman by members of the Democratic National Committee. So, the rank-and-file of the party have minimum regard for the man esteemed by their leaders. Is this a portrait of a political party driving itself over the cliff?


CARVILLE: Might be. You know what? If the Democrats don't get a narrative and don't stand there and start fighting for things and telling people where they want to take them, and if -- we can't figure out and get this party chair thing flushed out, I'm not going to defend this.

I mean, we should be -- we should have a real strong core about what this party is different, what we want to set apart, what we want to do. And I think -- look, I think the way that we're going to about electing this party chair, I think we could have done this much better. I think we should have done this a lot earlier.

NOVAK: If you think, if you really think that the voice of the party, the face of the party ought to be Howard Dean, you have got some perception problems, real perception problems.



CARVILLE: He is the face of the party. But...


The Democrats' partisan bickering hardly let up long enough for the president to get sworn in yesterday. Now that it is clear there will be no honeymoon for President Bush, we'll debate what he can accomplish while the opposition tries to figure out what it stands for. And it wasn't exactly the Texas two-step. We'll tell why the choice of music at last night's presidential parties has a few folks smiling.



NOVAK: It's business as usual in the nation's capital. The Democrats are on the offensive and it could get real ugly.

Joining us in the CROSSFIRE, Congressman Al Wynn, Democrat of Maryland, and Congressman Mike Pence, Republican of Indiana.


CARVILLE: Congressman, we have had a prescription drug benefit. We're talking about increasing Pell Grants. We've had a war in Iraq, a war in Afghanistan. We're getting ready to start a war in Iran. We have a war at home here against the gays. We're talking about earning $2 trillion for Social Security. We're talking about making the estate tax cut permanent, making the tax cut permanent.

Is there any -- is the president's vision, is there any limit to it? Is there more things that we can do? Is there more things that we can take on, isn't there? We can't be constrained by some narrow sense of this, can we?

REP. MIKE PENCE (R), INDIANA: Well, James, I appreciate your enthusiasm for the president's agenda.


PENCE: And it is...



PENCE: Look, this is an energetic -- Alexander Hamilton said, designing the Constitution, an energetic executive. And if there ever was a poster child for that, it's George W. Bush.


PENCE: I think what you heard yesterday -- what you heard yesterday is a president that has a -- that is willing to embrace freedom of...


CARVILLE: Well, when is he going to get Bandar down to the White House and slap him around real good and tell the Saudis to keep their oil?

(APPLAUSE) PENCE: Look, what you heard yesterday really was almost exactly what, if I can say, what Abraham Lincoln did in his second inaugural address.

CARVILLE: No. He defeated the Confederacy.

PENCE: James, let me -- what he said was, we're going to bind up the nation's wounds. We are going to allow the wounds of the war to go behind us. That wasn't the reality in America during Lincoln's second inaugural address. Neither is freedom in the world a reality.

What George W. Bush did was put out that vision of liberty in the world, which is what America's all about.

CARVILLE: But he...


NOVAK: Congressman Wynn, I tried to explain to James what the president was doing yesterday. But he didn't believe me. But he might believe a very prominent Democrat, George Mitchell, former Senate majority leader.

And let's listen to what Senator Mitchell said about the president's State of the Union speech.


GEORGE MITCHELL, FORMER U.S. SENATOR: In terms of startling and aggressive, let me just remind you, this is what John Kennedy said 44 years ago. Let every nation know, whether it wishes us well or ill, that we'll pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe to assure the survival of liberty.

What the president said yesterday was essentially the same thought, updated, cast in modern terms.


NOVAK: Now, do you agree with George Mitchell or James Carville?

REP. ALBERT WYNN (D), MARYLAND: Well, what I agree with is that the president was trying to emulate Kennedy. That was pretty obvious, Kennedy, Lincoln, whoever he could find to elevate...

NOVAK: Good models, aren't they?

WYNN: Well, the point is, I'm not sure the president can follow up. That's always a problem. He's bit off more than he can chew. Some people call it ambitious.

The fact of the matter is, I don't think the insurgents in Iraq are listening. I don't think the North Koreans, with three million men under arms, are listening. I don't think the Iranians...

NOVAK: He was talking to the American people. Why... WYNN: I don't think the Iranians are particularly listening.


WYNN: And some people are eager for a class of cultures. So, I don't know that the president can get there.


NOVAK: I can't tell you how disappointed I am in you.

WYNN: I'm shocked.

NOVAK: That you say that John F. Kennedy, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe to ensure the survival of liberty, that's the kind of rhetoric you expect from presidents, isn't it? And that's what you got from George Bush.

WYNN: I don't reject to lofty rhetoric.

NOVAK: Oh, well, good.

WYNN: But the reality of this president is much different. He's bogged down in Iraq right now. I don't think he can handle any more challenges.


NOVAK: We were in Vietnam when the president said that.


CARVILLE: Let me go back -- let me go back, because this is a president that -- quote -- "says what he means and means what he says."

PENCE: You bet.

CARVILLE: And I just want to -- I want to get a sense, are we going to tell the red Chinese that we don't care if well sell you another Boeing airplane? Are we going to tell the red Chinese that we don't -- until you have elections, then we're going to get (UNINTELLIGIBLE) on the hook and tell them to quit buying your cheap goods. Are we willing to do that?

PENCE: Right. And I'll tell you what.

I think you actually raise a pretty legitimate question in some of your opening questions. I was in Islamabad in December and met with the prime minister of Pakistan. That's a military dictatorship today that is an alliance of ours and a critical ally in the war on terror.

I just don't believe, James, that's what the president was saying.

CARVILLE: What was he saying?

PENCE: I think he was saying, we are going to stand unapologetically for freedom in the world.


PENCE: We're going to speak to China about their one-child policy and say that it is wrong. We are going to say that a closeness, close relationship with the United States is dependent on your willingness to commit to your own people's freedom and human rights.

CARVILLE: Let me give you an example. Let me give you an example. Let's get here, Egypt, no democracy.

PENCE: Right.

CARVILLE: We give them $2 billion a year.

PENCE: That's right.

CARVILLE: Are we willing to say, hey, we're cutting the spigot off, horse; have some elections?

PENCE: Well, I don't think the president implied that in his comments yesterday.

Albert just said, generously, he's not against lofty rhetoric. What the president said is, we are going to hold up the ideal. We're going to use our relationships...


CARVILLE: ... says what he means.

NOVAK: I want to go on -- I want to go on to another thing.

PENCE: He's right.

NOVAK: We've had an outrageous performance by some of the old bull Democrats in the Senate of delaying the confirmation of secretary of state-designate Rice, so she couldn't go to Ukraine. They had to put Colin Powell back for an extra day. He was supposed to go home. And I'd like you to listen to what Senator Hutchison of Texas said about it.


HUTCHISON: The president should have had his secretary of state on his Inauguration Day. I think there was no reason to delay her confirmation. We've had two long days of hearings. And if senators wanted to talk, we could have had a time agreement.


NOVAK: What's wrong with that? WYNN: You know, if anybody deserves to be questioned, it's Condoleezza Rice. We have got over 1,300 men dead in Iraq.


WYNN: And no one epitomizes the administration -- no one epitomizes the administration's position prewar than Condoleezza Rice.


WYNN: Let me tell you, Condoleezza Rice has spoke to me personally, along with other members of Congress, and said, we know they have weapons of mass destruction and we know where they are.

NOVAK: Congressman, let's stick to the subject.

WYNN: That is the subject. That was a job she had and she didn't do it very well.



NOVAK: You says she had to be questioned. The questioning is over. Why can't they go to a vote? That's the question we had. Why couldn't we have a time agreement and have a vote?

CARVILLE: They said nine hours. They got a time agreement, nine hours.

WYNN: There's no reason why we shouldn't continue this. There is no rush. There is no rush.


CARVILLE: Congressman, let me ask you, because one of the things is Iraq. And, as he points out, her job, she was tasked by the president after the war to be the central person in the occupation of Iraq.

What about her -- what so blows you away that this occupation has gone so swimmingly well under the supervision, orchestration and direction of Condoleezza Rice...



CARVILLE: ... that this thing really merits her being -- ascending to the highest diplomatic post in the world?

PENCE: Well, what merits it is that Dr. Condoleezza Rice is a woman of unparalleled ability and integrity. And in the hearings that we just saw...

(CROSSTALK) CARVILLE: Right. What -- how did she demonstrate that ability in our occupation?


WYNN: I have to take exception to that.

PENCE: The one thing that I was offended by was when Senator Boxer questioned her integrity. This is a woman of unimpeachable integrity.



NOVAK: We have to -- we have to take a break.

And when we come back, I'll ask our guests why Democrats have to be so partisan.

And just ahead, Wolf Blitzer has the latest on a tragedy that got its start in front of surveillance cameras in a Texas parking lot.


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

Coming up at the top of the hour, more preelection violence in Iraq, including a deadly attack on a wedding party. And they used an ambulance to drive in.

The abduction of a clerk from a Texas Wal-Mart parking lot ends in tragedy. A 24-year-old Marine has been arrested.

And a college student and her boyfriend are dead, despite their desperate calls to 911. Who gets the blame?

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

Now back to CROSSFIRE.

CARVILLE: Welcome back.

Does inauguration for a second term earn President Bush a second honeymoon? Not when he blundered so mightily through his first four years.

Our guests today are Congressmen Mike Pence, Republican from Indiana, and Democratic Representative Al Wynn of Maryland.

NOVAK: Mr. Wynn, I hear all this stuff from the Democrats about, we want to have bipartisanship. We want to cooperate and their friends in the media say it.

I just want to read you a couple of quotes from your leaders. Representative Nancy Pelosi, the House minority leader: "Personally, I don't feel much like celebrating. So I'm going to mark the occasion" -- the inauguration -- "by pledging to do everything in my power to fight the extremist Republicans' destructive agenda."


NOVAK: Senator Chuck Schumer, chairman of the Senate Democratic Campaign Committee: "When the inauguration band stops playing and Congress comes back into session, we Democrats will be on guard and ready to fight against the Republicans' extreme policies once again."

Does that sound like bipartisanship to you?


WYNN: Well, it's kind of like the president when he says, I will work with any Democrat who accepts my position and my policies. It's the same thing.


WYNN: We're not going to be rolled.

NOVAK: So, what you are saying -- so, what you are saying is, this bipartisanship is a lot of baloney. You are saying to the president, we'll be bipartisan if you go with us?


NOVAK: You're saying exactly the same thing.

WYNN: No, we're saying we'll be bipartisan if you compromise.


NOVAK: ... your policies.

WYNN: The president's saying my way or the highway. We don't buy that. That's not going to work.


CARVILLE: Let me -- my -- my -- my friend Congressman Emanuel says let's get started on immigration. We're ready to go to work. The president has the policy on immigration that -- he's say Democrats are ready to go to work on that. So, why won't the president give Rahm a call and say, let's get the Republican leadership in and lets work on this immigration proposal?

PENCE: Well, probably because Rahm is running the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. He won't get that call.

CARVILLE: Right. But he says...


CARVILLE: He wants to work with you guys on it.

PENCE: Absolutely.

Look, we're going to -- and we're going to deal with immigration. Rahm's going to get his wish. I think right out of the box, as we tried to do in December in the 9/11 bill, you're going to see Congress take on national standards for driver's licenses, close some of the loopholes those hijackers came through.

CARVILLE: What about the president's proposal?

PENCE: And we're going to get to that. I really -- I really -- I'm the grandson of an Irish immigrant, James.

CARVILLE: Right. I am, too.

PENCE: And I believe...

CARVILLE: My great-grandfather was born in County Monaghan.

PENCE: Perfect. I knew I liked you.



PENCE: I knew I liked you.

CARVILLE: What has that got to do with...

PENCE: The president has a heart for dealing with eight to 10 million Americans that are here illegally in a compassionate way. We have got to do it in a way that also is consistent with the rule of law.



NOVAK: Al Wynn, Al Wynn, I'm sure you know who Doug Schoen is. He was a former adviser to President Clinton, big buddy of Mr. Carville.

Mr. Schoen, the day before the inauguration said this. He said: "What's important is the Democrats need an agenda of their own. I don't sense that they have one. I sense a party that is adrift."

Your party is adrift, isn't it?


WYNN: No. I don't think we're adrift. I think we are doing some reevaluation. I think we're doing some self-assessment.

(CROSSTALK) WYNN: I think we need to do that. But we're not adrift. We still adhere to our core values. We still believe in equality, tolerance, justice, fair play.

NOVAK: Do you have an agenda? Do you have an agenda?

WYNN: And protecting the working-class men and women of America.


WYNN: That's our agenda. We have an agenda.

NOVAK: Do you have an agenda? Do you have an agenda?


CARVILLE: I actually agree with Doug Schoen. I think Doug made sense. I don't know.



Thank you very much, Al Wynn. Thank you very much, Mike Pence.

CARVILLE: Thank you all very much.


NOVAK: Have a great session of Congress. We appreciate you being here.

President Bush and his wife, Laura, may have set a new record at last night's inaugural balls. We'll tell you why the music provided an ironic soundtrack for the record.



CARVILLE: The first couple may have chosen the wrong song to dance to last night. President Bush and first lady Laura Bush tripped light fantastic to the strings of "I Could Have Danced All Night." Could have, but didn't.

The longest they danced together was 66 seconds before waving to the crowd and speeding off to another inaugural ball. What's more, they were kicking off their shoes and putting up their feet at the White House by 10:00 -- sounds like something I'd like to do -- almost an hour and a half ahead of schedule.

The Bushes generally spent less than 10 minutes at each of the 10 balls, as they raced through. Do you think all those folks who spent the big bucks on ball tickets feel they got their money's worth?

You know what, Bob? I agree with him. I wouldn't have stayed any more. I'm not going to criticize him for that.



NOVAK: I'll tell you something. I'll tell you something; 66 seconds was 66 seconds longer than I danced, and I was home at 10 minutes to 10:00. But that's -- I'm an older guy.

CARVILLE: Nobody has criticized this president more than me, but nobody will -- defend him for not sitting around and dancing all night with a bunch of Republican clowns anyway. I would have got the hell out of there myself.



CARVILLE: From the left, I'm James Carville. That's it for CROSSFIRE.

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

And join us tomorrow morning, join me tomorrow morning at 9:30 Eastern time for "THE NOVAK ZONE." My topic will be President Bush's agenda.

"WOLF BLITZER REPORTS" starts right now.

CARVILLE: I'll be there at 9:30.



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