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Time to Leave Iraq?

Aired January 27, 2005 - 16:30   ET


ANNOUNCER: Crossfire. On The Left, James Carville; on the right, Robert Novak.

In the CROSSFIRE: Is it time for the U.S. to start looking for the exit in Iraq? Senator Ted Kennedy thinks so.

SEN. EDWARD KENNEDY (D), MASSACHUSETTS: The U.S. military presence has become part of the problem, not part of the solution.

ANNOUNCER: Will this weekend's election trigger more calls for a U.S. pullout or is it proof that U.S. efforts are starting to pay off?



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


ROBERT NOVAK, CO-HOST: If Teddy Kennedy had his way, the U.S. military would be packing up and heading out of Iraq right now. The liberal senior senator from Massachusetts is invoking the ghosts of Vietnam and planning U.S. withdrawal before any mission is completed. Does the senator care what happens in Iraq once the U.S. pulls out?

JAMES CARVILLE, CO-HOST: Senator Kennedy is just saying what we already know. It's time to go. Iraqis have the right to decide what happens next and we have the right to bring our young men and women home. It's no longer a matter of if we should leave, but when.

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

The Social Security system in the United States is a staggering success. In 1965, when Social Security cost of living adjustments were initiated, the elderly poverty rate in the United States was below 30 percent. Today, it's below 10 percent. President Bush would prefer that you not know that.

So he talks in glowing terms about Chile's retirement system, which was instituted under the regime of dictator Augusto Pinochet, as a model pension plan. But, today, we find out that this is just one of Bush's more illusions. For starters, only half the people are captured by the retirement system in Chile.

And "The New York Times" reports that many middle-class who contributed regularly to their accounts are finding that hidden fees have soaked up to a third of their investment. I guess the simple question is, would I rather have a retirement system thought up by President Franklin Delano Roosevelt or Augusto Pinochet, an international criminal? I'll think Roosevelt. Thank you, Mr. President.


NOVAK: Well, James, I know you don't like details, but, of course, it wasn't thought up by General Pinochet. It was thought up by a University of Chicago economist.

CARVILLE: Right. Under his regime.


NOVAK: Of course, what you're taking that from, I think you ought to attribute where you get your information from, is a hit job by "The New York Times."

CARVILLE: Do you like Pinochet?

NOVAK: Can I finish my sentence?

CARVILLE: What do you think of Pinochet?

NOVAK: Can I finish my sentence?

It was hit job by "The New York Times," which, like all the rest of you liberals, don't like ordinary people to have the common stocks, because...


CARVILLE: No. You're on the Pinochet plan and I'm on the Roosevelt plan.

NOVAK: Well, that's just your usual demagoguery.

CARVILLE: Augusta, international criminal.

NOVAK: Democrats complaining about too much partisanship just showed what they really think. On the Senate Judiciary Committee, all eight Democrats voted against confirmation of White House counsel Alberto Gonzales to be attorney general.

One of the Democratic aides, Senator Chuck Schumer of New York, originally welcomed the Gonzales nomination with lavish praise and he had to scramble to get back on the party line this week. Senator Schumer said Judge Gonzales is too much of a blind loyalist for George W. Bush to be an independent attorney general. Schumer himself admitted that Jack Kennedy picked brother Bobby for the job, but said Bobby often strayed from his brother's lead. Oh, yes? Give me one example, Senator.

CARVILLE: Well, let me say this. I don't think Bobby Kennedy was the architect of a torture strategy that's been condemned by 10 retired generals, that has brought more problems to the United States foreign policy than anything I can think of. And I have no idea why this administration can't take responsibility or why they promote somebody. Thank God for these eight Democrats.


NOVAK: Well, I think the policy of this administration is against torture.


NOVAK: But what's very interesting...

CARVILLE: They are? Do you read the paper?



NOVAK: Well, let me get -- say something without you interrupting me.

CARVILLE: Yes. Go ahead. This administration is against torture?

NOVAK: Why are you so damn rude?


CARVILLE: I'm not rude. It's just stunning that you would say they're against torture.


NOVAK: It's just stunning that you won't let me finish a sentence.

CARVILLE: The Associated -- well, what is wrong with you today?


NOVAK: Just, I don't like to be interrupted.


CARVILLE: I let you finish a sentence. Augusto Pinochet.

The Associated Press reports that the Bush administration is planning major cuts in health care funding for poor children and disabled people. I mean, after all, why can't these little snot- nosed, hair-lip, hole-in-the -heart, diabetes-ridden, freezing poor kids do their part? But guess what? Where the administration is double spending, and that's on public relation spending on itself. They administration spent $88 million in fiscal 2004 in P.R. contracts, compared with $37 million in 2003. A more telling example would be the example of the fiscally responsible Clinton administration. They funded health care for poor kids and yet spent only $128 million from 1997 to 2000 on P.R.

The Bush administration doubled that amount in its first four years. Hey, you little 3-year-old juvenile diabetics, you better get a little skin in this game, so these boys can pay off Armstrong Williams. When I went to Catholic school at St. Joe's parochial, they had a two-word description who cut funding for poor children to pay for their own P.R. It is called mortal sin.


NOVAK: James, the reason they spend so much money on P.R. is that they have to somehow compensate for the left-wing media.

CARVILLE: Right. Right.

NOVAK: But I will tell you something. I hate to ever agree with you on anything, but I hate it.


NOVAK: But I don't like big government paying money for public relations either.

CARVILLE: There you go.


CARVILLE: I will tell you what. they ought to pay for these kids...


CARVILLE: ... diabetes medications.

NOVAK: Today, a bill was reintroduced to give the District of Columbia voting members in Congress. The bill won't get anywhere, but Democrats claim people now vote in Iraq, but not in D.C.

Well, as a resident of the district, which James isn't, I dissent. The district of Columbia was formed to insulate the national capital from partisan politics. The vote for Democrats in the district always exceeds 90 percent, 90 percent. This is an effort to get two more Democrats in the U.S. Senate in the cheap. Personally, I feel my interests are better protected by senators from other states than two hacks elected in a D.C. Democratic primary where one-fourth of the voters work for the District of Columbia's government.

(APPLAUSE) CARVILLE: Let me ask you a question. Do people -- first of all, we're right now in the District of Columbia. There's no partisan politics on CROSSFIRE, thank God.


CARVILLE: The people that live in the District of Columbia, do they pay income tax to the federal government?

NOVAK: Hey, you're talking to me. Look at me.


CARVILLE: Do you pay income tax? I'm just wondering. Say, you don't want to vote, then don't pay taxes. That's simple. No taxation without representation. That's as old as America.


NOVAK: Well, they pay a huge amount of taxes, because the federal government does a lot, a lot for the District of Columbia. They support the District of Columbia.


NOVAK: But I know you don't know much about history, James, but when they formed the district...


NOVAK: ... they formed it as a separate enclave away from...


CARVILLE: ... Slavery was legal in the United States, man. What are you talking about? Women couldn't vote.


NOVAK: Some, including the liberal senator from Massachusetts, want the U.S. to pull out of Iraq. Next, we'll debate about whether it's time for the U.S. to leave or whether a pullout would doom Iraq to disaster.

And later, we'll tell you about the congressman who was a ballet dancer -- a ballet dancer -- and why that's become a hot topic on Capitol Hill.



CARVILLE: As Iraqis prepare to vote on Sunday, the big question is this. Is it time for a U.S. exit plan to kick in? Should we stay or should we go? Joining us in the CROSSFIRE, former Represent Randy Tate, a Republican from Washington state, and former Democratic Representative Tim Andrews (sic) of Maine, national director of Win Without Coalition -- War Without Coalition.

Well, we certainly got the Atlantic and the Pacific here.

NOVAK: Win Without War.


NOVAK: Win Without War Coalition.

CARVILLE: Win Without War Coalition.


CARVILLE: Did I say Tom -- what did I say, Jim Andrews?

ANDREWS: Tim. But I've been called worse.



CARVILLE: Yes, well.

NOVAK: Congressman, Teddy Kennedy is under the illusion he's president of the United States. And, of course, he could never even win a Democratic primary.

But he gives a new speech about -- on some subject every day, like a weekly State of the Union. And today, he spoke on getting out of Iraq. And it's hard to find what he was talking about, because there was so much rage being vented. But I think I found the crucial sentence. And I'm going to put it up, show it right now.


KENNEDY: We have reached the point that a pro-longed American military presence in Iraq is no longer productive for either Iraq or the United States. The U.S. military presence has become part of the problem, not part of the solution.


NOVAK: Now, that's the most reasonable thing he said. I was talking to a very senior member of the administration this week who said about the same thing. But is it the only question, to get away from the rhetoric, is how soon you could take it out without a disaster ensuing?

ANDREWS: Well, the fact is, Bob, you're right, that was a very reasonable thing to say and I'm glad Senator Kennedy said it. The fact is, we have a disaster right now. And his point is that the presence of our troops in such large numbers and the course that we're presently on are going to make things worse. All you have to do is take a look at the intelligence reports coming out about this election coming up and you'll learn that this election is going to make things much worse.

It's going to polarize Iraq even more than it is. It's going to inflame the insurgency and it's going to create even more of a disaster than what we have right now. It seems to me that what Senator Kennedy is saying is what Bill -- Senator -- General Bill Nash, who commanded our troops in Bosnia, is saying about Iraq, namely, that those troops are targets. They're sources of provocation and not stability.

So, the first thing you do is, you begin to pull them back and take away the targets for the insurgency. And it's about time somebody said that and it's about time that we had a national debate about that in the United States Congress.


NOVAK: But I wondered if you could agree with me. I don't think you've ever agreed with me on anything.


ANDREWS: Well, let's try it, Bob.

NOVAK: Agree with me that it's a question of how fast you pull it back and if you -- I want to get them back, certainly. I didn't want them to go in the first place, but I want to get them back.

But the idea of suddenly pulling them out, as Senator Kennedy has said, would create, would create a situation where our friends would be massacred.


NOVAK: You don't want that, do you?

ANDREWS: No. No. Here's the problem.

NOVAK: Do you want a bloodbath?

ANDREWS: Of course not.

NOVAK: All right.

ANDREWS: But that's what we have got right now. And that's what we're trying to change.

NOVAK: Well, we don't have a bloodbath.

ANDREWS: No, we do have a bloodbath. Are you kidding, 1,400 Americans dead, tens of thousands Iraqis dead, 10,000 Americans injured?

Here's the point.


NOVAK: That's not a bloodbath. It could get worse.

ANDREWS: No, no, let me answer your question. Here's the point.

The insurgency -- what we need to do is take the fuel away from the insurgency that's building their strength and power and alienating the Iraqi people against the Americans; 92 percent of the Iraqi people see the Americans as military occupiers. What we have to do is send them a signal, not with these vague things coming out of the White House, but a very specific commitment that the U.S. is going to get out of Iraq, there's a specific timetable for us getting out, we're going to commit to it, and we're going to call upon the regional players in that part of the world and the international community to come in and provide the stabilization with an Iraqi government to make sure we don't have the bloodbath.

But we have got to take that first critical step to make it clear that we're not a military occupation. And that is what Senator Kennedy is urging that we do. And he's right.

CARVILLE: Congressman, Senator Kennedy proposes, according, it appears, five different things.

One is that they train and equip an effective security force immediately. Then they conduct -- we need to conduct serious regional deployment with the Arab League. Third, as opposed to withdrawing immediately, as Mr. Novak suggested, we disengage. At least 12,000 troops should leave immediately to send a signal about our intention.

And goal should be complete withdraw as early as possible in 2006. And Iraqis need to send a clear signal that America has an exit strategy. OK. What's wrong with that? I mean, what -- if anything, kind of tepid to me.

RANDY TATE (R), FORMER U.S. CONGRESSMAN: Well, I think you have got to look at this in its totality.


TATE: What Tom was saying here is that we should pull the troops out. We would set a date specific.


TATE: Bill Clinton today at the World Economic Forum says we shouldn't set a date specific. It sends the wrong message. That's bad policy. I think we need to not forget -- and I agree with Tom that men and women from America have given their lives over there. Thousands of Iraqis have given their lives over there.

But let's not forget that Saddam Hussein -- this was a regime that had torture chambers, that had rape rooms, that thousands, tens of thousands of mass graves occurred.


TATE: And the world of Tom and, quite frankly, Ted Kennedy, who opposed this war, who opposed...


CARVILLE: Me, too. Me, too. Don't leave me out.

TATE: Who opposed the $87 billion for the funding of our troops, is now telling us that we should be pulling out.


TATE: Look, we should pull out at the time where those folks are trained to be able to provide domestic protection and security in that country, not a moment, not a moment, not a moment sooner.


CARVILLE: So let me get this straight.



TATE: The people -- Ted Kennedy and others would have preferred the stability -- I'm telling you, they who oppose the war support the stability of a dictator over the bumpy road of moving towards a democracy.


CARVILLE: Let me try -- Let me try this. So you're a person that says -- of course, 50 -- let me show you a statistic here out of a CNN poll. It was asking, was it well worth it? Fifty-two percent agree with me; 40 percent agree with you.

Now, of course, you're not suggesting that these 52 percent are bad Americans.


CARVILLE: But let me pursue a conservative point here.

Larry Summers, the former treasury secretary now, somewhat controversial president of Harvard, said something I thought was very smart. He said, nobody in the history of the world has ever washed a rent-a-car. And as long as the Iraqis believe the country belongs to us and we're there, what's the incentive? It looks like a good conservative opinion says, you know what? We're out of here at the end of -- at a time certain.

It looks like, to me, that would focus their attention and get them to train people. But as long as you're sitting here saying, Israeli tell you what, we'll be here as long as you want us here, we'll spend all of the money you want, we'll spend all of the young men and women over...


CARVILLE: That sounds to me be an antithetical position for a conservative to have.

TATE: No, let's look, let's put it in historical perspective. Let's look at postwar Europe after World War II.

No, it's important.


TATE: No. There's three things that needed to occur. There -- needed to make that sure basic humanitarian needs are being met. And now 70 -- over 75 percent of the country has running water.

CARVILLE: Congressman, Congressman...

TATE: The highest it's ever had. No, hold on.

NOVAK: Now, let him talk.


TATE: Let me finish my point, Jim. They met those needs.

Second, they provided a framework for a provisional government. And we're having an election on Sunday.


TATE: Let's not forget, that wouldn't have happened if we wouldn't have gone there, which you opposed.

CARVILLE: Right. Absolutely.

TATE: And 275 Iraqis are going to now have the chance to control the country, Jim. In fact, 25 percent of those, 69 of them, are going to be women that are going to be...


CARVILLE: ... think it's going good?



TATE: No, let me tell you, let me tell you, it's better than the era of rape rooms and of torture chambers.

NOVAK: It's break time. It's break time. When we come back, we'll ask about the Democrats, including John Kerry, who wanted more troops into Iraq before. Why are they changing their mind so much?

And can anything be done to prevent potential suicide incidents like the one that killed 11 train passengers in California yesterday? Wolf Blitzer has the latest on it next.


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

Coming up at the top of the hour, Senator Edward Kennedy calls on President Bush to pull U.S. troops out of Iraq. I'll talk with him about his latest statements.

The man accused of causing yesterday's deadly commuter train crash is charged with 11 counts of murder. Is there anything that can be done to prevent so-called suicide by train?

And Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist William Safire calls it quits. He'll join us live here in his first television interview since leaving the "Times" op-ed page.

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

Now back to CROSSFIRE.

CARVILLE: Iraqi elections are coming this weekend. Is it time for the U.S. military to get out of there?

Our guests are former Republican Representative from Washington state Randy Tate and Win Without War Coalition director Tom Andrews.


CARVILLE: Former Democratic Congressman.

ANDREWS: Thank you, James.

CARVILLE: I got Tate from Washington state and...


NOVAK: Mr. Andrews, all the Democrats now are calling for, let's get these troops out of here. Marty Meehan said let's go down to 30,000 right away.

ANDREWS: We're making progress.

NOVAK: But let me tell you something. Last year, after he had clinched the nomination, John Kerry said on "Meet the Press" -- he said: "If it requires more troops in order to create a stability that eliminates the chaos, that can provide the groundwork for other countries. That's what we have to do."

Oh, you say that's ancient history. That's last April. But what about just this year, just a couple weeks ago? The leading Democratic spokesman on the Foreign Relations Committee, Senator Joe Biden, let's hear what he has to say.


SEN. JOSEPH BIDEN (D), DELAWARE: I have not met a single military person in Iraq in my four trips there when you get them aside who has said they have had sufficient force to begin with and sufficient support from the Defense Department.


NOVAK: He wants more troops. Senator Reed of Rhode Island, who is an ex-West Pointer, liberal Democrat, wants more troops. So, that's kind of a mixed signal you're getting from your party, isn't it?

ANDREWS: The more we know, Bob, about the effect of increasing the military response, military escalation by the United States, the effect it has on Iraq, the fewer of those voices you're going to hear.

The fact of the matter is that every military incursion that we've been involved in --- let's take Fallujah, for example. That was going to be a way to stabilize the country by taking away the big hiding place and safe haven for the insurgents. Well, we destroyed Fallujah to take away that safe haven. And what did it do? It escalated the violence. It empowered the insurgents.

Their ranks have increased exponentially since the United States has been increasing its military response. The first principle when you find yourself in a hole is to stop digging. It's time for the United States to stop digging and thinking it can shoot its way out of Iraq. It can shoot its way in, but it can't shoot its way out.

CARVILLE: The Army is already saying that we're going to have a constant number of troops in there through the end of '06, OK? So, that is going to be another $160 million, at least.

Is there -- in the Republican ranks, is there any sense that we'll just go forever? Or is -- the position is, we'll just stay there until the last dog dies?

TATE: No. No, Jim. I mean, that's great...

CARVILLE: Well, we're already...

TATE: That's high-octane rhetoric here on CROSSFIRE.


TATE: But the reality of it is, the point that needs to occur is that we need to do our job. And we need to make sure those people are trained and we need to do what it takes to get it done. CARVILLE: Right.

TATE: At the end of the day, we want it to be like Afghanistan. We want it to be like the Ukraine. We want it to be a country in the Middle East like in the elections we just had and the Palestinian had an election. We want those people to have the same sort of freedom we have here. And I'm glad that, in the United States, where it wasn't necessarily popular during the colonial times, that we continued to fight a tyrannical rule and we tried to change things in this great country of ours.


CARVILLE: Congressman Tate from Washington state, we go. Thank you.

NOVAK: Randy Tate, that's the last word. We're out of time. Thank you.

And thank you, Tom Andrews.


NOVAK: Next, the story of a ballet dancing, dead-fish sending congressman.





CARVILLE: Democrats in Congress have a leader who can dance circles around the Republicans, literally.

Representative Rahm Emanuel of Illinois now chairs the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. But years ago, he almost pursued a career as a ballet dancer. How do we know this? Because, as "Roll Call" reports, Majority Whip Roy Blunt in a speech to the Republican conference, made a big deal about it. Blunt's mockery of Emanuel's past made some fellow GOP members squirm.

Maybe it's because they know better than to get on the former Clinton aide's bad side. Congressman Emanuel once sent a dead fish to a political consultant who crossed him.


CARVILLE: Word is, he has a new hobby now, sending some of Blunt's GOP colleagues dancing out of Congress in '06.


NOVAK: Well, I'll tell you, I like Emanuel. I don't agree with him on much, but he's a good guy.

CARVILLE: I love him. He's one of my best friends in the world.

NOVAK: And he was in the Israeli army at one time, wasn't he? Was he not?

CARVILLE: I think he was, yes, sir. He was a captain in the reserves.

NOVAK: I believe he was. And he's an interesting fellow, a good politician.

And were you ever a ballet dancer, James?

CARVILLE: I never -- I couldn't -- the only thing I can do is the jitterbug. I'm dancing out of here.

From the left, I'm James Carville. And that's it for CROSSFIRE.

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

And "WOLF BLITZER REPORTS" starts right now.



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