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A Royal Engagement

Aired February 10, 2005 - 16:30   ET


ANNOUNCER: CROSSFIRE. On the left, James Carville; sitting in on the right, Joe Watkins.

In the CROSSFIRE: Britain in a royal dither. Prince Charles announces plans to finally wed longtime love Camilla Parker Bowles.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. Speaker, the whole House will wish to send our warm congratulations to his royal highness the prince of Wales and Mrs. Parker Bowles.

ANNOUNCER: No pomp this time for the prince's second marriage. How are British subjects taking the news?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think it's fine, if that's what they want to do. They should be happy.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: There's going to be a lot of talk, I think. It will be an interesting time now.

ANNOUNCER: Should Prince Charles still be the next in line for the throne? What does all this mean for the future of the royal family?



ANNOUNCER: Live from the George Washington University, James Carville and Joe Watkins.


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

As the Bush administration rattles sabers at Iran and the North Koreans rattle nukes at the world, perhaps it's time to take a small step back from the brink of Armageddon. Perhaps, just perhaps, we need something to take our minds off the potential of worldwide nuclear war. And that, of course, is why God made the British royal family, because no matter how bad things get here, we always have someone to laugh at.


JOE WATKINS, GUEST CO-HOST: Today's engagement of Prince Charles to Camilla Parker Bowles breaks royal traditions that have lasted for centuries. It also has people on both sides of the Atlantic wondering what this all means for the future of the monarchy. Should Charles remain heir to the throne? Should there be a British throne at all?

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

Democratic leaders are descending today on Washington for a three-day meeting. And it's a big one. When it's over, Howard Dean is expected to be the party's new chairman. He talked today to the Association of State Democratic Chairs, who endorsed the former Vermont governor last week. The Dems have a bigger issue, though. And that is how to redefine themselves opposite President Bush and the party in power.

A new CNN/"USA Today"/Gallup poll of DNC members shows that more than two-thirds see their mission as trying to defeat the Republican agenda; 24 percent think they should take a less contentious road and seek areas of compromise. I go along with Congressman Harold Ford of Tennessee, who says his party needs to do more than just say it's against George Bush. Democrats have to be big enough to agree with the president when he's right and not just be the party of no.

BEGALA: I am just still waiting for the president to be right.



BEGALA: He said there were WMDs and there weren't.

WATKINS: How about the Iran (sic) elections? The Iran (sic) elections were right.


BEGALA: The Iraqi elections were terrific.

WATKINS: Iraqi elections.


BEGALA: Terrific, but not worth 1,400 lives of our best young men and women, no.


BEGALA: We should fight. And the reason that Governor Dean won -- and I'm a little nervous about him, as I've admitted before -- but that at least he stands and fights. And, you know, I'm a Democrat. And he's going to be my party's leader. And at least he knows how to fight. And that's something Democrats needs.


BEGALA: So congratulations to Governor Dean. (APPLAUSE)

WATKINS: The question is that -- I think he ends up bringing the party more over to the left, unless he wants to be more centrist. He was a little more centrist as a governor.

BEGALA: The left and right we need is a left and a right and an uppercut and a cross.


BEGALA: Maybe a few shots below the belt.

Well, anyway, President Bush took his economic medicine show to North Carolina today, but the Center For American Progress has taken a look at how Mr. Bush's budget will actually affect the people of North Carolina. And it's not a pretty sight.

As "The Charlotte Observer" reports -- quote -- "President Bush's budget would slash federal money for community projects, railroads and Medicaid recipients in the Carolinas, pressuring local governments to cut services or raise taxes" -- unquote. The Center says that Mr. Bush's budget would mean North Carolina would have less money for health care, less money for police officers, less for schools, less for parks and less for infrastructure.

President Bush, strangely, didn't mention any of that today in North Carolina. But I wonder, is that what you really voted for when you went for Mr. Bush, North Carolina?

WATKINS: Well, the truth of the matter is that no budget is state specific. The president didn't devise the budget with the state of North Carolina specifically in mind. The whole idea is to slow the rate of government growth and government spending. And that is what the president is doing with this new budget.

BEGALA: And it's a disaster. It's going to mean fewer cops, for example.

President Clinton helped the federal government hire 100,000 cops. It's cut crime and it has worked. And now they're on the front lines fighting terrorism. And Mr. Bush wants to remove that.



BEGALA: North Carolina crime is going to go up. Crime is going to go up everywhere.

WATKINS: Absolutely not.

BEGALA: This is nuts, all so we can give a tax break to overpaid talk shows hosts.


BEGALA: So thank you, Mr. President. You are going to lay off a bunch of cops and give me money.

WATKINS: Economic growth, Paul, economic growth, that's what it is all about.

BEGALA: That's what we had when Bill Clinton was in office. Well...

WATKINS: Senator John Kerry isn't giving up yet. The former Democratic presidential candidate yesterday announced he'll hand over $1 million from his campaign fund to the DNC.

He also sent out a blanket e-mail encouraging his supporters to make contributions to help revitalize the party. Kerry's $1 million and the e-mail are all part of a strategy to keep in touch with supporters of his failed White House run. He's clearly trying to bolster aspirations for another bid in '08.

The way I see it, Senator Kerry is doing the best imitation he can of the Reverend Jesse Jackson by trying to keep hope alive.


BEGALA: That's a pretty good Jesse, Joe.


BEGALA: Well, good for him. I found it astonishing that he finished the campaign with something like $14 or $15 million in the bank.

WATKINS: That's right. He's only giving one.

BEGALA: At least -- well, I hope the other 13 is forthcoming.


BEGALA: Because I think it's bad management to finish a campaign with -- it's like finishing second in the Indy 500 with a two-car race with a full tank of gas. They obviously did something wrong.

WATKINS: Well, right now, Hillary -- Hillary is outdistancing him right now in all the polls, all the early polls. Obviously, it's real early.

BEGALA: She is only running in one state, New York, for her reelection.


BEGALA: One day -- I hope she does run for president one day. I don't believe she's made up her mind.


BEGALA: But, look, Senator Kerry, good for him for supporting his party. And lord knows the party needs it, although Terry McAuliffe, the outgoing chairman, has left my party in better shape than any party chairman in history.


BEGALA: And he ought to be saluted for that. And God bless Terry. I'm going to miss him when he's no longer my party chairman.


WATKINS: Yes. You have got Howard Dean then.

BEGALA: Well, we do. And congratulations to Mr. Dean.

WATKINS: Yeehaw!

BEGALA: Well...


BEGALA: Well, the Bush administration says the economy is rosy, but the Commerce Department today reports the trade deficit jumped 24 percent to a record high last year.

The budget deficit is also at a record high. And dangerous amounts of our national debt are held by Asian central banks. But statistics really only tell part of the story. With the cost of housing, health care and education going through the roof, people are getting increasingly desperate.

Take, for example, the case of poor Shaune Bagwell, for example. Shaune is the ex-wife of Houston Astros star Jeff Bagwell. And she has reduced herself to auctioning off advertising space on her cleavage. That's true. The winning bidder is the casino. It's paying Shaune, a swimsuit model, by the way, $15,099 fee to place a 30-day tattoo on her -- well, you know, her torso.

This could be the beginning of a trend. My sources tell me that Al's Barbecue and Auto Transmission Shop in Sugar Land, Texas, has offered to pay $1.85 to advertise on Rush Limbaugh's rear end.


BEGALA: Now, it will have a whole map, too, to how to get there. There's lots of space there.


BEGALA: But this is a sign of the times. Women are auctioning off their cleavage to make ends meet. It's tragic.

WATKINS: The economy has come along really strong, Paul, despite all the advertising stuff that's happening. (BELL RINGING)

WATKINS: Things are moving, 146,000 new jobs in January alone, 16 straight months of growth.

BEGALA: Does her job count as one, auctioning off her cleavage? Does that count as one of those jobs? I hope she'll come on the show, and not by satellite either. I'd like to meet her.


BEGALA: Admit it, friends. The weird-looking son of a world leader you were talking about around the water cooler today was not Kim Jong Il of North Korea. It was Prince Charles, wasn't it? So the question is, what impact will Prince Charles' engagement to Camilla Parker Bowles have on the future of the royal family? And what impact will it have on your life?

Thankfully, none. But we thought we'd have a little fun with it, nonetheless. That comes up next in CROSSFIRE.

And then later, a super payoff for a Super Bowl bet. You're going to want to see this.


ANNOUNCER: Join Carville, Begala and Novak in the CROSSFIRE. For free tickets to CROSSFIRE at the George Washington University, call 202-994-8CNN or visit our Web site. Now you can step into the CROSSFIRE.



WATKINS: Is it a royal revival or just a royal pain? The pending wedding of Prince Charles and Camilla Parker Bowles has once again called the whole notion of a British monarchy into question.

Joining us today in the CROSSFIRE, radio talk show host Michael Jackson, who has been presented with membership in the Most Excellent Order of the British empire by Queen Elizabeth. He joins us from Los Angeles. And with us here at George Washington University, United Press International editor Martin Walker.


WATKINS: Welcome, men, to the CROSSFIRE.,

BEGALA: Good to see you.


BEGALA: Michael, good to see you, sir.

First, help we Americans out. The prince of Wales is getting married. He had been married, of course, to Princess Diana, who passed away. Why isn't this new woman becoming the princess of Wales? Instead, she's like the princess of cornbread or something. Why is that?


MICHAEL JACKSON, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: I have heard you ask brilliant questions. That one is stupid.

BEGALA: I'm wholly ignorant, wholly ignorant. I don't understand the whole system. Did the guy -- how does he get the job? Does he pull a sword out of a rock or something? How do you get to be the prince of Wales?

JACKSON: He happens to be the son of Prince Philip and Queen Elizabeth II.

I'm not sure what you guys are getting at. You know, all I know is that, all over the world, they're respected. When Britain go -- when people go to Britain for vacation or to study, they want to see and have contact with the royal family. In an age when instant gratification takes too long and more is not enough, these people are solid. They last. They survive. Make fun of them, but they'll be here for centuries.

WATKINS: You know, the question is, is, people do have fascination with the royals, just like they do here in the United States with the Kennedys.


WATKINS: After all, I have got a friend, Chris Lawford, who is a member of the Kennedy family. Americans love the Kennedy family. Whether you're a Democrat or a Republican, most Americans are really fascinated by the Kennedys. And the same would be true with the royals.

What's the big problem with people admiring these folks who are inherited royalty?


JACKSON: And can I add one question?


WALKER: They're an entirely dysfunctional bunch. There's not much British about them. They mainly come from a bunch of German aristocratic princelings. There's not a whole lot of British blood there. And what there is seems to be rather more akin to its original German. Look at the way Prince Harry was filmed wearing that swastika the other day.

They're a disgrace. They're a bunch of flakes.

WATKINS: Haven't they raised money, though, for the tsunamis? BEGALA: We'll get to the tsunami in just a second.

First, Michael, I don't know if you can see, but I'm told that we have new pictures of the happy couple presenting themselves to the British media.


BEGALA: And, indeed, the world media.

But help me out on that. A moment ago, you said that these are solid people. Now, Martin responds that they're a dysfunctional family. I have to say that it seems to me like it's "The Jerry Springer Show" with better jewels.

JACKSON: No, I think you people would like it to be "The Jerry Springer Show" with jewels.

What have they done to hurt anyone? Whenever they gather anywhere, throngs come out to see them. They're respected and adored by world leaders. You don't attack the king of Thailand or Sweden or Belgium or Holland, because they're not as big. They're not as substantial. They haven't lasted as long and they haven't made the same kind of impact on the country.

When you go to Britain, whatever they're paying -- you pay a basketball player more than you pay the royal family. And I promise you they do a damn...


BEGALA: But Prince Charles can't -- Prince Charles can't do a high-flying, death-defying 360 dunk.


BEGALA: Can he? If he could, he would be worth the money.


JACKSON: Shaq can't play polo.

WALKER: And Prince Charles doesn't pay any taxes. That's why his duchy of Cornwall that the queen gave him when he was 21 is now worth just over $1 billion.

WATKINS: Well, but truth of the matter is, is that they might not pay any taxes, but they've given a lot of money to all kinds of wonderful causes. They came to the aid of the victim of the tsunamis. They have raised money for...

WALKER: They're very generous with our money.


WALKER: They're very good at spending the British people's money.


JACKSON: I'll tell you that people go to Britain to see them. People go to Great Britain to see them.

I wish she was not called the queen of England. I wish she was called the queen of Britain. And I think...

BEGALA: Well, but, Michael, people go to the circus, too, to see all manner of oddities.


WATKINS: Yes, but they've generated so much revenue, though, for the -- think of all the revenue they generate. People go to England to see the royals, to see Buckingham Palace, to see the changing of the guard. I've done the same thing myself.


WALKER: Hey, if you like them that much, we can auction them off for you.


BEGALA: Let me -- Michael, Lauren (ph), who is a research intern here, did a terrific job for me, because I think really did ask sort of what sort of a life does a man like this lead.

I can not imagine, honestly, the burdens of being in the public eye like that. It must be difficult.

JACKSON: Tremendous.

BEGALA: But he has a lot of help. She found in "The Sunday Express" last October that Prince Charles has a staff of 112, 28 of whom are private servants, that those private servants in fact pick his clothing up off the floor. They squeeze his toothpaste from silver--crested containers. They iron his pajamas every morning.

They lay out five daily changes of clothes. They spend an hour polishing his hand-made shoes, ensure -- I like this one -- that he has ice balls, rather than cubes, because they clink less noisily. And once he had a valet, Michael Fawcett, hold a bottle while he provided a urine specimen. This is a little odd, isn't it?

JACKSON: You know, it's odd that people would be fascinated by it or that the press feel that it's a news story. I think Donald Trump probably has a larger staff.


JACKSON: And I think the impact of the British -- I meant staff. And I think the impact...


BEGALA: This is afternoon cable.


JACKSON: Is there no end to this?

WALKER: They're going to take your...


WALKER: ... back for this one.



WALKER: This is real-life majesty, Michael, I tell you. I warn you of this.

JACKSON: I once, when I was a light program announcer at the BBC, feared that I'd come on the air one day and say: "This is the British Broadcorping Castration. Where is the news?"


JACKSON: So that's one reason why I'm here.


JACKSON: When I went to Buckingham Palace to get my MBE, her majesty looked at me and said, why do you live there? And I said, well, ma'am, if I didn't, I wouldn't be here now. And she said, I don't know about that, but she knew.

I think...


WALKER: Michael, can I tell you one thing about the queen herself which is really important? Her comment on the announcement of this marriage made it clear she doesn't like it. She said, we're very pleased to hear that our son and Mrs. Parker Bowles are going to get married, in other words, stressing the fact this is still a married woman.

JACKSON: Well...

WALKER: This is something which is quite against all the traditions of the Church of England. The queen does not like this.

BEGALA: Very interesting point.

JACKSON: But things can change.

BEGALA: I'm sorry, Michael. We'll ask you to... (CROSSTALK)

BEGALA: We're going to let you respond, I promise, when we come back.

And, in fact, when we come back, I'm going to ask our guests not only how Prince Charles' mother is reacting, but how his sons are reacting to the fact that their woman is marrying a woman their mother once called a rottweiler.

And Wolf Blitzer has the latest on Secretary of State's Condoleezza Rice's response to North Korea's latest statements on nuclear weapons.

Stay with us.


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

Coming up at the top of the hour, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice warns North Korea to reconsider pulling out of nuclear talks or face further isolation.

Could the FAA have prevented the 9/11 attacks? A report says aviation officials received repeated advance warnings.

And Prince Charles is finally going to marry Camilla Parker Bowles. How are British subjects taking the news? Among other things, we'll ask Sir David Frost.

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

Now back to CROSSFIRE.

BEGALA: Thank you, Wolf. We're standing by for hard news at the top of the hour with your report.

But here at CROSSFIRE, we're talking about the British royal family, as Prince Charles makes plans to finally tie the knot with Camilla Parker Bowles. The question once again is being asked, who cares?

Well, our guests do. And millions, indeed billions, of people around the world do. Our guests are radio talk show host Michael Jackson, who is in Los Angeles, and UPI editor Martin Walker.

WATKINS: You know, the most recent polls show that the British public supports the notion of Charles marrying Camilla. Now, don't you think that these folks ought to be able to just get married, since they have the support of the public and they love each other?

WALKER: Absolutely. I don't mind at all.

WATKINS: So what is all -- what's the stink about?

WALKER: Well, the stink is really less about the fact of this marriage than about the oddity of his marrying the woman who was accused by Princess Diana, whom the British public really did adore, as the woman who destroyed her marriage and destroyed her life. She called her the rottweiler.

On top of that, it's also, I think, a real sense of sadness that this global soap opera, which is what the British royal family is, has traded in the one real superstar it had, Princess Diana, for this rather tawdry, elderly woman, who does, in fact, look a bit like a rather savage hunting dog.


BEGALA: Michael, let me ask you to respond to that and to personalize it, if you can. There are...

JACKSON: I'll personalize.

BEGALA: There are children -- there are children from the prince's first marriage with Princess Diana. And got to be tough see your father marrying a woman that you know your mother hated.

JACKSON: They have got on pretty well recently. But my earlier memories...

BEGALA: They're wearing Nazi uniforms, Michael.

JACKSON: He made a mistake. He's a stupid young boy.


JACKSON: We all do that. We don't wear...

WALKER: You can say that again. You can say that again.


But my earliest memories go back to World War II, when George VI and Queen Elizabeth could have fled London, but they stayed in Buckingham Palace. They rallied the people. They were an inspiration. And, at the end of World War II, when the British empire became less relevant and broke up, when Pakistan and India and South Africa and Australia and Canada and New Zealand left, it's amazing how much of their tradition, their forms of government, even their -- ways in which they run their cities and towns are based on the British model.

They play the same sports in the main as well. And all that is brought together by the royal family.

WALKER: If that were all that they did, Michael, I wouldn't mind so much.

The problem is that British royal family sits like a keystone on top of a great art, which includes the unelected House of Lords, which act as my legislators. It includes a queen's officer corps in the army who are not loyal to any British constitution, but they take all oaths from the queen herself.

JACKSON: True. True.

WALKER: We're ruled by laws which are made in effect by the queen's bench.

And it's the pinnacle of an art which brings a whole sense of aristocracy, of gentry, of social deference, of class system, which I think has held our country back for a very, very long time. And it's one reason why both you and I have had the very good sense to come over here, the land of opportunity, and get away from those dumb monarchs who think of us as subjects, not citizens.

BEGALA: Wow, Martin Walker of the UPI, I'm sorry. That is going to have to be last word. Michael Jackson from Los Angeles, radio talk show host, thank you both very much for...

JACKSON: Pleasure.

BEGALA: ... for an elucidating and illuminating debate about something I didn't know anything about. So, thank you.

The Patriots won the Super Bowl. And it was a little painful for Eagles fans like Joe Watkins.



BEGALA: But even more painful when you're a congressman from Philadelphia. We'll show you his very public pain and the results of a very hard-headed bet right here in the CROSSFIRE next.


BEGALA: Well, last week right here on CROSSFIRE, Congressman Bob Brady of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, to be more specific, and Congressman Marty Meehan of Massachusetts placed a very public gentleman's bet on the Super Bowl. Well, time to pay up.

Joining us in the CROSSFIRE, Congressman Marty Meehan of Massachusetts. And now walking on to the set to pay off the bet, Congressman Bob Brady of Philadelphia.



WATKINS: There you go. There you go. There you go.

BEGALA: Oh, my goodness.

WATKINS: There you go. BEGALA: Congressman Brady.


BEGALA: Oh, I hope -- we have to get a closeup of that helmet.


WATKINS: Congressman, I'm so sorry you have to wear that helmet. I'm with you. I'm an Eagles fan, just like you are. And I was looking for the Eagles to win. Maybe next year.

But the question I have for you is this. Last week, I suggested the possibility maybe of instead of doing the helmet thing, maybe, like, you send him a lobster if he won -- or a cheese steak if he won and he would send you a lobster if you guys won.

REP. ROBERT BRADY (D), PENNSYLVANIA: Does it look like I need another lobster?


MEEHAN: I'll tell you, it was difficult to get a helmet that big. I went to the Patriots and I said, look, I need the biggest helmet you have. They said, we have Dan Koppen, our center, a B.C. grad. They get -- that's his helmet. And he's a pretty big guy. So, but -- what a great sport. I actually have this as well. This is what you get when you win the championship of the world.


WATKINS: There you go. There you go.

BRADY: If you share my pain, you want to wear it for tomorrow?


BRADY: You see what's on my head, but you see what's wrapped around my heart.

WATKINS: There you go.

BEGALA: There you go.

WATKINS: There you go.


BEGALA: Well, now, you guys are both Democrats. Let me ask you, Massachusetts wins the World Series, Boston Red Sox, first time in 80- some-odd years. Now you win two Super Bowls in a row. Why couldn't you...

MEEHAN: The presidency is next.

BEGALA: Why couldn't you get my guy Kerry across the line, Marty?

MEEHAN: Well, you know -- well, I will tell you. I was asked if I would rather change -- have the sports team not win and have Kerry win, which I really haven't answered.


MEEHAN: That would be a difficult question to answer up in Massachusetts.

BRADY: You would have a lot sports fan mad at you if you did that.


BEGALA: Are the Eagles coming back to the Super Bowl next year?


WATKINS: No doubt about it.

BEGALA: That was their first Super Bowl in, what, 24 years?

BRADY: Right.


BEGALA: They coming back next year?


BRADY: ... great draft choices. We have got $17 million below the cap. We're going to come back and we're going to see what I'm going to make him do next year.

BEGALA: And Terrell Owens will be 100 percent?


MEEHAN: Actually, the Eagles and the Patriots are going to play in a preseason game. And I'm not going to make a bet to wear a helmet over a preseason game. I can assure of that.

WATKINS: Thanks so much, man.

MEEHAN: But he's a great sport.

BEGALA: Wonderfully played.

Congressman Bob Brady of Philadelphia, painful day. Thank you for taking it like a man.


BRADY: Thank you.


BEGALA: Marty Meehan of Massachusetts, thank you both very much.

WATKINS: I'm on your side.


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

WATKINS: And from the right, I'm Joe Watkins. Join us again next time for another edition of CROSSFIRE.

"WOLF BLITZER REPORTS" starts right now.



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