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Iraq Facing New Challenges; Dean's Democratic Party

Aired February 14, 2005 - 16:30   ET


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

In the CROSSFIRE: The votes have been counted. Iraq now faces the challenge of setting up a new government.

President Bush says the vote results mark a great day. But what happens to U.S. involvement in Iraq? And are Iraq's new leaders too close to Iran?

Howard Dean wins. The one-time presidential hopeful is the new chairman of the Democratic National Committee. Can Dean turn the Democrats into contenders?



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



The Bush administration says it is ready to work with Iraq's new leaders, whoever they are. Shiite candidates won the most votes, but not enough to control the new national assembly. And how much influence will the Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, an Iranian, have in the government? We'll debate that in a few minutes.

Joining me today is Republican strategist, dear friend and radio talk show host and Philadelphian Joe Watkins.


CARVILLE: And now the best little political briefing in television, our CROSSFIRE "Political Alert."

The right wing and media sycophants who spend their time sucking up to the administration would have you believe that the president's Iraq policy is actually working. So, let's see how well it worked. We now know that Iraq was no threat to the U.S. and a mortal enemy of Iran, an Islamic fundamentalist regime that either possesses or trying to possess a nuclear bomb. And get this. As a result of the Bush policy, which has cost us 250-plus billion dollars, almost 1,500 dead, 1,000 wounded, near irreparable damage to our reputation around the world and an overstretched military. So we've succeeded in doing what? Putting a pro-Iranian government in Iraq. So now Iran can give Iraq weapons of mass destruction and we can invade Iraq again.

JOE WATKINS, GUEST CO-HOST: No, no. The Shiites don't want to emulate Iran. They don't -- they're even saying, we don't want a Shiite government. We don't want a Muslim government.


WATKINS: We want a democratic government. That's what they want.

CARVILLE: They say they want Islamic -- they want Sharia. The want the Islamic law to be law. Every one of them here supported Iran against Iraq in the Iran-Iraqi war. Sistani was born in Iran; 70 percent of the vote went to pro-Iranian parties. I mean, I think this is crazy.


CARVILLE: If you ask people, they are going to suffer all this -- and then Iran has got to be the happiest people in the world. They did nothing and got rid of somebody that hates them.

WATKINS: Well, this may be something from the forgotten-but-not- gone file, John Kerry's plans to improve the U.S. military.

The failed Democratic candidate for president gave a speech a half-hour ago introducing proposals to strengthen the military. His plan includes adding 40,000 new troops. It's a day late and a dollar short for him to trot out one of his old campaign proposals, especially when you look at his history of not being willing to back U.S. troops when it counted, like when he said this during the race.


SEN. JOHN KERRY (D), MASSACHUSETTS: I actually did vote for the $87 billion before I voted against it.


WATKINS: Didn't the American people send him a resounding message last November that they really didn't want his advice on the issue?


CARVILLE: Well, you know, it's interesting. And Senator Kerry is right that the Air Force is testifying that our C-130 are completely stressed, that our military is so overstretched, we don't -- I would be glad if we could get out of this thing with just the necessity of adding 40,000 troops. (CROSSTALK)

CARVILLE: We're liable to get out of this with a draft because of this ill -- this ill-planned policy that...


WATKINS: Where was John Kerry?


WATKINS: Where was John Kerry during the campaign?


CARVILLE: ... a Silver Star and a Bronze Star, hoss. You know what? When it was time to pony it up, he didn't go to Alabama. He went to Vietnam.


CARVILLE: Let me say -- let me see what -- let me see what you -- what President Bush had to say last Tuesday about his budget.


GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I understand these are big goals. But the job of the president is to confront problems, not to pass them on to future generations, future presidents and future Congresses.


CARVILLE: Now, there's a word that you're not supposed to call the president of the United States, and that is a liar. And I'll adhere to that rule and just call him a bald-faced liar.


CARVILLE: The evidence of that is in an article in today's "Washington Post" that points out that Bush's policy will leave staggering debt to future generations. In fact, even Republicans are out-and-out contemptuous of Bush's priorities.

Republican June O'Neill, a former director of the Congressional Budget Office, argues that current budget trajectory is no longer sustainable. You know what? Maybe the president isn't a bald-faced liar. Maybe he's just ignorant of how laughable and goofy his policies are.


WATKINS: Well, at the end of the day, you know what the truth is? The truth is that this president is on track to cut the budget deficit in half by the year 2009. It's all about...


WATKINS: Absolutely, to cut it in half by 2009.



WATKINS: That's good news.

CARVILLE: Joe, you believe that?

WATKINS: Absolutely. Absolutely..

CARVILLE: You don't believe that.


WATKINS: It's about shrinking the size of government. It's about getting government costs under control.

CARVILLE: Joe, Joe, he's going to add -- he's going to fix the AMT. The costs for the AMT are not in there. The cost for Iraq, we're not going to -- if you believe that, we're not going to spend another dollar from this day forward in Iraq. The cost for the Social Security reform is not in there.

WATKINS: California's Republican Party is taking a page from the Boy Scout manual. Be prepared. It's 16 months until the 2006 primary for governor in California.

But the party has already decided to give its endorsement to the current Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, who has yet to say whether he plans to run for reelection. They voted to change their rules to make the endorsement, which would let the party start spending money early. And it makes sense. He's not a flash in the pan. Arnold has the highest approval ratings for any California governor since Ronald Reagan and stands a good chance of winning reelection.

It's obvious the people of California like him. And guess what, Governator. I like you, too.

CARVILLE: So, let me get this straight. You come on CROSSFIRE to tell the American people that the Republican Party of California has endorsed a Republican governor.

WATKINS: With a 65 percent...

CARVILLE: Well, I'll tell you what. That's a staggering...


WATKINS: He's a star. He's a rising star in that party.


CARVILLE: .. America the Republicans have endorsed a Republican. That's news on CROSSFIRE.

WATKINS: No. No. He's a star. He is one of the rising stars of the party.


WATKINS: He's got a 65 percent approval rating?

CARVILLE: You know what? I'll ask the question no one can answer. Name me one social issue...


CARVILLE: ... that he is less liberal than Howard Dean on?

WATKINS: He has reduced the cost of government in California.


CARVILLE: I said a social issue. Iraq -- Iraq...

WATKINS: Iraq has -- Iraq has taken a very important step toward democracy. As the new government begins to form, what is next for Iraq and the U.S. troops still serving there?

And, later, the man who would be president is now officially in charge of the Democratic Party. Will Howard Dean turn things around or will he be the last straw for the Democrats?

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: Welcome back to CROSSFIRE.

The White House says it is not worried about an Iran-leaning government taking power in Iraq. The White House spokesman put it this way: "Iraq is on the path to democracy." But the man with the most influence in Iraq is an ayatollah from Iran.

Today in the CROSSFIRE, Ann Lewis, communications director for HILLPAC, a political action committee chaired by senator Hillary Rodham Clinton, and former Republican Congressman Bob Walker.

Welcome to the CROSSFIRE.

BOB WALKER (R), FORMER U.S. CONGRESSMAN: Thank you. Nice to be with you.

(CROSSTALK) CARVILLE: Congressman, let me show you an interesting article that was dug up in 1967 from the pro-Vietnam -- anti-Vietnam War, "New York Times," of all people: "United States officials were surprised and heartened today at the size and the turnout in South Vietnam's presidential election, despite a Viet Cong terrorist campaign to disrupt the voting. According to reports from Saigon, 83 percent of the 5.85 million registered voters cast their ballots."

Why was our Vietnam policy so much successful than our Iraq policy, that that successful policy could get an 83 percent turnout and the Iraq policy could only get 60?

WALKER: Well, in large part because the Sunnis decided not to participate. And I think that some of their politicians are now saying that that was maybe a mistake. They are now trying to get themselves inside a process, which is a good process. And so it seems to me that the democracy is working imperfectly there, but it is working. And that's a step in...

CARVILLE: How did it work in Vietnam?

WALKER: And that's a step in the right direction.

CARVILLE: How did it work in Vietnam when they had an 83 percent turnout? Did it work great? That was a great success, wasn't it?


WALKER: No. The problem in Vietnam was the fact that we probably had the wrong policy at the end of the time there, not giving them democracy. That wasn't the wrong policy. The wrong policy was abandoning them at the wrong time.


WALKER: And so, in my view, democracy didn't fail there.


WALKER: We failed to sustain democracy.

CARVILLE: You're not worried that they had an 83 percent turnout in Vietnam and a 60 percent turnout in Iraq?

WALKER: Well, I think that it would be better to have a higher turnout in the future. But the fact is, we don't get out 60 percent of the people here.

WATKINS: You know, Ann, we talk about the percentage of people that came out to vote in Iraq.

Think about it; 58 percent, close to 60 percent of them came out to vote on Election Day. In the United States, we don't go out to vote if it is raining outside. These folks braved terror, I mean, bombs, even their lives. They put their lives on the line to vote. Now, Charlie Rangel, who has been no friend of this administration when it comes to the war in Iraq, even said that the election by Republican standards could be considered a success.

Now, don't you think that what happened, that the turnout says all kind of wonderful things about freedom and democracy and the desire of people to be free?

ANN LEWIS, COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR, HILLPAC: Let me say, one, the desire of people to be free is great news for everybody. I cheer those people who got out there, who braved terrorists, who braved bombs, who put their lives on the line to vote. They set an example and they ought to put some of us, as you say, to shame who say, well, if the weather is not good, I'm not sure I am going to vote.

I cheer the American troops who are out there, because it's their bravery, their courage. They are making it possible for us to have democracy in Iraq. But you know what? I don't just want to cheer democracy in Iraq. I want to practice it here at home. So, I would just say to those of you who have been cheerleaders for the president's policy, in addition to cheering the fact that we had an election, let's also acknowledge that we can have legitimate debate in this country about whether or not that policy is right.

WATKINS: Well, we can indeed.


WATKINS: But the point is that, you know, what is really great about America is that we can have this kind of open debate. That's what freedom is about. We can agree even to disagree.


LEWIS: We can disagree without questioning people's patriotism.

WATKINS: You know what? the president -- think of all the naysayers before the elections in Iraq that were saying, the Iraqi people aren't going to turn to vote and this has been a terrible mistake, that those American men and women that died, died in vain. They have not died in vain. They have died for the right of other people to be free.


LEWIS: I don't know who you're arguing with. You want to beat up some straw men, go find them.

I will tell you what we said. I will tell you Senator Clinton said. Senator Clinton before the election that she cheered the bravery and the courage of those people who are going to vote, as she cheered the bravery and the courage of the American troops. Having said that, we can still have a legitimate debate about whether or not this has been the right policy overall. That's my point. And we ought to be able to do both.

WATKINS: Well, I think the results show that it has been.

(CROSSTALK) CARVILLE: Congressman, we now have given Congressman Rangel sort of the status of an icon here and a wise man. And I happen to have exactly what he said. And he did say, as my esteemed colleague, Mr. Watkins, pointed out, but I guess by Republicans standards, call that a good election.

He went on to say: "But I don't believe the American people think it was worth the lives of 1,200 Americans and 25,000 men and women in the armed services wounded, tens of thousands, if not hundreds of thousands, of Iraqis dead. We talk about, when do we leave? Well, in July 1950, I went into combat in Korea with the 2nd Infantry Division. And guess what? We're still there."

So, apparently, Congressman Rangel is not as big a fan of this as originally advertised. Do you -- or you've -- do you have any idea when we'll be able to tell these troops they will be ale to come home?

WALKER: I think we'll probably begin bringing some of them home by the end of the year, if things begin to stabilize well in that country.

But we do not know how long we might be there as a matter of helping to assure not only the democracy stabilizes in Iraq, but also that we begin to get more stability in the Middle East, period. I think it's a wonderful thing that some progress is being made in the Israeli and Palestinian situation. I think that it's a good thing that the Middle Eastern countries are talking among themselves about how to bring stability to that area. I think that's a result of the policies that we pursued there and clearly it's a good thing.


CARVILLE: Why were they talking during the Clinton administration? In fact, the principals were sitting down. They were doing a lot more then than we're talking now without these policies.

WALKER: But the fact is, we did a lot of talking and not much acting.


WALKER: Now what they have seen us do -- what they have seen us do is commit ourselves in a very positive way toward democracy in that part of the world.


WALKER: And I think it's producing tremendous results...


WALKER: That I think will be good for all of us.


CARVILLE: Where? They are talking. They are talking. OK? WALKER: But the fact -- well, the fact is, they had an election in Palestine.



CARVILLE: They have had an election in Palestine before. This is hardly a new thing. They have had elections in Palestine.


WALKER: No. No. This is a very good -- this is a very good thing, because the Palestinians in this case and so on have elected a new generation of leadership that is really seeking peace with Israel.

CARVILLE: Right. It's not new to have elections in Palestine, I'll point out.

WATKINS: If Democrats really want troops pulled out of Iran (sic), wouldn't it be smarter for them just to say, just to tell Republicans and tell everybody that the Republicans are right; the elections have been a success; and now we can move forward with pressing the Iraqis to take control of their own government? Wouldn't that make sense?

LEWIS: Joe, as I say, you keep trying to say the fact that we had an election or that we cheer people because they went out and voted and that we cheer our troops must mean retroactively that everything George Bush did is right.

And the fact is, our troops there are still paying the price for inadequate planning on the way in, for the fact that we went in based on failed intelligence.

WATKINS: Wasn't it right to remove an unjust ruler? Wasn't it right?

LEWIS: Well, if we're going to start removing unjust rulers, we have got quite a few around the world, including several that are buddies with your president. You may want to be careful about that.


LEWIS: You could make some White House visitors very nervous.

WALKER: Well, the fact is, is what George Bush...


WATKINS: Does Dr. Dean have the right prescription for the Democrats? We'll debate that next.

And who is behind the explosion that killed the former prime minister of Lebanon? Wolf Blitzer has the latest right after the break. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

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

Coming up at the top of the hour: Lebanon's former prime minister is slain in a bomb attack. Who was responsible?

What can the U.S. do about nuclear programs in Iran and North Korea? I'll ask the former NATO Supreme Allied Commander General Wesley Clark.

When he was running for the U.S. Senate, Alan Keyes had some harsh words for Vice President Cheney's lesbian daughter. Now Keyes' daughter has something to say. We'll have an exclusive interview with her.

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

Now back to CROSSFIRE.

CARVILLE: Welcome back to CROSSFIRE.

We're going to change directions to the new direction of the Democratic Party. The DNC picked former Vermont Governor Howard Dean as chairman this weekend. Dr. Dean promises a new prescription to rebuild a party in conservative parts of the country. And he says Democrats in Congress will set the tone on policy.

Here to debate the new direction, former Republican Congressman Bob Walker of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, and Ann Lewis, formerly chair for the DNC in the Women's Vote Center and one-time Clinton communications director and I think a former resident of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts...


LEWIS: That's right.

CARVILLE: I always tell my daughter, there are 46 states and four commonwealths.


CARVILLE: Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, Kentucky and Virginia.


CARVILLE: All right.

WATKINS: Now I'm sure, Ann, that you're a big fan of the new chairman. You are probably a big supporter of Howard "The Scream" Dean. And he...

(LAUGHTER) WATKINS: And was recently quoted as saying that he hates Republicans. Now, this is interesting. I mean, here it is, the new chairman of the Democratic National Committee goes on record saying he hates Republican. Now, is this really the face you want to put on what is now the -- what the Democratic Party stands for?

LEWIS: Well, I hate to go on this stage and introduce the concept of political rhetoric.


LEWIS: Because it might shock too many of you.


LEWIS: But, guys, once in a while, people in politics talk in exaggerated terms to get attention.


LEWIS: But I'll tell you, I was at that DNC meeting. I have listened to Howard Dean speak.


LEWIS: He is talking about grassroots organizing. He's talking about working with state parties.

WATKINS: He doesn't really hate Republicans.

LEWIS: He's talking about putting a real process in place that works with volunteers. I'm very encouraged. He's taking this party in the right direction.

CARVILLE: Everybody talks about, Howard Dean is liberal and how great Arnold Schwarzenegger is. I've asked this question before. Maybe you can help me. Can you name me a single social issue that Howard Dean is more liberal on than Arnold Schwarzenegger, a single one? Abortion, gay rights, gun control? Name it.

WALKER: Well, I'm not certain that I know all the social policies that Arnold Schwarzenegger has taken.



WALKER: But I'm really concerned about the issue that was raised here earlier. I mean, Howard Dean did say the other day that he hates Republicans and everything they stand for.

I think that we have had too much of the politics of hate in this country. And I would hope that, as Howard Dean steps out as the Democratic national chairman, that he will disavow that statement, because I don't think we ought to start the debate in this country between the two parties with one of the party chairmen suggesting that what he does is hates the other party.

CARVILLE: I understand.


CARVILLE: I agree. I agree. And he'll probably have to deal with that. I mean, I'm married to a Republican so it is hard for me to say I hate them.


CARVILLE: Somebody said, the only thing that James Carville likes to do is beat them and marry them. I said, whoa, wait a minute. That just..



CARVILLE: But I -- I just -- I want to go back to the point I made, is that I'm a little -- Howard Dean said that, as chairman, that he wanted to bring reform to the Democratic Party. He says, I think we have to be party of reform, reforming our dreadful fiscal situation, which I am sure that you would agree with, being a longstanding fiscal conservative. I think -- reforming our budgetary process. I'm sure you would agree that the budgetary process needs reform.

Reforming our electoral politics. I'm sure that we need to have better -- and reforming health care and reforming education and reforming our foreign policy. I'm now a big Howard Dean man. If that's what we're about, sign me up. I'm leading the charge of the...

WALKER: But you raise an interesting question. The Republican Party, it seems to me, has been able to allow vastly more in the way of diversity in our party. We have people who are very conservative an Capitol Hill. And we have people like Arnold Schwarzenegger, governor of California. That's the kind of diversity that has made our party strong.


CARVILLE: How many black congressional Republicans are there?

WALKER: There are not any black congressional Republicans at the present time. But we have had a number of people...


CARVILLE: How many black senators...


WATKINS: ... Republican run for the Senate. We had a black Republican run for...

CARVILLE: Where? Where? Alan Keyes?

WATKINS: No, no, in Michigan.


CARVILLE: Running will do you nothing.


CARVILLE: You talk about your great diversity. How many Democratic senators are there, women senators, and how many Republican women senators?

WALKER: What we were talking about here I thought a minute ago...


CARVILLE: You wanted to bring diversity. I brought it up...


WALKER: I thought we were talking philosophical diversity. And what you have is a Republican Party that does have a number of debates that help us decide policy.

I would hope, under this chairman, under Howard Dean, that you will allow the same kind of diversity inside the Democratic Party.


CARVILLE: Go ahead. Go ahead.

WATKINS: Ann, Ann, you know, Howard Dean says that he is going to live in the red states and take the Democratic message to the red states.

Now, what message, pray tell, is he going to take to the red states?


WATKINS: I'm a liberal Northeastern guy and I'm going to preach liberalism and we want you to become liberal like us?

LEWIS: Well, thanks for that version, but I would answer first, to go back to the question...


LEWIS: The Republican Party, James, is the party of diversity. They preach fiscal conservatism. They have got a president who has run up the biggest deficit any of us has ever seen.


LEWIS: And his budget is going to make that deficit worse in the out years.


WATKINS: He's cutting it in half by the year 2009.


WATKINS: So, you can call it diversity or you can call it hypocrisy. But let's be clear.


WALKER: ... the gross national product, that's not the case. And the fact...




WALKER: But the fact is that he has done it defending the country.

CARVILLE: There's no deficit, folks. There's no deficit.

WALKER: He has done it defending the country, which I remember a Democratic president in this century, Franklin Roosevelt, doing the same thing.

WATKINS: What does Dean got to say to people in the red states? he don't have anything to say to them.


CARVILLE: There's no deficit. It's all fine. It's all a myth. Percent of GDP. Don't worry about it. You don't have to pay it. It's only money.


WALKER: We have to worry about it, James, but I also worry about defending this country.

LEWIS: He can talk about balancing budgets.


LEWIS: Howard Dean can go into the red states and say, I was a governor who balanced budgets six years in a row, six...

CARVILLE: Have a drink. There's no deficit. Don't worry about it.

WATKINS: Ann Lewis, thank you so much for joining us.

Bob Walker, thank you for joining us. Great to have you on, on CROSSFIRE.


CARVILLE: Thank you all very much.

WATKINS: When you think of the Grammy Awards, the names Bill Clinton and Janet Reno probably aren't the first that come to mind. We'll fill you in on their connection to the recording industry's biggest night right after this.




CARVILLE: It sounds like the winner at last night's Grammy night is the former -- for former President Bill Clinton. He wasn't at the awards ceremony in Los Angeles, but the 42nd president of the United States received a Grammy for best spoken world album for the audio version of his memoir "My Life." He won a Grammy last year, too. And senator Hillary Clinton won one in 1997.

A member of the Clinton administration was at the show. Former Attorney General Janet Reno was there to promote an album she is working on called "Song of America." Reno, who knows a little something about rock, says that the album will trace the history of the U.S. through music. Artists taking part include Roger McGuinn of The Byrds, Mavis Staples and Alison Krauss.

WATKINS: Where are Republicans?

CARVILLE: That's good.

From the left, I'm James Carville. Thank you 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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