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Politics of Life and Death

Aired March 22, 2005 - 16:30   ET


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

In the CROSSFIRE: the politics of life and death. After one judge says no to reinserting her feeding tube, Terri Schiavo's fate is now in the hands of a federal appeals court.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Every minute that goes by that Terri's being starved to death, I'm very disheartened and I'm very concerned. So, hopefully, we can get something, a good ruling fast, so we can give Terri the -- the food that -- that she needs right now.

MICHAEL SCHIAVO, HUSBAND OF TERRI SCHIAVO: There's no happy ending. When Terri's wishes are carried out, it will be her wish. She'll be at peace. She'll be with the lord.

ANNOUNCER: What should the appeals court decide?

And Congress and the president have already weighed in on the issue, but did they go too far?



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



We're awaiting yet together court ruling on Terri Schiavo. This time, it's the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals considering the case. Were the Republicans in Washington right to get the federal courts involved? Will it ultimately make any difference in the fate of Ms. Schiavo or is she just being used for political reasons?

ROBERT NOVAK, CO-HOST: It's typical of the Democrats to see everything through a political lens. They just don't understand what it is like to really believe something and act on those beliefs. So, it's no wonder they're confused by President Bush's decision to defend life, whatever the political consequences.

We're going to discuss the latest twists and turns in the agonizing fight for the life of Terri Schiavo.

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

Ward Churchill is the loony left professor at the University of Colorado who referred to innocent victims of the 9/11 terrorist attacks as little Eichmanns, referring to the Nazi mass murderer Adolf Eichmann. Joining Professor Churchill now is Democratic Senator Jon Corzine, the fabulously rich investment banker who is an odds-on favor to become the next governor of New Jersey.

Senator Corzine has just compared Vice President Dick Cheney campaigning for Social Security to sending Saddam Hussein to campaign for democracy in Iraq. Comparing the vice president of the United States to a murderous tyrant, that's like comparing Jon Corzine to a decent United States senator.


CARVILLE: Bob, I'll get to that, but we have got to toss to John King, who has some news on that New Jersey hostage situation -- John.

JOHN KING, CNN ANCHOR: James, thanks to you very much. And back to CROSSFIRE in just a few moments.

But, first, we want to go for an update to East Brunswick, New Jersey.

Our Deb Feyerick standing by for us all day on a hostage standoff we have been covering throughout the day.

Deb, what is the latest?

DEBORAH FEYERICK, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, John, we can tell you it ended just moments ago at about 4:20.

We saw three figures, one by one, come out of the house. Their hands were raised above their hand and then they were handcuffed by SWAT team members, it appeared, who were on the scene at the time. Shortly after that, a young -- what appeared to be a young girl was walked down the street as well.

We don't know if that is the young woman who was held hostage throughout this entire ordeal. But it does appear that this is over right now, the SWAT team, about 15 members of it, walking down just as soon as this ended. Now, we can tell you, we spoke to somebody who actually heard the frantic 911 call.

The story he tells is that the girl was in the bedroom. She was handcuffed to the bed. And one of the gunmen, because we are told that they did have guns, one of the gunmen walked in, took the phone from her and then threatened police, saying that if any police showed up, they would kill the hostage, they would kill the police and then they would kill themselves. That happened at about 10:00 this morning. This ordeal now at an end. It appears that three figures, we don't know if all of them were involved in this hostage taking, but three figures, having come out of the building, they are now in police custody. They were put in the back of police cruisers. And a young girl walked from the house surrounded by police. There is an ambulance waiting just down the block. We do believe she is going to be taken to a local hospital -- John,

KING: Deborah Feyerick for us on the scene of that hostage standoff in New Brunswick, New Jersey.

We'll continue to update this story throughout the day, what appears, appears to be, at this point a peaceful end of that standoff.

Deborah, thank you very much.

And now back to CROSSFIRE.

CARVILLE: Thank you, John. It looks like it's good news. We certainly all hope so.

As they say in Washington, another lie from the Bush administration, another day. Actually, today, it is more than one and it's not about fraudulent budget estimates or an intelligence report. It has to do with one of the most dangerous substances known to man, mercury.

Yes, the EPA, an announced policy to suck up to Bush contributors and harm American's children intentionally failed to include a Harvard University study which ran counter to their pro-pollution policies. Then, of course, to compound that lie, they lied again and said it was submitted prior to the January 3 deadline. Of course, that was another lie. If they protected the environment with the same vigor they protected their lies, we'd all be a lot better off.


NOVAK: James, calling -- James, calling the president and the United States a liar isn't going to get you very far. The American people twice elected him president.



CARVILLE: Well, they elected him once. They didn't elect him in 2000.



NOVAK: Please, when I -- when I -- you mind if I speak when you're interrupting?

(CROSSTALK) CARVILLE: Go ahead, but -- protect their lies.

NOVAK: I said they elected him president of the United States. They didn't elect him to be a tree hugger like you.

CARVILLE: Right. A mercury lover.

NOVAK: Dick Cheney -- Dick Cheney should not be compared to Saddam Hussein, but how about comparing him to Richard Nixon, the senior George Bush and Al Gore, sitting vice presidents who ran for president?

Yes, the vice president has ruled himself out for president, but in today's "Washington Times," Todd Lindberg wrote a Cheney for president column. He noted that, two weeks ago, Fred Barnes wrote in "The Weekly Standard" that Cheney should seek the presidency. The vice president is clearly better qualified than any other Republican. At age 68, he would be no older than Ronald Reagan was when was elected. As for recurrent heart disease, as Todd Lindberg notes, Dick Cheney has the best health care money can buy.

CARVILLE: Maybe my wife will run his campaign. And I can run Hillary's and we can have...


CARVILLE: Have a hell a time, huh?

Reading my morning dose of the liberal establishment "New York Times," I ran across a piece that exposed Republican scumbaggery, ripping off Indian tribes by Republican lobbyist Jack Abramoff, African tyrants and dictators being paid by Republican stalwarts like Grover Norquist, more sleazy goings-on by Tom DeLay, sleazy chief -- former Chief of Staff Ed Buckman, publicity pious stalwart Ralph Reed accepting $4 million in gaming money.

If you think that came from my beloved Democratic Party, you're wrong. That piece was written by a conservative columnist by the name of David Brooks. I don't think I have ever met Mr. Brooks, but he has displayed more courage in taking on trashy Republicanism than the entire Washington wing of the Democratic Party. Carville to Democrats: Maybe it's time we talked about reform.


NOVAK: Well, you know, I do know Mr. Brooks. And I will tell you one thing. David Brooks is no conservative. He's right about Jack Abramoff, wrong about Grover Norquist.

CARVILLE: What's he doing...


CARVILLE: ... African dictators?

NOVAK: Terri Schiavo's life is in the hands of a federal appeals court at this hour.

Next, we'll debate the political fallout from this life and death legal fight.

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.



CARVILLE: Once again, the fate of Terri Schiavo is in the hands of a court. This time, it's three federal appeals judges in Atlanta considering the case. What will they decide? And should they even be involved?

Here to debate the issue with us is Jay Sekulow with the Center For American Law and Justice, who is representing Schiavo's parents, and Congressman Jim Moran, my congressman from Northern Virginia.


NOVAK: Congressman, thanks for coming in.

I would like you to listen to a statement made by the attorney for the -- Ms. Schiavo's family. Let's listen to him.


DAVID GIBBS, ATTORNEY FOR PARENTS OF TERRI SCHIAVO: ... she's being denied is her fundamental right to life. She is being murdered in a barbaric fashion. She is being starved to death. And so, as we look at this case, we say her life, we say her liberty, we say her religious freedom, and, yes, we agree her right to privacy is even being violated, because we don't believe Terri ever had these wishes.

There was never a time where Terri Schiavo said, you know, if I'm ever brain-damaged, be sure to starve me to death.


NOVAK: Do you have some embarrassment, Congressman, of acquiescing and supporting the starving to death of a human being in a state where to do the same with a dog is a felony?

REP. JIM MORAN (D), VIRGINIA: I'm not the one that should be embarrassed. But if you're taking that position, Bob, you should.

And, certainly, my colleagues in the Congress should be embarrassed at the idea that they would reach in to a family tragedy and pick sides in an area that they have no business getting involved in. I don't know who's right. He's paid to use inflammatory words, and he -- and he did that. I don't know where Jay is coming from. And you don't know who's right in this court case. James doesn't know. Jay doesn't know.

But I do know that 19 judges, many of them conservative Republicans, in 10 court cases, all of them decided that Terri Schiavo's wishes were most consistently carried out by agreeing with the husband that she would have wanted her -- the tube taken out of her mouth.


MORAN: Now, 10 court cases, Bob, what more do you need, 19 judges?


NOVAK: You're making a nice speech, but I asked you a question.

MORAN: Nice -- I'm just telling you the facts. That's all I know and that's all you know.


NOVAK: Well, I would like you to listen to my question this time. I know you have got your talking points.

MORAN: You asked if I was going to be embarrassed. I don't have any talking points.

NOVAK: I just wondered if there is some problem. I can't understand how a human being could say, we're taking a decision that murders this woman and you don't have any problem with that?

MORAN: Oh. Oh, listen to that language.

NOVAK: I'm asking you. Isn't she being murdered?

MORAN: This -- we're talking about sustaining what is biological life, but she does not have a cerebral cortex.

NOVAK: Oh, you know, huh?

MORAN: She can't think.

NOVAK: You know that, huh?

MORAN: Well, I know that the doctors who examined her, Bob, said she doesn't. They looked at the X-rays.


MORAN: You know, you're not a doctor. I'm not a doctor.

JAY SEKULOW, CHIEF COUNSEL, AMERICAN CENTER FOR LAW AND JUSTICE: That's a problem, by the way. They looked at -- they looked at X- rays. They have not done a PET scan and that's never been done with this woman.

CARVILLE: All right. Let me -- let me just say that...


CARVILLE: ... I find it strange that, on August 6, 2001, President Bush gets a CIA intelligence briefing that says that Osama bin Laden is about to strike the United States, and he doesn't move. He stays in Texas.

Then, the right -- the ultra right-wing people come in and say, this is a cause celebre. We're going to politicize this thing. He gets up at 1:00 in the morning, signs a bill, gets on a jet and comes back to Washington.


CARVILLE: Don't you think there's something wrong with the priorities here?


SEKULOW: Well, do you -- James, let me ask you this.


SEKULOW: Do you really think -- and I'm surprised at you.

CARVILLE: Don't be surprised...


SEKULOW: Do you -- do you really think that...


CARVILLE: I really think Osama bin Laden is a bigger threat than Terri Schiavo.



SEKULOW: Yes, well, unless you're in Terri Schiavo's position. And if you're in Terri Schiavo's position, it's pretty threatening if you're going to be starved to death. That's No. 1.



CARVILLE: You know what?

SEKULOW: Hold it. Hold it. Hold it, James.

NOVAK: James...

(CROSSTALK) CARVILLE: You don't like the question.

SEKULOW: No, I'm...


NOVAK: Let him answer it!

SEKULOW: Obviously, you don't want me to answer it.

CARVILLE: Go ahead.

SEKULOW: Now, here's the -- here's the answer.

CARVILLE: Go ahead.

SEKULOW: The president took action after Congress passed a bill. The person's life and liberty was on the line. Congress made a decision. Now, the congressman brings up a point. Some didn't like the decision that was made. But once it's made, it's not you deciding, you, James, or anybody else.


CARVILLE: I'm not deciding anything. I'm saying, it's more important to come back to Washington to fight terrorism...

SEKULOW: You talking to me...


CARVILLE: ... than it is to suck up to the right wing of the Republican Party.

SEKULOW: Do you consider -- do you...


SEKULOW: Hold it. Hold it. Hold it.


SEKULOW: James, do you think that the Americans -- the Americans with disabilities groups from all broad spectrums of groups, do you think those American disabilities group...


SEKULOW: Excuse me. I'm not here to be a potted plant.


CARVILLE: I think terrorism is more important.

NOVAK: Could you let him finish a sentence?

CARVILLE: Go ahead.

SEKULOW: You know, James, what you're doing is?


SEKULOW: You won't look at the fundamentals. I am a lawyer. I deal with evidence.

CARVILLE: Right. Right.

SEKULOW: Evidence one, look who has filed briefs on behalf of Terri Schiavo's side, disability groups. From your perspective...

CARVILLE: Nineteen judges.

SEKULOW: No, 19 judges, not one of which, by the way, James -- not one of those judges has ever laid their eyes on Terri Schiavo. Do you know that?


SEKULOW: Hold it, 19 judges. Hold it, you're sentencing someone to death and you don't look at them?


SEKULOW: A judge has never...


CARVILLE: They sentence people to death all the time. They never saw the crime.

SEKULOW: There hasn't been a neurological exam of this woman.


SEKULOW: There you go.

NOVAK: Congressman -- Congressman -- Congressman Moran, I'd like to read you a statement made by your colleague, Al Wynn, Democrat of Maryland. And I am sure you think he's a good guy. I think he's a good guy.

He said: "At the end of the day, I believe, in the absence of a living will expressing her desires, and giving the willingness of her parents and siblings to care for her, Congress should afford Ms. Schiavo the opportunity to continue receiving life-saving sustenance."

Now, isn't it a fact that when the Congress passed the bill, that that's what they intended the federal judge to do, until it looked at the facts, to continue to give her life-saving sustenance? And the judge, the Clinton appointee, is ignoring the act of Congress. Isn't that correct?

MORAN: There were 19 judges, many of them Republican-appointed judges.

SEKULOW: What about this judge...


MORAN: All of whom concluded the same way that this judge. But because this judge is a Clinton appointee, you denigrate that decision. All of the judges have reached the same conclusion because they looked at all the evidence, heard from all of the witnesses, Bob. We didn't.


SEKULOW: Congressman, I mean, I know you don't like the bill, but it was passed and it's law.


SEKULOW: Here was the job. The federal judge's job at that point, James -- wait a minute -- was supposed to look at the evidence. It was supposed to be a de novo review, which legally means a full review of everything.


SEKULOW: He did this in an hour and 15 minutes. That's impossible, legally impossible.


CARVILLE: I understand you don't want to answer questions.

Let me go to a person who represents Congressman Moran and myself in Virginia in the...

SEKULOW: By the way, the Congressional Black Caucus filed in favor of this also.

CARVILLE: Let me -- let me go again -- let me just try to get a question out -- to a person that represents us in the Senate of the United States, the senior senator from my state of Virginia, who I don't vote for and don't share a party for, but who has been around for quite a long time. And I think his credentials as a conservative are pretty well established.

And that is Senator John Warner, who said: "I believe it is unwise to take from the state of Florida its constitutional responsibility to resolve issues in this case. This bill, in effect, challenges the integrity and capabilities of the state courts in Florida."

Now, it used to be that Republicans were for sort of states' rights. But they're for states' rights only if they like the result that states' rights produce. Why is our senator...

(APPLAUSE) CARVILLE: Senator for Congressman Moran and I, Jim -- John Warner, doing this? I notice Mr. Novak didn't bring up Senator Warner.

MORAN: James, there's another aspect to this.

You know, on the very same night that they brought this bill up without any notice, passed it unanimously at 10:30, because none of us were aware it was coming up, that was the day we passed a budget resolution that took tens of billions of dollars out of the...


MORAN: Oh, sure. That's what we're supposed to be doing. We're not supposed to get...


MORAN: It took tens of billions from sick elderly people who are dependent upon that very care.

SEKULOW: you know what? That's all great.


SEKULOW: But you know what?


MORAN: They have a brain. And, you know -- and we're taking their care from them.


SEKULOW: No one is putting themselves...


SEKULOW: But you passed a bill, Congressman. And the federal judge is supposed to comply with the law. And instead of complying with the law, he gave it a blink, a nod.


NOVAK: All right, we're going to take a break.

Next, the battle of the doctors, Dr. Bill Frist vs. Dr. Howard Dean.

And what led a Minnesota teen teenager to allegedly go on a shooting rampage at his school? New details right after this break.


KING: I'm John King in Washington, sitting in for Wolf Blitzer. Coming up at the top of the hour, Wolf Blitzer continues his tour of the Persian Gulf two years after the Iraq invasion. Today, he reports from the Bonhomme Richard.

Also, the latest on those Minnesota school shootings. A Web site may offer a clue.

And big changes may be coming at the United Nations. We'll discuss them with former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright.

All those stories and much more just minutes away on "WOLF BLITZER REPORTS."

Now back to CROSSFIRE.

CARVILLE: Another court ruling is expected soon in the case of Terri Schiavo. Will this one finally bring closure? We're discussing the case today with Jay Sekulow, chief counsel of the American Center For Law and Justice, and Democratic Congressman Jim Moran of Virginia.

NOVAK: Congressman Moran, you're a leader. You know who your leader is? It's Howard Dean. He's the chairman of the Democratic National Committee. And he said -- he said: "For Senator Frist," who's a doctor, "to say he can make a diagnosis based on a videotape is certainly not medically sound. I wouldn't want any doctor making any diagnose on me on videotape. And I'm speaking as a medical doctor."

But Senator Frist didn't make any diagnosis based on videotape. What he said was that there was no question that these doctors had not diagnosed the woman. Do you understand that?

MORAN: Several people who said -- made a big point about them also being doctors, as well as members of Congress, said that, in their medical opinion, in the debate on the House floor -- I didn't listen to all the Senate debate -- but the fact is that they were basing their conclusions on a videotape, an edited videotape, a few second of about four and a half hours of taping, where they showed the reflexive actions of Terri Schiavo that the doctors said were entirely consistent with her not having a cerebral cortex.

It didn't prove anything. They didn't examine her. The doctors that did examine her came to the conclusion that she has no functioning of her cerebrum.


MORAN: And with her cerebral cortex missing, she doesn't feel pain. She doesn't experience motion and she doesn't think or reflect.


MORAN: So it's very different than when we talk about saving human life.

(CROSSTALK) SEKULOW: You hope she doesn't feel pain, obviously...


SEKULOW: ... starved to death.


MORAN: ... so much anti-science.

CARVILLE: I'll be honest here. I don't like this topic. Obviously, we have to do it today on the show. It's not my favorite topic. There's a ESPN Game...

SEKULOW: I'm not going to take it personally.

CARVILLE: Right. I was saying, it's a ESPN "GameDay" atmosphere out there. I notice these TV networks are doing that. And, you know, everybody is trying to jack their ratings up on this poor woman.

This is what my question is.


CARVILLE: We have got exploding health care costs. There's a story about the military being stretched to the point that it's completely broken now.


CARVILLE: The Pentagon is in your district. You see that. We're not creating a single penny in income growth. The deficit is spiraling out of control. Isn't this some kind of diversionary tactic to take the American people's minds...



CARVILLE: We have got gas prices going to $3 a gallon.

SEKULOW: You know, James...


CARVILLE: I mean, they can't be serious that they're getting involved in this, can they?

SEKULOW: It's not an ESPN game if you're the parents and the family of Terri Schiavo.

CARVILLE: I understand. And it happens all the time.

SEKULOW: So, I hope we're not reaching a point where we're making a decision about value of life...


SEKULOW: ... whether you think it's significant or not based on how much it costs or doesn't cost, because that's really what you're talking about.


SEKULOW: Because people with disabilities are...


CARVILLE: I'm saying that this is hardly -- this is hardly something -- people every day are faced with this. My heart goes out to them.

SEKULOW: In America, we don't give an I.Q. test to see if you get health care.


NOVAK: Congressman Moran, isn't what James is doing, isn't he's saying that you're getting us off the subject of Bush bashing? Anything that's not Bush bashing, we don't like, even if the stake of a human -- even if the life of a human being is at stake. Isn't that what he said?

MORAN: I think what he is suggesting that, when we cut tens of billions of dollars from the program that serves the indignant elderly in nursing homes -- thousands of those sick, poor people are going to be kicked out of nursing homes the very night that we focus on...


MORAN: But it's the same issue.

SEKULOW: But don't penalize -- but don't penalize Terri Schiavo.


MORAN: We're talking about saving life.


MORAN: ... lives. And they're dependent on the federal government.

NOVAK: I'm glad you confirmed what I said.

Thank you very much, Mr. Moran, Mr. Sekulow.

SEKULOW: Pleasure, as always.


NOVAK: What happens when they turn some real party animals loose on Capitol Hill? We'll show you next. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)


CARVILLE: The elephants are really overrunning Washington these days. And I just don't mean the GOP. That's right. A group of real elephants boldly paraded past the Capitol Building yesterday. They -- the Ringling Brothers Barnum and Bailey Circus, which is in town for the next few weeks.

In a nod to nonpartisanship, organizers brought a couple of donkeys along on the march.


CARVILLE: Two lone donkeys facing six giant elephants, let's hope that's not a political omen.


NOVAK: You know, I think it's really silly to have a circus in Washington, because you can go up to Capitol Hill any day that Congress is in session and you see a circus right there every day. You know that?


CARVILLE: Yes, under the big top, with the big top right there. Very good point, Robert.

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.

"WOLF BLITZER REPORTS" starts right now.



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