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CNN CROSSFIRE

Bolton Nomination Goes to Full Senate; Pay to Stay at the White House?; DeLay Supporters Hold Soiree

Aired May 12, 2005 - 16:30   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


ANNOUNCER: CROSSFIRE. On the left, Paul Begala. On the right, Robert Novak. In the CROSSFIRE, President Bush's controversial U.N. pick is out of committee, but not without a fight.
SEN. GEORGE VOINOVICH, (R) OHIO: It is my opinion that John Bolton is the poster child of what someone in the diplomatic corps should not be.

ANNOUNCER: What lies ahead, now that John Bolton's nomination is going before the full Senate.

Tonight, admirers pay tribute to the man at the center of a political firestorm. Who's attending the Tom DeLay tribute in Washington, and, perhaps more importantly, who's not?

Today, on CROSSFIRE. Live from the George Washington University, Paul Begala and Robert Novak.

PAUL BEGALA, ON THE LEFT: Hello, everybody. Welcome to CROSSFIRE.

The Senate Foreign Relations Committee voted a little more than an hour ago to send John Bolton's nomination as U.N. ambassador to the full United States Senate. Senator George Voinovich of Ohio, a Republican, denounced Bolton today in the committee, and said that when a full Senate vote is taken, he will vote against Mr. Bolton's confirmation.

ROBERT NOVAK, ON THE RIGHT: Senator Voinovich did not completely play into the hands of the Democratic character assassins. At least he seized the wisdom of allowing the nominee an up or down vote on the floor. Why are the Democrats conducting this vendetta against an experienced and dedicated public servant?

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

The Senate Judiciary Committee ran out of time today and postponed until next week, sending to the floor Terrence Boyles' nomination for the U -- for the fourth U.S. court of appeals. But he can wait. He's been waiting for nearly 15 years, since the first President Bush nominated him. He hasn't been waiting in a cave. He has held a lifetime seat as a U.S. district judge in North Carolina for 21 years. He's rated well-qualified by the ABA. Judge Boyle's problem is, that he once worked for former Senator Jesse Helms, and is the son-in-law of North Carolina conservative leader Tom Ellis. Is that enough? Is that justification for Democrats to continue this vendetta and wage a filibuster against Judge Boyle?

BEGALA: Oh, well, he hasn't been in a cave, but his rulings suggest a cave man. Here are some of the rulings. I've looked them up. He wrote that the federal government, in an opinion, a legal opinion, he said the federal government should respect the fact that discrimination is part of North Carolina's culture. That's outrageous. He has ruled time and again against people with disabilities and against the Americans with Disabilities Act, saying we should allow state government to discriminate against people who are disabled. He's an unfit judge for a high court.

NOVAK: Paul, Paul, Paul, he's not a liberal, but, what he is -- he has a less of a percentage of reversal than the national average and he's well-qualified by the liberal LABA.

BEGALA: Well, remember how the Republicans faded with outrage when it was revealed President Clinton had allowed some of his campaign donors to sleep in the White House? But, in yet another example of the staggering hypocrisy of the Republican party, we now learn today that fully one-third of the overnight guests of president George W. Bush in the White House or Camp David were themselves fund raisers or donors to Mr. Bush's campaign.

Now, look, some will no doubt turn out to be long-time friends, but you know, that was true of President Clinton as well. I have to admit, I love Republican hypocrisy, and you know, lately I've felt a little bit like a mosquito in a nudist colony. Everywhere I look there's a big fat juicy target.

NOVAK: Well, let me say, there's a big difference -- among those of Republican donors and fund raisers, half of them are family and friends. We're talking about 12 couples in the fund-raising category while, in fact, the Clintons were running Heartbreak Hotel. Anybody who had the money could sleep in the Lincoln bedroom. It's a big difference.

BEGALA: Not, it's the same thing. Some of the president's guests are friends. Some are strangers who gave $100,000 to his campaign and got access to the Lincoln bedroom.

NOVAK: What couples?

BEGALA: If it was an outrage when Clinton did it, it's an outrage when Bush did it, but that's the thing. To be a hypocrite -- to be a Republican -- today is to believe in hypocrisy. That's what they do.

(APPLAUSE)

NOVAK: New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson is one of my favorite Democrats and he's a very funny guy. But when I heard him address the Washington Gridiron's Club annual dinner in March, I was surprised how very funny he was. Now I know why. The Associated Press reports Richardson's campaign fund paid a $12,000 to professional gag writers to craft him a comic routine for the dinner. Politicians these days use their campaign funds like a personal treasure chest. Coincidentally, Democratic State Senator John Ford of Memphis, Tennessee, was fined $10,000 yesterday for spending $15,000 in campaign funds for his daughter's wedding. Doesn't that leave him $5,000 ahead of the game? These politicians may not be as dumb as they look.

BEGALA: That's a good point. No politician should use campaign funds to pay for his daughter's wedding, but I think it's great that Governor Richardson has political supporters who paid for joke writers. I think it's terrific. He came to -- you remember the Gridiron Club. It's a very big deal in Washington, and I'm told he killed. He was hilarious, so good for him. I think it's great.

NOVAK: He was great. Wouldn't it have been nice -- I love Bill Richardson -- but wouldn't it have been nice, instead of taking it out of his campaign fund. He's a rich guy. All Democrats are rich. He took the money out and paid for it himself.

BEGALA: President Bush -- the taxpayers pay for his speech writers, and good for them. We should. He's our president. He goes and gives jokes and we pay for the speech writers that write the jokes. Ah, this is a nothing thing. I think that Richardson is funny. I'm glad he hired some comedians.

Well, anyway, back on my hypocrisy watch. Conservative Republicans love to claim that they are morally superior to you. So, let's take a look, shall we? Dr. David Haguer (ph) is one of the leading lights of the self-proclaimed Christian right. He's a close Bush ally in the fight against emergency contraception. Dr. Haguer's ex-wife tells "The Nation" magazine that during their 32-year marriage he repeatedly sodomized her against her will. If true, that would be rape.

Or, take Don Sherwood, the self-proclaimed family-values Republican congressman from Pennsylvania. He stands accused by a 29- year-old woman named Cynthia Orr (ph) of having a six-year long affair with her and then trying to choke her. Charming.

Or, how about Spokane Mayor James West, a leading anti-gay Republican who is accused of molesting boys and offering city jobs to men in a gay chat room.

My favorite might be Jim Stelling (ph). He is the Florida Republican official who is suing a woman who wrote that he's been married six times. Stelling, it turns out, has only been married a mere five times.

NOVAK: You know, Paul, as a Catholic convert, I learned that we're all sinners, just some people are bigger sinners than others. But I really do believe that you were wringing your hands so badly when we told about Bill Clinton's reprehensible personal life, all the women who complained about him, all the people he knocked on (ph). I thought it was OK to say that. I think it's OK to say about these people, too.

BEGALA: At least you're being consistent. Up next on CROSSFIRE, out of committee and perhaps into the fire. John Bolton clears a Senate committee, but only after receiving a tongue lashing from a major Republican senator.

And then later, we are seeing red again in the nation's capital but this time, thank goodness, there were no evacuations. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BEGALA: Welcome back to CROSSFIRE. President Bush wants John Bolton to be his man at the U.N. And presidents nearly always get the team they want, especially in foreign affairs. And yet, Mr. Bolton's nomination may be in trouble. Revelations of abusive behavior and allegations of manipulating intelligence have even some Republicans wondering if they can support Bolton. At least one senator has already committed to voting no when the nomination reaches the Senate floor.

Joining us today to discuss this controversial nomination in the CROSSFIRE, Representative Steven King, a Republican from Iowa -- he joins us from Capitol Hill -- and Democratic Congressman from California Adam Schiff. Gentlemen, good to see you both.

REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D), CALIFORNIA: Good to see you.

NOVAK: Congressman Schiff, Senator Voinovich is a kind of quirky guy. He did a tongue lashing for John Bolton. But that isn't what the real heart of the Republican Party thinks. Let me give you another Republican who I think has a better -- better captures the spirit of the party and what they think of John Bolton. Let's listen to Senator George Allen of Virginia at today's hearing.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. GEORGE ALLEN (R), VIRGINIA: We are not electing Mr. Congeniality. We do not need Mr. Milquetoast in the United Nations. We're not electing Mr. Peepers to go there and just be really happy and drinking tea with their pinkies up and just saying all these meaningless things when we do need a straight-talker and someone who's going to go there and shake it up. And it needs shaking up. It needs reform.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

NOVAK: Mr. Schiff, do you want Mr. Milquetoast, Mr. Peepers and Mr. Congeniality there?

SCHIFF: No. I think that's the quirky senator there. Senator Voinovich, I think, is known as a straight-shooter. And I think he's shot very straight today. We don't want John Bolton representing the country at the United Nations. And I think he's more than the wrong choice. I think it's a choice that really hurts the country.

And I would agree that normally, you are very differential to the president. He gets to pick his choices. But when it has an affirmative injury to the country, when we have someone with a track record like John Bolton has, when there's a real pressing need to reform the United Nations, you don't want somebody who's going to attack it, but rather can work constructively. This is really the wrong choice.

NOVAK: Congressman Schiff, I want to ask you if you understand what's going on here? You're in the lower House, and you may not appreciate what's going on there. This has nothing to do with John Bolton's personality. It's a vendetta by Senator Chris Dodd because John Bolton is anti-Castro. And anybody who's anti-Castro Senator Dodd cannot tolerate. Isn't that what's really going on?

SCHIFF: You know, with all due respect, Bob, I don't think that's anything to do with what's going on. This is a choice that I think is enormously destructive to our relationship, which is already strained with the rest of the world. And how we could go from having someone of the stature of John Danforth to a John Bolton is just beside me. I can't understand it.

For no other reason than if you look at the NPT review going on now, when John Bolton should have been leading the charge to reform and to strengthen the NPT, the Nonproliferation Treaty, dealing with the number-one national security threat facing the country, according to the president, and that is nuclear terrorist, Mr. Bolton has been AWOL. He's more focused on the next job than doing well at the last job. And particularly given the history, where we've had the politicizing of intelligence over WMD, why we would pick someone who the very same issue has been raised repeatedly, and that is John Bolton's politicization of the intelligence he got on Cuba and other issues, why we would want someone with that lack of credibility I can't understand.

BEGALA: Let me bring Congressman King into this. First, thank you for joining us. Good to see you again.

REP. STEVE KING (R), IOWA: Thank you.

BEGALA: Congressman, Senator Voinovich, a Republican -- maybe denigrated occasionally by Mr. Novak -- not when he votes for tax cuts, but just now --

NOVAK: He usually votes against them.

BEGALA: -- not when he opposes Mr. Bolton, but the plain fact is, he is a Republican, and a very loyal one of over three decades in public service. He said today in the hearing that he'd examined Mr. Bolton's record, that he looked carefully at all of the information that had been brought to the committee, and even talked to people at the U.S. State Department who work for President Bush and used to work for Mr. Bolton, and here's the conclusion he drew off. Let me play you a piece of videotape from Mr. Voinovich today.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. GEORGE VOINOVICH (R), OHIO: It is my opinion that John Bolton is the poster child of what someone in the diplomatic corps should not be.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BEGALA: Those are pretty strong words, Congressman. You care to respond to them?

KING: I would care to. And first of all, you can establish someone there who is a diplomat, who has the best diplomatic credentials, someone who is a Milquetoast. And someone -- diplomats, by their very definition, are to be trained to get along with people, never rub people the wrong way, never allow any animus to be created in any negotiations, always smooth, smooth sailing. Well, smooth, smooth sailing in the United Nations has gotten us a $64 billion oil- for-food program, of which Saddam Hussein has scooped off 10.1 billion. We're seeing this pop up now with members of the legislature, with either France and Germany and people that were close to Jacques Chirac being people that were collecting money from the oil-for-food program. That's one of the things.

We have a United Nations that has morphed into a Third World- class NB (ph) debate society, where some of the people in this country that are apologists for that believe that because its people that sit there that are dictators are representing a country that they actually represent their people. It takes someone who's got strong leadership and strong language.

BEGALA: Well, let's take a look at how he has led. I find it interesting that the Republican position is now that in fact we need a thug and bully, somebody who kisses up and kicks down, unlike, as Congressman Schiff said, say, John Danforth, a man of great dignity and integrity and a Republican senator before went to the U.N. But some of his former colleagues, Mr. Bolton's colleagues in the Bush administration are accusing him not just of being a thug and a bully, which is pretty common in Washington among jerks like that, but instead of manipulating intelligence. Now this is a serious allegation.

Robert Hutchings was the director of President Bush's National Intelligence Council. Here's what Mr. Hutchings says of Mr. Bolton: Bolton, quote, "took isolated facts and made much more of them to build a case than I thought the intelligence warranted. It was a sort of cherry-picking of little factoids and little isolated bits that were drawn out to present the starkest possible case."

That's a fancy way of saying he misleads us on intelligence. Why would we want someone who misleads us on intelligence to lead America at the U.N.?

KING: It might well be that Mr. Bolton had his own opinion and challenged the intelligence.

BEGALA: But not his own facts.

KING: And he used those facts to challenge it. And if doesn't accept the intelligence premises delivered to him, that means to me that he's an independent thinker. I think we have to give him that. BEGALA: But so are people who believe in a flat Earth. But shouldn't we have an agreed-upon set of intelligence that then we act on? You're not allowed to make up your own intelligence.

KING: I hope we don't have.

BEGALA: Really?

KING: I hope we have an independent analysis of intelligence so that we don't end up with all of us following in the same path like we did with WMD in Iraq.

BEGALA: But he's rejecting -- he was the one who went with the path on WMD.

SCHIFF: I think this exactly the problem, and that is that we want people that are representing the country that will accurately represent what the intelligence they are receiving is so that the Congress is not misled, so the country is not misled. We already lost significant credibility over the WMD issue in Iraq. We obviously haven't found the WMD. Our intelligence was seriously flawed. Is this the best, bob? Is this the best that President Bush can nominate? Is he the best choice? I like Tom Friedman's suggestion. Why not have the president nominate his father? That would be an outstanding choice.

NOVAK: Paul was all for him until he found out that the party line was against him.

BEGALA: No. I was for him.

NOVAK: Yeah, yeah, yeah.

BEGALA: I was for him. Let me defend myself. I was for him until I learned he manipulated intelligence. I thought being a bully was not --

NOVAK: You were for him until you learned the party line was to be against him.

BEGALA: No, I set the party line, Mr. Novak.. I was for him until I learned he manipulated intelligence.

SCHIFF: In the universe of conservatives in Washington, of which there are a great many, is this really the best we can do?

NOVAK: He's the best. He is really -- he is one of the best men in Washington, believe me.

SCHIFF: He may be at one extreme, but the best is not the right side of the pole.

BEGALA: Hang on just a second. We're going to take a quick break, and then we're going to have to switch to a different topic. Guess who is not coming to dinner. Next in the CROSSFIRE, some conspicuously empty seats tonight at the big suck-up gala honoring Tom DeLay. Who is going and who respectfully, cowardly declined?

And then also after the break, when did President Bush learn about yesterday's security scare at the White House? Wolf Blitzer will have details when we're back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WOLF BLITZER, HOST "WOLF BLITZER REPORTS": I'm Wolf Blitzer in Washington.

Coming up at the top of the hour, take a look at this. A retaining wall has just collapsed along the Henry Hudson Parkway in Manhattan, a retaining wall that has caused an enormous snarl of traffic problem in that entire region. No reports of any injuries. We're watching it. Emergency personnel on the scene. We'll get some more information as it becomes available.

Also, the Foreign Relations Committee in the U.S. Senate sending John Bolton's name to the full Senate floor, but the fight over his nomination is a long way from over.

President Bush didn't know about yesterday's Washington security alert until after it was over. The White House, promising a full review.

And why you might want to start paying more attention to the messages they put inside fortune cookies. Mary Snow has a special report. All those stories, much more, only minutes away on "WOLF BLITZER REPORTS."

Now, back to CROSSFIRE.

NOVAK: Tonight in Washington, about 900 of Congressman Tom DeLay's closest friends will gather for a tribute to the House majority leader. I'll be there and so will a lot of grassroot supporters of the gutsy Texan.

Our guest, continuing, Democratic Congressman Adam Schiff of California and Republican Representative Steve King of Iowa, who, by the way, will also be at tonight's event.

BEGALA: Congressman King, not to give you advice, but Tom DeLay is in trouble for being too close to sleazy lobbyists, so you all are going to circle the limousines with a bunch of sleazy lobbyists. Some free advice here: I worked for President Clinton in the White House. When he got in trouble, we didn't have a big party with the interns. Why are you doing this?

(LAUGHTER)

KING: I am really proud to stand up with Tom DeLay, and here I am, on the national television. I hope the cameras are there to see all the people that stand up with Tom DeLay, as well.

BEGALA: I do, too. KING: I've been looking forward to this for weeks, and I'm happy to write a check to help him out, as well. He has a right to defend himself.

NOVAK: Good for you.

Congressman Schiff, I have -- there's big lines on Capitol Hill on your side of the capital, of Congressman who haven't done their filing on trips paid for by private organizations, and it's a who's who of liberals. We'll put some of the names up there. Maxine Waters, nine late filings. Bernie Sanders, three late filings. Everybody does it. Isn't it? You are just after Tom DeLay because he's successful and powerful Republican, isn't that right?

SCHIFF: No, it's not right. The majority leader has been rebuked three times by the bi-partisan Ethics Committee.

KING: He's not been rebuked.

SCHIFF: In 19 -- in 19...

KING: He was admonished.

(CROSSTALK)

SCHIFF: In 1994, the Republicans charged into town with a Contract with America, saying they were going to restore integrity and ethics to the Capitol. I think there's been a very serious breach of contract.

NOVAK: Well, don't we have to have the correct word?

SCHIFF: And I think we need to restore ethics...

NOVAK: Isn't it the one... (ph)

SCHIFF: ...and integrity, and it has to start at the top.

NOVAK: Isn't the word -- isn't the word...

SCHIFF: We just don't have it in the majority leader.

NOVAK: Isn't the word -- that he was admonished? Not -- you said rebuked.

SCHIFF: Well, OK, he was admonished.

NOVAK: Thank you very much.

SCHIFF: You have properly admonished me and I'm rebuking you back.

(LAUGHTER)

NOVAK: Very good.

BEGALA: Well done. Thank you very much.

NOVAK: OK, thank you very much, Congressman Schiff. Congressman Steve King, thank you very much.

KING: Thank you.

NOVAK: Up next, we'll tell you why Laura Bush and Nancy Reagan were seeing red today.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BEGALA: Finally, this, from the CROSSFIRE fashion update. There are ladies in red and then there are first ladies in red. First Lady Laura Bush and former First Lady Nancy Reagan today attended the unveiling of the First Ladies' Red Dress Collection exhibit at the Kennedy Center in Washington. I know Bob Novak, for one, cannot wait to see it because the exhibit features red dresses and suits worn by seven of our nation's first ladies. It is sponsored by the Heart Truth Campaign which is raising national awareness about heart disease, which is, you may not know, the number one killer of women in America.

Especially heart-warming, I have to say, to see Nancy Reagan back in Washington. She was often mistreated by my fellow Democrats when she was first lady. That was unfortunate and it was unfair. She's a national treasure. Welcome back to Washington, Mrs. Reagan. You still look good in red.

NOVAK: You know, we mentioned the Gridiron Club tonight, and Nancy Reagan was in big trouble in her first year as first lady, being attacked. We had a number where she sang at the Gridiron Dinner, "secondhand Rose, Secondhand Clothes." You remember, she had changed clothes, and that really changed the whole attitude toward her. I thought she was a good sport and a lot of fun.

BEGALA: And she was. Obviously, I never knew -- don't know her personally, but she did a great job as our first lady, and that's -- that was one -- the Democrats should have left her offlimits. I'm proud to say, today, there are no Democrats attacking Laura Bush nor should there be. She's a terrific first lady herself, so...

NOVAK: And I want to -- I want to -- go ahead.

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

NOVAK: And I want to wish Paul Begala a happy 44th birthday. Happy birthday, Paul. From the right, I'm Robert Novak. See you next time for another edition of CROSSFIRE. "WOLF BLITZER REPORTS" starts right now.

END

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