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CNN CROSSFIRE

Military Base Closures Debated; Remarks by Howard Dean Examined

Aired May 16, 2005 - 16:30   ET

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


CANDY CROWLEY, CNN ANCHOR: And finally today: Should taxpayers pay for enhanced male performance in the bedroom?
Starting next year impotence drugs, such as Viagra, will be covered by Medicare. That's got Congressman Steve King up in arms. The Republican from Iowa says paying for the bills -- paying for the pills will cost taxpayers nearly $2 billion over the next ten years.

King is pushing a bill that would ensure that Medicare resources would be protected for patients with true lifesaving prescription needs.

That is it for "INSIDE POLITICS."

Judy is back tomorrow. I'm Candy Crowley.

CROSSFIRE starts right now.

ANNOUNCER: "CROSSFIRE": On the left, Donna Brazile; On the right, Robert Novak.

In the CROSSFIRE: An American newsmagazine backs off a charge that sparked deadly demonstrations around the world. "Newsweek" regrets getting it wrong. Is that enough?

Howard Dean tells Democrats that a Republican member of Congress is heading to jail. A leading Democrat says his party chairman is out of line. A political insider says there's a serious dark horse in the race for the White House in 2008. Is Vice President Cheney really interested in making a run? Today on CROSSFIRE.

Live from the George Washington University, Donna Brazile and Robert Novak.

DONNA BRAZILE, FROM THE LEFT: Welcome to CROSSFIRE.

There was a storm in the Islamic world after the "Newsweek" report that Americans had defaced copies of the Koran in an effort to get detainees held at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, to talk.

The demonstrations got violent in some places. More than a dozen people were killed during protests in Afghanistan.

Now "Newsweek" is backing off its original story.

NOVAK: "Newsweek" only had a single anonymous source for its story but went ahead with it any way. Then the source backed down from the story. The Pentagon now says "Newsweek" should retract, not just apologize. That's only one of today's politics.

First, the best little political briefing in television, our "Crossfire" political alert.

Ever since becoming Democratic national chairman, Howard Dean has tried to wear a muzzle. The party's congressional leaders made it clear that the less they hear from Dean, the better.

But last weekend he tore off the muzzle. Addressing the Massachusetts Democratic Convention he said House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, quote, "ought to go back to Houston where he can serve his jail sentence," end quote. No matter, that DeLay has not been convicted, indicted or even accused of a crime; it was too much even for Congressman Barney Frank who told the Boston Globe that Dean was just wrong.

Sooner or later, probably sooner, Dean must go on TV to be interviewed. Will he wear a muzzle?

BRAZILE: No, absolutely. He shouldn't wear a muzzle. Look: Howard Dean is a man of many, many words. He's a man of great passion. Perhaps he's a prophet now.

(LAUGHTER)

(APPLAUSE)

NOVAK: He may be a prophet. But I tell you what: He is a disaster for the Democratic Party. I mean, I would think you as a liberal would be appalled to say that somebody should go to jail when they had within been accused of no crime, no crime whatsoever.

You know, we have a justice system: We have indictment, we have trial, we have conviction, we have appeal. Doesn't that mean anything to you?

BRAZILE: It mean as lot to me. I agree. He's innocent until he's proven guilty. He might be guilty on more offenses.

Donald Rumsfeld went on the defense today. The defense secretary said his recommendations to close dozens of military bases around the country is necessary.

Rumsfeld said the current system was designed for the Cold War but has to change to be ready for the war on terror and other challenges.

There still have to be, of course, some hearings. But cities and towns all Over America could be devastated if all these bases close and their jobs disappear.

Rumsfeld has been lucky thus far. He got off easy on weapons of mass destruction. He said they were in Iraq. They were not. And he kept his job. He's gotten off easy over the war in Iraq. He said it would be fast and simple. And it hasn't been. And he kept his job.

Now he wants to create a leaner military when he's held -- of course, when he's helped to stretch the U.S. forces to nearly the breaking point all over the world.

He's not going to get off so easy closing these bases.

Bob, I have better ways he can reduce the budget.

NOVAK: Donna I'm really surprised at you. This is an ingenious system. It was used by Bill Clinton. It's been used by presidents. If it was up to the Congress, they would never close a base because they turn the military into pork barrel. The military is not a pork barrel program. And this system of closing bases was used by Bill Clinton year after year after year. You should know that.

Look, we should have hearings. Of course, some of us...

NOVAK: We've been there...

(CROSSTALK)

BRAZILE: No, we should have more hearings.

NOVAK: Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid went to Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist's home last night to eat duck l'orange. The Senate is about to begin the historic debate, but between mouthfuls of duck the senators did not discuss the block 16 judicial nominees or glorification by liberals of the filibuster.

The filibuster for a century was used by the racists to kill civil rights legislation. The leftist People for the American Way is running a pro-filibuster add narrated by a woman with a Southern accent.

As the face of African-American judicial nominee, Janice Rogers Brown, appears on the screen, the Southern woman calls her a radical and implores, "I say: Save the filibuster."

Racism, anyone?

BRAZILE: Look, it's not the color of her skin. It's her record that liberals and Democrats and many Americans oppose. Janice Rogers Brown may have grown up on the other side of the track, but she's since forgotten those people. And she's become a judicial activist of the world order. So I say vote her down. It's not her race; it's her record.

NOVAK: We're talking about that commercial. This is a Southern woman that says for 200 years the filibuster has served its purpose. You know what the perfect filibuster was?

BRAZILE: You don't have to tell me. My family was...

NOVAK: Well, then, how can you condone that kind of a commercial?

BRAZILE: This is to protect minority rights. That's something that is sacred in this country.

The president of Mexico put himself into some hot water speaking last Friday. Vicente Fox said that Mexican immigrants are taking jobs in the U.S. that, quote, "blacks would not want to do."

Not surprisingly he's been facing criticism ever since. National Urban League President Morial says Fox is re-enforcing stereotypical views of blacks and Hispanic workers and shows a lack of knowledge of the unemployment rates of both groups.

President Fox, who was once a high-ranking executive for American company Coca-Cola, issued a statement expressing his enormous respect for minorities. But Morial is right: If President Fox looked at the situation facing African-American men in big U.S. cities, he would know that the unemployment rate is often as high as 50 percent and youth unemployment rates are even higher.

Fox should know that a lot of African-Americans are desperately looking for work. And, please, don't -- they can't find them because many of these jobs have been outsourced to other countries where labor rates are far cheaper.

Bob, he should apologize.

NOVAK: President Fox was not incorrect in what he said. He was politically incorrect. He was insensitive. But he was right. You know it and I know it. You go to Washington, D.C., where there's a black unemployment rate and all the nasty jobs and janitors and things that have to be done working in the kitchens are done by immigrants. You know that's true.

BRAZILE: Bob...

NOVAK: A terrible mistake by "Newsweek." Is an apology enough to make up for triggering deadly consequences?

Also Howard Dean is at it again. Do the Democrats really want this serial trash-talker heading the party? And why does the man who interviewed "Deep Throat" say Vice President Dick Cheney -- Dick Cheney -- could be the Republican candidate for president in 2008?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

NOVAK: Welcome back to CROSSFIRE. "Newsweek" says it regrets getting any part of its story about Koran desecration wrong. But they're saying that after the story triggered deadly riots? Should the magazine have done more to source the story in the first place? Today in the CROSSFIRE, Democratic Strategist Steve Elmendorf and Republican Consultant Ed Rogers.

BRAZILE: Welcome, gentlemen.

Ed, look, the administration is clearly upset. "Newsweek" has apologized. The Pentagon is still venting its outrage. But, I mean, what's next? What can be done now that the damage has been inflicted?

ED ROGERS, REPUBLICAN CONSULTANT: Hey, I don't know what can be done, but a lot of damage has been inflicted, and so there's going to be a lot of hue and cry here in Washington. There's going to be calls for investigations. There's going to be calls for reform. But who knows what's going to happen. I mean, the next shoe to drop -- but it never will, because the won't reveal their source -- but was this just an opponent of the administration trying to make life difficult that made up this story and that gave it to "Newsweek"? Now the reporter that wrote this is actually a big-time pro, who I don't think could be deceived. But nonetheless, it has real consequences, and it's done real harm, so there ought to be a real inquiry into this.

BRAZILE: But, Ed -- but the same people who are now upset -- and they should be upset; we're all upset, because this --

ROGERS: A lot bad happened.

BRAZILE: Blood on the hand, no question. But we're in Afghanistan. We're in Iraq, of course. Many people believe that we were misled into Iraq, and no one has served any time.

ROGERS: A few people believe it.

BRAZILE: Well, a lot of people believe that we were misled.

ROGERS: Okay. Not a majority.

BRAZILE: Well, enough.

ROGERS: We had an election about that.

NOVAK: Steve Elmendorf, maybe there's something we can agree on, and that is, whether the story was accurate or not -- a lot of people think it was not accurate; the source now back down -- but whether or not, isn't this the kind of a story that a responsible media executive would have said, I know what it's like in the world today. I know what it's like in Islam. We shouldn't run this story.

STEVE ELMENDORF, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Well, they certainly should have sourced it better, Bob. I mean, you've obviously used anonymous sources. And the news media is sort of out of control with anonymous sources.

NOVAK: That isn't what I asked you, though.

ELMENDORF: They should have asked a lot of tough questions about the story before they ran it. I'm not here to defend "Newsweek." This was wrong. But you know, part of the problem here is that people on the right are now using this as a cover for the failed policies of the Bush administration overseas.

NOVAK: Well, that's a lot of baloney. That's a lot of baloney.

I want to try --

ROGERS: The problem here, Bob.

NOVAK: I want to try once more, if you will listen to me, and I'd like you to answer my question, whether it was right or wrong, was it a mistake to put it an incendiary story out like this in the Islam world -- in the Muslim world?

ELMENDORF: It's not a mistake if it's accurate. But it wasn't accurate. Look, we have a free press in this country, and if they discover things that are true, they ought to report them. If it's not true or it's not sourced, then they shouldn't.

BRAZILE: Let us move on to another subject in the news, and that is Howard Dean, again, was speaking truth to power this weekend. And, of course, Republicans are upset, playing victim. But let me show you -- I don't know. I mean, Tom DeLay just a couple of day ago made an invective, a real critical remark about Howard Dean. Let me just go ahead and show it. I mean, he said, look, "We spent 10 years making history," he was referring to Republicans, "while Democratic leaders have spent 10 years making noise." Hey. "And you know what? Their rank and file members are starting to agree. Democrats around the country are growing more and more alienated every day because they see that the once-great party of Roosevelt and Kennedy has become the party of Howard Dean."

So, look, politicians get away with saying a lot of things all the time. So why is Howard Dean's remark now, you know, causing many, you know, Republicans to have heartburn?

ROGERS: Well, you didn't what the remark was. And the remark that he made was attacked by no less than Barney Frank, a member -- a liberal member of the Democrat caucus in the House.

BRAZILE: A distinguished member.

ROGERS: A distinguished member. I'll give you that, absolutely. But this reminded us why we were all for Howard Dean becoming DNC chairman in the first place. When I say we, I mean us on the right.

NOVAK: Steve, let me give you -- this was not an isolated thing by Howard Dean. It was -- I mean, they've talked about a muzzle on him. But let me give you some -- we'll just put them on the board -- some of his descriptions prior to this of Republicans -- "evil," "brain-dead," "drug snorting," "corrupt," "liar." And John Zogby, the pollster, who is no Republican, said, "This is the wrong message at the wrong time. Country's already bitterly divided. No sense pouring acid on it. The Democrats need a proactive positive set of prescriptions, not simply a condemnation of the other side." He said that about Dean April 23rd -- April 23rd. You can't disagree with that, can you?

ELMENDORF: Again, you guys are trying to change the subject. You know, this isn't about Howard Dean and Barney Frank and Tom DeLay. This is about Republican abuse of power, from George Bush to Bill Frist to Tom DeLay and their extremism, which they're going to show again this week in the Senate with the filibuster and the judges. They want to change the subject about to Howard Dean instead of talking about their failed policies and the fact they're not doing anything about the country's problems.

BRAZILE: Hear, hear. Hear, hear.

ROGERS: Howard Dean helped a lot.

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

BRAZILE: He's a great chairman.

NOVAK: Just ahead, Vice President Dick Cheney has repeatedly said he is not running for president. So why in the world does his name keep coming up?

And the U.S. military calls it Operation Matador. Right after the break, Wolf Blitzer has the latest on this effort to defeat the insurgents in Iraq.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Wolf Blitzer in New York. Coming up at the top of the hour, new pictures from Iraq showing the aftermath of Operation Matador. It involved more than 1,000 Marines. U.S. officials are calling it a success.

Hurricane season starts June 1, only days away. And the official U.S. government forecast has now been released: why this year could be as bad as last year.

And there's new evidence that eating certain foods can reduce the risk of breast cancer. We have information you need to know. All those stories, much more coming up on "Wolf Blitzer Reports." Now back to "Crossfire."

BRAZILE: Welcome back to "Crossfire" and the guessing game for the 2008 presidential race.

Bob Woodward of The Washington Post is someone that we all know. He thinks that there's a serious dark horse for the Republican nomination. Woodward says if there's no clear front-runner, President Bush may put in a pitch for the current vice president, Dick Cheney.

Still in the "Crossfire," Republican consultant Ed Rogers and Democratic strategist Steve Elmendorf.

NOVAK: Mr. Elmendorf, let me read to you what Dick Cheney said the last time he was asked about this on television. He doesn't go on television too much.

He said I will say just as hard as I possibly know how to say. I don't know whether you want me to take a Sherman or say, "If nominated, I will not run; if elected, I will not serve; or not only no, but hell no." I have my plans laid out. I'm going to serve this president for the next four years, and then I'm out of here.

You know, that's like the guy on the Frequent Flyer points who says: No, no, no. Isn't that what he's saying?

ELMENDORF: Absolutely. I think that what this is a sign of is the Republican fear about 2008 and the fact that they are going to lose the election.

(APPLAUSE)

They don't have any confidence in the people who have announced they are running for president. Either they are not going to win or they are people like Rudy Giuliani who would be a good candidate for the Republicans, but he can't get nominated because of the extremists in their party.

NOVAK: Can you tell me how much support there was for the last two victorious Democratic candidates four years in advance?

Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter, was there any...

ELMENDORF: I don't think Republican insiders would be talking about Dick Cheney if they had confidence in one of the many other Republicans who are running for president.

ROGERS: Bob Woodward is not a Republican insider.

ELMENDORF: He talks to a lot of Republican insiders.

BRAZILE: He gets a lot of information from

Ed, you are an astute political insider on the Republican side. Yes, I'll say that because he's from Alabama; I'm from Louisiana. We speak up for you guys every now and then.

Mr. Cheney, as we well know, Mr. Cheney is spending a lot of time at his undisclosed location. I'm going to let you see a graph of something he said recently at a Washington dinner here.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RICHARD CHENEY, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I'm certain the Republican Party will do just fine in that election. We have a lot of terrific candidates out there. And just to prove my confidence in the field, I have agreed to lead the search committee to pick the next nominee.

(LAUGHTER)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BRAZILE: Hey, come on.

(CROSSTALK)

BRAZILE: Well, that's what I'm asking you. Was that a joke? Dick Cheney may, in fact, be plotting to run.

ROGERS: He says he's not going to run. For the time being, I take him at his word. Having said that, the Republican Party, we're very hierarchical. We tend to nominate the next person in line. If he wanted to run and Jeb Bush did not, arguably he would be the next person in line. But he says emphatically, with a lot of clarity, he's not going to run. So I'll take him at his word.

The race is going to be wide open.

NOVAK: Steve, you and I can agree.

ROGERS: We're pulling for Hillary.

(LAUGHTER)

NOVAK: You and I can agree on the one thing, and that is that Dick Cheney isn't going to be the nominee. But, you know, the polls indicate that the leading candidates are Rudy Giuliani, John McCain, Jeb Bush and Newt Gingrich. None of those are going to be nominated. Let me guarantee you. I don't think -- many of them possibly may not even run.

But the National Journal poll of insiders, you know who they have?

ELMENDORF: George Allen.

NOVAK: George Allen -- not the late football coach, but his son, the senator from Virginia.

Now, I want to just test your political I.Q. Do you think he's an easy candidate or tough candidate?

ELMENDORF: I think he would be a tough candidate. I think this is going to be a nomination worth having for a Democrat because when we get through three more years, the country is going to be so screwed up.

(LAUGHTER)

The country is going to be so screwed up that people are going to be ready for a change.

(APPLAUSE)

ROGERS: That's what they do: They hope for the worst.

(CROSSTALK)

NOVAK: I think it will be interesting if you're a Democrat, too. Why would you screw it up by nominating Hillary?

(LAUGHTER)

(APPLAUSE)

ELMENDORF: I think she would be as good candidate but we have a lot of good candidates. Hillary would be a great candidate. Evan Bayh would be a great candidate. Mark Warner would be a great candidate. I could go down the list. There's a lot -- Bill Richardson...

BRAZILE: What about another Southern governor on the Republican side? There are words, there are rumors right now the governor of Mississippi, Haley Barbour, you know him...

ROGERS: I know him well. He's dismissive of such talk, as everybody else is.

NOVAK: Give a disclaimer...

ROGERS: Come on, I hope he runs. I hope he runs. He's my best friend. I love to see him in the race. He's my partner, he's my friend. I would love to see him in the race. He is dismissive of such talk.

Can somebody shaped like that be president of the United States?

BRAZILE: That stud?

(LAUGHTER)

ROGERS: You said it; I didn't.

NOVAK: Thank God there's always...

(CROSSTALK)

ROGERS: Always, always.

NOVAK: Thank you very much, Steve Elmendorf.

Thank you.

Does the new Star Wars movie have a political message?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

NOVAK: Movie theaters are expecting big business when the latest -- and they say the last -- Star Wars movie opens this week. The movie's director, George Lucas, tell us what his six-part series really means. At the Cannes film festival he said the story in Star Wars was parallel to Iraq. The movies show the change of a good person into an evil one, and the change of a democracy into a dictatorship.

Lucas told a news coinference that he thinks the parallels between the movie and what the U.S. went through in Vietnam and Iraq are unbelievable. Unbelievable is right -- I don't believe it!

Isn't it enough for the Hollywood tycoons to make big bucks by making silly movies? Do they also have to dispense their liberal propaganda.

BRAZILE: Well, Bob, may the Force be with all of us. I mean, perhaps, there are parallels between what happened in Iraq and Vietnam and what just happened in this movie. I don't know. I plan to go see the movie. Will you takeme?

NOVAK: You're going to the movie?

BRAZILE: Yeah!

NOVAK: I don't think you're going. I'll make a prediction; you'll never go there.

BRAZILE: If you take me, I'll go.

NOVAK: You may have a long wait.

BRAZILE: I'll feed you some duck.

(LAUGHTER)

BRAZILE: From the left, I'm Donna Brazile. 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.

END

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