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Senate Compromise and Election 2008; "Our Fathers"; More Iraq Fighting

Aired May 25, 2005 - 16:30   ET


ANNOUNCER: CROSSFIRE. On the left, James Carville. On the right, Bay Buchanan.

In the CROSSFIRE, the Senate finally votes on one of the president's controversial choices for the federal bench. After four years of filibuster threats and fighting, Priscilla Owen gets the votes that will make her a federal judge.

Top Republicans Bill Frist and John McCain took different sides on the filibuster battle. Who won and who lost? Will conflict and compromise in the Senate affect either man's hopes in a run for the White House in 2008.

Now the Senate moves on to debate another controversial pick by President Bush, outspoken ambassador candidate John Bolton. But a Republican senator is urging his colleagues to vote against Bolton for the job at the United Nations. Today on CROSSFIRE.

Live from the George Washington University, James Carville and Bay Buchanan.


BAY BUCHANAN, CROSSFIRE GUEST HOST: Welcome to CROSSFIRE. Priscilla Owen four year -- it's taken four years but the wait is now over. The Senate finally voted to put the Texas Supreme Court justice on the federal bench. The Democrats backed off their filibuster threat. And Owen now had a straight up and down vote.

JAMES CARVILLE, CROSSFIRE CO-HOST: If the president's choices of the bench don't leave a bad taste in your mouth, the Senate is debated whether to inflict John Bolton on the United Nations as the new U.S. ambassador. One might not go completely along party lines, at least one Republican is lobbying against Bolton.

First, we got the best little political briefing in television. Our CROSSFIRE Political Alert.

In my now hometown newspaper, "The Washington Post," there was an interesting editorial this morning which pontificated that more U.S. troops and money should be sent to Afghanistan to bolster the Karzai government. You see, President Karzai is in the United States and "the Post" took the opportunity to urge greater funding for -- in troops. Of course, they failed to mention one little minor detail, the reason we can't do more is we're stuck in Iraq in a hundred thousand troops and posting a half a trillion dollars in American taxpayers' money. The Post editorial writers conveniently neglected to point out they supported this unplanned fiasco in Iraq. Boy, it must be nice to be a hypocrite and not even be aware of it.

BUCHANAN: James, you attacking the "Washington Post," I'm all for it.

CARVILLE: I'm not -- I just -- these people are just unbelievable. That their head is so far out of reality and they come up and they support this war that turned into a fiasco. They say, gee, we need to spend more money in Afghanistan. But the reason we can't is because you went along with this.

BUCHANAN: Well, I'll tell you, there's no question that there's real problems in Afghanistan. Too much drugs over there.

But 50 Republicans in the House split with their leadership and the president to vote to expand federal funding for stem cell research. The vote came despite a promise from President Bush to veto the bill. And the margin of victory isn't enough to override if and when the president acts.

People who want the research are convinced it will lead to treatments or cures for all kinds of diseases. The president has demonstrated, however, great leadership on this delicate issue, standing firm for his deeply held beliefs about life against incredible opposition.

The president has made it clear he opposes the destruction of innocent human life. And yesterday, he put a face, a beautiful one, on this debate. He met with infants who had been adopted as embryos. And now they are exactly what they are meant to be, little children.

CARVILLE: Yes, that's it. This is an administration that cuts science funding, that, you know, doesn't believe in reason, doesn't believe in enlightenment, doesn't believe in evolution. I'm not surprised they would do something like this. They don't like science.


CARVILLE: As a regular viewer of the show (INAUDIBLE) I'm really not a movie or TV critic and rarely, if ever, offer my opinion on what's going on in film and television. However, (INAUDIBLE) the night show (ph) time will air a repeat of a made for television movie called "Our Fathers" which is an account of the pedophile scandal which plagued the Boston archdiocese.

In my opinion, it is as good as television gets. It was superbly done. And it really gave you the sense of the agony that these criminals from Cardinal Owen down caused the people of Boston archdiocese. Showtime deserves an enormous amount of credit for airing this. And everybody involved for this superb production should feel very good about what they have done. The shame of Cardinal Law, father of the Roman Catholic Church, is apparent. And also apparent the church continues to shame itself by allowing him to be the Arch Priest of St. Mary Major, one of the great facilities of Christendom. Here's hoping that the new pope roots him out of this position and sends him to Hades to clean bed pans.

BUCHANAN: You know, James, When is it that you are going to say it's over? You know, the scandal has been out there. The church has responded to it. There's people across this country that have formed committees. There's no question that that scandal in the church was serious. But there comes a time when to say let's move on.


CARVILLE: How are they prosecuting Jennifer Wilbanks for a felony when this criminal is sitting down a stipend of $12,000 a month at St. Mary the Major Basilica in Rome. There's something wrong with that. There is something wrong with the whole thing. I saw the thing Sunday night. It's riveting.

BUCHANAN: Keep it up. It's time to move on. Bashing the Catholic Church is not going to get it anywhere.

It looks like not everyone believes Hillary Clinton is untouchable for 2008. A fellow Democrat is suggesting other possibilities that should be considered. New Mexico governor Bill Richardson was talking to Democrats in Nebraska about the parties list of potential presidential candidates, pointing to Joe Biden, Evan Bayh and Mark Warner, listing what each might be able to bring to the race.

But when he got around to the frontrunner, Hillary Clinton, he alluded to the day the Clinton's left the White House with more than they came, according to some reports. And Richardson added that Hillary is the only Democrat who can bring back the White House furniture. That's from a Democrat.

I don't know if she's laughing about that, but I know that she probably not too pleased about what is going on up in New York today. Ed Cox, Manhattan attorney and son-in-law of the late President Nixon is setting up a Senate exploratory committee to run against her in 2006.

CARVILLE: Wow, I tell you what. First of all, this is completely ridiculous and everybody knows it is. Secondly, she has 67 reelect number. And fast Eddie, if he wants to run, that's fine, let him run, waste his time.

BUCHANAN: Do you think she could be vulnerable at all for the Senate run?

CARVILLE: I have never seen anybody with a 67 percent that -- 67 percent of the people in New York say she deserved reelection. It's pretty hard to see she will be vulnerable. But, you know what, she will sell everybody a lot of books and give you all something to get gassed up about. Next on CROSSFIRE, a controversial judge finally makes it through the Senate and on to the federal bench. Will the deal the Republicans made to get there have consequences for those who don't want to -- who want to run for president in the year 2008?

And later, tonight's "American Idol" final has spilled over into the halls of Congress.


CARVILLE: Welcome back to CROSSFIRE.

Democrats put up a heck of a fight over the last four years to keep a far right judge off of the federal bench, but Republicans got Priscilla Owen on the appeals court. Now the battle in the Senate turns to John Bolton and whether he goes to the U.N. Today in the CROSSFIRE, former Reagan political director and Republican strategist Frank Donatelli and Democratic strategist Chris LaPetina.


BUCHANAN: All right, Chris, we're going to start with you. We have Justice Owen is now going to go ahead, going to become a judge in the federal court of appeals. And we hear from several Democrats, we got several who voted for her. We also hear from, I guess it was Biden said, commented that she was never extreme. James here called her far right. But it seems to me that all of this media that was focused on these judges as being so extreme and the Democrats were saving the Republic from these right wing judges was just a big -- just a big campaign to give yourself something to say.

CHRIS LAPETINA, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Well, I'll tell you one thing, we got a lot of ammunition from the president's attorney general who basically admitted that Judge Owen was an extremist. And said that he, in essence, he wouldn't support her.

BUCHANAN: So, you still think that Owen is extreme. You mean, that's the position you're going to hold right now.

LAPETINA: Well, what I'm saying is that there was certainly enough evidence for the Democrats to say we have some objections to these judges. And the Republicans said seven Republicans that sort of join in this group in the center, they realize that there was some objections to the American people would pick up on. And that's why we have this deal where we're going to pass three, but seven are going to get defeated.

BUCHANAN: You think they're going to get defeated? What is going to happen?

LAPETINA: We're going to have kind of -- if the Republicans put up those seven, I think you will see a filibuster that will hold.

BUCHANAN: I'd like to say that.

CARVILLE: I am always kind of fascinated what goes on your side. The thing -- Rush Limbaugh, I want to show you what Rush said about what went on in the Senate and get your comments on that. "I want to puke."

LAPETINA: He says that every day.

CARVILLE: As attractive as that thought might be, at least outside of eyesight here, why are -- why is the right so -- you're always mad any way. But why are you seeing to be madder about this than usual.


You know, Priscilla Owen, this extremist judge that everybody is talking about -- 81 votes for cloture, 81 votes. So, it can't be that big of deal the way the Democrats have been making it out for the past few years.

CARVILLE: Did you want to puke? I don't want to talk about puking. I want to get -- I want to debate this conversation.

DONATELLI: I want to scratch my head. I thought that the constitutional option was the way to go on principle, because I think every judicial nominee deserves an up or down vote. That being said, I knew there were some conservatives out here.

BUCHANAN: No, those are just reasonable Americans.

DONATELLI: That being said we have this arrangement. I believe that if the issue of extraordinary circumstances is fairly interpreted, that most of President Bush's judicial nominees will get a fair up or down vote. So, I don't think it's as bad as a lot of my conservative brethren.

CARVILLE: So, you didn't want to puke?

DONATELLI: I did not and I do not.

CARVILLE: Oh, OK. Well, thank God.

BUCHANAN: Chris, let me ask you something here. You know, the economy is a little bit of a concern for a lot of us. I wouldn't say in shambles. The housing market is doing terrific out there. There's a lot of other areas that are doing well.

But there's no question Republicans are concerned that we're going into an election year next year. If the economy is not strong, that would be a great issue for the Democrats. And yet, you guys are going to tell me, continue to filibust judges -- filibuster judges who are clearly what the American people overwhelming believe they have a right, fairness issue, up or down. That means that will go into elections next year as a major issue, will get our votes, all our people will be out there voting in huge numbers. And it will hurt you next year. Do you not see that?

LAPETINA: No. Bay, I think what most Americans, they look at Washington, they don't understand everything that is going on. But they know that if there are seven moderate Republicans that joined with seven Democrats over this kind of issue, that there is something wrong. That there was some reason that the Democrats had out there wanted to stop these judges.

And I think that McCain who is actually a spokesperson for a lot of middle America, kind of moderate America, came out and he became the spokesperson for this issue, let's do these three, stop these seven. The Democrats have a point. The Republicans have a point to get these three passed. And I think that's the end of the story.

CARVILLE: Frank, let's talk about some politics of this. Because the Republicans, of course, they banked the bank, stolen the jump, and they passed the bankruptcy bill and all companies told them to jump and they passed ANWAR, and the preachers told them to jump at 1:00 in the morning on the Schiavo thing. And then some more preachers told them to jump and they want the nuclear option.

And the next thing they are jumping on is this Bolton character. Do you think that the American people look at this and say, A, does this have much to do with my life? And B, is there somebody in the country of 290 million people we can get better than this clown to be the U.N. Ambassador? I mean, it's (INAUDIBLE) we can get -- is there somebody -- is the Republican Party so lacking in talent that this is the best we can come up to represent us at the United Nations?

DONATELLI: Well, here's why it matters to the American people. In an institution where Kofi Annan's son is on the take, where we have scandal in oil for food, where we have an administration at the U.N. that won't do anything about nations that harbor state sponsored terrorists and nuclear proliferation, Bolton is exactly the kind of tough hombre that can go in and clean up that institution.

CARVILLE: The intelligence people says he disregards good -- we need somebody that don't pay attention to intelligence.

DONATELLI: Can I just say this?


DONATELLI: I have worked with John in the government, out of the government, I have know him for 30 years. I know him to be a man of the highest character and the highest principal.

CARVILLE: Why is the CIA all against him? Why is Colin Powell against him? Why is George Voinovich?

BUCHANAN: ...the filibuster -- you will not filibuster Bolton. There is no possibility of that. And Bolton is going to go right through.

LAPETINA: He's going to go right through. But we don't have to fili -- I mean, he's already a failure. A, nobody ever knows who the U.N. Ambassador is. Everybody knows who Bolton is. Why? Because Voinovich, who is a moderate, but a conservative -- but seen as a moderate, smart, wise, elder of the Republican party -- he's come out the strongest we could possibly hope for. He is a James Carville on Bolton.

CARVILLE: Most popular Republican alive. He's against him, too.

BUCHANAN: But we are going to have ambassador Bolton in just a matter of weeks now. Do you believe?

Next in the CROSSFIRE, will the deal John McCain helped to make on the federal judges have nuclear fall-out over any presidential aspirations he has for '08.

And after the break Wolf Blitzer reports on the new U.S. offensive to defeat the insurgency in Western Iraq.


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

Coming up at the top of the hour, Amnesty International accusing the United States of prisoner abuse and calling for investigations of President Bush and other top administration officials.

The United States, launching a major new military offensive in Western Iraq. Commanders reporting 10 insurgent deaths so far.

And we have some dramatic pictures of a failed attempt to cross the U.S.-Mexican border, and the deadly consequences. All those stories, much more, only minutes away on "WOLF BLITZER REPORTS." Now, back to CROSSFIRE.

CARVILLE: John McCain may -- and I say may -- have done wonders for another run at the White House in his role as moderate voice in the Senate, and Bill Frist may have lost currency after being unable to change Senate rules to make the far right-wing happy. Who's got the better chance in 2008?

Still in the CROSSFIRE, Republican strategist Frank Donatelli and Democratic strategist Chris Lapetina.

LAPETINA: Two Italians in the blue suits.

CARVILLE: There it is. All right (INAUDIBLE).

Yes, you have the first question, unless you want...

CARVILLE: Right, no, OK, I -- I'm -- in Washington, we have the "Washington Post," my -- as pointed out -- we have the deification of Senator McCain this morning. David Broder in a very Broderian piece, dotes about what a great guy he is. David Ignacious (ph) in the same thing, is this might be the defining moment in the modern republic, and the cocktail party crowd is ga-ga.

Strikes me, what -- how does -- do you think the rank and file Republican that's actually going to decide who the next Republican nominee is more influenced than David Ignacious and David Broder? How are they viewing this out there? DONATELLI: I think there's a lot of confusion right now about how to view it. The proof of the pudding will be whether or not this deal can hold for a while and whether or not the president will actually be able to get some votes on his judicial confirmations.


DONATELLI: McCain is more of a -- his constituency is sort of moderate independents, and to the extent he solidified those credentials, it seems to me he's been helped. Frist, if he gets some judges, can argue that, but for the nuclear option, this deal wouldn't have happened.

BUCHANAN: I want to add something there. I'm going to take a little tougher position than you, Frank. McCain's finished for '08. He -- I didn't think he had a strong chance, anyhow, but the conservatives control the primary, as you know, and the conservatives are outraged at what he has done here. Just absolutely outraged, and I think that they would work vehemently to make certain he didn't get it.

So I -- but let me ask you, Chris. Knowing that if this were to hold and the judges that the president proposes do not go through as we should expect, what happens in '08 for the Democrats? It seems to me, again, the Democrats will recognize that the religious right will be just out there in full force. In order to be able to attract some of them, you would have to have a more conservative candidate than Hillary Clinton?

LAPETINA: Well, if you talked to Hillary Clinton, she'll tell you she's a moderate. But, that's, you know, that's not my job to do. But I think we should continue talking about what happened to the Republican party in this fight with the judges, because what I think part of McCain's goal was to marginalize Bill Frist and he did. You talk about newspapers -- if you read the Manchester paper today, they said basically said Frist is not suited to run the Senate. He should -- he's not -- and he's certainly not suited to be the president of the United States. So, what does he do? Does he skip New Hampshire?

BUCHANAN: No, I'll tell you what he does. If he's smart, he will sit right there and he'll tell the president, bring me all the judges you want. We're putting them right up here, because he has to show leadership now. And he has to get the people through and see that this deal provides him all of the confirmations he wants or he takes it to the nuclear option later.

CARVILLE: What is a bigger objective for American conservatives? Both of you are very prominent, to get right wing judges or do something about the deficit? What -- if you had a kind of spend your time, what would you rather do?


BUCHANAN: Easy, judges. In a minute, because that's your legacy. (INAUDIBLE) That goes on for 20 years.


BUCHANAN: We'll pay that next administration. Give us the judges this one.

DONATELLI: Not right-wing judges. Judges who will interpret the law.


CARVILLE: So it's more important to you to get whatever it is, these judges than it is to do something about the deficit. That is what the -- that is really at the root of modern conservative.

BUCHANAN: The conservatives do believe the judges are extraordinarily important.

CARVILLE: They're more important than the deficit?

DONATELLI: I just want the supremacy of the legislature, not the judiciary.

CARVILLE: What about more important than healthcare costs?

You know -- to get the ideological friends on a bench or do something about healthcare costs? I'm trying to go into the...

DONATELLI: Popular sovereignty. I want the Congress to make the law, not judges.

BUCHANAN: Exactly.

CARVILLE: So, judges are more important than healthcare.

DONATELLI: No, because...

CARVILLE: What about energy...


LAPETINA: The Republicans get locked in on these things whether you are right or wrong. And you're out of touch -- you tend to be out of touch with the American people.

BUCHANAN: I don't like to say anything, but I don't see you guys playing a very strong hand here. You don't have the House. You don't have the Senate. You don't have the White House. I think we're doing pretty well on our side using judges as a key issue.

CARVILLE: I tell you, and -- and -- I'm, frankly, as a strategist, you see what I'm saying. And, so the right is going to run on 2006 about we doing something about the judiciary. We're going to let the Democrats flap their jaws about -- we're going to do something about healthcare costs, or we're going to do something energy. We're going to do something about strengthening the military and all that junk that people don't care anything about. DONATELLI: The judiciary sits on the sidelines and interprets the law. It's up to the Congress to deal with healthcare and the deficit and lower taxes. It's up to the Congress to do that.

CARVILLE: Well, why has the Congress been, all of this time, fooling with these nutty judges ya'll put up there?

DONATELLI: Because...

BUCHANAN: Because, exactly what Frank said.

DONATELLI: You want to deal with that, and then you deal with the other. We're going to get tax reform. We're going to get Social Security reform.

CARVILLE: Well, you ain't going to waste time. Ya'll aren't going to waste it. You're not going to waste your time on healthcare costs?

DONATELLI: And we're going to get tort reform. It's not wasting time.

CARVILLE: You're not going to waste your time on it.

BUCHANAN: Let me ask you, James. Why have you or -- why have the Democrats spent so much time making certain the president's choices for judges aren't getting through?

LAPETINA: First of all, that's ridiculous. We -- 95 percent of Bush's judges went through. The Republicans are bogged down, talking about 5 percent.

BUCHANAN: On the federal court of appeals there's the worst record of getting confirmations since FDR.

LAPETINA: But you may be the only person in America that knows or even cares about that.

CARVILLE: You know what, I'll give you your slogan: it's the judges, stupid. Run on that. You got it for next time.

Next on CROSSFIRE, find out why two lawmakers will be closely watching tonight's "American Idol" finale and what they'll have riding on it.


CARVILLE: It's coming down to the wire if you like amateur singers trying to make the jump to the pros. The finals of "American Idol" are tonight. Alabama's Bo Bice faces Oklahoma native Carrie Underwood. Fans call in to pick the winner. Two members of Congress have a little bet riding on the outcome. Carrie wins, Alabama Republican Spencer Bachus pays up with chicken fingers and pineapple mustard sauce from the In Cahoots Restaurant in Helena -- or, Helena, Alabama, but if it is -- if Bo is the winner, Oklahoma Democrat Dan Boren provides Oklahoma beef barbecue. Well, that's a, you know... BUCHANAN: They're going to have an enormous ratings.

CARVILLE: The chances of me watching this, about 0.

BUCHANAN: But you know...

CARVILLE: From the left, from James Carville, I'll be watching the NBA tonight, and "Our Fathers" on Showtime. That's it for CROSSFIRE.

BUCHANAN: From the right, I'm Bay Buchanan. Join us again, next time, for another edition of CROSSFIRE.



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