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CNN CROSSFIRE

Conservative Texas Judge Faces Oppostion; Al Sharpton Defends Himself Against Cocaine Deal Allegations

Aired July 23, 2002 - 19:00   ET

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


THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ANNOUNCER: CROSSFIRE. On the left, James Carville and Paul Begala. On the right, Robert Novak and Tucker Carlson.

In the CROSSFIRE tonight, so many court vacancies, so little time for hearings on nominees. Are Senate Democrats guilty of obstruction of judges?

Gray Davis gets greener.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GOV. GRAY DAVIS, CALIFORNIA: I want to do our part to reduce greenhouse gases.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ANNOUNCER: Will California's tough new standards hit all car buyers in the wallet?

Al Sharpton says what you see isn't what you get, or what really happened.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REVEREND AL SHARPTON: It will take more than a distorted 19- year-old tape to stop my exploration to run for president of the United States.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ANNOUNCER: Tonight on CROSSFIRE.

From the George Washington University, Paul Begala and Tucker Carlson.

PAUL BEGALA, CO-HOST: Good evening. Welcome to CROSSFIRE. Tonight, we're going to ask California's governor, Gray Davis, why he's taking steps to combat global warming and why President Bush is not. And, the Reverend Al Sharpton joins us to explain a videotape in which he appears to be talking about a drug deal. We will show it here first on CROSSFIRE, the first place ever in America.

But first, as we do every day, let's start with the best little political briefing in television, our CROSSFIRE "Political Alert."

The United States Senate today voted down both the Democratic and Republican versions of a prescription drug benefit for senior citizens. The votes were largely along party lines, because neither version could garner the necessary 60 votes to pass. The fate of a prescription drug benefit now remains uncertain at best.

The chief difference between the two bills is that the Democratic version directly benefits seniors by subsidizing Medicare, while the Republican version subsidizes private insurance companies. Still, Republicans don't see all that unhappy to see no prescription drug aid whatsoever pass. Said one, "any time we can screw old people and help big insurance companies, I'm happy."

TUCKER CARLSON, CO-HOST: Actually, Democrats are the happiest, as you know, because they're going to run in this. I'm amazed you didn't get Enron in there. Does the Republican prescription drug benefit just give money to Enron.

BEGALA: No, the tax bill gives a quarter of a billion dollars to them, and they shouldn't do that either...

CARLSON: I shouldn't even have opened it up.

BEGALA: In the tank, Tucker.

CARLSON: We may not have Congressman James Traficant to kick around much longer, sadly. House Republican leaders say a vote on Traficant's expulsion will come at 6 p.m. tomorrow. Well, they spent much of today considering a postponement. What is going on?

A juror from Traficant's fraud trial is now telling reporters he's had second thoughts. The juror watched last week's ethics committee hearings, which featured a witness who prosecutors didn't call during Traficant's trial. The juror now believes the government was out to get Traficant, something Traficant has alleged all along, and says he might have changed his vote had he known. Congressman Traficant has impolitely declined our repeated invitations to appear on CROSSFIRE, and after all we've done for him. But he's one of the guests on CNN's "CONNIE CHUNG TONIGHT" at 8 p.m. Eastern. Don't miss it.

BEGALA: Now, what were Traficant's exact words when he turned us down?

CARLSON: I don't think they were repeatable on television.

BEGALA: Not on a family program.

CARLSON: Maybe we'll get him on from Leavenworth. He'd be a great guest (UNINTELLIGIBLE).

BEGALA: Something about a pig's eye. Yes, we'll still -- yes, Jim, I'm going to look for you on Connie tonight, but come back to CROSSFIRE. In show business news, aging actor Bruce Willis stopped by the White House today. No, he wasn't talking about family values in the movies. His films are too violent for that. He was promoting adoption. Willis, who has no adopted children of his own, was joined by his ex-wife, Demi Moore, and their children, Scout, Rumer (ph) and Taloola (ph), as well as White House economic adviser Larry Lindsay, who is, admirably, an adoptive dad.

Did you remember the good old days when right-wingers attacked President Clinton for hosting Hollywood celebrities? At least then, it was people of real talent, like Steven Spielberg or Rob Reiner, Barbra Streisand. Now I turn on TV and see Bruce Willis at the White House. All I can say is I see bad acting.

CARLSON: That's amazing. There's so many things I disagree with in that, Paul. But, clearly, you've never heard Barbra Streisand sing, which speaks well as you.

BEGALA: (UNINTELLIGIBLE).

CARLSON: If you're going to describe her as a talented singer, that's unbelievable.

BEGALA: Like an angel, you're jealous, I know.

CARLSON: Yes, I know I am.

BEGALA: You're a big fan.

CARLSON: When 72 police officers were killed on September 11, most Americans understood they had murdered by terrorists. No one suggested the policemen themselves were terrorists until now. An interview with the Rainbow/PUSH Coalition Conference in Chicago yesterday, Jesse Jackson charged that American police officers are terrorists guilty of, quote, "acts of terrorism." Jackson also accused the U.S. justice system of engaging in, quote, "a criminal act against humanity," a conspiracy against people that is, quote, "making millions of dollars for non-black communities."

This afternoon, former President Bill Clinton addressed the Rainbow/PUSH Coalition. He did not criticize Jackson. He did not repudiate Jackson's hate speech. Apparently, he agrees with it.

BEGALA: He didn't...

CARLSON: He had an opportunity. Someone asked him about it, and he did not take the opportunity on repudiate his charge that American police officers are terrorists.

BEGALA: He didn't know what Jackson had said.

CARLSON: He had been asked about it.

BEGALA: And he had been endorsed -- President Clinton had been invited there, first off, to speak about AIDS. And Bill Clinton was endorsed by the cops. In both '96 and 2000. He hired 100,000 new cops, a program that Bush is now defunding.

(CROSSTALK)

CARLSON: When Jerry Falwell made outrageous statements after September 11, responsible people including me said that's beyond the pale. We're no longer going to speak to him. That's outrageous. Democrats will not do the same to Jesse Jackson now that he's called our policemen terrorists, and they should.

BEGALA: Clearly beyond the pale. Get a life. Don't blame Bill Clinton if Jesse Jackson says something you don't like.

CARLSON: It is beyond the pale. It is beyond the pale.

BEGALA: President Bush today signed legislation to moves tens of thousands of tons of high-level, radioactive nuclear waste across the country to be stored in Yucca Mountain, Nevada. This, despite the fact that he had promised the people of Nevada he wouldn't do that, and despite the fact that Yucca Mountain is on several earthquake faultlines and despite the fact that the trucks and trains moving the deadly waste will become mobile Chernobyls, providing excellent targets for terrorists, coming within just a few miles of tens of millions of Americans.

Said Bush, what did you expect me to do? Dump it all in Crawford, Texas?

CARLSON: Mobile Chernobyls?

BEGALA: Mobile Chernobyls.

CARLSON: Actually, this will make the country, as you well know, safer from terrorism. But I must say, mobile Chernobyl?

BEGALA: Oh, sure. Just paint a big target on a pair of Winnebagos and drive them around the west.

CARLSON: That is really a new high in flackery.

Democratic Senator Robert Torricelli of New Jersey testified before the Senate ethics committee yesterday to answer allegations of corruption. Unlike Congressman James Traficant, Senator Torricelli was allowed to appear in secret, with no television cameras or publicly available transcripts. And unlike Traficant, Torricelli will not have to face his accusers.

A long-time friend of the senator's named David Chang (ph) says Mr. Torricelli accepted thousands in illegal gifts, actively tried to obstruct a federal criminal investigation and bragged about having close friends in the mafia. If Chang will not be allowed to testify before the ethics committee, Democrats say it's because Chang has a criminal record, as if most witnesses in criminal investigations don't have them. In fact, they do, of course. The real reason: with control of the Senate at stake, too much evidence could be risky.

BEGALA: Tell me, this was all looked at by a federal prosecutor. How did that come out?

CARLSON: The federal prosecutor referred it to the ethics committee, where it is now. And Democrats...

BEGALA: He was cleared. Three words: He was cleared.

CARLSON: Actually, Paul, Mary Jo White, if you knew the facts of the case, referred it to the ethics committee, which is now refusing to talk to the chief accuser because he's a bad man. It's insane. It's ridiculous. It's a travesty.

BEGALA: You finished?

CARLSON: Yes, I am.

BEGALA: She referred to the ethics committee because there's no prosecutable case. The Senate ethics committee, I don't know whether they will find this or not, up to criticizing him under the Senate rules, but he was cleared by the competent prosecutors. You happened to leave that out of your little attack there.

CARLSON: Well, they should go ahead and get the facts, don't you think, Paul? Don't you think they should hear all the facts?

BEGALA: We've heard all the facts. The "New York Times" took all the leaks from the prosecution...

CARLSON: Not to the man who made the allegation, as you know.

BEGALA: No. You know what? You just need to acknowledge the fact that the guy was cleared by prosecutors. But he's a Democrat, so it doesn't count?

(CROSSTALK)

CARLSON: You can't even defend him and you know it.

BEGALA: I did. He's been cleared -- he's been cleared by the prosecutors.

CARLSON: You go ahead and defend Robert Torricelli. Good luck.

Priscilla Owen was nominated for a seat on the U.S. Court of Appeals back in May of 2001, quite some time ago. Today, that would make it 14 months later the Senate Judiciary Committee finally got around to her confirmation hearing. Do Senate Democratic leaders get the thoroughness award, the procrastination award or should they be pilloried for obstruction of justices?

In the CROSSFIRE, Ralph Neas of People for the American Way and former White House counsel C. Boyden Gray, who is a member of the brand new group called the Committee For Justice.

How are you doing?

(CROSSTALK) BEGALA: Counselor, first, thank you for coming.

My pleasure.

BEGALA: Let me begin by calling the first witness, George Walker Bush. Not yet then president of the United States, then governor of Texas, talking in a presidential debate about the kinds of people he wants to put on the federal bench. Let's watch our now president, then-candidate Bush.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I'll put competent judges on the bench, people who will strictly interpret the Constitution and will not use the bench to write social policy. And that's going to be a big difference between my opponent and me.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BEGALA: He does not want, he says, a judicial activist. But here's what his White House counsel, the man who holds the job you once held in the White House, wrote when he was on the Supreme Court with Priscilla Owen, the woman who was before the Senate today. Here's what Judge -- then judge -- Alberto Gonzales said: "To interpret the Parental Notification Act as Owens did would be an unconsciable act of judicial activism." This from Alberto Gonzales, the current Bush White House counsel. Bush has nominated a right-wing judicial activist, contrary to his pledge in the campaign, hasn't he?

C. BOYDEN GRAY, COMMITTEE FOR JUSTICE: That isn't what Owens said. Owens wrote a different opinion talking about what the review was from a trial court. Gonzales, the current White House counsel, was talking about another judge's opinion.

BEGALA: That's actually not what Judge Gonzales. He said, well, they took it out of context, blah, blah, blah...

GRAY: Well, I don't care...

(CROSSTALK)

BEGALA: But he said...

GRAY: All I'm telling you is his comment was directed at another opinion. But apart from that...

BEGALA: Simply factually false. It was a dissent that three judges shared, one of whom was Priscilla Owens. He said that position is an unconscionable act of judicial activism. This from a Republican fellow justice on the state Supreme Court.

If you have read a lot of opinions in your life...

BEGALA: I have.

GRAY: ...you will realize that this kind of comment goes back and forth all the time. On the supreme court, you wouldn't think these people could ever speak to each other, if you read what they said about each other's opinions. I don't think that means anything, and there's nothing out of the mainstream about Justice Owen, nothing.

(CROSSTALK)

CARLSON: Before you jump in here, let me boil it down in an ad that has come out sponsored in part by Mr. Gray here. And I think this just sort of says it all. Here it is.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ANNOUNCER: A new gang is riding into Texas, gunning for our judge. President Bush wants Texas Supreme Court Justice Priscilla Owen on the federal bench, but liberal special interests are holding up her confirmation. Hillary Clinton, Tom Daschle, Pat Leahy, and groups like People for the American Way, want to stop Judge Owen.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CARLSON: Now that's a very handsome picture of you, I have to say, but this ad is true, isn't it? It's liberal interest groups bankrolled by the abortion industry want to defeat her because they disagree with her position on one subject, abortion. That is the nut of it, isn't it?

RALPH NEAS, PEOPLE FOR THE AMERICAN WAY: Well, I just saw that. I want to ask Boyden Gray whether he'll become the honorary development director for People for the American Way. Great ad.

Listen, that's absolutely untrue, Tucker. What happened today -- by the way, you came in late, but before you came in, Senator Feinstein actually read the quote that Paul you were talking about. And she read the quote exactly from Gonzales.

He was talking about dissents, including the Owen dissent. Now we must also look at what he said to the "New York Times" yesterday. He was talking about his quote, but he didn't only do one or two quotes. Ten times over the last several years when he was on the court, in 1999 and 2000, he said the same thing. She remakes the law. When there's a clash with her ideology, she tries to change the law. She is a judicial activist.

CARLSON: But he has come out in public and said recently I endorse her, I think she ought to go on to the circuit court, I think she's a good pick, and I totally support her nomination,

NEAS: Tucker, if you...

CARLSON: I'm missing this, here.

NEAS: We haven't actually said who Gonzales is. He's the counsel to George W. Bush. He has no choice but to defend Owen.

CARLSON: So he's lying. Are you saying that he's lying? NEAS: What he is doing now is defending her. What he was doing extemporaneously when they were both on the court was telling the truth in terms of exactly what she said. The best evidence is what he said when they were contesting this court decision.

CARLSON: Why not just get it right from his mouth? He explained it. He said I support her. I don't know how much more clear you could be. He was asked directly, do you support her? Do you think she'd be a good appeals court judge? And he said absolutely I do, I support her.

NEAS: What do you expect President Bush's counsel to say? What I'm saying is look at the debate they had in 1990 and 2000. What he said then 12 different times on 12 decisions was that she's a judicial activist, she tries to amend the law or remake the law when she disagrees with the law. That's what George W. Bush said he didn't want.

BEGALA: Mr. Gray, let me get off of the many times that Al Gonzales said that she was a judicial activist, and on to something that's easier to quantify.

You said before -- it intrigued me -- that she's in the mainstream of legal opinion. She sits on one of the most conservative state supreme courts in America, the Texas supreme court. All nine judges are Republicans. All nine. And yet she has dissented more than anybody else except one.

She has become part of the fringe of a fringe. She had 66 dissents in four years, more than anybody else on the court, except one guy who's just about two degrees farther to the right of her. Now this is an extremist, right? When you're out of step with even a right wing Republican court, that's not in the mainstream, is it?

GRAY: Look, out of 1,000 opinions, roughly, she dissents 66 times. I mean, big deal. Look, if the full Senate were to vote her down, I'd accept that. But the full Senate's not going to have a chance to vote. One committee is going to determine who gets voted on. And that's not what the Constitution provides.

The founding fathers knew very, very well not to put the decision of who to approve, nominees put forward by a president, to a small group, because of the vulnerability of that small group to log rolling by people like Ralph.

(CROSSTALK)

Judge Pickering -- Judge Pickering -- there's no remedy for it except political. I mean, I'm not saying what, to go into court and say have it declared unconstitutional.

BEGALA: OK.

GRAY: Of course not. There's no remedy, there's nothing but a political for this. All I'm saying is it's not what the founders contemplated. Let the full Senate vote. The full Senate would have approved Pickering. I believe the full Senate would approve Justice Owen. The question is will it have a chance?

CARLSON: Now Ralph, you haven't called her a racist yet, and for that I'm grateful, though we expect that if it heats up, because that's always the charge.

NEAS: What are you talking about?

CARLSON: That's always the charge, that Republicans are secret racists. Boiled down...

NEAS: That's crazy.

CARLSON: Name two things, two issues, two ideological issues in which she is, quote, "an extremist," as Paul has charged about 15 times since we've started.

NEAS: What we have said is she is a right wing judicial activist. And if you look at her record, as we did, and please read the report carefully, we show where she's an activist, where her right wing ideology comes into play on the environment, on consumer rights, on civil rights and on abortion rights. Not just on abortion. Now the Senate Judiciary Committee hopefully will...

(CROSSTALK)

CARLSON: ...just give me one quick example.

NEAS: I just gave you four.

CARLSON: No, those are topics. I want an example.

NEAS: I gave you four examples of about 25 cases that we cite in our report on the environment, consumer rights, civil rights, and abortion rights, where we and Gonzales on many occasions agree that she tried to remake the law, because when she doesn't agree with the law, when it clashes with her right wing ideology, she tries to alter it.

(CROSSTALK)

I would love to address Boyden Gray in the Senate Judiciary Committee.

BEGALA: Sorry, we're going to have to take a quick break. We will be right back, and coming up I'm going to tell you about one of the underreported stories and the connection between Priscilla Owen and Enron.

Later, a videotape that could make Al Sharpton's insignificant presidential campaign even more improbable.

And our quote of the day is from a CNN viewer whose agency can't match our speed, but he wishes he could. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) BEGALA: Welcome back to CROSSFIRE. We were talking about President Bush's attempt to put a right wing judicial activist on the powerful Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals. In the CROSSFIRE, former White House counsel C. Boyden Gray -- he is now of the Committee for Justice, newly formed. And Ralph Neas of the People for the American Way.

Gentlemen, thank you both for staying with us.

CARLSON: Now, Ralph, one of the -- I would say the most comical attempt I've ever seen to undermine a person's credibility is this kind of hare-brained attempt to tie Priscilla Owen to Enron. And I want you to forswear that strategy right here on CROSSFIRE.

You know the case, 1996, all nine members of the Texas Supreme Court agreed, took Enron's side in an Enron case. Priscilla Owen not even close to the top in the amount of money she's received from Enron. There's no connection between Priscilla Owen and Enron. This is just a sad attempt to glom onto headlines, is it not?

NEAS: I think it's a legitimate issue for the Senate Judiciary Committee to look into. We didn't include it as part of our report.

CARLSON: Good for you. That's honorable.

NEAS: However, when you do receive those kinds of monies, and you do have a decision that gives Enron about $249,000, $250,000 in tax breaks, I think it's a legitimate issue for the community to look into. And what Senator Durbin asked is did you ever think of recusing yourself in all these conflict of interest situations, where you get so much money from the corporations and all these other issues...

GRAY: What about the trial lawyers?

CARLSON: But every judge in Texas is elected.

BEGALA: The trial lawyers. All the judges in Texas are elected, and one of the reasons we have all nine Republicans is Republicans, quite fairly, honestly, made an issue of the fact that Democrats took money from trial lawyers.

I wonder if you will apply the same standard to Judge Owen, who not only voted for Enron when Enron gave her money, but strikingly -- this is astonishing -- votes with her, for her contributors 85 percent of the time on the court. Now you can't imagine that 85 percent of the time those -- her corporate contributors are right, can you?

GRAY: Do you have data for other members of that court?

BEGALA: I'll be happy to get it for you.

(CROSSTALK)

...trying to get on the Fifth Circuit. I don't care if they vote 100 percent of the time. I think it's wrong for a state supreme court justice to vote 85 percent of the time in favor of her contributors. I think it's wrong. Do you think it's right?

GRAY: I think it's absurd...

(CROSSTALK)

...the amounts of money are so small, I think it's absolutely absurd to question that, absolutely absurd. If you're talking...

BEGALA: Because she didn't get enough money? She raised over $1 million.

If the amounts are small it's not fair to say she shouldn't vote for contributors...

GRAY: If there were anything considered unethical or illegal about this, do you think it would happen?

BEGALA: Yes! Let me introduce you to Texas, man. That's where I'm from, OK? I went to law school there, yes. Our court system is not the model of the country. I don't want to cast particular aspersions on her...

GRAY: So the whole thing's illegal. The whole court's illegal?

BEGALA: No. But the...

GRAY: The whole state court systems -- in my state of North Carolina, judges are elected. They take campaign money. That's illegal?

BEGALA: I don't think it's illegal. I'm asking you to tell me that you think it's all right to vote 85 of the time for your contributors. I think it's wrong. It's legal but it's wrong.

CARLSON: Do you mind if I -- this is deeply interesting, but I wonder if I may just interrupt for a second and get right to something I think is more important, and that is that justice is being denied while you, your group, and others like it, hold hostage the American judicial system.

There are scores of vacancies now that the president is trying to fill. And while they remain unfilled, bad things are happening. Just to give one among many examples, Sixth Circuit, there has been a death penalty appeal waiting for eight years, partly because there are so many vacancies. Do you ever think about the effect this bottleneck has on the American justice system?

NEAS: Tucker, I've told you before how ridiculous your argument is. In 1995...

CARLSON: But I didn't believe you.

NEAS: ...there were 65 vacancies. After Ashcroft and Trent Lott and Orrin Hatch got through, there were 111 vacancies when Pat Leahy took over in June of 2001. He must feel like the guy in the circus parade following the elephants and cleaning up the mess. Despite all of that, what he has done is he and Tom Daschle have confirmed 59 judges already, three times as many than when Boyden Gray and the first George Bush were in in 1989, and twice as many as George -- as Bill Clinton in 1993.

CARLSON: Unfortunately, we...

NEAS: He's doing a great job.

GRAY: The rate of appellate judge approval is about 33 percent -- much lower than the 80 and 90 percent that occurred in your administration and...

(CROSSTALK)

CARLSON: On those wise words we're going to have to -- we're going to have to leave it there. Mr. Gray, Mr. Neas, thank you both very much for joining us.

NEAS: Thank you, guys.

CARLSON: Still ahead, California's crusade to push car prices out of everyone's reach. Will that make you breathe easier?

Also, a leading Democratic presidential candidate, the greatest in the pack, caught on tape discussing what sure sounds like a drug deal.

But next, our "Quote of the Day" accuses us of shameless self- promotion, if you will, but he really said it. We'll tell you what is. Right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

Welcome back to CROSSFIRE. We're coming to you live from the George Washington University in downtown Washington, D.C. FBI Director Robert Mueller has got a big job on his hands, changing the culture of an agency that preferred keeping secrets to sharing information.

This week Mueller again promised to improve the FBI's relationship with state and local law enforcement agencies, and he gets our quote of the day for his choice of examples.

Quote, "Our communication should at least be as fast as CNN or television news, but often it is not."

Director Mueller, thanks for the plug. I wish they were half as accurate as CNN.

CARLSON: Well, that's not the real problem, Paul.

BEGALA: What's the real problem...

CARLSON: No "News Alerts" in the FBI, bad graphics, no Connie Chung. They can't hope to compete.

BEGALA: They're out of it. No chance.

CARLSON: But they're on the right road with quotes like that.

BEGALA: No, but with John Ashcroft in charge, they're at least as right wing as Fox News. So maybe that should be Mr. Mueller's...

CARLSON: I'm going to let that pass. Next, after a "News Alert," CNN's Connie Chung will tell us about her guests tonight, a man who's apparently too afraid to appear on "CROSSFIRE."

Later we'll ask California governor Gray Davis if it's easy being green -- easy for him, perhaps, but expensive for the rest of us.

And later, how will the Sharpton for president campaign survive a real gotchya from "Real Sports?" We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(INTERRUPTED FOR "NEWS ALERT")

CONNIE CHUNG, HOST, "CONNIE CHUNG TONIGHT": And those are our "News Alerts." Now back to Paul and Tucker. Were you looking for me?

CARLSON: We were looking. Actually, the FBI was looking for you, Connie. All of us heard about a special guest you had on your show tonight.

CHUNG: Yes, shall I tell you who it is?

CARLSON: Please do!

CHUNG: Congressman James Traficant.

CARLSON: Oh!

CHUNG: And it's a performance that you cannot miss. It's a performance to end all performances by Traficant. You have to see it.

CARLSON: Our envy is profound and genuine...

BEGALA: Tucker and I are going to get a six-pack of beer and watch the show together, Connie.

CHUNG: OK, that sounds good. Say hello to Governor Davis for me.

BEGALA: We'll do so. Ladies and gentlemen, Connie Chung. Thank you very much, Connie. Good job.

You know even the Bushes know that global warming is a serious problem, not that they're going to do anything about it, but enter California and the Democratic governor of that state, Gray Davis, the aforementioned.

This week, he signed the nation's first bill to fight global warming by regulating greenhouse gas emissions from cars. They're...

(AUDIO/VIDEO GAP)

BEGALA: Welcome back.

Tonight, HBO's "Real Sports With Bryant Gumbel" will play part of a 19-year-old FBI surveillance tape showing an undercover agent approaching the Reverend Al Sharpton about a possible drug deal. Watch.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REV. AL SHARPTON, NATIONAL ACTION NETWORK: So what kind of time limit are we dealing with, with this?

FBI AGENT: The coke?

SHARPTON: Yeah.

FBI AGENT: Could be -- about the same time I have four million coming to us.

SHARPTON: End of April.

FBI AGENT: End of April, six weeks from now.

Is that a good time, you think?

SHARPTON: Probably.

FBI AGENT: Now I can get pure coke, or, you know, 99 percent, for about 35,000 a kilo.

But I gotta get, you know, more than one.

SHARPTON: Right.

FBI AGENT: You know, if we're going to do this thing...

SHARPTON: Now you're talking about some real...

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CARLSON: Reverend Sharpton joins us now from our New York bureau.

Reverend, thank you for being good enough to join us.

SHARPTON: Thank you.

CARLSON: Al Sharpton, thanks for joining us.

I've got to tell you, that's about one of the most damning things I've ever seen. Is that you on that tape?

SHARPTON: Well, you know, every time I'm on the show you say whatever I did was damning. But I think it is damning...

CARLSON: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) to do with drug dealers before.

SHARPTON: Well, but...

CARLSON: Is that you on the tape?

SHARPTON: Well, no, I think what's damning, Tucker, is that it wasn't a drug dealer, it was an FBI agent trying to entrap me in a deal. And one first would have to ask the question, Why would the FBI be trying to entrap me, and then 19 years later come out with part of the tape, rather than coming out with the end of the situation, where we clearly said we wouldn't do drugs.

One of the things that we challenged HBO is to come with the other tape, one that we know was at the Senate subcommittee, where we clearly said we wouldn't do a drug deal.

It's easy after 19 years to come with part of a tape. So what we're doing tomorrow, our attorneys, is filing a lawsuit. We are asking for Freedom of Information Act, let's release all the tapes. And I'm going to ask all presidential candidates, including President Bush, let's all say to the government, Release the tapes. Let's release the Enron meetings with Vice President Cheney, let's release the insider stuff with President Bush.

I have nothing to hide. You got to go back 19 years to try to get something with me...

CARLSON: Well, then...

SHARPTON: ... let's everybody be full disclosure.

CARLSON: Well, you raise some really interesting questions. We'll get to those in a minute. But let me just ask you this question. You say that you turned down the opportunity to be involved in this drug deal. You thought this was a drug deal. You didn't know at the time it was an FBI agent...

SHARPTON: No...

CARLSON: ... posing as (UNINTELLIGIBLE).

SHARPTON: Absolutely, the guy...

CARLSON: Now, let me ask you this question...

SHARPTON: ... approached us as a guy wanted to be in promotions and other business ventures. In fact, I'd introduced him to people. I was surprised when he lured me into his office and then started talking something else. So right away, as the guy has said, by the way, I would say anything at that point to get out of there without danger.

If I'm in your green room...

CARLSON: (UNINTELLIGIBLE).

SHARPTON: ... there at CNN and you started talking something, first thing I'm going to say is, Wait a minute, does he have somebody here that can harm me? Does he have a gun?

CARLSON: Well, wait a second.

SHARPTON: OK, I'm going to go along, get out, and I'm going to deal with the situation. The real question...

CARLSON: And once you got (UNINTELLIGIBLE)...

SHARPTON: ... that has to be asked is, what happened to the deal?

CARLSON: (UNINTELLIGIBLE).

SHARPTON: If they had me read to do the deal, why didn't we do the deal?

CARLSON: Well, Mr. Sharpton, let me ask you this. Once you got out, did you go to the police? Did you tell them, This man approached me and tried to sell me drugs?

SHARPTON: What I did...

CARLSON: Did you report this to the police?

SHARPTON: What I did is make it clear to the man that we were not going to do it when we met again, and then later they came and said that he was an undercover agent. But all of that would come out in the tapes. Let's bring the tapes out. Let's not show the public part of a tape, three minutes and a half. Clearly it must have been longer than that.

And then let's explain to the public why the deal was never consummated.

This is the abuse of using law enforcement. And, you know, when you take positions like I do, when you challenge law enforcement -- I'm going again, day after tomorrow, to Inglewood, California -- you expect that you're going to be targeted. So this will go on all the way through the campaign, if I choose to run.

But I think you use it to open to the public how there are some forces that misuse law enforcement. Not all, lot of law enforcement is good and clean, many of them called me today and were outraged by this.

But clearly, those that abuse it, I think this is an example of showing that, and challenging them. And we will challenge them.

BEGALA: Yes, but reverend, in the brief snippet that we saw, what's more outrageous is not what you said but what you didn't say. You lead a community that's been as ravaged and damaged by drugs as any other in America, and yet you didn't tell this purported drug dealer, this FBI agent undercover, not, No, but, Hell no, and you didn't go to the cops. Why not?

SHARPTON: I did, I did, that's why I want the video to come out. There is a video that was played at the Senate hearing 10 years ago that we clearly said that. But I clearly was there with another party and clearly did not feel that I was (UNINTELLIGIBLE) in a position of danger, Paul.

So your point is exactly what did happen. That's why I want the challenge that all the tapes come out. Again, you should be asking the government if you had Al Sharpton, who was even then a nemesis to you, why didn't you go ahead and make the deal and bust him?

CARLSON: Well, actually, the government apparently has indicated to newspaper reporters over the years that it did confront you with this evidence, and you turned and became an FBI informant. And put -- wore a wire and collected information for people the FBI was interested in. Have you ever worn...

SHARPTON: Well, who? And who...

CARLSON: ... a wire for the FBI?

SHARPTON: ... have I testified against? Who have I testified against? What grand jury has I -- have I been in?

CARLSON: Well, that's my, that's my, that's my question to you, Mr. Sharpton, have you ever...

SHARPTON: No, no, you said -- the government's -- don't ask me to explain something that somebody alleged on me. None of that happened. What I, what I have done...

CARLSON: I want to ask you, is it -- is it true?

SHARPTON: ... is -- I have -- I just said, None of that has happened. What I have done is try to get the government to deal with crack in our community. I've had to try to deal with corruption. I'm trying to deal with police brutality. We have a federal case right now, that's Abner Louima.

So to cooperate with the government is -- in those cases, informant? I don't think so. I think that if you look at the fact that throughout history people that have stood up to law enforcement have been targeted. I remember when Reverend Jackson ran, his sons, they came out with alleged drug tapes.

I remember any number of elected officials around the country that have faced this. The real question you have to ask is, Why would you be trying to create a crime that doesn't exist, bring someone that is not in the criminal activity into the crime, and then wait 19 years when they're preparing to run for president, possibly, and put this out, a snippet, as Paul said?

I think anyone would look at this and say, Wait a minute, the timing of this, the lack of extensive taping here, there's something fishy about this. And then the HBO special that puts this in is glorifying a guy that used to be a gangster, and he says he fixed Yankee games, he did this...

BEGALA: Let me ask you about that.

SHARPTON: ... he did that. This is...

BEGALA: Reverend...

SHARPTON: ... this is amazing...

BEGALA: I'm sorry to catch you up, but let me ask you about the...

SHARPTON: ... they should call the show, "That's Incredible."

BEGALA: Well, the show is called -- I mean, I'll plug it for them, because they gave us the tape, it's called "Real Sports," and the correspondent...

SHARPTON: I think they should call it, "That's Incredible."

BEGALA: ... who obtained -- the correspondent who obtained this tape is a man named Bernard Goldberg. He's a right-wing crank who wrote a book, said the media's all a bunch of liberals. How do you suppose Bernard Goldberg got an FBI surveillance tape?

SHARPTON: Well, that's very interesting. And I'm going to go to court to make sure we find out how he got it, as well as there are members of Congress that called me today that's going to challenge the Senate. Being that we know there are other tapes, being we know that he is a right-wing crank, being we know that he has...

CARLSON: Wait a second, Mr. Sharpton...

SHARPTON: ... government (UNINTELLIGIBLE) misusing it.

CARLSON: ... hold on. Well, let me ask you that...

(CROSSTALK)

BEGALA: ... HBO says they didn't get it from the FBI...

CARLSON: Hold on, Paul...

(CROSSTALK)

CARLSON: ... let me ask you that. That's right, HBO says it didn't get this tape from the FBI. The FBI says it has no other tapes. You've made reference repeatedly as, in an effort to exculpate yourself, to other tapes. What other tapes? Have you seen them?

SHARPTON: Well, first of all...

CARLSON: Where are the tapes? SHARPTON: ... there were any number of published reports in 1992, Tucker, when the Senate had its hearings on corruption in boxing that showed the other tapes that I'm talking about. There's no dispute there. That's absolutely not true.

CARLSON: No, actually, this tape, these tapes have never been -- this tape has never been shown in public, so far as I know.

SHARPTON: This tape...

CARLSON: The tape that we showed tonight.

SHARPTON: ... was part of the tapes that the Senate subcommittee had. They didn't show it because other tapes concluded that...

CARLSON: But you said (UNINTELLIGIBLE)...

SHARPTON: ... there was no deal, and in fact, we said no. The other tapes were reported on. What do you mean, there are no other tapes?

CARLSON: It was reported in the news that they were tapes showing you saying to a drug dealer, No, drugs are bad, only dopes do dope, I don't want to be in your drug deal. That has never been reported, and I don't know what you're talking about. I -- you know, have you seen this tape?

SHARPTON: Well, then you should go forward and research that, definitely was put out in '92 at the Senate subcommittee in a meeting with the same agent in the same office with the president of a record company called Bagano (ph) in that.

I mean, we don't have to argue about this. We're going into court, and we're going to come forward on this.

BEGALA: And, and in fact...

SHARPTON: This is a matter of published records.

BEGALA: If you get ahold of that tape, believe me, I'm not kidding, come here, we'll play it. We played this tape first, and I have to say it does not make you look very good.

SHARPTON: I would be more than (UNINTELLIGIBLE)...

BEGALA: If you have a tape that shows you telling them no to their drug deal, it's our obligation to play it.

CARLSON: But Mr. Sharpton, do you think that you...

BEGALA: And believe me, we will.

CARLSON: ... may be, as a political matter, as a presidential candidate, playing this wrong? Rather than saying, They set me up, I didn't do it, et cetera, wouldn't it be more effective to say, Look, I've been there, I'm the man of experience, I'm the candidate of experience, I've been involved in drug deals, I've been around them, and they're bad.

Don't you think that would be give you...

SHARPTON: You know, you know, Tucker...

CARLSON: ... an edge?

SHARPTON: ... first of all, I hope you're sober saying that. But if you just looked at this tape, clearly, anyone...

CARLSON: I just saw the tape, Mr. Sharpton.

SHARPTON: ... in their right mind would say, If you have an FBI sting that didn't have -- what am I going to say I've been involved in, that I survived a sting?

CARLSON: Well? Well, the man says...

SHARPTON: That the government says -- first of all, we -- my two predecessors...

CARLSON: ... but the man...

SHARPTON: My two predecessors...

CARLSON: You're wearing a cowboy hat, Al, and the guy says, "The cocaine?"...

SHARPTON: Oh, (UNINTELLIGIBLE)...

CARLSON: ... and you say, "Yes.

SHARPTON: ... (UNINTELLIGIBLE).

CARLSON: I mean, come on!

SHARPTON: My two predecessors, one said, I smoked marijuana and didn't inhale. The other was arrested, drunk driving. I had an attempted sting, and I ended up being the bee. So, I mean, let's go forward with the election.

CARLSON: But at the time, you didn't know it was a sting, by your own admission. This man you (UNINTELLIGIBLE) as a drug dealer.

SHARPTON: By my own admission, I was trying -- I would say anything to make sure I get out of there alive.

CARLSON: But you didn't report him to the police...

SHARPTON: The challenge -- I did. And the...

CARLSON: ... once you left.

SHARPTON: ... challenge is...

CARLSON: No, you didn't. SHARPTON: ... that why didn't we make the deal? What happened to the deal, Tucker? Any lawyer will tell you...

CARLSON: Well, he wasn't a real coke dealer.

SHARPTON: ... (UNINTELLIGIBLE) -- any lawyer will tell you, any lawyer will tell you that there is nothing on that tape that could have been used against me, which is why they didn't.

But the reason, what you just said about he wasn't a real drug dealer, is all the more reason, that if they felt that they really had me, and that I hadn't said no later, they would have come in, done a drug deal, tape that, and there wouldn't be no question about what I was going to do.

CARLSON: Put it in your campaign ads then, it's a great spot, I love it.

BEGALA: Reverend, do you think, do you think that this is entrapment, and do you think that they targeted you for this?

SHARPTON: Oh, there's no -- they even admitted that they targeted me. They admitted it was a sting. And clearly it's entrapment. And it will be a great campaign ad, because it shows the danger of the abuse of things that we're looking at, like homeland security and others, that you can just come in, target people, do private tapes, release them when you want, don't explain where they come from.

I think that this is an absolute campaign issue. There are millions of people...

BEGALA: (UNINTELLIGIBLE).

SHARPTON: ... that have been entrapped...

BEGALA: It is true, the FBI...

SHARPTON: ... in certain situations that couldn't fight back...

BEGALA: ... the FBI did not dangle car keys and a six-pack of beer...

SHARPTON: ... I will fight back.

BEGALA: ... in front of Bush, he did that all on his own.

CARLSON: Speaking of campaigns, speaking of campaigns, Mr. Sharpton, I want to wish you luck on yours. You have a lot of heart to come on our show after that tape. It's really an amazing tape. Take our advice, put it in your campaign ads. Good luck, you're a great Democrat. Thanks for joining us.

SHARPTON: I will, Tucker, along with you.

CARLSON: Thank you. Next, it's your turn. Stay with us, and see why CROSSFIRE reminds one of our viewers of a truly great and noble American sport. It's not curling. We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BEGALA: Welcome back to CROSSFIRE.

Time now for feedback, which we call "Fireback".

Let's begin with the e-mail. Win Mosely of Yardley, Pennsylvania, writes about the economy. "Remember the tax cut check that we got in the mail last summer? Well, I guess that $300 offset the $5,500 I've lost since this summer. If the Bush economy keeps this up, I'll be bankrupt in no time."

That is his economic strategy, Win, you got that right.

CARLSON: It's dot-com, bad investment.

Next up, Ronnie Wiggins from Lyons, Georgia, who writes, "I keep hearing from Republicans and the news media about Bush's popularity in the polls. I would like to say I have never been polled. I don't know anyone who has been polled. Heck," that's a common Georgia term, "I don't know anyone who knows someone who has been polled."

Ronnie, that's because there is no polling in Georgia. It skews the sample.

BEGALA: They just make it up.

Here we go, Roger Craft in Hot Springs Village, Arizona, writes, "In regard to the economic situation, isn't it about time that everyone starts following the old axiom, The damage is done, so forget about who was to blame, just fix the problem."

If we did that, Roger, there would be no CROSSFIRE. We're here for blame assignment, finger-pointing, personal attacks, our specialty.

CARLSON: Robert Boullion from Dallas, Texas, writes, "The new format reminds me of the WWF." That's not the World Wildlife Federation. "It rewards the loud, the rude, the arrogant." That's Paul. "Only a fool would try to present" -- and me -- "a reasoned argument in the face of people like Carville and Begala." Well, that insults everyone all around. That's a -- that's a nice e-mail.

BEGALA: Well done, Robert. He fits into CROSSFIRE.

CARLSON: Exactly.

BEGALA: Loud, rude, and it's -- good for you, Robert.

CARLSON: We have a question.

BEGALA: Yes, sir, your name and your home town. AUDIENCE MEMBER: Hi, I'm Ian Grant from Juno, Alaska, and my question was (UNINTELLIGIBLE)...

BEGALA: (UNINTELLIGIBLE)? Sorry, there, must always say that to you. I'm sorry.

AUDIENCE MEMBER: Why is it that liberal or Democratic leaders tend to be more capable of ducking scandal or continuing on past it rather than their conservative or Republican counterparts?

BEGALA: Wow.

CARLSON: Well, I can, I can answer that as a professional observer of the breed. Two words, no shame. So if you're deeply unembarrassed about yourself, you can get on CROSSFIRE and say, Yeah, you've got the tape, but I don't care, it's a setup.

BEGALA: We have a president who refused to tell us if he ever used drugs, which I defended...

CARLSON: (UNINTELLIGIBLE), right.

BEGALA: Excuse me. We have a president who refused to answer whether he used drugs. He lied to us and said he'd never been arrested when he got a DUI. He didn't show up for National Guard duty for an entire year. And he's sitting in the Oval Office. Don't tell me my party gets away with it. This guy's gotten away with murder. He's got Thief Justice Rehnquist to bail him out every time.

CARLSON: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) again. We have another question. Yes?

AUDIENCE MEMBER: Yes, even -- I'm Greg Koloniak (ph), I'm from Bluveau (ph), Pennsylvania. Even if new emission standards raise the prices of cars, don't you think our environment maintained for future generations is more important than the car industry making more money on already overpriced cars? Shouldn't they just stop -- lose a little profits?

BEGALA: Well, yes.

CARLSON: It all, it all depends...

BEGALA: Yes, (UNINTELLIGIBLE).

CARLSON: ... but those are the sorts of decisions -- I mean, if it makes good scientific sense, perhaps so. But that's the kind of decision to be made by scientists, not the governor of California for short-term political gain, which is what has happened.

BEGALA: It's called a democracy. Gray Davis is doing the right thing. I'm proud of him.

From the left, I'm Paul Begala. Good night for CROSSFIRE.

CARLSON: From the right, I'm Tucker Carlson. Join us again tomorrow night for another Al Sharpton-less edition of CROSSFIRE.

"CONNIE CHUNG TONIGHT" begins immediately after a CNN News Alert. See you tomorrow night.

TO ORDER A VIDEO OF THIS TRANSCRIPT, PLEASE CALL 800-CNN-NEWS OR USE OUR SECURE ONLINE ORDER FORM LOCATED AT www.fdch.com



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