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CNN CROSSFIRE

Iraqi Parliament Accuses U.N. Resolution of Being Fodder for U.S. War; Al Sharpton Offers Diplomacy skills

Aired November 12, 2002 - 19:00   ET

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

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)
ANNOUNCER: CROSSFIRE: On the left: James Carville and Paul Begala. On the right: Robert Novak and Tucker Carlson.

In the CROSSFIRE tonight, more weapons inspectors? Iraq's parliament says, Forget it.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I found this resolution is unapplicable...

ANNOUNCER: President Bush asks Saddam Hussein for a second opinion.

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: This guy's a dictator, and so we'll have to see what he says.

ANNOUNCER:: Tonight, we're getting the opinion of former chief weapons inspector Scott Ridder.

Plus, Al Sharpton tries his hand at -- diplomacy? What are his plans for solving the crisis in Iraq and the crisis in the Democratic Party?

And the guys' club remains a guys' club.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We'll stand firmly behind our positions and our right to make our policies.

ANNOUNCER: Augusta National's bunker mentality, tonight on CROSSFIRE.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ANNOUNCER: From the George Washington University: Paul Begala and Tucker Carlson.

TUCKER CARLSON, CO-HOST: Welcome to CROSSFIRE.

Tonight we're teeing up Augusta National's decision to defy political correctness, as well as the Iraqi lawmakers' vote to defy the world. But first, a developing news story. Osama bin Laden, or at least his voice, may still be around after all. For the latest, we go to the CNN Center in Atlanta and our national correspondent Mike Boettcher -- Mike. MIKE BOETTCHER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well Tucker, the tape was released about three hours ago by Al-Jazeera, the Arabic language news station from the Gulf. And in this statement, it is not a sermon from bin Laden, if it is indeed, bin Laden. It is more of a threat against the United States and its coalition partners.

Now all of the experts we've spoken to believe that it is bin Laden. We're waiting for definitive word on that. But, as I said, he takes a very threatening tone. Let's listen to part of it.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): Why is it acceptable for us to live with fear, murder, destruction, displacement, the orphanage of children and the widowing of women? But peace, security and happiness should be for you. This is not fair. Now is the time to become equals. Just like you kill us, we will kill you.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BOETTCHER: On the tape, he mentions the attack in Bali and the hostage taking in Moscow by the Chechens. This is an indication that he is alive, if it is, indeed, his voice. And, as I said, the experts who are looking at this believe that it is, indeed, Osama bin Laden.

If that is the case, the attack in Moscow occurred between the 23rd and 26th of October. That means they would have been able to get this message out in under three week -- Tucker.

PAUL BEGALA, CO-HOST: Mike, let me ask you. You say if it is indeed him. And some experts say it is him. Will we have definitive proof? And if so, how and when?

BOETTCHER: Well, there are a couple of ways. First, voice print analysis is being done by the various intelligence agencies in the United States and elsewhere in the world. This is a good enough quality audio recording that can match it to other recordings of his voice. One person who has analyzed bin Laden and his voice a lot says that he's speaking more quickly in this particular audiotape than he has in past -- in the past.

But, if you look at it as more of a threat, rather than a sermon to his followers, that would make sense. He's not trying to be benevolent in his speech.

CARLSON: OK. CNN's Mike Boettcher in Atlanta. Thanks, Mike.

Well, Osama bin Laden or not, we are plowing forward with the CROSSFIRE "Political Alert." Here it is.

In political news, from the fourth dimension tonight the Iraqi national parliament has met, deliberated and unanimously rejected U.N. demands that Iraq disarm. There's only one problem, the Iraqi national parliament doesn't actually exist, at least not as a real parliament. President Bush noted as much today, when he dismissed the vote as irrelevant, noting that Iraq has no democracy but merely a dictator. He again warned Saddam Hussein that Iraq will be disarmed, period.

Meanwhile, U.S. officials have discovered that Baghdad has ordered more than a million doses of a drug used to counter the effects of nerve gas. The United States, of course, does not use nerve gas, a fact that suggests Iraq may not yet be fully disarmed.

BEGALA: That's a very good point. And I do think that this inspection regime is a good one and I hope they do succeed in disarming him.

Reprehensible, that's the word Vice President Dick Cheney used to describe the accusation made by me and many others that the timing of the Bush push for congressional vote on Iraq was motivated by the midterm elections. Now that the elections are over, the Bush White House is fessing up.

They spilled their guts to "Newsweek" magazine, which reports the following quote from "Newsweek." "Last August Bush's inner circle gathered in Crawford, Texas, to plan the fall," as one aide later put it. "The first decision made, August 8, was to keep Iraq front and center for months. Not by dropping daisy (ph) cutters on Baghdad, but by going on a long, stately march through Congress and the United Nations." Reprehensible, indeed.

CARLSON: Actually, Paul, as you know, the timing of the vote on Iraq was demanded by Democrats, who stood up there and yelled and screamed -- I think you were one of them -- saying Congress has to vote on this.

BEGALA: After august 8. August 8, before any Democrat said that.

CARLSON: That's not true.

BEGALA: Well that's what "Newsweek" reports.

CARLSON: In the days since their crushing defeat last week, Democratic strategists have concluded their party should have taken a stronger stand against the Bush administration's economic plan. Specifically against President Bush's tax cuts. Unfortunately, someone forgot to give that memo to Senator John Edwards of North Carolina, the party's leading presidential candidate in 2004, after, of course, the Reverend Al Sharpton, who, incidentally, will join us later in the show.

In a speech today in Washington, Senator Edwards all but endorsed the Bush economic plan saying that the vast majority of the administration's tax cuts ought to be made permanent. He even called for deeper cuts in the death tax on the rich. Edwards also called for a 10 percent reduction in the size of the grotesquely bloated federal bureaucracy.

Party leaders could not be reached for comment tonight. Aides said they were being treated for acute political schizophrenia. Good luck in 2004.

BEGALA: Tucker, I actually read the speech.

CARLSON: So did I.

BEGALA: I hope you did. Well, you need to go back to Evelyn Wood, man, because you're reading too fast. Here's what he said, and I quote, "I believe we should put off the tax cut President Bush gave to the most fortunate Americans. It is unsustainable." He called for a reinstatement of the death tax, the estate tax, but with an exemption of $7 million. I mean we should have a debate about economic plans, but let's not...

CARLSON: Oh, $7 million. Just ordinary working Americans making $7 million. I understand. Look, I'm for it. I'm just saying to call this a populist move is just not true.

BEGALA: I didn't say it's populist, but you cannot say in good faith that he said Bush's tax cut...

(CROSSTALK)

CARLSON: He said a tiny bit of a tax cut. The rest of it ought to be made permanent. I read the speech.

BEGALA: Well, you mischaracterized it.

CARLSON: I did not.

BEGALA: William Webster is a former federal judge, a former head of the FBI and the former head of the CIA. As of today, he's also the former head of the corporation accounting oversight board which was set up by Congress to police fuzzy math by corporate crooks. Judge Webster became ensnared in controversy when Harvey Pitt, President Bush's SEC chair, failed to inform his fellow SEC commissioners that a firm with which Webster had been associated was being sued for fraud.

White House insiders say that to replace Webster, the president may turn to his best friend in corporate America, the man who truly shares Mr. Bush's values and embodies his ethics, former Enron CEO Ken Lay. Kenny boy.

CARLSON: See, this is why Democrats lost last Tuesday. The idea that musical chairs at the SEC has anything to do with the economy or offers any hope of improving the economy is absurd and most Americans recognize that.

BEGALA: Two words: Kenny boy. Bring him back.

CARLSON: Yeah, who flourished under Bill Clinton, a close personal friend. A golf buddy, as you know.

Two days from now, Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi will be elected House minority leader, a move that most observers consider political suicide for her party. But at least one high-profile Democrat supports the move, Barbra Streisand. According to the "Daily Variety" (ph), Streisand and Pelosi are close allies. In recent years, the congresswoman has attended at least two events honoring the actress, singer, songwriter, superstar turned political intellectual.

Now some voters have asked why Barbra Streisand's opinion matters. Barbra Streisand herself will be glad to tell you why. According to her official biography, Ms. Streisand is, among other amazing things, a record-setting renaissance woman, a former honor student and, in general, one of the most important human beings in human history.

The document goes on breathlessly for 3,270 words, 250 lines, seven typed pages. The president of the United States' biography, by contrast, is about 300 words, less than one-tenth the size. So the next time the Democratic Party does something that confuses you, relax, Barbra Streisand supports it.

BEGALA: The president's biography, yeah, well, busted for drunk driving a long time ago, cleaned up my act, made a lot of money off my father's name, accused of insider trading, Supreme Court put me in as president. That's not 300 words, you're right.

CARLSON: She is pathetic and insincere.

BEGALA: Speaking of our president, there's a revealing portrait of Crawford, Texas, the tiny town that Mr. Bush has called his home since he began running for president. Perhaps most revealing are the comments of Crawford's mayor, Democrat Robert Campbell. He said, "We see the world differently," when he spoke to "Texas Monthly" (ph). Speaking of the president, Mayor Campbell said, "The children of politicians won't be the ones fighting a war in Iraq."

Mayor Campbell is also the minister of the Perry (ph) Chapel United Methodist Church. Mr. Bush is also a Methodist. But the magazine notes has never taken the time to worship at Mayor Campbell's church. One parishioner was gracious enough to extend an invitation. "Mr. Bush has gone to other churches in town," she said. "Why hasn't he come to the mayor's church? He's always welcome to pray with us." Amen.

CARLSON: Oh, that makes me sick. You know, I'm serious. I'm serious. To politicize, as Democrats invariably do, church services, where a candidate gets up and the pastor endorses him in a partisan way is absolutely wrong. And I don't care what you say, Republicans don't do that to the extent Democrats do.

BEGALA: They just want the man to come to their church. He shares their faith, why won't he share...

CARLSON: They're politicizing a church service and it's just revolting.

BEGALA: No, they're not. They're inviting him to church with them.

CARLSON: Yes they are. They're using it for political gains by talking to...

BEGALA: It's called good manners. They've invited him to the church. He should take them up, he might learn something.

Well, as CNN reported earlier, an audio tape has surfaced. It's purportedly from Osama bin Laden. In a minute, a man who for months argued President Bush's obsession with Saddam Hussein was distracting us from the war against bin Laden, Scott Ritter. He once led the international search for Iraq's weapons. Soon he will step into the CROSSFIRE.

And later, Tucker Carlson's favorite Democrat met with Iraqi officials yesterday. He will meet with us in a few more minutes.

And then we tee off on Hootie and the blowhards at Augusta National. You won't want to miss that. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BEGALA: In what passes for political debate in Iraq, the country's parliament today ignored a plea by Saddam Hussein's son and voted unanimously to reject the United Nations resolution demanding Iraqi disarmament. Of course that's just the parliament's recommendation. The real decision is up to Iraq's revolutionary command council, which is led by, guess who, Saddam Hussein himself.

Joining us from Albany, New York, to discuss the latest developments in Iraq, former U.N. Weapons Inspector Scott Ritter. Scott, thank you for joining us, sir.

SCOTT RITTER, FMR. U.N. WEAPONS INSPECTOR: Thanks for having me.

CARLSON: Scott Ritter, I'd be interested to know your take on this. You are, as I understand, the first American ever to address the Iraqi parliament, at least under Saddam Hussein. Denounced your own government in doing that. What do you make of the vote, the unanimous vote to ignore the resolution?

RITTER: Well, I certainly wouldn't interpret it as somehow reflecting Iraqi democracy. Let's be clear that this is, as President Bush rightfully said, you know, a rubber stamp organization that will do what the president tells them to do. I believe that this is a very public display of defiance, you know, designed to give Iraq some sort of face-saving gesture. And that the Iraqi president on Friday will respectfully decline the decision of the parliament in his effort to save the Iraqi people and swallow the bitter pill, and he'll accept inspectors.

CARLSON: Well then I wonder if it is, as you said, just a rubber stamp body, just a roomful of puppets. And that makes sense to me. Then why did you go to the trouble of going all the way over there and addressing the Iraqi parliament, and as I said, attacking the U.S. government as you did it? Why did you bother to do it?

RITTER: Well, because it was a way to seize the bully pulpit. Remember that when I spoke before the parliament I had the cameras of the international media focused on what I was saying. The Iraqi government was paying attention to what I was saying. And I would hope that the American people and the American government would likewise be listening to what I was saying. So it was strictly an opportunity to get the message heard. I used the Iraqi parliament as a vehicle to get the message across.

BEGALA: Scott, there's a new story coming out of the Middle East today that an audio tape purportedly from Osama bin Laden, not yet proved to have been from him, though, calls for more attacks against American citizens. The president has said many times in his administration that there is a link between al Qaeda and the Iraqi government. The CIA has said that there's not.

You've done a lot of work in Iraq. Did you see, do you have any evidence or signs of linkages between Osama bin Laden's al Qaeda terrorist network and Saddam Hussein?

RITTER: Well, remember, my job as an inspector is to go after weapons of mass destruction, not Iraq's terror infrastructure. So it wasn't as though I was looking for this kind of link. I did have opportunity to inspect, you know, Iraq's intelligence and security infrastructure, including intelligence apparatus inside Iraq dedicated to, you know, overseas assassination and terrorism.

There was no link between that organization and al Qaeda that I was aware of. I concur with the CIA's, you know, assessment. That as of yet, there's been no link made between Osama bin Laden's al Qaeda organization and Saddam Hussein's Iraq.

However, I think if this tape is true, what it underscores is the fact that we still have a very dangerous war under way, as we speak, against al Qaeda. They have not been defeated. And I would be hesitant to get involved in a major military action against Iraq that would only further spur the anti-American sentiment that al Qaeda draws upon to carry out their acts of terrorism.

BEGALA: There's another report -- two reports, actually. One, that Saddam Hussein's Iraq is in possession of smallpox. Another report that Saddam Hussein is trying to get atropine, which is an agent that can protect his people against nerve gas should he use it against our troops. As a former weapons inspector, how likely is it that Saddam Hussein has biological and chemical weapons? How likely is it that he would use them against Americans in a war?

RITTER: Well, I just have to go upon our experiences as of 1998, when I was last there as an inspector. And we have no evidence whatsoever that Iraq has or had a smallpox program. You know I don't want to be dismissive of these reports, but until somebody puts some substantive fact on the table, I just can't buy into that.

Now chemical weapons is different. As I testified to the U.S. Senate in 1998, Iraq has the indigenous capability right now to reconstitute a chemical weapons program within a matter of weeks. And my concern is if we continue to push for military action against Iraq, and once the writing becomes clear on the wall -- and believe me, if Saddam Hussein doesn't understand that President Bush is dead serious about going to war against him now, I don't know when he'll be -- when he'll recognize that. But at some point, I believe that Iraq will seek to reconstitute militarized nerve agent that will be used in defense of Baghdad. And I think the Iraqi government's efforts to acquire significant stockpiles of atropine are an indication that this is the direction that Saddam Hussein is heading.

CARLSON: Well, maybe I'm misreading what you're saying, Mr. Ritter. But I hear you saying that the U.S. is at fault for almost everything. You just said a minute ago that we shouldn't go into Iraq because it will make al Qaeda mad at us. And you're suggesting that if American troops move toward Iraq that the Iraqi government will prepare sarin (ph) or vx (ph) nerve gas to use against American troops, as if that's the fault of the American government that their government would use a chemical weapons against anybody. Am I misreading what you're saying?

RITTER: Oh, of course. You have a good track record of misreading what I say, Tucker.

CARLSON: Well help me here.

RITTER: The bottom line is this, I don't think that Iraq today poses a threat to the United States that warrants war. I'm not trying to underplay or, you know, say that Iraq isn't a horrible -- you know, that Saddam Hussein isn't a horrible dictator and that he shouldn't be contained or dealt with. But Iraq does not pose a threat to the United States worthy of war.

There's nothing that the president of the United States has put forward that would justify the loss of a single American life. When I talk about al Qaeda, I say that we are at war against al Qaeda. They attacked us, not Iraq, and we should focus our efforts on them.

Why would we want to go to war against Iraq and give al Qaeda some sort of justification, some propaganda? You know, going to war against Iraq would be the best recruiting poster for Osama bin Laden.

CARLSON: Wait, as if al Qaeda needs more reason to hate the U.S. But hold on here. Maybe you didn't read the paper this morning, but apparently Iraq is trying to by a million doses of antidote for nerve gas from turkey. I mean isn't that prima fascia evidence right there that the regime is out of control? They're making plans to use nerve gas against our troops? I mean...

RITTER: Well, again, I would be a little bit concerned if I thought that Iraq was going to attack American troops in Germany or in Kuwait and launch an offensive strike. But remember, it's going to be American troops going to them. And it will be the Iraqis defending themselves.

I won't condone the use of chemical weapons. But I share the assessment of George Tenet, Director of CIA. The most likely scenario in which Iraq would use chemical weapons against American troops is one in which the United States is the aggressor against Iraq.

BEGALA: Scott, one of the reasons I think that President Bush went back to the U.N. to get a new resolution, something you called on him to do, as did I and many others, is because, candidly, the old regime had failed. We tried, inspectors were no longer operating for the last four years. And the sanctions regime was very porous.

One of the reasons it was porous was that American companies got around it by setting up foreign subsidiaries. One of those subsidiaries while you were a weapons inspector was the Halliburton company, which sold oil field equipment parts to Saddam Hussein. The CEO of whom was Dick Cheney.

Let me read to you what "The Washington Post" said about Mr. Cheney's role in selling equipment to Iraq. "Halliburton held stakes in two firms to sign contracts to sell more than $73 million in oil production equipment and spare parts to Iraq while Cheney was chairman and chief executive of the Dallas-based company. Former executives at the two Halliburton subsidiaries said they had never heard any objections from Cheney or any other Halliburton official to trading with Baghdad."

How does it feel to have your patriotism questioned as a Marine major by people who were doing business with Iraq just a few years ago?

RITTER: Well, I don't like to have my patriotism questioned by anybody, let alone people who themselves show a tremendous amount of inconsistency when dealing with the issue of Iraq. I'm not accusing Halliburton or Vice President Cheney of doing anything illegal. In fact, I think the deals that you talked about were legal under the rule of law.

But, you know, it is a little bit hypocritical for the vice president of the United States to have made a good deal of money on behalf of his company doing business with Iraq and today, be one of the, you know, the people in the forefront of talking about going to war with Iraq. I still go back to my basic argument. Nobody has made a case that Iraq represents a threat to the United States worthy of the sacrifice of a single American who wears the uniform in defense of this wonderful country.

CARLSON: OK. Scott Ritter in New York state. We appreciate your joining us. Thank you.

RITTER: Thank you.

CARLSON: Next, the Democratic Party's other Al. That would, of course, be leading presidential candidate Al Sharpton. He joins us. He tries his hand at international diplomacy. He met with Iraq's U.N. ambassador this week. We'll ask if peace will break out any day now.

Later, it's still the place where women are stopped at the clubhouse door. How much longer can Augusta National hold out? We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BEGALA: Welcome back to CROSSFIRE. The Reverend Al Sharpton says that members of the clergy here in the United States and over there in Iraq ought to do something to avoid a war. For his part, Reverend Sharpton shared his vision with Iraq's ambassador to the United Nations yesterday in New York. He joins us from the big apple to tell us how things went. Reverend Sharpton, thank you for joining us, sir.

REV. AL SHARPTON, NATIONAL ACTION NETWORK: Good evening.

CARLSON: OK. Reverend Al Sharpton, you were criticized by a number of people, including "The New York Times" yesterday for meeting with a representative of the Iraqi government on Veterans Day. This is a country we may be going to war with, likely going to war with. Do you regret the symbolism of meeting with an enemy on Veterans Day?

SHARPTON: Well, first of all, a columnist, not "The New York Times" took that view. And I thought it was frankly a very ridiculous view. I think the thing you should do on Veterans Day is to make sure that those that serve our armed forces are not unnecessarily endangered.

I have members of my family that are veterans. My wife is a veteran. So I think that the writer made a very reckless notion that people that seek peace against veterans, in fact, they are for veterans, and want to see people in the armed service live to be veterans and not come home in body bags unnecessarily.

BEGALA: Reverend Sharpton, with all due respect to your manifest (ph) diplomatic skills, don't you think Colin Powell is a little better equipped to handle these things? And have you gotten any feedback from the State Department or anybody else in a position of authority after your meeting?

SHARPTON: Well, to handle what things? We talked about clergy meeting with clergy to see if we could have somewhere a universal appeal for peace. I don't think Mr. Powell is a clergyman. We did not say we were going there to interfere in any way with the negotiations between the United States and anywhere else. I think that clearly...

CARLSON: The Iraqi ambassador is not a clergyman either, is he?

SHARPTON: No, but the Iraqi ambassador can facilitate a meeting with Iraqi clergy people, just as we've been in touch with the State Department. And the purpose of the meeting there was only to try to facilitate somewhere a meeting with Iraqi clergy. That was all.

Clearly, if we were talking beyond that, we would, one, probably be breaking the law, and secondly, undercutting whatever it is someone was trying to do at the State Department. That was not even the announced purpose. The announced purpose was to have a clergy dialogue around peace.

If we are in the time that people are celebrating holy holidays, if you practice Islam, it's Ramadan, we're approaching Thanksgiving and Christmas for Christians. Wouldn't it be out of the ordinary for men and women that are practicing their religion to not try and strive for some level of common ground and some way of trying to create a climate for peace that could help diplomats and help negotiators?

Shouldn't we try to stop the shedding of innocent blood? Even if we fail, I don't see how you don't attempt to try, if you claim to be people that believe in god.

CARLSON: Well, here's the problem, though. You speak for yourself. You don't speak for the United States government, obviously. And you're allowed to do that because this is a free country.

But members of the so-called clergy in Iraq, by definition, almost, are speaking for the Iraqi government because, of course, they don't have freedom of speech or of religion in Iraq. So isn't it kind of an unequal relationship, this so-called meeting between clergy?

SHARPTON: Well, first of all, you don't know who we may end up meeting with, because we don't know. And we're told by members of the Bush administration that there are opposition forces in Iraq. So I don't know who we might talk to.

But let me give you the example, Tucker. Just suppose that Saddam Hussein does come back Friday and say, yes, I agree to weapons inspection. And they say, well, we want to make sure there are no delays. Maybe a delay is something that is human error, or accident of a car while the team is driving through. Anything trivial.

If you have people that are talking, you can try. Maybe our appeal would be to the Security Council, as they monitor this if it goes into the 30-day phase. Again, let us not predict or prejudge where it can go, if at all. We're not interfering with what the government is doing.

What we are saying that there must be a point where moral leaders say, wait a minute, this is not just about Saddam Hussein or George Bush, this is about people. And if we could spare human life -- if there's a bomb dropped on Iraq, Saddam Hussein is not the only one that will die. Iraqi children will die. Women will die. American troops can die. That's what those that represent and minister the people try and avoid that from happening if it is possible to do that.

BEGALA: Let me ask you about a few of your fellow Americans who minister to people here at home. Two of the most important leaders of the Republican right, Reverend Jerry Falwell, who is probably the most influential person on the Bush White House, and Reverend Franklin Graham (ph), who, of course, gave the invocation at President Bush's inaugural. Reverend Falwell, in addition to saying we probably deserved the attacks of 9/11, said that Muhammad was a terrorist. Reverend Franklin Graham (ph) called Islam a wicked and violent religion. How's that going lining up help here among your fellow American preachers?

SHARPTON: Well I think, Paul, you would be a far, far stretching it to think that Mr. Graham or Mr. Falwell are among my fellow American preachers. I think they're clearly... BEGALA: They're very close to the president, I know...

SHARPTON: I think that clearly it is more dangerous to attack people's religion -- and I might add that Jerry Falwell had to apologize about that -- than for ministers like me to say let's talk about peace. I didn't hear a lot of objections when in the middle of Colin Powell, who Tucker raises, was negotiating with members of Islam in the middle of President Bush having Muslims to the White House, he had preachers close to him denouncing their religion and attacking their prophet.

If any one was undercutting American policy, it was Reverend Falwell and Reverend Graham.

CARLSON: Now, Mr. Sharpton, you're not only a preacher, a religious leader, but you're also the Democratic Party's leading presidential candidate.

(LAUGHTER)

CARLSON: Let me tell you what I think sets you...

SHARPTON: Every time...

CARLSON: ... sets you apart.

SHARPTON: ... every time you say that I go down in the polls, Tucker. Please endorse somebody else tonight.

(LAUGHTER)

CARLSON: That's why you need to hire me as your campaign manager.

SHARPTON: I'll hire you to support Al Gore.

CARLSON: Thank you. It worked before.

Here's what I think sets you apart from other members of your party, though. Democrats are terrified to speak up on Iraq, not simply because they're cowards, but they are -- but because they think the polls show their position is unpopular.

Do you think that's true, A? B, do you think Democrats could get anywhere by saying what they really think, which is pretty much what you think?

SHARPTON: Well, three things. I think people should say what is right. And I think that we need leaders that drive public opinion, not just watch the polls and see what they think is public opinion.

Secondly, I think if there was a real debate, the polls would be different. I think what has happened in this debate on Iraq is not so much the Democrats lost is that we never fought.

We lost it in the locker room. We never went to the field. Most Americans believe what Mr. Ritter just said, and even what Paul has said when I've seen him on occasion, that we ought to move with the Security Council and with the U.N.

That was not Bush's original position. We just should have fought Bush on that because Bush was saying in effect, "You do it my way or the highway."

When he went to the United Nations, he did not say what they're saying now. He told them "My way or else."

So I don't think that you're correct that's public opinion.

BEGALA: Reverend Sharpton, I'm sorry to cut you off. We've only got a few seconds left. Isn't that proof that Bush did not listen to his kook right-wing advisers, but in fact listened to Democrats like Tom Daschle and others, who said, "Go through the United Nations."

Isn't that proof that Democrats were in that debate.

SHARPTON: I think Bush listened, I think Bush listened to Democrats. I wish that the Democratic leaders had listened more to Democrats. I think when you see 200,000 people marching in Washington, 400,000 in Europe, you're seeing an anti-war movement like you haven't seen since Vietnam.

People around the world are trying to say they don't see the eminent danger. They're not going to shells for Hussein. We certainly would not be, but we're not convinced that it is necessary to go to war. People have a right to raise questions before we start shedding blood.

BEGALA: OK, the Reverend Al Sharpton from New York, a Democrat of principle. I hope your party listens to you and continues to listen to you...

SHARPTON: And the top Republican consult, Tucker Carlson, God bless you.

(LAUGHTER)

CARLSON: That's right. We need to be together, Al. Thank you.

(APPLAUSE)

Next on the CNN "News Alert," Connie Chung has the latest on the new audiotape allegedly made by Osama bin Laden.

Later, Augusta National tells radical feminists, "Thanks, but we'll play it our way."

And the political infighting at the highest levels of the Democratic Party has produced our "Quote of the Day."

We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) BEGALA: Later your chance to "Fireback" at one of us. One of our viewers has a wild theory about why Tucker keeps picking on Barbara Streisand.

Also, the raging debate over whether women should be allowed to join the exclusive, he-man women haters at Augusta National.

And then our quote of the day proves that if the media really dig deeply and hard enough, they can find a Democrat no matter how obscure to call for Terry McAuliffe's head.

Stay tuned. We'll tell you who it was.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(APPLAUSE)

CARLSON: Welcome back to CROSSFIRE. We're coming to you from the George Washington University here in Downtown Washington.

There's disturbing evidence tonight that while their party's leadership remains completely clueless, rank and file Democrats are in fact coming to their senses.

At least one party fund raiser is no longer buying DNC Chairman Terry McAuliffe's repeated attempts to spin last week's election results as a resounding Democratic victory.

Mr. McAuliffe, by the way, promised to come on CROSSFIRE, and hasn't so far. So he has two strikes against him, at least.

In our quote of the day, Tony Goodale tells the "New York Times," quote, "I think we should get rid of him," McAuliffe, "immediately. We don't need a cheerleader. We needed a leader without the cheers who looks at this realistically."

BEGALA: Well, I look forward to Terry keeping his word and coming on. He did promise to come on.

CARLSON: He's a great leader in the party. I hope they never get rid of him. I love him; he's awesome.

BEGALA: He's actually done a terrific job. His job is to raise the money and to put the mechanics in place. When politicians lose, they want to blame somebody else. It's not Terry's fault.

Later though, our "Fireback" segment. A viewer takes issue with Tucker's putdown of one of this country's traditional allies.

Next, we'll ask why a bastion of the old South is clinging to its tradition of blind prejudice. The debate over women in Augusta and a grown man who calls himself Hootie.

Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CARLSON: Welcome back.

One of the benefits of belonging to a private club is you can do what you want to do. And if someone doesn't like it, that person doesn't have to join. And that's exactly the case at the Augusta National Golf Club, home of the Master's Golf Tournament.

While women are welcome to play the course, the club itself if private and for men only. And Chairman Hootie Johnson has just reminded one and all that Augusta National is within its legal and moral rights to stay that way .

Joining us in the CROSSFIRE tonight, Martha Burk, chairwoman of the National Council of Women's Organizations. And in Detroit, Michigan is sports attorney, Debbie Schlussel. She is a columnist for the PoliticalUSA.com.

BEGALA: Thank you all for joining us.

Dr. Burk, Ms. Schlussel, first thank you very much for joining us. We saw when we woke up and read the morning paper, that Bootie or Cootie or whatever his name is, gave an interview -- Mr. Johnson -- to the "New York Times." But apparently he's too frightened to come on CROSSFIRE and debate a woman. Doesn't want to play golf with them, doesn't want to debate them.

You are not afraid though. So let me begin with you. The comedian George Carlin had a hilarious take on golfers. And let me read it to you. You won't find a thing you can possibly disagree with, I don't think.

Here's what Carlin says. "I did a big attack on golf, but it was more an attack on the upper classes' arrogance in commanding 200 acres for a game that involves a ball 1 and 1/4 inches across. The problem isn't the game itself. It's the jerk-offs you have to associate with to play it. I don't bother with those guys on any basis, much less stand around outdoors with them for three hours."

George Carlin, inarguably correct, isn't he?

SCHLUSSEL: No, he's not correct at all. And you're resorting and he's resorting to name calling is the same thing as what Martha Burk has been doing. Because you don't have an argument.

Our country is based from...

BEGALA: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) if a guy calls himself Bootie...

SCHLUSSEL: ... excuse me -- our country is based from its very founding on the right to do what we want with our own property. Just as Martha Burk represents organizations that only allow women like the Girl Scouts -- I'm sorry, like the YWCA, the Club of 100, A Girls' Incorporated.

Just as she only has organizations who represent only women, Augusta has a right to do what they want with their property and only allow men.

And there's nothing wrong with that. And resorting to name calling just shows you have no argument.

CARLSON: OK, Martha Burk, I want to thank you off the top for your efforts on behalf of super rich female golfers.

(LAUGHTER)

And I know also seven of them are grateful.

(LAUGHTER)

But I want you to address my cause, and that is on behalf of the men excluded from the Junior League, which is a much larger organization...

(LAUGHTER)

... of course than Augusta National. And if you say that you're against sex discrimination on principle, I would imagine that you'd be out there picketing the Junior League and Smith College and the Girl Scouts.

BURK: You know what, the Girl Scouts by the way do allow boys. Most people don't know that. But let me say this. The guys that are a member of Augusta are now Boy Scouts. They're CEO's of America's largest corporations...

CARLSON: Well, the (UNINTELLIGIBLE)...

BURK: ... but let me say this about that as Richard Nixon would say, if a Augusta did not have the highest profile golf event on the planet, if they were truly the private club they claim to be, we wouldn't be sitting here talking.

Because there are private clubs that don't allow men, don't allow women. But they are truly private. Augusta is a for-profit corporation, producing a multi-million sporting event. Let's be clear who they are.

They invite the world into their living room. Every year they make a big deal out of making it a very large public event over the public airways which they're willing to pay for, because the sponsors bailed out on them.

The sponsors don't want to have anything to do with this discrimination. They're not going to...

SCHLUSSEL: That's a distinction without a different.

BURK: ... underwrite discrimination.

It is not a distinction without a difference...

SCHLUSSEL: It is a distinction without a difference. The fact is the NFL has broadcast every single week, not one week out of the year but every single weekend in the winter. And the fact is that...

BURK: The NFL is not a private club...

SCHLUSSEL: ... NFL only allows men to play football. They only allow women to cheer lead.

BURK: Well, hey, we have -- we have LPGA tour.

SCHLUSSEL: Maybe you ought to be suing them too? Why don't you sue them too...

BURK: We have an (UNINTELLIGIBLE).

SCHLUSSEL: ... why don't you sue them? Why don't you sue Spellman College?

BEGALA: Ms. Schlussel, I certainly don't speak for Ms. Burk. I don't think there's a legal case here. I think that they have a perfect right legally to exclude women. And I have a perfect legal right to point out that they're spineless, gutless weenies, wimps and weasels who play golf for God sake. You know, God hates golf. That's why he strikes them down...

SCHLUSSEL: You seem to enjoy name calling because you don't have an argument.

BEGALA: ... with lightening bolts.

SCHLUSSEL: They're private property.

BEGALA: You know, God loves bowling better than -- he loves bowling...

SCHLUSSEL: Paul, how about if I invite people to your house? That's what she's doing.

BEGALA: ... he never strikes down a bowler.

BURK: Paul, I love you. You're on my side. Let me get in here. Hootie Johnson said today "We open this club to African American men in 1990 because it was the right thing to do, but by God we discriminate now. We've discriminated in the past against women, and we're going to continue to discriminate because we are the boys of the South."

SCHLUSSEL: That is not what he said. Let's look at some of the things you've said.

BURK: He said he opened the club to African American men because it was the right thing to do, and he said there is a different in race and sex discrimination.

SCHLUSSEL: Look, he did not say that.

BURK: If his personal moral code allows that, then so be it. Mine doesn't. SCHLUSSEL: Look, he did not say that. But let's look at some of the things you've said.

BURK: Yes, he did.

SCHLUSSEL: You've said things that actually polled by Women Trend in the polling companies shows that 72 percent of the organization that you claim to represent don't even agree with it. They don't even agree with your campaign...

BURK: That is so wrong. This is Washington...

SCHLUSSEL: You wrote in Ms. Magazine where you believe in forced sterilization of men. And not only that, but you think that men should have to go before a committee before they have kids. That's worse than China.

CARLSON: Actually, Martha Burk, it's interesting...

BEGALA: Let her defend herself.

CARLSON: No, but I want to put it on the screen. We actually have the piece you talk about, how your moral code is offended by discrimination against women. You don't say -- you don't seem to be upset about women's colleges and the Girl Scouts.

I want to show you your article. It's entitled "Sperm Stops Here"...

BURK: In "Ms. Magazine."

CARLSON: ... in Ms. Magazine. "How do we control men's fertility?" Mandatory contraception beginning at puberty with the rule relaxed only for procreation under the right circumstances and for the right reasons, et cetera, et cetera."

Pretty authoritarian even by the standards of feminism.

BURK: Hey, if they're going to restrict abortion, buddy, we've got to do it this way.

SCHLUSSEL: Yes, she wants our country to be worse than China...

CARLSON: Oh, I understand...

BURK: If we want to cut down on fertility...

SCHLUSSEL: This is what this is all about, publicity and controlling other people's lives and vibes.

BEGALA: Ms. Schlussel, let Dr. Burk defend her own writings first. Go ahead.

BURK: No, I need to get back to this poll because this is Washington.

SCHLUSSEL: Because you can't defend your weird views.

BEGALA: OK, I have to bring out the bell here (UNINTELLIGIBLE).

Now wait a minute, I was probably engaged in name-calling. Now you've just done it. You never did answer the fundamental point, which is "Who wants to play golf with an old man named Bootie," any way?

(LAUGHTER)

I mean, what the hell is the appeal?

BURK: I've got to get to the push poll...

BEGALA: Hootie, Cootie, what is it?

BURK: This is Washington. We know what push poll is. A push poll is when you call, you ask a biased question in favor of one result. It's a very old political trick. It's unethical as hell. And this is exactly what they did.

CARLSON: Wait, more unethical that name calling? (UNINTELLIGIBLE)

(LAUGHTER)

SCHLUSSEL: Guys, I'm not in Washington. I'm in Detroit. But we know what a dodge is. And is a dodge is when you write an article like this that says that men need to go before a government board if they want to have kids.

BURK: Do you guys know...

SCHLUSSEL: That's what she advocates. And she's trying to dodge he wacko-bizzaro view.

BURK: ... what a spoof is? S-P-O-O-F -- spoof. Spoof -- come on, come on.

BEGALA: Oh, all right, we're having a lot of F-U-N. But we've got to S-T-O-P.

(LAUGHTER)

Debbie Schlussel is a columnist and labor lawyer -- well, sports lawyer -- thank you very much for joining us.

SCHLUSSEL: Thank you.

BEGALA: Thank you very much, Martha Burk as well. Thank you all very much.

CARLSON: Thank you.

BEGALA: Fun and start a debate about a pathetic and stupid game called golf. In a minute, one of our viewers "Firesback" a guess about when they'll finally let women into Augusta National.

And later we will have a little more debate here on CROSSFIRE. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CARLSON: Welcome back to CROSSFIRE. Time for "Fireback," the most reckless part of the show. We turn it over to you.

Let's go to e-mail. First up, Martha Nunn from Mansfield, Mass, writes about our conversation with the French. "My own experience when visiting France was that the rudest I encountered were Americans, not French. The French children in particular are extremely courteous. They step aside to let adults walk but and repeat `pardon, madam' over and over, which means by the way, `hurry, up fatso.'"

BEGALA: Yes, that's exactly right.

CARLSON: Yes, that's right. Go back to school.

BEGALA: OK, Mike Bolin in Clover, South Carolina writes, "Paul, I guess that Al Sharpton's IQ is the same as his shoe size. Whew. I'm suer he'll lead the Dems to new heights in '04. I speak for all Republicans when I say, thank you for supporting Al."

Well, Mike you've got the wrong host here. The only people supporting Reverend Al are in fact Republicans -- the Carlson wing of the Republican Party.

CARLSON: I like him because he speaks truth to power. You know, he knows his party is corrupt; he says so. He's a brave man. I like Al Sharpton.

Joe Murphy from Orlando writes, "Women should be allowed to join Augusta National the day after they let Tucker Carlson in the Miss America pageant."

But here's the difference. I don't want to be in the Miss America pageant.

BEGALA: Oh, that's what you say on the air.

I am sure. You should see him in the pre-meeting, guys.

OK, Tina Shakour of San Francisco, California writes, "Tucker reminds me of the little boy in school who picked on the girl he liked. He can't seem to let go of the whole Barbra Streisand thing. Maybe has a secret crush on her."

Tina, you have a very good point. We have some photographic evidence. In fact, Tucker, there we -- you didn't know that CROSSFIRE cameras were out on their secret date. Jim Broland who is married Barbra, is going to be pretty upset when he sees this.

CARLSON: You know what...

BEGALA: Tucker, who can blame you?

CARLSON: ... our viewers are perception. It seems like contempt, Paul, but really it's love.

BEGALA: It's affection.

CARLSON: Yeah.

BEGALA: I can feel the love.

CARLSON: OK. Yes, sir.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hi, my name is Matt Hull (Ph). I'm from Georgetown University right here in the District. My question is, why is the media so concerned if super rich women can join a super rich golf club and there are so many more important issues worth discussing especially when we're not desegregation corporations or anything like that?

CARLSON: You think there's some thing more important than letting eight rich women join Augusta National?

BEGALA: It is so much fun to make fun of grown men with gross green jackets who call themselves Bootie or Cootie or whatever.

And then mock then of course the great mass of golfers, many of whom will get struck by lightening by the Lord, God. So this tells us something. So don't play golf.

CARLSON: But see, that's diversity in the truest sense. You ought to be able to have men in green jackets having their own little weird rules.

BEGALA: I thought it was OK.

CARLSON: I think I'm all for it.

BEGALA: Golf is evil. It's Satan's playground.

Yes.

CARLSON: Yes, ma'am.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Hi, I'm Megan Driscoll (ph) from Baltimore, Maryland. And I wanted to ask you as the leadership of the House Democrats is about to be handed over to a liberal woman, who in 1991 voted against the Persian Gulf War in part because of the environmental damage it would cause. How do you think this polarization of the parties will fare for the Democrats?

BEGALA: Well, contrast that with Tom DeLay, from my home town of Sugarland, Texas, who once called the Environmental Protection Agency -- and I quote him -- "the gustopo of government."

So you tell me who's an extremist. Nancy Pelosi who didn't want to go to war, or Tom DeLay who...

CARLSON: I love this.

BEGALA: ... compares the EPA which keeps us healthy, to the gustopo?

CARLSON: I hope you're going to...

BEGALA: Hitler's partnership (ph).

CARLSON: ... you know, I hope you're going to change the subject.

BEGALA: Tom DeLay is (UNINTELLIGIBLE)...

CARLSON: I mean, that's so ridiculous.

BEGALA: Nancy Pelosi (UNINTELLIGIBLE).

CARLSON: Yes, sir. Quickly.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hi, I'm Paul from Alexandria, Virginia. How does the left ever think that it will regain the respect of Americans by continuing to embrace Bill Clinton?

CARLSON: They won't. They've given up. They won't to respect. They just want victory.

BEGALA: Well, you know what, if we didn't have that 22nd Amendment, Bill Clinton would have been able to run against George Bush. He'd have beaten him like a bad piece of meat. He'd have beat him like a redheaded (UNINTELLIGIBLE). He'd have beat them like a (UNINTELLIGIBLE)...

CARLSON: Another one, the Constitution gets in the way.

BEGALA: ... because American loves Bill Clinton.

From the left, I am Paul Begala. Good night from CROSSFIRE.

CARLSON: From the right, I'm Tucker Carlson. Join us again tomorrow night for more CROSSFIRE.

Connie Chung Tonight begins right now.

Have a good night.

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