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CNN CROSSFIRE

Who Looks Promising for the Democrats in 2004?; Trent Lott's Role in Senate Will Be on the Line When Republicans Meet Next Year

Aired December 16, 2002 - 19:00   ET

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: you can call him a non-candidate.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

AL GORE, FMR. VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: There wasn't a single epiphany. It was more a balance of all the different factors.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ANNOUNCER: What will no more Gore mean for the Democratic Party?

He's still got a lot to explain and may need lots of luck to keep his job.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The Republican Party can't continue hour after hour, day after day to decimate itself.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ANNOUNCER: And is life better inside the beltway or along the great white way? Tonight, Mort Zuckerman takes on Sally Quinn in the battle of New York versus D.C.

Tonight on CROSSFIRE.

From the George Washington University: James Carville and Tucker Carlson.

(APPLAUSE)

JAMES CARVILLE, CO-HOST: Welcome to CROSSFIRE. We've got more political news than any mid December could wish for. On our list tonight, Al Gore's departure and the Democratic Party's chances for the 2004 nominee. Also, the gift that keeps giving. Trent Lott is apologize ing again. But first, we're going to unwrap the best political alert of television, CROSSFIRE's "Political Alert."

Newly declared non-presidential candidate Al Gore attempted to explain himself today. In the process, offered the country a (UNINTELLIGIBLE) to why it's better for all of us that he's leaving politics. I'm reading Tucker's thing here. Tucker, you want to take that over?

TUCKER CARLSON, CO-HOST: Yes, James. I loved to hear you say that. As reporters and a nationwide television audience fought valiantly to stay awake, Gore said this...

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GORE: Now, if you dig deeply enough, I might as well tell you, you're going to discover sooner or later this is actually a very clever strategy to lay the ground work for a presidential race in 2016.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CARVILLE: Pretty funny.

CARLSON: Not bad. I must say, I do feel sorry for Al Gore. I think there is no question that he would be good at something. Politics really wasn't that something. But there is something out there he would be good at. He's smart -- and I'm being dead serious. I hope he finds it. I do.

CARVILLE: You know what, I don't think Al Gore needs anybody to feel sorry for him.

CARLSON: Well I do.

CARVILLE: He's been in the United States Senate from his home state, he served with distinction as vice president, he's got a very -- he's blessed with a very wonderful family. He's blessed with a great marriage. He's blessed with a great family name.

I don't pity Al Gore. I appreciate his service to the United States and I hope he comes back and serves again.

(APPLAUSE)

It looks like Senator Trent Lott is willing to say just about anything to save his political neck. This afternoon he declared his support for affirmative action. He said totally he was for it. The statement came during a pre-taped interview that will be shown later tonight on BET,. Black Entertainment Television.

For the umpteenth time, Lott also apologized for the December 5 comments that the country would have been better off if we voted for Strom Thurmond's pro-segregation campaign in 1948. Senate Republicans today announced that they'll hold a conference on January 6 on Lott's status as majority leader. At least they're talking about it.

President Bush (UNINTELLIGIBLE) pro-segregation comments has been conspicuously silent as his status of majority leader. Mr. President, if you want to be a compassionate conservative, you need to do more than be silent, you need to answer the question: should Trent Lott remain as majority leader? CARLSON: You left out the most interesting part. At the end of being interviewed, Trent Lott looked right into the camera and said no nukes, go solar. No, what you should know -- and doubtless you do know -- is the White House is actively working behind the scenes with the Republican Caucus.

CARVILLE: That's what we said in Louisiana. I can't be publicly for you, but I want you to know, underneath, people out there...

CARLSON: Well actually...

CARVILLE: Why don't we have a president that has the courage to speak out?

CARLSON: James.

CARVILLE: Why don't we have that? Wouldn't that be wonderful, instead of leaking to people like you to say, well, behind the scenes we're trying to get him out, but we don't have the guts to say anything...

CARLSON: You will see that this witch-hunt will end, unfortunately. And his life will have been destroyed, and I hope you feel good about it.

You know it's campaign season when politicians start pretending to love Iowa. "Whenever I'm in Iowa, I feel very much like I'm at home," enthused senator and presidential hopeful Tom Daschle during a trip to the eastern part of the state the other day. Senator Daschle went on to explain that he adores ethanol, loves baron wind-swept landscapes, and nothing makes him happier than corn. It was a remarkable pander, but it may not be enough.

The Democrats lost the Senate this year in a devastating midterm defeat. At the helm of the political titanic, none other than outgoing Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle. But never mind that, said Daschle. Despite appearances, the Democratic defeat was in no way "a mandate" for Republicans. It was merely a -- well, Daschle didn't say exactly what it was. Aides said he'll have details by the New Hampshire primary.

CARVILLE: Well actually, they announced that it is not a mandate, because they can do (UNINTELLIGIBLE), but they can't do Social Security without Democrats.

This afternoon, Cardinal Bernard Law publicly apologized for his shortcomings. Law told reporters that he felt the most effective way to serve the Roman Catholic Church at this time was to resign as Boston's archbishop. His resignation closes an extraordinarily painful chapter in my church's history. The Boston Archdiocese is at the center of a nationwide scandal over the church hierarchy covered up for pedophile priests.

Cardinal Law had a promising start. That's why it is so sad. When he was first ordained a priest 41 years ago he worked tirelessly for civil rights in Mississippi and even ended up on some racist hit lists. At the same time, Trent Lott was working to keep justice out of Mississippi. Now Law says he's leaving, as he should. Trent Lott is staying, as he shouldn't.

CARLSON: Well, I'm glad that Trent Lott made a trip -- I mean, rather, Cardinal Law made a trip to Mississippi some years ago. Good for him. But when you allow other people to molest children it does sort of tip the balance a little bit.

CARVILLE: I said he should leave. I acknowledge that. He should leave.

CARVILLE: I wonder how Trent Lott got into that story.

But, next, from our your tax dollars at work department, deep in the basement of the U.S. Capitol lurks the Senate recording studio. According to "Roll Call," members use it to record newscasts, tape interviews for the folks back home, or record their floor speeches for posterity. A couple of weeks ago it was used for something else. Some unnamed staffer used the studio to dub a porno movie.

We know this only because he also pushed the button putting it on to the Senate's internal television channel. Imagine what could have happened to some feeble lawmakers had they tuned in expecting to see "Nightline" and found instead Debbie Doing Dallas or whatever the movie was. We don't know the movie was because that information was because that information has not yet been released. But we are certain it's more scintillating than CSPAN.

CARVILLE: It's Carol does Capitol Hill.

CARLSON: It's a classic in the genre.

CARVILLE: I'll tell you what, that is the best money the government spent in all of 2002.

Trent Lott isn't the only Republican that wants to turn the clock back to the years of segregation. The embattled senator from Mississippi wants to take us back to 1948. Attorney General John ashcroft, though, would rather return to 1848. Four years ago, Ashcroft gave an interview to "Southern Partisan Magazine," in which he described the importance of "defending southern patriots like Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson and Jefferson Davis."

(UNINTELLIGIBLE) to say not only segregation, but (UNINTELLIGIBLE). So tonight, I want to announce the formation of Liberals for Lott. Libs for Lott is dedicated to the American principle of equal justice for all. Leadership based on character and full accountability to those who seek to govern. Libs for Lott demands equality. If Senator Lott stays, so can Ashcroft. But if Lott goes, we insist that the Republican Party send Ashcroft with him.

(APPLAUSE)

Our group...

CARLSON: Your group. CARVILLE: Because I don't know what we're going to tell the children. Because when the little children come home and they say, mommy, why did Senator Lott lose his job? He was just for segregation.

CARLSON: But Senator Byrd...

(CROSSTALK)

CARVILLE: ... Ashcroft, who spoke out nostalgically about slavery keeps his. I don't understand. We have to be willing to have the courage to teach the little cowboys and cowgirls out there in America the lesson that everybody is responsible for their actions, even the attorney general.

CARLSON: Well, good luck, James. And in the absence of any real ideas, that would probably make a good platform for you. And I hope you do a great job with it.

CARVILLE: Please join Libs for Lott, because we're standing with Trent. Because we say equal justice for all. If it's good for the majority leader, it's good for the attorney general.

CARLSON: If the idea that the attorney general is a racist or a supporter of slavery, someone...

CARVILLE: Well why keep giving interviews to "Southern Partisan Magazine," a magazine that regularly praises the assassination of Abraham Lincoln? Do you think that was a good idea that Lincoln was assassinated? Speak out against it.

CARLSON: This is so insane, that I can't continue this conversation.

(CROSSTALK)

CARVILLE: ... wrong to assassinate Abraham Lincoln.

CARLSON: We're going to have to take a commercial break. Insanity demands it.

Still ahead, we'll consider Trent Lott's future. If the Republicans decide to change Senate leaders, who could be the most effective? But next: the Republicans' least effective candidate decides to stay on the sidelines. Who's next? We may find out. We'll be right back.

(APPLAUSE)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(APPLAUSE)

CARVILLE: This weekend, Al Gore proved that you can still keep a secret and pull off a big surprise in the political world. His announcement on "60 Minutes" that he'll stay out of the 2004 presidential race opens up all sorts of possibilities for my Democratic Party.

Senator Joseph Lieberman, Senator John Kerry, John Edwards and Tom Daschle are all possible candidates, as are Congressmen Dick Gephardt and Vermont Governor Howard Dean. Who should George W. Bush be most afraid of? Stepping into the CROSSFIRE are two of the best political strategists around, Democrat Bob Shrum and Republican Ed Gillespie.

(APPLAUSE)

CARLSON: Nice to see you. Bob, James said it was a surprise that Al Gore announced he wasn't going to run. Not a surprise to me, not to brag. My feeling from the beginning was, if he doesn't run again, he'll always be this sort of poignant footnote in history, the man from whom the presidency was stolen in the view of Democrats. But if he runs again and loses, as is likely, he's Mike Dukakis, disgraced, irrelevant, teach at some community college in a state you never go to.

That's the real reason, isn't it, that he didn't run? To preserve his place in history.

BOB SHRUM, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: You know, you just said a minute ago that some questions are so ridiculous they hardly deserve an answer. I mean, my first temptation is to say, next question. The fact of the matter is that Al Gore sat down and I think he thought this through. He thought it through from a personal perspective, he thought it through in terms of the party, and I think he thought it through in terms of the country.

And I think he made a very mature decision. It was a tough decision. I believe most people in his circumstance, having the advantages he had going into this nominating contest, would certainly have moved forward and would certainly have run for the nomination. I think he made his decision on the grounds he said he made them. And I wasn't surprised, because he said all along, I'm going to think about this and then I'm going to decide.

CARLSON: But he also said, and his supporters have said at great length, and I think you're among them, that, look, he really won the election of 2000.

SHRUM: Well he did.

CARLSON: You say it again.

SHRUM: Yes. And I'll say it again and again and again and again. I'll say it 500,000 times, for example.

CARLSON: I believe Al Gore believes that. It's obviously untrue (UNINTELLIGIBLE). But doesn't he in light of that have a moral obligation to run again? If he's really the president, why not put it before the American people?

SHRUM: Well, by that standard, you could have argued that some or other after the Supreme Court decision he should have filed other legal actions and tried to win because he really believed he won. Instead, he did what was right for the country. I think he decided that it was right for the country not to have a replay of the Bush- Gore race. It was right for the party and it was right for him personally. And I don't think it was an easy decision. And I think he deserves some credit for it.

CARVILLE: Ed, let's go back to kind of doing a little political analysis. In my political party there are a lot of people talking about running. Just give me a guess as to how serious Democratic candidates there will this be time next year.

EDWARD GILLESPIE, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Six.

CARVILLE: What do you think, Bob?

SHRUM: I have no idea.

CARVILLE: I know, but it's just...

SHRUM: Five, six. Something like that. How . Just many were there in the Republican Party at this point in 2000?

GILLESPIE: Probably around that. Probably six or seven.

CARVILLE: What is the reaction of most Republicans to Gore's announcement? Are they happy, how was it taken in Republican circles?

GILLESPIE: I think that, first of all, it was a little bit of a surprise. I think that the people thought by his recent actions he was gearing up for a run. And secondly, I wouldn't be honest with your viewers, James, if I didn't say there might be a little disappointment on the Republican side about Gore's announcement.

CARVILLE: One of the points I want to make here tonight is that one person -- I think a lot of people -- you can argue a lot of people. All of the candidates were helped. I think that you've got to give Joe Lieberman credit. Because he said if Gore runs, I'm not running. He did not equivocate, he did not do anything. And usually people say, well, gee, what I meant was I gave him my word, not the American people.

I don't think it's going to propel Senator Lieberman over the top or anything. But I've got to stand here and say that was a pretty smart move on his part, and he came out looking pretty good.

GILLESPIE: I don't even think it was calculated. I think Joe Lieberman is an honorable man.

SHRUM: I agree. It wasn't just smart. I think what happened was that he felt that he owed his place on the national stage to Al Gore, who picked him to run as vice president. And he said to himself, the decent thing to do if this man runs is for me not to run. And he was straightforward about it.

CARLSON: I take him at his word. And I want to show you a poll. Lieberman is at the top of the poll. This is a "Washington Post" poll asking Democrats, if Gore does not run, who do you support? And Lieberman tops the list. That seems fair. Twenty-seven percent, Daschle at 14, Gephardt at 10, Kerry at nine. And then, at seven percent, someone Democrats never like to talk about, Al Sharpton. You can see he's crushing Senator Edwards and Governor Dean, who are both at two percent.

SHRUM: Boy, you really dislike John Edwards.

CARLSON: I like John Edwards very much. But I like even more Al Sharpton. And I'm wondering why Democrats always pretend -- you saw that James is reading through this segment -- didn't even mention Al Sharpton. Why do Democrats pretend he's not really a candidate.

SHRUM: He's not going to be the Democratic nominee for president.

CARLSON: Well neither is Howard Dean, but people treat him seriously.

SHRUM: Well I think Howard Dean has a chance to be the Democratic nominee for president. I don't think Al Sharpton has -- because Al Sharpton does not have the background, training and experience and time in politics that would lead people to nominate him for president of the United States.

CARVILLE: Why do you think David Duke has been more successful in the Republican Party than Al Sharpton has been in the Democratic Party? Do you have any idea why he...

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SRHUM: Because Tucker will come up with some rationalization for...

CARLSON: But you're missing it. You're missing it. Hold on, James.

CARVILLE: You're sitting here talking about Al Sharpton, who has never held office in the Democratic Party.

CARLSON: It makes you mad.

CARVILLE: It doesn't make me mad.

CARLSON: But David Duke lives off -- nobody even knows where David Duke is. Right now -- right now, Al Sharpton is in Washington. He's in Washington at the Four Seasons. He's being treated seriously, taken seriously. He's a serious candidate, and I think it is insulting that Democrats pretend he's not.

SHRUM: I love the Four Seasons hotel, but I don't think being at the Four Seasons means you're being treated seriously. By that standard, I'm a serious candidate for president.

(CROSSTALK)

CARVILLE: I'll stay at the (UNINTELLIGIBLE) in London. That makes me...

(CROSSTALK)

CARVILLE: What is this? It's absurdity.

CARLSON: Well, it is insulting. He is serious, but you want to pretend he's not. OK.

CARVILLE: Let's go back and let's line up this thing in 2004, because I think there's going to be a lot of interest in this. Why is it that -- I mean, President Bush's approval numbers are high. President Bush did very well at the election. I was the first person to give him credit and express embarrassment. But why does his re- election number hover in the mid 40s?

GILLESPIE: I'm one Republican who believes that the 2004 presidential contest is going to be a very serious contest. And I think that President Bush is going to win. I think he'll be favored. His favorability will still be strong.

But the fact is, we're in a country where the parties are in parity. And I think that whoever the Democratic nominee is -- and, you know, none of those people right now, the person getting (UNINTELLIGIBLE) was unsure in that poll that you had there. But whoever merges as the nominee is going to have gone through a pretty difficult process against some serious candidates, and it will be a good year.

CARVILLE: You know both you and Bob are experienced political consultants. I like to think of myself as one too. It is not surprising to any experienced political consultant that Lieberman would be beating the field of Democrats, given that he's run before.

CARLSON: But, Bob, here's the problem. I was talking to one of my favorite Democrats, one of the smartest Democrats, someone you know. He's a United States senator.

He said this to me the other day. He said, look, Lieberman would be a viable presidential candidate because he's in the center, he's smart, he's impressive in a lot of ways. He's going to have a terrible time winning the nomination. Gephardt will have a much tougher time in the general (ph), but a much easier time winning the nomination. Kind of a classic problem with nominations versus generals (ph). Do you think you buy that analysis?

SHRUM: Well, the last time the Democratic Party sort of faced this kind of choice in 1992, it came up with someone who at least that year, I would argue, ran a populous centrist campaign. James ran it. And I don't think -- I think people in democratic primaries are going to look at these candidates and make judgments about them individually.

And I think trying to sit here now and predict who is going to do what is a very foolish game. If you go back, for example, to 1984, around October or November in the Democratic Party people said Gary Hart is completely dead and this whole race is going to be between John Glenn and -- who a lot of people thought was going to win -- and Walter Mondale. So I think we have to let this play out.

I think we do have a whole new world that we're living in since Al Gore withdrew. I think people are going to take assessments of these candidates. I think their performance is actually going to matter. And I think we'll be in a strong position by the time we get to the convention and win the election.

CARVILLE: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) Senator John Kerry was the first one of the United States Senate to call for Trent Lott to resign. And I'm sure that's something we're going to hear during this campaign.

CARLSON: Speaking of Trent Lott, we're going to take a quick break. In a minute, we'll shift our attention to the other end of Pennsylvania Avenue, where Senate Republicans are getting restless. But Trent Lott is still fighting to keep his leadership post. What's going to happen.

Later, the fight to be known as America's greatest city. Does the honor go to New York or, more rightfully, to Washington, D.C.? We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(APPLAUSE)

CARLSON: Welcome back. Trent Lott's job as majority leader will be on the line when the Senate Republicans meet early next year. Ominously, Senator John McCain issued a statement fully supporting the January 6 meeting. Meanwhile, (UNINTELLIGIBLE) continues non-stop. Today, he called his own statements praising Strom Thurmond's 1948 segregationist campaign "repugnant" in an appearance on Black Entertainment Television. He also endorsed affirmative action.

In the CROSSFIRE tonight, Democratic Political Strategist Bob Shrum, and Republican Strategist Ed Gillespie.

CARVILLE: Ed -- let me start -- you're a good guy, a very good Republican, a great strategist, a very honest man, I think, as far as I know.

CARLSON: Get ready.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He's going to ask you a question you can't answer.

CARLSON: Right. (UNINTELLIGIBLE) your tax return. Be careful.

CARVILLE: Do you really think that Trent Lott is for affirmative action? I mean...

GILLESPIE: I think Trent Lott is a good, decent man who believes in equal opportunity for all Americans and equal rights. I think he said something that he regrets. He's been clear about that. He's asked for forgiveness and we should forgive him.

CARVILLE: And I'm going to forgive you for not answering and not press you again, because you're a real good guy. And if I was sitting in your chair, I wouldn't want to be asked that question either.

CARLSON: Bob, the sort of sad part about this story is Trent Lott, whether you agree with his politics or not, whether you like him or not, whether you agree with what he said or not, no matter what you think of him, is being destroyed as a person, and that's sad. And, I must say, I will give credit to Tom Daschle, Senate majority leader outgoing, that that was not his first instinct.

I want to show you his first instinct when this scandal broke. He issued a statement saying this: "Senator Lott, in my conversation with him this morning, explained that that wasn't how he meant his remarks to be interpreted. I accept that. There are a lot of times when he and I go to the microphone and would like to say things we mean to say differently, and I'm sure this was one of those cases for him as well."

That's a humane answer. It's taking Lott at his word. It seems like a decent thing to say before politics intruded, and now, of course, Democrats are all over Trent Lott. Shouldn't he have just stuck to the first impulse?

SHRUM: No. And I think the fact that he said something different now and that President Bush said something different, very clearly last week, was correct. I think that Trent Lott can stay as long as he wants on the apology tour. And he can't make up for the fact that he uttered those words not just on that day at Strom Thurmond's 100th birthday party, but that he had said things like that before. And that he told "Southern Partisan Magazine" that the principles of Jefferson Davis apply to the Republican Party.

Look, I'm a Democrat. I'd kind of like to have him around, because I think it may help us some. But I think he is bad for the country. I think it's bad to have someone as majority leader in the Senate who said something like that, and I think he ought to go.

CARVILLE: But wait a -- I want to -- because I happen to know something about this, so I just want to be clear. I know what happened. Senator Lott called Senator Daschle and said, look, I didn't mean this. Senator Daschle, thinking that was an isolated incident, as any Democrat -- you know we like to forgive people. He said, OK. I think that...

CARLSON: I guess so.

CARVILLE: Once Senator Daschle was presented with the mountain of evidence that came in, the 1980's statement and other things, I think he had a change of heart about this. But I think Senator Daschle is a hell of a good guy. I think his inclination was -- is a colleague called him and said, look, I said something that came out the wrong way. If he could say something nice about me, I would appreciate it, and that was his first instinct.

Now we have this mountain of evidence coming out, earlier statements saying the same thing. The thing about Jefferson Davis and everything, and I think that -- to tell you the truth, I don't know this for a fact, but I bet you Senator Daschle feels like he's been hustled on this. And it probably won't happen again.

CARLSON: Now wait a second. Bob, do you in your heart believe that Senator Lott got up there in front of cameras in a room packed with people from both parties and intentionally supported segregation? That's insane.

SHRUM: See, I think that's what makes it worse. I think what slipped out was what he really thought about the 1948 campaign. He said it before in 1980. He made this comment to "Southern Partisan Magazine." He's done other things like that.

And Tucker, you said something very inaccurate in the political roundup at the beginning of the show. You said Cardinal Law visited Mississippi. Cardinal Law was a young cleric who ran the Catholic newspaper in Mississippi in the early 60s and called for --I do, because he was very brave. He called for an end to segregation and he received death threats at the very same time that Trent Lott was standing there as a cheerleader yelling...

CARLSON: Along with a lot of other people who didn't go on in their lives to allow others to molest children. So it's got nothing to do with...

SHRUM: Wait a minute. Wait a minute. Let's be clear about this. A lot of other people were in that position in 1962.

CARLSON: That's right, exactly.

SHRUM: But they didn't make the statement in 1980 that Trent Lott made. They didn't say in 1984 that that principles of Jefferson Davis apply to the Republican Party. And they didn't say again this year that...

(CROSSTALK)

CARLSON: ... slavery, Bob. Come on.

SHRUM: Well name four principles of Jefferson Davis that you think apply to the Republican Party.

(CROSSTALK)

CARLSON: I doubt he was saying to "Southern Partisan Magazine"...

SHRUM: You think the Civil War was fought over the tariff, right?

CARVILLE: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) the greatest Civil War style (ph) of our time has ended this debate for all time. It was Florida (ph), it was slavery, we all know it. It's the past. Let's talk about the...

(CROSSTALK)

CARLSON: Come on. Get real.

CARVILLE: Let's talk about the post...

SHRUM: No, it was a code-worded appeal to a certain group of people.

CARLSON: Slavery?

SHRUM: "Southern Partisan Magazine" is a magazine that appeals to people who still resist integration, and he was talking in code to them trying to say he was...

CARVILLE: We now know Senator -- I'm not asking you to say this, but I'm saying Senator Lott is in trouble. Let's assume, as I think is likely to happen, there will be a new race for majority leader. Handicap the field (ph) for us and we'll give you a name and tell me what you think: Don Nickles.

GILLESPIE: Well, let me just say, first of all, James, the fact is that, you know it is not a given that there will be a challenge to Senator Lott. Look, the fact is that Democrats in the past have made racially insensitive statements; they have not resigned.

SHRUM: We're going over the same ground again.

CARVILLE: Let him answer.

GILLESPIE: There are -- look, the Senate Republican Caucus, in addition to Senator Lott, has a lot of very good leaders. Whether they serve in positions other than majority leader, there are good leaders there. Senator Frist, was a very good chairman of the senatorial committee. Senator O'Connell is an excellent whip. Senator Santorum is a great conference chairman. They have a good leadership team, and they all serve the Republican conference and the party very well together.

CARVILLE: So when do you think that -- when do you think we'll have an indication here as to whether Senator Lott is going to make it or not? Are the next few days key, or it will happen around the first of the year?

GILLESPIE: This is something that Senator Lott and his league colleagues are working through right now. There's going to be this conference on January 6, where they're going to talk about the senator's ability to lead the conference, is what I understand the conference is about. I think it is important to note, though, that members of his caucus and also the Independent James Jeffords and Democratic senators have noted that Senator Lott is a man of honor and is a good man who does not harbor racist viewpoints or favor segregation. That's important to note on the show.

CARLSON: I wonder why, Bob, that it took the Black Caucus within the Democratic Party to push this issue to the point it is now. It wasn't the leaders of your party who immediately recognized these statements for -- as appalling as they say they are now. They didn't really say anything.

SHRUM: Oh that's not true. A lot of people... CARLSON: Actually, it is true. I was here every night.

SHRUM: John Kerry said something very quickly. John Edwards said something very quickly. Senator Kennedy said these comments are unworthy of a political leader. I mean, Democrats were out there.

Now I want to give some credit to conservative Republicans, like Bill Crystal (ph), who said this man can no longer be the face of the Republican Party. He has to resign. Was honest.

CARVILLE: Give credit to one elected Republican for speaking out on this. One elected. Not some magazine editor, somebody that has to actually go out there and get a vote that spoke out on this.

GILLESPIE: Well, Don Nickles, I guess, because he's finally...

(CROSSTALK)

CARLSON: As fun as this is to talk about, we are completely out time. Ed Gillespie, Bob Shrum thank you both very much, truly. We appreciate it.

Next, there's breaking news on the New York transit strike. Details coming up next in a CNN "News Alert.".

Late, they've the got the Yankees. We've got the Redskins but they also have Michael Bloomberg. We'll debate New York versus Washington. You want to miss it no matter where you live. We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(INTERRUPTED BY BREAKING NEWS)

CARVILLE: All right. Congratulations Mayor Bloomberg. Congratulations transit workers. People showed some good judgment.

CARLSON: And the people of New York.

CARVILLE: That's right.

CARLSON: Next in the CROSSFIRE, the city that never sleeps versus the city that never stops talking politics. Defenders of New York and Washington, D.C. square off.

And our "Quote of the Day" comes from the last person you would ever want to see in a hot tub but you had to anyway if you were watching TV Saturday. We'll explain. We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CARVILLE: Welcome back to CROSSFIRE. We're coming to you live from the George Washington University in beautiful Foggy Bottom in downtown Washington, D.C.

Recently, columnist Frank Rich compared New York City with Washington, D.C. and the Big Apple came out on top. That brought Washington's most ardent supporters out of the woodworker.

Two guests step into the CROSSFIRE to defend their respective cities on it. In New York, is Mort Zuckerman, who is the chairman and editor-in-chief of "U.S. News and World Report" as well as the publisher of the "New York Daily News."

With us in D.C. is my friend, a "Washington Post" reporter -- or former "Washington Post" reporter -- still "Washington Post" reporter Sally Clint -- Quint.

CARLSON: Mort Zuckerman, thanks for joining us. I know you wish you were in Washington.

Transit strike averted for now. But it could flare up at any time. That would render a lot of New Yorkers unable to get anywhere. You can barely get a cab even on the best of days. Some places are too far to walk in New York. Isn't this another example of why New York City is just fundamentally, basically dysfunctional?

MORT ZUCKERMAN, CHMN. & EDITOR-IN-CHIEF, "U.S. NEWS AND WORLD REPORT": No, quite the opposite. It's a nice objective question but let me just put it this way, New York is a city that does work. In fact, it is ranked in all the polls the number one city that Americans want to live in, the number one city they want to visit, and the biggest city in America with the lowest crime rate. In fact, there is a city that work very well. In fact, "Seinfeld," it's a TV program, would never had its national appeal if New York City wasn't the city that worked well.

CARLSON: That was taped in L.A. Just for the record.

CARVILLE: Sally, let me ask you, every time I see a poll, New York is either first or second in cities that Americans want to visit. Washington is never in the top 10. What can you tell these Americans about Washington, D.C. why they should like it better than New York when they obviously don't?

SALLY QUINN, "WASHINGTON POST" REPORTER: As far as living in Washington, I think that Washington is the power center of the world. I think that what New York has a terrible case of power envy.

ZUCKERMAN: Power Envy, All Right.

CARLSON: Yes that's the Washington Monument.

ZUCKERMAN: Sally, Sally...

QUINN: They need to get over it.

ZUCKERMAN: You can't say power envy about a city that has so many high rise buildings.

CARVILLE: That's an argument that Springfield is a more important city than Chicago, Sacramento more than Los Angeles. I mean if New York is the center of finance, the center of fashion, the center of literature what else, Mort, help me. ZUCKERMAN: The media center of the world, it's the information center of the world. It is also the communications center of the world. And it is a -- as you say, not just a financial center of America. It is the symbol of America to most of the world, and it is a wonderful city to live in. A lot of people think New York is a city dominated by glitter and greed and -- but you saw after 9/11 a city that had great compassion and enormous heart and the ability to come back from a sucker punch and one of the most charitable cities. In fact, there are 12,000 different charitable organizations in New York supporting every single educational cultural, medical, civic part of New York City. And people give not just money, but a lot of time. It is a wonderful city to live in.

CARLSON: Wait. I think Sally Quinn is a little overwhelmed by the litany but...

QUINN: I don't know where to start. Except Mort how come your magazines here?

ZUCKERMAN: That was a legacy if I may say so.

QUINN: Your magazine "U.S. News & World Report" is here. In the power seat of the world.

ZUCKERMAN: Right, I agree with that. Look, I don't want to diminish Washington. They are both great cities

QUINN: And I New York.

ZUCKERMAN: It is not what I call the evil of two lessers. I mean, they're both good cities. But New York happens to be probably most unique city in the world in terms of this energy and talented people who live here and come here and work here. It is the most meritocratic city in the world. And I think for those people who come here, they love and enjoy this city.

CARLSON: OK. But ultimately, Mort, I want to address directly Sally Quinn's brilliant point about power envy. New York cannot declare war and you're insecure about that aren't you in.

ZUCKERMAN: There are a couple of wonderful obligations and responsibilities I would assume not have, one is to declare war. We here do not declare war, we declare peace. And we have different kind of energy and activity it's devote to culture, popular culture, finance, everything except war. We leave that to Washington.

CARVILLE: You know, Sally, one of the things I taking on New York's side -- one of things people come to Washington and decried, I lived here. I actually like it. I really -- I think there are a lot of nice things about living here. A lot of public space. Rock Creek Park is a fine park, so is central park, by the way. (UNINTELLIGIBLE) I want you to tell the country some of the nice things about Washington. People view this as some kind of a god awful place where everybody is sort of power mad, which we are, but there are other things, too, aren't we? QUINN: Well, you, James, are one of the nice things about Washington and Tucker is one of the nice things about Washington. Let's start out there. I think Washington is the most beautiful city in the world. And when Mort talked about New York being the symbol of the United States, I don't see how you can look at the Capitol building or the Washington Monument or the White House or the Lincoln Memorial or the Jefferson Memorial or Arlington National Cemetery and not see those things as the symbols of the United States.

They're symbols of people who really care a lot about their country. And people who sacrifice a lot for their country. And when I walk down the street in Washington, there is no street you can walk down that some incredibly historic thing hasn't happened on, where something that changed the country and changed the world. It is a history of Washington that I find so thrilling.

CARVILLE: Mort, Mort, Seriously, I came to Washington first time when I was 33-years-old. And my first reaction when I came to Washington was, you know this looks look a major world capitol. This is a city that I would be proud to show anybody around the world, if I had a friend who came in from Australia, Africa or anywhere else, I would be proud to show them my capitol city. Don't you think most Americans have that same reaction about this city when they come to Washington.

ZUCKERMAN: Absolutely and for good reason. I mean, I love Washington. I think it is a wonderful city. It does capture both our -- it is our center of government, and as Sally said, it is the center of a lot of the history of the country. What I'm suggesting is that New York, New York, is a city -- it is one of a kind and has one wonderful -- New York has one wonderful thing about it. It has most fabulously talented people in every walk of life there is no single dominant culturer as such you have government dominating Washington, and that's what makes this city a fascinating place to live in it.

CARLSON: Also has the single most rudest people in the world. I like New York. I had a lot of jobs in New York. I go to New York all the time. But lets be honest you have a major building named after Donald Trump. People -- cab drivers are rude. People are generally grouchy. It is not a polite place and that's a bad thing to say about New York and it is true, isn't it?

ZUCKERMAN: You know, I think that is part of the image of New York, and New York is on occasion rude and conceited, but it has the wit and ability to poke fun of it. Remember the Steinberg (ph) cartoon where you had Manhattan being the center of the world with nothing much beyond the Hudson River. Well, that's a New Yorker who pointing that out, and it was really sort of puncturing our balloon in that sense.

So while it is true what you say, I think it is also true that we make fun of that and you saw, frankly, how much heart this city had and how much compassion this city had after 9/11. Nobody was able to witness the way New York responded to that without feeling for the heart of New York and for its sense of community. QUINN: I would like to say, I agree with Mort that you don't have to put one city down to like another. And -- but I do have a lot of friends in New York who hate Washington. I don't have any friends here who hate New York. I love New York. I love to go to New York. I love living in Washington, that's absolutely true. In fact, I was in New York last Thursday night and saw Mort at a party, and do you know what everybody in New York was talking about all these fascinating and brilliant people, they were talking about Al Gore, Trent Lott, Henry Kissinger, George Bush, Colin Powell, the war in Iraq, and I thought, gosh, you could be right in Washington. Is all of this boring you?

(CROSSTALK)

CARVILLE: Can all four of us agree on something, we're fortunate to live in a country that has two cities as great as New York and Washington.

ZUCKERMAN: Absolutely.

CARLSON: Well, thank you, both, very much. Mort Zuckerman in New York. Sally win here, thank you.

Coming up next, one of our viewers gets into the debate about New York and Washington.

But just ahead. He is not a profession professional comic but lately he's been playing one on television. He is the source of our quote of the day.

You haven't seen Al Gore on "Saturday Night Live," you'll see it here next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CARLSON: Welcome back. Some images are so terrifying that they automatically disqualify anyone from becoming president of the United States. Think of Michael Dukakis riding on the tank, or in this case, Al Gore sharing a hot tub on "Saturday Night Live." He won't be president, but a consolation prize, he gets "Our Quote of the Day." Watch it if you dare.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GORE: I think we need to take these Social Security funds that people have worked so hard for and keep them away from the volatility of the stock market.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I so totally agree with you.

GORE: These funds need to be protected, they need to be put aside.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I know, in some kind of metaphorical...

GORE: Lockbox. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh my God.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CARLSON: I mean, you've got to give him credit for something.

CARVILLE: You know what, you know what, I say this again, Al Gore is a man who served his country in Vietnam, he served his state in the United States Senate, he served with distinction as vice president. And you know what, I hope he comes back, and I think what we need is more politicians that take what they do seriously as opposed to themselves seriously which too many of them do. Congratulations, Mr. Vice President.

CARLSON: I agree. I agree.

CARVILLE: You know...

(CROSSTALK)

CARVILLE: This man is a distinguished American, he is a great family man, he is a patriot.

(CROSSTALK)

CARVILLE: ... and that's just poking a little fun at himself. And if you don't like him...

CARLSON: I like laughing at him.

(CROSSTALK)

CARLSON: Yes, I do. I do. I've been doing it longer than you have.

CARVILLE: He's poking fun at himself. I'll tell you what, he didn't shirk his duty in Vietnam. I'll guarantee you that.

CARLSON: I've been laughing at Al Gore before laughing at Al Gore was cool, I'm proud to say.

CARVILLE: I'm proud that he served as vice president, and I'm proud to say he's a friend of mine.

CARLSON: Good for you, Jim.

(CROSSTALK)

CARLSON: Next in our "Fireback" segment, a Canadian viewer dares to butt in on the Trent Lott controversy. You may be outraged, but certainly want to stay tuned. We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CARVILLE: Welcome back to CROSSFIRE. This hat is not just to cover up my bald spot. No hat could do that. We have some Canadian friends in our audience that gave it to me, and it's a country that I love and Tucker loves to denigrate, with any right.

CARLSON: Thank you.

(CROSSTALK)

CARLSON: Whatever that means.

CARVILLE: What have we got here? "Why is the focus on Trent Lott and not on the GOP who picked him as majority leader?" Dr. Greg McNulty from Cincinnati, Ohio. Dr. McNulty is (UNINTELLIGIBLE) only people to speak out against him are people who are not elected, and elected Republicans seem to get tongue tied when it comes out to speaking against Trent Lott.

CARLSON: I can't even bear that debate anymore, so I'm going to take a pass. Next up -- Walter Cook of Washington, D.C., writing in about our New York vs. Washington debate. "Now that you can't smoke in the Big Apple, I wonder what is next on Bloomberg's list?" I don't know for sure, Walter, but I bet inappropriate laughter would be the next thing to be outlawed in New York City.

CARVILLE: Here you are criticizing "Saturday Night Live" and it's right there from New York, and more laughter comes out of New York than anywhere else.

(CROSSTALK)

CARVILLE: We're going to get some New York cab drivers. We're going to get some firebacks from them. I guarantee you.

"As a Canadian" -- there you go -- "I feel particularly qualified to state George Bush is no moron. Trent Lott is the moron!" Keir Cutler, Montreal, Canada.

Actually, I'll defend Trent Lott. He's not a moron. He's actually only a buffoon.

CARLSON: That's a Canadian, so you're taking the Canadian line again, James.

Steven Martin of Coppell, Texas writes: "I had to turn off CROSSFIRE. I was afraid James Carville was about to jump out of my TV and eat my child."

CARVILLE: Well, I've been called a lot of things, but I've got to tell you, it's the first time I think I was a child eater.

CARLSON: Actually, I think it's a valid fear. I am not going to mock that man's fear. OK?

Yes, ma'am.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: In the alert segment, James Carville attempted to drag John Ashcroft into the Trent Lott...

CARVILLE: No, I didn't attempt to, I did. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Well, you did.

CARVILLE: Yes, ma'am. Yes, I did.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Why? Is this the new tactic of the Democrats and why does the press not report racist comments by Democrats?

CARVILLE: About John Ashcroft, he's (ph) given interviews to southern partisans and neoconfederate groups. It is the new tactic by the Democrats, because I want Americans to know that the person -- the attorney general of the United States has a long and terrible history with groups that have advocated very, very peculiar racial failures like the CCC.

(CROSSTALK)

CARVILLE: ... because if it's not fair for Trent Lott, then it's not fair for Ashcroft. If Lott goes, Ashcroft ought to go too.

CARLSON: You know, the deeply unfair thing here is that nobody has ever -- no sane person has ever called John Ashcroft a racist. He is not.

(CROSSTALK)

CARLSON: ... Howard University Law School, and he has for many years.

CARVILLE: Ask Ronnie White.

CARLSON: Right. Yes, sir.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hi. Justin Flevin (ph) from Arlington, Virginia. I just think that Trent Lott controversy shows the desperation of the Democratic Party. Instead of -- instead of debating issues, they jump on a slip of the tongue.

CARLSON: Well, you can see why, though. It's a party that doesn't believe in anything beyond being elected, that doesn't have a program positive or negative of any kind, and so jumping on some guy's misstatements and stupid remark he made at a birthday party...

CARVILLE: You know what's hilarious? He praises all the Republicans that called for Trent Lott's resignation, then he says it's the Democrats that jumped on him. I mean, you got to pick a side, Tucker. Don't straddle both sides.

CARLSON: Attacking Trent Lott's statement...

CARVILLE: Should he resign or not?

(CROSSTALK)

CARLSON: He will resign.

(CROSSTALK)

CARLSON: I think I won.

From the right, I'm Tucker Carlson. Join us again tomorrow night for yet more CROSSFIRE. "CONNIE CHUNG TONIGHT" begins right now. Have a good night.

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Lott's Role in Senate Will Be on the Line When Republicans Meet Next Year>

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