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CNN CROSSFIRE

Jerry Springer, Ann Coulter Debate War With Iraq, Domestic Policy

Aired January 31, 2003 - 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, he put trash TV on the map, and she put "Slander" on the best seller list. Tonight, Ann Coulter and Senator Jerry Springer debate.
A possible war with Iraq.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Saddam Hussein is fooling the world, trying to fool the world.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ANNOUNCER: Has the Bush administration made its case for war?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DICK CHENEY, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Confronting the threat posed by Iraq is not a distraction from the war on terror.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ANNOUNCER: But has the president made the case for his domestic policy?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: These are tough economic times.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ANNOUNCER: Tonight on CROSSFIRE.

Live from the George Washington University, Paul Begala and Tucker Carlson.

PAUL BEGALA, CO-HOST: Welcome to CROSSFIRE. What a fine show we have for you tonight. We're going to ask Jerry Springer if he's going to throw his chair into the ring and run for the U.S. Senate, and, if he does, perhaps conservative author Ann Coulter would throw the book at him. They're both here, they'll soon be in the CROSSFIRE together, Springer versus Coulter. Television history in the making. Of course, there's always a warm-up act before the main event. Ours is the "CROSSFIRE Political Alert."

President Bush and British Prime Minister Tony Blair held a mini- summit today at the White House. Mr. Blair told CNN's Christiane Amanpour that he would seek a second U.N. resolution before taking military action against Iraq. After the meeting, President Bush said a second resolution would be welcome, quote, "if it is yet another signal that we're intent upon disarming Saddam Hussein."

Meanwhile, chief U.N. weapons inspector Hans Blix disputed several of Mr. Bush's claims about Iraq, saying that contrary to the Bush administration's claims, there was no evidence Iraq is moving illicit material nor any evidence Iraq is sending scientists abroad to keep them from being interviewed, nor any evidence that Iraqi intelligence have penetrated his inspection team, nor any persuasive indications of Iraqi ties to al Qaeda. White House aides attributed the dispute to the language barrier. You see, Hans Blix speaks English.

TUCKER CARLSON, CO-HOST: That's actually -- that is laughable, considering Hangs Blix's job has nothing to do with determining whether Iraq has ties to al Qaeda. It's simply to gather evidence so the U.N. can decide whether or not Iraq is in compliance with Resolution 1441. That's it, and in fact, his report is devastating. And it makes the case, as you know, that, no, they're not in compliance with it. They're in material breach of it.

BEGALA: So he's a closet fifth columnist for Saddam Hussein?

CARLSON: No.

BEGALA: He's just telling you what the evidence is.

CARLSON: No, his case, because of Hans Blix, we're going to war with Iraq, actually.

BEGALA: Well, that's not -- Hans Blix says that President Bush and his team have misrepresented the facts again and again.

CARLSON: Read his report.

BEGALA: And I think that's a serious -- I think it's a serious problem.

CARLSON: It will blow your mind.

A fascinating -- speaking of mind-blowing, a fascinating story by Dan Balz in "The Washington Post" this morning. Explains how virtually every Democratic presidential candidate is most strongly for war in Iraq and at the same time adamantly opposed to it.

Last week, for instance, Senator John Kerry attacked George W. Bush for his, quote, "rush to war." This week, Kerry adopted Bush's own position, saying the U.S. should go to war within the month if Saddam Hussein does not disarm. There is no contradiction between the senator's two positions, say the senator's staff.

Senator John Edwards, meanwhile, announced last fall that he would support a unilateral strike against Iraq. Now Edwards savages Bush for saying the same thing. Former Governor Howard Dean, meanwhile, appears to have no idea what's going on. Recently Dean said the U.S. should not go to war until there is evidence Saddam Hussein has weapons of mass destruction. Apparently someone forgot to tell Dean there already is evidence, lots of it.

Don't worry, though -- Democrats will figure out what they think about the war just as soon as it's over.

BEGALA: Well, I will say this for President Bush. There is great clarity in his position. He wants to go to war, come hell or high water, and that troubles me. I hope that I'm wrong. I hope that he does have an open mind. He keeps telling us his mind is not made up. But the Democrats are in the Senate in the main. They are doing their job. They said he has the authority to go to war, but they hope he doesn't use it. That's not inconsistent. He has the legal right now; they're just hoping...

(CROSSTALK)

CARLSON: Neither am I, as you know. I'm not so gung-ho for war. I think there needs to be a real debate. And because the Democratic Party and its cowardice, there isn't. They've quibbled about process, about the United Nations and France and Belgium, and ludicrous subjects not related to the core subject, which is, is it a good idea? They haven't even addressed it.

(CROSSTALK)

BEGALA: What Tom Daschle did today is a very important thing. He asked the president, who quite rightly said Secretary of State Colin Powell will go to the U.N. and make the case, as he should. I applaud that. Senator Daschle today says, why not send him to the Congress as well? And I think that's a good idea.

CARLSON: But that's another process.

BEGALA: Explain your case to the American people first.

CARLSON: That is an argument around the edges of the real argument.

BEGALA: Building around his $15 billion pledge to fight AIDS in Africa, President Bush today called for a faster AIDS test and a 7 percent increase in AIDS funding in America. But in the charity begins at home department, "The Houston Chronicle" reports that 4,200 Texans who are living with AIDS may be cut off from the medicine that's keeping them alive. The Texas Department of Health is proposing rule changes that would cut the funding for the 4,200 tragic Texans. Why? Well, the fellow who used to be governor cut taxes by $2 billion when he ran for president. Now the state of Texas is broke. And unlike Washington, it can't run a deficit. So sorry sick Texans, we've got to cut funding for AIDS medicine. Perhaps Texans can move to Africa to get their medicine from George W. Bush.

CARLSON: I must say, pretty amusing. I mean, Bush goes to Congress today and says, I want $16 billion for domestic AIDS funding. He is not, you may be surprised, the governor of Texas. Rick Perry is, has been for two years.

BEGALA: And he's a terrible governor, by the way...

CARLSON: That may or may not be...

BEGALA: He inherited Bush's mess.

CARLSON: That's so -- to blame Bush for AIDS funding in Texas when he's the president, not the governor, and hasn't been for two years, that's a stretch, you've got to admit.

BEGALA: If bush Hadn't cut the budget -- hadn't cut the taxes by $2 billion because he wanted to run for president, then they would not have this problem today. He put them in that ditch and then he walked away from it, which is wholly irresponsible.

CARLSON: You know, for someone who gets mad when people blame things on Clinton, that's really kind of remarkable.

More news tonight from the workers' paradise known as New York City. A bill now before New York's famously authoritarian city council takes gun control to the next logical level. The proposed law would ban not just guns, the city did that long ago, but anything that even sort of looks like a firearm -- cap guns, water pistols, super soakers. Possessing them would become illegal, a crime. "Even think firearms could be considered dangerous," explained Democratic Councilman Albert Vann. To prove it, Vann pulled out a water gun at a press conference, and according to "The Weekly Standard," promptly shot himself in the crotch with it.

Nevertheless, the bill will likely become law. To protest, the Libertarian Party of Manhattan has launched its own Guns for Tots campaign, which will distribute squirt guns to the city's fun-deprived children. There's a fund-raiser for this initiative Saturday night at a bar on 2nd Avenue. Drop by if you have time.

BEGALA: What's the bar?

CARLSON: The bar is called O'Flannagan's. I believe it's between 82nd and 83rd. And you know what, Paul, I have to say -- people like that, can you imagine if liberals ran the world? I mean, it would be scary. Banning things that look like guns?

BEGALA: Actually, let's try a reasonable test. If that's, in fact, true -- that's the first I heard of it -- that's unreasonable and silly. Now, let me try you.

CARLSON: Thank you.

BEGALA: Let me try you. In my home state of Texas, a fellow that used to be the governor, a guy named Bush, signed a law allowing guns to be carried in church. Now, that's crazy, too, isn't it?

CARLSON: What, no!

BEGALA: No?

CARLSON: What are you talking about?

BEGALA: We can have guns in church? Guns in amusement parks?

CARLSON: Well, people -- I don't think criminals should have guns.

BEGALA: How about amusement parks?

CARLSON: Why can't the average law-abiding citizen carry a gun when he wants it?

BEGALA: Sure, it would make a hell of a difference when they pass the collection plate, wouldn't it?

CARLSON: I don't think you should be able to shoot people in church.

BEGALA: I better pony up the 20 bucks, Father Murphy's packing heat!

(CROSSTALK)

BEGALA: You're not reasonable then. You're not reasonable.

CARLSON: I actually trust people to do the right thing, pretty much.

BEGALA: You can see where liberals are unreasonable, but you can't see where right wing conservatives are unreasonable.

(CROSSTALK)

CARLSON: Yes, I do. I do. Call me crazy.

BEGALA: You're crazy.

CARLSON: I trust them.

BEGALA: Last night I reported to you on the breath-taking hypocrisy of President Bush, praising the work of the Boys and Girls Clubs, calling them "little beacons of light," then cutting off their electricity by reducing their budget $10 million. I suggested that none of the major media would have the guts to report President Bush's brazen bad faith. I was wrong a little.

One reporter, Mike Allen, at one newspaper, "The Washington Post," wrote one sentence about it. Nothing in "The New York Times," nothing on the AP, nothing on CNN, except here on CROSSFIRE, or any of the other so-called news networks. The lesson, you can bask in the glow of a wonderful group even if you've cut its budget, because the press corps is so cowed by the Bush White House, you can almost hear them moo. President Bush, of course, could not be reached for comment. He was too busy laughing his ass off.

CARLSON: The old Spiro Agnew defense. It's the press' fault. I have watched my own side -- I have watched conservatives for many years whine and cry and moan about the liberal media, sometimes with justification. I have always thought you are a loser if you blame it on the press. You are a loser and you're resorting to a conspiracy theory.

BEGALA: I blame Bush. I blame Bush, but this is the job of the media. By the way, I didn't see any Democrats...

CARLSON: I actually know the media, as a member of it. And you're right, Mike Allen is a great reporter. But there are a lot of great reporters out there, and they're not political. They do a great job, and they don't (UNINTELLIGIBLE) anybody.

BEGALA: If you were covering this and you had facts from the House Appropriations Committee that the president had cut the budget of the group he was praising, would you put it in your story?

CARLSON: Here's my question, Paul, the one question you never asked. The one question is: Do the Boys and Girls Club need federal money?

BEGALA: No, that's not the issue.

CARLSON: That's the question. Of course it is.

BEGALA: Now, the issue is, did he cut the funding for the people he's sucking up to.

CARLSON: Well, maybe they don't need the funding.

BEGALA: Oh, sure they don't.

CARLSON: Oh, everybody needs federal funding.

BEGALA: If they're so great, why is he cutting their budget? He's a hypocrite of the first order. The press should have called him on it. Shame on them.

CARLSON: Maybe they don't need it.

BEGALA: Yes, maybe.

CARLSON: Consider that.

Following up on a story we reported several weeks ago, union strippers are once again gyrating on stage at San Francisco's Lusty Ladies Strip Club. The ladies of the Service Employees International Union local 790 exotic dancers chapter have been outraged they weren't making top scale of $27 an hour, so they put their clothes back on and walked out. Well, it worked. Their newly ratified contract contains a $3 an hour raise, payable in moist singles tucked into G-strings, plus 1 1/2 days of sick pay. It also lowers a hiring cap so that dancers who want to work extra shifts won't be turned away because too many other women are already rubbing against the poll.

It's a small victory, but for the increasingly relevant American labor movement it's about the best there is. Workers of the world unite. You have nothing to lose but your clothes. And that's the American labor movement.

BEGALA: That is just lovely. God bless them. I'm with you. Workers of the world unite. You were the shop steward on that one.

CARLSON: I actually support labor at that level.

At some point every talk show host says to himself, you know, I should be running this country. For Jerry Springer that point may have come. We'll ask Springer about his plans to run for the United States Senate. And then Ann Coulter joins the three of us to talk about Saddam Hussein, the economy and, of course, men who dress like women and the women who love them. Don't miss it. We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BEGALA: Welcome back to CROSSFIRE. This week "The Jerry Springer Show" brought America such wholesome fair as bizarre family scandals, "My Boyfriend's a Girl" and "Mistresses Attack."

But there's more than one side to the host of America's favorite showcase for misfits. Once upon a time Jerry Springer was a young campaign aide to Robert Kennedy. Cincinnati voters elected him to the mayor's office. He won five Emmys as a television newsman.

So it's not really a stretch to imagine him as a serious candidate for the Senate, is it? Question is, will he run? Tonight he's stepping into the CROSSFIRE. Please welcome Jerry Springer.

CARLSON: Jerry, thanks for joining us.

JERRY SPRING, TALK SHOW HOST: Nice to be here.

CARLSON: Let just me say right off the top I think it's a great idea that you run for Senate. You're more qualified than a lot of people I've covered. And I hope you win.

SPRINGER: I don't know that I'm running, but anyway...

CARLSON: I'm struck, whether you are or whether you're not, by the response of some of your fellow Democrats. Not nice. I want to read you a quote from Tom Daschle. He said this on CNN the other day.

He said, "Springer wouldn't be my first choice for Senate. I understand he was a mayor at one point, but I think we can do a lot better than that, and I'm sure Ohio will." Keep in mind this is a man for whom Bob Torricelli was good enough. How does that make you feel?

SPRINGER: Yes. Well, he may be right. And if we can find someone in Ohio in the Democratic Party that will espouse the point of view from millions of people that are not heard in government, then that's great.

I don't need the job. I'm happy where I am. I have a good life. Being a United States senator isn't going to make me rich. It isn't going to make me famous. I honestly care about certain things. And if no one else is going to run and represent that point of view then I'll do it. That's the point.

I hope one day Tom Daschle will get to like and respect me. But if he doesn't that's not my problem.

CARLSON: I can promise you if he thinks you're going to win, he'll be very nice to you.

BEGALA: Let me ask you about something. Even in the commercial break one of our audience members brought this up. Years ago in Cincinnati, you got in trouble, was in the papers. You used a check to pay for a prostitute. I'm wondering how are you going to make the transition to Washington where the politicians are the prostitutes? You going to be able to figure that sort of change out?

SPRINGER: I have experience. No, well, that was 35 years ago. I apologized a million times for it. It's not relevant.

The issue is not going to be whether or not I can be taken seriously. The issue in America really is whether millions and millions of Americans take their politicians seriously. The government is not responding to their needs. Whether we're talking about health care, whether we're talking about jobs or whether we're talking about the insanity of going to war when we really have a war right now against terrorism, we're about to start a war against Iraq.

And no one, not the Democrats or the Republicans, are asking the question, how bombing Baghdad is a remedy to stopping the use of chemical, biological or nuclear weapons.

CARLSON: I must say, just to back up, I must disagree with you when you say the question is not can you be taken seriously. If you run for office the question will indeed be can you be taken seriously. I want to give you an example. i just want to throw up...

SPRINGER: Will we get to talk about Iraq in moment? Because that's honestly going to be more important.

CARLSON: In the next segment. But your biography is important to any run that you might begin. That is not the correct float, but I'm going to read you some of the topics on your show.

"My Boyfriend is a Girl," "Your Lover is Mine," "Mistresses Attack!" "My Brother is my Lover!" "I Didn't Know My Fiancee is a Stripper," "What I Did For Revenge," and, of course, "Police Psychics Look For Missing Children."

Look, the point is, you probably know a lot about transgender issues, but I think the average voter is going to say, what else do you know about and why should I know you believe much about it at all?

SPRING: That's a fair question. That's fair. And if I am not able during a campaign, if I decide to run, if I am not able to convey a point of view that relates and touches the people in that community and the state and express a point of view that they want to spouse, if I'm not able to do it then I shouldn't be elected. If people are voting just on the show, I should get no votes. That's going to depend on how good a candidate I am.

CARLSON: Isn't there a knowledge question at some point. People are going to say, Look, if you haven't been in politics in 20-odd years how do you know for instance how to run a government?

SPRINGER: Well, you know what, if that's right it's going to be so obvious during the course of the campaign. But I am prepared to discuss the issues as they relate to the people of Ohio. They're going to judge. That's what this whole system is about.

This isn't about a reward for Jerry Springer. Who the hell cares whether Jerry Springer gets a job or not? That isn't about me. Our country is in trouble. And there are people that think our politics is a bunch of crap, to be honest. They don't think the government relates to them at all.

On these Sunday morning talk shows all these wonderful educated people sit around and they smugly make jokes and talk about how wonderful life is for them. And middle America -- people wonder why no one watches those shows. Why great mass of Americans don't. It doesn't relate to them.

How many years, ever since I was a child people have been talking about, by God our government, we're going to have health insurance for all our citizens. They still can't get it done.

Why doesn't America go on strike and say, Damn it, you have four years to give every American health insurance or you're out of office. We're going to fire all of you. Democrat, republican, we'll just fire you. Why can't they get that done? That's their job.

BEGALA: Let me ask you about what I think is a real sense of elitism this attacking you for how you earn your living. It's not just right elitism. When Ronald Reagan first got into politics, people said, Oh, he's just an actor. They were liberals.

Tom DeLay is actually my Congressman from Sugarland, Texas. He's just an exterminator, as if that's not an honorable way to earn a living.

Why should conservatives particularly criticize how you earn a living when our vice president ran a corporation that sold oil field equipment to Saddam Hussein. Which is a more honorable way to make money, Jerry? SPRINGER: I'm not going to pick on the vice president.

BEGALA: I am.

SPRINGER: OK. You can pick on him.

The point is I have a stupid show. It's a stupid show. I know it. Who am I kidding?

BEGALA: We like stupid shows here. This is CROSSFIRE.

SPRINGER: It is. You know, I know it. And I have always said it. You know, it is.

And you know what? I enjoy doing it. Obviously people must enjoy the show, otherwise it wouldn't be on for 12 years. It's a show. It's a show.

But we're talking about going to war. We're talking about the economy, which is an absolute chaos. We're talking about people not having health insurance. I mean serious, serious things. Who cares about the stupid show?

I'll make a deal. You don't go to war, I'll stop the show.

BEGALA: There we go.

CARLSON: That was the perfect setup to what we'll be talking about next. We're going to take a quick commercial break.

In a minute, Ann Coulter will join us. We'll debate the Bush administration's Iraq and economic policies as well as the state of primetime television. Could the nightly news use more nudity and violence?

We'll ask that question. We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CARLSON: Welcome back.

After meeting at the White House today, both President Bush and British Prime Minister Tony Blair dodged a number of questions from reporters, but their message was still clear.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BUSH: Saddam Hussein is not disarming. He is a danger to the world. He must disarm. And that's why I have constantly said, and the prime minister have constantly said, this issue will come to a head in matter of weeks, not months.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CARLSON: Joining Jerry Springer in the CROSSFIRE to talk about a possible, at this point likely, war with Iraq is conservative columnist Ann Coulter. She's the author of "Slander: Liberal Lies About the American Right."

BEGALA: Ann, welcome back to CROSSFIRE. It's always good to have you here. This should be fun.

Let me begin with your current column.

ANN COULTER, CONSERVATIVE COLUMNIST: Excellent.

BEGALA: At Humaneventsonline. We'll plug the Web site for you.

It concludes with a suggestion -- not a suggestion, an allegation that Democrats are guilty of treason for insufficient applause when the president talked about missile defense.

COULTER: Correct.

BEGALA: Let me test your definition of the word treason. I gather that's the name of the new book, by the way.

COULTER: It is.

BEGALA: Let's check out another -- just to test your definition of treason. Take a look at this from "The Washington Post."

"According to oil industry executives and confidential United Nations records, Halliburton held stakes in two firms that signed contracts to sell more than $73 million in oil production equipment and spare parts to Iraq while Cheney" -- that would be Dick Cheney, now vice president -- "was chairman and CEO of the Dallas-based company. Two former senior executives of the Halliburton subsidiary say that as far as they know, there was no policy against doing business with Iraq."

Is that treason too?

COULTER: We weren't at war with Iraq.

BEGALA: So that's not a problem. He wasn't a bad guy two years ago?

COULTER: In fact to the contrary -- no, to the contrary it was actually quite useful to have Iraq and Iran fighting one another, I might add.

BEGALA: But they weren't. This was 1998, Ann.

COULTER: No, but I'm just saying...

BEGALA: 1998.

COULTER: Right, we weren't at war then.

I don't know of the details this. But this is just, you know, the classic liberal scandal. Some, you know, precious technical little point. I think my was really clear in that people can understand. Not that somebody worked for a corporation that sold equipment that ended up someplace at somewhere we're going to war with now.

BEGALA: He was the CEO, not the parking garage guy.

COULTER: George Bush announced that this year we're deploying a shield to defend America from incoming ballistic missiles. Only one side of the aisle stood up and gave that a standing ovation. The Democrats don't stand for defending America from incoming missiles. Yes.

BEGALA: If Al Gore had sold oil field equipment to Saddam Hussein would you say the same thing?

COULTER: He wasn't trying to sell this. You're complicated little legal points really are not -- makes no --

SPRINGER: This is kind of like my show.

BEGALA: Yes.

COULTER: No one understand it. There was nothing illegal about it and we can go right back to your pals the Kennedys selling munitions to Japan and Germany.

CARLSON: Jerry Springer, I want you to respond to something that Colin Powell just said. I'm interested to know what you think of this.

This is the Secretary of State.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

COLIN POWELL, SECRETARY OF STATE: To those who say why not give inspectors and the whole inspection process more time, the simple answer is, How much more time does Iraq need? Not the inspectors. How much more time does Iraq need to realize the seriousness of its position, the futility of it position, to understand once and for all that if they don't come clean now, they will be made clean by military force.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CARLSON: You know -- you know, that couldn't be clearer. Iraq has understood this from the beginning: disarm or face the consequences. It hasn't disarmed. How much longer should the world -- not just the U.S., but the world, give Iraq?

SPRINGER: It is not a question of how much time we give Iraq. We all agree, I assume we all agree that Saddam Hussein should not, must not have weapons of mass destruction. We agree on that.

Where I think the debate is missing the point is I don't understand why going to war with Iraq will make us safer from the use of nuclear weapons or chemical or biological weapons.

Let me quickly explain. There are only three possible options. Either, one, he does not have those weapons. If he doesn't have those weapons, what's the point of going to war.

Two, which is more likely, is he does have the weapons. If he has those weapons, the best way to get him to use them is to go to war against him. Where's the sanity there?

Option three -- option three is that he did have them but he gave them to terrorists or other countries and they have them, the terrorists have them. Again, going to war against Saddam Hussein won't stop the terrorists from using it if we gave them.

CARLSON: Wait -- wait -- wait -- don't

SPRINGER: So I don't understand -- and then I'll quit. I don't understand, no one has explained, no one, out of the Democrats as well. I'm not playing favorites here. No one has explained how bombing Baghdad makes people in Kansas City safer from what the president talked about the other night about someone flying over with a canister of these weapons.

If he has those weapons, he's already given them to someone and they will use it against us soon as we start a war. What are we doing lighting up the world?

CARLSON: That's a rather grand assumption, assuming that if he has them he's give them to terrorist organizations.

(CROSSTALK)

CARLSON: But I think you -- but you raised a question that you didn't answer and you made a point that you didn't answer and that is -- you said, Look, everybody agrees we need to disarm him.

SPRINGER: Yes.

CARLSON: But it's clear that without war, we won't disarm him.

SPRINGER: That -- that....

CARLSON: So how do we disarm? I'd be interested to know.

SPRINGER: That is a wonderful notion that the only way you stop people from fighting...

CARLSON: Well, you tell me. How do we disarm him then?

SPRINGER: OK.

Well, so far, the administration has doing a pretty good job. I mean, so far -- right after September 11, that very next day, virtually the entire world community joined us. Even countries that would never -- Syria was helping us out. Lybia -- all these countries were willing -- we had the whole world's goodwill, with their intelligence, to start finding where these terrorist networks are and working at it.

And the president himself said -- and I, as a Democrat, said, Right on, Mr. President. This is going to be a long struggle. We're not going to have quick results. We have to do -- well, fine. Let's stay the course.

I'm not saying there won't ever have to be a military option. But the military to use the excuse that we're going to have a military option right now because that's going to make us safer from the use of chemical or biological weapons makes no sense. Where are you going to bomb? You think you're going to destroy these weapons if you drop bombs?

We don't know where the weapons are. That's the reason the inspectors can't find them. What are you doing?

(APPLAUSE)

BEGALA: Picking up on Jerry's point, and that is, it's al qaeda, stupid. At least that's my view. And I don't want to speak for Jerry.

And I am all for war. OK? I'm not a peacemaker. I want a war, I want it to be vicious and ruthless against al Qaeda, against the people who came to our country and killed us.

And intelligence experts say the al Qaeda presence is much stronger in Pakistan, Syria, Yemen and Iran, than it is in Iraq. Why are we picking the fifth most likely target instead of going at these bastards where they live and where they ought to die?

COULTER: Right.

BEGALA: So why is Bush attacking Iraq?

COULTER: Liberals are always strongly in favor of going to war, just not against the country we're about to go to war with.

BEGALA: Every (UNINTELLIGIBLE) support in Afghanistan, the war in Afghanistan. And I certainly do. I strongly supported the war in Afghanistan.

COULTER: I'm going to answer now. And you both have had a lot of talking time. No. I mean, this is like saying, why are we going after Hitler when we really want to go after the Nazis? Don't bother with that Hitler. We're going after the Nazis.

Look, this is all a swamp. We are draining the swamp. This is one mosquito in the swamp. And you guys want to go around mosquito by mosquito, saying there's not evidence here. Have you proved that this mosquito has bitten yet?

Well we are draining the swamp. And the worst guy in the swamp is Saddam Hussein. We know he has poison gases. We know he has chemical weapons.

BEGALA: He's a bad guy, but he's not an Islamic fundamentalist like Osama bin Laden.

COULTER: It doesn't matter. He hates America and he wants to see it annihilated.

BEGALA: Really? But he also hates Osama bin Laden and bin Laden hates him. There's no natural alliance there.

COULTER: No, but the idea that this is some completely different organization, Saddam Hussein and the Islamic fanatics, is simply you are whistling through the graveyard.

BEGALA: He's a Stalinist fanatic who is not in the swamps.

COULTER: He didn't (UNINTELLIGIBLE) when he wants to. It's all part of the same swamp.

BEGALA: We're going to have to leave this swamp for just a minute. I'm sorry to do that to Jerry, I'm sorry to do that to Ann. But we will be back in a minute, and I will ask both of our guests, as will Tucker, about the sorry state of the Bush economy, as Springer versus Coulter moves into round two.

(APPLAUSE)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BEGALA: Welcome back to this all-star celebrity death cage steel cage match between Jerry Springer and Ann Coulter. President Bush today sends up his new budget to Capitol Hill. Rather he announced he would send it up next week. Reports say it will include a record- setting $300 billion deficit even before adding in the cost of a possible war with Iraq or the $674 billion 10-year Bush tax cut for the rich.

In the CROSSFIRE are columnist and author Ann Coulter and TV talk show host Jerry Springer.

CARLSON: Now Jerry, a lot of Democrats I know, and some I work with, believe that the Democratic Party is going to regain control of Congress and the White House in 2004 by whining about the tax cut and the economy, et cetera. I want to put up two polls that suggest that's not true. These are polls, by the way, done by James Carville's group.

SPRINGER: I was told I'm not supposed to speak for the Democratic Party.

CARLSON: Well go ahead and do it.

SPRINGER: Tom Daschle said I couldn't speak for them.

CARLSON: The question is, "Which party is better at ensuring the safety of the United States?" Republicans, 47, Democrats 16. A spread of 31 points.

(APPLAUSE)

CARLSON: Next poll. "Which party is better at keeping America strong?" Republicans 50, Democrats 22. So I guess the point -- or the question I'd ask you is, does the Democratic Party really hope to win on economic issues when there's a 30-point spread on the basic issue of foreign policy, defense and security?

SPRINGER: Why is everything always Republican-Democrat?

CARLSON: Well it's an interesting question.

SPRINGER: I know. I'm not saying you can't ask what questions you want. But I guess my answer is, that is part of the reason why so much of America thinks this is all a bunch of crock of steam.

CARLSON: No, but wait a second. It's not just parties. It's world views.

SPRINGER: Right now...

CARLSON: Wait, hold on. It's not just Democrats and Republicans. It's two different ways of looking at the world. And the American people are making a statement about which one they prefer.

SPRINGER: OK. Well, in fairness on the defense -- and I'm not saying that there wouldn't be more people favoring the Republicans than the Democrats. But let's be honest. The Republicans are the administration in power right now. You know it's Donald Rumsfeld that is holding the press conference every day.

It's Colin Powell that's out there. It's the president that's giving the State of the Union speech on our defense. So let's be honest. Obviously people are going to think that they're talking about it. They're not going to find some congressman in Oklahoma that has suddenly...

CARLSON: Or in Baghdad.

(CROSSTALK)

SPRINGER: So that's the reason. So those polls don't mean -- those polls don't mean anything. I'll tell you what. If we are mired in a horrible war which we can't get out of, if there is a -- if there are a lot of terrorist acts here in the United States, if the economy is going down the tubes, it doesn't -- Bush is going to lose.

If the economy is in good shape and we're out of Iraq and we're not having a lot of terrorist activity, then no Democrat is going to beat Bush. I mean that's the reality. Every presidential election is a referendum on the person currently in office on the administration. Every one of them.

And if the country's in good shape, Bush will win. If the country is in bad shape, Bush will lose.

BEGALA: Well let's take a look -- sorry to jump in, Jerry, but let's take a look at the shape that we are in economically. These are numbers that matter more than a poll. And I love polls, but these matter more. Under President Bush, unemployment is up 2.7 million. The Dow is down 38 percent. Poverty, way up, 1.3 million. Homelessness up, the budget deficit way, way up from a $300 billion surplus, now a $300 billion deficit. 1.4 million Americans have lost their healthcare.

Ann, my question is, at what point -- how bad does it have to get before conservatives acknowledge that we need a different economic policy? That the Bush plan has failed?

COULTER: As soon as someone persuades us that it's the economic policy that leads the Dow to go up or down. And it isn't. Sorry.

BEGALA: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) economic policy has nothing to do with...

COULTER: Sometime the stocks are up, sometime they're down.

BEGALA: Good point. But it has nothing to do with anything, though, right? The Bush economic -- why pass it then if it has nothing to do with employment...

COULTER: No, I think the tax cuts will help the economy. And I think...

(APPLAUSE)

BEGALA: But wait, we passed it two years ago.

COULTER: Well Reagan passed them, and then we had the largest peacetime recovery in the United States history. So, yes, tax cuts -- I know you want to come up with excuses to take taxes away from the American people, but really what people want is they want money.

BEGALA: How much time or how bad does it have to get? How high does unemployment have to get, seven, eight, 10 percent, 15 percent?

COULTER: Before we raise taxes...

BEGALA: Before conservatives say Bush has failed.

COULTER: ... that urgent safety measure. The Democrats are obsessed with raising taxes. Sorry.

BEGALA: Actually, there is not a single Democrat who supports a tax cut.

(CROSSTALK)

SPRINGER: I love the part of the tax cuts that go to middle and lower income Americans. What I find offensive, it's giving someone like me a tax cut. Here's what's wrong with it.

COULTER: We don't want to give you a tax cut.

SPRINGER: You sure do. Well, maybe -- but boy, here's what's wrong with that system. The idea of -- the alleged idea of giving the tax cut is if you give people back more money, then they're going to spend it and it will juice up the economy. That makes sense.

But why give a wealthy person the tax cut? Do you think if you're giving a wealthy person a tax cut that therefore they can now afford to buy things? They're already rich. So you don't have to give us a tax cut.

(APPLAUSE)

CARLSON: But Jerry, I think it takes place on a deeper level than simply retail sales.

SPRINGER: No, no, no.

CARLSON: Of course it does. It's not simply you're going to...

SPRINGER: Take the money -- take the money that -- the part of the Bush proposal that gives money back to families at middle and lower income, great. But you take the part of the tax cut that goes to people that make a lot of money, and do you know what, use that money to subsidize health insurance for those people in America that don't have it. That would make more sense.

(APPLAUSE)

CARLSON: Well on that note, we're going to have to take a commercial break. But we cannot let our guests go without answering the question all of America is asking: can Frenchy Davis (ph), whoever that is, go all the way on "American Idol," apparently a television show?

And then our quote of the day. Find out who may actually be the biggest threat to Saddam Hussein. We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BEGALA: Welcome back to CROSSFIRE. We are coming to you live from the George Washington University in downtown Washington, D.C., where Jerry Springer and Ann Coulter are going at it and I couldn't be having more fun -- Mr. Carlson.

CARLSON: Well Jerry, one thing you do know indisputably know a lot about and are obviously very good at is television. And I'm wondering why the network newscasts have been losing their audience share consistently over the past 10 years, while shows like "American Idol" and other vulgar displays have been gaining. Wondering what the news -- I'm interested.

What do you think? If you were a producer of a network newscast, what would you do to get more viewers?

SPRINGER: I think if you're in news you shoulden be worried about getting a lot of viewers. You should be doing the public service.

(APPLAUSE)

SPRINGER: You know...

COULTER: Coming from you?

SPRINGER: Yes. Right. I mean, when you're in entertainment -- I mean, you know, as I said, I do a silly show. When you do entertainment, you're selling a product. You want viewers. That's your job.

When you're doing news, that's a public service. And I think television news ought to be there. And on a lot of nights, people aren't going to tune in. But when there's something very important going on in the world, they'll tune in.

And I think the networks ought to understand that and stop trying to trivialize news. That's why news isn't so good anymore. It's because news is trying to compete with show business. They have more and more show biz things on and all that stuff. They shouldn't.

Leave the entertainment to schlockmeisters (ph) like me or whatever. That's entertainment. Now let news be serious.

BEGALA: Now let me ask you about your book, a huge bestseller, about the American news media. And of course I read it. And let me read to you from the acknowledgements. They're brief, which is notable.

But one of the names you do mention is Miguel Estrada. And you say, "In the event any of them are nominated to confirmable (ph) positions, they're absolutely not responsible for what I write." Miguel Estrada, for those keeping score at home, is now nominated for the second highest court in the land. What did he do to help you on the book, to begin with?

COULTER: I describe it in the acknowledgements what all of my friends do.

BEGALA: No actually you didn't.

COULTER: Yes, I do. You didn't read it that closely.

BEGALA: I'm really curious because you said your "long suffering friends gave me ideas and editing advice." What ideas did Mr. Estrada give you?

COULTER: What was the next sentence?

BEGALA: "I habitually ignore."

COULTER: "Which I habitually ignore." They give me ideas...

(CROSSTALK)

BEGALA: The reason I'm trying to tease this out is because Mr. Estrada (ph) would very much like to be on one of the most important courts in the land, but he doesn't want us to know his views on important issues. And is he an Ann Coulter conservative or a Paul Begala liberal?

COULTER: Yes, I get the point you're getting at. We're going to do a little left wing guilt by association.

BEGALA: No. I am curious about his views, Ann.

COULTER: Miguel Estrada is a friend of mine. But just to calm you, Geraldo Rivera is a friend of mine, too.

BEGALA: I understand that. That doesn't calm me, by the way. But does he share your views? Has he ever expressed a view to you about Roe v. Wade, (UNINTELLIGIBLE)?

You're an accomplished attorney yourself. He's an accomplished attorney. You must talk attorney stuff, right?

COULTER: I send a lot of people my columns before they go out. They argue with me. They tell me jokes. They send stuff back. They correct errors. I have a lot of friends and they help me in a lot of different...

BEGALA: So you're not going to tell me about any of his views?

COULTER: What do you want me to say?

BEGALA: Are you embarrassed by his views?

COULTER: The second he gets in there, he'll overrule everything you love, Paul Begala.

CARLSON: If I can just stop this McCarthyism really quick just to ask you a quick question since we're running out of time. Back to television. MSNBC scrapping its lineup apparently yet once again, putting Jesse Ventura, former pro wrestler, governor of Minnesota.

You're a talk show host, and a very successful one. Do you think he has a future? Do you think he will be a good show host or will he be as appalling as he is as a governor?

SPRINGER: Well I don't know that he was an appalling governor.

COULTER: He was.

SPRINGER: You know he seems to be a person that really knows how to be successful in whatever he does. So I assume that he will do a very good job. Who knows? You go on television -- who would ever assume that my show would be successful. I have no talent and it works.

COULTER: You know, before this is over, I disagree with Tom Daschle. I think you should be the spokesman of the Democratic Party.

CARLSON: Yes. On that happy note, unfortunately we are completely out of time. Jerry Springer, Ann Coulter, thank you both very much. Coming up, we have some news. CNN's Christiane Amanpour is on the plane with British Prime Minister Tony Blair. After a long day of meetings with President Bush, we'll get an update from Christiane when we return. We'll be right back.

(APPLAUSE)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BEGALA: Welcome back to CROSSFIRE. President Bush keeps repeating that disarming Saddam Hussein is absolutely vital to the war on terrorism. He says that Saddam Hussein is a menace to peace. He says Saddam Hussein is a menace to his own neighborhood.

But until this week, the president had not revealed the shocking truth about the identity of Saddam Hussein's next target. It slipped out during a speech. Here now, with our quote of the day, the president of the United States.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The war on terror involves Saddam Hussein because of the nature of Saddam Hussein, the history of Saddam Hussein, and his willingness to terrorize himself.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CARLSON: I mean, what?

BEGALA: Himself?

CARLSON: This is such a dog bites man story. So the guy has trouble speaking, OK? This is news from nowhere. He can't produce terror either. Who cares? The fact is no president in my lifetime has had a clarity of vision -- you can agree or disagree -- but as clear as this president.

BEGALA: This is where I disagree. His clarity of vision I saluted when he focused on al Qaeda. I cannot honestly believe that we are in a position where al Qaeda is regrouping to attack us, as they surely will, and we are going after Saddam Hussein. A very bad guy, but who is not nearly as bad as the SOBs who took down the World Trade Center.

CARLSON: But notice -- but that's apples and oranges, Paul.

(CROSSTALK)

BEGALA: Yes, go after the apples first. Get the oranges later.

CARLSON: I wish you would address the actual question, but maybe we can do that tomorrow -- oh, it's Saturday. Perhaps Monday.

One of our viewers actually has something nice to say about Paul, one of our conservative viewers. It's coming up next in "Fireback." You won't believe it. We'll be right back.

(APPLAUSE)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BREAKING NEWS)

CARLSON: Welcome back. Before we get to "Fireback," we have CNN's Christiane Amanpour on the plane with Tony Blair, prime minister of Great Britain -- Christiane.

CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN SR. INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Tucker, we just wanted to bring you the latest news from this Blair- Bush summit. A lot of people had commented that the body language between the two leaders at their press conference looked uncomfortable and that they had not come to a meeting of the minds, particularly on the issue of a second U.N. resolution if it came to confronting Iraq military.

Well on the plane, on route back to London, Prime Minister Blair came back and told reporters categorically, I believe we will get a second resolution, he said, and that it's important to resolve this as soon as possible. He did say that the United States has always believed that the current resolution provides adequate authority, but he said it also clearly implies further discussion. He woulden be torn on a timeline or deadline, but he did say, "The process ends once there is a second resolution."

So although it looks at least as if the U.S. wasn't keen to embark on another round of intensive diplomacy and go fully through the U.N. route, the British prime minister is telling reporters that that is exactly what's going to happen. Although, of course, it won't be dragged out for a period of months. It will be resolved within weeks -- Tucker.

CARLSON: That's fascinating. Thank you, Christiane. Christiane Amanpour, on the plane back to London with Tony Blair. Thanks.

BEGALA: That's big news.

CARLSON: It is big news.

BEGALA: And I will say I'm a big Bush critic. If he's going to go through the U.N. even one more time, which he may not have to do legally, I salute that. Good for him. He's going the extra mile.

CARLSON: Well legally -- just to clarify -- he never legally has to go to the U.N., because it is, of course, our own country.

BEGALA: I mean in terms of international law, Tucker. But he ought to come back to the Congress and send Colin Powell there, as Tom Daschle has asked. And I hope he does.

CARLSON: A lot of hoops.

Bruce Gordon of Denver writes, "Paul, since you're so eager to raise my children and stop people from smoking, please send me your address."

BEGALA: Bruce, if you're poisoning your children, please send me your children.

Loraine Kubiak from Mansfield, Ohio, writes, "Paul, kudos from a right wing fan. Though we don't agree on much, I really enjoy your style." Thanks. "I would listen to you on the radio over fat head Limbaugh any day." Wow. "Keep fighting the good fight against the imperialist Bush."

Wow. Loraine, that's quite a statement from a conservative. Thank you very much.

CARLSON: And we go to the audience. Yes?

SARAH HUNTSMAN: Hi. I'm Sarah Huntsman (ph) from Enterprise, Utah. I was just thinking maybe it would be better if we ran Washington like Jerry's show. We get Bush and Daschle throwing their chairs and duking it out. And whoever is left standing gets to make policy. At least we'd get something done.

CARLSON: Well I think we might get a little too much done. And never forget that the government was designed to get not a whot whole lot done. Gridlock was built into the system, and that's a good thing.

BEGALA: You know I've worked in the legislative and the executive branches, and there are many days when what happens in Washington is no better than what happens on the "Jerry Springer Show." So don't get these elitists tell you that he doesn't have a right to run. Yes, ma'am.

VANESSA HETRICK: Hi. My name is Vanessa Hetrick (ph) and I'm from North Canton, Ohio. And my question has to do with Jerry Springer as well. Being a resident of Ohio, I'm a little bit concerned about him being our next senator and possible representative of our state.

BEGALA: Tell me about it. I'm from Texas. You know who our governor was.

HETRICK: I mean it just calls images like the stereotype of Jesse Ventura from Minnesota. And I was just wondering like how I'm supposed to take him seriously as a candidate for senator?

CARLSON: Really? Well, wait. Let me ask you. James Traficant represented your state for many, many years before he went to federal prison. I think at this point there's really nothing Ohio could do to shock the rest of America.

(APPLAUSE)

BEGALA: And that's for you to judge, not for us. But you know, if you listened to him tonight, he sounds like a guy who's thought through a bunch of issues. He sounds like a guy who is ready to make an honest campaign for an important job. People can decide themselves. But again, I caution my fellow liberals. We all dismissed Ronald Reagan because he was an actor, and that was wrong.

(CROSSTALK)

CARLSON: What you're saying he's the best the party has to offer. Yes?

BEGALA: We have no idea who is going to run. That's right.

CARLSON: Yes?

DEBORAH WELLS: Hi. My names is Deborah Wells (ph) from (UNINTELLIGIBLE), California. And I was wondering, what do you think about celebrities using their fame to run for office?

CARLSON: I think it's a lot better than celebrities using their fame to talk about things they don't understand. And in fact, you have to admire anybody who runs for office from Hillary Clinton on down, at least is putting him or herself before voters and saying, judge me. And even if voters make the wrong choice you have to admire it.

BEGALA: I agree with half of that, but Tucker is being unfair to Charlton Heston, who uses his fame to promote right wing causes. He has a perfect right to do that.

CARLSON: He actually knows a lot about it.

BEGALA: Or Bruce Willis who is another right-winger, or Arnold Schwarzenegger. God bless them all. I think they're all good Americans espousing their politics. I wish more people would.

From the left I am Paul Begala. Goodnight for CROSSFIRE.

CARLSON: From the right, I'm Tucker Carlson. Not Barbra Streisand, Tucker Carlson. Join us again next time for yet more of CROSSFIRE.

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



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