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CNN CROSSFIRE

Should Dixie Chicks Be Singing a Different Tune?

Aired April 25, 2003 - 16:30   ET

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

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

In the CROSSFIRE: Should these Chicks be singing a different tune?

Is he ready for more controversy? Will he get "MASH"ed for being anti-war? Tonight, political points or unpatriotic notes?

Plus, find out who won the Clash of the Titans in the Empire State.

Today, on CROSSFIRE.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ANNOUNCER: live, from the George Washington University, Paul Begala and Robert Novak.

PAUL BEGALA, CO-HOST: Welcome to CROSSFIRE, the show where we proudly use and sometimes abuse our right to free speech and will continue to do so whether John Ashcroft and George W. Bush likes it or not. Question today, do movie stars and singers deserve any less? We will get to that in a just minute.

But first, since we have your permission to speak freely, let's start with the best little briefing in television. Our CROSSFIRE "Political Alert."

In between daily naps and workouts and weekly trips to the ranch or Camp David, our president somehow has found time to make petulant attacks on country singers who criticize him. In an interview released today, President Bush attacked the Dixie Chicks saying, and I quote, "they shouldn't have their feelings hurt just because some people don't want to buy their records when they speak out," unquote.

Mr. President, Osama bin Laden is still out there, homeland security is too weak, the deficit is out of control and the economy sucks. How about spending you time attacking problems instead of country singers?

ROBERT NOVAK, CO-HOST: You know I hate to respond to a daily anti-Bush harangue, Paul, but he has just lead, very effectively, a successful war in Iraq. He's been around the country selling his tax program. He doesn't have to back up to the pay window. And somebody defending the right of these idiot women to say something, you a attack the president for responding to them, huh?

BEGALA: The president -- you may not like them, they're American citizens and the president has more to do than attack them.

NOVAK: The president...

BEGALA: He shouldn't be attacking them. he ought to be doing -- we pay him 400 grand a year. He ought to be doing the dang job.

NOVAK: I tell you, you don't think he did a good job in Iraq? Is that correct?

BEGALA: I think our soldiers did a good job in Iraq.

(CROSSTALK)

BEGALA: Don't give George Bush the credit for the heroism of our troops.

NOVAK: OK. We'll go back later on that.

Just how strong politically is George W. Bush? Look at New York. New York! The bluest of the Blue Democratic states. The Quinnipiac Poll shows that if the presidential election were held right now, President Bush would defeat any Democrat, even Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton. Bush beats her 47 percent to 44 percent.

Remember how well Hillary ran upstate for senator in 2000? She loses to Bush upstate 57 percent to 33 percent. The polls shows Bush beating Senators Joe Lieberman and John Kerry by 12 percentage points and he beats Congressman Dick Gephardt by 11.

Paul, it looks like your smear Dubbya campaign just isn't working in New York.

BEGALA: Well I tell you what is working is the rightwing corporate media's efforts to boost and puff this guy up. Look, he came off a successful war. His poll numbers are up. If he thinks he can beat Hillary Rodham Clinton in New York, I got three words for him: bring it on. She'll beat him like a bad piece of meat. She'll whip his butt.

NOVAK: Isn't it interesting that at this point in time, you can be a little bit of an analyst and not always a partisan, that he's beating any Democrat in New York. Isn't that interesting?

BEGALA: It's very interesting and it's important. But he ought to -- he knows he's got a tough campaign ahead, though.

Well, speaking of President Bush, he today embraced embattled Republican Senator Rick Santorum in a manly, macho, not at all gay way, that is. Santorum, as you know, I'm sure, has compared committed loving, adult gay relationships to incest and bestiality. Yet our president through his spokesman today called Santorum, and I quote, "an inclusive man," unquote.

Perhaps Mr. Bush is just trying to emulate the Iraqi Information Minister for whom truth, of course, had no meaning whatsoever. Why not call the Reverend Jerry Falwell tolerant or Newt Gingrich moderate or George W. Bush compassionate? I'm tempted to say George W. Bush doesn't know the meaning of the word inclusive, but then again that might be literally true.

NOVAK: You know, Paul, Rick Santorum is really one of the most decent men I know in politics. He's a daily Catholic communicant, he's a tremendous family man. And what he said, he said that if the government cannot enact laws against sodomy, it's hard to think they can enact laws on any sexual offense. That's actually what he said.

But what I wonder of you is as a professional politician if you want to make the Democratic Party the party of sodomy?

BEGALA: My party's a party of equal rights. It's the party of equality. Rick Santorum's party's a party of bigotry and intolerance and exclusion. And out president, who's the president of all, gay and straight, should have disassociated himself from those comments.

NOVAK: She's not heavy, she's my leader. That's what eight endangered Democratic House members who received $5,000 contributions from House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi of San Francisco must be saying.

The Republicans are targeting these Democratic congressmen with a message. Here's how it reads in the hotly contested Kansas district of Dennis Moore. Quote, "Pelosi, devastated by war in Iraq, in full support of anti-war protesters, unapologetic in support of national gun law, needle exchange programs, gay marriage, cloning, partial birth abortions and Dennis Moore," end quote

Paul, does the truth hurt?

BEGALA: That's what you call McCarthyism. Guilt by association. I tell you what. I make a deal with the Republicans. I'll take Nancy Pelosi any day of the week. You can have Rick Santorum. We'll see who the American people like better.

(CROSSTALK)

BEGALA: The bigoted views of Trent Lott and Rick Santorum who say racist things about black people and homophobic things about gay people, or my Nancy Pelosi who I love.

(CROSSTALK)

NOVAK: Time for you to answer if you won't listen to me. What is incorrect in that message of the things she's for? Isn't she for all those things?

BEGALA: She's not for cloning, for one thing.

NOVAK: She voted against the cloning bill. (CROSSTALK)

BEGALA: Nancy Reagan was against some versions of that as well.

NOVAK: Why is it every liberal celebrity thinks the public deserves a lecture on their simple-minded political views? Next in the CROSSFIRE, the Dixie Chicks and the difference between free speech and bad manners.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BEGALA: Welcome back to CROSSFIRE. Back on March the 10th, the lead singer of the Dixie Chicks, Natalie Maines, told a London audience she was ashamed to be from the same state as George W. Bush. As a fellow Texan, I share that view.

That remark, however, sparked organized boycotts, slurs, smears and rightwing radio hate fests. But as you can see from the latest cover of "Entertainment Weekly" the Chicks are perfectly comfortable with freedom of expression, even if the patriotic correct rightwingers aren't.

In the CROSSFIRE to debate all of this, from Los Angeles, actor and anti-war activist Mike Farrell. And here in Washington, former California Congressman and former actor himself, Bob Dornin. Gentlemen, thank you very much.

NOVAK: Mike Farrell, as we just mentioned the Dixie Chicks and their career was kind of in the tank and because they were attacked by the right, they are moving all the way up to the top of the charts. And some broken down actress named Janeane Garofalo, I'd never heard of, that's has been in this program...

MIKE FARRELL, ACTOR, ACTIVIST: How do you know she's a broken down actress if you've never heard of her?

NOVAK: I was told that by the staff.

FARRELL: You were told that by some people who would like to have people think that.

NOVAK: Mike, let me finish the question. She said that the other day, that she's almost famous. Isn't this a case of all you left-wing Hollywood types laughing all the way to the bank and all these crocodile tears about being attacked?

FARRELL: Broken down actress and almost famous. You don't understand understatement, Bob, that's clear from the way you approach this show. Janeane was making a comment that had some humor, some ironic humor intended with it. But again, I think it escaped you. Was there a question?

NOVAK: Yes, the question was, aren't you left-wingers who are crying so much about being attacked, aren't you laughing all the way to the bank? It's helping your careers. FARRELL: I don't know about left-wingers, and I don't know what you mean by that, and I don't know about all the rest of this stuff. What I do know is that there was an orchestrated campaign to stifle dissent based on the fact that the people were speaking out against the Bush policies and against the war. And that orchestrated attack failed. And what we've seen that it failed, it had no effect, and I think that has caused you to come out now and try to turn it to show that somehow, we have profited by it.

BEGALA: Bob, first of all, welcome back to the show. I'm digging the glasses, the Jack Nicholson thing working.

BOB DORNAN, FORMER U.S. REPRESENTATIVE: No, I wore these for Michael Farrell. The last time I debated my fellow Irishman was on my program, Emmy-award winning program in L.A. He lost the debate. He said liberalism was the future of the Catholic Church. His wife was at his side. Three months later, they divorced.

(CROSSTALK)

BEGALA: Let me ask you a question, then you can give your answer. The question is, doesn't our president have better things to do than attack the Dixie Chicks, who are country singers? Doesn't he have a country to run?

DORNAN: Now, wait a minute. The reason I watch this show is to learn. I didn't know that he got in the fight. He attacked them?

BEGALA: On NBC News, he said that, "I suppose people have the right to speak their mind, but they shouldn't get their feelings hurt if they get boycotted."

(CROSSTALK)

DORNAN: Here's the people that I will drop what I'm doing and watch them debate the issues. Michael is one of them. And U2's Bono was another, because he's always gentlemanly, he studies, he knows his facts. He's traveled. But people who call themselves the Dixie Chicks, when they should be the Hollywood Chicks or the Manhattan Chicks ...

BEGALA: So why is Bush attacking them? Why doesn't he go run the country?

(CROSSTALK)

DORNAN: What did he actually say? You know what I -- wait a minute. Last night, I suffered through the whole hour with Diane Sawyer. She gave them 20 chances to really apologize, and I turned to my wife and said, you know what? If I were Bush, I'd invite them to the White House in Crawford and I'd say to her, what is your gripe? Why did you think you were ashamed of me?

NOVAK: Mike Farrell, you know, the left-wingers, I call them left-wingers, like you in Hollywood...

FARRELL: Yes, you do. Yes, you do, Bob.

NOVAK: ... are all talking about getting -- I happen, by accident, for the first time in my life, to watch an episode of "West Wing." That is total liberal propaganda. In fact, everything on -- isn't it?

DORNAN: It's (UNINTELLIGIBLE).

(CROSSTALK)

FARRELL: Somebody tied you to the chair, Bob?

NOVAK: Everything on television is controlled by the left. The entertainment industry is controlled by the left. Isn't that the truth?

FARRELL: No, of course it's not, and everybody knows it's not. Have you watched Fox television lately?

NOVAK: That's an exemption. That's an exemption.

BEGALA: As a free marketeer, you have to admit people, are voting in the marketplace. "West Wing" is one of the most popular shows on television, because it's one of the best shows on television. People like it.

(CROSSTALK)

DORNAN: But wait a minute. Mike Farrell knows this, and Bob and I were there at the genesis, at the beginning and we owe this to Ted Turner, of all people. Before Ted, before Ted Turner hooked up with Jane Fonda, the only balanced program in all of the networks was CROSSFIRE.

(CROSSTALK)

BEGALA: But, Bob, you were an actor.

DORNAN: Right.

BEGALA: Ronald Reagan was an actor. Fred Thompson was an -- Bob Novak's been in five movies. What's wrong with artists...

(CROSSTALK)

DORNAN: Here's the difference. When Michael Farrell was repairing on the silver screen, or the video screen, wounded American soldiers in Korea, I was the copilot with Paul Burke (ph) on "12:00 High." During all of my breaks, I went to Vietnam as a reporter. Got $20 a story from "The Santa Monica (ph) Evening Outlook." I traveled the world. On one break, I went through 35 countries and lost 40 pounds. I studied. I'd been an Air Force fighter pilot and an intelligence officer, so I had an up on him anyway, but I don't care if someone like Fred Thompson or somebody like Michael expresses an opinion. But the Dixie Chicks saying they're ashamed of a president on a London stage, and she admitted last night, it was all cheering from those elite effete West End Brits over there. To do that -- and one of the sisters, the real sisters said, for one moment, she went oh, she knew that was inherently wrong to rap her fellow Texan on a foreign state. That's the problem.

NOVAK: Mike Farrell, I want to put on the screen a couple of polls that were taken by CNN/"USA Today"/Gallup. "Are there any celebrities whose political opinions would make you more likely to favor their views?" Yes, 11 percent. No, 78 percent. "Are there any celebrities whose political opinions would make you more likely to oppose their views?" Yes, 13 percent. No, 85 percent. You people -- nobody out there is listening to you. Why can't you do your work and shut up?

FARRELL: Then why does it matter to you, Bob? Then why does it matter to you when celebrities exercise their right as citizens -- when celebrities exercise their right to free speech, why does it trouble so you so much, then? If nobody is listening and nobody cares?

BEGALA: Bob, you are a great American patriot, but let me -- there's another country singer out there. I'm a big country music fan. I love the Dixie Chicks and I love their new CD, "Home." Everybody should buy it. It's number one. Well, there's a really crummy country singer by the name of Darryl Worley, who wrote a chest- thumping, tubthumping pro-war song trying to link 9/11...

DORNAN: Brought me to tears.

BEGALA: ... trying to link 9/11 to Saddam Hussein. Shouldn't he donate the riches he is earning from that to the children who are orphaned, because of the 130 men who gave their lives for our country, instead of profiting off of their heroism? Shouldn't he give the profits to those kids?

DORNAN: You know what? Henry Kissinger and Le Duc Tho won the Nobel Peace prize for the phony ending to Vietnam, and Le Duc Tho gave the world the finger and rejected the prize and the money. Wait a minute, wait a minute, wait a minute. Kissinger took his money and gave it to the missing in action families. Maybe he should do that.

(CROSSTALK)

NOVAK: I see that you have given a contribution to Howard Dean, the former governor of the people's republic of Vermont, running for president. Why is it you people are so far out of the mainstream of Democratic candidates?

(CROSSTALK)

NOVAK: Let him answer the question.

FARRELL: I've also given a contribution to John Kerry. Is that OK? A war hero?

(CROSSTALK)

DORNAN: But he's not Irish. We've found out he's not Irish. You ask for your money back.

FARRELL: He's a war hero, Bob.

NOVAK: Coming up on "Fireback," one of our viewers has a suggestion for what Paul Begala can do with his new tax cut. But next, it's "Rapid Fire," where our guests have to give us straight answers and not the same old song and dance, Bob Dornan.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

NOVAK: Why don't celebrities like the Dixie Chicks stick to selling CDs and concert tickets and even posing nude for magazine covers instead of imposing their political views on the rest of us? Our guests, actor/anti-war activist Mike Farrell and former Congressman Bob Dornan, Republican of California.

DORNAN: B-1 Bob, please.

BEGALA: B-1 Bob?

DORNAN: Right.

BEGALA: I agree with the Dixie Chicks. I'm embarrassed to be from Texas, like George W. Bush. Do you agree with Rick Santorum that gay people are like those who commit incest?

DORNAN: I agree with Byron "Whizzer" White. He was only paraphrasing him.

BEGALA: You do agree with Santorum?

DORNAN: Basically, his quoting of the law in Texas, yes.

NOVAK: Mike, do you believe that the Dixie Chicks know anything about public policy?

FARRELL: They know enough to be embarrassed about George Bush.

BEGALA: Should your fellow actor and Californian, Arnold Schwarzenegger be taken seriously as a candidate for governor?

DORNAN: No, I would not support Arnold. He's trying to have it all ways. He can't.

NOVAK: Mike, do you believe celebrities should be immune from criticism, no matter how (UNINTELLIGIBLE) the things they say are?

FARRELL: Of course not. Should commentators?

BEGALA: Bob, was the Hall of Fame rights to sensor and stop the showing of the movie "Bull Durham," because they didn't like the politics of the actors who starred in it?

DORNAN: Because he was the boss, could have done anything he wants. And it's not going to hurt the salary of Susan Sarandon, although I noticed her film took a dive the other night on CBS. NOVAK: We got about a minute left. Mike, are you ashamed of George Bush?

FARRELL: I find George Bush to be an embarrassment.

BEGALA: OK, the Dixie Chicks are number one on Billboard, they sold $49 million worth of tickets to their concerts. Hasn't this backfired, Bob?

DORNAN: No, they've just got a problem with their audience. Now, that name Dixie Chicks, from now on, they're the Hollywood Chicks and they'll still be millionaires, but they'll never be multimillionaires. And I want to say something to Farrell.

(CROSSTALK)

NOVAK: Mike, do you think that the president of the United States ought to be ashamed of the new Dixie Chicks?

FARRELL: Well, I'm not sure who the president of the United States is or ought to be, but the Dixie chicks are citizens of the United States, Bob. They don't check in their citizenship when they become celebrities.

BEGALA: Isn't it kind of wimpy, Bob Dornan, for conservatives to be whining about what three young chicks say about their president? Isn't that wimpy?

DORNAN: No, no, it became part of the debate, it hurt our men fighting overseas who think their cause is just. Oh, sure it is. They don't want people telling them they're in an ignoble cause.

BEGALA: That will have to be the last word from Bob Dornan from California. Thank you very much. Mike Farrell, also in California, thank you very much for a great debate.

Coming up, what do these spectacular pictures have to do with our very own Bob Novak? One of our viewers fires back a question. You really want to stick around to see the answer to that. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

NOVAK: Time for our "Fireback." Our first e-mail from a viewer, Alan Willenzik of Austin, Texas. "I never thought I'd miss Novacula and his pithy comments, but it's great to have you back." Alan, you sound like one of Begala's Texas liberals, but thank you anyway.

BEGALA: I love to hear from somebody from Austin. Alan, thanks for that e-mail.

Linda Pierce in Hebron, Kentucky, writes about a story we talked about the other day where a Fox News employee was arrested for allegedly looting in Iraq. She writes -- "I suppose some people working for Fox News consider fair and balanced to mean, take only what you can carry in both arms and leave something for the other looters to grab." Good point, Linda. NOVAK: Of the many sins I've committed, I've never looted.

BEGALA: Never looted!

NOVAK: Never looted.

Next, is from John Kelly of Poughkeepsie, New York. He says: "Bob, I'm with you. I want George Bush's tax cut. If Paul Begala does not want his, tell him to return the reduction to the U.S. Treasury." John, good idea. Better idea, let Paul give it to me!

BEGALA: All that money would just corrupt you, Bob.

All right, our fourth e-mail is from Julie Nesbit in Santa Barbara, California, writing about my pal and partner. "I saw that Bob Novak was racing at Sebring International Raceway last week. Bob, how did you do?"

It's true, Bob. It was in the "Washington Post". I generally don't talk about your life off camera. Here's Bob Novak at Sebring getting ready to race. At the famed track at Sebring. Now we actually have some footage of Bob testing out the car at top speed. Can you roll that footage for us? Here he comes. Oh, there he goes. Oh, there's Novak. Oh, my goodness. That's -- here it goes in slow motion, Bob. In truth, that's actually Mario Andretti at Indianapolis, and by the grace of God, he walked away with only a scratch on his chin. So we can have good fun with it.

NOVAK: Andretti is almost as old as I am.

BEGALA: But he's not as good a driver. Look what he did. He flipped out.

NOVAK: Questions from the audience.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Brin Rorke (ph) from Westmont, New Jersey. I think the Dixie Chicks or any other artist are welcome to express their opinions, but need to be prepared when the American people express their opinions by not buying their records, or seeing their movies, or what have you.

NOVAK: Right on. Way to go. They got to take it. That's the way the system works.

BEGALA: I agree with that. What I don't like is this huge corporation called Clear Channel Communications that has censored them off of 1,200 radio stations. I think that's too much corporate power and that stifles free speech.

NOVAK: Next question. Go ahead.

BEGALA: Yes, ma'am.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Hi, Shelly Towne (ph) from Warren, Ohio. Why do celebrities think that just because they're famous, everybody agrees with their opinion? NOVAK: Because when they become celebrities like Paul Begala, they think that the whole world has to cow down to them.

BEGALA: Well, that will settle it for me. That's it for tonight. I'm Paul Begala. Good night for CROSSFIRE.

NOVAK: From the right, I'm Robert Novak. Join us again next time for another edition of CROSSFIRE. "WOLF BLITZER REPORTS" starts right now.

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