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CNN CROSSFIRE

Interview With Ann Coulter

Aired June 30, 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, last time she accused the liberals of slander. Now it's treason. Ann Coulter makes her case: the liberals were wrong from everyone from Joe McCarthy to J. Edgar Hoover and from Richard Nixon to suicide terrorists.

Plus, a former senator and terrorism expert takes on the Department of Homeland Security. Today on CROSSFIRE.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

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

(APPLAUSE)

PAUL BEGALA, CO-HOST: Hello, everybody. Welcome to CROSSFIRE.

You know, it's taken about a half a century, but Bob Novak has finally found someone else besides him who will defend Joe McCarthy: the controversial and conservative author Ann Coulter. Ms. Coulter will share her sweet and subtle observations on the American political scene with us in a moment.

But first, I have in my hand a list -- well, no, I don't -- of the best political stories in television, that is, our CROSSFIRE Political Alert.

A new study chaired by Republican former Senator Warren Rudman declares that our nation is, "dangerously unprepared" to respond so another terrorist attack. Senator Rudman, of course, is the man whose warnings about an imminent terrorist attack before 9/11 were ignored by the Bush administration. His new report bluntly declares, "If the nation does not take immediate steps to better identify and address the urgent needs of emergency responders, the next terrorist incident could be even more devastating than 9/11."

President Bush did not comment on the report. He had a more important priority, raising special interest campaign money in Florida. Interesting report.

ROBERT NOVAK, CO-HOST: Paul, my friend -- and he is my friend -- Warren Rudman is a Republican who can always be counted on to join the latest Republican -- Democratic fad, and that fad is more and more money for the unionized firefighters, policemen, first responders, where the Republicans, on the other hand, are trying not to come to the aid of Americans killed by terrorists but to prevent terrorists from killing Americans.

BEGALA: We should do both. Play offense and defense. $1 trillion for tax cuts for the rich, $41 billion for homeland security. That's insane. What are my kids supposed to feel better if I'm killed by a terrorist that they don't have to pay the estate tax?

NOVAK: I have to correct you at all times. That tax cut, most of it comes -- goes to the non-rich, and you know that very well.

The last time we noticed Ralph Nader he was talking about running as a Republican, of all things. Well that didn't last long. Ralph is back where he belongs, and that's bad news for the Democrats.

He's talking about running as the Green Party candidate for President in 2004, just as he did in 2000, when Democrats claim he cost Al Gore the presidency. Nader says he actually helps Democrats running for lesser offices by bringing out more liberal voters.

Now there's one way for the Democrats to solve this problem. Give Ralph Nader their presidential nomination.

BEGALA: You know, Ralph Nader has been a guest on this show and he's a principled man in may ways. But he reminds me of what the old Texas football coach (UNINTELLIGIBLE) used to say about cockroaches. It's not really what they carry off that bothers me, it's what they fall into and mess up.

He messed up the entire 2000 election, denied the will of the people. The American people wanted Al Gore to be their President, but he siphoned off enough votes to allow thief Justice Rehnquist to steal it in the Supreme Court, and that will be on his history forever.

NOVAK: One thing I always wondered about, and I can ask you right now, why is it -- it was OK for Ross Perot to give Bill Clinton the nomination by siphoning votes away from the first George Bush. That was perfectly -- that was the American way, but it's somehow un- American for Ralph Nader to do the same.

BEGALA: The best just rang. Personal defense. I was the greatest critic of Ross Perot. And second, and he took votes equally from Bush and Clinton. Nader did not draw equally from Bush and Gore.

Well, after all the Clinton bashing you usually hear from the insanely jealous right, it's refreshing to see a respected national security expert set the record straight about my former boss. This expert told "The Financial Times" that President Clinton's efforts for peace in the Middle East were, "a great service to the world," and said his efforts were something to be admired.

The same expert said President Clinton's 1994 agreement to freeze North Korea's nuclear program was, "probably exactly the right thing to do." So who is this Clinton-loving foreign policy expert? None other than Dr. Condoleezza Rice, the national security adviser for President George W. Bush. Good for her giving President Clinton his due.

NOVAK: Paul, let me give you the rest of the story. In that same interview, Dr. Rice said that the agreement with the North Koreans, was, "badly phrased," and that the North Koreans started a uranium enrichment program, "almost before the ink was dry." And I think you'll also agree the Middle East program by President Clinton didn't work out too well either.

BEGALA: President Clinton -- Dr. Rice is correct. I don't know why -- you normally are a very gracious man, and Dr. Rice has done a gracious thing here.

NOVAK: I'm gracious?

BEGALA: Yes, Bob. And Dr. Rice has done a gracious think in acknowledging her predecessors -- my boss' contributions to the world. And I think the right should do the same thing. You know this blind hatred of President Clinton...

(CROSSTALK)

NOVAK: What's a Political Alert without a Howard Dean story? The feisty former governor from the people's republic of Vermont announced that he's raised $6 million over the last three months. That puts Dr. Dean in the same class as big-money Democrats John Kerry and John Edwards.

He has name recognition. He appeals to the left wing activists. He just won the Internet primary, and now he's a player in the money derby. Read it and weep, (UNINTELLIGIBLE) Democratic moderates.

Howard Dean could be your nominee. I'll know he's arrive when had Paul Begala starts saying really nice things about him.

BEGALA: I say nice things about all the Democrats. I know he's arrived when Bob Novak starts attacking him. He is definitely in the top tier of candidates and he's going to be treated as such. It's a very impressive performance on the fund-raising.

I want to see him have the same impressive performance on CROSSFIRE. I want to see if he can stand up to Bob Novak. I think he can and I want to see him come on the show.

NOVAK: I think he really exemplifies the spirit of the Democratic Party. I want you to come out with a fine endorsement of him, Paul.

BEGALA: I'm not endorsing anybody. I'm for everybody except George W. Bush. I'm an ABB man, anybody but Bush.

NOVAK: I thought you were against Sharpton.

BEGALA: Sharpton is not my guy, but he's not a serious candidate, either, in all candor. NOVAK: OK. In just a minute, we'll ask Ann Coulter if the Democratic Party from Franklin D. Roosevelt on really has a long history of sheltering and defending traitors.

(APPLAUSE)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

NOVAK: When it comes to defending America, Ann Coulter says one of our political parties is not pulling its weight. In fact, she says America lived under the threat of nuclear annihilation for 50 years because of moral infirmity and incompetence by the Democrats.

You can read all about it in her new best-selling book "Treason: Liberal Treachery from the Cold War to the War on Terrorism." Today Ann Coulter is ready to do battle in the CROSSFIRE.

(APPLAUSE)

BEGALA: Ann, welcome back.

ANN COULTER, AUTHOR: Thank you.

BEGALA: First of all, let me grab the book here, Bob, if I may. Here is the book, hot off the presses. Let me start on page 12.

You open the book with a shot at George McGovern. You call him, and I quote, "the darling of left wing radicals." George McGovern, of course, flew 35 B-24 bombing missions in the second world war, won a distinguished flying cross, exemplifies to me everything I do believe in, faith family. He had been married for 59 years to same woman. Why are you a better patriot than George McGovern?

COULTER: He is a great war hero, but I note that you guys didn't really care much about war heroes when Bob Dole was running against the draft dodger. I'm not sure this argument makes a lot of...

BEGALA: You accuse liberals of treason. Gorge McGovern is the liberal. I think he's a hero of the first order, and I wonder who the hell are you to criticize his patriotism?

COULTER: Well, no, I didn't fight in a war. Do you want to disenfranchise all women? Because none of us were in combat. I don't disagree with your...

NOVAK: Let her answer the question. You're interrupting her. She can't answer it.

COULTER: Thank you. I don't disagree with your end of depriving women of the right to vote, but you're being a little subtle about it. I mean none of us fight in wars, and I don't think you analysis of assuming that anyone was a war hero, like George McGovern was, because I believe another candidate of yours was , John Kerry. Therefore, is more qualified than anyone else to discuss war and peace. Well, you know...

BEGALA: Let me try again.

COULTER: ... Benedict Arnold was a war hero. The point is what their positions are right now in this war.

BEGALA: Right. So you believe that you're a better patriot than George McGovern?

COULTER: That's an odd way of putting it, and I think I've told you in about a billion different ways, yes, he's a war hero, but no I don't think -- he served this nation in Vietnam. He's not really a figure right now. I think I talk about John Kerry, who is a figure and a senator right now, and I think his proposals will not help America quite manifestly.

NOVAK: Ann Coulter, on page one of the book you say -- let put it up on the screen. "Everyone says liberals love America, too. No, they don't. Whenever the nation is under attack from within or without liberals side with the enemy. This is their essence."

Now, is that a blanket condemnation of all liberals, or do we have some good ones who do love their country, even though they may have the wrong solutions for it?

COULTER: There is Zell Miller, and then I run out of names.

NOVAK: He's not really a liberal, though. He's a great friend of mine.

COULTER: He's a Democrat, but yes, he's very good.

NOVAK: Let me give you a candidate. Scoop Jackson, he was a liberal.

COULTER: Yes, I mention him in my book. The Democratic Party is certainly worse than it was. There was the occasional Scoop Jackson, there was the occasional anti-Communist JFK. There was Roosevelt who, at least had when it came to fascism in Europe, was ferocious.

NOVAK: So you think it's gotten much more.

COULTER: But even back then, they were morally blind to the threat of Soviet totalitarianism.

BEGALA: Well, let me also thank you on behalf of Senator Miller, who I've worked for off and on for a dozen years, a very close friend of mine. I think he would take issue with a lot of things that you say, Ann.

For example, you gave a famous interview to "The New York Observer" where you said, "My only regret with Timothy McVeigh is that he did not go to "The New York Times" building. You were later asked on a Web site called rightwingnews.com if you regret that.

Now everybody says stupid things, and I've thought of course you said you would regret it. You did. Here's what you said, though. "Of course I regret it. I should have added, after everyone had left the building, except the editors and reporters." Now, again, is that Ann Coulter's view of patriotism to call for mass murder?

COULTER: No, that was just a joke, Paul.

BEGALA: I don't think it's very funny.

(APPLAUSE)

NOVAK: Then why do you think they're laughing?

COULTER: I think that should be the new slogan of the Democratic Party. I don't think that's funny. That's not funny. You can adopt the slogan of the feminists. I don't think that's funny.

NOVAK: Ann...

BEGALA: Wait. Just finally, do you regret saying that?

NOVAK: She said no. She said it was a joke.

COULTER: Yes and no when read my answer. No, it was a joke.

NOVAK: Ann Coulter, in the first place, I agree with you that Joe McCarthy did a lot of good things. I think, as you say in the book, he reflected the ordinary people of the country. But let me read to you a letter from Whitaker Chambers (ph), who I think we're both great admirers of Whitaker Chambers (ph), when he wrote to William F. Buckley in 1952.

"McCarthy's flair for the sensational, his inaccuracies and distortions, his tendency to sacrifice the greater objectivity for the momentary effect will lead him and us into trouble. Senator McCarthy will one day make some irreparable blunder which will play directly into the hands of one common enemy and discredit the whole anti- Communist effort for a long while to come."

There was a real downside to Joe McCarthy, wasn't it?

COULTER: I don't think so. And I wondered about this with Whitaker Chambers (ph), whom I do admire. And I think the answer lies more on Whitaker Chambers (ph) than on Joe McCarthy.

He was a lugubrious fellow. He though he was on the losing side of history. He may have thought that by sensationalizing the anti- Communist cause McCarthy was drawing too much attention to it.

People disagree who are both on the same side, and you have to say, Whitaker Chambers' (ph) judgment can be questioned. He was a Soviet spy against his own country at one point. Whitaker Chambers (ph) was a great man, but I disagree with him on this. I think it needed to be popularized.

BEGALA: How about the grandfather of our current president, Prescott Bush, one of the pillars of the Republican Party, presumably a great man in the eyes of many conservatives. He had this to say about Senator McCarthy. In October 1952, just before Election Day, Senator Bush agreed to appear at a rally with McCarthy in Connecticut. This is what Senator Bush said about it in an interview. "The place was packed. I never saw such a wild bunch of monkeys in any meeting I've ever attended," Mr. Bush recalled.

Senator Bush helped bring down Joe McCarthy. Is he a traitor as well in your book?

COULTER: No. I'm not saying that anyone opposed McCarthy -- and certainly today most people don't know the truth about McCarthy as a traitor. But I do notice that in order to attack McCarthy, generally you are quoting a third party rather than quoting Joe McCarthy or talking about what he did.

(CROSSTALK)

COULTER: Liberals bully people into taking a particular position, they scream bloody murder. At some point conservatives just get sick of arguing with liberals about it.

(CROSSTALK)

NOVAK: Paul, let me get this question in.

COULTER: And then after bullying people into taking the position, you then cite their quotes. Let's look at the facts. That's what my book does.

I know a lot of people are afraid of Joe McCarthy. And I know that you know a lot of myths about him. I'm trying to correct the record.

NOVAK: You indicate in the book correctly that the transcripts of the intercepted Soviet communications indicates that Joe McCarthy was right, there were spies in the government. And we discussed this on this program, Paul and I, on May 5. I want you to take a look at this interesting exchange between Paul and me.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

NOVAK: But the fact of the matter is that the transcripts, which you probably haven't read, Paul, you ought to read them, indicate a tremendous penetration of the Roosevelt and Truman administration.

BEGALA: Bob Novak is the only person who believes the KGB and the Soviet Union. I don't.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

NOVAK: Now, Paul Begala says he doesn't believe the (UNINTELLIGIBLE) transcripts. Do you think that that is a common affliction of the liberals? They don't think these people really spy?

COULTER: And they're worried about Joe McCarthy not always being right with his facts. No, the evidence is irrefutable. The DNA evidence...

(CROSSTALK)

BEGALA: You all want to believe KGB and Soviets...

NOVAK: You don't believe these people are spies?

COULTER: Not from the KGB.

BEGALA: I believe Robert Hanssen was a spy, for example. He was a right-wing Republican in the FBI just a few years ago spying for the Soviet Union. Did he make your book, "Treason," or was this just -- did he make your book? Is it not treason for Robert Hanssen to spy against this country?

NOVAK: I just want to get you on the record.

(CROSSTALK)

BEGALA: I want to hear Ann Coulter criticize a conservative.

NOVAK: No, you're getting off the subject.

BEGALA: The subject was treason, Bob.

NOVAK: Wait a minute. Let me get my words out. Let me get my words out of my mouth, Paul.

BEGALA: Yes, sir?

NOVAK: I said you're saying right now that you don't believe the massive documentary evidence on the intercepts show that there was Soviet espionage in this country?

BEGALA: Of course there was Soviet espionage. I'm saying I'm very doubtful about KGB records, and I want to hear Ann Coulter's views about Robert Hanssen, a right wing American who spied against this country. Is he a traitor?

NOVAK: That's just a diversion.

COULTER: No. This is like talking about Medicare right now. We're talking about something else. But you're right, if I could get back to your question.

It is stunning. The (UNINTELLIGIBLE) transcripts covering years of Soviet cables to their spris here in America. It was finally released on July 11, 1995. It was the DNA evidence of the Cold War. Here it was proving that all of the left's favorite red scare martyrs were actually Soviet spies in Joseph Stalin's pay that never ran on the front page of "The New York Times."

It was never mentioned on an op-ed page. In fact, it's only been mentioned about a dozen times in...

BEGALA: So we should fire bomb "The New York Times" building. We're going to take a quick break right now.

COULTER: Most of you have probably never heard about it before.

BEGALA: And then Martin Savidge will check the news headlines. At some point Ann Coulter will take a breath. We'll cover that live as well.

And then it's "Rapid Fire," where the questions and answers move faster than Joe McCarthy getting into a whiskey bottle.

Later, some of our viewers already have taken issue with some of Ms. Coulter's comments. We'll afford the them a chance to fire back in our "Fireback" segment. Stay with us.

(APPLAUSE)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BEGALA: Welcome back. Time now for "Rapid Fire," where there are only two kind of guests: the quick and the dead. We're talking with a quick guest, Ann Coulter, author of the new book "Treason" -- Mr. Novak.

NOVAK: Did Joe McCarthy ever cause an unjust firing of any government official or the suicide of anybody?

COULTER: No.

BEGALA: Was it treasonist for Dick Cheney to sell oil field equipment to our enemies in Iran, Iraq and Libya?

COULTER: I'm sorry, laughter is the only appropriate response to that.

NOVAK: Who is your favorite Democrat?

COULTER: Zell Miller.

BEGALA: Zell Miller somewhere is very uncomfortable right now. Why didn't you write about the American right opposing our war with Adolph Hitler?

COULTER: That is not true.

(CROSSTALK)

NOVAK: Wait, there's no rebuttal.

COULTER: Yes. I wish that, in fact, illustrates what the problem with the Democratic Party is today. There was no opposition Republican Party. And why can't the Democrats behave the way the Republicans did during World War II?

NOVAK: What would Al Gore have done as president after 9/11? Would he have attacked Afghanistan?

COULTER: No, he would have wrapped himself in a warm blanket and held a town hall meeting.

(APPLAUSE)

BEGALA: He would not have been in a bunker in Omaha, Nebraska. Do you know that on September 11 of 1941 Charles Lindbergh, the hero of the American right, said this: The three most important groups of oppressing this country toward war with Hitler are the British, the Jewish and the Roosevelt administration." Is that not the American right saying we don't want a war with Adolph Hitler?

COULTER: It is. As I described in my book, it was true that FDR was much quick to respond to the threat of Hitler. The class of 1946, the Joe McCarthy and Richard Nixon changed the Republican Party forever.

NOVAK: Any patriots in the Democratic caucus and democratic Senate right now?

COULTER: Zell Miller.

NOVAK: OK. Zell Miller's had a good show. Ann Coulter, thank you so much. We appreciate it.

COULTER: Thank you.

NOVAK: Congratulations on a terrific book.

(APPLAUSE)

NOVAK: It's time to see how well our audience knows U.S. history. Pull out your voting devices and tell us which future U.S. president served on Joe McCarthy's Senate committee.

Press one if you think it was John F. Kennedy. Press two if you think it's Richard Nixon. And press three if you think LBJ, Lyndon Johnson, was the future president who was on McCarthy's committee. We'll have the answer after the break.

And then one of our viewers fires back a thought about what liberals are really interested in.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BEGALA: Welcome back to CROSSFIRE. Time now to check our ask- the-audience trivia question. The question was: Which future president served on Joe McCarthy's Senate committee staff? Seventeen percent said it was Kennedy, 51 percent said it was Richard Nixon, 32 percent thought Lyndon Johnson.

Well, it just goes to show you...

NOVAK: John F. Kennedy.

BEGALA: John F. Kennedy. Not the most famous thing he ever did.

NOVAK: And Bobby was a staffer on the committee. BEGALA: He was. Senator Kennedy was on the committee as a senator, and his younger brother, Robert, was a staff member under Joe McCarthy.

Here's our first "Fireback" from Matt Gigot in Green Bay, Wisconsin. "I don't see patriotism as waving a flag. A true patriot is an active citizen who knows he can speak out and protest the government and the policy he doesn't agree with. Knowing the Pledge of Allegiance is not patriotic. Knowing the Constitution and why it's so important is true patriotism." Well put, Mr. Gigot.

(APPLAUSE)

NOVAK: That's (UNINTELLIGIBLE) Gigot. I can tell you that.

Donna O'Brien of South Carolina says "For all the liberal talk about conservatives hating Hillary because she's a powerful, smart woman, it is amazing what hostile response they have to Ann Coulter for exactly the same reasons." Way to go, Donna.

BEGALA: On behalf of my fellow liberals, I think it's an unrequited hatred. Ann seems to hate us, but I don't have anything against her.

NOVAK: No, you don't. Next question? Go ahead.

BEGALA: Yes, ma'am?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Hi. I'm Linda Dugan (ph) from London, England, visiting the states with my son. Paul, in a land of democracy, why do you feel threatened by a free expression of conservative thought? Thank you, Ms. Ann Coulter.

BEGALA: I don't. Why do you think we had her on the show? This is free speech here.

I'm not the one running around saying people are unpatriotic because I disagree with them. I'm not the one smearing people. I'm just simply asking her legitimate questions about who the hell made her the patriotic police?

Who is she judge George McGovern or liberals or anybody else? That's free speech.

(APPLAUSE)

NOVAK: She doesn't frighten you?

BEGALA: No. She doesn't frighten me.

NOVAK: I thought she did. Go ahead. Question?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: John Marshall (ph) from New York City. If the economy continues in its present state along with the high unemployment and lack of new job growth, does President Bush have a chance to be reelected? NOVAK: Does he have a chance to be defeated is the question. He will -- the incumbent president, even Jimmy Carter, is always the favorite to be re-elected. I agree with you. I think those are economic problems for the president. But, of course, we've got to wonder whether Howard Dean can really match up to him.

BEGALA: Yes. I haven't seen a president with this big a commanding lead a year and a half out since the last President Bush, and what happened to him? I forgot.

From the left, I am Paul Begala.

NOVAK: From the right -- I'm sorry, 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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