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LIVE FROM THE HEADLINES

Politics and Perspectives With Ann Coulter, Lanny Davis

Aired July 23, 2003 - 20:27   ET

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

PAULA ZAHN, CNN ANCHOR: U.S. forces scored a big victory in Iraq when they killed Saddam Hussein's sons. But it's also a political victory here at home for the Bush administration. It is a chance for the president to refute weeks of accusations that it is mishandling the post-war reconstruction.
From the right, here in New York, to talk politics and perceptions is author Ann Coulter. Her latest book is called "Treason: Liberal Treachery from the Cold War to the War on Terrorism."

And from the left, in Washington, is Lanny Davis who served as special counsel to President Clinton.

Good to see both of you.

LANNY DAVIS, FMR. WHITE HOUSE COUNSEL: Hi, Paula.

ZAHN: Welcome.

Lanny, I want to start with you tonight. Even you have to concede the president had a pretty good showing there in the Rose Garden. Is it enough to reverse the questions that were asked about the numbers of American soldiers that continue to do, a federal budget deficit that perhaps is higher than was expected?

DAVIS: I kind of agreed with President Clinton last night when he said, really, Democrats need to move on and focus on the big picture here, and that is whether we can do a constructive job of reconstructing Iran (sic) in partnership with other nations, especially NATO and perhaps the U.N. And I think that President Bush, as someone who campaigned against nation-building, really has to focus on the debts that continue to occur, where American G.I.s are essentially fixing air conditioning systems while they're risking their lives. And that's going to be the more important issue than whether or not there were mistakes made in overstretching on the argument of going into the war through some mistakes in intelligence.

ZAHN: But what is the significance of Uday and Qusay being dead, Lanny?

DAVIS: Well, I think it -- everyone is glad to see those murdering thugs gone and we hope that the father will follow shortly.

But I don't think that's the big picture. The big picture is the American people were not adequately prepared for what would follow victory in Iraq and we're now paying for that lack of preparation, and I think President Bush feels every single American G.I.s who dies personally and he's got to find a way to spread the responsibility and to get G.I.s out of fixing air conditioning and get back to the economy and to the big picture facing this country on the economy.

ZAHN: What about that, Ann? And the broader picture Lanny feels the president faces?

ANN COULTER, AUTHOR, "TREASON": I'm not really sure what the complaint is. I mean, it's about 130 degrees over there in the evening. I think they do have to have their air conditioning fixed, but -- yes, it's a great victory. I wouldn't say just for President Bush, but for the country. This is going to be a major step in building democracy in Iraq. That obviously is part of the endgame here. It wasn't simply to take out Saddam and then pull out at this point and I think the American people understand that.

This is a continuation of the war in a sense. The hot war is over. But this is a major victory and a major step forward in going with the reconstruction -- or not reconstruction, we're constructing something that never existed.

ZAHN: Let me ask you this Lanny. There are a lot of folks in your party that believe the Bush administration would really capitalize on what is perceived as a lot of disarray among your fellow candidates running for president.

DAVIS: Well, at this juncture, the opposition party always has some disarrays they're trying to line up to see who's going to be the nominee.

But again, I think the -- what I really meant by using the air conditioning analogy is that American G.I.s should not be what they're now doing at risk to their lives. They're dying over there, and we don't really understand why they're being asked as military people to perform these civilian functions.

I think it was President Bush in the campaign who questioned using American military might for nation-building, and I think that's what the American people are concerned about, as well as the economy and the loss of 3 million jobs in the last two years and the absence of any effects that we can see right now from these tax cuts that drove us back into deficits.

Those are the great issues Democrats ought to be addressing and all of those presidential candidates are focusing, I hope, more on the economy than on some of these Monday morning quarter backing criticisms of President Bush.

ZAHN: Ann, last night I don't know whether you heard the interview Bill Clinton did with Larry King. But, as you heard, Lanny touched just on his message, which was encouraging Democrats to move on. Is this the first time you agree with Bill Clinton?

COULTER: It was the first time I questioned President Bush.

ZAHN: And tell us why, Ann.

COULTER: With all of this taunting over 16 words and 16 words -- yes, Clinton did say I think it's time to move on. He's not the first Democrat to do that. But it really does -- it really does show the contrast with what the current crop of Democratic presidential candidates are offering us right now.

I'm, you know -- Howard Dean lost a possible running mate with the death of Uday and Qusay Hussein.

ZAHN: Ouch.

COULTER: His claim is that this doesn't -- this shows that the means don't justify the ends, which -- in response to the death of these two -- which I don't think really makes a lot of sense. I mean, what -- we're talking about war here. What does justify a war if not the ends?

But that is what we're getting from the current crop of Democrats running for president right now.

ZAHN: Lanny, you have the last word tonight.

DAVIS: I have to say it is rather extraordinary that if Bill Clinton were president and all of these intelligence inconsistencies and everything else were going on, the Republican investigative scandal machine that spent $80 million on a 20-year land deal is suddenly silent. And I'm glad they are because we shouldn't be investigating, using and misusing investigative procedures as occurred against Bill Clinton. We should be looking at the economy and what's wrong with this economy is the great issue facing the country.

COULTER: Good attack on the last word.

ZAHN: All right, Ann, I'll give you 10 more seconds.

COULTER: This is preposterous. Liberals have been calling conservatives, you know, fascists, anti-Semites, racist. They've suddenly discovered the epithet liar and they're really going at it with a vengeance. But among things that a liar has to be, besides attention and knowledge -- it has to be something that's untrue. And the 16 words George Bush spoke were absolutely true. They are believed by British intelligence, as he said, by our own national intelligence estimate and I think Lanny should take President Clinton's advice and move on from this absurd claim of lying, lying.

ZAHN: I'm sure Lanny would like to debate your conclusion there. But guess what? We've run out of time. We'll have to bring the two of you back together again on another night.

Ann Coulter, Lanny Davis, thank you both for joining us this evening. Always appreciate both of your perspectives.

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