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Is Dean Good For Bush?

Aired December 29, 2003 - 16:30   ET


ANNOUNCER: CROSSFIRE. On the left, James Carville and Paul Begala; on the right, Robert Novak and Tucker Carlson.

In the CROSSFIRE: It's a Democratic family feud.

SEN. JOHN KERRY (D-MA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We need more than simple answers and the slip of a tongue.

ANNOUNCER: Could Howard Dean be the best thing that ever happened to George W. Bush?

HOWARD DEAN (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I can see Karl Rove rubbing his hands about that Birkenstock liberal environmental governor from Vermont right now.



ANNOUNCER: Live from the George Washington University, James Carville and Robert Novak.



America, you wanted a spirited debate about the best way to replace George W. Bush. Just look at my Democratic Party right now. We've got the hottest debate around.

ROBERT NOVAK, CO-HOST: The question is, are James Carville's Democrats smart enough to listen and nominate somebody besides Howard Dean?

Now the best little political briefing in television, our CROSSFIRE "Political Alert."

If any doubt remained that Howard Dean is a trifle odd, the front-running Democrat for president has erased it. He wouldn't talk about a penalty for Osama bin Laden if the terrorist chief is captured. After all, Dean said, Osama hasn't been found guilty, even though he claimed 3,000 deaths in 9/11.

The Associated Press also reports that Howard as governor convened a secret panel of corporate executives to consider energy legislation and then refused to make the proceedings public. Now, Dean has led Democrats crucifying Vice President Cheney for doing exactly the same thing. The governor's explanation? His task force, said Dean, -- quote -- "is not exactly the Cheney thing" -- end quote. Now, it's clearly the Dean thing.


CARVILLE: Well, I'll tell you. The Osama bin Laden thing is going to hurt him. There's no -- there's no excusing this. I suspect, when we get into this task force thing, we'll find out that it's a lot different, but...

NOVAK: Why -- why do you think he would say something like that? Do you know what I -- I think he is -- he has got a problem that the tongue operates in advance of the brain. Do you think that might be it?


CARVILLE: You know what?


CARVILLE: I -- I can't deny that. I don't know it, but there's something -- let's put it this way. He seems to -- he seems to not appreciate, as I said earlier, the glory of the unspoken thought.

OK, roadside bombs in Iraq over the weekend killed six more coalition soldiers. "The Washington Post" has been studying the Pentagon's numbers and reports, a number of U.S. service members killed and wounded in Iraq has more than doubled in the past four months, compared with the four months preceding it.

What's more, "The Post" reports that U.S. casualties have not tapered off since Saddam Hussein was captured. In other words, contrary to what the Bush administration keeps predicting, the whole mess is getting worse, not better.

NOVAK: James, if you read what the experts say, or the so-called experts...


NOVAK: ... they all said that there would be, after the capture of Saddam Hussein, a spike in terrorist guerrilla activity, and then it would level off.

Now, I -- I really hate to see any American lives lost. But let's remember that, in Vietnam, we were losing 300 boys a week. This is a very small operation. I hope that it subsides. But you can't make politics out of everything.


CARVILLE: I can make politics out of this. I can politics out of lying about going to a war they had no idea how to get us out of. And I think that that's a very legitimate thing.

These same experts said that Iraq would be able to fund its own reconstruction through its oil revenues. These same experts said that you wouldn't need hardly any people to occupy this country, that there would be a stock market in Baghdad. The experts have proven to be unbelievable. There's nothing but a pack of college professors.


NOVAK: I'm talking about...


NOVAK: ... the professors, not the people in the administration.

Senator John Edwards has been going nowhere as a Democrat running for president. And he's announced he will not seek reelection to the Senate from North Carolina. Yesterday, he appeared to close off another line of retreat saying -- quote -- "I'm absolutely not interested in being vice president" -- unquote.

But let me intervene with some facts of life. First, nobody ever says he is interested in being vice president. Secondly, the best way to get mentioned for vice president is to say you don't have any interests. Third, neither Lyndon Johnson in 1960, nor the senior George Bush in 1980 had any interest. In the double-talk world of politics, John Edwards just announced for vice president.



CARVILLE: I mean, you know, you're an experienced guy. You've been around a lot. I don't see anything that I disagree with in that report.

NOVAK: What do you think of that?


CARVILLE: If he wanted -- if he didn't want to be vice president, you should say, I really want to be vice president. That way, you'd never get picked. And I think people understand that.

NOVAK: Do you think he'd be a good vice president?

CARVILLE: Yes. He's a very able guy. I like him a lot. I think he'd be a good president. Let's let -- let's let the voters decide whether...


CARVILLE: ... he's going to be president or not before we do.

(APPLAUSE) CARVILLE: The Gallup Organization takes a poll at the end of every year to find out who's the most admired woman in America. That honor often goes to the current first lady.

But here's something remarkable to report. For the second year in a row, a United States senator, the junior senator from New York, to be exact, tops the list of America's most admired women. Not only is Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton No. 1. The percentage of her admirers has doubled since last year. I think she's the most admired person in America, not the most admired woman.


CARVILLE: I think she's


NOVAK: You know, CNN pays the Gallup Organization a great deal of money, James. But I would humbly suggest that they reexamine their methodology on this poll, because I just know a lot of people detest Senator Clinton.


NOVAK: And the most, the most...

CARVILLE: Sure, all the misogynistic, women-hating people, of course, they hate her.


NOVAK: The most -- the most admired woman in America, a Democratic friend of mine, the other day said that Laura Bush is the one first lady they've ever seen who has no detractors. Everybody loves Laura.




CARVILLE: She's a very nice lady.

NOVAK: And I would say, there's something very odd...

CARVILLE: No, no, no. There's nothing odd at all.


CARVILLE: You know what Americans and American women like? They like to have a model of somebody who doesn't mind taking a chance. They like somebody that stands up to the thuggery of...

(BELL RINGING) CARVILLE: ... the American right and calls it a right-wing conspiracy when it is a right-wing conspiracy. That's why they admire Senator Clinton.


NOVAK: Are the Democrats imploding before the election even gets here? Now, Senator Dean is complaining that his fellow Democrats aren't playing fair. And guess who he's blaming? Party Chairman Terry McAuliffe. We'll look at what it all means just ahead.

And later, James and I will look at our favorite Christmas gifts.

ANNOUNCER: Join Carville, Begala, Carlson and Novak in the CROSSFIRE. For free tickets to the live Washington audience, call 202-994-8CNN or e-mail us at Now you can step into the CROSSFIRE.



CARVILLE: Welcome back to CROSSFIRE.

Are the Democratic presidential contenders getting a little too carried away in attacking Howard Dean? Dean thinks so. And he's criticizing the Democratic Party chairman for not trying to get Democrats to tone it down. Is Dean right? Should Democrats be attacking Bush and not each other? Or is Dean just too thin-skinned?

In the CROSSFIRE, Congressman Dick Gephardt's campaign manager, Steve Murphy; also Dean adviser Maria Echaveste, who was deputy chief of staff to President Clinton.


NOVAK: Maria, in the old days, when I wanted to find out what the Chinese communists were doing, I had to go all the way to Hong Kong to get the China watchers to tell me. But I've got you to tell me right here what Howard Dean is up to.

And I just want to read something he says in "The New York Times." He said: "If we had strong leadership in the Democratic Party, they would be calling those other candidates and saying, hey, look, somebody's going to have to win here. If Ron Brown were the chairman, this wouldn't be happening."

When Ron Brown was the chairman, they were absolutely peppering Bill Clinton, calling him a draft dodger. Bob Kerrey said they were going to peel him like a peanut.


NOVAK: I didn't hear a word out of Ron Brown. Does your guy not have any sense of history?


Look, what's happening is, primaries are like boxing. It's a contact sport. But at least boxing has some rules. And I think we need some rules here. And I think what Dean was referring to was this effort to stop Dean no matter what. The party needs to step in. And I, by the way, sit on the executive committee of the party. So I think I speak with some experience.

We're all going to have to be unified. And some of these attacks, let's not have sucker punches or below-the-belt punches. Let's talk about the record. Let's talk about issues, but not these personal attacks.

NOVAK: But, you know, I would really like it if you could just answer what I asked you. What -- what -- do you really think that that's fair? I'm not a great fan of Terry McAuliffe, but is that fair to him? Because when -- Ron Brown never did anything. Do you think it's unfair?

ECHAVESTE: Well, Ron did a tremendous job of bringing the party and making it unified so we could win in '92.

NOVAK: All right, I give up.

CARVILLE: Steve, I actually endorsed Vice President Gore in 2000 against Bill Bradley. And they ran. And I actually hate to say this


CARVILLE: ... running in the Bradley campaign savage ads against Bill Bradley, basically accusing of being for floods, as I recall. And, as I recall, Bill Bradley didn't ask the party chair to step in or anything like that. I mean, what's striking me here is that, are we -- are we getting too deep in? Do you think we're getting too deep in the process and running for president is just a tough thing?


There was another candidate from Missouri who said, if you can't stand the heat, get out of the kitchen. And that certainly applies here.

NOVAK: That's Harry Truman, for people who were believe yesterday.



You know? And there certainly isn't anything that is being said by any of these Democrats that isn't going to be said tenfold louder by George W. Bush. You can't say that you're not ready to convict Osama bin Laden on a stage with George W. Bush and beat him.

CARVILLE: Suppose somebody -- suppose that somebody said Dick Gephardt went with George Bush and signed off on the war and is now partly responsible for what we're seeing now.


MURPHY: Howard Dean already said that.

CARVILLE: OK. That's a legitimate observation, you're saying?

MURPHY: He said it in a TV spot. Absolutely.

CARVILLE: In a TV spot. OK.

NOVAK: Maria -- I'm going to ask you this, Steve.

Al Gore, speaking of Al Gore, he said the other day. "Right now," he said, "Governor Dean" -- this is in a fund-raising speech -- "is under attack not only from those Republicans, but also from other Democrats in the primary race. Howard Dean needs the resources to respond to these attacks and get his message to the American people."

Now, as a political operative, you've got to admire this as hutzpah, that he takes the attacks and said, this is a reason to give us more money. That's pretty good politics, isn't it?

MURPHY: You have to admire that. But you also have to wonder whether Howard Dean is going to have the money to continue this campaign if he doesn't win in the early states. He turned down the matching funds.

NOVAK: That's a big if.

MURPHY: He's -- he's spending money at a prodigious pace. You know, if -- if we win in Iowa -- and we're going to do that -- then this is all going to fall apart for Howard Dean.

CARVILLE: Maria, let me -- let me ask you just what I think is -- I have a great deal of respect for what you guys have accomplished in the way that the governor -- and I'm very grateful he came on our TV show "K Street." I think what Joe Trippi has done is a brilliant thing and energized people. I think Steve McMahon is one of smartest guys that are in politics.

But I'm scared to death that this guy just says anything. And it just -- it feels like he's undergone some kind of a political lobotomy here. Is there any kind of assurances that you and the Dean campaign can give worried Democrats, who are mortified that he's going to somehow or another get control of what he says in contrast with this administration on things that people are concerned about?

Why in the hell are we -- I don't like Saddam Hussein or Osama bin Laden. Geez, let's talk about health care costs. Let's talk about America's standing in the world.


ECHAVESTE: He is talking about those things. But, look, there's no question that Dean says certain things that makes people like us who live and work in Washington, D.C. uncomfortable.


CARVILLE: ... we can't prejudge Osama bin Laden? It makes somebody in Keokuk, Iowa uncomfortable. It makes somebody in Bastrop, Louisiana, uncomfortable.

ECHAVESTE: Well, listen, what's making people uncomfortable is his blunt-spokenness, his frankness. And that is, in fact, part of what's attracting the millions of people out there.

And, as you know, not every candidate ends up being president from the day he walks out there. They mature. And this is what this man is doing. This primary is going to result in the best Democratic candidate to take on George Bush.

NOVAK: What do you think of that, Steve?

MURPHY: You can't win the nomination with a gaffe a day. And you can't win it with constant double-talk. And that's what's making people nervous about Howard Dean.


NOVAK: Maria, I want to -- I want you -- you didn't do a good job in explaining Dean to me the last time. And I really want your help to try to explain this fellow to me.

I want to give you another quote, he said. He said: "If I don't win the nomination, where do you think those million and a half people, half a million on the Internet, where do you think they're going to go? They're certainly not going to vote for a conventional Washington politician."

Now, that looks like he, if he doesn't get the nomination, he's going to lead all these crazies out of the Democratic Party. Is that right?


ECHAVESTE: Well, first off, they're not crazy.


ECHAVESTE: But, second of all, he is not saying that at all. What he's saying is making a statement, which is a statement of fact, that he is attracting millions of people, too, who had lost interest in politics.

And this party has to be careful to not go after him in a way that says, look, we're not -- we want to stop anyone -- anyone but Dean. He's saying, look, we need to be unified. Our attacks should be -- our opponent is Bush, not each other. (APPLAUSE)

MURPHY: That's not what he's saying. That's not what he's said.

He said: If I don't win the nomination, my supporters are going to go away. And that's dead wrong. You know, Reverend Sharpton could say that. Dick Gephardt could say that about his union support. They're not saying that. You're not ready to take on George W. Bush if you say things like that. I mean, you can't whine about attacks in the early primary process and then be able to stand up against George W. Bush.

ECHAVESTE: But he's also said, unequivocally, that he will support whomever the Democratic nominee is.


NOVAK: But said a million and a half won't support him.

MURPHY: Right.

ECHAVESTE: He's just asking -- he's saying that those folks are going to have to be persuaded that conventional Washington politicians have a message, a vision for the future for this country.


NOVAK: He didn't say that. He said, where do you think they're going to go?


ECHAVESTE: He's asking. We're going to have to help them.


CARVILLE: If we're just going to say a political thing, instead of just being kind of blunt, if we were just going to be kind of a typical Washington politician, he would have said: Let me tell you what. I understand that we have to beat President Bush. And I have brought a lot of new people into this party. They're going to elect me president. On the off chance they don't, I want Democrats to know that I'm going to do everything I can to keep them energized.

Wouldn't that have made people feel a lot better than this sort of attitude that, well, if I don't get to bat first, then I'm taking my ball and my bat and I'm going home and you little snot-noses are going to stay out here and lose? That's the way it comes across. I mean, not everything -- not everything that people think -- not everything -- sometimes, you have to engage in a little niceness here.

ECHAVESTE: No question about it. And there is -- there is a lot of reputation to Dean that there is a toughness to him and a brittleness to him, which I have seen.

But I do know that he is -- the most important thing to him is beating George Bush. And, if he's not the nominee, he will be there alongside with all those other people to make sure that we beat George Bush. That -- this country's future is at stake. That is why he is running. That's why your man is running. That's why all of us are working toward....


MURPHY: I don't think he's being tough. I think he's acting scared. He's getting -- he's getting attacked. He's getting -- he's committing a gaffe a day. He's being held accountable for it. And now he's saying, somebody, please, help me.


ECHAVESTE: Well, let me...

NOVAK: Go ahead.

ECHAVESTE: A gaffe a day? Excuse me. If he's running scared, how come the polls continue to hold him



MURPHY: Polls show he's dropping in Iowa.



NOVAK: You just lead -- you lead into my question, Maria.

The CNN/"USA Today"/Gallup poll taken December 15 and the 16th shows Dean with 27 percent, Clark 12, Lieberman, Gephardt and Kerry 7 each. Gephardt has been -- Gephardt has been a leader, respected leader in the Democratic Party for a long time. Isn't that an embarrassment, Steve, that he's 20 points back of this little guy from Vermont, who never -- nobody heard of?

MURPHY: Bob, you know these national polls don't mean anything at this point. There was another poll taken last week that showed Dean at 16 percent and Gephardt at 10. And that was after Dean has received nonstop coverage for a couple weeks with the Al Gore endorsement.

Now, Dick Gephardt is bearing down on Howard Dean in Iowa. It's a very close race there. We have a better organization in Iowa than Howard Dean does. We're going to beat him there. And then we're going to be on our way to the nomination for Dick Gephardt.


ECHAVESTE: Tell us what happened.

(CROSSTALK) CARVILLE: Do something if -- to assure people that Dean is going to say politically smarter things. Or he is just keep popping off like this?

ECHAVESTE: It's not about popping off. He's got an organization.

Look, you guys have a great organization in Iowa. But you've been planning for this for a long time, since '88. So this is a man who recognizes that he's got to


ECHAVESTE: Maria, Maria, Maria, you can't go to the American people and say, vote for me for president. I have a great organization.

They don't give a damn about your organization.



MURPHY: Dick Gephardt also plans what he's going to say five seconds before he says it.

NOVAK: OK, we're going to take a break.

And just ahead, we'll put our guests into the "Rapid Fire."

And right after the break, we'll find out what Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge is saying about the terror threat here in the good old USA.


CARVILLE: It's time for "Rapid Fire," where the questions and answers come even faster than the attacks from Howard Dean's political opponents. And these days, that's pretty fast.

In the CROSSFIRE, Dick Gephardt's campaign manager, Steve Murphy, along with Dean adviser, former Clinton deputy chief of staff Maria Echaveste.

NOVAK: Maria, as an -- as an adviser to Governor Dean, but also as an American, do you -- I want to get your personal opinion. Do you think Osama bin Laden is guilty? Or would you wait to see what the jury says?

ECHAVESTE: I think he's guilty, I mean, you know, plain and simple.


(LAUGHTER) CARVILLE: Steve, name three new ideas that Congressman Gephardt has proposed to counter the fact that he's sort of yesterday's Democrat?

MURPHY: You know, Dick Gephardt has said that he wants to get rid of all the Bush tax cuts and use the money to provide health insurance for every American by getting rid of the tax deduction for health care and replacing it with a refundable tax credit. That's bold and innovative.


MURPHY: So is his plan to make America energy-independent by 20 -- in 10 years. Also, the international minimum wage, a homeland security trust fund. Dick Gephardt is the candidate of bold, innovative ideas, James.

NOVAK: What is -- how is Governor Dean, if he's elected president, going to make it up to the middle class of America, whose tax cut he takes away as a part of rolling back all -- all -- of the Bush tax cuts?

ECHAVESTE: He's going to look to make sure that we make accessible health care for all. He specifically said, we're going to take it back so that we have a budget to work from and then make the investments.

What people want is health care for all. That's something we agree on. We may differ on how to get there. And he's going to make those issues the things that matter to people.

CARVILLE: Does Congressman Gephardt have anything about containing escalating health care costs, that they're going up like 14 percent a year?


Actually, Ken Thorpe, the independent analyst, said that Dick Gephardt -- under Dick Gephardt's plan, because of -- simply because of market pressure, the costs wouldn't go up more than 8 percent a year.

NOVAK: Maria, which one of these nasty opponents of Governor Dean has disqualified himself from the vice presidency?

ECHAVESTE: Oh, I'm not going there. First, we've got to win the nomination. Then we can discuss vice presidents.

CARVILLE: If Howard Dean is the nominee, would Dick Gephardt support him?

MURPHY: Absolutely.

NOVAK: How about that? Would he support Dick Gephardt, the old Washington politician?

ECHAVESTE: Absolutely. Whoever -- whoever the nominee is. Obviously, we think it's going to be Dean.


NOVAK: All right, Maria Echaveste, thank you very much.

And thank you very much.

MURPHY: Good to be here.

NOVAK: I appreciate it.


NOVAK: You won't believe what James Carville and I found under our Christmas trees.

Stay with us.




NOVAK: James and I must have been good boys this year, because we got lots of goodies under our trees.

James, what did you get?

CARVILLE: Well, I got this from my wife for me to look at every day. It is called "Be Careful How You Address the Queen."



NOVAK: That's very good, yes.

CARVILLE: And I also got -- Bob, you'll love this -- a children's book she gave me that she I'd enjoy, "Walter the Farting Dog."

NOVAK: And I'll bet you would enjoy that.


CARVILLE: It doesn't smell very good, but it's a hell of a book. I recommend it.

NOVAK: Here's some really interesting dolls. I always like dolls. Here's the captured Saddam. Here's Baghdad Bob. You remember him?

CARVILLE: I remember him. Now, they told me who he was.

(CROSSTALK) NOVAK: And I don't remember who this is. Who the hell is this?


CARVILLE: The greatest president in the history of the United States.



NOVAK: That's a voice out of the past.

I also got a -- I got a new book, "The Wit and Wisdom of Howard Dean." But most of the pictures were colored.

CARVILLE: There you go.


NOVAK: So that's unfair.

CARVILLE: All right, from the left, I'm James Carville.


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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