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Presidential Ad War Under Way

Aired January 7, 2004 - 16:30   ET


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

In the CROSSFIRE: a few messages, and their sponsors.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think Howard Dean should take his tax- hiking, government-expanding, latte-drinking...

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Hollywood-loving, left-wing freak show back to Vermont, where it belongs.


ANNOUNCER: We're tuning in to the campaign ad war.













(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, HOWARD DEAN CAMPAIGN AD) HOWARD DEAN (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I'm Howard Dean. I'm running for president and I approve this message.




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


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

With just 12 days to go before the Iowa caucuses, the air wars are in full force. Now, in case you don't live in Des Moines or maybe over in New Hampshire, we're going to bring you some of the hottest ads of this political season.

TUCKER CARLSON, CO-HOST: They range from clever and humorous to downright mean and nasty, naturally, our favorite kind.

But before we start the commercials, our real sponsors want us to bring you the best political briefing in television, our CROSSFIRE "Political Alert."

Well, as seen on CNN a short time ago, President Bush has outlined a new immigration proposal that would allow illegal aliens to achieve permanent residency here in the United States. The announcement is good news for the corrupt and aggressively anti- American government of Mexico, which has been pushing the U.S. for years to solve its own self-inflicted domestic problems by opening up U.S. borders.

It's also good for those foreigners who broke American law to get here. Message: Crime pays. It may even be good news for the Bush administration, which is hoping to win Hispanic votes with shameless panders like this one.

Other than that, it's not so good. Imagine if you were an honest immigrant from Mexico or China or South Korea or Somalia. For years, you've played by the rules and filled out forms and waited. Now people who didn't bother to do any of that have been rewarded. How would you feel? Well, you'd feel like a sucker, and you should.

BEGALA: First, Christopher Columbus was an illegal alien. Let's get that on the record, OK? This country was


BEGALA: ... of people who didn't play by the rules.

CARLSON: But there are no -- he was not an illegal alien. That's total sophistry. BEGALA: Of course he was. He had no permission from the Native Americans.

CARLSON: Please, Paul, come on. That's -- that's...

BEGALA: But more -- more -- more current, these folks do play by the rules. They work their butts off. They play -- pay taxes. They contribute to our society.

CARLSON: They didn't play by the rules. They're illegal aliens.

BEGALA: They're trying to support their families.


BEGALA: I think it's great.

CARLSON: No, no, but wait a second.

BEGALA: Now Bush may be trying to just get votes. I don't know.


CARLSON: What do you say to the Somali immigrant who has waited for years and gone through the endless bureaucracy



BEGALA: So, because someone didn't fill out paperwork, they don't have a shot at the American dream if they're willing to work hard?

CARLSON: Then why should -- why is it illegal in the first place?


BEGALA: Well, anyway, we'll get to this in another debate, I think.

"The Washington Post" today, though, reports -- quote -- "Investigators in Iraq have found no support for the main fears expressed before the war, those being that Iraq had a hidden arsenal of old weapons and built advance programs for new ones" -- unquote. No evidence. None. No anthrax, no V.X. gas, no nuclear weapons.

President Bush launched an unprovoked war on Iraq because he said that country was -- quote -- "a grave and gathering danger" -- unquote. Vice President Dick Cheney called Iraq -- quote -- a mortal threat -- unquote -- to America, a threat so imminent, it couldn't be contained, it couldn't be deterred by inspections or sanctions or no- fly zones or bombings.

President Bush and Vice President Cheney, of course, misled us. And almost 500 American troops are dead so far and thousands more are wounded. Of course, Mr. Bush recently said it makes no difference that Iraq had no weapons of mass destruction, perhaps because he's never attended a single funeral of the brave souls who gave their lives to protect us from the threat that Mr. Bush said existed.

CARLSON: You know, it's a shame that you twist this for partisan ends. It's actually upsetting.

There is a kernel of truth in what you said. And that is that WMD have not been found in Iraq, and it's a big deal. I think where you twist it unfairly...


CARLSON: ... is in implying that only the Bush administration thought they were there. Everybody thought they were there, the U.N., Hillary Clinton, everybody.


BEGALA: Bush said it was a threat. You're right.

But Bush said it was such a threat that these men had to go and fight and die. They did not. It -- there was no threat to America.

CARLSON: That's a separate argument.

BEGALA: And Mr. Bush should have known that.

CARLSON: That's an interesting argument.



CARLSON: But it's separate argument.

Well, in case you missed it, there was a remarkable moment during yesterday's Democratic presidential candidates' debate. That debate was carried live last night on National Public Radio. Got that? National Public Radio, no pictures, just sound.

Well, this was a distinction apparently lost on Dennis Kucinich, the Ohio congressman and Willie Nelson's pick for president. Congressman Kucinich brought a pie chart to illustrate one of his points.


CARLSON: Again, on radio. It's not a visual medium. Now, keep in mind that, during a previous debate last year, Mr. Kucinich publicly claimed that he had never smoked marijuana.


BEGALA: Keep in mind that when Dennis... CARLSON: Do you believe him?

BEGALA: When Dennis Kucinich joined us on the CNN Election Express, our campaign bus when we were up in New Hampshire, he talked about visualization, one of the things he believes in.



BEGALA: Well, that helped all of us listening to that radio program to actually usually visualize that pie chart. And I thought it worked in a



CARLSON: I think you're leaving -- you're leaving -- you're leaving out the best part of Congressman Kucinich's explanation to us, which was that, if you want to fix Social Security, visualize it. Get together with some of your friends on, say, a commune, maybe in a yurt..


CARLSON: ... and visualize Social Security fixed. And it works. He said that to us. And he meant it. I like Dennis Kucinich.

BEGALA: Well...

CARLSON: He's a believer.


BEGALA: Well, you can say that he's a dreamer, but he's not the only one.


BEGALA: No, I think he's great. I think that was a good debate, by the way.


BEGALA: Radio and television notwithstanding, that was a good debate.

Well, Senate Democratic leader Tom Daschle today called on President Bush to do something that Mr. Bush is apparently reluctant to do, obey the law. That would be the 2002 Farm Bill, which requires country-of-origin labeling on food, so that you and I can know if our food is raised in the USA. Now, with mad cow disease coming to our country from Canada, farmers and ranchers are supporting Daschle, calling on Mr. Bush to implement the labeling law. Big business special interests oppose the labels. And the Bush administration is reportedly dragging its heels. Hmm. Now, could that maybe have something to do with the $4.3 million Mr. Bush has received from giant agribusiness corporations that don't want you to know where your food is coming from?

Well, meanwhile...


BEGALA: ... those of us who enjoy a good burger or a steak, what are we supposed to could? Well, according to Mr. Bush, let them eat caviar.

CARLSON: What you don't explain in that is, why do agribusinesses oppose the labeling law? It doesn't make sense.

Actually, it's a very, very complicated issue, because cattle aren't simply necessarily just from one country. They can be born in one, raised in another, fed with grain from still a third. So it's not clear that there are Canadian cattle, American cattle, etcetera. Moreover, if there were labels -- and I'm not even necessarily against them -- what would you do with that information? What does this add up to?

BEGALA: You would be -- I would...

CARLSON: A whole lot of nothing, Paul! It doesn't mean anything.

BEGALA: I would buy American.


BEGALA: That's what I would do, because mad cow has not been found in American beef. It did come from overseas. And it's in the law. Just obey the law, Mr. President.



CARLSON: ... American beef.

BEGALA: That's all I'm asking. Just implement the law.

Well, a new ad from a conservative group attacks what it calls -- and I'm quoting the ad here -- tax-hiking, government-expanding, latte-drinking, sushi-eating, Volvo-driving, "New York Times"-reading, body-piercing, Hollywood-loving, left-wing freaks. The question is, will the Democrats have the guts to fight back against the champaign- sipping, caviar-eating, election-stealing, jobs-exporting, Halliburton-loving, oil-drilling, insider-trading, Iraq-lying right wing? Woo, that was a mouthful.

(APPLAUSE) BEGALA: Well, we will talk about all of that and the ad wars just ahead.

And then later, one of my CROSSFIRE co-hosts gets a fashion critique from a movie star in "In Style" magazine. You will not believe what this celebrity had to say.

Stay with us.


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.



CARLSON: Welcome back.

Well, the perpetually grouchy Howard Dean recently whined that the other presidential candidates, the Democrats, should stop beating up on him. Well, they haven't listened, and neither have Republicans.

We are here to show you a new ad about Howard Dean newly unveiled by the Club For Growth. It is as devastating as it is witty.

Here it is.


NARRATOR: What do you think of Howard Dean's plans to raise taxes on families by $1,900 a year?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What do I think? Well, I think Howard Dean should take his tax-hiking, government-expanding, latte-drinking, sushi-eating, Volvo-driving, "New York Times"-reading.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Body-piercing, Hollywood-loving, left-wing freak show back to Vermont, where it belongs.


NARRATOR: Club For Growth PAC is responsible for the content of this advertising.



CARLSON: Left-wing freak show. You can't beat that.

In the CROSSFIRE to help us survey the best, the worst and, of course, the meanest ads so far in the 2004 election are Democratic strategist Peter Fenn and Club For Growth President Stephen Moore.


BEGALA: Guys, thanks for joining us.


BEGALA: Steve, look, I -- I said this off-camera. I'll say it on the air. I think the ad is funny. We can dispute the different stereotypes. A moment ago, I gave you my Republican stereotype, election-stealing, Iraq-lying, oil-dealing, Halliburton-loving. But...

STEPHEN MOORE, PRESIDENT, CLUB FOR GROWTH: Are you going to show the folks your -- the fact that you have pierced your belly button?


BEGALA: Well, that was just you and I crazy one night. And I don't want to talk about it.


MOORE: You drove your Volvo over to the tattoo shop.


BEGALA: The only real blowback I've heard from this is actually from a conservative.

A Republican consultant was in "The Washington Times," America's right-wing newspaper in our capital, saying this: "The prevailing wisdom is that President Bush can beat Governor Dean hands down. So, why would the Club For Growth or anyone else on our side be attacking him now? That doesn't make any sense to me at all."

If Dean is so weak, why are you attacking him?

MOORE: I think Dean is weak and I think he is the easiest for Bush to defeat.

But, look, we have two major political parties in this country. And the torch-bearer for the Democrats is a guy who's talking about this gigantic tax increase on middle-class voters. He's not talking about taxing the rich. He's talking about average middle-class voters who would have to pay about $1,900 a year more on his tax program.

We thought, as the Club For Growth, it was important to advertise that. I'm not sure, by the way...

BEGALA: First off, that's not his position. Second off, that's not what you're advertising.

MOORE: It is his position. He would reverse the tax cuts.

BEGALA: It's an ad hominem attack on liberals. I think it's funny. I don't have a problem with it, but


MOORE: Howard Dean would erase the entire Bush tax cut. And for the average family...

BEGALA: If you think he's so weak -- see, I think this is a testament to Dean's potential strength, if you guys are attacking him now. I'll bet you he's raising money on it right now, by the way.


In fact, the truth is, this ad will not hurt Dean with a lot of his kind of left-wing liberal base of voters. In fact, a lot of those people don't pay any taxes at all anyway. So the idea of a big tax increase won't hurt him with Democrats


CARLSON: Now, Peter, what do you think? I want to know what you think of that analysis. Your party has gone completely insane. They're about to nominate this guy.


CARLSON: No, no, but you agree with this. I know you do.


CARLSON: He's the weakest candidate.


CARLSON: So, shouldn't conservatives refrain from attacking him, because it's, of course, the conservative dream for him to be nominated?

PETER FENN, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: I'll tell you what. I brought my checkbook here. I thought I'd write a check to the Club For Growth tonight.

MOORE: I'll take it. I'll take it. You heard him, Paul.

FENN: Because I'll tell you, I'll tell you, the $100,000 that you're spending on this crazy ad in Iowa, which is -- which is -- which is delightful in one sense, is going to do two things. First of all, it is going to galvanize the moderates.

MOORE: Not the moderates. They don't want higher taxes.

FENN: And the independents, and even some Republicans, to support Democrats, because...

MOORE: How so?

FENN: Oh, because it's such an outrageous ad. It's so crazy and so wild. So keep going.


CARLSON: Every nose piercer in Des Moines is going



FENN: And the next thing is that, you watch. All the Democratic candidates are going to have them going to the Internet writing checks for their campaigns on the basis of countering the Club For Growth.

CARLSON: Peter, speaking...

FENN: So that's -- so I love it when the far right comes out, because you know, this is...

CARLSON: Wait, the far right?


CARLSON: Hold on.


CARLSON: Let's just


CARLSON: ... for a second. Wait. Let me ask you a question about what actually motivates Democrats.

FENN: Let me just back this up quickly. You said you loathe John McCain. You want to defeat John McCain in 2004. Your tried to get Marge Roukema. You said -- you made her life a living hell.

MOORE: I don't loathe John McCain.

FENN: Those are moderate -- those are Republicans. Those are moderate


CARLSON: But I want to talk about


FENN: And Jim -- Jim -- let me just say, Jim Greenwood from Pennsylvania says -- says you're cannibals. I mean, he's a Republican. He's a Republican.


CARLSON: Clearly, look, you're talking about an ideological battle within the Republican Party. I want to talk about pure, seething hatred that exists at the core of yours.

And I'm going to give you the example. And those are the ads posted by, the left-wing Web site. You're fully aware of them.


CARLSON: Two of them, two of the ads that came in response to their contest for the best ads of this season compared the president, current president, and his family to Adolf Hitler and the Nazi Party.

There's a new ad out today produced by one of the finalists in that contest that goes ahead and claims that the Bush family are traitors. There's a picture in that ad of Ari Fleischer, Ari Fleischer, the former White House press secretary, in a Nazi outfit. Where did this come from, this pus, seething?


FENN: You're going to show the ad, or you want me to -- you're just going to show stills of it? OK. I guess that's all. No sound. That's all right.


CARLSON: No, but, Peter, this is a problem. This is not just the fringe of your party. This is at the core.

FENN: Look, look, the interesting thing about the Hitler ad is that it was one of 1,500 ads that were submitted. It was on the Web site for a short period. It's been on the Republican National Committee's Web site...

MOORE: There weren't 1,500 ads up.

FENN: ... longer than it was on MoveOn's Web site. Everybody has repudiated that ad. It's a ridiculous ad.

MOORE: No, no, no, actually...

FENN: But let me just say this, that that was not legitimized by the party, as the ads where they put Osama bin Laden and compared him to Tom Daschle and


CARLSON: Osama bin Laden.


MOORE: You know what did today? sent a message to all their members, saying, oh, we've got this ad and the right is attacking it. They're using that Hitler ad to raise even more money against Bush.

(CROSSTALK) MOORE: And, No. 2...


BEGALA:, they had the courage to stand up against the kook right.


MOORE: Here's something that's very serious. Who has


MOORE: Who has

BEGALA: Let me ask you the question before you give the answer.



BEGALA: First off, the fact is, no sensible person thinks it's anything but vile. That ad is horrible.

MOORE: It is vile.

BEGALA: It never ran, never ran anywhere.

MOORE: There's somebody who hasn't said that, though.

BEGALA: It runs on the Republican National Committee Web site.

MOORE: Howard Dean has not denounced that ad. And he has

BEGALA: Of course he should. But let me test your character.

No Republican, not even our president, who I think basically is a good guy, repudiated the ad that compared Max Cleland, who lost three limbs on the field of honor in Vietnam, and compared him -- said he lacked courage and compared him to Osama bin Laden.

Here's the ad. Take a look.


NARRATOR: ... and extremist dictators. Max Cleland runs television ads claiming he has the courage to lead. He says he supports President Bush at every opportunity. But that's not the truth. Max Cleland says he has the courage to lead. But the record proves, Max Cleland is just misleading.


BEGALA: Now that ad opened


BEGALA: Rerack it and run it again and stop that first frame, would you, please?

FENN: Just stop the first frame.


BEGALA: Just rerack this. This is what's wrong with it. And it is an obscenity.


NARRATOR: ... faces terrorists and extremist dictators. Max Cleland runs television ads claiming he has the courage to lead. He says he supports President Bush at every opportunity.


BEGALA: ... implicitly, visually, that he backs Osama bin Laden. Do you repudiate that or not, Stephen?


MOORE: ... a good senator.

CARLSON: I'm going to have to intercede here. Let's stop shouting on the show.

MOORE: And he was not a good senator. He was a Vietnam hero. But he was a lousy senator.


BEGALA: You don't repudiate an ad that shows a picture of bin Laden and a picture of Max Cleland?

MOORE: I just looked at that ad and I didn't see anything offensive whatsoever.

BEGALA: A picture of bin Laden and then a picture of Max Cleland, you don't have a problem with that?


CARLSON: ... reality here? That ad was three years ago. And let's not -- no more shouting, because, actually, it's emblematic of a certain anger of the Democratic Party.

And I want you to respond honestly to this. This is actually a marvelous ad put together from our friend Alex Castellanos, who is a frequent guest on this show, "When Angry Democrats Attack." And this sort of says it all about kind of the Zeitgeist of the Democratic Party 2004.

Here it is. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, AD)

DEAN: I don't want to listen to the fundamentalist preachers anymore!

GEPHARDT: He is not leading this country in the right direction and he's declared war on the American people!

NARRATOR: Tired of the pessimism and angry protests?

KERRY: We need a regime change in the United States.

NARRATOR: Tired of the negative attacks?

GEPHARDT: This president is a miserable failure.

DEAN: Thank you very, very, much! Thank you very, very, much!



CARLSON: Now really, those are a bunch of angry little men, aren't they?



FENN: Well, listen, if you were one of the three million -- if you were one of the three million people who lost their jobs, you'd be angry, too.

CARLSON: But they're a bunch of rich guys. What are they angry about?

FENN: If you were to lose -- if you had just lost your health insurance, you'd be mad, angry, too.


FENN: If you were going to have to pay as a young kid the $600 billion deficit this president's worked up, you'd be angry, too.


MOORE: You know, but -- but what those ads really show, though, is how...

CARLSON: Good luck.

MOORE: ... the left has -- has this internal seething Bush hatred, much in the way that the right had this hatred of Clinton.

CARLSON: That's right. MOORE: And you know what? It isn't going to get the Democrats anywhere, because the American people may not agree with George Bush on every policy, but they don't hate George Bush.

FENN: Steve, what did you just do to Dean?

MOORE: Dean voters do hate for Bush.


BEGALA: ... comparing him to Osama bin Laden, which is what your party did to a war hero, Max Cleland. It's unpardonable.


BEGALA: It's unforgivable.

MOORE: That was three years ago.


BEGALA: Oh, so it's OK?

CARLSON: And it actually never happened.

BEGALA: We just saw the ad.

CARLSON: But, in any case, we're going to take a quick commercial break.

Ahead in "Rapid Fire," we'll ask our guests if Howard Dean's words are likely to come back and haunt him in future ads. Of course, you bet they are.

Right after the break, Wolf Blitzer has reaction to President Bush's announcement of changes to the U.S. immigration policy.

We'll be right back.



BEGALA: Thank you, Wolf.

Time now for "Rapid Fire," where, just like in political ads, we try to make as many points as we can in the shortest amount of time possible.


BEGALA: Our guests, Club For Growth President Stephen Moore and Democratic strategist Peter Fenn.

CARLSON: Peter, it should be pretty easy to be a Republican media strategist this year. When Howard Dean gets the nomination, all you need to do is put his quotes up on the screen. Here's my favorite: We shouldn't -- quote -- "prejudge Osama bin Laden." How hard is it to make an effective ad with that quote? Not very.


FENN: I think everybody has already judged him. But I think what you do is, you try him and then you hang him.


FENN: All right?


BEGALA: Stephen Moore, your current ad attacks liberals for driving Volvos. Should President Bush give back the thousands of dollars he got from Volvo dealers?


MOORE: You know what? Volvos use diesel fuel and they're terrible for global warming. So you should be happy that we're attacking...


BEGALA: Well, but should Bush give back the money? He's raising money from them?

MOORE: Well, sure. They emit greenhouse gases.


CARLSON: Do you think that the endless attacks by the other eight candidates on Howard Dean will be used in ads by President Bush in his campaign?

FENN: Absolutely. No question about it. We've been doing that for 200 years, since we've been a republic.


CARLSON: But these are pretty rough attacks.


FENN: Look, look, look, you remember the Goldwater ads and Johnson ads, where they used the statements from all the candidates against Barry Goldwater. They've used -- they've done that forever. I don't think that they work terribly effectively, to be honest with you.

My sense is that they've got boxes of opposition research that would fill this room. The Republicans have already done it. It's all set.

CARLSON: Yes, I think that's right.

FENN: They're ready to go against any one of the candidates.

CARLSON: But particularly Dean. And they're holding it.

FENN: The problem we've got -- let me just...


FENN: OK, go ahead.

BEGALA: It's "Rapid Fire."

Do you like sushi?



MOORE: I don't like sushi and I don't drink latte. And I'm trying to get all the conservatives to switch over to cappuccino.



CARLSON: Peter, Peter, do you think -- that that people who pierce their navels have a tendency to vote Democratic, as Stephen implies?


FENN: It depends how many piercings you have. I think that if...


CARLSON: What's the threshold for a Democratic vote, four?

FENN: Boy, I have no idea. I'm clean.

BEGALA: I think conservatives have a greater capacity for self- abuse. I think...


BEGALA: The right-wingers should be sticking holes in themselves.

MOORE: We're too busy making money.


BEGALA: Are you worried about losing the all-important body piercing vote?


MOORE: No. There are not too many moderates or conservatives who pierce their bodies.

CARLSON: Now, that's a shame.

MOORE: At least other than their ears.


BEGALA: Stephen Moore from the Club For Growth, thank you.

MOORE: Thank you, Paul.

BEGALA: Peter Fenn, Democratic strategist, thank you for a fun discussion.



BEGALA: Well, also a fun topic. Why is actor Tim Robbins so upset with my co-host? The answer right after this.


BEGALA: Welcome back to CROSSFIRE.

Of course, it may be a new year, but the fashion police are already on Tucker Carlson's case. In an interview with "In Style" magazine, actor Tim Robbins talks about his dislike of tuxedos and cumberbunds, which leads to this exchange.

"In Style": "Should cumberbunds go the way of the bow tie?"

Robbins: "Bow ties are for waiters."

"In Style": "That's not what Tucker Carlson thinks."

Robbins: "Tucker Carlson can kiss my" -- and then they ran out of ink, I guess, Tucker. I'm not sure...


CARLSON: See, here's the -- here's the -- here's the problem, Paul. It's a big responsibility wearing a bow tie. I'm not just talking about the groupies and fans. I'm saying about the example that a bow tie wearer sets. And not every man can handle it. And I think Tim Robbins is one of those men who can't.



BEGALA: Not man enough -- and man enough to wear a pink shirt.

CARLSON: That's exactly right.


CARLSON: Yes, I almost feel like a Democrat wearing it. But it doesn't bother me, because I can handle it.


CARLSON: No, I've never met the guy. I'm sure he's a delightful person. He's just got bad taste.

BEGALA: Well, he's a snappy dresser.

From the left, I'm Paul Begala. That's it for CROSSFIRE.

CARLSON: And from the right, I'm Tucker Carlson.

Join us again tomorrow for yet more CROSSFIRE.

"WOLF BLITZER REPORTS" starts right now. Have a great night.


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