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CNN CROSSFIRE

Liberal Talk Show Host Franken Faces Off with G. Gordon Liddy

Aired April 1, 2004 - 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, the radio spectrum now has both ends of the political spectrum.

AL FRANKEN, HOST, "THE O'FRANKEN FACTOR": Broadcasting, from an underground bunker 3,500 feet below Dick Cheney's bunker, Air America radio is on the air.

ANNOUNCER: Is the conservative crowd ready for some real liberal media? Al Franken faces off with G. Gordon Liddy.

Today on CROSSFIRE. Live from George Washington University, Paul Begala and Tucker Carlson.

TUCKER CARLSON, CO-HOST: Welcome to CROSSFIRE. Well if there's one thing liberals have complete contempt for, it is, of course, talk radio, which makes it mildly ironic that this week they've been caught engaging in it.

PAUL BEGALA, CO-HOST: Well, of course, we're just trying to follow Harry Truman's maxim. If conservatives are going to keep telling lies about us, we're going to start telling the truth about them.

Al Franken of the brand-new Air America radio network will debate G. Gordon Liddy right here in the CROSSFIRE, right after the best political briefing in television, the "CROSSFIRE Political Alert."

During the transition from the Clinton administration to the Bush administration, National Security Adviser Sandy Berger told his successor Condoleezza Rice that she would spend more time on terrorism and Al Qaeda than anything else. Dr. Rice did not listen.

Terrorism was not an urgent priority for team Bush. We have proof of this now from Dr. Rice herself.

"The Washington Post" today reports that on September 11, 2001, Dr. Rice was scheduled to give a speech outlining President Bush's national security priorities.

The speech focused on Star Wars, which, of course, is Mr. Bush's faith-based missile defense system. It did not mention Al Qaeda, Osama bin Laden, or Islamic radicalisms as security problems in the United States.

Now, it's bad enough that the Bush administration may have been negligent in defending our country against Al Qaeda. But it adds insult to injury when Mr. Bush insists that he was on the job. As we say in Texas, sir, don't pee on my boots and tell me it's raining.

CARLSON: You know, speaking of irony, it's a bit ironic for members of the Clinton administration, which turned down three opportunities to apprehend Osama bin Laden, to lecture the rest of us on how they weren't -- that is the Bush administration -- vigilant enough about terrorism. Nobody was.

And the question is, well, how do we protect America now? You know what? John Kerry has no idea behind turning over American authority to the U.N.

BEGALA: You remember the big millennium terrorist attack? No. Because Clinton and his team, including Richard Clarke, prevented that.

CARLSON: I agree with that. I absolutely agree with that. But they didn't prevent a lot of other terrorism attacks. Nobody did. And to cast blame like that, I just don't think it gets us anywhere.

Well, four American civilian contractors were murdered in Iraq yesterday morning, their bodies dragged from their vehicles and set upon by a mob in downtown Fallujah.

Within hours pictures of the massacre were on the Internet, grinning men in Arab head dresses using shovels to mutilate the charred bodies of Americans. The images are nauseating, but here is the worst part. Nobody did a thing about it.

There are 4,000 U.S. Marines stationed near Fallujah. They didn't speed to the scene to kill the animals who did this. They didn't even take them into custody. Neither did Iraqi police. It's disgusting.

BEGALA: Well, that's right. Nobody showed up at all. I think you make a very good point here. Let's give our commanders in the field time. I wish they'd been there right away...

CARLSON: Time?

BEGALA: But I hope they crack down. I hope they catch -- I hope the people in Fallujah give these guys up so that they get the justice they deserve.

CARLSON: Those bodies lay in Fallujah from 10 in the morning until nightfall and the American military, 4,000 Marines nearby, did nothing.

I think we need the name of the commander who made that decision. And I think he ought to be punished, and I think we ought to kill every person who's responsible for the deaths of those Americans. This is a sign of weakness. This is how we got 9/11. It's because we allowed things like that to go unresponded to. This is a big deal. And I don't think it's a political issue. It's not a partisan issue. I think the military screwed up here. And I think we should find out who did it.

BEGALA: Well, all I'm say being is I want to know what happened first. I want to hear from the commander. I think we ought to give every benefit of the doubt to the commanders in the field. But then let's go crack down on Fallujah and let's get these animals and take them -- let them go where they need to go. Put it that way.

CARLSON: Yes.

BEGALA: Well, look I've got a confession to make today. Turns out -- it's hard for me to say -- but tax cuts for the rich are good. Actually they're great.

Now I know this because, well, I'm rich. So, you know, no seriously between the show, the books, the lectures, the consulting, hell, I'm loaded. And so now I've come to realize that President Bush is right when he says that cutting taxes for the rich helps us to create jobs.

I mean look, I was saying just the other day to my chauffeur, I said, "Mohammed trickle down really does work."

And yes, I couldn't hear his reply because I had the soundproof limo up window up in the limo. But I'm sure he agreed.

You know, President Bush really does have this country on the right track. We rich people soon will be creating millions and millions of new jobs.

And you know what? Gas prices are going to come down, too, just as soon as the tree huggers let us drill in the Alaska wilderness.

And global warming, what a joke. If global warming is real, folks, how come it's 48 degrees and raining here today in Washington on April 1?

BEGALA: Why is it -- why is it, Paul, it ought to tell you something, it ought to tell you something that you sound the most sensible on April Fool's Day.

I will say, actually, gas prices probably would come down if we could drill our own oil. I don't think there's anything funny about that. It's just true. And you sounded great saying it, by the way. And I think you ought to say it on April 2 and April 3.

BEGALA: Dick Nail (ph) has an interesting op-ed in the "L.A. Times" today. It says the Bush administration's weak dollar policy is what has pushed up gas prices. Gas prices are not up in Europe.

CARLSON: Actually -- Actually...

BEGALA: It's the deficit and Bush's tax cuts.

CARLSON: It's the demand, OPEC and taxes.

BEGALA: They have the same problem in Europe. Taxes are higher in Europe. Gas prices are lower.

CARLSON: Let's go back to April Fool's Day.

BEGALA: Just looking at Bush's fiscal policy.

CARLSON: Long time Democratic fund-raiser and accused pedophile Michael Jackson came to Capitol Hill this week to refurbish his image while pretending to do something about AIDS in Africa.

Jackson has long been a favorite in Democratic Party circles. Just a few years ago, he headlined a fund-raiser with Bill Clinton.

But this time many of Jackson's old friends in the party discovered scheduling conflicts when he arrived in Washington.

One who did find time for the disgraced friend of boys was Democrat Sheila Jackson Lee. A few years ago, the Texas congresswoman explained her job this way. This is a quote, "I'm a queen. And I demand to be treated like a queen."

And so the King of Pop meets the Queen of Capitol Hill. It's perfect.

As Sam Dealey (ph) reports in today's capitol newspaper, "The Hill," Jackson Lee demanded the royal treatment, insisting that the hallway in front of her office be closed to civilians all day in honor of Jackson's visit.

So let's see, accused child molester visits you at work, you treat him like a king. It must be April Fool's Day.

And yet it's not. This guy -- I mean honestly! You know what? If he were some right-winger -- If this was Charlton Heston accused of this, we would never hear the end of it. I've only mentioned it, like, four times.

BEGALA: How many of you have ever heard of Sheila Jackson Lee? A few have.

How many have heard of Dick Cheney?

OK. Dick Cheney -- Dick Cheney just the other day went on Rush Limbaugh's radio program, an accused drug addict, and an accused criminal himself. So the vice president of the United States can go consort with Rush Limbaugh?

CARLSON: Wait, wait, wait, wait, wait. Wait a second.

BEGALA: Jackson was accused. Limbaugh was accused.

CARLSON: Rush Limbaugh was addicted to prescription pills. Michael Jackson...

BEGALA: He's been accused of a crime, same as Michael Jackson.

CARLSON: Michael Jackson's accused of molesting boys! Come on. There's no correlation. Please. Take a pill, molest a boy. Big difference. This is your lesson in moral relativism for the day, April 1, 2004.

Well, Liberals say they haven't been properly represented on talk radio. And they haven't. Now they have Al Franken. Is he up to the task? We will ask him. He and G. Gordon Liddy are in the CROSSFIRE next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BEGALA: Welcome back to CROSSFIRE.

For years, a collection of right wing crackpots, conspiracy theorists and Hillary haters have dominated talk radio. But at last, there's something worth listening to for the rest of us.

Air America Radio signed on yesterday. It is headlined by my friend Al Franken. He joins us from New York City. Also in the CROSSFIRE, G. Gordon Liddy, whose popular and successful radio show celebrated its, what, 12th anniversary on the air.

Congratulations, Mr. Liddy.

G. GORDON LIDDY, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: Thank you very much.

CARLSON: Al Franken, thanks for joining us.

Like all good liberals I spent a good part of my day listening to your show, "The O'Franken Factor." And I want to read back to you an exchange that took place between you and Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York.

This is your pretty hard-hitting question. You said, quote, "Senator, you went to Iraq and Afghanistan right after Thanksgiving, right?"

"During Thanksgiving," said Mrs. Clinton.

Quote from you, "Tell us about that a bit."

Now here's my question. You're not simply liberal, but you're a partisan Democrat. Doesn't an exchange like this give people the impression that you're not going to be tough on Democrats, that you're essentially part of the establishment? That you're playing for a team and not for an idea? And isn't the result boring?

FRANKEN: I think that you took that out of context, because I said, I think you would have liked this better, because I think you left out, I said "Tell us a little bit about that, bitch."

And you just are -- you're just taking it out of context. CARLSON: I have to say, you'd get better ratings if you talked that way. But my question is...

FRANKEN: What do you want me to do?

CARLSON: I'll tell you what I want you to do. I'll tell you exactly what I want you to do. You've got a woman on your show...

FRANKEN: Yes.

CARLSON: ... who's pretty hard to book. It's pretty hard to get Mrs. Clinton on your show. I can tell you.

BEGALA: She's been on here.

CARLSON: Yes, she has. But it's still hard to get her. You've got this opportunity to ask her some pretty tough questions and you didn't. So what's the purpose of having her on?

FRANKEN: Well, I asked her some great questions about, for example, the Medicare scandal. And what that was like to be on the floor, and see, you know, and hear about all -- the administration, and the Republicans basically threatening to fire...

CARLSON: That's just sucking up to her.

FRANKEN: Well my -- listen, my job is to be the answer to all this right-wing radio. There is -- there is Rush. There is Hannity. There's my friend G. And he is a close friend of mine. That's why I call him G.

And that's my job. My job isn't to go after Hillary Clinton.

BEGALA: Well, in fact, speaking of puffball interviews -- I mentioned this a moment ago -- our vice president went on the Rush Limbaugh show. Now he's one of your competitors, but he's got his trademark slogan, I think it's "Talent on Loan from Pfizer."

He didn't get a lot of exactly tough questions either. Mr. Limbaugh did not give a lot to Vice President Cheney. Does the vice president plan on hanging out with other drug addicts, maybe David Crosby or others? Is this like an outreach program for the vice president?

LIDDY: Well, the -- first of all I have to tell you it's not an April fool that I'm a friend of Al's. You know, we've been a friend for years. I've been a guest in his home, and I wish him success. I really do.

FRANKEN: Thank you.

LIDDY: And I think he will be successful. And there's a reason.

It's not that the world is starved for liberal radio. I mean we're on what is affectionately known on the right right now as Commie News Network. So -- the reason Al will succeed is not because, you know, he's the only liberal voice out there. It's because he's smart, funny and entertaining. And that's why people will listen.

BEGALA: Well, I think actually you make quite a good point there. I think you are, as well. But isn't it a little beneath the vice president of the United States to go on the Rush Limbaugh show? I mean, come on.

LIDDY: No, because Rush is on 600 stations. The vice president is seeking to get out to the base.

The Democratic base right now is united. All they want to do is beat Bush. And if they didn't have Kerry they'd run Mickey Mouse. It wouldn't make any difference. All they want to do is beat Bush.

The Republican base is not united. And it is very restive. It's very restive because of the amnesty proposal. It's very restive because the president said he would sign an extension of the so-called assault weapon ban. It's restive because who came up with the biggest entitlement program since Lyndon Johnson? George W. Bush. The base is restive.

So the best way the vice president could reach the base, because that's who's listening, you know, to Rush Limbaugh, the base, is to go on Rush Limbaugh.

CARLSON: And Al Franken -- Al Franken, since when is having a prescription drug problem a moral failing? I thought liberals were always sort of on the side of people who had slipped but brought themselves up again?

FRANKEN: Well, first of all, I am on opposite Rush, and we are pledging to do drug-free radio. And I'm not sure, I'm not sure that's actually been done before.

CARLSON: Wait, wait, wait. Wait, wait. Hold on, Al Franken, if you or someone in your family had a substance abuse problem, would you be offended if other people mocked it?

FRANKEN: Well, here's the thing with Rush. And I'll pray for him to get...

CARLSON: You didn't answer the question.

FRANKEN: I'll answer the question. Yes, unless they were such a public hypocrite about it.

When my friend Jerry Garcia died, Rush Limbaugh called him, "Just another dead doper. And a dirt bag."

And Rush has said over the years that anyone who uses drugs illegally, illegally, should be prosecuted and put away.

Now I pray for Rush. I pray that he gets into recovery, and as you know, recovery, and when you're in recovery you take responsibility for your actions consistent with your own values. So I'm praying that he gets into recovery and asks...

CARLSON: Wait, wait, wait.

FRANKEN: No, no, demands -- demands that he be put away for the maximum sentence in the most dangerous prisons in Florida...

CARLSON: OK. Al Franken...

FRANKEN: ... with other first offenders, and with a black -- with a black cellmate who heard him on ESPN.

CARLSON: It's going to happen at some point, people I hope are nicer to you than you're being to Rush Limbaugh.

Let me ask you this question. He's on 600 stations; Mr. Liddy is on 180. You're on -- How many stations are you on?

FRANKEN: I am on six or seven.

CARLSON: Really?

FRANKEN: Or eight.

CARLSON: Oh, OK.

FRANKEN: But they're in -- But let me tell you...

CARLSON: Basically you've got a bunch of rich left-wingers doing this as a vanity broadcast. I mean, this is welfare for you, isn't it?

FRANKEN: We are building a business. We're building a business, and I don't think Rush started with -- with 600. I think he started with one. So we're starting with a factor of seven more than he started with.

And we're in New York and we're in L.A. And we're in Chicago, and we're in Portland. And we're on satellite, and we're on Echostar and we're -- millions of people. And you can go to www.AirAmerica.com. People are streaming us. It's -- there's thousands of people listening to us.

LIDDY: Paul, you remember the Vietnam War, don't you?

BEGALA: I do.

LIDDY: OK.

BEGALA: I'm sorry. Go ahead.

LIDDY: Air America was a CIA front under the Vietnam War.

CARLSON: Exactly.

BEGALA: That's an interesting piece of history. They were running...

LIDDY: And last night Al admitted it still is. FRANKEN: Yes. Yes, we are being funded partly by the CIA as a vanity project for them.

BEGALA: But if you take off your partisan hat for a minute, as a guy who has been a remarkable success in talk radio for a dozen years, what advice would you give your friend Al Franken?

LIDDY: Be himself. He's -- Look, Al is going to succeed not because the world is starved for liberal radio.

I mean, you know, you've got PBS, which is known as PMS Radio to those of us up here. You know, you've got CNN. You've got ABC, NPR, you've got all of those guys. Right?

That's not why he's going to succeed. He's going to succeed because he's smart and he's funny and entertaining. And you have to be able to entertain, otherwise people are going to turn you off.

BEGALA: Isn't part of that -- the right does this. Actually, I think Limbaugh does this brilliantly. He makes fun of liberals, including me and I think it's all fair and all funny. Isn't part of it also lampooning targets like Limbaugh? Right? I mean, Tucker just got in a high moral (UNINTELLIGIBLE) because Al was teasing him.

LIDDY: He -- the thing is, if you're not a target of the other side, you're a failure.

CARLSON: But isn't it -- But Al Franken, don't you see a certain irony? So for all these years liberals have derided talk radio as the recreational choice of morons, racists and tobacco chewers. And now you're starting your own liberal talk radio network. I mean, isn't the medium itself sort of beneath you?

FRANKEN: No, that's just right wing radio.

CARLSON: All right. Al Franken, G. Gordon Liddy. Stay right where you are. We'll be right back. We'll take a quick commercial break.

Next in "Rapid Fire," we'll ask our guests if another Al will have any success on the television airways. Yes, we are talking about -- hold your breath -- Al Gore.

And how is the U.S. government planning to respond to the atrocities committed in Fallujah? They haven't responded yet. Maybe they will. We'll find out after the break.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

DARYN KAGAN, ANCHOR: I'm Daryn Kagan at the CNN Center in Atlanta.

Coming up at the top of the hour, back to Fallujah. U.S. forces vow to return and hunt down those responsible for yesterday's gruesome and deadly attacks on Americans.

What is the future of the U.S. mission in Iraq? We'll talk to Vietnam War hero Senator John McCain.

Plus a blueprint for world domination. The disturbing contents of a top secret terrorist document.

We have those stories and much more. We're just minutes away on "WOLF BLITZER REPORTS." Now back to the guys at CROSSFIRE.

CARLSON: Welcome back. And it's time for "Rapid Fire." We keep the questions and answers short so we won't miss the demise of liberal talk radio.

In the crossfire from New York is talk radio king, neophyte Al Franken, and here with us is 12-year talk radio veteran, G. Gordon Liddy.

BEGALA: Mr. Liddy, as an expert in the field, why is it that Bill O'Reilly, a guy who sued Al Franken, and got laughed out of court, literally, why he's so successful on cable television, he hasn't done very well on radio. Why?

LIDDY: No, he hasn't. Matt Drudge exposed all his radio ratings, which are in the toilet. I don't know why he doesn't do radio well, but he really doesn't do radio well at all. Maybe because his most nuanced explanation of something is "Shut up!"

CARLSON: Al Franken, is there any Democrat you could think of who would come on your show and you'd give a hard time to? Ask genuinely tough questions? Who would it be?

FRANKEN: Russ Feingold. I'd tear him a new one.

BEGALA: Let me ask you, what conservative would you go after coming on your show?

LIDDY: Oh, let's see. Oh, I'd love to go after Bill O'Reilly.

BEGALA: For what mistakes has George Bush made, though? If he came on, what mistakes has our president made? I know you support him.

LIDDY: Yes, I support him. But I would say that the business of amnesty for illegal aliens just encourages more, is a mistake. I would say that the drug benefit program that he passed...

FRANKEN: Mr. Liddy, you're depressing me.

LIDDY: It's way too expensive; we can't afford it. And the last person I thought to do something like that would, you know, be a Republican president. And look, you can't out-pander the Democrats. And you shouldn't attempt to do that.

CARLSON: Al Franken, in your commercial breaks I noticed you play music from the Grateful Dead. You said you knew Jerry Garcia. You know he went out of his way throughout his career not to be identified with partisan politics.

Nine years after his death isn't it a bit wrong for you to be hijacking his music for partisan ends?

FRANKEN: No. I just love his music. You know, I like -- when radio hosts like Michael Medved play Smashing Pumpkins, I just don't think that he has any connection to him, and I just love Jerry.

LIDDY: I play Toby Keith on my show.

BEGALA: There we go. Excellent.

Al Franken from New York City. Host of "The O'Franken Factor" on Air America Radio. G. Gordon Liddy, host of "The G. Gordon Liddy Show" on hundreds of stations across America. Thank you both very much.

LIDDY: Thank you.

FRANKEN: Thank you.

CARLSON: Thank you.

BEGALA: Condoleezza Rice is everywhere these days. You're not going to believe what America's national security adviser and Janet Jackson have in common. We will reveal it next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BEGALA: Well, for guys with nothing better to do, "Maxim" magazine posts what they call a Girlfriend of the Day online. Recent girlfriends include singer Janet Jackson and "Hellboy" actress Selma Blair.

But the magazine's latest choice for Girlfriend of the Day is a little unusual. It is Dr. Condoleezza Rice. Maxim says you can find her quote, "lighting up the small screen and the press in her current role as George W. Bush's sassy natural security adviser."

And by the way, her own fashion innovation? Her pants are on fire, because she cannot tell the truth about anything. Liar, liar.

CARLSON: I bet you -- I bet you Barbra Streisand has never been "Maxim's" Girl of the Day.

BEGALA: That's it for CROSSFIRE. From the left, I am Paul Begala.

CARLSON: And from the right, I'm Tucker Carlson. Join us tomorrow for yet more CROSSFIRE. "WOLF BLITZER REPORTS" stars right now. Have a great night.

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