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CNN CROSSFIRE

Will 9/11 Commission Report Make America Safer?

Aired July 21, 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: Nearly three years after the attacks and after months of testimony, we're about to get some answers about what went wrong before September 11 and what we need to do now.

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Tomorrow, the 9/11 Commission will issue its findings and recommendations to help prevent future terrorist attacks. I look forward to receiving their report.

ANNOUNCER: Will the 9/11 Commission's report make America any safer or will it just be ammunition for more partisan attacks and more politics of personal destruction?

REP. DENNIS HASTERT (R-IL), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: I am troubled to hear that one of the members of the Clinton administration, Sandy Berger, pilfered documents from the Archives.

WILLIAM J. CLINTON, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I don't control those leaks.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ANNOUNCER: Today on CROSSFIRE.

Live from the CNN Election Express, alongside the USS Constitution in Boston, Paul Begala and Tucker Carlson.

TUCKER CARLSON, CO-HOST: Welcome to CROSSFIRE.

With the Democratic Convention just a few days away, the talk in Boston is not of delegates or even of John Kerry, but of the unfolding criminal probe into National Security Adviser under the Clinton administration Sandy Berger. The battle has erupted, so it's fitting that the CNN express has docked near the USS Constitution, better known as Old Ironsides.

PAUL BEGALA, CO-HOST: Well, of course, she got her name when British cannonballs bounced off her in the War of 1812. But rather than honestly opening fire, the way the British did back then, Republicans these days are launching a sneak-and-leak attack against Sandy Berger just days before the 9/11 report is expected to note that Mr. Burger's urgent warnings about al Qaeda were ignored by the Bush administration.

We will debate pre-convention politics here in Boston right after the best political briefing in television, the CROSSFIRE "Political Alert."

Eight million Americans are out of work. President Bush has no plan to stop the export of American jobs. In fact, his administration praises outsourcing; 42 million Americans have no health insurance. President Bush has no plan to insure all Americans and no plan to cut costs. But, with the election just 104 day away, Mr. Bush has suddenly decide that he needs a second-term agenda. Of course, I'm still waiting for the first-term agenda.

Well, tonight, Mr. Bush will begin a promise-athon, featuring broadband, medical technology, perhaps Social Security privatization. Of course, this is coming from the same guy who promised to create six million new jobs. He's just seven million jobs short of that goal. The same guy who promised not run a deficit, the same guy who promised a humble foreign policy.

Look, I'd be happy if the president would stop peeing on my leg and telling me it's raining, Tucker.

CARLSON: I notice that you didn't mention the central issue of this campaign and this era, which is Iraq, the war that we're now embroiled in, because John Kerry has a plan that is exactly the same as the sitting president's. On the issue that matters, they're almost exactly the same. And I'm just -- I guess I would challenge John Kerry to tell us why we ought to choose him over the president.

BEGALA: You have it backwards. It's the president who has been moving towards Kerry's position.

CARLSON: Oh, yes, he's been stealing Kerry's

(CROSSTALK)

CARLSON: I forgot the talking point.

(BELL RINGING)

BEGALA: John Kerry said we need more U.N. involvement. Bush was against it. It's Bush who has been talking Kerry's

(CROSSTALK)

CARLSON: He's been reading his Web site again.

BEGALA: He has been.

(CROSSTALK)

CARLSON: Well, it was primary yesterday in the state of Georgia. Among the results, former Congresswoman Cynthia McKinney won the Democratic nomination to represent her district outside Atlanta. She's all but certain to win the seat in Atlanta. Do you remember Cynthia McKinney? Two years ago, she lost her job after accusing George W. Bush of helping to orchestrate the 9/11 terror attacks. Her campaign proceeded to accuse white people in general and Jews in particular of fomenting a conspiracy against her. To their credit, Democrats were embarrassed. But no longer.

Michael Moore has since made a movie rehashing Cynthia McKinney's claims. Prominent Democrats have embraced Moore and now they are embracing Cynthia McKinney. And why wouldn't they, if you think about it for a minute? Cynthia McKinney's views, once verboten, are now well within the Democratic mainstream.

BEGALA: What mainstream Democrat is embracing her?

CARLSON: Actually, why haven't you and every other

(CROSSTALK)

BEGALA: What mainstream Democrat is embracing her?

CARLSON: The Democratic Party of the state

(CROSSTALK)

BEGALA: What mainstream Democrat is embracing her?

CARLSON: The whole Democratic Party

(CROSSTALK)

BEGALA: She's won a primary election. Good for her.

(CROSSTALK)

BEGALA: You know, they do actually count the votes in the Democratic Party. The one with the most votes gets to win, unlike the Republicans in Florida.

CARLSON: That's not the point, Paul.

(CROSSTALK)

BEGALA: You said mainstream Democrats are embracing her. Who?

CARLSON: I'm saying the party leadership of the Democratic Party of the state of Georgia are embracing Cynthia McKinney.

BEGALA: Who?

CARLSON: The head of the Democratic Party in Georgia and every single official in the state party.

(BELL RINGING)

BEGALA: She did win the primary. She does have a right to run.

(CROSSTALK)

BEGALA: I don't support Cynthia McKinney. I'm not a big fan of the things she says.

(CROSSTALK)

BEGALA: She does have a right to run. And no Democrat, no mainstream Democrat is embracing her.

CARLSON: No one is contesting -- no one is contesting that right.

BEGALA: Well, anyway, speaking of mainstream Democrats, let's shift over now to right-wing Republicans. They are hyperventilating, really a hysterical effort to discredit the former Clinton administration national security adviser.

This we know so far. The 9/11 Commission got every document it needed. Sandy Berger has a 30-year track record for integrity and probity. The events on the front page of today's paper actually happened nine months ago. The FBI has been investigating them for nine months and no charges have been filed against Mr. Berger.

But now, on the eve of a 9/11 report that may well be sharply critical of the Bush administration for doing nothing after being warned by Sandy Berger about the threat of al Qaeda, someone in the Bush-Ashcroft Justice Department is trying to smear Mr. Burger.

Well, look, Sandy Berger's conduct has been thoroughly investigated. But the politically minded timed leaks from the Bush- Ashcroft Justice Department have not been. If Republicans really care about the truth, they'd investigate who's behind this partisan smear of Sandy Berger.

CARLSON: I am really bothered by your response to this. I really am. I don't know what exactly the truth of the situation is. But the allegations against Sandy Berger and the things he has admitted doing are very, very serious. And to dismiss it out of hand as some attack by a Republican conspiracy is outrageous. Ken Lay went with a year without being charged with anything and you didn't say it was a smear against him.

(CROSSTALK)

BEGALA: Why was this leaked 48 hours before the report?

CARLSON: I haven't the faintest idea.

(CROSSTALK)

BEGALA: Yes, you do. It's politics. Come on.

CARLSON: Address the issue. Address what Sandy Berger said he did. It's a big deal.

BEGALA: They've had 10 months to investigate the issue and there's been no charges filed. This is a partisan leak. It's a partisan leak.

CARLSON: I wish you would address what it actually says.

Well, Democrats can't agree on what they think of tax cuts or school vouchers or even the war in Iraq. But if there's one thing that every good Bush hater knows, it is that Halliburton is evil, and not just evil, but the focus of all evil in the modern world, more evil than Saddam Hussein, Pol Pot-level evil.

Well, with that in mind, it was surprising to learn in today's "Boston Herald" that Mrs. John Kerry was once a significant investor in Halliburton. Yes, in 1996, Mrs. Kerry's trust bought hundreds of thousands in Halliburton stock, only to flip it less than two months later for a handsome profit.

At the time, Dick Cheney was Halliburton's CEO and, according to Democratic talking points, doing business with the terrorist regime in Iran. In other words, the Kerrys were complicit in Halliburton's monumental evil. Well, shouldn't they give the money back right now, today, yesterday, with a groveling apology? Isn't it time for them to put their money where their allegations are? Do the right thing, Mr. and Mrs. Kerry. Give back the Halliburton money.

BEGALA: So you're saying -- by the way, in 1996, when Dick Cheney was running Halliburton and Halliburton was doing business in Iran and Iraq and in Libya, that was not widely known, because the documents have not been released from

(CROSSTALK)

(LAUGHTER)

CARLSON: Oh, they didn't know.

BEGALA: The reporting had not been done.

CARLSON: Oh, OK.

BEGALA: But you want to -- you want to compare Mrs. Kerry's trust for 50 days owning stock vs. Dick Cheney, who traded with the enemy.

(CROSSTALK)

(BELL RINGING)

BEGALA: A shareholder doesn't have any control over what the CEO does.

(CROSSTALK)

BEGALA: Dick Cheney ought to be held to account for what he did trading with the enemy.

CARLSON: I know. You've said this every day. (CROSSTALK)

BEGALA: Iran, Iraq, Libya, our enemy.

(CROSSTALK)

CARLSON: I'm only saying, take your own overheated, overwrought, semi-insane rhetoric seriously and apply it across the board.

BEGALA: I take it very seriously. Dick Cheney ought to be held accountable.

(CROSSTALK)

CARLSON: Well, tomorrow, the 9/11 Commission will release its official report. But, already, debate has begun mostly over the criminal probe into former NSC adviser Mr. Berger. We'll debate the political implications of this when we come back.

We'll be right back.

ANNOUNCER: Join Carville, Begala, Carlson and Novak in the CROSSFIRE. For free tickets to CROSSFIRE at the George Washington University, call 202-994-8CNN or visit our Web site. Now you can step into the CROSSFIRE.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BEGALA: Welcome back to CROSSFIRE.

The independent commission investigating the September 11 terrorist attacks in New York and Washington will release its final report tomorrow. But Republicans are not waiting. They are invoking Watergate while Democrats shout partisanship over the leak of a nine- month-old investigation of former Clinton National Security Adviser Sandy Berger.

Mr. Berger says it was an honest mistake, but we have yet to hear a single Republican defend the timing of the leak or explain why the leak happened just days before the report and the Democratic Convention.

In the CROSSFIRE to debate all this, Republican strategist Rob Gray and Democratic strategist Doug Hattaway.

CARLSON: Doug Hattaway, I'm genuinely troubled. well, let me just say at the outset, I respect Sandy Berger and I don't know the truth of what happened.

But I'm genuinely troubled by the Democratic response to the allegations and to the criminal investigation that we've learned about this week.

I want to read you what the former President Bill Clinton said about this -- quote -- about the criminal investigation into his national security adviser -- "We were all laughing about it on the way over here," Mr. Clinton said, laughing about the fact that Mr. Berger mishandled and then apparently lost some of these documents. That seems to me an awfully cavalier attitude. It's kind of a big deal, isn't it?

DOUG HATTAWAY, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: I think you guys know very well that this not about Sandy Berger.

This is about this 9/11 report and what it is going to say about George Bush, and the fact that George Bush has no plan to strengthen homeland security. It is going to show that ports like this all over the country, 90 percent of the cargo coming into these ports are not screened for dirty bombs because George Bush wanted to give tax cuts to the Republican rich, rather than

(CROSSTALK)

CARLSON: Give me a break. Hold on. Normally, I would let you finish, but that's just

(CROSSTALK)

HATTAWAY: It's about the subject -- it's about the subject of the 9/11 report.

(CROSSTALK)

CARLSON: I understand. I understand. That's great. Tax cuts for the rich.

(CROSSTALK)

CARLSON: Hold on. Hold on. Hold on.

My question to you is, the former national security adviser, who knows the rules really well -- this is a sophisticated person, not a dumb person at all, walked out on at least two occasions with highly, very highly classified documents on his person. You think that's not a big deal?

HATTAWAY: He made an honest mistake, unlike this White House, which intentionally, illegally leaked the name of a CIA operative. Where was all the concern then, Tucker?

(CROSSTALK)

CARLSON: I can't -- you know what? You're making a big mistake.

HATTAWAY: Where are the Republicans' concern over a crime committed in the White House?

(CROSSTALK)

CARLSON: You know what? You're making a big mistake. You're making a big mistake in not taking this seriously.

HATTAWAY: Honest mistake. BEGALA: In fact, let's go from one leak to another.

Not only did somebody -- news reports indicate somebody in the White House leaked the name of a CIA agent, which itself could be a felony. Somebody leaked the existence of this investigation. It's been going on for nine or 10 months, Rob.

And I wonder -- Mr. Berger -- I'm hopelessly biased. I worked with Sandy and I will vouch for his integrity forever. He says it's an accident. That's a plausible explanation at least. What explanation is there for the leak, other than the obvious, to discredit the report that Doug mentioned and to try to mess up the Democratic Convention? What possible reason could the Bush administration have for leaking this right now.

ROB GRAY, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Well, I'll give you a good explanation. It may well be another Democrat who doesn't Sandy Berger. It may be the first volley of the Hillary '08 campaign.

BEGALA: A Democrat.

GRAY: He's a John Kerry foreign policy adviser. She doesn't want to see John Kerry win, so she can win in '08.

BEGALA: Seriously, Rob. Come on, you're kind of embarrassing yourself.

GRAY: Well, why not?

BEGALA: The Justice Department, the Bush administration clearly leaked this. The only people who knew about it was Sandy Berger and his attorneys and the Justice Department, controlled by President Bush.

(CROSSTALK)

BEGALA: You don't really think Hillary was behind this, too, do you? I know she's in the grassy knoll and you guys sort of believe she's behind everything, but you're going to blame Hillary Clinton for the Bush administration's leak?

(CROSSTALK)

GRAY: Hey, Bill Clinton was quoted saying that he had known about this for months. Other Democrats have known about this for months.

(CROSSTALK)

BEGALA: So that's more plausible to you. Tell me, when you hear hoof beats, do you think of horses or zebras?

(LAUGHTER)

BEGALA: Well, I think horses.

(CROSSTALK)

GRAY: Tucker made sense. By talking about the leak, they're trying to get away from answering the charges. I wish Democrats would answer the charges. Why did he do this?

HATTAWAY: Sandy has answered it repeatedly. It was an honest mistake.

(CROSSTALK)

CARLSON: Really? I don't understand that. Perhaps you can explain that.

(CROSSTALK)

GRAY: It is laughable. It's a laughable answer.

CARLSON: The crimes alleged carry a 10-year prison sentence. This is again objectively a big deal. Sandy Berger knew that. He was the national security adviser, OK?

On two different occasions, he took very classified documents out of the room on his person in his pockets. He has admitted that. Tell me, Doug Hattaway, how could you do that by mistake?

HATTAWAY: He was looking at hundreds of documents.

CARLSON: But how do you put them in your pocket by accident?

(CROSSTALK)

HATTAWAY: Unlike George Bush, Sandy Berger wanted to cooperate with the 9/11 Commission and understand how to better protect America.

(CROSSTALK)

HATTAWAY: The Republicans have played politics with this issue from the word go.

CARLSON: You're not answering my question. My question is very simple. .

(CROSSTALK)

HATTAWAY: I answered your question, Tucker.

(CROSSTALK)

HATTAWAY: He made an honest mistake looking through hundreds of documents and inadvertently took one.

(CROSSTALK)

CARLSON: How do you inadvertently put classified documents in your own pocket? That's not plausible, is it?

(CROSSTALK)

HATTAWAY: This is more Republican smear.

(CROSSTALK)

CARLSON: No, it's a not. I read it in "The New York Times" this morning.

(CROSSTALK)

HATTAWAY: No, no, this is a Republican smear campaign going on. Nobody said that.

(CROSSTALK)

BEGALA: One at a time.

Rob Gray, go ahead.

GRAY: No, they're throwing up the leak flare because they don't want to answer the charges.

HATTAWAY: Yes, Hillary leaked it. Give me a break.

BEGALA: Mr. Berger has in fact answered the charges and in fact says, and his attorney says, and I haven't seen the Justice Department dispute this, that in fact the documents were in a binder that he brought in, that he had thousands of documents out on a table.

He set one or two aside to study in depth later. They got caught up in the other business papers he had. He walked out with it. That sounds to me, given that there was no motive for him -- he wasn't leaking them to the Russians or to the -- there's no motive here that's been suggested. It's an honest mistake.

(CROSSTALK)

GRAY: ... all think that it's a fishy explanation. And we'll see.

(CROSSTALK)

BEGALA: What is the explanation for the timing of the leak, Rob?

GRAY: I think the explanation is everybody wants to point fingers at the Justice Department. I think this is Democratic spin to get people away from the fact that he is adviser to the Kerry campaign.

I think it calls into question Kerry's judgment.

(CROSSTALK)

GRAY: As is the fact that Kerry has Joe Wilson as an adviser.

(CROSSTALK) HATTAWAY: This is being leaked because Bush is tanking in the polls. And Bush is tanking in the polls because he's neglected problems

(CROSSTALK)

GRAY: All the polls look tied.

(CROSSTALK)

CARLSON: Now, Doug Hattaway, one of the memos in question, the millennial after-action review, apparently Mr. Berger took this twice from the secure room at the National Archives and may have lost a copy of it, lost a number of documents, by his own admission.

Why not, if this is not a big deal at all, if it is, in the words of our former president, laughable, why not declassify this document so we can see exactly what it was that Mr. Berger was taking? He took the same document twice, the same document twice. He's very interested in this one specific document. Why can't the rest of us read it if it's not such a big deal?

HATTAWAY: I don't know.

I think the main thing here is, Sandy Berger was trying to work with the 9/11 Commission to make show America what happened and how to be safer. Bush stonewalled this thing. They didn't want a 9/11 Commission.

(CROSSTALK)

CARLSON: I know. Bush is evil.

(CROSSTALK)

BEGALA: Why not? Well, because it's not up to Doug Hattaway to declassify it. It's up to George W. Bush.

CARLSON: I'm asking if it's a good idea or not.

BEGALA: I think it's great idea, Tucker.

(CROSSTALK)

BEGALA: I think Democrats should call on the President Bush to declassify all of these documents about how the Clinton administration saved us from a terrorist attack on the millennium and then also declassify the documents as to how President Bush ignored the threat before 9/11. Is that a good deal?

(CROSSTALK)

HATTAWAY: And while we're at it, while we're at it, the Pentagon's records on President Bush's National Guard were destroyed.

(CROSSTALK) CARLSON: When are you going to get to Halliburton, Doug?

(LAUGHTER)

HATTAWAY: And we haven't heard anybody -- anybody on your side ask, let's see those documents.

(CROSSTALK)

GRAY: Let's put it all on the table. I think the American people will conclude that this is something the president inherited going into office. This has been an incredible effort to fight terrorism since September 11, 2001. The president is right to go out and say this election is about security, and there's a job to be finished. I can finish it, not John Kerry.

(CROSSTALK)

HATTAWAY: Why are 90 percent of cargo coming in here not even screened?

(CROSSTALK)

HATTAWAY: This administration has no plan.

(CROSSTALK)

CARLSON: Doug, let me ask you this question.

(CROSSTALK)

CARLSON: Doesn't it seem -- I see a theme here. The allegation from the right -- and, partly, it's a talking point, but maybe there's some truth in it -- is that people didn't take terrorism seriously enough before 9/11, obviously, none of us did, but that the Clinton administration really didn't.

And let me give you the following evidence for that, Clinton's remarks yesterday that, ha, it's very funny that there's a criminal investigation into the disappearance and the pilfering of these documents, A, and the fact that of the many people, including crack dealers and international fugitives he pardoned in 2001, was John Deutch, the former head of the CIA, who was, of course under investigation for mishandling very sensitive intelligence material. You don't see a theme here, because I do?

HATTAWAY: The theme I see is the Republicans trying to talk about what happened before 9/11 and this election being about what's happening now in America and who has got the plan for making America stronger at home and respected in the world.

GRAY: OK.

(CROSSTALK)

HATTAWAY: That's the theme here. (CROSSTALK)

HATTAWAY: That's all they're talking about. They want to talk about the past, because if there were a movie about Mr. Bush's campaign, it would be called, dude, where's my agenda, because he doesn't have one. There is no plan.

GRAY: Well, it's funny. The president just talked about this yesterday. And he said, there's still a job to be finished on security. I think he's right.

(CROSSTALK)

GRAY: I think the American people think he's the guy to do it, not John Kerry. We know nowhere where he stands. We have no idea where he stands on issues.

BEGALA: Let's get to where President Bush stood. We were talking about 9/11 and what happened beforehand. In point of fact, under President Clinton -- this is likely to be in the report tomorrow -- certainly been in published accounts before -- President Clinton bombed the al Qaeda camp in Afghanistan. Right-wingers attacked him for doing so, said it was wag the dog.

He bombed a chemical weapons factory that al Qaeda had in Sudan. Right-wingers said it was an aspirin factor. They still put out that al Qaeda spin. He had a CIA hit squad going after bin Laden.

(CROSSTALK)

BEGALA: He had a Pakistani hit squad trained by the CIA going after bin Laden. He has an Uzbek hit squad trained by the CIA going after bin Laden. He had submarines on full alert to launch cruise missiles on bin Laden, all before 9/11.

CARLSON: He had the Uzbeks going after him!

BEGALA: What did George Bush do besides go on vacation?

(LAUGHTER)

BEGALA: Five different times

(CROSSTALK)

GRAY: Have you checked the data as to when George Bush was elected? And this was 10 months

(CROSSTALK)

BEGALA: What did he do in those eight months?

GRAY: I think the question is, what did the Clinton administration do

(CROSSTALK) BEGALA: I just told you five things he did.

GRAY: And the point of this campaign is, who is going to better prosecute the war against terror in the four years going forward? And I think the clear answer is Bush.

(CROSSTALK)

CARLSON: Doug Hattaway, we have had a major change in the Clinton legacy I wasn't aware of. I didn't know there was a Uzbek hit squad after Osama bin Laden. I feel better.

(CROSSTALK)

BEGALA: You can mock it, Tucker.

(CROSSTALK)

BEGALA: Bill Clinton protected this country before 9/11. George Bush didn't.

(CROSSTALK)

CARLSON: I want to talk about your former boss, President Gore, President Gore. Now, I miss Al Gore very much.

(CROSSTALK)

HATTAWAY: I know you do.

CARLSON: I do. I really do. I thought he was amusing as hell. Most Democrats don't.

Listen to "The Boston Globe" -- quote -- this is "The Boston Globe" speaking -- "When Gore takes the podium at the Democratic National Convention next week, there will be no joy in the FleetCenter. Like an invitation to a wedding that got canceled or a ticket for a flight that never took off, Gore is destined to forever represent unfulfilled hopes. President Bush is going to have a state funeral, et cetera, while Gore makes former supporters sad to just see him."

That is the feeling here, isn't it, that Gore is...

HATTAWAY: I think the feeling is that America would have been a lot better off, that working people in America would be a lot better off today if Al Gore had been president than George Bush, absolutely.

(CROSSTALK)

CARLSON: Then why doesn't -- why doesn't Gore have a more prominent role, since he was, according to you, election president?

HATTAWAY: I think Gore is going to be a great messenger about this issue we were just talking about.

(CROSSTALK)

HATTAWAY: Who is going to be better to make America safer at home, respected in the world moving forward?

Bush has lost all credibility to build alliances in the world. And that's a huge problem for us.

(CROSSTALK)

HATTAWAY: All the costs and casualties of Iraq are on U.S. troops and taxpayers because of Bush's failures. Kerry can fix that. Bush is incapable of fixing it.

BEGALA: Let me suggest one of the reasons he's got a credibility problems. Just a few hours ago, our president in the Oval Office said that if he had been warned before September 11 there was plan to attack America, he would have moved heaven and earth to prevent it. That's what he said. And he said, I believe President Clinton would have, too. Any president would have.

And I heard that and I went, of course, that's sort of obviously true. And then I thought back to August 6 of 2001, just six weeks before the September 11 attack. President Bush was warned. He was given a memo. We now know thanks to the 9/11 Commission the title of that memo was, "Bin Laden Plans to Attack in the United States." And he went on vacation. He stayed on vacation. He didn't even cut his vacation off. Now, that's not moving heaven and earth. Couldn't he have just cut off a golf game and come back to do his job when he's warned that there's an attack imminent against America?

GRAY: Listen, give me a break. It didn't say where. It didn't say when.

(CROSSTALK)

BEGALA: So he didn't get the engraved invitation the way that the

(CROSSTALK)

GRAY: The 9/11 Commission in everything I have read has said nobody could have prevented these things.

And let's talk about Al Gore for a minute at the convention. Al Gore is much more conservative than John Kerry. Al Gore got about 50 percent of the independent vote. John Kerry, I've watched him for 20 years here in Massachusetts. He is not going to be able to do that nationally. He's liberal. He couldn't even win independents against Bill Weld in an election he won here in 1996.

So I think the question is going to be comparing George Bush to John Kerry. And there's no comparison.

(CROSSTALK)

GRAY: People in middle America are not in line with John Kerry's view of the world.

(CROSSTALK)

CARLSON: Very quickly, Doug Hattaway, I believe that President Clinton sent the Uzbeks, Uzbek hit squad after Osama.

(LAUGHTER)

CARLSON: Why didn't he send an American hit squad against this man who declared war against

(CROSSTALK)

BEGALA: He did.

CARLSON: Delta Force.

(CROSSTALK)

HATTAWAY: I'm glad you're bringing up al Qaeda, because the Bush administration never does. I'm really glad we're talking about that.

(CROSSTALK)

CARLSON: But I asked you a question about President Clinton. You're not going to answer it, obviously.

HATTAWAY: The issue is, what has this administration done? The 9/11 report is going to say

(CROSSTALK)

CARLSON: That's not the issue I raised with you, actually. I asked you a simple question.

(CROSSTALK)

HATTAWAY: Right.

(CROSSTALK)

CARLSON: It's a simple question.

(CROSSTALK)

HATTAWAY: The 9/11 Commission report is going to show very clearly that this administration lost focus on al Qaeda, which, last we checked, were the ones who attacked us. And because of them, we're less safe.

CARLSON: Despite the Uzbeks.

(LAUGHTER)

BEGALA: That is the last word. Doug Hattaway, Democratic strategist, Rob Gray from the Republican Party from here in Massachusetts, both of them, thanks a lot for joining us. It was a lot of fun.

And then next, speaking of fun, these bunnies have a beef. And we will tell you why they were on Capitol Hill in such scanty attire later on CROSSFIRE.

Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BEGALA: Finally on CROSSFIRE today, Boston is, of course, famous for its baked beans. But back home in Washington today, lawmakers were invited to munch on a slightly different fare.

Veggie dogs were being handed out by a pair of "Playboy" magazine playmates who are activists for PETA, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals. And, in fact, no animals were harmed in the manufacture of their bikinis. They were apparently made of lettuce, perhaps Boston Bibb lettuce from here in the Bay State. The playmates came to counter an invitation-only hot dog luncheon sponsored by the American Meat Institute. One wonders where Pfizer and Viagra was in all this.

CARLSON: Let me just say, I support the American Meat Institute. Pfizer -- PETA, they can be crazy and sort of dangerous. They have got good-looking activists over at PETA.

BEGALA: Well, we'll have a few here.

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

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

Join us tomorrow for yet more CROSSFIRE right here in Boston.

Wolf Blitzer standing within earshot. He'll be here in just a moment.

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