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Campaign Countdown

Aired October 18, 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: As we count down the last days of the campaign, some voters are already heading to the polls. With 15 days to go, President Bush and Senator John Kerry stay on message and on the attack.

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Senator Kerry believes that fighting Zarqawi and other terrorists in Iraq is a diversion from the war on terror.


BUSH: I believe that fighting and defeating these killers in Iraq is a central commitment to the war on terror.


SEN. JOHN KERRY (D-MA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: As president, I will never take my eye off the real enemy, Osama bin Laden, al Qaeda, and other terrorists that threaten America and our allies.


KERRY: I will fight a smarter, more effective, tougher war on terror.

ANNOUNCER: The latest on the battle and the big issues today on CROSSFIRE.


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



The battle for the White House approaches the two-week mark, with President George W. Bush and his challenger Senator John Kerry, you guessed it, attacking each other.

JAMES CARVILLE, CO-HOST: Iraq, the war on terror and health care, they are all in the spotlight again today, as Bush and Kerry battle it out. We have got a lot to debate.

But, first, I would like to welcome back Bob Novak.

Bob, we have missed you. And it seems like you're doing pretty good, in spite of that hip injury there.

NOVAK: Thank you very much, James.

CARVILLE: You bet.

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

President Bush is mesmerized by Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon. The U.S. is contemptuous of Europeans and Iraq is a failing venture. Now, before any goofy right-winger starts calling me unpatriotic, these comments were not made by me. They didn't even come from the mouth of a Democrat. They came from probably the most knowledgeable Republican there is on foreign policy. That would be for former national security adviser to George Herbert Walker Bush, Brent Scowcroft.

He said these things in an interview in the pro-war, right- leaning "Financial Times." When is this goofy right-wing assault on people's patriotism and those who question the president's policies going to stop? It's never unpatriotic to call a failure what it is, a failure, a failure on jobs, a failure health care, a failure in Iraq and a failure in foreign policy.

NOVAK: You know, James, I'm an old friend of General Scowcroft. I admire him greatly.


NOVAK: I think he's one of the fine minds of foreign policy.

But I think, when you talk about him, you ought to put all the facts in, because he followed this little interview by saying that he strongly supports George W. Bush for president.


NOVAK: He endorses him. He's voting for him. And he believes he provides the leadership we need in the world.

CARVILLE: Well, I'll say what he said it is. It's the failure in Iraq, that he's mesmerized by somebody's else and that he's contemptuous of the Europeans. I think Scowcroft is going pretty damn far. And, like you, he never was for this war.







NOVAK: We're having a little fun in this story. What's going on here? OK.

You can always tell when a Democrat is in trouble because it's when he lies to senior citizens that Republicans are going to take away their Social Security. Over the weekend, John Kerry claimed that George W. Bush, if reelected, will cut benefits as much as 45 percent. That's a lie. It is based on a "New York Times" magazine article by a Bush-bashing journalist quoting the president as whispering he will privatize Social Security. That's all.

Actually, President Bush said out loud what he will do. He won't touch current benefits, but he'll permit young people to invest part of their current payroll taxes into personal accounts in order to save the system. Why not debate that, Senator Kerry, instead of using demagogic scare tactics?


CARVILLE: He's not using scare tactics. You can't cut the payments that young people make and continue the payments to the retirees. Of course he's going to cut the retirees' payment because he says he's going to let young people opt out of the system and go take that money and put it somewhere else. That's a fact.



NOVAK: It is not opting out of the system. It's taking a part of what they pay taxes and putting it in there, which will build up more...


NOVAK: You know what, James? I know what people like you are like. You're so rich, you don't want these young people to get rich and have their own stock accounts.

CARVILLE: You know what? I paid my Social Security and I got rich and other people can do that. There's not a lack of people of rich people, but there's a lack of people...


NOVAK: You don't want these young people out here to get rich.

CARVILLE: In the right-wing city of stupidity, I have discovered a skyscraper by the name of Jim DeMint, who is running for Senate from South Carolina and whose I.Q. must be somewhere around freezing on the Celsius scale. (LAUGHTER)


CARVILLE: Get this, now. Mr. DeMint says he opposes abortion even in cases of rape and incest and then made a bigger fool of himself by saying gays and single mothers shouldn't be allowed to teach in schools, this on top of proposing a 23-cent national sales tax that would throw tens of millions into poverty.

Congressman DeMint, I have a question. What happens if a single school teacher is raped? She gets an abortion, you want to put her in jail. If she has the baby, you want to fire her. It's hard to stop top stupidity of this magnitude.


NOVAK: You know, Congressman DeMint is one of my favorite candidates this year.

CARVILLE: He is? Well, what do you if


CARVILLE: ... is raped?

NOVAK: Wait a minute. I listened to you. You listen to me.

CARVILLE: All right. OK. Right.

NOVAK: He's one of my favorite candidates. I agree with him on just about everything. He's courageous in coming out for Social Security reform and tax reform. And I'll tell you something else. He never said a word about putting in jail a woman who has an abortion.


NOVAK: It's the abortionist. It's not the person who gets an abortion.


CARVILLE: ... if a woman is raped, then if she has -- can't have an abortion, but if she has the child, she loses her job.

NOVAK: No, no, no.



CARVILLE: What do you do? So you're a South Carolina schoolteacher and you're raped. What do you do?

NOVAK: It's the abortionist -- it's the abortionist who is liable, not -- that's one of the oldest left-wing tricks there is. CARVILLE: Well, sure. The woman is the one that had it. He said he hasn't decided.

NOVAK: All right.

In the final presidential debate in Arizona, John Kerry gratuitously recalled to millions of Americans the fact that one of Dick Cheney's daughters is a lesbian. According to ABC News, likely voters say that is inappropriate to say that by 2-1. But Kerry's campaign likes this kind of politics. When the Cheneys complained, Senator Kerry's campaign manager called Mary Cheney fair game.

Senator Edwards's wife claimed Mrs. Cheney is ashamed of her daughter. That's just plain mean and nasty. And the American people seem to agree. The race was running even until John Kerry thought that Mary Cheney was fair game. Then he began to drop in the polls.

There are limits, James, in how far it is wise to go, even in politics.



CARVILLE: Let me make a couple points here, Bob.

The first person to bring up -- on television to bring up the vice president's daughter's sexual orientation was on this show, was fat slob Jerry Falwell, who came on here and brought it up. The first person running for national office to bring it up was vice president Cheney himself.


CARVILLE: So, if you can take -- and let me tell you about these media polls. Children shouldn't play with matches. Media entities shouldn't play with polls.


CARVILLE: They're going to get burned.

Mr. Gallup, Mr. "Newsweek," I'm your daddy.


CARVILLE: I'm your daddy.


CARVILLE: I'm your daddy. You are wrong. I am right.

NOVAK: For a guy who was so wrong in 2002 and put a waste basket on his head, you better be careful, James.

CARVILLE: I'm your daddy, Mr. Gallup. You're wrong,

NOVAK: The candidates -- the candidates are counting down the days, and so, believe me, are many of the voters.

Next, why has President Bush moved ahead again in the polls? We'll have the latest on the campaign just ahead. And a lot of people are still talking about Jon Stewart's appearance on CROSSFIRE Friday.


NOVAK: You won't want to miss what they're saying.

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.



CARVILLE: Welcome back. And this is James "I'm your daddy" Carville.

Just two weeks and one day from now, Americans choose their president. The Bush-Kerry battle is in high gear today, with both men trying to land a knockout punch and move ahead in the polls. There's a lot of debate today.

And in the CROSSFIRE, Terry Holt, senior adviser to the Republican National Committee, and Howard Wolfson, senior communications adviser to the Democratic National Committee. We have got a lot of advisers here today, I'll tell you.


NOVAK: Mr. Wolfson, President Bush was in New Jersey -- New Jersey -- today campaigning. And let's take a look at something he said in his speech.


BUSH: My opponent has a different outlook. While America does the hard work of fighting terror and spreading freedom, he has chosen the easy path of protest and defeatism. He refuses to acknowledge progress or praise the growing democratic spirit in Iraq.


NOVAK: Mr. Wolfson, don't you liberals know that the American people don't like defeatists; they don't like people who are always naysaying?

HOWARD WOLFSON, DNC SR. COMMUNICATIONS ADVISER: Well, I think it's too bad, then, that we have George Bush as our president. And, in November, we have an opportunity to remove him, because the war in Iraq is going very badly, very badly, indeed. (CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

NOVAK: You know, Mr. Wolfson, the first campaign I covered, probably before you were born, undoubtedly before you were born, 1960...

WOLFSON: Nineteen seventy six?

NOVAK: Nineteen sixty campaign with -- and John Kennedy was a liberal Democrat. But he was always upbeat. And he was always talking about how he was going to have a new spirit in America, get America moving again. I just watched John Kerry down in Tampa today. And it was just whining and moaning and how life is so hard in America.

Isn't that a wrong tack to take?

WOLFSON: John Kerry is upbeat. And he's got a plan to turn this country around.

But there are problems in this country. We have lost 1.6 million jobs. We have got 45 million Americans without health insurance. We have the largest deficit in our history. These are issues in this campaign and we're going to keep talking about them.

CARVILLE: And everybody acknowledges that it's true, on December 4, General Ricardo Sanchez wrote to civilians, the president, the defense secretary, he says: "I cannot continue to support sustained combat operations with rates this low."

The president said the next day, the day after he got that letter, he said, three years ago, our military was not receiving the resources it needed and morale was beginning to suffer, so, we increased the defense budget to prepare for threats of a new era. And today, no one in the world can question the skill and strength and spirit of the U.S. military.

Well, if he knew that General Sanchez was saying we don't have enough of anything, why would he go out and tell the American people that on the next day?

TERRY HOLT, BUSH CAMPAIGN SPOKESMAN: Because the president's commitment from the very beginning is to support the American troops, unlike John Kerry's, who during that same period time late last year...

CARVILLE: Well, why did General Sanchez say, I cannot continue to support sustained combat operations with rates this low?


CARVILLE: He's has his own -- but he's a three-star general. I'm not talking about John Kerry. Why would he get a letter from the head of operations in Iraq saying I don't have what I need and the next day go out and tell American people that our troops have what they need? HOLT: I love being James's straight man.


HOLT: I will tell you what. There were logistic and bureaucrat problems on the front end of this. But they were solved within weeks.

And I will remind you, John Kerry opposed supporting these troops with the supplies and the flak jackets and the ammo that they needed.



CARVILLE: The president said he'd veto it.

NOVAK: As you are well aware, one of the myths that's being spread on the Internet -- I hope the DNC doesn't have anything to do with it -- is that...

WOLFSON: Internets.

CARVILLE: Internets.



NOVAK: Is that there's going to be a draft. It scares the hell out of mothers. And to my amazement, on Friday, after the debate, last debate, Senator Kerry had an interview with "The Des Moines Register" and he said this.

He said: "With George Bush, the plan for Iraq is more of the same and the great potential of the draft."

President Bush has said there's not going to be a draft. He's not for a draft. The only people for a draft are some of the liberal Democrats. Why does the Democratic candidate lie like that?

WOLFSON: You'll have to excuse us if we don't find the president credible.


WOLFSON: Here's a guy who said we need to go into Iraq for weapons of mass destruction. There are no weapons of mass destruction.


WOLFSON: Terry, we've have nine...


WOLFSON: Let me just finish. (CROSSTALK)

WOLFSON: We have nine of 10 divisions either going to Iraq, in Iraq or coming from Iraq. Because of this president's go-it-alone strategy, we're dangerously overstretched in this world. And we might well have a draft. It's an open question.


HOLT: Not on President Bush's


NOVAK: So, in other words, you can say anything you want, predict about the president. He says, I'm not going to do this. You can say he's going to.

WOLFSON: He said he would balance the budget.


NOVAK: You can say he's going to repeal the Defense Department.

WOLFSON: I would believe this president if he had told us the truth about Iraq. I'm sorry. This president doesn't have a lot of credibility talking about these issues anymore.

CARVILLE: Mr. Holt, you and the president talk about how great things are going in Iraq. We saw a story this year that we had a mutiny, probably the first time that we have had a mutiny in the American military that I can remember; 30 Americans lost their lives. Tell us all of the good things that are happening there.


CARVILLE: Just how our strategy is working so good.


HOLT: I don't think that you can describe what happened with those 18 soldiers as a mutiny.

CARVILLE: Well, what was it? They wouldn't go out.

HOLT: This is a military matter. It's above politics. Let these guys find out what was going on, find out what these people...


CARVILLE: It's not a mutiny when...


NOVAK: Let him answer the question.

CARVILLE: Well, I was in the military. If you refuse orders... (CROSSTALK)

NOVAK: Let him answer the question, James.

HOLT: You guys are blaming the president for not having enough flu shots, blaming the president for cuts in Social Security that will never happen, and in fact blaming the president for just about everything.


CARVILLE: So, we got enough flu shots. We got enough flu shots.

HOLT: On Election Day...


CARVILLE: America, Mr. Holt says you have enough flu shots out there.

HOLT: We have 55 million flu shots in this country. We're going to serve high-risk patients.

But, you know, if we have a rainy Election Day, the Democrats are going to charge us for making it rain to suppress voter turnout. That's how far this campaign is coming.


HOLT: My goodness.



NOVAK: As I said earlier on this program, Senator Kerry found this little unattributed quote by the president that said he's going to privatize Social Security. I certainly hope he does.


NOVAK: But what he has said is that he's going to allow workers to invest some of their Social Security contributions. Everybody knows that what it is.

And I talked to a lot of youth groups. I say -- I explain that to them. And the young people, they want to be able to contribute that. Now, I want to show you that the Annenberg election survey shows -- asked the question, favoring allowing workers to invest some of Social Security contributions in the stock market, favor, 56 percent, oppose, 36. You're on the wrong side of that issue, aren't you?

WOLFSON: Well, the president ought to embrace what he said, then, and stop trying to hide behind closed door with his rich donors. He won't tell us in public, but he's happy... (CROSSTALK)

NOVAK: No, no, no, no, he's come out for that. He's come out for that.


WOLFSON: Why did you put out a memo smearing the journalist? They put out a memo smearing the journalist.


NOVAK: The guy is a Bush hater.


NOVAK: Wait a minute. Wait a minute. Wait a minute. You can get your turn in a minute.

NOVAK: No, no, no, no, no.


NOVAK: You are going to get your turn in a minute.


WOLFSON: Then why won't he come out and say it, if it's so popular?

NOVAK: No, wait. Because he has come out and said it. He said it...


NOVAK: Wait a minute. He said it. You asked me a question. He said it in his acceptance speech. He has said it in many times to have -- invest some Social Security contributions.


WOLFSON: Then they should embrace the quote.


NOVAK: That is the quote.


CARVILLE: Let me get this straight, Terry.

You have told the American people that it's going great in Iraq. You have told the American people that they have enough flu shots out there. That's a myth that you can't get a flu shot if you want one. And it's a myth that we lost 30 people in Iraq and that our troops are mutinying and that we don't have a coalition. Tell us about all the jobs that the president has created, about how this is a lean, mean job-creating machine that we got in here.


HOLT: This president has cut taxes four times since he was elected.


HOLT: He's brought this nation from recession to recovery. And after 9/11, there were a million jobs lost in this country due to that economic shock.

This president didn't take his eye off the ball. He focused on the economy. And we are now growing. We have created almost two million jobs just since last summer.


CARVILLE: You see that?


CARVILLE: It's going great in Iraq. We have got all the flu shots we need. And you've got all the jobs you need.

NOVAK: OK. As much fun as we're having, we are going to have to take a break.

And when our guests return, they will face the "Rapid Fire." And I'll ask if, under a Kerry administration, I'll be able to get out of my wheelchair and walk again.



NOVAK: And what do the people have to say about Jon Stewart's controversial -- controversial? -- appearance on CROSSFIRE?

But, first, the politics of flu shots. Wolf Blitzer has more of that right after the break.



WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Wolf Blitzer in Washington.

Coming up at the top of the hour, new developments in Iraq. We'll discuss all these developments with the former Defense Secretary William Cohen. He'll join me live. With Americans still standing in long lines for flu shots, a health issue is turning into a political issue. We'll tell you what the candidates are saying. And you think Election Day is still two weeks away. Not in some places. The voting has already begun.

All those stories, much more, only minutes away on "WOLF BLITZER REPORTS."

Now back to CROSSFIRE.


CARVILLE: Welcome back.

It's time for "Rapid Fire," where we put questions to our guests and fast. With us today is Terry Holt, senior adviser to the Republican National Committee, and Howard Wolfson, senior communications adviser to the Democratic National Committee.

What's the difference between an adviser and a damn communications adviser? I have no idea.


WOLFSON: We haven't figured that out yet.


HOLT: Since we sit together so often.

NOVAK: Mr. Wolfson, Senator Kerry -- Senator Edwards says that if Senator Kerry is elected, the sick and the crippled and the lame will come out of their wheelchairs. You know, it's almost biblical. I'm temporarily in a wheelchair because of my broken hip. Will I come out, too?

WOLFSON: Bob, I think seniors are just hoping that George Bush will get them flu shots.

CARVILLE: Terry, let me get this straight.

HOLT: Yes, James.

CARVILLE: The president opposes importing drugs from Canada. Yet, we depend on importing drugs from Britain for our flu shots that got messed up. What is it about the British drug companies that give them more so much more confidence than the Canadians?

HOLT: Oh, I'm so sorry. This is an American company that...

CARVILLE: But they make them in Britain.

HOLT: But, obviously, this flu shot thing is a big issue for the Democrats. They are our there are scaring people who are afraid to get flu -- there's going to be 55 million flu vaccines in this country. We're going to cover high-risk people.


CARVILLE: There's plenty and anybody can get them.

NOVAK: All right. In the last couple of weeks, Mr. Wolfson, Senate candidates in several Southern states have said they don't agree with Senator Kerry on Iraq. And Senator Daschle says he didn't agree with him voting against the money for Iraq. Are these Senate candidates just out of touch with the presidential candidate?

WOLFSON: No, not at all. The Democratic Party is more united than it has ever been. We're going to have the best turnout in our history here. We are absolutely united behind John Kerry.




NOVAK: Thank you very much.

CARVILLE: Thank you, the senior communications adviser and senior adviser.


NOVAK: And, Mr. Holt, thank you very much, too.


NOVAK: Next, what did you think of Jon Stewart's appearance on CROSSFIRE? Our viewers respond next.



CARVILLE: Friday, Jon Stewart, host of "The Daily Show," appeared on CROSSFIRE and used his time to blast this show and the media at large. His appearance has generated a lot of comments.

Matt Lewis of Toronto, Ontario, says -- well, what does Matt say?

Here you go, Bob.

NOVAK: OK. Here's Matt Lewis from Toronto, Ontario. We'll get this right.

"Well, my suspicions have been confirmed. Jon Stewart is the most overrated, overhyped comedian in the world today. I presume Jon Stewart must regard the viewers of CROSSFIRE as hacks if he does think we are able to see through the talking points and come to an analytical decision about what we believe to be true."

CARVILLE: Well, you know what? I'm a hack. I'm kind of proud of it. Now, and it's one thing if Jon Stewart wants to attack CROSSFIRE. That's his business and we have a good time with it. Why is he attacking Ted Koppel? NOVAK: Here's another thing.

"Thank you for letting Jon Stewart speak on your show. You had the guts to allow him to speak freely. Thank you." -- Morgan Terry. I guess that's Boerne, Texas.


NOVAK: Let me say something about Jon Stewart. I don't think he's funny. And I know he's uninformed.

CARVILLE: Well, I think he's funny. I just think he's a pompous ass attacking Ted Koppel. Why would you want to attack somebody that's been in this business this long? Attack CROSSFIRE, Tucker, me. Who cares?

NOVAK: Because he's uninformed. Because he's uninformed.

CARVILLE: He's funny, but he shouldn't attack Ted Koppel.

From the left, I'm James Carville.

Glad to have you back, Bob.

And that's it for the CROSSFIRE.

NOVAK: Thank you.

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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