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Aired November 30, 2004 - 16:30 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ANNOUNCER: CROSSFIRE. On the left, James Carville and Paul Begala; on the right, Robert Novak and Tucker Carlson.
In the CROSSFIRE: Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge is stepping down. What impact will his departure have, and who will replace him? The final push is on to pass an intelligence reform bill before Congress ends its session. Some of those who lost family members in the 9/11 attacks have joined the lobbying effort on Capitol Hill. Other family members are calling for changes in key parts of the law. They'll debate right here on CROSSFIRE.
And President Bush heads north of the border in an effort to thaw out his sometimes chilly relationship with Canada.
GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: And I want to thank the Canadian people who came out to wave with all five fingers for...
ANNOUNCER: We'll find out what Canadians are saying about the president's visit today on CROSSFIRE.
ANNOUNCER: Live from the Georgia Washington University, Paul Begala and Tucker Carlson.
TUCKER CARLSON, CO-HOST: Welcome to CROSSFIRE.
It's been a busy day on the homeland security front. Tom Ridge, the nation's first secretary of homeland security, announces he is stepping down, this as intense lobbying efforts are taking place on Capitol Hill over intelligence reform legislation.
We'll discuss all of this with a pair of guests who lost family members in the September 11 attacks and now are lined up on different sides on the security issue.
PAUL BEGALA, CO-HOST: We will also check in on things in the great white north. President Bush is in chilly Canada, where he is drawing a large and enthusiastic crowd. The trouble is, they're enthusiastic about how much they detest our president and they're letting it be known. We'll discuss homeland security and Mr. Bush's Canadian road trip in a moment.
But, first, the best little political briefing in television, the CROSSFIRE "Political Alert."
Well, as Tucker mentioned, Tom Ridge announced today that he is leaving the Department of Homeland Security. Speculation is that President Bush will replace Mr. Ridge with a right-wing hack, say, Asa Hutchinson, the Bob Jones University graduate who has been Tom Ridge's No. 2, or perhaps with an unknown loyalist who can be relied upon to kiss Mr. Bush's ring, like current White House aide Frances Townsend.
But why not, say, Rudy Giuliani of why not General Barry McCaffrey, who fought heroically in the Gulf War and later led America's war on drugs? Why not someone larger than life? Well, perhaps Mr. Bush, who is frankly somewhat smaller than life, doesn't want to be upstaged.
BEGALA: So let's hope, when he picks his head of Homeland Security, Mr. Bush does more than give in to his own deep insecurities.
CARLSON: I love this. I love this, psychoanalyzing Bush.
How did that work for you in the last presidential election? Pretty well? Not that well.
BEGALA: You know what? This isn't about my life.
BEGALA: This is about keeping us alive, and he wants to put mediocrity in there, just so they can suck up to him.
CARLSON: Paul, it's about boring and totally off-base attacks on the guy's mental health.
BEGALA: It's about homeland security. It's about homeland security.
Let the cereal guy go run Commerce. Who cares? This is important, Mr. President. Pick somebody good. That's all I ask.
CARLSON: All right. All right. Prior to the war in Iraq, President Bush derided the United Nations as little more than a -- quote -- "debating society." Well, as it turned out, Mr. Bush was being generous. In fact, the U.N. is a bastion of Third World-style malfeasance, bureaucracy and corruption.
The latest scandal involves Kofi Annan's son, Kojo Annan, who took as much as $150,000 in payments from a Swiss company that profited from the scandalously corrupt oil-for-food program in Iraq. At least two investigations are under way right now. But you would never know that from listening to liberals, who are almost physically unable to say a single cross word about the United Nations, even as they attack American companies like Halliburton.
Why is that, Paul Begala? Why can't they criticize the U.N. just a tiny, tiny bit?
CARLSON: Because they support world government. That's why.
BEGALA: No. If there's corruption at the U.N., let's root it out.
CARLSON: What do you mean if? If.
BEGALA: First off, it's $150,000. It's not American taxpayers' money.
CARLSON: You have sat here for two years and told me there's no big deal to Halliburton stealing from American taxpayers. I think it's worse for Halliburton to steal billions from American taxpayers than for some guy named Kojo I never heard of to steal from the Swiss?
CARLSON: In other words, it's not steal from.
CARLSON: It's to prop up Saddam Hussein's government. Seriously, Paul, I can't believe the unseriousness with which you regard serious allegations of corruption at the U.N.
BEGALA: It's being investigated by the Senate, unlike, say, Halliburton, where the Republicans won't hold hearings any hearings about it. What's the difference?
(APPLAUSE) BEGALA: Well, the first lady of California, Maria Shriver, tells the new issue of "Vanity Fair" magazine that her husband will never be president -- quote -- "Forget about it. It's not going to happen," Mrs. Shriver says.
But California Congressman and Schwarzenegger buddy David Dreier plans to institute a constitutional amendment that would repeal both the ban on foreign-born presidents and the prohibition on more than two terms, which would allow everyone, from Arnold, to W., to even Elvis, to run for president in 2008. Schwarzenegger today is busy receiving the George Bush Award for Excellence in Public Service at Texas A&M University.
But after the mighty Texas Longhorns crushed the Aggies in football last week, for the fifth straight year, I might add, Governor Schwarzenegger ought to know, if you want to be a winner, Governor, don't hang out with Texas A&M's girly men. Hook 'em, Horns. I had to throw that in there for my Longhorns.
CARLSON: It's unbelievable. It's unbelievable.
BEGALA: It's the most important thing of the year.
CARLSON: I must say, the University of Texas at Austin has gotten a lot out of you, Paul. And I hope that all four of your kids get in there.
BEGALA: It is the greatest school in the world.
CARLSON: Because, day after day, you promote it.
BEGALA: We beat the hated, godless Aggies in football on Friday.
BEGALA: And I just couldn't be more happy. I took my kids to the game. So, hook 'em, Horns. Way to go, Longhorns.
CARLSON: All right. I'm not even going to step on your lines in this case.
BEGALA: Thank you.
CARLSON: I'll let you go on and rail against them.
CARLSON: Well, just when you thought Democrats couldn't possibly be any worse off, well, they are.
Joe Trippi is back. And this time, he's handing out advice to the Democratic Party. You remember Joe Trippi. He's the disheveled, overcaffeinated political consultant who engineered the rapid rise of Howard Dean. Well, in an op-ed today in "The Wall Street Journal," Trippi weighed in on what's wrong are the Democratic Party, which turns out, just about everything is wrong.
The main problem, Trippi points out, is that the Democratic Party no longer stands for anything. This may be obvious to you. Most Democrats, though, have no idea. In Joe Trippi's words -- quote -- "The problem for Democrats is that they're doing the same thing over and over again, expecting a different result. That's the definition of insanity."
Well, when even Joe Trippi thinks you're insane, you're in trouble.
CARLSON: And it's an excellent point.
BEGALA: I think it is. And this is the first big debate Democrats have to have. Some Democrats say, well, the election was no big deal, 60,000-vote swing in Ohio and we win.
I think they're insane. I think Trippi is more right. I think the Democrats have a major problem and they ought to take a fundamental look at what they stand for and try to define themselves.
CARLSON: Then they ought to install Howard Dean as the head of your party.
BEGALA: Oh, would you stop. You say that as someone who hates the Democratic Party almost as much as Howard Dean.
CARLSON: I don't hate it as much as Howard Dean does.
But Howard Dean has better cause. He spent his life around Democrats. And they annoyed him into insanity. I think you should make him head of your party. He'll make some...
BEGALA: Well, we appreciate your advice, but I doubt Democrats are going to be listening to hear Tucker's pick for party chairman.
CARLSON: Thank you.
BEGALA: Well, anyway, the fight over intelligence reform is for many Americans a very personal one, none more than those Americans who lost loved ones in the 9/11 attacks. Just ahead, family members will debate the best way to honor those victims in law and to prevent another tragedy from taking place. Also, President Bush heads to Canada. We will hear what Canadians have to say about our president just ahead.
And then, later in the program, one of my CROSSFIRE co-hosts is featured in the current issue of "InStyle" magazine, CROSSFIRE in style. Find out why this host is being singled out later.
Stay with us.
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.
BEGALA: Welcome back to CROSSFIRE.
September 11 Commission members are launching a lobbying blitz to try to push Congress into passing intelligence reform legislation this year, rather than starting over from scratch next year. But there are deep divisions over the legislation, including among family members of 9/11 victims.
Joining us now to debate the issue, Kristen Breitweiser, whose husband was killed in those attacks, and Peter Gadiel, who lost his son on September 11 and who now heads the group 9/11 Families For a Secure America.
Thank you very much.
CARLSON: Ms. Breitweiser, thanks a lot for joining us.
First, I want to ask you quickly about the resignation today of Tom Ridge. It seems to me that there can be bipartisan consensus on the sort of job he did. Republicans, Democrats, even you -- I know you were supportive of the John Kerry campaign. I think you did would admit that the only measure of a public servant's sort of tenure is the results.
And the result after more than three years of having Tom Ridge at the end of the department is no terrorist attacks in the United States. By that measure, the only one that matters, doesn't he get an A?
KRISTEN BREITWEISER, 9/11 WIDOW: I really would rather not comment on director Ridge's grade.
What I would like to say is that I think everyone needs to recognize the current environment we're in. That is a transition period, where we have people like Director Ridge stepping down. We have a national security adviser moving over to the secretary of state position. We have the CIA with a new director, CIA agents dropping like flies. We have the holidays coming up.
And, more importantly, we have two UBL tapes, one as recent as yesterday, one from a couple weeks before, around the election. This is a very hostile environment. That's why we need this legislation to go through. That's why all of our members of Congress, all of the American people and the president need to recognize that this bill needs to get passed and it needs to get passed now.
BEGALA: Mr. Gadiel, let me ask you about, rather than rating Tom Ridge, let's look at his successor.
Do you think it ought to be another former politician, like Ridge or maybe Asa Hutchinson, the No. 2 there, or maybe somebody a little larger than life, like General Barry McCaffrey, who I suggested earlier in the program, who actually knows something about national defense? Wouldn't that be helpful?
PETER GADIEL, 9/11 FAMILIES FOR A SECURE AMERICA: You really have me caught short here.
I couldn't possibly comment on who his successor should be. I mean, it's really just -- I couldn't possibly give an educated opinion on that. Should it be somebody who knows what he's doing? Yes. That's obvious, that he has to have certain requirements. But which of these is qualified and which is not, I wouldn't want to...
BEGALA: Good enough. Fair for you.
CARLSON: Ms. Breitweiser, you said you want to see a bill passed no matter what, and you want to see it passed quick. You would agree, though, that better to have good legislation passed and bad legislation stalled. Don't you think any legislation that passes ought to do something about the easy availability of driver's licenses?
The nineteen hijackers, many of them got American driver's licenses and used them, of course, for foul ends. Shouldn't this legislation prevent that, keep illegal aliens from getting driver's licenses? And it doesn't.
BREITWEISER: I think, rather than focusing on the thing that this legislation does not handle, which is the driver's licenses to illegal immigrants, you should focus on what this bill does do.
It effectively reallocates funding for Border Patrol. It sets up cargo screening for ships, for airplanes. It does a whole host of things. It puts up a DNI, which is something that this nation's intelligence apparatus sorely lacks. We lacked it before 9/11. We had no one connecting the dots, which is why, to this day, we still do not have one person setting overriding strategy for our intelligence community. That is the biggest part of this legislation. So, you are arguing that one thing, giving driver's licenses to illegal immigrants, should hold up a whole host of things that will make this nation safe at a time when we are very vulnerable. We are as vulnerable as we were on 9/11. And I think that that's unreasonable.
BEGALA: Mr. Gadiel, let me actually first play a piece of tape a Republican congressman, Chris Shays, who spoke today about who will be to blame if this bill dies. Here's Congressman Shays from your home state of Connecticut.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. CHRISTOPHER SHAYS (R), CONNECTICUT: If we don't have a vote on September 11, it will be my feeling that the president didn't weigh in strong enough.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BEGALA: Now, unlike you -- you have a principled position. I happen to disagree with it, but you want this bill killed. And you have honestly petitioned your government to kill the bill. Good for you.
Isn't it pretty duplicitous of the president, who is quietly killing this bill while pretending to support it? Isn't that pretty cowardly of the president?
GADIEL: You know, I -- certainly, George Bush is no friend of immigration reform.
But I really have to respond to Ms. Breitweiser's massive misrepresentation of the two bills, the House and Senate. The House bill had not just driver's license reforms, but a whole host of border security measures. And the Senate bill doesn't just lack driver's licenses provisions. It lacks everything.
There are -- a token increase in Border Patrol, but that's it. That's all. The House has compromised and compromised and compromised, but it's the Senate, obstructionists in the Senate, like Lieberman and Collins and Shays, who refuse to have any border security measure in this bill whatsoever.
Now, I know that Ms. Breitweiser has been quoted in the past as saying that border security measures are extremely important. And the 9/11 Commission in its report spoke of terrorist travel and that travel documents are as important as weapons to such people, so that what we're saying is, we don't -- it's not that we oppose a bill. We oppose this flawed bill, which is half a bill.
It does not include any recommendations for border security whatsoever.
BREITWEISER: Again, and I think that that -- respectfully, I think that that's an example of Mr. Gadiel being myopic in his view.
You are talking -- one thing I think Peter and I can agree on is that the 9/11 families were unable to hold anyone accountable. What the 9/11 Commission found was that everyone was at fault; therefore, no one was at fault. And so -- we can also agree probably that someone failed to connect the dots, which is why the most important thing that this bill will do is give this country a director of national intelligence.
That person will be held accountable for future attacks. That person will be establishing a broad strategy to defend ourselves against terrorists. That person will be held responsible, so that, going forward, the next set of victims will know that there are people in place who are held accountable for their actions when we get attacked by terrorists. And to hold up this legislation, to leave this country at such great risk for one issue, it's very unreasonable.
BEGALA: Mr. Gadiel, why not come back and fight next year for this one issue and consolidate these gains that everybody agrees you need?
GADIEL: If everybody agrees we need them, let's do them now.
GADIEL: The real reason that this is not being done now is because people don't want to address the issue.
The real reason that Senator Lieberman and Mr. Shays don't want to address this issue now is, they don't want to address this bill -- that issue -- ever. There will be only one 9/11 implementation act, and this is it. If it doesn't include everything, it's not going to include this. There should be no -- Mrs. Breitweiser is very naive if she thinks that, in January, if we pass this bill now, that she's going to come back with us and ask people like Shays and Lieberman and Collins, will you now pass border security measures? No, they won't. They'll discard them.
BREITWEISER: Look, the bottom line is -- the bottom line is, Peter, we started lobbying for the 9/11 Commission in the 107th Congress. It took us two years to get this commission report. It's taken us a number of months since the release of the commission report to get this enacted into actual legislation that could get passed.
We have the American people behind this. We have the president behind it. We have the majority of the Congress behind this. There is no reason why this bill should be hung up and there's no reason why you can't come back to the 109th Congress and fight for your legislation.
CARLSON: Ms. Breitweiser, Mr. Gadiel, thank you. I'm sorry. We are out of time. We appreciate your coming in very much.
BREITWEISER: Thanks very much. CARLSON: Canadians aren't much for fighting in Iraq, but they do know how to throw a good protest. They're throwing one today. It probably seemed like a good way to stay warm. We'll talk with an actual Canadian -- we've got one -- about President Bush's visit there today just ahead.
And Wolf Blitzer will tell us who is accusing the United States of torture in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Wolf Blitzer in Washington.
Coming up at the top of the hour, the country's first homeland security secretary is stepping down. Who will replace Tom Ridge in this critical role?
Shocking allegations from the International Committee for the Red Cross, accusing the U.S. military of what amounts to torture at Guantanamo Bay.
And a twist in the case of a young Florida teacher accused of having sex with a student.
All those stories, much more, only minutes away on "WOLF BLITZER REPORTS."
Now back to CROSSFIRE.
BEGALA: Thank you, Wolf, for that update.
President Bush is, of course, in Canada on what both Washington and Ottawa are calling a goodwill visit.
Joining us now from Ottawa to discuss whether or not there really are feelings of goodwill between our country and the country to the north is Ken Rockburn. He is the host of the television talk show "Talk Politics" in Canada, a real live Canadian.
Ken, good to see you. Thanks for joining us.
KEN ROCKBURN, CANADIAN TALK SHOW HOST: Not -- not at all.
CARLSON: Thanks, Ken. We appreciate your coming on.
You've seen the protests today. I guess they've been spun as hatred toward the United States or hatred towards President Bush. I submit that those protests arise out of self-hatred, Canadians frustrated with the derivative nature of Canadian culture.
CARLSON: Canada essentially -- essentially a made-in-Taiwan version of the United States.
(LAUGHTER) CARLSON: Canadians angry about that. That's what this is really about that, isn't it, the dependence -- or the anger that grows from that dependence?
ROCKBURN: Gee, you know, I don't think so.
The protesters out there today were pretty clear and pretty precise about what they were upset about. Aside from the fact that that group of people don't seem to like George Bush very much, they also have problems with ballistic missile defense. And they also have problems with things like same-sex marriage, marijuana laws, the war in Iraq.
I mean, there were a number of very serious issues that these people were taking to streets this afternoon. Now, there was probably more yelling at the beginning of your show today than I saw out there all day up to this point at least in that demonstration. But it was still a demonstration.
BEGALA: Well, but, Ken, let me ask you about a particular scheduling matter. Our president often in the past has addressed your House of Commons, the Canadian Parliament.
BEGALA: President Bush is not going to do so, the speculation that perhaps he's worried about hecklers.
Now, need I mention to you, he's got the bomb? He's the most powerful man in the world.
BEGALA: He's invaded two countries so far and just might invade yours.
ROCKBURN: You've been talking -- you've been....
BEGALA: Aren't you a little bit -- aren't you a little bit scared of this guy?
ROCKBURN: You've been talking to Jonah Goldberg. I can tell. No, nobody is too concerned about that. But, actually, that's a...
BEGALA: Well, how about this? Why not -- why don't you all do at Commons what we did at the 9/11 Commission? Bush didn't want to go there either. We let him sit on Dick Cheney's lap. And it made him more comfortable.
BEGALA: And you could do that at Parliament, couldn't you?
ROCKBURN: Well, he has decided to go to Halifax, where I guess he figures people are a lot more polite than they are here in Ottawa. So he's going to do his speech there tomorrow.
CARLSON: Ken, I'm surprised there was anybody left in Canada to attend the protests. I noticed that most sort of vigorous, ambitious Canadians, at least almost all comedians in Canada, come to the United States in the end. Doesn't that tell you something about the sort of limpid, flaccid nature of Canadian society, that people with ambition come here? What does that tell you about Canada?
ROCKBURN: No, it just tells me that comedians with ambitions go there. That's all that tells me.
BEGALA: Let me ask you about something that I don't think was meant in comedy, but certainly was a great source of late-night jokes.
A spokeswoman for your prime minister a couple years ago...
BEGALA: ... called our president -- and I'm quoting her here.
BEGALA: Called him a moron.
BEGALA: Now, don't you realize, you can't abuse our president that way? That's my job. That's our job here in America. What the hell are you Canadians doing that for?
ROCKBURN: I know. And I think that you should do it. I think you're doing a find job of doing that. I think Jon Stewart is doing a fine job of doing that. And we've decided to leave it up to guys.
BEGALA: Who's Jon Stewart?
CARLSON: Now, Ken, Ken, if you really mean it, I mean, if Canada is sort of going to live up to its self-professed ideals, then why don't you open your southern border and let every freak and weirdo and aroma therapist in our country come north, as they apparently want to do.
ROCKBURN: We did.
CARLSON: You're apparently -- you're apparently trying to keep them out. Come on. (LAUGHTER)
ROCKBURN: Well, you would have enjoyed it this afternoon, actually.
During the demonstration on the front lawns of Parliament Hill, after the demonstrators, in their large parade, arrived, but five minutes afterwards, they all kind of drifted away to go to another location, where in fact there was a confrontation with riot police. The only group that remained behind in a large huddle were the pro- marijuana group.
And it was -- we almost thought it was because they hadn't noticed that anybody had actually left.
ROCKBURN: At some point -- at some point, they were going to turn around and go, oh, dude, the demonstration is gone, you know?
ROCKBURN: So, it was a very laid-back kind of demonstration for a while there.
Ken Rockburn, a good sport, a funny guy and a good friend in our neighbor to the north.
CARLSON: Yes, you're funny enough to move here. You ought to come.
BEGALA: Ben, good to see you. Thank you again for the Canadian perspective on our president's visit to Ottawa.
ROCKBURN: You're welcome. Sure.
BEGALA: Ken Rockburn, ladies and gentlemen.
Well, what do Clay Aiken, Michael Moore and my friend Tucker Carlson have in common? Well, more than you might think. Find out when we return.
BEGALA: Well, Tucker is too modest to tell you, but I'm not.
He received a great honor recently. Tucker Carlson, our own co- host, was inducted into the "InStyle" magazine Geek Hall of Fame.
(LAUGHTER) BEGALA: Now, OK, you can laugh, but this is really is quite a big honor.
"InStyle" writes that this is the year of the geek. And the magazine even coins a new phrase for what is apparently a new fashion phenomenon sweeping the country, "geek cool."
BEGALA: But, wait. You haven't heard the best part.
Right behind you, Tucker, my friend, in the Geek Hall of Fame is none other than your friend Michael Moore. Tucker, Michael Moore, geeks, sure. Cool, you know, I don't know.
CARLSON: See, I think of him more as a dork, I have to say, not a geek.
BEGALA: What's the difference between a geek and a dork?
CARLSON: I think it's that people can't get past the tie. I have never -- of all the things I've been called, I don't think of myself as a geek. But I'm willing to accept it.
BEGALA: It's a sartorial device and it works wonders.
CARLSON: Not everyone loves it.
BEGALA: Is that right?
CARLSON: That's what I've learned.
BEGALA: From the left, I am 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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