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Aired December 17, 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: Christmas trees gives way to holiday trees, Christmas carols prohibited in public schools. No more nativities in public places.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALES (singing): Have yourself a merry little holiday.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Seasons greetings and happy holidays is never a substitute for merry Christmas.
ANNOUNCER: Taking Christ out of Christmas. Is political correctness running amok?
Today on CROSSFIRE.
ANNOUNCER: Live from the George Washington University, Paul Begala and Tucker Carlton.
TUCKER CARLSON, CO-HOST: Welcome to CROSSFIRE. Some traditions ought to be off limits from the left-wing language police. Somewhere along the way, Christmas lost its status as one of them. The Grinch no longer stole Christmas. He stole the holidays. Christmas trees have been holiday trees. One mayor has publicly apologized for calling his city's seasonal gathering, that's right, a Christmas party.
The question is, how ludicrous does it have to get before the rest of us refuse to be bullied by a tiny group of activist liberals?
BEGALA: Oh, sure, blame the liberals, Tucker. But, actually, it's heartless, soulless, avaricious corporations who have driven Christ out of Christmas. My goodness. They would celebrate the feast of Satan if it added an extra dollar to their stock price.
BEGALA: But more on that later.
Now the best little political briefing in television, our CROSSFIRE "Political Alert."
President Bush today signed into law the most sweeping reform of America's intelligence system in a half-century. The law centralizes America's 15 intelligence agencies under one national intelligence director, which supporters believe will make it easier to share information across bureaucracies.
Although he opposed the 9/11 Commission, upon whose recommendations the law is based, President Bush does deserve some credit for coming on board for the final crucial push that passed the legislation. But the real credit belongs to the families of 9/11 victims, ordinary Americans like Kristen Breitweiser, who took on the president, the Congress and the Pentagon.
Their selflessness and their sacrifice and their courage give us all a little more hope that other families will be spared the pain that they suffered. They are real American heroes and great patriots. God bless them.
CARLSON: It's impressive when you can insult Bush for doing something you agree with.
CARLSON: I personally -- I am not convinced it was a good idea at all. Politically, it's sort of an amazing feat on Bush's part.
I will say, I'm suspicious. This is no offense to Mrs. Breitweiser or any of the families who suffered on 9/11. However, this is complicated legislation.
CARLSON: And I guess I'm sort of happy to leave the people who know what they're talking about to form that legislation.
BEGALA: Like the 9/11 Commission, who were experts and did a wonderful job. But it was the families who I credit.
CARLSON: Well, earlier in the week, former Kerry campaign manager Mary Beth Cahill blamed her boss' defeat on mean right-wing ads. The Swift Boat Veterans For Truth, a so-called 527 organization, unaffiliated with any party, attacked Kerry relentlessly, thereby killing his presidential ambitions.
That's Cahill's story and she is sticking to it, or at least she was sticking to it. Today's "New York Times" may change her mind. According to a new study, pro-Kerry 527 groups outspent pro-Bush 527 groups in this election by more than 3-1. That's right. The right spent $62 million. The left spent $188 million. And Bush still won. Time to come up with another theory, Ms. Cahill.
Here's one for you. You ran a campaign about nothing. You had no message. You had no vision. You had no idea...
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE) CARLSON: ... that hadn't been road tested and declared a failure in about 1972, when I was 3 years old. You didn't stand for anything. It was the ideology, stupid. It's time for Democrats to come up with a new idea or two. Try that. Maybe you'll win.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
BEGALA: Very hard for me to defend Mary Beth Cahill.
BEGALA: But they did need a message. Kerry did run a campaign without a message. And something beats nothing. I don't support President Bush, but he had a message and he won. And that's why.
BEGALA: But he now has to deal with the economy. If the Bush economy has gotten you down, President Bush has a way for to you make an extra 15 grand. Join the National Guard.
BEGALA: Unable to meet its recruiting goals, the National Guard is asking for an extra $20 billion for signing bonuses of up to $15,000 apiece.
But what President Bush apparently does not understand is that America's soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines are not motivated by money. They love our country, are they are willing to fight and kill and even die for it. So, why, then, is recruitment down? It's not the money. I think it's because not at many Americans want to sign up for an endless occupation under a clueless commander in chief.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
BEGALA: It's not the money.
CARLSON: The problem, as you know, is that many reservists, maybe up to half of reservists, I think, are veterans. And a lot them are coming back from Iraq and Afghanistan and they don't want to go back again.
BEGALA: This is actually the Guard, which is separate from the Reserve. But it's not about the money. It's about the incompetence of the president.
CARLSON: The National Guard as well. That's exactly right. People, they're signing up to go to war. Not everyone wants to do that. I completely understand why the numbers are down. BEGALA: I think they would gladly go and serve our country in dangerous places, as they always have in American history.
BEGALA: But they're voting with their feet because of the incompetent leadership of our president.
CARLSON: Well, it's been a little more than a month since the presidential election. And already Americans are having trouble remembering who exactly was in it. Bush definitely played a part. His name is familiar. He is still the president, after all.
But who was that other guy? Al Gore? No. He's still floating around, but not exactly in politics. Mike Dukakis? Well, the Massachusetts part sounds right. But he doesn't -- doesn't he teach school somewhere? No. The name on the tip of your tongue is none other than -- check the "Trivial Pursuit" card -- John F. Kerry. Yes, he was that memorable. Even his supporters can't seem to recall who he was.
According to today's "Wall Street Journal" half of Democrats asked say Bill and Hillary Clinton are the true leaders of their party. That's twice the number who identify with Kerry and his running mate, John what's his name, the guy with the hair. Keep in mind, Kerry was on the ballot last month. Bill Clinton hasn't run for anything since 1996, eight years ago. That's pathetic.
BEGALA: And so why not let him run again? Let President Bush run again. Repeal the 22nd Amendment. By the way, let Arnold Schwarzenegger run.
CARLSON: No, no, no.
BEGALA: What about a Clinton-Bush-Schwarzenegger campaign, guys? Would that be fun?
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
CARLSON: Kerry is so pathetic.
BEGALA: Why not?
CARLSON: He makes Clinton look good. There's a lesson Paul.
BEGALA: Bush is making Clinton look pretty good, too, believe me.
CARLSON: Have we let the P.C. police kill Christmas? Will we let them kill Christmas? Next, should we be allowed to celebrate our religious beliefs or should we mangle their meaning because we're too worried about offending someone? Tough luck for you. And next, after that, life after "The Apprentice." What do you do when you've been fired by Donald Trump? We'll ask Raj later on CROSSFIRE.
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.
It is, the song says, the most wonderful time of the year. But has the sound of hymns like "God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen" been replaced by the endless jingles of corporate marketers? Christmas sales are now suddenly holiday sales. Is corporate America to blame or has political correctness to the left gone too far?
Joining us in the CROSSFIRE today, radio talk show host Michael Graham and the Reverend Barry Lynn of Americans United For the Separation of Church and State.
Guys, good to see you.
BARRY LYNN, EXEC. DIRECTOR, AMERICANS UNITED FOR SEPARATION OF CHURCH AND STATE: Thank you.
MICHAEL GRAHAM, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: Thank you.
CARLSON: I think we may have defined this show perhaps too broadly as the assault on Christmas, the assault on the holidays. This is really assault on a very specific religion, Christianity.
I'll give you an example. Nobody is attempting to change the terminology of other religious traditions, apart from Christianity. When the speaker of the House, Denny Hastert, the other day got up and threw the switch on the national holiday tree, right, nobody suggested throwing the switch on the national holiday candelabra? It's the national menorah, OK? It's a legitimate part of a world religion, just as the Christmas tree represents a world religion, Christianity.
But nobody is embarrassed of the first, only of the second. This is an attack on Christianity, obviously.
LYNN: No, there's no attack on Christianity.
CARLSON: Oh, come on.
LYNN: Look, if there's an attack on Christianity, then the people that are doing the attacking must be buying their armaments from Donald Rumsfeld, because it isn't very successful.
I know you do not live in a cave, which means you have gone to gas stations, shopping malls, movie theaters, apartment building lobbies. They all are absolutely festooned with Christmas decorations. So, this is all about whether Christians -- and I am one. I am not the Grinch. This is the Grinch. I don't look like him. This is about...
CARLSON: Honestly, there's a little resemblance.
LYNN: No, I don't think so. Maybe before the makeup, but not now.
LYNN: No, but what I do -- but I think this is about whether we want to live in a country where we give a decent regard and decent respect for minority religions and for the 20 million Americans who don't have any religious background.
LYNN: So, when you say merry (AUDIO GAP) and you assume that they're Christians just like you are, you are in a sense treating them like second-class citizens. And that's what it's about.
GRAHAM: OK, the difference between you and the Grinch -- the difference between you and the Grinch...
GRAHAM: Is that the Grinch's heart eventually grew. That's the difference between you and the Grinch.
GRAHAM: How in the world is it an insult for me or even an assumption saying for me to say merry Christmas to you? I celebrate Christmas. Hey, America, merry Christmas. If you celebrate Hanukkah, then say happy Hanukkah. It you celebrate Kwanzaa, then Kwanzaa away. I don't care, but this is insane that I would adapt to your belief.
GRAHAM: For example, when I worked on a commercial campaign in Chicago, the guy across the street who did our printing was from Pakistan. He said assalamu alaikum. I learned to say alaikum assalam. I didn't go, hey, wait a minute. We say good day here in America.
(CROSSTALK) GRAHAM: He said what he said. I say what I said. That's what tolerance is. But the left is no longer the tolerant party. They're now the intolerant party.
BEGALA: Let me tell you what I'm not tolerant of.
BEGALA: And that is how corporate America is trying to ruin Christmas.
Christ has been taken out of Christmas. And I think that many of us of faith are offended by that. I certainly am. Look at this. Here's a huge holiday fur sale. Of course, when you think of the baby Jesus shivering in a manger, we think of a holiday sale with furs.
BEGALA: Here is some other avaricious, heartless, soulless corporation. A holiday blowout. On and on. Happy giving, announcing the Banana Republic pre-holiday sale. So it's not the left, Michael. It's the avaricious corporations who have driven Christ out of Christmas, isn't it?
GRAHAM: Explain that to Macy's, who pulled down their merry Christmas signs and put up their happy holiday signs.
BEGALA: Yes, I'm trying to. Why don't you, instead of attacking the liberals?
GRAHAM: Explain that to Target, who threw out the Salvation Army. I'm sorry.
And, by the way, my wife would love one of these. Do you mind if I take this with me?
GRAHAM: It's not corporate America.
BEGALA: What does this have to do with those of us who believe that God became man and was born to save us? What does this have to do?
GRAHAM: I think you make a great point.
BEGALA: Wasting money for corporate America?
GRAHAM: I don't understand why Barry Lynn is upset by it. How can anyone be offended by Christmas? Christmas is the ultimate all- inclusive holiday. You want to an all-Jesus Christmas, do all Jesus. you want a no-Jesus Christmas, there's Santa Claus. (CROSSTALK)
BEGALA: I want you to respond to my question about corporate America.
LYNN: Let me just get into this, because he said about 37 things and all of them are false.
LYNN: I don't hate Christmas. I don't dislike Christmas. I celebrate Christmas.
But the point is, the Christian majority in this country are not the only people that live here. We're not the only people who declare...
CARLSON: But wait a second. Barry Lynn, nobody has ever suggested that they are.
LYNN: Yes. Yes, they do. They do on a regular basis, because they are the people in power.
CARLSON: I'm don't know where deep in the swamp you live, but I have never heard that.
LYNN: Let me give you an example.
CARLSON: I'm sure you could manufacture many.
LYNN: No, I'm going to give you a real one.
CARLSON: But let me continue my question here. And it's this.
I want to know precisely how referring to an animated film like say "The Grinch Stole Christmas" is in any way not acknowledging the humanity, even attacking? How is the equivalent of a hate crime? I just don't understand that.
LYNN: No, it's not the equivalent of a hate crime. But the point that Paul is making is very important.
CARLSON: How does that make something uncomfortable? I'm totally missing it.
LYNN: Out in Denver, Colorado, there was this very fuss that got a huge amount of attention about a corporate-sponsored business parade, a Santa Claus parade. Religious groups did two things. One of them, I agree with. One of them, they went out, outside the parade, and handed out information about coming to church. That's perfectly good.
LYNN: Then they demanded that the baby Jesus be on a float along with Santa Claus. Now, you tell me, when did the baby Jesus become a shill to sell more junk in downtown Denver department stores?
LYNN: That's why -- that's why this is about preserving a decent respect for the real meaning of Christmas for those of us who are Christians and a decent respect for diversity.
CARLSON: By not using the word, right.
LYNN: By using it only when it's appropriate.
GRAHAM: I'm going to tell you the part of the story that Barry Lynn won't tell you, which is that the group -- it used to be a Christmas parade that, through peer pressure from fear of offending people, has turned to a holiday of lights parade.
They had a float the year before that featured the holy transgendered, Native American homosexual couple. I'm not kidding.
GRAHAM: They're a part of the parade because of the tradition or whatever.
CARLSON: Did they adopt a baby? Or how did that work?
GRAHAM: I don't know how that worked out.
GRAHAM: But they specifically said, we don't want your choir on this float in this parade because it will make people feel uncomfortable.
BEGALA: Why don't you have the same outrage for the real villains here, these people who -- these corporations who commercialize Christmas? Let me suggest to you maybe some good advice that these corporations should take from the Gospel according to Saint Matthew. Jesus said, "If you would be perfect, go sell what you possess and give to the poor and you'll have treasure in heaven and come follow me."
BEGALA: Why doesn't corporate America follow that advice, instead of telling people to ruin Christmas with this crass commercialism?
GRAHAM: They're not telling people how to celebrate Christmas. That's my point.
BEGALA: Yes, they are. This Christmas, try a miracle. This is a diamond. That's not a miracle. It's a rock. Come on.
BEGALA: Try a miracle on your street? Give me a break.
GRAHAM: And yet they're pulling down the merry Christmas signs for fear of offending somebody.
BEGALA: No, to make more money.
LYNN: No, absolutely not.
CARLSON: Wait, wait. I've got an idea. I've got an idea. Let's take Barry Lynn seriously just for a minute.
LYNN: OK. No, no, no.
LYNN: OK, fine.
CARLSON: You say that it offends people and it's almost a form of religious jingoism to say merry Christmas. Would you apply the same standard to other religions? Is it equally offensive? The next time someone comes up to me and says, happy Kwanzaa, should I say, knock it off; that's happy holidays to you, buddy, or...
CARLSON: ... suggest that, you know, I have a happy Wiccan holiday or an...
CARLSON: ... holiday.
LYNN: Does anybody ever say that to you?
CARLSON: Rarely. Rarely.
LYNN: No, they don't say it. You know why they don't say it?
CARLSON: People do say happy Hanukkah to one another in my presence, and I'm outraged.
LYNN: No, no, you're not.
CARLSON: Actually, I think it's wonderful.
LYNN: You're not. But the point is...
CARLSON: I want you to look in the camera and say it's outrageous that they would even do that in my presence as a Christian.
I think -- I think that government is the one place that it's absolutely clear we don't need any more support for any religious traditions, particularly the majority religion in this country, because we have Christianity and the promotion of Christianity to the 75 percent of Americans who are Christians. We can do it on our lawns of our churches.
We can do it in our yards in the front of our homes. We can do it to each other in our places of worship. And we don't need these same symbols and icons to be placed on a government square, in a courthouse or any other government building. And if we could just get that far, we'd be a long way to respecting the diversity that we find in America.
LYNN: And I just said it to the camera. What's wrong with that?
BEGALA: Why don't -- first off, you're a great radio talk show host. You have this enormous platform, this enormous power. Why don't you take to the airwaves and tell these corporations to stop commercializing this religious holiday that's obviously so profoundly important to us?
GRAHAM: Because the corporations give me the choice. I have the opportunity to freely say merry -- to act as a free agent, because they're free of the government...
BEGALA: You're not offended when they say that the miracle of Christmas is a rock?
CARLSON: All right.
GRAHAM: No, I'm not.
But I am bothered when I'm told that in the public spaces that I want to occupy that somehow it's offensive if I celebrate this tradition that's been with America for hundreds of years. I think the Grinch deserves better company than you, Barry Lynn.
CARLSON: We have to take a word from our holiday sponsors here.
CARLSON: But I want to thank you both.
CARLSON: Barry Lynn, Michael Graham, merry Christmas to you both.
GRAHAM: Merry Christmas.
CARLSON: Ho, ho, ho.
GRAHAM: Merry Christmas, Barry Lynn. Merry Christmas.
CARLSON: Well, what's it like trying to become Donald Trump's apprentice? Just ahead, we'll ask Raj Bhakta what it was like and find out what he's up to now. A lot is the answer.
And new information about the horrifying case of a stolen baby. Wolf Blitzer has the latest next.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Wolf Blitzer in Washington.
Coming up at the top of the hour, the maker of Celebrex won't pull it from the market, despite a new study suggesting the popular arthritis medicine may increase your risk of heart problems.
President Bush signs the 9/11 intelligence reform bill. We'll talk with a 9/11 widow who worked hard to get it passed.
And a pregnant woman is killed in Missouri and her fetus is stolen. There's a new development unfolding in this horrible story. We'll have details for you at the top of the hour.
All those stories, much more, only minutes away on "WOLF BLITZER REPORTS."
Now back to CROSSFIRE.
CARLSON: Welcome back.
Is there life after "The Apprentice"? This season's journey of power plays and back stabbing ended with a bang last night.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, ""THE APPRENTICE")
DONALD TRUMP, DEVELOPER/BUSINESSMAN: I have to say, you're fired.
Kelly, you're hired.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CARLSON: Oh. In the three-hour live finale, tycoon-turned-TV-- personality Donald Trump chose Kelly Perdew over Jennifer Massey as his newest higher. Well, 16 other candidates got the boot earlier in the show, but they were there, including Raj Bhakta, who joins us now and who gets my vote, and for no other reason than he has impeccable style.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
RAJ BHAKTA, FORMER "APPRENTICE" CONTESTANT: Tucker, good to be here.
BEGALA: Well, let me start by asking you probably the question you get asked most often about Mr. Trump, the question. I get asked most often about James Carville is, what's the deal with the hair, man?
BEGALA: So, let me set that aside, though, and ask this question. Is he for real or is he acting? He's so compelling and so interesting on television. He's so riveting. Is that acting or is that the way he really is?
BHAKTA: No, I think that's his persona. That is what it has become. Years of being Donald Trump and putting up a certain persona, he has become that persona.
BEGALA: So, even off camera, he's larger than life.
BHAKTA: Oh, he is that way. The man has a presence. There's no doubt about it. Like him or love him, he's got a presence.
CARLSON: So the caricatures come to life. We're familiar with that phenomenon here on cable. BHAKTA: Like or hate him is what I meant to the say.
Well, that is -- that is...
CARLSON: So you lost, despite the votes of many of us at home, including me. And you also know a lot about politics. So you're perfectly situated to answer the following question. What should John Kerry do next?
BHAKTA: Go happily into oblivion and, you know, go down with dignity.
CARLSON: That's good advice. I knew I liked you.
BEGALA: Well, now, is that what you're going to do? I'm glad you're not going into oblivion. You're here on CROSSFIRE.
BHAKTA: No, no, no, no. No oblivion. And, actually, I've started...
BEGALA: What's next?
BHAKTA: I've started a political action group called the Coalition For the Advancement of the Republic to put...
BEGALA: Coalition For Advancement...
BHAKTA: Coalition For the Advancement of the Republic. It's a big...
BEGALA: Of the Republic.
BHAKTA: Of the Republic, advancing American national best interests.
BEGALA: He's some free political advice. You've got to say it loud and clear when you've...
BHAKTA: The Coalition For the Advancement of the Republic.
BEGALA: Well done.
BHAKTA: And, you know, what we're going to be doing is pushing moderate, you know, I'll say cool conservatism, because, really, at the end of the day...
BEGALA: Well, when you think of conservatives, you think cool, absolutely. (LAUGHTER)
BHAKTA: No, because you know what? I will tell you, in my...
CARLSON: Not quite as cool as the vegans on the left.
BEGALA: Why did we get fired, Raj?
BHAKTA: But in my view of conservatism, it's the party that says I'll do what I want and you do what you want to do.
BEGALA: Unless you're gay. Then you go to prison.
BHAKTA: No, no, no, no. Be gay. Be -- do...
BEGALA: Oh, be afraid.
CARLSON: The man who represents the party who won't use the term Christmas is telling you that...
BEGALA: No, that's corporate America.
BHAKTA: Right. Right. Right.
CARLSON: But let's get back to sex.
CARLSON: On the show...
BHAKTA: Because it does sell.
CARLSON: That's exactly right.
CARLSON: On the show, you had a lot of tension between the men and women on the program.
CARLSON: But, off the air, was it lighter in tone, so to speak?
BHAKTA: No, no. You know, the -- there was a lot of -- there was a lot of tension involved. The women actually...
CARLSON: Good tension or bad tension?
BHAKTA: I would say that there was some good tension. I had the good tension with the women.
BEGALA: The bow tie...
BHAKTA: And the women among themselves had the bad tension.
BEGALA: It's redundant, actually, on this set, Raj, I have to say. But...
BHAKTA: What are you going to do?
CARLSON: I think you look fabulous.
BHAKTA: That's a great...
BEGALA: They actually now make ties in men's sizes, though, guys, so you could one day...
BEGALA: All right, Raj Bhakta, a good sport from "The Apprentice," good to see you.
BEGALA: Thank you very much.
Well, next, the guys who turned the tragedy of that presidential campaign last month into Internet comedy have set their sights on Santa. We will show you what the JibJab guys have come up with next.
CARLSON: Welcome back.
Is Christmas getting you down? Well, stop whining. Consider Santa Claus. He's really uptight. JibJab.com, the guys who put a little humor into this past election season, has cranked out an animated tribute to the jolly old elf. Only, in this telling, Santa is nearing bankruptcy and he's anything but jolly. Here it is.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (singing): Instead of leaving cookies, how about leaving me some cash?
UNIDENTIFIED MALES (singing): Eat your milk and cookies. We could really use the cash.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (singing): No more milk and cookies. I need good, old-fashioned cash. I really need the cash, yes.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BEGALA: Well, this Bush economy is really hitting everybody, isn't it?
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
CARLSON: No. Wait, Paul. Do you remember, after 9/11, people said, irony is dead; we were going to like return to, you know, just old-fashioned sort of directness and all that, no more sarcasm? It was a lie.
BEGALA: It was wrong.
From the left, I am Paul Begala. That's it for CROSSFIRE.
CARLSON: And from the right, I'm Tucker Carlson. Join us again Monday for yet more CROSSFIRE.
Stay tuned now for "WOLF BLITZER REPORTS." And, most of all, have a great weekend.
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