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Bush Budget Hits Capitol Hill

Aired February 7, 2005 - 16:30   ET


ANNOUNCER: CROSSFIRE. On the left, Paul Begala; on the right, the Reverend Jerry Falwell.


GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It's a budget that is a lean budget.

ANNOUNCER: The president's $2.5 trillion budget hits Capitol Hill.

BUSH: Our priorities are winning the war on terror, protecting our homeland, growing our economy. It's a budget that focuses on results.

ANNOUNCER: The plan cut backs or eliminate 150 government programs, leading some to argue the president's cuts are going too deep. Will members of Congress go along with the president's proposal?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is a hide-and-seek budget.



ANNOUNCER: Live from the George Washington University, Paul Begala and the Reverend Jerry Falwell.


PAUL BEGALA, CO-HOST: Hello and welcome to CROSSFIRE.

We will debate the president's budget in the CROSSFIRE this afternoon.

But, first, this developing story. A Massachusetts jury has this hour convicted Paul Shanley, the defrocked former Roman Catholic priest, of child molestation, of repeatedly raping a boy in his Parish in Newton, Massachusetts, in the 1980s.

Joining me today on the right to debate other matters, but, first, I want to ask him about this, the Reverend Jerry Falwell.

Reverend, welcome back to CROSSFIRE. JERRY FALWELL, GUEST CO-HOST: Thank you, Paul.

BEGALA: Second, let me ask you about this. As a minister yourself, this -- I'm a Catholic. This is a terrible stain on the Catholic Church.

FALWELL: It hurts us all.

And frankly, I have to say, I think the church was slow responding and was not harsh enough from the beginning. A pastor like Jerry Falwell, a priest like your priest, should not be held just to the same standards that the general public, but to harsher standard. And when we misuse our position to abuse a little child, I think that there should be swift and severe judgment instantly.

And the matter of having groups put together and committees to look at it, there should just have been indictments and convictions and jail time.

BEGALA: I agree. I think the problem is that my church, the Catholic Church, treated this like a psychological problem or an issue of sin, rather than what it was, which is a crime. And they should have called the police right way, called in investigators. And I'm glad that 20 years later, this now man is finding justice.

FALWELL: Well, unfortunately, it's not just a Catholic problem. It's too widespread.

And I hope this is the beginning of a new day, because the general public has a right to look to the pastor, the priest, the Jerry Falwell, the Billy Graham, in a different way than they do anybody else. And if we cannot be trusted, who can be?

BEGALA: On this, we agree, Reverend. But we are here actually today to talk about the president's budget. He released...

FALWELL: And from here on, we'll disagree.

BEGALA: I promise you we will.

He released his budget today. And that is where we begin the best little political briefing in television, our CROSSFIRE "Political Alert."

As I mentioned, President Bush sent his budget up to the Congress today. It is a whopper, $2.5 trillion, the biggest budget ever. But it's more, I believe, a moral document than an economic document. Jesus himself taught on the Sermon on the Mount -- quote -- "Where your treasure is, there will be your heart be also."

So let's look at where President Bush's heart is. He wants veterans to pay a 100 percent increase in their co-pay for medicine. Some veterans will also have to pay a new $250 Bush veterans health care tax. Farmers get cut, too. And so do poor kids. After all, they don't need housing and health care and food. They should just do what Mr. Bush himself did, inherit a fortune. Mr. Bush's budget allows the idle rich, however, to inherit millions without paying a nickel in taxes. His tax cuts for the rich are why his budget has a near record deficit, even while it slams veterans, farmers and the poor. And that's where Mr. Bush's heart is. And it's where he wants to put your treasure.

So, I ask you, are those the values you voted for, red state America? Reverend, were they?

FALWELL: Well, Paul, being one of those red staters and the 83 percent of the red counties in the country who voted for Bush, I'm at least proud...



FALWELL: ... you Democrats are quoting more scripture. Hillary is holding prayer seminars, even becoming pro-life to some degree. The fact is, he's not -- he's increasing the pay for the military about 3.1 percent. The farmers' cut has to do with those loopholes that allow a farmer to rent out part to his relatives and other corporations and double-dip. And what you said is unfair.

BEGALA: Well, I want to talk about the budget as a moral document when we have our guests out here in a moment. We've got a couple good congressmen to come and debate this with us.

FALWELL: Well, for Democrats, it may be all over, except for the screaming. Even though the latest CNN/"USA Today"/Gallup poll show that only 31 percent of Americans have a favorable opinion of Howard Dean, it looks like the former Vermont governor will become of the Democratic National Committee this weekend.

Dean's last opponent, former Congressman Tim Roemer, dropped out of the race today, warning Democrats that they must be more inclusive in their outreach to fast-growing parts of the country. That's the big reason why a lot of Democrats are rightfully worried that Dean in charge could have the same effect on the party that he had on his presidential campaign. The only people more excited than Democrats about Dean's possible new position are Republicans, including myself. It could be a real scream.

BEGALA: Although I would be careful what you wish for, Reverend. I can remember -- I'm old enough -- my friends who worked for Jimmy Carter saying oh, we want Ronald Reagan. We want Ronald Reagan.

You know, Governor Dean -- I understand a lot of Democrats are nervous. I'm a little nervous myself, to tell you the truth. But he is a fighter. And that's something Democrats need. I think that we've been too weak and waffling and complacent with Mr. Bush's right- wing agenda. And it's time to have a Democrat who fights back. I think that's why people like Governor Dean.

FALWELL: And he's great on the Internet and he knows how to raise money. BEGALA: He does.


FALWELL: But the fact is, he's way out on the left fringe. He's where you guys don't need to be going. You need to be coming back to the center, maybe a little to the right.



BEGALA: Well, we shall see. Hopefully, he'll join us in the CROSSFIRE soon.

Well, when we sat down with CNN's John King, President Bush said that he had been reading Natan Sharansky's fine new book, "The Case For Democracy." Mr. Bush then told's C-SPAN's Brian Lamb that he red another Ron Chernow's monumental biography of Alexander Hamilton, as well as a daily Christian devotional and, of course, Bible.

Well, that's what the president tells the media. But "The New York Times" reports today that Mr. Bush has telling his friends that he's reading the sex-soaked, beer-drenched novel by Tom Wolfe "I Am Charlotte Simmons." Mr. Wolfe's book won the Bad Sex in Fiction Award from "Literary" magazine for its crude and tasteless depictions of intimacy.

One line from the book -- and I'm quoting here -- "Moan, moan, moan, moan" -- unquote.



BEGALA: Here's another, "Slither, slither, slither, slither went the tongue. But the hand, that's what she tried to concentrate on, the hand, since it has the entire terrain of her torso to explore and not just the otorhinolaryngological caverns" -- unquote.

Excuse me, Reverend Falwell. I've got to go throw up.



FALWELL: That was a good job quoting that word. I couldn't pronounce the word.

BEGALA: But what is he doing reading that stuff and promoting that?

FALWELL: I don't before -- "The New York Times" saying something about George Bush, it might as well come from "The L.A. Times" or "The National Enquirer."

"The New York Times" hates George Bush. I don't believe for a moment...

BEGALA: I think he's conned you. I think George W. Bush has conned you and all your followers into believing and following him.

FALWELL: I think "The New York Times" has conned you. I don't believe for a moment George Bush would read that kind of garbage.


BEGALA: You should call him. You've got him on speed dial. You should call him, Reverend. I wish I had my phone on me.

FALWELL: I wouldn't embarrass him or dignify such a terrible thing.

BEGALA: All right. Got your next "Alert" for us?

FALWELL: Well, I do indeed. And it is this.

As President Bush begins his second term, a growing number of Americans like the job he's doing. The latest CNN/"USA Today"/Gallup poll shows President Bush with a 57 percent approval rating. But that isn't stopping Democrats from lining up for the 2008 run for the White House.

Former vice presidential candidate and one-time presidential hopeful John Edwards gave a speech to Democrats in a New Hampshire meeting this weekend. Edwards, who left the Senate last month, still says he hasn't made up his mind whether or not he'll be a candidate in '08. His main point was to talk about his plans to open up an anti- poverty center in his home state of North Carolina.

So, why not make that announcement in North Carolina? Well, because the first presidential primary is still in New Hampshire. If Dean were to head up the DNC and Edwards became the 2008 presidential nominee, it would be a Republican dream team, in my team. Hillary Rodham Clinton's name in the ring is the only thing that could sweeten the pot.

BEGALA: Well, I hope John Edwards runs. I hope Hillary runs. I hope all these Democrats run. They have a lot to offer. But who should run from the Republicans?


BEGALA: All the energy in the Republican Party is on the left, pro-choice Rudy, pro-choice Schwarzenegger, John McCain, who is against the Bush tax cuts. Who do you like in 2008, Reverend?

FALWELL: Well, it's far too early to say that. There are a lot of great guys out there, one of them from Pennsylvania, a senator that you know.

BEGALA: Senator Santorum from Pennsylvania. He'll have a tough reelection, though, first. FALWELL: And George Allen from Virginia is a great guy. I think that former congressman and speaker of the House from down in Georgia, Newt Gingrich, has a shot at it.

BEGALA: That's my dream team, Reverend Falwell and Newt Gingrich.



BEGALA: There we go.

President Bush says he's proposing a lean budget for the year 2006. We will debate it with two members of Congress in just a moment.


ANNOUNCER: Join Carville, Begala 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.

President Bush has delivered his wish list to Congress in the form of the federal budget. He's proposing cuts in housing, veteran benefits and farm subsidies. Democrats say Mr. Bush is giving all the pain to ordinary Americans, but all the goodies to the wealthy.

We're joined by two members of Congress to debate this, Indiana Republican Congressman Mike Pence and Virginia Democratic Congressman Jim Moran.


FALWELL: Congressman Moran.

REP. JIM MORAN (D), VIRGINIA: Yes, Reverend.

FALWELL: A new poll just out today, CNN, 77 percent of the American people want the deficit dealt with and dealt with sternly and quickly.

The president has sent a budget to the Congress now that does just that. It deals with the deficit. I assume you as a good responsible Democrat who doesn't believe in pork or waste or whatever, that you're going to back the president all the way.

MORAN: You know, the president created this mess in the first place, because he cut taxes by $2 trillion. And now, given that excuse -- and, of course, most of that went to the people who needed it the least -- he's cutting the programs of people who need it the most. The fact is that the domestic social programs accounted for 6 percent of the deficit, Reverend. And yet, they're being held responsible for about 100 percent of the budget cuts.

FALWELL: So I take that as a no?

MORAN: That's not fair.


MORAN: Well, it's fiscally and morally irresponsible, this budget.


MORAN: I can't believe that the president would do -- would submit a budget like this, that -- and it's still unbalanced. It still passes more debt on to the next generation.

BEGALA: Congressman, fiscally and morally irresponsible, Congressman Moran says. In fact, let me focus on the moral side of it. Perhaps because Reverend Falwell is joining us today, I've been thinking a lot about budgets as moral documents. I mentioned earlier in the program...


FALWELL: ... very spiritual since November 2.

BEGALA: Well, we're praying like crazy to get us out of this mess Bush has got us in. That's right.


BEGALA: But, Congressman, I pointed out earlier, in the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus said, where your treasure lies, there, too, shall your heart be. And the president puts our treasure in the hands of the very wealthiest.

Congressman Moran says why cut veterans, why cut children, why cut farmers in your district, but ask nothing of the rich? Is that what Jesus would do? Who would Jesus cut?



FALWELL: I am anxious to hear this.

REP. MIKE PENCE (R), INDIANA: I don't know. I think Jesus was right. But I think George W. Bush is right, too, about this budget.

(CROSSTALK) BEGALA: Jesus would hammer the poor and help the rich?

PENCE: No, budgets should...

BEGALA: You've got a different Bible than me.

PENCE: Budgets should reflect the priorities of the American people. And this budget does.

BEGALA: There are moral priorities.

PENCE: The priority of the American people is that we provide for the common defense abroad and at home.

It also is that we make those decisions -- and I know it bothers Jim and others that we need to make these tax cuts permanent. But we need to sustain the economic growth that reduced the deficit from the projected $500 billion this year, Paul, to about $410 billion. The economy is growing and expanding because of the president's economic plan.

Then we have to sharpen our pencils. And the president is literally talking here about one cent on the dollar of these key domestic programs. And they are tough ones. They're sacred cows. I'm from Indiana. Agriculture is pretty important, Medicaid very important. But what the president is asking for here is one penny on the dollar. And we can find that in waste...

BEGALA: From the rich? He's going to raise taxes on the rich?

PENCE: In waste, fraud and abuse in these bureaucratic programs.


MORAN: You know, there's an 80 percent cut in community policing programs. Now, in my district, when the Pentagon was attacked, it wasn't federal personnel that responded most immediately. It was the local police and firefighters and emergency medical people.


MORAN: There's an 80 percent cut in local police, a 30 percent cut in local firefighters. Those programs are working. Nobody suggests they're not working. Why would we cut them off? I think because they were created in the Clinton administration. That's the only justification I can find.



PENCE: But, Jim, this president -- this president instituted the president's management agenda, in which he has looked at programs. We found programs that are not doing what they were created to do.

MORAN: You think that... (CROSSTALK)

MORAN: ... policing program isn't working right? You know it's working.

PENCE: Well, it's been the analysis of this administration that it is not working, Jim.

PENCE: And so why spend good money after bad?


MORAN: Just like the Social Security Administration isn't working.

PENCE: Let's eliminate programs that aren't working and we'll serve the American people by turning this ship of state back to the lodestar of a balanced federal budget.

BEGALA: Well, let me press a point on that. You're not saying that -- we hired 100,000 police during the Clinton administration, which was actually a conservative idea, and it turned out it worked. More cops work.

MORAN: Less crime.

BEGALA: Why would you do away with it? Crime is down. When conservatives like Bill Bennett, a brilliant man, predicted super predators would come in the '90s and crime would go through the roof, we hired 100,000 cops. And crime went down for the first time in a generation. Why would you reverse something that works?

PENCE: Well, it wasn't 100,000 police, ultimately, that were hired.

But, look, the bottom line is, every one of these 150 programs, and I am -- we're still digging our way through this budget. That's the short version of it, Paul, as you know. Every one of these programs that the president has identified, some 150 to be wholly eliminated, but then looking at other discretionary programs where there's a 1 percent cut is all an effort to move in the direction of Reverend Falwell just said. And that is to answer that 80 percent of the American public that wants us to put our fiscal house in order.


MORAN: But it's not a 1 percent cut in social programs.

BEGALA: Congressman, I'm sorry. I'm going to have let you -- I'm going to have to let you respond when we come back after this break.


BEGALA: Keep your seat just for a moment.

When our guests return, Reverend Falwell and I will ask them about a couple of budget cuts that hit them close to home.

And then, right after the break, Wolf Blitzer tells us about a tentative step toward peace in the Middle East.

Stay with us.


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

Coming up at the top of the hour, another day of deadly violence in Iraq. A bomb outside a police station kills 15 civilians looking for work.

And why the Pentagon now says a U.S. military party in Iraq simply went too far.

And you're looking at Condoleezza Rice following talks with the secretary of state. Israeli and Palestinian leaders reportedly ready to announce a cease-fire.

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

Now back to CROSSFIRE.

FALWELL: Let's get back to the debate over the president's proposed budget and what Congress will do with it.

Here with us, Virginia Democratic Congressman Jim Moran and Indiana Republican Congressman Mike Pence.

Jim, the poll that we just talked about earlier says that the president's policies, in the opinion of 55 percent of the American people, have moved this country in the right direction. How come he got elected, the Senate, the House? A real bad date, November 2. He sends a budget over to get this deficit dealt with. And the first thing you guys do on the Democratic side is just call him bad names and accuse him of attacking the poor and helping the rich?

MORAN: We didn't call him bad names, Reverend.

FALWELL: You got pretty close to it. You're getting pretty close to it.

MORAN: Well, first of all, I know you recall that Plato said that the minority are oftentimes wrong, but the majority always are.


MORAN: And, you know, regardless of the election, I think we're going to see that, if President Bush doesn't change his budgetary habits of giving out largess to his wealthiest contributors and making the poor people pay for it, this country is going to rise up. I agree with Mike. It's only a 1 percent across-the-board cut, but there are deep cuts, almost eliminating programs for migrant farm workers. These are kids stuck in a cycle of poverty. They have no hope of getting out if the federal government doesn't help. They are taking $4 billion out of education programs, deep cuts in vocational education. Who does that help? It helps the working class.

I could go down a long list. Veterans. Why should veterans in this day and age, when they're being asked to risk their lives over in Iraq, come back here and find that they have to pay twice as much for prescription drugs? They're going to have to pay $250 user fees. Why are you saving money off the backs of veterans, when you could afford to pay out $2 trillion in tax cuts, most of which went to the people who needed it the least?


BEGALA: Congressman Pence, you represent, you mentioned, farm country. I promise before the break to hit you close to home. Will you support the president's proposal to cut $94 million in grants for the Healthy Community Access Program and to phase out entirely rural health grants, which will help your constituents in farm country?


PENCE: Look, I am on the Agriculture Committee and I am from corn country in Indiana, and proud of it.

But let me tell you, there are some inefficiencies in the U.S. Department of Agriculture and in that very lone program, Paul. And this is exactly the time. And I appreciate Jim's passion. Always do on the House floor. We'll hear more of it.

But, look, we've got hard decisions to make. And we have to look at -- Jim references veterans, who have seen a 7 percent increase on spending on veterans over the last half-a-dozen years. We've got to say, help us with this. Tighten the budget. Farmers, we've got to say...

BEGALA: In fairness, because we've got a lot more wounded veterans thanks to the president's foreign policy.



PENCE: Farmers, Paul, we've got to say, look, we've got to tighten our belts on the farm. We've got to insist that these programs work. And, again, I say this is one penny on the dollar.

BEGALA: You'll support -- you'll support the president cutting agriculture subsidies?


MORAN: I trust they're cutting ethanol subsidies. (CROSSTALK)

PENCE: I'm going to support the president in his effort to look at this budget in nondefense spending, non-homeland security and find that one penny on the dollar to get us back on a course for a balanced budget.

BEGALA: Congressman Mike Pence from Indiana, Congressman Jim Moran from Virginia, thank you both very much.

We'll have lots more, I'm sure, to talk about as we plow through this budget in the days and weeks to come.


BEGALA: Thank you both very much.

Well, next, some of the finest political pigskin prognosticators weighed in before yesterday's Super Bowl. I bet you can't guess, though, which Washingtonian was right on the money.

We'll tell you right after the break.



BEGALA: Welcome back to CROSSFIRE.

As you scrape the last of that bean dip off the sofa, think of this. Several big names here in Washington tried their hand at prognosticating the results of yesterday's Super Bowl game. Vice President Dick Cheney picked the Philadelphia Eagles to win by three over the New England Patriots. Well, not surprisingly, Massachusetts Senator Edward Kennedy picked the Patriots to win by 14.


BEGALA: And the first President Bush, a resident of nearby Connecticut when he was a young man, also picked New England by two touchdowns.

But it was Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice who put the boys to shame. She picked the Patriots to win. And get this. She predicted they would win by a field goal in the fourth quarter, which is exactly what they did.

I guess Secretary Rice a little more accurate about the NFL than she is about WMD.



BEGALA: So good for Condoleezza Rice. FALWELL: I didn't have a -- the Washington Redskins are my team. and I'm waiting for Joe Gibbs to do it again. But I think the Eagles got outcoached on time management the last few minutes of the game.

BEGALA: I'm waiting for the Houston Oilers to come back. Until they come back, I'm through with pro football. But good for Dr. Rice.

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

FALWELL: And from the right, I'm Jerry Falwell.

Join us again next time for another edition of CROSSFIRE.

"WOLF BLITZER REPORTS" starts right now.



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