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CNN Crossfire

What Should America Do With it's Nuclear Waste?; Is a Fat Person Fit to Lead an Exercise Class?

Aired May 08, 2002 - 19:00   ET


ANNOUNCER: CROSSFIRE -- on the left, James Carville and Paul Begala. On the right, Robert Novak and Tucker Carlson.

In the crossfire tonight, what should America do with its nuclear waste? The debate over a Nevada storage site and the neighborhoods any transport trains would pass through has created a mountain of controversy.

Is a fat person fit to lead an exercise class. If so, should there be a law that forces a company to hire that person?

And why is Dwight D. Eisenhower so popular with recent presidents? That and more ahead on CROSSFIRE.

From the George Washington University, Paul Begala and Tucker Carlson.

TUCKER CARLSON, HOST OF CROSSFIRE: Good evening and welcome to CROSSFIRE. We are coming to you live from the George Washington University here in downtown Washington, D.C.

Tonight, let's say you want to teach jazzercise. Let's say you weigh 240 pounds. Let's say your employer sees a conflict between these two facts? Should the government make it illegal to fire you? It happened in San Francisco. It is our debate later in the show.

But first, the battle over Yucca mountain. President Bush wants to store 77,000 tons of high level nuclear waste in the Nevada mountain. Supporters say that plan is safer than the status quo, which is 139 nuclear waste sites scattered over 39 states.

Opponents, many of whom live in Nevada, call it a dangerous idea that would turn Yucca Mountain, which is just 50 miles from Las Vegas -- make that 90 miles -- into a target for terrorists, as well as a frightening health hazard. The president scored a big victory today when the House overrode opposition to the plan by Nevada's Governor Kenny Guinn.

A tougher fight is expected when the issue hits the Senate later this summer. Joining us to debate it, two former White House chiefs of staff -- John Podesta, who served President Clinton, and John Sununu, who served the first President Bush.

PAUL BEGALA, HOST OF CROSSFIRE: John Sununu, first, welcome back to CROSSFIRE.


BEGALA: Yes, sure, you served Bush as a chief of staff, but you were CROSSFIRE host. That should be at the top of the resume.

Let me begin on what I hope is common ground. Before we get into all the technical arcana, let me just state something that's an absolute fact.

Bush lied. He went to the people in Nevada in the campaign of 2000, in fact in October of 2000, trailing in the polls in Nevada, he sent Dick Cheney, who promised the people in Nevada that he would not site this dump there.

And in fact...

CARLSON: That's not true. But that's not true!

BEGALA: Well, let's take a look at the ad, and then you can tell the ad it's not true. It's up here on the big screen. Go ahead.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: While scientists study the issue, Bush has pledged to veto any plan to make Yucca Mountain a temporary nuclear storage facility.


SUNUNU: Do you know the difference? Your problem is...

BEGALA: Interim means it's just a short problem. Permanent is even worse. So you're saying, because -- like if I promise not to slap you, but I shoot you, does that make me a good guy?

SUNUNU: That makes you a liar.

BEGALA: And Bush is a liar.

SUNUNU: No, you are the liar because you have taken a phrase that delimits the kind of storage and suggested he said something differently. He said he...

BEGALA: The people of Nevada would have voted for him if he said the truth, which is, I won't put an interim site there, but I will put a permanent site there?


They would have voted for him so he's not a liar?

SUNUNU: Let's start with the fact. He said he would not make it an interim site. That is a serious concern because an interim site is usually, in fact, is an above-ground site. Yucca mountain is a site under the ground. It is a permanent site. There is a huge difference between an above-ground site and a permanent site under the ground.

The site that has been chosen under the decision making process which has been in place for 20 years is a permanent site under the ground. So once again, your gut feeling that you got to bash Bush on everything has put you in trouble.

BEGALA: That site was Yucca mountain that was debated during the election. That's what the issue was, Yucca mountain.

JOHN PODESTA, FORMER WHITE HOUSE CHIEF OF STAFF: Now look, it's clear that those ads were deceitful. I think Dick Cheney's appearance out in Nevada the weekend before the election to say, not on our watch, was deceitful. You know, whether or not they had the fine print in the ads...


CARLSON: The people of Nevada are against Yucca Mountain. There's no question about that.

BEGALA: And so are a lot of people...

CARLSON: A lot of people -- some members of the environmental industry are against it, but mostly it's the people of Nevada. This is not in my back yard. NIMBYism writ large. The difference here is the NIMBYists have expensive lobbyists like you, fueled by both the gambling industry...

PODESTA: Are you making more than I am?

I think if you look at who has spent what money on lobbyists on this issue, you'll find that Mr. Sununu's side here has spent quite a bit more. They spent $20 million last year, they put $30 million in the campaign...


CARLSON: So what your side failed to do is answer the question -- if not Yucca Mountain, what else? You have no alternative. You...

PODESTA: Look, the real problem with Yucca Mountain, and the reason why it ought to be of concern to all the people in the 41 states through which this high level nuclear waste is going to pass, is that they have not -- there is no safe plan to transport this waste from the 103 sites where it now is safely stored to the one site in Nevada.

So we are going to have 50,000 truck shipments, or over 20,000 rail shipments, 1,600 barge shipments of high level nuclear waste transporting all across the country, passing within 109 cities with more than 100,000 people.

SUNUNU: That is absolutely not true.

PODESTA: The department of...

BEGALA: That is true, John. That is absolutely true.

SUNUNU: A study started well before this administration -- in fact, under your administration, concluded that there is a total of about 5,000 shipments, about 175 a year. We now have had 2,700 shipments in the last 30 years. That's about 90 a year. So what you are talking about if you count shipments, if you count shipments, about a doubling of the number of shipments.

The fact is, in Europe they have shipped 30,000 shipments. We have shipped our 2,700. And there's been no...

BEGALA: That is not true.

SUNUNU: It is true! It absolutely is!


CARLSON: Let me ask you a question.

PODESTA: If you read the Department of Energy's most recent environmental impact statement, they talk about...


CARLSON: Hold on. If we are going to talk about what has already happened, out of the 4,000, let's just say...


If this were just -- as a factual matter, you can say that of the 4,000 shipments of nuclear waste that have already taken place around this country...

PODESTA: Three thousand.

CARLSON: I'll even concede 1,000. How many fatalities have there been? How many deadly accidents have there been?

PODESTA: There have been about eight accidents, none of them, thankfully, deadly.


SUNUNU: Let me make one point here. Let me give a context to this disagreement. No, I want to give a context to this disagreement.


We are talking about taking out the fuel that has been taken in. We are talking about shipments of the same order of magnitude that has already brought the fuel in.

The numbers that have brought the fuel in are around 3,000. The number that we are talking about taking things out are around 5,000. And any exaggeration of that number is absolutely consistent with the policy of misrepresentation that the state of Nevada has undertaken in order to try and scare America. The Congress looked at that misrepresentation and voted today, 306 to 117.

BEGALA: Actually, you know what the Congress looked at was campaign donations, and that's what Governor Bush, now President Bush, looked at.

SUNUNU: Oh, if you believe that you are demeaning the Democrats that joined with the Republicans.

BEGALA: Look at the Republican contributions here, and you will see that they got what they paid for in the nuclear industry. They gave, as John pointed out...

SUNUNU: You are telling me there were no Democratic votes today? Shame, shame, shame.

BEGALA: Why did Bush change his position? I can give you 3,569,930 reasons. This is the money he raised, and he -- your party raised, the Republican party raised, from the nuclear industry. This is why they got special access to the Cheney task force. By the way, is your...


...going to release the notes from the meeting your industry had with Cheney?

SUNUNU: He always supported Yucca Mountain as a permanent repository. He never changed his position.

BEGALA: When did he ever say that?

SUNUNU: His position is the same position held by four presidents, including President Clinton, by eight secretaries of energy, and all the administrations since 1982.


PODESTA: He would not be in the White House today if he had gone to Nevada and made that statement. Al Gore, who, by the way, won the election, would be in the White House today with the electoral votes from Nevada.

CARLSON: When you are finished reliving the defeat here, can I just ask you a quick question? This is a very common sense question. I think a lot of people who support Yucca Mountain are compelled by the following fact, and that is there are 131 sites where nuclear waste is stored in this country in 39 states.

They say, people say who support Yucca Mountain, I'm one of them, it's very hard to protect from terrorist attack 131 different sites. Many of them are not secure. Many of them are not secure even from earthquakes or, you know, tornadoes or hurricanes, much less terrorist attacks. But if you put all of this waste in a mountain surrounded by, you know, barbed wire and guards, et cetera, isn't it safer?

PODESTA: The problem is that by the time we are done shipping that waste to Yucca Mountain, there will have created 40,000 more tons of waste, the current amount that exists on those sites, and it'll still be stored...

CARLSON: Well, that waste would be safer in the mountain though than it is in these sites.

PODESTA: It'll still be stored there. Yucca Mountain will be full and it'll still be stored in every one of those sites.


We are not solving a problem. All we are doing is putting these dangerous cargoes on the road. And if you want to worry about a terrorist incident, that's something to worry about.

SUNUNU: All you are trying to do is create a horrific scenario that has no relationship to fact. If you don't send it to Yucca...

BEGALA: On September 11, al Qaeda terrorists, Governor, September 11 were able to hijack four 747s in a coordinated attack. That strikes me as more difficult than hijacking a truck. Aren't you worried? Aren't you manifestly increasing by 40,000 truckloads or 100,000 truckloads or whatever the number is the chances of these mobile Chernobyls getting into the hands of al Qaeda?

SUNUNU: These are shipped under federal guards and the alternative...

BEGALA: Oh, I feel better.

SUNUNU: And the alternative to Yucca is to ship the same material to temporary sites. You do not eliminate the shipping problem by trying to stop Yucca. The only thing you do by trying to stop Yucca is start the process all over. And what we have is the best site under the best science, selected by a process put into law that has been supported by presidents and Congresses and technical analysis over the years.

BEGALA: Governor, we're going to come back to this. Believe me, we're going to have a lot more (UNINTELLIGIBLE) still with us.

CARLSON: When we come back, are you going to beat up on federal employees?

BEGALA: When we're going to come back, I'm going to try to explain to John Sununu why we don't need a 100,000 truckloads roaming through the countryside full of nuclear waste. And when we also return, I'm going to ask these former chiefs of staff what they would advise the current president to do on the situation in the Middle East as well.

Then our "Quote of the Day." Here's a hint: He plays tribute to the mastermind to the D-Day invasion just like another fan of his did a few years ago.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) BEGALA: Welcome back to CROSSFIRE. Two former White House chiefs of staff; first under President George Bush the first, John Sununu, and former chief of staff for President Clinton, John Podesta.

CARLSON: Mr. Podesta, now you just explained to us that Yucca Mountain is the most dangerous idea since Skylab. And it turns out that your former boss, President Clinton, agrees. He gave a speech last week at UNLV, university in Las Vegas, and said, quote, "I think, I just think it's a mistake to store nuclear waste at Yucca Mountain." Well, this infuriated the editorial writers at the local paper there, the "Las Vegas Review-Journal."

Let me read part of what they wrote in response to President Clinton's remarks: "Mr. Clinton occupied the White House for eight years. During that time, did he ever urge Congress to abandon plans for a national repository. Did he ever submit a budget that cut off funding for construction at Yucca Mountain? Did he ever order his department of energy to shut down the project?" No, no, no, no, no. Why not?

PODESTA: He said from the get-go that what he wanted to do was look for sound science. And that's why the department of energy went ahead and did those scientific studies.

What this administration did was to short-circuit that process with 293 of those studies uncompleted. But, let me finish. He also vetoed a bill when the Congress tried to shove that waste into Yucca Mountain prematurely. He vetoed the bill and, fortunately, we were able to sustain that veto.

BEGALA: John -- let me ask you, Governor Sununu, about what John Podesta just said. The GAO, which is the General Accounting Office, investigative arm of Congress, nonpartisan, says there are 293 technical questions that have yet to be answered. They called citing it there may be premature.

And then there's something called the Nuclear Waste Technical Review Board, set up by Congress, 11 independent experts. They said they had limited confidence in the department of energy science and that it was weak to moderate. Is weak to moderate good enough to risk our lives on?

SUNUNU: Both of those studies came to the conclusion though that there is no showstopper and the process should go on.


... which included the selection of Yucca and moving on to licensing. The 200 and some odd issues that were raised are issues that all fall under the licensing process, and merely were listed there to make sure that the licensing process addresses it.

What we are saying in terms of this action is Yucca Mountain is being selected to move into the next phase, which is required under the law and that's the licensing process. Congress has to decide on a bipartisan basis. The House today confirmed that whole process of decision. The Senate will do so in about two months.

CARLSON: Mr. Podesta, before you go, I just want to ask you a quick question about the Middle East. Looking back, now that we know somewhat more about Yasser Arafat than we used to, we have evidence tying him directly to terrorism. Though there was some evidence of that before, do you think that the Clinton administration gave him too much legitimacy, treating a man as sort of an equal world leader with whom to negotiate?

PODESTA: Well, look, I think that he was the representative of the Palestinian people at the time. I think we made -- and the president made at Camp David, later at Tabaa, every effort for him to step forward to be a real partner for peace. I think he did not do that. He did not take that step. I think that's regrettable. And I think that where we are now is something of a direct result of that.

BEGALA: And let me ask you to look back on your days with President Bush the first, where you engaged in the Middle East very actively and helped to organize a peace process in Madrid. And yet, unlike his father, for the first 15 months of his presidency, President Bush the younger disengaged from the Middle East and it was his stated policy. That was a tragic error, wasn't it?

SUNUNU: I think Madrid was a great step. I'll give President Clinton tremendous credit for trying to move the process forward. Actually, the tragedy wasn't so much what was happening at Camp David, at Tabaa, they came about that close. And the tragedy is that if Barak had been elected, I think you would have had peace in the Middle East.

And I find it tragic that we are not able to get back to the table, take what was really the legacy of the Clinton initiative, the results at Tabaa, and move this thing to a conclusion. If we can ever get them to that point, it is the one hope I have for bringing this process to a constructive conclusion.

CARLSON: With that, John Sununu, thank you very much. John Podesta, thank you. We appreciate it.

When CROSSFIRE returns, the fight of the century. The Rock versus the panda bear. Guess who won?

And our "Quote of the Day." Here's yet another hint: In honoring the former president yesterday, he's a willing victim of deja vu all over again. Stick around to find out why. We'll be right back.


CARLSON: Welcome back.

It's time for that part of the show when we fill in the gaps in your news knowledge. It's time for our CROSSFIRE "News Alert."

When you hear the phrase WWF, do you think of pandas? Of course not. You think of heavy-set balding men pretending to throw each other around a ring. You think professional wrestling. And that's the problem, according to the original WWF, the World Wildlife Fund. Last year, the panda people sought an injunction against professional wrestlers over their shared initials and logo.

This week, the professional wrestlers gave up. So from now on, when you the want the best in entirely fake sports-related entertainment, you'll turn to the WWE and leave on the E for entertainment. And, of course, if you are still interested in the compelling but pre-verbal rituals of another species entirely, you go where you've always gone, the WWF.

BEGALA: Well, those WWF guys are pre-verbal too, though.

According to the Reuters News Service, the hero of a 3-day Canadian sweep through the Tora Bora area of eastern Afghanistan was not any of the courageous special forces soldiers patrolling that dangerous mountain region. It was Jimmy the goat. Canadian soldiers said the goat took such a liking to them, it followed them around over mountains and through caves. So you can imagine their surprise when translators later were able to decipher the Arabic writing on the goat's name tag, which indicated the goat was not a male named Jimmy, but in fact a female named Jenny and was one of Osama bin Laden's wives.

CARLSON: He is the only public figure you could accuse of sleeping with a goat and not get a libel suit. Congratulations.

BEGALA: Come and get me, Osama.

CARLSON: And next, put away the tongue stud. That was the message to teachers at several Los Angeles public schools which recently instituted a faculty dress code. From now on, teachers will be asked not to wear jeans or sneakers while teaching and not to wear tongue studs to work. The code is voluntarily and surprisingly controversial. About half the school teachers at one L.A. middle school refused to sign it. Some of them staged a protest rally against the suggested fashion standards. Quote: "They are looking at us as though we are children," complained teacher Alisa (ph) Washington. Impassioned though it was, however, Washington's statement isn't technically true. Most children dress better.

BEGALA: Now, I don't know if Howie (ph) can get a closeup of this shirt, but this man wearing this shirt is giving fashion advice...

CARLSON: That's right. Illegal in Los Angeles schools.

BEGALA: ... to L.A. teachers.

Time now, though, for our CROSSFIRE "Quote of the Day" courtesy of the only president we have. He spoke yesterday during a ceremony at the old executive office building.


GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: On behalf of all Americans, I am proud to dedicate this historic building to the lasting memory of a great man, Dwight David Eisenhower.


BEGALA: Now I saw that and I thought, hmmm, deja vu. Here's why. Here's what President Clinton had to say about the same building in 1999.


WILLIAM J. CLINTON, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: A couple of hours ago, I had the great honor of signing legislation naming the old executive office building, the Dwight D. Eisenhower Executive Office Building.


BEGALA: I love this, Tucker. He's going to -- Bush is going to go on to name the Washington monument after George Washington. The Jefferson Memorial after -- there's a transvestite bar on 14th Street he can rename after J. Edgar Hoover, but that's already been...

CARLSON: But see, Paul, I love this too. And I'll tell you -- actually, you ask what is going on as you do almost every night? And as almost every night, I tell you. This is perfect because it's a metaphor for the two administrations. Clinton gets up there, speaks in this long, sort of lip-biting, moist-eyed address about how he's changing America and making it a better place. But it turns out he doesn't finish the job as he didn't in the Middle East and Rwanda, really, around the world, with Yucca Mountain.

So it takes a real president to come in and actually get it done in a much less self-aggrandizing way, I might add. You didn't see Bush up there, you know, I'm changing the world. No, I'm just naming a building.

BEGALA: It was already named! It had a perfectly good name after Eisenhower, he wanted to name it again. I'm totally dumbstruck that this guy would go out there...

CARLSON: Actually, it was not ready to be named when Clinton did it. It was premature.

BEGALA: That's not true.

CARLSON: But I'll leave that part of the metaphor to your interpretation.

BEGALA: I worked there and it was perfectly fine. But, no, I hope Bush continues to repeat many of the things that Clinton did. Maybe he'll dig us out of this recession and create a few jobs.

Coming up on CROSSFIRE, a battle royal between the defense secretary and the Army over an $11 billion cannon. We'll let you know who won.

And, she's 240 pounds, but she can probably run circles around Tucker, that's for sure. Can the government require her to be hired as a fitness instructor? We'll take on the fat debate when CROSSFIRE returns.


BEGALA: Thank you, Catherine.

Tucker, I wanted to pick up on the report that Catherine just stated. Arafat now is beginning to change, at least what he says. We'll wait and see if he changes what he does, but actually this vindicates what I've been saying all along that Bush was wrong to disengage from the region for 15 months. And he was right, so we give him his praise, he was right to engage these last few days and weeks, and to pressure Arafat to do more to stop terrorism. Now he's saying the right things finally. Let's see if he does the right thing.

CARLSON: Oh, this is one debate that I don't actually think concerns the president. It's between Yasser Arafat and Ariel Sharon. And I am struck by Yasser Arafat pledging to root out terrorism with his security forces, which guess, you know, amount to virtually nothing at this point. And I think at some point very soon, the onus will be on Ariel Sharon who has said, you know, he's not even ready to discuss a Palestinian state. And you know, at some point you -- that has to be the discussion if there's going to be peace.

BEGALA: But I think there's got to be conduct. I think if people don't see Arafat arresting terrorists, we know now that he was financing terrorists, but if he doesn't begin to act like somebody who can responsibly run a state, then no reasonable person is going to say he should have a state.

CARLSON: I don't think he should have a state, but maybe the discussion ought to turn to the state. And that is the way people think we're going to get to peace. And I think it is, is by creating a Palestinian state. That's the president's position. I think he's absolutely right. And to have one partner who's not even willing to discuss it at the moment until terrorism end, when you now, it's not clear it's going to end, seems to make this all drag on much longer.

BEGALA: Well, let's what what they do, what Arafat does, but also Catherine said that the Israeli security cabinet just finished meeting. Let's see where the next shoe drops from the Israeli side.

And when CROSSFIRE returns, Tucker and I are going to go at it over dueling interpretations of the second amendment's right to keep and bear arms. Get it? Dueling and arms. I wrote that. And, are fat people the victims of discrimination? Well, we'll talk to a fat rights activists, who says yes, and a radio talk show hosts who disagrees.


BEGALA: Welcome to the second half of the all new CROSSFIRE. We are live here at the George Washington University in Washington, D.C. If you're just joining us, we've got a whole good half hour debate coming up. The burning issue now, can you be too fat to lead an exercise class? Well, in the in eyes of those exercise gurus at Jazzercise, you can be. At least that apparently was their view when 240-pound Jennifer Portnick applied for a position as a Jazzercise dance instructor.

Jazzercise turned her down, saying instructors must "look leaner than the public." Portnick filed a complaint under San Francisco's fat and short law and won. Jazzercise now says its instructors won't have to look trim and fit. Let's bring our guests into the crossfire on this one. Please welcome radio talk show host Neal Boortz and joining us from San Francisco, Marilyn Wann, the author of "Fat, So?" Love that title.

CARLSON: Marilynn Wann, thanks for joining us. Now you know as well as I do that most people do Jazzercise and other sort of jumping around in front of videotapes to get thin. Now you can see the problem if you own Jazzercise, having a 240-pound instructor's a pretty bad advertisement for your product. It implies that it doesn't work. So you could can't understand why they wouldn't want to hire a 240-pound instructor?

MARILYN WANN, AUTHOR, FAT! SO?: You know, I think the fitness industry is shooting itself in the foot by marketing thinness, rather than marketing fun. When I go to Jennifer's Portnick's class, I have fun. I feel great. I get healthy. My weight doesn't change. That's not my purpose. In fact, the latest numbers show that about 37 percent of Americans are doing no exercise. And I think if we welcomed people of all different sizes into exercise classes, they might come and have fun and get healthy. Would they get thin? I don't care. I really don't think the research supports that they would.

CARLSON: Well, that's an interesting point. And you know, I'm not pushing thinness on anybody either, but I also resent the idea of government pushing employees on companies that don't want them. I mean, shouldn't the Jazzercise company have a right to decide who it hires? If it doesn't want a fat Jazzercise instructor, shouldn't it be their choice not to hire one?

WANN: When people like Jennifer Portnick stand up for themselves, they're saying judge me on my merits, not my measurements. And I think that's like any other civil rights issue. We want people of all different heights and weights and colors and descriptions to be able to contribute fully to our society. And if Americans are, some of us fat, and we're not able to contribute fully, we all suffer because of that. So I think it's a basic civil rights issue.

BEGALA: Mr. Boortz, I want to pick up. Tucker said government shouldn't force companies to hire people they don't want to hire. Well, we have civil rights laws in this country. First off, let's agree with that. Do you support the laws that say you can't fire someone because of their race?

NEAL BOORTZ, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: Let's also agree that it is really demeaning to those people, who have fought for true civil rights, to have their fight compared to the fight of overweight megabar babes to be Jazzercise instructors. BEGALA: Mr. Boortz, you support laws then, right? Do you support laws that say we will force companies to hire qualified people who are black or...

BOORTZ: Oooh, Paul, you said qualified. This girl is not qualified.

BEGALA: you just wont' tell me the answer. Just answer yes or no.

BOORTZ: Oh, I'm sorry, yes.

BEGALA: Do you support our civil rights laws?

BOORTZ: In some -- for some civil rights, yes. For honest civil rights, not the right to be a lard butt, and lead an exercise class.

BEGALA: Well, I know you're talking about Rush Limbaugh now when you say that, who's another of your competitors.

BOORTZ: The man lost weight.

BEGALA: He didn't gain intelligence. Let me ask you. Why is weight different? If it is an immutable characteristic, right, something you can't change. For a whole lot of people, they really can't. They could work out like this woman did, and still be overweight. Any more than she can change her waist, she can't really change her body type.

BOORTZ: Oh come on. Don't -- Paul, that is absolutely incorrect. It's the it's in my genes. Well, obviously she has a lot in her jeans, but she can do something about it. She chooses not to.

BEGALA: What can she do?

BOORTZ: If you followed her through a grocery store, it would be white bread, frozen pizzas, Breyers ice cream, the whole bit. And then, let me ask you this. Let's say that you're running Clairol, and you want to hire a spokesperson for Clairol. And some lady woman walks in, and her face looks like it caught on fire and they put it out with a fork. She has a horrible complexion. Are you going to hire her to advertise your cosmetics?

CARLSON: OK, before Paul can answer that question, thereby torpedoing his own career here on CNN, Marilyn Wann, let me ask you a question. Now there are a lot of things I can't be that I'd like to be. I don't know, I couldn't be a jockey. I can't be a basketball player. I can't be a sumo wrestler. I can't be a Playboy bunny, not that I want to be, but I can't be all those things because I'm not physically qualified, innately qualified to do them. I'm not suing anybody over it. It's just a fact. There are a lot of jobs that have physical qualifications. And Jazzercise instructor is one of them.

WANN: Absolutely. And Jazzercise has reiterated, I'm not speaking for them, but they do have a list of physical qualifications for this job. Fit appearance used to be a qualification. And now, they no longer choose to enforce it, thanks to Jennifer Portnick, because they realized it was an aesthetic choice, rather than a fitness choice. Now certainly, if you're hiring a model, you get to use aesthetic criteria. But for a job that only requires physical competency, again, judge us based on our merits, not our measurements.

CARLSON: Well, but wait a second.

WANN: Jennifer Portnick does six classes of aerobics a week, some of them back to back. She can lead an aerobics class. I take her class. It's great.

CARLSON: Well, leaving aside the Orwellian question of who ought to be deciding what you can and cannot do, my question is -- I mean, let's be honest here. Every Jazzercise instructor is, in essence, a model for the company. I mean, just, you know, just as in every employee who interacts with the public is a model for his or her company, Jazzercise instructor sells the product. People see an instructor, a person has a marvelous body, etcetera, etcetera. I want that. I want to join Jazzercise. You know that that's true.

WANN: I think Jazzercise has a huge opportunity here to have all kinds of people represent them. Some people may want a very thin aerobics instructor and they'll be drawn to that. Some people may want an aerobics instructor who inspires them, because they look just like they do, average or above average size. So by being inclusive, and by having diversity in their instructors, they actually can appeal to far more people and make more money.

BEGALA: And Neal, not only is there good market reason to do it, but she's qualified. She had a certificate from the Aerobics and Fitness Association of America. As Marilyn said, she did six classes a week.

BOORTZ: Oh wow. And what sort of an S.A.T. grade do you need to get into that school?

BEGALA: No, you need to jump around for an hour. And she's able to do that. That's the qualification.

BOORTZ: Let me ask you this.

BEGALA: She's qualified, right.

BOORTZ: Let me ask you and the lady in California, I believe, this. What if they put her on the Jazzercise stage. She starts leading these classes. And then all of a sudden, the Jazzercise people say nobody is coming to this class. Nobody wants to take Jazzercise from this lady. And they start a survey. Why aren't you taking the classes? Because she's fat. And we don't think that she's living what she preaches. And then they say, well, we're going to let her go. Are you going to support that if they let her go if she can't sell the product in class?

WANN: That's a great question. Since Jennifer was turned down by Jazzercise, she started her own class. It's usually packed. She's having to add more hours per week in order to meet the demand. And we're having a great time. So the market is responding. In fact, the public response to Jennifer's complaint has been, hey, we would really like to exercise with someone like you. We felt really alienated by the existing model of aerobics instructors.

BOORTZ: Sounds to me like she solved her own problem.

CARLSON: That's right. And Marilyn Wann, you raise, I think, an equally interesting question by what you just said. And that is, why bother Jazzercise in the first place? Why sic the cops on a private company when you can just start your own if there is, in fact, a market niche. You claim there is. I believe it. Then why bother Jazzercise?

WANN: I think when you look on a macro level at our society, it's really wonderful when individual people stand up for themselves, because they're doing it for everyone else, too. Now the 5,000 instructors who work for Jazzercise will not be evaluated based on fit appearance. And all of the people who apply will not be evaluated based on fit appearance. That means that everybody wins. Society wins. Jazzercise wins. We all get more diversity.

CARLSON: No, but Jazzercise doesn't.

BEGALA: What's wrong with a meriotocracy? If she can do the job and draw an audience, as she plainly can, so she can draw an audience, which she plainly does, what's wrong with meritocracy, Neal?

BOORTZ: Well, first of all, you and I can talk for hours on meritocracy. I don't think that in most cases, you would not agree with that concept. But the fact of the matter is, she is teaching fitness. And she is not fit. You can't get somebody that can't add two and two to teach mathematics in a college class.

BEGALA: If you know better than the people who certified her. You know better than -- here's I have a quote here.

WAN: Could I respond to that?

BEGALA: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) Pat Lyons who says metabolic fitness is what really counts. And Jennifer was fit.

BOORTZ: Who certified her?

BEGALA: The American Aerobics and Fitness Association.

BOORTZ: I am so impressed, the American Aerobics and Fitness Association certified her.

BEGALA: Well, I'm sure you would want to a government bureaucracy to come and do this. This is a private organization.

BOORTZ: No, I want the employer to be able to make a decision on which one of these people that applies for the job is going to do the most for the business, attract the most customers, and earn the most money. It's very simple.

CARLSON: Neal Boortz, unfortunately, we're going to have to leave it there. Marilyn Wann from San Francisco, thank you very much.

WANN: Thank you.

CARLSON: We appreciate it. Have fun Jazzercising.

when we come back, there's breaking news at the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem. We'll take you there live. Also, round 6. Paul Begala and I debate firearms without wielding them. Don't miss it. We'll be right back.


BEGALA: Time now for "round 6," just Tucker and me and guns, make three. Attorney General John Ashcroft has taken an extraordinary step on the issue of gun control, reversing long-held government policy. The Justice Department has asked the United States Supreme Court to rule that the Second Amendment protects an individual's right to possess guns, rather than simply a militia's right. There's a lot more here than just arcane legal and constitutional questions, Tucker. It says, plain language, militias. The maintenance of a well- regulated militia. This is the same Second Amendment...

CARLSON: Keep going, Paul.

BEGALA: ...same Second Amendment.

CARLSON: No, no, no. You are just quoting the first line.

BEGALA: The same Second Amendment that Abraham Lincoln -- Ronald Reagan never thought it conferred an individually. And all of a sudden, George Bush, our genius president, has figured out a new meaning that no scholar has ever found.

CARLSON: Actually, as you know, almost everything that you said is false. And I mean that respectfully.

BEGALA: Well, it's absolutely true.

CARLSON: There is nobody in America who believe the Second Amendment applies only to members of state militias. The Second Amendment has been interpreted since the moment it was written to apply to individuals. Isn't that...

BEGALA: In the militia.

CARLSON: It is not -- there are no state militias, Paul. It is not been -- it applies to...

BEGALA: And it doesn't confer...

CARLSON: and me and every gun owner.

BEGALA: It has never been held to confirm an individual right to hold a firearm, Tucker.

CARLSON: I don't know what you're talking about, Paul. There are not state militias. Wake up.

BEGALA: I'm talking about 200 years of constitutional jurisprudence that has consistently said the Second Amendment does not confer an individual right.

CARLSON: Paul, as you know, the...

BEGALA: Why did the founders say perhaps...

CARLSON: ...or perhaps you don't. The Supreme Court has not ruled on the Second Amendment and what specifically it means.


CARLSON: Since 1939.


CARLSON: What this administration is doing now is asking the Supreme Court, please clarify. The commonly held understanding of the Second Amendment is it, with limitations, as with felons and with certain firearms, but generally it applies to an individual's right to possess firearms, because as I said for the third time, there are no state militias.

BEGALA: So because it says a well-regulated militia, what they really meant was any yahoo at a gun show can go and grab an uzi?

CARLSON: But see, as you know, and every other person...

BEGALA: That's what you meant?

CARLSON: ...watching this show knows, you're missing the comma. The right to keep and bear arms shall not be abridged. So...

BEGALA: In pursuit of the maintenance of a -- it says a well regulated, not well armed, Tucker, regulated. You need to regulate.

CARLSON: No, in my mind, it's -- look for of all...

BEGALA: That's what it says. I'm just telling you about the Constitution.

CARLSON: Paul, Paul, you know for a fact that nobody thinks this applies just to militias. And you know, this administration has said very clearly. In fact, they're not as concerned as I am on on guns. And they said look, there are a lot of exceptions. Since Ashcroft said that you commit a crime, you forfeit your right to own a gun. Certain guns you never had a right to own them. But in general, this protects your right, just like every other point in the Constitution protects individual rights, sometimes as well as corporate, but individual.

BEGALA: The amendment does not say persons or individuals or citizens. The way that the amendments that confirm individual rights, like voting rights, say persons, individuals, citizens. It says a militia. Tucker, a militia.

CARLSON: And just militias.

BEGALA: Because an organized group.

CARLSON: So I know all those militia members out there who watch CROSSFIRE, all nine of them, will be happy to know that.

BEGALA: Well, the militia guys are very big for your side.

CARLSON: Yes, I know they are.

Coming up next on CROSSFIRE, that breaking news out of the Middle East that we promised. Plus, your chance to fireback at us, and a sure fire opportunity for us to fire back at you. And we will. We'll be right back.


BEGALA: Welcome back to CROSSFIRE. Thank you, Catherine Callaway, for that breaking news. Let's go to fireback, where you get to fireback at us. And we fire as well. "Paul, I have always admired you and your ability to deliver compelling commentary." So far, so good. "However, you seem a little too jovial for some of the more serious topics. Take a hint from Novak and put a permanent scowl on your face. Most people take grumpy for gravitas. Just look at Dick Cheney." Kathy Hardman of Mt. Pleasant, Texas.

I don't like to look at Dick Cheney, Kathy. It makes me grumpy.

CARLSON: And from Bob Walch of Punta Gorda, Florida. "Can't you please medicate Tucker Carlson before the show? When he is losing an argument, he becomes louder and shriller than usual." Bob, you'll be happy to know I am in fact medicated. Every night before the show, we have a coffee drinking contest. I'm proud to say, I've never lost.

BEGALA: Coming through loud and shrill.

CARLSON: Well, thank you, Paul. From you, that's a high compliment.

BEGALA: From the left, I am Paul Begala. Good-night for CROSSFIRE.

CARLSON: And from the right, I'm Tucker Carlson. Join us again tomorrow night for another edition of CROSSFIRE. See you then.