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Rumsfeld Turns Up Heat in Afghanistan; Does President Deserve Month-Long Vacation?
Aired August 02, 2002 - 19:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
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 tonight: Getting access, getting away, getting some medicine and getting partisan.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I mean all they can do is say, oh the sky is falling, the sky is falling. What are they for?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ANNOUNCER: We're firing up the CROSSFIRE political grill.
Is the Pentagon trying to bore Al Qaeda to death? Tonight, Rumsfeld says, get them.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We're always looking for ways to be more adaptive, to be more flexible, to be faster, to be more lethal.
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ANNOUNCER: He's heading to Maine to rest up for his big vacation. So, where's your month off? Ahead on CROSSFIRE. From the George Washington University, Paul Begala and Robert Novak.
ROBERT NOVAK, CO-HOST: Welcome to CROSSFIRE. Tonight, the latest assault on the American work ethic. Does anyone really deserve a month-long vacation? Also, Defense Secretary Rumsfeld lights a fire under the Pentagon's warplanes.
But as always, we start with those burning stories you may not find anywhere else. It's our CROSSFIRE "Political Alert."
A federal judge has just declared she knows better than the entire Justice Department. It's District Judge Gladys Kessler, a liberal, named a long time ago by Jimmy Carter, who's been raising hell for years. She struck again today, ordering the government to make public the names of all 1,200 people it has detained since September 11th. Actually Judge Kessler says there can be exceptions; she'll decide them herself on a case by case basis. The Justice Department argues that terrorists in other countries can crack the progress of U.S. investigators if they know which of their agents have been captured. This wise, liberal Judge Kessler calls that government illogical, I call her Judge Kessler a menace.
PAUL BEGALA, CO-HOST: I call her a hero. Good for her. We now have a free society again. The government can't just lock people up and not tell us why they locked them up. God bless Judge Kessler.
Well, the "Washington Post" reports today that Deputy Attorney General Larry Thompson made a profit of between $1 million and $5 million when he exercised stock options in Providian Financial Corporation last year. A spokesman for Thompson said the sales was required by government ethics laws. The "Washington Post" says that government ethics officials say that's not the case. Two months after Thompson sold at the top, the stock took a dive. Thompson, a former Providian board member, is named in a lawsuit that alleges company officials bailed out while leaving employees, and their 401(k)s, holding the bag. And this, Bob, sorry to cut you off. But the new corporate task force on fraud that President Bush named, its chairman, Larry Thompson. Nice pick, junior.
NOVAK: You know, you've got a nice little game you're playing here. You say to these people, you've got to sell this stock, sell it right away, don't wait. They sell the stock when the market is high, you say, oh, you took advantage. It is a no-win situation. I know what you're up to.
The Democratic controlled senate had been dawdling, getting nothing done. Then suddenly this week, the senators were faster than a speeding bullet. Passing or killing, mostly killing, one bill after another. And the senators left on their summer vacation last night ahead of schedule. Now, the Democrats left without passing a prescription drug bill, homeland security undone. Appropriations bills unfinished, terrorist insurance, undone. Sure senators were eager to get the beach when their overseas tax-payer financed junkets, but endangering incumbent Democratic senators implored -- Senator Majority Leader Tom Daschle let them leave and save themselves. Political security trumps senatorial duty any day.
BEGALA: Bob, you should be ashamed of yourself. Those guys are doing their job; they're going to pass all those bills, as soon as the president will work with them to find some kind of reasonable compromise. But he doesn't seem to want to, because, well, he's on vacation.
Now, news about our super-patriotic Vice President Dick Cheney used 35 different off-shore tax havens to help his firm, Halliburton, avoid taxes that support our military probably shouldn't have surprised us. After all, as the "Wall Street Journal" and CNN and ABC News all reported back in the year 2000, Cheney's Halliburton firm had subsidiaries doing business with Iran, Iraq and Libya. Reuters now reports that Halliburton has won a lucrative $9.7 million contract to build prison cells at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba. Now, how does a company that avoids taxes and trades with the enemy twin a big Pentagon contract? Just clean living, I guess. NOVAK: Let me tell you something about the American system. With our horrible tax system, it is the duty of every taxpayer the more money you make to avoid as much taxes as you can within the law, and this was within the law.
In Washington, Democrats, including this gentleman across from me, are trying desperately to pin corporate scandals on President Bush, but in New York Democrats use the issue against each other. The good old circular firing squad that they love so well. Andrew Cuomo, seeking the Democratic nomination for governor, accused his opponent, Carl McCall, of political conflicts of interest in the WorldCom bankruptcy case because of political fund-raising. And McCall fired back by calling Cuomo a hypocrite for pocketing $136,000 from a former Enron director. Who's the bigger hypocrite? Cuomo or McCall? Maybe, I'll let Mr. Begala decide.
BEGALA: They're both good men. I'm praying for Cuomo because he's tough and he's smart and he's did a terrific job at the Housing Department. But they're going to work this out and one of them, and I think it will be Andrew, is going to beat Governor Pataki.
Well, a man that the Associated Press describes as a long-time friend and advisor to Attorney General John Ashcroft reportedly promised to use his connections to win government payments for the families of the victims of that right-wing terrorist attack in Oklahoma City in exchange for a mere 10 to 27.5% of the proceeds. This character's name is Charles Polk, and he's a Missouri Republican who sat at John Ashcroft's side during his confirmation hearing. A former partner of Mr. Polk's alleges in a lawsuit that Polk had encouraged the venture to help Oklahomans. Selling access and profiting off of misery. Ain't it great to be a Republican.
NOVAK: What, is this -- is Mr. Ashcroft next on your hit list now? Is that -- is this the screw-down?
BEGALA: It's his buddy who's trying to make money off the Oklahoma City bombing victims. Terrible.
NOVAK: President Bush says it has been a productive month here in Washington, but there is enough unfinished work to ensure Congress, especially that Democratic Senate will be caught in another hectic rush in September and October to help put some of these undone items on our political grill. We're joined by Democratic strategist Chris Lapetina and Republican strategist Alex Castellanos. How are you?
CHRIS LAPETINA, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Thank you. Good to see you.
NOVAK: Good to see you.
BEGALA: All right, guys, let's tear it up. The political story of the week, Alex, is also the political story, I think, of this election year. We now learned in its ocean of bad news about corporate malfeasance that our president and our vice president supported overseas tax havens to evade and avoid paying their taxes, which is their patriotic duty. This is a disaster for the Republicans, isn't it?
ALEX CASTELLANOS, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Gee, Paul, how many -- This is about the 438th consecutive week that we're doing Enron and lumping all these things on the president. Are you talking about, let's see. Democrats that raised taxes on American corporations, who destroyed so many jobs, ruined so many families, take away the pay checks that they're driving American corporations overseas. Whose fault is this? You're Enron. You're the ones who destroyed American corporations.
BEGALA: Well, when I worked for President Clinton, he actually had ...
CASTELLANOS: Secretary Rubin, who had a lot of these off shore.
BEGALA: He had an economy that was the greatest job generating machine we had ever seen. Bush and Cheney has driven that into the ditch. We have 1.8 million Americans who had jobs when Clinton was president who've lost them under Bush, and Bush and Cheney are leading this effort to take our profits overseas to avoid taxes. That's unpatriotic, isn't it?
CASTELLANOS: Oh, you know that President Bush inherited three quarters of negative economic growth, and he's turned that around. And we're creating jobs, and that it was the best timed tax cuts we've ever had that's getting our economy going again. While the Democrats in the Senate want to raise taxes now to get us back deeper into the recession?
NOVAK: Chris Lapetina, your friend Paul says you're a real Democratic insider, so I want to -- I want you to explain something for me. It was the Democratic leadership counsel, which is supposed to be more or less moderate, met in New York, and one of its founders, Al Gore, stayed away. And his running-mate, Joe Lieberman, was there. And he gave an interview to "USA Today." And this is what -- this is why I love the Democratic party. It really comes to the surface. Let's take a look.
He said, "Gore's slogan, the people vs. the powerful was not the 'New Democrat approach,' was not the pro-growth approach. It made it more difficult for us to gain the support of middle-class, independent voters who don't see America as 'us vs. them.'" So Joe Lieberman is blaming Al Gore for the election. Is he right?
LAPETINA: Well, let me say, we're proud to have Joe Lieberman as the most honest senator in the United States Senate. We're proud to have him as a Democrat.
NOVAK: I don't think that was the question.
LAPETINA: But the point is, listen, they had their differences. In the Democratic party, we've always said, we're a big tent. We're always willing to debate, discuss. We don't have to agree; we don't have to walk in lock step like the Republican party does.
CASTELLANOS: There is a big division in the Democratic party. In fact, it may have cost them the election last time. Bashing business, bashing the things that make jobs for Americans, may have cost the election.
BEGALA: They won the election. By the way, news flash, they won the election. They got a half million more votes than the other guy.
NOVAK: Well, let me tell you: If you ever read the Constitution, the Electoral College decides the election, and the Electoral College votes -- but I don't want to go through that once again.
LAPETINA: Somebody said the Republican primaries, Alex has been involved.
NOVAK: I want you to answer this for me.
NOVAK: This is a real difference of opinion, whether you should bash business with all this populism. Al Gore is a millionaire many times over, of course, but bash them anyway. All right, Joe Lieberman said, hey, you can't have jobs without business. Who do you agree with?
LAPETINA: Well, let me say, Al Gore will tell you he didn't bash business. His message was a message of fighting for ...
NOVAK: Joe thinks he did.
LAPETINA: He'll say that ...
NOVAK: Joe thinks he did.
LAPETINA: ... He didn't talk enough about ...
NOVAK: Who do you agree with? Which one of these guys do you agree with? I'd like to know.
LAPETINA: Well, I would say that I agree with most Democrats who are moderate. And we think that we're on the side of business and the side of working people and you can be on the side of both.
CASTELLANOS: We have 60 percent of voters in the next election that are owning stocks or mutual funds. Bashing them -- Joe Lieberman here, he proved -- this proves Lieberman is even capable of doing the right thing if it will help the Democrats win.
BEGALA: It is closer to 70 percent of American voters who own stock. Do you think they're going to want to hear from the Republicans about how wonderful these corporations are that have been ripping them off? They've lost $7 trillion in their investments since Bush took over and let these corporate thieves run wild.
CASTELLANOS: And we should remember under whose watch all this started. It was Hillary Clinton ...
CASTELLANOS: Hillary Clinton when she ...
LAPETINA: Pass the buck.
CASTELLANOS: Now listen. Hillary Clinton took $100 and turned it into $100,000 in a day. Terry McCall (ph) took $100,000, turned it into $18 million. Under Clinton, the corporate criminals were sleeping in the Clinton bedroom. That's where they were spending the night. Now under Bush, they're spending the night in jail. That's who's locking them up.
BEGALA: That's the biggest crock I've ever heard.
CASTELLANOS: We've just passed a bill of corporate responsibility.
BEGALA: I'm sorry to dissuade you with the facts. President Clinton went to Congress and said, help me pass a law that separates accounting and auditing functions from consulting. The Republicans refused. He went to them and said, let's regulate the regulators. The Republicans refused. He said, let's regulate energy traders like Enron. The Republicans refused. He said let's crack down on these tax shelters like Bush and Cheney use. The Republicans refused. I was working there. That's what happened. Those are the facts.
CASTELLANOS: That's comic book stuff. The fact is, we're locking the folks up now that we've had a decade of excess. President Bush is building real economic strength now.
LAPETINA: That's not the real story. The real story of why these guys are getting locked up is because a Democrat in New York State named Eliot Spitzer, who shamed the Republicans and the SEC into taking action against these guys.
NOVAK: Oh, he's one of those heroes, I'm sure. He and his business pressures. Now, I want to ask you this. One of the icons of the Democratic party, just being rattled by the press corps, is Robert Rubin, the former Secretary of the Treasury. Now, he works now for Citicorp, and very early in the Enron scandal, he called a man named Fisher at the treasury, who's a Democrat who's still there, and he said, can't we do something about the credit rating of Enron?
And Senator Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania, chairman of the Senate Republican Conference, has wanted these investigating committees which are calling every businessman in, to bring in Rubin. And Santorum said the other day, "Not to have him come and account as they have made other folks come and account is purely political. If this was a former Republican Secretary of the Treasury, I guarantee you that he would have been called up there a long time ago." Today, we taped an interview on "Novak, Hunt and Shields," with Secretary Carl Levin, secretary of the Senate Primary Investigations sub-committee. The whole interview will run tomorrow at 5:30 p.m. And we asked him about this -- let's listen to what he says.
SEN. CARL LEVIN, (R) MICHIGAN: There's just no evidence that Rubin was involved in any of the activities that my subcommittee is investigating.
NOVAK: Isn't that -- isn't that bad that you won't -- you call in every dog and his brother and you won't call in Rubin.
LAPETINA: I'm happy to answer the question, but you know who you should ask this question to? Dan Burton. He's holding hearings; he's a Republican. Why doesn't he call Rubin in? You know why? Because there's no evidence. Because Rubin made one phone call, which puts him in the same category as Andy Card, as our current Secretary and Treasurer, Paul O'Neill. They made a couple of calls. That's all Rubin did. There's no reason to bring him in. It's to be a short trip to Washington.
NOVAK: Who did he call?
LAPETINA: I expect that there's talk.
NOVAK: Who did he call? I mean, he's the treasury secretary and who did he call, instead, he said, Paul, I want you to do something for Enron?
LAPETINA: He took calls.
NOVAK: He took calls? But this is influence. This is calling the treasury and saying, can't we fix -- Doesn't that deserve a hearing?
LAPETINA: Bob Rubin made one call and said, can it be done? His protege said no, it can't be done. End of story. There's nothing there.
BEGALA: The difference is, when Ken Lay called, he got what he wanted. He said, hey, Dick Cheney, give me a bunch of meetings in secret with your task force on energy. He got it. He called Bush and say, hey ...
NOVAK: Stop. Stop
BEGALA: ... excuse me -- can you ...
NOVAK: You're making that up. You don't know that he had commitment on energy.
BEGALA: Yes, I do. Ken Lay called, for example, and asked to have Patrick Henry Wood from the Texas Public Utility Commission put in charge of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. There was a Republican there already named Curtis Abair (ph). Ken said, "Fire Abair (ph)," according to Abair (ph), because Abair, I'm not going to do what Enron wants. Ken Lay got to pick his regulators because Bush did anything he wanted.
NOVAK: That's all made up. That's a story.
BEGALA: That's all in public record.
CASTELLANOS: It shocked the Democrats that people who would actually know something about the energy business might end up in the energy business, regulating energy.
BEGALA: It was because he was pro-Enron.
CASTELLANOS: There was no pro-Enron. Enron was not a problem. Enron accounting, by the way, started during the Clinton Administration. It's being cleaned up now, Paul. Right?
BEGALA: No, it's not actually; it's been 243 days. Has Enron even gotten a parking ticket in the 243 days since we first found out? No.
CASTELLANOS: If the department text, when that comes out, you're going to wear a big Bush button.
BEGALA: You know what, when it comes out, I'll believe it.
LAPETINA: I hope it happens before '04 for the president.
BEGALA: That's why he'll do it, for the political reasons.
NOVAK: Stay tuned. Listen, that's a career cast promotion for the Justice Department.
BEGALA: We better get everything that upsets Bush out of the Enron committee.
In a minute, we're going to ask our guests about the FBI's attempt to use lie detector tests on members of Congress and whether using them on the Bush Administration might cause widespread power surges.
Later, if it's good enough for W., why shouldn't you get a month- long vacation, too?
And our quote for the day comes from one of the best friends Israel could ever have. Stay with us.
Welcome back to CROSSFIRE. We're talking about political issues that are hotter than the sidewalks of Washington on this 90 degree plus day. With Republican strategist Alex Castellanos and Democratic strategist Chris Lapetina. Mr. Novak?
NOVAK: Chris, I've been around here for 45 years, and this ...
LAPETINA: You don't look it.
NOVAK: This is one of the most disgraceful things I have ever seen. And that is the record of the Democratic Senate in approving circuit court life-time appointments. Those are the most important. Let's take a look at this. This is just for the first two years of each administration. Circle court judges under Reagan 95% confirmed. Under George Bush with a Democratic senate, a Democratic Senate, 95% confirmed. Clinton 86%, George W. Bush 40% and the two years are almost over. That is not fair, is it? LAPETINA: Let me tell you the truth. The truth is that the Democratic controlled Senate has confirmed more appellate judges, more judges than in the five years, the last five years of the Clinton Administration. And, when George Bush took office ...
NOVAK: Wait just a minute ...
LAPETINA: When George Bush took office, there were one out of eight or nine judgeships were vacant and that was because the Republican controlled Senate refused to push through President Clinton's judges.
NOVAK: You're ignoring those facts. The first point is that the most of these judges come in in the first two years. That is what the important time is. There has never -- there has never. We went back. Wait just a minute. We just went back to Reagan, but we can go all the way back. There has never been a case -- these are facts -- that only 40% of the nominations sent up there. Is that fair to say that 60% of these nominees are not confirmed?
LAPETINA: I'm telling you, that the fact is that 72 judges, that's more than the last five years.
NOVAK: You won't address the percentages.
LAPETINA: But that's the truth, those are the numbers.
BEGALA: Many circuit court nominees have been up. Bush is slow to nominate them. Some have been rejected by the Senate, which is their constitutional prerogative.
NOVAK: Sixty percent?
BEGALA: But the reality -- this is reality. Bush is late getting them up. But also the Democrats running the Senate. My beef with the Democrats is that they confirmed 72 of these right-wing judges, filed by a president who did not win the popular vote. The reason we let presidents nominate -- well, I happen to care about the Constitution.
NOVAK: Well, I care about the Constitution, too. He's President of the United States.
BEGALA: Well, Chief Justice Rehnquist forced him in there with a lawsuit. That's not the Electoral College.
CASTELLANOS: Oh, wouldn't that have helped?
BEGALA: That's why we should be very careful about what kind of judges we seat on the bench.
LAPETINA: The Republicans used to average 30 judges a year, we did 72, that's almost double that, this year.
NOVAK: You won't address the percentage. Why won't you address the fact that 60 percent... CASTELLANOS: I'll address it. Tom Daschle needs a pay cut. The fact is, he's blocked judges. He's held up the homeland security bill. He's held up the homeland security bill, he's trying to raise taxes. He's held up prescription drugs. For the first time in 20 years, the Senate's going home without passing a budget. Good work, Tom Daschle.
LAPETINA: Did you hear what the president said today? He thanked -- he thanked both sides for good bipartisan work. He said when both sides gets together, we can get things done. He's right. If you were the president ...
CASTELLANOS: The education reform bill, they cut taxes for the American people with 12 Democratic senators' support. But Tom Daschle right now is holding up the budget.
NOVAK: It would be better if the president realized he's not in Austin anymore, and with this bunch of smugglers (ph), you can't have bipartisanship.
CASTELLANOS: You know, we're the party of diversity now, the Republicans. We're reaching out and embracing everyone.
BEGALA: Sure. The millionaires, and the billionaires. There's a lot of diversity there; they take the rich and the hyper-rich, the privileged and the over-privileged. Let me ask you about another topic, which is very hot on Capitol Hill today. There's a story in the paper that the FBI wants to hook members of the United States Senate, who oversee them, up to lie detectors. I think that is an outrage, on a bipartisan basis, Senator Dick Shelby, a Republican, and a terrific guy and an honest man as the day is long, stood up, in an act of courage, and said, no, you're not going to hook me or my colleagues, if I have anything to say about it, up to a lie detector test. And he's the vice chairman of that Intelligence Committee. I think this is something we can agree on. We don't need the FBI and the Bush Administration trying to hook Senators up to lie detectors.
LAPETINA: Maybe they should hook pundits up.
BEGALA: That would be fine with me.
NOVAK: There's always a first time. You know there's nothing in the Constitution.
CASTELLANOS: I think you guys are going to find a hard time finding a lie detector that won't overheat when it gets to the Senate Democrats anyway. But no, you're right. There's a real constitutional issue here. Should the Executive Branch hook Congress up to a lie detector. But that's not the issue here.
BEGALA: Why can't Bush say, this is simply wrong?
CASTELLANOS: There are so many leaks out of the Senate and Congress committee that are jeopardizing this country's national security. BEGALA: But Bush is making the battle plans and publishing them in the "New York Times." Oh, come on! The leaks are coming out of Bush.
CASTELLANOS: No, the committee itself asked the FBI, asked Ashcroft to come in and investigate this, and you know what? They said -- they said, come on in. We'll do anything it takes. Anything to help. And the first thing the FBI says okay, lie detector tests. And no, we didn't mean that.
NOVAK: I'll tell you, I agree with Paul, but Paul -- on the separation of powers -- but Paul, you can make Bush the villain of every story. I didn't know how you could do it on this one, but you succeeded. I want to ask you -- I want to ask you this. We had a situation the other day where it was a closed-door meeting of the Democratic senators and Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton was discussing, she wants to keep using soft money, even though she voted for the bill, cause she's a big hypocrite, and she started screaming at Senator Russ Feingold, Democrat of Wisconsin, who is one of the most principled members of the senate. I don't agree with him on a lot of things, but he is principled, and she said, get rid of Russ. Now isn't this -- She didn't say it that way. She was screaming at the top of her voice. Isn't this a question of this has all been a facade, the nice Hillary, and she's still the mean lady that was in the White House.
LAPETINA: Bob, Paul Begala has heard Hillary scream, and I guarantee, she was not screaming when she talked to Russ Feingold.
NOVAK: But the truth of the matter is, she was. I can guarantee -- All the other senators were there said she was screaming at him.
LAPETINA: She brought up a point. And it's about time she started asserting herself. Because the truth of the matter, for better or worse, and I think it's for better, she's a leader in the Democratic party.
NOVAK: She's a leader in the Democratic party.
LAPETINA: She is absolutely a leader in the Democratic party.
CASTELLANOS: This is news.
BEGALA: Let me bring up another woman who is probably not a big fan favorite of the Democrats. Katherine Harris. Katherine Harris, as we all remember, she was the Cruella Devill look-alike who was the Secretary of State in Florida during that hijacking of democracy in the year 2000.
LAPETINA: I understand you, Paul.
BEGALA: She is supposed to know the state's election law. Under the election law, as a candidate for Congress, she was supposed to have resigned from that job. She didn't do it; she didn't know. And what the "Miami Herald" said, this is how they covered it. I'm just reading it to you from the Herald. "After saying her resignation was effective two weeks ago, she told reporters she remains de facto Secretary of State until Governor Jeb Bush names a replacement. Appearing nervous," the Herald tells us, "Harris momentarily lost her footing while standing behind the lectern on a ram of paper. And aides cut reporters' questions short after her announcement, shuttling her to the door."
She's de facto Secretary of State. She's a de facto fool, isn't she?
CASTELLANOS: What a dedicated public servant this woman is. She'll continue -- she'll continue to work for the people of Florida, even when they stop paying her.
LAPETINA: She just wanted to show Florida voters she could have a senior moment.
NOVAK: Gentlemen, I hate to tell you, we are out of time. Thank you very much, Chris Lapetina. Alex Castellanos.
BEGALA: Great job.
NOVAK: Thank you very much.
What's that buzzing in your ear? It's something else to worry about this summer. Connie Chung has details next in a CNN news alert. Later Defense Secretary Rumsfeld orders a Pentagon top brass to get creative. And our quote of the day comes from a storyteller who's known for being creative with the truth. You won't believe what he's saying this time.
(INTERRUPTED FOR "NEWS ALERT")
CONNIE CHUNG, CNN ANCHOR: Now, back to Paul and Bob.
BEGALA: Connie, thank you for that report. But before we let you go, what's on tap for your show tonight at the top of the hour?
CHUNG: Well, we have extraordinary information about the courage of one of those two girls who was rescued yesterday in California after being kidnapped. And it is a story about courage that she showed and the relationship she has with the other girl. You're just -- you're just going to be amazed.
NOVAK: Connie, we'll all be watching you at 8:00 p.m. Connie Chung, ladies and gentlemen.
BEGALA: Thank you, Connie.
NOVAK: It's a little late, but a one-time student war protester and Vietnam draft avoider has finally found a cause for which he is willing to pick up a gun. At least that's what he says. Not that you can be sure of anything he says. Last night, while explaining the Middle East conflict TO a rapt Canadian audience, Bill Clinton -- yes, our former president -- said something that is so over-the-top, it just has to be our "Quote of the Day."
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BILL CLINTON, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Because Israel believes, when it comes right down to it America is the only big country that cares whether they live or die. That's why I can say, give up the West Bank, because the Israelis knew that if the Iraqi or the Iranian army came across the Jordan rival, I would personally grab a rifle, get in a ditch, and fight and die, and I would.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
NOVAK: Now, they laughed in this audience, and it's not laughing when a former president of the United States is that silly. He wouldn't fight for his own country, I damn sure wouldn't fight for Israel.
BEGALA: By the way, our country president also didn't fight for our country...
NOVAK: He was in the military. He was in the military.
BEGALA: He was AWOL. He was AWOL, as you know. He was AWOL for a year during his service, so let's not dig up bones. Let's talk about Clinton.
I am proud that Bill Clinton is the greatest friend Israel ever had in the Oval Office. President Bush has been a good friend of Israel as well. I do not mean to diminish his commitment, but I'm proud that our president is strong for Israel.
NOVAK: Why do you think he's strong for Israel? Why do you think he'd take a gun when he was afraid to fight for his own country?
BEGALA: Tell me why President Bush didn't show up for his guard duty?
NOVAK: Well, now, we're talking about Clinton.
BEGALA: Oh! So we can't criticize Bush?
NOVAK: Because Bush was a pilot in the Air Force Reserve.
BEGALA: And he didn't show up for a year. That's a crime.
NOVAK: See, you're so sneaky, you got me talking about Bush again.
OK, coming up, another chance for government to stick its nose where it doesn't belong. We'll ask why some people think American workers need to pick up a little European decadence.
But next, no vacations for American war planners. Will Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld finally get what he wants?
NOVAK: Welcome back to CROSSFIRE. We're coming to you from the George Washington University in Foggy Bottom, Washington, D.C.
You can tell from the leaks, there is a real war going on inside the Pentagon. Sources tell CNN the Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld has issued a classified memorandum to the U.S. Special Operations Command, ordering it to capture or kill the top leadership of Al Qaeda.
In another leak, sources say Rumsfeld is deeply unhappy with the Central Command's lack of innovation, and he wants to see more secret missions by U.S. special forces.
Now, joining us from Chicago is retired Army general David Grange, military analyst for CNN. General Grange served in both the Green Berets and the Delta Force.
BEGALA: General Grange, thank you for joining us, sir.
BRIG. GEN. DAVID GRANGE (RET.), US ARMY: Thank you.
BEGALA: This report that CNN obtained, as Bob said, was a leak from the Pentagon, and I am someone -- and I don't think I'm a naive person, but I actually, partisanship aside, was proud that we had who I thought were competent people in civilian leadership at the Pentagon.
But now I got to ask you, with our war plans leaking every day, another leak now about internal strategy -- Rumsfeld and Cheney, Dr. Rice, the national security adviser -- do these people, are they competent to keep America's secrets, General?
GRANGE: I think so. I don't think any of the leaks came from those individuals. I think the leaks came out from their subordinates on this particular issue. But in actuality, the U.S. Special Operations Command to be given a mission, special operations-type mission on counterterrorism, is actually in their unclassified charter.
NOVAK: General, there has been -- there have been a lot of reports of disagreements between Secretary Rumsfeld and uniform military about the pace of operations in Afghanistan, and when this operation, this war first began, some of my sources told me that General Tommy Franks, the commander-in-chief of Central Command, though a good man, distinguished man, was the wrong man in the wrong place.
He's an old artillery officer, not really fitted for Special Ops, and that's the reason this thing is going to go slow. What do you think of that analysis? GRANGE: I don't know if he's the -- you would be -- you could say he is the right or wrong man for the job. He became a CINC for some type of qualifications, obviously. But there is a lot of concern about the pace of the operation.
And the concern is that in this situation bin Laden is one of the objectives, or at least, you know, it is the perception of these objective to win this fight. And what happens in a counterguerrilla or a counterterrorist operation is targets are fleeting.
You only have a short window that you can actually strike and do something. And if there's any hesitation, if there's any problems of having people in the right place at the right time, then you miss that target of opportunity and then you have to wait again for the intelligence to be developed to give yourself another chance.
BEGALA: Well, but general, How could we have missed that target of opportunity when the report today says that Secretary Rumsfeld has ordered the Special Ops to, quote, "capture or kill Al Qaeda leadership."
Why did it take 11 months to issue that order?
GRANGE: It didn't. Special Operations has always had a mission to take down the Al Qaeda terrorists and other -- not only bin Laden but other terrorists around the world. The issue is -- the situation you have here is that the Special Operation command out of Tampa, which one of its missions is to actually be the lead for a particular operation -- in other words, be the supported, not the supporting commander, as the order that was just given.
Elements of Special Operations have always had a mission to get bin Laden.
NOVAK: General, some of my sources tell me that one of the problems has been -- and I think the chief of staff of the army kind of indicated that -- that there was -- there is an absence of tube artillery in some of these engagements, or they could have been more successful. Do you think that's a problem in Afghanistan, or is it a serious problem?
GRANGE: I believe there is tube artillery there. If I was a commander, I would have had artillery there from day one. When you are doing ground operations, the combined armed aspect of infantry, of armor, of artillery, of engineers -- you need to have your own stuff in your task force in case, for instance, weather goes bad or there is a timing issue to get aircraft on site, and then there's certain targets that are better for artillery to take out than there are for airplanes.
And so, you know it's all a matter of opinion, but our doctrine talks about indirect fire from artillery on the ground. I would have had artillery.
BEGALA: And Senator John Kerry of Massachusetts, a highly decorated formal naval officer, has offered a critique of a different sort. He has said, if I can paraphrase him accurately, that it was a mistake to use Northern Alliance troops, ragtag locals whose loyalty might be questionable, to go into that mountainous region in Tora Bora in the east, where we believed Al Qaeda leadership and bin Laden were hiding, that it would have better to send in your Special Ops men to go and get him, but that that was an enormous tactical mistake. Do you agree?
GRANGE: Well, I agree that we should have had more ground troops there on the ground. Coalition, American, British, whatever.
The problem is, when you're dealing with indigenous forces -- and we've worked with them many times, to including Vietnam -- you don't know who you can trust. They have a different tempo, a pace than American forces have, which is a lot more professional, they used to work...
BEGALA: Very diplomatic, General...
NOVAK: I thought what he said was great, no.
BEGALA: No, our troops are a lot better, and why weren't the best put in to do the toughest job?
GRANGE: Well, I think that if you look back on the operation it would have been advantageous to have more of our troops on the ground; not just special operations, but good infantry.
NOVAK: General, to put this in perspective, isn't it very difficult in a place with a moonscape topography such as Afghanistan to clean up all of what are essentially guerrilla fighters? Isn't it unrealistic to think that, boy, we can get every one of these little fellows and send them all to Guantanamo?
GRANGE: You'll never get them all because, one, you don't know who they all are.
They use the populace as camouflage. They conceal themselves within the local populations and different tribal areas, so you don't know -- just like the VC, the Vietcong, in Vietnam. You don't know who's good or bad quite often. And then, of course, they play each other off on us and we're caught in the middle.
So it's very tough to determine who the foe is.
BEGALA: General David Grange, CNN military analyst, thank you very much, sir, for joining us.
GRANGE: Thank you.
BEGALA: Still ahead, your chance to "Fireback" at us. And one of our viewers has a thought about Hillary Clinton possibly returning to the White House.
But next: the current president does it; the Supreme Court does it; the whole Congress does it, why shouldn't you get August off too?
Stay with us.
BEGALA: Well, we thought the Go-Gos would put us in mood for this segment, because our hard-working president is up in Kennebunkport, Maine this weekend. He's resting up for that strenuous month-long vacation which begins next week.
You know, Europeans average six weeks of vacation a year, yet most Americans workers only get about two. It's the least amount of vacation time in the industrialized world.
So where's your month off?
Next in the CROSSFIRE to debate it, Jeremy Rifkin, president of the Foundation on Economic Trends, and Steve Dasbach, executive director of the Libertarian Party.
BEGALA: ... good to see you again.
NOVAK: Jeremy, just a quick preliminary question: Do you still have these crazy ideas about the government mandating the vacations for everybody?
JEREMY RIFKIN, PRESIDENT, FOUNDATION ON ECONOMIC TRENDS: Well, you know, we've had this discussion before.
NOVAK: Many times.
RIFKIN: Look, we started the industrial revolution with a 70- hour workweek. Pretty bad.
NOVAK: And it built character, too.
RIFKIN: Well, maybe, but it also ruined a lot of lives.
And when productivity rose all through the industrial age, people organized, working people came together and they demanded a 60-hour workweek, then a 50, then a 40, increased the pay and benefits. And that's how we judge the success of the 20th century.
My question is this: We've got all these new technologies, they're raising productivity, we think we may be on the cusp of one of the greatest technology advances in history in the 21st century, why aren't we talking seriously about raising the idea of a 35-hour workweek, or a 30, or even a 25?
NOVAK: I tell you why. And I'll answer the question with a question, as I usually do.
We are in a war, the president says we're in a war. The stock market has collapsed. The economy is not so good. A lot of people have to work.
Don't people have to work harder? This is -- these are not the easiest times. I would say we ought to increase the workweek.
RIFKIN: I really disagree with you. I think people have to work smarter. And we had this discussion last year. The fact is...
NOVAK: Two years ago.
RIFKIN: In Europe, as you know, there's a 35-hour workweek. I played some role in having that happen in France and some other countries. And I'll tell you, the morale of workers in Europe is better, productivity is doing well.
And what you're going to see in the next year is the American miracle turned out to be a little bit of a fraud and the European miracle is moving right to the floor. And we've got a lot of European workers that are more motivated...
NOVAK: The European economy is in the dumps.
BEGALA: Let me bring Steve Dasbach into this.
First, thank you for joining us.
STEVE DASBACH, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, LIBERTARIAN PARTY: You're ready for a vacation.
BEGALA: I am ready. I'm a fisherman. And there's not much I like about President Bush and Vice President Cheney, but they're fishermen too. And I like that a lot.
And they're going to spend most of the month of August -- Cheney in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, beautiful place in the mountains; Bush at his ranch in Texas, my home state. And they're going to spend a lot of time on the water chasing fish.
And you know what that's going to do? It's going to rejuvenate them, regenerate them. They will come back ready for work.
So We're at war, the economy is tanking; if our president and our vice president can do that, why can't we?
DASBACH: Well, if it's a personal choice, we make decisions about where we work and under what conditions. But that should be our choice.
You know, if I am going to a business to decide to work there or not, I can weigh how much vacation they offer versus benefits. You know, there isn't a vacation fairy who comes along and says -- this extra time came from nowhere.
It comes from something. And if they're forcing you to have a fixed amount of vacation, that's going to come from somewhere else. Is it going to be a trade-off of health insurance? Am I going to have to pay more for my health insurance? Am I going to have a lower salary?
But maybe if I'm a young family, we're starting out, maybe those extra hours and that extra paycheck is more important to me to get a house than a few extra weeks of vacation.
BEGALA: ... obtained against what Jeremy Rifkin was talking about before: the eight-hour day, the 40-hour week, the minimum wage, health and safety all mandated by the government. God bless the government. Why not a little vacation time mandated too?
DASBACH: Well, the fact is that you can get more vacation time if you choose that. We have that choice when we decide who we're going to work for.
You know, frankly there's a lot of people who -- they want to start a new business, they want to get involved, they'll work 40, 50, 60, 70 hours a week because that's what they choose to do.
RIFKIN: I think, in all due respect, this is a little naive.
I work with businesses and Fortune 500 companies. I can tell you, if it were up to management, we would've never had ever a 10-hour day, we would have no vacation time, and we'd all be suffering under conditions that we suffered 100 years.
DASBACH: That's simply not true. That's simply not true.
RIFKIN: The fact is, working people have had to organize throughout the industrial age to demand their rights. When productivity goes up, it means that we ought to be able to work smart and have more time for our families and our lives.
Why are we doing all this? Why are we introducing all these labor-saving, time-saving technologies just to work longer and harder? For what...
NOVAK: Let me suggest a real-world problem, as Hillary Clinton -- I'm not going to shout at you, because I never shout -- get real about this.
Let's look at CNN, where I work. The young -- a lot of the young people here, they get so much vacation time, they are forced to take their vacation time. It disrupts the flow of their work schedule...
RIFKIN: Now I'm going to say something...
NOVAK: Just a minute. Wait a minute. Let me finish -- of their career. It screws up my operations. Suddenly somebody I'm working with is gone for two weeks. No...
RIFKIN: Sorry Bob, I'm going to tell a little story about you.
When we did this show a few years ago, you said, I can't stand vacation, I hate holidays, I'm bored sick, I want to get back to work.
You know what happened? My wife and I were out in Ocean City a couple of years ago...
BEGALA: The lovely resort town in Maryland.
RIFKIN: We walk into a restaurant, Bob walks in, leisure clothes, wife's there having a great time.
And I said, why are you out here? He says, oh, I have a little house out here.
You're taking your vacation, Bob.
BEGALA: Let me give you a few statistics Steve Dasbach. The American people work harder than anybody in the industrialized world. We put in...
DASBACH: And we get the results from that.
BEGALA: Well, let's see the returns, because I think it's diminishing returns, as the economists would say.
We work 1,979 annual hours a year. In Japan they only work 1,842. And they have a word in their language, "karoshi," which means working yourself to death.
Canada, Britain, Germany, all behind us. But look at productivity per hour. We're not the leaders in productivity per hour. I think we're working ourselves too hard, and diminishing returns obtains.
France gets $33.71 an hour per worker hour. Belgium is ahead of us at $32.98. And the U.S. is behind those two European nations. Why?
DASBACH: One thing, well, you look at their economies; their economies haven't been doing that good.
And more importantly, it is a matter of choice. You should be able to decide whether -- how important vacation is versus pay, versus other kinds of benefits.
We don't need to have Dick Armey and the other folks in Congress decide.
Now if we want to send Congress on vacation for a few more months, that would be good. Maybe they could pass fewer bad laws, fewer pork-barrel...
NOVAK: What's the ideal length of a vacation?
RIFKIN: Let me tell you something. You made a good point here, and that is, we know when we look at work that the average person's performance, peek performance a day is about three or four hours.
NOVAK: Three or four hours? I'm just getting going.
RIFKIN: Three of four hours. Well, you may be -- you may be Superman. But most people, if they're sitting there for nine or ten hours, you're getting diminishing returns on their workload. People need to be rejuvenated, whether it's shorter day or whether it's vacation at the end of the year. Otherwise we're working ourselves to death for no reason.
NOVAK: You're on vacation as far as this program goes. Thank you very much, Jeremy.
RIFKIN: Good seeing you again.
NOVAK: Thank you very much.
Next in "Fireback" one of our viewers has e-mailed a suggestion that really and truly will fix the economy.
NOVAK: Time now for "Fireback," when the viewers fire back at us. The first e-mail from Robert Glennon from Annandale, New Jersey, who says, "The economy is not going down because of corporate greed but because the economy is weak. If the Democrats had allowed Bush to pass a stimulus package we would not be in this situation."
Robert, you got that 100 percent correct, and not only that, if there hadn't been a Republican Senate and they passed the 2001 tax cut, we would really be in trouble.
BEGALA: We are in trouble because of that tax cut. We squandered a $1 trillion plus surplus, a $5 trillion surplus over years, and look at what happened.
Dave Broyies of Peoria, Arizona writes, "I think the invasion of Iraq is a vision of Bush Sr. Bush Jr. couldn't think of anything else to get dad for his birthday." Ooh.
NOVAK: That's even too rough for you.
BEGALA: That's a little family politics there.
NOVAK: Yeah. OK, the next e-mail from Roy -- Rose Hann of New London, Connecticut. "Bob, are you so threatened by an obviously intelligent Senator Clinton that you would be so disrespectful to a woman who has shown us dignity in the face of adversity."
Boy, the adversity was Bill Clinton. So I should be nicer to her, even though she is a congenital liar.
BEGALA: Oh, stop. She is a wonderful person, a terrific senator, and she was a heroine for her state after they were attacked on September 11. I am so proud of her I could bust. She is great. And if she ever did run for president, I'd be the first to vote for her.
Gary Evans, in Fuquay-Vanna Arena, North Carolina -- I've never been there, Gary. "Hmm, Hillary in the White House. Wouldn't it be fun to see Bill as the First Gentleman. The Clintons in the White House would be a super program on reality TV to go along with Ozzy." Well, yes, it may be just the entertainment factor.
NOVAK: First question, please.
DOTTIE TAE BLINX: Hi, I'm Dottie Tae Blinks (ph) from Abingdon, Maryland. I say please don't make Americans any lazier. A well- earned vacation is sweet, an unearned vacation is welfare.
NOVAK: That's right. And I'll tell you this, people. The shorter your vacation are, the more you appreciate them, believe me.
BEGALA: That's like saying the shorter your life is, the more you'll appreciate it. No, I just don't believe it. We work our butts off. We ought to get corporate America to give us a break.
ANDY SHUE: My name is Andy Shue (ph) from Alexandria, Virginia. With the hot summer heat, American troops fighting abroad, and a possible invasion of Iraq, do any of you actual pundit think that Middle America cares about who called who during the Clinton or Bush administration?
NOVAK: Well, those guys do, because they have -- they have what Bill Clinton called the politics of personal destruction, and they're trying to destroy George W. Bush.
BEGALA: No, I think you're right. I care that the stock market is melting down because Bush's economic policies are a fraud -- 1.8 millions Americans have lost their jobs because of Bush. This is the things we should be talking about.
NOVAK: We can get another question in.
BEGALA: Yes, sir.
JOE MATTHEWS: Hi, I'm Joe Matthews from Carville (ph), Indiana. And my question is about corporate inversions. I can't believe this. Our country was founded on people trying to avoid taxes. If our companies are going to stay competitive with foreign corporations and keep jobs in the U.S., they need to be able to compete. Our outrageously high tax rates force our companies to do this. if the U.S. Congress isn't going to lower taxes, I say let Bermuda do it.
NOVAK: You're exactly right, and what we need to do is not only lower taxes but get rid of the income tax entirely and go to a national sales tax, and boy, you people would be so happy, you would have a smile on your face all the time.
BEGALA: You know, I deeply resent any comparison to these Benedict Arnolds going overseas to our founding fathers. They were revolting against a king. They had taxation without representation. We have a Congress here, and thank God that Congress passed a bill that says these Benedict Arnolds are now not going to be able to get government contracts. That's what we ought be...
I pay my fair share of taxes. Corporations should too.
From the left, I'm Paul Begala. Good night for CROSSFIRE.
NOVAK: From the right, I'm Robert Novak. Join us again next time for another edition of CROSSFIRE.
"CONNIE CHUNG TONIGHT" begins immediately after a CNN "News Alert."
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