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CNN Live Event/Special
The Cafferty File: It's Getting Ugly Out There
Aired September 19, 2007 - 20:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: Here are three numbers to think about.
Eighteen is the percentage of Americans who think the Congress is doing a good job. Thirty-four is the percentage of Americans who think President Bush is doing a good job. And 70 is the percentage of Americans who think this country is headed in the wrong direction.
Add them up. "It's Getting Ugly Out There."
Good evening, and welcome to a special edition, one-hour-long, of "The Cafferty File." Not at all coincidentally, "It's Getting Ugly Out There," well, that's the title of my new book.
And because I'm supposed to tell like it is around here, I must admit that I have an ulterior motive here this evening, to a degree. I hope you will find the next hour interesting enough that you will want to go out, pick up a copy of "It's Getting Ugly Out There" and read it.
The frauds, bunglers, liars, losers who are hurting America are many. The thousands of e-mails I get every single week in the "THE SITUATION ROOM" reflect a deep disappointment with the way this country is being managed.
We sent crews coast to coast to find out what is on your mind on some of these topics. And we're going to hear a lot from all of you over the next hour. We got, as usual, some straightforward answers.
For example, here is what you're saying on the streets about our Congress.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think Congress just rolled over. Frankly, I'm all for, like, almost a revolution.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: As long as you have 50 percent fighting 50 percent, nothing is going to happen.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think Congress is there to offset the executive power. And I think they're doing their job.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think they're wimpy. I think they're afraid to do anything. I think they're afraid to override the president.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Well, they're kind of a joke, aren't they? Kind of a standing joke.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CAFFERTY: Yes, ha-ha, not funny. Not since 1974, when they first began tracking this kind of stuff, has the Congress been held in such low esteem by the American people.
Gallup says 18 percent -- that's all, 18 percent -- think Congress is doing a great job. Based on what I have seen, that might be a little high. And, in fact, there's another poll out that has the number at 11. But I can't tell you what it is, because they got some silly rule against it around here.
The 109th Congress was a bunch of do-nothing Republicans, or, worse perhaps, do-damage Republicans. So, the voters threw them out in the midterms, gave the majority to the Democrats during the elections last year, '06.
The hopes ran high across the land. Now we're going to get somewhere. Well, guess what? It's possible the 110th Congress is worse than the 109th.
Joe Johns is here with a look at why our Congress is pretty much worthless.
JOE JOHNS, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, the broken government top 10 has changed a lot since the last time we did it, but, in Washington, the more things change, the more things stay the same.
JOHNS (voice-over): Number 10: If we were good at math, we would be on Wall Street.
The federal deficit is through the roof. Spending on Iraq is at an all-time high. So, what does the Congress do? What they always do. Instead of cutting spending, they're going to raise the federal debt limit, so they can borrow even more money. That will work.
Number nine: Book 'em, Danno. You know you're in trouble when politicians start returning the money you raised for them. Fugitive felon fund-raiser Norman Hsu, once a shining star of the Democratic money world, is now in jail on grand theft charges. Hillary Rodham Clinton said she would return $850,000 he brought in. Norman who?
Number eight: Things don't go better with cocaine. Ex-New York tough guy prosecutor Rudy Giuliani took a little blowback because of, well, blow. His South Carolina chairman has pleaded guilty to a federal charge of possession with intent to distribute cocaine -- make that ex-chairman.
Number seven: Oil companies are amazing decorators. Who knew? The next time you want to make home improvements, why not let an oil field services company oversee the project and even provide part of the labor? The problem is, the work was done on the home of the longest serving Republican in the U.S. Senate, Ted Stevens of Alaska.
Stevens says he paid all of the bills he received and has done nothing wrong, but he's got new home inspectors now, the FBI and the IRS.
Number six: Democrat Alan Mollohan of West Virginia had to step down from the House Ethics Committee after if was widely reported that he was under federal investigation for allegedly funneling earmarks to buddies back home. But guess what? He's still the chairman of the subcommittee that oversees the Justice Department's budget. Mollohan says no one has ever told him there's an investigation.
Five: the old in and out. In is Idaho Senator Larry Craig, busted by the potty police in Minneapolis, leaving legal experts to ponder, which is worse, getting arrested in a two-bit sting or pleading guilty to tapping your foot?
Out this year is former Congressman Mark Foley, caught sending dirty e-mails to former congressional pages during the last session of Congress.
In this year is Louisiana Senator David Vitter, whose telephone number turned up on the not-so-secret list of the alleged D.C. madam.
Number four: crowning achievements in legal history. Democrat Bill Jefferson of Louisiana, caught with $90,000 of FBI sting money in his freezer, is now in the record books. He's the very first member of Congress to be charged with violating the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, which prohibits bribery of foreign officials. Jefferson says he's not guilty and is planning to fight.
Number three: Reform this. Congress enacted most of the 9/11 Commission recommendations, except for the part about reforming Congress.
Number two: Seemed like a good idea at the time. Take a bow if you're one of those deregulation types who told us to let the invisible hand of the free market protect consumers. Well, it worked, sort of. Stuff is cheap, so long as you don't mind lead paint on your kids' toys, toothpaste laced with antifreeze, catfish jacked up on illegal antibiotics, and killer pet food.
And the number-one example of broken government today: the long goodbyes, Alberto Gonzales, FEMA Director Michael Brown, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld. When some big honcho is absolutely taking it on the chin in a top federal job, just keep him around for a while. You will get credit for loyalty, all right, even if your approval rating is in the tank.
JOHNS: But, for the record, regardless of whether it's the White House or the Democratically-controlled Congress, they're definitely not basking in the glow of public admiration right now. And there's still more a year until the voters go to the polls again -- Jack.
CAFFERTY: And we all go with bated breath and with great hope in our hearts that this time it's going to be different. And it never is.
JOHNS: No, it never is. And the fact of the matter is, everybody says Democrats should have changed things, but they have a very narrow majority, and it's very hard to change things unless you have a very big majority.
CAFFERTY: Well, up to a point.
In the Senate, they have a narrow majority. In the House, they have a majority. And, in the House of Representatives, the speaker of the House decides what legislation comes to the floor for debate and/or a vote. And that includes things like funding for the war in Iraq. So, it is within the purview of the Democratic leadership in the House to stop the funding for the war if -- if -- they would find a backbone under one of those desks and have it sewn in and do it. But they won't.
JOHNS: You said it.
CAFFERTY: Joe, it's good to be with you. Thank you.
Here's a couple of e-mails, people writing in what they think about the Congress.
Rick in North Carolina says: "We're tired of partisan politics, never mind Democrat or Republican. We need a Congress that is for America first. We need people who care about the country, not their party. We need leaders with real morals, real substance, not the insipid characters that populate the rosters in the Congress. Why can't they see that?"
And Walt writes: "Jack, I'm a Republican. I detest Bush and his illegal war in Iraq, so I voted for the Democrats in the last election. And, as far as I'm concerned, I threw my vote away. I thought they would do something but heap big smoke, no fire. Pelosi is a waste. I'm changing my registration to independent this year."
Now, check out the bottom of the screen.
Do we have that thing working?
We have taken over the crawl here, almost at the point of the gun, if you want to get that done around here. They don't surrender it easily. But we got it for the next hour.
And what we will do is stream your e-mails across the bottom of the screen. So, if you don't hear me read the e-mail, watch the screen. Maybe you will see it crawl across down there. And, if it's something pithy, you will be able to share it with the rest of the viewers.
Pretty interesting stuff, don't you think? I hope you do. You can keep e-mailing us at Jack@CNN.com.
President Bush will be held responsible, ultimately, for a lot of the problems in the country, beginning with the war in Iraq. We wanted to know what you thought his legacy might be after two terms -- tough words from some of you for the commander in chief.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He failed on every level, every way. He is a total failure.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's a deeply concerning legacy. I think our children are going to pay the price for his invasion of Iraq.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Definitely, I think a legacy that we could talk about would be the recovery from the 9/11 disaster of 2001 and the stability that he brought to the country. Some of the changes that have taken place in some of the civil liberties that are making people very uncomfortable may very well in fact have been the reason why we have not seen another major attack on our shores.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think he showed what happens if you put the interests of corporations above individuals.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: At the moment, it looks like he will be one of the worst presidents we have ever had.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A man of his convictions, something you will never find in the Democratic Party.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think, actually, President Bush has done the job that was actually expected of him, OK, by many.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CAFFERTY: All right.
Coming up, we have some terrific guests tonight.
Unlike "five military deferments" Dick Cheney and "Texas Air National Guard" George Bush, Senator Chuck Hagel has been to war. He fought and was wounded in Vietnam. Whoopi Goldberg is -- well, she's Whoopi Goldberg. You will meet both of them in the few minutes coming up between now and 9:00.
"It's Getting Ugly Out There."
CAFFERTY: Well, whether you were for or against the war in Iraq, one thing has become abundantly clear now. Iraq is a mess. And President Bush doesn't seem to have any plans or ideas on how to wind this thing up. So, what do we do next?
Well, here are some of your thoughts. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think even the Democrats admit you just can't cut and get out of there. We're going to be there long term.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's quite a quagmire. I mean, how do you get out of there without it falling apart and destabilizing the whole thing? I thought it was good the way it was. We weakened him and he kept control. He was a horrible guy, but there's lots of horrible guys.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We're doing something that is very unnecessary. And it should have been over a long time ago.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I have two college-age kids, and they could be my kids. And it's -- it just tears my heart out.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think things in Iraq can only get better, from the way it's being sold.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CAFFERTY: President Bush's approval rating is in the low 30s. The war in Iraq is George Bush's war.
And the American people are overwhelmingly opposed to it. And they want out. There's also a whole host of domestic issues that Americans want addressed that haven't been, things like, oh, you know, illegal immigration, Social Security, health care, you name it.
And the chances are slim and none that any of that stuff is going to be addressed during the remainder of President Bush's second term.
Ed Henry has a look at this.
ED HENRY, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The president, who loves sports, is approaching his final days like a race.
DANA PERINO, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: The whole team is going to be here to help support him sprint to the finish.
HENRY: But this may be more like the last two minutes of a football game, with Mr. Bush running out the clock, punting problems like Iraq.
SEN. CHUCK HAGEL (R), NEBRASKA: I suppose they think they can just push this another 16, 18 months, and then the next administration will have to deal with the disaster.
HENRY: After a poor report card on Iraqi benchmarks in July, the president said, wait until September. September came, benchmarks still unmet.
GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I have also directed them to deliver another report to Congress in march.
HENRY: The clock is running on other big issues, immigration, health care, Social Security.
NORMAN ORNSTEIN, AMERICAN ENTERPRISE INSTITUTE: The president is not so much a running back at this point, than he is a defensive linemen trying to stop the offense of the Congress from moving forward and running over him.
HENRY: Democrats are playing rough with subpoenas, demanding documents for multiple investigations, like the firing of U.S. attorneys. The administration notes, reams of Justice Department documents have been turned over, but they have refused to release White House documents.
(on camera): Are you doing a strategy to run out the clock and not...
PERINO: No, the White House documents were offered in addition to -- at the same time. And the response to our accommodation has been subpoenas.
HENRY (voice-over): Here, the clock may be in the president's favor. With Congress' poll ratings sinking, the investigations may backfire on Democrats. And the wrangling is not likely to be resolved before Mr. Bush leaves office.
CAFFERTY: You know, Ed, looking at the last almost seven years of this administration, there's not a lot to be proud of, as far as the president's accomplishments are concerned.
On the contrary, the war is a failure. The domestic agenda is pretty much empty, save a few tax cuts. And, when you look at some of the alleged corruption and secrecy and some of the fast-and-loose playing that has been done with some of our freedoms through things like the Patriot Act, you wonder how the people that work for him can continue to look at us all with a straight face and say, yes, this is good.
HENRY: Well, they still believe the president is on the right side of history on Iraq. Obviously, the public opinion polls don't reflect that, but they think in the end he will be vindicated.
On Social Security, I will mention, the president does deserve some credit for taking that on, having the courage to try to reform it. But he obviously failed spectacularly. And then he used up so much credibility, so much political capital on Iraq, that it's basically sucked all the air out of everything else. And you're right. It's going to be very difficult to for him to accomplish much else, Jack.
CAFFERTY: Ed, nice to have you with us. (CROSSTALK)
CAFFERTY: Thanks for joining us on a special "Cafferty File."
Here is some of what you have written about what is wrong in the country today.
Gloria, Toms River, New Jersey: "Homeland security has to be to priority. Radical extremists have a welcome mat at our open borders, as well as the lax security in air travel and cargo ports. The occupant in the White House does not have the American people's security or best interests at heart."
Kurt writes: "There are so many things wrong with the U.S. right now. At the top, we have a secretive, unilateral autocrat unable to admit the obvious mistakes, just under that, a Congress which doesn't seem to know that legislation is where progress begins, in the middle, a feel-good, but do-nothing class of people who love to talk about global warming, but won't recycle or give up their SUVs, and, at the bottom, at no fault of their own, an ever-growing uneducated class who has no health insurance."
Republican Senator Chuck Hagel has some pretty choice words for President Bush. You're going to hear why he thinks this administration is playing ping-pong with American lives in Iraq. He's coming up next.
Plus, Whoopi Goldberg, she tells it like she sees it.
"It's Getting Ugly Out There."
CAFFERTY: I have a lot of respect for my first guest on this program tonight.
Unlike so many of our so-called leaders in Washington, Republican Senator Chuck Hagel of Nebraska has been there and done that. He's a decorated combat veteran of the Vietnam War. He recently announced that he's going to leave the Senate after 12 years, and he's not going to be a candidate for president of the United States. And that's the country's loss, in my humble opinion.
Hagel has been sharply critical of President Bush's policy in Iraq, accusing the administration of playing a ping-pong game with American lives -- that's a quote -- and calling the president's plan to send more troops there earlier this year -- quote -- "the worst foreign policy blunder since Vietnam."
Senator Hagel, it's a pleasure to welcome you to "The Cafferty File" expanded edition. Nice have to you here.
HAGEL: Thank you, Jack.
CAFFERTY: Last week, when President Bush sent General Petraeus before the Congress to report on the war, afterwards, you called it a dirty trick, dishonest, hypocritical, dangerous, and irresponsible.
Can you put that in a little context and explain to me and our viewers sort of what you were getting at?
HAGEL: Well, first of all, I hope all Americans understand that our military does not set policy.
General Petraeus was there to explain the president's policy. What is going on in Iraq is not General Petraeus' policy. To use a respected Army general to project your political interests through a policy and a strategy, I think, is just wrong. And I think it's rather transparent and clear what the president was doing here.
And I think, for all those reasons, I said those things. And, if that helps clear up why I said it, then that's good.
But, you know, to hide behind our Army, and our Army and our Marines, they have no one who represents them up here. Who speaks for the riflemen? Who speaks for the people that we keep loading more and more burden on, more and more sacrifice on, to die and fight these wars?
You know, Jack, the other day I said to somebody, we are a nation of 300 million people. We're asking 1 percent of our population to make all the sacrifices, carry all the burden. And we want to continue to load more on them. That's just wrong. And there's going to be some societal consequences for this as well.
CAFFERTY: Do you see an end to this war in Iraq at some point down the road? And I assume it's going to end at some point. And, if so, what's it going to look like, do you think, when it's over?
HAGEL: Well, Jack, I don't know how it ends. As far as American involvement, it will end. It must end.
You know, when the president came before the American people in January and said this so-called surge is temporary -- by the way, a surge is not a policy. It's not a strategy. It's a tactic. And I don't know where surge can be found in any military manual.
But he said, we're going to do this to give the Iraqi people some time, so that they can find some political accommodation to get to a political reconciliation in order to govern, protect, and support themselves. That has not happened. That is not going to happen, I suspect, in the next six months either. There's no good signs of that.
So, what do we do? We just continue to move toward more of the same. And it's status quo part two, chewing up more American lives, and, I think, undermining our interests more and more in the Middle East, in Iraq.
The future of Iraq, Jack, is going to be determined by the Iraqi people. Even General Petraeus and all of our generals have said -- and they know the best on this -- there's no military solution in Iraq. It must be a political solution. That's going to have to include Iran and Syria and all the neighbors. That's why I have called for an international mediator, under the auspices of the Security Council, to start getting our footprint out of it. General Jim Jones' report said that.
We have got to start removing the United States' occupation dynamic out of this context. That's how it will end. And it will have to end that way.
CAFFERTY: Should the Democrats be doing more to force President Bush's hand on the war? The midterm election that -- the understanding was, we will give you control of Congress, and, in return, we want you to do something about this war.
They have done nothing so far.
HAGEL: The problem that the Democratic majority has, especially in the Senate, Jack, is, they don't have the votes, quite frankly, to overcome unanimous-consent challenges, which require 60 votes.
CAFFERTY: No. But, in the House of Representatives -- forgive me for interrupting -- in the House of Representatives, it's entirely within the purview of Nancy Pelosi whether the funding bills even come to the floor for a vote. She could stop the funding by herself.
HAGEL: Well, she has those powers, but, as we know, it takes both houses of Congress in order to accomplish that.
You will never get that done in the next year-and-a-half in the Senate. So, she's got to adjust her tactics and strategy to the realities of what they have in the Senate. And I know that that's frustrating to a lot of people. Some Republicans, like myself, have joined with the Democrats in the Senate, not because we see it as a political issue, in fact, just the opposite.
War should never be held hostage to political interests or political parties or to politics.
HAGEL: And it should be done on the basis of what we think is in the interest of our country.
CAFFERTY: Dick Cheney says he finds it difficult to obey Ronald Reagan's 11th commandment, which is never speak poorly of a fellow Republican, when it comes to talking about you.
Why does he feel that way, Senator?
HAGEL: I don't know.
I have always been very generous to the vice president and cordial. I don't know what it is that bothers him about me. But it might be that I just say what I believe is right for our country, and I challenge policies that I think are very wrong-headed that he's had an awful lot to do with.
And I'm sorry he said that, but, nonetheless, I understand this business.
CAFFERTY: Let me thank you very, very much for being a part of this program tonight. And, more importantly, let me thank you for everything you have done for this country.
HAGEL: Thank you, Jack, very much.
CAFFERTY: All right, sir.
Senator Chuck Hagel.
Whoopi Goldberg has something to say about Congress. And you might be surprised to learn that she likes Mitt Romney. She's up next.
Plus, left, right, big money -- why third parties in the United States get shut out of the system.
CAFFERTY: Artistically speaking, my next guest breathes some very rarefied air. You can count probably on one hand the number of artists who have won an Oscar, a Grammy, an Emmy, a Tony, and a Golden Globe, and a lot of other stuff we don't have time to go into. Whoopi Goldberg is the co-host of "The View" on ABC television, weekdays, 11:00 Eastern, new job for her. She spends a lot of time working on behalf of kids, and the homeless, and substance abuse, and education, and human rights, and the fight against AIDS. She is a very busy woman.
I have been a big, big fan of hers for a very long time. Here are two reasons why. She once said, "I don't have pet peeves. I have whole kennels of irritations." That's a woman right after my own heart. And another of my favorites was this: "You've got to vote for someone. It's a shame, but it's got to be done."
I am so happy to welcome Whoopi Goldberg to a special edition of "The Cafferty File." Nice to see you.
WHOOPI GOLDBERG, CO-HOST, "THE VIEW": Hey, Jack.
CAFFERTY: So does the title of the book "It's Getting Ugly Out There" resonate with you? Are we going the wrong way here?
GOLDBERG: Well, we've been going the wrong way for quite some time. You know, I've sort of been saying this for a while. But, you know, I guess people have to come to it when they come to it. You know, it's a shame that it's taken us this long to discover that there were huge mistakes made, huge, huge mistakes, but we all -- I was watching your show quite recently, or maybe it was in your book. And you said, you know, I was all gung-ho, when they came over here and attacked. And I'm the same way. I was like, "Let's go, let's go take care of it." But then you went to bed, and you woke up, they were in Iraq. And it was like, "What? Well, how did this happen?"
CAFFERTY: Part of the responsibility for the way this government operates falls with the Congress of the United States.
CAFFERTY: And that's too bad, because, based on the Gallup poll that I read, there's an 18 percent approval rating for Congress. It's the lowest it's ever been. Why?
GOLDBERG: Well, because they don't have a majority.
CAFFERTY: Yes, they do. Sure. In the House, the Democrats have a majority.
GOLDBERG: No, they don't have a majority -- they don't have a majority of thought. They don't have a majority of -- you know, they just, they don't. They're kind of like, "What to we do, what do we do?" Because truly, I mean, look, there's no way to fix a lot of this stuff because we're so deep in debt. A lot of that debt is owed by people we don't even know, we can't figure out where they are. I don't think anybody knows what to do. And they all went in saying, you know, we're going to fix it. But this is going to be the issue in '08. You know, this is going to be the big problem. This is a pile of steaming dog doo.
CAFFERTY: Yes, speaking of kennels in the introduction.
GOLDBERG: And it's going to take four years to get us in balance, and it doesn't matter who the president is. It doesn't matter who's in Congress.
CAFFERTY: But the Democrats were given control of the House and Senate in the midterm elections. And the quid pro quo, the implied message was: Stand up to President Bush and do something about the war, and not just about the war, but about some of the playing fast and loose with some of our freedoms, et cetera. And the first thing Nancy Pelosi says the day after the election is, "Impeachment is off the table." Did she make a mistake?
GOLDBERG: Yeah, I think she did. You know, but you knew it was going to be off the table, because they all thought they were going to get to work together. See, the thing about begging is, when you beg, you are in the hands of the other person. They can say, "Yes, no, yes, no." You know, it's very peculiar. These whole eight years have been peculiar. You know, because no one is saying, "Gee, you know, OK, you had the Republicans Senate and Congress, and what did they get done?"
GOLDBERG: Nothing. Nobody got anything done.
CAFFERTY: No, none of them get anything done.
GOLDBERG: So now it's the Democrats. They're not getting anything done. Maybe it's time to rethink what it is we actually want...
GOLDBERG: ... and to actually follow through with it. You know?
CAFFERTY: You said this a long time ago, and I want to read it, because I think it's as relevant right now sitting here, talking to you, as it was maybe when you came up with it. You said, "Once upon a time, we were very clear in this country about the direction we were going, and we were united, not just with our own, but with others who understood what the struggle is." Put that in some context for me with what's going on here today.
GOLDBERG: You almost can't.
CAFFERTY: I mean, how did it come unwound so quickly? It seems like it came unwound very quickly.
GOLDBERG: We gave up a lot of things in trust. We gave up a lot of beliefs and ideals that we have in trust. We believed that if we said, "OK, you go ahead and do what you need to do and take care of this, because we're all united to fight this battle"...
CAFFERTY: And we were.
GOLDBERG: ... and we were, a lot of side stuff got done that nobody knew about and nobody should have been doing. You know, you suddenly wake up one day, and the president has more power than anybody knows about, and nobody can tell you how he got it. He wrote some stuff out, saying, "This is what we're doing."
CAFFERTY: He took it. Yeah, he just took it, the signing statements and all the executive privilege and all the nonsense.
GOLDBERG: And no one said, "Mr. President, this is not how it works in a democracy." Even in a time of war, you have to abide by the rules. Otherwise, you become the lawless people you're going after. You cannot become those people and keep a level head. You just can't. You cannot make decisions for people unless you give them the opportunity to speak up. And if you don't, then you're just another dictator.
I think very strongly that he feels this is what he should be doing. But I got to tell you, Mr. President, you know, you've got to come out and say, "I made some mistakes. I shouldn't have gone it this way."
CAFFERTY: You know, this country, we're the most forgiving people in the world. Anybody who ever stood up and said, "I'm sorry," it's like you get a free pass in the United States, bang, just like that.
GOLDBERG: You know, because people make mistakes, and this president has made mistakes with people's lives.
CAFFERTY: We've got to stop. I am so happy that you were a part of this program.
GOLDBERG: Me, too.
CAFFERTY: And I thank you for coming. And I'm going to come over to "The View" and visit with you guys in a couple of weeks.
CAFFERTY: Look forward to that.
GOLDBERG: Well, if I still have a job, I'll see you then.
CAFFERTY: Good, Whoopi. Thank you.
GOLDBERG: Thanks, Jack.
CAFFERTY: Well, time is running out now on President Bush. The next person in the White House is going to inherit -- how did she describe it, a big steaming pile of you know, so we hit the streets to find out what you think will be the biggest challenge facing the next commander-in-chief.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think, clearly, the war in Iraq is probably the biggest challenge.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Health care, as well as immigration. I think those are still prevalent issues that, for the most part, haven't been addressed because of the war.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think it's going to be the economy.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The environment, the economy, I mean, the list goes on and on. It's going to be really, really, really difficult.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I hope that we are fortunate enough to get a leader who can get us through it. I think it's going to be a challenging time.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CAFFERTY: I got this note from Kenneth in Charlotte, North Carolina. "Illegal immigration, the test of our times. If we can't secure our southern border and evict the current illegal immigrants, the wonder legal immigration stew that made America great will be forever transformed in a nation with a Hispanic majority unwilling to assimilate like all previous waves of legal immigrants did. The survival of all that has made America the envy of the world is at stake."
And Juanita writes from Reno, Nevada, my hometown, "The most pressing problem this country faces is the fact that we are headed for complete and total ruin. Why did Rome fall? Did some hostile force take it over? No, Rome fell because it destroyed itself." Left, right, big, big money. Third parties are virtually shut out of the system in this country. And a peak at some personal stuff that I haven't talked much about before. Stick around. We've got a ways to go. You're watching a special edition of "The Cafferty File," "It's Getting Ugly Out There."
CAFFERTY: This is just an awful number, 70 percent of us, Americans, think the country is going in the wrong direction. And who's always driving the bus, you might ask? Well, it's always either a Republican or a Democrat or a bunch of either or both. With approval ratings for the Democratic Congress and the Republican president at all-time lows, there's a big appetite for something different out there, but it ain't going to happen anytime soon, don't hold your breath.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Back to the elite of our country, they don't want a third party. That disrupts their left-right, "I'm blue, I'm red, I'm Republican, I'm Democrat."
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think that politics, as far are the Democrats and the Republicans, are so entrenched, and so anybody who's like a third-party candidate is almost looked at like a cult figure, so to speak.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think people are too afraid to vote for a third party, because they don't believe it will be a viable outcome.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CAFFERTY: Well, the two-party system is broken, is the bottom line. Take a look. There isn't that much difference anymore between Republicans and Democrats. Oh, yeah, they squabble about the wedge issues, things like abortion and gay rights and flag burning, but in the end, they all have the same priority: themselves. And over the years, they've gotten a stranglehold on the federal government. We got no term limits. Can't get kick them out as long as they get re- elected.
Americans are starting to get it, though. A recent poll found that one-third of us said we would be very or fairly likely to vote for an independent presidential candidate. So why don't we have more options? Candy Crowley is here to tell us why -- Candy?
CANDY CROWLEY, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Jack, you have some very smart people you just talked to there on the street, because you may think there's enough ugly out there now to get a third-party candidate elected president, but think again.
PAT BUCHANAN, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Friends, it is time to pick up the pitchforks and go down and clean out the pig pen. CROWLEY: (voice-over): Third-party candidates have brought flavor and substance to the campaign trail, though not always both. The last time one got elected was exactly never.
MIKE MCCURRY, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: It is a very steep hill unless you've got all of the ingredients, inspiration, money, and a fundamental change in the political landscape that argues for new politics.
CROWLEY: Bay Buchanan managed her brother's campaigns. Steep hill doesn't cut it for her. Rigged is more like it.
BAY BUCHANAN, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: The reason the third party will not be successful is the other two parties, they have come together to make absolutely certainly that there's no opportunity for a third party to become viable in this country.
CROWLEY: Certainly, the system is stacked, let us count the ways. One, a box to check. Third-party candidates usually have to petition to get on the ballot, collecting hundreds of thousands of signatures, different numbers, different rules in 50 states. Nightmare.
Two, location, location, location.
RICHARD WINGER, BALLOT ACCESS NEWS: I think everybody who's into marketing understands that product placement is very important.
CROWLEY: Richard Winger is kind of a ballot geek, an expert on how and where candidates get put on a ballot. Consider this one from 1992 in New Jersey.
WINGER: There's a column headed "Republican nominees." There's a column headed "Democratic nominees." And then there's a column that says "Nomination by Petition." And in tiny print, you've got maybe six, seven, eight candidates listed in that column. And so Perot was stuck off in that column with a whole bunch of other people.
CROWLEY: Three, an even playing field. General election debates give all candidates the biggest audience they'll ever have. Ross Perot is the only third-party candidate ever invited to share the stage with Republican and Democratic nominees.
Four, dinero. Unless you are your own cash cow, forget about it. Minimum these days: $100 million. A new party candidate can get federal money, after the election.
JOHN ANDERSON, FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I now believe that an independent can win. And today I am formally announcing my candidacy.
CROWLEY: Independent candidate John Anderson took out a bank loan to fund his campaign. There are intangibles and unpredictables, as well. A third-party candidate needs charisma, credibility, a burning issue, and unhappy voters. It takes more than money to change the system. It takes a country. (END VIDEOTAPE)
CROWLEY: As for this time around, though, there are a lot of unhappy voters out there, as reflected in the polls. Nearly everyone I talked to, Jack, when I said, "Do you think there will be a third- party candidate elected president?" All of them, and some in their 50s and 60s, some in their 30s and 40s, said, "Not in my lifetime."
CAFFERTY: You said an independent candidate needs charisma. Why? None of the mainstream ones seem to have much of it.
CROWLEY: Well, you know, because to get -- and you're absolutely right. But to get a third party going, you have got to have somebody that's interesting, that aroused that kind of passion, because, as you saw, there are so many hurdles for these guys to overcome.
CAFFERTY: And that's not accidental, those hurdles. Those hurdles have been put in place one brick at a time by the Republicans and Democrats over a very long period of time. It's exclusionary, and it's there to keep the Ross Perots and all of the other third-party candidates the hell out of our lives. They don't want them around because God forbid somebody without a Democrat or a Republican affiliation might come around and explain to the American people why these two parties aren't the answer to much of anything anymore.
CROWLEY: Well, absolutely. And you will hear that, the people you've talked to, the people I've talked to, that have run, tried third-party bids or tried to set up a third party, and they'll say, "Listen, this is about Republicans and Democrats not wanting to share power." They note that, you know, you look in some of the states, and half the time some of these people get on the ballot only to get thrown off in some sort of lawsuit, so they have to pay for lawyers to kind of keep it going.
It's an eight- or nine-month process to get on the ballot in 50 states. That's nine months that they have lost that they could be spending on the campaign trail. But even then, you know, the whole money thing, I mean, getting money on a new party candidate, getting money after the election is pretty unhelpful.
CAFFERTY: Any idea how we can go about changing it?
CROWLEY: Oh, boy. That's above my pay grade.
I mean, honestly, I really found a hopeless bunch of people when I talked to them about this. I mean, you know, Mike McCurry, who you saw in that piece, did think that perhaps people are now looking at the political slate and saying, "Well, we've been talking about Social Security for years. We've been talking about health care for years. We've been talking about all of these issues for years. Nothing has gotten done. It's gridlock in Washington." So the opportunity is there, but there's just so much else battling against it.
CAFFERTY: You know, the powers that be around here let me do about one of these a year. And the highlight, or at least one of them, is getting to visit with you on air and get your input on some of this stuff, because you know of which you speak. Thanks for joining me tonight.
CROWLEY: It's always fun. Thanks, Jack.
CAFFERTY: All right, Candy Crowley.
Part of my new book, "It's Getting Ugly Out There," deals with a part of my personal life that could help you understand why I tend to see the world the way I do, and I'll share some of that with you, next.
CAFFERTY: Part of my new book deals with some of the reasons that I see things the way that I do. My background is not exactly Hallmark card material. I'm sure it's much like a lot of yours. And revisiting it, quite frankly, was painful. So rather than go back through it again here now, I want to share with you a piece of an interview I did with Wolf Blitzer the other day in "THE SITUATION ROOM."
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: You told us the other day that this book was gut-wrenching in putting it together. And when you told us the other day that this book was gut-wrenching in putting it together, I now understand why.
Let me read from the beginning of this book or one part of the book. "My folks were both alcoholics who, between them, were married 11 times. It would have been an even dozen, but my dad accidentally killed one of his fiancees." You go on to write, "I'm the product of a very dysfunctional, sometimes violent, Irish background, indeed very little of my back-story qualifies as Hallmark Card material, but it may help you make sense of the way I see and interpret what's going on around me."
Those are powerful words, Jack. And we spoke about this earlier. I want you to explain some of your background to our viewers that all of us were totally unfamiliar with.
CAFFERTY: Well, don't misunderstand, I didn't put that in the book because I'm looking for a sympathy card from anybody. But I put it in the book so that people who watch this program and listen to the things I say might have some sense of where this ongoing questioning of authority that I have comes from.
And it's probably rooted in the fact that I learned pretty early on, because of the environment I was in, not to trust everything you see and hear because it's likely a good portion of it isn't going to turn out to be true. So that's sort of the reference point. And I hope people understand that I'm not looking for somebody to go, oh, poor Jack. On the contrary. I got street smarts by the time I was a pretty young guy that a lot of kids never pick up, because they're in more sheltered, "normal, environments."
BLITZER: And, I mean, it's amazing, Jack, that here you are on CNN every single day and some of the early experiences that you openly write about in this book, it's amazing you turned out to be as great as you did. I've got to tell you, Jack. A lot of kids who went through what you went through with your mom and your dad would not necessarily have turned out to be like Jack Cafferty is today.
CAFFERTY: Well, I wouldn't have turned out this way either, except that I was started down the same road that my parents were on. I drank too much for too many years and was in the process of probably destroying a second marriage, as well as the relationship that I value very much with my four daughters, when 20 years ago I made a decision that it's going to be either, you've got to change this and start doing it in some way that makes some sense or you can look forward to this sort of tragic ending that your parents both met. And they both died basically broke, alone and unhappy people.
So 20 years ago, I put down the cigarettes and the booze, all in one year. And that was the year I almost didn't survive. But in looking back, it was the right thing to do and the smartest thing I ever did and my life began to improve rather dramatically after that.
BLITZER: I can see you wrote this book from the heart. And I don't want to just leave the impression that the whole book is just about Jack Cafferty. You've got thoughts on the current administration, the political scene, what's happening in our world that you write about at great length as well.
CAFFERTY: Well, I think there's a sense of betrayal on the part of at least a lot of the people that write to me on this program, Wolf, that they've been betrayed by a government that no longer has their best interests at heart, an 18 percent approval rating for our Congress, somewhere between 35 and 40 percent approval rating for our president after as many years as he's been at the controls, and a 70 percent rating of people in this country that feel we're headed in the wrong direction.
And I get the sense that people are frustrated, and disappointed, and in some cases extremely angry that this country that they love and feel that they used to be a part of has simply bypassed them for the agendas of the large corporations and the special interests and the things that don't really matter to their lives. A lot of our jobs have been shipped overseas. We're celebrating the sixth anniversary of 9/11. We haven't secured the Mexican border.
BLITZER: What was the most difficult thing for you to write about in this book that you said it was a gut-wrenching experience?
CAFFERTY: Oh, just going back and kind of revisiting what a maladjusted young pup I used to be. Now I'm a maladjusted old pup. I don't mean to suggest that I've become anything else, but, you know, some of the crap I used to pull on people, my employers, my family, when I was drinking and trying to hide it.
I spent a lot of time with the shrinks, because that's where you go, I guess, to get help. And I can remember leaving Channel 4 here in New York City and driving to a therapist appointment in New Jersey, but I'd stop at the Bodega across from Rockefeller Center, get a six pack, put it in the car with me, drink three beers on the way to the doctor's appointment, spend $150 discussing whether I had a drinking problem or not, and then drink the other three beers on the way home. And then when I got home, I'd have a couple of drinks before dinner. So, you know, it was a scam. And I'm not proud of that stuff and having to go back and deal with it again was a little tough.
CAFFERTY: Now, since that book came out about a week-and-a-half ago, I've gotten a lot of mail from people around the country. For example, this, John in Connecticut, "I'm a recovering alcoholic from a dysfunctional Irish immigrant family. I appreciated your ability to get through that with over 20 years of continuous sobriety. The one thing I've come to respect more than anything else is the truth."
And one of the most touching came from Gordy in Rochester, New York. "I'm a recovering alcoholic for 11 years now. I can relate to things you have to say, right down to the part about being a part of an Irish Catholic dysfunctional alcoholic family. I was with you on your views before, and I'm with you on your views now. You make me want to stay sober for another 11 years, and I thank you with all my heart for that."
I'll have a couple of final thoughts in a minute.
CAFFERTY: So here we are, more or less. I really do think as a nation that we may be at a crossroads, and I think the decisions we make over the next few years will likely determine our collective future for quite a long time.
This country has been a beacon of hope to the entire world. No nation has ever come close to figuring it all out the way we have, but we've lost our way. We're not viewed as the good guys so much anymore, which is sad, because we, the American people, are just as good as it's ever been. It's our government that's giving us a bad name.
Now, next November, we do have a chance to address that issue, and I for one can't wait. It's getting ugly out there, but it doesn't have to stay that way.
Thanks for watching. Good night.
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