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CNN Crossfire - Transcript

Location: Washington, DC

CNN CROSSFIRE 16:30 March 9, 2004 Tuesday
Copyright 2004 Cable News Network
All Rights Reserved



March 9, 2004 Tuesday

HEADLINE: Florida Ready For Election 2004?

GUESTS: Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, Robert Wexler

BYLINE: Wolf Blitzer, James Carville, Tucker Carlson

Is Florida ready for the 2004 presidential election?


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

In the CROSSFIRE: It has sunshine, beaches, new touch-screen voting machines and it's a favorite destination of presidential candidates. Is Florida ready for prime time this time?




CARVILLE: Congresswoman, the chairman of the Federal Reserve Bank, of course, with approval in the Republican Party, said that they should cut taxes on millionaire TV talk show hosts like me and also, at the same time, cut Social Security benefits for middle-class people in Florida and around the United States. I notice it's not playing at all in Peoria. How is it playing in Pensacola or Plant City or Pompano Beach?

ROS-LEHTINEN: Well, I'll tell you what's not saying it.

CARVILLE: Are people in Florida rallying to the cause of tax cuts for the wealthy and Social Security cuts for middle-class people?

ROS-LEHTINEN: The people in Florida are rallying toward the economic message of President Bush, which is to eliminate the government strangulation of bureaucratic controls on small businesses, to make tax cut permanent, to make sure that we can help American families save more money, create more jobs, send their kids to college.

These are dreams of every American family. And I think that's why Florida's going to go to the Bush column because of the strong economic package, along with a good defense package that the president has.

CARVILLE: So you're saying...


CARVILLE: ... that Floridians approve of the economic policy that gives me a tax cut and cuts middle-class people's Social Security benefits, that this has got a lot of support all over the length and breadth of the great Sunshine State in, the Panhandle State, or whatever it is?

ROS-LEHTINEN: Well, as you know.

CARVILLE: This is what they want?

ROS-LEHTINEN: As you know, we are one of the states that has the largest number of senior citizens. And we will know in November, which is a state that has proven to be conservative in terms of economic policies and conservative in terms of defense policies also.

And that's why Floridians will reject a president like John Kerry, who has voted to slash funding for intelligence and then attacks this president for saying we're not using intelligence wisely, a president who has stood firmly and-for our military and not gone both ways, like John Kerry has, consistency.



CARVILLE: I want to thank these old people in Florida for giving me my tax cut.

CARVILLE: Congresswoman...



CARVILLE: ... poll where Bush is getting 43 percent in Florida.

My question is this. Since George W. Bush has taken office, the dollar has collapsed. The deficit exploded. They've not created a single job. Health care costs have gone up by 14 percent. They've completely trashed the environment. And we can't get anybody to do anything around the world. My question is, how in the hell could 43 percent of the people in your state even say they're going to vote for this guy?


CARVILLE: What are they thinking?


CARVILLE: This has got to be the dumbest 43 percent in the world.

ROS-LEHTINEN: No, no, no, no, no, no, no.

It may be 43 percent now, but it's going to be 50 percent-plus come November. And I'll tell you why. The economy is improving. And even the Federal Reserve has said, in a report that was just issued, that the economy is coming back. And, as all of us know, the job indicator is one of the last ones to go-ones to show an improvement.

Now, Robert was saying that facts are facts. And I'll tell you a couple of facts about John Kerry. As a senator, he filed two bills to decimate the intelligence community. And he did it in '94. He did it in '95. And this is after the first bombing of the World Trade Center. And now he's criticizing President Bush by saying we didn't have enough intelligence, when he was saying-and saying on the Senate floor, the Cold War is over. Why is our intelligence budget mushrooming so?

And yet now he's attacking the president for intelligence failures.


ROS-LEHTINEN: It makes no sense.

CARLSON: That's an excellent point.

WEXLER: It is an excellent point. That's right.

ROS-LEHTINEN: It's double speak. And that's a fact.


ROS-LEHTINEN: Two bills. Two bills.

WEXLER: Fact. Fact.


ROS-LEHTINEN: Having nothing to do with Halliburton.

WEXLER: Fact, the nation's two largest intelligence failures in our history have occurred in the last 3 ½ years. You would think this president would simply offer the American people a legitimate investigation, so we don't, God forbid, have it happen today.


ROS-LEHTINEN: Isn't it a fact that John Kerry has filed two bills, in '94 and in '95, more than $2 billion in cuts of the intelligence community?

WEXLER: No, no, no, no, no.


ROS-LEHTINEN: Facts are facts.


CARLSON: ... and get back to Florida very quickly here.


CARLSON: I just want to talk about how the race is going to play out in your home state. Democrats have real contempt for your state, as you know. James Carville, you just heard, described Florida voters as-and I'm quoting now-as-quote-"the dumbest in the world."


CARVILLE: Forty-three percent


CARLSON: Oh, I'm sorry, only half.

Here's what John Kerry...


CARVILLE: It's not half. It's 43 percent. That's not half, Tucker. That's a Republican


CARLSON: Here's what John Kerry said about your state. Feel the contempt.

He said this at Dartmouth January 26: "Everyone always makes the mistake of looking south toward Florida. Al Gore proved he could have been president of the United States without winning one Southern state, including his own." In other words, John Kerry to Florida: Drop dead.


CARLSON: How can he win saying things like this about your state?

WEXLER: First of all, when people talk about the traditional South, they're not talking about Florida.

CARLSON: You're above the traditional South? It was part of the Confederacy. What are you talking about?

WEXLER: Look, Florida, is-as Ileana and I both know, is a conglomeration of the whole country. Florida is a swing state. What John Kerry is saying is also fact. Al Gore could have won, of course, without winning any state in the traditional South. Had Al Gore won West Virginia and New Hampshire, that would have been the case.

CARLSON: No, he said, "People make the mistake of looking South." He's showing contempt. And, by the way, Florida is part of the South. I'm sorry if it embarrasses you, but it's true.


WEXLER: I was with John Kerry yesterday in Florida, in the South. He has nothing but passion and love for what's happening in Florida.

CARVILLE: I have a question. All right, you say that John Kerry wants to gut the whole intelligence thing.


CARVILLE: Senator Bob-you're saying that Senator Bob Graham, who is I think one of the great Americans of all time, who has passionately endorsed John Kerry, who knows more about intelligence than anything, is actually someone who wants to just gut the entire CIA?

ROS-LEHTINEN: Well, Bob Graham


CARVILLE: Senator Graham must be-is he off his rocker?

ROS-LEHTINEN: Well, Bob Graham was intelligent enough not to get on John Kerry's foolish, reckless, irresponsible bill.


CARVILLE: Did Senator Graham endorse him?


ROS-LEHTINEN: Senator Graham did not endorse that bill.


CARVILLE: Did Senator Bob Graham of Florida endorse Senator Kerry?

CARLSON: He ran against him.


WEXLER: This is not a serious discussion. John Kerry is a war veteran who was tested under fire.


WEXLER: All this administration can do


ROS-LEHTINEN: What about his record as a senator?

WEXLER: Yes, $200 billion in increase.


CARVILLE: Can I ask a question? You were in Florida with Senator Kerry.


CARVILLE: Did Senator Graham not show up or is he for Senator Kerry? Could you just clear this up?

WEXLER: No. No. Senator Graham has traveled throughout the state with Senator Kerry. Nobody knows, in Florida, intelligence


CARLSON: Sorry, we're almost out of time.

Very quickly, Congresswoman Ros-Lehtinen, do you think, if Senator Graham loved John Kerry so much, he would have run against him in the primary


ROS-LEHTINEN: That's right. If he thought that John Kerry was this wonderful person with the great ideas for economics, for defense, for the vision for after 9/11...

CARLSON: Exactly.

ROS-LEHTINEN: ... would he have run against John Kerry?

CARLSON: Exactly.

ROS-LEHTINEN: The answer is no.


WEXLER: You guys have lost so many jobs, you can't even talk about.


CARLSON: Thank you. We're going to take-we're going to take a quick commercial break. We're very close to settling this, very close.


CARLSON: Congressman Robert Wexler of Florida, thank you very much.

Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, thank you.

ROS-LEHTINEN: Thank you. Thank you, Tucker.


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