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CNN Crossfire - Transcript

Location: Unknown



November 1, 2004 Monday

HEADLINE: Finish Line Frenzy

BYLINE: Tucker Carlson, Paul Begala, Wolf Blitzer

GUESTS: Peter King, Triumph, Charlie Rangel



BEGALA: Welcome back to CROSSFIRE.

This is the very last day that the pundits and politicians matters, darn it. So we're going to make the most of it, wrapping up our campaign coverage and kicking off our Election Day marathon here in New York City.

And, of course, when you think of New York, you think of hot dog vendors on the streets, cab drivers cursing in all the languages of the world, and those overpaid yuppies in the Bronx who lost to the Red Sox.

You also think about some the world's most creative, entertaining and talented politicians. We have two of them today here in the CROSSFIRE, two of our favorites, Republican Congressman Peter King of New York and Democratic Congressman Charlie Rangel, also of New York.

Guys, good to see you again. Thank you for joining us.


CARLSON: Congressman Rangel, thanks a lot for joining us.

The day before the election, I still have no idea what John Kerry thinks about a lot of things, including Saddam Hussein. For instance, the Bush campaign says, had Kerry been president, Hussein would still be in power. This-this is going to amuse, even you, I think.

This is Kerry's response, quote, to NBC News: "It is impossible and irresponsible to suggest that, if I were president, he wouldn't necessarily be gone. He might be gone, because if he hadn't complied, we might have had to go to war and we might have gone to war."

I have no idea what that means. And my question to you is, why, after this two-year-long campaign, hasn't John Kerry been able to explain something as simple as what he would have done about Saddam Hussein?

REP. CHARLES RANGEL (D), NEW YORK: All I know is that I can't-I've been waiting for four years for this opportunity to get rid of a president that attacks a country with no evidence that we were threatened by it and then declares himself as the wartime president.

And so it just seems to me that so many people are just waiting for the opportunity to get some of our friends back, to try to bring peace and tranquility to the world, and to do it in such a way that the American people have confidence and appreciate what they're doing. If you take a look and to see the lack of confidence that most Americans have in this president, I am just surprised that we're not winning by an overwhelming plurality.



BEGALA: Congressman King, Tucker makes the point that there are times when Senator Kerry can be nuanced. He uses a lot of words to explain complicated ideas.

So let me show you how he has summarized the entire election now at the end in just 10 words. I challenge you to do the same. Here's how John Kerry summarizes the entire election: "We need a new direction, not more of the same."

That's, for the Democrats, exactly what this election comes down to, new direction vs. more of the same. What does it come down to for Republicans?

REP. PETER KING ®, NEW YORK: That's why you guys are going to lose.

What it means is to continue the war against terrorism and continue to keep terrorism on defense and protect America, which is what President Bush has done.

RANGEL: He picked the wrong country.


BEGALA: But you agree, it is more of the same vs. a new direction, right? You believe in more of the same. This is a principled, honest disagreement, then, right?

KING: Yes. All kidding aside and all jokes aside...


KING: ... yes, I believe that we should continue the war against terrorism. And President Bush realizes it is not just a single war or just against bin Laden or just against this group. It's a war against Islamic fundamentalist terrorism.

And that is why Iraq is part of the war against terrorism. That's why the war against-certainly, against bin Laden was important, why against Hussein it is important, why the Patriot Act is important here at home, and why it is important to be working, as we are, with intelligence agencies all over the world, and why we haven't been attacked in three years.

CARLSON: Now, Congressman Rangel, you said a minute ago you were surprised that the Kerry campaign isn't doing better than it is. I think a lot of people are surprised. And the answer, of course, is, it has been a very lame campaign.

For instance, despite the fact he has a running mate from North Carolina on the ticket, they are going to probably lose North Carolina. If you were on the ticket-he should have picked you-had you been on the ticket, they probably would have taken New York.


CARLSON: Why is it that, with Edwards on the ticket, they can't even carry Edwards's home state?

RANGEL: You know, what I'm talking about is how this country got involved with a war. You seem to be so proud of the fact that we are after Saddam Hussein.

The truth of the matter is that no one has given any evidence that Saddam Hussein was connected with 9/11. So why are we bombing Iraq when we have got 100,000 people?


RANGEL: They said that we should be proud that it's not here that's being killed.

And every day, every day, the president digs in deeper and says he never would have made any adjustments to what he's done.


CARLSON: Well, if that's such an obvious point, then why isn't it resonating more strongly with the country? That's a legitimate question.

RANGEL: I will tell you why, because it is a campaign of fear. That's exactly why.


RANGEL: To try to scare people to believe it.

When the vice president of the United States says, if you don't vote for me and the president, then you are going to have a terrorist attack, you know, that's really as low as you can get in politics. And that's what he infers.

BEGALA: Congressman King, let me get to a specific issue. John Kerry, from the time of the war in Iraq, has been criticizing President Bush for, what Kerry might say, backing off in Tora Bora when he had Osama bin Laden. Now we know bin Laden is alive.

President Bush, Tommy Franks dispute that. So the Knight Ridder News Service, professional journalists, took a look at this. Here is what they reported over the weekend: "Knight Ridder reporters found that General Franks and other top officials ignored warnings that the combination of precision bombing, special operations forces and Afghan forces might not work. While more than 1,200 U.S. Marines sat at an abandoned air base in the desert 80 miles away, Franks and other commanders relied on three Afghan warlords and a small number of American, British and Australian special forces to stop al-Qaeda and Taliban fighters from escaping."

He let bin Laden go, didn't he?


First of all, you're relying on Knight Ridder. I'm relying on the generals who were there. In fact, there were several generals...


BEGALA: They don't have an incentive to cover their rear ends?

KING: Hold it. No, no, no.

BEGALA: I believe the journalists more than the generals. I'm sorry.

KING: OK. OK. I would believe Tommy Franks, who won the war, rather than Knight Ridder, rather than the liberal, biased media.

BEGALA: Why is Osama bin Laden walking around if we won the war?

KING: We did win the war.

How did we win the war? Because the Taliban has been disposed and bin Laden is running. There's absolutely no real evidence at all that they knew for certain he was in Tora Bora. He won that war in Afghanistan in six weeks. The Russians took 10 years and lost tens of thousands of troops.

There was no outsourcing of that.


KING: Charlie, we had American special forces working with the Northern Alliance, working with the Pashtun. And those 1,2000 Marines were kept back for purposes. We didn't want to be sending Americans needlessly into caves when we weren't sure bin Laden was there.

We captured Kabul. We captured-we took over Afghanistan because of those indigenous forces. You guys criticize President Bush for going it alone. Here in Afghanistan, based on his military advisers, we allied ourselves with the local troops. And, also, the 100,000 that you mentioned, Charlie, there's no evidence for that. That was a report on CBS last week, which is totally unreliable.


KING: But, no.


KING: Let me tell you-let me tell you... RANGEL: Innocent people are dying there.


KING: Innocent people died in World War II.


RANGEL: Well, that was the right war.


RANGEL: You know, we were attacked in World War II, you know.


KING: There's a new axis of evil. There's a new axis of evil, U.N. bureaucrats, "The New York Times" and Dan Rather. That is the axis of evil that we're up against in this country.


RANGEL: I just hope that you tell our armed forces guys over there that we won the war. They don't know that.


KING: No, 75 percent of the armed forces are supporting President Bush; 75 percent of the American armed forced are supporting President Bush.


RANGEL: I wish you-that's the reason we lost in Florida. You guys know the vote before people vote.



KING: Charlie, I was in Iraq last week. The armed forces are supporting President Bush.

BEGALA: And the president stopped supporting the armed forces.


CARLSON: All right, unfortunately, I-I feel like we're very close to a consensus.

Congressman King, we are just going to have to take a quick break here. We'll be right back momentarily.

Up next, in "Rapid Fire," you won't believe that the role Walter Cronkite is playing in this election.

And what did Osama bin Laden say on the parts of his video that Al-Jazeera did not show? Wolf Blitzer will tell you right after this.


CARLSON: Welcome back to CROSSFIRE.

Time for "Rapid Fire." The only thing faster than this segment will be tomorrow's charges of voter fraud.

Joining us from New York, Democratic Congressman Charlie Rangel and his colleague from his Republican side of the aisle, New York Congressman Peter King.

BEGALA: Congressman King, is there an issue, the deficit, jobs, health care, Iraq, on which the president does offer change in a new direction?

KING: No, we should keep going in the same direction. We have created 1.9 million jobs in the last year. Bill Clinton lost half a million manufacturing jobs in his last year and a half. We've gained more in manufacturing in the last year than in 20 years.

No, everything is going in the right direction, not easy, but we're going in the right direction. I strongly support what the president is doing.

RANGEL: Take my time and use the surplus-the fact that we had a 5.6 surplus and trillions of dollars and now we've got...


KING: He inherited a recession from Bill Clinton.


(LAUGHTER) CARLSON: Congressman Rangel, Walter Cronkite said on Friday that he thinks that Karl Rove set up Osama bin Laden to read that tape just days before the election. Ed Rendell, the Democratic governor of Pennsylvania, says-quote-"It is obvious to me that Osama bin Laden is trying to help George W. Bush."

Do you think it helps John Kerry when Democrats make lunatic statements like those, or do you agree with those statements?

RANGEL: I think it was dumb if the president did allow this Osama bin Laden tape to come up at all to show that, in all of these years, this guy is making more videos and we're losing all these lives and we can't capture him. Then it just shows what a lousy commander in chief he is. That's all.

KING: No. What it shows is, instead of attacking us, instead of attacking us, all he can do is make videos. That shows the success we've had.

RANGEL: Well, I'll tell you one thing. You guys seem to know that this guy is just going to attack Democrats, because the vice president claims that, if you don't elect Bush, then we're going to get attacked. That's a dumb thing to say.


KING: No. What we're saying is that the Democratic policies are weak. Democratic policies are weak and they would invite attack. But, hopefully-no one wants us to be attacked.


RANGEL: I guess the strength is that, when you have no evidence, you just bomb a country, and that's what we have done.

BEGALA: That will be the last word. I'm sorry to cut you off.


KING: ... make the world safer. And that's why Bill Clinton attacked Iraq in 1998.


BEGALA: Congressman Charlie Rangel, Democrat from New York, Congressman Peter King, Republican from New York, thank you both.


BEGALA: I wish we had another hour to go. But we don't.

So, coming up next, a quintessential New Yorker whose bark is worse than his bite. Triumph, the Insult Comic Dog, will lift his leg on us next in the CROSSFIRE. You don't want to miss that.


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