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CNN Crossfire - Transcript

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CNN Crossfire - Transcripts
Thursday, May 12, 2005


BEGALA: Welcome back to CROSSFIRE. President Bush wants John Bolton to be his man at the U.N. And presidents nearly always get the team they want, especially in foreign affairs. And yet, Mr. Bolton's nomination may be in trouble. Revelations of abusive behavior and allegations of manipulating intelligence have even some Republicans wondering if they can support Bolton. At least one senator has already committed to voting no when the nomination reaches the Senate floor.

Joining us today to discuss this controversial nomination in the CROSSFIRE, Representative Steven King, a Republican from Iowa-he joins us from Capitol Hill-and Democratic Congressman from California Adam Schiff. Gentlemen, good to see you both.

REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D), CALIFORNIA: Good to see you.

NOVAK: Congressman Schiff, Senator Voinovich is a kind of quirky guy. He did a tongue lashing for John Bolton. But that isn't what the real heart of the Republican Party thinks. Let me give you another Republican who I think has a better-better captures the spirit of the party and what they think of John Bolton. Let's listen to Senator George Allen of Virginia at today's hearing.


SEN. GEORGE ALLEN (R), VIRGINIA: We are not electing Mr. Congeniality. We do not need Mr. Milquetoast in the United Nations. We're not electing Mr. Peepers to go there and just be really happy and drinking tea with their pinkies up and just saying all these meaningless things when we do need a straight-talker and someone who's going to go there and shake it up. And it needs shaking up. It needs reform.


NOVAK: Mr. Schiff, do you want Mr. Milquetoast, Mr. Peepers and Mr. Congeniality there?

SCHIFF: No. I think that's the quirky senator there. Senator Voinovich, I think, is known as a straight-shooter. And I think he's shot very straight today. We don't want John Bolton representing the country at the United Nations. And I think he's more than the wrong choice. I think it's a choice that really hurts the country.

And I would agree that normally, you are very differential to the president. He gets to pick his choices. But when it has an affirmative injury to the country, when we have someone with a track record like John Bolton has, when there's a real pressing need to reform the United Nations, you don't want somebody who's going to attack it, but rather can work constructively. This is really the wrong choice.

NOVAK: Congressman Schiff, I want to ask you if you understand what's going on here? You're in the lower House, and you may not appreciate what's going on there. This has nothing to do with John Bolton's personality. It's a vendetta by Senator Chris Dodd because John Bolton is anti-Castro. And anybody who's anti-Castro Senator Dodd cannot tolerate. Isn't that what's really going on?

SCHIFF: You know, with all due respect, Bob, I don't think that's anything to do with what's going on. This is a choice that I think is enormously destructive to our relationship, which is already strained with the rest of the world. And how we could go from having someone of the stature of John Danforth to a John Bolton is just beside me. I can't understand it.

For no other reason than if you look at the NPT review going on now, when John Bolton should have been leading the charge to reform and to strengthen the NPT, the Nonproliferation Treaty, dealing with the number-one national security threat facing the country, according to the president, and that is nuclear terrorist, Mr. Bolton has been AWOL. He's more focused on the next job than doing well at the last job. And particularly given the history, where we've had the politicizing of intelligence over WMD, why we would pick someone who the very same issue has been raised repeatedly, and that is John Bolton's politicization of the intelligence he got on Cuba and other issues, why we would want someone with that lack of credibility I can't understand.

BEGALA: Let me bring Congressman King into this. First, thank you for joining us. Good to see you again.

REP. STEVE KING (R), IOWA: Thank you.

BEGALA: Congressman, Senator Voinovich, a Republican-maybe denigrated occasionally by Mr. Novak-not when he votes for tax cuts, but just now --

NOVAK: He usually votes against them.

BEGALA: -- not when he opposes Mr. Bolton, but the plain fact is, he is a Republican, and a very loyal one of over three decades in public service. He said today in the hearing that he'd examined Mr. Bolton's record, that he looked carefully at all of the information that had been brought to the committee, and even talked to people at the U.S. State Department who work for President Bush and used to work for Mr. Bolton, and here's the conclusion he drew off. Let me play you a piece of videotape from Mr. Voinovich today.


SEN. GEORGE VOINOVICH (R), OHIO: It is my opinion that John Bolton is the poster child of what someone in the diplomatic corps should not be.


BEGALA: Those are pretty strong words, Congressman. You care to respond to them?

KING: I would care to. And first of all, you can establish someone there who is a diplomat, who has the best diplomatic credentials, someone who is a Milquetoast. And someone-diplomats, by their very definition, are to be trained to get along with people, never rub people the wrong way, never allow any animus to be created in any negotiations, always smooth, smooth sailing. Well, smooth, smooth sailing in the United Nations has gotten us a $64 billion oil- for-food program, of which Saddam Hussein has scooped off 10.1 billion. We're seeing this pop up now with members of the legislature, with either France and Germany and people that were close to Jacques Chirac being people that were collecting money from the oil-for-food program. That's one of the things.

We have a United Nations that has morphed into a Third World- class NB (ph) debate society, where some of the people in this country that are apologists for that believe that because its people that sit there that are dictators are representing a country that they actually represent their people. It takes someone who's got strong leadership and strong language.

BEGALA: Well, let's take a look at how he has led. I find it interesting that the Republican position is now that in fact we need a thug and bully, somebody who kisses up and kicks down, unlike, as Congressman Schiff said, say, John Danforth, a man of great dignity and integrity and a Republican senator before went to the U.N. But some of his former colleagues, Mr. Bolton's colleagues in the Bush administration are accusing him not just of being a thug and a bully, which is pretty common in Washington among jerks like that, but instead of manipulating intelligence. Now this is a serious allegation.

Robert Hutchings was the director of President Bush's National Intelligence Council. Here's what Mr. Hutchings says of Mr. Bolton: Bolton, quote, "took isolated facts and made much more of them to build a case than I thought the intelligence warranted. It was a sort of cherry-picking of little factoids and little isolated bits that were drawn out to present the starkest possible case."

That's a fancy way of saying he misleads us on intelligence. Why would we want someone who misleads us on intelligence to lead America at the U.N.?

KING: It might well be that Mr. Bolton had his own opinion and challenged the intelligence.

BEGALA: But not his own facts.

KING: And he used those facts to challenge it. And if doesn't accept the intelligence premises delivered to him, that means to me that he's an independent thinker. I think we have to give him that. BEGALA: But so are people who believe in a flat Earth. But shouldn't we have an agreed-upon set of intelligence that then we act on? You're not allowed to make up your own intelligence.

KING: I hope we don't have.

BEGALA: Really?

KING: I hope we have an independent analysis of intelligence so that we don't end up with all of us following in the same path like we did with WMD in Iraq.

BEGALA: But he's rejecting-he was the one who went with the path on WMD.

SCHIFF: I think this exactly the problem, and that is that we want people that are representing the country that will accurately represent what the intelligence they are receiving is so that the Congress is not misled, so the country is not misled. We already lost significant credibility over the WMD issue in Iraq. We obviously haven't found the WMD. Our intelligence was seriously flawed. Is this the best, bob? Is this the best that President Bush can nominate? Is he the best choice? I like Tom Friedman's suggestion. Why not have the president nominate his father? That would be an outstanding choice.

NOVAK: Paul was all for him until he found out that the party line was against him.

BEGALA: No. I was for him.

NOVAK: Yeah, yeah, yeah.

BEGALA: I was for him. Let me defend myself. I was for him until I learned he manipulated intelligence. I thought being a bully was not --

NOVAK: You were for him until you learned the party line was to be against him.

BEGALA: No, I set the party line, Mr. Novak.. I was for him until I learned he manipulated intelligence.

SCHIFF: In the universe of conservatives in Washington, of which there are a great many, is this really the best we can do?

NOVAK: He's the best. He is really-he is one of the best men in Washington, believe me.

SCHIFF: He may be at one extreme, but the best is not the right side of the pole.

BEGALA: Hang on just a second. We're going to take a quick break, and then we're going to have to switch to a different topic. Guess who is not coming to dinner. Next in the CROSSFIRE, some conspicuously empty seats tonight at the big suck-up gala honoring Tom DeLay. Who is going and who respectfully, cowardly declined?

And then also after the break, when did President Bush learn about yesterday's security scare at the White House? Wolf Blitzer will have details when we're back.


WOLF BLITZER, HOST "WOLF BLITZER REPORTS": I'm Wolf Blitzer in Washington.

Coming up at the top of the hour, take a look at this. A retaining wall has just collapsed along the Henry Hudson Parkway in Manhattan, a retaining wall that has caused an enormous snarl of traffic problem in that entire region. No reports of any injuries. We're watching it. Emergency personnel on the scene. We'll get some more information as it becomes available.

Also, the Foreign Relations Committee in the U.S. Senate sending John Bolton's name to the full Senate floor, but the fight over his nomination is a long way from over.

President Bush didn't know about yesterday's Washington security alert until after it was over. The White House, promising a full review.

And why you might want to start paying more attention to the messages they put inside fortune cookies. Mary Snow has a special report. All those stories, much more, only minutes away on "WOLF BLITZER REPORTS."

Now, back to CROSSFIRE.

NOVAK: Tonight in Washington, about 900 of Congressman Tom DeLay's closest friends will gather for a tribute to the House majority leader. I'll be there and so will a lot of grassroot supporters of the gutsy Texan.

Our guest, continuing, Democratic Congressman Adam Schiff of California and Republican Representative Steve King of Iowa, who, by the way, will also be at tonight's event.

BEGALA: Congressman King, not to give you advice, but Tom DeLay is in trouble for being too close to sleazy lobbyists, so you all are going to circle the limousines with a bunch of sleazy lobbyists. Some free advice here: I worked for President Clinton in the White House. When he got in trouble, we didn't have a big party with the interns. Why are you doing this?


KING: I am really proud to stand up with Tom DeLay, and here I am, on the national television. I hope the cameras are there to see all the people that stand up with Tom DeLay, as well.

BEGALA: I do, too. KING: I've been looking forward to this for weeks, and I'm happy to write a check to help him out, as well. He has a right to defend himself.

NOVAK: Good for you.

Congressman Schiff, I have-there's big lines on Capitol Hill on your side of the capital, of Congressman who haven't done their filing on trips paid for by private organizations, and it's a who's who of liberals. We'll put some of the names up there. Maxine Waters, nine late filings. Bernie Sanders, three late filings. Everybody does it. Isn't it? You are just after Tom DeLay because he's successful and powerful Republican, isn't that right?

SCHIFF: No, it's not right. The majority leader has been rebuked three times by the bi-partisan Ethics Committee.

KING: He's not been rebuked.

SCHIFF: In 19 -- in 19...

KING: He was admonished.


SCHIFF: In 1994, the Republicans charged into town with a Contract with America, saying they were going to restore integrity and ethics to the Capitol. I think there's been a very serious breach of contract.

NOVAK: Well, don't we have to have the correct word?

SCHIFF: And I think we need to restore ethics...

NOVAK: Isn't it the one... (ph)

SCHIFF: ...and integrity, and it has to start at the top.

NOVAK: Isn't the word-isn't the word...

SCHIFF: We just don't have it in the majority leader.

NOVAK: Isn't the word-that he was admonished? Not-you said rebuked.

SCHIFF: Well, OK, he was admonished.

NOVAK: Thank you very much.

SCHIFF: You have properly admonished me and I'm rebuking you back.


NOVAK: Very good.

BEGALA: Well done. Thank you very much.

NOVAK: OK, thank you very much, Congressman Schiff. Congressman Steve King, thank you very much.

KING: Thank you.


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