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April 18th program highlight

BEGALA: Welcome back to Crossfire. We are grading George W. Bush's handling or mishandling of crucial events around the world. Please welcome back our guests, Republican Congressman Tom Davis and Democratic Congressman Robert Wexler -- Mr. Novak.

NOVAK: Congressman Wexler, there's been a lot of nonsense written about the United States trying to pull off an unsuccessful coup in Venezuela. I've been watching a lot of military coups in South America in my time. This was one of the most incompetent, inefficient.

I guarantee you, I know a little bit about the CIA. If they had had anything to do with it, it would have been conducted in a lot better way. You have no evidence, do you, contrary to what Paul implies, that there was any U.S.role in that coup?

WEXLER: No. I'm not aware of any information attaching President Bush to the coup. But what disturbs me is what happened after the coup. The president didn't stand up for democracy. We had a man, Chavez, who the president doesn't necessarily agree with and many Americans have fault with, but he was an elected president. And when the military coup occurred, the president didn't stand up for democracy the way the other Latin American leaders did. What kind of message does that send to our small neighbors to the south?

NOVAK: I'd like to see what kind of message you're sending because another elected leader is Yasser Arafat. He was elected by the Palestinian people. You don't like to admit that, but he was.

But Chavez was elected. Chavez is a demagogue. He is against free enterprise. He's been expropriating things. He's been giving free oil to Fidel Castro. You mean in your soul, in your heart, you didn't say, thank God, he's gone when they had that little coup?

WEXLER: Bob, I actually believe in democracy and I believe in freedom. And I support people's right to express themselves.

NOVAK: Adolf Hitler...

WEXLER: And the United States of America should not support a military coup when people have voted otherwise.

NOVAK: Adolf Hitler was elected to...

BEGALA: Congressman Davis, let me ask you about this. First, just first things first. Who has a more legitimate claim to the office they hold, Hugo Chavez, the president of Venezuela, who won an election, or George W. Bush in America?

DAVIS: George W. Bush. That's easy.

BEGALA: George W. Bush didn't win anything more than a five to four vote on a Supreme Court that his daddy helped pick. I don't like Chavez, either. I think he's a thug and he's a clown. But he was freely and democratically elected. And the entire region, most of whom don't like him either, is furious with the United States because we refused to back democracy. You have to admit that was a mistake for Bush to salute...

Time now for round six here on CROSSFIRE. No guests, no gloves, but yes, there will be a standing eight count rule. The issue, the president's plans to drill for oil. Now that he's shut out of Alaska's Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, environmental groups say he's got his eyes on the Rocky Mountains.

Bob, the papers today report that Bush wants to drill in Wyoming, in Montana, in Colorado, in Utah and in New Mexico. This guy makes James Watt look like St. Francis of Assisi.

NOVAK: Let me tell you something. We just had a disaster for this country. I know you don't care about what happens to the country as long as your politics works. But in the Senate today, they voted down the drilling in Alaska, kind of oil production...

BEGALA: Looks like somebody else cares about our country, too.

NOVAK: ..the kind of oil production that would have been surpassed anything that Iraq did. It would have given us oil independence. It would have been jobs for teamsters, for machinists, for steelworkers. And the only reason they voted him down was the malevolent environmentalist lobby sending communications to the people. This was a dark...

BEGALA: The malevolent environmentalist...

NOVAK: This was a dark day for America.

BEGALA: This is what -- here's what Bush wants to do at the behest of big oil. He wants to relax clean air standards. He wants to kill the polluter pay provision under Superfund. So hostile has he been, that the Bush senior appointee, who's the head of EPA's enforcement division, resigned in protest.

I mean, you know, the only thing -- if we ever find a way to run cars on air, they're going to want to drill in Bush's head next. See? He'll drill anywhere.