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[Highlight of CNN's Crossfire, aired May 1, 2002]

CARLSON: Congressman Gephardt, you said America ought to stand with Israel. America, of course, does stand with Israel, has since Israel was born. But there are degrees here and Senator Joe Lieberman, as you know, is pushing this idea of passing a resolution of support of Israel before Sharon arrives in the United States. The Bush administration wary of this idea.

Shouldn't the Congress back off a little bit, particularly in light of what happened today, and really let the executive branch handle the foreign policy nuances here?

GEPHARDT: We are, Tucker, and we should and we will keep doing that. But I think think it is important, given all that's happened, for the Congress to make a statement that simply says we support Israel. We're not trying run foreign policy. We support the president in what he's trying to do and Secretary Powell.

CARLSON: But Congress sends billions a year to Israel in aid, military and otherwise. I can't imagine a stronger statement. Isn't another statement, another resolution really just a way to force this administration's hand in the way it deals with Israel and the Palestinians?

GEPHARDT: I talked to the president this morning and he didn't have any great objection to these kind of resolutions coming through the Congress. I've told him from the beginning that we are with him in this policy. We've got to be together. We've got to work together in a bipartisan way.

If America gets separated in fighting among ourselves about what to do about the Middle East, we're not going to be effective. We've got to lead for peace. We have got to try to bring these parties -- we are the only country in the world that can bring these parties together and bring about a stable, long-term peace. We've been doing this for 50 years. And we've made lots of progress, and we've got to get it done, and we will.

BEGALA: Let me ask you from the other side of it though. I'm all for deferring to presidential leadership, but what about when there is no presidential leadership?

For 15 months, our president walked away from the Middle East, thought it was a problem that he didn't need to address and then sends Colin Powell in five days to try to repair the damage of 15 months. And in the meantime, has both supported and opposed Israel's act of self-defense in the West Bank and it has had a policy that right and left has, I think the only thing they agree on is that our policy has been incoherent. Doesn't the Congress need to step in and try to drag our president into the leadership role he ought to be playing?

BEGALA: Tucker's turns out it's fair play. This is a close runner-up on the "quote of the day." Certainly, former Vice President Dan Quayle, we all know him. He's back in the news this week. In an appearance on "Hardball With Chris Matthews," the man once considered an intellectual lightweight, gave a powerful, penetrating and perspicacious analysis of the current crisis in the Middle East.

Quayle declared his support for a U.S. invasion of Iraq and said the current fighting between Israelis and Palestinians was fundamentally different from America's need to fight Saddam Hussein. He said, and this time I'm not making it up, "I would ask you, looking at the Israeli/Palestinian question and say this, how many Palestinians were on those airplanes on September 9th? None." When reminded the attacks were on September 11th, he said, "I knew that. I'm just trying make Bush look smart."


CARLSON: Welcome back to CROSSFIRE. We're coming to you, as usual, live from the George Washington University here in downtown Washington, D.C.

The Bush tax cut, cloning, the other Bush running in Florida, the man who lost the last race for the White House. Those are some of the issues this election year. Happily, we've got two of the best political strategists in America to talk about them. Please welcome Democratic strategist Bob Shrum and his Republican counterpart, Mike Murphy.

BEGALA: Nice to see you.

CARLSON: How are you?

BEGALA: Good to see you. We invited a few of your closest friends over. Mr. Murphy, as we meet, George W. Bush today is four points lower in the polls than Bill Clinton was on the day he was impeached. His top aide is leaving to go home to Texas. And his Middle East policy so incoherent that the only thing Israelis and Palestinians agree on is they can both diss Bush with impunity. The wheels have fallen off the wagon, haven't they, Murphy?

MIKE MURPHY, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Absolutely not. Of all the trick questions in the history of CROSSFIRE, that's one of the better ones. The fact is...

BEGALA: There's more to come.

MURPHY: I bet there's a barrel of them, Paul.

CARLSON: Now Bob, Paul was just bringing up McCain, a maverick. But there's a new maverick in the United States Senate, in some ways every bit as impressive. That's, of course, Zell Miller, Democrat of Georgia. He spoke at the NRA conference this week, and had a fascinating line about the election 2000. He said about the campaign you helped throw, the Gore campaign, "All their expert pollsters said voters favored some kind of gun control. Well, I stand with heartfelt conviction over a political wind gauge every day." He implied that it was on that issue and a number of others that Gore lost, among others, the key state of Tennessee. Do you think Zell Miller's on to something?

BOB SHRUM, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Well, Paul and I both worked for Zell Miller. And I like Zell Miller, but I think he's moved considerably in the Democratic spectrum, over to a position where he seems to constantly advocate at times what you might call Republican positions.

CARLSON: Kind of impressive maverick.

SHRUM: And you know, that's why you like him.

CARLSON: He's not a maverick.

SHRUM: He's not a maverick. You just think that he agrees with you, so you like him. I do not think that's what happened. I do not think that's what happened in 2000. Actually, as I've corrected you before on CROSSFIRE, and will correct you again, Al Gore won the election. He won Florida. And the only way you can ever say he lost it was by a peculiar vote of 5 to 4.

CARLSON: You're not addressing the key part of my question, which is he lost his own state, his home state of Tennessee. And didn't his stand, his reactionary stand on gun control have something to do with that? If he had taken a Zell Miller point of view...

SHRUM: Bush lost his own country.

CARLSON: Please, come on. Be real. He lost his home state.

BEGALA: Get over the bitterness.

SHRUM: Whatever else happened in that election, and whatever else Al Gore did, he did not take a "reactionary stand on gun control."

CARLSON: On almost every subject.

SHRUM: Al Gore took a brave stand on gun control in terms of some of the states he was running in, like Tennessee and West Virginia. And he believed that stand.

CARLSON: So he lost because of it.

SHRUM: No, he did not lose because of that. He did not lose the election. Tucker, it's really hard for you to add.

CARLSON: He lost his own state, Bob.

SHRUM: He won by -- he got the second highest number of votes in American history, except for Ronald Reagan.

CARLSON: I hope you're run him in the midterms. Good luck.

BEGALA: Let me press the point...

SHRUM: No, but I'm going to sit here on CROSSFIRE. And I'm not let you say he lost the election, because he didn't.

CARLSON: Let me ask you...

MURPHY: Go with the bitterness..

SHRUM: It's not bitter.

BEGALA: Let me ask you -- I'll show you bitter. I know bitter. Here's bitter. Pressing the point on gun control, the NRA had their convention this past weekend. And the top gun at the NRA, Wayne Lapierre, who I love because he's always good for a psycho quote. And he gave me one today. Let me put it up on the board and read it to you.

He called the Americans for Gun Safety, which John McCain is one of the heroes of, "a group that operates and sounds a lot like Osama bin Laden and the al Qaeda." he said they are "a shadowy network of extremist social guerrillas and political terrorists who pose a far greater threat to your freedom than any foreign force." Your response?

MURPHY: It's a hell of a quote. He's the Begala of the gun community. I tell you.

BEGALA: This is your party's best ally here. He's nuts. And he's armed.

MURPHY: So quit ticking him off.

BEGALA: You got be carefully, yes.

CARLSON: Welcome back to CROSSFIRE.

We're debating the candidates and the issues of this election year with our guests, Democratic strategist Bob Shrum and his counterpart, Republican strategist, Mike Murphy.

BEGALA: Mike, the president's top political strategist is my friend and yours, Karl Rove. Karl gave a speech in Austin a few months ago in which he said...


BEGALA: No, I like Karl just fine. He's an old pal of mine from Austin.

SHRUM: He's very, very close...

MURPHY: We're actually friends. We agree on Shrum.

BEGALA: So anyway, Rove gives a speech in Austin to the Republican National Committee, basically says we're going to run on the war. How is the Republicans going to do this, when we learn now that Bush, while he's talking about what a great war leader he is, has actually, believe it or not, hosted twice as many fundraisers as Bill Clinton even did. And I thought Clinton had an excessive amount of fundraising.

MURPHY: Yes, I remember your protests.

BEGALA: How could he possibly pull that off?

MURPHY: I remember you picketing the White House. Stop...

BEGALA: But that was all going to somebody I didn't like. Believe me, I was not supportive of that fundraising that was going on.

MURPHY: Oh, okay, so I'm sorry. The question is, how...

BEGALA: How the hell can he claim to be a war leader when he's out there whoring the special interests' money? Direct enough?

MURPHY: Do you think he's doing a good or bad job on the war?

BEGALA: Bad job.

MURPHY: Really?

BEGALA: In the Middle East. On Afghanistan, I wish he had Osama bin Laden, but he hasn't mentioned him in six months.

MURPHY: So good job or bad job...

BEGALA: All of a sudden, he's the focus of all...

MURPHY: On the overall al Qaeda thing.

BEGALA: On al Qaeda, I do -- well, you're not interviewing me. I think he could do much better. I think he's getting distracted, actually. I think he's lost his focus.

MURPHY: OK. I think he's doing a great job. And the American people think he's doing a great job. As far as the campaign, he's the president. He's leader of a party He gets to go out and raise money. It's voluntarily.

BEGALA: Just as much as Clinton ever did.

MURPHY: That's not my fault.

BEGALA: We outreason you guys. We're going to outcampaign you guys. And we're going to beat you guys. That's what you do. That's politics


BEGALA: Hey, another one here. Here we go. Les Nglavyan of Chicago, Illinois writes, "TV Set, $250. Cable subscription to CNN, $50. Watching Tucker's face turn red when getting shellacked by David Brock, priceless!" David Brock, of course...

CARLSON: First of all, if I could just set that straight.

BEGALA: Of course.

CARLSON: That little creep did not shellack me. I caught him lying. His face was red, not mine.

BEGALA: And the book is "Blinded by the Right." I'm going to buy it and read it.