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Highlight of the transcript of CNN's Crossfire, aired May 3, 2002


Coming up next on CROSSFIRE, Matt Drudge. A legend in his own mind or a high quality Internet gossip? And round six, I'll pound some sense into Mr. Tucker Carlson about the White House's whining over federal judges.

CARLSON: You may love him, you may hate him. You may even pretend you don't know who he is. But of course you do. He's Matt Drudge, Internet gossip monger, one man news services, one of the biggest names on the worldwide web. He joins tonight to debate the state of American journalism and his place in it. Ladies and gentlemen, Matt Drudge.

BEGALA: Right. Actually, let me ask you about part of your role in that little melodrama. And it was one that affected a dear friend of mine personally. It was a lawsuit. It's long gone. It's gone away. But my view, you were told something that was defamatory.


BEGALA: About a friend of mine, Sid Blumenthal, I used to work with at the White House.

DRUDGE: He's a friend of yours?

BEGALA: Yes, he is.

CARLSON: If you can even imagine that.

BEGALA: And you reported that -- you reported that. You later apologized.

DRUDGE: Uh-huh.

BEGALA: You've refused to reveal your source. And it seems to me, and I teach journalism and have for many years, that a reporter does owe a duty of confidentiality of sources until the reporter realizes that the source has been using him to spread defamatory false information. Why don't you tell us who this source is? So other journalists won't rely on him or her?

DRUDGE: Did CNN reveal its sources for the nerve gas story that they got...

BEGALA: I have no idea. I wasn't working here.

DRUDGE: Well, let me finish. Your -- CNN tonight or your representative, CNN, is asking the Internet reporter to reveal sources. And Mr. Begala, I ought to ask you, how did that lawsuit settle, by the way? Did he, Sidney Blumenthal, in fact pay my side to get out of it, a lawsuit he brought? Is that a yes or no?

BEGALA: I'm curious if you think a journalist has the duty to...

DRUDGE: Then tell us. Is it yes or no?

BEGALA: ...to warn other journalists, and to tell the public when he or she receives false and defamatory information?


BEGALA: You were used as a conduit for someone else's defamation...


CARLSON: Welcome back. The guests have gone home. That means one thing. It's time for round six, an intimate moment where Paul and I chat about the president's understandable outrage over what the Senate has done or hasn't done with his nominations for federal judgeships. And it is outrageous. It was not phony outrage the president displayed today. 10 percent of all federal judgeships remain unfilled, as you know. And why? Because of a Democratic controlled Senate. Mr. Leahey. And do you know why he is held them back? Over ideology, specifically abortion.

That's outrageous, they ought to stop it. And it's actually paralyzing the administration of justice in this country, as you know. And there's really no defending it. Maybe we should just stop now.

BEGALA: Well, maybe we should just, for the hell of it, let's interject a few facts. George W. Bush has had more of his judges confirmed by the Senate in his first year than any president in the last 20 years.

CARLSON: Because he's nominated more.

BEGALA: 52. President Clinton got only 17 through the Republican Senate in '96. Only...

CARLSON: 52 out of how many, Paul? Out of 100.

BEGALA: ...36 in 1997.

CARLSON: A little bit more than half.

BEGALA: No, by the way, the time lag under Bush has been a third, 109 days on average. It was over 300 days when Clinton was in office. So Democrats have only promised they're confirming too many, and too fast.

CARLSON: Oh, oh.

BEGALA: They ought to stop these right wing troops...

CARLSON: I think...

BEGALA: Because Bush doesn't have a legitimate claim to fill these judgeships

CARLSON: I think I understand what you're saying. They did it to us, so we should do it to them. And you are looking...

BEGALA: They're passing his judges through. CARLSON: With no shame, you are saying that that's a morally valid reason to suspend the careers of people who've done nothing wrong because they did it to us?

BEGALA: Let me explain again.

CARLSON: That's indefensible.

BEGALA: And pardon me for talking while you're interrupting. Let me explain again. They have confirmed 52. We're not doing it to them. Bush is just...

CARLSON: But not...

BEGALA: Oh, why don't they call daddy. Let me go call Chief Justice Renquist and run to them. It's all the Constitution.

CARLSON: You know, you can call them what you want.

BEGALA: The Senate is supposed to advise and consent. And I think they've confirmed too dang many.

CARLSON: You know what, Paul? The sad part is, it all comes down to one issue. And you know this to be true, because some of them say that.

BEGALA: With legitimacy.

CARLSON: No, no, no. Comes down to abortion. It's the abortion industry is against anybody who is against abortion, period.

BEGALA: So how did you get 52 judges...

CARLSON: And you know, as well as I do, that any federal judge who has -- expresses a clear view on the one specific subject gets boycotted.

BEGALA: Did do you think Bush has nominated 52 pro-choice judges?

CARLSON: No, I don't.

BEGALA: I think they've been 52 pro-life judges.

CARLSON: I think he's nominated.

BEGALA: And they have been passed through.

CARLSON: No, I bet, probably a lot of them are pro-choice, but the point is there are at least 48 who aren't. And so, they're being held up. But -- you always talk about every night...

BEGALA: The issue is legitimacy. These are lifetime appointments. The legitimacy derives from the fact that the president gets a majority of votes. Here, the president didn't get the majority of votes. So I'm very scared of him setting up the federal...

CARLSON: Well, then how --

BEGALA: Since the federal judiciary selected him to be our president.

CARLSON: Paul, by that standard, he ought not to be running the government or waging war around the world if he's not a legitimate...

BEGALA: Those aren't lifetime powers.

CARLSON: That's -- what an argument. He ought to step down now. Think about what you're saying, Paul.

Straight ahead on CROSSFIRE, your chance to fire back at us. And don't be surprised if we fire back at you, rather harshly in fact. We'll be right back.


BEGALA: Welcome back to CROSSFIRE. We call this segment "Fire Back." And man, do you. Let's begin with today's "Washington Times," which took a shot at yours truly. Here is Paul Begala's smear campaign. "The Washington Times" today excoriates me for saying, and they're quoting me here, "the Republican right, under the sponsorship of President Bush and Vice President Cheney's been engaged in a strategy they call demonizing Daschle. This despite the fact Tom Daschle was the victim of anthrax attacks by someone who wanted to kill him."

Seems to me those are two simple statements of fact. But of course, I got the idea that they were targeting Daschle from none other than, "The Washington Times." Let's put up "The Washington Times" story. The White House is escalating its attacks against Senate Majority leader Tom Daschle. President Bush, last week, ordered senior advisers to take the gloves off and sharpen their rhetoric. These orders came down from on high to start getting tougher, a White House official said. So I want to apologize for relying on "The Washington Times" accuracy in making that comment.

CARLSON: You know what? I like the first story better.

CARLSON: And Donna Lane from Okmulgee, Oklahoma writes, "I just love it when you get Tucker backed into a corner! His bow tie begins to spin around and all he can do is screech, Clinton, Clinton." Well, Donna, you are missing it. In fact, I begin by screeching Clinton, Clinton. That is my starting point tonight and every night.

MATT: Hi there. My name is Matt and I'm from Washington, D.C. And the question I have for you is, when do you think Bill Clinton will realize he's no longer president and not try and broker a Middle East peace deal?

CARLSON: That is an excellent question. I think he'll believe it when he reads it in his own obit, which is to say never.

BEGALA: No, in truth, the president has been very, very respectful of President Bush as he botched the Middle East. I'm sure like President Carter, or former President Bush, he'd be glad to go to the reach and help his country, but I think Bill Clinton's forbearance and his silence, as Bush has botched the Middle East has been heroic.

BRENDON: Brendon Boyle from Philadelphia. If John McCain decided to run for president as a Democrat, could he win the nomination?


A.J.: My name's A.J. Feni Ruiz. I'm from Martinsville, Indiana. And my question is, how do you feel sites like "The Drudge Report" and "Worldnetdaily" are going to change the way news reaches America?

CARLSON: Well, they make it faster. I mean, I think we're saying up here, I don't think most people read "The Drudge Report" or "Worldnetdaily" to find fresh reporting. I mean you read the newspaper. You watch CNN. But it's nice to have someone take the time to bring it all together. I mean, if an iguana does eat a child in a foreign country, how are you going to know about it? "The Drudge Report."

BEGALA: I prefer the analysis on like Mediawhores.com. I don't read Drudge.

CARLSON: And if you want to wreck your day and scramble your brain, sign on to the Web site Paul just mentioned.

BEGALA: Try it. From the left, I'm Paul Begala. Good night for CROSSFIRE.

CARLSON: And from the right, I'm Tucker Carlson. Join us again Monday night, next week, for another edition of CROSSFIRE. see you then.