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Highlight of the transcript of CNN's Crossfire, aired May 23, 2002

ANNOUNCER: CROSSFIRE: On the left, James Carville and Paul Begala. On the right, Robert Novak and Tucker Carlson. In the Crossfire tonight -- picture a September 11 phone call as a way to get campaign contributions.




ANNOUNCER: Maybe not at the White House. But that isn't the whole picture. In the Crossfire, a negative image. ..

TUCKER CARLSON, CO-HOST: Good evening and welcome to CROSSFIRE. In the land of equal opportunity the U.S. court of appeals says some opportunities can be less equal than others. Tonight Jesse Jackson joins us to put the University of Michigan Law School's race for admission in the crossfire. Later we'll be talking about trash with none other than the king of trash TV himself, Jerry Springer.

But first a picture worth at least a thousand words and likely thousands of dollars for the Republican Party. It shows President Bush aboard Air Force one calmly doing his job in the midst of a national crisis, talking to Dick Cheney September 11. It's part of a three photograph set being offered for a donation of at least 150 bucks to Republican campaign committees. The same Democrats who you may remember auctioned off invitations to the without White House coffees and nights in the Lincoln bedroom are apoplectic. Here to put the September 11 photo in the Crossfire are Ann Lewis, who is the national chairwoman of the DNC's Women Vote Center, and Republican strategist Alex Castellanos.

Good to see you. PAUL BEGALA, CO-HOST: Alex, let's begin by putting it into perspective. This may surprise you. Considering the fact that Bush has already used September 11 to justify robbing the Social Security trust money and giving it to billionaires, trampling on our civil liberties, accusing his critics of treason and handing our environmental policy over to oil companies, this is small potatoes, isn't it? This is nothing compared to what he has already done in the name of September 11, isn't it?

ALEX CASTELLANOS, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: I really am kind of surprised by all this. I wonder if the news media needs a pair of glasses for this one because I heard all this hype about the Republicans are somehow using the tragic events of September 11 for political purposes, and I thought, oh, my God, what have we done? Is it a picture of the building or the people, and I turned around and it is a picture of the president of the United States actually being the president of the United States. He's on the phone, doing the same job September 11 that he did on September 12 and 13 and every day since, that he did in that state of the union address.

BEGALA: Talk on the phone to Dick Cheney?

CASTELLANOS: No, protecting you, protecting me, protecting all of us from terrorism, leading the world in the war on terrorism, doing a great job at it, and that is what he has been doing every day. Now, according to your rationale of course, we can't show any picture of the president in the past year protecting us because he has done a good job.

I know you are still angry that he won the election and he's doing a good job and the American people respect him for it, but...

BEGALA: You are wrong on all three counts but I don't want to get into that. Michael Beschloss this morning, he is the presidential historian, I don't have any idea, I don't think he is a partisan in any sense. I heard him on the Imus radio program. He said this is one of the dumbest things done recently in American politics. It's a huge mistake. Bush laid an egg, didn't he?

CASTELLANOS: I think all of us, I think said a little prayer for the victims of September 11. I think it touches all of us and we still carry a little bit of that in our hearts. I think no one more so perhaps bears a greater burden than the president, who is responsible for protecting all of us and making sure it doesn't happen again.

I think that day and every day since, but especially that day, I think a lot of people appreciated the strength of this president and I think some people may even want a picture people want a picture of that in their homes. I might put my on my refrigerator next to my little American flag. But I don't think there's anything wrong with that, having a president you can respect again. You might want a picture of it in your home. We haven't had that for the past eight years.

CARLSON: Now Ann Lewis, I have to say, you get boldness points for coming on as a veteran of the Clinton Administration to attack this administration on fund raising. I could go after's the Lincoln Bedroom, or John Wong, or the Buddhist temple. But that would be too east. So I will give you a pass. Instead, I want you to take a look at this picture. It is President Clinton meeting the assassinated former president John F. Kennedy. In April 1998, the DNC sold this photograph to campaign donors who gave $400 or more to the party. In other words, the Democratic Party profited off the memory of an assassinated president. That's far more appalling than a picture of a president doing his job, is it not?

ANN LEWIS, NATL. CHAIRWOMAN, DNC NATIONAL CONVENTION: I think there is a double standard here. But let's be clear what September 11 was. It wasn't just any day in the last year. This was a day in which thousands of Americans were murdered. Our country was under attack and we all came together. We came together to fight back. Right now we have American servicemen and women who are over there in Afghanistan risking their lives to keep us safe.

Alex is right. It's the job of the president to unite us. Shame on the White House, shame on the Republican party, that tries to use that example, that day, that image for political fundraising.

CASTELLANOS: Nobody is doing that, Ann.


LEWIS: If (UNINTELLIGIBLE) tell the difference between that day and this picture, then maybe we have a lot more explaining to do.

CARLSON: Let me give you a better example. I want to quote from you...

LEWIS: Try to find one.

CARLSON: These are remarks from President Clinton from a fund- raiser, one of many, in 1994. This is what he said to the assembled crowd. "This afternoon the U.S. received official confirmation that North Korea is prepared to freeze its nuclear program. It came about because of the steadfastness and resolve our administration and working with our allies." He's bragging about his foreign policy successes before a group of donors who wanted to raise money. Do I have a problem with this? Actually, I don't. You know why, because he did it, he gets to brag about it. That is what it is when you are president, you do a good job, you can tell people about it, you can even raise money on the basis of it.

LEWIS: Let me see if I have this right. Because a president speaks to the American people or speaks to a group and says I have some very important news, we're moving forward and let me point out this was an administration that did believe that America's national security was improved when we got other countries to reduce their nuclear program.

That may be hard for you to understand because the policies have changed a couple of times. CARLSON: I am totally missing your point I am making, and I hope you will agree with, is the president does something, he can brag about it.

LEWIS: The point I'm making is for a president to speak out and talk about what we are doing. By the way you did not hear us complain about Bush last night when he talked about doing the job of the president. He even said last night at this multi, multimillion-dollar fund-raiser that this is not a partisan job. That is right and that is exactly why it is so wrong to take that picture, taken on Air Force One, taken on this historic day, turn it around and make it into a fund-raiser.

CASTELLANOS: I can't believe the Democrats are so desperate to hype up a non-story. Surely you can come up with a better non-story than this.


CASTELLANOS: Speaking to the joint session of Congress about how important that was. I guess we can't show that one...

BEGALA: Actually there is an enormous difference and here is free political advice -- you are one of the best in the business, so you don't need it, but President Bush watches every night here at CROSSFIRE, he should not have opened the door. The truth is when he spoke to the Congress on September 20 he was terrific. That was nine days after the tragedy.

He found his footing, he found his voice and he delivered a wonderful speech and we all cheered. But the honest truth is on September 11th he was frighteningly shaky. I am going to show you the videotape of President Bush that day. No Republican is going to contribute money to get this videotape. Take a look at what he actually did on September 11.

That doesn't look like gritty resolve.

That is a president frightened out of his mind. That's how he actually performed on September 11. You don't want to remind the country of that, do you?

CASTELLANOS: Poor Paul. Personal attacks. Is this the best you can do? This is your campaign against George Bush?

BEGALA: Alex, you are a best ad guy I know. Are you going to put that in an ad for Bush?

CASTELLANOS: I know it breaks your heart but you are so amazingly wrong when you said this president couldn't do the job and it turned out he has done a great job.

BEGALA: He went from there to hide inside of a mountain, Alex. Are you going to use that tape in an ad? Are you going to use that tape in an ad? CARLSON: I will. Ann Lewis, in the moments we have left, I just want to get a pledge from you. There's talk, and I believe it, the Democrats are rounding up widows and orphans of September 11 and prodding and goading them to attack the president over the use of this picture. I want you to pledge right here on CROSSFIRE that Democrats, the many tentacles of the party won't do that. Because of anything, that is the most vulgar and exploitive thing you could possibly do to use widows and orphans to make a political point. You won't do that, will you?

LEWIS: Let me see if I have this right, the party that is selling this picture for $150 is now going to turn around and be shocked if people who lost family members stand up and say, you shouldn't have done it? I'm just trying remind you that the First Amendment does work for people you like, for people you disagree with. We could have this debate. Unlike Alex who seems to think it's only the press that is hyping this, the reason this story is here, here is because people who are talking about this, including, you have Republican Donors who went to the gala, and said to the press that this is just plain wrong.


BEGALA: That has to be the last word. I promise both of you that you will be on a whole lot more. Ann Lewis from the Democratic Party and Alex Castellanos, from the Republican Party. Two of the best in the business.