[Aired June 14, 2002]
In the "Crossfire" tonight, Democratic strategist Victor Kamber and Republican pollster Frank Luntz.
PAUL BEGALA, HOST: Gentlemen, we thank you both for being here.
Frank, first before we get into the guts of these memos, which I think are just delicious and I you as a pollster will enjoy them as well. There's something wrong here though. During the campaign, Karl Rove and his political team had their debate materials stolen. Now that they're in the White House in a possession of sensitive secrets, they're losing their political secrets as well. Why shouldn't we trust these people with our national security secrets when they can't even keep their political secrets?
FRANK LUNTZ, REPUBLICAN POLLSTER: Well honestly I don't understand why CROSSFIRE would BE focusing on something like a computer disk when you've got people in this audience right here, 21, 22, 23, if there ever were a draft, we've got a military conflict going on. We've got Americans dying. Why are we focused on this kind of political ...
BEGALA: Why did you ...
BEGALA: Why did you agree to come on?
NOVAK: All right, let's go on.
BEGALA: No, wait we called you up and we said ...
BEGALA: ... why don't you come on and talk about this, now don't insult us for talking about it.
LUNTZ: No, because I'm going to respond to your questions, but I think the higher priority is what's going on, and we be should focused on serious issues instead of focus on the fact that somebody lost a computer disk. Have you never lost a computer disk in your life?
BEGALA: Actually I don't use computer disks. I'm not a big computer guy.
NOVAK: Frank ...
NOVAK: ... tomorrow night we're going to do monetary policy on Saturday ...
NOVAK: Come by yes.
BEGALA: Let me ask you about one of the points made ...
LUNTZ: Sure. BEGALA: Ken Melman is the White House Political Director, an astute observers of the scene and a seasoned professional. He tells us that 25 Republican House seats are vulnerable and only 10 Democratic seats, he tells us that the president's popularity is - quote - "in decline, that's natural and expected and that two United States senators in the Republican Party are very vulnerable". This is bad news from the Republicans about the Republicans, isn't it?
LUNTZ: Do you see me shaking?
BEGALA: You ought to be.
VICTOR KAMBER, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: They're not his clients. See that's the difference. I don't think he cares.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No.
BEGALA: So is he -- is he wrong or are they in trouble?
LUNTZ: It's not an issue of being wrong or right. You know you would expect the political director for the White House be dealing in politics. It's natural. It's ...
KAMBER: Not on my taxpayer dollar.
LUNTZ: Oh wait (UNINTELLIGIBLE).
BEGALA: I don't think it's politics ...
LUNTZ: If you represent ...
BEGALA: I'm interested in your ...
LUNTZ: ... if you want to represent what the Clinton administration ...
KAMBER: We're not Clinton. We're Bush now and Bush says he's going to be different. Forget it.
NOVAK: You know Vic I want to - I want to read to you what Ari Fleischer, you know Mr. Fleischer ...
KAMBER: I know who he is.
NOVAK: What he said about all this nonsense about what's going on, what an outrage it is, not on my tax dollar. We're going to put it up on the screen and what he said was, "I am shocked, shocked as Director of the White House Office of Political Affairs would be concerned in any way with political affairs. This is a shocking development".
Now wait, here is a question, if you ever listened to the Lyndon Johnson tapes, if you ever listened to the Richard Nixon tapes, if you ever listened to tapes nobody listens to, John F. Kennedy tapes, they're all talking politics, that's what they talk about in the White House ...
KAMBER: Bob I understand that and I agree, and I think - where Frank is that some of this is silly. The difference is it's this administration and this group that said we're going to be different than Mr. Nixon, Mr. Johnson, Mr. Kennedy and certainly Mr. Clinton. We're not going to do the politics in the White House. We're not going to sell the Lincoln Bedroom. We're not going to did this.
We're not going to do that and what do they do? Much the same. They use whether it's a disk for politics at our expense or whether they have Grover Marcus (ph) group collect names of Republicans versus Democrats, this administration is political and doing the same thing others have done. Is that is bad? That's a different question.
NOVAK: Let me - let me say -- let me hesitate to try to draw a distinction for a political strategist such as you are, but in the - in the Clinton administration when Dick Morris and President Clinton sat around, they said how are we going to run this '96 reelection campaign?
How are we going to put these issues out? That's what they always do. That wasn't the problem the other people had. The problem was when they bring in people into the Lincoln Bedroom, when they had these coffees, when they use it as a fund-raising device. Can you see that distinction?
KAMBER: I don't because I can go through what the Democrats, Republicans have done with their meetings, with various leadership, the selling of the meetings with the vice president, the selling of the meetings with the various secretaries of the Cabinet, the selling of the Congress.
Bob, the bottom line is, why Democrats are laughing at this, and making -- is in 1995, a Democrat lost some paperwork and Republicans chortled all over the place, say look at these Democrats incompetent, stupid, whatever, whatever because they lost their political. Democrats are just getting back and saying look at the Republicans, is Karl Rove and this White House, secret quiet, all of a sudden disks are on the street.
NOVAK: Do you think he's a pretty dumb guy (UNINTELLIGIBLE)?
KAMBER: I think he's a pretty smart guy. And that's why I agree with his analysis by the way.
BEGALA: Let's look at the analysis. This is from Karl Rove's memo (UNINTELLIGIBLE) put it up there. The Republican strategy and this is where it begins. I've highlighted the first one -- focus on war and economy, focus on war. The first three words of his strategy - focus on war. Shame. Shame. Shame ... (CROSSTALK)
BEGALA: ... on Karl Rove for trying to politicize the war.
LUNTZ: That's not trying to politicize. What is the ...
BEGALA: It's a political strategy. Focus on the war.
LUNTZ: What's the number one question that Americans have today? Should we not be talking about the war? Should we be talking about the ratings? Should we be talking about the new fall lineup on Nickelodeon? The Americans want to talk about war, so why not talk about it? Talk about the solutions. Talk about the process. Talk about the threats. Wait a minute, Paul. You're the first one, and I watch this show, you're the first one to complain that the White House wasn't talking enough about what they know. Now you're complaining that they're talking about too much. Pick a side and stay with it.
BEGALA: Not talk about it, they say focus on it for political gain. Karl Rove ...
BEGALA: ... went to Austin Texas - yes it is.
LUNTZ: No it isn't.
BEGALA: Karl went to Austin ...
LUNTZ: Pull it back up again.
BEGALA: ... he went to Austin and he gave a speech to the Republican National Committee and he said we're going to take this to the voters. That is politicize the war, when every Democrat in Washington, except one for Berkeley, voted for the attack against Afghanistan.
BEGALA: They're trying ...
BEGALA: ... they are trying to politicize a war, which I think is shameful and I can't imagine how you can defend that.
LUNTZ: It's very easy to defend the fact that this White House is talking about terrorism, because that's what the American people want to talk about it. When they get on the plane they ...
BEGALA: Not talk about, they're campaigning on it, and I think ...
LUNTZ: Those are your words. You're the ...
(CROSSTALK) NOVAK: Vic Kamber, you're a sophisticated person. I think you're sophisticated enough to know that when you -- did you read this, all this material?
KAMBER: I've read some of it. I haven't read all of it.
NOVAK: Well it'd be nice for you to read it.
KAMBER: It's boring.
NOVAK: It is boring - it is boring, but what they have done is they have taken all of the easy Republican races like Bob Taft, Governor Bob Taft in Ohio, who's a cinch, and say that's -- he's in danger and then they take a Democratic incumbent like Mary Landrieu in Louisiana, who's a cinch and they say she's in danger. All of the races are close. Now I think you know what they're trying to do? They were showing this to contributors. They want the contributors to think all of these races -- it's a gimmick, isn't it?
KAMBER: Well again, partly what they're saying in one breath is we don't do polls and we don't run the government by polls and obviously they're using a memo that says yes we have polls all over the place to show this (UNINTELLIGIBLE). It is a gimmick. It certainly is a gimmick to raise money to scare the Republican fat cats into giving money to protect their incumbents. I don't doubt that ...
KAMBER: .. but I still go with what you said. Rove is smart. He wouldn't have a memo like this go out unless he didn't believe that their people are in trouble, and I think they are in trouble.
NOVAK: Let me -- you just - you just discounted yourself. They're not in trouble. And Mary - and on the other side of the coin, Mary Landrieu is not in trouble.
KAMBER: Bob Taft is not in trouble. Landrieu's not in ...
NOVAK: ... is not in trouble.
KAMBER: The two Democrats - the two Republicans they're talking about, Hutchinson in Arkansas and who was the other one?
BEGALA: Bob Smith in New Hampshire.
NOVAK: Bob Smith ...
(CROSSTALK) NOVAK: ... Bob Smith in New Hampshire is not even going to be nominated.
KAMBER: That's why he's in trouble, but the seat's going to go Democratic, it looks like.
BEGALA: Victor Kamber, Democratic strategist, Frank Luntz, Republican strategist, I want to thank you both for joining us.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you.