Leave it to James Carville to come up with the only reasonable explanation for the utter passivity of the White House press corps: They're frightened of Karen Hughes and what she might do to them in the dark. That sounds, well, quite plausible, doesn't it? And Bush is shocked, shocked that his tepid attempt to soothe the Middle East was rebuffed. Arafat and Sharon know that there is absolutely no benefit to them or their causes to lend support for Secretary of State Powell's peace mission since it doesn't even have the unqualified support of the U.S. government.
APRIL 19, 2002
CARVILLE: And now time for the unique CROSSFIRE "Quote of the Day." It's from President Bush, praising Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon. The comment comes from Israel forces still in the West Bank as the violence and killing continue. Here's what the president said yesterday -- quote -- "I do believe Ariel Sharon is a man of peace."
And then he had this to say.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Israel started withdrawing quickly after our call from smaller cities on the West Bank. History will show that they've responded.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CARVILLE: Well, calling Ariel Sharon a man of peace is like calling Patton and Napoleon a man of mean. But the president doesn't know the difference between the Red Sea and the Mediterranean. That's just a mistake. Saying that they pulled out in response to his call just is a flat lie.
CARLSON: Wait. Wait.
CARVILLE: Now, the real tragedy was not this. The tragedy is that we have got a White House press corps that don't know whether to wind their butts or scratch their watches. And they sit there and take this stuff down when they all know it's wrong. And they're scared that this administration...
CARVILLE: It's dead wrong.
CARLSON: Everybody in America knows that Ariel Sharon flipped the president the bird, essentially, by not pulling out. The president gets up and says: "Thank you, sir. May I have another." I agree with you. Absolutely right.
The crime here is, what do Democrats in Congress do? They don't say a word against Ariel Sharon at all, at all. In fact, they sit on the sidelines and do what they always do. And what's that? Whine. They whine.
CARVILLE: The problem here is, is that the president stands up and says this. They got a bunch of kids over there covering this administration that are scared to death, because they know what happens is, is Karen Hughes -- who is a friend of mine -- is a dominatrix of this press corps. And if they say something bad, they're not going to get any access and they're all scared.
CARVILLE: You would agree that we should not politicize 9-11?
CLIFF MAY, PRESIDENT, FOUNDATION FOR DEFENSE OF DEMOCRACIES (Former communications director of the Republican National Committee): I think that any politician who does that is just committing hari-kari.
CARVILLE: But also, what do you say about Karl Rove going before the Republicans saying they were going to use 9-11 and the war on terrorism to get Bush re-elected?
MAY: No, you're distorting what he said.
CARVILLE: I'm not distorting what he said.
MAY: The fact of the matter is, when there's a national security crisis, over time Republicans benefit. Now, Democrats can do something about that, what you need to do -- and James, you can do it -- reestablish the Scoop Jackson wing of the Democratic Party.
CARVILLE: Why did Rove say (UNINTELLIGIBLE) they were going to politicize it?
MAY: He didn't say that.
CARVILLE: He said we're going to run on the war on terrorism. Now, why is it that you can't say anything? Let me ask you something. Do you think a good American should criticize the president in the conduct of his foreign policy?
MAY: Very carefully and not in a way that's partisan.
CARVILLE: Let me say something right now. He looked like a fool in the Middle East, sending the secretary of state over there, cutting him off, getting dissed by the Israelis, getting dissed by the Egyptians, and then coming on TV and saying that they responded to him. Is there any justification of him saying that? Does that make me a bad American?
MAY: No, but other things probably do.
MAY: By the way, that's not at all what happened. What happened in the Middle East...
CARVILLE: Hosni Mubarak didn't diss us?
MAY: ... just one second. We do have a problem, you're right, that the Arab nations, not one of them, picked up a coddle, not one of them responded and said, yes, we're going to fight terrorism. We have a problem with all those nations because of that.
BECKEL: We have got a problem in the Middle East because George Bush let it sit by itself for over a year. He wants to go into Iraq so bad, he should have taken care of what was going on between Israel and the Palestinians.
MAY: Take care? Every politician...
BECKEL: You know, I hate to say it, but you're being a wonk. It's a tough work-out. But I'm a politician. And I'll tell you something, Karl Rove, you know, in the darkest periods of night is very, very happy that they're building an entire strategy on 9-11. Where was this guy before 9-11? He was 48 percent in the polls. Where would he be now without 9-11? Probably 32.