In two simple words Paul Begala tells the nation how to address the crisis in the Middle East: "I can solve the Middle East in two words, 'replace Bush.' Then we'd be on a path to peace, believe me."
[Highights from CNN's Crossfire, aired April 26, 2002]
BEGALA: Welcome back to the new CROSSFIRE. We're coming to you live from the George Washington University in beautiful downtown Washington, D.C. Well, all politics may have been global this week. So we decided to bring in two of the best political strategists in the world.
Let's begin the debate. Welcome our guest, Republican consultant Charlie Black and Democratic consultant Kiki McLean.
CARLSON: Kiki, welcome.
BEGALA: Oh, you can do better than that. Come on. There you go. Much better, thank you.
CARLSON: Now Kiki, if you want to know what's going on in American politics, obviously, you would have to watch CROSSFIRE. Or you can get the memo because James Carville, Paul's counterpart, along writes memos, as you know, along with Bob Sherman and Stan Greenberg.
KIKI MCLEAN, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: He's a brilliant writer.
CARLSON: He's a brilliant memo writer. We have a new one. It came out yesterday.
MCLEAN: He's a brilliant writer in general.
CARLSON: It's called the meat and potatoes strategy. Doubtless you've read it. It tells Democrats what they can run on in the mid- term elections. And this is one of the key issues they claim. "The unsettled international environment. There's less certainty, a lot of violence, less respect for America and less confidence in the Bush administration." So their advice to Democratic candidates is run on that. But I'll tell you what it's not in the memo.
MCLEAN: No, I don't know that it's their advice. It's their point is that's an issue Americans care about.
CARLSON: Yes, but there's no solution offered by them or any other Democrat. The advice is carp. There's not one Democrat in this country who's has offered a reasonable, viable or any at all solution to the Middle East problem, the biggest problem in the world today.
MCLEAN: Oh, Tucker, here's the problem. You think that because someone says that people care about it that we shouldn't talk about it. And the reality is, as Democrats, we believe we should look at issues, that it is legitimate to be aware of what Americans care about...
CARLSON: Actually, I'm saying we should talk about it. I'm thinking the same thing.
MCLEAN: And in fact, there are Democrats who have offered up issues around the Middle East, around what's going on. In fact, Al Gore, if I'm not mistaken gave a major foreign policy address not too long ago.
CARLSON: That's interesting. I wonder if you could tell me what the solution is then, because as much -- as closely as I follow Al Gore, and I'll torment you with him in a minute.
MCLEAN: I think he torments you more than you do me.
CARLSON: I haven't noticed his solutions. What exactly is the Democratic position on what this administration ought to be doing to bring peace between Israel and Palestine?
MCLEAN: I think the Democratic position is about what we ought to with the Middle East, not about what the administration ought to do.
CARLSON: OK, so what's the answer?
MCLEAN: And I think Democrats would be proud to stand behind a foreign policy if this administration had begun to offer one. Now what Democrats do...
CARLSON: So what should their foreign policy be?
MCLEAN: What Democrats do believe is that we have to get to get to a place of peace, but we cannot abandon people in their effort to get to peace. That's a big difference.
CARLSON: Oh, so they're for peace.
BEGALA: I can solve the Middle East in two words, "replace Bush." Then we'd be on a path to peace, believe me.
CARLSON: Welcome back to CROSSFIRE. It's our Friday polpot, political potpourri. Welcome back our guests, Democratic consultant Kiki Mclean and Republican consultant Charlie Black.
BEGALA: Mr. Black, one of the many things that happened this week is our president went to South Dakota, the home of our Senate majority leader. Now the Republican right, under the direction and sponsorship of President Bush and Vice President Cheney has been engaged in a strategy they call demonizing Daschle. This, despite the fact that Tom Daschle was the victim of an anthrax attack by some lunatic who wants to kill him. I find that particularly odious. But what I'm proud of is that the Democrats are fighting back.
BLACK: Please, please, please. Don't say all that in...
BEGALA: I am a Daschle Democrat. And on the back, they printed "obstruct this." Hal, are you getting that? And they welcomed President Bush with this.
BLACK: The Senate accuses the president of anthrax attacks either, Paul.
BEGALA: Certainly the president's not behind it, but some lunatic is and they ought to be protecting and praising...
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ANNOUNCER: Mr. President, your out of state allies are attacking Tom Daschle. You said you would change the tone in politics. Mr. President, tell the out of state special interests to stop the attacks.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BEGALA: After that ad ran, the president went to South Dakota and he hugged Tom Daschle again. Isn't that proof that either his strategy of demonizing him has failed, or he's the kind of guy who can't attack someone face to face? He's just one of those coward bullies who hides behind other people?
BLACK: Listen, the president has no strategy to demonize Tom Daschle.
BEGALA: Say that again. Say that again if I back away from the lightning bolt.
BLACK: You've never heard the president...
BEGALA: Tell me that they don't have a strategy...
BLACK: We've never heard anybody speaking for the president saying that. There's all kinds of interest groups out there, third parties that we can't control, as there are on your side that you can't control. The president works with Daschle on a lot of things, especially the war on terrorism. We wish they could work together more on the domestic agenda and the confirmation of judges, but Daschle has decided to be partisan. The first week of January, he came out and declared look, we're in a recession and it's caused by the Bush tax cut.
BEGALA: We were in a recession.
BLACK: The bad news for Daschle is, the recession's over spurred by consumer spending, which was helped by the Bush tax cut going to the consumers.
MCLEAN: Charlie -- Paul, I never said you were too nice to a Republican, but you were too easy on him. Before he hugged Senator Daschle in South Dakota this week, his advanced team and his staff got out there, put an event together, did not invite the Democrats to an event on ethanol, then proceeded to plan a roundtable on (UNINTELLGIBLE) policy with only Republicans invited. It's sort of like the international affair briefings that only Republicans get on the Hill. And these are not signs of great bipartisanship by George Bush's administration.
BLACK: That's a concession that all the farm leaders in South Dakota are Republicans, because that's who was at the roundtable.
MCLEAN: And Tom Daschle shouldn't have been invited? He's not a leader?
BLACK: I got a kick out of seeing Daschle in the crowd like a Bush groupie with Bush in charge of the event.
MCLEAN: Respectful, respectful. Only hug Tom Daschle after the majority leader had to ask to be invited.
BEGALA: They certainly don't support him on fiscal policy. In today's deficit numbers of "The New York Times" report and all the other media reported today, that the federal budget deficit under Bush, his first budget, is going to come in $140 billion in the red. Bad news for your party, bad news for our country. But particularly, this guy inherited the greatest surplus in history, made it into deficit. I thought he'd be good at inheriting things, given that he's a Bush, but he couldn't even pull that off.
BLACK: Three points, Paul. First of all, the deficit was caused by two things, the Clinton recession, which was not over...
BEGALA: Oh, sure. Stay on that one, Charlie. That's a good one. I like that.
BLACK: It's now over according to today's growth numbers. Secondly, we need to spend more on the military and homeland security because of the terrorists, not because the president wanted to, but we have to spend it and everybody's for it.
BEGALA: I agree.
BLACK: But third, the Democrats in Congress are proposing to spend more money than the president, which would increase the deficit. Bottom line, nobody ever won or lost an election on deficits.
MCLEAN: I got to say one thing, because one of the things I've always admired about Charlie Black is his brains and the fact that he actually cares about what he's talking about. And I've always believed he told it straight, but when he just stood up and -- when he just referred to the Clinton recession, I've lost it now, Charlie, because...
BLACK: But it got a good laugh though. The slowdown started in the last quarter of 2000. Who was president?
MCLEAN: You're looking at an administration...
CARLSON: That is actually true, is it not?
MCLEAN: Wait, you're looking at an administration now that is taking us into an economic direction with no plan to get us out, a foreign policy that gives us nowhere to go so that Tom Delay chooses to draft his own foreign policy for Republican leadership. I mean, basically George Bush has lost his way now.
BEGALA: Let me ask you. What spending program would Republicans eliminate?
BLACK: Well, the president proposed a budget. There were some programs proposed to be eliminated. But the Democrats...
BEGALA: No, there weren't. There was not a single -- Bush did not propose to eliminate a single program.
BLACK: Well, he proposed to cut some. I'll bring the list next time.
BEGALA: Right, anything that helps the poor, he wants to cut.