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Southern Baptist Convention Creates Furor Over Islam Comments; Report on White House Vandalism Released; Is Obesity Really Bad for Your Health?

Aired June 12, 2002 - 19:00   ET


ANNOUNCER: CROSSFIRE. On the left James Carville and Paul Begala. On the right, Robert Novak and Tucker Carlson.


In the CROSSFIRE, a Baptist minister says hallelujah and more. Has zeal for the Christian faith turned into Muslim bashing?

Missing W's and dollar signs. Was it really necessary to spend $200,000 to investigate $19,000 worth of White House pranks?

Houston, we have a problem, but is it the government's job to fight this kind of waste?


Tonight on CROSSFIRE. From the George Washington University, Paul Begala and Tucker Carlson.

TUCKER CARLSON, HOST: Good evening and welcome to CROSSFIRE. Tonight, big brother says it's time to lose weight. Also the man who says the Clinton administration treated the White House worse than college freshman checking out of their dorm rooms.

But first, praise the Lord and slam the other guy. This week's annual gathering of the Southern Baptist Convention has provoked cries of Muslim bashing. Monday Reverend Jerry Vine (ph) said - quote - "Islam was founded by Mohammed, a demon-possessed pedophile who had 12 wives, and his last one was a nine-year-old girl".

Vines (ph) added - quote - "Allah is not Jehovah. Jehovah is not going to turn you into a terrorist that will bomb people." The Southern Baptist Convention's new president refused to repudiate Vines' (ph) comments, calling them - quote - "accurate". Muslims are calling them, among other things, bigoted and hate-filled.

In the "Crossfire" tonight to discuss it, Hussein Ibish, who is the Director of Communications and Media for the American-Arab Anti- Discrimination Committee. He joins us from New York City, and in Lynchburg, Virginia is the Reverend Jerry Falwell, the Chancellor of Liberty University. PAUL BEGALA, HOST: Gentlemen, thank you both for joining us. Reverend Falwell, thank you for particularly. I want to ask you a very difficult thing, to defend the indefensible. But I want to -- I'm told that you're friendly with Reverend Vines (ph) and I want to ask you if you will repudiate his statements slandering the Muslim faith and the prophet Mohammed?

REV. JERRY FALWELL, CHANCELLOR, LIBERTY UNIVERSITY: Well, I was there. I heard his comments.

I do know Dr. Vines (ph) very well as a humble man of God, a preacher of the gospel for many years. And I did not believe that when I was listening to him that he was attacking Islam or Muslim people. He was rather comparing the life and the behavior of Jesus Christ and Mohammed. And he gave the story of the virgin-born sinless son of God who died upon the cross for the sins of the world, rose from the dead to grant ever-lasting life and then he pointed out historically, and by the way it's all a matter of history, that Mohammed, in fact, was guilty of massacring many, many thousands of Jews and...

BEGALA: Well, but do you -- do you believe Mohammed was a demon- possessed pedophile, Reverend, a demon-possessed pedophile. That is a slur on a prophet who's ...

FALWELL: Well, I have no way ...

BEGALA: ... a billion people.

FALWELL: ... I certainly have no way of knowing who's demon possessed. But he was ...


BEGALA: Well, how does Reverend Vines (ph) ...

FALWELL: I'll tell you what he did -- I'll tell you what he did, I'll let you decide if he's a pedophile. Among his many wives, and no Muslim scholar denies this, he had a wife who was given to him -- betrothed to him at age six by his best friend, Java Bacar (ph), and he -- at age nine, when she was nine, consummated the marriage. Now in a civilized society when a 54-year old man consummates a marriage with a nine-year old girl, I think it is reasonable to believe that to say that's pedophilia is not taking it beyond the limits of reality.

CARLSON: OK, Mr. Ibish, is that -- is that true? Let's just -- let's just start there. Did Mohammed have a nine-year old wife?

HUSSEIN IBISH, AMERICAN-ARAB ANTI-DISCRIMINATION CMTE: I have no idea and neither does anybody else. To be honest with you, what happened 1,500 years ago. Much of this is mythological. Much of this is shrouded in the (UNINTELLIGIBLE). It's not the point. It's not the point. The point is ...

FALWELL: That is the point.


CARLSON: Hold on.

IBISH: The point -- no, no, the point is -- hold on -- no ...


CARLSON: ... may I interrupt you?

IBISH: Yes, sure.

CARLSON: OK. Well I guess -- to some extent it is the point. That is why ...

IBISH: No, no ...

CARLSON: ... the charges in this statement ...

IBISH: ... it's not the point -- it's not the point ...

CARLSON: ... and my question to you is it true?

IBISH: No, it's not the point.

CARLSON: Do Muslim scholars believe it to be true? Is it accepted ...


IBISH: I have absolutely ...

CARLSON: Is it accepted among them?

IBISH: ... actually I have no idea about who the prophet married and when and why, and it doesn't matter.


IBISH: Let me tell you -- no, let me tell you -- let me tell you. The point is that this is part and parcel of a generalized attack on Islam and Muslims. Of course it's an attack on Islam. You've got to be kidding. What about the rest of the stuff that he said about Islam not being as good as Christianity, about ...

CARLSON: Well, Mr. Ibish ...


IBISH: ...Allah turning you into ...


IBISH: Let me finish.


IBISH: This is a rehash of anti-Semitism.

FALWELL: Apparently ...

IBISH: Of ...


FALWELL: ... you have not studied -- apparently, sir, you have not studied Muslim history. Now if you ...

IBISH: Look I'm ...

FALWELL: ... if you would like to do it ...

IBISH: I'm not -- I'm not interested...


BEGALA: Gentlemen, one at a time.


IBISH: I'll tell you, I'm not interested.

CARLSON: Hussein, let Reverend Falwell respond. Let Reverend Falwell ...


FALWELL: I'll give you -- I'll give you an opportunity to become a student of your own history. Go to ...

IBISH: This is absurd...

FALWELL: ...and we have put several pages of Muslim history there, and talking over doesn't change it.

IBISH: No, look ...

FALWELL: Mohammed had a nine-year old wife ...

IBISH: Look ...

FALWELL: ... with whom he committed sex and that is ...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: One at a time here please.


IBISH: If you think it's not an attack on people's faith to call their prophet demon possessed, then you're an idiot, all right?

CARLSON: Mr. Ibish, hold on...


IBISH: Seriously.


IBISH: I mean, if I called Jesus demon possessed...

CARLSON: Now, I want you to stop for a second, Mr. Ibish, and I want you to respond. Hold on -- hold on.


FALWELL: I may be an idiot, but I'm not a pedophile.

IBISH: I'm not a pedophile, either. Congratulations.

CARLSON: Wait, Mr. Ibish, please stop for just one moment here. And I want you to respond to the more specific charges in this, and the general charge ...


CARLSON: Hold on -- hold on -- which is that Islam promotes violence. That is the charge that this man has made. It's a charge ...

IBISH: Right.

CARLSON: ... that many have made, and I want you to respond -- I want you to respond to what I believe is one of the sources of this understanding -- and it comes right from the Koran Sura 9-5. I want to read it to you - quote - "fight and slay the pagans wherever you find them, seize them, beleaguer them and lie in wait for them, fight them, Allah will punish them." Kill unbelievers, in other words.

IBISH: Right, now anyone can play this game, Tucker. I just ...

FALWELL: That's not a game.

IBISH: I can go into the Bible -- I can go -- it is. It's a filthy game to tarnish other people's religion. I can...

CARLSON: This is a quote from the Koran, Mr. Ibish. It's not a filthy game.


IBISH: Exactly. I can go into the Bible, into the book of Joshua and find quotes about God ordering Joshua to wipe out everybody, men, women and children. I can go into the Talmud and find all kinds -- in fact, there are Web sites all over this country, anti- Semitic vicious Web sites that are filled up with quotes, ripped out of context from Jewish holy books in an attempt to slur Jews.

CARLSON: Well, give us the context. I don't understand.

(CROSSTALK) IBISH: And in fact -- well, the point is that the traditions of Islam have been peaceful and tolerant in the main, but just like with Christianity and Judaism, there have been violent Muslims. The point is 1.3 billion people in this world are Muslims. Most of them are good and decent people, and the faith has given them a moral vehicle to be such -- this is -- this is just like -- it's just like anti- semitism.


BEGALA: Mr. Ibish, I'm sorry to cut you off, but I want to bring Reverend Falwell back into this.


IBISH: ... same thing.

BEGALA: Reverend Falwell, let me bring you back into this.

FALWELL: Well ...

BEGALA: One of the other things that Dr. Vines (ph) said, sir, was that the God of Christians does not turn people into terrorists. I want to read you a statement, though, that tends -- that tends to disagree with that. This is the statement -- you'll be familiar with it, Reverend.

"God continues to lift the curtain and allow the enemies of America to give us probably what we deserve. The abortionists have got to bear some burden for this attack of September 11 because God will not be mocked, and when we destroy 40 million little babies we make God mad."

That was you, Reverend Falwell, suggesting...


BEGALA: ... that somehow God was behind the terrorist attacks of September 11. Isn't that ...

FALWELL: I believe -- I believe ...

BEGALA: That sounds like Osama bin Laden, Reverend.

FALWELL: Paul, I believe that -- I believe Paul, that God blesses us for obeying his word. In Proverbs 14:34, righteousness exalted the nation. But I would like to repeat to my friend there from New York, if he would go to tonight and just read ...


BEGALA: We'll all go to, but I want to know ...


FALWELL: OK. BEGALA: ... I want to know if you believe that God sanctioned the mass murder of September 11.


FALWELL: ...and decide for yourself if you believe the Muslim scholars, who we quote, that in fact -- in fact Mohammed married ...

IBISH: Jerry Falwell ...

FALWELL: ... and consummated marriage with a ...

IBISH: Jerry Falwell ...

FALWELL: ... with a little girl nine years old.

IBISH: Jerry Falwell is the ...


IBISH: Jerry Falwell ...

FALWELL: ... terrible thing. That is pedophilia and you know it's true.

IBISH: Jerry Falwell is the same man who said, "God does not hear the prayer of Jews."

FALWELL: No, Jerry didn't say that ...


IBISH: There you are again. That was Dr. ...


IBISH: ... you said -- and you said ...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: One at a time gentlemen.


IBISH: You did say it, and you said that the antichrist ...

FALWELL: You know ...

IBISH: ... was no doubt Jewish, alive and well and living in Israel.

FALWELL: Well, my good -- my good Muslim friend, be assured of this, that Christians ...


BEGALA: Mr. Ibish, Reverend Falwell, I'm sorry to cut you off. We're going to ... (CROSSTALK)

FALWELL: ... into the Mediterranean ...

BEGALA: ... go to a quick break right now. And I'll have to -- guys I'll turn off your microphones, going to a quick break right now. But we'll be back in just a minute. When we do, I'm going to ask Reverend Falwell who actually said that about whether God hears the prayers of Jews, and then later, President Clinton's been out of office for about a year-and-a-half. Why can't the right-wingers get a life?


CARLSON: Welcome back to CROSSFIRE. Coming up later, the desecration of a national monument right here in Washington. But right now we're mixing religion and politics. The Southern Baptist Convention is taking place in St. Louis this week.

Yesterday a leading minister spoke at the convention and said among other things that Mohammed was a - quote - "demon-possessed pedophile". Comments, as you can imagine, have set off a firestorm of controversy and that's our debate tonight.

In the "Crossfire" Hussein Ibish of the American-Arab Anti- Discrimination Committee and the Reverend Jerry Falwell. Mr. Ibish, you made reference a couple of times in the last segment to anti- Semitism.

IBISH: Right.

CARLSON: Compared this to the treatment of Islam to anti- Semitism, but as you well know, there is no -- the hot bed in the world of anti-Semitism is, of course, the Islamic world, where it's broadcast openly, for instantly, on al-Jazeera and even ...

IBISH: Well, I don't agree it's on al-Jazeera.

CARLSON: ... here in Islamic - oh, please. Well, let me give you another example ...


CARLSON: ... much closer to home.

This is from the "Washington Post" in February. The Islamic Saudi Academy in Northern Virginia, the "Post" ran -- took a look at its textbooks, the one given out by the school. They teach that the Day of Judgment won't come until Jesus Christ returns to the -- to earth, breaks the cross and destroys Christianity and Muslims kill Jews. That's what it says in the "Washington Post" ...


IBISH: Well ...

CARLSON: ... that's not anti-Semitism?

IBISH: Of course, if it says that. Naturally. Here's the point. The point is there are plenty of people spreading hatred on both sides of this equation. You know the -- why are these people at the Southern Baptist Convention insulting Islam in this way and trying to promote fear and hatred of Muslims?

They're doing it because I think in many cases these are fundamentalists dispensationalists who yearn for Armageddon. They like bin Laden. They have the same agenda. They want to promote a generalized conflict between the Islamic world and the West. They are trying to stoke the fires of hatred and fear. They want to provoke a conflict. That's why they're being so insulting, so outrageous and so provocative. It is in fact ...


IBISH: ... the analogue ...


IBISH: ... the analogue of the kind of hateful rhetoric that you see also in the Middle East, and all of it is wrong and bad.

BEGALA: Reverend Falwell, I'm still staggered at the notion that you think God condoned the attacks of September 11, but to defend you, you did never -- you never said God does not hear the prayers of a Jew. That was Reverend Bailey Smith (ph), who was the president of the Southern Baptist Convention back in 1980.

IBISH: OK, fair enough ...

BEGALA: ... a rather famous statement, but Reverend Falwell, I'm not in the business to defend Jerry Falwell, but you never did say that. But I want to show you ...

IBISH: But he did say the antichrist was Jewish.

BEGALA: Excuse me Hussein, Mr. Ibish, there's a piece of videotape I want to show Reverend Falwell from a man I'm sure he will agree with me, while we disagree on his politics, is a very good Christian, who said something very different about the Islamic faith. I think you may have to listen to it. We'll play it for the audience at home and ask you to respond, Reverend Falwell.

FALWELL: All right.


GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The face of terror is not the true faith of Islam. That's not what Islam is all about. Islam is peace.


BEGALA: Reverend Falwell, who's right Jerry Vines (ph) or George Bush?

FALWELL: I don't think either one. I don't think either George Bush or Jerry Vines (ph) believes that 1.3 billion Muslims are terrorists. Nobody has said that. He is saying, Dr. Vines (ph) is saying, and it's a fact, that Mohammed in fact did have among his many wives a nine-year old wife ...

BEGALA: Not, but he also ...

FALWELL: ... and that does mean he's a pedophile.


BEGALA: ... Reverend Vines (ph) also said -- Reverend Vines (ph) also said that Islam leads to terrorism. President Bush, who again, I don't agree with, but a very good Christian, says no, no, no, in fact Islam is a religion of peace. I agree with George W. Bush, probably the last time in my life, but I'm just curious as to which side you're going to choose.

FALWELL: Well, I'm glad you agree with Mr. Bush and I hope you'll vote for him next time.


BEGALA: Prayer can do a lot, but it ain't going that far.

FALWELL: But back to the subject, I just heard that we have had over 4,000 people who have now, since this program began read Islamic history on to find out the facts of what this whole program is about.


FALWELL: You invited me here tonight ...

IBISH: ... relentless promotion.

FALWELL: ... you invited me here tonight to defend the statement or at least to support the statement of Dr. Jerry Vines (ph). I'm hear to tell you that what he said about Mohammed, that ...

IBISH: That he's demon possessed.

FALWELL: ... he had a 9-year-old wife ...

IBISH: ... that he's demon possessed.

FALWELL: ... that is pedophilia in any civilized society ...

IBISH: ... that he's - you are -- you are saying he was right ...


FALWELL: And I don't agree with demon possessed because ... (CROSSTALK)

FALWELL: ... like you, I don't know who's demon possessed.

BEGALA: Gentlemen, look ...


FALWELL: ... but I know a pedophile ...


FALWELL: ... and it's pretty close to ...


IBISH: Reverend, let me -- let me explain something.


BEGALA: I'm sorry to cut -- gentlemen, I'm sorry, the producers are telling us we're out of time. We tried to give you as much time as we could. But ...


CARLSON: We'd like to take the question of demon possession further, but we can't.


BEGALA: Mr. Ibish, do any Web site you want to plug?


IBISH: No, I don't have a Web site I want to plug.

BEGALA: Thank you very much.

IBISH: I want to say that spreading hatred ...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Coming up, the White House is steaming because a GAO report doesn't really back up their charges of Clinton vandalism, but it does reveal some vandalism under a president named Bush.

Later, an admission of presidential mendacity from other than the presidential spokesman.

And in our quote of the day, a member of the Bush administration dares to question a pronouncement of John Ashcroft.


BEGALA: The General Accounting Office says the damage done when the Clinton administration moved out of the White House and the George W. Bush administration moved in is fairly typical for presidential transitions. In fact, a new report can't say whether the incidents of damage, vandalism and pranks were any worse in 2001 than they were in 1993 when the first Bush administration moved out of the White House.

There is no excuse for intentionally vandalizing a national monument. But is there any excuse, say for political spite that is for wasting $200,000 of taxpayers money to document less than $20,000 worth of damage.

Joining us to debate this our Democratic Congressman Anthony Weiner of New York and the man who called for the investigation, Georgia Republican Congressman Bob Barr. Gentlemen, how are you?


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Good evening sir.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How are you brother?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Good to see you.

REP. BOB BARR, (R), GA: Anthony ...


CARLSON: Congressman Weiner, so much and rightly so has been written about the vandalism committed by Clintonites (ph) on the way out, not as much sadly has been written about the thefts that took place, the thefts of presidential seals from off the wall, dozens of White House cell phones stolen by Clinton staff and then we learned that Al Gore walked off with a bust (ph) of Abraham Lincoln - walked off with a piece of federally owned art. I know you're a partisan Democrat and all that, there's no reason to defend theft, is there?

WEINER: Well I got to tell you , already President Bush had to call President Clinton and apologize for the rumors about stuff being stolen off of Air Force One. Look we have $400,000 worth of GAO study in front of us that doesn't support ...

BARR: Four hundred thousand ...

WEINER: Well 200,000 there, 200,00 there. I mean they're selling it outside here. It's about all ...

BARR: You're in New York City, maybe he can get away with that here, but not in Congress.

WEINER: I have to tell you - I mean look, there is some dastardly things alleged in this report ...

CARLSON: Wait Mr. Weiner - Mr. Weiner, back up - back up.

WEINER: Here's something - here's something, a lamp was placed on a chair. I got one here.

CARLSON: But I want ... WEINER: I got one here. Hold on, a T-shirt with a tongue sticking out was draped over a chair. The "Rolling Stones" were apparently in the house. I don't really understand ...


CARLSON: What you're basically saying is the ...


CARLSON: That Congress produces frivolous reports, but I want you to get back to my basic - my basic question, which is, why would you defend theft from the White House and even though it's done by your guys, aren't you -- you're embarrassed about it ...


WEINER: Let me tell you about the delegations of theft, 116 remote controls had to be replaced. The GAO went back and looked. There was no record that they were eight years ago.


CARLSON: ... walking off with federally owned art.

WEINER: I have to tell you this GAO study, about $200,000 worth found, $9,000 worth of damage over a eight-year period in hundreds of offices. You know what it comes down to roughly, $2 an office over eight years. Listen, it's terrible. I am shocked that there were legs removed from some stools. I am shocked that there was a T-shirt left over the back of a chair, but did we need a $200,000 study to tell us ...


BARR: Y'all are just making this up.

BEGALA: Let me ask ...

BARR: Y'all are making it up. There is no $200,000 price tag and you know it. Y'all made that up.



BEGALA: First of all, what did it cost?

REP. BOB BARR, (R), GA: We don't know. These are - these are government employees. But we know that nobody came out with a $200,000 study.

BEGALA: Look, I'm a big spender. I'm not going to bang on you about the cost. What I want to do ...

(CROSSTALK) BARR: ... they make it up.

BEGALA: What I - what I want to ask the Congressman if you'll join me in condemning, missing office signs and doorknobs, messages written inside of desks, pranks, signs and messages, piles of furniture equipment, excessive trash left in offices. That is misusing and abusing a national monument, isn't it?

BARR: That is precisely what's in here.

BEGALA: It is and this is documented on page 17 of that report from the Bush one administration.

BARR: Paul I ...

BEGALA: This is what Bush senior did.


BARR: Paul ...

BEGALA: No I want to -- I want to check.

BARR: Get real -- get real.

BEGALA: This is my ...

BARR: Nobody ...

BEGALA: ... hypocrisy test Congressman ...

BARR: ... there is nothing ...

BEGALA: I want you to join me ...

BARR: We have never had administration that has done this before Paul.

BEGALA: Well actually (UNINTELLIGIBLE) GAO, so let me put it up on the board. The GAO concluded that we were unable to conclude whether the 2000 transition was worse than previous ones at all.

BARR: They didn't investigate previous ones ...

BEGALA: They did Congressman, it's on page 17 of the report in your hands and documents ...


BARR: We can't say that Paul.

BEGALA: The difference, sir, with respect is the Clinton people came in and cleaned up the mess and didn't whine just like we did on the economy and the deficit and crime and all the other mess.

BARR: Oh they don't whine? That's all y'all are doing here this evening. You're just sitting here whining. It never ends, Paul.

BEGALA: We're interviewing you on this important topic.


BARR: And you just make it up.

BEGALA: I read it straight out of the report Congressman ...

BARR: There is no $200,000 figure anywhere.

BEGALA: I told you I don't care what it cost ...


CARLSON: I'm sort of on Paul's team on this very narrow point. Who cares what it cost, if a crime is committed, if someone went up and spray painted the Washington Monument, or desecrated another sacred place that's part of the national trust, would you say we only ought to spend a small amount because the damage only cost a - it's a ludicrous argument, isn't it?

WEINER: I happen to believe we should have respect for the White House. Any vandalism, any pranks that were done ...

BARR: Then why are you whining about how much it cost?

WEINER: I am - I'm outraged by them. However, you know, we had a tendency in past administrations to investigate everything rather than simply say, you know what, you had a finding that a current employee said that a broken key in a file cabinet looked deliberate. I'll give you the $1.19 for the new key, if we cannot just do 100,000 ...


CARLSON: That's all very clever, but ...


BARR: ... maybe it's $1 million.

WEINER: Bill the point - I can see the point. We shouldn't have any mischief. WE shouldn't have anyone leaving up as they found in this extensive GAO study, someone left pictures of former First ladies on file cabinets. Yes, we shouldn't have pranks ...


WEINER: .. but I really ...


WEINER: ... I really ...

(CROSSTALK) WEINER: ... I really don't believe that it rises to this level and I also think the smear campaign that is going on against government employees was fair. They didn't provide anyone with any opportunity to respond. Now the GAO study has finally laid bear to it. It was much ado about nothing.

BARR: Paul, the ...


BARR: ... problem is this. OK, first of all, there has never been a study like this. You can't win in this business. Now, if we had not asked GAO to do this study, y'all would have been sitting here tonight saying oh they never asked for the proof. They never sought the evidence. Therefore you would have ...


BEGALA: You're right ...


BARR: All we did, Paul, was simply go to GAO and say look, there have been all sorts of allegations here. Do the study. Tell us what actually happened.


BEGALA: And they concluded that it's no worse than any others.


BARR: No they did not conclude that and you know they didn't conclude that.


BARR: They said they could not in every instance say whether it was exactly the same as worse or better than any previous administration.


BEGALA: Let's take a look at what our president said.


BARR: What they ...


BARR: ... what they have done is they have said there was extensive deliberate intentional vandalism.

BEGALA: From Bush one and from Clinton and both of them are wrong. (CROSSTALK)

BARR: No, this is not about Bush one and Reagan. This is about the prior administration.

BEGALA: With respect I read to you from the report. Let me show you what President Bush had to say about this, though. It's very different from what you're saying.

Put the president up here on our big ...


GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: There might have been a prank or two, you know, maybe somebody put a cartoon on the wall. But that's OK, it's time now to move forward.


BEGALA: Prank or two, maybe a cartoon on the wall. Sounds like he's agreeing with Congressman Weiner.

BARR: There is more than a prank or two. They went in to offices ...


BEGALA: Bush can't lie.

BARR: They went into ...


BEGALA: He can't lie. He's perfect.

BARR: Anymore than you.

BEGALA: I'm not lying. I'm quoting Bush.

BARR: No what happened here, they went -- they went into a number of offices, Paul, and they found desks overturned. They found sheets of glass smashed on the floor. They found graffiti that some -- in some instances was so gross and so ...

BEGALA: And Bush doesn't know what's going on in his own White House?

BARR: That -- we're not talking about what he says at a news conference.


BARR: What we're talking about here is the evidence, Paul. And I don't know how you can sit there and say it's OK to have dozens of desks upended in the White House, glass smashed, beer bottles all over the place. That is improper. (CROSSTALK)

CARLSON: Very quickly. We're almost out of time. You (UNINTELLIGIBLE) pointed out all the instances in which the Clinton people stole things from the American people. And I'm just - and you said, oh it's no big deal, who cares? I hope that if this president when he leaves office, as the former president did, walks off with the silverware and steals from the federal government. I hope he'll come on the show and say, not a big deal.


WEINER: ... here's what I say. I would hope - you know this section here is the part that the White House submitted to the GAO to help them with this study including the allegations, those terrible allegations like the ones I read.

CARLSON: Like stealing things, that's not terrible ...


WEINER: I would hope - I would hope ...


WEINER: ... you know here it is the vice president ...


WEINER: ... the vice president couldn't even provide one sheet of paper in response to a GAO request about our energy policy, but this they can find time for.

BARR: Apples and oranges again.


CARLSON: Unfortunately we're going to have to ...

BARR: Apples and oranges.

CARLSON: Unfortunately, we are totally out of time.

BARR: It's apples and oranges. It's out of ...

CARLSON: Congressman Barr, I want to thank you, is a graduate in fact of this university. Congressman Weiner, thank you for joining us ...


CARLSON: ... we appreciate it. Coming up in a CNN news alert, spectacular pictures of Colorado burning. Later, is it really the government's job to watch what you eat? And our quote of the day comes from Defense Department official who seems to be less than impressed with this week's threat of a dirty bomb. Be right back.


CARLSON: Welcome back to CROSSFIRE. We're coming to you live from the George Washington University in downtown Washington, D.C.

You've seen the CNN news alert. Now it's time for the rest of the story. It's time for the CROSSFIRE news alert.

First up, more evidence tonight that the public relations department of the scandal plagued Catholic Church is taking a collective vacation. The diocese of Brooklyn announced today that deceased Mafia Don and mass murderer John Gotti will be buried in St. John's Catholic Cemetery in New York.

Gotti won't be the only mobster interred at St. John's. Carlo Gambino, Vito Genovese, and Lucky Luciano are also buried there. On the other hand, not just anybody can get a burial at St. Johns. While Gotti will be laid to rest in his family's mausoleum, mobster Paul Castellano, who was murdered by Gotti, was denied entrance to the cemetery some years ago. The reason? Castellano, it was determined, had engaged in a life of crime.

BEGALA: White House press secretary Ari Fleischer this week admitted that President Bush, well, he fibbed when he claimed that he had read an EPA report confirming the threat of global warming. In the days to come, Fleischer plans to admit other Bush falsehoods, including Bush's promise not to raid the Social Security trust fund, his denial that he ever lobbied for Enron in South America, and my personal favorite, his bald-faced claim that despite all the evidence to the contrary, Bush actually showed up for duty in the National Guard from 1972 to '73.

Thank goodness we've got a president with the honor and dignity to mislead us about important things, instead of sex.

CARLSON: And news in the land of fantasy tonight, Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle appeared with "West Wing" star Martin Sheen this morning in a rally with college Democrats. According to "Roll Call," Daschle admitted that although Sheen does play one on TV, he is not in fact the president of the United States, but Daschle said Sheen never sets the standard for any president.

Sheen, who has a lengthy arrest record, has never been elected to anything, and who was recently photographed kissing Janet Reno on the lips in public, did not reply for the record. Senator Daschle, however, went on to say that he believes that Colombo will make a terrific FBI director and suggested that Marcus Welby, M.D. be appointed Surgeon General.

BEGALA: Sheen's arrests were for civil disobedience and standing up for his principles. He is not a criminal.

CARLSON: Good comeback, Paul.

BEGALA: He stands up for his principles. Tucker misleads you on that.

Well, this week, many Americans were quite shaken up by Attorney General John Ashcroft's dramatic announcement from Moscow that an American citizen has been detained for allegedly plotting to set off a dirty bomb. But "USA Today" reports that the White House was annoyed by Ashcroft's announcement. According to the newspaper, the Bushes thought Ashcroft overstated the potential threat. Ashcroft's exact words were that law enforcement had "disrupted an unfolding terrorist plot to attack the United States by exploding a radioactive dirty bomb."

Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz set the record straight, however, cutting through Ashcroft's hyperbole with our quote of the day. Here it is. "I don't think there was actually a plot beyond some fairly loose talk and Al Muhajir's coming in here obviously to plan further deeds." Well, thank goodness at least that they cleared it up. I'm for more disclosure, rather than less, Tucker. But you know, I think this is attorney general trying to cover up for his incompetence in the war on terrorism.

CARLSON: Is that right, Paul?


CARLSON: Because it's funny, you've sat here for the last couple of weeks, and -- you know, what did the Bush administration know and when did it know it? Why didn't they tell us more about the...

BEGALA: I just said they should tell us more.

CARLSON: Why didn't they tell us more about the terrorist threats? So now you're criticizing him for scaring us? They didn't tell us enough. Now they're telling us too much. I mean, what exactly -- they cannot win with you, Paul, can they?

BEGALA: I need to get you to listen, Tucker, actually because I didn't say that. In fact, what I said, was I am for more disclosure. And I am. But I'm not for lying. When....

CARLSON: I'm missing the point here.

BEGALA: Wolfowitz -- Ashcroft said there was a plot. Wolfowitz today said today well, there wasn't a plot. Tell us the truth. Don't hide from us, and don't like to us...

CARLSON: In fact...

BEGALA: It's not that hard.

CARLSON: Oh, they were coming here to sell Amway, is that the point? This guy...

BEGALA: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) Paul Wolfowitz, he's the defense secretary. And I believe him over Ashcroft.

CARLSON: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) the guy's a terrorist. But later, a viewer fires back an e-mail at us and joins the Muslim bashing debate. But next, Houston tries to get lean, but do they have to get mean about it? The government and your waist when CROSSFIRE returns. We'll be right back.


BEGALA: Houston, we've got a weight problem. And his honor's doing something about it.

Mayor Lean Brown started the get lean Houston campaign after "Men's Fitness" magazine named Houston the nation's fattest city for the second year in a row. Mayor Brown's 20-year campaign aims to get Houstonians to take off the pounds and adopt a healthier lifestyle. Next week, President Bush goes to Florida to kick off the "Healthier U.S." initiative aimed at getting the rest of us couch potatoes off the sofa as well.

Does government really need to look into this kind of waist problem? Joining us now from Houston is the city's new fitness czar, former Mr. Universe, Lee Labrada. And in our San Francisco bureau is Marilyn Wan. She's the author of the book called "Fat? So?"

Thank you both for joining us.


CARLSON: Mr. Labrada, thanks for joining us.


CARLSON: I have no doubt that you're a great fitness czar, whatever that is. But I guess my question is, why should your city have such a thing? I mean, presumably, it's not a perfect city. I mean people are still dying of preventable infectious diseases. The trash doesn't always get picked up. There is violent crime in Houston. All the street lights don't work. I mean, there are many things that the city of Houston ought to take of, don't you think, before wagging its finger in the face of fat people?

LABRADA: Well, there's a number of problems based on society, but one of the most pressing problems that we have right now in American society is obesity. And it is the rise. And I think that it is the responsibility of the government to take care of its people and to raise awareness of the epidemic that we have in our hands, and to promote programs such as "Get Lean Houston" that will benefit people in helping them to establish healthier lifestyles.

BEGALA: Ms. Wan, in fact, the government tells us that 300,000 people every year die from obesity. $100 billion a year in healthcare costs. What's wrong with the government doing something about public health?

MARILYN WANN, AUTHOR, "FAT! SO?": Well, actually, those numbers are inaccurate. The 300,000 deaths are related to poor diet and lack of exercise. I am all for... BEGALA: Which leads to?

WANN: Encouraging people...

BEGALA: Obesity, which leads to?

WANN: Which leads to death. No, good diet and exercise....


WANN: ...leads to better health. And I'm living proof. I'm 5'4". I weigh 270 pounds. I exercise three times a week and eat my veggies in a moderate quantity. And I'm healthy. I have good blood pressure, good cholesterol, good blood sugars. I'm going to live a long life just like my fat mother. People aren't -- their health isn't determined by the number on the scale. It's determined by how we live. And I think if we want to encourage people to live healthy, we're not going to do it by wagging a finger at them, like they are in Houston. I think there are a lot better ways.

BEGALA: How are we going to do it?

WANN: We're going to do it by making it fun and safe and accessible to do physical activity in public, make the streets safe, make the parks safe, do education campaigns on yummy vegetable consumption. And you know, I'm an adult. I don't really respond to hectoring and lecturing and nagging. (UNINTELLIGIBLE).

LABRADA: Well, nobody is hectoring anybody. The "Get Lean Houston" program is a program to raise awareness of the citizens. It's not a mandatory exercise and nutrition program. It is totally voluntary. And there's nothing wrong with the government raising awareness...

WANN: But you know, when people...

LABRADA: ...of the problem that we have on hand because it is a problem, and it's a national problem. And the 300,000 statistic does come from the CDC, by the way.

WANN: Yes...

CARLSON: Mr. Labrada, you raise a really interesting question, though.


CARLSON: I mean, if, as you put it, obesity, is this massive problem from which thousands, hundreds of thousands of people are dying, then why shouldn't we take real steps to stop? We don't allow people to smoke crack. Why? Because it's terrible for you. You die if you do it. Why not make eating junk food and other fattening foods just illegal?

LABRADA: Well, I think that you would have quite a battle on your hands if you were to try to take on the entire junk food industry. But hey, if you ever do that...

CARLSON: But isn't it worth it to save lives?

LABRADA: ...sign me up, because I'm on board. You know, in all seriousness, we do have a problem on our hands. And what we're trying to do here in Houston is to raise awareness amongst Houstonians of the importance of a healthy lifestyle via nutrition and via exercise. The programs are free. The programs are not mandatory. There are people out there that legitimately like to exercise and feel good from that. And by exercising, you establish better weight control, you establish better health. And it does improve longevity. There are statistics that show that obesity is linked to heart disease, diabetes and a number of other ills.


BEGALA: Let me give you the rest of the list, Marilyn. In fact, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, heart disease, stroke, gallstones, gout, arthritis, sleep disorders, and bladder control problems. You think people would want to lose weight just for the last one. But come on, you cannot pretend that obesity does not lead to morbidity and ultimately mortality, right?

WANN: Actually, I've read a lot of the medical literature. And sedentary lifestyle and poor nutrition are a cause of a lot of health problems. We assume that weight is linked to that. Actually, fat people can be very healthy and very fit like I am. The number on the scale isn't proof of anything. And our research community really needs to look at separating out weight from really behaviors that are very damaging.

And I think the problem that we have is blaming badness on weight. That leads to people engaging in very unhealthy behaviors, like dieting and weight loss surgery. And it also leads to discrimination based on weight, which is a huge burden on our society...

BEGALA: But which...

WANN: I think all of us, fat and thin, can be healthier if we eat well and exercise.

LABRADA: That's right. And you know, the "Get Lean Houston" program does not discriminate on -- besides...

WANN: But you're talking...

LABRADA: ...what we are really after is to educate, to help those people that are overweight.

CARLSON: Wait...

LABRADA: So we're really on the same side.

WANN: Well, I don't need your help, thank you very much. No, we're not. CARLSON: Mr. Labrada, though, isn't it really -- I mean know that there's a health -- obviously a health component to weight. No one would deny that. But really, this is about vanity. Isn't it? It's about appearance? You were Mr. Universe.

LABRADA: Actually, it's not about vanity. Obesity...

CARLSON: It is. It's about looking better.

LABRADA: a health problem. It's not about vanity. You know, the...

CARLSON: But a person who is -- OK, who is obese. I mean, people discriminate against his appearance about the way you look.

WANN: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) encourage fat people in Houston.

LABRADA: It's not entirely about the way you look. Sure, a better appearance, according to the self image of the person, you know, whatever that person likes, you know, is going to be one of the by-products of losing weight. But let's face the facts. You know, by losing weight, you do get healthier. You know, that's the medical community talking there.

BEGALA: In fact, Marilyn Wann, the National Institutes of Health, and I'm sure you know better than they do, as well, the way you've known more than the CDC. But the National Institutes of Health say that if obese people could just trim 15 pounds, it would drop their risk of diabetes by 58 percent and save $58 million a year in public health expenditures. Why shouldn't they do that?

WANN: You know, I don't have a death wish. And I certainly wish the best possible health for people of all weights. That's why I've actually read the medical studies that the National Institutes of Health are looking at well. And what we find is that people who attempt to lose weight, gain it back 90 to 98 percent of the time. Therefore, the treatment that they're prescribing simply doesn't work. What we do know from the medical literature is that everyone who gets good nutrition and exercise gets healthier regardless of whether they lose weight. Weight is highly genetic. It's about 80 percent genetic. And so, I know that what I can do the best for myself and encourage other people...

LABRADA: That is not true. That is not true.

WANN: It's based on a study of identical twins.

LABRADA: If weight was -- that's absolutely not true. If weight was a genetic factor, then we wouldn't have a three-fold increase in the last 20 years in the number of teenagers that are obese.

WANN: We also have an increase in weight because of the lifestyles.


CARLSON: I'm afraid -- excuse me, Ms. Wann, Mr. Labrada, thank you very much. You all ought to get together.

WANN: Thank you.

CARLSON: Thank you very much for being CROSSFIRE.


CARLSON: That's another show. Thanks so much for joining us.

Next, round six. Paul and I put down our milkshakes, take off our boxing gloves, and go one on one. And then it's your turn to fire back at us. Putting one viewer's suggestions for getting around those missing W's on White House keyboards. We'll be right back.


BEGALA: Welcome back. It's round six. The guests are gone, the kids have gone to bed, and Tucker and I are here alone to fight it out. Tucker, I want to come back to this question of obesity, as we pronounce it in Texas. The notion that this is somehow big government forcing people. This -- no, this is government just setting an example. No taxpayer money is involved in this.

CARLSON: Oh, really?

BEGALA: Yes. And in fact, our president is one of the great leaders in this fitness movement. One of the few things I like about him is he's out there every day running and yes, encouraging his fellow Americans to do the same.

CARLSON: I love this. You sound just...

BEGALA: Good for Bush.

CARLSON: ...the anti-smokers did 20 years ago. Look, we don't want to ban smoking or make it is impossible to smoke inside. It's just move away a little bit. The most telling...

BEGALA: Well, thank you for comparing me to anti-smoking people. I think they're heroes.

CARLSON: No, but we made news tonight, because Labrada -- Lee Labrada said -- I said well you know, we ought to make it illegal. And he said, you know, I agree with you. We ought to make unhealthy food illegal. The government shouldn't allow people to eat food that's going to make them fat. He believes that.

BEGALA: Tucker Carlson ban the Twinkie. No more Ho-Hos.

CARLSON: He believes that. And that will be the end result. Because it always is. It's good -- we can save lives, Paul.

BEGALA: Ding don't kill. People kill, right?

CARLSON: No, actually, Ding Dongs kill. And you don't hear that? By the end of this decade, your kids, no more Ho-Hos for yours or mine, because you know what? We can save thousands of lives.

BEGALA: It's so -- it's so silly. This is all voluntary.

CARLSON: It's not silly.

BEGALA: And it is -- nobody's banning nothing. We're just saying, you know...

CARLSON: But why not?

BEGALA: It wouldn't kill you to get up and do a little exercise.

CARLSON: It would save lives, Paul. Why not ban it?

BEGALA: Well, you start that movement, you'll be on your own, partner.

Your turn to fireback at us though coming up next. And one viewer says that Nevada should import a Bush instead of a bunch of Bush's nuclear radioactive waste. Thanks for staying with us.


BEGALA: Welcome back. We call this segment "fireback." And man, do you. You're locked and loaded tonight.

We'll start with Greg Hewit in our e-mail from Brownwood, Texas. Greg writes, "What's the big problem with removing the W from the keyboards at the White House? Instead, Bush staffers can type George $ Bush. Or George "E" for Enron Bush. Very good suggestion, Greg Hewit in Brownwood, Texas.

CARLSON: Very clever, Greg. Next up, "THE TONIGHT SHOW." And Dave from Washington, D.C. writes, "Do Muslims bash Christians? I am very tired of being made to feel guilty over the fact that a major portion of the world does not like me simply because I do not believe the way that they do. Yes, love each other and get along, but don't ask Americans to behave as if all the world is in love us, because the wake up call was real enough." Good point, Dave. And you can say or think whatever you want, not true in most of the rest of the world.

BEGALA: Even like Jerry Falwell, you can believe that God sanctioned and condoned the attacks of September 11. Only he can say that Osama bin Laden (UNINTELLIGILBLE).


BEGALA: Well, bin Laden said it. And it's a stunning thing that Falwell said tonight.

Next e-mail, "I wonder if this administration would be pushing so hard to ship nuclear waste to a state with 25 electoral votes, or perhaps a state with a governor named Bush. I don't think so. Maybe the good people of Nevada should think about getting Neil Bush to run for office." Susan Mills of Chicago, Illinois. Fine suggestion. CARLSON: Alan from Dallas, Texas writes, this is quite a religious show this evening. "Apparently God in His infinite wisdom foreknew the likes of the liberal left when he said in the Book of Ecclessiastes: "A wise man's heart directs him toward the right, but a foolish man's heard directs him toward the left." But did you read the part about Paul Begala in Ecclessiastes?

BEGALA: Actually, you know what the very next line of Ecclessiastes is, as Alan knows in Dallas, "even when the fool walks along the road, his senses lacking, and he demonstrates to everyone that he is a fool." Alan, thank you for demonstrating that.

CARLSON: Any questions from the audience? Yes.

BEGALA: Yes, ma'am?

JACQUELINE: Hi, my name is Jacqueline. I'm from Camfield, Ohio. And this is for both of you. How would you reconcile Mohammad's supposed pedophilia when hundreds of Catholic Christian priests have committed pedophilia themselves?

CARLSON: I suppose the difference there is that prophet Mohammad is at the very center of a major religion that venerates his life. And so the details of his life are important.

BEGALA: The difference is that it's a smear on an ancient and honorable religion. And people ought to be ashamed that anybody would say something like that, Jacqueline. Good for you.

CARLSON: I don't know, it seems like a factual question. And we didn't get the answer to it. Yes?

BEGALA: Yes, sir?

KEITH: Yes, my name is Keith. I live in Newport, Kentucky. I just came to Washington. And my question is this, with so many things that are going on right now, why are we wasting so much taxpayer money to investigate, you know, damage at the White House when there are so many issues facing us that we, you know, could spend more resources and time on instead of this?

BEGALA: Absolutely. Because our president is fanatically fixated with criticizing and attacking Bill Clinton. If he had the same focus on Osama bin Laden, this terrorism war would be over.

CARLSON: And if President Clinton had the same focus on Osama bin Laden, rather than turning down an opportunity take him into custody, perhaps the world would be a little safer. Yes?

BEGALA: Yes, sir?

BOB FOSSEN: Hi, my name's Bob Fossen. I'm from Logan, Utah. And my question is, is here in America, we've got a limited government. And the idea is we're supposed to be able to pursue the things that we want to do, to make us happy. Why should the government be forcing everybody in the country to pay for awareness about being obese, when some people are completely happy with being obese? Why should they pay for this?

CARLSON: You know, that's a fantastic question. And it's part of the liberal world view that we know what's right for you. We can make your life better. And you know what, Bob? It'll save lives. If you would just stop doing this, that or the other thing, that you really ought not to be doing in the first place. So we're going to make -- we're going to make you wear your seat belt. We're going to make you stop smoking. If you don't like it, you go to jail.

BEGALA: In point of fact, Bob, you taxpayers are not paying for this. It's privately funded by...

CARLSON: It will be.

BEGALA: ...charitable donations. And so, don't worry. If you don't like it, you're not paying for it.

CARLSON: Yes, well, wait 10 years from now, pal. You will not be able to buy a Snicker's bar.

BEGALA: Wait 10 years from now...

CARLSON: You know why, Bob, because...

BEGALA: Wait 10 years from now, Tucker's going to be 300 pounds. From the left, I am Paul Begala. Good night for CROSSFIRE.

CARLSON: And from the right, I'm Tucker Carlson. Join us again tomorrow night, that would be Thursday night, for yet another edition of CROSSFIRE. See you then.


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