Today's Idea of Balanced Guests: James Carville and Paul Begala? [Full transcript Included]

Viewers of this morning's Today expecting a balanced panel discussing Bill Clinton's outburst at Fox News were greeted with James Carville debating...Paul Begala? Meredith Vieira, for the most part, sat back as Carville and Begala pumped up Clinton, rallied the Democratic base and attacked everything from the administration's war on terror to Condoleezza Rice, to Fox News. There was no Michael Smerconish or any other vaguely right-of-center counterpart to make points against Clinton's outburst.

The following is a transcript of the entire segment:

Meredith Vieira: "Norah O'Donnell, thanks. Democratic strategists James Carville and Paul Begala worked closely with former President Clinton, their book, Take It Back: A Battle Plan for Democratic Victory is now out in paperback and updated with new material. Good morning to both of you gentlemen. I want to start with you James."

James Carville: "Alright."

Vieira: "You know Clinton very well, you've seen his temper up close. What set him off in this interview was when Chris Wallace said and he's actually, he was taking this question from the emails he's, he had received from viewers. He said, so many viewers had asked him to ask Clinton, 'why didn't you do more to put Bin Laden and al Qaeda out of business when you were president?' After that the finger-wagging started and the pointing and the accusations, accusations of a conservative hit job. So was this an example of genuine outrage on the part of the President? Had Wallace, maybe struck a chord with him, hit a nerve with him? Or was it pure calculation? Or maybe a combination of all three?"

Carville: "Well first of all it was, it was the first. And it was not in a vacuum that we had the Disney fiction where they had made up facts and you know, from some Rush Limbaugh guy and tried to send it out to schoolchildren. So we weren't very happy about that as you can imagine. And the President wasn't really happy about that. Secondly he had been at it for a long time. He raised $7 billion. The interview was supposed to be, the first half was supposed to be-"

Vieira: "About the Initiative."

Carville: "-about the Clinton Global Initiative. You know what and Democrats are just tired of it. And he is, was sick of the double standard. We're sick of the fact that, that, that the media always asks one thing, they'll never ask the Bush administration another. And you know what? I'm glad he did it. And I think he made a very good point. And I think people around the country are saying, 'We don't have to live under this regime any more, where there's a blatant double-standard.' And I feel very good about it."

Vieira: "But James even he admitted, even he admitted that he did not do enough when asked. He said he did not do enough but he tried, as he put it, but..."

Carville: "He, he was saying, right, and he gave his answer. And everything that the President said was factual. Not one assertion of fact has been challenged."

Vieira: "Well-"

Carville: "Secretary Rice says, 'we did more,' but Fox in 34 different interviews had never asked a senior Republican why didn't they try to get Bin Laden? That's a very fair question. They can't answer the question. And the public, the public wants to have a fair debate. They don't want this thing where you blame Clinton for everything but ya scared to ask Bush."

Vieira: "But not everybody agrees that what he said was fact, that's-"

Carville: "Who?"

Vieira: "Condoleezza Rice for example. She, she responded, wait a second, let me get this out, to the charge that the Bush administration did nothing to stop Bin Laden prior to 9/11. And she said, quote, 'The notion somehow for eight months the Bush administration sat there and didn't do that is just flatly false. I think the 9/11 Commission understood that what we did in the eight months was at least as aggressive as what the Clinton administration did in the preceding years.' And even more damaging than that is Michael Scheuer who led the CIA's hunt for Bin Laden under Clinton. He said Clinton was responsible for not getting Bin Laden. That there were 10 chances to kill or capture Bin Laden before 9/11. So Paul how much bluster, how much fact?"

Paul Begala: "Well here are the facts on the Bush record versus the Clinton record. We know that the CIA came to the President on August 6, President's daily briefing and they said, Bin Laden has a plan to attack America. And according to Ron Suskind, a Pulitzer prize winning journalist who's written a book, the President told that briefer, 'Okay you've covered your rear end.' Cleaned it up a little for morning television. My wife and kids are watching. We know that. We know that Dick Cheney was ordered to chair a task force on terrorism as soon as they took office. The task force never met with Cheney until after 9/11. We know that the Bush administration had a plan handed to them by the Clinton administration, Richard Clarke, the counter-terrorism czar, handed this plan to Condoleezza Rice. She put it on a shelf until September 11th."

Vieira: "But even your wife, James, said on television last night, Mary Matalin, there was no plan."

Carville: "Well of course there was."

Begala: "She's wrong."

Carville: "Well she's wrong. Condoleezza Rice, my wife didn't, and what did Condoleezza Rice tell the Congress under oath?"

Begala: "She testified to the 9/11 commission that retaliating for the Cole bombing, which was the question that set him off with, Chris Wallace asked the President, would have been a bad idea. That's what she said, 'A bad idea.' Now Dr. Rice has appeared 23 times on Fox News Sunday and they never asked her why it would be a bad idea to counterattack against the terrorists who attacked us."

Vieira: "Why would Clinton appear on this? First time he's appeared on Fox News Sunday and even his own spokesperson said he felt that Chris Wallace had an agenda, that Fox News has an agenda."

Carville: "Oh come on! You think it? Ahhh noo, noo!"

Begala: "Breaking news here?"

Vieira: "No, wait, wait so why would he appear?"

Carville: "Fox News has an agenda?"

Vieira: "Exactly. So why would he, why would-"

Carville: "Are you really asking me a serious question?"

Vieira: "I am asking you a serious question."

Carville: "Fox News, are you asking me if Fox News has an agenda?"

Vieira: "No, no, no. I'm saying what the spokesperson said that, 'we believe that they have an agenda. We knew that going in.' Okay so why would he go in?"

Carville: "Because it was-"

Vieira: "That's the question. Was there politics here? Was he thinking, 'I'm gonna set the record straight.'"

Carville: "But you know what? Can I answer it?"

Vieira: "Absolutely."

Carville: "Rupert Murdoch, who's the head of Fox News was at the Clinton Global Initiative. This was a deal that raised $7 billion. Bill Clinton is the most popular, probably relevant human being on the Earth today. So in this, in this he says, 'Okay they're coming up, I will do this.' Do, does everybody know, is, is there a serious person out there that doesn't say Fox News has an agenda? So they come right out the shoot and you know what I feel so liberated that he did this."

Vieira: "In what way James?

Carville: "And, and, and, and he made and by the way, not a single, Condoleezza Rice didn't have a fact. She just said, I think, she said she didn't want to retaliate for the Cole. We know there was a plan over at, and, and, and they said, well in her answer, and they asked, 'well we were at least as good as the Clinton administration.' No you weren't. The Clinton administration was much more aggressive."

Vieira: "You said, you said you felt liberated. I want to ask you because you guys have argued for a long time, I mean you've been hard on your own party-"

Begala: "Yes."

Vieira: "-saying, 'you need to get a backbone.' Do you think, in a way, Clinton was giving this party a backbone saying, 'When you're accused of not being tough on terror ya gotta speak up.'"

Carville: "Right. You're right."

Begala: "And good Dr. Clinton gave us a spinal transplant on Sunday. You know the, the, for years-"

Vieira: "Will a transplant take place effectively when you have only 42 days to the midterm election?"

Carville: "I don't know."

Begala: "Well we, that's enough time."

Vieira: "Yeah?"

Begala: "Yes. But finally what, what Democrats have needed for a long time, they should've done this in the '02 elections, they should've done it in the '04 elections, is stand up and say the emperor has no clothes. George W. Bush has not kept you safe, America. He has not fought a successful war against terror and al Qaeda is growing, re-grouping, re-training, re-arming and they're coming back to get us because of the failed policies of George Bush. That's finally, instead Democrats have been cowering saying, 'Oh okay he's good on terrorism.' Well that's the biggest issue. If you concede that, you concede the election."

Vieira: "In any way do you think that Clinton speaking out so forcefully could backfire and that people would say that it just represents how little the Democrats have done?"

Carville: "I don't think, I don't think it'll backfire at all. I think people are sitting there saying, here's a guy raising $7 billion. As the facts keep coming out. We have the Disney fiction. If, if he was so bad why did they have to make up movies? Why can't they just give us the factual thing? Of course they can't do that. And, and I think that and President Clinton will say, 'Sure, I, there were some things if I could do them all over I would do differently.' Who would not do that? That's a very human, very honest thing to say. But when you're under this circumstance where you have this, this double standard that has been applied in this country for so long and Democrats are tired of it. In, in everywhere I was in, I was in Miami. I flew up on Sunday, people were stopping me, 'You tell President Clinton thank God.' I spoke to him and I say, 'Mr. President people all over the country are, are, are saying this. And, look did he, was he two degrees too hot or something? Maybe so. But you know what? It got everybody's attention and now Condoleezza Rice has not gone on any shows where she knows that she's not gonna be asked this now is she? Has she? She hasn't been asked before but new game, new day America."

Vieira: "You like liberation don't ya?"

Carville: "I like liberation."

Vieira: "James Carville, Paul Begala, thank you so much."

Geoffrey Dickens
Geoffrey Dickens
Geoffrey Dickens is the Deputy Research Director at the Media Research Center.