updated 12/8/2005 9:25:53 AM ET 2005-12-08T14:25:53

Guests: Mark Stephens, William Donahue, Bill Press, Jennifer Giroux, Joseph Nieciecki, Michael Smerconish, Al Franken

JOE SCARBOROUGH, HOST:  Right now in SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY, shoot to kill.  An air marshal guns down a passenger who claimed he had a bomb.  Who was he?  Why did he run?  We are going to have the very latest with a live report from Miami. 

Then, the White House sends out its holiday cards, and it‘s turned up some very un-holiday spirits among evangelical Christians.  Why are some accusing the president of giving in to political correctness in the war on Christmas?  That‘s tonight‘s showdown. 

Welcome to SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY, no passport required, only common sense allowed. 

ANNOUNCER:  From the press room, to the courtroom, to the halls of Congress, Joe Scarborough has seen it all.  Welcome to SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY.

Hey, thanks for joining us.  I greatly appreciate it.  We are going to have those stories and a lot more in just a minute. 

Plus, Al Franken, author, comedian, talk show host, and he is here tonight.  And we are going to be asking about Hillary Clinton, Howard Dean, and if his beloved Democratic Party is headed for a crack-up, as discussed in this morning‘s “Washington Post.” 

And caught on tape, billions in materials stolen every year from construction sites.  But one man is trying to stop what he calls a national epidemic. 

But, first, chaos in Miami Airport today.  A federal air marshal shot and killed a passenger who reportedly claimed to have a bomb in his luggage, and then he ran just minutes before the plane was about to take off for Orlando. 

For the very latest on this story, let‘s go now to Miami and NBC‘s Kristen Dahlgren. 

Kristen Dahlgren, what is the very latest? 

KRISTEN DAHLGREN, NBC CORRESPONDENT:  Well, Joe, air traffic has now returned to normal at Miami International Airport. 

This incident is still under investigation, but here‘s what we know, both from witnesses and from authorities tonight.  The man has been identified as 44-year-old Rigoberto Alpizar.  He is a U.S. citizen from Maitland, Florida.  That is just outside of Orlando. 

He was reportedly returning from a trip to South America.  He got on board Flight 924 from Miami to Orlando.  The plane was getting ready to push back.  And that‘s when witnesses say they saw an argument between a man and a woman.  The man then went running down the aisle towards the front of the plane.  Federal air marshals who were sitting in the first-class section of the plane confronted the man.  He reportedly told them that he had a bomb on board.  They say they told him to get off the plane and to drop the bag that he was carrying, and they say when the man ran off the plane and appeared to reach into that bag, they opened fired, and Alpizar was shot and killed. 

Now, witnesses say during this whole time as the incident was unfolding, Alpizar‘s wife was yelling that her husband is bipolar and was off of his medication.  Authorities closed the gate.  Passengers were taken off the plane, and throughout the day, have been questioned.  They also took all of the luggage off the plane.  It was all put onto the tarmac here at Miami International Airport, and Alpizar‘s luggage was detonated. 

But tonight, authorities say that there were never any explosives inside of his suitcase.  This is the first time that federal air marshals have fired a weapon in the line of duty, and officials say while the shooting today was very tragic, it was all according to the books—Joe. 

SCARBOROUGH:  We are watching pictures of something being blown up.  I take it that that‘s the bag, that they took it outside, shot at it, again, found nothing in there.

What did you hear from passengers that were on board the plane?  Did they ever fear for their lives? 

DAHLGREN:  Yes.

They said, at times, they were actually ducking down under the seats.  They say the wife at times was hysterical as she was watching her husband killed.  They were very scared.  But we haven‘t gotten to speak to many of those passengers because they have been kept by authorities for questioning, and, still, as far as we know, have not been released yet tonight—Joe. 

SCARBOROUGH:  All right, thank you so much, NBC‘s Kristen Dahlgren, live from Miami.  Greatly appreciate that report. 

Now let‘s bring in radio talk show host Michael Smerconish, who is also, of course, the author of “Flying Blind: How Political Correctness Continues to Compromise Airline Safety Post 9/11.”  Also with us is Joseph Nieciecki.  He‘s a former federal air marshal.  And we also have Evan Kohlmann, NBC terrorist analyst and the author of “Al Qaeda‘s Jihad in Europe.” 

Michael, let me begin with you. 

We have heard complaints over the past several years that this air marshals program was being cut by the feds.  Does this prove that the air marshal program works?  Does it prove that maybe we need more air marshals out there? 

MICHAEL SMERCONISH, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST:  Well, it‘s a sad outcome, but I think tonight you can score one for the good guys, Joe, and what I am thinking as I watch these events unfold from Miami is that it‘s also an affirmation for allowing pilots to be armed. 

And, you know, still there are impediments for pilots to carry firearms in the cockpit.  I think this is a great example of exactly why the good guys need to be empowered on these flights. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Now, Michael, what would you say to—again, you write about political correctness.  You know tomorrow there are going to be a lot of people out there that are going to be offended by your remarks, and they are going to say, this guy was mentally ill.  How could they gun him down in cold blood? 

What would you say to those people? 

SMERCONISH:  I would say, and not to be callous, but how could they not gun him down in these circumstances? 

You have got the lives of these passengers being held in the balance, and in a post-9/11 world, this is the appropriate outcome.  I am sure, you know, the ACLU will be rushing to a courthouse tomorrow morning, and they will be recrafting all the Amadou Diallo sound bites, but this is the way that it‘s got to be in a post-9/11 world with the country at war. 

SCARBOROUGH:  And, Michael, you have got the top-rated radio show in Philadelphia.  You have liberals and conservatives and moderates listening to you.  My guess is from the people I talk to, that probably 90 percent of your callers tomorrow morning will be supportive of this, because everybody I have talked to today said, hey, they did what they had to do, and I am glad they did it. 

Do you agree with that? 

(CROSSTALK)

SMERCONISH:  Yes, absolutely, I agree with that, and although it doesn‘t directly relate to the war on terror insofar as it‘s not a member of al Qaeda, I think it is yet another opportunity, Joe, for us to sit here and do an assessment and ask the question of whether we are doing all that we need to do to protect the skies.

And it remains my view that we continue to look for bombs and not bombers, and we need to look for both. 

SCARBOROUGH:  You know, Evan, a lot of people have suggested over the past several months that maybe al Qaeda has taken their sights off of commercial airliners in the United States.  And I am sure they will as we move forward that this was an instance of overkill. 

What would you say to those people? 

EVAN KOHLMANN, MSNBC TERRORISM ANALYST:  Well, we don‘t know the full facts yet, and the facts could change.

But from what we know right now, number one, this individual obviously participated in behavior that cannot be tolerated on commercial airline flights.  Commercial airline flights are a privilege.  They‘re not a right.  And if you act like this, you are jeopardizing the lives of other passengers, whether you really are a terrorist or not. 

What‘s more is that we do know that al Qaeda has targeted U.S. flights and other flights, particularly those originating from Latin America, and either arriving in the United States or crossing over the United States for attacks, bomb attacks, suicide hijacking attacks.  We found this out recently during the trial of Ahmed Omar Abu Ali in the Eastern District of Virginia.

In his interrogation, and under questioning, he admitted that senior al Qaeda operatives tasked by Khalid Shaikh Mohammed had talked about exactly that, trying to carry out attacks on flights originating in Latin America. 

(CROSSTALK)

SCARBOROUGH:  So, Evan, they‘re still trying to do that? 

KOHLMANN:  Yes. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Are you suggesting that it‘s—we are still in al Qaeda‘s sights; if you go on a commercial aircraft, then you may be in danger if our government doesn‘t do their job? 

KOHLMANN:  Yes.  The threat is still there. 

Look, this is a tragic incident.  It‘s a tragic accident, but it doesn‘t erase the fact that there really are terrorist operatives who would love to detonate shoe bombs on planes, who would love to carry out suicide hijackings.  It‘s much more difficult after 9/11 because the trick that the 9/11 hijackers pulled with box cutters can‘t be easily replicated, but that doesn‘t mean they wouldn‘t try again. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Joe, do we have enough air marshals on planes right now? 

JOSEPH NIECIECKI, FORMER FEDERAL AIR MARSHAL:  No.  We—you never have enough. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Well, do you think the program has been cut too much, or what is the situation?

Because you try to get information about how many air marshals are on these planes, and obviously the government is not going to release that, because they don‘t want the terrorists to know.  So, tell us what you can tell us about the funding for this program and whether we have enough to keep the air safe—airways safe. 

NIECIECKI:  Well, there‘s always room for improvement. 

You know, the amount of air marshals, vs. the amount of flights that are in the air every day, you can always put more on.  Congress needs to look at it, and fund it and provide a larger budget for it.  The air marshals that are currently working are put under a lot of pressure and stress, but they are one of the highest trained and qualified with firearms. 

There‘s nobody better in the country and in the world, as a matter of fact, with—when it comes to the—the standard of training that they have employed. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Well, you know, Michael, that‘s what I have heard for some time, but I have got a lot of friends who are pilots on these airplanes, and they complain that—like you said, they complain that these air marshals aren‘t taken care of well enough.

And also, they have got a guy, a good friend of mine, that flies from South America up to Miami and from Europe to Miami, and he says, hey, I was in the military for 15 years.  If they give me a gun, I am flying, you know, at night anyway, I would be glad to help out. 

Why don‘t we use commonsense solutions like that to keep the airways safe, when these guys are just sitting in the back of the plane anyway reading magazines? 

SMERCONISH:  Well, I think that‘s the tip of the iceberg. 

You remember, Joe, when this program was initiated in a post-9/11 world, one of the flaps showing a lack of common sense had to do with the dress code.  And, if you will recall, there was a protocol that was utilized where the air marshals had to look like air marshals.  They couldn‘t look like the two of us, maybe in a Polo shirt or a T-shirt flying on that flight.

So that level of insanity—and, yes, it‘s political correctness, and it‘s much more than that.  It still permeates the process.  We are still not profiling.  We are still not looking for individuals who have the common denominators of the members of al Qaeda.  We are still spending time with Joe Scarborough, because I know that it‘s happened to you, and singling you out for random screening.

Even Governor Tom Kean said over the course of the last weekend in talking about random screening that it seems to single out grandmothers, and yet the 9/11 Commission frankly didn‘t have the cojones to do something about it.  They were silent on that issue in their 700-page report. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Evan, you have studied this as much as anybody, and help us out here.  Are Americans any safer today than we were four years ago from these al Qaeda attacks on airliners and other targets in the United States? 

KOHLMANN:  Well, look, there‘s more security in place, but, ultimately, there are still loopholes.  There are items that get past security. 

There are ways to attack airplanes and airports that don‘t involve going through airport security.  If you notice, there are long lines at screening points sometimes during the holidays.  There‘s no security to get into that line.  Potentially, someone could get in there, a suicide bomber, and kill literally hundreds of people waiting on line to go through security. 

There is also not—the security needs to be stepped up around airports in regards to fuel trucks and other vehicles that al Qaeda has expressed an interest in using on attacks on airports.  We have come some way, but, look, we are a country of soft targets.  There‘s always going to be a way of striking at America, no matter how much security we put up, no matter how many TSA screeners we have. 

You know, I get screened every single time I go through an airport, and I‘m not a terrorist.  So obviously it‘s not a perfect process. 

SCARBOROUGH:  No doubt about it. 

Hey, thanks so much.  Greatly appreciate you all being with us. 

Michael Smerconish, Joe Nieciecki, and Evan Kohlmann, as always, appreciate you being here. 

Coming up next, it‘s an unhappy holiday for some on the White House Christmas card list.  That‘s because it‘s a holiday card, not a Christmas card.  And that‘s got a lot of evangelical Christian leaders hopping mad.  It‘s just the latest example of what some are calling the so-called war on Christmas. 

We will talk about that next. 

And, then, Al Franken is here in SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY, and what‘s on his mind tonight?  Stick around to find out, because we got a lot more SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY straight ahead. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SCARBOROUGH:  Evangelicals that helped elect President Bush are accusing President Bush—get this—of being politically correct.

We will tell you why the president‘s not Christmas card, but holiday card, has some evangelical leaders angry.

That‘s when SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY returns.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SCARBOROUGH:  Hey, welcome back. 

The controversy over Christmas continues.  I just can‘t believe it, but it does.  The latest flash point, the White House.  This year‘s Christmas card is not a Christmas card at all.  It‘s actually a holiday card.  And some evangelical leaders out there are not happy. 

With me to talk about it, Jennifer Giroux.  She‘s the founder of Women Influencing the Nation.  She‘s running a Web site called OperationJustSayMerryChristmas.com.  We also have Bill Donahue.  He‘s the president of the Catholic League.  And Bill Press, author of the new book, “How Republicans Stole Christmas.” 

Well, William Donahue, people like Bill Press would say, this is a large country.  It‘s a diverse country.  Shouldn‘t the president of the United States represent everybody when he sends out holiday cards, and not just evangelical Christians? 

WILLIAM DONAHUE, PRESIDENT, CATHOLIC LEAGUE:  No. 

He had a Hanukkah party yesterday in the White House, and that‘s fine with me.  And you know what?  I have been invited to Saint Patrick‘s Day get-together, and I guess he excluded everybody who is not Irish.  Too bad for them.  That‘s our day. 

Look, everybody in this country—you have Gay Pride Week.  That means straight guys like me are excluded.  Too bad for me.  Look, it‘s a Christmas card.  Why can‘t you say merry Christmas and happy new year in a Christmas card?  I am not going to be a hypocrite about this.  If I am going after some of the retailers, I am not going to give W. a pass, even though I think he is basically a good guy. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Well, you know, and that‘s actually my point and why I am doing this whole segment, Bill Press, because, you know, I think a lot of conservatives out there who have been chasing down Democrats, liberals, Wal-Mart, these other stores, I think a lot of them will give the president a free pass, because he is their president.  What do you think? 

BILL PRESS, BILLPRESS.COM:  You know, Joe, I was just watching Rita Cosby, and I heard all those brave men and women in Afghanistan.  And what did they say over and over again to all of us?  Happy holidays. 

I don‘t think you can accuse them of being politically correct or anti-Christian.  And I certainly don‘t think you can accuse President and Mrs. Bush of being that either. 

Look, the president represents all Americans.  I think it‘s entirely appropriate for him to recognize not all Americans celebrate Christmas, but everybody celebrates something in this holiday season.  And, as a Christian, and as a Catholic, if the president—I am not on his list, but if he sent me a card that said happy holiday, I would be grateful.  I would appreciate it.  I would have a merry Christmas.  And I intend to. 

SCARBOROUGH:  And, Bill, I mean—Bill Press, though, what‘s the big deal, though, if the president does send out a card that says merry Christmas, just like George Bush 41 did, and just like presidents have been doing for quite some time? 

PRESS:  Some presidents have, and other presidents, including Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton at some point and the first President Bush, I believe at some point, did send out happy holiday cards. 

Joe, I would not be offended if they say merry Christmas, because I happen to be Catholic.  I happen to be a Christian.  But I also recognize, this is a great, diverse country.  We have 80 percent Christians, perhaps, but a lot of Jews, a lot of Buddhists, a lot of nonbelievers, a lot of people of other faiths. 

And I think it‘s very appropriate, again, for the president to embrace all Americans in this holiday season.  And when you say happy—what does holiday mean?  It‘s holy day, Joe.  It‘s when you‘re saying happy holy days.  We can all enjoy that.

SCARBOROUGH:  There you go.  There you go. 

Jennifer Giroux, the president is just being inclusive.  He is just being politically correct.  I know that‘s got to thrill you, right? 

JENNIFER GIROUX, DIRECTOR, WOMEN INFLUENCING THE NATION:  Well, Joe, it‘s such a disappointment, because the president, I have a feeling, if the election was tomorrow, would not have said happy holidays. 

He could at least have had the good advice to put merry Christmas and happy holidays. 

And Bill Donahue is right to hold his feet to the fire on this, but there is a big festering problem that is causing heat on the president in addition.  People across this country have a frustration that has reached a boiling point.  They are tired of being told they must say happy holidays, and they are fighting back.  They are tired of having the ACLU and the separation of church and state folks that has taken this judicial creation and forcing folks out of Middle America to remove the nativity sets and to remove baby Jesus.  They are tired of having that crammed down their throat, and they are fighting back. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Jennifer, Jennifer, they certainly are. 

GIROUX:  The president has very bad timing here. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Hold on a second, Jennifer.  You are exactly right.  A lot of people in Middle America think it‘s ridiculous that you can‘t have a nativity scene on courthouse steps.

But I want to go back to this president, because it seems to me that evangelicals helped elect this president.  But evangelicals help elect a lot of candidates, but it seems like, after they get in, after they get the votes, they are taken for granted.  Is that a fair assessment? 

GIROUX:  Well, we all remember the debate, Joe, when the president stepped forward and said the most influential person in his life was Jesus Christ, and that was very courageous, very impressive, swept Christians off their feet, that he would do that courageously before the election.

And now he can‘t recognize the most important part of Christmas, the infant child Jesus.  So there we are seeing a lot of hypocrisy here in that.  And we don‘t have a problem with him wishing happy holidays to people of other faiths, but he should recognize merry Christmas on that Christmas card. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Bill Press? 

PRESS:  Joe, I go to—this whole thing is silly, if you ask me. 

Listen, everywhere I look, I see signs of Christmas.  I see Christmas trees.  I see Christmas decorations.  I am getting Christmas cards in the mail.  You hear Christmas music in every elevator and every department store.  Christmas—there‘s no war against Christmas.  I think this whole thing is made up just to keep stirring people up.  Frankly, I think it‘s made up to get ratings during the winter solstice.  Get over it.  There‘s no war on Christmas.

(CROSSTALK)

GIROUX:  Bill, to say there‘s not a war on Christmas—sorry, Joe. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Go ahead, Bill Donahue.

DONAHUE:  Look, in Kansas, they wanted to put on—in Shawnee, Kansas, they wanted to put on a depiction of a nativity scene, and they said, well, you can‘t, because we are not allowed to have baby Jesus and Mary and Joseph there.  So, you can just have some animals in the background, like they did in Memphis, Tennessee. 

You have got friendship trees.  You have got peace trees.  You have union trees.  Look, why are people so sensitive?  As a matter of fact, from FDR, up until Bush‘s father, every president has had at least one Christmas card where they said, merry Christmas and a happy new year.  My question is this.  Where is the evidence that the 15 percent of the population which is not Catholic—or not Christian, I should say, were in a rage about this? 

There‘s no evidence about this.  As a matter of fact, I think it‘s really damnable, because you are suggesting that Jews and Muslims are a bunch of bigots who suffer apoplexy every time they hear the word Christmas.  That is simply wrong.  The bigotry is coming from the left, as usual. 

PRESS:  There‘s no bigotry from the—there‘s no bigotry from the—we are talking about the president of the United States.  He is hardly a member of the left. 

The president—listen, for one time, on national television, I want to defend George W. Bush.  I think it‘s very keeping with the season that he is embracing all Americans.  He is being very inclusive.  And he is saying, no matter what your faith is, we are all Americans, let‘s all celebrate a holiday season. 

I have got to tell you, I think—I don‘t want to get personal here, but I think anybody‘s faith is awfully thin if they are—their Christianity is so thin that it‘s thrown off by somebody saying happy holiday. 

SCARBOROUGH:  All right. 

PRESS:  You know, you are in so bad shape, not even the blessed virgin could help you. 

(CROSSTALK)

SCARBOROUGH:  We are going to have to leave it there. 

I guarantee you, the White House—in the White House right now, they are running around with their arms in the air screaming, because Bill Press agrees with them. 

Jennifer Giroux, William Donahue, and Bill Press, peace on Earth and good will towards men. 

Now, coming up next, comedian, and best-selling author, radio talk show host, and possible Senate candidate Al Franken is going to be here to give us his view in SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY. 

Plus, if you build it, they will take it—caught on tape, a growing problem that‘s costing billions of dollars.  And wait until you see the new face of this crime wave. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SCARBOROUGH:  Best-selling author, talk show host, comedian, and possible Senate candidate Al Franken is in SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY to talk about the war, the Democratic Party, and the truth, sprinkled with jokes.  That‘s coming up in a minute.

But, first, here‘s the latest news you and your family need to know. 

It‘s all right, Al.  You can smile, baby, smile. 

(NEWS BREAK)

SCARBOROUGH:  Thieves in the middle of the night caught on tape.  Now one private investigator is nailing these guys, and his weapon is a video camera. 

Welcome back to SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY.  We are going to have that story coming up in a minute.

But first, he‘s a best-selling author, a talk radio pioneer, and now possible candidate for the United States Senate.  He is Al Franken, host of “The Al Franken Show” on Air America Radio and now the Armed Forces Network.  He‘s also the author most recently of “The Truth With Jokes.” 

Hey, Al, welcome back to SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY. 

AL FRANKEN, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST:  Thank you.   

SCARBOROUGH:  I know you are excited to be here. 

FRANKEN:  I am.  Thanks, Joe. 

(CROSSTALK)

SCARBOROUGH:  You looked awfully serious in the tease, man. 

Everything all right tonight? 

FRANKEN:  Yes. 

Maybe I am tired.  I have been going around, all around the country.  I am in Duluth right now, you know, what you elite, conservative elitists call flyover country. 

(LAUGHTER)

SCARBOROUGH:  Yes, exactly, flyover space. 

Hey, first of all, in the news break, we had this report on Saddam Hussein‘s trial.  And I love it.  The guy decides yesterday, I am not going to show up in court.  He announces to the judge, I ain‘t going to be here tomorrow.  And, sure enough, he ain‘t there today.  Is that any way to run a judicial system? 

FRANKEN:  Well, I don‘t know.  Does a defendant have to show up?  can you—you know, can‘t you do the trial without him, you know? 

SCARBOROUGH:  I don‘t know, Al. 

(CROSSTALK)

FRANKEN:  Yes.  You are the lawyer, right?  Aren‘t you—you are a lawyer, right?

SCARBOROUGH:  Yes.  I am a lawyer.  Apparently, though, you have been drinking cough syrup out in Duluth.  It‘s not too exciting out there, is it? 

FRANKEN:  No. 

Duluth is very exciting.  I was just asking if a defendant has to show up for a trial.  i was asking you because you are a lawyer. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Well, I am not a good lawyer, though, so you really can‘t ask me any questions about the law.

FRANKEN:  Oh, OK.  OK. 

(CROSSTALK)

FRANKEN:  And, also, obviously, neither of us knows Iraqi law too well. 

SCARBOROUGH:  No. 

(LAUGHTER)

SCARBOROUGH:  I don‘t think anybody knows Iraqi law. 

(CROSSTALK)

SCARBOROUGH:  Well, let‘s talk about somebody that is exciting.  Let‘s talk about Howard Dean.  You know—and I am sure you have been talking about on your radio show the past couple days—Howard Dean was on the radio on Monday, talking about the war in Iraq, a lot of people talking about it.

Take a listen, and then I want to talk about it. 

FRANKEN:  OK. 

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

HOWARD DEAN, DEMOCRATIC PARTY CHAIRMAN:  The idea that we‘re going to win this war is an idea that, unfortunately, is just plain wrong.

(END AUDIO CLIP)

SCARBOROUGH:  Now, as you know, Al, right-wingers like me jumped on this immediately. 

FRANKEN:  Right. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Said that this showed that he was still caught in the Vietnam syndrome. 

I thought it was interesting, though.  “The Washington Post” this morning wrote a column saying that Democratic leaders are very concerned that this type of talk and Nancy Pelosi‘s type of talk actually is going to hurt the party next year.  What is your take on that? 

FRANKEN:  Well, I think he was at least telling, you know, what he thought was true. 

And I think it depends what you mean by winning the war.  Are we going to do what we said we were going to do when we first went there, and set up a Jeffersonian democracy?  No.  That‘s just not going to happen.  When the president said nothing short of complete victory, I am not sure what that means. 

Howard Dean actually kind of was right.  He was against our going in.  I think it was a mistake.  I was wrong.  At the time, I believed Colin Powell.  I believed that the presumption that the president is telling you the truth, so I thought I guess we have to go to war.  It turns out that we were misled into the war, and not only that, but that, since then, the war has been badly bungled because of hubris, unwillingness to admit mistakes.

And we find ourselves in a situation where many, many smart people believe that our very presence there makes things worse.  I don‘t—and I think it‘s very hard to trust this administration in anything they say about the war. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Well, we could talk about that and debate the war.  I would rather not do that, looking back.  But I do want to talk...

(CROSSTALK)

FRANKEN:  Well, I can understand why you wouldn‘t, because you are in such a weak position. 

SCARBOROUGH:  OK.  Well, there you go.  Now you have lured me into the debate. 

I always try to, you know, treat people when they come on my show like they are a guest in my home, but now you have pulled the switch.  And I got to go after you.

FRANKEN:  You don‘t have rude guests in your home ever? 

SCARBOROUGH:  All right.  Well, I do, but I wait until they are rude to me before I start fighting back. 

I mean, you say the president lied about the war, but you know Ted Kennedy said Saddam had weapons of mass destruction; Al Gore said it; Bill Clinton said it; John Kerry said it; John Edwards said it, said it was an imminent threat. 

FRANKEN:  Well, at what time?

(CROSSTALK)

SCARBOROUGH:  Even Saddam Hussein said in 1998, I have got weapons of mass destruction.  So...

FRANKEN:  And, in 1998, he did have weapons of mass destruction. 

(CROSSTALK)

FRANKEN:  And after we bombed them, they didn‘t.

SCARBOROUGH:  Where did they go?  Where did they go? 

FRANKEN:  They were destroyed by President Clinton. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Oh, good God.  You don‘t believe that one missile strike at a camel and a tent destroyed Saddam Hussein‘s weapons of mass destruction? 

(CROSSTALK)

FRANKEN:  That‘s wasn‘t what they did.  As you know, it wasn‘t one missile strike at a camel and a tent.  I don‘t know why you feel the need to mischaracterize... 

(CROSSTALK)

SCARBOROUGH:  Al, are you really suggesting—listen, no serious person could step forward and say...

FRANKEN:  No—the Duelfer report said that very thing.

(CROSSTALK)

SCARBOROUGH:  ... Bill Clinton‘s missile strikes got rid of those weapons of mass destruction. 

Oh, come on.  So, you are telling America tonight that the president‘s weapons of mass destruction, that the president‘s attack in ‘98 destroyed all of Saddam Hussein‘s weapons of mass destruction? 

FRANKEN:  Remaining weapons of mass destruction.  That‘s exactly what the Duelfer report said.  That‘s what the president‘s own weapons inspectors said, that those destroyed the remainder of...

SCARBOROUGH:  Well, then, when Saddam Hussein knew that America was coming at him, why didn‘t he say in 2002, in the fall of 2002, I destroyed them?  Why did Bill Clinton himself say in 2002, Saddam Hussein still has weapons of mass destruction?  Why did Al Gore say in 2002 Saddam Hussein still had weapons of mass destruction?? 

FRANKEN:  Because I‘m sure he thought he did. 

(CROSSTALK)

FRANKEN:  Would you let me answer? 

SCARBOROUGH:  We have got a delay.  Go ahead. 

(CROSSTALK)

FRANKEN:  They didn‘t have access to the same intelligence that the president had.  And the president said certain things that he knew were not true. 

He said that al Qaeda received weapons training from Saddam Hussein.  He said it as if it was a certainty.  The Defense Intelligence Agency told the NSC that the al Qaeda detainee who said that was fabricating.  And that was never shared with the Senate.  Cheney said there is no doubt that Saddam possesses weapons of mass destruction.  There‘s no doubt that he has reconstituted his nuclear program.  That was false. 

Condi Rice said that there was no other—no way these—nothing that these aluminum tubes could be used for, other than centrifuge and uranium.  She had to know that wasn‘t true.  The Energy Department analysts said that they couldn‘t be used centrifuge uranium.  There are all kinds of...

SCARBOROUGH:  All right, Al, let me ask you this question. 

FRANKEN:  Yes. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Let me ask you, if you‘re president of the—because a lot of people want you to run for Senate in a couple of years.  If—let‘s say you ran for Senate, became president, and let‘s say you were sitting in the Oval Office. 

FRANKEN:  Yes. 

SCARBOROUGH:  You had the director of the CIA sitting in the Oval Office with you, giving a briefing on weapons of mass destruction, we will say from Iran, and you asked that CIA director, is this the best you got?  And the CIA director, as Tenet did to George Bush a year after 9/11, stood up in the Oval Office, and waved his arms and said, Mr. President, it‘s a slam-dunk; they have got weapons of mass destruction?  Would you be irresponsible if you ignored the CIA director‘s waving his arms and saying it‘s a slam-dunk; he has got weapons of mass destruction? 

FRANKEN:  I think that what Bush was saying is, this isn‘t good enough for me to sell it to Joe Q. Public.  And Tenet said it was a slam-dunk. 

I don‘t—I think he said, I can slam-dunk the P.R. campaign.  I really think that‘s what he was saying. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Who said that?  Who, George Tenet? 

FRANKEN:  And he was getting enough information—I‘m sorry, but you want me to finish my thought? 

SCARBOROUGH:  Yes.  I‘m sorry.  We got a five-second delay here.  Go ahead. 

FRANKEN:  Oh, I‘m very sorry about that, although it‘s not my fault. 

(CROSSTALK)

FRANKEN:  The president got enough information—listen, he probably thought there were weapons of mass destruction, but he said things that weren‘t true.  And so did Cheney.  And so did Colin Powell. 

And Colin Powell at least has had the good graces to apologize for them.  And I think the president was saying things that he knew weren‘t true, and I think so was Condi Rice, and so—the tie to al Qaeda, the Mohamed Atta meeting with Iraqi intelligence, has been pretty well established. 

That wasn‘t pretty well established, and you know it. 

(CROSSTALK)

SCARBOROUGH:  All right. 

Well, stay with us, Al.  We want to continue this, and we will talk about...

FRANKEN:  Sure, Joe. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Continue this.  Also want to talk about the book and much, much more when we come back. 

FRANKEN:  Thank you. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Again, my whole point is, again, a year after September 11, if I am the president of the United States, and I challenge the CIA director on weapons of mass destruction, and he waves his arms in the air and says, Mr. President, it‘s a slam-dunk, he has it, I think I am being irresponsible to ignore that. 

So, anyway, but we will continue talking with Al Franken about much more when SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY returns. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SCARBOROUGH:  Hey, welcome back. 

We are here, once again, with Al Franken. 

Al, there‘s obviously—a lot of Democrats in the base are very concerned about Hillary Clinton.  They believe that she is moderating too much on the war.  Tim Robbins, fellow actor—an actor—stepped forward and was critical of her a few days ago, because he and, again, a lot of people in the base, think she has really been associating herself too closely with President Bush. 

Do you think that‘s going to be a problem for her in ‘08, or do you think she is taking the right tact? 

FRANKEN:  I don‘t know if it‘s about taking a tact.  It may be. 

I am a talk show host.  And I feel like some responsibility on talking about what we should and shouldn‘t be doing in Iraq, and I literally don‘t know.  I mean, I think there are—I think we may be in a no-win position, and have been put there.  You know, I say things like, employ Iraqis, put them to work.  But that‘s something we should have done a year-and-a-half, two years ago in reconstructing their country. 

I think we should really have congressional investigations.  I think Congress should do its oversight into the corruption that‘s there from both our companies and Iraqi companies.  And that‘s something that Congress just won‘t do.  And I think it‘s because they are afraid of offending the White House.  I think we need the White House to be more truthful with us, frankly. 

But I think that it‘s legitimate for people to have different views of what‘s going of what is going—of what we need to do.  Wesley Clark had an op-ed piece yesterday in “The New York Times” that said we should be securing the border with Iran more, and we should put pressure on the Iraqi government to outlaw these militias. 

I mean, you have Muqtada al-Sadr, who has a slate as big as anyone for the Shiites, and his militia killed U.S. soldiers, and he is going to be a big part of this government.  So, I think it is very chaotic there, and I think that it‘s really hard for Americans to have a real open debate about this if everybody is criticizing each other for their opinions and their stances. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Yes.  It is awfully tough. 

And it‘s awfully tough.  And we always found this—Republicans found this when Bill Clinton was president of the United States.  It‘s hard to speak in a unified voice when you have got all these House and Senate members running around.  And then, I mean, Republicans were in the majority, and it was still hard to compete with that one single voice coming out of the White House. 

Hey, tell us in closing about your book. 

(CROSSTALK)

SCARBOROUGH:  I‘m sorry.  Go ahead. 

FRANKEN:  Well, can I say something about this, how divided—divisive and divided we are? 

I think the president—I think people have to remember back to September 12, 2001.  We were the most united we had ever been in our history that I can remember.  And we had the world behind us.  And I think the president hijacked 9/11 and used it to go to war with Iraq, in a way that was very divisive.  And I think he was divisive by holding the—having the vote on the resolution for him to use force right before the election, and the way he used the Department of Homeland Security, which, if you see four years later, he hasn‘t really taken seriously at all. 

You don‘t put Michael Black—or Brown—I‘m sorry—in front of—in charge of FEMA, if you really, really care about our Homeland Security.  And so I think this president deliberately divided us and took a—he took a chance that this war would be successful.  And it hasn‘t been, and I think he took a gamble, and he has lost. 

SCARBOROUGH:  OK.  Well, hey, Al...

FRANKEN:  And we all have lost. 

I‘m going—by the way, I‘m going over to Iraq next week. 

SCARBOROUGH:  All right. 

Thanks so much, Al.

And, of course, Al, that won‘t be your first time over there.  You have been over to Iraq and Afghanistan also with the USO.

Al, thanks for being with us.  Obviously, we don‘t agree...

FRANKEN:  Thank you, Joe. 

SCARBOROUGH:  We don‘t agree on everything, but the one thing I think all of us can agree on is, this country is divided right now.

After eight years of Bill Clinton and eight years of George Bush, I think a lot of Americans are going to be looking for people that can bring the country together, just the divisiveness.  And it just doesn‘t matter whose fault it is or isn‘t.  We have got to come together as a country. 

FRANKEN:  Barack Obama. 

(CROSSTALK)

(LAUGHTER)

SCARBOROUGH:  Barack Obama. 

John McCain, baby. 

(LAUGHTER)

SCARBOROUGH:  All right.  Thanks so much for being with us.  Greatly appreciate it. 

The book is “The Truth With Jokes.”  Thanks so much, Al, for being with us.

And I am joined now by a true uniter and not a divider.  He is Tucker Carlson, host of “THE SITUATION WITH TUCKER CARLSON.” 

Hey, Tucker, what‘s the situation tonight? 

TUCKER CARLSON, HOST, “THE SITUATION WITH TUCKER CARLSON”:  The situation is, that book needs more jokes.  Just my personal opinion. 

(LAUGHTER)

CARLSON:  Tonight, speaking of bad jokes, the conspiracy theories continue to swirl around Katrina.  There‘s a widespread belief in the city of New Orleans that the federal government blew up the levees.  This is a bad idea that has not yet died.  We will talk to one of the people propagating it. 

Plus, a new diet that promises, if you eat junk food, Funyuns, Snickers Bars, ranch dressing, you can lose up to 50 pounds.  It could be true. 

SCARBOROUGH:  It could be.  Maybe that‘s why I am looking so fetching tonight, Tucker.

CARLSON:  You look great. 

SCARBOROUGH:  And you, too, my friend.  You, too. 

Thanks a lot. 

CARLSON:  Thanks. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Make sure you tune into “THE SITUATION” at 11:00 to see how you can lose 50 pounds eating junk food. 

Coming up next, it‘s a crime costing Americans billions of dollars every year.  And you are not going to believe who has got their hand in the cookie jar.  Up next, the private investigator and his tapes you have got to see to believe. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SCARBOROUGH:  They could be in your neighborhood tonight—dramatic undercover footage of criminals at work, taking whatever they can and whatever they can get away with from construction sites.  And all of us are paying for it. 

But right on their tail right now is a private investigator, Mark Stephens.  Night after night, he is out there looking for these home construction crooks and taking his videotape. 

With us now is Houston private investigator Mark Stephens. 

Mark, thanks so much for being with us. 

Now, you are hired by builders, I understand, to try to track these criminals down.  What have you found out there? 

MARK STEPHENS, PRIVATE INVESTIGATOR:  Well, actually, that‘s correct. 

I am hired by the builders.

And we have actually caught several people from all different walks of life involved in the theft of construction material. 

SCARBOROUGH:  And what are you finding out there? 

STEPHENS:  Well, we have got cases from stealing lumber and appliances and air-conditionings, to stealing, you know, shrubbery and trees and landscaping materials. 

SCARBOROUGH:  And I hear the numbers.  I mean, it goes up to $4 billion a year in theft.  Why do you think at this point this type of crime wave is sweeping across America? 

STEPHENS:  Well, number one, it‘s relatively easy to steal this type of material, because of the industry itself, and the way that they have to operate.  They leave the construction material on the ground at each site, so it‘s relatively easy to go in and take the material.  And it‘s a little bit hard to protect when it‘s done like that. 

SCARBOROUGH:  And, obviously, when they are stealing these products, it‘s costing all of us.  Again, it‘s costing all of us in the price of homes, insurance, and other areas, isn‘t it? 

STEPHENS:  Absolutely. 

They estimate that, nationwide, annually, it‘s $4 billion.  And that -

that breaks down to about a 2 percent -- 1, 1.5, 2 percent increase in the price of each home. 

SCARBOROUGH:  So, when did the situation get so bad that they have started—decided to start hiring private investigators like you to go around to these construction sites at night, set up video cameras and run fairly high-tech sting operations? 

STEPHENS:  Well, this was an area that I saw a need for. 

Typically, in the security industry, you know, someone will go out and maybe set up a camera or they will hire a minimum-wage security guard to sit out there.  And the problems with those two types of security is, number one, we found that some of the guards themselves actually become involved in some of the theft.  And, with the camera, you know, basically all you get is a fuzzy picture of your crook.

And there‘s no one to do the follow-up to find out who the crook actually is. 

SCARBOROUGH:  All right. 

Hey, thanks so much, Mark Stephens.  Greatly appreciate you being with us and also bringing the videotape with us. 

And, also, you know, friends, right now, the cost for building a new home, the cost for these supplies, in part because there‘s so much building going on in China and India and other developing nations, the prices are going up so much that it‘s becoming much more profitable to be engaged in this type of crime. 

Hey, we will be right back with much more.

Plus, “THE SITUATION WITH TUCKER CARLSON” starts in just minutes. 

What is he doing?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SCARBOROUGH:  As you know, so many people over in Iraq and Afghanistan and across the world who are separated from the men and women that they love the most, it‘s just—coming from a military area, like I do, it is so, so touching to see these families when they get back together. 

But, right now, they can‘t get back together with the ones they love, but you can help them reach out by going to USO.org/Joe or Joe.MSNBC.com.  Help them call their loved ones this year. 

That‘s all the time we have for tonight.  Thanks for being with us. 

“THE SITUATION WITH TUCKER CARLSON” starts right now. 

Tucker, my friend, what‘s the situation tonight? 

CARLSON:  Joe Scarborough, always great to see you.  Thanks.                                                                             

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