updated 12/16/2005 10:20:19 AM ET 2005-12-16T15:20:19

Guests: Richard Engel, Beth Holloway Twitty, Jack Hickey, Christopher Shays, William Donahue, Bradley Jacobs, Adriana Gardella, Jennifer Hagel Smith

JOE SCARBOROUGH, HOST:  Right now, on SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY, the honeymoon widow vows to force changes in the cruise line industry.  Tonight, more of my exclusive interview with Jennifer Hagel Smith, how she is coping with the events of that terrible night and how she will continue fighting for justice for her husband, George. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JENNIFER HAGEL SMITH, WIFE OF GEORGE SMITH:  If this was his path, then I‘m going to make sure that I do everything in my power to save his honor and to go forth and to change laws and legislation and get safety and security on cruise ships, where it needs to be, so that this doesn‘t happen again. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCARBOROUGH:  And, later in the show, the Iraqi people prove the naysayers wrong again. 

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.

SCARBOROUGH:  Thanks so much for being with me tonight.  We‘re going to have those stories in a minute.  Plus, Election Day in Iraq.  It is being called one of the largest and freest elections in the Arab world, as millions of Iraqis stream to the polls. 

We are going to have a live report from Baghdad.  And, friends, the important thing to remember here is a lot higher percentage of Iraqis went out to vote today, even though they knew they could have been killed than Americans went to vote last fall.  I wonder what the naysayers on the Upper West Side of Manhattan and in Georgetown are going to say tomorrow.  Going to be very interesting to see. 

And, then, you may have seen this unbelievable video, a baby thrown out of a window and caught by a local hero.  We‘re going to have that story and give you the very latest on that baby‘s condition. 

But, first, more of my exclusive interview with Jennifer Hagel Smith.  She, of course, is the wife of George Smith, who vanished from his Mediterranean honeymoon cruise. 

I sat down with her just before the congressional hearings on the cruise industry that I think we helped force, that you helped force.  And we also talked about those hearings and talked about the man she loved and lost, George Smith IV. 

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

HAGEL SMITH:  George proposed to me when we were vacationing in Aruba, very romantically, watching the sunset, last February, February 2004. 

And he surprised me with this ring, which I just said, give me something that‘s just not—that‘s just different.  He had been planning this for so long, longer than I had ever even anticipated.  He said, do you know when I started saving for that?  And I said no.  And he said it was literally within six months of when we met.  A few months after, he said he just knew. 

(CROSSTALK)

(LAUGHTER)

SCARBOROUGH:  He had his eyes on you.  He knew before you knew. 

HAGEL SMITH:  Well, I knew, actually. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Yes. 

HAGEL SMITH:  I knew right away, but I just didn‘t know how long this was in the process of being planned. 

I wear this because George is my husband.  I‘m married to George.  I will—I will always wear this ring.  I know that I‘m young.  I know most people would say well, some day, some time.  But, for right now, George is my husband.  You know, you‘re thinking about things.  And I said then—I said, I will never be able to look at a wedding picture or I will never be able to watch our wedding video. 

But I did.  And I do.  And it‘s so hurtful and painful to watch.  And yet, I can‘t tear my eyes away.  You just—I kind of—I put the wedding video on and then I kind of—I start crying, and I will leave.  And then I will kind of peek around the corner and watch it, because I can‘t peel my eyes away from him, because I can‘t believe that he‘s—there he is, walking and talking and laughing and smiling.

And I want to see it and, at the same time, it‘s heart-wrenching. 

It‘s heartbreaking for me. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Obviously, you miss George day in and day out.  But is there something?  Was it kids that you are going to miss the most, that you feel robbed, that‘s robbed you the most? 

HAGEL SMITH:  I think it‘s obvious, you know, to me, that, you know, George is George IV.  And not having children puts me—I always imagined having George V.  And I said when I came home to his mother and to his father, it‘s like we were supposed to have another George, and this is not supposed to happen. 

We were going to—I was going to start teaching third grade in Westport that fall.  And George was going to take over his family business, and we were just going to get started on our lives.  And we were just so excited.  And we didn‘t really care where life led us just as long as we were together.  We were just excited to be together.  And we had the best friends and the best family and people who just adored us together, because we made each other that happy.

And then I‘m here now.  And George isn‘t.  And this is something that will always follow you, be a part of you for the rest of your life.  George always going to be with me.  But, also, the tragedy of our story is always going to be with me. 

SCARBOROUGH:  You talk about George being with you.  Is there—are there times when you feel like George is telling you, you know—again, I certainly never—didn‘t know the guy, so I don‘t know what he would say. 

But do you think, oh, George would say this, tell me to...

HAGEL SMITH:  Yes. 

SCARBOROUGH:  ... straighten up, or George would make a joke?

(CROSSTALK)

SCARBOROUGH:  What would George—here you are on Capitol Hill today.

Because of the tragedy, Congress for the first time is really going to start putting pressure on the cruise industry.  What would George, outside of the terrible human tragedy of not being with the woman he loves, what would George say about all this? 

HAGEL SMITH:  I think that George would be proud of me and proud of his family. 

I think that he would say, you know, you‘re strong.  You can do this. 

You‘re my best friend. 

And, you know, he was mine.  We had full confidence in each other.  He was my confidant, and I was his.  I know that if I could think what, you know, what would George think of anybody, I would have that answer.  So he is going to—he will be with me in Washington at the hearings, just as he is every day. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Do you kind of talk to him in your head from time to time? 

HAGEL SMITH:  Yes.  I talk to him in the car.  I talk to him whenever, wherever. 

I often hear—more than ever, I hear our song. 

SCARBOROUGH:  What‘s your song?

HAGEL SMITH:  Van Morrison, “Into the Mystic.”

SCARBOROUGH:  Oh.

HAGEL SMITH:  And I think, you know, he picks funny times for that song to be played.  But I—he‘s with me a lot.

And, you know, I even think back to—God, you know, we were in Rome. 

I wish he threw a coin, too, into the Trevi Fountain.  It‘s like a bunch of

I always think, I threw one and George didn‘t.  Or your mind starts—but if this was his path, then I‘m going to make sure that I do everything in my power to save his honor and to go forth and to change laws and legislation and get safety and security on cruise ships, where it needs to be, so that this doesn‘t happen again. 

SCARBOROUGH:  And you have a $100,000 reward now.  Is that right? 

HAGEL SMITH:  Yes. 

SCARBOROUGH:  For information leading to solving this case.

HAGEL SMITH:  Yes. 

(CROSSTALK)

HAGEL SMITH:  There is a HagelSmith.com Web site. 

And it explains a $100,000 reward.  We‘re hoping this will lead to a conviction of a person or persons responsible for George‘s death. 

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SCARBOROUGH:  And we‘re going hear more of that interview. 

Again, the Web site address is www.HagelSmith.com.

With me now is MSNBC legal analyst and former Connecticut prosecutor Susan Filan. 

Susan, you have prosecuted a lot of these cases before.  Obviously, this pain is just—this family is going through unspeakable pain.  Can they expect to ever get answers in this case? 

SUSAN FILAN, MSNBC LEGAL ANALYST:  Well, I think, Joe, that this is a case more than likely than could be solved. 

There is forensic evidence in this case.  There are witness accounts, eyewitness and ear witness.  And law enforcement is working very, very hard to solve this case.  It is an extremely difficult case to solve, but you have got some of the best agents on this case and some of the best  prosecutors, federal prosecutors, on this case.

So, I think that in time this case could be one of those cases that is actually solved and there is a prosecution. 

SCARBOROUGH:  You know, as a prosecutor, you have also had to deal with a lot of families that have been grieving.  And I wonder, how much more difficult is it for these families to go through a situation like George‘s case, where they don‘t know what happened to him; they don‘t even know where he is; they don‘t know who killed him?

FILAN:  It‘s almost unimaginable to think that one moment you‘re a happy bride thinking about your whole life ahead of you and the next minute you‘re an extremely young, attractive widow, with absolutely no idea of what happened to your husband, who did it and why. 

I think it will in time be pieced together, but I cannot imagine the pain and the grief that these families are going through. 

SCARBOROUGH:  No doubt about it. 

Susan Filan, stay with me. 

And I agree with you.  I think the FBI is going to piece this together.  I think they are focusing on a couple of—a handful of people.  And I think we‘re going to find out fairly soon who they are. 

Now, when we come back, more of our exclusive interview.  What happened to George that night?  Could he have fallen overboard? 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

HAGEL SMITH:  You don‘t walk into a railing and accidentally go over it.  That just doesn‘t happen. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCARBOROUGH:  And will this family finally get the justice for George that they deserve?  We are going to have our panel of experts on to tackle that.

And, later, showdown in D.C.—the surprising meeting with Aruban officials, but find out why not everybody is happy with the latest development. 

Don‘t go anywhere.  We‘re just getting started.  We will be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SCARBOROUGH:  You have called for it.  Now Congress is cracking down on the cruise line industry.  We‘re going to have the chairman of the committee that‘s going to hold them accountable—that and much more when SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY returns.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SCARBOROUGH:  You know, there doesn‘t really seem to be much of a doubt about what happened to George Smith IV on his honeymoon cruise.  And there‘s no doubt it‘s a tragedy. 

And what Jennifer Hagel Smith says Royal Caribbean did to her after his disappearance is, quite simply, outrageous. 

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) 

HAGEL SMITH:  I was told by Royal Caribbean that this was accident, that George had gone overboard.  And we‘re sorry.  Terrible. 

Actually, they didn‘t even say, we‘re sorry.  They just said, this is

an accident.  And from there, I just—when I returned to the U.S., I had

was just, you know, in that mind-set.  This is an accident.  Can you believe in a million years that this accident has happened to you and your husband on your honeymoon?  No.

SCARBOROUGH:  Are you still in that mind-set, that it could have been an accident? 

HAGEL SMITH:  I don‘t know.  That‘s not what I‘m saying at all.  I was just saying that Royal Caribbean...

(CROSSTALK)

SCARBOROUGH:  I know.  No, I‘m asking, though, now.

HAGEL SMITH:  No.

SCARBOROUGH:  So, you don‘t think it was accident?

You don‘t—because the cruise lines always love to say, when a tragedy strikes, that the person was either depressed and jumped off and killed themselves. 

HAGEL SMITH:  No.

(CROSSTALK)

HAGEL SMITH:  That‘s a high railing. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Or that they got drunk and stumbled off and fell into the water. 

HAGEL SMITH:  I mean, that‘s an easy answer for them.  That‘s a much easier answer. 

SCARBOROUGH:  But you don‘t believe that. 

HAGEL SMITH:  No.

George was—George was an athletic guy.  He doesn‘t run into walls. 

And, to be honest with you, that railing is high. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Sure.

HAGEL SMITH:  He is a big guy.  But it‘s—still, those railings are high.  You don‘t walk into a railing and accidentally go over it.  That just doesn‘t happen. 

(CROSSTALK)

HAGEL SMITH:  And George was a happy guy. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Yes. 

HAGEL SMITH:  Certainly—and I know that it would be another easy way for Royal Caribbean to say, oh, either he was upset. 

I mean, we are on our honeymoon.  We were having the time of our lives.  George was not suicidal.  This was not something that, as Michael Crye had said, George or I had inflicted upon ourselves.  This is—this was not the case. 

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SCARBOROUGH:  And, of course, Crye is the industry spokesman who suggested that Jennifer or George had to do—had something to do with George‘s death. 

Now, those were some of the questions that they were looking to answer at yesterday‘s congressional hearings. 

And I spoke to Congressman Chris Shays about it.  And he chaired those hearings.  And I asked him his reaction to the cruise line‘s conduct.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

REP. CHRISTOPHER SHAYS ®, CONNECTICUT:  The bottom line is, the cruise industry answers basically to no one. 

It provides statistics only at its own decision.  It makes—I‘m very suspicious, candidly, of the statistics.  They are extraordinarily rude and unkind to those who have lost loved ones.  In one case, they didn‘t even tell a family that their daughter had been lost.  I mean, it‘s just amazing. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Congressman, what about the fact that your constituent found out in the morning that her husband had most likely been murdered; she was immediately kicked off the ship in Turkey, interrogated in two different places, taken to a hospital, where she was, in effect, strip-searched, and then had all of their possessions thrown off the ship the same night, and basically told you are going to have to find your way back to Connecticut?

SHAYS:  Well, given that they would do that, that‘s why I‘m so suspicious of the cruise industry. 

There is a real disincentive for them to acknowledge how many people are missing.  And they make an assumption that, as soon as someone is missing, it must have been their fault and that nothing untoward happen.  No crime was committed and so on.  And they don‘t investigate it. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Have the cruise industry representatives explained themselves to you at all, either privately or publicly?  Because we keep trying to get the head of Royal Caribbean to come on the show, and he just simply refuses to do it. 

SHAYS:  Well, the answer to your question is, the industry basically tells me that they run it perfectly well and that they don‘t need any oversight.  And then they site statistics.  And the statistics are basically meaningless.

We had the FBI, the Coast Guard and the Navy say, no one should depend on these statistics, because they are voluntarily given and there‘s no consequence for providing bad information.

SCARBOROUGH:  So, you, do not trust the cruise industry‘s statistics regarding crimes that they provided to you and those investigating this on Capitol Hill? 

SHAYS:  I do not trust the statistics.  I think we were given information yesterday that, when verified, will be found not to be true to or at the very least misleading, and probably more than just misleading. 

So, we are examining this, because we think we have a serious problem and we think that the industry has only added to our suspicions.  The bottom line is, how do you protect people on board these ships, in terms of just security?  How do they train their security? 

Are they people that have the qualifications to look at a crime scene and determine what really happened?  I don‘t think so.  How many do they have on board?  Do they have enough?  I‘m not sure they have enough.  These are not just floating cities that deserve a police force and a fire department.  These are floating casinos, where lots of money is on board.  And most of the employees are foreign.  They are not—they are the cheapest labor they can find from places where crime is a bit more rampant. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Congressman, I thought one of the most dramatic moments is when the cruise industry representatives who were testifying were reminded that you had put them under oath. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) 

SHAYS:  We need to make sure that everything you put under oath is really accurate.  If you have total confidence in what you just said, that‘s good.  I just hope you‘re not being set up by someone.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCARBOROUGH:  It seemed to me like they could have not been telling you the whole truth.  If that is the case, is it possible that they perjured themselves before your committee? 

SHAYS:  Well, I think it‘s unlikely that they perjured themselves.

I think by not telling us the whole truth doesn‘t mean they perjured themselves.  But what I think is that saying, for instance—they say only 13 people were lost in the last two years.  But that‘s only on certain ships.  It‘s not the universe of ships. 

SCARBOROUGH:  What can you do moving forward?  What can we expect Congress to do, especially spearheaded by your committee, to hold the cruise industry accountable, to keep them on the hook, and make sure that changes are made?

SHAYS:  Well, the one thing I know we can do is, we can do further investigations, that we can make sure that people are being made aware of this problem. 

But, legally, this is a quandary for us.  We‘re going to have to do a lot more educating to understand, but possibly laws, possibly regulations, possibly getting the administration just to take greater action using the executive branch, and possibly getting the industry itself to just do more voluntarily, or least with a little push, probably all of the above.

But then question is, what‘s left out?  Because, when they‘re in international waters, who has control when they are in Turkish waters, Greek waters?  Who has control?  Where are they domiciled?  Where are they flagged?  Was it an American citizen or not?  So many things come into play. 

SCARBOROUGH:  All right, Chairman Chris Shays, it was great serving with you.  Great to have you here.  And thank you so much for leading the charge on this fight. 

(CROSSTALK)

SHAYS:  Well, thank you for your effort, Joe. 

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SCARBOROUGH:  And with me now, we have maritime attorney Jack Hickey and also MSNBC legal analyst and former Connecticut prosecutor Susan Filan back with us. 

Jack, let me start with you. 

If there is one word—listen, I had no preconceived notions about this industry before George Smith IV came into all our lives and Jennifer Hagel Smith came into all our lives and into our room, family rooms, as we sat and watched this unfold. 

But if there is one word now that seems to typify this industry, it is arrogance.  You have got a tragedy.  You have got a honeymooner falling overboard.  You have got a bereaved wife that is kicked out of the country, treated like trash.  And then they put out a statement a few weeks later, suggesting that they can‘t protect George if George or his wife caused them harm. 

How can they be so arrogant?  How can they continue to get away with this? 

JACK HICKEY, MARITIME ATTORNEY:  Well, Joe, that‘s right. 

And, actually, I was thinking of another word that I‘m not going repeat here on the air.  But how can they be so arrogant?  That is a great question.  And it‘s because they are used to having total control, control over the people on board, control over the crime scene, control over the evidence. 

You know, Joe, what we‘re seeing here, I believe, because the perspective I bring is, I fight the cruise lines in court in Miami every single day, and I used to represent the cruise lines, as you know.  What I think is happening here is, you have uncovered and Congress is now following your lead—you have uncovered the tip of this iceberg, and I think what they are going to find here is incredible, because they are finally starting to hear.

And you referred to it on your show, the woman I believe that disappeared off the Alaska cruise, where they have engaged in a pattern of outrageous bad conduct, not only in regard to bad security in the first place, to perhaps create or allow these things, but also in the investigation process. 

(CROSSTALK)

SCARBOROUGH:  Somebody else, Jack—you have heard the story.  You can—you know this story. 

Christopher Shays told us another constituent in his district went missing from a cruise line.  The cruise line didn‘t even contact their family.  They just shipped all of her goods, everything that she had on the cruise, back to their Miami office, never told the family. 

HICKEY:  Right. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Therefore, it was never reported as a possible crime. 

HICKEY:  Right. 

And one thing I want to bring up here, Joe, is that, you know, looking at the Jennifer Hagel interview, which was your exclusive interview on this, three things struck me.  One is little or no information and no compassion in the beginning.  Two is the business about—in the beginning, they treated her almost as if she is under arrest, total control over her.

Here, change clothes.  Here are our clothes to put on.  Go take a shower.  And then we‘re going to take you to the authorities in Turkey and you‘re going to answer questions.  And then finally the abandonment in Turkey.

And one thing I want to say about that is—and I don‘t know if anybody has really thought about this.  You know, they promised her an escort to the Turkish authorities in Turkey, in the city in Turkey, and they did not do that.  They lied to her about that.  And then they abandoned her there.  There are—Turkish people work on board these cruise ships for Royal Caribbean and the other cruise lines, as waiters, as officers sometimes. 

They could have had folks who speak English and speak Turkish act as translators with Jennifer Hagel.  Did they do that?  Absolutely not.

(CROSSTALK)

SCARBOROUGH:  Absolutely not.

And, as you know, Jack, it was all about money.  They weren‘t thinking about this woman for a second.  In my opinion, they wanted to get her off the ship, get her out of the way, not disturb the passengers, and keep that ship going, because it‘s $100,000 an hour, from what I understand. 

Susan, let me bring you in here.

Is the FBI listening to what‘s going on here, what‘s going on in Congress?  Are they going to catch their man? 

FILAN:  Well, I think the FBI‘s focus is clearly on this investigation.  I don‘t think that they can—and rightly so—be influenced by what‘s happening in the media.

But I can tell you that, whether they come under criticism for taking too long or whether they come under compliment for doing a very good job, that‘s not their focus.  Their focus is justice for George.  They have got a very complicated jigsaw puzzle that they have to piece together now, no thanks to Royal Caribbean, for hosing down the bloody print of George Smith before.

The tampering, the destruction of that key piece of forensic evidence should in itself be a crime.  And I think it‘s fantastic that now people are starting to look at these cruise ships, who really I think in this case have themselves gotten away with murder. 

SCARBOROUGH:  All right, thank you so much. 

Appreciate you being with us, Susan, as always.

Jack Hickey, thank you also.

(CROSSTALK)

SCARBOROUGH:  Some tough words, but I‘ll tell you what.  There is a family that‘s grieving in Connecticut.  And there is a newlywed turned widow who still is looking for answers, who was treated about as badly as you can imagine being treated after enduring just an unspeakable loss. 

Now, coming up, we‘re going to be talking about new developments in the Natalee Holloway case.  The Aruban government finally answering questions in Washington.  But they have found a new way to avoid getting justice for the Holloway family, according to some.

And “King Kong” expected to be mainstream holiday blockbuster, but, despite great reviews, it just got snubbed, so the question is, how out of touch is Hollywood?

And we will bring you an update on the historic Iraqi elections also -

when SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY returns.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(NEWS BREAK)

SCARBOROUGH:  Welcome back to SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY.  We‘re going to be giving you the very latest on the update out of Iraq.  And, also, the Natalee Holloway investigation reaches a critical phase tomorrow, as Aruban authorities travel here to Washington to meet with Alabama Congressman Spencer Bachus and also U.S. law enforcement officers, who want answers. 

Now, Natalee Holloway vanished on May the 30th.  Three young men were arrested, as you know, and then released.  Natalee‘s family is convinced they know what happened.  And most Americans are, too.  And they‘re concerned that this trip by Aruban authorities may be nothing more than a P.R. stunt. 

Right now, let‘s welcome back Natalee‘s mom, Beth Holloway Twitty. 

Beth, thank you so much for being with us.

(CROSSTALK)

SCARBOROUGH:  And, obviously, the Aruban been made very nervous by this boycott.  So now they are sending officials up to Washington, D.C., to talk to your congressman to try get the heat off.  Should it work? 

BETH HOLLOWAY TWITTY, MOTHER OF NATALEE HOLLOWAY:  Well, Joe, you‘re exactly right.  The boycott is effective. 

And something, though, that I‘m very concerned about is the officials that they have chosen to send to D.C.  I mean, the lineup to me couldn‘t be any worse, Joe. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Who are those officials? 

HOLLOWAY TWITTY:  Those that they have chosen to send, Aldofo Richardson (ph), Alina Shipper (ph) and another man.  Two of those, I‘m not even familiar with, Joe. 

And what I‘m so disappointed in is, the people that they should have sent are ones that have first-hand knowledge and a handle on the investigation.  I mean, the perfect ones to send would have been Jan van der Straaten and Caren Janssen and Dennis Jacobs (ph).  These three are—these three have the answers. 

From there on, Joe, they could have sent so many other—they had so many other choices of officials who have a handle on the investigation. 

SCARBOROUGH:  And so the ones that they are sending up, are they all Aruban officials? 

HOLLOWAY TWITTY:  Well, one of them is an Aruban attorney.  And she is a spokesperson on behalf of the strategic communications task force.  She has not been speaking on behalf of Natalee from the beginning.  The other is—the others are persons that we have never heard of, Joe, nor have...

(CROSSTALK)

SCARBOROUGH:  You know what‘s interesting here, Beth, is that what really launched the boycott is when you got upset and what—quite frankly a lot of people in America got upset that the Arubans said, hey, we have got no authority.  We can‘t do anything.  It‘s all up to the Dutch officials. 

Well, if that‘s the case, why aren‘t they sending over law enforcement officers that actually have some say in this investigation?  These people have already admitted they are just irrelevant to finding Natalee. 

HOLLOWAY TWITTY:  Exactly, Joe.  You are so right.

And other perfect choices would have been the four Dutch interrogators from Holland.  They know Natalee‘s case.  They presented before the judge.  They know the reasonable doubt was there.  They knew the list of inconsistencies were there in all the statements.  They have so much first-hand knowledge and a handle on the investigation than any of those three officials that Aruba chose to send. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Now, let‘s talk about rumors that are going on around the island right now.  We have heard that Aruban officials are considering shutting down this investigation in the next month if no information, no new information, according to them, comes forth.  Have you heard that?  What can you tell us?

HOLLOWAY TWITTY:  Joe, I‘m hearing the same thing, too.  I‘m just hearing in the last—within the last day or two. 

And, Joe, it all goes back to the beginning.  And I think the reason why they are shutting—they are going shut down the investigation is, you know, Joe, for them to go back to the beginning and conduct a proper investigation, for one thing, it would take a year or more, and secondly they would have to go back to the beginning and admit—they would have to admit their incompetency.  And they are too arrogant to do that, Joe.  They‘re too arrogant to admit incompetency. 

(CROSSTALK)

SCARBOROUGH:  They have to admit incompetency, or they have to admit what a lot of Americans think they did, and the fact is that they engaged in a cover-up, so you and the rest of us could never find out what happened.

Beth, thanks a lot for being with us.  And please, if you can come back after these meetings and tell us if you got any satisfaction at all or whether in fact the boycott continues to move forward against Aruba. 

HOLLOWAY TWITTY:  Thank you, Joe. 

SCARBOROUGH:  All right.  Talk to you soon.

Now, for more on what tomorrow‘s meeting in Washington, D.C., means to the investigation, let‘s bring in Adriana Gardella from “Justice” magazine. 

Thank you so much for being with us, Adriana.

(CROSSTALK)

SCARBOROUGH:  And talk about this meeting in Washington, D.C., with Spence Bachus.  What do you think?  Do you think there is anything there?  Or it‘s just a P.R. stunt? 

ADRIANA GARDELLA, EDITOR, “JUSTICE”:  Well, Joe, I think it‘s a novel approach to crime solving, but I really can‘t imagine that it‘s going to do any good. 

None of us know where the evidence in this case is, but we know that it is not in Washington, D.C.  And as Beth was saying, I can‘t imagine what bringing in a bunch of people with third- and fourth-hand information is going to do. 

I think that Representative Bachus is very appropriately representing his constituents.  But, beyond that, I just don‘t see that it is going to any good. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Not going to have any impact.

So, talk about—maybe you can sort through this for us.  They are sending Aruban officials up.  Just a couple months ago, they were telling us—the Aruban officials themselves were telling us that they didn‘t have any authority.  The Dutch had any authority. 

From your investigation into this Aruban legal system, can you tell us who has the final say in investigations and who has the final say in the justice system down there? 

GARDELLA:  Well, Aruba is a foreign country.

And their government, obviously, has the final say.  One interesting thing that I don‘t know if they still do it.  Great Britain, when they had serious crimes in their colonies, Caribbean Islands, they would have a certain division of Scotland Yard that would handle those. 

And the Dutch don‘t seem to have that.  And that may be what would have been needed in this case, because a tiny country like that just does not seem equipped to handle something of this magnitude. 

SCARBOROUGH:  And it looks like they have botched this investigation from the very beginning, hasn‘t it?

GARDELLA:  Yes. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Yes, unfortunately. 

All right, thanks a lot, Adriana. 

(CROSSTALK)  

SCARBOROUGH:  Greatly appreciate you being with us. 

GARDELLA:  Thank you. 

SCARBOROUGH:  A historic day in Iraq, as 10 million Iraqis at least voted in that country‘s parliamentary election.  The high turnout, particularly among Sunnis, has many believing that this could be a turning point for the country.  It could help put an end to the insurgency. 

NBC‘s Richard Engel is in Baghdad and joins me now. 

Richard, this is your third election in Iraq.  And you were at a polling place in Baghdad.  Talk about the election and about these AP reports that it appears that there was a pretty good turnout, even in Sunni areas. 

RICHARD ENGEL, NBC CORRESPONDENT:  Absolutely. 

Election officials say that, nationwide, it appears that the election turnout was about 65 percent, maybe even 67 percent.  At the voting station where I was here in Baghdad, it was a middle-class Shiite neighborhood.  Things were very calm, very well organized.  There was a great mood of optimism.  People really were hoping that this election is going to be a change, that it is going to be a turning point that could lead to a general reduction in the violence. 

In the Sunni Triangle, in particular in Fallujah today, there was a mixture of optimism and defiance.  People were supporting this election.  And some officials say that the voter turnout was about 70 percent in Fallujah.  Compare that to 2 percent during the January elections one year ago. 

But these people were not voting for the U.S.-sponsored political road map for Iraq.  It was really against—a vote against the U.S. occupation and against the current Shiite-dominated government, Joe. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Compare, if you will, what happened on January 30.

Obviously, a lot of Americans saw pictures of the Iraqis holding their purple fingers up, in defiance of the insurgents, or, some would say, the terrorists.  Compare the 30th to what you saw today, a more peaceful operation? 

ENGEL:  It was certainly much more peaceful. 

About 40 people died on the—during the January 30 elections.  Today, just a few people died here in Baghdad, at least two in several mortar blasts.  So, they were very—it was a much more peaceful day.

But it was more—and, significantly, a much more representative election.  A lot of people, particularly in the U.S., celebrated the January 30 as a great success and that this was a true benchmark for Iraq.  People here in Iraq were much more critical about the election.  They said because the Sunnis never participated, that it was a flawed process that led to the inauguration of a flawed government that has been ruling Iraq for the last year. 

SCARBOROUGH:  So, if you can, Richard, take us to the ground.  I mean, put us on the ground in Baghdad in Iraq right now.  There are so many—you know, you hear so much from both sides, either those for the war, saying that we under-report the good news on the ground there, from the other side, that says it‘s chaos. 

Talk about what you‘re hearing from just regular Iraqi people today, what you have been hearing for the past couple weeks.  Is there optimism?  Is there guarded optimism? 

ENGEL:  There is optimism, no doubt.  It is not even guarded optimism. 

I spoke to a woman today, a young woman.  She was a dentist.  And as she was voting, she said that she is very hopeful that this kind of election will bring peace and national reconciliation.  But, then, as we were talking, she said she barely leaves her house anymore.  She hasn‘t driven her car in the least three years.  And she is terrified whenever she has to go out into the streets.

So, there is a sense that there is chaos in this country, so people who report about the violence and the chaos, like we do often, are not lying.  This definitely happens.  And this has an impact on Iraqis‘ feelings.

But, at the same time, over a longer-term perspective, there is a sense that this country is moving forward.  We don‘t hear as many complaints about the amount of electricity, about the—a lot of people are talking about how much freedom they have, that they are able to express themselves. 

This young woman said today that under Saddam it felt that she was dead, that she was living in a grave, and that she is now being able to escape from that grave.  But it is still such a dangerous time here.  She just hopes that we can soon be out of this dangerous transitional phase. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Richard, thank you so much. 

And I‘ll tell you what.  Again, I think you have taken Americans on the ground there.  It is a very, very complicated picture, still very dangerous.

But thanks so much for being with us and reporting from Baghdad, NBC‘s Richard Engel.

And I‘ll tell you what.  Those Iraqi people show so courage.  Their turnout is so much higher than even the turnout in the United States for our own elections.  I‘ll tell you what.  I think “TIME” magazine ought to put them up for people of the year. 

Coming up next, an amazing story caught on tape—a woman forced to throw her baby out of a window.  You‘re going hear from the hero who caught the little boy. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SCARBOROUGH:  An amazing story—a baby alive tonight because of one man‘s daring rescue.  And it was all caught on tape. 

A desperate mother trapped in a burning building threw her own child out of a three-story apartment window and into the arms of a stranger. 

Listen to the rescuer recount the terrifying event. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

FELIX VAZQUEZ, RESCUER:  The mother was saying, please, please, somebody, catch my baby.  Catch my baby.

And as you could see, there was—really, the situation that she was in, a lot of black smoke, but with the impact and the way they threw the baby, I just jumped in, grabbed him and took it from there. 

I just tilted the head back, gave him a quick mouth-to-mouth, got the baby back to them, screaming, crying and just took him in the—and took him to the fire department, and the ambulance took over. 

QUESTION:  Were you thinking, oh, my God, I am not going to catch this baby?  And...

VAZQUEZ:  Yes. 

But, like I said, there was a miracle out there.  God was with me.  And I did what I had to do.  It was a blessing, not only for me, for her family also.   

QUESTION:  People are calling you a hero. 

VAZQUEZ:  Oh, yes.  That is what I was told. 

QUESTION:  Are you? 

VAZQUEZ:  Yes.  I feel that I am. 

(LAUGHTER)

VAZQUEZ:  I sure feel like I am, because look at the impact coming down.  It was fast.  And it was a quick reaction that we had to take care and do the right thing.

And I did get to see the mother later on in the afternoon.  She is in great health and also the baby is in good health.  And I just come also to realize later on that afternoon that the baby was only three weeks old. 

QUESTION:  We hear you‘re a catcher on a.... 

(CROSSTALK)

VAZQUEZ:  Yes.  I do play for the Housing Authority.  We play, and we are division champs for three years.  And I‘m a catcher for the Housing Authority, Forest Houses (ph). 

QUESTION:  So, it must have helped you out? 

VAZQUEZ:  Oh, yes I did.  Good.  Relaxed.  It brought me back into reality. 

It is exciting.  Like I said, I have three kids of my own.  I have a 22, a 8 and a 6.  And it‘s—it feels good.  It‘s a good Christmas gift for myself.  It feels excellent.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCARBOROUGH:  Oh, a 3-year-old baby.  Thank goodness he was a catcher. 

Now, before we go to break, let‘s have this week‘s SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY challenge.  Try to answer it. 

Who campaigned for president on the slogan a chicken in every pot and a car in every garage?  Take a look at the choices, and we will give you the answers when SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY returns.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SCARBOROUGH:  Who campaigned for president on the slogan a chicken in every pot and a car in every garage?  The answer, Herbert Hoover.  That didn‘t work out the way he expected, did it?  The Great Depression hit four years later, and FDR changed America forever. 

Now, the Golden Globe nominees were announced this week.  And the movie with the most nominations is the cowboy love story “Brokeback Mountain,” adding fuel to some people‘s fire who believe that Hollywood‘s out of touch with the mainstream.  The story is about two gay cowboys.

William Donahue is president of the Catholic League.  And we have “Us Weekly” senior editor Bradley Jacobs. 

Bradley, let me start with you. 

Obviously, you know what you‘re going to be hearing from a lot of people out there, that this proves once again that Hollywood is radical, too far to the left, tries to promote alternative lifestyles, to the exclusion of mainstream values.  Talk about this movie.  Is it a good movie or were they just trying to make a political statement? 

BRADLEY JACOBS, SENIOR EDITOR, “US WEEKLY”:  First of all, it is a good movie.

And I think no matter where you are on the spectrum of things politically, you can‘t argue that it‘s not beautifully made, beautifully acted, and I think a beautiful and tragic story.  I don‘t think anyone would disagree with that. 

SCARBOROUGH:  So, if you go see the movie, you‘re telling me regardless of your political affiliation or what you think about gay rights, you‘re going to walk out of the movie saying, that was done well; it‘s a quality product?

JACOBS:  Absolutely. 

This is a movie directed by Ang Lee.  He did “The Wedding Banquet.”  He did “Eat Drink Man Woman. “  He did “The Hulk.”  He has done many, many big mainstream movies, as well as small arty movies. 

And he does it very well.  And he has great material also.  It was based on an E. Annie Proulx short story in “The New Yorker.”  It‘s a screenplay by Larry McMurtry, who wrote “Lonesome Dove” 20 years ago, who is loved in the heartland and who is more—they don‘t get more Texan than Larry McMurtry. 

And, then, of course it has Jake Gyllenhaal and Heath Ledger in it, two A-list actors, both heterosexual actors, playing the central roles.  And it‘s done very well.  And it deserved those Golden Globe nominations, no matter how you felt about the story. 

SCARBOROUGH:  William Donahue, it does sound like very mainstream actors, actresses, also, obviously, again, got a screenwriter that did “Lonesome Dove,” just a fantastic miniseries.  What‘s your take on this? 

WILLIAM DONAHUE, PRESIDENT, CATHOLIC LEAGUE:  Well, I heard that from other people that it is artistically a good movie.

I haven‘t—going to see it.  Gay cowboy doesn‘t interest me.  I am going to go see “King Kong.”  I suspect the people who make these kind of movies, though, like gay cowboy, would go to see a movie called “The Gay Gorilla.”  But that‘s the difference between Hollywood and mainstream. 

Look, the problem I have is not with the movie, per se.  All I have is a problem is with Hollywood.  We track things at the Catholic League, in terms of movies that are offensive to us and TV shows. 

So far, in 2005, we have had five movies and 22 TV shows this year that we have found offensive or anti-Catholic.  Now, the people at GLAAD, they track these things, too.  All I‘m asking is this in Hollywood.  Please treat the Catholics in this country the way you treat gays.  And then we wouldn‘t have a problem. 

As a matter of fact, I guarantee you couldn‘t find from GLAAD 27 movies and television shows in 2005 that have offended them.  And you know what?  I don‘t want to see parity by seeing gays being bashed on television and in the movies.  I want to see parity by seeing a more positive portrayal of the Catholic Church. 

SCARBOROUGH:  And so you‘re telling us that gays are treated better than the Catholic Church in Hollywood? 

DONAHUE:  I‘m saying there‘s no question.  I‘m saying it‘s a slam dunk.  I‘m saying it‘s not even a close call. 

The fact of the matter is the one movie that we had that we liked in the last couple years, “The Passion of the Christ,” we were told that that was pornographic and S&M.  And we were on the defensive about that.  I certainly wasn‘t on the defensive.

SCARBOROUGH:  All right. 

OK, we are going to have to stop it there.  Unfortunately, that‘s all the time we have. 

Thanks a lot, Bill Donahue and Bradley Jacobs.  Appreciate it. 

And we will be right back. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SCARBOROUGH:  I will tell you what, friends.  It‘s really been an historic day over in Iraq.  A lot of people have been telling us that the Iraqis, well, they just weren‘t smart enough or advanced enough for democracy.  Today, they prove them wrong again. 

That‘s all the time we have for tonight.  “THE SITUATION WITH TUCKER CARLSON” starts right now. 

Tucker, what‘s the situation? 

TUCKER CARLSON, HOST, “THE SITUATION WITH TUCKER CARLSON”:  Thank you, Joe.  Thanks for that show.

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