updated 12/30/2005 10:05:51 AM ET 2005-12-30T15:05:51

Guest: Richard Walter, Holly McClure, Laura Schlessinger, Ronald Richards,

Stacey Honowitz, Michael Smerconish

JOE SCARBOROUGH, HOST:  Right now in SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY, P.C. police ban profiling and replace it with polite conversation.  What?  Millions of Americans right now traveling during the holidays.  But our government's new plan to keep Americans safe is chatting up to I.D. Terrorists.  Why not just pull over young Arab males who fit the profile?  Well, we will get the answers in tonight's SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY showdown. 

And then a Vietnam veteran's homemade protest against the Iraq war, does it cross the line? 

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:  Hey, thanks so much for being with us tonight.  Greatly appreciated. 

I hope you're getting ready for a safe New Year's Eve.  We're going to have all those stories in just a minute, plus a look back, criminal mysteries of 2005, and they're still out there.  Where is Natalee?  Did her mom help or hurt the case?  What happened to the missing groom?  Will it be solved?  And why did the runaway bride hit the road and walk free?  Our all-star panelists are here with their theories tonight.

And from Tom Cruise's rant on “The Today Show” to a couple of cowboys with an alternative lifestyle that just can't quit each other, was 2005 the year that Hollywood just wants to forget?  We will talk about that, too. 

But, first, can talk help prevent terrorism?  That's the hope behind a new policy at the Transportation Security Administration. 

Screeners at 40 airports are going to start to question travelers to try to identify potential terrorists.  Passengers are going to be questioned, while screeners observe their behavior and their body language.  Those failing this talk test will undergo extra physical screening and more questioning. 

But is this just more of the same from the P.C. police, who are trying to avoid criminal profiling that would actually help identify who the real terrorists are? 

With me now to talk about the new plan and just how crazy airline security is getting, as we approach 2006, radio talk show host Michael Smerconish, who is author of “Flying Blind: How Political Correctness Continues to Compromise Air Safety,” and terrorism expert Steve Emerson. 

Michael, you have been on the block with this one.  We have talked about it an awful lot.  Now the TSA is moving into a new policy about how they're going to chat up these passengers.  Why don't they just pull over passengers that fit the profile of the 19 hijackers on 9/11? 

MICHAEL SMERCONISH, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST:  Well, I wish they would, Joe.  And I have got this vision...

SCARBOROUGH:  Why don't they? 

SMERCONISH:  Well, because they're gutless.  It's really remarkable.  And it's an administration that largely I support, an administration willing to eavesdrop through the NSA on Americans and yet unwilling to take into account the common denominators of those 19 individuals on September 11.  And I—I just can't explain it. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Hey, Michael, you're a lawyer.  You're a lawyer, Michael.  Answer the question.  The ACLU, of course, would go crazy if you actually did in airports what police officers do across America.  They certainly don't pull over Boy Scouts when there's a bank robbery.  They certainly don't pull over grandmas when there's been an assault in Center City, but they for some reason will do that at airports. 

Is it unconstitutional to say, OK, when we have got Arab males on 9/11, Arab males in the USS Cole, Arab males at Khobar Towers, Arab at the first 9/11 -- I mean, the first World Trade Center attack?  Is that unconstitutional?  Can we do it? 

SMERCONISH:  I believe that it is absolutely constitutional, and I wrote about that subject. 

But the administration has not wanted to test it.  Listen, street smarts is what I'm embracing here.  And, Joe, August 4, 2001, street smarts were used by an astute INS agent named Jose Melendez.  And listen to what happened in Orlando.  A Saudi national, a month before September 11, comes before him and his passport is fine and there's nothing in his bag that's suspicious, but according to Jose Melendez:  He just gave me the creeps. 

And so he engaged the man in conversation, and in the end he said I don't like the guy.  I'm sending him back to Saudi Arabia.  What we found out is that Mohamed Atta was there to pick the man up, and he would have been the 20th hijacker.  So, that's what I'm embracing.  I'm embracing street smarts, and the TSA has taken a small step in that direction. 

But, my God, why didn't they do this on September the 12th?  And why are they, Joe, going to waste time with guys who look like you, look like me, who look like a grandmother in a wheelchair going down to Miami?  Because you know that's what they're going to do because they don't want to offend Abdul and Mohammed, who are standing behind in line us. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Steve, is this more of the same from the P.C. police or is this a good police tactic, to talk to people? 

STEVE EMERSON, NBC TERRORISM ANALYST:  No, I'm outgunned by you guys. 

You guys are right on target here.  The fact of the matter is that they need to be taking into account, as part of a matrix, ethnicity, nationality, travel areas, patterns of travel. 

There should be a pattern of factors that lead one to believe that this is a certain group that they will—that carry out terrorism more than others.  Let me read to you a quote written by the general manager of the Al-Arabiya television station. 

He wrote: “It is a certain fact that not all Muslims are terrorists, but it is equally certain and exceptionally painful that almost all terrorists are Muslims.”

Look, the fact of the matter is, there are blond Muslim terrorists, as we know from Congress.  On the other hand, most of them come from the Middle East or they come from Indonesia, and we need to take that into account. 

Behavioral pattern recognition is an important step, but, as Michael said, this should have been taken on September 10, 11, and 12. 

SCARBOROUGH:  So, why doesn't the administration embrace this?

Listen, all three of us agree, and I would guess 90 to 95 percent of Americans would agree also, that instead of pulling over a grandma, an African-American grandmother, or a Caucasian Boy Scout, why don't you pull over a 21-year-old Arab from Saudi Arabia that's visiting this country that fits the profile? 

Again, Steve, you have studied this your whole life; 9/11, the USS Cole, the Khobar Tower attacks, the first World Trade Center attack, the Beirut attacks, they're all the same profile.  They're young Arab males.  I'm not being racist.  I'm just trying to save lives.  What's wrong with that? 

EMERSON:  Look, there's a refusal.  Look, I don't say that you should just pull over somebody because they're Arab and they're male. 

I say that their background is part of a larger matrix.  But we refused actually until this program was instituted or is about to be instituted to even consider behavior as part of a matrix, and that is absurd.  Somebody who's nervously walking around with a backpack in 120-degree weather should be pulled over for a secondary inspection. 

He shouldn't be just relegated to some type of pat on the back and saying, nice going, Mister.  Go right on board. 

The reality is that political correctness runs amuck sometimes, as Michael is 100 percent right.  It is flying while blind. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Let's look at some of the body language signs that these screeners are going to be looking for when this program starts.

They're going to look for chapped or dry lips, a pounding—is that cartoid (sic) artery?

SMERCONISH:  Carotid.

SCARBOROUGH:  Eyes darting around, avoiding eye contact, wearing a heavy coat during the summertime.

SCARBOROUGH:  But do you know what, Michael?  I can already tell you where this is going to go.  I'm going to be walking through an airport trying to get to my plane, and some jackal is going to pull me over and start trying to talk—chat me up because he knows people are looking. 

SMERCONISH:  Absolutely. 

SCARBOROUGH:  We have got to pull over white guys.  We have got to pull over black guys. 

We have got to pull over young kids.  We have got to pull over grandmas.  It's more of the same, isn't it?  We're going to have grannies in wheelchairs who are going to be pulled over by these guys, aren't we? 

SMERCONISH:  Joe, I got started down the road on this whole subject when, on a routine flight from Atlantic City to Florida, my 7-year-old son was singled out.  And it was such a joke, because the woman handed me his boarding pass with a big red X on it. 

And if I were a guy up to no good, I think I would have gone back to the parking lot with my bomb by then.  So, there stands my young boy, and he's the one we're wasting time on.  And I wish the TSA would have the guts to say, and we're going to avoid those individuals.  We're not going to waste our time. 

(CROSSTALK)

SMERCONISH:  Right now, 16 percent of those who fly are being singled out for secondary screening on a random basis, and the TSA says that number is now going to escalate with the chitchat, and I'm sure everybody watching this can articulate an example of where they saw someone who clearly didn't fit the profile who was getting a workout. 

And I think that you and I and Steve can all agree, everybody goes through the metal detector, everybody has some level of scrutiny, but for God's sakes, don't waste the precious resources on Thurston Howell III, until Thurston Howell III is someone who fits the prototype. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Steve Emerson, you and I both understand, the Bush administration is very serious when it comes to combating terrorism.  In fact, they're extremely aggressive in ways that are offending a lot of civil libertarians. 

But if they're so tough in all these other areas, why are they so weak in the one area that we get hammered on, on 9/11?  Michael's talking about his 7-year-old boy that is getting frisked in airports.  I will see his 7-year-old boy and raise him my 2-year-old girl.  Why are they pulling over 2-year-old baby daughters, yanking them out of their mother's hands, and frisking them? 

EMERSON:  Listen, Joe, the fact of the matter is that the policies of the White House are not being pushed or asked to be enforced by other agencies, TSA included. 

This is why the FBI headquarters sometimes meets with groups that are known to have ties to bad groups, to bad organizations overseas and have made incendiary statements.  This is why...

SCARBOROUGH:  Wait, wait.  I don't understand.  What are you saying?  Are you saying that organizations inside the administration, like the TSA, aren't obeying the White House? 

EMERSON:  I'm saying that the White House isn't implementing and asking all of its agents, representative agencies, to enforce a consistent policy on terrorism.  Absolutely. 

That's the same reason why even officials of the Justice Department attended this convention two weeks ago in—in Los Angeles, honoring a group that has been known to have made incendiary statements in support of Hezbollah and Hamas. 

There should have been no representation of the U.S. government.  And the White House was acutely embarrassed, as it should have been.  And that's because they aren't asking and demanding that all other agencies and departments adhere to one consistent policy on anti-terrorism. 

SCARBOROUGH:  OK.  But, again, Steve, this is where we get hit on September 11.  There are a lot of children out there without fathers and mothers, a lot of spouses who are going to bed tonight without their loved ones, because we had—our Achilles' heel was in the airport security part of the equation here in national security.  So, why is it that the administration is allowing this to continue, what, four years after September 11? 

EMERSON:  Partly because of Norman Mineta, who is the—who is secretary of transportation, who set the policy. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Why don't they fire him? 

EMERSON:  Well, you know, it's a higher pay grade than I can answer, but the fact is it's not a matter of firing him.  It's a matter of asking him to adhere to the president's policies that are common sense. 

Look, profiling has got a dirty-word connotation to it, but it's not dirty.  It's statistical representation.  That's all it is.  And it's basically designed to ensure that don't have to frisk everybody, so you use people that are scientifically known to be representative of a potential suspect pool. 

That's what profiling is.  And, yes, innocent people get caught up in it, but the reality is, it works.  It works when you round up rapists and pedophiles and other types of criminals. 

SMERCONISH:  Joe, may I just add that I testified in front of a Senate committee on this very issue, and I had a lot of conversations with your former colleagues in the Congress, and one on one they all embrace what we are saying.

But Steve's really put his finger on it.  Nobody wants to be the spokesperson for the dirty P-word.  They think that in political circles it has a negative connotation.  They don't want to be anywhere near it. 

Norman Mineta should have been the first fired from the Bush administration.  And remarkably he was the first individual who was allowed to be a holdover into the second administration.  So, the original fault absolutely lies with Mineta. 

Now, this screening process is no longer under his umbrella.  It's part of the Department of Homeland Security.  I have always respected my former governor here in Pennsylvania, Tom Ridge, but, frankly,, he's got culpability.  They all have culpability. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Yes. 

SMERCONISH:  If you told me that John Kerry were elected and this were the policy, I would say OK, it makes sense.  But, my God, it's W., and it's happening on his watch. 

SCARBOROUGH:  You're right, Michael, and you know what?  We can blame everybody we want to, but in the end, like Harry Truman said, the buck stops at the White House, in the Oval Office.

And we are pleading with you tonight, Mr. President, please, step forward and take control of this situation and stop the asinine profiling of little children, of grandmoms, and of people that do not fit the profile. 

You talk—you want to know a dirty P-word?  Profiling may be a dirty P-word.  How about a positive P-word, like protecting Americans?  That's what this all comes down to. 

Michael Smerconish, as always, thanks for being here. 

Steve Emerson, keep up the fight.  We greatly appreciate it. 

And Americans don't know how much you two guys are helping to keep them safe. 

We got a lot more coming up tonight.  Coming up next, from the groom who disappeared on his honeymoon cruise to the Caribbean mystery, Natalee Holloway, we're going to talk about the unsolved crime cases of 2005, and our panel will try to give us some answers that have been eluding us all year. 

And, later, what makes radio talk show host Dr. Laura tear up?  Her memorable and surprising visit to SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY—coming up.  You're not going to want to miss that. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SCARBOROUGH:  Mysteries abound in many cases through 2005, none as much as George Smith IV, the missing honeymooner who vanished one night on a cruise ship and who's still missing and lost at sea, possibly, because of some terrible mistakes made by the cruise line industry.  We're going to be talking about that case, Natalee Holloway, and much more when SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY returns. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SCARBOROUGH:  Like every year, 2005 has been filled with unsolved crime stories that get so many people talking. 

I will tell you, everywhere I went, people were asking me, what really happened to Natalee Holloway?  Where did the honeymoon groom, George Smith IV, go?  What happened to him?  I will tell you, these stories and so many others captured the nation's imagination like few crime stories in recent memory, but will they ever be solved? 

As we come to the end of this long year as far as these crime stories go, let's bring in Broward County prosecutor Stacey Honowitz and criminal defense attorney Ronald Richards. 

You know, Stacey, it's very interesting that as we get to the end of the year, the Natalee Holloway case isn't so much about Natalee Holloway as it is about her mom.  You have got Aruban authorities saying that it was actually Beth Holloway Twitty that hurt the investigation into her missing daughter.  What would you say?  Looking back at the year, did Beth Holloway Twitty hurt or help the investigation of her daughter? 

STACEY HONOWITZ, FLORIDA ASSISTANT STATE ATTORNEY:  Well, when you think about that question, it's so ridiculous, not that you're asking the question, but we had a whole scenario with Beth a couple of months ago. 

How could she possibly hurt this case?  Her daughter's missing.  Nobody seems to have any answers for her.  Everybody's leaving her out of the loop, out of the investigation.  She has helped this investigation, because she has pressed forward, because if she didn't press forward and if she didn't ask for answers, nothing would be happening.  Unfortunately, we still don't have an answer. 

(CROSSTALK)

SCARBOROUGH:  But I will tell you what, Stacey, what you have the Aruba authorities coming forward and saying—and, in fact, the guy who is the chief prosecutor in this case right now is saying, if she would have just sat back and shut up, they would have let kept these three boys out, let them drive around, tapped their phones, basically do the same thing that they did with Laci Peterson's husband, Scott, and caught him in this sort of web.  Do you buy that?

(CROSSTALK)

HONOWITZ:  Come on, Joe.  Absolutely not.  These people sat on it. 

They let these guys go.  They could have taken their computers.

They could have gotten DNA.  There are so many things that they could have done that they failed to do, and that's not through the fault of Beth Holloway.  That's through the fault of them not moving fast enough.  We probably could have solved this a long time ago. 

(CROSSTALK)

SCARBOROUGH:  Ron, was Beth a help or a hindrance? 

RONALD RICHARDS, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY:  A very big hindrance.  I respectfully disagree, in she was not a percipient witness to any of these events.

You don't have an American person go over to Aruba and start criticizing the investigative agency.  This was the son of a judge is one of the key suspects.  The boycott she's put together between Alabama, Mississippi, and Georgia, all she's doing is making the civil servants of Aruba angry and the people of Aruba angry. 

HONOWITZ:  Oh, come on. 

RICHARDS:  And she's been a big interference with this investigation. 

No mother would jump in over here.

HONOWITZ:  So, I don't understand.

So, in other words, because he's the son of a judge, that's what you're trying to say, because he's the son of a judge we should have sat back, sat on our hands and not done anything?  You're feeding exactly into what they're doing—what they're saying. 

(CROSSTALK)

RICHARDS:  You should have a realistic assessment of the political realities.  And if you're going to go to an island like that and sit there and criticize the people that are investigating the homicide—remember, in a homicide, you have to show proof of death and agency by another person. 

HONOWITZ:  That's exactly right. 

RICHARDS:  We don't have a body.  And we don't have a body, and we don't know who did it. 

(CROSSTALK)

HONOWITZ:  How can you say that this mother should worry about the politics of the country when her daughter is missing and three guys admitted to being with her as the last people having sex with her? 

So how do you say political reason should play a part and she shouldn't have said anything?  That's ludicrous.

RICHARDS:  You get more bees with honey than with vinegar.  That's why. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Oh, but come on, Ron.  What if there's a cover-up going on?

And there looked like there was such a cover-up going on in Aruba.  You have these guys that—again, these guys who were the last ones that were seen with her.  One of them admitted recently that all three of them had sex with her on the beach.  What did the Aruban authorities do?  The next day, they go find two poor black guys and arrest them, while they're allowing these three punks to go around the island for 10 days. 

They don't check their car for DNA.  They don't check their clothes for DNA.  They basically allow them to clean up all the evidence.  They never check the well in the back of the van der Sloots' yard.  I mean, come on, do you really think that even if Beth Holloway Twitty had used honey, as you say, that they would have ever given her the sort of investigation that her missing daughter deserved? 

RICHARDS:  Well, I think that if Beth Holloway took a lesson in public relations and not to go to a foreign jurisdiction like the ugly American and start running around...

HONOWITZ:  Oh, my God.  I don't believe this. 

RICHARDS:  ... throwing her weight around, and leading boycotts, she would have been in a better position. 

(CROSSTALK)

RICHARDS:  Look, I...

(CROSSTALK)

HONOWITZ:  And God forbid it was someone in your family.  You would have done the same thing.  You would never have thought to yourself, let me sit back and let them handle it. 

RICHARDS:  No.

SCARBOROUGH:  Well, Stacey...

(CROSSTALK)

SCARBOROUGH:  God help us. 

(CROSSTALK)

RICHARDS:  If it was someone in my family, I would have went over there and greased the wheel a little better. 

SCARBOROUGH:  God help anybody if they had done anything like that to any of my children.  Then you had law enforcement officers covering it up.  I don't know any parent that wouldn't have gone down there and fought like Beth Holloway Twitty did. 

But let's move on to the next case. 

RICHARDS:  Well, who says there's a cover-up? 

SCARBOROUGH:  The other case is—who says there's a cover-up?  Come on.  Who says there's not a cover-up?

Let's move on to the next case.

RICHARDS:  All right. 

SCARBOROUGH:  And that, of course, is the case of missing honeymooner George Smith IV. 

The big question, we have interviewed just about everybody involved in this case.  We still don't have all the answers, but, Ron, I want to ask you, do you think this case will ever be solved? 

RICHARDS:  I think this case has a good chance of being solved, because the American government has taken a much more proactive role in this case because of—the security of cruise lines is an important public policy in this country, and I think that this is a better chance for the victim in this case. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Stacey, what about you?  Will we ever find out what really happened to George Smith IV on that night? 

HONOWITZ:  Well, I tend to—I am going to agree and say that hopefully we will have a resolution. 

I think that that's the reason why, is because we are getting involved.  And I hate to say this as a prosecutor, but I have to criticize the investigation, but there was no investigation in this case—another case of maybe a cover-up, the cruise lines not wanting any liability, not wanting to get involved.  But, hopefully, now...

SCARBOROUGH:  Well, actually, Stacey—there was an investigation, Stacey.

There was a SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY investigation.  We were the ones that basically led all of these key witnesses to the FBI.  They were always a day late and a dollar short.  It was embarrassing. 

(CROSSTALK)

HONOWITZ:  Well, SCARBOROUGH did it.

But when it happened on the cruise line, nobody did anything over there.  So, now, with the American government getting involved, hopefully, we will have some answers.  That's the only way it is going to happen. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Final question. 

I just have to ask both of you about the runaway bride.  Why in the heck was she not given jail time, Stacey?

HONOWITZ:  Well, I'm glad that she was prosecuted.  I know there was a big debate. 

But I think after people saw that she was charged with the crime, then they were going to say to themselves, maybe it's not deserving of jail time.  It doesn't rank in the big scheme of things amongst crimes as the worst thing in the world, but she did deserve to be charged.  And why she didn't get jail time, I think it was just a matter of the public saying she went through her ordeal.  We charged her with a crime, and now we don't think that she had to sit and waste taxpayers' money in jail. 

SCARBOROUGH:  OK.

(CROSSTALK)

SCARBOROUGH:  And, Ron, just a quick one.  We got to go.  Should she have been thrown in jail? 

(CROSSTALK)

RICHARDS:  No. 

We have enough people in jail in this country.  She made full restitution, and she got psychological counseling, which is what she needs.  To throw her in jail would serve no purpose.  It's not compassionate. 

(CROSSTALK)

SCARBOROUGH:  She needs a lot more than that.  The heck with compassion.  I say cuff her and stuff her. 

(LAUGHTER)

SCARBOROUGH:  Thanks for being with us. 

(CROSSTALK)

RICHARDS:  Thank you. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Stacey Honowitz and Ronald Richards, greatly appreciate it.

Coming up next, Dr. Laura opens up.  This—I tell you, this is one of my favorite interviews of the year.  She gave such an emotional talk to us in SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY.  And you will see it when we come back. 

And one man's Main Street message sparking big controversy.  You will see why some say his sign should come down. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SCARBOROUGH:  The doctor is coming to SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY for blunt talk and a moving confession.  That's coming up straight ahead. 

But, first, here's the latest news that you and your family need know. 

(NEWS BREAK)

SCARBOROUGH:  A Vietnam veteran's homemade protest against the Vietnam War, but has it crossed the line?  I will tell you, a fiery debate, we will have it in SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY. 

And I laughed at “Wedding Crashers,” but there were more low points than laughs in Hollywood this year.  We're going to be taking a look back at 2005. 

Hey, welcome back to SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY—those stories in just minutes. 

And, by the way, mom, don't watch “Wedding Crashers.”  You will be disappointed that your son laughed as hard as he did at it. 

But, first, the doctor is in.  The always outspoken and sometimes controversial—not to me, but to some people—Dr. Laura Schlessinger. 

Now, I talked to her earlier on her one-woman show, spoke to her about her faith and her biggest regret.  Take a look at what she said that was. 

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DR. LAURA SCHLESSINGER, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST:  If you have had real misery in your childhood, whatever it is, and I don't enumerate so much in this book.  Whatever you define as a bad childhood, to the individual is enough. 

But, if you make the choice to design now, to be the architect of a new life, you will still have holes in your heart, you will still have pain, and it's still like having weights around your ankles when you are trying to run upstairs.  It's not easy, but it is doable.  People from the most horrendous of childhoods can have good lives, but it comes down to a very seemingly simple word.  Choice. 

To embrace what is lovely and what is available in life, or to reject it all and just stay hostile because you don't want to trust good feelings or anybody, but it's a choice.

SCARBOROUGH:  I want to ask you a personal question here, and I may

have to wait to see your play to get the answer to it.  But we are talking

SCHLESSINGER:  Go ahead. 

SCARBOROUGH:  We're talking about God here.  It seems to me that even if somebody doesn't have a personal relationship with God or Jesus Christ, they can still understand the importance of faith in helping people get through these difficult times.  You talk about growing up in a family where you didn't have a family that went to church or the synagogue and there wasn't a lot of faith around your home.  Did you grow into having a relationship with God?  Do you have a relationship with God right now? 

(CROSSTALK)

SCHLESSINGER:  No. 

And it's one of the saddest things in my life that I don't have a relationship with God right now.  And when I say that to my very religious friends, they go, that's OK, God has a relationship with you.  So, you know, it's one-sided right now.  I really immersed myself in Judaism to the point that I had a Orthodox conversion, and let me tell you, when I do anything, you know me well enough to know, it's 120 percent.  I had great hats, I mean. 

I wore—I did Shabbos.  I did everything, and I was never—it's very sad for me to say this, it upsets me to this day, but as hard as I worked and as hard as I tried and as hard as I prayed and as hard as I immersed myself, I didn't get there, and it's a great sadness to me, but at least that was during my son's growing up time.  He has a relationship with God, because he grew up with us in that environment, so at least I did that. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Yeah, no doubt about it, and of course, tomorrow's another day, as they say, but, you know, I am not surprised by the answer, but I wanted to ask it because, again, it seems to me, I don't understand how people that don't have a relationship with God can't step forward like you have just done and said, hey, forget about me. 

This is something that will help you, whether you believe there's a God or not, whether you believe that there's a Jesus Christ or not, whether you believe there was ever a Noah or not, get into this faith.  Have faith in something bigger than you, so it's not about you, so it's about helping other people.

SCHLESSINGER:  You know, Joe, I haven't been this honest.

SCARBOROUGH:  Go ahead. 

SCHLESSINGER:  I have always been this honest, but I haven't been this open.  I have always been honest.  But, I haven't been this open on media thing, but you know, I like you. 

SCARBOROUGH:  You're one of the only ones, but go ahead. 

SCHLESSINGER:  The thing about this is that I want to have one, so I live my life as though I do, and for now that has to be good enough.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SCARBOROUGH:  And you can still catch Dr. Laura's one-woman show, “In My Never Humble Opinion,” coming to Irvine, California, on January 27 and January 29. 

I spoke to her before its premiere, and I asked her about this new show and asked her why she's doing it and why she's doing it now. 

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SCHLESSINGER:  The first hour is pretty autobiographical, and the second hour I respond to the questions that people in the audience will have written already in their 15-minute bathroom break, will have written already for me to handle on 4x6 cards.  They are questions about themselves or even more about me.

SCARBOROUGH:  You know, you say it's going to be autobiographical.  Are there going to be some surprises for your friends and your fans that have been listening to you for all these years?  Are they going to learn things about you they have never known before? 

SCHLESSINGER:  Well, my friends won't because they are my friends, so they already know what makes me tick and what ticks me off, but I think the audience will come to have a deeper understanding of what it's like to be me, to have lived these 58 years and dealt with all the things I have had to deal with, and what goes into doing this radio program that I have been doing for three decades, what it means to me and what it does to me, so there's just going to be a lot of openness that I've never been willing or comfortable to risk before. 

SCARBOROUGH:  So what is it like to be you? 

(LAUGHTER)

SCHLESSINGER:  Well, everybody who knows me thinks it's real complicated and tough.  I've been doing these so long that I guess I am more used to it, but I am complicated.  I'm involved in so many different things, and there are so many profound reactions to what I do because I am big counter culture.  My life is what a salmon must feel like.  They are always going upstream, again the current. 

SCARBOROUGH:  You know, the remarkable thing is, I know that you have to know this.  When I was coming over here to do this interview, I told one of my friends that I was going to be interviewing you, and a very conservative Christian, from conservative family, conservative church, and he said you know, we just love Dr. Laura. 

We love her because she talks about Christianity.  You talk about salt and light.  She's somebody that has a clarifying effect on our culture and she contributes so much.  I guess you hear that a lot.

SCHLESSINGER:  Wow. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Not just from conservative Christians, from Orthodox Jews, from conservative Catholics.  How ironic it is, I guess, for some people, it's not for me, I just think you are a blessing to America, but all these people depend on you to, again, deliver the truth to America. 

I think these are the people that are probably going to be remarkably moved by this play that you are going to be doing, to go there and see you because it seems to me, and tonight you certainly are not a two-dimensional figure, but it's hard to be more than a two-dimensional figure in media.  Do you hope that this play helps sort of round out your personality and people see remarkable moments like they are seeing tonight? 

SCHLESSINGER:  Yeah.  One of the reasons I wanted to do it.  There are probably more Internet hate sites about me than Charles Manson.  In fact, I don't think there are any hate sites about Charles Manson, but if you call up my name on one of these things, you will find hundreds of thousands of just demeaning, hateful, hostile, ugly things about me, and I walk around sometimes in circles trying to think, gee, I am trying to help people lead better lives.  Why does that engender so much hate? 

So, I have had to come to peace with there are forces that are against goodness, and what I think is basic common sense truth.  And you have to be able to stand up against that wind.  And not break.  So, a lot of this is what I am going to be talking about in this one-woman show.  People are going to know what it's like to be me by the time they leave in two hours and 15 minutes for a bathroom break. 

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SCARBOROUGH:  Two hours and 15 minutes, that's—if you noticed, that's how long one of my questions was to Dr. Laura near the end of that interview.  I think I may have set the record for me, and that's saying something. 

Now, we're going to catch up with radio superstar Dr. Laura next Wednesday.  She's going to be here live.  I promise it's going to be one you're not going to want to miss, and I promise I will keep my questions short. 

Coming up next, a small sign in a Minnesota town causing a big controversy.  We will show you why. 

Plus, Hollywood 2005, some would say crazier than usual.  What lies ahead for 2006?  Our experts' predictions coming up. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SCARBOROUGH:  The debate over the war in Iraq is going on across the country, of course, but the protest from one Vietnam veteran has some people asking whether the protest he's putting on right by an Army recruiting station is going too far. 

NBC's Janet Shamlian has that story. 

Janet, tell us about it.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JANET SHAMLIAN, NBC CORRESPONDENT:  Joe, the debate over the war in Iraq being played out all over the country, often in the form of loud protests and candlelight vigils. 

But, in the Upper Midwest, an example of how those who disagree are doing so peacefully and mostly out of the spotlight. 

(voice-over):  It's not even a big sign, but on Superior Street in Duluth, Minnesota, this score card of soldiers lost in Iraq is at the center of a community divide. 

SCOTT CAMERON, VIETNAM VETERAN:  I thought it would be welcomed, because it says, “Remember our fallen heroes.”  It's a pro-veteran sign, not an anti-war sign.

SHAMLIAN:  Scott Cameron took enemy gunfire aboard a helicopter in Vietnam's Mekong Delta.  He put the sign in the office of a Democratic candidate for governor where he's a volunteer.  It's right next door to an Army recruiting station. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Loyalty, duty, respect. 

SHAMLIAN:  Staff Sergeant Robert Harter (ph) served two tours in Iraq and is among the recruiters who see the sign as less than neighborly.  His boss agrees. 

STAFF SERGEANT GARY CAPAN, U.S. ARMY RECRUITER:  The deaths are not just a tally or a number for them.  It's more of a, hey, that's my friend or that's my soldier I lost over there, or that's my buddy. 

SHAMLIAN:  Sergeant Capan wants the sign down.  His neighbors say no. 

(on camera):  On the surface, it's just a dispute between workers in two ordinary offices along a small stretch of sidewalk in the Upper Midwest.  But in many ways what's happening here along Superior Street is a dramatic example of the debate being waged in communities just like this all over America. 

(voice-over):  From Cindy Sheehan's protest in Crawford to vigils in support of the war. 

In Duluth, they mix it up over breakfast in the Amazing Grace Cafe. 

Regardless of their views, they support Cameron's right to his. 

BEVERLY MARTIN, RESIDENT OF DULUTH, MINNESOTA:  It's just a quiet statement, and I think it should be left that way. 

SHAMLIAN:  It's a placement issue for Bob James, who has a son and daughter-in-law in Iraq. 

BOB JAMES, RESIDENT OF DULUTH, MINNESOTA:  It would be like putting a bar right next to an Alcoholics Anonymous facility.  It just isn't right. 

SHAMLIAN:  Back on Superior Street, a fragile agreement to disagree, still peaceful debate over an increasingly divisive war. 

(on camera):  Recruiters say the sign hasn't deterred potential soldiers for coming by for information on possibly enlisting.  For his part, Scott Cameron says he's trying to focus attention on veterans of all wars, even though his sign speaks only to the toll in Iraq—Joe. 

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SCARBOROUGH:  All right.  Thanks so much, Janet. 

When we come back, “King Kong” was one of the blockbusters people Have lined up to see this year, but it wasn't all hits for Hollywood.  We are going to take a look at 2005's biggest hits and letdowns and what we can expect next year. 

But, before we go to break, wake up grandma, because this week's SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY challenge is the following:  What year did Dick Clark start hosting “New Year's Rockin' Eve”?  Take a look at the choices and the answer when we come back -- 1969, '71, or '72?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SCARBOROUGH:  Welcome back. 

Here's the answer to tonight's SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY country challenge, C, 1972.  That was—well, actually, the year of the Munich Olympics.  That was the first year Dick Clark hosted “New York's Rockin' Eve.”  And he's set to do it again this year. 

Now, last year, he had to sit things out after suffering a stroke. 

But this year saw the end of “Star Wars,” the beginning of “Narnia,” and a whole lot of Tom Cruise jokes. 

And, as this award season gets under way, the gay cowboy love story “Brokeback Mountain” is now a front-runner and already a punchline.

Here's Nathan Lane imitating its most recognizable dialogue during a recent “Today Show” appearance with Katie Couric. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, “THE TODAY SHOW”) 

NATHAN LANE, ACTOR:  I wish I could quit you. 

I keep saying that to Matthew every day.  I wish I could quit you. 

Did you see it, “Brokeback Mountain”? 

I wish I could quit you, Katie. 

(LAUGHTER)

LANE:  I wish I could quit you.  I wish I could quit you. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(LAUGHTER)

SCARBOROUGH:  I think he did that on “Letterman,” too.  Yes?

With me now to take a look at Hollywood's year in review are film critic Holly McClure and UCLA's Richard Walter from the Department of Film, Television and Theater. 

Holly, let me begin with you.

Is Hollywood and pop culture cleaning up its act or is it getting more crass? 

HOLLY MCCLURE, FILM CRITIC:  Good evening. 

Well, I think it has definitely gotten pretty crass.  At least toward the end of the year, we had several films where the general public—

Middle America would think it was crass, anyway.  I'm sure there are some in Hollywood that wouldn't. 

But they're just—they're targeting in films that they love, which

is their artsy films.  It's their political films.  It's their message

films.  But that's not what everybody wants to see for the holidays, and by

·         judging by the box office, that's not what everyone wants to see at all around the rest of America, other than East and West Coasts. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Richard Walter, obviously, there's always a debate whether Hollywood's disconnected from America.  Just looking at the body of films over the past year, how have they done?  More hits than misses? 

RICHARD WALTER, UCLA DEPARTMENT OF FILM AND TELEVISION:  More misses than hits, I would say, in my view.  I think the—you know, the numbers show that.  I have always preached that audiences are smart.  They're not stupid. 

It's appalling to me that—it's depressing to me that a guy like Steven Spielberg, who's one of the few people in Hollywood who can do whatever he wants—nobody interferes.  Nobody tells Steven what to do.  And what does he do?  He does a remake of “War of the Worlds.” 

I like to brag that it was written by a student of ours at UCLA.  But what about doing something original?

Peter Jackson can do anything he wants to do coming off of the success of his previous pictures, and what does he do?  He does a third remake of “King Kong.”  Audiences don't—and it's got to be three—over three hours long. 

It's not dreadful, but it's not the kind of thing that you absolutely have to see.  I just haven't seen anything that really, really excites me, and haven't had anybody—heard anybody say to me, Joe, oh, Richard, you have got to see this picture. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Richard, last night, I think the Independent Film Channel was doing a review of the films in the 1970s.  And they put up all the nominees for best movies from '70 to '79, an extraordinary range of movies, almost a breathtaking list.  You just don't see that type of innovation, do you, not these days? 

(CROSSTALK)

WALTER:  You don't. 

And the difference is, I think that, back then, the studios were still for the most part independent enterprises, run by moguls, who sometimes had dumb opinions, but had opinions, and they took risks.  They took chances, and a lot of movies fell flat on their face.  But there were really some exciting ones, like the ones that you mentioned or the ones that you referred to. 

Today, it's all MBAs.  It's conglomerates.  It's franchises.  The movie is just part of a package.  And there isn't the need for the movie to succeed.  If the toys succeed, if the DVD sells, you know, that's good enough.  The most hazardous thing you can do in art and in movies in particular is to play it safe. 

And that's what they have been doing in Hollywood, and it has demonstrated the truth of the proposition.  You just have to take risks.  You have to take chances.

SCARBOROUGH:  Yes. 

WALTER:  And they're just not willing to do it. 

SCARBOROUGH:  If you're in the business of art, you certainly do, and it's not really a business, is it? 

Holly, let's talk about the—we talk about Hollywood being crass, but look at “Narnia.”  Look at, last year, “Lord of the Rings.”  Look at “The Passion of the Christ.”  Look at “Nemo.”  Some of the biggest movies, family fare, right?  Hollywood does get that, don't they? 

MCCLURE:  Family fare and comedy.  Look what the top movies right now are, “Rumor Has It” and “The Family Stone,” and along with “King Kong” and “Narnia.” 

People love fantasy.  People love escape.  People love comedy.  They love to be in a good mood.  We have had a year of tragedy.  We have had Katrina.  We have had hurricanes.  We have had devastations.  You know, this country's been through a lot, and the world has been through a lot.  And people just want to go and escape. 

So, to go and see a “Syriana” or a hard-core “Munich” or political thriller, that's not as—political movie—that's not as much—they don't want a message movie.  They want to be entertained.  And I think, if Hollywood would just understand, take a look at what's successful.  The family films that can get the kids in there and that can get the young teens in there, and people can go see it two, three, four, five, six times, that is what's successful in the box office.  And it's just proven over and over again. 

SCARBOROUGH:  All right. 

Thanks a lot, Holly.

Thank you, Richard Walter.  Greatly appreciate it.

My favorite family film this year, “Wedding Crashers.”  I mean, it's about family, right?  Weddings, right?

Mom, please, don't go see the movie.  You will be very disappointed in your son. 

We are going to be right back in second a with more from SCARBOROUGH

COUNTRY. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SCARBOROUGH:  Be like Willie Nelson and take SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY on the road again.  Got to my Web site and download my podcast.  You wanted it.  We have brought it to you.  And you can watch my video blog.  It's a big one,  man. You're going love it.  Seriously, it's going to change your life, make your new year great, grow hair on the top of head, if you're balding, get the chicken weed out—it will do everything for you, Joe.MSNBC.com.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SCARBOROUGH:  Welcome back. 

You know, as we approach the new year, there's still time to donate to our Operation Phone Home to thank our troops for all they're doing. 

Now, you may remember the Budweiser Super Bowl commercial that showed U.S. troops getting a standing ovation in the airport.  It was so moving.  Well, and I remember seeing this, and I remember troops telling me, as moving as this commercial was, that this was actually happening in airports across America. 

One guy told me, in Nashville, the middle of the night, Nashville, Tennessee, walking through there, and this was happening, and said all the troops were tearing up. 

Well, we sent our camera's to Atlanta's Hartsfield Airport, and we found these cheering crowds, thanks to the USO.  And these people were welcoming our troops home, too.  They were also greeted by the Georgia USO, who was passing out phone cards donated by you. 

And there's still time to help our troops in Operation Phone Home.  Go to Joe.MSNBC.com, or call 1-800-876-7469. 

We will see you tomorrow night in SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY. 

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

END   

Content and programming copyright 2005 MSNBC.  ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.  Transcription Copyright 2005 Voxant, Inc. ALL RIGHTS  RESERVED. No license is granted to the user of this material other than for research. User may not reproduce or redistribute the material except for user's personal or internal use and, in such case, only one copy may be printed, nor shall user use any material for commercial purposes or in any fashion that may infringe upon MSNBC and Voxant, Inc.'s copyright or other proprietary rights or interests in the material. This is not a legal transcript for purposes of litigation.

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