updated 2/16/2006 11:43:23 AM ET 2006-02-16T16:43:23

Guests: Ray Tanter, Bill Harlow, Peter Beinart, Christie Todd Whitman, Dee Dee Myers, Al Franken, Joe Klein

JOE SCARBOROUGH, HOST:  And right now in SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY, the vice president fires back.  In his first interview since the shooting of his hunting companion, Vice President Cheney takes responsibility for the accident.  But will his words be enough to quiet the clamor around quail-gate? 

Welcome to SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY, no passport required, and 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.

Major news, as the vice president gives his first public accounting of what happened on that Texas ranch last weekend.  Now, we are going to have full coverage of that in just a minute.

And, later, Saddam Hussein and weapons of mass destruction.  Secret audiotapes released showing that the fallen dictator was obsessed with chemical, nuclear and biological weapons and talked about an attack on Washington.  Is it a smoking gun that many have been waiting for?  And will it change the debate on the Iraq war?  That‘s tonight‘s SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY showdown. 

But we begin with Vice President Dick Cheney and his first interview since accidentally shooting his friend, Harry Whittington, during a hunting trip last Saturday.  Now, the vice president took blame for what happened and defended the way the story was handled by the White House.

In an interview on Fox News Channel‘s “Special Report With Brit Hume,” Vice President Cheney talked about the decision to let ranch owner Katharine Armstrong and not the vice president‘s press office, put out a statement about the accident. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, “SPECIAL REPORT WITH BRIT HUME”)

RICHARD B. CHENEY, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  That‘s what we did.  We went with Mrs. Armstrong.  We had—she‘s the one who put out the statement.  And she was the most credible one to do it because she was a witness.  It wasn‘t me in terms of saying, here‘s what happened.

And I thought that made good sense because you can get as accurate a story as possible from somebody who knew and understood hunting.  And then it would immediately go up to the wires and be posted on the Web site, which is the way it went out.  And I thought that was the right call.

BRIT HUME, HOST:  What do you think now?

CHENEY:  Well, I still do.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCARBOROUGH:  So, did Vice President Dick Cheney do what he had to do to put this story behind him? 

Let‘s bring in our panel.  We have got Reagan communication director and MSNBC political analyst Pat Buchanan.  We have got “TIME” magazine columnist Joe Klein.  We also have Tucker Carlson, host of MSNBC‘s “THE SITUATION WITH TUCKER CARLSON.”  And, in a few minutes, we are going to have the unique perspective of Air America‘s Al Franken. 

Let‘s begin, though, first, with Pat Buchanan.

Pat, you ran the press operation for the Reagan White House.  Did Cheney do what he needed to do to put this crisis behind him? 

Pat, can you not hear me?  OK.

Joe Klein, I will ask you the same question.  Do you think that Dick Cheney did what he need to do to put this incident behind him? 

JOE KLEIN, COLUMNIST, “TIME”:  As far as I‘m concerned, he did. 

He looks like a guy—a guy who was stunned, and still stunned, and someone who had accidentally shot a friend.  It‘s a terrible experience.  And he took responsibility for it.  So, what else do we need to know? 

SCARBOROUGH:  Do you think the press is handling the story in a responsible way?  Or...

KLEIN:  No.

SCARBOROUGH:  ... do you think that they may be overplaying it? 

KLEIN:  Totally overplaying it, from beginning to end. 

I mean, this is the kind of thing that makes people just hate us, the scrums in the White House:  Why didn‘t you tell us.  Why didn‘t you tell us first?  Why didn‘t you do exactly what we wanted you to do? 

This is silly stuff that I think, when you are out in America, sitting back, drinking a beer, watching TV, and you watch this stuff, you say, what on Earth is going on here?

SCARBOROUGH:  Tucker Carlson, the vice president, speaking of beer—and we had Lawrence O‘Donnell on last night speculating that he may have been impaired by alcohol—came out today.  He admitted that he was drinking a beer.  Is that a big deal at all to the Washington press corps and people in Middle America, or just to the Washington press corps?

TUCKER CARLSON, HOST, “THE SITUATION WITH TUCKER CARLSON”:  Well, let me just say I agree with Joe Klein completely that the complaints about who was told and when are mere vanity from reporters, and embarrassing.  It embarrassed me as a journalist. 

The question of whether he had a beer, I‘m not sure it‘s offensive to the press, none of whom ever hunt.  I think it is troubling to people who do hunt, because that is a violation of the rules.  I don‘t think he was loaded when he shot the guy.  On the other hand, you are not supposed to drink before you hunt.  And everybody knows that.

And that just kind of is the rule.  I was shocked, frankly, when I

heard that.  I had said last night on your show to Lawrence O‘Donnell‘s

suggestion that Cheney had been drinking, you know, that‘s ridiculous.  I

have never seen that.  Every time you go out, especially for upland birds,

where people are walking and you are shooting over dogs, and the birds fly

in unexpected directions, and you‘re swinging your gun, you shouldn‘t even

there should not be a suggestion even that you are impaired. 

And my point last night was, it‘s inconceivable that he would be drinking at all before that.  And he was.  I don‘t think there‘s any defending that.  I don‘t think there‘s evidence that his drinking led to the shooting.  But I don‘t think it‘s possible to defend drinking beer before shooting.  And I think most people who hunt agree. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Joe Klein, do you think that‘s going to concern people in Middle America, that Dick Cheney may have had a beer or two before he went out hunting that night? 

KLEIN:  Look, I think that there are hunters, a lot of hunters that I have been hearing from and reading about, and also my own very limited experience hunting quail—you know, mistakes were made. 

But, clearly, you know...

(LAUGHTER)

KLEIN:  But I don‘t think—but I—it‘s a tragedy, for God‘s sake.  It‘s become this hilarious thing for late-night comics and it‘s become this terrible point of a problematic thing for the press. 

But the fact is that there was an accident.  Cheney did something wrong.  He admitted it.  He took responsibility for it.  Pretty much, end of story, as far as I am concerned. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Dee Dee Myers, you‘re former Clinton press secretary, handled the communications there.  Do you think what Dick Cheney did today was enough to put this story behind him? 

DEE DEE MYERS, FORMER CLINTON WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY:  I think he put part of it behind him. 

I think he came out and told his side of it.  What was it like?  How did he experience this awful event, where he shot his friend?  And I think he was quite compelling and quite sympathetic in talking about that. 

But I was also struck by how he refused to give an inch, refused to acknowledge that, as Joe said, mistakes were made.  In Cheney‘s view, mistakes were not made.  And I was reminded of that old lawyer‘s saying that a—any lawyer who—I mean, anybody who represents himself has a client—has a fool for a client. 

Take—if you had another example of somebody who shot someone.  Let‘s say a police officer shot somebody in the line of duty.  No matter how justified, you would never turn over the responsibility of communicating that to the public to the officer who just shot somebody. 

You would remove that person, because, clearly, Cheney was clearly shaken up by this, as any human being would be.  And, yet, he insisted on retaining control of the press operation.  And I think that‘s clearly why it was bungled.  He never should have been allowed to do that.  The White House shouldn‘t have permitted it.  The president shouldn‘t have permitted it.  It clearly was a mistake. 

(CROSSTALK)

SCARBOROUGH:  OK, but, Dee Dee, but why—I mean, was it a mistake? 

Was there something else going on behind the scenes? 

Listen, I was a congressman, one of 435 congressmen.  Just—and even in my small little operation, when something happened, we took complete control of the situation.  And I certainly never shot anybody in the face in a hunting accident. 

MYERS:  Well, exactly.

(CROSSTALK)

SCARBOROUGH:  But, if I had, I sure as hell wouldn‘t let the property owner get that information out to the press.  So, what‘s going on here? 

(CROSSTALK)

MYERS:  I hate to break this to you, but Pensacola is not being the president of the United States.  OK?  You have an exponentially greater obligation as the president of the United States and the vice president of the United States, the only two nationally elected figures we have.  You have a huge staff to handle these kinds of details for you.

(CROSSTALK)

SCARBOROUGH:  Hey, Dee Dee, hold on just one second. 

Dee Dee, you are making my point.  That‘s why I said, I was one of 435 little congressmen, ants on the hill. 

MYERS:  Right. 

SCARBOROUGH:  If I squeezed information that came out of my office that much, why would the vice president of the United States, who, obviously, is in such a much more powerful position, allow somebody that owned property in Texas to take control of this story? 

MYERS:  Right. 

SCARBOROUGH:  It makes no sense. 

MYERS:  It makes no sense, because I think he was—look, first of all, he has no respect for the press.  Second of all, I think he was in no emotional state to making those kind of decisions. 

This was a very—he said it was one of the worst days of his life.  He said he will never forget the look—you know, when he looked over and saw his friend, who he had just shot, falling to the ground.  This is not the guy you want in charge of making decisions about whether this should become public or how it should become BUCHANAN:  or how the details should be handled. 

If he had simply given the explanation about his piece of it on Sunday and turned the rest of it over to the people who are in a better position to handle it, we wouldn‘t have this sort of silly controversy. 

(CROSSTALK)

SCARBOROUGH:  Let me bring in Pat Buchanan. 

Pat, you ran the press operation for the Reagan White House.  There‘s something else that bothers me here.  Dee Dee was talking about how Cheney decided to turn it over to a ranch person.  I suspect, in the end, that wasn‘t Cheney‘s decision.  That was Rove‘s decision.  That was the president‘s decision.  I just can‘t believe they would allow him to do that without signing off on it first. 

PAT BUCHANAN, NBC POLITICAL ANALYST:  I don‘t believe the president was in on this one, Joe. 

MYERS:  Me neither. 

BUCHANAN:  No, I think what happened is, I think this was a horrible trauma for Cheney. 

He shot this fellow.  He saw him fall.  He saw him going to the hospital.  They are moving him to Corpus Christi.  That evening, I‘ll bet he wondered, did I kill my friend?  And I think he—was traumatic.  And what he should have done is called his chief of staff and his press secretary, at least inform what was happening, let them handle it. 

But I can understand why they didn‘t do something that night.  But they maybe should have put something out to the wire.  But the next morning, Cheney‘s press operation, to whom the White House deeded this operation, they should have had something out on the wires in the morning and said, on Monday morning, the vice president will be speaking to this. 

So, I can understand the immediate reaction.  But it‘s the next morning, that Cheney had no reaction from his office, and that the whole thing was handled by the lady at the ranch. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Joe Klein? 

(CROSSTALK)

KLEIN:  Yes. 

With all due respect to all the press secretaries on this panel, I mean, they can have conversations and natter on about the process of how to release a story, especially under duress like this.  But it really disturbs me when we in the press get all obsessed with process, rather than substance.  And we do that far too often in political campaigns and at moments like this.

And, for the last four days, we have been going on and on and on about process, while the following things have happened.  We have a new prime minister, the same old prime minister in Iraq, who is an Iran-leaning guy, really serious story. 

The Bush administration is giving $7 billion worth of tax breaks to the oil companies, which is far more than he set aside in his State of the Union address for energy alternatives -- $300 million were lost on this—the trailers for relief in Hurricane Katrina.  There are all these significant stories going -- $1.2 million was paid to Jack Abramoff, so that he could arrange a White House meeting for a Malaysian with the president of the United States. 

And we‘re here talking about the process of whether and how Dick Cheney, who is obviously stunned, released this story?  Please.

(CROSSTALK)

SCARBOROUGH:  Tucker Carlson, I see you smiling, Tucker. 

(LAUGHTER)

SCARBOROUGH:  And I have got to say, if we asked people in Middle America what they cared more about, big oil getting $7 billion in corporate welfare through royalty relief, or when Dick Cheney released a statement on shooting his friend, I suspect most people would want to know about that $7 billion.  Do you agree with Joe Klein?

(CROSSTALK)

CARLSON:  Well, what do I know? 

Look, if I understood that, we would have a lot better ratings on my show, you know, if I really knew what people really wanted to hear about. 

(LAUGHTER)

CARLSON:  I don‘t think that‘s the question. 

The question is not what people want.  The question is, as people who deliver the news, what do people need to know?  That‘s our job, is to make that discernment.  And I don‘t think we do. 

But I think the offensive—often, we don‘t.  But I think the offensive thing here—I just—I hate to keep echoing Joe Klein, but, on this, I just agree with him so wholeheartedly. 

KLEIN:  Oh, that‘s OK, Tucker. 

(LAUGHTER)

SCARBOROUGH:  It‘s—truly, though, it‘s the vanity of the press corps. 

They were irritated.  And I like so many of them personally.  And I identify with them completely, but they were irritated that “The Corpus Christi Times-Caller” got the news first.  It was not the question of, did the news reach the public?  It did.  It was disseminated.

The question was, what route did it travel through, until it got to people?  And they were just annoyed that this Podunk paper got it first.  That‘s not grounds for getting mad at anybody. 

(CROSSTALK)

MYERS:  I disagree with that, Tucker. 

I think that it was much more that this became a stand-in for all the frustrations of the press corps in trying to get the information from the White House, important information that—as Joe Klein points out, there‘s a lot of other important stories going on.  And one of the problems is that press corps feels like it can‘t do due diligence and get important, relevant information to the public... 

(CROSSTALK)

CARLSON:  But you never see them get that mad over significant stories.  When was the last time you saw someone bark at Scott McClellan over the Grand Ayatollah Sistani?  I have never seen it.

KLEIN:  That‘s exactly right.

(CROSSTALK)

MYERS:  Hurricane Katrina, weapons of mass destruction, the treatment of the 9/11 Commission, those were all significant stories, Tucker.

And you and I both saw the press secretary getting beat up day in and day out about his inability to answer questions on those important...

(CROSSTALK)

SCARBOROUGH:  Last word to Joe Klein.

MYERS:  That‘s not the first time.

(CROSSTALK)

SCARBOROUGH:  Go ahead, Joe.

MYERS:  And you know what?  I didn‘t hear you guys complaining quite in the same way when the feeding frenzy was going on about Bill Clinton and his haircut, for example. 

(CROSSTALK)

CARLSON:  No, but let‘s be honest.  That was a terrifically amusing and emotionally satisfying story that all of us enjoyed, except you, Dee Dee, because you had to deal with it.

(LAUGHTER)

MYERS:  I didn‘t enjoy it one bit, let me say.

SCARBOROUGH:  OK.  Listen, I am going to have to break in, because I want Joe Klein..

KLEIN:  Tucker...

SCARBOROUGH:  Go ahead.  Take the last word, Joe.

KLEIN:  Tucker, a lot of people have been kind of enjoying this one, too. 

There have been all this hand-wringing about how Dick Cheney should apologize.  I didn‘t feel that I needed an apology from Dick Cheney this week.  There was an awful lot of posturing going on.  And if there‘s frustration—and I‘m really frustrated with Dick Cheney about a lot of things—I think that we in the press should direct our frustration where it should go. 

CARLSON:  Amen.  Exactly. 

KLEIN:  The fact that there are people dying in Iraq right now because Dick Cheney didn‘t do the planning necessary for that war. 

(CROSSTALK)

SCARBOROUGH:  OK.  Thanks so much.  I appreciate it. 

Stay with us.

And, when we come back, we will have Al Franken in SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY.  Stay with us. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SCARBOROUGH:  Dick Cheney shot a man just to watch him die—I predict it‘s going to be a bumper sticker, and I‘m going to be talking to the man who wrote it tongue-in-cheek for “The Huffington Post”—when SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY returns. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SCARBOROUGH:  Welcome back.

For more on the Dick Cheney shooting, let‘s bring in Al Franken.  He‘s the host of Air America, and also the author of the best-selling book “The Truth With Jokes.”

Al, you—as I said, you wrote in “The Huffington Post” that Dick Cheney shot a man just to watch him die. 

AL FRANKEN, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST:  Well...

(CROSSTALK)

FRANKEN:  ... said, when he was asked, why did you shoot a man in Texas, he replied, just to watch him die.  A little silly. 

(CROSSTALK)

SCARBOROUGH:  OK.

FRANKEN:  It‘s a little—thank you, though. 

(LAUGHTER)

(CROSSTALK)

SCARBOROUGH:  Yes, a little—a little Johnny Cash—a little Johnny Cash takeoff there. 

FRANKEN:  Yes.  Yes.  Yes. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Obviously, you and other people have to be thinking that Dick Cheney, despite the seriousness of this accident, I mean, the bottom line is, Dick Cheney has got to be God‘s gift to late-night comics.

FRANKEN:  Well, you know, I wrote those jokes about 10 minutes and posted them about 10 minutes after I heard about it, because I knew there would be a rush to get it out. 

(LAUGHTER)

FRANKEN:  So, I wrote about five jokes, six jokes, and just posted them. 

It is—obviously, we‘re praying for Mr. Whittington, and our sympathies are with his family.  And we hope he—comedians are just praying he gets better, because, if he doesn‘t, it goes from...

(LAUGHTER)

FRANKEN:  ... as comedians say, from F. to N.F. right away. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Yes. 

FRANKEN:  I thought your panel discussion was really interesting.  I should watch your show more, because it was great. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Oh. 

FRANKEN:  And I thought everybody—and I do watch it, but I should watch it more, even more. 

(LAUGHTER)

FRANKEN:  But I thought everyone had something interesting to say. 

Now, I was on—for example, what Joe had to say about all these important stories, al-Jaafari becoming the—staying the prime minister, the $7 billion royalty that...

SCARBOROUGH:  Relief. 

FRANKEN:  that—relief.  There was another.

All those stories are stories we talked about today on “The Al Franken Show” on Air America Radio.  We also talked about this story.  And I—there‘s—I have a lot to say about this.  I thought the vice president, everything—it didn‘t add up today, tonight. 

And Tucker—I was on Tucker‘s show last night.  And I—he brought up Lawrence O‘Donnell‘s suggestion that perhaps the vice president had been drinking.  And Tucker was outraged at Lawrence for suggesting such a thing.  

And I said, what, are you crazy?  People drink when they hunt all the time.  And Tucker said, no, they don‘t.  They never drink when they hunt. 

(CROSSTALK)

(LAUGHTER)

SCARBOROUGH:  Actually, he said that.  And I wondered where he went hunting, because all of my friends that go to hunting camps in Northwest Florida and Alabama, they take a lot of beer with them.  I don‘t know what they do in Minnesota, but down here, they drink. 

(CROSSTALK)

FRANKEN:  Well, I said to Tucker, do you ever read the police blotter during hunting season?

There‘s...

(LAUGHTER)

FRANKEN:  Listen, there‘s kind of a rule of thumb.  And I heard this from the—a friend of mine whose doctor is in a small town in Ohio who is both a doctor and a coroner.  And he said that, before 11:00 a.m., it‘s usually either stupidity or geriatrics. 

After 11:00 a.m., it‘s drunk.  And I don‘t know what kind of medication Cheney takes.  But I imagine he takes a lot.  And I have to say that the press‘ concern I don‘t think was that this little paper got it in Corpus Christi.  I think that there was such a long time between when it happened and when we heard about it. 

And I think it doesn‘t make any sense at all that, if the vice president was so concerned about his friend, that he didn‘t go to the hospital. 

SCARBOROUGH:  You know, Al, though...

FRANKEN:  Have you shot anyone?  Have you shot anyone accidentally or on—or on purpose, but accidentally?

SCARBOROUGH:  No.  I actually—I...

FRANKEN:  Wouldn‘t you go to the hospital? 

SCARBOROUGH:  Yes.  I—I actually have not shot anybody to date. 

I‘m—I‘m still fairly young, by political standards.

FRANKEN:  Yes. 

SCARBOROUGH:  There‘s a possibility down the road. 

But there are a lot of people, I can guarantee you right now, who are very angry, saying, how could you all even talk about—or, Scarborough, how could you allow anybody to come on your show and suggest that the vice president may have been drinking too much when he fired the shot?

And to those people, I say, had the vice president stepped forward immediately, had people been able to come in and investigate it right up front, we wouldn‘t be having this discussion, because we would know.  And when you‘re vice president of the United States, whether you are a conservative or a liberal or a Republican or a Democrat, it really doesn‘t matter whether Tucker Carlson says, which Tucker says this—God bless him he says, if you are vice president and you shoot somebody on your property, that‘s your own business.  I respectfully disagree.

FRANKEN:  Tucker said that? 

SCARBOROUGH:  He did.  He did.

FRANKEN:  It wasn‘t his property, but... 

(LAUGHTER)

SCARBOROUGH:  You should watch Tucker‘s show more also. 

(CROSSTALK)

FRANKEN:  Well, I was on Tucker‘s show.  And he—yes, OK.  Go ahead. 

(CROSSTALK)

SCARBOROUGH:  I think, though—I think that‘s the problem, though.

If they had done it right up front, we wouldn‘t even be having this discussion right now, would we? 

FRANKEN:  I know.  But—but you have—yes.

And you have to ask yourself the following questions.  Why didn‘t he go to the hospital if—he went back to the ranch and had dinner.  Now, if you are so worried—he said that he didn‘t get the story out because he wasn‘t sure how serious this was.  

If you are so concerned about how serious this is, you go to the hospital.  He said—when he was asked by Brit Hume in this very softball interview, you know, did you go on—in the ambulance, he went, well, no.  There wasn‘t enough—it was very crowded, and they didn‘t need another body. 

Well, the—he—there‘s plenty of vans that he could have gone to the hospital in.  So, it begs the question...

SCARBOROUGH:  You are making a good point.  You are making a good point, that, had I shot somebody, had you shot somebody, we certainly would have rushed to the hospital, even if we were vice president of the United States. 

(CROSSTALK)

FRANKEN:  Yes.  You are not eating dinner at the ranch.  You are eating—you maybe get something from the vending machine in the hospital. 

(CROSSTALK)

FRANKEN:  It‘s inconceivable that you don‘t go to the hospital, unless there‘s a reason you don‘t go to the hospital.

Now, if you had been drinking, you wouldn‘t go to the hospital, but—or you are an amazing jerk.  That‘s the other, or both.  But I shoot someone accidentally—and I‘m certain this is an accident—you go to the hospital, and you sit there, out of respect to the guy you shot, out of respect to your friend.

(CROSSTALK)

SCARBOROUGH:  Again, just for...

(CROSSTALK)

FRANKEN:  You have your Secret Service detachment with you.  You go to the hospital. 

SCARBOROUGH:  And, so, you take them with you.  But, obviously, when you are vice president of the United States...

FRANKEN:  You take them with you.  They take you. 

SCARBOROUGH:  ... do you not think that there—do you not think that there may be some obstacles to him acting like you or I would act in a similar situation? 

FRANKEN:  No.  No.  

He‘s giving sort of the Chappaquiddick defense, if you are saying he was so shocked that he couldn‘t go.  I mean, it doesn‘t—it—I‘m saying that this is kind of blowback for him not telling the truth a lot.  I saw him Friday.  This is before he shot his friend. 

And he was on “Lehrer.”  And Lehrer said, are—do you regret saying that the insurgency is in its last throes eight months ago?  And you know what Cheney said?  He said, no. 

And then Lehrer just said, well, wait a minute.  We just heard on this

show from the inspector general in charge of reconstruction that they can‘t

the reason we can‘t do the reconstruction is that the insurgents just keep blowing it up. 

And Cheney went, well, that‘s a good—he has to regret saying that. 

SCARBOROUGH:  All right. 

FRANKEN:  And he has not been honest with the American people on so many things and—or with the press corps.  And this is blowback for that.  You can‘t trust this administration. 

SCARBOROUGH:  All right, Al Franken, we are going to have to leave it there, Al. 

FRANKEN:  OK, Joe.  Thank you. 

SCARBOROUGH:  But thank you so much for being with us tonight.  Really appreciate it.

And, when we come back, a look at how much fun late-night hosts are still having with this story.  And, as Al said, they are having fun with the story still because the man that Dick Cheney shot is doing much better tonight. 

And, later, the secret Saddam tapes revealed—will his chilling words help make for the Iraq war? 

Stay with us.  That‘s coming up. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SCARBOROUGH:  The secret Saddam tapes showing a dictator who was obsessed with weapons of mass destruction and a possible nuclear attack on America.  We‘re going to be talking about that straight ahead. 

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

(NEWS BREAK)

SCARBOROUGH:  The secret Saddam Hussein tapes—tonight, for the first time, hearing his obsessions with weapons of mass destruction in the dictator‘s own words. 

And, later, caught on tape—a school employee apparently doing very bad things.  We will show you coming up. 

Welcome back to SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY.  We are going to be talking about those stories in just minutes. 

But, first, let‘s bring in Peter Beinart—he‘s the editor of “The New Republic”—former New Jersey Governor and Bush Cabinet member Christie Todd Whitman—still with us, Pat Buchanan. 

And let me start with you, Peter. 

If this patient continues to recover, as he does, do you think the vice president‘s talk with Brit Hume today is enough to put this behind him for good? 

PETER BEINART, EDITOR, “THE NEW REPUBLIC”:  Yes, I think so. 

I think what they did at least was put out a clear enough Republican storyline, enough Republican talking points that I don‘t think you are going to see as many Republicans saying this is a big problem as they were in the day or two before.  And I think, without that, I think the story probably peters out. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Christie Todd Whitman, I will ask you the same thing.  And talk about Republicans, independents, Democrats.  How are they going to respond to the vice president‘s story and some lingering concerns in the press corps? 

CHRISTIE TODD WHITMAN, FORMER NEW JERSEY GOVERNOR:  Well, I think most people are going to recognize that this was a horrific accident.  The vice president stood up and said, I‘m responsible.  Nobody else is.  I‘m the one who pulled the trigger.  And that really should be enough for—for people. 

The fact that they didn‘t come out and make the statement right away obviously fed into those who want to make a big story out of it.  And there are clearly those people who want to make something out of it more than what it is.  It‘s a tragedy.  It was a mistake.  Nobody thinks for a second he did it on purpose. 

But the fact that they didn‘t get right on top of it, the way they should have—and you can understand.  I mean, I hunt.  And you can—you know how these things can happen, and how horrific it would be if you were the one who pulled the trigger, that you are not thinking clearly.  But somebody should have been.

And somebody should have been thinking a little more clearly for him, so that they got that story out quickly.  And you wouldn‘t have all this speculation. 

SCARBOROUGH:  But do you think, for voters in Middle America, Governor, do you think they are going to be concerned at the timeline, the way we‘re concerned with a timeline? 

Obviously, when I look at the timeline, I think he should have acted differently.  And it bothers me.  I‘m just wondering, though, if somebody in Kansas or in rural New Jersey is really going to give it a second thought.

WHITMAN:  I don‘t think they will, frankly, and particularly now that the vice president has come out and been so clear about whose responsibility this was and what happened.

I really think that most people say, come on.  Let‘s get on to other things that are more important to us in our everyday lives.  This was no crime.  This was a very bad accident.  And it was not handled in the best way.  We all will acknowledge that.  But let‘s move on and get to stuff that—that really matters to all of us. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Pat Buchanan, is there a political impact, if Democrats try to play this story too long and try to make gains from it? 

BUCHANAN:  Yes. 

I think, if I were the Democrats, they ought to stay out of it completely and just simply say, before the vice president spoke, the vice president ought to tell us what happened. 

I think Cheney has humanized himself today.  I know I saw that.  And I could almost empathize with a fellow who—he was looking over there.  He‘s looking at him.  I almost killed my friend.  They take him away in an ambulance.  They move him to Corpus Christi.  He‘s there at night wondering if this guy is really horribly hurt.

And you could see when Cheney spoke to that.  I agree with Christie that he should have moved much quicker.

But I will say this.  The press is angry and behaving as they are because Dick Cheney basically said, look, I‘m not going to waste my time.  The story is going to come out.  And, in other words, he didn‘t really care whether the national press was informed.  Now, that tells you something about Dick Cheney.  It tells you why they went bonkers. 

But I think, as long as this story the vice president told holds up—and I have no reason to believe it won‘t—I think this thing fades away by week‘s end, some big story comes up, and Joe Scarborough changes subjects. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Yes, probably so.

(LAUGHTER)

SCARBOROUGH:  Peter, like Pat Buchanan used to have contempt for the Washington press corps before he became a member of the Washington press corps...

(LAUGHTER)

SCARBOROUGH:  ... it‘s very obvious that Dick Cheney, George Bush, Karl Rove, the whole lot of them, don‘t like people in the D.C. press corps.

Do you think that may be playing into this growing hostility about how the vice president basically said, as Pat said, hey, I don‘t need to tell them; if the local paper wants to break this story, that‘s fine with me?

BEINART:  Yes, that‘s absolutely true. 

The problem with that logic—and it‘s true.  Conservatives—and Pat knows this better than I—have been using that kind of argument going back a long, long time, way back into the Nixon administration.  The—it seems to me, the problem is, the reason Washington politicians generally go around the national press to the local press is because they know the local press is not going to be as tough on them.  That‘s generally the reason they did it.

Ronald Reagan did that very successfully.  And the public, it seems to me, has an interest in a press corps that is as tough on its politicians as possible, as long as they‘re dealing with serious events.  And this administration, which has held fewer press conferences than any president in—in—in history, that tried to not comply with the 9/11 Commission or the (INAUDIBLE) commission, clearly has a problem with giving out information.  And the national press is our best chance of getting that.

(CROSSTALK)

BUCHANAN:  Peter, you have got to admit, looking at those press corps guys, individually, they are nice guys.  Collectively, they are a bunch of sharks.  They are out there beating up on McClellan when—and McClellan is trying to give as much information as he can.  They look terrible. 

(CROSSTALK)

BEINART:  They look like sharks because McClellan is so completely inept.  When Ari Fleischer was there, they at least had a little bit of a match.

BUCHANAN:  You don‘t have to behave like that. 

(CROSSTALK)

BEINART:  The story of the Bush administration is not that the press corps has learned too much and been too aggressive.  It is really the reverse.  

(CROSSTALK) 

BUCHANAN:  Peter, that‘s no justification for rotten manners and beating on someone who is putting out what he best knows.  I mean, so, why don‘t you walk out and make a phone call?

(CROSSTALK)

BEINART:  The next time, the next time, when it‘s something about Iraq or national security, or whatever, perhaps Dick Cheney will think twice about being so dismissive.  And that will be the good news out of this story. 

BUCHANAN:  I doubt it.

(LAUGHTER)

SCARBOROUGH:  Christie Todd Whitman, are those guys in that press room sharks...

WHITMAN:  Oh, I love this. 

SCARBOROUGH:  ... as Pat Buchanan says they are?

WHITMAN:  Yes, of course they are.  That‘s part of—that‘s part of their job.

And one of the things that the administration tries to do, if you want to get your message out to the people the way you want it to be delivered, you try to get as close to the people as you can.  And that is going over and around and under the Washington press corps.  They have a different way of looking at things and a different agenda.  And every administration does that.  This one has does it pretty successfully.

And I do think you see a little bit of sour grapes here that it was a local paper that broke this.  But, you know, this was the kind of story—that‘s the way it would have normally played out, under other circumstances, if it were not the vice president we were talking about.  And this is really just kind of sour grapes that they got scooped. 

(CROSSTALK)

SCARBOROUGH:  All right, Christie Todd Whitman, author of “It‘s My Party, Too,” thanks for being with us.

Peter Beinart, thank you for being with us.

BEINART:  Pleasure.

SCARBOROUGH:  And, Pat Buchanan, I would give you the last word, but you already knocked me.  I expect you to bring up the Goth killer.  Have a good night, Pat.

BUCHANAN:  Joe, Joe, strike sharks.  Make it piranha. 

(LAUGHTER)

SCARBOROUGH:  OK.  Very good.

You know what?

And thanks so much.  Appreciate you all being with us. 

Let me just say, yes, I think the men and women inside that press room are sharks, are piranhas.  I think that is what they‘re supposed to be.  I don‘t want a lamb going to work for my news agency that is going to be overly polite.  Their job is to get information any way they can and pass it along to you.  That‘s the way our system works. 

Anyway, I know a lot of you disagree with me there.  But as somebody that was in politics, that got beaten up a good bit myself, I know that was their job. 

Anyway, this story continues to provide endless material for late-night comedians.  They were at it again last night.  They are going to be at it again tonight, because, again, this gentlemen is doing much better. 

But take a look at what they said last night about the incident. 

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, “THE DAILY SHOW WITH JON STEWART”) 

JON STEWART, HOST, “THE DAILY SHOW”:  Mr. Whittington is doing fine, but based on this development, we‘re going to downgrade the condition of the story from incredibly hilarious to still funny, but, a little sad. 

(LAUGHTER)

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE) 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, “THE TONIGHT SHOW WITH JAY LENO”)

JAY LENO, HOST, “THE TONIGHT SHOW WITH JAY LENO”:  What a nightmare I had last night, Kevin.  I had a nightmare.

KEVIN EUBANKS, BAND LEADER:  Really?  What‘s up, man?

LENO:  Oh, man, I dreamed I was at a Washington party.  I had to choose between Dick Cheney taking me on a hunting trip or Ted Kennedy driving me home.  It was a nightmare.  Oh.  Oh.

(LAUGHTER)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, “THE LATE SHOW WITH DAVID LETTERMAN”)

DAVID LETTERMAN, HOST, “THE LATE SHOW WITH DAVID LETTERMAN”:  Good news today.  So far, Dick Cheney has not shot anybody. 

(LAUGHTER)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, “THE DAILY SHOW WITH JON STEWART”) 

STEWART:  Of course the vice president called the president to tell him he was the shooter.  In fact, we happen to have a recording of the call. 

(LAUGHTER)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Hey, Dick. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Hey (INAUDIBLE)  

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  What‘s wrong, fellow?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  (INAUDIBLE)  

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Trouble? 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  (INAUDIBLE)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Down at the ranch?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  (INAUDIBLE)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  You shot someone?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  (INAUDIBLE)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  A 78-year-old man in the face? 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Yes.      

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Well, let‘s sleep on it.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  (INAUDIBLE) 

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE) 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, “THE LATE SHOW WITH DAVID LETTERMAN”)

LETTERMAN:  And everybody is in the Valentine‘s mood.  For example, earlier today, Dick Cheney shot his buddy in the ass with an arrow. 

(LAUGHTER)

LETTERMAN:  There you go. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, “THE DAILY SHOW WITH JON STEWART”) 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Question:  If Harry Whittington was only hit by a single bullet, how come over 50 pellets were removed from him? 

(LAUGHTER)

STEWART:  It‘s birdshot.  It sprays when shooting. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Does it?  Or could 49 over gunmen each have shot one tiny pellet? 

(LAUGHTER)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, “THE LATE SHOW WITH DAVID LETTERMAN”) 

LETTERMAN:  If this story gets any bigger, pretty soon, they are going to have to tell the president. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Whoa.

(LAUGHTER)

LETTERMAN:  I think. 

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE) 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, “THE TONIGHT SHOW WITH JAY LENO”)

LENO:  Well, you know what the rumor is?  Now, this is—I don‘t know.  This is all over the Internet.  The rumor is that Cheney may have been drinking, and he wanted to wait until he sobered up.  So, he may have been drinking, and he shot a guy.  And you know what is really scary about this?  Oh, my God.  What if it turns out, all this time, Bush was the smart one? 

(LAUGHTER)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, “THE DAILY SHOW WITH JON STEWART”) 

STEWART:  Please, Mr. Whittington, get better. 

(LAUGHTER)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SCARBOROUGH:  Oh, that is cold. 

(LAUGHTER)

SCARBOROUGH:  Coming up next, was Saddam a clear and present danger to America?  Just revealed, we have got chilling tapes that could change your mind. 

And talk about a wrong number.  See why one textbook needs (INAUDIBLE) what it teaches our kids. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SCARBOROUGH:  Alarming evidence tonight from secret audiotapes that Saddam Hussein was obsessed with weapons of mass destruction.  The tapes show that he talked with key aides about possible attacks in the United States using illegal weapons. 

In recorded conversations with members of his inner circle, Saddam has these chilling words for the United States—quote—“Terrorism is coming to them.  We shouldn‘t be surprised to see a car bomb with nuclear material explode in Washington, either germ or chemical.  So, this is coming, but not from Iraq.”

On another tape, he says—quote—“It‘s possible in the future to see a booby trap and the explosion turns out to be nuclear, germ, or chemical.”

And should expresses interest in biological warfare.  When an unidentified aide says, “The intention is that the missile will be filled with chemical or germs, and, when it comes down, it will cover a wider circle that than the traditional missile,” Saddam replies: “That‘s good.  They are teaching us things that will be very useful in the future.”

With me now to talk about what these frightening tapes mean, former CIA spokesman Bill Harlow and former NSC senior staff member Ray Tanter.

Bill, let me begin with you.  What do you make of the tapes? 

BILL HARLOW, FORMER CIA SPOKESMAN:  Well, I think what the tapes do is tell us more of what we already knew, that Saddam was a very dangerous man, that he was very interested in weapons of mass destruction, and also very interested in fooling the U.N. inspectors. 

He talks about he would go out of his way to hide what he was trying to do.  What they don‘t do is tell us whether or not he had WMD at the time of the Iraq invasion. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Ray, what‘s your take on the tapes? 

RAYMOND TANTER, FORMER SENIOR NATIONAL SECURITY COUNCIL STAFF MEMBER: 

Well, Joe, the tapes are neither a smoking gun, nor a silver built.

But the tapes are one more piece of the puzzle.  As Bill Harlow knows very well, intelligence is a process of putting together pieces of a puzzle.  Saddam has the box with the picture outside about biological and chemical weapons.  But we don‘t have the box.  So, at issue is, how do you know which piece of the puzzle you have?  And that can only come when you triangulate, when you have different people putting the pieces together, and, all of a sudden, you can connect the dots and get a picture of the situation, Joe. 

SCARBOROUGH:  But, Ray, what do these pieces of—these new pieces of the puzzle show you about Saddam Hussein and his intent throughout the 1990s?

Because, for our viewers that don‘t know this story, I think we are speculating that these tapes took place—these meetings that were taped that took place some time in the ‘90s, after the first Gulf War.  Is that correct? 

TANTER:  That‘s correct. 

But, Joe, the intent is certainly not capability.  That said, there‘s a difference between the nine tapes that Saddam released between April and December 2003 on one hand, when he was on the run, and he meant those tapes to be heard, and the one tape that he didn‘t mean to be heard, somewhat like the audiotapes that Richard Nixon recorded in the White House and he didn‘t mean those tapes to be heard. 

So, I would put a bit more credit, or credibility, on the tape that was not meant to be heard, which is the tape about which we‘re speaking today, Joe. 

SCARBOROUGH:  And, Bill, is there a possibility that Saddam Hussein was pursuing weapons of mass destruction, and, when he said that there would be an attack on the United States, but it wouldn‘t come from Iraq, was that possibly code to his aides—or, people in the intelligence community, do they believe that he could be talking about Iraq possibly gaining this weapons technology and possibly passing it on to a third party? 

HARLOW:  I don‘t think there‘s any evidence that he had plans to pass his WMD on to a third party, although he‘s certainly the kind of guy that you couldn‘t rule out that as something that he might think of. 

He had a fascination for WMD.  And had the sanctions been lifted, he would have moved quickly to reinstate his—his capabilities. 

SCARBOROUGH:  So, do you think it‘s a big news story, Bill? 

HARLOW:  I don‘t think it‘s a big news story. 

As was said previously, I don‘t think it‘s a smoking gun.  If there was a whiff of smoking gun in this, nobody would want to say so more than the U.S. intelligence community, the would like to say that they were right all along.  I think it tells that you he was an able man, and that it‘s a good thing that he‘s no longer in power.  But it‘s not as huge a story as you might suspect. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Ray, I will ask you the same thing.  Do you think this is a big piece of that puzzle you were talking about? 

TANTER:  Well, look, Joe, when David Kay and Charles Duelfer are looking and finding almost nothing, I‘m—I‘m delighted that we have a tape that showed that Saddam Hussein had the intent, not only to acquire, but to deceive, if you will, the rest of the international inspections team. 

And I think this is a bit bigger story than we‘re making.  It‘s clearly bigger than the Cheney story. 

SCARBOROUGH:  All right.  Thank...

(LAUGHTER)

SCARBOROUGH:  Of course.

Thank you so much, Bill Harlow. 

Thank you, Ray Tanter.

Greatly appreciate it.

Let‘s bring in right now Tucker Carlson.  He‘s host of “THE SITUATION

WITH TUCKER CARLSON.”

Tucker, I will you what the situation is tonight, but what do you think about this story, that Saddam Hussein is talking to his fellow staff members and talking about the possibility of a nuclear attack in your old hometown, on Washington, D.C.?

CARLSON:  I think that Saddam did have weapons of mass destruction. 

They were not there when we invaded.  We knew they were there in 1998.

What happened to them?  I still don‘t know the question to that question.  Are they in Syria?  I would like to know.  I mean, it is one of those questions that is fascinating, unanswered.  Why doesn‘t the administration tell us?  What is the best information on this?  I haven‘t a clue.  And I‘m glad you just did the segment.  And it‘s not as important as the Dick Cheney story, but, on the liberal blogosphere, it‘s less important.

The latest craze in the liberal blogosphere, Dick Cheney was covering up an affair with a woman he was shooting with.  Unbelievable.  We‘re going to talk conspiracy theories in just a minute. 

SCARBOROUGH:  It sounds exciting, Tucker.  Can‘t wait to see it.

CARLSON:  Oh, yes.

SCARBOROUGH:  Make sure you tune into “THE SITUATION WITH TUCKER CARLSON” coming up at 11:00. 

And we will be right back in SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SCARBOROUGH:  It‘s time for another flyover of SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY, those stories that may have fallen under the mainstream media‘s radar, but not ours.               

Our first stop is Pompano Beach, Florida, where a school employee was caught on tape stealing credit cards from the school‘s guidance counselor and assistant principal.  Police say the employee then want on a shopping spree, spending nearly $800 on underwear, bath products and candles.  Amazingly, Waldo has not been fired yet, she has been charged.  And, if found guilty, she could spend more than 25 years in jail. 

Next, Spokane, Washington where an old middle school math book textbook still in use tells students to dial a 1-900 number as part of the lesson.  But that 1-900 number is a number that is now a sex hot line. 

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  You have reached the hottest 900 line in the country.

(END AUDIO CLIP)

SCARBOROUGH:  Nice.  How would you like that for homework?

School district officials say they are looking into the matter and will contact the publisher immediately. 

And we will be back with “THE SITUATION WITH TUCKER CARLSON” and more SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY straight ahead. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SCARBOROUGH:  Don‘t forget to go to iTunes to get your free SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY podcast.

We will be right back in a minute.  

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SCARBOROUGH:  Finally tonight, your remarkable generosity is making a difference.  Now, we have been telling you about the Fallen Heroes Fund, which was established to help raise money for a new state-of-the-art facility that is designed to help our most severely injured veterans.   We are now just $3.8 million short of our goal.  And you can make a big difference, not only in this fund-raising drive, but, more importantly, in the lives of those affected. 

It‘s on the screen, how you can do it, www.fallenheroesfund.org.

That‘s all the time we have for tonight in SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY.

“THE SITUATION WITH TUCKER CARLSON” starts right now. 

Hey, Tucker, what is the situation tonight?

CARLSON:  Thank you, Joe Scarborough.

                                                                                               

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

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