updated 3/3/2006 10:58:50 AM ET 2006-03-03T15:58:50

Guests: Michael Rectenwald, David Horowitz, Karen Hanretty, David Pollak, Gary Berntsen, Giuliana Depandi, Michael Medved, Belinda Luscombe

MICHAEL SMERCONISH, GUEST HOST:  Right now on SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY, teaching hate to our kids?  A high school geography teacher compares President Bush to Adolph Hitler.  Another puts the president on trial for war crimes.  Folks, what are they teaching our kids these days?  It‘s a surprising report that every parent is going to want to hear.  And then should an Arab country with ties to terrorism oversee key U.S. ports?  Bill Clinton says yes, but wait until you see how close he is with that country. 

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

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ANNOUNCER:  From the pressroom to the courtroom to the halls of congress, Joe Scarborough has seen it all.  Welcome to SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SMERCONISH:  Hey, thanks for being here.  I‘m Michael Smerconish from Philadelphia in tonight for Joe, the big guy‘s back is bothering him.  We‘ll have those stories in a moment, plus the Oscars, the entertainment industry‘s Super Bowl night is just days away, but Hollywood just had its worst year in 15 years.  Is a liberal political agenda making regular Americans just stay home?  We‘ll get at that story. 

And Jessica Alba versus the bunny.  The “Dark Angel,” is in a knockdown-drag out fight with “Playboy” magazine.  Uh-oh, the lawyers are already involved.  Will she win her fight? 

But first, are your kids being taught to hate President Bush.  A Denver-area high school teacher has been put on a leave of absence after a 20 minute anti-Bush rant in his classroom was captured on audiotape by one of his students.  We‘re going to talk to that student in just a couple of moment‘s time, but first listen take a listen to some of what this teacher had to say.  He went as far as comparing President Bush to Adolph Hitler. 

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

JAY BENNISH, COLORADO HIGH SCHOOL TEACHER:  We started off his speech taking about how America should be the country that dominates the world, that we have been blessed essentially by God to have the most civilized, most advanced, best system and that it‘s our duty as Americans to use the military to go out into the world and make the world like us. 

Sounds a lot like the things that Adolph Hitler used to say.  We‘re the only ones who are right, everyone else is backwards, and it‘s our job to conquer the world and make sure they all live just like we want them to.  Now I‘m not saying that Bush and Hitler are exactly the same, obviously they‘re not, OK.  But there are some eerie similarities to the tones that they use.”

(END AUDIO CLIP)

SMERCONISH:  I said Geography class, right?  That teacher is not the only one causing some trouble tonight.  There‘s controversy also brewing in Parsippany, New Jersey.  A teacher at Parsippany High School is putting President Bush on trial.  Students there are arguing in front of the teacher‘s mock international court of justice, the charges against, Bush: 

Crimes against civilian populations and inhumane treatment of prisoners.” 

Here to talk about just what‘s going on in our public schools is David Horowitz; he‘s the author of the new book “The Professors,” and Michael Rectenwald from Citizens for Legitimate Government. 

David, you were on my radio show a week ago in Philadelphia talking about difficulties on college campuses that sound like this, but now it‘s in the high school.  What‘s going on? 

DAVID HOROWITZ, AUTHOR, “THE PROFESSORS”:  Well, this is a product of the universities, don‘t forget.  This was not a rant just against George Bush, this was a 20-minute rant against America.  This guy said that America is the terrorist state, the people in the World Trade Center were guilty, that it was the CIA and the FBI, he ranted against capitalism.  But just listening to him, this is not a teacher, this is a political activist.  He should not be in a classroom.  A person like this, who does not understand his responsibility to 14-year-olds, I don‘t care if his politics are on the left or right, fire him.  Get rid of him.  It‘s no different than a policeman clubbing an innocent bystander.  That‘s an abuse of his power and authority.  This is an abuse of the classroom and this teacher has got to be punished as an example. 

SMERCONISH:  I agree with you and I got to say—Michael Rectenwald, at home, I‘ve got a five, a seven, a nine and a 17-year-old.  I wouldn‘t want any of them, including the 17-year-old, exposed to this sort of thing in a Geography class. 

MICHAEL RECTENWALD, CITIZENS FOR LEGITIMATE GOVT.:  Yeah, well, I‘d be more worried about Bush sending your 17-year-old to Iraq, but nevertheless... 

SMERCONISH:  Well, he can have that debate in a civics course, not in geography. 

RECTENWALD:  Geography is an inherently political subject.  Remember, geography treats the issues of the division of the globe by nation, the geopolitical resources in each nation, the resources that countries are involved with exporting.  For example, the teacher in question uses the issue of tobacco growing to show where tobacco is being grown and where cocaine—coca is being grown.

SMERCONISH:  And then makes an anti-smoking rant

RECTENWALD:  Where the oil.

SMERCONISH:  What does that have to do—listen, wait a minute, wait. 

Gentlemen, I want David Horowitz to listen to another clip from Mr.  Bennish‘s lecture, talking this time about the war in Iraq.  Now keep in mind, it‘s a Geography class.  David, you comment after we listen. 

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

BENNISH:  Why are we invading Iraq?  How do we know that the invasion of Iraq, for weapons of mass destruction, even if weapons had been found, how would you have known, how could you prove that that was not a real reason for us to go there?  There are dozens upon dozens of countries that have weapons of mass destruction.  Iraq is one of dozens.  There are plenty of courtiers that are controlled by dictators, where people have no freedom, where they have weapons of mass destruction and they can potentially be threatening to America, we‘re not invading any of those countries.”

(END AUDIO CLIP)

SMERCONISH:  David Horowitz, explain what we just heard. 

HOROWITZ:  What we just heard is an example of what‘s called radical Geography.  It‘s a discipline in the universities.  The university—whole sections of our universities have become political parties.  They‘re not professionals, they‘re not scholars, they‘re political activists and there is a field called radical geography and what it is is flat-out Marxism.  This teacher, if you listen to his whole talk is a communist, this (INAUDIBLE) if you‘d look at his Web site where he calls for armed revolution in this country is another one.  The problem of our society is that we have let these extremists into our universities, they‘re defended by the administrators, they‘re in our schools.  We need an academic bill of rights in the K-12 schools, saying no politics in the classroom. 

SMERCONISH:  Mr. Rectenwald, Mr. Rectenwald, this guy is on a leave of absence.  I assume you want him to get his job back. 

RECTENWALD:  First of all, it‘s Dr. Rectenwald, thank you very much. 

SMERCONISH:  All right, you can call me Attorney Smerconish.  Thank you.

RECTENWALD:  Well, that‘s OK, but I don‘t want to be called Mr.  Rectenwald, I mean, you have a right-wing professor on here and you‘ll call him professor. 

SMERCONISH:  We don‘t call anybody Plumb Jones or Carpenter Smith. 

Give me a break, would you? 

RECTENWALD:  OK, let me just address the issues at stake here, first of all, the teacher in question, when he ran down the list of possible reasons for going to Iraq, what he was underscoring was the exceptions and the contradictions and the logic for invading Iraq and it really pointed out one point, that there was oil, it‘s the third largest reserve of oil.  That‘s a Geographical lesson to be taught. 

Now, I agree that the professor should be going on to other standpoints, should take it—should make it a debate in which different sides are discussed.  For example, he could point his students to Web sites like mine, legitgov.org or he could point it to other Web sites, as well.  But he should have a discussion, but these points of views should be protected by the student bill of rights. 

SMERCONISH:  I got to say, you‘re all hung up on the titles.  You referred to this fellow as a professor.  He‘s a high school geography teacher.  David Horowitz, listen to one more piece of sound, a little bit more of Mr. Bennish‘s lecture, quote, unquote.  Here he‘s talking about the president‘s plan to spread democracy.  Listen, men.

(END AUDIO CLIP)

BENNISH:  Who is probably the single most violent nation on planet Earth?  The United States of America, and we‘re a democracy—quote, unquote.  Who has the most weapons of mass destruction in the world?  The United States.

Who is continuing to develop new weapons of mass distraction as we speak?  The United States.  So, why does Mr. Bush think the other countries that are democracies won‘t want to be like us?

(END AUDIO CLIP)

SMERCONISH:  David Horowitz, I keep waiting for the scene in “Animal House,” where Otter stands up and says “I‘m not going to sit for this while you trash the United States of America.” 

HOROWITZ:  This is a hate America rant.  Americans have better wake up.  We have a fifth column in this country.  We have people who want us, Americans, like Jay Bennish, who want us to lose the war on terror and are indoctrinating our own children to turn against us.  This is evil in the classroom, and it‘s got to be rooted out.  And the simple way to do it, it‘s not about free speech at all, it‘s about abusing a classroom, making it a political platform.  It has nothing to do with Geography, this has to do with Jay Bennish‘s Marxist hatred for his own country. 

(CROSSTALK)

RECTENWAKD:  Can I jump in here?

SMERCONISH:  Dr. Rectenwald, let me just—I‘m going to give you the final word, but I want to say this to you.  I have a hard time believing that if Mr. Bennish in Geography were speaking in support of President Bush and what‘s going on Iraq, I have a difficult time believing that you‘d be here defending his rights? 

RECTENWALD:  That‘s right, I wouldn‘t be here defending it.  You know why?  Because he wouldn‘t be attacked.  That‘s the issue.  OK?  Only left-wingers are attack and this is why your other guest, his whole career is based on witch-hunts against liberal academics.  That is his career.  That‘s all he does.  OK.  Now, there wasn‘t one error of fact that teacher gave. 

SMERCONISH:  The—wait a minute—wait a minute, the United States is the most violent country on the planet?  It‘s a lie. 

RECTENWALD:  We have the most weapons of mass destruction, have we not?

SMERCONISH:  And we use them for peaceful purposes, sir. 

RECTENWALD:  Peace?  Oh, you don‘t use them weapons of mass destruction for peaceful purposes.  Come you.  You guys are a constant contradiction in terms. 

RECTENWALD:  You guys ought to be called oxymoron.  Really.

SMERCONISH:  David, you get the final word. 

HOROWITZ:  OK, destroying the Japanese empire was an act of peace with weapons of mass destruction. 

RECTENWALD:  (LAUGHING)

HOROWITZ:  Look, this guy.

RECTENWALD:  Peace as war.  This is Orwell now.  Peace as war.  We got it. 

(CROSSTALK)

SMERCONISH:  David Horowitz, you wrote a book, your new book where you expose this on college campuses.  Do you think what we‘re talking about now is symptomatic of what‘s going on across the country on is this an aberration? 

HOROWITZ:  There are 50,000 professors with the views of Rectenwald and Jay Bennish, who are anti-American, they‘re radicals, they identify with the terrorists, they think of them as freedom fighters.  It‘s a huge danger for the country.  And I tell you, if there was a Christian teacher who was ranting in that way against abortion in the classroom, they would be toast. 

(CROSSTALK)

SMERCONISH:  Dr. Rectenwald, Dr. Rectenwald are there any limits that you would place on that which can be said in a classroom in a public school environment? 

RECTENWALD:  I believe, I believe in letting views out and giving... 

SMERCONISH:  Any view? 

RECTENWALD:  I believe in allowing different expressions and having different points of view represented.  That being said, one thing we should be worried about is the fact that the FCC has been high jacked by the right-wing for the last 20 years, since the suspension of the fair—

Fairness in Broadcasting act in 1986. 

SMERCONISH:  What does that have to do with a high school teacher in Geography who‘s on a rampage with the president? 

RECTENWALD:  It has everything to do with it.  Geography—the reason why this discussion is pushed underground in the classrooms is because no one has a chance of expressing our views anywhere else.  The media has been taken over by the right-wing. 

HOROWITZ:  You‘re talking to a totalitarian, Michael.  He has no respect for institutions, he has no respect for children.

SMERCONISH:  Hey, David, I‘ve got to—can I remind you something?  I remember telling you a story about how in my first week of law school, at the University of Pennsylvania, I was berated by a criminal law professor because I had the audacity to speak in support of the death penalty.  As a matter of fact my classmates hissed at me my second day of law school.  But I thought that was the stuff of the ivy leagues.  I thought that was the stuff of grad schools and of colleges and of campuses, not of high school Geography courses.  That‘s the point. 

HOROWITZ:  Of course.  Because the education departments in our universities that train these teachers are radical, they‘re left-wing, they‘re ideological, they are not the schools that certainly that I went to, and we have got to do something to restore educational values, take politics out of the classroom, and make sure there is always two or three sides to any discussion. 

SMERCONISH:  We haven‘t talked—men, we haven‘t even talked about the war crimes trial.  Dr. Rectenwald, are you going to support what‘s going on in Parsippany?  A war crimes trial for the president of the United States?

RECTENWALD:  Well, I‘ve got to say about Parsippany, you know, really that‘s a mock trial and that same teacher held a mock trial of Clinton during the impeachment debate. 

SMERCONISH:  Well, wait a minute; I think Bill Clinton was put on trial for impeachment. 

RECTENWALD:  That‘s right, and George Bush is luck he‘s not on trial for war crimes right now, because he is a war criminal. 

SMERCONISH:  I feel like the movie “Back to School” with Rodney Dangerfield, right now.  Listen.

RECTENWALD:  What‘s the definition of a crime?  It‘s breaking a law.  He broke international law conducting the war in Iraq, plus he defrauded Congress in lying about the evidence.  He should be impeached. 

HOROWITZ:  Look, these left-wingers, you know.

RECTENWALD:  “These left-wingers” throw that defense around.  If you have no evidence you just through.

(CROSSTALK)

RECTENWALD:  If you think you can win by.

SMERCONISH:  All right.  Enough.  Thank you, David Horowitz.  Thank you Michael Rectenwald.  The point, Mr. Rectenwald, Dr. Rectenwald is this is the stuff of SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY.  It‘s not the stuff of a Geography class in a public high school. 

Just ahead, lights, cameras, agendas.  This year you won‘t see the movies most Americans flock to see on the Oscar stage.  Why liberal agendas maybe the real winner this Sunday.

But first, Bill Clinton and the court deal.  The former president says the United Arab Emirates is a good deal.  Do you?  We‘ll be right back. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SMERCONISH:  Welcome back.  I‘m Michael Smerconish from Philly in tonight for Joe.  Former President Bill Clinton, giving the monarchs of Dubai some free advice on how to get their port deal past the America public.  At the some time, President Clinton was offering his advice to the UAE, his wife, in public, was condemning the deal.  Joining me now, GOP strategist, Karen Hanretty and David Pollak from the Democratic Leadership for the 21st Century. 

Welcome to SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY. 

DAVID POLLAK, DEMOCRATIC LEADERSHIP FOR 21ST CENTURY:  Hey, Michael.

SMERCONISH:  David, I want to start by showing you a quote that was from former President Bill Clinton relative to the United Arab Emirates.  It‘s a quote in which former President Clinton says they‘ve been a terrific ally relative to the war on terror.  Is that something that you agree with?

POLLOCK:  Sure.  And actually I think the Bush administration would tell you the same thing, but obviously that‘s a different issue as to whether or not they should be owning and operating U.S. ports. 

SMERCONISH:  Why do you say that?  I see them as one in the same.

POLLAK:  Well, I think any, I think, reasonable American would agree that the ownership of American ports are really a national security issue.  It‘s a security entrance to our country, and that information shouldn‘t (SIC) really be kept to Americans I don‘t think it should be kept to Americans.  I don‘t think it should be shared with a region of the country that we‘re at war with, even if it‘s a subset of that region whose been our ally. 

SMERCONISH:  Well, here‘s.

POLLAK:  That‘s the position of many democrats and many republicans, and it‘s a position that Senator Clinton and her husband both share. 

SMERCONISH:  David, here‘s my concern about the whole port transaction, and it stems right from the 9/11 Commission report, as a matter of fact I can almost quote chapter and verse, it‘s page 137 and 138.  The 9/11 Commission reminded everyone that in February of 1999, one year after Bin Laden had declared a fatwa against the United States, saying “let‘s go kill Americans anywhere and everywhere,” we had him in our sights and the only reason the trigger wasn‘t pulled on Bin Laden in February of ‘99 is he was hunting with members of the United Arab Emirates royal family.  They had that kind of a close relationship.  Frankly, I think they should have pulled the trigger anyway.  So, at the time it was the Clinton administration refusing that was refusing to pull that trigger because they didn‘t want to hurt an Emirate prince and now accepting money to speak there, and now I see more from President Clinton by accepting money to speak -- 300 grand there last year, and now counseling them on how to navigate the political waters in the United States.  What am I missing? 

POLLAK:  Well, Michael, the first thing you‘re not missing the clear republican strategy that whenever the republicans have a public relations nightmare like this:  I know, let‘s bring up the Clintons.  But having said that, you‘re absolutely right.  If you look at a lot of countries in the Mid-East, like Saudi Arabia, for example, where you‘ve seen President Bush and his father, the other President Bush, embrace leaders of that country, and of course, we know Wahhabism is one of the roots of the spread of terrorism around the world.  It‘s a very complicated relationship.  We have both strategic interests in that country as well as strategic enemies.  And how.

SMERCONISH:  Well it seem to me that.

POLLAK:  And how presidents deal with that is very different then the question of turning over our ports to them. 

SMERCONISH:  It‘s—but—listen, I‘m not going to defend the coziness, the footsy that the Bush administration has played with the Saudis and with the United Arab Emirates, but it sounds like you‘re giving a free pass for the Clintons on exactly the same score? 

POLLAK:  I‘m not giving a free pass to anyone.  I‘m merely suggesting that that really has nothing to do with the issue brought up, which is the issue of ports.  Obviously, this is a public relations disaster for the Bush administration.  It was a boneheaded move.  You know that, I know that, all the republicans know that.

SMERCONISH:  I agree.  It was a boneheaded move.  Karen Hanretty, do you agree that it was a boneheaded move? 

KAREN HANRETTY, GOP STRATEGIST:  Oh, I think the way this has been handled is just atrocious and if you look at the polls and I know the Bush administration says they don‘t like to look at the polls, but the face is, the democrats are actually gaining ground on the issue of national security.

SMERCONISH:  For the first time. 

HANRETTY:  For the first time, you know, the democrats have really been handed an issue—when Hillary Clinton and Barbara Boxer are going to the right of the president, you‘ve got a political problem on your hands.  But I think what we‘re seeing right now, under the household of Bill and Hillary is this classic containment versus engagement debate.  We seem to have settled that debate with regard to China and the Cold War, but you know, I think the American public is getting a lot of mixed messages right now, and don‘t—are having trouble grappling with all of this.  And it‘s going to play out in the 2006 elections. 

SMERCONISH:  I want to ask each of you a very direct question.  Is there anything wrong with me saying “I‘m troubled by the concept of Arab control of American ports?”  Because, frankly, that‘s my view and I‘m not afraid to say it—Karen.

HANRETTY:  No, there‘s nothing wrong with that.  There‘s nothing wrong with that and I‘ll tell you something.

(CROSSTALK)

SMERCONISH:  David, is there a problem with me expressing it in those terms? 

POLLAK:  Not at all.  As a matter of fact, I‘d say it even stronger than that.  I would have a security about any foreign country, you know, maybe with the exception of the British, having ownership of American ports. 

SMERCONISH:  Let me bring into our conversation a guy who knows a heck of a lot about the topic:  Gary Berntsen, author of “Jawbreaker,” a great American.  Last week, former President Bill Clinton weighed in on the port controversy saying he‘s a huge fan of Dubai and there‘s no question the United Arab Emirates is a good ally of America.  What‘s your take on this, Gar? 

GARY BERNTSEN, AUTHOR “JAWBREAKER”:  Well, I‘d like to say that, you know, of course after 2001 the United Arab Emirates has done—has cooperated with us.  Prior to 2001 their record wasn‘t so great and there were times where they would say one thing to us and do something else.  The real issue on the UAE, though, is is what happens in the future?  What happens if we have conflict with Iran?  Do you think the United Arab Emirates is going to allow us to use military bases in the UAE to defend U.S. in a conflict with Iran?  I think not. 

SMERCONISH:  Gary, I want to return to February of ‘99, if I may, because I know you know a little of something about that incident.  My understanding, based entirely on the 9/11 Commission report, is we had a clean shot, or a pretty clean shot at Osama bin Laden, but he was in the company of an Emirate, I hope I‘m pronouncing that correctly, prince.  Now, Michael Scheuer, who ran the Bin Laden desk, I know him, he‘s a friend and former colleague of yours, tells me that in his judgment the Clinton administration should have pulled the trigger anyway, if the price is with him, kill the prince too.  What‘s your take on that? 

*

BERNTSEN:  Bin Laden had already declared war on us, the Clinton administration just didn‘t have it in their DNA.  They wouldn‘t fight.  We had been attacked multiple times, ‘95 in Karachi, we know the Iranians did it; ‘96 we knew the Iranians did Khobar towers; in ‘98 our embassies were attacked in East Africa; 2000 (INAUDIBLE), they just would not respond.  He would not put boots on the ground. 

SMERCONISH:  David, I‘m going to give you the final word.  I mean this

I mean, this—what Gary just said is what troubles me because when Bill Clinton had the opportunity to do so, he wouldn‘t take that shot and now here he is giving counsel to the United Arab Emirates. 

POLLACK:  Well, there‘s two things that you have very, very wrong.  One, the president has not weighed in on the port‘s controversy, as a matter of fact, he supports his wife‘s position.  He has never said that he supports Dubai ownership of the American ports.  He hasn‘t said it, it‘s a mistake for you guys to characterize it that way.  Two, you‘re absolutely right, the Clint administration hasn‘t taken—didn‘t take terrorism serious enough, neither did the Bush administration, neither does the current Bush administration, neither did the Reagan administration, which I would add, turned it‘s tail and ran from Beirut after hundreds of our soldiers were killed (INAUDIBLE). 

SMERCONISH:  You know what?  They all have blood on their hands.  I agree with you on that. 

Thank you Karen Hanretty and David Pollak and Gary Berntsen. 

Gary, we‘re going to talk to you again in a couple of minutes.  Hang on my friend.  Just ahead, “Playboy” makes film star Jessica Alba its new cover girl, but someone forgot to tell Jessica, now she‘s threatening to sue. 

But next, did a tug-of-war between the CIA and the Pentagon let Osama bin Laden get away.  We‘ll hear a shocking report of how we could have gotten Bin Laden at Tora Bora if only the big shots had been listening.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SMERCONISH:  Just ahead, millions of Americans voted with their dollars, but apparently that doesn‘t count on Oscar night.  How Hollywood is proving once again, it doesn‘t get the big picture.  but first, the latest news your family needs to know. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SMERCONISH:  Coming up, lights, cameras, agendas?  The Oscars are coming in just days, but has a liberal political agenda in Hollywood hurt the movies? 

And if you thought sugar makes grade-schoolers hyper, wait until you hear what happened when a Philadelphia girl brought cocaine to show and tell.  Incredible. 

Welcome back to SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY.  I‘m Michael Smerconish in for Joe tonight.  We‘ll have those stories in just minutes. 

It‘s billed as the book the CIA doesn‘t want you to read, and with good reason.  Most Pentagon officials say we‘ve never come close to getting Osama bin Laden, but the former CIA field commander in Afghanistan, Gary Berntsen, says that‘s not true; we were knocking on his cave door. 

He‘s written a hot new book.  It‘s called “Jawbreaker.”  I give it a big thumbs up.  It details his hunt for bin Laden, and he joins us right now on SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY.

Hey, Gary, what a privilege to have you here.

BERNTSEN:  Pleasure to be with you tonight, Mike.

SMERCONISH:  On September 11, you awaken.  You‘re the station chief for the CIA at an unnamed country in South America. 

BERNTSEN:  Correct. 

SMERCONISH:  Immediately, you‘re brought back to the United States.  You get the nod.  You‘re the man they want to send over there, boots on the ground, to hunt this son of a gun, right? 

BERNTSEN:  Correct. 

SMERCONISH:  You have a meeting with Cofer Black before you leave the country.  He says what?

BERNTSEN:  He says, “I told Gary Schroen what I‘m telling you.  I want you to kill him.  I want you to cut his head off, put it in a box, and bring it back to me.  If you‘re not killing the enemy within 48 hours, I‘ll bring you back.”

SMERCONISH:  You get over into Afghanistan, boots on the ground.  What kind of a handoff is there between you and Gary Schroen? 

BERNTSEN:  It‘s at the back of a helicopter in the dark, in the snow, you know, with mountains around us, at 2:00 in the morning.  A handshake, a hug, and he‘s off. 

SMERCONISH:  When you arrive in Afghanistan hunting Osama bin Laden, how much information do you have about his whereabouts at that time? 

BERNTSEN:  Initially, almost nothing, very little.  We know where the Taliban is.  We‘ve got to break through the Taliban to find him, to get to him.

SMERCONISH:  So, in other words, the mission is, first, you‘ve got to take down the Taliban, then you go get Osama bin Laden?

BERNTSEN:  Correct. 

SMERCONISH:  Now, you‘re doing this with special ops guys.  I mean, this is not like a D-Day Normandy invasion.  You don‘t have the Marines; you don‘t have the Army. 

BERNTSEN:  Small numbers of people involved.  We‘re talking about 100 agency officers, roughly, and almost 350 special forces for the entire country. 

SMERCONISH:  So, in other words, it‘s the Northern Alliance that‘s doing the fighting against the Taliban and the American guys.  Your team, you‘re calling the shots. 

BERNTSEN:  Well, we‘re doing the intelligence work, we‘re paying them off.  Special forces is lighting them up with lasers to keep the enemy off of us, from overrunning us, because there‘s a lot more of them than there are us.

SMERCONISH:  Cash was king. 

BERNTSEN:  Cash was king.  I had a huge trunk, and I dragged millions of dollars around with me and made payoffs as needed. 

SMERCONISH:  All right.  Here‘s what everybody wants to know from Gary Berntsen, the man who was on the ground hunting Osama bin Laden:  How close did you come in the time that you were there? 

BERNTSEN:  We had four men on a mountaintop down in Tora Bora over bin Laden and his men, who were falling back, lighting them up, you know, doing air attacks on them, you know, with lasers, and calling them in, you know, with radios, talking to an awax (ph). 

We listened to him on a radio.  We picked up the radio off of a dead body, of a dead Al Qaeda fighter.  We heard him apologizing to his men for leaving them in there.  They were worried about him.  He prayed with them.  And ultimately, we would throw a Blue 82, a 15,000-pound device at him, in order to try and kill him. 

SMERCONISH:  I mean, that‘s a big sucker.  I saw the photograph in your book.

BERNTSEN:  Yes.

SMERCONISH:  Can a conventional aircraft drop that kind of a bomb? 

BERNTSEN:  It‘s got to be pushed out the back of a C-130. 

SMERCONISH:  Did you ever come upon a campfire—you know, this may sound like a goofy question—but where you see remnants and you say, “My gosh, he was just here,” or you stumble into a cave and you find where bin Laden was sleeping?  Or is that the stuff Hollywood movies, you just never got that close? 

BERNTSEN:  Well, after Millonwa (ph), the battle of Millonwa (ph), he had been in Millonwa (ph), and we swept through that area.  But he fell back, and we asked, of course, for rangers to be dropped in there. 

SMERCONISH:  All right.  Now, that‘s the most controversial aspect of

Gary Berntsen‘s book, “Jawbreaker,” is that you say you asked for rangers

and that you were denied.  Tommy Franks—and I think we‘ve got the script

here‘s what General Franks had to say on that issue, about the potential capture of bin Laden. 

He said, “Tora Bora was teeming with Taliban and Al Qaeda operatives, many of whom were killed or captured.  But Mr. bin Laden was never within our grasp.”

Gary, is that true? 

BERNTSEN:  He was within our grasp.  We threw a Blue 82 at the position that I requested, because we had delivered food—we allowed food and water to go into him, so we would know what location he was at. 

SMERCONISH:  So you‘re telling me you disagree with General Franks—by the way, good guy, General Franks. 

BERNTSEN:  Great guy. 

SMERCONISH:  You‘re not here to wrap him, right?

BERNTSEN:  Great guy.

SMERCONISH:  And you think you had—you know that you had bin Laden at Tora Bora, but he got away. 

BERNTSEN:  Had we dropped rangers in between bin Laden and the border in the first few days of December, he would not have gotten out.

SMERCONISH:  All right.  Where‘d he go? 

BERNTSEN:  He eventually crossed into Pakistan. 

SMERCONISH:  OK.  Now, I‘ve said this to you before.  This reminds me of Vietnam and Cambodia.  I mean, maybe we need to have a mission that goes into Cambodia, which in this case is Pakistan.  Are these Pakistanis really our friends?

BERNTSEN:  The problem in Pakistan right now is this:  If we go in, in force into Pakistan, we could destabilize Pakistan.  The Pakistanis have nuclear weapons.  They have 160 million people.  It‘s unstable.  It‘s violent.  Musharraf, the only thing worse than, you know, not capturing bin Laden right now would be to lose Musharraf.  We need Musharraf so we can continue to function in the war on terrorism at ground zero.  Ground zero is Pakistan. 

SMERCONISH:  You know, Gary, I read the book.  And I kept thinking about Philadelphia politics.  And this may not make sense to you, but oftentimes in Philadelphia politics, on Election Day, a lot of money is changing hands, and a ward leader may be for you, may not be for you.  Frankly, you never know.

And my question for you is:  How do we know who our friends are over there?  It‘s not like everybody‘s wearing a uniform.

BERNTSEN:  Well, you have to make deals, and then you also have to verify, and verify as best you can, with as many means as you can. 

SMERCONISH:  Are we going to get this guy? 

BERNTSEN:  Ultimately, I think we‘ll get him.  Ultimately, he‘ll make a mistake and we‘ll get him.  I have faith that the agency and the military working together will get this guy. 

SMERCONISH:  I hope we‘re not going to take him alive. 

BERNTSEN:  I hope so, too.

SMERCONISH:  Your mission was not to take him alive?

BERNTSEN:  I was to kill him.

SMERCONISH:  Kill him?  Cut off the head?

BERNTSEN:  Right. 

SMERCONISH:  Maybe we can send you back and finish that mission. 

Thank you.  You‘re a good American.  That‘s an overused expression.

BERNTSEN:  Thank you, my friend.

SMERCONISH:  You, sir, are a good American.  Thanks, Gary Berntsen, author of the great new book, “Jawbreaker.”

Up next, don‘t judge porn by its cover.  Why film star Jessica Alba is fighting mad after finding her picture on the cover of “Playboy.” 

But next, Hollywood‘s liberal agenda.  How will the Oscars treat movies this year?  And will they prove again that they‘re out of touch with middle America?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SMERCONISH:  Welcome back.  I‘m Michael Smerconish sitting in for Joe tonight.

Hollywood puts the finishing touches on a very tough year with Sunday night‘s Academy Awards.  Box office numbers are at historic lows.  Fans are content to stay home and watch “American Idol,” and many are asking if anyone will watch what amounts to Hollywood‘s Super Bowl, the Oscars. 

*

Joining me to talk about, Giuliana Depandi of E! Entertainment, talk radio host, and columnist, and movie critic Michael Medved, and Belinda Luscombe from “Time” magazine.

Giuliana, let me ask you.  Why such a disastrous year for Tinseltown? 

GIULIANA DEPANDI, E! ENTERTAINMENT:  Well, I don‘t know why you would call it disastrous necessarily, in the sense that—do you mean that the smaller films are all nominated and not the big blockbusters possibly, or they haven‘t made so much money?

SMERCONISH:  I mean that movies that are a bunch of losers that nobody goes to see are about to win all the awards. 

DEPANDI:  Well, I wouldn‘t call them losers just because no one goes to see them.  I mean, just because—you know, when you look at the top three grossing films of the year, you know, you‘ve got “Star Wars,” you‘ve got “Harry Potter,” you‘ve got “Chronicles of Narnia.”  You know, unfortunately, the Academy isn‘t made up of 14-year-old boys and girls. 

SMERCONISH:  Or guys like me, thank you, who are 43. 

(LAUGHTER)

Let me show you this.  Let me show you a graphic.  Here‘s what has a lot of people scratching their noggins about the Academy Awards.  The total amount of money made by all five best picture nominees combined comes to $229 million.  That‘s a full $150 million less than one movie, “Star Wars III: Revenge of the Sith,” made in the same year. 

I mean, how can you explain that to me? 

DEPANDI:  You know, unfortunately, movies about gay cowboys, they don‘t really bring in mainstream America, you know, whereas “Star Wars” appeals to all ages, boys, girls, adults, everyone, kids.  Everyone can go see “Star Wars.”

SMERCONISH:  Michael Medved...

DEPANDI:  But, you know...

SMERCONISH:  I‘m sorry.  Go ahead.  Finish.

DEPANDI:  No, I‘m sorry.  But “Brokeback Mountain,” you know, 13-year-old girls are not necessarily running to that movie. 

SMERCONISH:  Michael Medved, I remember the day that it first popped onto my computer screen that there was a movie about gay cowboys.  I instantly said on my radio show that thing wins best picture, doesn‘t matter how it is.  The only way is gets beat is if there‘s a movie about gay steelworkers.  And as far as I know, they didn‘t put one of those out. 

MICHAEL MEDVED, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST:  Well, there‘s one about gay CIA agents I‘m sure coming out. 

SMERCONISH:  Next year.

MEDVED:  Look, the truth about “Brokeback Mountain” is it‘s a very good movie.  It‘s very well-made.  And each people who object to some of the messages and propaganda surrounding the movie, like me, ought to acknowledge how expert it is, and how well-acted, and how eloquent. 

However, you started out, Michael, making a very important point, which was that 2005 was a disastrous year for Hollywood.  It was a disastrous year because there were fewer rear ends in movie seats.  Movie ticket sales went down 6.8 percent, which is the most in 25 years. 

Now, this is disastrous.  People are expecting that the number of people will tune in to watch the Oscar show on Sunday night could be the lowest in history.  It will certainly go down even below last year‘s very low level for “Million Dollar Baby,” which was 42 million.

SMERCONISH:  Belinda...

MEDVED:  And that compares to 55 million who watched “Titanic.”

SMERCONISH:  Hey, Belinda, let me get you in on the action here and ask you a question.  What about my movies?  You know, what about “The 40-Year-Old Virgin”?  What about “Wedding Crashers”?  What about some of the greats like “Caddyshack,” and “Animal House,” and “Slapshot”?  Why are they never represented?

BELINDA LUSCOMBE, “TIME” MAGAZINE:  Oh, they‘re represented, all right.  What you‘re asking here basically is:  Why don‘t sort of food critics go and eat at McDonald‘s?  There‘s different types of food for different people. 

You know, what is it about the Academy that is surprising you here?  Even the word Academy—these are filmmakers.  They‘re at the top of their game.  They want to honor the films that are good films.  And I need to point out that “Brokeback Mountain,” a film which cost something in the order of $14 million, has now nearly made $80 million at the box office.  That is by no means, you know, small change.  It‘s doing fine.

MEDVED:  Belinda...

SMERCONISH:  Go ahead, Michael.

MEDVED:  ... the one thing that I could say is that there were populist films that were critically acclaimed that could easily have been nominated...

SMERCONISH:  Like what?

MEDVED:  ... like “Walk the Line.”

LUSCOMBE:  “Walk the Line”...

(CROSSTALK)

MEDVED:  “Walk the Line” made a great deal of money.  It‘s a wonderful movie.  It‘s absolutely brilliant, was ignored for best picture.  And “Cinderella Man,” which was a superb film—in my opinion, the best film of the year, and a much better boxing film than “Million Dollar Baby”—also was left out.  It was a film that was pro-faith, pro-family and that connected with mainstream Americans in a way that the nominated films don‘t. 

SMERCONISH:  But wait a minute, Michael, is that a reason why it didn‘t get the prizes, because it had that kind of a message? 

MEDVED:  Well, of course it is.  Just like “The Passion of the Christ,” which was, of course, a huge box office hit, and also an epic film in terms of its memorable artistry, was nominated for only three very minor awards for makeup, musical score, and technical effects. 

SMERCONISH:  Giuliana, I want to show you a screen—guys, if you can put this up—of the last 10 years of the best pictures that we‘ve had at the Academy Awards.  And, I mean, pictures like—and they‘re good flicks, but come on, “A Beautiful Mind,” “American Beauty,” “Shakespeare in Love”?  That‘s not middle America.  Why doesn‘t Hollywood get the message? 

DEPANDI:  You know, Hollywood—here‘s the deal.  It is not easy getting a movie green-lit in Hollywood these days.  You‘ve got to be an uber-producer, an uber-director.

Now, an uber-producer, like, let‘s say, Brian Grazer, for instance, who did “Cinderella Man,” he is not going to—he wants to evolve.  He wants to do a film that not necessarily is going to get mainstream America in the seats, but that is going to get him an Oscar.  These guys—that‘s how they think. 

MEDVED:  Oh, yes, like “Da Vinci Code,” which is his new project?

DEPANDI:  Yes, I mean, that...

(CROSSTALK)

MEDVED:  ... of course is going to be a box office hit.  It‘s going to be a huge box office hit, based upon a gigantically, gigantically popular novel. 

DEPANDI:  Huge.

MEDVED:  The point about all of this is—I don‘t think it‘s accurate to say that, oh, there‘s some kind of conspiracy here because Hollywood tends to favor artistic films.  But when Michael brings up “Shakespeare in Love,” I mean, an industry that would leave aside “Saving Private Ryan,” which everyone expected to win that year, which was a huge box office hit and a great, great movie by a guy who made a lousy movie this year, named Spielberg.

But when you take a look at “Shakespeare in Love” beating “Saving Private Ryan”...

SMERCONISH:  Ridiculous!

MEDVED:  ... doesn‘t that say something to you...

SMERCONISH:  Ridiculous!

MEDVED:  ... about the askew vision of Hollywood? 

SMERCONISH:  Michael, these are movies that I don‘t even want arriving at my house in the sealed Netflix envelope, you know, lest the postman knows I‘d be watching them, for goodness sakes. 

But Belinda...

MEDVED:  One example of that is “Munich.”  And people for years and years have said the Jewish people control Hollywood.  Here is a film that has been totally reviled and condemned in Israel.  It‘s the first film in 40 years that is actually focused on Israel and Israel issues, and it‘s a film that‘s deeply critical and deeply offensive to the Jewish state, and to many of Israeli‘s supporters here in the United States.  And it‘s nominated for best picture, despite the fact that it‘s a huge box office flop. 

SMERCONISH:  Hey, you guys are great.  Thank you so much, Michael Medved, Giuliana Depandi, and Belinda Luscombe.  Thanks for being with us tonight on SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY. 

Now, the other night, did you watch this?  Joe spoke to Bill Maher, and he asked the funnyman about the controversial Oscar frontrunner. 

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) 

BILL MAHER, HOST, “REAL TIME”:  I did see “Brokeback Mountain.”  It‘s a little slow for the first five or six hours.  Then it picked up at the end.

JOE SCARBOROUGH, HOST:  Yes.

MAHER:  But I don‘t buy the premise, because the premise of this movie is that here are two guys who lead basically straight lives.  They meet when they‘re young, they‘re guarding sheep. 

And, you know, when you‘re guarding sheep, it‘s got a suggestive of being gay to begin with.  OK.

SCARBOROUGH:  Exactly.

MAHER:  So they have this affair on the mountain, then they go off to their respective towns and they marry, have kids, lead basically straight lives, except about once a year one of the guys comes by for a fishing trip.  And they go off on their fishing trip and have unbridled gay sex, you know, during the trip. 

(LAUGHTER)

SCARBOROUGH:  Yes, of course. 

MAHER:  And, you know...

SCARBOROUGH:  Good acting.

MAHER:  ... I think you and I would probably agree that, you know, you‘re either gay or you‘re not.  It‘s not like, ah, once a year when my fishing buddy comes around, yes, I‘ll be gay for a week.  I just don‘t think that‘s how it works. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Let‘s talk about George Clooney.  He‘s had a very good year, if you look at his movie about Edward R. Murrow and also “Syriana.”  Did you see those two movies?

MAHER:  Yes, great, loved them both. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Talk about “Good Night, and Good Luck” and how that speaks to what‘s going on today in America. 

MAHER:  Well, you know, I think something like 76 press people have been killed in Iraq so far, which is more than were killed in Vietnam, and that war went on for a long time. 

I think when people say there are no more Edward R. Murrows, no, there are.  It‘s unfortunate, but a lot of them are just dead.  But, you know, the press, they take their lumps.  I‘m a critic often.  But, boy, that‘s a lot of people to have given their lives covering that war.  And you got to give it up to that. 

SCARBOROUGH:  All right.  We‘ll leave it with that.  Hey, thanks a lot, Bill.  Really appreciate it. 

MAHER:  OK, Joe.  Thank you. 

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SMERCONISH:  Maher‘s a funny guy.  Don‘t agree with a lot of what he has to say, but he‘s a funny.

Tucker Carlson is a funny guy, host of “THE SITUATION WITH TUCKER CARLSON.”  Tucker, what‘s “THE SITUATION” tonight?

TUCKER CARLSON, MSNBC HOST:  Well, it‘s great to see you there, Michael. 

Well, it‘s 1997 again on “THE SITUATION” tonight.  Here you have the former president of the United States, Bill Clinton, saying one thing, his wife saying another, and somehow they don‘t contradict one another.  Bill‘s taking money from the UAE to flack for their port deal.  His wife is opposed to it, and yet there‘s no contradiction.  We‘ll debate that.

Plus, we have the great Joan Rivers.  And I‘ll confess—I‘m not ashamed—I love Joan Rivers. 

SMERCONISH:  Thanks, Tucker. 

CARLSON:  Thanks, Michael.

SMERCONISH:  Be sure to tune into “THE SITUATION.”  It‘s next at 11:00. 

Up next, why Jessica Alba is fighting mad at “Playboy” magazine.  Here why she‘s threatening to sue the magazine.  And Joe‘s not here, but that‘s not stopping someone in Washington from being named a real schmoe.  That‘s coming up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SMERCONISH:  All right.  Time now for another flyover of SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY, the stories that may have fallen under the mainstream media‘s radar screen, but certainly not ours. 

First stop, my hometown, Philadelphia, where show and tell took on a whole new meaning when a 7-year-old girl showed up at a school with bags of cocaine in her backpack.  When one unsuspecting classmate ate some of the coke and started shaking, the cops were called, and the girl was suspended for a week. 

The kids are all OK.  The authorities still want to know where the drugs came from.  This story, you could say, gives new meaning to putting kids on the educational fast track. 

Next stop, Annapolis, Maryland, where the gag was on the politician, literally.  When Jim Rosapepe, a candidate for State Senate, started to choke on some lunchtime seafood, it was none other than his opponent in the upcoming primary, State Senator John Giannetti, who came to his rescue by performing the Heimlich maneuver.

Now, we‘ve checked, and this is the only time in history that a politician did everything he could to stop his opponent from choking. 

Finally, Los Angeles, California, where film star Jessica Alba wants everyone to know the naked truth:  She didn‘t pose for “Playboy.”  Alba is demanding the magazine pull its March issue off the stands and is threatening to sue. 

She‘s upset the editors made her the cover girl without her consent.  The photo is an old publicity shot.  “Playboy” says it‘s a compliment.  Her attorney alleges that “Playboy” initially offered to pay Alba to appear on the cover but that they were flatly turned down.  Alba is on the cover as the sexiest star of the year, but Alba isn‘t flattered.  She says the magazine did it to mislead readers. 

We‘ll be right back with “Joe‘s Schmoe,” a respected Democrat congressman.  What was he thinking when it came to the job descriptions for his staff? 

Plus, “THE SITUATION” with Tucker Carlson is just minutes away.  Stick around.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SMERCONISH:  All right, my favorite part.  It‘s time for tonight‘s “Joe‘s Schmoe.” 

Apparently, Michigan Congressman John Conyers doesn‘t understand the job description of a congressional aide.  Here‘s what it does not include:  tutoring your children; driving you to personal events; and serving as a live-in babysitter.  But that‘s exactly what former staffers say they were doing for Conyers. 

And it‘s not the first time the congressman has been accused of using his aides, who are paid with your tax dollars, for personal tasks.  Tonight‘s “Joe Schmoe,” it‘s you, Congressman John Conyers.

That‘s all the time we have for tonight.  “THE SITUATION” with Tucker Carlson starts right now.

Tucker, what‘s “THE SITUATION” tonight?

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

END   

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