updated 3/19/2004 10:07:31 AM ET 2004-03-19T15:07:31

Guests: Bethany Valentine, Bob Warren, Lee Sullivan, Jennifer Giroux, Laura Saravia, John O‘Sullivan, Benazir Bhutto, Mark Vargas

JOE SCARBOROUGH, HOST:  Tonight, the noose is tightening around al Qaeda‘s second in command.  Is Osama next? 

You‘re about to enter SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY.  No passport required, no surrender allowed. 

Are troops in Pakistan closing in on Osama‘s No. 2 man?  And if he goes down, is the world‘s most wanted killer next?  We are going to take you around the globe from Washington to Pakistan to bring you the very latest on this breaking story. 

And “The Passion” is now rated X in Mexico, banning all under 18 from seeing it.  So why is “The Passion” pornography south of the border? 

And it‘s spring break.  Thousands of high school and college students descend on Florida for sun and drunken sex.  Is it good business or a shameless attempt to grab big bucks?  We are going to be talking about that with the mayor of Panama City Beach. 

But first, al Qaeda‘s top terrorist has target on his back.  It‘s time for tonight‘s “Real Deal.” 

Tonight, the world watches and waits as armed forces in Pakistan zero in on Osama bin Laden‘s No. 2 man.  With bin Laden in poor health, many believe that al-Zawahri is running al Qaeda‘s terror network worldwide.  With the one-year anniversary of the Iraq war upon us, it‘s more clear than ever that the world has been plunged into an international war on terror. 

Maybe the Socialists who are running Spain now are too cowardly to admit that.  Maybe the feckless weasels running France are too self-absorbed to realize that they may be next.  And maybe the left-wing Democrats running their party prefer to think of this clash of civilizations as some neat and tidy police action, but they are dead wrong. 

We are a world at war.  and tonight it looks like the good guys are winning.  With the majority of al Qaeda‘s leaders killed or captured, it‘s only a matter of time before Osama bin Laden and his No. 2 in command are either behind bars or buried six feet under.  That may be considered bad news for Jacques Chirac or Howard Dean or Spanish Socialists, but for the rest of the civilized world, it will be proof-positive the United States of America is winning this war on terror that Osama bin Laden started on September 11. 

And the United States coalition of the willing will bring this war to an end sooner or later.  And that‘s tonight‘s “Real Deal.” 

So is Osama bin Laden‘s No. 2 man about to be brought to justice?  We have NBC‘s Rosiland Jordan from the White House with the very latest. 

Rosiland, what do you have? 


ROSILAND JORDAN, NBC CORRESPONDENT:  Joe, the official reaction from the White House at this point is, it‘s just too early to know whether or not Pakistani soldiers have, indeed, surrounded al-Zawahri, the No. 2 al Qaeda operative and the alleged mastermind behind the attack on the USS Coal, behind the 1998 embassy bombings in East Africa, and on several other major attacks, including an assassination attempt on Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak. 

When the president returned from a trip to Fort Campbell, Kentucky, he said, though it is very difficult to hear on this tape, “We do not know anything new.”  The U.S. government says it will pay up to $25 million if al-Zawahri is captured alive or if he is, indeed, convicted for his role in the 1998 U.S. Embassy bombings in East Africa.  There‘s no word on whether this money would go to the Pakistani army if it is successful, or whether the money would ever be paid if Zawahri were to be found and then killed. 

Rosiland Jordan, NBC News, at the White House—Joe, back to you. 


SCARBOROUGH:  All right, thank you so much, Rosiland.

And with me now is MSNBC military analyst Colonel Ken Allard. 

Colonel, tell me what‘s going on in Pakistan right now?  And take our viewers into the middle of this battle.  What is it like and what needs to be done next to bring this thug to justice? 

COL. KEN ALLARD, NBC MILITARY ANALYST:  Well, Joe, I really don‘t know, but I will be glad to speculate with you, because I think what is happening here is that you are likely to see a pincer movement on both sides of that border. 

We have to rely primarily on the Pakistanis, obviously on their side, to go ahead into an area called South Waziristan.  If you have read any of the tales of the British raj that—it just brings all those memories back, because it is a wild tribal area.  And we are fighting there again.  This time, we‘re doing that in concert with Pakistanis.  They come in on their side of the border.  We presumably are on the Afghan side of the border, but it is literally an encirclement on both sides with one intent. 

And that is to simply, as you have pointed out, close the noose on this guy.

SCARBOROUGH:  Colonel, though, we have seen in the past American troops and their allies surrounding terrorists in al Qaeda before, only to let them slip away.  Of course, Osama bin Laden is the No. 1 example of that. 

How troublesome is it that right now they still haven‘t brought this guy to justice?  It‘s nighttime.  How hard is it for him to slip away, and how can we stop him from escaping, just like Osama bin Laden back in the end of the 2002? 

ALLARD:  Joe, it‘s a real easy thing for him to slip away.  I am a great believer in, first of all, you capture the guy.  Second, you have the press conference. 

And I think you basically have got to take exactly that point of view.  There are a lot of things that could go wrong any time you that are dealing with combined force operation on two sides of the border in one of the world‘s most forbidding slices of terrain. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Colonel, why the heck did this—You know what?  You say that, and I agree with you 100 percent.  The thing I haven‘t been able to figure out all day, maybe you have the information, or maybe you can speculate, why the heck are we talking about it?  Who leaked this information?  This isn‘t good spin by the U.S. military, is it?  I mean, this guy could get away. 

ALLARD:  I will tell you what.  I like very much the way we did it with Saddam.  Here he is.  We will show him to you when we have brought him in. 

Here in this case is Mr. Al-Zawahri, and we will be glad to show you his body when we got it.  I am very much a believer in shoot first, bring the press in second, not the other way around. 

SCARBOROUGH:  But that‘s not what is happening tonight, is it? 

ALLARD:  It really is not.  And I think that‘s very unfortunate.

But the only thing to tell you is that I think we are gradually learning how to fight this kind of war, because it hasn‘t been smooth or easy thing.  I look back to both those pictures that we‘ve seen earlier this week of Osama bin Laden that we took from the Predators.  And we realized the fact that we weren‘t really ready to go get him at that time. 

We are learning things all the time.  And I got to tell you, there is form of no human activity, including warfare, that does not improve with repetition.  So, as we get more and more into this, we will get better and better. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Well, let‘s bring in special forces retired command Sergeant Major Mark Vargas and ask him if he believes the United States military is getting better at this type of operation. 

As we hunt down al Qaeda‘s No. 2 murderer, and as we go after Osama bin Laden, who has got a target on his back, do you believe the United States military is finally figuring out how to chase these guys through some of the world‘s toughest terrain? 


We have learned some lessons just with the capture of Saddam.  In Robin Moore‘s recent book, “Hunting Down Saddam,” it talks about all the intricacies that went on behind the scenes to chase down this man and to get to his power base, work through his intelligence networks. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Now, you think we‘re using the same tactics that worked for Saddam Hussein on Osama bin Laden and his No. 2 man? 

ALLARD:  We are going to have to use all the technological advances that we have in warfare right now to kind of circle in on the area where we believe Osama bin Laden and his No. 2 man are hiding and then put forces on the ground to seal the area off, just as Colonel Allard alluded to. 

SCARBOROUGH:  You know, Mark, you talk about using the technology that we have, and, obviously at nighttime, I would guess there are more infrared devices honed in that area than ever before, because they don‘t want anybody slipping through their grasp.  But in the end, do you think this may also come down to human intelligence, that you have all these Pakistani tribal leaders that had always been very loyal to Osama bin Laden, but since he has been away for the past few years, do you think that maybe that allegiance has turned, and now they see the millions of dollars flashed in front of their faces, and all of a sudden, they are willing to go up into the mountains and give us the type of human intelligence that we need to bag this guy? 

VARGAS:  Absolutely.  We have been flooding the basements of these other countries that have been supporting Osama bin Laden in the past, and our special forces and civil affairs and State Department personnel have been working with countries like Yemen and Pakistan. 

And now Osama bin Laden doesn‘t have very many places to go to, to hide, so we got to get on the ground, once we identify the areas that he is in. and work that human intelligence, as we did with Saddam. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Colonel Ken Allard, since 1979 and the Iranian hostage crisis, we have been hearing a lot of experts say that America‘s human intelligence is second-rate.  Do you think that may be changing?  Do you finally we are getting it, and the CIA is hiring the type of people and doing the things that have to be done to capture these thugs and bring them to justice? 

ALLARD:  Joe, ask me that question again in another five or 10 years.  My short answer is, I hope so, because the basic fact of life here is that technology, yes, gives you a great deal in these kinds of wars, but it absolutely no substitute for the boots on the ground.  It is no substitute at all for the human intelligence. 

This is not the time in which we can afford to have people in the CIA who have nothing to offer this cause but masters degrees in Soviet studies.  That time is long since gone. 


SCARBOROUGH:  We won that war, didn‘t we, Colonel?

ALLARD:  Yes, we sure did. 


The thing is, too—and I think it‘s very striking.  I think comes down to human nature in the end, and I want to get your read on this.  Again, Osama bin Laden, just a few years ago before we flushed the Taliban out of Afghanistan, he was the king of the roost.  He could go from Sudan.  He could go to Afghanistan.  He could flood these tribal warlords with millions of dollars, but now he doesn‘t have that money, and we do. 

Do you think in the end it‘s just going to come down to the almighty American dollar; we are going to be able to buy these tribal chiefs off and get them to work on our side? 

ALLARD:  Well, that was the whole point about Afghanistan.  You couldn‘t buy the Afghan chiefs, but you sure could rent them, so it‘s a neat takeoff on the idea that it‘s the golden rule, the guy with the gold makes the rules. 

And I would just tell you that the whole point to this thing is that, even when and if we get Saddam, the whole thing against terrorism will not go away, because we fight terrorism the same way that an oncologist fights cancer, one cell at a time.  You have to be very patient.  You have to be absolutely determined for the long term. 

SCARBOROUGH:  All right, Ken Allard, we will have to leave it there. 

Thank you so much for being with us. 

ALLARD:  You bet. 

SCARBOROUGH:  I also want to thank you, Mark Vargas.  We certainly appreciate it. 

And don‘t go away, because, coming up next, we‘re going to get former Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto‘s take on the news developing in the country that she used to lead. 

And then, Mexico says “The Passion” is just too violent for kids and it is going to slap it with an X rating.  Will other countries follow suit? 



LEE SULLIVAN, MAYOR OF PANAMA CITY BEACH, FLORIDA:  You can say that the only place that young people drink and have sex is Panama City Beach, Florida.  They don‘t do that the rest of the year.  They wait until they come down here?  Oh, help me out, man. 


SCARBOROUGH:  The mayor of Panama City says he is not going to play baby-sitter for your kids, but he‘s happy to take their money.  Spring break exposed coming up with my friend, the mayor of Panama City—next .


SCARBOROUGH:  We‘ve got the very latest on the developing story in Pakistan, where troops may have Osama bin Laden‘s No. 2 cornered.  Stick around.  We‘re going to be talking to former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto and an all-star panel next.


SCARBOROUGH:  Hey, right now, we are talking about how forces in Pakistan are surrounding al Qaeda‘s No. 2 man and what impact that may have on the war on terror. 

And let‘s go right now to former Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, who joins us now on the phone from the United Arab Emirates. 

Thank you so much for being with us tonight.  And what is your take on the news out of your country, Pakistan? 

BENAZIR BHUTTO, FORMER PAKISTANI PRIME MINISTER:  There‘s a report coming in that a high-value target has been surrounded and that it could be al Qaeda‘s No. 2. 

However, it‘s still unclear whether it is Mr. Al-Zawahri.  There are conflicting reports.  If, indeed, it is No. 2, well, it will be a very big catch for the war against terror and it will certainly boost Pakistan military leader General Musharraf‘s position. 

SCARBOROUGH:  But how dangerous is it for General Musharraf to be helping the United States out, bringing in one of al Qaeda‘s top leaders?  There have already been assassination attempts against him.  Do you think this just makes the target on his back even bigger? 

BHUTTO:  Certainly, General Musharraf is regarded as a target for helping the U.S. and the world in the war against terror. 

On the other hand, I think he could do more by involving the elected leaders from the tribal areas.  They have been excluded.  Parliament is in the dark.  And so there‘s a lot of resentment against these operations.  Many civilians have also been targeted.  So I do think that involving the elected representatives of the area could make it easier to search for the terrorists. 

SCARBOROUGH:  All right, thank you so much.  We certainly appreciate your insights tonight. 

Let‘s bring in our panel live. 

And I want to start with you, Pat Buchanan.  You‘re an MSNBC political analyst. 

In this political campaign, we have been hearing from John Kerry what a horrible job George Bush has been doing on the war on terror.  Is this a big development, not only for the war on terror, but also in this political campaign? 

PAT BUCHANAN, NBC POLITICAL ANALYST:  Well, look, if the president of the United States and American and Pakistani military forces take this guy down, you have taken down Admiral Yamamoto in the war, the No. 2 man, as it were.  I think it will be great victory in the war on terror.  Let‘s hope it‘s the guy and let‘s hope they get him.

But I think a lot of folks separate, Joe, the war in Iraq from the war on terror.  In the war on terror, I think the administration has done a bang-up job from any standard.  There hasn‘t been a single attack on this country since 9/11.  We had that horror in Spain, and they have hit a number of other areas, but I think the administration is doing a great job. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Congressman Joe Wilson, you‘re a retired colonel in the National Guard and a member of the Armed Services Committee. 

How big are these developments tonight if they pan out to be true? 

REP. JOE WILSON ®, SOUTH CAROLINA:  This is a great development, also diplomatically, Joe, in that Colin Powell was with President Musharraf on Wednesday, declared Pakistan to be a non-NATO ally on the level of Australia and Japan, and now we‘ve had 70,000 troops that are going after the al Qaeda in the country of Pakistan.  It‘s a great development of our allies working together with the United States. 

SCARBOROUGH:  John O‘Sullivan, you have written obviously extensively on the war on terror for “The National Review.”  Are we progressing to a new level, to sort of maybe possibly the climax of this war on terror as we close in on Osama bin Laden?  It looks like we are finally figuring out how to track these men down and bring them to justice. 

JOHN O‘SULLIVAN, UPI:  Well, we have had a string of successes.  Pat is right about this.  And this would be a crowning success. 

and also, they have been forced to softer and softer targets.  What happened in Spain was dreadful, but it was not a great technological achievement.  It‘s the kind of terrorism we have seen in many other parts of the world. 

SCARBOROUGH:  And we say that—just so you don‘t sound callous.  It ain‘t the Capitol of the United States.  It‘s not Parliament in Great Britain. 


SCARBOROUGH:  You are having to go after civilian targets, killing little children and grandmothers. 

O‘SULLIVAN:  When I said softer targets, I didn‘t mean non-American targets. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Right.  Exactly. 

O‘SULLIVAN:  I meant—yes. 

But the one lesson we have to bear in mind is, we are at the beginning of a 100-years war here, because al Qaeda is decentralized.  It‘s not an organization like IBM, where a chap at the top gives orders and people follow it.  It‘s 20 different organizations, loosely linked. 

And there are I don‘t know how many people.  Sometimes, there‘s as many as 150 million sympathizers.  Let‘s say there are 15 million.  Knock it down to that.  That‘s an awful lot of people.  So it‘s going to be a long, long battle.  But the fact is, they are losing.  And the fact that they‘re losing, the sense that all this is futile, that it‘s not going to work or not going to change our minds, that‘s our biggest weapon in the battle against terrorism. 

SCARBOROUGH:  So, Pat Buchanan, is there linkage between, you think, what happened in Spain and the fact that we are turning up the heat here and going in? 

BUCHANAN:  I think our friend here, John O‘Sullivan, is exactly right. 

Why do they go after and blow up a train?  Now, that‘s an easy target.  Look, they did a dramatic thing when they hit 9/11 and hit those buildings, but now you‘re going after commuters and things like that.  I think, first, they lose any cachet they have got.  They are hitting soft targets.  They are desperate.  And I think, frankly,, if you look at the terrorists‘ side of it, al Qaeda, what is their political objective?  Whatever it is, they are not achieving it. 

SCARBOROUGH:  You don‘t achieve it by blowing up children and grandmothers. 

BUCHANAN:  What is their objective?  What, are they going to try to change our policy?  They haven‘t changed our policy at all.  So I think the terrorists are losing this war. 

O‘SULLIVAN:  I want to introduce a note of disagreement.

I disagree with you something you said before, Pat.  The Iraq war is important because Iraq was a safe haven.  And one of the things that terrorists need are a place to go to, a place where they are safe, where governments give them money, training camps, weapons.  And we have got to knock those out on occasion.  Now, I think Iraq was such a case.  Now, I am not saying there‘s a direct link with al Qaeda.

SCARBOROUGH:  Sudan was in the 1990s for Osama bin Laden. 

O‘SULLIVAN:  Absolutely.  Afghanistan was. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Afghanistan was. 

O‘SULLIVAN:  The British in (UNINTELLIGIBLE) were lucky, because there was no one next door.  So they were able to win that war fairly easily. 


SCARBOROUGH:  There‘s a terrorist pipeline, and we are shutting it down, aren‘t we? 

BUCHANAN:  Well, see, here‘s where I dissent. 

I think Iraq—I think Saddam was not aiding the terrorists.  I don‘t think he had al Qaeda in there, but now that we have taken down Saddam and we are in Iraq, we have given these crazies a cause.  The cause is, anybody that helps Americans in Iraq, we are going to kill.  That‘s why they hit Spain, so I think we would have been better off frankly in the war on terror itself if we weren‘t in Iraq now because I think it gives them cause. 

But there‘s no doubt that the war on terror per se against al Qaeda, the United States is doing a good job, and hopefully Pakistan is helping us do a great job tonight. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Joe Wilson, one of the things that John O‘Sullivan said, talking about how al Qaeda is being forced to hit soft targets now, really reminds me what happened in Iraq yesterday.  These thugs are so desperate, on the one-year anniversary, to show that they can still strike targets, that they are having to go after soft target like a hotel that nobody is guarding.  And I think it proves that we are winning. 

But you‘re on the Armed Services Committee.  I want to show you a list of our accomplishments in the war on terror.  First, not a single terror attack in the United States since 9/11.  We have captured or killed two-thirds of al Qaeda‘s leadership.  We‘ve liberated Afghanistan and Iraq.  Saddam Hussein has been captured.  His two sons are dead. 

Libyan dictator Moammar Gadhafi is giving up his WMD programs, and we‘ve shut down a terrorist nuclear program in Pakistan.  But the question is, are we still, despite all those successes, in just as precarious a position as we were on 9/11?  Are we in that 100-year war that Mr.  O‘Sullivan said we were in? 

WILSON:  I believe we are. 

In fact, the war involving the mastermind here of al Qaeda, he was part of the assassination of President Anwar Sadat back in 1981.  So we are in a 100-year war, and we may be in the 23rd year.  But I am really confident that we have a president focused on going after the terrorists wherever they are, particularly in countries that harbor and support terror, like Iraq.  We have got a president with strength and backbone, and we will win, as I believe, with our Pakistani allies going to win the war against the terrorists, al Qaeda, who have come over from Afghanistan. 

BUCHANAN:  Two big questions there. 

No. 1 is—and John and I may disagree on this—what happens in Iraq after we turn over power to the Iraqis and six months or a year passes?  Is it a democracy, stable, pro-Western or does it collapse and become base camp of terror?  Secondly, Musharraf, we bet everything on him.  One bullet in Afghanistan or in Pakistan, Joe, and we could find ourselves in a hellish situation, especially since Pakistan has got the bomb. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Got to bomb. Very scary. 

John O‘Sullivan, we are out of time, but I just got to ask you, 15 seconds or less, when are we going to capture Osama bin Laden? 

O‘SULLIVAN:  Soon.  That‘s one second.  And the other


SCARBOROUGH:  You got 14. 


O‘SULLIVAN:  The other one is, Pat is absolutely right, not to be triumphalist.  We‘re being too triumphalist. 

The IRA started losing the war in Northern Ireland about 1970.  It didn‘t give up the ghost until about 1994.  We may have a long, long time to go.  And, in that time, a lot of innocent people will be killed.  But having said that, ultimately, it‘s up to us.  If we have the guts and the endurance and the stamina, we will win it. 

SCARBOROUGH:  All right, thank you so much, Pat Buchanan, Congressman Joe Wilson, and John O‘Sullivan.  We greatly appreciate you all being with us tonight. 

And just ahead, “The Passion” gets a chilly reception in Mexico, as it‘s slapped with an X rating.  We‘re going to take you to Mexico city and find out why they don‘t want their children seeing this film. 

And then, it‘s time for spring break when teens head to Florida to drink and have promiscuous sex.  That never happened in Maryland, did it, in the 1950s? 


SCARBOROUGH:  But are towns like Panama City going to do anything to stop this behavior?  Absolutely not.  And we are going to find out why. 

First, let‘s get the latest headlines from the MSNBC News Desk.

It never happened.



SCARBOROUGH:  Mel Gibson “Passion of the Christ” is on its way to becoming the highest grossing movie of all time in the United States, but it‘s getting a much different reception in Mexico.  They‘re going to give it an X rating, if you can believe that.

Does a story about the last 12 hours of Jesus Christ belong on the safe shelf as “Debbie Does Dallas”? 

Laura Saravia, the NBC bureau chief in Mexico City, where “The Passion” premiered tonight, tell me, why are they putting an X rating on this movie? 

Hello, good evening from Mexico. 

LAURA SARAVIA, NBC MEXICO CITY BUREAU CHIEF:  Well, “The Passion of the Christ” is opening here tomorrow, Friday.  And it has been X-rated.  It has been given a C, which is the most restricted version.  That means that people under 18 years old won‘t be able to go to the movies. 

Now, the Catholic Church in Mexico has not complained.  Actually, they are encouraging young Catholics in Mexico to go and watch it, but the government seems to be more conservative than the Catholics here, and they are not letting people under 18 to go and watch it—Joe. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Has there been a great uproar out there?  Has it been controversial, the talk of releasing this movie, or do you think a lot of Catholics, a lot of Christians are going to go out and see this movie despite the X rating? 

SARAVIA:  Well, a lot of people are planning on going tomorrow to watch the movie.  There‘s a lot of expectation here in Mexico. 

You have to keep in mind that, 16 years ago, that Martin Scorsese‘s “The Last Temptation of Christ” was banned in Mexico.  It was only screened a few years ago.  This is -- 80 percent of the population here, like I said, is Catholic.  But also, everybody—young kids are writing letters to the authorities, asking them to reconsider the restriction. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Wow.  All right, thank you so much, Laura.  We appreciate it. 

Pat Buchanan, do you think “The Passion” deserves X rating in Mexico? 

BUCHANAN:  I think that‘s outrage by the government.  The Catholic Church is right to protest. 

There‘s been, ever since around 1917, to the 1920s, an anti-clerical and anti-Catholic strain in the Mexican government regime, elites.  I am sure this is coming out.  Frankly, my guess is, Joe, this X rating will cause a lot of young people, we got to see this now, and so I can‘t understand that.  And it sounds like they are afraid, because Catholics are very—Mexican Catholics are very emotional, deeply and emotionally committed to their faith. 

This especially would have a dramatic impact I think on Mexican young kids. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Dana Kennedy, you‘re MSNBC‘s entertainment editor.  You have written about the movie.  You‘ve talked about the movie a great deal.  What do you think about the X rating in Mexico? 


I do think that Mexico has a right to make their own decisions.  I don‘t think we should be their hall monitor when it comes to movie ratings.  And I myself like things about “The Passion.”  I didn‘t like things about “The Passion.”  But I have to say, I am not a terribly squeamish person.  I don‘t mind seeing violence, but when I saw the scenes of the actual crucifixion, they not only show, for example, the nails being hammered into Jesus‘s hand. 

At one point, they stop the action and some of the Romans say, no, you are doing it the wrong way, and show them how to really nail the nails into the hand.  I got really quite nauseous at the point.  And what really resonates with me about this decision in Mexico is a friend of mine, who is a staunch Catholic, brought her daughter, who is 14, to see the movie.  And the daughter had nightmares for a week.  That‘s not a statement on the movie being good or bad.

It‘s just a question of the fact that it is violent and maybe some kids really can‘t handle it. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Jennifer Giroux, you‘re the director of SeeThePassion.com.  Isn‘t it safe to say that some kids can‘t handle seeing a movie as violent as “The Passion”? 

JENNIFER GIROUX, SEETHEPASSION.COM:  I wished that government watched their borders as much as they are watching who is going into their movie theaters down there, Joe.   


SCARBOROUGH:  Sounds like a true Buchananite.  Keep going. 


GIROUX:  Well, I will tell you this.

I am all in favor of raising the moral standard and protecting our children.  But let‘s face it.  This is consistent with the anti-Christian, anti-Catholic mentality the government has had down there.  And to say the government is more conservative than the Catholic Church is really a reach.  This is another attempt in that country, just like it tried here, of anti-Christian forces to keep this movie underattended and keep the money down. 

Now, I predict it will do very well there.  Children, I have always said, 12 to 14 -- my 14-year-old daughter went, Dana, and it really helped her prayer life.  Kids have to have the spiritual maturity to talk about this and understand what they see.  But the majority of teenagers coming out on this country, Joe, on your show here, are saying, it makes them want to do something good.  It‘s helping them to understand the cost of our sins and redemptive suffering. 


You know, a lot of teenagers I have talked to who have seen the movie and said that it was very positive for them.  Some have said, though, that they were frightened by it. 

But I want to go back to you, Dana Kennedy, because some pretty interesting news came out today.  A group that tracks film revenue says that if “The Passion” continues its current trajectory, it‘s possible to surpass “Star Wars” and even “Titanic” as the domestic box office champion of all time.

Shocking news, isn‘t it, for a movie in Aramaic? 

KENNEDY:  It couldn‘t be more shocking.  I am the first to admit this totally took me by surprise.  I have covered Hollywood many years. 

And I think, actually, I speak for quite a few of the my colleagues, the media elite, as some might call us, in saying that we were all pretty surprised about this.  But I have to say, with this new Mexican controversy, I also see that the gods of P.R. are still with Mel Gibson.  This just doesn‘t end.  It‘s amazing. 


BUCHANAN:  They are the dumbest people on Earth, the people...


SCARBOROUGH:  Now, you say they are the dumbest people on Earth.  I have got to say, I have never accused of being the media elite myself.  But I got to tell you, when I first heard that Mel Gibson was going to make a movie in Aramaic, spend $23 million of his own money, I said, my God, one of the blades must have hit him in “Braveheart.”  But this guy is about to surpass the “Titanic” and “Star Wars” by the end of Easter.

Why is it?  Is it the culture wars, Pat Buchanan?

BUCHANAN:  Well, I‘ll tell you.  Well, this is a very powerful film about religion and faith and Christianity.  There‘s more than a billion Christians on earth, Joe.

But what is so wonderful about this, all these efforts to ban it, to edit it, to boycott it, put an X rating on it, telling people, don‘t see it, first, people are going to see this film.  And, secondly, why are they going after this film?  I think they are afraid that this is going to touch people‘s hearts.  It‘s going to result in changing people‘s hearts and minds.  This is going to result in conversions, and the elite have helped pumped it up. 

They have been doing P.R. for it by saying don‘t see this film.  What would you do if you were 16 and some guy said, you cannot see this film? 

SCARBOROUGH:  Well, you know what?  I would probably go see the film. 


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

Dana Kennedy, Jennifer Giroux, Pat Buchanan, as always, thanks for being with us tonight in SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY. 

And next up. 


SULLIVAN:  You the man.  You the man.  You the man. 



SCARBOROUGH:  SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY comes to Panama City to find out what your kids are really doing on spring break.  And we are going to ask Panama City‘s mayor if profit-hungry towns are encouraging bad behavior.  Going to be talking to some good friends of mine right after this break. 

Don‘t go away.  Those aren‘t my good friends.

ANNOUNCER:  Tonight‘s SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY challenge, what was the most popular spring break destination for college students in the 1970s?  Was it, A, Miami Beach, B, Daytona Beach, or, C, Fort Lauderdale? 

The answer coming up.


ANNOUNCER:  In tonight‘s SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY challenge, we asked, what was the most popular spring break destination for college students in the 1970s?  The answer is, B, Daytona Beach.

Now back to Joe. 

SCARBOROUGH:  You know, in my old congressional district, there‘s a town called Panama City Beach, Florida.  It hosts almost half a million spring breakers each year, so many, in fact, that they have recently hired a marketing agency to handle all the promotion for what they expect to be a windfall of cash and tourism, as spring break 2004 gets under way. 

Is the annual rite of spring good for small Southern beach communities, or does it encourage irresponsible, rowdy, drunken behavior among our nation‘s high school and college kids? 

I spoke to MSNBC‘s Donna Gregory, who spent the past couple of days in Panama City Beach. 


DONNA GREGORY, NBC CORRESPONDENT:  People have called this the spring break capital of the United States. 


GREGORY:  You can hear some of the whooping in the background. 

Kids from all over the country, college and high school kids, come here for some fun in the Florida sun, and the merchants don‘t just put up with the extra tens of thousands of people here each week.  They welcome them. 

(voice-over):  Hard to believe these college kids hit the beach with an average four credit cards apiece, but don‘t think the spring break marketers haven‘t noticed. 

BOB WARREN, PANAMA CITY BEACH CONVENTION & VISITORS BUREAU:  When we decided to embrace it, we decided we were going to do it right.  We have brought corporate America in to Panama City Beach.  They‘re out here using their products. 

GREGORY:  The six-week spring break party means $170 million to the local economy.  Vendors make money on site.  Even credit card companies try to lure new customers here.  And look who dropped in on recruiting mission, America‘s largest corporation, the U.S. military. 

SGT. PETER WHITE, GOLDEN KNIGHTS:  Really, that‘s the hook right there is, if you can get them to talk about jumping, you kind of segue into something else if you need to.  So it works. 

GREGORY:  Kids also spend money on nightlife, many with fake I.D.s, in hopes of a don‘t-ask/don‘t-tell mind-set in the clubs. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  All my friends are 20.  Nobody is not allowed to drink.  They don‘t care who comes down here and drinks. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Well, for the most part, everybody is staying under control, you know, nothing too out of control, so there‘s no need for, you know—there‘s no need for looking the other way, because nothing is really happening. 

GREGORY:  Whatever the mind-set, it‘s working, appealing to students who want to unwind from winter school work.  And it is a long-term marketing plan, hooking future customers while they are young. 

JULIE HILTON, HOTEL OWNER:  We really consider it a very important component, not just for current business, but also for building future business. 

GREGORY:  Businesses hope a good time this year will translate to more visits in the years ahead to a town that says, welcome back. 

GREGORY:  And the emphasis here is on safe celebrations.  There are posters all over town talking about responsible drinking.  We saw free three shuttle buses sponsored by beer companies.  Students are allowed to take those to and from some of these nighttime establishments.

And also some of the students are required to sign code of conduct before they are allowed to check in to some area hotels.  So it‘s a lot of fun here, but it‘s also very serious business—Joe. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Donna, you talked about fake I.D.s and high school students.  How prevalent is that? 

GREGORY:  Well, you did see that one young woman saying that all of her friends are under age.  It‘s not something that the officials here really talk about.  But when you really talk to the students, they say, yes, they see it happening.  I did notice one girl at the hotel definitely wanting to find her I.D. that she had left at the table.  So it does happen here.

But I can tell you there is a very strong push to have responsible drinking by adults who are of age. 

SCARBOROUGH:  All right, thank you so much, Donna Gregory.  We appreciate you going into the war zone for us. 



SCARBOROUGH:  And with me now, the mayor of Panama City Beach, Lee Sullivan, and Bob Warren, the president of Panama City Beach‘s Visitors Bureau. 

Mr. Mayor, let me go to you first.  How has Panama City Beach become the spring break capital of America? 

SULLIVAN:  By default. 

Lauderdale decided that they had assumed identity and that spring break stayed with them beyond spring break.  And when you said spring break, you said Lauderdale.  When said Lauderdale, you said spring break.  They took it out in the middle of the road and they tried to kill it.  Daytona Beach opened it up.  They said, you come on up here.  The rules are different here, I believe, was the term that they used. 

And as it evolved in Daytona Beach, the tour operators that work college campuses discovered Panama City Beach.  They discovered that it was a little closer, a lot cheaper, and that it was a good bargain for them and their clients.  And that was the beginning. 


SULLIVAN:  That was the beginning of it.

SCARBOROUGH:  Is it something that you are proud of, that Panama City Beach gets 33 percent of its tourism revenues basically from drunk partying college kids? 

SULLIVAN:  You see, though, Joe, only the drunks make good foul footage for you all.  But everybody else that‘s not drunk, they don‘t make a good movie, so they don‘t make television. 

I don‘t think that this resort community is any different than the United States of America.  I don‘t think that the only place that there‘s underage drinking or that there‘s a problem with drinking or a problem with behavior by young people is in Panama City Beach.  I think we just have an opportunity to have them come together at one time, and I would certainly challenge you to go down here and just see exactly what you think now, huh? 

SCARBOROUGH:  Mr. Mayor, I‘m far too old.

SULLIVAN:  See exactly what you think. 


SULLIVAN:  No, you‘re not, Joe.  Look at you.

SCARBOROUGH:  There‘s a reason why I am in Pensacola and you are in Panama City Beach, baby.  I am way too old for it.  You put me on the spot, so I am going to bring somebody else in here. 

Let me bring in Bob Warren.

Bob, obviously, you are the president of Panama City Beach Visitors Bureau.  I am going to ask you the same question I asked of the mayor.  I mean, 33 percent of the revenue that you get comes from spring breakers.  And while the mayor may say that we only get file footage of drunks, I have been there before, and there‘s a lot of drinking going on, a lot of hard partying, and you know it.  There‘s a lot of sex and a lot of stuff going on there that I would guess a lot of the good residents of Panama City Beach would not be too pleased with. 

WARREN:  Well, Joe, I think what you have to look at when you are looking at an event like this, this is a special event.  You know, special events—spring break has taken place for generations before us.  It will take place generations after us. 

And what we have attempted to do in Panama City Beach is, four years ago, we decided, if these young people were going to descend and come to spring break and come to the world‘s most beautiful beaches, we were going to embrace it.  We were going to embrace it.  We were going to do our utmost to make it the best possible event it could be. 

We have the same problems that you would have with the Daytona 500 or the Super Bowl or Mardi Gras in New Orleans.  They are all appropriate to large events.  We know that this is our young people.  These young people come to Panama City Beach.  We want them to have as much fun as they possibly can, as long as it‘s within the perimeters of the law.  Do they have more consumption than usual?  I can‘t say that. 

SCARBOROUGH:  You can‘t say that? 

WARREN:  I know they are here to have a good time. 


SCARBOROUGH:  You may not be able to say it, but I can say it. 


SULLIVAN:  You can say that the only place that young people drink and have sex is Panama City Beach, Florida.  They don‘t do that the rest of the year.  They wait until they come down here?  Oh, help me out, man. 


SCARBOROUGH:  I am not saying that. 

SULLIVAN:  Help me out. 

SCARBOROUGH:  I‘m just saying—I am not saying that, Mr. Mayor.  But I am saying, though, that not all communities fuel their economy on it. 

Let me bring in Bethany Valentine. 

Bethany, you are a student at Liberty University.  We brought you on the show because you are not a big fan of these type of spring break...


SCARBOROUGH:  ... events.  Tell me why. 

VALENTINE:  Well, I have seen the horror stories.  I have heard them. 

I have witnessed them firsthand.  It‘s very real. 

I have heard the stories of my friends going back and forth from the beach with drunk girls for protection from the guys on the side of the road, just waiting to take advantage of these girls.  And I have witnessed firsthand my friends coming back from Cancun or from Florida with insurmountable debts due to damages that they have done while being drunk or just spending too much on alcohol consumption. 

And, frankly, I am appalled that the tourist bureau or that the credit card companies or the beer campaigns are encouraging this kind of behavior and putting the welfare and the lives of my generation at stake. 

SCARBOROUGH:  You think they are preying on them to make a quick buck? 

VALENTINE:  Yes, I think they are.  I think that my generation is being sold. 


Mr. Mayor, let me bring you back in here.  I want to pick on you one more time, all right?  I want to ask you which one of these events you are going to be going to this week. 

We want to look at some of the events advertised for spring break in Panama City Beach, 2004, free beers, margaritas and food for five hours, beginning at 11:00 a.m. every Tuesday.  Tuesday nights, you got foam play, including beautiful people, six feet of foam and you, Mr. Mayor.  You got wet-and-wild Wednesdays, a bunch of little T‘s and a lot of hot baby oil, thong Thursday, after a toga party.  Ladies, wear your thongs for the late-night thong contest. 

Mr. Mayor, not responsible behavior, is it? 

SULLIVAN:  No.  No.  That‘s trash. 



SCARBOROUGH:  That‘s all you are going to say? 

SULLIVAN:  But let me share with you. 


SULLIVAN:  No, I will be more than happy to tell you that those kind of things don‘t represent where I want the city to be.  But those things are not unique to this beach. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Oh, no doubt.

SULLIVAN:  No more than binge drinking and date rape and all the rest of that trash is.

Am I proud of the fact that somebody says guzzle until you fall out? 

No.  Do I think that‘s responsible business?  No.  Do I think that bites?  You betcha.  Am I in charge of that?  No, sir, I am not.  Is this city responsible for that?  No, sir, it isn‘t.  Who is responsible for it?  The businesses that conduct that kind of business. 

SCARBOROUGH:  And let me just say this to you, Mayor Lee Sullivan.  I know you.  You‘re a good friend of mine.  And so I was just poking at you a little bit. 


SCARBOROUGH:  You got a great city and you got a great beach.  And I

got to say, I know because I used to represent it.  They are the most

beautiful beaches in the world.  Hey, just keep those


SULLIVAN:  You the man.  You the man.  You the man. 

SCARBOROUGH:  You keep those kids safe down there this week, OK? 

SULLIVAN:  We will do our best.


SCARBOROUGH:  Thank you, Mr. Mayor.  Thank you, Bob Warren.  And thank you very much, Bethany Valentine.  We certainly appreciate it. 


And thank you, Charlie (ph) and Earl (ph).  Don‘t kill me.  

We‘ll be right back with more SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY after this.


SCARBOROUGH:  Tomorrow night in SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY, it‘s the one-year anniversary of the war in Iraq.  And we‘re going to have an hour-long special, including former chief weapons inspector David Kay.

That‘s tomorrow night, but more SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY straight ahead.


SCARBOROUGH:  Tomorrow night, it‘s going to be the one-year anniversary of the war in Iraq.  We‘re going to talk about how the Iraqi people say they‘re doing much better now than a year ago, even though the elite media doesn‘t want you to know about it.  Hey, we‘ll see you tomorrow night. 

And tomorrow morning, make sure to catch “IMUS IN THE MORNING.”  He‘ll talk about just how bad my show really can be. 

Have a great night. 


Copy: Content and programming copyright 2004 MSNBC.  ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.  Transcription Copyright 2004 FDCH e-Media, Inc. (f/k/a/ Federal Document Clearing House Inc., eMediaMillWorks, Inc.), ALL RIGHTS  RESERVED. No license is granted to the user of this material other than for research. User may not reproduce or redistribute the material except for user‘s personal or internal use and, in such case, only one copy may be printed, nor shall user use any material for commercial purposes or in any fashion that may infringe upon MSNBC and FDCH e-Media, Inc.‘s copyright or other proprietary rights or interests in the material. This is not a legal transcript for purposes of litigation.


Discussion comments