updated 3/23/2004 3:39:20 PM ET 2004-03-23T20:39:20

Guests: Wesley Clark, Barbara Comstock, Wadie Habboush, Ban Alwardi, Robert Hilliard, Margaret Cho, Jonny Bowden

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ANNOUNCER:  DEBORAH NORVILLE TONIGHT.

Charges that the White House neglected America‘s real enemies while taking the country to war in Iraq continue to reverberate. 

Tonight, retired four-star Army General Wesley Clark on 9/11, the war on terror and whether the invasion of Iraq played right into Osama bin Laden‘s hands. 

A new round in the indecency wars.  Now the self-proclaimed King of All Media is taking on the queen of daytime talk and telling the feds, she‘s worse than me.  Tonight if Howard Stern is obscene, is Oprah? 

And more food for thought about those low carb diets.  Sure they‘re all the rage.  But do they work?  Tonight the diet detective gets to the bottom of the low carb craze. 

Substituting tonight for Deborah Norville, from studio 3-K in Rockefeller Center, Dan Abrams.

(END VIDEOTAPE) 

ABRAMS:  Hi, everyone.  Did the Bush administration ignore warnings about al Qaeda in the months leading up to September 11?  And did it focus on the wrong enemy after 9/11?

Former White House counter terrorism czar Richard Clarke is accusing the administration of failing to heed his warnings, and he said the administration became obsessed with finding a link between 9/11 and Iraq when none exists. 

Richard Clarke appeared on CBS News‘ “60 Minutes” last night to promote a book he‘s written, and he described a meeting he had with Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld right after the terror attacks.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RICHARD CLARKE, FORMER BUSH ADVISER:  Rumsfeld was saying that we needed to bomb Iraq.  And we all said, “But no, no; al Qaeda is in Afghanistan.  We need to bomb Afghanistan.” 

Rumsfeld said, “There aren‘t any good targets in Afghanistan.  And there are lots of good targets in Iraq.”

(END VIDEO CLIP) 

ABRAMS:  The White House was quick to respond today, calling Clark‘s accusations deeply irresponsible and flat out wrong. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CONDOLEEZZA RICE, NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER:  The president returned to the White House and called me in and said, “I‘ve learned from George Tenet that there is no evidence of a link between Saddam Hussein and 9/11.  This is going to be about Afghanistan.”  Iraq was going to be put to the side. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  We‘re joined by retired General Wesley Clark, a former Democratic candidate for president and who also served as supreme allied commander of NATO. 

General Clark, thanks very much for coming on the program.  We appreciate it. 

GEN. WESLEY CLARK (D), FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  Thank you. 

Good to be with you. 

ABRAMS:  All right.  So I think that there are two criticisms here.  I‘ve heard a lot of criticisms here.  I think there are two criticisms which seem worth discussing.  The rest of them seem to be to be pure politics. 

Issue one.  Why do you think that Mr. Clarke was softer on the Clinton administration than on the Bush administration when it comes to the intelligence before 9/11? 

CLARK:  Well, I think that when you look at what Dick Clarke has written and you look at the record of the administration, I think you‘d find that the Clinton administration did take a number of measures that showed that it took the threat of terrorism very, very seriously. 

For example, Attorney General Janet Reno and her actions considering terrorism a principal preoccupation of the Department of Justice.  John Ashcroft right away didn‘t have that concern.  For him, terrorism was less significant. 

But comparing before 9/11, so I think that‘s part of the comparison. 

ABRAMS:  Right.  Comparing the attorney generals, though, isn‘t really particularly the most important element when it comes to the terror threat, is it?  I mean, when you‘re talking about the president, you‘re talking about the cabinet.  You‘re talking about a lot of different people involved to just take out one person and say Janet Reno versus John Ashcroft. 

CLARK:  Well, you‘re asking for examples. 

ABRAMS:  No, I‘m saying on the whole—just let me finish.  Do you think on the whole that the Clinton administration was better, tougher on terror than was the Bush administration pre-9/11?

CLARK:  Well, I don‘t think on the whole that‘s really the important question.  I think the important question here is for the American people: did the Bush administration do everything it could have done before 9/11 to keep us safe?  Or, as Dick Clarke suggests, was it preoccupied with other issues?

And this is rightly a political issue at this time in American history because the president is up for re-election.  He wants the American people to endorse his performance as commander-in-chief.  Bill Clinton is not up for re-election.  This is about George W. Bush and his leadership.

And what Richard Clarke is telling the American people is that before 9/11, the president didn‘t take terrorism as seriously as he could have. 

ABRAMS:  Understood.  But you have to understand that when you‘re talking about the motives, and again, I‘m trying to sort out.  And I‘m trying to boil it down to the relevant and, I think, powerful criticisms.  Because we‘re going to talk the other side in a minute. 

But you don‘t think it‘s even relevant to discuss what happened under President Clinton and how he dealt with it in his book, right?

CLARK:  No.  I don‘t think it‘s relevant.  Because first of all, I mean, Dick Clarke started under George H.W. Bush.  Then he worked for eight years in the Clinton administration.  I worked with him during part of that time when I was three-star over in the Pentagon.  And then he stayed on in the current Bush administration. 

So I mean, he‘s been a non-partisan civil servant.  He‘s making a critique of this administration‘s conduct of the war against terror.  I think it‘s a critique that‘s deserving of the most serious attention. 

ABRAMS:  There‘s no question that it‘s deserving of serious attention.  I think that anyone who‘s going to ignore this book is going to do it at his or her peril. 

Let me let you listen to what Condoleezza Rice had to say in response to this book earlier today. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CONDOLEEZZA RICE, NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER:  We needed a broad and comprehensive strategy that would not roll back al Qaeda, which had been the strategy of the past.  But that would eliminate al Qaeda.  And we knew that even that was going to take three to five years.  This was not a strategy that was going to affect what happened on 9/11. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  What do you make of that, General Clark?

CLARK:  Well, what I make of that, the fact that this administration did not have the kind of high level attention and presidential leadership required to produce a broad and comprehensive strategy prior to 9/11. 

And after 9/11, the administration took us into a war we didn‘t have to fight, because it primarily relied on the military to go after terrorists. 

So I agree that that‘s what the administration needed.  But you‘re not going to get that without presidential leadership. 

Dick Clarke could not produce that strategy.  That‘s why he asked the president to host a principles committee meeting so that it could be discussed by the cabinet officers and the president of the United States.  It didn‘t happen.  That‘s what it takes to get a broad and comprehensive strategy.  It‘s that simple. 

ABRAMS:  Do you think 9/11 -- it‘s a suggestion that 9/11 could have, would have been prevented, had it not been President Bush in office?

CLARK:  Well, I think the issue really is, did the president do everything he could have done to prevent it?  And I think the answer that Dick Clarke provides is, no.  And I think that we‘re going to find out more from this 9/11 commission when people testify. 

But it‘s clear that, despite the fact the Bush administration was told the greatest national security threat to America is Osama bin Laden and al Qaeda, that the administration did not heed that warning.  It did not make that the top priority. 

Instead, it was worried about national missile defense and how to get along with Vladimir Putin and break the ABM Treaty.  And that difference in orientation, the difference in focus, that‘s what presidential leadership is all about, is putting the priorities out there, pulling the government together to keep America safe.  He didn‘t do it. 

ABRAMS:  And I think that‘s why the comparison to President Clinton does become relevant.  Because what you‘re saying is that he didn‘t act presidential.  He didn‘t do what he should have done pre-9/11.  And I think that‘s where the comparison becomes very important. 

Because then you have to ask the question, OK, if you‘re saying President Bush didn‘t do what he needed to do, did President Clinton do what he needed to do?  And I think that‘s a very important comparison. 

CLARK:  Well, to be honest with you, I don‘t think it‘s an important comparison.  Because...

ABRAMS:  We just look at...

CLARK:  ... President Clinton took a number of measures.  He passed the problem on to his successor.  The problem became more acute during the spring and summer of 2001.  And his successor did not pick up the ball and run with the ball.  His successor left the ball laying on the field. 

And it‘s not President Clinton who‘s standing for re-election.  It‘s George W. Bush. 

So if this is going to be the principle issue of this campaign, is President Bush‘s leadership of the war on terror, I don‘t think it has much to do with Bill Clinton.  I think it has a lot to do with George W. Bush. 

ABRAMS:  I think that‘s fair, except my concern is that we quarterback, that we Monday morning quarterback, and we look at what they could have done, they might have done, they should have done.  And I wonder whether it‘s useful.

And the only way I can figure out whether it‘s useful is to ask, would it have been different under another president?  And the only other example we have is President Clinton. 

CLARK:  Well, I think what you have to ask is, could actions have been taken at the presidential level in the circumstances the United States found itself in in the spring and summer of 2001, which might have made a difference?

In other words, could you have said to Attorney General John Ashcroft, “John, turn the heat up on the terrorists.  Get them up on the top on the priority list.  I want to know every week what you‘re doing.” 

You could have taken those actions.  But they weren‘t taken because there wasn‘t principle level concern. 

Now, the intelligence community did give the warnings and the threats.  But the policy side of the administration, led by the president, did not view this as the most significant problem. 

ABRAMS:  All right.  General Clark, thanks very much for taking the time to come on the program.  I agree with you; this is very important stuff, regardless of how you feel about the outcome. 

Not surprising, the White House is firing back today.  The national security adviser, Condoleezza Rice, wrote an editorial in the “Washington Post” denying the Bush administration focused on Iraq as a prime target after September 11. 

She writes, “Once advised that had there was no evidence that Iraq was responsible for September 11, the president told his National Security Council on November 17 that Iraq was not on the agenda.” 

I‘m joined now by Barbara Comstock, a former Justice Department spokesperson.  Before joining the Department of Justice, she was responsible for developing and managing the research operations in the Bush 2000 campaign. 

Thanks very much for coming on the program. 

BARBARA COMSTOCK, FORMER JUSTICE DEPARTMENT SPOKESPERSON:  Good to be here, Dan. 

ABRAMS:  OK.  You know, look, I‘ve been talking to General Clark about whether the comparisons to the Clinton administration is important.  I think one thing needs to be laid out there right at the beginning.  Do you think that Mr. Clarke, Richard Clarke, not General Clark, is simply lying?  Is simply making up stories about this administration?

COMSTOCK:  Well, I haven‘t had a chance to read the book thoroughly.  And I hope you‘ll invite me back when I have, because I‘m thoroughly confident that it will be replete with a lot of factual errors. 

Just some of the things that I‘ve seen so far, when you look at his statement that he said he didn‘t believe that Condi Rice even knew what al Qaeda was.  That is just patently absurd.  No one I‘ve talked to today, including a lot of Democrats, believes that that is true.  That really just cries out for, you know, what planet was Dick Clarke on?

And the arrogance that he‘s sitting there thinking Condi Rice doesn‘t know about al Qaeda.  I just think it‘s outrageous. 

And then you also had the situation where he‘s telling people that they had some type of war room operation on the millennium bomber, when in fact all the investigations that we‘ve done to date on the Hill and everywhere else show that it was a very alert woman who was a border agent who is a person who picked up that. 

So factually, he is not—he is not consistent with his past statements.  Following September 11, Dick Clarke was saying this was not an intelligence failure.  And he said it would be a cheap—quote “cheap shot” to call it an intelligence failure. 

And that‘s the kind of thing that people try and shift blame and show, instead of going forward.  And that is what his whole book, I believe is, is a cheap shot using his own words. 

ABRAMS:  Well, it may be.  Whether it‘s a cheap shot or not a cheap shot to me is not as important as whether it‘s true.  You know, people can talk about his motives for doing this or that.  And to me, the only question is is it true?

COMSTOCK:  And I don‘t think—it‘s not accurate. 

ABRAMS:  In its entirety.  I mean, so you‘re saying that all the allegations, for example, about Donald Rumsfeld talking about, trying to bomb Afghanistan, you‘re sure that that‘s not true? 

COMSTOCK:  Well, here‘s the thing.  What the administration has said and what I‘m sure is true, and he has taken out of context, is that following 9/11.  And this is also in Dick Clark‘ own words, everything was on the table.  They wanted to look at all of the people who might be trying to attack us, not just al Qaeda. 

ABRAMS:  What he said was—Wait a second.  He said specifically, though, was that immediately after 9/11, that Donald Rumsfeld said that they should think about bombing Iraq because there are no good targets in Afghanistan. 

COMSTOCK:  OK.  And as Condi Rice pointed out today, the president had a cabinet meeting on September 15.  Mr. Clarke was not invited to this.  And apparently he‘s feeling rather slighted when he‘s not always in these cabinet meetings, even though he was never a cabinet officer. 

But at that meeting they rolled out a map of Afghanistan.  And that was the plan. 

But you had to have a discussion.  Following 9/11, you had to put everything on the table, as Dick Clarke himself said back then.  He‘s changed his story.  He‘s changed his story. 

ABRAMS:  Let me—But if he‘s changed his story, that‘s separate. 

Let me...

COMSTOCK:  It makes him perfect for the...

ABRAMS:  Let me play another piece of sound from “60 Minutes.” 

Richard Clarke.  Let‘s listen. 

COMSTOCK:  OK. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RICHARD CLARKE, FORMER BUSH ADVISER:  Frankly, I find it outrageous that the president is running for re-election on the grounds of he has done such great thing about terrorism.  He ignored it.  He ignored terrorism for months when maybe we could have done something to stop 9/11.  Maybe.  We‘ll never know. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  See, here‘s my problem, is that I‘m listening to all these people talking about him.  And it seems no one is willing to say this guy is a dishonest guy.  This guy is a bad guy. 

Everyone is saying, look, all the administration people are coming out and other Republican who are criticizing him are saying, yes, well, he got this particular fact wrong.  And I don‘t think that‘s unimportant.  But there are so many allegations in this book that basically, you have to believe that this guy is a serial liar, that he is making up all sorts of allegations out of whole cloth to think that his book is not very important. 

COMSTOCK:  He‘s changed his story.  Following 9/11, he talked about...

ABRAMS:  So you think he‘s making it up.  He‘s lying.  The whole book is pure fabrication. 

COMSTOCK:  This is a whole different interpretation.  It‘s revisionist history of the facts. 

And he was tasked by Condi Rice in the early days of the administration to go back and create a new plan.  She—I‘m sure he did tell them, al Qaeda is a problem.  Great, you know?  We all know al Qaeda is a problem.  Condi Rice knew al Qaeda was a problem. 

What she wanted him to come up with was a new solution. 

ABRAMS:  Right.  But I want to talk...

COMSTOCK:  This administration did not think bombing aspirin factories was a strategy.  They wanted something more serious. 

ABRAMS:  But I want to talk about post 9/11.  Because pre-9/11, as you heard me talking to General Clark, I think to start talking about who should  have done what, what mistakes everyone made.  I mean, it‘s important to go through it.  But I think it‘s difficult to assess blame post-9/11. 

COMSTOCK:  That‘s what Dick Clarke used to say, too. 

ABRAMS:  If anything that he‘s saying is true about this administration‘s obsession with Iraq, it‘s scary. 

COMSTOCK:  No.  I think it is being—he has now changed his talking points about Iraq to fit the Kerry campaign.  And you know you have one of his oldest, dearest friends, Rand Beers, is on the Kerry campaign. 

And what you have, Dick Clarke doing is now he‘s fitting the facts to this, all the sound bites from the Kerry campaign.

ABRAMS:  Well, there‘s something...

COMSTOCK:  He moved up the publication...

ABRAMS:  There‘s no two interpretations to Donald Rumsfeld‘s comment.  I‘m sorry.  But if he‘s saying that there is no places to bomb.  If there are no targets to bomb in Afghanistan and instead we want to bomb Iraq.  There‘s no interpretation.

COMSTOCK:  The interpretation is...

ABRAMS:   It either happened or it didn‘t. 

COMSTOCK:  ... as Condi Rice has said, Dick Clarke had a very narrow view of the war on terrorism.  The president has had a broader view.  Iraq is a threat that this administration thought that we needed to arrest.  But following 9/11, they directly went to Afghanistan to attack that. 

Dick Clarke is the one who has changed his story, not the people in this administration.  And now we have a fight on a war on terrorism that is a concentrated global war on terrorism, trying to take out all the cells. 

Dick Clarke didn‘t even have a plan to deal with the cells in the United States. 

ABRAMS:  But see, look, if you‘re going to start sort of laying all the blame on him for...

COMSTOCK:  No.

ABRAMS:  Everything that happened, then you‘ve either got to say we‘re going to blame people pre-9/11 or you‘re going to say doing that is a bad idea. 

COMSTOCK:  No.  I think it‘s unfortunate that we‘re here and not—we need to be talking about, and the president is, how we can go forward...

ABRAMS:  No, I disagree.

COMSTOCK:  ... to battle the war on terrorism instead of selling books. 

ABRAMS:  I think it‘s a very important thing to discuss.  He may be wrong, but I think it‘s a very important thing to discuss, if there was an obsession to go after Iraq.  And with regard to—that‘s why there‘s a 9/11 commission to look into what happened before 9/11. 

COMSTOCK:  But I think the problem with this 9/11 commission, though, has been very politicized.  Dick Clarke moved his book date publication date up a month to coincide with his testimony this week. 

ABRAMS:  If that‘s true, look, that‘s a fair criticism.  But motives to me are one thing.  Facts are another.  Barbara Comstock, I‘m not saying the facts are accurate.  I‘m just saying that‘s the issue. 

Barbara Comstock, thanks a lot.  Good to see you. 

COMSTOCK:  Thank you, Dan. 

ABRAMS:  If Richard Clark is right and the plan was to take on Saddam Hussein no matter what, we wondered how it all might look from the other side.  In a moment, two Iraqi Americans with passionate views about Saddam, America, and the war in their homeland. 

We‘ll be right back.

ANNOUNCER:  Coming up, he‘s been called the poster boy for obscenity on the airwaves.  But now Howard Stern is crying foul.  Tonight, why America‘s top shock jock is urging the feds to go after Oprah Winfrey.

Plus, you‘ve heard the pros and cons of low carb diets.  But if some of this is hard to swallow, you‘ll want to hear what the diet detective has to say about the truths and myths of America‘s favorite weight loss plan when DEBORAH NORVILLE TONIGHT returns.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ABRAMS:  The White House is pulling out all the stops to fire back at its former counter terrorism chief, who has written a book attacking the administration‘s war on terror, including suggestions the administration was hell bent on attacking Iraq no matter what. 

In the Iraqi-American community people are paying close attention to Richard Clark‘s charges and to the White House‘s response. 

Although it would be hard to find any Iraqis in the U.S. who didn‘t rejoice at the fall and capture of Saddam Hussein, not all of them are convinced the war was worth it.

Joining me now are two Iraqi-Americans.  Ban Alwardi is an immigration lawyer in Los Angeles who agrees with the premise behind Richard Clarke‘s book.  And Wadie Habboush is a law student at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C.  He believes the U.S. went to war because—against Iraq because Saddam Hussein was terrorizing his own people. 

All right.  Mr. Habboush, let me start with you.  What do you make of these latest allegations in this book, that the idea is that President Bush was set on going after Iraq from even before 9/11?

WADIE HABBOUSH, GEORGETOWN UNIVERSITY LAW STUDENT:  Right.  Well, based on my opinion, John, and thank you for having me tonight.  I can only say that based on my opinion, going after Saddam Hussein was vital for the future of the Iraqi people.  And I think it will be very relevant to see in the near future. 

ABRAMS:  And do you know a lot of people who—a lot of Iraqi Americans or Iraqis who think that this was a bad thing that the war happened?

HABBOUSH:  Actually, based on the people that I talk to and the community here and abroad, also back home in Iraq, many people rejoiced when the Americans had gone into Iraq and liberated the people from Saddam Hussein and the tyrannical regime. 

And I think many Iraqis are optimistic.  I‘m very optimistic about the situation and about how thing will move on from now on.  But disappointingly, yes.  There are people getting killed.  There are murderers around there. 

But you know, I think the best thing to do now as an Iraqi American is to say we have to hope for the best and to be optimistic to help these people out. 

Ms. Alwardi, what‘s your—you actually seem to agree with much of what‘s in the book. 

BAN ALWARDI, IMMIGRATION ATTORNEY:  Yes.  Thank you so much for having me on the show. 

I do agree with the statements that Mr. Clarke has forwarded simply because he has been saying the same things that the Iraqi people have been saying all along. 

It‘s not the first time that we‘ve heard that the intentions behind this war were not necessarily for the freedom and liberation of the Iraqi people.  I wish that was true. 

Unfortunately, this war has been waged in the name of the people of Iraq, which is really disappointing, especially since the United States has really played a huge part in the oppression of the Iraqi people through their support for Saddam, through military aid to Saddam, through financial support to Saddam.  All along throughout his rule. 

ABRAMS:  Let‘s even assume that‘s true, I mean, just for argument‘s sake.  Let‘s assume for a moment that past administrations have made mistakes with regard to Saddam Hussein and have supported him when they shouldn‘t have done it. 

How did that go to whether it was a mistake then to still get rid of him upon realizing that he is tyrant?

ALWARDI:  Well, this is more than just a mistake.  This is murder.  You have had, in the last 13 years, some of the most cruel sanctions imposed against a civilian population that have killed over a million and a half people.  One million people. 

ABRAMS:  But that has nothing to do with this administration. 

ALWARDI:  This administration is just part of that policy.  And what is even worse is they waged a war against those very people that have suffered the sanctions, that have suffered a war in 1991. 

It‘s just a continuation of that at their most vulnerable stage and in the name of the Iraqi people, which is even more of an outrage. 

ABRAMS:  Look, I don‘t quite understand what you‘re saying.  You‘re saying that the Americans went in to attack the Iraqi people, right?

ALWARDI:  No.  Very clearly, well, United States, when you wage a preemptive war against any country, you are killing people.  Unfortunately, that‘s just the reality of war. 

But to say that they went into Iraq for the liberation of Iraq, or to bring democracy to a people that know how to rule themselves, quite frankly, and know how to bring democracy for themselves. 

ABRAMS:  But they weren‘t able to do it. 

ALWARDI:  They don‘t need to have a gun pointed at their heads to learn. 

ABRAMS:  But they weren‘t able to do it, I mean, for many, many years.  So why, if you support democracy, then isn‘t it a good thing that Saddam Hussein—it sounds like what you‘re saying is it would have been better if Saddam Hussein had remained in power. 

Because in 2001, those are the choices.  Choice A is Saddam remains in power.  And choice B is Saddam Hussein leaves.  Which one of the two would be better?

ALWARDI:  I think what we need to really examine and really critically analyze is that the assumptions that are being made today are that this war was somehow about Saddam Hussein. 

This war has not been about Saddam Hussein.  This war was never about Saddam Hussein.  It was about him then he wouldn‘t be in power to this day. 

ABRAMS:  I don‘t really understand what that means. 

Look, I‘ve even come on my program and talked about the fact that I think in the end, that this war probably wasn‘t worth it.  But I don‘t understand your position. 

Mr. Habboush, why don‘t you come in?

HABBOUSH:  Yes, I actually disagree with that point.  With all respect, Ban, I think Saddam Hussein was a reason.  The Iraqi people have suffered under his regime, under his tyrannical regime. 

Iraq, as everybody knows, is a very rich country.  It is if not the richest country in the Middle East.  The civilization that Iraq instills, the education that it has in its history.  It is vast.  Very well known. 

I think that during that tyrannical regime of Saddam Hussein and others, the Iraqis not have not been able to reap the fruits of their land.  They have not been able to see the benefits of their land.  They have been isolated in a small capsule. 

I fully disagree with that point.  I think as an Iraqi, and as an American.  And also to speak actually, if I may as an Iraqi, I see that there is something to be hopeful about.  Saddam Hussein was an obstacle for the Iraqis to open up to the world to get information flow, to educate themselves, and to advance.  And I think it is...

ALWARDI:  Nobody‘s disagreeing with you. 

HABBOUSH:  I have 15 second left.  Do you... I‘m sorry.  Are you opposed to—Let me just ask you a question. 

Are you opposed to the fact that Saddam Hussein has been taken out of power?  Are you sorry the U.S. went in?

ALWARDI:  Of course not.  Of course not.  Nobody is against Saddam or any other tyrant in this world being removed. 

ABRAMS:  So you‘re glad that the war happened. 

ALWARDI:  No, I am not happy at all that this war happened.  In fact...

ABRAMS:  How else are we going to get rid of Saddam Hussein?

ALWARDI:  Not through a war. 

ABRAMS:  How?  Give me one possibility. 

ALWARDI:  The people can bring their own change.  You don‘t need to kill people...

ABRAMS:  That would have been nice. 

ALWARDI:  To rule themselves Democratically with a rule to their head. 

ABRAMS:  That‘s a nice fantasy land.  But I mean, I don‘t really know exactly how that would have happened. 

But look, thank you both for your perspectives.  I appreciate it. 

Thanks. 

Coming up next, Ban Alwardi and Wadie Habboush, thank you very much for your perspectives.  Appreciate it.

Coming up next, Howard Stern‘s taking on Oprah Winfrey.  He said her show is dirtier than his.  Comedian Margaret Cho and a former FCC official join me to talk about that, next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ABRAMS:  Welcome back.

Howard Stern is firing back after the latest FCC fines imposed on him. 

And he is dragging the queen of daytime talk, Oprah Winfrey, into the fray.  On Friday, the government proposed slapping Infinity Broadcasting with a $27,000 fine as punishment for material broadcast by Stern in 2001.  Hours later, Stern tore into the FCC for hypocrisy, saying that Oprah Winfrey airs sexually explicit material on her television show, but that the FCC wouldn‘t dare go after her. 

Stern threatened to play a clip from a recent Oprah show about the sex lives of teenager.  His producers elected not to do it. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

HOWARD STERN, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST:  By airing it, they have to fine Oprah if they fine us.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  No, no, no. 

(CROSSTALK)

STERN:  ... can‘t be fined.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Maybe somebody can complains and they go decide to fine Oprah. 

(CROSSTALK)

STERN:  Well, then, how are they going to complain?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  OK.  Then let them decide.

STERN:  This is our Battle of the Bulge. 

ROBIN QUIVERS:  I‘m telling you, Oprah won‘t get fined on her show. 

But she will get fined here. 

STERN:  Then we win.

(END AUDIO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  For more on Oprah, Howard and the latest rounds in the indecency war, I‘m joined by Dr. Robert Hilliard, professor of media and visual at Emerson College in Boston and a former chief of the broadcasting branch of the FCC.  His latest book, “Dirty Discourse: Sex and Indecency in American Radio.”  And comedian Margaret Cho, who herself has been the subject of Howard Stern jokes, but she is standing by Stern‘s right to speak out. 

Thank you both very much for coming on the program. 

MARGARET CHO, COMEDIAN:  Thank you. 

ABRAMS:  All right, Dr. Hilliard, Howard Stern makes an interesting comparison when he compares him to Oprah Winfrey and he gets into the nitty-gritty details of what Oprah Winfrey says on her program.  His point is, other people say things which are kind of disgusting at times to certain people.  They‘re kind of graphic.  They‘re kind of specific.  Is Howard Stern being singled out? 

ROBERT HILLIARD, FORMER FCC OFFICIAL:  I‘m not sure he‘s being singled out, because the FCC has set policy on this before.  This is not the first time it‘s happened. 

A few years ago, Oprah Winfrey‘s show had complaints.  And the FCC decided that it was not actionable because it fell into what the FCC called a kind of clinical discussion.  In fact, I‘m going to read to you in a moment what the FCC said at the time. 

ABRAMS:  Well, you know, while you‘re looking that up, let me read to you what Oprah Winfrey said on her show.  And you can tell us what the FCC said about it. 

Oprah Winfrey says, “OK, what is a salad toss?”  And then one of the guests says, “A tossed salad is oral, anal sex.  So oral sex to the anus is what tossed salad is.  A rainbow party is an oral sex party.  And a rainbow comes from all of the girls putting on lipstick.”  I mean, you‘re now going to read me their finding that this was somehow clinical? 

HILLIARD:  All right. 

The FCC noted, a couple years, a few years ago, that even where language might be explicit or graphic or vulgarly repetitious, the content of the material may not make it indecent.  Such determinations usually occur in program that are serious or artistic and not deliberately shock jock. 

The FCC said that this particular program, the material presented was clinical or instructional in nature and not presented in a pandering, titillating or vulgar manner. 

ABRAMS:  But, see, that‘s the part that disturbs me, is when the FCC starts getting into the business of deciding, well, you know what?  This particular discussion of a salad toss is artistic.  And yet if Howard Stern did the same thing, it‘s not. 

HILLIARD:  All right.  The content of some of these shows—now, I‘m not defending the FCC here.  I‘m just telling what you they said. 

(CROSSTALK)

ABRAMS:  I know what they said.  I understand what they said. 

HILLIARD:  All right. 

The content of some of these shows is similar to that of shock jocks. 

ABRAMS:  I don‘t want you to read the whole thing. 

HILLIARD:  All right, I‘m not going to read the whole thing.

(CROSSTALK)

HILLIARD:  In one particular show a few years ago, there were complaints about an Oprah Winfrey show in which masturbation was discussed.  The FCC stated that subject matter alone does not constitute indecency. 

(CROSSTALK)

ABRAMS:  Let me let Margaret Cho in here. 

Margaret, my problem with this is, you know, I‘m not sure, you know, what to make of the FCC rules.  But I think Howard Stern has a point here when he makes a comparison to what other programs do. 

CHO:  Absolutely.  And the reason people are going after Howard Stern or the FCC is going after Howard Stern, isn‘t because of Oprah.  And he‘s not going after Oprah.  It is because Howard Stern is basically a scapegoat.  He is so openly critical of the Bush administration.  He makes such fun of President Bush openly, just outrageously.  And that—for that, he is being punished.  Basically, what we‘re seeing....

(CROSSTALK)

ABRAMS:  You really think it‘s political?  See, I don‘t think it is political. 

CHO:  It is absolutely political.  It is a smokescreen.

(CROSSTALK)

ABRAMS:  I just think it is because they think that he is gross. 

CHO:  He has always been gross.  It‘s a smokescreen. 

It is basically trying to show this sort of mythical erosion of the moral fiber of America, when, really, there is none.  What is the moral disintegration is what‘s happening in the White House.  It is what‘s happening in the government. 

ABRAMS:  I don‘t want to get into that.

Look, here‘s what I think happened.  And you tell me if you disagree with me, Margaret.  I think that the after Janet Jackson flap—look, Howard Stern has said the same thing, that all the rules changed, that enforcement suddenly kicked in, that Howard Stern had been probably violating FCC rules in the past. 

And now they decided, you know what?  Because of the Janet Jackson flap, because we got so much heat over that, now we‘re going to start enforcing the rules.  You don‘t think that‘s what happened? 

CHO:  I agree with you to a point.  This has Karl Rove written all over it. 

(CROSSTALK)

ABRAMS:  Come on.  Karl Rove isn‘t making the decisions about the FCC. 

Come on.

CHO:  I would disagree with that. 

ABRAMS:  Really? 

CHO:  I think that the only way that they can get Bush back into office is to mobilize his voters.

(CROSSTALK)  

ABRAMS:  Oh, come on.

(CROSSTALK)

ABRAMS:  Let me ask Dr. Hilliard if it is logistically possible what you said.  Is it possible that the administration is sending directives to the FCC and deciding, you know what, this guy Howard Stern is against us and therefore, we have to go out, because, look—is that possible? 

HILLIARD:  Well, now, legally, the White House is not supposed to have any influence on these independent agencies. 

ABRAMS:  Right. 

HILLIARD:  But we know that they do. 

The White House has always had an opportunity to tell the heads of the agencies, we would like you to do this or that.  Now, I‘m not sure that they would single out any particular program like Howard Stern‘s.  But what we‘ve had in the last few years is a continuing diminution of our basic freedoms of speech and press and even assembly. 

And I think what has happened is that the FCC has fallen into this with all the pressures put on the FCC, since one particular incident which one might consider probably the least important of all of the so-called indecency incidents.  And that was the Janet Jackson bit. 

(CROSSTALK) 

ABRAMS:  But why isn‘t them just deciding to enforce the rules that were in place?  Everyone seems to agree that the enforcement was very lax before.  Why can‘t this just be viewed as a wakeup call, where the FCC said, you know what, we just need to start enforcing these things more stringently across the board?

(CROSSTALK)

HILLIARD:  Now, the FCC has enforced it in the past.  And Howard Stern has been fined in the past.  And so have other shock jocks. 

But what has happened now is, apparently, great pressures arising out of that ridiculous Super Bowl incident.  And these pressures are being put on the FCC from all sides, including the government, including the Congress, including the White House.  So the FCC, in order to protect its own rear end at this point, I think is saying, we‘re going to crack down on practically everybody that we can find doing anything that we can consider indecent. 

(CROSSTALK)

ABRAMS:  Hang on.  I‘m almost out of time.  I‘ve got to give Margaret the final word here.

HILLIARD:  OK.

ABRAMS:  You‘ve got the final 10 seconds.  Go ahead.

CHO:  Now, basically, what‘s going on is that they‘re trying to convince America is going to hell in a handbasket because of shock jock radio and things like that, this idea of indecency, and trying to mobilize the religious right, which is the only way Bush will be reelected because he‘s been such a bad president all along.  And Howard Stern is being punished because he is so...

ABRAMS:  Why do we need to get into the political rants?  Why can‘t we

just

(CROSSTALK)

CHO:  This is political.  It is incredibly political. 

ABRAMS:  It may be political.  But sort of to throw in there, and he‘s been the worst president and this and this and that, that doesn‘t really relate to issue of the FCC.

CHO:  Well, he is.

(CROSSTALK)

CHO:  I‘m sorry.  Well, he has, though.

(CROSSTALK)  

ABRAMS:  OK, that‘s it.  We‘re done.  OK.  I‘m sorry, Margaret, look, I gave you the final word and you decided to get political.  I got to wrap it up.  I‘m sorry.

(CROSSTALK)

ABRAMS:  It‘s not punishment.  I‘m out of time. 

(CROSSTALK)

ABRAMS:  I‘m out of time.  I‘m out of time. 

Robert Hilliard, Margaret Cho...

CHO:  It‘s political no matter how you cut it.

ABRAMS:  Thanks very much.  Appreciate it. 

HILLIARD:  Thank you. 

CHO:  Bye.

ABRAMS:  Coming up, low carbs, they‘re the rage.  But you may be surprised to learn that some diets work and others may not work at all.  A nutritionist who has tested them joins me next with the results.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ABRAMS:  Coming up, controversy in the men‘s room, a major airline kissing off its idea for lips in the latrine.  Apparently, it was just too cheeky.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ABRAMS:  We just had to ask, what is it?  It‘s a men‘s urinal shaped like a woman‘s open mouth.  Virgin Atlantic Airways was going to install some of these in the men‘s room of its new clubhouse lounge for—quote—

“upper-class passengers” at New York‘s JFK airport. 

The urinal was designed by a Dutch company which calls it “The Kiss” and markets it as the sexy urinal.  The company says—quote—“This is one target men will never miss.”  It was apparently the creation of a female designer.  Virgin received complaints.  And then the National Organization for Women got involved.  NOW President Kim Gandy said—quote -- “I don‘t know many men who think it is cool to pee in a woman‘s mouth, even a porcelain one.”

Virgin Airways says they were just trying to have a bit of fun, didn‘t mean to offend anyone.  In any case, now they flushed the whole idea and it looks like it‘s back to the regular boring old urinals in the upper-class men‘s lounge.  You might have wondered what they might have used as flushers in the women‘s bathroom. 

Back in a moment. 

ANNOUNCER:  Up next, can a low-carb diet transform you from this to this?  Tonight, the diet detective on the case of the carb craze. 

DEBORAH NORVILLE TONIGHT is coming right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ABRAMS:  Between 15 and 30 million Americans are on some sort of low-carb diet.  But do they work?  And, if so, which ones work the best?

Former President Bill Clinton has shed pounds on the South Beach diet.  But he‘s not saying how much weight he lost.  “Friends” star, the fabulous fit Jennifer Aniston, describes to the Zone diet.  With all those diet books, how do you figure out which one is the best for you?

In “Living the Low-Carb Life,” the diet detective, author, and certified nutrition expert Jonny Bowden sorts through the 14 most popular low-carb diets and created a guide to help you figure out which one might work best for you. 

Jonny Bowden joins us now from Burbank. 

Thanks very much for coming on the program.  Appreciate it. 

JONNY BOWDEN, AUTHOR, “LIVING THE LOW CARB LIFE”:  Oh, it‘s my pleasure. 

ABRAMS:  Before we ask about which ones work and which one don‘t, is there really that much of a difference?  Between the best and the worst of the diets, is it the difference between truly losing lots of weight and truly losing no weight? 

BOWDEN:  There‘s a pretty big difference between the best and the real worst of the lot.  But among the best of them, the difference are somewhat cosmetic, particularly in the early stages of them.  The first couple of weeks are very similar. 

But, again, it‘s kind of like buying a designer suit.  It‘s which one fits your personality best and which fits your body type the best. 

ABRAMS:  How did you do your research?  You compared 14 diets.  How did you go about truly—quote—“researching” each one? 

BOWDEN:  Well, I‘ve been a nutritionist for about 10 years and been doing clinical weight loss and stuff like that for a long time.  So I‘ve been familiar with a lot of these programs. 

I read each of the books, sometimes for the second and third time, and really went into what the science was, how many of them had actual good science behind them, what the research showed, made my evaluation based on a lot of different things, how user-friendly they were, how much good science they had behind them, whether they made sense, whether people actually had success on them, and a number of other things, put it together and kind of came up with a rating system. 

ABRAMS:  All right, and I know you probably need to know more about the person than to just say I recommend this particular diet. 

BOWDEN:  You do. 

ABRAMS:  But let‘s assume it‘s a 45-year-old woman who wants to lose 15 pounds.  Which diet would you say you should go on? 

BOWDEN:  You know, again, I‘m not dodging this one because I will tell you which ones I think are good. 

ABRAMS:  I understand.

BOWDEN:  But I really do believe it‘s sort of like which suit looks best on you.  If you‘re a person who eats out all the time, for example, then a diet that you have to measure and weigh is not going work real well.  And if you‘re a person who loves to cook, then maybe something that tells you how to eat in restaurants is not really for you. 

Again, it‘s going to have do with food preferences and food reactions and sensitivities and possibly allergies.  So I think a lot of it depends on individual factors.  And I think that‘s really the bottom line of being the diet detective is kind of figuring out what‘s going fit this person who is in front of me. 

ABRAMS:  Understood. 

I heard you had said that you didn‘t think exercise mattered that much in the context of these diets.  I was a really surprised to hear that. 

BOWDEN:  I didn‘t quite say that.

But what I did say is one of the biggest myths is that exercise is a great way to lose weight.  It‘s not.  Now, I was a personal trainer for 10 year.  Nobody believes in exercise more than me.  But the problem is, it doesn‘t really get the weight off by itself.  There‘s a coach once who used to say, if you‘re eating 5,000 -- if you‘re eating—if you‘re exercising 5,000 calories and eating 10,000, the exercise isn‘t going make the difference.  It‘s just not going to do battle a couple of meals a day at McDonald‘s. 

ABRAMS:  Finally, the Scarsdale diet, you gave it zero stars.  Why? 

BOWDEN:  I did indeed, yes, because it‘s a terrible diet.  It‘s unsafe.  It makes no sense.  The guy didn‘t understand the science behind low-carbing at all.  And it‘s just not a good, healthy diet. 

There‘s a number of them in the book that I did not give wonderful reviews to for just that reason. 

ABRAMS:  Bottom line, do you think low-carb diet cans work? 

BOWDEN:  Not only do I think they can work.  I think they do work. 

And I think the research that‘s coming out now that‘s testing some of the diet that have been around for a while, like Atkins—and there‘s a real way to test that now because we kind of know what the parameters are—and some of the newer ones as well, is showing that not only does it get weight off, but it improves a whole bunch of different health parameters that we really care about, like the risk for heart disease or diabetes. 

ABRAMS:  Very quickly, I want to just go over—I have got 10 seconds left.  You can only lose weight on a low-carb diet because the calories are lower.  That‘s a big myth that you think you‘ve got to forget about. 

BOWDEN:  It‘s actually nonsense. 

There‘s been a number of studies that have actually looked at the calories on all of the diets, from Weight Watchers to Dean Ornish to Atkins and found that they‘re similar.  So, when you put two people on an identical-calorie diet and one‘s on low-carb and one is on low-fat, and the low-carb loses more, you got to know that something else is going on besides just calories. 

ABRAMS:  Jonny Bowden, thanks a lot for taking the time to come on the program.  Good luck with the book. 

BOWDEN:  It was my pleasure.  Thank you. 

ABRAMS:  Coming up next, it appears Erin Brockovich is taking on a new cause. 

Stick around. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ABRAMS:  The real Erin Brockovich, as distinguished from the movie Erin Brockovich, has a new cause.  The firm she works for is suing Beverly Hills, its school district and several oil and gas companies for the third time.  She says residents developed cancer from toxic fumes emitted by a campus oil well.  She‘s on this program tomorrow night. 

Also tomorrow night, Robert Kennedy‘s daughter, filmmaker Rory Kennedy, on her new documentary, “A Boy‘s Life.”  That‘s tomorrow night on NORVILLE TONIGHT.  We‘re out of time tonight.

I‘ll be back here tomorrow.  I‘ll also be on “THE ABRAMS REPORT” tomorrow at 6:00 p.m. Eastern time.  Make sure to catch that. 

Coming up next, Joe Scarborough.  Rush Limbaugh‘s attorney, Roy Black, joins Joe and says there‘s a double standard in prosecuting Rush‘s case.  He says he has got the evidence to back it up.  “SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY” is next.

Thanks for watching.  See you tomorrow.

END   

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