updated 4/9/2004 11:49:35 AM ET 2004-04-09T15:49:35

Guests: Wendy Sherman, Fred Thompson, Dan Bartlett, G. Gordon Liddy, Christopher Hitchens, Jim Woolsey, Tim Roemer, John Dean

JOE SCARBOROUGH, HOST:  Tonight, live from Washington, D.C., an exclusive SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY showdown on Condi‘s testimony that rocked official Washington. 

You‘re about to enter SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY.  No passport required, no finger-pointing allowed. 

Condoleezza Rice and Bob Kerrey clash in a Capitol Hill showdown.  But did Kerrey go too far by declassifying a top secret memo while all America watched?  We‘ve got an all-star lineup tonight; 9/11 Commission member Tim Roemer is here.  And former CIA Director Jim Woolsey will go up against John Dean, former counsel to President Nixon.  And Richard Clarke associate Roger Cressey is here to talk about the he said/she said clash between his former boss and Dr. Rice.  And we‘ll also bring you the White House‘s reaction.  Then, we‘re going to be talking to former Senator and Watergate counsel Fred Thompson, star of NBC‘s “Law & Order.” 

Then, another tough day in Iraq.  Is this becoming George Bush‘s Vietnam, like Ted Kennedy says?  “Vanity Fair”‘s Christopher Hitchens and G. Gordon Liddy both weigh in.

But first, Condi clashes with the commission on Capitol Hill.  It‘s time for tonight‘s “Real Deal.”

Washington is buzzing over Dr. Rice‘s testimony before the 9/11 Commission, while political pundits and talking heads do their best to spin this story to suit their side.  But as somebody who was inside the committee room this morning and who‘s been part of thousands of congressional committee hearings before, I can assure you that today was more about political theater than exposing the truth. 

As with Oliver North, Whitewater, impeachment, and Chinagate, these televised hearings sometimes can bring out posers on the committee daises and the witness stands.  In the end, American are always left with just a few lasting images from such hearings, like Ollie North standing erect in his Marine uniform taking the oath, or Howard Baker during Watergate asking the president what he knew and when he knew it, or Joseph Welch‘s, “At long last, sir, have you no shame?” challenge to Joe McCarthy. 

But there wasn‘t a defining moment like that today.  Dems and Bush haters hoping to blame a president who faced this issue for eight months, instead of Bill Clinton‘s eight years, are going to have to manufacture another scandal. 

In watching family members in the audience wearing pictures of their fallen loved ones, I‘ve got to tell you, I was disgusted by the partisan clapping and booing that both sides engaged in.  Some people still see this war on terror as nothing more than a political game.  But, in the end, Condi Rice showed grace under pressure and got the best of the commission members, who took today‘s historic opportunity to grandstand for their side, instead of searching for answers in America‘s ongoing quest to make sure a tragedy like September 11 never happens again. 

And that‘s tonight‘s “Real Deal.” 

Now, I sat down with a 9/11 Commission member and friend Tim Roemer and I asked him if he got the answers he wanted from Condoleezza Rice. 

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

TIMOTHY ROEMER, PRESIDENT, CENTER FOR NATIONAL POLICY:  I thought Dr.  Rice was cool.  She was professional.  She was statesmanlike.  She was very helpful. 

There are some remaining questions, some holes there.  I hope that they, the White House, will move quickly to declassify the August 6 presidential daily brief. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Is that the key element that came out of this, the daily brief that specifically talked about Osama bin Laden wanting to strike specific targets in the United States?  Is that the big story out of this hearing? 

ROEMER:  Well, it‘s one of the big stories.  The headline of that presidential daily brief, as you recall, is “Bin Laden Determined to Attack the United States.”

When you see that, but you still don‘t know, as Dr. Rice said, where it‘s going to take place, you or I hopefully would then say, if it‘s in the United States, I‘ve got to go to the FBI and find out what they know about al Qaeda in this country, and especially when they were briefed early in the transition that al Qaeda had sleeper cells in the United States.  Again, Joe, what we‘re trying to do here is, let‘s get this system fixed. 

We‘re not out here to try to blame the Bush administration. 

We‘ve pointed out mistakes in the Clinton administration.  Nobody did this perfectly.  But we have to get it right for the future. 

SCARBOROUGH:  You say there are still some holes in the testimony.  You‘re going to have the big man.  You‘re going to have the president and the vice president of the United States come to the Hill, testify to you all. 

What‘s the one key question that still has not been answered that you, as a commission member, want answered not only for yourself and this country, but more importantly, for all the commission families that we saw there today in the hearing? 

ROEMER:  They grab your heartstrings, seeing all those families there. 

SCARBOROUGH:  It was unbelievable.  You see the pictures on the lapel of the loved ones. 

ROEMER:  Well, that‘s why I keep at it, Joe. 

I was up at ground zero.  I was at the Pentagon the night of the attacks.  I met with these families.  You never forget their pain and sorrow.  So I would probably ask the president—he‘s quoted in the Woodward book as saying that the al Qaeda threat wasn‘t urgent at that point for him.  It didn‘t get his blood boiling. 

If he had given more speeches, if he had acted more quickly, what advice do we get from the president of the United States so that new transitions—new administrations coming into office can get this right, right away in the future?  How do we posture the United States on war footing, as Dr. Rice said, so that it wasn‘t insufficient over 20 years, as Dr. Rice testified, but we start looking at this new jihadist threat, not like the former Soviet Union?

This threat is coming at us for the next 20 years.  We‘ve got to get our offense and our defense ready.  We‘ve got to be prepared.  I‘d ask the vice president—he had a task force that he was assigned to chair in the spring of 2001.  How did they meet?  Did they have recommendations on protecting the country?  What did they do on the weapons of mass destruction front?  How do we get these task forces to be taken seriously in the future?

SCARBOROUGH:  All right, Tim Roemer, thanks a lot. 

ROEMER:  All right, Joe. 

SCARBOROUGH:  We appreciate you coming here on SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY. 

Good to see you again.

ROEMER:  It‘s great to be in your country. 

SCARBOROUGH:  All right, buddy.

ROEMER:  All right, man, it‘s good to see you. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Thanks.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SCARBOROUGH:  Now, did Condoleezza Rice‘s testimony prove President Bush was serious about the terror threat before 9/11? 

We have former CIA Director James Woolsey here.  He thinks Rice aced her performance today.  And we also have John Dean, whose new book, “Worse Than Watergate,” is No. 1 on the Amazon‘s bestseller list and No. 7 on “The New York Times.” And it blasts President Bush and Dick Cheney for what he calls a dangerous cover-up of the 9/11 attacks. 

I‘ll start with you, Director Woolsey.

Do you believe that Condi Rice today exonerated her boss, President Bush, or do you think she just sort of muddled the picture even more? 

JAMES WOOLSEY, FORMER CIA DIRECTOR:  I think she did very well today. 

I think she did a couple of things. 

First of all, she made the strategic point.  In looking at Dick Clarke and then looking at her, you could see the difference between a staffer who‘s tactically focused on one narrow aspect of the issue in Clarke, and a strategic thinker.  Condi said that it was clearly important if they were going to make progress against al Qaeda to deal with the Taliban in Afghanistan.  So she brought on a senior Afghan expert, Zalmay Khalilzad.

She worked on Pakistan, so they could figure out how to deal with Afghanistan.  And the administration eventually went off and did that after 9/11.  Those things take some time.  I think that also, she made a very good point in talking about how institutional barriers had kept there from being cooperation.  One the strongest ones was, the FBI was forbidden, before the passage of the USA Patriot Act, from sharing material with the CIA or indeed with virtually anyone, if they had obtained it pursuant to grand jury subpoena. 

So when they investigated the ‘93 bombing of the World Trade Center, they couldn‘t give the material to us.  They weren‘t playing their cards close to their vest.  It would have been illegal.  So...

SCARBOROUGH:  And people say, gee, why would that be illegal?  And I don‘t really want to get into the historical footnote.  But, obviously, the Church Commission and a lot of problems in the 1970s, people were concerned about the FBI and the CIA sharing information like that. 

WOOLSEY:  Keep them completely apart, that was the idea.  And no one was thinking when they drafted up Rule 6E of the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure, getting the CIA and the FBI to work together.  They were trying to keep them apart. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Now, Commissioner Bob Kerrey made a statement today and attacked George Bush and his record for fighting the war on terror before 9/11.

And this is what he said. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BOB KERREY, FORMER U.S. SENATOR:                  You said the president was tired of swatting flies.

KERREY:  Can you tell me one example where the president swatted a fly when it came to al Qaeda prior to 9/11?

RICE:  I think what the president was speaking to was...

KERREY:  No, no.  What fly had he swatted?

RICE:  Well, the disruptions abroad was what he was really focusing on...

KERREY:  No, no...

RICE:  ... when the CIA would go after Abu Zubaydah...

KERREY:  He hadn‘t swatted...

RICE:  ... or go after this guy...

KERREY:  Dr. Rice, we didn‘t...

RICE:  That was what was meant.

KERREY:  We only swatted a fly once on the 20th of August 1998.  We didn‘t swat any flies afterwards.  How the hell could he be tired?

RICE:  We swatted at—I think he felt that what the agency was doing was going after individual terrorists here and there, and that‘s what he meant by swatting flies.  It was simply a figure of speech.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCARBOROUGH:  Is that a fair assessment? 

WOOLSEY:  I think it is.  There were two cruise missile attacks, one in ‘93 on Iraq, an empty intelligence headquarters in the middle of the night by President Clinton, and one in ‘98 on empty al Qaeda plants and an empty pharmaceutical plant. 

Now, Dick Clarke expresses his support for those.  But I don‘t see that they did anything very substantial.  I think what President Bush was referring to was probably that kind of action.  It really didn‘t do any particular good.  And I think he and Condoleezza Rice were thinking strategically about how to approach the problem. 

SCARBOROUGH:  John Dean, what was your take today?  You obviously, as somebody who has sat in that hot seat at a very high-profile hearing, how did Condi Rice do?

JOHN DEAN, FORMER COUNSEL TO PRESIDENT NIXON:  I‘ve actually been on both sides.  I‘ve been a committee counsel, too. 

(LAUGHTER)

SCARBOROUGH:  I‘ll tell you what.  It‘s more fun being a committee counsel than being on the hot seat.

DEAN:  You got it.

(CROSSTALK)

SCARBOROUGH:  How did Condi do?  

DEAN:  She did a good job.  She‘s a good witness.  She was very effective.

She spoke very eloquently and managed to say nothing.  And that‘s exactly what the goal was.  She took the two-hour period.  She basically filibustered it.  She used 20 minutes for an opening statement.  She stretched her questions and her answers.  She tried to be generally responsive in a policy sense, in a political sense.  But she didn‘t want to reveal anything. 

She‘s not up there to volunteer information.  She‘s up there to protect the president, as opposed to Clarke and the others this committee‘s been gathering.  They‘re trying to obtain information.  As we were talking before we went on, this was good theater. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Yes, good theater.

And, you know, it‘s so frustrating, because I know during the Clinton administration, they had a series of scandals.  They would come over, whether it was from the Judiciary Committee or the Armed Services Committee or Government Reform, you‘d have somebody, you‘d want to get a question into them, but you‘d have five or 10 minutes. 

DEAN:  Right. 

SCARBOROUGH:  And so it‘s really, really impossible to do much more than political theater, isn‘t it, scratch the surface with this type of hearing? 

DEAN:  That‘s all it does. 

And let me comment one thing about on Jim said about rule 6E.  The FBI always, before they take nag to the grand jury, they have done the field investigation.  That stuff isn‘t covered by the grand jury.  They could share that information.  But as you well know, better than most of us, it‘s institutional, the mentality that came up with Hoover, who didn‘t want to see the CIA.  He wanted to have both domestic and foreign intelligence, and the jealousy, the institutional jealousy, is probably more systemic than the legal jealousy. 

WOOLSEY:  Some of this was just playing your cards close to the vest. 

But the material they had on the ‘93 bombing, I think they had all gotten it pursuant to a grand jury subpoena and it sat there for years before we got a look at it or anyone else.  And it really...

DEAN:  It makes a good excuse when they want to bury it. 

WOOLSEY:  But I think they were following the law then.  And it was not a good law.  And it got changed in the Patriot Act. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Let‘s talk about your book.

DEAN:  Sure.

SCARBOROUGH:  Because in your book, “Worse Than Watergate,” you say this: “Bush and Cheney‘s secrecy is far worse than during Watergate and it bodes even more serious consequences.”

Do you really believe that? 

(CROSSTALK)

DEAN:  I absolutely do believe that. 

I would have written this book about any administration.  I draw as much from the right as I do from the left in that criticism.  I used examples—for example, Dan Burton.  I used Richard Army, the points they made about the abuse of secrecy.  Its just out of hand and it really is something that has been largely ignored by the mainstream media. 

It‘s an issue that needs to be up on top of the table.  It is not a partisan issue.  It‘s a good government issue.  And that‘s why I thought it was important to raise it. 

SCARBOROUGH:  James Woolsey, a final question.  What are we going to get out of the president and the vice president‘s testimony on Capitol Hill?  I know it‘s private.  It‘s behind closed doors.  Is that going to be political theater or do you think something of great substance is going to come out of that? 

WOOLSEY:  It‘s hard to say. 

But I don‘t think they have anything really that they need to hide about this.  They were in office for 7 ½ months before this attack occurred.  They were working on the problem.  They had a number of their people who were not on board yet, because the clearance process and the confirmation process takes so long at the beginning of administrations these days.  I think they can say what they were working on and let the chips fall. 

I don‘t really think they have anything to apologize for with respect to the way they dealt with the terrorist threat. 

SCARBOROUGH:  All right, Director Woolsey, John Dean, thank you so much.  Your book, No. 1 on Amazon, No. 7 “New York Times.”  This is your first week out, right? 

DEAN:  First week out. 

SCARBOROUGH:  I‘m going to go out, buy it and read it.  I‘m going to disagree with it.

DEAN:  Well, let‘s talk about it. 

SCARBOROUGH:  But after I read it, I‘m going to get you back on. 

DEAN:  We‘ll do it.  We‘ll do it from the West Coast, where, my time, body is better.

SCARBOROUGH:  Very good.  Very good. 

(LAUGHTER)

SCARBOROUGH:  And straight ahead, speaking of Watergate, we‘re going to talk to former Watergate prosecutor and former Senator Fred Thompson about the showdown on Capitol Hill. 

And another Watergate player, G. Gordon Liddy, will weigh in later. 

Plus, we‘re going to take you to the White House and get their reaction to Dr. Rice‘s grilling.

And one church gives a tormenting lesson just in time for Easter.  Parents thought they were taking their kids to see the Easter Bunny, but instead, they got a horror show.  That‘s coming up later. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SCARBOROUGH:  Straight ahead, the White House communications director enters SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY to tell us if the president is glad he let Dr.  Rice testify. 

Stick around.  That‘s next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SCARBOROUGH:  As you know, the White House originally had concerns about sending Condoleezza Rice to testify. 

So I asked White House communications director Dan Bartlett how she did. 

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DAN BARTLETT, WHITE HOUSE COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR:  Well, you‘re right.  We did have concerns about the principles of separation between branches of government. 

But what Condi Rice showed today is that the administration can be proud of its record on the war on terror, that we took responsible actions before 9/11, and President Bush took decisive action after 9/11.  It gave an opportunity for the American people to hear clearly about the steps that were taken, about the new strategy that was under way to not only roll back al Qaeda, but to eliminate al Qaeda.  So we felt it was a perfect opportunity for the American people to hear from a person who has the most credibility, because she was coordinating the policy-making and decision-making in the White House. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Dan, as you know, the 9/11 Commission member and former Democratic Senator Bob Kerrey dropped a classified bombshell today at the hearing, and this is what he said. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KERREY:           In the spirit of further declassification, this is what the August 6 memo said to the president:  that the FBI indicates patterns of suspicious activity in the United States consistent with preparations for hijacking.

That‘s the language of the memo that was briefed to the president on the 6 of August.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCARBOROUGH:  Are you concerned and is the White House concerned tonight about a commission member and a former United States senator engaging in what some reporters are already calling a unilateral declassification of a top-secret document? 

BARTLETT:  Well, watching the testimony myself, I was quite surprised when he began reading from one of the most classified documents in the possession of the United States government.  The members of the commission have seen this document in its totality.  The administration all along has been providing unprecedented access to these types of information. 

You could see by Dr. Rice that she was surprised by the fact that he did this.  Having said that, this administration clearly has let the facts be shown, what the president knew.  It was he himself who had requested the information.  What the PDB on August 6 showed was a history of what bin Laden had said and done over the course—particularly in the ‘90s. 

We are working, ourselves, through the legal process, of declassifying hopefully the full PDB to be released to the public.  But I was surprised, like probably many people, when he began reading from it himself. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Does the White House consider it to be inappropriate that he did declassify that document on his own? 

BARTLETT:  Well, Joe, I‘m not a lawyer.  I‘m not going to get into the appropriateness of that.  I think Senator Kerrey would have to say that this administration at every turn, when it comes to the issues of substance of what they wanted access to, they‘ve gotten it. 

He had access, as he demonstrated today, to the information in the PDB.  There was no specific information about an imminent attack on the United States of America.  We‘ve made that very clear.  So I just will leave it at the fact that we were quite surprised when he began reading from it. 

SCARBOROUGH:  All right, Dan Bartlett, White House communications director, thanks a lot for being with us tonight.

BARTLETT:  Thanks, Joe. 

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SCARBOROUGH:  Now, Fred Thompson is certainly no stranger to a high-stakes congressional hearing.  He was Watergate counsel and former Tennessee senator. 

And I appreciate you coming by, Senator. 

FRED THOMPSON, FORMER U.S. SENATOR:  Thank you. 

SCARBOROUGH:  You obviously were engaged in the Watergate hearings and Chinagate.  You understand...

THOMPSON:  It‘s like old home week here. 

SCARBOROUGH:  It really is, and G. Gordon Liddy, everybody.  It‘s like a class reunion.

THOMPSON:  Maybe we can find out who Deep Throat is tonight. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Exactly.  Exactly. 

You saw the hearings today.  What was your take on it? 

THOMPSON:  Oh, I thought it played out as well, kind of like I expected it to. 

They had this tremendous buildup, you know, with some suggestion of breakthroughs and her withering under cross-examination and all that.  That was never in the cards.  She did exactly what I expected her to do.  She was cool and effective and got the best of most encounters.  And it‘s a situation that really favors the witness.  The witness is up there before the Washington establishment.  And any objective observer that tunes in and looks at that, they‘re going to be for the guy in the chair. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Right. 

THOMPSON:  And she handled that very effectively, I thought.

SCARBOROUGH:  You know, one of the things I said earlier that disturbed me was the fact that there was this partisan rancor.  And I remember back when you were running the Chinagate hearings to try to get to the bottom of the illegal campaign money that was getting into Congress and corrupting this place, at one point, you turned and asked Senator John Glenn for help on some information. 

He came back to you and he said, that‘s your problem.  You said, no, that‘s America‘s problem.  And you were exactly right.  But here we saw this partisanship on something as important as 9/11 today.  Is there any way to get the politics out of these type of hearings, or are we just doomed to basically be watching political theater? 

THOMPSON:  Well, you know, there‘s some good things comes out of this process.  But it‘s kind of like democracy.  You‘ve got to take the rest of it also. 

But the congressional hearings that you were talking about, that‘s a good example of the problem with congressional hearings.  They almost always break down, and it only takes one person to start it.  So if the other guy starts it, you‘ve got to make up for it on the other side and it just goes back and forth like that.  The last time Congress successfully, I think, got together and did something together on an important matter was probably the Watergate committee. 

Sam Ervin and Howard Baker, you know, put everything else aside and was able to look at the other side and be objective about what needed to be done.  Since that time, you know, you just take sides.  And if it‘s your president, you do everything you can to protect him, regardless of what he did.  And the other side usually tries to get whatever they can on him.

I was hoping this commission, not a congressional committee, but a commission really of distinguished citizens, would do better than that.  And I think in large part they have.  When they had the defense secretaries up and the secretaries of state from the two prior administration, those were adult conversations. 

Lately, it‘s gotten back to old habits.  And the problem with that is

not the fact that they‘re tough questions or unfair or someone is

showboating.  That‘s irrelevant.  What it does is, it diminishes the

credibility of what they‘re trying to do.  And what they‘re trying to do is

·         should be important, not from the standpoint of learning very much new, but from the standpoint of exposing what we‘ve already learned to the general public, so we have some feeling of comfort that everything that can be done is done. 

And when you do that, you destroy that credibility and the American people turns that off.  And it works against the committee as a whole and in favor of the witness. 

(CROSSTALK)

SCARBOROUGH:  You shout down a witness, you actually—again, you‘re hurting the credibility of that witness.  I‘ve got to ask you this final question.  We just had—again, it‘s Watergate old home week this week in SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY. 

We just had John Dean on here.  He‘s written a book that look like it‘s going to be a runaway bestseller.  He says that how Bush handled 9/11 is worse than Watergate.  Comment on that. 

(LAUGHTER)

THOMPSON:  Well, I‘ll bet John...

SCARBOROUGH:  You were there. 

THOMPSON:  I‘ll bet John sells a lot of books. 

(LAUGHTER)

THOMPSON:  The premise of what they‘re doing up there, they can do some good work and I‘m sure they‘ll come out with a good report. 

But the premise of some of them up there, which maybe John is picking up on, is fundamentally flawed.  The administration was not perfect, but they ought to be given credit for the situation that they inherited, which built up over a long period of time.  When they came into office, we had been attacked on numerous occasions and we had given pinprick responses.  Osama bin Laden and al Qaeda had both decided we were a weak sister and that we could be attacked. 

Our intelligence community had been underfunded.  Weapons of mass destruction were being auctioned off around the world.  We found out that Moammar Gadhafi down in Libya had designs for a nuclear warhead.  If he could read a blueprint, Libya would have a nuclear capability today.  All of that, a dysfunctional FBI in many respects, a dysfunctional CIA, in many respects, whose human capabilities, especially human intelligence, had been diminishing. 

All of that, they took over, they took over.  And to suggest that with, in large part, the same leaders in these various areas that the prior administration had, they inherited and kept on, that they should have rectified all of that that had been building up for well over a decade, it undermines the credibility of what they‘re trying to do.  They need to back off of that and be fair and balanced about where any blame should lie and then get over the blame game and look down the road to the next one. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Right. 

THOMPSON:  What‘s going on now in terms of weapons of mass destruction, these terrorist groups, in conjunction with rogue nations and the collaboration that they very well may be having now, because we don‘t know what‘s going on.  We don‘t know how widely the weapons have been distributed and the technology‘s been distributed.  Libya proved that. 

But it is a much more dangerous world than ever before.  And I don‘t want a future 9/11 Commission to be looking back at today and saying, why were we spending all this time on this other stuff and not looking at the indicators of what might be going on in the world with regard to weapons of mass destruction, which could wreak more damage in a second than September 11 did. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Exactly. 

All right, appreciate you being here, Senator Fred Thompson. 

THOMPSON:  Thank you, sir. 

SCARBOROUGH:  All right.  We‘ll be right back in a minute. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SCARBOROUGH:  As you know, earlier this week, Massachusetts Senator Ted Kennedy made this explosive charge.  Actually, we don‘t have that SOT ready.  But what he said was that Iraq was George Bush‘s Vietnam. 

With me now is former Clinton administration State Department adviser Wendy Sherman and Christopher Hitchens from “Vanity Fair.” 

Let me start with you, Christopher.  and I would like to do my best Massachusetts accent, but I‘m not going to do it.  I think you and most of the people watching the show saw Senator Ted Kennedy compare Iraq to Vietnam. 

CHRISTOPHER HITCHENS, “VANITY FAIR”:  Well, I had heard the comparison

made before even

(CROSSTALK)

SCARBOROUGH:  Yes, exactly.  Exactly.

HITCHENS:  I don‘t know where he picked it up, but it could be any number of 100 acts. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Yes, but what‘s your response to that?  Is it...

HITCHENS:  Vietnam was a country in Southeast Asia which had defeated French colonialism on the battlefield morally in 1945.  And militarily in 1954, the United States made the big mistake of going in behind—you may not agree with this—but behind French colonialism as it was dying.  It was a losing battle.  It was one that actually deserved to be lost. 

Anyone who was fool enough to make this comparison doesn‘t know where Iraq is or where Vietnam is.  And I have good reason to think that Senator Kennedy is guilty on both those charges.  A good time for him to denounce the Vietnam War would have been when his family was running it.  But he missed that chance, and we‘re all the poorer for it, and I‘m afraid now we‘re the poorer for him now in his politically illiterate comments. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Is it a responsible charge to make?

HITCHENS:  Look, there‘s a big difference between killing the government‘s family of South Vietnam, as the Kennedy family did, and installing by force a military regime there and then backing it up with American soldiers who go in behind French and indeed Japanese soldiers, and using position-guided missiles and a volunteer army to overthrow the worst dictatorship in the Middle East.  Anyone who can‘t see this difference is lagging behind the analogy. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Well, John McCain agrees with you, and he thought Kennedy‘s charge was a bit reckless.  And this is what he had to say. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN ®, ARIZONA:  To make these comparisons with the Tet offensive or the entire Vietnam conflict are not only uninformed, but I think a bit dangerous. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCARBOROUGH:  Wendy Sherman, do you dare cross Christopher Hitchens and Senator John McCain, two Washington legends in the making. 

WENDY SHERMAN, FORMER STATE DEPARTMENT ADVISER:  And Joe Scarborough, all three at once. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Well, I couldn‘t say that because I‘m talking about Washington legends right now.

But, really, isn‘t it irresponsible for Senator Ted Kennedy to make a statement like that while we‘re in the middle of basically open rebellion in some Sunni strongholds? 

SHERMAN:  Well, first of all, the tragedy of Vietnam was really for all of the people who died on that battlefield and their families and for our country trying to do something we thought was right, but it was a bipartisan problem.  It was not just a Democratic administration that made those errors that Christopher referred to. 

HITCHENS:  It was a French-Japanese administration. 

SHERMAN:  Right.  It was many countries, many parties. 

(CROSSTALK)

SHERMAN:  But I think where Iraq is concerned, Iraq does not have to become America‘s next Vietnam. 

Whether Senator Kennedy chose the best words or not is a decision for him to make as a politician, as someone who knows how to do this business.  What I think President Bush has to do is decide, what is the plan for Iraq?  We are there.  Many of us disagree about the how, when, where and why we are in Iraq, but we are there.  So the question is, how do we get stability?  What‘s that transition plan for June 30?  Even Senator Richard Lugar doesn‘t know what it is.  And he‘s the chairman, Republican chairman, of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. 

So I think that‘s the critical issue here.  Let‘s make sure Iraq is not another Vietnam. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Christopher, obviously, right now, John Kerry is in the middle of a campaign for president.  Yesterday, he made some absolutely remarkable statements on National Public Radio, when he was talking about al-Sadr and he said—first, he called him a legitimate voice in Iraq.

He also, when asked whether we should arrest him, he said, well, not really, unless certain conditions are met first.  Do you agree with Senator Kerry? 

HITCHENS:  Well, I don‘t want to disagree with friends of mine in Iraq, Iraq friends and Kurdish friends or friends in the Governing Council, CPA. 

But in Iraq last summer, everyone I knew said, this is a very dangerous little scumbag.  He‘s small now.  He‘s ambitious.  He‘s nasty and greedy.  He should be taken off the street now.  We have good reason to think that he murdered a very leading, very respected Shia imam. 

Benjamin Disraeli had a great remark in the 19th, saying, all weak governments can be shown by their resort to strong measures.  It‘s exactly the wrong combination.  They didn‘t pick him up.  If they had a charge on him, they didn‘t stick it.  They certainly closed his newspaper, the worst of both worlds.  And they waited far too long to do it and gave him far too long to posture, as the little fascist that he is. 

This is—I hate to be second-guessing from here, but I think the wrong combination of weak of strong.  But then I‘d rather have my combination of weak and strong than Senator Kerry‘s, which is exactly the wrong way around in the other way. 

(CROSSTALK)

HITCHENS:  ... giving him credit as legitimate, and then wondering if you should do anything him.  How does this guy get it so wrong about everything all the time?  It must be a character flaw, I think, or an intellectual one, at least. 

SCARBOROUGH:  It‘s really remarkable to me.  And, of course, I‘ve been a supporter of George Bush.  We‘re going to kill Hamlet here in the first act.  But it is remarkable to me that John Kerry seems to be walking around muddled, not exactly sure what to say about Iraq. 

SHERMAN:  I don‘t think he‘s muddled.  I don‘t think he‘s muddled at all. 

SCARBOROUGH:  You don‘t think he‘s muddled?

SHERMAN:  No, I don‘t think he‘s muddled at all.  What he is saying...

(CROSSTALK)

SCARBOROUGH:  OK, let me ask you the question.  Should we arrest this little fascist if we get a chance? 

HITCHENS:  It‘s too late now.

SHERMAN:  That warrant has been out for quite some time and the Bush administration did not take action. 

(CROSSTALK)

SCARBOROUGH:  Should we take action now? 

SHERMAN:  I quite agree with Christopher.  We‘re really past the point.  We‘re now into a much broader problem. 

We now have a militia that probably isn‘t even entirely under his control right anymore.  We have all kinds of outside influence, as well as internal insurgents.  I don‘t think we‘ve gone completely over the cliff yet, but we‘re very close.  It‘s a tipping point.  And I think what John Kerry is doing is the right thing, which is asking the president of the United States, who is our commander in chief right now, what is your plan and what are you going to do about this to bring stability? 

(CROSSTALK)

HITCHENS:  But unlike in Vietnam, we have history on our side. 

Mr.—I‘ll call him Mr.—Imam al-Sadr—Muqtada, whatever he wants to call himself—fancies himself against new Ayatollah Khomeini.  In the neighboring country of Iran, Khomeinism has already been totally discredited.  In a quarter of a century, it‘s run Iran into the sand and worse.  Everybody in Shia Iraq knows they don‘t want to live in Khomeini men system. 

We already know that this guy is politically defeated.  It couldn‘t be less like the Viet Cong if you wanted to invent something.  And so people are afraid I think to criticize people who claim religious authority.  You are yourself.

SCARBOROUGH:  Right. 

HITCHENS:  You don‘t like people who speak in the name of God.  I think that claim is what proves how false and weak these people are.  Ayatollah Sistani, for example, is a learned old ayatollah.  He‘s a bit conservative for my taste.  He doesn‘t go around in this way.

SCARBOROUGH:  And he has contempt.  The most important Shia leader in Iraq has contempt for this little fascist.

(CROSSTALK)

HITCHENS:  I was in Najaf and Karbala.  They thought of this guy as a

nuisance.  But if there‘s any sign of a failure of nerve, then people are

going to want to know who—they‘re afraid.  They‘ve been through nothing

but fear and terror.  Let‘s be on the winning side.  Don‘t let them think

that he‘ll be

(CROSSTALK)

SHERMAN:  Everyone wants to be on the winning side, Christopher.  And people want for us not to have debating points, but to stop dying people and it‘s time to have a plan for stability. 

(CROSSTALK)

HITCHENS:  Khomeinism is historically condemned.  He can‘t win.  He couldn‘t win if he had a million supporters.  He‘d still lose. 

SCARBOROUGH:  And that certainly—that reminds me...

HITCHENS:  Yes, we knew this to start with. 

SCARBOROUGH:  That reminds me of something, because I wrote on my desk that you wrote, much like communism, that you said, nobody in this day and age can say that communism is anything more than a failure. 

You, of course, wrote it better, but you write many things better than me.  So I appreciate both of you being with me tonight. 

SHERMAN:  Good to be with you, too, Joe. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Hope you‘ll come back.  And we‘ll be around. 

And we‘re also going to ask former Watergate player G. Gordon Liddy if he thinks President Bush should be impeached like his good dear friend John Dean.  Don‘t go way.  That‘s next. 

ANNOUNCER:  In tonight‘s SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY challenge, who was the first U.S. president born in a hospital?  Was it, A, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, B, John F. Kennedy, or, C, Jimmy Carter?  The answer coming up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ANNOUNCER:  In tonight‘s SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY challenge, we asked, who was the first U.S. president born in a hospital?  The answer is, C, Jimmy Carter.  Until the early 1900s, midwives, rather than hospitals, typically helped deliver babies.

Now back to Joe. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Christopher Hitchens is back with us.

And we‘re now joined by a well-known Washington player, radio talk show host G. Gordon Liddy. 

Thank you for being with us, Mr. Liddy.  We‘ve got a lot to talk to you about.  We want to talk about Iraq.  But first, I‘ve got to start by asking you about your good old dear friend John Dean.  Now you‘ve heard John Dean‘s claim that George Bush should be impeached, that the Iraq war is—and his cover-up is worse than Watergate.  What are your thoughts on Mr. Dean‘s statements? 

G. GORDON LIDDY, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST:  Mr. Dean‘s first big book was called “Blind Ambition.”  And in the beginning of it, he said that he prepared for the writing of this book the way he did for his Watergate testimony, that he was prepared to take a polygraph as to everything that was true in the book.  After I publicly told the people that he was a serial perjurer, he sued me and a bunch of other people. 

And when we finally got him under oath, he had to admit he did not write “Blind Ambition.”  It was written by Taylor Branch, who is a respected, Pulitzer Prize-winning author.  All the errors that were in there, he ascribed to errors by Taylor Branch.  And when we said, well, didn‘t you even get any galleys to examine, he admitted that he had gotten galleys to examine, but he was ill, wasn‘t able to fully read the book, and thus, all these errors got out into the book. 

He has no credibility whatsoever.  As I said, he perjured himself when he was testifying before the committee and before the trials.  And that issue was finally raised in court again after he had dropped his charges against me when we forced him to trial.  Then he got a poor woman named  Ida Maxwell Wells to sue me on pretty much the same thing.  And I won.  Dean has no credibility whatsoever. 

HITCHENS:  You did ask.

SCARBOROUGH:  Yes.  Yes. 

Well, what did you think of Dr. Rice‘s testimony today? 

LIDDY:  A star is born.  I mean, we knew she was good going in.  But she was absolutely sensational.  It was a remarkable performance, really very, very good. 

SCARBOROUGH:  What do you think of the notion from Ted Kennedy that Ted Kennedy made earlier this week that we‘ve been talking about, that this war in Iraq is George Bush‘s Vietnam? 

LIDDY:  Mr. Hitchens I think has utterly demolished very accurately and very well that analogy. 

SCARBOROUGH:  What are the stakes, Christopher? 

If we back out—is it an option—is it an option, whether you supported the way George Bush got America into the war or not, is it an option in 2004 for America to step back from Iraq and bring its troops home? 

HITCHENS:  Well, look, if I had been someone who always thought that war was a mistake, I would resent being told, well, too bad, big boy, we‘ve gotten you into one now.  Now it‘s a loyalty question.

I don‘t think and I hope that will not be the line.  What I‘d like—

I wish I could have brought people to a reception I went to the night before last in Washington for the new Iraqi ambassador-designate to D.C., a wonderful woman called Rend Rahim, multilingual, highly educated.  Her parents have just moved back to Iraq after years of exile and persecution.

They represent, by the way, a large class of returning Iraqis who are coming up, the sort of Iraqis, it‘s not just that they‘re on our side.  We‘re on their side.  A lot depends on people like them winning in Iraq.  They‘ve only had a year to begin to reconstruct, after 30 years of misery and fascism and massacre and tyranny and rumor and paranoia and fear and humiliation.  They‘ve hardly had 12 months to get it back together.  Next month, the $87 billion from the Congress is about to start being spent.  A month after that, there‘s the transfer of authority.  Some months after that, there‘s an election coming. 

And then the United States wants to withdraw its troops as fast as they can.  The people who say, Americans get out are sort of pushing at an open door and also fouling their own nest.  They won‘t give it a chance, because they want to grab for some sheer mockery of Khomeinism or some Sunni parody of Saddamism.  Only the Kurds are acting, as they always have, because they fought bravely with us, proudly, and don‘t have this memory of humiliation, as if this wasn‘t true. 

Now, to say, well, it‘s looking a quagmirish to me, let‘s walk away and leave people like this brave woman I saw the other night and her family to just disappear into the swamp is unconscionable.  I would say that, whatever I had said about the war to begin with. 

SCARBOROUGH:  There seems to be a disconnect, though.  I look at the BBC poll that came out on the one-year anniversary.  You look at these other polls.  The majority of Iraqis overwhelmingly—and it‘s not like it was done by the Heritage Foundation or another conservative foundation that I might support.  It was done by the BBC.  And if you ask them, are you better off today than you were a year ago?  Yes.  Education, better.  Water, better.  Security, better.  Local government, better.  Electricity, better.  Everything‘s better. 

(CROSSTALK)

SCARBOROUGH:  And yet you look at...

(CROSSTALK)

HITCHENS:  ... in your own country.  But 4.5 million Iraqis had to

live overseas.  They‘re coming back.  They hadn‘t have a chance to get

unpacked yet and

(CROSSTALK)

SCARBOROUGH:  But there‘s a disconnect.  You look on the screen and Americans see the bloodshed.  So how do you explain the disconnect? 

(CROSSTALK)

HITCHENS:  Don‘t panic.  You‘re not just overthrowing a dictatorship.  You‘re reconstructing a maimed, traumatized society that was instructed in nothing but paranoia and shame for a long time. 

This is going to require a lot of friendship and a lot of solidarity, and I can‘t bear people who are spreading cynical news about it.  But they had the right to say that it would be a tough war and they had the right to say that the president didn‘t tell them how long the commitment would be.  And I‘m afraid to say that they would be right in saying that. 

SCARBOROUGH:  G. Gordon Liddy, what should we do next in Iraq?  You‘re following this, obviously, every day. 

LIDDY:  Yes. 

SCARBOROUGH:  You have memories of what happened with Vietnam.  What‘s our next step in Iraq? 

LIDDY:  We have to destroy the enemy forces in Fallujah.  Then, we have to destroy and disarm these mullahs‘ militias.  The Marine Corps and the other troops have got to get away from this kinder, gentler business of nation building and go back to being warriors and wipe these people out. 

SCARBOROUGH:  And where does the fault lie? 

HITCHENS:  That would be a very serious mistake.  It is a nation-building project. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Where do you think the fault lies in that, if you think that we‘ve been too kind and too gentle? 

LIDDY:  Well, I think the nation-building was fine.  Now you have this eruption. 

You see, we didn‘t go into really the military combat much in the Fallujah area and the Triangle area.  This was a place that was built by Saddam for his followers, for his Fedayeen Saddam people and everything, and they just, rather than engage our forces during the war, they just went back there.  They‘ve got their arms, their organization and everything else.  They‘ve got to be engaged and defeated. 

SCARBOROUGH:  All right, we‘re going to have to leave it there.  It‘s great to have you with us, G. Gordon Liddy. 

And, Christopher Hitchens, I know you disagree.

HITCHENS:  Just as we were getting our trousers off. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Exactly.  Exactly.  We‘ll have you back and you can keep your trousers off much longer next time. 

HITCHENS:  That‘s a promise. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Still to come, some parents are outraged after a church Easter show got too violent for their kids.  They whipped the Easter Bunny in the passion of the bunny.  That‘s coming up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SCARBOROUGH:  Monday night on SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY, John Kerry is running as a Catholic candidate.  But some in the church say, not so fast.  The controversy over Kerry‘s Catholicism Monday night.

We‘ll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SCARBOROUGH:  You know, there are quite a few parents who have issues with the way a Pennsylvania school tried to teach little kids about Jesus‘ crucifixion. 

They had a youth minister dress up as the Easter Bunny.  And then they whipped her repeatedly and broke eggs intended for an Easter egg hunt.  Some of the 4-year-old kids started crying and asked why the Easter Bunny was being whipped.  The school says the stunt was meant to be fun, not offensive. 

And if that‘s their idea of fun, I‘m glad my kids didn‘t go to their school. 

Hey, that‘s it for SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY tonight.  We‘re going to have the night off tomorrow.  Instead, you can catch “ULTIMATE EXPLORER” Friday with Lisa Ling starting tomorrow at 10:00 Eastern.  And, on April 18, you can watch SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY on Sunday night through Thursday night at 10:00 p.m. Eastern. 

Stay tuned to MSNBC tomorrow morning.  Don Imus is going to be talking to presidential candidate and his good friend John Kerry.  We hear it‘s going to start exactly at 8:29 a.m., so synchronize your watches for the I-Man.  That‘s tomorrow morning.

Have a great night. 

END   

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