updated 4/14/2004 1:01:45 PM ET 2004-04-14T17:01:45

Guests: Matthew Felling, Paul Glastris, Larry Johnson, Richard Holbrooke, Stephen Hayes, Katrina Vanden Heuvel

PAT BUCHANAN, GUEST HOST:  In a rare prime-time press conference, President Bush lays out his plan for the future of a free Iraq in response to criticism about how his administration handled terrorism prior to 9/11. 

Did Attorney General John Ashcroft block terrorism funds in the critical months leading up to September 11?  That‘s the charge he faced today before the 9/11 Commission.  Ashcroft says Bill Clinton dropped the ball. 

And “60 Minutes”‘ Andy Rooney has stirred up another hornet‘s nest, saying that all not U.S. soldiers in Iraq are heroic. 

Welcome back to SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY.  I‘m Pat Buchanan.  Joe is off tonight. 

President Bush faced the nation and the press tonight.  And he did not back down. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  My message today to those in Iraq is, we‘ll stay the course.  We‘ll complete the job.  My message to our troops is, we‘ll stay the course and complete the job and you‘ll have what you need.  And my message to the loved ones who are worried about their sons, daughters, husbands and wives is, your loved one is performing a noble service for the cause of freedom. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BUCHANAN:  Katrina Vanden Heuvel, who is the editor of “The Nation” magazine, is here.  So is Stephen Hayes from “The Weekly Standard.”

Katrina, let me start with you.

The president was resolute.  He‘s put his presidency on the line.  He is going to fight it out, if it takes all winter.  He is not going to leave Iraq until it is a free country and he turns it over to a democratic government.  What was your take on what he said? 

KATRINA VANDEN HEUVEL, EDITOR, “THE NATION”:  You know, Pat, those of us who opposed the war, I‘m talking about myself personally and my magazine, we need to have a serious discussion in this country about an exit strategy, what is a way out. 

Americans tonight deserved to hear from this president about the end game, about what will happen to our overextended troops, how we will bring them home.  And instead, we heard from a president who is so disconnected from the reality of what is unfolding is Iraq, even what has been shown on this very network, Pat, that you have to wonder why this president is failing the American people by not engaging in a meaningful, serious, factual discussion of the way out. 

We need that, Pat, at this very moment and not discussion about, stay the course.  What does that mean?  Or using decisive force.  This is a political problem, Pat.  You know that an occupation engenders, builds, generates the very instability that we are so very worried about. 

BUCHANAN:  Stephen Hayes, the president‘s exit strategy, as he put it, is, he is going to stay the course until Iraq is a free country.  He says it is unthinkable that we would leave in the fashion that Katrina indicated we ought to, which is an exit strategy and turning it over to them, basically regardless of consequences. 

What was your take on what the president said and how he said it? 

STEPHEN HAYES, “THE WEEKLY STANDARD”:  I think he did OK.  I think he said some of the right things. 

I think, you know, the points that he emphasized that I found particularly compelling are, not surprisingly, exactly the opposite of what Katrina found troubling.  And I think it‘s clear that we have to stay.  It‘s clear that we have to not only stay, but we have to reinforce our troops in Iraq today.  We have to get serious about eliminating the threats within Iraq. 

We have to get serious about the insurgency in Fallujah.  We have to get serious about taking out Muqtada al-Sadr.  We have to get serious about the al Qaeda infiltrators.  And by doing that, we‘ll require a recommitment to the campaign in Iraq.  And I think that‘s exactly what the president gave us tonight. 

BUCHANAN:  Katrina, I think what Stephen says is exactly what the president gave us and the direction in which he‘s going.  I saw that Mr.  Kerry wrote a piece, John Kerry in “The Washington Post” today.  He said, if we need more troops, we‘ve got to deploy.  We‘ve got to see this thing through pretty much to the end, the democratic Iraq, himself.  There is no candidate, there is no party out there right now that really is advocating a withdrawal or that we should move out of Iraq right now, is there? 

VANDEN HEUVEL:  Well, I think what we need to hear, Pat, is the laying out of what an exit strategy will look like. 

There is no—I mean, what Bush did tonight was talk about decisive force, was talk about stay the course, was try to address the growing ambivalence and anger among military Americans in this country who feel that this president misled them into a war which now has no justification, except for the president trying to fuse, again, 9/11 to a situation which he and his administration have created by creating the situation Iraq which is breeding more terrorism. 

Pat, ask yourself, are we more secure today because of this war?  Is this the way to fight terrorism, which is a political problem?  Any American can sit down with a balance sheet and look at how there‘s more anti-American in this world.  There are more terrorist acts.  We have squandered relations with traditional allies.  This is not the way to fight what is a political problem.  We need to think seriously.

And I admit it‘s a terribly complex problem.  We live in a Bush box which this president has created. 

BUCHANAN:  All right, let—let‘s—Steve, hold on. 

Here‘s how the president himself characterized the war in Iraq and the character of the enemy. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BUSH:  They want to run us out of Iraq and destroy the democratic hopes of the Iraqi people.  The violence we have seen is a power grab by these extreme and ruthless elements.  It‘s not a civil war.  It‘s not a popular uprising.  Most of Iraq is relatively stable. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BUCHANAN:  Steve Hayes, is that an overly optimistic assessment of the situation in Iraq?  Go ahead. 

(CROSSTALK)

HAYES:  You know, Pat, we‘ve been hearing that for quite some time.  I think it is time to ask some tough questions. 

The president repeatedly said in his appearance tonight that these have been tough days in Iraq, and yet he paints an optimistic picture.  So I think there is a certain disconnect.  And the White House is going to work hard in the next couple weeks to resolve that disconnect, either level with the American people that things aren‘t going well and increase troops, as I think they should, or tell us exactly why things are going as well as the president seems to suggests in that sound bite. 

BUCHANAN:  Steve, I‘ve got to ask you this, though.  Is the president accurate when he describes this basically as a small group, these are thugs, these are not representative of the Iraqi people?  Or is there, in your judgment—and we‘re a long way from it.  I believe you‘ve been over there, however.  Is there a sense that the Iraqis really are sort of rising up against the Americans simply as an occupying power and they want us out of their country, and it is broader and deeper than the president puts on, and the possibility that we may not succeed exists, despite what the president says? 

HAYES:  Yes, that‘s the key question, Pat. 

I mean, I think right now the president‘s description is accurate.  We are fighting a relatively small number of groups, the three groups he identified today.  The danger—and there are reports out of Iraq within the past 24 hours that Grand Ayatollah al-Sistani has met with Muqtada al-Sadr and has indicated some level of support.  I think, if we don‘t act decisively—and I‘m talking about in the next 72 hours—there‘s a danger that this slips into something much, much more serious in which you have a growing resentment among Iraqis. 

And to a certain extent, I think we‘ve already seen that, where Shia begin to team up with Sunni, which has not happened traditionally in Iraq for decades.  We‘re at that moment right now, which is why I think it‘s critical that we get in and we eliminate this threat, we eliminate this insurgency while we still have an opportunity to do it. 

VANDEN HEUVEL:  But, Steve, to eliminate it militarily, to talk about going into the cities of Najaf or Fallujah to fire on mosques and not have some political negotiation could inflame an already burning situation. 

I mean, you talk about how Shiites and Sunnis have come together, which hasn‘t been the case for decades.  Think about the nationalist and religious outrage that we have engendered and that the occupation will only contribute to.  This is a political problem.  What does President Bush mean when he says use decisive force?  What is the mission?  An escalation? 

(CROSSTALK)

BUCHANAN:  Hold it, Steve.  Let me—hold it, Steve.  I want to—because we‘re talking politics here.  Whatever we say, the president seems firmly committed to see this all the way through to the end.  As many troops General Abizaid wants, he gets.  We‘re going ahead.  We‘re not pulling out.  Retreat is unthinkable. 

And then a reporter asked the president this.  He said if winning in Iraq was worth losing the election.  And here‘s what the president responded. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BUSH:  I don‘t plan on losing my job.  I plan on telling the American people that I‘ve got a plan to win the war on terror. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BUCHANAN:  But the latest “Newsweek” poll shows John Kerry beating President Bush in a two-way race, 50 percent to 43 percent. 

Now, Katrina, this has clearly got a lot to do, or almost everything to do, I think, with a situation—the perception of the situation in Iraq.  Do you think the president is basically headed down the road to a Lyndon Johnson situation? 

VANDEN HEUVEL:  I do. 

I think we saw tonight in this panicky press conference, we saw a president who understands that his credibility is eroding with military families, I talked about earlier.  A lot of his address tonight was addressed to those overextended troops.  That is a part of our security problem, Pat.  And there is a growing anger among military families, personnel, Americans, about the handling of Iraq. 

As you know, Pat, a majority of Americans now believe this president lied to them, misled this country, exaggerated, the reason why we went, the so-called imminent threat of weapons of mass destruction.  I think we are going to see a shrinking president and a Lyndon Johnson situation, and there are other analogies to Vietnam. 

BUCHANAN:  Steve Hayes, let me ask you, the president, quite frankly, he‘s going to go down this road.  Now, I don‘t personally believe he lied.  I do believe that they were wrong, they were all wrong, as our friend over there who is investigating the weapons of mass destruction.  Do you think the president‘s reelection is in peril because of what clearly has been a deeply deteriorating situation this April in Iraq? 

HAYES:  Yes, I think there‘s no question, that.  I think that this is a serious issue and it‘s a problematic issue. 

And I wish he would have answered that question a little bit differently.  I wish he would have said, you know what?  Polls be damned.  I don‘t care whether I win reelection.  It‘s more important that we get Iraq right for the security of the country. 

And going back to what Katrina has said a number of times, the president should have linked Iraq more closely with the September 11 attacks, not because he‘s trying to fool anybody into thinking that Saddam Hussein concocted the attacks, but because it‘s an important way to understand the war on terror and the war in Iraq.  The war in Iraq is a result of a preemptive action that the president felt that we had to take because of the threats that were not yet imminent, as Katrina misstated his position there. 

I think it‘s very important that the president do a better job of articulating the sense that the war in Iraq is a central front in the war on terror and explaining why.  Tonight, he just asserted it a few times.  I think it‘s important to remind people that in 1998 President Clinton and six of his advisers on the record linked Osama bin Laden and his Al-Shifa pharmaceutical plant, which was making chemical weapons, to Iraq and to Iraqi chemical weapons specialists.  That‘s an important point and it gets mentioned nowhere.

VANDEN HEUVEL:  There was no imminent threat.  There was no imminent threat from Iraq. 

BUCHANAN:  OK.

VANDEN HEUVEL:  The president talked about, if we had inspections, it would have cost $80 million, not $80 billion, which we face, undermining our security with an ongoing, deepening, ravaging deficit. 

BUCHANAN:  OK.

VANDEN HEUVEL:  And Iraq has become a hotbed, a magnet, a recruiting tool for terrorists, Steve.  It was not that before 9/11. 

BUCHANAN:  OK, coming up, we‘ve got much more on President Bush‘s rare prime-time press conference.

And former U.S. Embassy to the United Nations Richard Holbrooke will join us. 

Then, a lot of finger-pointing during those 9/11 hearings today.  Janet Reno said she inherited the terrorist threat.  John Ashcroft blamed the Clinton administration.  So who‘s at fault?  We‘ll talk about that a little later.  You stay with us. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BUSH:  All of these instigations of violence come from different factions.  They share common goals.  They want to run us out of Iraq and destroy the democratic hopes of the Iraqi people.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BUCHANAN:  President Bush says he will keep his promise and hand over control of Iraq to the Iraqis June 30.  We‘ll ask former U.N. Ambassador Richard Holbrooke if that‘s still a good idea.

Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BUSH:  The consequences of failure in Iraq would be unthinkable.  Every friend of America in Iraq would be betrayed to prison and murder as a new tyranny arose.  Every enemy of America in the world would celebrate, proclaiming our weakness and decadence and using that victory to recruit a new generation of killers. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BUCHANAN:  That was the president talking about the stakes in Iraq, and they are enormous. 

Former U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Richard Holbrooke joins me now. 

The president—Dick Holbrooke, tell me this.  The president said failure in Iraq is unthinkable.  The consequences are unthinkable. 

Do we have to think about that possibility? 

RICHARD HOLBROOKE, FORMER U.S. AMBASSADOR TO UNITED NATIONS:  Well, the consequences are unthinkable. 

And it was clear the president was in some form of denial tonight in his presentation.  And when you have in your previous segment the editors of “The Nation” on the left and “The Weekly Standard” on the right more or less agreeing that the president is out of touch with reality in Iraq—they disagreed on a lot of other things, but they did agree on that—the administration is in pretty bad shape. 

This performance tonight, Pat, this performance tonight, as Steve Hayes said, very tepidly, was, at best, OK.  That‘s Hayes‘ phrase.  But what he said was quite extraordinary.  He denied the realities all over the TV, said it had been a rough week, and then said things are going very well, articulated a set of goals that all Americans would agree with—failure is not an option—said that we should support our troops—all Americans do—but offered not the slightest idea.

And the most astonishing thing was that he confirmed what we‘ve all been hearing and suspecting.  They have no idea who they‘re going to turn power over to on July 1.  And for the first time tonight, he said—and I‘m quoting—Brahimi, the U.N. representative, will tell us who he‘s going to give”—“Brahimi is figuring out who we are going to hand power over to.”  That‘s a direct quote from the press conference, an amazing statement and quite a departure from previous administration positions. 

BUCHANAN:  All right, Richard Holbrooke, the president said it‘s unthinkable that we will fail in Iraq.  That means, I believe, that he will put in as many troops as necessary for as long as necessary to win this.  But there are clear indications the American people, while they were willing to disarm Iraq and destroy Saddam Hussein, are not committed to spending blood and treasure indefinitely. 

HOLBROOKE:  Well, do you think they should, Pat?  Look, I supported

(CROSSTALK)

BUCHANAN:  Look, I do not.  I‘m not president of the United States, Dick. 

(CROSSTALK)

HOLBROOKE:  Pat, I supported the administration, with misgivings over their tactics and timing, because I thought Saddam was a very bad man, worse than Milosevic, although the Republicans didn‘t support Clinton in getting rid of Milosevic.

I thought we Democrats owed the president, our commander in chief, his support.  But what you just said is critical.  We went in to liberate the Iraqis.  We did.  But of all the objectives that President Bush, Secretary Rumsfeld, Vice President Cheney, Secretary Powell and Condi Rice said, of all those objectives in the last 16 months, the only one they‘ve achieved is getting rid of Saddam Hussein.  They are now facing a two-front war.  And why should—why do you think the American public would support Americans being killed in roadside ambushes by the very people we liberated?  It doesn‘t make any sense.

BUCHANAN:  Dick Holbrooke, I‘m inclined to agree with your point. 

But here‘s my point.  You have said we are behind success and failure is unthinkable.  What I am saying is, if you look at the realities, the support among the Americans, the metastasizing of the California into the Shia areas, the attacks on the roads, the Fallujah uprising, the Ramadi uprising, the need for more troops, the absence of combat brigades to send there, we are facing the possibility that this may turn out very badly. 

HOLBROOKE:  Pat, you scare me, because we seem to agree.  And this is a first. 

BUCHANAN:  Well, what do you think should be done?  Because that‘s what I‘m—I‘m apprehensive about that. 

HOLBROOKE:  Let me tell—we don‘t have a time in the tiny amount of time you‘ve allotted to us tonight to give a good answer to this. 

But I‘ll tell you what is going to happen, the only thing that can happen.  Bremer will leave on June 30, his mission a failure.  He will be replaced by Lakhdar Brahimi, a U.N. official whom I know very well, who is very smart and very subtle.  In effect, the administration is going to hope, pray, and encourage Brahimi to set up some kind of transitional provisional government, which will eventually ask the United States to phase out, because pacifying cities like Fallujah is not possible. 

You can‘t liberate and then pacify the same place.  And this situation

·         I don‘t want to make Vietnam analogies, because there are many differences.  But what we heard tonight had an eerie reminiscent quality about it.  The fact is that we are on a slippery slope from a very difficult situation to one that is approaching an almost untenable situation.  And for the administration to tell the American public tonight that the situation is better than the press is reporting is a very risky line. 

(CROSSTALK)

BUCHANAN:  All right, now, Mr. Holbrooke, I want to ask you this, Dick. 

HOLBROOKE:  Yes, sir. 

BUCHANAN:  What exactly—I mean, the president has said, if General Abizaid asked—he has got two brigades coming in.  Frankly, if he asks for 50,000 more troops, we‘re going to send them.  Would you send them? 

HOLBROOKE:  In the short run, in the short run.  I agree with what Senator Kerry wrote in today‘s “Washington Post” and you mentioned earlier.

BUCHANAN:  Right. 

HOLBROOKE:  That you cannot deny the commander in chief the resources.  I was in Vietnam 3 ½ years.  I saw the consequences of giving a military command a mission with inadequate resources. 

It was one of the great mistakes and one of the great learning experiences of my life as a young diplomat in the Mekong Delta being shot at.  So, in the short run, whatever General Abizaid, who is a very impressive man, asks for, he should get short term.  But this is a political problem, not a military one, a military pacification.  And General Mark Kimmitt used the word pacify Fallujah, is absurd, Pat.  We‘re not going to pacify Fallujah. 

(CROSSTALK)

BUCHANAN:  If a significant number of the Sunnis already want us out and a rising number of Shia want us out, and we‘re talking about turning it over to the Iraqi people and letting them decide, and they are deciding we should leave, should we not go? 

HOLBROOKE:  I would not—I think that an immediate American pullout, which is what I think you‘re suggesting...

BUCHANAN:  I‘m not suggesting.  I‘m suggesting, we‘re heading down the road to where we‘re going to be fighting for a democracy where people will go to the polls and vote to tell us to leave. 

HOLBROOKE:  Well, I think what needs to be done is exactly what many critics, both Republicans and Democrats, including Senator Kerry, Senator McCain and others, Hagel have suggested. 

BUCHANAN:  Right. 

HOLBROOKE:  You need to replace the American force with a multinational force, not a U.N. peacekeeping force.  The U.N. does not have the capability to do it, but a multinational force. 

(CROSSTALK)

BUCHANAN:  Look, the people in Iraq are killing foreigners.  Anybody that helps the Americans, they execute.  They consider them enemies.  The last time the U.N. was in there, they got their headquarters blown to smithereens, along with their envoy there. 

Why should some country, foreign country, seeing what‘s happened to the Ukrainians and the Italians and the Americans, start putting troops in there? 

HOLBROOKE:  It‘s a very good question, Pat. 

Let‘s be clear.  The terrorist attacks that take place are not by a rabble and a mob.  They are organized and they are led.  The people who instigated this, like Muqtada al-Sadr or the Sunnis, can stop it just as well as they started it.  It is a political problem.  It requires a political solution. 

American departure would only turn the country over to the most dangerous elements.  On the other hand, America‘s prolonged occupation will turn us into the enemy.  That is—you know, all the time we‘ve been in Iraq for the last year, people were saying, if the Shiites turned against us, it‘s a new ball game.  Now some Shiites have.  It is imperative that this be stopped.

And the American troops should not leave until a multinational force, which, by the way, may contain more Americans, goes in to replace it.  And Brahimi gets to do exactly what President Bush today reluctantly and belatedly admitted he has to do. 

BUCHANAN:  All right, Steve.

Thank you very much, Richard Holbrooke. 

Now let‘s bring Katrina Vanden Heuvel back and Steve Hayes. 

Very quickly, Katrina, what did you think of what the ambassador had to say, that bringing in—American forces have to go in there, as many as needed right now, converted into a multinational force and maybe that can do it? 

VANDEN HEUVEL:  We desperately need a change of course.  Ambassador Holbrooke is a very smart man.  He understands the political nature of this problem.  I think every day America stays as an occupying force, the problems of civil war or religious rebellion are magnified. 

I respect the U.N. internationalization resolution.  But unless the United States is fully willing to hand over control, because the June 30 date, Pat, is really a fiction.  U.S. forces will remain.  We will remain in the economic future of Iraq.  Unless there‘s a real willingness to give up control and give some resources to a U.N. force, I don‘t see that as a real solution. 

I think we need to find a phased withdrawal, provide for elections, and respect the self-determination of Iraq, even if it is an Islamic government. 

BUCHANAN:  Steve Hayes, let me ask you this.  If the American occupation is certainly a very severe part of the problem why the Iraqis are rising up against us, they want us out, how do you resolve that problem by deepening and extending the occupation? 

HAYES:  Well, I think, Pat, part of the answer goes to a difference I have with both the Ambassador Holbrooke and with Katrina. 

I think this may be in part a political problem, but I think we can‘t lose sight of the fact that it is also significantly a military problem.  When you have people killing Americans, when you have people blowing Americans up, when you have people conducting, as the said, concerted attacks against Americans, those people are military problems.  They need to be eliminated.  They need to be killed. 

And I don‘t think we need to sound cavalier or cowboyish about it, but just be realistic about it.  This is also a military problem.  So I think, first and foremost, we have to go in and eliminate those threats.  And you don‘t do it by negotiating.  And that‘s one of the problems I have with what the administration is doing now in Fallujah.  On the one hand, we hear from the senior coalition spokesman that we‘re not going to negotiate with kidnappers, we‘re not going to negotiate with terrorists, and on the other hand, you have them negotiating with insurgents in Fallujah and declaring a cease-fire. 

And I think that part of it is a military problem.  They need to be eliminated, and they need to be eliminated quickly. 

BUCHANAN:  OK.  Thank you very much, Katrina Vanden Heuvel and Stephen Hayes.

Up next, is Bill Clinton to blame for September 11?  Attorney General John Ashcroft says, maybe.  We‘ll tell you about his dramatic testimony today. 

And then, Andy Rooney is ticking people off again.  This time, he‘s picking on American soldiers in Iraq.  Has he gone too far? 

We‘ll debate that right after this break. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BUCHANAN:  Attorney General John Ashcroft told the 9/11 Commission today that prior to September 11, he was handcuffed in the war on terror.  We‘ll tell you about that in just a minute. 

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

(NEWS BREAK)

BUCHANAN:  Today, Attorney General John Ashcroft testified before the 9/11 Commission.  And he came out smoking, implying the Clinton administration had been asleep at the wheel in the years leading up to the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.

Here‘s what Ashcroft said.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOHN ASHCROFT, ATTORNEY GENERAL:   Our agents were isolated by government-imposed walls, handcuffed by government-imposed restrictions and starved for basic information technology.  The old national intelligence system in place on September 11th was destined to fail.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BUCHANAN:  With me tonight is Larry Johnson, a former CIA officer and deputy director of the State Department‘s Office of Counterterrorism, and Chris Whitcomb, former FBI special agent and author of “Black.”

Larry, what do you think of what the attorney general had to say?

LARRY JOHNSON, FORMER DEPUTY DIRECTOR, OFFICE OF COUNTERTERRORISM:  I

guess everybody was responsible, but what amazes me is that neither John Ashcroft, nor any official, with the exception of Richard Clarke, has taken any responsibility for what happened.  They are saying, we did everything we could do. 

Pat, the only person who can say, I did everything we can do and I wouldn‘t change it is Bill Belichick, the coach for the New England Patriots.  He won the Super Bowl.  None of these guys won the Super Bowl.  There were lots of things they should have done differently.  And this denial, this refusal to admit any mistake is—find it distressing. 

BUCHANAN:  All right, Christ Whitcomb, is it not true that materials got into the bowels of the FBI which were relevant, and if they had been put together and brought up to the attention of Louis Freeh and brought to the White House, might have stopped 9/11?  I refer to the Phoenix memo and Moussaoui‘s training out there in Minnesota about how to take over a flight in mid-flight? 

CHRISTOPHER WHITCOMB, NBC ANALYST:  Right. 

Pat, look, I think that, in 20/20 hindsight, you can look back and say, we should have done so many different things.  I agree with some of the things that Larry said.  But I think you have to look at it this way.  The FBI‘s point man on al Qaeda and Osama bin Laden was a man named John O‘Neill, knew as much as anyone in the United States government about al Qaeda and trumpeted that as loudly as anyone.  He left the FBI and took a job at security director at World Trade Centers and he died in those attacks. 

I think it‘s difficult really to say that the FBI could have known more about al Qaeda, when the person in charge of those investigations died at al Qaeda‘s hands. 

BUCHANAN:  All right, who do you think was responsible?  You mentioned nobody stepped up and took responsibility.  Clarke said, I take responsibility.  I apologized to the family.  I failed at my job.  But he said himself he didn‘t have the information himself that could have stopped 9/11. 

JOHNSON:  Well, what he said was that based upon the recommendations he made in January of 2001, that wouldn‘t have stopped 9/11.  However, if they would have convened a National Security Council principals meetings, if those principals would have been directed to go back to their agencies to say, let‘s shake them down and—because what we had here, it‘s not any person was responsible.

The breakdown in the information.  The real irony here is, Pat, the FBI actually did an excellent job at the worker bee level of penetrating al Qaeda, identifying the threat.  The problem was getting the information up to the decision-makers.  And nobody at the top decision-making level made it a priority to push. 

BUCHANAN:  All right, well, Chris, let me take that to you, because, look, we had the two planes or three planes hit the buildings.  The fourth crashed in Pennsylvania.  And we had information that was relevant, which at the worker bee level, as Larry says, it was finding its way into the Washington bureaucracy and moving up through it.  It did not get to the director.  It did not get to Condi Rice.  It didn‘t get to Dick Clarke and it certainly didn‘t get to the president of the United States. 

So clearly, somebody has a measure of responsibility here who should have lost his job or should be—should take some responsibility.  Who do you think it should be, if you had to name one, two, three people? 

WHITCOMB:  Well, look, Pat, I‘m not going to name anyone, because I see major flaws in your logic there.  I think the president of the United States, whether Bill Clinton or George Bush, has a responsibility as commander in chief and leader of the United States government to take direction, to give direction and to lead the war on terror. 

We‘re certainly seeing that now.  Why didn‘t we see it before?  There are famous stories about the Clinton administration not even looking at the presidential daily briefings when they came to the White House, and when Ashcroft came in, that he—as Tom Pickard said and as you have heard—or as I said throughout the FBI, didn‘t pay any attention to the problem. 

I think you can look, and you have to look at the attorney general and say, as chief legal officer of the United States and law enforcement officer, he has to share some responsibility.  But how does George Tenet get out of this thing?  I think you have to look and say, he failed with everything from the weapons of mass destruction, to links between Saddam Hussein and al Qaeda, to everything else we‘ve seen down the line. 

You can‘t say 9/11 was the largest intelligence failure in the history of this country without looking at some specifics in terms of information from George Tenet. 

BUCHANAN:  All right, now, here‘s what Louis Freeh said.  And I found it very compelling what he said here.  Now, he‘s President Clinton‘s FBI director.  This is Louis Freeh.  He came under fire today from the 9/11 commissioners.  And it think it was Bob Kerrey wanted to know why we let their soldiers, Islamic warriors, into our country during Bill Clinton‘s reign. 

And here, Mr. Freeh said, we were not on a war footing.  Here‘s what he said.  Here he is. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

LOUIS FREEH, FORMER FBI DIRECTOR:  A war footing means we seal borders.  A war footing means we detain people that we‘re suspicious of.  A war footing means that we have statutes like the Patriot Act, although, with time set provisions, give us new powers.  We weren‘t doing that.  We were using grand jury subpoenas and arrest warrants to fight an enemy that was using missiles and suicide boats to attack our warships. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BUCHANAN:  Now, here, this seems to me, Larry, this seems to me to get right at it.  OK, we get hit at the World Trade Center.  We get hit the two bombings in Africa.  We get hit the Cole.  These guys are at war with us.  You have terrorists have declared war with us.  And what Louis Freeh is saying and I think is accurate is, we are dealing with a law enforcement problem as though it‘s like the Puerto Rican crowd that we were dealing with, those terrorists, and we did not basically declare war on them and use the military and all resources.  We didn‘t go on a war footing. 

JOHNSON:  Well, it wasn‘t—I disagree with that, because—because I have worked with the military.  I know what they can do.  This isn‘t their battle. 

More importantly, it‘s more often law enforcement.  The problem was, you did not have the direction at the top.  You didn‘t have the full coordination of information between the intelligence side and the law enforcement side.  Now, President Bush to his credit has broken down some of those walls.  In fact, Bill Clinton broke down some of those walls.  You saw that in the PDB, the fact that an analyst—I‘ve written PDBs.

The fact that an analyst was able to write about ongoing FBI investigations meant that analyst called someone at the FBI, their counterpart, coordinated that.  The FBI chopped off on it and they submitted that. 

BUCHANAN:  All right, now, Chris, I worked in the White House.  Let me say, I saw that PDB, and that‘s sitting on the president‘s desk and it‘s a page and a quarter.  And it talks about, well, we ran down this lead.  It didn‘t pan out.  The media say this.  And he‘s looking at federal buildings, but, in effect, not to worry.  There‘s 70 FBI investigations going on. 

Now, to me, Chris, frankly, if I saw that and I‘m in the White House, I‘d say, you know, our guys are really on top of this thing.  I‘m glad I asked about it.  And I feel comforted and reassured by that memo.  Now, somebody, I guess, at the CIA sent him that thing and it turns out not to be true. 

WHITCOMB:  It was false.

And how do you feel about that, Pat, sitting in the White House looking at information where one agency doesn‘t know what another agency is doing?  That‘s a fundamental problem. 

But, as Larry pointed out, the logistics boil down to this.  Pre-Patriot Act, the United States government could not share information from a grand jury investigation with the Intelligence Committee because it was statutorily prohibited. 

The FBI gathered evidence to use in a court of law.  The CIA gathered intelligence that was often handed over to the military or people that were going to take action based upon it.  Two different processes, they did not work well together, not because of bureaucratic strains, most times because of statutory problems. 

JOHNSON:  Pat, one comment on that PDB.

You‘ve got to understand, when the analysts wrote that, they didn‘t pull that out of the air.  They called somebody at FBI headquarters.  That was given to them. 

BUCHANAN:  But the president said tonight, look, I can‘t operate

correctly if I‘m not given valid information.  That‘s the one place where I

saw him  

(CROSSTALK)

BUCHANAN:  ... ticked off.

JOHNSON:  Why didn‘t the president ask?  Because there‘s nothing in that PDB that said, these investigations are going well.  If you tell me you‘ve got 70 investigations, the first question that comes to mind for me is, what are you investigating? 

(CROSSTALK)

BUCHANAN:  Well, he said, look, al Qaeda, they‘ve got cells in the country.  And what that said to me, if I read it, frankly—and I‘ve gotten it right—you know, and I would have said, boy, our guys are really out there doing the job. 

JOHNSON:  But how do you know what they were investigating? 

BUCHANAN:  Well, you don‘t.  It‘s just sort of when—you assume when

somebody puts 70

(CROSSTALK)

JOHNSON:  Don‘t assume.  You don‘t assume. 

(CROSSTALK)

BUCHANAN:  You don‘t assume the guys are really on the job when they say they are? 

JOHNSON:  No, particularly when you‘re a Harvard MBA.  If number says 700 or 7,000, what‘s the number at which you start asking the question, what are they doing and you call John Ashcroft and say I want to know what these guys are doing, I want a report on my desk by tomorrow?

As an analyst, when you put that number in there, that‘s not just the facts.  You‘re sending up a red flag to warn them. 

BUCHANAN:  All right, quick final word, Chris? 

WHITCOMB:  No, I agree. 

Look, you can‘t say, you‘re the president of the United States, that you‘re the leader of the free world and that you‘re going to see a statistic like that and not chase it down.  This has to come from the top.  The FBI cannot unilaterally change all of its direction.  Congress has a hand in this, but certainly the president, whether Bill Clinton or George Bush, had to take control of the situation and lead from the top. 

I think you can blame it on anybody you want.  But it comes down to the old saying, the buck stops here.  I think ultimately the voters have to decide. 

BUCHANAN:  OK, Larry Johnson, Chris Whitcomb, thank you both for being with us. 

Coming up, folks, Andy Rooney says we‘re tricking American soldiers into staying in Iraq by telling them they‘re brave.  Well, they‘re actually not.  We‘ll debate that claim next. 

ANNOUNCER:  Tonight‘s SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY challenge.  Andy Rooney won the Bronze Star for his reporting during which war?  Was it, A, Vietnam, B, The Korean War, or, C, World War II?

The answer coming up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ANNOUNCER:  In tonight‘s SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY challenge, we asked: 

Andy Rooney won the Bronze Star for his reporting during which war?  The answer is, C, World War II.

Now back to Pat.

BUCHANAN:  OK. 

CBS‘ Andy Rooney has just stirred up yet another hornet‘s nest.  This is what he wrote in an online column this week—quote—“You can be sure our soldiers in Iraq are not all brave heroes gladly risking their lives for us.  Our soldiers in Iraq are people, young men and women, and they behave like people, sometimes good and sometimes bad, sometimes brave, sometimes fearful.”

Paul Glastris, editor in chief of “The Washington Monthly” here, as is Matthew Felling of the Center For Media and Public Affairs. 

Let me ask you, Paul, what did you think of what Andy Rooney said? 

PAUL GLASTRIS, EDITOR IN CHIEF, “THE WASHINGTON MONTHLY”:  Andy Rooney is one of my favorite all-time commentators.  And he‘s a brave man himself, having fought in World War II.  I think he was writing from his own experience. 

But the Army we had in World War II was a prescription Army and probably had a wider variety of motivated people than the all-volunteer Army we have seen in Iraq.  So I‘m not sure he was writing from personal experience of Iraq. 

BUCHANAN:  Matthew?

MATTHEW FELLING, CENTER FOR MEDIA AND PUBLIC AFFAIRS:  Well, I think the first thing I thought of when I read this was, did you ever wonder why Andy Rooney goes off the board sometimes? 

I mean, it‘s not that he was wrong in saying that 100 percent of American soldiers are heroes.  But my brother‘s over there.  My best friend‘s been over there.  And I know that they take their job very seriously.  And the way he defined being a hero, it was like a horoscope.  It‘s whatever you want it to be. 

Would you rather have a medal or a trip home?  Honestly, I think that most guys would want both at the same time.  Do the order you get handed down from you, do you always agree with them?  People at AT&T wouldn‘t agree with it.  People at the FBI wouldn‘t agree with it.  I dare say writers at “The Washington Monthly” might not always agree with the commander in chief says over there, too. 

So the way he defined it—and he sort of refutes himself within this at the same time, where‘s he said 40 percent of the soldiers were just looking for an ROTC scholarship and didn‘t expect to get called up. 

BUCHANAN:  Look, let‘s take this young lady that was killed out there in Wisconsin, National Guard.  Three gals, about the same age, one of them, said they‘re National Guard, went to that, want help to get through the University of Wisconsin.  Obviously, they‘re good kids that are over there.  And one of them is dead now. 

Does Andy Rooney not have a right to say this?  And you make a very good point.  I knew a friend that knew Andy Rooney in World War II.  And Rooney was one of the guys—in 1943, he‘s flying over bombers in Germany.  And that‘s not a time when a lot of the bombers came back.  And so this was a very brave guy in World War II.  He‘s 85 years old. 

And he‘s saying in effect, maybe he‘s getting old and crotchety, but a lot of—all these folks are heroes over there.  A lot of them are over there because they want to be.  Some are over there that don‘t want to be.  Anything wrong with that? 

FELLING:  Well, I don‘t think this is the first war—I don‘t think there‘s ever been a war in the history of mankind where everybody went in voluntarily. 

(CROSSTALK)

BUCHANAN:  Do you have a problem with him saying it? 

FELLING:  Oh, I‘m sure there are some people who are going in kicking and screaming, like Condi Rice before her Senate hearing.  But I think that the vast majority of them, 70, 80 percent, are there and are committed to doing the right thing. 

(CROSSTALK)

GLASTRIS:  And I think that‘s true, but it‘s also the case that we‘ve probably, unfortunately, debased the term hero in our lexicon. 

I don‘t think that any writer who‘s seen, experienced war since the ancients, since Homer, would have said every soldier who does his duty is also a hero.  Every soldier who does his duty is brave and loyal and deserves our respect and admiration.  But is every soldier a hero? 

(CROSSTALK)

BUCHANAN:  Have we debased the term hero? 

FELLING:  Oh, without a doubt. 

I think, in the days after 9/11, everybody started—did you notice

that nobody used the worried hero except for maybe the firemen?  And they

said, Mark McGwire wasn‘t a hero.  We were wrong about that.  Michael

Jordan wasn‘t a hero.  Well, we‘re back to that all over again.  We‘re back

(CROSSTALK)

BUCHANAN:  Well, the firemen were heroes, the guys going in there and going up the steps.  Were the folks in the top of the towers heroes? 

GLASTRIS:  Absolutely.  And we‘re not over there in Iraq.

(CROSSTALK)

BUCHANAN:  Were the folks at Cantor Fitzgerald heroes? 

FELLING:  Look, there are victims and there are brave men who go into battle.  There‘s a certain volition that‘s required.

BUCHANAN:  What we‘re getting at here is, we‘re getting at, these are very sensitive times and sensitive things, and people are very concerned, I think, about these young people over there.  It is sickening to hear five Marines killed and these people shot up. 

And so you cut them some slack.  And in a time like this, maybe folks say, look, maybe we‘ve got to use euphemisms. 

GLASTRIS:  Yes.  Well, I don‘t think you can say too many good things about the men and women who are over there right now.  And maybe this wasn‘t the time to be overly honest about what you think.  But I think Andy Rooney is speaking from the heart and speaking from his experience. 

BUCHANAN:  Yes. 

(CROSSTALK)

FELLING:  I don‘t think he was questioning their patriotism necessarily.  Maybe their levels of commitment are different, but I think that what he was getting at was something in their heart. 

And I‘m not willing to go to Andy Rooney and ask him to tell me what lies within the hearts of men.  What he‘s saying is without a doubt true. 

Everybody has a different level of commitment.  But I don‘t know.  Maybe

he‘s just trying to stay relevant in the news environment today, where

everybody seems to be snarkier

(CROSSTALK)  

BUCHANAN:  Well, he‘s certainly doing that. 

(LAUGHTER)

BUCHANAN:  I remember a couple of years ago—and I was very much on Andy Rooney‘s side—he said, look, we‘ve got all these wonderful medicines and we‘re curing everybody of this and that.  And we‘re all getting sick and dying because of what we‘re doing.

We‘ve got cirrhosis of the liver and we‘ve got emphysema because we smoke too much and we get AIDS because we‘re out injecting needless or doing—and, of course, they threw him off the air because that was politically incorrect. 

Let me say this about Andy Rooney now.  I think it‘s ill-timed, but I do think this country has got a lot more to be afraid of from political correctness than it does from commentaries that we don‘t like or from outrageous statements like my old friend Ted Turner has a habit of making about every two years, you know, the Christians don‘t know what they‘re doing.  That‘s not the problem, it seems to me. 

FELLING:  I guess I‘ll just go back to the founding fathers.  Do I respect the fact that he said this right now?  No.  But there are people over there...

(CROSSTALK)

BUCHANAN:  You can exercise your First Amendment right to call him whatever President Bush called Adam Clymer, right?

(LAUGHTER) 

FELLING:  Yes, precisely, yes.

GLASTRIS:  I think you get a Bronze Star, you have the right to kind of say what you think about war. 

BUCHANAN:  Well, I think he‘s got a right to say it, too. 

FELLING:  It doesn‘t mean we have to like it or agree with it.

(CROSSTALK)

BUCHANAN:  Joe Scarborough is going to give me a hard time on that, though, I think, when he gets back here. 

Listen, Paul, thank you all very much. 

(CROSSTALK)

BUCHANAN:  And thank you, Matthew, for coming.  Appreciate it very much.  We‘ll have you folks here again.

Don‘t go away . We‘ve got more SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY just ahead. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BUCHANAN:  Don‘t forget, you can watch SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY now Sunday through Thursday  at 10:00 p.m. Eastern.  And catch “ULTIMATE EXPLORER” Friday with us with Lisa Ling.

More SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY straight ahead.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BUCHANAN:  Tomorrow night in SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY, some states are pushing to give millions of noncitizen immigrants the right to vote.  Is this a scheme by Democrats to create more Democratic voters?  We‘ll talk about that tomorrow night. 

And thanks for joining us.  Good night.

END   

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

Discuss:

Discussion comments

,