updated 4/26/2004 10:51:56 AM ET 2004-04-26T14:51:56

Guests: Jerry Brown, Flavia Colgan, John Fund, Paul Kengor

JOE SCARBOROUGH, HOST:  Welcome to Sunday night and SCARBOROUGH

COUNTRY. 

The Vietnam issue keeps haunting John Kerry.  Why can‘t he get his facts straight? 

You‘re about to enter SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY.  No passport required.  No flip-flops allowed. 

John Kerry denies he ever said he threw away his war medals during an anti-Vietnam protest.  But new reports tonight are surfacing that a 1971 video has shown him bragging about ditching those very medals. 

And the media‘s been hounding the president for over six months now over Bob Woodward‘s book, over the 9/11 commission and practically demanding an apology for ousting Saddam.  But the president‘s weathering the storm, and the polls are proving it. 

Then George W. Bush says he looks to a higher power for advice when he‘s running the country.  Some say he should be looking to the Constitution instead.  Does God belong in the White House?  It‘s a SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY showdown. 

And Senator John McCain enters SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY, and he‘s going to weigh in on violence in Iraq, the battle for the White House and his new book, “Why Courage Matters.”

But first, the war is going badly, the 9/11 commission was a political nightmare and the press has been beating up the president for six months now.  Looks like a landslide for George W. Bush.  It‘s time for tonight‘s “Real Deal.”

Now, the “Washington Post‘s” Richard Cullen wrote about George Bush‘s remarkable Teflon qualities this week, and he‘s got a point. 

Because for the past six months George Bush has slaughtered by the mainstream media, as elites in print and TV spent the first three months of the year hyperventilating over John Kerry and the unified Democratic Party, claiming repeatedly the Democrats hated Bush so much that they were turning out in record numbers at the Democratic primary.  But that claim, like so many others, simply turned out to be false. 

But luckily for the bash-Bush crowd, as soon as the primary season ended, the war in Iraq flared up again.  And the same leftists who were predicting a bloody quagmire on the battlefield a year ago started gloating gleefully of images of dead Americans and burning buildings. 

Add to that the 9/11 commission, Richard Clarke‘s dream sequence on “60 Minutes” and a book Bob Woodward co-authored with Colin Powell, and you have six months of almost exclusively bad news for George Bush. 

In fact, the mainstream media is so programmed to run negative stories on George Bush that almost nobody‘s reporting on polls that are actually showing the president‘s numbers going up. 

That‘s right.  A new “Washington Post” poll and a “USA Today” survey showed that Americans are rallying behind their president.  His approval ratings are up.  He‘s trouncing John Kerry on national security issues, on terror issues and has even pulled even on the economy. 

You know, after six months of political hell, George Bush‘s continued popular support has to be seen as bad news for John Kerry. 

The Massachusetts Senator has got to stop talking about Iraq.  He‘s got to start focusing on the economy and try to remember why he wants to be president of the United States, because somewhere between Iowa and Washington, the senator has lost his political bearings. 

And he better right himself quickly or else he‘s going to find himself on a one-way trip to Dukakisville; and believe me, that‘s a long, ugly ride.  And that‘s tonight‘s “Real Deal.”

Our Sunday panel this week, MSNBC‘s own Pat Buchanan.  We‘ve got Jerry Brown.  He‘s mayor of Oakland.  He‘s also former governor of California.  We‘ve got Democratic strategist and MSNBC analyst Flavia Colgan.  And we have John Fund, our good friend from OpinionJournal.com. 

Pat Buchanan, let me start with you.  I know you‘ve seen all these articles, “The New York Times,” of course, had their article on Saturday about people in Kerry‘s campaign pressuring veterans to refresh their recollection.  We‘ve got all these other reports on Vietnam. 

All the things he said in 1971 seem to be coming back to haunt him.  Do you think by the end of this campaign John Kerry‘s Vietnam experience, which they thought was going to be a great asset, may turn out to be his biggest liability?

PAT BUCHANAN, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST:  Well, I think, Joe, that so far the Vietnam War, his four months there, I don‘t think that‘s been badly dented. 

However, this Vietnam Veterans Against the War thing, it is quite clear that Kerry was at that now infamous Kansas City meeting where someone brought up the idea of assassinating senators, and Kerry resigned.  And there‘s a lot involved there that‘s got to be cleared up. 

And one problem Kerry has is that he has not come clean on the fact that he was at that Kansas City meeting. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Pat Buchanan, let me stop you for a second, OK?

BUCHANAN:  Sure.

SCARBOROUGH:  Because I want you to respond to all of these things. 

You‘re exactly right.  He says he can‘t remember if he was in a meeting where United States senators‘ assassinations were discussed. 

The guy that made that—And we heard this guy that made this charge was just some lunatic.  Well, “The New York Times” reported this week that the guy that brought that proposal to the floor was forced to resign from John Kerry‘s campaign in Florida this past week. 

How do you attend a meeting when they‘re talking about killing U.S.  senators and forget you were ever there?

BUCHANAN:  Well, that is exactly right.  But here‘s the thing.  Kerry knows he was there, but he and his campaign have been making a Herculean effort.  They even told his biographer, Mr. Brinkley, that he had resigned.  And there was a letter of November 10, and he clearly was not in Kansas City. 

You‘ve got to ask yourself, why this desperation to say he wasn‘t at Kansas City?  It would have made no difference to the rest of us, unless something strange went down at Kansas City. 

We now know this crazy character, Camil, was talking about assassinating people.  We don‘t know how serious or grave it was.  But Kerry‘s got some clear questions to answer as to why he resigned right in the middle of that meeting. 

Did he hear these ideas proposed?  What is he, then, hiding?  Even the fellow writing the book on the VVAW, who was very pro-Kerry, says he‘s just not telling the truth. 

SCARBOROUGH:  You know the thing is, let me bring in Jerry Brown. 

Jerry, you know, we don‘t know what went on in 1971.  We certainly know that in 2004 the Kerry campaign has been caught lying about this Kansas City meeting. 

But I want to read to you something that “The New York Times” reported, and this was on Saturday, just yesterday, that some veterans, Vietnam vets in the Kerry campaign, were pressuring other vets to stop criticizing Kerry and to stop repeating the charge that Kerry was still with the antiwar group when they voted on this assassination plot of U.S.  Senators. 

And this is what the “Times” wrote yesterday.  “John Musgrave, a disabled ex-Marine, said he got a call from John Hurley, the Kerry campaign‘s veterans coordinator.  He said, “I‘d like you to refresh your memory.  And call that reporter back and say you were mistaken about John Kerry being there.” 

And then, of course, he said that that was repeated to him twice. 

What doesn‘t the Kerry campaign understand that people would believe him if he said, “It was 1971.  It was a different time.  It was a different place.  Things were crazy”?  Instead of getting caught in one little lie after another little lie after another little lie. 

I mean, that‘s going to hurt him a lot more than what he did in 1971, isn‘t it?  Jerry Brown?

JERRY BROWN, MAYOR OF OAKLAND:  Oh, yes, sorry. 

You know, I find this thing incredible.  Here you‘ve got Bush, who distorted information that bogged us down on the war.  We don‘t know how long it‘s going to take. 

History tells us that a lot of what went on in Vietnam is highly debatable.  It wasn‘t the time.  It‘s even more so in historical perspective. 

Here‘s a guy Kerry, who got three Purple Hearts.  They‘re arguing about one of them.  His opponent, Bush, didn‘t get one Purple Heart, never came under fire. 

And I think this is a lot of diversionary tactics, you know, linked with a certain cynical manipulation here of what‘s important and what isn‘t important. 

I mean, there‘s some legitimate issues between the two candidates. 

SCARBOROUGH:  There are.

BROWN:  But delving into these little things.  I mean, does anybody say that Kerry wants to assassinate somebody or ever expressed a desire to do that?  I mean, let‘s—let‘s look at the Bush-Cheney prevarications. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Well, Jerry—Jerry.  You just made my point, Jerry. 

That‘s exactly what I‘m saying. 

If he said, “Hey, you know,” like Bill Clinton said, “we should be a lot less interested about my past and my opponent‘s past, and more interested about your future.”  If John Kerry would just take that tact and stop lying about what went on in 1971, it wouldn‘t be an issue, would it?

BROWN:  Well, I don‘t know what the lie is.  Is there a proven lie here?

Every time I turn on the television and what I read about in the $50 million of, you know, of total negative attack that has been very effective, because it‘s put the president ahead.  It will probably win for him. 

But I don‘t really get the intellectually honest debate here, when you‘re quibbling about something that happened 20 years ago.  You know, I haven‘t followed every last detail. 

But Kerry, he said something.  If somebody else has got something to say about it, let‘s hear about it. 

But the amount of deception that‘s going on around the Iraq war, I think that is really fundamental to the integrity of our nation‘s leadership, and I‘d like to hear that a lot more than—but I mean, if somebody lies, that‘s always in order.  But I would like to put all the lies and all the misleading information, put it all out on the table.  Then we can weigh its relative weight. 

SCARBOROUGH:  John Fund, is “The New York Times” nitpicking over what happened in 1971?

JOHN FUND, OPINIONJOURNAL.COM:  No, I think they‘re engaged in some proportionality here. 

Look, I agree with Jerry Brown.  There are a lot more important issues to talk about. 

But let‘s understand that about two months ago we spent two weeks dragging George Bush‘s history in the Air National Guard through every, you know, back room office in Alabama.  We finally looked at his dental record. 

We spent two weeks on that issue.  We finally beat it to death.  This is proportionality. 

John Kerry could have swept all of this away if he had simply said, “Look, I don‘t remember being at that meeting.”  That‘s not what he said.  He said, “I was not there.  I guarantee you I was not there.”  And then he had his minions go out and tell people, “You must remember I was not there.” 

The bottom line, and I agree with Pat Buchanan on this, is I don‘t think there‘s something really horrible here.  But why is Kerry going to this effort to deny his history?  I‘ll tell you why. 

Because he was part of a group that was a radical group.  He said in the summer of 1971, while he was on the board, “This group I‘m really worried about.  They‘re engaged in criminal behavior.  They‘re engaged in vandalism.”

And when he resigned from the group he didn‘t resign from the group as a whole.  He resigned only as a leader.  He stayed with this group far too long, and he‘s embarrassed about it.  He doesn‘t want to talk about it.  And he prefers to cover up and simply say, “It was 30 years ago; let‘s move on.” 

SCARBOROUGH:  Flavia Colgan, John Kerry obviously was grilled about accusing American troops of war crimes on “Meet the Press” last week.  And this is what—this is a clip that Tim Russert dug up and showed him.  I want you to respond after he does. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. JOHN KERRY (D-MA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  There are all kinds of atrocities, and I would have to say that, yes, yes, I committed the same kind of atrocities as thousands of other soldiers have committed.  I took part in search and destroy missions, in the burning of villages. 

TIM RUSSERT, “MEET THE PRESS” MODERATOR:  You committed atrocities?

KERRY:  Where did all that dark hair go, Tim?  That‘s the big question for me. 

I think some of the language that I used was a language that reflected an anger.

(END VIDEO CLIP) 

SCARBOROUGH:  But, you know, at the same time, Flavia, he went on to say, “I stand by my comments, even though I was angry.” 

Do you think Americans should not be concerned if John Kerry admitted, as he did in 1971, and then reconfirmed it last week, that he committed war crimes while he was in Vietnam?  Is that an issue?

FLAVIA COLGAN, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST:  Well, Joe, he said that he overstated the case, and he probably wouldn‘t have used language in that way. 

And he‘s part of a very big group at that time.  It was a very emotional time.  A lot of politicians, a lot of people were suffering from, you know, being very surprised about the My Lai Massacre, about the “Toledo Blade” story that won the Pulitzer, uncovering a lot of what was done in Vietnam. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Right, Flavia.  But John—John Kerry...

COLGAN:  And certainly I don‘t think he would have praised them the same now. 

SCARBOROUGH:  John Kerry, though, himself said, “I committed war crimes.”  Do you think that‘s going to resonate with American voters?

COLGAN:  And you just finished seeing him say on “Meet the Press” that he felt that that tone was over the top and that was of a young man. 

I have to agree with the mayor here, that I think a lot of these issues are sort of red herrings, because the Republicans don‘t want to debate on the issues that the majority of American people say are taking this country in the wrong direction. 

And Joe, as you‘ll recall, as John Fund just did bring up about how we were talking about the brigadier general and the lieutenant colonel who couldn‘t evaluate George Bush because they didn‘t recall him showing up for duty. 

On this very show when I was asked about that, I said the same thing that I‘ll say with respect to Kerry‘s record on Vietnam, which is that I think there are issues that are much more important to the American people. 

I wanted those records to be released from Bush, because I didn‘t think it was a very big issue.  And I didn‘t think what Bush did or didn‘t do 30 years ago is nearly as important as the issues that we‘re facing in a current quagmire right now in Iraq and in America today. 

FUND:  ... the same questions can be answered of John Kerry in his post-Vietnam service.  His service was very honorable and heroic.  We‘re talking about what he did as an anti-Vietnam war protester. 

We just have to resolve those questions and figure out why in the world he‘s engaging in a cover-up. 

(CROSSTALK)

SCARBOROUGH:  We have to go to break right now.  OK.  We‘ll get back to you in one second when we go to break.  Get right back to you.  Going to talk about this much more. 

And also ahead, we‘re going to be asking former Vietnam POW Senator John McCain what he thinks of his old friend, John Kerry‘s claims that he committed war crimes. 

And speaking of war heroes, Pat Tillman walked away from fame and fortune to anonymously serve his country in Iraq.  Tonight‘s SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY absolutes one of America‘s fallen.  Don‘t go away.  That‘s coming up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SCARBOROUGH:  The violence on the rise in Iraq.  The Bush administration decides to share some of the burden in Fallujah.  Will getting help from Iraqi forces reduce anti-American sentiment?  We‘ll talk about that when we come back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SCARBOROUGH:  We‘re back with our Sunday panel.  I want to go to Governor Brown—or Mayor, Mayor/Governor, slash. 

You ran a very impressive campaign for president in 1972, also ran, in 1976.  Tell me, what does John Kerry need to do between now and the convention to turn things around and get the momentum back going his way?

BROWN:  He‘s got to be steady, steady under this barrage.  And having been there, when the pack, you know, goes at you on a particular issue for a couple of days, it is highly unsettling. 

So he has to demonstrate, through this torturous journey, gravity, stability, clarity.  So that‘s going to manifest his leadership capability right there. 

And then secondly, he has to define a real substantive difference on both a domestic and then the international field.  That‘s what he‘s got to do.  And it‘s got to involve Iraq.  It‘s got to involve, I think, other parts of the world, and then domestically.  And it‘s got to be clear, not academic, and it‘s got to be right to the point. 

And by the way, what I wanted to say before the break was I think the relevance of Kerry in Vietnam is that he was under fire.  What did that do to him?  What did he learn from that, how did it change his own understanding of the world?  I think that bears on his qualification to be president. 

The stuff about Bush and the National Guard, I agree.  That‘s—that‘s the momentary news of a few days. 

The real essence here is what do these two men have to bring to us in terms of stability, integrity and vision, and then what are they recommending, and who are they grouping themselves with?  I think that‘s a decision that will come down to in November.

SCARBOROUGH:  And you talk to the people that served with John Kerry, obviously, in the line of fire.  And almost all of them will tell you, to the man, that he proved himself to be very courageous under fire and showed himself to have incredible character when his life was on the line. 

Pat Buchanan, George Bush‘s poll numbers are back up.  The latest Gallup Poll has him leading Kerry 51 to 46 among likely voters, and the “Washington Post” has him winning 48 percent to 43 percent. 

A lot of people in Washington are scratching their heads and asking the question why.  Can you tell us?  Why is everything going so badly for George Bush, but his numbers are actually going up?

BUCHANAN:  I think the problem is John Kerry‘s problem.  Bush has had a terribly difficult month.  Iraq, which they thought was going well, suddenly looks like it‘s unraveling.  We‘ve got Americans coming home dead.  You‘ve got over 100 killed in the month. 

And Bush is going up, but it‘s not actually Bush going up.  Kerry is going down.  And I‘ll tell you why I think that‘s happening, Joe. 

There‘s a real focus, both in the Bush ads and in these incidents where Kerry is caught, you know, not speaking exactly the truth and trying to cover things up.  It‘s gone right to the man‘s character. 

He is coming off as an individual that the American people do not want as president of the United States. 

To win an election as an outsider, you‘ve got to convince the country that the president should be replaced.  I think the Democrats have done a very good job of that in the first two months of this year. 

But then you‘ve got to convince them that this is the man to lead this country.  And Kerry is unconvincing the American people, and the Republicans are helping do it. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Flavia Colgan, let‘s look at some of the specification from the “Washington Post” survey. 

When asked who was better to deal with the country‘s biggest problems like Iraq and the economy, the president‘s leading 49 to 44.  Five weeks ago those numbers were reversed. 

And when you go to the other poll, when it comes to fighting terrorism, 58 percent prefer President Bush to 37 percent for John Kerry. 

Flavia, though, you know what?  I agree with Pat Buchanan.  You know, first we had the flip-flop on Iraq and No Child Left Behind and the Patriot Act.  And all these other votes. 

Don‘t you think the problem right now has more to do with credibility and Americans asking themselves, “Who is this guy?”  And the Bush campaign ads are just exploiting that question.

COLGAN:  Well, Joe, let me posit a contrarian viewpoint if I could, and then explain why I think some of these polls, if you look at them deeper, are very troubling for George Bush. 

One, the fact that we had such a terrible month in Iraq and suffered so many setbacks, I think actually has something to do with this uptick in numbers.  I mean, you recall JFK right after Bay of Pigs said, “It seems the worse I do, the better my numbers get.” 

I think the initial reaction for a lot of Americans when they see military setbacks is to rally around the president.  But you know, as Carter in 1980, if those sentiments are not fleeting, I would suggest that they are. 

And I think if you look at some of these numbers—this is after $50 million of ad campaigns.  Here‘s an incumbent who we know a lot of the undecides typically do not go to an incumbent. 

A Republican, who Democrats tend to focus on election a lot later than Republicans do.  Therefore, making up more of a disproportionate amount of the undecides.

And you see a majority of the American people thinking that the country is going in the wrong direction.  The majority of American people feeling that Bush is not handling Iraq well or the economy well. 

And he‘s gone down 10 percent in only a couple of months...

SCARBOROUGH:  Well, Flavia, though...

COLGAN:  ... in terms of that question of direction of the country. 

SCARBOROUGH:  All right.  John Fund...

COLGAN:  And I think that‘s very troubling for him. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Let me bring in John Fund. 

John, Flavia‘s take on the poll is different from most people who are watching. 

Richard‘s Cohen‘s op-ed in the “Washington Post” which was priceless on Friday, he basically said Iraq‘s going to hell, the 9/11 commission is a nightmare.  George Bush can‘t even complete a sentence in a press conference.  If this keeps up, the guy‘s going to win in a landslide.  Why?

FUND:  Look, George Bush has made a lot of mistakes; he‘s gotten a lot of bad news.  But there are two things that the American people also pay attention to. 

One is the economy is getting better in most places, especially in states like Ohio.  Unemployment went down last month. 

And if you also look at Bush‘s problems, people don‘t necessarily look just at who caused the problems or what the situation is now.  They want to know what you‘re going to do about it. 

John Kerry‘s solution?  Vote for me.  I‘m not George Bush.  I will go to the United Nations.  Most people don‘t view that as a credible alternative. 

You can only beat an incumbent if he‘s in trouble if you have a credible plan and if people have confidence in your plan.  Can people tell me what John Kerry‘s plan for Iraq is?  I‘m waiting. 

BROWN:  You know, I think this whole campaign is going to come down to foreign policy.  The economy is getting better.  It‘s going to be a lot better by November. 

So what happens in Iraq—and I think these are really events beyond George Bush‘s control, and people—things may get worse and they may rally around the president out of some fear or national solidarity. 

But I don‘t think it‘s in the bag yet by any means.  There‘s a lot of time to go.  And if Kerry can come up with a very—he does have to come up with a clear alternative.  And then if the events do not favor the president, you‘ll have a horserace.  It‘s still going to be very close. 

BUCHANAN:  The only...

SCARBOROUGH:  Pat Buchanan, I‘ll give you the last word. 

BUCHANAN:  The only clear alternative, and I think Kennedy‘s (sic) people, they‘re in a holding pattern now and may be coming to it in September-October. 

The only clear alternative is we‘ve done our best.  I will bring the American troops home from Iraq.  My guess is that‘s where the Democrats could well wind up on October 1, Joe. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Well, you know, Pat Buchanan, you‘ve been stating an opposition to the war in Iraq much more clearly than John Kerry or most of the other Democratic candidates have from the very beginning. 

I disagree with you, but I‘m certainly glad you‘re here tonight and respect your opinion. 

Thanks for being with us, Pat Buchanan, Jerry Brown, Flavia Colgan and John Fund.  As always, we greatly appreciate it. 

And coming up, President Bush says he doesn‘t ask advice from his earthly father, but from his heavenly one.  Should faith play a role in shaping public policy?  It‘s a SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY showdown.

Plus, he sacrificed a $3.6 million football contract to serve his country in Iraq, and this week he made the ultimate sacrifice.  We‘re going to be talking about a true American hero, Pat Tillman, coming up next. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SCARBOROUGH:  He walked away from a successful professional football career to serve in Iraq.  Then he died defending his country in Afghanistan. 

We‘re going to take a moment to remember a modern day hero, Pat Tillman.  But first, let‘s get the latest headlines from the MSNBC news desk. 

(NEWSBREAK)

SCARBOROUGH:  Tragic news over the weekend.  Pat Tillman was killed in action in Afghanistan. 

The 27-year-old former Arizona Cardinals star traded football pads for Army Ranger fatigues, and he gave up a salary of $3.6 million a year to quietly serve his country. 

We have Joe Concha of NBC‘s Sports.com with us now. 

Joe, thank you so much for being with us.  You know, we‘ve all been hearing this story this week, and a remarkable story about this man. 

But the more I find out about Tillman, just the more remarkable he is.  Not only did he turn down $3.6 million to serve his country.  Before that he turned down $9 million just so he could be loyal to his team and not be traded and make the big bucks. 

JOE CONCHA, NBCSPORTS.COM:  Exactly.  He was actually drafted that year 226th out of 241 players.  The Arizona Cardinals decided to take a chance on him. 

Not only did they take a chance on him.  He was so good, he so overachieved, that he actually made the team and was their starting safety. 

And then he was so good in his career with the Cardinals, that the St.  Louis Rams offered him $9 million over five years.  But he said, “Look, this team gave me a chance, I‘m going to stick with them.  I have a family in Phoenix, and I‘m not going anywhere.” 

So that alone and the fact that he had a 3.8 grade point average at Arizona State and completed that, by the way, in 3 ½ years shows what an overachiever this guy was. 

SCARBOROUGH:  It‘s unbelievable.  And you know, when he turned down that $3.6 million contract, this is what he said about going to war.  Or this is what ESPN said. 

Said “Tillman‘s conscience would not allow him to tackle opposition fullbacks where there is still a bigger enemy that needs to be stopped in its tracks.”

You know, I‘ve been a lot of grumpy cynics out there saying, “You know what?  There have been a lot of people that have sacrificed, a lot of people that died over in Iraq.  Don‘t make this guy out to be a huge hero.”

But you know, the difference is, I don‘t know how many of those guys that are over there—I know there are a lot—but how many of them would have turned down a $3.7 million career.  A yearly annual salary.  That‘s just remarkable. 

CONCHA:  It is.  And the thing is, if Pat Tillman is watching this right now from heaven, he would be saying about all this media coverage, “I‘m embarrassed by it.  I‘m mortified.  You know, my coffin isn‘t coming back on first class while all the other brothers that I served with over in Iraq and Afghanistan are in cargo.” 

He‘s saying, “I‘m no different than anybody else.”  The minute he got to the Army Rangers program he spoke to his superiors and said, “Treat me like another soldier.  I don‘t want to be known as an NFL player that came over here.” 

He didn‘t do any press conferences.  He didn‘t call Barbara Walters and do a tearful sit-down.  Pat Tillman just did what he felt he had to do. 

And there is some historic context here, as well, Joe.  If you look back on World War II, Bob Feller went through the same thing.  He was a great Cleveland Indians pitcher.  He was a Hall of Fame pitcher in the ‘30s, ‘40s and ‘50s.

He had a draft deferment in 1941 that said he didn‘t have to go to World War II.  But the minute Pearl Harbor was attacked, two days later he enlisted in the Navy.  So if you‘re looking for parallels, Pat Feller—

Bob Feller, excuse me, felt the same obligation and anger, perhaps, that Pat Tillman did when he went off to Afghanistan. 

SCARBOROUGH:  And Joe, Pat not only didn‘t seek publicity, he ran away from publicity, didn‘t he?

CONCHA:  Definitely.  He didn‘t do any interviews whatsoever after he turned down the contract from the Cardinals to go to the Army Rangers.  He basically said, “I‘m going off here and I‘m not going to sit down and make this about me.  It‘s all about helping other people.  It‘s all about honor and obligation to my country.”

And he went off and did a job that—you can‘t put it into words really.  I mean, you look back on Mohammed Ali and the Vietnam War.  And Mohammed Ali did press conferences, and he attended rallies, and his words were his actions.  Pat Tillman‘s actions were his words. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Exactly right.  Well, thanks so much for being with us, Joe Concha, from NBCSports.com. 

CONCHA:  Thank you Joe.

SCARBOROUGH:  ... dot com.  We greatly appreciate it. 

CONCHA:  Good to see you. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Good to see you, too.

Moving on now, Bob Woodward‘s new book has sparked a debate over whether President George Bush is a religious zealot. 

I talked to Paul Kengor, the author of “God and Ronald Reagan,” and former Howard Dean campaign manager Joe Trippi and asked Trippi what was wrong with President Bush turning to God in times of trouble?

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JOE TRIPPI, MSNBC ELECTION ANALYST:  Well, I think all the presidents have done that.  But I think when the facts—people want a president who makes his decisions based on the facts. 

It‘s not about faith, it‘s about rejecting an administration that uses ideology, any ideology, left or right, instead of the facts, and I think that‘s what the president did here. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Let‘s focus, again, on this George Bush relationship with God that has disturbed a lot of people out here.  I want to read you what the president had to say on America‘s foreign policy. 

He says, “I believe the United States is the beacon for freedom in the world.  And I believe we have a responsibility to promote freedom.  I say that freedom is not America‘s gift to the world.  Freedom is God‘s gift to everybody.”

Paul Kengor, is that consistent with what you‘ve heard other presidents say, or is that in fact a dangerous—a dangerous intrusion on this separation of church and state concept that many people believe in very strongly?

PAUL KENGOR, AUTHOR, “GOD AND RONALD REAGAN”:  Well, it‘s consistent.  It goes back to John Winthrop, Arabella, you know, 1620, 1630, talking about the country being a shining city, a city upon a hill. 

It goes to Thomas Jefferson, the Declaration of Independence, saying that all human beings are endowed by their creator with certain inalienable rights, that this is a gift to all people, that all human beings have inalienable rights. 

It goes to—Washington said the same.  Lincoln said the same.  Woodrow Wilson believed that.  It goes up to Ronald Reagan certainly believed that. 

And so actually, with Bush, I would say that—and if Bush‘s thinking on this is revolutionary, it‘s in the way that he has so openly applied it to people of the Muslim faith. 

I think this is anything but a judgmental faith.  This is a religious faith that is very open, very tolerant.  I‘ll tell you, Joe, there are times that George W. Bush has spoken so warmly of Islam—I mean, you could hear a conservative talk radio show host who ridiculed Bush for referring to Islam as the religion of peace. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Well, I‘ve heard that.  I have heard that time and again, him being ridiculed for saying that. 

Joe Trippi, I want to go back.  I want to read you this again, where George Bush says, “I say that freedom is not America‘s gift to the world.  Freedom is God‘s gift to everybody.” 

Is that objectionable to you?  Should that concern Americans that their president is saying that?

TRIPPI:  No, I think all presidents have said something very similar.

That‘s not the point here. 

I mean, the point is that we are—we went to a war, that during that decision-making process there were facts on the table that didn‘t match with the president‘s ideology or his faith was, and whether it was ideology or faith, he went with that over the facts. 

And that—I believe that.  And I believe that a lot of Americans believe that. 

SCARBOROUGH:  So just to nail you down here, Joe—Just to nail you down here, you‘re saying that George Bush‘s faith in God and the way he applied that faith to the facts before him made him—actually misled him, and, therefore, made him mislead the rest of America. 

TRIPPI:  Yes.

SCARBOROUGH:  Are you saying that?

TRIPPI:  I believe—I would stop short of faith.  I‘d say it‘s either his faith or his ideology.  I can‘t tell you which it is, and it may be both.  But I believe yes, faith and ideology, or at least his ideology caused him to ignore the facts and move forward with something he believed he had to do. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Joe Trippi, let me—let me read you, Joe Trippi, and I want you to respond to this, too.  Ralph Nader called Bush unstable.  This is what he said: “We are dealing with a messianic militarist.  Talk about separation of church and state: it is not separated at all in Bush‘s brain, and this is extremely disturbing.”

Do you agree with Ralph Nader on that point, that his faith and the way he applies it is extremely disturbing?

TRIPPI:  I think there are a lot of people who are disturbed about why we went to this war and what the facts were and how the president ignored them. 

I‘m not going to get—I don‘t believe the president is unstable and, you know, Ralph Nader, I think, shouldn‘t be running for president right now.  It‘s just too important to defeat Bush. 

And we‘ve got to get this guy out of there.  We may have differences of opinions about why.  I don‘t agree that he‘s unstable. 

I do agree that there are Americans who are very disturbed about the facts, why they were ignored, why we weren‘t told the truth, and why we only really started debating the weapons of mass destruction question after the war, not before it, when we could have—when we had the time to do so. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Paul Kengor, one final question.  You look at that statement from Ralph Nader, and he actually talks about how it‘s disturbing that George Bush‘s faith, in his mind, may have influenced the election—or influenced his approach to war. 

KENGOR:  Right. 

SCARBOROUGH:  What do you think about Ralph Nader now going into George Bush‘s mind and saying he‘s disturbed at his private faith?

KENGOR:  I think—I think Nader‘s statement is disturbing. 

I mean, the quote that we‘re all bent out of shape about is that Bush sought the strength of God, sought God in his decision-making.  That is something the presidents have been doing since George Washington got on his knees and prayed at Valley Forge, since Lincoln said that “I‘m driven to my knees by the overwhelming conviction that I have nowhere else to go,” since Woodrow Wilson said that he believed that he was doing God‘s will with the League of Nations. 

FDR believed that fighting Hitler was doing what the Lord wanted him to do.  Harry Truman believed that he was on God‘s side in creating a nation of Israel.  So all presidents have thought this way. 

SCARBOROUGH:  And there has.  There has been a very, very long history of this, Paul. 

KENGOR:  A long history. 

SCARBOROUGH:  I‘m sorry I‘m—We‘re going to have to leave it there with Paul Kengor and Joe Trippi.  Thank you so much for being with us tonight.  We greatly appreciate it. 

KENGOR:  Thank you, Joe. 

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SCARBOROUGH:  And just ahead, Senator John McCain joins us in SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY to talk about his new book, John Kerry‘s war record, and the desperation of terrorists in Iraq.  Don‘t miss that.  It‘s straight ahead. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ANNOUNCER:  In tonight‘s SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY Challenge, we ask, “There have been two Quaker presidents.  Which of the following was not one of them?”  The answer is A.  Calvin Coolidge was the only Congregationalist president.

Now back to Joe.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCARBOROUGH:  Coolidge sure looked like a Quaker, anyway.  However Quakers look. 

Anyway, Senator John McCain entered SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY earlier, and I asked him about John Kerry, the war in Iraq and why he wrote his book, “Why Courage Matters: The way to a Braver Life.”

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN, AUTHOR, “WHY COURAGE MATTERS”:  Well, after 9/11 there was a lot of fear in America, as you know.  People were duct-taping their homes and others wouldn‘t fly on airplanes. 

And so our publisher at Random House, John Carp, and others suggested that we write a little bit about courage and how we can develop it and how you can use it and how it‘s important in our lives.  So we did.  And this is our product. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Talking about fears, our troops obviously in Fallujah and Najaf across Iraq have to be facing the fears day in and day out. 

And Senator, there‘s such a disconnect.  I mean, there are times when those of us who aren‘t in Washington are just so frustrated, because there‘s such a disconnect between what the troops on the grounds are saying, what I‘m hearing from them, and what we‘re seeing in these press reports day in and day out. 

And I‘ve got to ask you. I was excited when I found out we were going to have you on, because every time I see all the bad news coming out of Iraq, and yet, I hear the troops saying, “Hey, what we‘re doing is good and it‘s right.” 

I want to ask somebody like you who obviously, one of the most respected voices in America today on all matters, but especially military.  Give us the bottom line.  Tell Americans tonight, are we winning this war in Iraq, or is it time to start considering an exit strategy?

MCCAIN:  Thanks for asking that, Joe.  I totally agree with the president, that, in a statement at the press conference, we have enormous benefits associated with the success, and the consequences of failure are also incredibly terrible. 

These men and women who are serving are the finest that America has ever produced.  They are well led by excellent and outstanding generals, and I‘m proud of them, as we all are, and we mourn for them and we—especially now.  The reality is we‘re in a very rough patch here, and we‘ve got to see it through.  We have to hold fast and keep our nerve here as we go through this. 

Now, let me just add, I was over there last August.  I talked to the sergeant majors, the captains, the colonels, the British, and I came back convinced that we needed more boots on the grounds.  Absolutely convinced.  And I argued for it and I did everything I could to try and get more of these boots on the ground because I felt that we might have serious consequences. 

Look, mistakes are always made in wars.  That was a mistake.  It is not a reason to abandon our quest.  It‘s a reason to make an adjustment. 

And could I also say, as I know our viewers should know, that it‘s tough on these men and women who have been over there for a year.  Now they‘re being extended for three months.  It‘s very tough.  But we know, we know that they‘ll perform admirably for this noble cause. 

SCARBOROUGH:  I know you‘re friends with John Kerry.  You‘ve served for him for quite sometime.  But I want to play you something that John Kerry said on Tim Russert‘s “MEET THE PRESS” this Sunday, talking about his controversial claims regarding war crimes.  This is what he said. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KERRY:  There are all kinds of atrocities, and I would have to say that, yes, yes, I committed the same kind of atrocities as thousands of other soldiers have committed.  I took part in search and destroy missions, in the burning of villages. 

RUSSERT:  You committed atrocities?

KERRY:  Where did all that dark hair go, Tim?  That‘s the big question for me. 

I think some of the language that I used was a language that reflected an anger. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCARBOROUGH:  He said it reflected an anger, and he went on to say, though, that it was true.  What he said back in 1971 on “MEET THE PRESS” was true. 

Did John Kerry serve honorably in Vietnam, and can we say that he served honorably in Vietnam if he admitted to war crimes and if he said his fellow troops committed war crimes?

MCCAIN:  First of all, I think Kerry went on in the interview with Russert and said we shouldn‘t have used the word “atrocity.” 

I think that to return to those years of the most divided nation since the civil war is very difficult and a painful experience for me. 

The biggest shock to me when I came home from prison, because I had been in a time warp, was the way our nation was divided.  And a lot of the Vietnam veterans hadn‘t been able to come all the way home. 

And that‘s why I worked very hard to try to reconcile opposing views and opposing people to try to bring our nation back together, full accounting of POW, MIA, normalization of relations with Vietnam.  And I worked with John Kerry on those issues. 

Did I agree with what John Kerry and others said or did?  No.  Do I agree with some of the things that were said on the other side, when they promised that the light was at the end of the tunnel and, you know, we have the strategy for victory and all of the things that turned out not to be true, as well?  No, I don‘t agree with those. 

But I really believe that most Americans think that John Kerry probably served honorably.  I think that the president served honorably in the National Guard.  Forty percent of the Guard and Reservists that are in Iraq today are guard—I mean, of our forces are Guard and Reservists. 

So I‘ve tried to put the war in the perspective of healing the wounds, rather than continuing to reopen them.  And I‘d like to move forward, rather than move back. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Thanks a lot for being with us, Senator John McCain. 

MCCAIN:  Thanks, Joe.  Thanks. 

SCARBOROUGH:  We greatly appreciate it. 

And you, of course, can check out the Senator‘s new book, “Why Courage Matters: A Way to a Braver Life.”

Thanks a lot. 

MCCAIN:  Thanks. 

SCARBOROUGH:  And still ahead, talk about a tease.  Last week we told you the producer of Girls Gone Wild videotapes is suing the woman who‘s accusing him of rape for $25 million and $36. 

But there was so much breaking news we never got to tell you what the $36 was for.  Never fear, you‘ll find out right after this short break. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SCARBOROUGH:  Well, the Philadelphia Phillies are going to give out pink hats to all moms on Mother‘s Day.  Sounds nice, right?  There‘s just one catch.  Stay tuned to find out what it is.  We‘ll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SCARBOROUGH:  It‘s time for our fly-over of SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY, a look at some of the stories in the fly-over space between Manhattan and Hollywood, the parts of the country the mainstream media ignores.

In Florida, the founder of those Girls Gone Wild Videos is suing the woman who accused him of rape.  Joe Francis filed the $25 million $36-dollar defamation suit against a 21-year-old woman and her friend, who went to his hotel room.

The $36 is for the hamburgers he says the women ordered with him from room service the day after the alleged rape.

And in Washington thousands of pro-life teachers are mad that the union they‘re required to join cosponsored today‘s pro-choice rally.  The National Education Association organized bus trips for the demonstrators around the country, and it used its headquarters as the event‘s hospitality center. 

Some teachers say their unions shouldn‘t take a position on a purely political issue like this.  Welcome to the union, women. 

And in Pennsylvania the Philadelphia Phillies announced a promotion where they‘re going to hand out these special pink and white baseball caps to moms who go to the game that day. 

Well, it raised a few eyebrows, though, because the team says it‘s going to give the hats to mothers, quote, “15 years and older.”  And the New York Mets just came up with a similar promotion, except their Mother‘s Day visors go to girls who are moms 13 years and up. 

Hey, I‘m all for celebrating motherhood, but not when the moms aren‘t even out of junior high school. 

That does it for Sunday night in SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY.  We‘ll see you tomorrow at 10.                                                                                     

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

,