updated 4/27/2004 10:39:20 AM ET 2004-04-27T14:39:20

Guests: Jennifer Giroux, David Christian, Ann Coulter, John Hurley, Thomas Reeves, Karen Tumulty

JOE SCARBOROUGH, HOST:  Tonight‘s top headlines, an explosive 1971 interview has John Kerry playing defense on Vietnam.  The real deal?  Kerry needs to get his story straight and then change the subject.

You‘re about to enter SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY.  No passport required. 

Only common sense allowed. 

Did John Kerry throw away his Vietnam War medals or didn‘t he?  The senator has changed his story so many times, he may not even know.  We‘ve got the latest Kerry flip-flop. 

And then, the U.N.‘s top Iraq official says we can talk through our problems in Fallujah.  Tell that to the terrorists who are murdering innocent Iraqis and Americans. 

Plus, a former “New York Times” insider goes after his own paper for unfairly blasting Mel Gibson and “The Passion.”

ANNOUNCER:  From the press room, to the courtroom, to the halls of Congress, Joe Scarborough has seen it all.  Welcome to SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY.

SCARBOROUGH:  Well, John Kerry‘s silent spring continues.  It‘s time for tonight‘s “Real Deal.” 

For two months now, I‘ve been telling the presumptive Democratic nominee to stop talking about Iraq and foreign policy, because, as a Republican who was in Congress who fought Bill Clinton‘s policies, I learned very quickly that Americans always defer to presidents when it comes to military matters. 

Today, Senator Kerry finally began a week-long tour highlighting what he thinks is wrong with George Bush‘s economy.  Now, that was a smart political move.  But his stumbling appearance on “Good Morning America” proved once again that his anti-war activities in 1971 may end up making Vietnam a net negative issue for the senator. 

Whether on “Meet the Press” or “Good Morning America” or while answering questions for “The New York Times,” Senator Kerry needs to get his story straight when it comes to his military past.  And if I could be presumptuous enough, Senator Kerry, this should be your story:  I served honorably in Vietnam and I fought just as hard top end that war when I came home.  But Americans I talked to are more interested in their family‘s future than the president‘s past or my past.  Now let‘s talk about fixing America‘s economy. 

-

The senator‘s spring offensive will continue to go badly until he stops talking about Iraq, stops talking about Vietnam, stops talking about the war on terror and focuses exclusively on America‘s economy.  Maybe James Carville should scratch out another sign like the one he made for Bill Clinton in 1992 that simply said, it‘s the economy, stupid.  Running a presidential campaign requires discipline and communication skills. 

And right now, those are two qualities that John Kerry seems to lack. 

And that‘s tonight‘s “Real Deal.” 

With me now to get the latest on the controversy surrounding John Kerry is Karen Tumulty, who, of course is covering the Kerry campaign for “TIME” magazine. 

Karen, thanks for being here.

I‘ve got to tell you, the John Kerry that I saw in Iowa, that I know you saw in Iowa doesn‘t seem to be anywhere in April.  What has happened to the Kerry campaign over these past two or three months? 

KAREN TUMULTY, NATIONAL POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT, “TIME”:  Well, it does seem like, especially over the last, oh, two weeks, that the senator is tripping over his words at every turn.  And today, of course, the flap over the medals is only the most recent one. 

Now, the distinction here is whether he threw his medals away in protest of the Vietnam War or whether he threw his war ribbons away.  I think that quite frankly, for most Americans, there‘s not much of a difference between those two things.  So this is really not even, you know, a conversation he should be getting into. 

And one problem with it, the real problem is that it takes what Senator Kerry was counting on to be a strength in this campaign, his military record, and has him playing defense on it. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Well, you know, it‘s so interesting.  You look over the past week.  Of course, you had the “Good Morning” indeed this morning, which I just don‘t think could have gone much worse.  Charlie Gibson is not known as a heated political whatever.  It just went very poorly for him. 

You had “The New York Times” story on Saturday where they had stories of Vietnam veterans for Kerry actually calling other veterans asking them to refresh their recollection.  Last week, of course, Tim Russert went after him on “Meet the Press.”  Are they starting to sort of get into this crisis mode not over his service in Vietnam, but the anti-war activities, especially in 1971?  Are they starting to get a growing sense of concern that this could cost him some votes in the fall? 

TUMULTY:  They‘re very concerned.  And the thing about it that is most inexplicable as I said is that they were—this is one of his strengths as a candidate, is his military record.  And you would really think that if there was anything this campaign had planned for, had gone over every eventuality for, it would be how they were dealing with both his service in Vietnam and his protest of the war afterwards. 

SCARBOROUGH:  I noticed today on “Good Morning America” that John Kerry, on three separate occasions, went after the president, went after his National Guard service.  And I was wondering, have you talked to anybody today, have they told you, was that just John Kerry being angry and sort of venting at Charlie Gibson or is that a new strategy?  Should we expect to hear John Kerry himself going after the president, bringing up this National Guard service, basically saying, if you people are going to be attacking me on my ‘71 protests, we‘re going after you for your National Guard service? 

TUMULTY:  That was not an accident.  That was, in fact, very much of a strategy of the campaign at this point.  They figure, you know, if you‘re playing offense, then you won‘t be playing defense, essentially, on these issues. 

SCARBOROUGH:  All right, thanks so much, Karen.  We appreciate you being with us tonight. 

TUMULTY:  Thank you, Joe. 

SCARBOROUGH:  And just last week, “The L.A. Times” reported that John Kerry was saying this about throwing away his medals on the Capitol in 1971.  He said—quote—“I never, ever implied that I did that.”  But in an explosive interview that Karen was talking about that was released today, John Kerry admits that he did.  And this is what he said. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOHN KERRY, VIETNAM VETERAN:  I gave back—I can‘t remember—six, seven, eight, nine. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Well, you were awarded the Bronze Star, a Silver Star, and three Purple Hearts. 

KERRY:  Well, and above that, I gave back my others.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCARBOROUGH:  Actually, John Kerry‘s hair is a lot shorter today.  That was something, though, that “Good Morning America” played for him today, and again, it caused quite a dust-up on “GMA.”  We‘ll play a little bit of that clip for you in a little bit.

But, right now, let‘s bring in John Hurley.  He‘s the national director of Vietnam Veterans For Kerry.  We also have retired Army Colonel Thomas Reeves, who received a Distinguished Service Cross in Vietnam and is also a former vice commander of the National Legion of Valor.  And we have Lawrence O‘Donnell, our good friend who is an MSNBC senior political analyst. 

Lawrence, let me begin with you.  You obviously have been through quite a few campaigns.  You know, a month or two ago, we were talking about George Bush‘s National Guard service.  A lot of people said, this is significant.  Others said, it‘s going to blow over.  Now, of course, it started with Tim Russert, had “The New York Times” on Saturday, now “Good Morning America.”  Do you think these anti-war activities in 1971 are going to be remembered in November or do you think this is just a temporary dust-up? 

LAWRENCE O‘DONNELL, MSNBC SR. POLITICAL ANALYST:  I think they‘re going to be remembered in November in basically a positive way, Joe, because a vast majority of the American public by the time that war was over regretted that we had ever embarked on it and the country embraced in effect in a vast majority the Kerry position. 

This quibbling over, you know, did he deserve this Purple Heart or did he do this with the medals or did he do it with the ribbons is in no way—

I cannot see any political analysis that says this is somehow helpful to President Bush.  As long as you‘re talking about Vietnam, you can‘t be talking about it without, as we‘re doing right now, showing tape and video, film of what is basically John Kerry‘s most heroic hour. 

(CROSSTALK)

SCARBOROUGH:  And, Lawrence, as I said last night, Lawrence, he—very heroic service in Vietnam.  You talk to eight of the nine people that served with him on missions, they tell you the guy did a great job.  I‘m wondering, though, are you willing to admit tonight—and you seem to be a Kerry supporter—that at least the senator‘s not handling these controversies very well over the past week, that he should just push it aside and say let‘s talk about the future? 

O‘DONNELL:  I actually think they‘ve handled it as well as they possibly can. 

He‘s talked more about this than George W. Bush, just by comparison, has ever talked about military service.  He talked to Doug Brinkley, who did a book about it.  He talked to “The Boston Globe.”  He talked to “The Washington Post.”  He talked to “The New York Times.”  Joe, you were on this story months before “The New York Times” was. 

It‘s funny to me to see the big media, the establishment Northeastern newspapers catch up with it long after “The Boston Globe” had started it and pretend as though it‘s a new story.  Yes, his past statements about what he did with the medals are awkward, and so he‘s like anyone else in that situation trying to clarify, I meant this, I didn‘t mean that. 

And that always looks a little bit messy, but remember, we‘re talking about a war hero and what he did with his war medals.  You know, the net political effect of this, I don‘t believe that it can possibly be negative to Kerry. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Let‘s look right now at something that happened this morning.  John Kerry actually got into a heated exchange on “Good Morning America” with Charlie Gibson about what he did or didn‘t do with those medals that Lawrence was just talking about. 

And here it is. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, “GOOD MORNING AMERICA”)

CHARLIE GIBSON, HOST:  GIBSON:  Well, Senator, I was there 33 years ago.  I saw you throw medals over the fence and we didn‘t find out until later that those were someone else‘s medals. 

KERRY:  No, you didn‘t see me throw them.  Wrong.  Charlie, you are wrong.  That is not what happened.  I threw my ribbons across. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCARBOROUGH:  John Hurley, again, you‘re the national director of Vietnam Veterans For John Kerry.  Did you ever imagine the sort of week that John Kerry would have over this past week, where “The New York Times”  and “Meet the Press” and “Good Morning America” and all these other media outlets were actually going after John Kerry and attacking him for his anti-war activities in 1971? 

JOHN HURLEY, NATIONAL DIRECTOR, VIETNAM VETERANS FOR JOHN KERRY:  No, I never did. 

But I also don‘t think it comes from those media outlets.  I really think that this is—John Kerry said it this morning.  This is a phony issue.  Whether or not it was ribbons or medals, those terms—I‘m a Vietnam veteran.  I served with those guys.  I was at Dewey Canyon III.  Those terms are interchangeable and to introduce this into the national dialogue is just silly.  You lead with common sense only and that makes a lot of sense, Joe. 

This discussion does not make a lot of sense.  We should be talking about jobs.  We should be talking about health care.  We should be talking about the environment. 

SCARBOROUGH:  John, you know the senator, don‘t you? 

HURLEY:  I‘m sorry? 

SCARBOROUGH:  You know the senator well, don‘t you? 

HURLEY:  I do. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Tell him, it‘s the economy, stupid.  I support Bush, but I want a close campaign.  You know, when Bill Clinton was attacked, Bill Clinton would always say, you know what?  It‘s not about my past.  It‘s not about George Bush‘s past.  It‘s about America‘s future.  I keep trying to get that message to him.  I don‘t know if he watches my show or not. 

Let me go to retired...

(CROSSTALK)

HURLEY:  Try to give it to the Republicans, Joe, because he understands and wants to go to those areas.  He wants to have a debate on the issue.  It‘s this silliness.  It‘s Karen Hughes going on the air yesterday and it‘s this silliness over his medals.  It‘s this silliness over his Purple Hearts. 

John, hero, went to Vietnam as a volunteer.  He volunteered for the swift boats.  He earned a Silver Star.  He earned and a Bronze Star.  He earned three Purple Hearts.  He came back a hero.  And that, in contrast to President Bush‘s service, is stark.  We want to move on to other issues. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Let‘s move on to retired Army Colonel Thomas Reeves. 

You received the Distinguished Service Cross in Vietnam.  And of course, you‘re also a former vice commander of the National Legion of Valor. 

I‘m wondering, what‘s your take on the controversies of John Kerry?  Do you this is silliness, as our last guest said, or do you think it‘s significant? 

RETIRED COL. THOMAS REEVES, U.S. ARMY:  Joe, it‘s significant.  This veteran, who was there for two full years—and a full tour was 12 months, not four months.  Al Gore was there for six months.  I don‘t know how these guys had a connection to get out. 

Kerry clearly wanted to get out and he used an obscure regulation to come home.  It is a question what he did after he came home while I was there in 1971 and he is marching in Washington in tattered fatigue shirts with his long, hippie hair, with his, you know, pro-communist, anti-American friends, while we‘re still in Vietnam, many troops still in Vietnam in 1971.

And it speaks to honor.  It speaks to character.  It speaks to integrity.  I don‘t want a guy like this as commander in chief of my country‘s military forces because he is not a man of honor, in this veteran‘s opinion. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Colonel, you‘ve given us a lot to talk about.  We‘ll continue it in just one minute with our guests. 

Also ahead, a United Nations bigwig attacks the president‘s plan for Fallujah, saying there‘s never cause for military action even when innocent people are dying.  We‘re going to debate that also. 

And then, Mel Gibson has taken a lot of grief from “The New York Times,” just like John Kerry this weekend.  But for Mel, it was over his blockbuster hit “The Passion.”  How many times can one paper get it wrong about a movie?  We‘ll separate fact from “New York Times” fiction. 

Then later, we asked you all out in SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY if you thought photos of flag-draped coffins coming back from Iraq should have been released.  We got an overwhelming response and it‘s time for your voice to be heard. 

That‘s coming up. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SCARBOROUGH:  John Kerry‘s been flip-flopping on his war record, say the Republicans, since the campaign began.  What should he do to salvage the issue and his hopes for the White House?  I‘m going to be asking my panel when we return.  So don‘t go away.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SCARBOROUGH:  Hey, we‘re back with our panel discussing the controversy surrounding John Kerry and what he did or didn‘t do with his Vietnam medals and of course, a few other controversies. 

John Hurley, I want to go to you now.  I‘m glad you‘re on our show tonight because you can speak to something that a lot of people have been talking about the past couple days.

As you know, “The New York Times” reported that some Vietnam vets in the Kerry campaign were pressuring other vets to stop criticizing Senator Kerry and to stop saying that Kerry was present when his anti-war group voted on assassinating some U.S. senators. 

I‘m going to read you what “The New York Times” wrote and then I want

you to respond: “John Musgrave, a disabled ex-Marine, said he got a call

from John Hurley, the Kerry campaign‘s veteran coordinator.  He said, ‘I‘d

like you to refresh your memory‘ -- he said it twice -- ‘And call that

reporter back and say you were mistaken about John Kerry being there.‘”

Mr. Hurley, I‘d like to you respond to that.  Did you call up a veteran, Mr. Musgrave, and tell him to change his story about John Kerry being at that Kansas City meeting? 

HURLEY:  No, not at all, Joe.  And I appreciate the opportunity to talk about it. 

I did talk to John Musgrave.  When that issue came up as to whether or not John Kerry was at a VVAW meeting in Kansas City in November of 1971, we asked John Kerry and he said he has no recollection of being there, that he resigned from VVAW in Saint Louis in July 1971.  We checked Gerry Nicosia‘s book “Home to War.”  It says John Kerry resigned in Kansas City—I‘m sorry, in Saint Louis—in July 1971. 

We checked Doug Brinkley‘s book.  He said he was not in Kansas City.  I talked to a great number of vets and no one remembered John Kerry being in Kansas City.  So I did call John Musgrave and said:  John, I‘d appreciate it if you would examine your recollection carefully and make sure that you‘re right, because John was the only veteran I was hearing from, and one other, that said that John Kerry was in Kansas City.  The vast bulk of what I was hearing said that he was not there. 

And I wanted John to be accurate.  And that‘s it.  There was no pressure to change his story.  There was a request to be accurate. 

SCARBOROUGH:  John, isn‘t Nicosia and some others now saying that John Kerry may have actually been at that Kansas City meeting? 

HURLEY:  Well, I don‘t know.  You‘d have to ask Gerry Nicosia about that. 

I believe in my heart—John Kerry still believes—he has no recollection of being in Kansas City.  And if you want my candid opinion, he was not there. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Lawrence O‘Donnell, you know, we can talk about medals.  We can talk about all these other issues, but I wanted to take you back to the 2000 campaign and it seemed to me—and here I‘m speaking as a Republican who supported George W. Bush in 2000. 

But I found that Al Gore, once he had that reputation of maybe exaggerating a little bit, he would get hammered by everybody on the Internet, and sometimes very unfairly.  Do you think we may be seeing the same thing with John Kerry, that he‘s got a reputation for flip-flopping on the war, for No Child Behind, flip-flopping on the Patriot Act and all these other things, and now anytime there‘s a perceived flip-flop, he‘s going to get pounced on by the press? 

O‘DONNELL:  Well, Joe, you know, I worked with John Kerry in the Senate for several years.  And Gore was in the Senate when I was there. 

I‘ve got to tell you, the perception of Gore did not surprise me, that there was that tendency.  And his verbal style was one that he trouble correcting for it.  John Kerry can slip in that director a little bit, but I actually have seen him over the years be much more polished than Gore in that kind of presentation. 

I will be very surprised—I won‘t rule it out, but I will be very surprised if, when you get to November, that kind of perception exists about Kerry, that he‘s inflating and exaggerating.  I think what you‘ll have is the general population is a perception of Kerry that will be roughly the same as President Bush and the same perception you have with most elected officials, which is, they all fudge.  They all try to spin it in a way that looks best for them.

And, no, they‘re not the most accurate transcribers even of their thoughts and positions.  So I don‘t think Kerry is unusual in that regard.  Gore‘s manner is what made him so peculiar in that regard. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Yes, it was peculiar.

Thomas Reeves, John Kerry was grilled about accusing American troops of war crimes on “Meet the Press.”  I want to play you that. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, “MEET THE PRESS”)

(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. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TIM RUSSERT, HOST:  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 the language that reflected an anger.  But the words were honest, but on the other hand, they were a little bit over the top. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCARBOROUGH:  Thomas Reeves, obviously, I live in Northwest Florida. 

It‘s a very strong military area, a lot of retired military people here.  There are certainly here are some that support John Kerry, but there are a lot of others who were very offended by what he did when he came back from the war. 

Explain to viewers why you are as offended as you are by some of those anti-war protests. 

REEVES:  Joe, speaking to the atrocities, when Lieutenant Kerry testified before Congress and demonstrated in Washington, I was a helicopter pilot in 1967 and ‘7 of the First Cav Division.  I flew all over the Mekong, all over the central highlands. 

Kerry was in a fast boat, No. 4494, finishing up in four months in the Mekong Delta.  I flew Cambodia in special forces, layoffs with the CIA.  I never saw these atrocities.  We carried prisoners of war.  We carried enemy intelligence agents.  We carried newscasters like yourself.  I never saw it.  I flew over 1,000 hours of combat time.  I got over 25 air medals.

And for him to call me and my friends and those we supported on the ground war criminals, he gave aid and comfort to the enemy. 

(CROSSTALK)

SCARBOROUGH:  Are you saying that you did not see war crimes committed? 

REEVES:  I never saw a war crime committed.  I spent two tours.  My second tour was flying intercept missions for the Army over the Ho Chi Minh Trail at night and day photo missions.  I served six months on General Abrams‘ personal war staff with a top secret S.I. intelligence clearing.  I never saw—you heard things, but I never saw and I was all over the central highlands in that Huey helicopter.  I would have known if it happened. 

SCARBOROUGH:  All right, we‘re going to have to leave it there.  Colonel Thomas Reeves, John Hurley, and Lawrence O‘Donnell, we appreciate all three of you being with us tonight.  We really do.

And still ahead, the situation in Fallujah and Najaf is deteriorating as insurgents continue to kill the innocent.  The U.N. says force isn‘t the answer.  So we should just give up these cities to the thugs and terrorists?  We‘ll talk about that. 

And then a former “New York Times” insider admits that the so-called paper of record has been blatantly unfair to Mel Gibson and “The Passion.”  But why?  We‘ll get to the bottom of it. 

And a little later, much more, including your e-mails.  So straight ahead.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SCARBOROUGH:  The U.N.‘s top man in Iraq tells the president how to end the violence in Fallujah and Najaf—by talking it out with the terrorists.  We‘ll talk about that great idea in just a minute. 

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

(NEWS BREAK)

ANNOUNCER:  From the press room, to the courtroom, to the halls of Congress, Joe Scarborough has seen it all.  Welcome to SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY.

SCARBOROUGH:  I‘ll tell you what.  If the gas prices are dropping, they ain‘t dropping in my hometown.  I never thought I‘d say it, but I hope the Saudis have cooked up some deal to get prices lower by the election time, because they are high. 

Well, speaking of high, U.N. envoy to Iraq Lakhdar Brahimi gave some unsolicited advice to coalition forces over the weekend about how best to stabilize Iraq.  This is what he said. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

LAKHDAR BRAHIMI, U.N. SPECIAL ENVOY TO IRAQ:  There is no military solution.  There is never any military solution to any problem.  Even when you have a total victory, you‘ve got to end up talking to people.  I‘m a diplomat.  I think there‘s always a better solution than shooting your way into anywhere. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCARBOROUGH:  With me now is Ann Coulter. 

Ann, I don‘t know if this guy sounds more like Sting, there‘s no such thing as a winnable war, or Neville Chamberlain.  Is this really who we want to turn the future of Iraq over to? 

ANN COULTER, AUTHOR, “TREASON”: Oh, yes, I think like most Americans, I‘ve been on tenterhooks waiting to hear what military advice the U.N. had for the United States. 

This Brahimi, more recently, he had I think just today more advice for the United States.  And that was that the problems in Iraq were caused by Israeli domination of the Middle East. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Yes.  And, of course, he just had a broadside against the Israeli policy towards the Palestinians and basically blamed them for everything that‘s gone wrong in the Middle East.  Again, is this guy really an honest broker?  And why is George Bush listening to him? 

COULTER:  Well, it‘s beyond being an honest broker.  Just think of the absurdity of it.  These Iraqis have been living under a brutal dictator for decades.  America has come in and liberated them.  There are huge security problems.  They have to build a democracy.  They have to build a police force.  They have to build an army.

And Brahimi‘s position is, what the Iraqis are really burning with anger about, are inflamed over, what‘s bothering them, is some Jews precariously holding on to the side of the ocean hundreds of miles away from them.  It‘s just absurd. 

SCARBOROUGH:  David Christian, let me bring you in.  You‘re a retired U.S. Army captain. 

This is the point I don‘t get about it, OK?  If the U.N. can come in, help be an honest broker, that‘s great.  But when Brahimi starts giving the United States military advice on how to handle this, when you consider they had a car bomb attack, of course, against the headquarters back in 2003.  Some U.N. diplomats died.  They immediately left the country.  They haven‘t stood there with us.  So why should we turn the operations over to the United Nations and listen to Mr. Brahimi when he tells us how to run our war? 

RETIRED CAPT. DAVID CHRISTIAN, U.S. ARMY:  You‘re right, Joe, we should not turn it over to the United Nations.  And if they want to complement our efforts, they can complement our efforts.  They‘ve been gutless in terms of complementing our efforts.  They‘ve cut and run. 

They were called the useless nations in Bosnia.  And we had to come in and NATO forces had to—and allied forces south and NATO forces had to reinforce and save Bosnia, Kosovo and Croatia for the people there because the U.N. could not do it.  The French lost 55 people there. 

SCARBOROUGH:  And, Captain, of course, they weren‘t there in Rwanda, during that horrendous slaughter 10 years ago.  They weren‘t there in Sudan.  They haven‘t been there.  So tell me, how can we—you‘re an expert at this stuff.  Tell Americans, what should we look to the United Nations to do to help us in our efforts to win the peace in Iraq? 

CHRISTIAN:  Joe, you‘re absolutely right.  We should not look to the United Nations.  You have to realize that, you know, we did not have the United Nations when we went after Hitler in World War II.  We did not have the United Nations in World War I. 

So the United States has had to build allies.  We‘ve had to build bridges.  We‘ve built these bridges in the past and we‘ve won wars.  And he said, war is not the solution.  I have to tell him that it‘s broke down to such a degree that we are in a war.  When they bombed the twin towers, when they bombed the Pentagon, when we lost thousands of people that we‘re forgetting about, we‘re in a war on terrorism.

And if we don‘t take the war to their shores, they‘re going to bring the war to the United States of America.  I‘ve been to Jordan.  I‘ve been to many of these countries.  And I can tell you that there‘s a dislike and they hear from Al-Jazeera television the propaganda.  And the U.N. cannot neutralize that.  So this gentleman is off base.  He‘s uninformed.  And he probably doesn‘t like the United States of America also.  So there‘s no reason for us to embrace him. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Ann Coulter, you know what?  I agree with the captain 100 percent. 

And you know what?  This is a quote that a United Nations spokesman

said after they were attacked in Iraq and lost some of their people, said -

·         quote—this is August 19, 2003 -- “It‘s an unusual thing for the United Nations to be targeted when our objective in that country, I think which should be recognized by all, is just to help Iraqis get back on their feet.”

Well, what are we doing over there?  Come on.

COULTER:  No, I believe the evidence has come out their main objective in Iraq was to be accepting huge bribes from Saddam Hussein.  Perhaps that‘s their objection to military action.  They haven‘t figured out a way to get a bribe out of it. 

I think it‘s worth mentioning that John Kerry, Mr. International and friend of the French, so good at working with the allies, supporting by international leaders, continuously mispronounces Brahimi‘s name.  He keeps calling him Bramdini.  Just thought I‘d mention that.  No one else is. 

(CROSSTALK)

(LAUGHTER)

SCARBOROUGH:  Go ahead, Captain. 

CHRISTIAN:  Yes.

Ann, I think we have to go a little bit further.  And I traditionally agree with Ann on almost every issue, because I really like Ann and I‘m a big fan of Ann‘s. 

COULTER:  Thanks.

CHRISTIAN:  However, you know, his mentioning—any of the politicians over here mentioning Brahimi‘s name correctly isn‘t going to win the war.  We‘re going to have to—we‘re either a little bit in love or we‘re a little bit in war.  And you can‘t be a little bit of either.  You have to really be in war. 

So we have to withdraw the troops out of Fallujah.  We have to withdraw the troops from certain areas.  We cannot be held by a hostage.  And that is, this cleric is holding us hostage and he‘s threatening us.  And we have to send in psychological warfare and tell the people that if you‘re going to hang around this man, we are going to vaporize him within 72 hours or a certain number of hours.  This man is going to become history, because he‘s no longer going to be threatening the United States of America.  We are in a war, and this man happens to be jeopardizing the victory and the outcome of the war.  And he‘s killing young men and young women that happen to be United States citizens. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Ann Coulter, why is the president of the United States taking demands basically from al-Sadr right now in Najaf and these thugs in Fallujah?  We‘re sitting back.  We say, listen, we‘re going to give you a month or we‘re going to give you two weeks, we‘re going to give you one week, ah, but time‘s running out?

And then we find out when they say now it‘s a matter of days, not weeks, all of a sudden the president says, well, we‘re not going into Fallujah after all.  Doesn‘t that send a very bad message to these terrorists that the United States may threaten, but we‘ll back down ultimately? 

COULTER:  I think so, though I must say I‘ve been impatient throughout this war that we‘re not killing enough Muslim extremists. 

But when I‘ve been impatient before, events have caught up with me.  I don‘t know whether we need more troops or where they need to be positioned or how it should be done.  I think I‘ll trust Donald Rumsfeld on that.  But I‘m quite sure I will not trust the United Nations on that. 

SCARBOROUGH:  OK, Ann Coulter, thanks so much for being with us. 

Captain David Christian, thank you also. 

And I‘ll tell you what.  If you didn‘t read the front page of “The New York Times” today and see what Islamic fascists—and that‘s all you can call them—what Islamic fascist terrorists are planning for Europe now, it is absolutely frightening.  They are at war.  And just like the captain said, it doesn‘t matter whether we recognize that we‘re at war.  They recognize that they‘re at war with us and they want to destroy us.  They want to destroy our culture.  They want to destroy our way of life, because they hate democracy, they hate freedom, and they hate you.  And never forget it. 

Now, coming up, speaking of “The New York Times,” it seems “The New York Times” has it out for Mel Gibson and “The Passion” and they‘re not afraid to use their newsprint to prove it.  Blatant bias at the paper of record?  We‘ll talk about it in a minute. 

Plus X-rated ads on your highway, are they offensive or just free speech?  We‘ll tell you what one state is doing to curb the steamy billboards.  That‘s coming up next. 

ANNOUNCER:  Tonight‘s SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY challenge:  What helped “The New York Times” triple its circulation in 1898?  Was it, A, lowering its price, B, the introduction of the sports section, or C, adding front-page photos?  The answer coming up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)  

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

What helped “The New York Times” triple its circulation in 1898?  The answer is A.  “The Times” slashed its price from 3 cents to 1 cent. 

Now here‘s Joe.

SCARBOROUGH:  What did I tell you?  Lower price.  You know what, though?  It‘s not fair.  I read “The Trust,” which is a great book about the history of “The New York Times.” 

Anyway, “The New York Times” corrected themselves last week, saying that Mel Gibson only discussed his film with certain television talk show hosts named Bill O‘Reilly.  Their earlier report said that he had actually deployed those hosts to urge their viewers to see “The Passion of the Christ.”  This episode along with other examples of “The Times” bashing “The Passion” has led a former staffer to write this—quote—“Though dedicated to fairness, ‘The Times‘ has relentlessly lashed Gibson and his hit film.”

With me now, MSNBC entertainment editor Dana Kennedy.  And we also have Jennifer Giroux of SeeThePassion.com.

Jennifer, the reversal by “The New York Times” was quite remarkable, wasn‘t it, where they actually corrected themselves on this issue.  But I take it that that‘s not enough for you.  “The New York Times” has a long way to go to make things right with you and other people that support “The Passion.” 

JENNIFER GIROUX, SEETHEPASSION.COM:  Well, you know, it was like all the major newspapers took from the same script.  Frank Rich just was the most highly offensive, insulting journalist, who actually talked in terms  I can‘t even say on national TV about “The Passion,” insulting the faith of millions of Christians, personally going after Mel Gibson.

This is dating back to March of 2003 and actually is the reason why I myself got involved in this battle because his attacks were relentless, unfounded.  And I believe they do have a long way to go.  And the mere fact that Frank Rich just the other day saying said, “We lost this one,” tells me he was not an objective journalist from the get-go, because, if you‘re objective, you don‘t win or lose.  You just report. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Dana Kennedy, as she said, veteran “Times” critic Frank Rich wrote several columns about “The Passion,” including this nasty one after he actually saw the movie.  He said: “With its build-up to orgasmic spurtings of blood and other bodily fluids, Mr. Gibson‘s film is constructed like nothing so much as a porn movie replete with slow-mo climaxes and pounding music for the money shots”—Frank Rich writing this about a religious movie that may be the second biggest grossing movie of all-time.  What‘s your response? 

DANA KENNEDY, NBC ENTERTAINMENT EDITOR:  Well, just imagine the numbers of young men especially that went to see “The Passion” after reading that particular reading, that particular sentence from Frank Rich.  I think he did Mel Gibson and “The Passion” an enormous favor. 

I know Jennifer Giroux earlier on this program once said—she pointed out that many young men were going seeking holiness.  And I say perhaps they were not just seeking holiness, especially based on what Frank Rich said, which I have to agree in certain ways.  There were certain parts that I have to agree with.

But as far as Peter Bart‘s column and his criticism, first of all, he did write for “The New York Times.”  He has since gone on to head “Variety,” which is much more friendly to the Hollywood industry.  He also was a studio suit himself at times.  And Hollywood is a fear-based industry.  I wonder if Peter Bart would have written such criticism if “The Passion” had been a flop.  Instead, it‘s made, as you know, Joe, about $364 million so far.  I think it‘s easy to really write this kind of criticism in hindsight, when the movie is such a winner. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Well, he also said this, that “The Times” was ignoring the phenomenon of “The Passion” and he said it was just plain bad journalism. 

This is what he wrote: “‘The Passion‘ is a true phenomenon in the

history of motion pictures.  As such, it is news and deserving of objective

reporting by the media, even by ‘The New York Times.‘”

Dana, wouldn‘t you admit that certainly Frank Rich could write what he wanted to write about “The Passion” before the movie came out, before he actually saw it, but afterwards, didn‘t it seem that Rich and the entire “New York Times” staff continued piling on, savaging this movie?

KENNEDY:  Well, for one thing, Frank Rich now writes a column, which is a little bit different from simply being an objective news writer.  When you write a column, you‘re given a lot more leeway, even by those people who believe that regular journalists are not objective.  And many times, they‘re not.

I think “The New York Times” writers had a strong point of view.  Many of them are of Jewish descent and they felt that the movie was biased.  I‘m not of Jewish descent.  I thought the movie was biased.  I‘ve been on your show saying I feel it was biased.  But that‘s what free speech is all about.  I would say that, you know, if you look at how well “The Passion” has done, you can the media elite is perhaps to be pitied, because they certainly didn‘t have a lot of effect on keeping people away from the box office, did they? 

SCARBOROUGH:  No, they didn‘t. 

And, Jennifer Giroux, I want to read what “The New York Times” review of this movie was.  It said: “‘The Passion‘ succeeds more in assaulting the spirit than in uplifting it.  Mr. Gibson has constructed an unnerving and painful spectacle.  It‘s disheartening to see a film that is so utterly lacking in grace.”

But, Jennifer Giroux, in the end, “The New York Times” attacking this movie, “The New Yorker” magazine attacking this movie, liberal media outlets attacking this movie actually did Mel Gibson a great favor, didn‘t it? 

GIROUX:  You know, Joe, I‘ll tell you, that is such a weak, pathetic position for people to take.  And I think it is ridiculous, you know, to say that we have freedom of speech.

You know, you can‘t run into a theater and scream fire.  And journalists should be held at least accountable for facts that are accurate and truth.  And they were not.  And Mel Gibson and this movie were held to a completely different standard than any other movie in the history of Hollywood.  They went after his father.  They went after his faith.  He‘s human.  He‘s not above the fray.  Of course, that was hurtful for him to wake up and be bashed right and left to try to put this film out there, which millions and millions of Americans have embraced and love. 

And the thing we don‘t talk about enough is why did the liberal

outlets of the media—and I will call them liberal outlets of the media -

·         why were they so far off from what the average Americans saw in this movie?  You know why?  Because what we saw was true, the Gospel.  And there was clear contempt for Christianity and the Gospel by those that were writing and reporting so viciously about this film. 

SCARBOROUGH:  All right, we‘re going to have to leave it there.  Thanks for being with us tonight, Jennifer Giroux and Dana Kennedy.  We always appreciate it.

Now it‘s time for our flyover of SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY.  It is of course a look at some of the stories in the flyover space between Manhattan and Hollywood, the parts of the country the mainstream media ignores. 

In Missouri, state legislators want to take down any billboards that advertise strip clubs or other adult businesses.  Some parents have complained that they‘re forcing into discussing sex with their younger children because their kids see those billboards.  The lawmakers say they expect to be sued by those with adult businesses on First Amendment grounds, but they‘re confident they‘ll win the lawsuit. 

And in Washington state, a teenager is questioned by the Secret Service after a teacher thought drawings he made threatened President Bush.  In one, the teenager drew the president‘s head on a stick and on another he depicted President Bush as the devil launching a missile.  Good news for the boy, though.  He wasn‘t arrested, but he does face undisclosed disciplinary action from the school. 

And, in Nebraska, extracurricular school events will begin no longer with a prayer, even if they take place in a private Christian school.  The state‘s school activities association says they got some complaints when prayers were read before football and basketball games.  Some Christian schools said they may not comply with the new rule.  I smell a lawsuit coming up.  And I think the Christian people that do it will win. 

Still to come, the controversy over the flag-draped coffins you weren‘t supposed to see.  Do the images disrespect the dead or honor them?  It‘s time to hear what you think when I read your e-mails next. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SCARBOROUGH:  Hey, I just want to remind you to join us Sunday night for our new hour in SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY.  That‘s 10:00 p.m. Eastern every Sunday.  Also, sign up for my newsletter, Joe.Scarborough@MSNBC.com.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SCARBOROUGH:  You know, Thursday night, we told you about the controversial photos of coffins that were carrying fallen American soldiers on their way to their final resting places. 

Now, we‘ve received hundreds of e-mails from you and we‘d like to share your thoughts.

Dennis in Florida, who retired from the Army, writes this—quote—

“Flag-draped coffins should not be made available as political footballs or to sell newspapers.  First Amendment vs. those things that should remain sacred?  It‘s not about censorship.  It‘s a matter of honor and respect.”

Thanks, Dennis.

And Karen in New Hampshire wrote in and said: “They have no right to keep such pictures from us.  To me, it‘s honoring the fallen hero, not doing something to make the family happy.”

And Edith from Minnesota said: “I did not find the photo offensive.  I found the behavior of some of the people who took the photo and those who printed it offensive.  The families of the deceased should be the only ones who decide whether or not those photos can be released.”

And we had one from Jon from Washington.  He said: “I‘m a World War II vet and I can tell you that anybody who has been to war would vote to show them the returning dead.  More than that, they would advocate showing the corpses to emphasize the horror.  Those nicely draped boxes don‘t show much.”

Well, we thank you for e-mailing us.  And, of course, you can e-mail me at Joe@MSNBC.com.  Also, we want you to sign up for our newsletter.  We write it every day, send it out to you, tell you what‘s happening in SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY.  You can do that, again, by simply going to our site.  It‘s Joe.MSNBC.com.  Visit us on the Web.  We‘re there every time. 

Thanks for visiting us in SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY tonight.  We‘ll see you tomorrow.  Good night.

END   

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