updated 4/28/2004 11:46:26 AM ET 2004-04-28T15:46:26

Guests: Carrie Lukas, Patricia Ireland, Peter Jones, Steven Waldman Joe Trippi, David Dreier, Carl Bernstein

JOE SCARBOROUGH, HOST:  Tonight‘s top headline:  The U.S. pounds insurgents in Fallujah.  The “Real Deal”:  Diplomacy is fine, but you got to be ready to back it up with force. 

Welcome to SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY, where no passport is required and only common sense is allowed.

The cease-fire in Fallujah shatters.  Insurgents attack Marines and the U.S. pounds them back.  The president has been holding off on a full-scale assault, hoping to avoid a backlash in the Middle East, but it looks like a certain New York senator doesn‘t have the same concerns.  Hillary Clinton told an Arab newspaper that Iraq is a quagmire and that the president is threatening peace and stability in the Middle East.  Nice timing. 

And Vice President Dick Cheney gives a speech at a Missouri college.  Instead of honored, the university president said he was embarrassed and he sent out a note of apology to the entire school. 

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, the empire strikes back.  It‘s time for the “Real Deal.” 

The horrible imperialist power, the United States of America, struck back today at the peace-loving forces supporting Saddam Hussein‘s return to power.  The American aggressors were warned by the United States (sic) envoy to Iraq against using any military tactics in Fallujah that would actually protect American troops from harm.  But that imperialist pig in the White House, George W. Bush, just couldn‘t help himself. 

Certainly, that kind of talk could be expected from Osama bin Laden, al-Sadr, or Teddy Kennedy.  That‘s right, Teddy Kennedy.  It seems leading liberals have chosen America‘s gravest hour at war to attack the commander in chief.  Senator Kerry, of course, compared Iraq to Vietnam, raising the hopes of Islamist terrorists worldwide that they could win this war with us.  And today, there are reports that Hillary Clinton has followed the liberal lion‘s lead by bashing George Bush and American foreign policy while speaking to Arab newspaper. 

Now, the comments reportedly quickly spread from London to Damascus to points throughout the Middle East, once again showing the enemies of America that all you have to do is keep killing our troops to stir political unrest in America.  This type of talk during a time of war is dangerous and unsettling.  And I don‘t care whether you like to hear it or not.  It makes our troops‘ job in Iraq and Afghanistan that much more difficult.

And it makes it that much more dangerous.  It is time for Americans of all stripes to realize that we are all on the same team, especially at this time of war.  Senator Clinton, you need to be more careful with the words you speak to the world‘s press.  You are being irresponsible.  And that‘s tonight‘s “Real Deal.” 

With me now to discuss the latest on the battle in Fallujah is NBC‘s Carl Rochelle from Baghdad.

Carl, thank you for being with us. 

Tell us about the very latest news that is coming out of Fallujah. 

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

CARL ROCHELLE, NBC CORRESPONDENT:  Well, Joe, for a while, we thought that the offense had started.  You could see major fire in the area.  We knew there were aircraft operating.  It looked like AC-130.  Turns out it was, that gunship, .105-millimeter Howitzer on the back end, .20-millimeter cannon on the front, the Gatling gun, and a 40.-millimeter cannon.  They can hit a target and really do a lot of damage. 

And that‘s exactly what they were doing.  We saw secondary explosions, fire and smoke through the night-vision cameras and through the slow-scan cameras that they were using to feed those live pictures back.  It did look as if there was a major operation going on, and there was a lot of fire in the area. 

But the Marine Corps says this is not the offensive.  It is a strong, appropriate response to an attack on their Marines in this Jolan area by the Iraqi insurgents.  It‘s an area that they have attacked several times in the past.  In fact, one Marine was killed there the day before yesterday.  Yesterday, it is in the time zone.  And eight others or nine others were wounded in the operations there, so they continue to defend that area aggressively and strongly. 

We are told the Marines called for the AC-130 gunship to come in, M1-A1 tanks then putting fire on it, and precision weapons, which we take to mean bombs of some sort launched from a fixed-wing aircraft, although the Marine Corps wouldn‘t confirm the fixed-wing aircraft at this time.  But they say, that cease-fire, such as it is, is still in place, and there is fighting from the Iraqis almost every day and the Marines defending themselves.

But officials of the coalition say they are still trying to work it out peacefully and get the Iraqis in the city to turn over those weapons.  So far, they have turned over very little, and what they have turned over has been corroded and absolutely of no use to anyone—Joe. 

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SCARBOROUGH:  All right, thanks a lot, Carl. 

All right, now let‘s bring in Bernard Trainor.  He, of course, is a retired lieutenant general in the Marine Corps and an MSNBC analyst. 

General, give us a rundown of what‘s going on over there.  We have had news of these truces in Najaf and also up in Fallujah, but there‘s been an awful lot of fighting lately.  We get reports that 64 insurgents were killed in Najaf over the past couple of days.  And now of course this massive counterattack in Fallujah.  What‘s going on? 

RET. GEN. BERNARD TRAINOR, NBC MILITARY ANALYST:  The cease-fire, Joe, I think was a farce. 

The people that were negotiating with the people in Fallujah really have no control over this hard-core bunch of insurgents.  So the cease-fire, I think you can set it aside.  The business of the joint patrolling of Iraqis and Marines into the area, I think that‘s also false.  I really think that there‘s a possibility of what this hard-core group is doing in Fallujah is trying to goad the Americans into launching their offensive. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Why is that? 

TRAINOR:  Every day, they have constantly sniped at the Marines and attacked the Marines.  I think they want to goad the Marines, or they could possibly want to goad the Marines into launching this attack on the assumption that we will cause a lot of casualties—and they don‘t mind dying themselves, apparently—but they will cause a lot of casualties in the area, destroy mosques, and so forth, and that they will get a type of propaganda victory out of this, which will spread the insurgency throughout Iraq. 

SCARBOROUGH:  General, you know, it seems like the White House has been sending a mixed signal.  We‘ve setting deadlines.  Our generals over there have been setting deadlines.  And then the president a few days ago stepped back from that.  He said, well, we are not going to go in after all.  We‘re just going to keep it surrounded. 

And now, of course, we begin this major offensive going into Fallujah.  Do you think that this was planned all along?  Do you think the president was trying to lull some of the insurgents into a false sense of security, or do you think we just had to respond after the sniping attacks kept up? 

TRAINOR:  Well, Joe, I think we put ourselves in the worst possible position.  We had a choice at the outset, to either go in there or not go in there, and we were between the rock and the hard place. 

If we didn‘t go in and put this sort of thing down, we would be seen as being weak and presumably the insurgency would spread because we thought that we were on the losing side.  On the other hand, if we went in and secured the area, the same sort of thing would have happened.  We would have been viewed as being aggressors, and the insurgency would have spread by disaffected Iraqis, many of whom are already on the fence. 

So what do we do?  We do a little of each and it just doesn‘t work out.  If we were going to go in there, we should have gone in there and gotten the thing over with.  The business of going into the cease-fire I think was a ridiculous thing.  I think it was a terrible mistake, and we are paying the price for it. 

SCARBOROUGH:  All right, General, you know what?  I agree with you.  You cannot negotiate with terrorists.  You never have been able to negotiate with terrorists.  And I don‘t know why we don‘t learn that lesson in Washington.  I appreciate you being with us tonight. 

TRAINOR:  OK, Joe. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Let‘s move on to our panel.  We‘ve got Congressman David Dreier from California with us.  We also have Joe Trippi.  He‘s a former Dean campaign manager.  And we have Carl Bernstein from “Vanity Fair.” 

Gentlemen, thank you for being with us.

(CROSSTALK)

SCARBOROUGH:  Let me begin with you, David Dreier. 

You heard the general‘s comments.  Do you think that this White House and do you think the Pentagon has mishandled Fallujah?  Do you think they‘ve mishandled Najaf?  Do you think we should have shown a lot more force earlier? 

REP. DAVID DREIER ®, CALIFORNIA:  The fact of the matter is, this administration has pursued force as a last resort. 

And what we have seen in Fallujah is a conflagration of terrorists from all over the region.  And I think the action that we have seen in the last 12 to 16 hours has been strong, decisive, and, I believe, Joe, that it‘s going to send a very, very bold signal to those terrorists.  And I believe also that we have found tremendous positive developments that have been taking place in this region. 

My parents just got an e-mail from a lieutenant, a Marine lieutenant.  We have a former Marine general on—retired Marine general.  We got this e-mail that came in today.  And it‘s just very brief.  He said—this lieutenant, he said: “No one is poised to make such an amazing contribution to the everyday lives of Iraqis and the rest of the Arab world than the American armed forces.  By making this a place where liberty can finally grow, we are making the world safer.”  And that‘s from on the ground right there.

And so I believe that we are doing the right thing.  We have tried to use force as a last resort, but now we found there is no other alternative, so I think the president has been right on target. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Carl Bernstein, let me bring you in here.  The Iraqi ambassador to the United States was actually critical of America in the way we handled things right after Saddam‘s statue fell April 9 of last year. 

She actually said because we didn‘t show enough force, because we allowed the looting, because we allowed the destruction of a lot of businesses in Iraq, they saw weakness there.  Do you believe that what we are doing now in Fallujah, by being aggressive, by attacking is going to help us in the long run or do you believe, like the U.N. envoy to Iraq, do you believe it‘s going to hurt us? 

CARL BERNSTEIN, AUTHOR/JOURNALIST:  I am not on the ground as a military expert.  I think there‘s a larger, overarching problem. 

And that is that this war seems to be unleashing a kind of holy war itself, not only in Iraq, but throughout the Western world.  We are seeing more of it in Europe, a story in “The New York Times” yesterday about recruitment of terrorists throughout Europe. 

(CROSSTALK)

SCARBOROUGH:  That was a frightening article, wasn‘t it, “The New York Times” article?

BERNSTEIN:  It was a terribly frightening article, and one thing that seems clear from Bob Woodward‘s book, from everything we know is that nobody in this administration had a serious debate before this war of whether it would unleash terrorism rather than restrain it. 

The one person who foresaw what seems to be happening was the only person who has really worn a uniform in a big way who was involved in the deliberations, and that‘s Colin Powell, who clearly was opposed to this venture. 

SCARBOROUGH:  But, Carl Bernstein, though, there was a holy war against America before Iraq. 

BERNSTEIN:  Absolutely. 

SCARBOROUGH:  That‘s what 9/11 was all about. 

BERNSTEIN:  Absolutely.  The question is, how do you fight terrorism?  I was in Baghdad before the first Gulf War.  It was never a terrorist state.  It was a Stalinist, tyrannical state headed by murderous man, but that‘s something far different than terrorism.  He wouldn‘t tolerate terrorism because it would bring him down. 

(CROSSTALK)

DREIER:  But, Carl, we all know that this guy was a promoter of terrorist activities. 

BERNSTEIN:  No, we don‘t. 

DREIER:  You say he wasn‘t a terrorist himself, but clearly, we know he was funding terrorist activities from the Palestinians.

And we found later that in fact Iraq has been used as a refuge for al Qaeda.  And there‘s a presence today. 

BERNSTEIN:  Well, actually, I don‘t think we know that it was a refuge for al Qaeda.  To the contrary, before the war, al Qaeda attacked Saddam Hussein publicly and so did Osama bin Laden, because it was a secular state. 

DREIER:  But it was a part of Iraq. 

(CROSSTALK)

SCARBOROUGH:  Well, gentleman, I‘ll tell you what.  Let‘s continue this debate and conversation in the next block.  And, also, I‘m going to bring in Joe Trippi. 

And I‘m going to have our panel talk about Hillary Clinton‘s statement to the Arab press that George Bush is actually causing instability in the Mideast and across the world.  I am also going to be asking my panel much more coming up about the hypocrisy of liberal colleges, like the one in Missouri that chided Dick Cheney for mentioning John Kerry in his remarks.  Would he have scolded John Kerry if the tables were turned?

And critics have blasted “The Passion” as violent, anti-Semitic and inaccurate.  But they fawned over “The Da Vinci Code” a book that claims Jesus Christ and Mary Magdalene had a daughter and their bloodline continues in France.  We are going to be talking about that when we come back. 

Also, you like those low-riding jeans in fashion right now?  Well, watch out, because wearing them may land you in jail.  We will tell you why. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SCARBOROUGH:  Senator Hillary Clinton reportedly attacks the president and his war policy in the Middle East to an Arab newspaper.  We are going to be talking to our panel about that and much more when SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY returns.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SCARBOROUGH:  Welcome back.  We‘re back with our panel, Carl Bernstein, Joe Trippi, and David Dreier.

And, Joe Trippi, let me go to you and talk to you about an interview that Hillary Clinton had with an Arab newspaper that‘s spread across the Middle East.  Senator Clinton today blasted the Bush administration, saying that Bush refuses to admit mistakes because of—quote—“unbearable stubbornness and arrogance.  His policies are grave dangers not just for the young men and women serving there, but also”—quote—“to Iraqis and the region‘s stability.”

Is this really the type of talk we should have from the United States senators when we are in the middle not only of—when our men and women are not only in the middle of a war zone, but when they‘re in the middle of a pitched battle in Fallujah? 

JOE TRIPPI, FORMER HOWARD DEAN CAMPAIGN MANAGER:  Well, it‘s the truth.  And I think it‘s always better to say the truth. 

Congressman Dreier a few minutes ago said that we knew al Qaeda—that Iraq harbored al Qaeda before the war broke out.  That‘s not true.  We know—we are pretty certain that wasn‘t the truth. 

(CROSSTALK)

SCARBOROUGH:  You may be certain.  You know what?  You may be certain of that.  You may be certain of that, and you may be certain that what Hillary Clinton says is the truth, but I think it‘s absolutely wrong. 

(CROSSTALK)

TRIPPI:  It is not wrong.

(CROSSTALK)

SCARBOROUGH:  But the question is, do you have that debate while gunshots are being fired at Americans‘ heads? 

TRIPPI:  We support the troops, Joe.

But it makes sense, if you believe a war is a mistake, you have a patriotic duty to say so.  It‘s not just to go on and get on.  This is exactly the kind of debate where if you said something against a policy, not against our troops, but against a policy, that let us continue in a war in Vietnam that we shouldn‘t have stayed in as long as we did. 

(CROSSTALK)

TRIPPI:  There are problems with the policy that we are pursuing right now.  This administration never told the American people why we were there.  They have never come up with weapons of mass destruction or any other of the reasons that we were going.

(CROSSTALK)

SCARBOROUGH:  Joe, I will tell you what.  The president has given several reasons, every reason you may not agree with, but he has given several reasons.

David Dreier, help me out here.

(CROSSTALK)

TRIPPI:  But if we don‘t agree

(CROSSTALK)

DREIER:  This is part and parcel of the war on terrorism.

SCARBOROUGH:  Hold on.  Hold on.

(CROSSTALK)

DREIER:  The statements made by Hillary Clinton clearly undermine those people like the young lieutenant, Rob Nobsinger (ph), who sent my parents this e-mail talking about the fact that our debating all of this right now when we are at war, in fact, emboldens our enemies. 

(CROSSTALK)

DREIER:  It goes on to talk about—and these are people who are on the ground there.  We are not undermining free speech. 

(CROSSTALK)

TRIPPI:  Same argument made during the Vietnam War. 

SCARBOROUGH:  David Dreier.  Let me ask you a question, David Dreier.

Now, I did not oppose—I mean, I did not support our efforts in Bosnia or Kosovo.  I thought we were getting in the middle of a three-sided civil war.  And I thought American interests, national security interests were remote.  But I will tell you what.  i bit my tongue for the most part.  I believe you and other people...

DREIER:  I did, too.  I supported that effort and I supported President Clinton in the effort.

And I have always believed in Senator Vandenberg‘s edict that partisanship ends at the water‘s edge.  And I think that to have statements like this, because this does hurt our troops.  We have men who are dying over there right now.  And their families are here, and it‘s not being supportive of our troops when you have statements made like those of Senator Clinton‘s. 

(CROSSTALK)

BERNSTEIN:  We need to have a calm debate. 

(CROSSTALK)

SCARBOROUGH:  Carl Bernstein, let me ask you.  We‘ll have a very calm debate here.

And, in fact, I was going to ask you, help us sort this out.  I

understand you opposed this war.  I understand you have written articles

against the war.  But how do we go about

(CROSSTALK)

BERNSTEIN:  I haven‘t written any articles against the war. 

(CROSSTALK)

SCARBOROUGH:  How do we go about debating this in a civilized way that does not undermine our troops in Iraq?  Because, listen, I am the last person to say keep your thoughts to yourself.  But how do we do it? 

(CROSSTALK)

BERNSTEIN:  Well, one, look, I think there are all kinds of reasons you might want to argue with Hillary Clinton about some things. 

But she went there.  She went and talked to the troops.  She is on the Armed Services Committee.  She supported this war originally.  She now is having, like many senators, and many senators including some Republicans, some grave doubts about how we got there and how we are pursuing this.  We need a real debate.  We need a real debate about the national security of the United States.  She is participating in it.

And you don‘t fight, you don‘t have this debate by going out and demonizing people as liberals or as conservatives. 

(CROSSTALK)

DREIER:  Carl, we are not trying to do that. 

BERNSTEIN:  Joe, you did in your setup piece.  You did in your setup piece. 

(CROSSTALK)

DREIER:  That language is very strident that Hillary Clinton used. 

And I think that is the problem I have. 

Of course, we all encourage a free-flowing debate on this and a wide range of other issues.  But don‘t take steps, talking to an Arab publication which, in fact, will embolden our enemies, demonstrating weakness on our part. 

(CROSSTALK)

SCARBOROUGH:  Hold on a second, David.

Actually, that‘s what I wanted to ask you, Carl.  Isn‘t there a difference between Hillary Clinton complaining to the daily Buffalo newspaper and going to an Arab newspaper, where she knows her comments are going to be disseminated immediately throughout the entire Arab world? 

BERNSTEIN:  First of all, I have no idea what the circumstances of this interview were, and I don‘t think any of us on this broadcast do. 

(CROSSTALK)

BERNSTEIN:  I don‘t know what the newspaper was.  I think we need to know more about the facts. 

I think the idea that people in the Arab world aren‘t reading newspapers, whether—the Buffalo paper is going to get picked up in the Arab press also.  I think this is a little bit of nonsense.  We need a civilized debate about this war. 

DREIER:  Absolutely.  Absolutely.  I totally agree with that, Carl. 

BERNSTEIN:  And demonizing people and attacking them for supposedly

being liberals or supposedly being

(CROSSTALK)

DREIER:  Liberal has nothing to do with it.  Criticism has to do with

the

(CROSSTALK) 

BERNSTEIN:  Joe, I am going to back to

(CROSSTALK)

SCARBOROUGH:  Actually, you are talking to David Dreier there.  David is the one raising...

(CROSSTALK)

BERNSTEIN:  No, I am going back to Joe‘s setup piece, which was about liberals. 

TRIPPI:  But, Joe, one of the things that happened here is one of the reasons we are in this is because we never had a real debate in this country about the facts. 

BERNSTEIN:  That‘s right on the facts. 

(CROSSTALK)

TRIPPI:  In the first place. 

DREIER:  Of course we did.  We had on ongoing debate.

TRIPPI:  No, we didn‘t.  The American people were not involved in that debate.  We never had a real thought-out debate about this.  And we need to have it now without yelling at each other.

DREIER:  Joe, for seven months, beginning in August of 2002 -- we pursued the diplomatic route for seven months.  This administration went to the United Nations.  Time and time again, we saw presentations made that brought the public into this debate.  The United States Congress was part of this debate.  It‘s outrageous. 

(CROSSTALK)

TRIPPI:  On a lot of facts which were not true.

(CROSSTALK)

BERNSTEIN:  With all due respect, it turns out that the presentation that was made in the U.N. on the one time that Colin Powell went there, dragging, kicked and screaming. 

DREIER:  Oh, come on. 

BERNSTEIN:  That the president didn‘t want to go...

(CROSSTALK)

DREIER:  I will tell you, that‘s an outrageous statement right there, Carl.

Colin Powell was enthused about being there.  And he was going based on intelligence from the French, the Germans, the Russians, as well as the United States. 

(CROSSTALK)

TRIPPI:  That was all wrong.

SCARBOROUGH:  OK, we are going to move on from Hillary and Colin Powell, poor, poor Colin Powell, to Vice President Dick Cheney.

Of course, yesterday, he went after John Kerry for comments about our allies on the war on terror, and this is what he said. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DICK CHENEY, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  Senator Kerry calls these countries—quote—“window dressing.”  They are, in his words, a coalition of the coerced and the bribed.  I am aware of no other instance in which a presumptive nominee for president of the United States has spoken with such disdain of acting fighting allies of the United States in a time of war. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCARBOROUGH:  And that, of course, was at Westminster College, famous for when Churchill went there in the ‘50s and talked about the Iron Curtain descending upon Europe. 

Today, Westminster College‘s president sent out a memo to faculty and students criticizing the vice president‘s comments, saying—quote—“I must admit that I was surprised and disappointed that Mr. Cheney chose to step off the high ground and resort to Kerry-bashing for a large portion of his speech.”

David Dreier, do you think the vice president may have been out of line? 

DREIER:  No, absolutely not. 

I will tell you, I am from the Show Me State, Missouri.  I have been to the Westminster campus many times.  And it‘s so famous for not only the Churchill speech, but for being the home of Harry Truman.  I read the entire speech that the vice president delivered.  He talked about Truman.  He talked about Churchill.  He compared the Cold War to the war on terror, and it wasn‘t until he was three-quarters into the speech, in what was billed before the speech as a Bush-Cheney campaign event, this was billed as nothing other than that. 

And I think the president of Westminster needs to understand, Joe, that we are in the midst of a presidential campaign.  And I think the statement that Vice President Cheney made right there was right on target talking about this coercion. 

(CROSSTALK)

SCARBOROUGH:  Carl Bernstein, was that out of line? 

BERNSTEIN:  I think the president of the university is out of line. 

Obviously, we are in the middle of a campaign, and it‘s a good forum for any candidate to be there.  I don‘t know what he is talking about. 

It‘s something else to take on what the substance of Cheney‘s remarks were, which I think you can make a lot of argument about.  I think that what he said doesn‘t hold up.  But he certainly has a right to say it there.  It‘s in the midst of campaign.  I don‘t know what that president is talking about there. 

SCARBOROUGH:  You know what, Carl, why don‘t we end it right there, because I agree with you 100 percent, buddy.  I really do.

Thanks for being with us tonight.  Congressman David Dreier, Joe Trippi, and Carl Bernstein, as always, we appreciate you being in SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY. 

And still ahead, much more.  “The Da Vinci Code,” is it fact or fiction?  The author say it‘s based on the truth, but religious scholars say it‘s just a smear campaign to undermine Christian teachings.  We‘re going to debate that coming up.

And later, the nation‘s largest teachers union co-sponsors a pro-choice rally.  And now some pro-life members are outraged their dues were used to support abortion.  And that‘s the heated debate that we are going to be having in just a minute.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SCARBOROUGH:  “The Da Vinci Code” is a novel that claims to be based on fact, but religious leaders say it‘s full of lies and bad religion.  Is it entertainment or blasphemy?  We‘re going to debate that coming up.

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:  Long before “The Passion of the Christ” broke box office records, “The Da Vinci Code” was topping the best-seller lists.  But unlike Mel Gibson‘s movie, Dan Brown‘s historical fiction murder mystery suggests Christianity is a farce and that the church kills to keep its secret. 

In fact, “The Da Vinci Code” is so popular and so convincing that pastors, priests, and new book publishers are making a point to rebut it. 

Professor Peter Jones is the author of “Cracking the Da Vinci Code.”  And he‘s with us tonight.  He says people are getting bad religion from “The Da Vinci Code.”  But Steven Waldman says, no big deal, it‘s better to have people talking about it.  Steven is the editor in chief of Beliefnet, the top multifaith religious Web site. 

Professor Jones, let me begin with you.  A lot of people out there are going to say, hey, this is just a novel.  It‘s on the fiction list.  What‘s the big deal? 

PETER JONES, CO-AUTHOR, “CRACKING THE DA VINCI CODE”:  Well, it‘s an excellent novel.

But, as you know, novels can carry messages like anything else.  And I am sure that Dan Brown can defend himself in terms of some of his facts as fiction, but I am interested in the underlying message of Dan Brown‘s book. 

SCARBOROUGH:  What is the underlying message? 

JONES:  Well, it is the promotion of a different religion and spirituality than the one that‘s found in the Bible.  I agree that this is a good occasion to discuss all these things.  Dan Brown gives us that, but I think we may be aware of the fact Dan Brown himself has an agenda. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Let‘s tick down the list here.  First of all, and he did say at the beginning that while some of the characters were fictional that this was based on history, doesn‘t he say that Jesus was married, that he was a mere mortal, and that he has got descendants living in France? 

JONES:  Well, that‘s part of the romance and the intrigue of the book.  I don‘t find it particularly obnoxious to learn that Jesus might have been married.  The fact of the matter is that no sane scholar has ever proposed that.  It works for his novel, but I don‘t think it‘s a historical fact. 

SCARBOROUGH:  You know, the author defended the historical accuracy of his book on “The Today Show.”  And this is what he said. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, “THE TODAY SHOW”) 

DAN BROWN, AUTHOR, “THE DA VINCI CODE”:  Robert Langdon is fictional, but all of the art, architecture, secret rituals, secret societies, all of that is historical facts. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCARBOROUGH:  You know, Steven Waldman, I think anybody should be able to write whatever they want to write.  And if they sell it, if there‘s a market for it, fine. 

But what bothers me is this.  “The New York Times” has been bashing “The Passion” over the past several months.  Again, this is an account that was based very closely on Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, the Gospels.  And yet “The Da Vinci Code” comes out and basically tells one-third of the world‘s population that their faith is based on fiction.  Isn‘t there a double standard here? 

STEVEN WALDMAN, BELIEFNET.COM:  Well, I think it‘s true that the Dan Brown book is a very confusing mix of stuff he made up and stuff that‘s very debatable and a few things that are factual. 

But I think the same thing could be said of the “Left Behind” series.  And, in fact, you mentioned “The Passion.”  Mel Gibson added a lot of things that weren‘t in the Bible as well.  So I think all of these things are mixing fact, fiction, and things that are kind of in between without making any distinction.  So I think it‘s great these books have come along to debunk it, not because I necessarily think that everything in Dan Brown‘s book is wrong, but I think it‘s great to have this debate. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Well, Steven, I can guarantee there are a lot of people who went out to see “The Passion” that have read “The Da Vinci Code” or know about it that are rolling their eyes at what you just said by comparing inaccuracies in “The Da Vinci Code” to alleged inaccuracies in “The Passion.” 

Again, in “The Da Vinci Code,” they talk about Jesus being married.  They talk about Christianity being a farce.  They talk about the church actually going around and trying to kill people who are trying to reveal this secret to the world.  What do you see in “The Passion” that parallels the inaccuracies or at least the attacks on Christianity that we find in “The Da Vinci Code”? 

WALDMAN:  Well, I don‘t think it‘s equivalent.  I wouldn‘t say that.

But there are things in “The Passion” that Gibson made up out of imagination, for instance, the fact that Pontius Pilate‘s wife was apparently a big fan of Jesus and surreptitiously helped him out.  That‘s just made up.  And I don‘t begrudge him that.  I think it‘s one—all these things have a mixture of fact, history, and imagination.  And I love historical novels. 

I always think historical novels ought to come with footnotes, so you can actually see which parts are debatable, which parts are true.  And in all of these cases, there is a mixture, and I think we really have to look closely at them.  But that doesn‘t mean that everything in it is wrong.  And in fact, the interesting thing about the Dan Brown book is that the part of it that is, I think, resonating most is not the part about Jesus not being divine or even Jesus being married, though that‘s a pretty salacious thing.

It‘s the idea that early Christianity had more of a feminine emphasis.  And I think that‘s a big part of why the book is so popular.  That aspect actually is a subject of great debate among scholars.  There‘s no consensus in either direction on that. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Yes, one of “The Da Vinci Code”‘s central claim says that the Bible as we know it today was put together by the pagan Roman Emperor Constantine.  Until 365 A.D., Jesus was viewed by his followers as a mortal prophet.

Now, Professor Jones, it doesn‘t get any more basic than that, again, alleging Christianity was invented four centuries after Jesus.  Does that concern you is that what is concerning so many evangelicals that have read this book? 

JONES:  I think so.  I have understood that a number of people are rejecting the Christian faith who once called themselves Christians because of that. 

It is pure fiction to say that Jesus was finally defined as divine in the 4th century, that the church had no such thing as a Bible until the 4th century.  You know, we have the record of the Apostle Paul, who was a contemporary of Jesus.  Not one scholar that I know of has ever doubted that fact.  Paul is writing in the ‘40s and ‘50s about the beliefs of the early church, and he is making statements about the divinity of Jesus from the get-go. 

And when you look at his followers, in the second and third centuries, the church fathers are always talking about the divinity of Jesus.  So to say that this happened in the 4th century is pure fiction.  Concerning the Bible, the church had a Bible from the beginning.  Obviously, it wasn‘t collected in the same kind of way as it was the 4th century, but by the end of the 1st century, four-fifths of the New Testament was actually functioning as a canonical text in the church at large. 

It was when the persecutions were ended, when the empire came together, that the church as a whole was able to have a council where they all compared notes and said, these are the books we have been following since the beginning. 

SCARBOROUGH:  And, Professor, I want to ask you the same question that I asked Steve Waldman.  Don‘t you think there‘s a double standard here?  Again, you have “The Passion” that comes out.  Mel Gibson is just absolutely abused.  Here, you have “The Da Vinci Code,” which really, it‘s just received critical acclaim.  Ron Howard is talking about doing a movie about it. 

And yet this is a book—again, whether it‘s a very well-written book or not, this is a book that, again, calls into serious question the basic tenants of Christianity and basically says that the church will go out and kill people instead of letting them know the truth about this sham religion, Christianity. 

JONES:  Yes. 

On the first page of “The New York Times” today, there was an article that includes something about our book as well where they mentioned that Dan Brown admits to being a believer in this new spirituality.  And so “The New York Times” is quite aware of Dan Brown‘s agenda, and there is a certain lack of fairness, I think, in the treatment of these two cultural icons of “The Passion” and this book. 

(CROSSTALK)

SCARBOROUGH:  All right, thank you, Professor Peter Jones.  We appreciate you being here.  Steven Waldman, thank you.

And coming up, we‘ve got much more.  Police in Arlington, Virginia, say they are going to be ignoring a federal law on illegal immigration.  We will tell you why. 

And then, why is the country‘s largest teachers union sponsoring pro-choice rally?  That‘s what a lot of teachers want to know.  They are mad that their dues are being spent on partisan political issues instead of education.  That story straight ahead.

ANNOUNCER:  Tonight‘s SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY challenge:  What was the first country to legalize abortion?  Was it, A, France, B, the USA, or, C, the USSR?

The answer after the break. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

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

What was the first country to legalize abortion?  The answer is C.  The USSR legalized it in 1920.

Now back to Joe.

SCARBOROUGH:  Twenty, 1920?  Talk about ahead of the curve.  Geez.

This past weekend, the National Education Association once again found itself embroiled in a political issue, rather than an educational one.  The NEA sponsored a pro-choice rally in Washington, D.C., angering some of its teacher members who don‘t believe their union dues should go towards funding partisan political issues. 

With me now to discuss the NEA‘s agenda is political consultant Patricia Ireland.  She of course is a former president of the National Organization For Women.  And Carrie Lukas of the Independent Women‘s Forum. 

Carrie, you were there at the rally.  What offended you so much this past weekend? 

CARRIE LUKAS, INDEPENDENT WOMEN‘S FORUM:  Well, I think when you think about what the NEA is supposed to be focusing on, they have a big job, and that‘s educating the 50 million children in our nation‘s public schools. 

So for them to be involved in what is an often divisive partisan issue, instead of focusing 100 percent on educating our children, I think is upsetting not only to many teachers who they‘re supposed to represent, but also to parents around the country. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Patricia Ireland, let‘s say I am a conservative, Catholic, pro-life teacher.  I pay my union dues to the NEA because I want my work surrounding to be better.  I want the schools that my children are taught in to be better.  Why should my money go towards funding a political event that deeply offends me? 

PATRICIA IRELAND, FORMER NOW PRESIDENT:  Well, first of all, the NEA endorsed this action, but was not one of the organizers who paid for it.

But that aside, of course, the members, the teachers who are members of the NEA, can vote their leadership out of office if they don‘t like the policy decisions they make, just as those of us who don‘t like the policy decisions of the Bush administration, like the so-called No Child Left Behind bill, can vote him out of office. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Patricia, let me get something straight with you.  Didn‘t the NEA, though, organize bus trips there?  Didn‘t they allow their national headquarters to be held as sort of the welcoming center for this organization?  Didn‘t they spend resources to promote this event? 

IRELAND:  Well, their members who came into town were able to go to their NEA headquarters.  I don‘t think that that‘s an outrage in any way.  And, as I say, if members don‘t like it, they can vote them out. 

I think the NEA is much more focused, for instance, on the unfunded mandates of the No Child Left Behind bill and the reality that we are aren‘t seeing the kind of resources to our schools, but rather seeing a huge hidden tax with this unfunded mandate that‘s going out to the local level. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Carrie Lukas, the NEA‘s legislative agenda passed resolutions last year that had very little to do with education, including homosexual rights, teaching kids to be tolerant of homosexual and bisexual and transgendered lifestyles, advocating reproductive freedom, including abortion for teenagers, criticizing capital punishment in the United States, calling for a federally funded, run health care program.

And, Carrie, I want to ask you the question that Patricia Ireland basically has brought up.  Why don‘t members that want their union to focus on education vote out these union leaders that are wasting money and wasting energy and wasting focus on all these different areas that have nothing to do with educating our children? 

LUKAS:  They absolutely should. 

And one thing is very telling when the National Education Association may take a firm pro-choice stand when it comes to whether or not to carry a child to term, but they are absolutely against things like giving parents choice about where their children should go to school.  And I think it‘s really ironic when you look at the very education policies that the NEA is supporting, and they are absolutely against parental rights when it comes to things like the most basic things that are important to what our children‘s education, like where they attend school or what kind of classrooms they are going to be in. 

This is just amazing that this is how far-flung this organization has become. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Patricia...

IRELAND:  Yes. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Patricia, I just want you to explain to me.  And, certainly, you have a very good point about members can vote the union heads out.  But why do you waste that energy?  If you are an education union, if you‘re a teachers union, why do you talk about issues that divide, like gay rights?  It‘s a 50-50 issue, pro-choice, pro-life, another 50/50 issue. 

(CROSSTALK)

SCARBOROUGH:  Why waste that energy on those issues that divide America? 

LUKAS:  Well, because there are, for example, lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgendered students and faculty and staff, and those issues do come into the school.  They come into the school with school bullying and hate crimes and harassment of people who are different. 

That is, some young man who is more slightly built and doesn‘t meet the football player image or some young woman who is an athlete....

SCARBOROUGH:  OK.  Well, let‘s move to abortion.  I disagree with you, but go ahead.  Let‘s move on to abortion.  Why bring up abortion if you are an education union? 

IRELAND:  I don‘t know what their members had in mind in voting on that.  Perhaps they had in mind that we are also dealing at this rally as well with family planning issues and the number of young women who get pregnant and the school systems trying very desperately to make sure that they still get educated. 

But I want to respond for just a minute to what Carrie said, because the issue of parental control over the schools is really not a question of the unions, but rather how the school boards craft the budgets for the schools and the school-wide policies.  That‘s not something that the teachers have anything to do with, generally speaking. 

SCARBOROUGH:  All right, thank you so much, Patricia Ireland and Carrie Lukas.

And I will just say this.  On an issue like school choice, you know what?  That‘s an education issue.  If you are against school choice for parents, fine.  That‘s something to talk about and debate, but not these other subjects that divide Americans.  Education unites all of us.  Focus on education, NEA, and you will be doing students and teachers a very good deal. 

Now, coming up, Louisiana is about to start cracking down on teens, not for drugs or violence or vandalism, instead, for their pants.  That story is coming up next. 

So stick around. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SCARBOROUGH:  You know, now you can get a dose of SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY on the weekends.  Tune in Sunday night at 10:00 p.m. to find out what you missed during the week and what to expect in the week ahead.

More SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY is coming up straight ahead.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)  

SCARBOROUGH:  It‘s time now for a flyover of SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY, 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 Texas, affirmative action in college admissions is making a comeback.  The University of Texas is using part of last year‘s Supreme Court ruling that said an applicant‘s race does matter.  The school‘s director of admissions say colleges can now legally achieve diversity on campus.  Opponents say it gives minorities an unfair advantage. 

In Louisiana, a state lawmaker wants to ban those low-riding pants that expose skin or underwear.  State Representative Derrick Shepherd says he is tired of seeing low waistlines revealing boxer shorts and G-strings.  So, under his bill, people wearing low-riding pants could face up to a $500 fine and possible jail time.  Someone from a local ACLU chapter, perhaps recalling that great “SNL” skit with Dan Aykroyd bending down to fix a refrigerator, asked if the bill will also includes plumbers who expose rear ends while working. 

And in Virginia, the Arlington Police Department says it‘s going to ignore a new law that lets officers arrest illegal immigrants who have been convicted of a felony and were supposed to be deported.  An Arlington Police spokesman says the department has chosen to using its existing policy that forbids illegal immigrants from being investigated.  An Arlington County board member says that‘s the federal government‘s job, not theirs. 

We will see you tomorrow night in SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY. 

END   

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