updated 5/5/2004 12:22:11 PM ET 2004-05-05T16:22:11

Guests: Trent Lott, Daniel Ellsberg, Michael Kranish, John O‘Neill, Claudia Kennedy, Trent Lott

JOE SCARBOROUGH, HOST:  Tonight‘s top headline:  Some vets say John Kerry is unfit to command our troops, while others call him an American hero.  The “Real Deal”:  Vietnam cuts both ways for the White House hopeful. 

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

Did John Kerry‘s fight against the Vietnam War after returning as a decorated veteran disqualify him from being president?  A group of vets who served with him says yes.  But those who joined him in battle say no way. 

Plus, it‘s been a deadly month in Iraq, but President Bush is holding his own in the polls.  So why all the calls that Iraq is the president‘s Vietnam?  We‘re going to be asking the man who leaked the Pentagon Papers coming up. 

And new developments today in the Iraqi prisoner abuse story, as politics rears its ugly head.  Senator Trent Lott and General Barry McCaffrey are going to enter SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY with their take on the growing controversy.  

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

Is John Kerry fit to be commander in chief?  It‘s time for tonight‘s “Real Deal.” 

You know, a group of veterans who served with John Kerry in Vietnam say the former war hero is not fit to be commander in chief.  Veteran groups have been angry with Kerry since he testified before Congress more than 30 years ago and claimed that American soldiers in Vietnam were war criminals.  Now, he specifically accused American G.I.s of committing unspeakable atrocities and then admitted to committing war crimes himself. 

Now, standing alone, Kerry‘s postwar words could disqualify him from being president of the United States.  But there are also a group of veterans who worked alongside John Kerry in that war and saw in the future senator a war hero who fought bravely under fire and risked his own life to save the lives of others. 

Now, as someone who‘s never served in the military, has never seen enemy fire and who has never turned his boat directly toward incoming fire to save the life of a shipmate, I‘m going to be the last one to say that John Kerry is unfit to lead our country and our troops.  But there are others who served in Vietnam who are making those claims.  These vets just simply didn‘t appreciate being called war criminals by John Kerry in 1971, and they don‘t appreciate John Kerry standing by those claims today. 

Now, the presumptive Democratic nominee‘s Vietnam record is so complex because John Kerry was as reckless with his words in 1971 as he was with his own personal safety in Vietnam risking his life to save his fellow troops.  Expect this debate to continue for a long, long time.  And that‘s tonight‘s “Real Deal.” 

Here now we have John O‘Neill.  He is a former swift boat captain and he‘s from Swift Boat Veterans for the Truth.  He served with John Kerry‘s boat in Vietnam and is among those who say Senator Kerry is unfit to be president.  We have Lieutenant General Claudia Kennedy.  She disagrees and backs the senator for his White House run.  And “The Boston Globe”‘s Washington correspondent, Michael Kranish, is also here.  And he co-wrote “John Kerry: The Complete Biography.”

We also have MSNBC‘s own Pat Buchanan. 

Hey, let‘s begin with you, John O‘Neill.  Obviously you and other swift boat captains today went out, held a press conference and said John Kerry was unfit to be commander and chief of the United States Army.  Why? 

JOHN O‘NEILL, SWIFT BOAT VETERANS FOR TRUTH:  We certainly did, Joe. 

We had a letter signed.  It was signed by virtually every commanding officer that commanded John Kerry in Vietnam.  It was signed by most of the officers who served directly with John Kerry in Coastal Division 11, by more than two-thirds of them, and more than 200 swifties from these swift boat units that we served in.  We believe he‘s unfit to be commander in chief principally for two reasons. 

First of all, he has wildly exaggerated his actual record in Vietnam, which is a much shorter one, four months, and a relatively minor one.  Second, and most important to us, he accused our unit and troops in general in Vietnam of systematic war crimes.  That was a knowing lie repeated recently in a campaign biography, “Tour of Duty,” which also has many misstatements in it. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Now, John O‘Neill, earlier, General Kennedy accused you tonight of partaking in dirty tricks for Richard Nixon and now saying basically you‘re in charge of the dirty tricks campaign for George Bush.  How do you respond to that? 

O‘NEILL:  Well, I debated John Kerry in 1971, and before doing that I did in fact meet with President Nixon.  The first thing I told him was that I was a Democrat and I voted for Hubert Humphrey. 

I also met with many Democratic senators.  John Kerry was meeting at that time, almost the same time, with Madame Binh, but I‘ve never accused him of being controlled by Madame Binh.  Beyond that, it isn‘t me.  The problem John Kerry‘s got is that 100 -- or now 200 and some swift people have signed this.  There wasn‘t some conspiracy to put all Republicans or all Democrats in Coastal Division 11 back in 1969. 

The rejection of him is overwhelming by the people who actually served with him.  They are of all political parties.  None of them would get involved with this on a partisan basis.  We would have loved to have backed somebody from our unit. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Now, General Kennedy, you have said earlier tonight that you agreed with somebody that these actions of John O‘Neill and others were despicable and you said that he ran the dirty tricks campaign for Richard Nixon in 1971 and now he‘s doing it again for George Bush.  Explain. 

RETIRED LT. GEN. CLAUDIA KENNEDY, U.S. ARMY:  That‘s right. 

John O‘Neill has a long history of being extremely negative about John Kerry.  And I can‘t help but think that this entire matter is just so totally political that there‘s absolutely no truth in some of the words John O‘Neill has used about John Kerry.  John Kerry is a courageous combat leader who went into hostile fire, saved a man‘s life who had fallen overboard, went back to get him and retrieve him. 

He went to war when others, like George Bush, Cheney, Karl Rove, did not.  And, yet, this smear campaign being put on by the Republicans is just, in my view, unconscionable. 

SCARBOROUGH:  General Kennedy, do you think all these swift boat captains, though, who have signed this letter are basically tools of the Republican Party? 

KENNEDY:  You know, I don‘t know who they are and I don‘t know what their record is.  But I know that about a month ago I stood in a group of about 20 people who had served with John Kerry in Vietnam, the enlisted soldiers—sailors, that is, the sailors.

And they are devoted to him, and they believe in him.  They trust him.  We all have the greatest respect for John Kerry.  I think the real issue here is, is this sort of a wag the medals kind of a thing that the Republicans are pulling at a time when there‘s a lot of question about what‘s going on in Iraq today? 

I mean, isn‘t this a little bit old news?  Vietnam is long past.  We should be talking about the war in Iraq. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Michael Kranish, the general brought up a very interesting point.  She had said that it was interesting that a lot of the enlisted men that served under John Kerry actually are supporting his campaign—in fact, most of them are—while it seems that almost everybody that was above him in the chain of command are against his effort.  Why is that? 

MICHAEL KRANISH, AUTHOR, “JOHN KERRY: THE COMPLETE BIOGRAPHY”:  Well, I think it‘s a—you know, you have people who are certainly supporting their skipper, John Kerry. 

All of the about 15 men who served under Kerry‘s command on two swift

boats and one smaller boat in the 4 ½ months that he was in combat in

Vietnam, all but one that I‘ve talked to have said that they‘re supportive

of Kerry, of what he did in Vietnam.  I don‘t know if all of them would

support him for president, but they haven‘t spoken out against his run for

president, with one exception, Steven Michael Gardner

(CROSSTALK)  

KRANISH:  Go ahead.

SCARBOROUGH:  As far as numbers go—I‘m sorry—what, is that like seven out of eight people that you spoke with support him? 

KRANISH:  I count about—some people served with Kerry under his command for only a day or a week.  So I count about maybe 15 or so men who at various times in those 4 ½ months actually served under his command, and all but one of those—and I‘ve talked to, I think, every one of these gentlemen—have said they‘re supportive of what Kerry did in Vietnam.  There‘s one exception. 

As far as the commanders, there are a number of people who are commanding officers.  You can count it different ways.  But there are certainly layers.  There‘s a direct commanding officer, then a person in the middle, then sources on top. 

The person on top of the commanding officers is a gentleman, a legendary gentleman named Roy Hoffman.  And Roy Hoffman was someone who, under the command of Admiral Zumwalt at that time, put forward a policy of being extremely aggressive, wanted the sailors to go into these narrow rivers and canals and seek out the enemy, whereas, just prior to Kerry‘s arrival, the policy was, just go off in relatively safe patrols on the coast. 

And there was some controversy about this, but Kerry did engage in some very aggressive actions, but he had concerns about the free fire zone policy as a result.  And when he came back after serving in Vietnam, he criticized the policy of firing on anyone who violated a curfew zone. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Right. 

KRANISH:  And of course, these commanders were the ones who were enforcing that policy, so they felt and some feel today obviously that Kerry was criticizing them directly when he talked about war criminals and atrocities. 

SCARBOROUGH:  And, Pat Buchanan, that‘s exactly what John Kerry talked about on “Meet the Press” in 1971.  Kerry was asked if he personally committed war crimes, and here was his answer. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, “MEET THE PRESS”) 

JOHN KERRY, VIETNAM VETERAN:  Yes, I committed the same kind of

atrocities as thousands of other soldiers have committed in that I took

part in shootings in free fire zones.  I conducted harassment and

interdiction fire.  I used .50-caliber machine guns which we were granted -

·         ordered to use, which were our only weapon against people. 

I took part in search-and-destroy missions, in the burning of villages.  All of this is contrary to the laws of warfare.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCARBOROUGH:  And, of course, he went on, even though he said he was a little too aggressive in those statements, he stood by them when he was asked by Tim Russert on “Meet the Press.”

Do you think this is the crux of the problem that veterans have with him, that he said he committed war crimes and he also accused other veterans of committing war crimes in 1971?  Is that why they still haven‘t forgiven him? 

(CROSSTALK)

PAT BUCHANAN, NBC POLITICAL ANALYST:  Well, I was in the White House at the time.

(CROSSTALK)

SCARBOROUGH:  Pat Buchanan, go ahead. 

BUCHANAN:  I was in the White House at that time, and I thought that -

·         Kerry had come back.  He was a decorated soldier at that time.  And he was leader of a small minority, VVAW.

I thought he was deliberately giving aid and comfort to the enemy by accusing the American soldiers we were bringing home from Vietnam of war crimes and atrocities.  We thought it was a lie.  We thought it was an outrageous lie.  And we got John O‘Neill, who was a decorated officer himself, and he debated Kerry.  And I think we had every right to do that.  And Richard Nixon had every right to do that. 

And Kerry‘s problem for me is that behavior after the war and the accusations that were false and that were outrageous and libelous and undercut our war effort that he made against the friends, the fellows he had left back there. 

SCARBOROUGH:  All right, Pat, stick around with us, because we‘re going to keep talking about this. 

And this story is just not going away.  Will John Kerry‘s post-Vietnam record ultimately prove that he‘s not fit to be president?  We‘ll also have the man who leaked the Pentagon Papers.  He easily draws parallels between Iraq and Vietnam and says the Iraq war isn‘t justified and that it was started by a lie.  We‘ll have that debate straight ahead.

Plus, Big Brother is watching.  You‘re going to be surprised to hear how ordering a pizza could get you in big trouble. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SCARBOROUGH:  A group of Vietnam veterans say John Kerry is unfit to be president of the United States.  We have the leader of that group.  We‘ll continue this debate and much more when SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY returns.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)    

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)  

RET. REAR ADMIRAL ROY HOFFMAN, SWIFT BOAT VETERANS FOR TRUTH:  I do not believe John Kerry is fit to be the commander and chief of the United States armed forces.  This is not a political issue.  It is a matter of his judgment, truthfulness, reliability, loyalty, and trust. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCARBOROUGH:  That was retired Rear Admiral Roy Hoffman, who served with John Kerry and who also signed the anti-Kerry letter today. 

Senator Kerry served with distinction in Vietnam, but he also called his comrades war criminals.  So is he fit to be America‘s commander in chief? 

Let‘s go back to you, John O‘Neill. 

Now, you debated John Kerry in a legendary debate on “The Dick Cavett Show.”  And you demanded in 1971 that John Kerry sign an affidavit to prove that war crimes were committed by American troops.  Did he ever sign that affidavit then or have you seen anything from 1971 to today that convinces you that he was correct, that America‘s soldiers in Vietnam did commit war crimes? 

O‘NEILL:  Joe, I never did.  Admiral Hoffman, whom you showed, is the leader of our group.  I‘m simply a spokesman for the group. 

John Kerry published a book.  It‘s called “The New Soldier.”  It‘s his book, General.  I didn‘t author it.  John Kerry authored it.  It‘s a book.  There‘s the typical kind of picture in the book.  It‘s a book in which he accuses all of us in Vietnam of war crimes over and over.  The people in the book, many of them whose stories are cited, were never even in Vietnam.  Many of them are completely faked, the book.  It‘s a book he hopes people don‘t read. 

To respond briefly, in 1971, I did debate him.  After 1975, I had no involvement in politics.  Almost every opponent he ever had asked me for my help.  I would never get involved.  The only reason I‘ve gotten involved now is because the position he‘s running for, commander in chief, is one that goes to the absolute heart of the military forces.  My family‘s been involved in the United States Navy for almost a century.  My dad was an admiral.  My grandfather taught there.  My brothers and uncles all went to the Naval Academy, as did I. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Well, General Kennedy, let me bring you back in here.  And I want to talk again about these war crime claims.  Obviously, they‘re 30 years old right now.  But it still seems to be at the heart of the problem.  We‘ve heard all this stuff about Purple Hearts and whether he deserved one of them or not.  I think that‘s a sideshow. 

What seems to really strike at the heart of the American soldier and sailors is the fact this is a guy that wants to be commander in chief and yet he‘s accused Americans of war crimes.  Can you understand that concern? 

KENNEDY:  Well, I can understand the concern, and I think it‘s just amazing that this is being brought up about someone who served with distinction, served at a time when there were other choices, when other choices were made by George Bush, Dick Cheney and Karl Rove. 

SCARBOROUGH:  General, as you heard at the top of the show, I agree with you.  He was a war hero. 

What I‘m saying, though, is they‘re not concerned about really what happened in Vietnam.  It‘s when he came back home.  Do you think John Kerry needs to come out and maybe be a bit more forceful, saying, you know, I know I said they committed war crimes, but I take that back?  He didn‘t do that on “Meet the Press.”  Do you think he needs to take another swing at that issue? 

KENNEDY:  Well, I don‘t think it would hurt to discuss it.  But the problem is, it takes away from the discussion about matters that are far more relevant to Americans today, such as jobs, health care, the economy, and the current war we have going on right now. 

SCARBOROUGH:  General, I agree with you on that point, too.  But, again, it‘s become a distraction for John Kerry.  And wouldn‘t it be much easier if he just came out and said, you know what?  I shouldn‘t have said that in ‘71.  That was false.  I got caught up in the emotion.  I made a mistake.  Now let‘s talk about the issues that are really important to Americans, the ones you just mentioned. 

KENNEDY:  Joe, I‘m just not so sure that he made a mistake saying what he did.  Look, here‘s how the climate was in April of 1971, when he gave his testimony. 

At that point, 44,000 Americans had died in Vietnam.  Now, we‘re concerned about almost 800 in the year we‘ve been in Iraq.  Can you imagine the feeling in 1971 that 44,000 people at that point had died? 

SCARBOROUGH:  Sure, but you think he committed—do you think he was correct in saying that American soldiers and sailors committed war crimes? 

KENNEDY:  You know, the way he put that, it sounded like to me he was using a broad brush to describe a lot of activities as war crimes, that, if I were really taking a hard look, I‘m not sure all of those particular activities would be war crimes. 

It‘s not so much what the mission is that makes it a war crime.  It‘s what your action is in pursuit of that mission that would make it a war crime.  To say that a search-and-destroy mission in and of itself is a war crime, I think, paints too broad a definition of what is a war crime.  But I think you‘re going to hear more about that.  Now, I think that way too much is being made of this.  And the Republicans are conducting a smear campaign against an honorable, trustworthy, very reliable war hero. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Pat Buchanan, I want to play you first the Kerry campaign‘s latest commercial that they rolled out.  Take a look at this. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, JOHN KERRY CAMPAIGN AD)

NARRATOR:  He was born in an Army hospital in Colorado.  His father was an Army Air Corps pilot, his mother a community leader.  He went to college at Yale and volunteered to serve in Vietnam. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  The decisions that he made saved our lives. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  When he pulled me out of the river, he risked his life to save mine. 

NARRATOR:  In combat, he earned the Silver Star, the Bronze Star, and three Purple Hearts.  Then he came home determined to end that war.  For more than 30 years, John Kerry has served America. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCARBOROUGH:  Pat Buchanan, I think it‘s a great commercial.  I wouldn‘t have shown him wearing a Yale shirt. 

(LAUGHTER)

SCARBOROUGH:  But, you know, don‘t you think, though, John Kerry‘s message is going to remain muddled until he takes the opportunity that Tim Russert gave him on “Meet the Press” to distance himself from those comments in 1971, where he said American soldiers committed barbaric acts and actually step forward and get it behind him? 

BUCHANAN:  Joe, I‘ll tell you, Kerry has a right to, and he‘s making his service in Vietnam and when he came home—quote—“to end the war,” he‘s making this the centerpiece of the fact that John Kerry as a young man was a man character who can lead this country. 

But the key testimony is not on “Meet the Press.”  It‘s before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, when he was talking about the most lurid atrocities you can imagine. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Chopping off ears.

(CROSSTALK)

BUCHANAN:  He slandered those 44,000 that the general said were dead in Vietnam.  He slandered all the men who were still there, who we were trying to bring home.  Even during this campaign he‘s been yelling about Nixon‘s war. 

We inherited a war with 535,000 guys in Vietnam when Johnson went home.  And so what he said then, and to—I think the man ought to stand up and say:  I was wrong.  I was radical.  I said some horrible, stupid, false things and I apologize to all those men who take offense.  And I apologize to the country for having done it. 

I think he would be a bigger man for doing that.  It is that point, what he said, I think, that so outrages a lot of us.  And whether he‘s fit to be president is really for the American people to decide, not his opponents or his friends. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Michael Kranish, we only have a few seconds left.  But you‘ve studied John Kerry.  How does this issue always play out in his campaigns, in his Senate campaigns in the past? 

KRANISH:  Well, first of all, in two races he ran for the House, first in 1970, before he testified in the Senate, and then in 1972, he ran pretty much as an anti-war candidate.  He did not become the nominee of the party in ‘70, and he was the nominee in ‘72.  And he lost, despite running in a working class district.  So his life experience might tell him that it‘s tough to run and win just as an anti-war candidate.

Running for the Senate, he ran much more as the war hero, was surrounded by some of his crewmates and in fact by a couple of the commanders who appeared today.  They stood by his side in 1996 supporting him, backing him when questions were risen about a certain action that he took.

But now as running for basically commander in chief, they say this is a different matter.  So, in the Senate campaigns, it was helpful running basically on the war hero.  Now you see both of these combining.  He‘s running, obviously, with the war hero and the anti-war hero.  And those two clash sometimes.  That‘s what we saw surface today. 

SCARBOROUGH:  It makes for very complex political choices for American voters. 

Thanks for being with us.  We appreciate it, John O‘Neill, Lieutenant General Claudia Kennedy, and Michael Kranish.

Pat Buchanan, stick around. 

We‘ll be right back.  And coming up, is Iraq George Bush‘s Vietnam?  The man who leaked the Pentagon Papers says yes, and he‘s here to tell you why. 

And later, are opponents of the war in Iraq using the prisoner abuse story to point fingers at the Bush administration?  We‘ll talk about that in just a minute. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SCARBOROUGH:  Coming up, the man who leaded the Pentagon Papers is here to tell us why President Bush is no different from Lyndon Johnson.  He says they both lied to justify going to war.  We‘ll talk about that later.

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:  My next guest is the man who leaked the Pentagon Papers to “The New York Times” in 1971, thousands of documents that outlined the government‘s secret plans in Vietnam.  And their existence is largely credited with turning public opinion against the war in Southeast Asia. 

Daniel Ellsberg says the American government has a history of lying to justify going to war.  And he says George Bush‘s Iraq is no different from Lyndon Johnson‘s Vietnam and says the president‘s weapons of mass destruction claim was as big a lie as Johnson‘s Gulf of Tonkin incident. 

Thank you for being with us tonight, Mr. Ellsberg. 

DANIEL ELLSBERG, FORMER STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL:  Thank you. 

SCARBOROUGH:  I want to start with the last thing I read out, your claim that George Bush‘s statements on weapons of mass destruction were as big a lie as LBJ‘s Gulf of Tonkin statement. 

ELLSBERG:  Actually, that wasn‘t one of the lies that I‘ve identified George Bush with. 

I think he actually believed on extremely flimsy, controversial evidence that there were weapons of mass destruction.  So I don‘t think he was lying about that.  He was lying when he said the evidence was unequivocal.  That was the same lie that Johnson made when he said that there was unequivocal evidence of an attack on our destroyers in the Tonkin Gulf.

Johnson believed that when he said it, that there was an attack.  He was wrong.  There wasn‘t any.  But he believed it.  He lied when he said the evidence was unequivocal.  Those are the kinds of lies when Secretary of State Powell said these are facts, we know.  Secretary Rumsfeld said we not only know that they have them.  We know where they are.  Those were lies.  But those weren‘t the main lies.

The main lies were basically the reasons they were giving for going in.  The notion that Saddam Hussein was our greatest risk in the world and had to be dealt with as an imminent danger in a world with Pakistan, India nuclear weapons, the 40,000 Russian unguarded nuclear weapons, poorly guarded, and with al Qaeda, which was not associated with Saddam Hussein, those were big lies. 

And the notion that this was a war against terrorism to reduce risk to the American people, that was and is a big lie, as Richard Clarke has made very clear. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Well, you know, Mr. Ellsberg, I disagree with you with on many points that you‘ve made there.

But I will tell you this.  The thing I respect about you is, you‘re saying tonight is what you were saying before the war started.  So many people supported the war when it was politically popular, when it was politically correct.  Now that things have gone badly, they‘ve turned against it.  But you did say one thing, make one statement there that I wanted to follow up on. 

I know you‘ve certainly been following the 9/11 hearings on Capitol Hill.  And it came out in those hearings that the CIA director, George Tenet, stood up in the Oval Office when George Bush said, this looks like pretty weak evidence.  And the CIA director stood up, waved his arms and said, Mr. President, it‘s a slam-dunk.  Now, I personally think George Tenet should be fired. 

ELLSBERG:  I agree to that.  I agree with that.

SCARBOROUGH:  But the president operated on his CIA director saying it was a slam-dunk.  Don‘t you think that, again, proves that George Bush was operating on information that made him believe it wasn‘t flimsy evidence? 

ELLSBERG:  Yes and no. 

What I think George Tenet was doing was telling the president what he knew the president wanted to hear.  He‘s not the first CIA director to do that.  But every one of them who did that should be fired and George Tenet should be fired for doing it.  He certainly didn‘t serve his country well when he did that.  If George Bush put his trust in that kind of estimate—testimony, having made it clear what it was he wanted to hear, his judgment is not very good. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Pat Buchanan, let me bring you in. 

It seems like we‘re having a reunion of the class of 1971. 

(LAUGHTER)

SCARBOROUGH:  You two tonight.  And, of course, before, we were talking about what John Kerry said in 1971. 

But I know you two probably disagreed with each other vehemently in 1971. 

ELLSBERG:  May I say something?  We disagreed in Vietnam.  I agree with everything Pat Buchanan has been saying about this war.  I read it.  I subscribe to his magazine. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Right. 

ELLSBERG:  He‘s absolutely right about this war and I want to give him credit for it. 

SCARBOROUGH:  And I was just going to say, Pat Buchanan, you two do agree in 2004 about this war. 

Do you believe that George W. Bush purposely lied to the American people about these things that Daniel Ellsberg talked about? 

ELLSBERG:  Remember, I‘m not emphasizing the WMD.  I‘m emphasizing many other aspects. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Right, many other aspects.

Do you think he lied about that?  Do you think that he was duped, and do you think he may have been willingly duped? 

BUCHANAN:  You know, my belief about the president of the United States is that he is fundamentally an honest and purposeful man.  I think he did have a thing, he was going to get Saddam Hussein after 9/11.  I think he made the decision fairly early, we‘re going to take him down.  I think he was persuaded and believed that he had weapons of mass destruction. 

I believe General or Secretary—I mean General Powell, or Secretary Powell, when he went to the U.N., he might have been skeptical of some of these facts.  But I worked with Colin Powell in the White House, in Reagan‘s White House.  I cannot believe that he would get up in front of the United Nations, a man of honor and a soldier, and deliberately lie about the information he was given.  They were wrong.  They were dead wrong. 

The evidence they had was not conclusive, totally conclusive.  It was not unequivocal.  It was not incontrovertible.  But they had a lot of evidence, just like a prosecution has a lot of evidence that Smith did the murder and believes it and the defense has evidence which suggests otherwise.  So I would not ever use with the president of the United States, or, frankly, with Rumsfeld or Cheney or with Powell that they deliberately got up and said something they deliberately knew to be untrue.  I just wouldn‘t do that, and I don‘t believe that. 

ELLSBERG:  I hear Pat Buchanan agreeing with what I just said, and I agree with what he just said. 

As I say, I think the WMD issue is a straw man when you‘re talking about lying.  I believe that they did wishfully believe what they wanted to believe and what George Tenet served up to them.  And there, the analogy is very strong with the Tonkin Gulf.  The fact is that McNamara and Lyndon Johnson did believe that there had been an attack on our destroyers.  There had not.  They wanted to believe that evidence. 

And they didn‘t tell us when the evidence came through that they had been wrong.  Certainly, as Pat Buchanan says, I‘ve learned from his own writings and others that the intention to attack Iraq went far before 9/11, was not really related to 9/11.  The president certainly never made that clear to us to this day.  So there‘s a lack of candor there about that—which amounts to deception.

(CROSSTALK)

SCARBOROUGH:  Pat Buchanan, we have 20 seconds.  Now that we‘re here, what do we do?  Is it time to come home or do we stay in Iraq? 

BUCHANAN:  I think, if you take a look at the hostility to the United States among the Arabs, even before these horrible pictures showed up and you see the desire to get us out of there, I think the president‘s got to look for the earliest possible exit strategy.  I think the idea of building a democratic, free Iraq is now utopian.  And I believe it was even before we went in there. 

SCARBOROUGH:  All right, thank you so much for being with us, Pat Buchanan.  And also, Daniel Ellsberg, we greatly appreciate it. 

And still ahead, Senator Ted Kennedy says a congressional investigation is needed to get to the bottom of the Iraqi prison scandal.  But some Republicans are smelling partisan politics in the air.  We‘re going to be asking Senator Trent Lott and General Barry McCaffrey what they think. 

Also, a teacher in Michigan may have just had a couple of cocktails before work.  And you won‘t believe which class she was teaching. 

ANNOUNCER:  Tonight‘s SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY challenge:  Margaret Thatcher began her tenure as Britain‘s prime minister on this day in what year?  Was it, A, 1978, B, 1979, or, C, 1980?

The answer coming up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

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

Margaret Thatcher began her tenure as Britain‘s prime minister on this day in what year?  The answer is B.  Thatcher, Britain‘s first female prime minister, was sworn in 25 years ago today.

Now back to Joe.

SCARBOROUGH:  The Associated Press is reporting that two Iraqi prisoners were murdered by Americans.  And 23 other deaths are under investigation in Afghanistan and Iraq.  That‘s the latest in the unfolding investigation by the United States. 

But are some on Capitol Hill trying to turn this into an embarrassment and a further political spectacle? 

Here‘s what Senator Ted Kennedy said earlier today. 

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SEN. TRENT LOTT ®, MISSISSIPPI:  Well, before I would make a broad statement like that, I‘d like to know more about exactly what has been happening.  Was this an isolated incident.  Was it a pattern of misconduct?  Who was involved?  Was it military, CIA, reservists, people on contract with the government?  We don‘t know the answers to all that yet. 

But, frankly, Joe, that‘s one of the problems.  Apparently, this investigation and a report has been in the process for weeks.  Nobody in Congress seems to have been notified that this was going on.  The conduct was totally ridiculous, intolerable.  And the president was right to come out with the very strong comments he made.  But we‘re going to have to find out what happened. 

The administration, the Pentagon, all of us have got to make sure that it‘s stopped, how did it happen, and what are we going to do to make sure it doesn‘t happen again. 

Now, look, dealing with prisoners is not a Sunday school class meeting.  But the type of perversion and misconduct that went on here is totally inappropriate, doesn‘t represent what America stands for, and we‘ve got to make sure it doesn‘t happen anymore. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Senator, is there a real sense of anger on Capitol Hill that the Pentagon kept these pictures from you all, kept this information from you when there were actually military sites dedicated to trying to break open this scandal before even you, as a United States senator, was made aware of what was going on in Iraq? 

LOTT:  It is a problem, Joe.  I put some of the blame on our own doorstep because of the way we are set up, the way we operate, and because, quite often, when Congress gets information, perhaps prematurely, even, or in a very dangerous way, it goes right out in the form of leaks to all kinds of outlets. 

But there is a broad-scale, bipartisan feeling that the Congress has not been properly reported to and that we‘ve got to do something about it.  I think the Intelligence Committee has got to be completely restructured.  But then, from that standpoint, I think the intelligence community needs to be restructured. 

SCARBOROUGH:  General McCaffrey, thanks for being with us tonight.  You know, this scandal has obviously gotten the attention of those in the highest levels of American government.  I want to play you a clip of what Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said earlier today. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD RUMSFELD, SECRETARY OF DEFENSE:  Let there be no doubt that this matter will be pursued properly under the Uniform Code of Military Justice.  The actions of the soldiers in those photographs are totally unacceptable and un-American.  Any who engaged in such action let down their comrades who serve honorably each day, and they let down their country. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCARBOROUGH:  General McCaffrey, if you were heading up the Pentagon as the secretary of defense, what would your first move be? 

RET. GEN. BARRY MCCAFFREY, NBC MILITARY ANALYST:  Well, let me begin by saying I completely agree with Senator Lott‘s comments.  He‘s got it entirely right. 

The behavior we saw in these photographs was shameful.  It was criminal.  It was a violation of the Uniform Code of Military Justice.  It‘s not Army values.  There were 3,400 soldiers in the 800th M.P. Brigade.  I‘ll guarantee you that a minor number of them were involved.  We do need an investigation.  Congress ought to get involved. 

But now let me turn to Secretary Rumsfeld.  In February, General Sanchez jumped on this, had a two-star general come in, write a scathing report.  They started to correct the situation.  Secretary Rumsfeld, here it is in May saying he hasn‘t read the report.  He had a four-star general call CBS to stop this up.  He should have immediately released the fact he was relieving the general in command. 

They could have protected the other soldiers‘ reputation.  He covered that thing up, and I think it‘s shameful. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Does this sort of activity, which I consider to be criminal activity, does this seem to happen, unfortunately, in every war that our country or any country goes into, where you have this horrible breakdown in discipline at some point, or is it something that‘s specific just to this war, to these groups of people, to this country? 

MCCAFFREY:  Well, I don‘t think the behavior is in any way representative of the Army yesterday or today.  Clearly, this is not our values.  This is not our principles. 

In every group of soldiers, 100, 200, you have a couple, three sociopaths.  They were clearly not being supervised, as Brigadier General Karpinski said, my gosh, they wouldn‘t let me in this part of the prison that was under her command.  So there‘s been misbehavior by some of the officers who knew or condoned. 

But, Joe, the bottom line is, killing people in combat‘s OK.  Degrading and abusing prisoners, vulnerable people under your control, is criminal.  It was in the Revolutionary War.  It is today.  It‘s an aberration.  We‘ve got to clean it up. 

SCARBOROUGH:  And it certainly goes against everything that we‘re supposed to stand for in this country. 

MCCAFFREY:  Sure.

SCARBOROUGH:  I‘ll tell you what, everything that the young men and women that I‘ve always come across in the military, in any of the services, stand for. 

MCCAFFREY:  Joe...

(CROSSTALK)

SCARBOROUGH:  Trent Lott, I want to read you what

(CROSSTALK)

SCARBOROUGH:  ... one Arab newspaper had to say about this incident:

“The liberators are worse than the dictators.  This is the straw that broke the camel‘s back for America.”

Now, Senator Lott, we‘re all disgusted by what happened over there.  But how do we as a country put some perspective on this incident, clean it up, and then move on?  I mean, because, obviously here, we‘re being compared to a tyrant that killed one million Arabs. 

LOTT:  And that‘s the tragedy of all this.  You can‘t tolerate it.  You‘ve got to move aggressively, quickly.  It should have already been done.  And you need to make sure that it doesn‘t happen in the future. 

The real tragedy beyond that, though, is that we have all these young men and women that have done such a fantastic job going in there as liberators, putting their lives on the line, actions of kindness and sympathy and outreach, and even love.  There‘s one picture of a young soldier running out on a bridge under fire to save a wounded woman. 

And so many of those things have gone on.  And, you know, we haven‘t had some of the problems we‘ve had in the past with drugs as far as I know and other problems in other wars.  I think this is obviously a very small, you know, tiny fraction of the people that‘s been involved.  And we have got to find a way to correct it quickly, so that it does not take away from the fantastic job that‘s been done by the overwhelming 99 percent of the men and women that have gone over there and really sacrificed, some of them the ultimate sacrifice. 

SCARBOROUGH:  General McCaffrey, a final question, if you can answer it fairly quickly.  Do you agree with the decision of turning Fallujah over to a former general of Saddam Hussein‘s? 

MCCAFFREY:  Absolutely not.  It was a huge mistake. 

We got in a bad situation because we went in with inadequate combat power.  The country was destroyed by looters.  We didn‘t slam these people to the ground.  We backed off.  I think it‘s going to impair us strategically in the coming months.  Too bad. 

LOTT:  Joe, I want to comment on that, too. 

I don‘t want to second-guess a military decision that was made on the ground.  If that‘s what happened, for the first time in this conflict, it looked to me like we made a political or some order of some diplomatic decision instead of a military decision.  When we said we were going to go in there and take those insurgents out in Fallujah, I thought we should have done it.  And we backed away.  And I‘m not quite sure that it was the right decision. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Senator, you‘re exactly right.  I smell politics all over this one. 

Thanks for being with us, Senator Lott, General McCaffrey.  As always, we appreciate it. 

(CROSSTALK)

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SCARBOROUGH:  Now, if you want to see a copy of the secret Army report on the alleged prisoner abuses, NBC has got a full transcript of it.  To see it, you can go to Joe.MSNBC.com—that‘s Joe.MSNBC.com—and sign up for our newsletter.  We‘re going to be talking about that and other issues in the coming weeks. 

I‘ve got to tell you also, at the end of that interview, Trent Lott said he was shocked that we had a copy of that top-secret document, because he said the Pentagon hasn‘t even released it to the Intelligence Committee.  That‘s unbelievable. 

Up next, why ordering a pizza could get you more than just pepperoni. 

We‘ll give you a flyover of SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SCARBOROUGH:  Hey, tomorrow night in SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY, we‘re going to be talking about the U.N.-oil-for-food program that was designed to help Iraqi people.  Instead, it helped Saddam fund terror.  We‘re going to show you how far the scam reaches tomorrow night.  And you can read all about that, again, on Joe.MSNBC.com.

We‘ll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

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

If you owe money to the state of Missouri, you may want to think twice about ordering pizza.  Under a new program, one call for a pizza may give the state all the information it needs to track you down.  When pizza delivery customers give their name, address and phone numbers, the state can tap into the new pizza delivery database.  The goal?  To collect $2 million in outstanding fines. 

And, in Massachusetts, a family proposed building a garbage transfer station at the edge of a town.  But residents balked at the idea, so the entrepreneurial family came up with new plans, to build one of the largest strip clubs in New England.  So which will it be, the strip club or the garbage dump?  No one in the town is happy about either, so officials are expected to make a decision this summer. 

And, in Michigan, a driving school instructor was fired after giving her students the wrong kind of lesson.  It seems she showed up to work drunk.  Students say she was slurring words and falling over tables right after she showed them a movie about the dangers of drinking and driving. 

And tune in tomorrow as we unravel one of the biggest scams of the century.  It was supposed to help starving Iraqis, but instead, the U.N.  oil-for-food program turned into a $10 billion scam. 

That‘s tomorrow night, when SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY returns at 10:00 Eastern, 7:00 Pacific.  We‘ll see you tomorrow.

END   

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