updated 5/18/2004 9:25:21 AM ET 2004-05-18T13:25:21

Guests: Eric Alterman, Jack Burkman, Paul Morton, Andrew Sullivan, J.D. Hayworth, John Ziegler

JOE SCARBOROUGH, HOST:  Tonight‘s top headline:  Some conservatives are following the elite media‘s lead on Iraq.  The “Real Deal”:  Now is not the time to go wobbly. 

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

After weeks of pummeling by the press, the president‘s approval rating is at an all-time low.  And his reelection is on the verge of being derailed.  How can President Bush and his team regain their footing?  I‘ll give you the answer in tonight‘s campaign memo. 

And the war in Iraq, some prominent conservatives show that when the going gets tough, they get weak in the knees, why they‘re turning their backs on the war and the president. 

Plus, is gay marriage the civil rights issue of our generation?  An explosive SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY showdown that you‘re not going to want to miss.  

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

SCARBOROUGH:  Hey, welcome to SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY.  I hope you had a great weekend.  I sure did.  I was out in Iowa.  I‘ll tell you what.  The campaigns heating up out there and across middle America.  Well, it‘s great to be back, though. 

You know what?  The liberal elites‘ feeding frenzy continues and it takes a bite out of the right.  It‘s time for tonight‘s “Real Deal.” 

Now, just when you thought it was safe to open your newspaper again, America‘s elite media proves you wrong.  You thought the elites‘ sick obsession with the improper caring and feeding of Saddam‘s gang of murderers and rapists would surely have subsided by now.  But no such luck for you.  This virus lives in the elite media and it‘s now spreading its targets to new targets, meant to show just how ugly we Americans truly are. 

“The New York Times” editorial pages continues to be the official blog for John Kerry‘s presidential ambition tour.  Today, “The Times” used the prison scandal in Iraq to blast—quote—“the dark side of America.”  It seems that “The New York Times” doesn‘t like how we treat our convicts in the states either.  And the front page of the normally reasonable “USA Today” is devoted to the story of an Army chaplain accused of spying on his country. 

Now, the Muslim cleric was today‘s victim du jour.  And the only thing missing from the paper‘s puff piece was a halo over the former spy suspect‘s head.  You would like to think that all of this predictable tripe would have had little effect on conservatives in media and government.  But Republican senators and conservative columnists alike are beginning to buckle at the knees. 

It seems they cower to the media elites after that.  CNN and PBS‘ Tucker Carlson flipped on the war faster than you can say John Kerry once things started going south in Iraq.  And others like George Will seem more interested in protecting their backsides than supporting the most defensible American war since World War II. 

You know, I‘ve always respected Tucker Carlson and George Will.  But I do wonder, did they ever really think America could transform the Middle East with fewer than 750 American deaths?  Did they really think the elites in the chattering classes would sit back passively and be proven wrong again by George Bush, just like they were proven wrong by Ronald Reagan in the Cold War?  And did they really think America could bring freedom to the most tyrannical country in the world on the cheap? 

I hope not, because this war is not about saving American lives or Iraqi lives overseas.  This war on terrorism is about saving American lives at home in this war on terror.  We‘ve got to win this war, liberate Iraq from terror, and make the Middle East and the world unsafe for terrorists wherever they may roam. 

And that‘s tonight‘s “Real Deal.” 

Now, teachers in California are being suspended for acknowledging the horror that happened to Nick Berg. 

And our next guest was here last week to talk about the media witch-hunt over Abu Ghraib and he‘s back with us tonight. 

Radio talk show host John Ziegler, thanks for being here. 

And, John, when we were here last week, we were talking about this feeding frenzy.  Now the feeding frenzy actually is spreading to schools in California.  Explain. 

JOHN ZIEGLER, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST:  Well, basically what we have here, Joe, is three different teachers all in the Los Angeles area, two closer to San Diego, who have been suspended for various uses of the Nick Berg‘s video in class. 

Now, obviously, the details here are extremely important and they‘re hard to get, because everyone involved, all the administrators, are ducking interviews, at least on my show on KFI in Los Angeles.  But what we know so far leads me to believe that at least two of these instances, Joe, are classic examples of the wussification of America where we now are afraid, even under very guarded conditions, to allow our schoolchildren in high school to learn about the enemy we‘re up against. 

(CROSSTALK)

SCARBOROUGH:  But, John, John, you know what?  This is also, though, about political correctness in America, because tell me, how many teachers in your state or across the country were suspended for showing pictures of Abu Ghraib? 

ZIEGLER:  Well, I would doubt there are any.

SCARBOROUGH:  None.

ZIEGLER:  And I would also ask your listeners, your viewers to—well, I didn‘t know that.  But I will ask your viewers to consider the question, how many Arab teachers are being suspended for showing pictures of Abu Ghraib or of Nick Berg?  I would doubt any.  They are being taught to hate us. 

We are having our schoolchildren shielded from learning about the true nature of the enemy, even under extremely guarded conditions.  No one was forced to watch the video in the case, that is, I believe, most egregious in Orange County here just outside of Los Angeles.  And I believe that what we have here is absolute political correctness.  Does this mean we can no longer show pictures of the Holocaust, as one 14-year-old student asked?  Or what about the assassination of JFK? 

This will also have a chilling effect, Joe, on discussion of our enemy.  And once again, we have rewarded al Qaeda for doing something so horrible, so disgusting that we can‘t show it on TV and we can‘t even teach our children about it. 

SCARBOROUGH:  John, it‘s because the elite media don‘t want us to see the true nature of our enemy, for political correct purposes. 

Now, a sophomore who saw this Berg videotape at school seems to understand what the elite media doesn‘t.  Listen to what this kid had to say.  He said—quote—“It helps people to know why we‘re in this war and what kind of people we‘re fighting.”

This kid seems to have a better grasp on the nature of our enemies and the geopolitical realities in the world than the elite media.  I mean, do you know, are these students—they all sound like they‘re all backing their teachers. 

ZIEGLER:  Well, it hasn‘t been unanimous, because, of course, the elite media is going to try to find both sides to make sure that their coverage appears to be objective. 

But I have been stunned that—you‘re right, Joe.  You have hit the nail right on the head here, that there are students who seem to get it far more than the media and far more than their administrators, who have not only taken these teachers out of the classroom, but have now officially banned any discussion of this video in school.  Can you believe that?  This has gotten totally ridiculous. 

SCARBOROUGH:  John Ziegler, I‘d like to say it‘s absolutely unbelievable.  But, unfortunately, in the America that we live in now of political correctness and leftists running our school systems, it‘s all too common. 

Thanks for being with us tonight, John.  And keep us updated on this very important story. 

ZIEGLER:  Will do. 

SCARBOROUGH:  All right. 

Now, the Bush team that is seen the president‘s poll numbers continue to drop since the Iraqi prisoner abuse controversy hit, three percentage points this week alone, according to the latest polls.  Only 42 percent of Americans approve of the way George Bush is doing his job, which is the low point of his presidency.  And if the election were held tomorrow, 45 percent would vote for John Kerry to 43 percent for George W. Bush. 

Now to discuss the political fallout, I‘m joined by two Washington insiders.  We‘ve got Republican Congressman J.D. Hayworth of Arizona.  We also have Democratic strategist and be NBC analyst Flavia Colgan. 

J.D., let me begin with you.

Those numbers don‘t look good for the president.  Do you think that President Bush—and there are a lot of guys up on Capitol Hill like you starting to get concerned that President Bush‘s reelection is now in doubt because of the problems in Iraq.

REP. J.D. HAYWORTH ®, ARIZONA:  No, I don‘t think so, Joe. 

I think it‘s important to remember every campaign has its peaks and valleys.  And there‘s only really two ways to run for public office.  No.  1, to run unopposed, or No. 2, to run scared.  And by running scared, I mean running hard.  And the president will run hard.  This is one of the valleys in a long, long campaign, about 170 days out. 

Now, having said that, what the president has to do is to reassert authority, because the American people get it.  Despite the fact that the left has wallowed in the Abu Ghraib scandal, despite the fact that so many folks have taken a look at what‘s going wrong, we have to take a look at what‘s going right. 

This weekend, Rear Admiral Chuck Kubic in to talk to the Arizona reunion of C.B.s (ph) talking about rebuilding Iraq, the schools that are there, all the different things, the power plants coming online.  I was there a few weeks ago.  Things are going right.  But let me repeat what the leadership told me in Iraq, and that is that the violence, the ferocity and the frequency of attacks would increase the closer we get to June 30.  That‘s absolutely the case. 

But the American people need to get a grip.  I think the American people are there.  They understand that you cannot wallow in the victimization of prisoners in the Abu Ghraib prison.  It‘s bad, what happened.  But there were a few wrongdoers.  They‘re being dealt with under the Uniform Code of Military Justice.  And we move on, because good things are happening and we can win despite the efforts of the left to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Right now, the media—now, last week, Senator Ted Kennedy made this outrageous charge on the Senate floor. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. EDWARD KENNEDY (D), MASSACHUSETTS:  On March 19, 2004, President Bush asked, who would prefer that Saddam‘s torture chambers still be open?  Shamefully, we now learn that Saddam‘s torture chambers reopened under new management, U.S. management.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCARBOROUGH:  You know, an American documentary filmmaker has uncovered videotape of Saddam‘s henchmen cutting off the hands of Iraqi prisoners.  He‘s used the video in a documentary about Saddam‘s cruelty and writes about it.  He says—quote—“Saddam punished citizens by cutting off hands, feet, ears, and tongues.  One Iraqi received a videotape showing the rape and torture of his wife and daughters.”

Flavia Colgan, the president‘s in trouble in part because the media is hammering him.  But tell me, is it fair for Democrats to equate U.S. troops with the bloodiest regime in Arab history? 

FLAVIA COLGAN, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST:  Well, I really don‘t think that‘s what Ted Kennedy was doing.  I would have advised him in this world of gotcha sound bite politics that he shouldn‘t have waded into using hyperbole and irony when he was making that speech. 

But one of points that he was getting to was the total mismanagement

and lack of leadership and really troubling

(CROSSTALK)

COLGAN:  ... command that‘s going on over there. 

SCARBOROUGH:  No, he actually said that we had taken over the torture chambers and now we‘re in charge, doing the same thing that Saddam Hussein‘s thugs were doing. 

COLGAN:  Well, first of all, I don‘t think that anyone would compare us to Saddam Hussein.  And I think the point...

SCARBOROUGH:  Ted Kennedy did. 

HAYWORTH:  He just did, Flavia. 

COLGAN:  ... is a very valid one, Joe. 

Why did we show the statue of Saddam Hussein being toppled over and over and over again?  The reason we did is because perception is powerful and symbolism is real.  And what Ted Kennedy pointed to is a very important issue, which is, why was that prison not razed to the ground the moment we set foot in that country?  Why was a prison that was, you know, responsible for horrible tortures—and he‘s pointing to a very sad reality, which is that the prison scandal has deeply taken away the moral high ground that we had. 

(CROSSTALK)

COLGAN:  We‘re not wallowing in it as the congressman is positive. 

What we‘re doing to trying to get to the bottom of why the secretary of defense can‘t even answer a basic question...

(CROSSTALK)

COLGAN:  A basic question on what the interrogators were told to do and what the command structure was.

(CROSSTALK)

COLGAN:  How come he can‘t answer that question? 

(CROSSTALK)

SCARBOROUGH:  Hold on, hold on, hold on.  We‘ll be right back after this message.  We‘ll continue this debate in a second. 

Stick around on SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY.  We‘ll be right back. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SCARBOROUGH:  We‘ll be back on SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY with more about George Bush‘s problems with the media and the Democrats comparing U.S.  troops to Saddam Hussein‘s henchmen.  That‘s next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SCARBOROUGH:  Hey, we‘re back talking to Congressman J.D. Hayworth and Flavia Colgan. 

You know, J.D., nobody that I‘ve seen, besides “The National Review”‘s Deroy Murdock has even bothered to inquire about the abused prisoners at Abu Ghraib and who they are. 

When he asked about them, the coalition captain told him this—quote

·         “We have people in custody who have been involved in killing Americans and others from the coalition forces.”

And that same captain went on to tell Murdock this—quote—“You are the sole person who was asked these questions.”

We‘ve got Saddam‘s thugs and henchmen in there, J.D., and all Ted Kennedy is wanting to do is comparing this prison scandal to what happened when Saddam Hussein was raping and killing women and innocents. 

Explain that for me. 

HAYWORTH:  Well, I can‘t explain the tortured reasoning of Ted Kennedy.  I can tell you this.  He‘s absolutely wrong. 

And when you try to draw a moral equivalency with Saddam‘s henchmen and the people who had their tongues ripped out, who had their families raped and abused, and somehow claim that what has gone on in the hands of a few at Abu Ghraib with some American military personnel, that‘s dead wrong. 

But there‘s something else far more serious that perhaps Flavia can help explain.  And that is, senior Democrats on the Hill, most notably Nancy Pelosi within the last 10 days, saying the war in Iraq is unwinnable.  I categorically reject that.  I‘ve been on the ground there.  I‘ve seen good things happening, as we liberate a people under incredible trauma and torture for the last 30 years.

And the bottom line is this.  Are we going to get a grip as Americans, settle the score, win this war, ensure the peace?  President Bush is absolutely right.  This action in Iraq is the central front in the war on terror.  And if we back out now or we take the defeatist attitude that somehow this is unwinnable, it is dead wrong, and I believe the American people get it, and I believe President Bush will have Americans rally around him when that kind of false choice of defeatism is offered to the American people. 

SCARBOROUGH:  All right, Flavia Colgan, I‘ll give you the final word. 

Should we just surrender and come home? 

COLGAN:  Well, absolutely not. 

But, Joe, what the American people get and why those numbers are where they are is that there‘s a tremendous amount of mismanagement that‘s going on.  And this war, if we continue handling it the way we have, is not winnable.  But I do think that if we begin looking through the prism of those in the Arab world trying to act as liberators, not as occupiers, and taking away the lure that is Islamic fundamentalism and dealing with those roots and seeds of violence, that‘s what we need to be focused on, because we need the help of Iraqis on the ground in order to root out the terrorists. 

HAYWORTH:  We‘re getting that help.  We don‘t say, why do they hate us?  The fact is, the Iraqi people have embraced us as liberators.  I‘ve seen it myself, Flavia.  Have you been? 

COLGAN:  I guess I missed the pictures of the flowers that we were promised. 

(CROSSTALK)

HAYWORTH:  Yes.  Let‘s win.

SCARBOROUGH:  All right, we‘re going to have to leave it there. 

Thank you so much, Congressman J.D. Hayworth and Flavia Colgan. 

Appreciate you both being here. 

And I agree.  Let‘s win. 

Now it‘s time for tonight‘s “Political Memo.”  For months, I‘ve been giving John Kerry volumes of unsolicited advice.  And, for the most part, the senator has been listening.  Well, today, the SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY think tank, situated in America‘s heartland, directly on top of a former toxic waste dump, suggested that I level the playing field by offering advice to the president‘s campaign team. 

I gladly do so now.  Fellows, it‘s time to tell the president to buck up.  With weak-kneed allies wavering, the elite media in the blame-America-first feeding frenzy team, and leftists who have always hated the defense secretary, now demanding Rummy‘s resignation, now is not the time to show weakness.  Stay strong, read Churchill, and remind Americans daily about the stakes of this war. 

The president‘s trip to Normandy for the 60th anniversary of D-Day should prove inspiring.  Mr. President, do you remember those midgets who sold real estate in late-night commercials back in the 1980s?  Sure, you do.  Well, they would always talk about turning a disadvantage into an advantage.  Follow those midgets‘ advice. 

Americans supports you because of your backbone, because of your use of your heart, and because you don‘t give a damn what the liberal elites think of you.  Stay that course, fight that fight, and do what it takes for our soldiers to win this war.  And, oh, yes, don‘t apologize for the prison scandal anymore.  We get it already. 

And now, moving on, Margaret Thatcher famously told the first President Bush not to go wobbly over Iraq.  Supporters of this President Bush may need to take her advice.  Conservatives and even some so-called neocons are disavowing the war and acting surprised at how messy it‘s been.

My next guest is Andrew Sullivan.  He seems to be the star of the day.  Not only is he one of the most prolific advocates of gay marriage, which we‘re going to be talking about later.  He‘s also defended the war in Iraq from the beginning.  But a weekend “New York Times” article listed him among conservatives who are having second thoughts about the war.  Also here, we have MSNBC‘s own political analyst, Pat Buchanan. 

Andrew, let me begin with you. 

Obviously, you told “The Times” you still supported the war, but quite a few conservatives are starting to fall off.  Why? 

ANDREW SULLIVAN, ANDREWSULLIVAN.COM:  Because I think there‘s a sense that it‘s been very badly managed, that we needed more troops to begin with, and that they were too pigheaded to acknowledge that fact.  We‘re now getting 4,000 new troops from Korea. 

And the disorganization led directly to awful things like Abu Ghraib and it led directly to immediate inability to restore order.  I actually want this war to succeed desperately, badly.  I just think that some people in the administration suffered a little bit from hubris just after Baghdad fell and didn‘t make the right decisions when they should have done.  And I think it‘s only intellectually honest to say that and not just be cheerleaders. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Yes, you know, and you can certainly say that.  But, as you know, there are some conservatives that are coming out saying, you know what?  We‘re just wrong.  In fact, “The New York Times” quoted neocons Kristol and Kagan and for writing this.

It said—quote—“The Bush administration seems not to recognize how widespread, and how bipartisan, is the view that Iraq is already lost or on the verge of being lost.”

And conservative pundit Tucker Carlson told the AP that he‘s disavowing the war.  He says—quote—“a total nightmare and disaster, and I‘m ashamed that I went against my own instincts in supporting it.  It‘s something I‘ll never do again, never.”

SULLIVAN:  Well, Joe, I couldn‘t disagree more. 

I think the important task of bringing democracy and liberation to that country is critical to winning the war on terror.  My only criticism is, they haven‘t gotten it right.  I hope they can get it right.  And my only other criticism is that obviously the WMD intelligence they put before the U.N. was wrong.  They put American credibility and prestige on the line for something that was not true, and we have to acknowledge that. 

Anybody who‘s in favor of the war has to acknowledge that before we can make a serious case to do so.  Cheerleading people doesn‘t help.  You‘ve got to be a critic, as well as support them.  And I don‘t think just simply supporting anything they do is very helpful. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Right. 

You know, Pat Buchanan, let me bring you in here. 

Now, Pat, I agree with everything that Andrew has said.  In fact, on this program, I‘ve criticized Rummy for not putting in the troops we need to put in there to win.  And I‘ve criticized him a long time for that.  But you know what?  There are a lot of people out there, Pat, and maybe you can explain this to me, a lot of people that supported this war, like Tucker Carlson, like George Will, like others, a year ago when things were going well, and now they‘ve turned against it. 

I want to read you what the same Tucker Carlson said about this war back in April of 2003 after the statue fell.  He said: “Saddam wasn‘t a threat?  That debate is over.  We know now he was.  We know the world, not just the U.S., but the world is safer now that this lunatic is no longer running a country.”

SCARBOROUGH:  Pat, you know, this is what bugs me.  And, again, I‘m not picking on Tucker here.  You can say this of a lot of conservatives I‘ve talked to.  They‘re getting nervous. 

Pat, do they really expect us to win this war and not lose 750, 800, 1,000 American soldiers?  Did they really expect us to go into the heart of the Middle East and try to liberate this country without it costing us billions and billions of dollars?  I mean, what‘s with these conservatives? 

PAT BUCHANAN, NBC POLITICAL ANALYST:  I think they didn‘t think it through.  I was opposed to the war from the beginning because it seemed to me the idea of trying to create a democracy in Mesopotamia, where it had never existed before, was really somewhat beyond the resources of the United States.  And secondly, Saddam and his regime were not a threat.

(CROSSTALK)

SCARBOROUGH:  Couldn‘t you say that about Japan, though, Pat? 

Everybody was saying that about Japan before 1945. 

BUCHANAN:  Well, look, now, there‘s no question, if the United States wants to put half a million troops into Iraq and fight an indefinite war in that country, that you can succeed. 

But we were never prepared to do that.  In my judgment, Saddam was not a threat.  He was contained.  But let me talk to your point.  What should the president do now?  Now, I was not for the war.  But if I were the president, this is like November 1969, when Nixon had—we had 500,000 demonstrators in Vietnam, get out now, run.  The media have got the blood in the water.  They‘re tearing the president down. 

The president‘s got to turn on them and he‘s got to go look into that camera and tell the people what the stakes are, what the costs are going to be, how long it‘s going to take, and whether or not he‘s prepared to commit not 4,000 troops in Korea, but the forces to win this war over a long period of time. 

(CROSSTALK)

SULLIVAN:  But, Pat, the problem there, Pat, is that people have lost a certain amount of confidence in this president. 

BUCHANAN:  Oh, I know they have. 

(CROSSTALK)

SULLIVAN:  And the reason is because he hasn‘t been straightforward.  He hasn‘t acknowledged errors.  He hasn‘t acknowledged mistakes.  No one‘s been fired at the CIA, for example.  And George Tenet is still running that organization. 

(CROSSTALK)

BUCHANAN:  But, Andrew, look, let met tell you, just being in politics, you ought to bring them all into the stockade.  Now it not the time to be throwing people off the sleigh in expectation that “The New York Times” and “The Washington Post” and these other folks are going to get off your back.  They are not.

The president is in a fight for his life.  This is being used, this scandal, which is wretched, but it‘s being used to take this president down, and people want him out of the White House.  He has got to wake up and realize that it is his presidency that is on the line.  And he cannot continue along a course of I apologize and we said we‘re sorry, because he is under fire and they‘re trying to take him down. 

And I think J.D. was exactly right.  He‘s got to turn around and act like a leader and a president if he still believes in this war.  You‘re right, Andrew.  There‘s a lot of people that don‘t believe it because they didn‘t think it through.  I think the president still believes in it, but if he doesn‘t, he ought to change course.  And if he does, he ought to stand up, go to the country and say why we have to continue this course. 

(CROSSTALK)

SULLIVAN:   But the thing that a war leader has to do, Pat, and that Churchill did all the time was to confront, honestly, hardships and setbacks and be honest about them and forthright with them.  That‘s what wars are about. 

No war is always easy.  I think Joe is absolutely right.  We‘re going

to have difficulties always.  There was never going to be a perfect

scenario here.  But because he said mission accomplished and then continued

to talk as if nothing problematic was happening, refused to accept reality

·         you may be right right now, Pat, that he‘d be crazy to throw people overboard just to satisfy the press.  But he‘s got where he is said because of his pigheadedness and arrogance.  And he has to understand that.

BUCHANAN:  Look, I don‘t disagree with you about his mistakes at all. 

I think you‘re exactly right and we‘ve laid it out. 

And, as I say, I would not have gone in.  But if I‘m sitting talking to the president of the United States now, that is what I would tell him to do.  Sir, you‘ve got to act like the president of the United States and you‘ve got to lead this country and explain it, what went wrong, what we‘re going to do, what it‘s going to cost. 

(CROSSTALK)

BUCHANAN:  Or your president is in danger.

SULLIVAN:  He has to explain what‘s happening in Fallujah.  He has to explain what‘s happening Basra. 

BUCHANAN:  Well, exactly.

SULLIVAN:  And he has to tell the public...

BUCHANAN:  Exactly. 

SULLIVAN:  ... who Sistani is, who al-Sadr is.  We need explanations. 

(CROSSTALK)

SCARBOROUGH:  Gentlemen, we‘re going to have to leave it there.

BUCHANAN:  We have agreement.

SULLIVAN:  We do.

(CROSSTALK)

SCARBOROUGH:  We do have agreement.  And I agree also with Andrew and Pat.  But I agree with Andrew that we need to get rid of George Tenet.  I‘ve been saying that for sometime.  It‘s remarkable that guy still has his job.  But you don‘t do it right now when everybody‘s calling for heads.  You wait until the crisis is over, and then you get rid of him and get somebody there that can actually run the CIA.

Pat Buchanan, we appreciate you being with us.

Andrew Sullivan, stick around, because, coming up next, I want to talk to you about an op-ed you wrote today comparing the fight to legalize gay marriage to the civil rights movement.  We‘ve got a heated SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY showdown on that coming up. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SCARBOROUGH:  Are gay rights the next civil rights movement?  Well, I‘ll tell you what.  We‘ll talk about that and have a hot SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY showdown right after this short break. 

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:  Well, it‘s day one of gay marriage day in the state of Massachusetts.  And it‘s also the 50th anniversary for the landmark Supreme Court decision, Brown vs. the Board of Education, which, of course, led to integration. 

Now, there‘s a debate raging about whether or not gay marriage is a civil rights issue.  And here‘s what one of our next guests, Bishop Paul Morton, said about that today. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BISHOP PAUL MORTON, NEW ORLEANS:  This is not a civil rights issue. 

You insult...

(APPLAUSE)

MORTON:  You insult African Americans when you say this is a civil rights issue, because—and I want you to understand this today and how important this is today—I can‘t change the color of my skin.  But you can change your lifestyle. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCARBOROUGH:  Andrew Sullivan, he‘s the author of “Same-Sex Marriage Pro and Con.”

Andrew, I will let you respond to that before we go to Bishop Paul Morton.  Go ahead. 

SULLIVAN:  Well, I would simply say that Coretta Scott King, Martin Luther King‘s widow, and John Lewis, the towering pillar of the civil rights movement, disagree.  And they have both said—in fact in my book, “Same-Sex Marriage Pro and Con,” I have the actual speech by John Lewis explicitly likening our struggle for equal humanity and dignity with that of African-Americans. 

Now, look, I said in the piece today said in “The New York Times,” there are enormous differences between these two experiences.  And it‘s stupid and facile to compare them simply.  But this is a civil right issue.  The right to marry is, as a matter of fact, a civil right.  And so it is a question as to whether every American can have that right or not. 

SCARBOROUGH:  You know, Bishop Paul Morton, you represent the largest church in the state of Louisiana, with over 20,000 members.  And I want to read you what Andrew Sullivan wrote earlier today in an editorial supporting gay marriage titled “Integration Day.”

He said this—quote—“Today is not the day gay marriage arrives in America.  Today is the first time that civil marriage has stopped excluding homosexual members of our own families.  These are not gay marriages. They are marriages.  What these couples are affirming is not something new.  It is as old as humanity itself.”

Respond to that if you will, Bishop. 

MORTON:  Well, I‘ve listened carefully to that, and first of all, I would say that I love Coretta Scott King.  I love the congressman. 

But the last I heard, this is still God‘s world.  And since it‘s God‘s world, God is against same-sex marriages, so I represent God, speak on behalf of what he told me to speak on.  And he is totally against same-sex marriages and it just is not in the will of God. 

(CROSSTALK)

SULLIVAN:  I would just point out there is a separation of church and state in this country.  And the civil laws respect that distinction. 

And atheists can marry in this country and have a right to civil marriage in this country.  This is not, with all due respect, about God at all.  It‘s about the Constitution and civil rights. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Bishop? 

MORTON:  Yes.  Well, again, as we look at America, and that‘s the way

·         what we have to decide as it relates in our lives.  I work for God, and so I stand on behalf of what God told me to speak on, and I shall continue to do that.  Marriage in this nation is going the way of Sodom and Gomorrah was totally against God, and, of course, it was destroyed because of low morals. 

We are talking about hate crimes now and calling it hate.  Years ago we used to call it good morals, but now it‘s called hate.  I think we have our agendas confused. 

SULLIVAN:  Well, let me also say that I‘m also a person of faith, and I deeply respect your interpretation of what you believe God is telling you. 

But I would also say that many people of faith disagree with you.  There are many people among Orthodox—Reform Jews who support blessing marriages for gay people.  There are many Catholics, there are many Episcopalians.  Every denomination has many different views on this.  I don‘t think you can simply translate God into politics.  You have to take a deep breath and realize those are two different areas. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Andrew, I want to read you what the president said today in his statement.  He said—quote—“The sacred institution of marriage should not be redefined by a few activist judges.  All Americans have a right to be heard in this debate.”

Now, let me ask you this.  Let‘s say, for instance, Massachusetts adopts—continues to allow gay marriage.  Vermont has civil unions, but let‘s say it‘s gay marriage.  And other states do.

SULLIVAN:  It‘s not gay marriage.  It‘s marriage.  The licenses today do not distinguish between gays and straights.  Gay marriage ended today.

SCARBOROUGH:  So let‘s say, for instance, that one of these marriages, which is not gay marriage, according to you, it‘s just marriage, one of these group of people that are married decide to come down to Florida or go to Louisiana or go to other states where 90 percent of those states are opposed to gay marriage.  And, again, I‘m just throwing out arbitrary numbers that aren‘t accurate. 

Do you think the state of Louisiana or the state of Florida or the state of Iowa should accept a marriage in Massachusetts that they find morally offensive? 

SULLIVAN:  No, I think they have a right as a separate state to say whether or not they want to recognize the marriages from another state.  That‘s how it should be.  We have a great system in this country.  It‘s called federalism. 

And I think it would be crazy to have one rule for Alabama and for Alabama.  We‘re a very polarized country.  There are different parts of the country that are more accepting, different parts that are not.  I think it should be done state by state.  And, actually, that‘s where the law is.  That‘s where the Constitution is and that‘s where the Defense of Marriage Act takes its stands.  That‘s the law as it now stands. 

SCARBOROUGH:  So, Andrew, you support the Defense of Marriage Act in that, again, if Vermont or Massachusetts wants to recognize gays who marry, but Alabama or Mississippi doesn‘t, then that‘s OK with you? 

SULLIVAN:  It‘s fine by me. 

And, similarly, if the state wants to recognize those marriages, such as New York state, then that‘s its right, too.  You remember that for 100 years in this country interracial marriages were legal in some states and illegal in other states.  And the very same practice of law that now makes marriage a state-by-state issue was the law that made interracial marriage different across America, and until that law was, of course, struck down in 1967. 

So we‘ve had experience with people being married in one state and not married in another.  And we can live with it, and I think we have to just let this to be digested, take time, and let each state take its course.  I believe in states‘ rights and that‘s what conservatives used to believe in.

SCARBOROUGH:  You know, Bishop, back when I was in Congress, it was about the time that Vermont was starting same-sex civil unions.  And I had some constituents in a town hall meeting say to me, hey, isn‘t it awful what they‘re doing up in Vermont?  And I said, you know what?  Why does that bother you?  That‘s what Vermont is doing, and we had this federalism system set up by our founding fathers.

So Vermont could do what they wanted to do.  Louisiana can do what it wanted to do.  I mean, isn‘t that fine with you?  As long as we don‘t have these type of marriages in your home state, shouldn‘t people in Vermont or Massachusetts be able to marry if they‘re gay? 

MORTON:  Well, I think if people begin to make their own bodies, it‘s fine.  But since God made our bodies and he made a man a man and a woman a woman, that we ought to respect what God has put into place.  It was designed, a man for a woman.  That‘s what marriage is all about, to replenish the earth, so that we can go on and can keep going on. 

So I know people—there is still love in my heart for homosexuals, for gays.  I have no problem in that particular area.  I love them with all of my heart.  But I do have a problem with people who are not listening to the design that God made for them. 

SCARBOROUGH:  All right, Bishop Paul Morton, we appreciate you being here.

And, Andrew Sullivan, we greatly appreciate you sticking around and being with us. 

And still ahead, Michael Moore‘s new Bush-bashing movie was a hit at the Cannes Film Festival today, but could it cause trouble for the president this fall? 

And Sean Penn is talking politics again, but this time, is he suggesting America would be better off if George Bush were assassinated?  We‘ll get to the bottom of that. 

So don‘t go away.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SCARBOROUGH:  You know, the French just seem to love Michael Moore.  The American filmmaker presented his anti-war George Bush movie at the Cannes Film Festival.  He received a 20-minute standing ovation, the longest ovation in the history of the festival. 

But is this movie a documentary or a bag of cheap tricks to make big bucks?  Here‘s how we described the movie to SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY in an exclusive interview a couple of months ago. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MICHAEL MOORE, FILMMAKER/AUTHOR:  There‘s lots of car chases and Janet Jackson does a little dance number in the middle of it.  I encourage everyone to come see it. 

I‘m making a movie to make a good movie.  It‘s supposed to come out before the election.  But that‘s not why I‘m making the movie.  I‘m making the movie because I wanted to make this movie and I have something to say, and it‘s my way of saying it. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCARBOROUGH:  But just before his movie screening, this is what he said about the next election: “We decided we‘re not going to leave it up to the Democrats to ‘blank‘ it up and lose it.”

With me now is Jack Burkman.  He‘s a Republican strategist.  And we also have Eric Alterman.  He‘s a senior fellow at the Center For American Progress. 

Gentlemen, thank you for being with us tonight. 

(CROSSTALK)

SCARBOROUGH:  And let me begin with you, Jack Burkman.

Obviously, Michael Moore has been very vocal.  This is what he said over the weekend.  And I want to read it for you—quote—“I‘m the most patriotic American who believes the principles of his country.  My job is to be an American and try to turn things around.”

But just a few weeks ago, this self-described patriot said—quote—

“I oppose the U.N. or anybody else risking their lives of their citizens to extract us from this debacle.  The majority of Americans supported this war once it began and sadly that majority must now sacrifice their children until enough blood has been let that maybe, just maybe, God and the Iraqi people will forgive us in the end.”

It appears—it doesn‘t appear.  It seems that Michael Moore is saying more Americans need to die.  Is this guy a patriot? 

JACK BURKMAN, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST:  It‘s sad, Joe.  Certainly, he‘s a silly buffoon.  He‘s not a patriot. 

But let me raise the stakes a little bit tonight with Michael Moore.  Let‘s use the T-word.  This is treason.  Michael Moore is stepping over the line.  Yes, First Amendment, say what you want.  We all cherish it, sure.  But he is now, through this film and his other statements, encouraging Baathists and other rebels to rise up and fire on American troops. 

And I think that‘s actionable.  A lot of people might find that to be a radical statement, but, if that‘s not treason, what is?  I think this is a very serious issue.  How is that different from providing surface-to-air missiles to the Baathists?  The First Amendment is not a panacea.  Yes, it is‘s broad.  It should be broad.  He can criticize the administration.  He can denounce the war.  He can denounce the U.S. Army.  He can do anything he wants. 

But when you cross that line of encouraging foreign troops to fire on U.S. soldiers, I think the Justice Department should look seriously into treason.  And I‘ll say something else to the French at Cannes.  If they want to stand up and applaud this bum, if they think this is great, the French should remember this.  God forbid if Osama bin Laden and al Qaeda ever decide to go into Paris and knock over the Eiffel Tower or the Elysee Palace or anything else, and God forbid that should happen, but if it does, remember this. 

Only the United States of America and only American armed forces can defend you, and if you continue to denounce America, even American benevolence, even American graciousness, which, as you know, as you saw in the last century, is almost boundless, even that will run out and you will have no one and no way to defend yourselves. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Eric Alterman, respond. 

ERIC ALTERMAN, CENTER FOR AMERICAN PROGRESS:  I think that gentleman is seriously deranged. 

He said that he couldn‘t—he didn‘t see any difference between a movie that criticized George Bush and providing surface-to-air missile to Baathist rebels.  Well, if you want me to, I‘ll take the time and I‘ll explain it to him.  But I think we have probably better things to do with the time of your audience. 

I think most people can probably figure out the difference between a film that criticizes George Bush and providing surface-to-air missiles.  I think calling Michael Moore a traitor is just ridiculous nonsense.  And I can‘t believe, Joe, that you would invite somebody on this show to do it. 

(CROSSTALK)

ALTERMAN:  Let me just finish this thought.  If I were Michael Moore, I would sue that gentleman for slander and I would sue MSNBC for slander. 

BURKMAN:  I welcome the suit. 

ALTERMAN:  I‘m sure you do. 

BURKMAN:  But let me ask you this.  If in fact Michael Moore, if in fact Michael Moore—and he has—if is encouraging Baathist rebels to fire on American troops, is that or is that not treason? 

ALTERMAN:  No, I don‘t—I don‘t—first of all, I don‘t believe that he‘s done that, and I haven‘t seen any evidence that he‘s done that. 

But, second of all, isn‘t George Bush encouraging Baathist troops to fire on American troops?  George Bush is the person who put all these American troops into Iraq under false pretenses.  He misled the country.  He misled the world.  There was no terrorist threat from Iraq to this country.  There were no connections to al Qaeda.  There were no nuclear weapons.  There were no weapons of mass destruction. 

(CROSSTALK)

ALTERMAN:  And so this is a war of choice that George Bush impinged on this country by false pretenses.  Michael Moore objects to that.  So do most Americans. 

(CROSSTALK) 

ALTERMAN:  Fewer than 40 percent of Americans support this war anymore.  So I think this gentleman is a little bit hysterical about the position of the majority of the American people. 

(CROSSTALK)

SCARBOROUGH:  Fine, Eric, fine.  OK, I don‘t want to redebate everything about this war. 

ALTERMAN:  I‘m sure you don‘t.  I‘m sure you don‘t.  I don‘t blame you.  I don‘t blame you, because my side is the side that told the truth.  And your side, the president of the United States, is the side that misled the country. 

(CROSSTALK)

SCARBOROUGH:  Whatever.  Whatever. 

Hold on.  You know what?  You know what?  If that‘s all you can do, just ramble on, you don‘t want to talk about the points.

(CROSSTALK)

SCARBOROUGH:  Eric, go ahead.  Talk, Eric.  Go ahead.  Talk.  Keep talking. 

ALTERMAN:  Well, look, I won‘t defend the quote of Michael Moore‘s that you read. 

SCARBOROUGH:  It certainly sounds like you‘re defending the quote. 

(CROSSTALK)

ALTERMAN:  And if he said that, I would condemn it.  But the fact is...

SCARBOROUGH:  Oh, that‘s gracious of you. 

(CROSSTALK)

ALTERMAN:  Are you going to let me finish or you going to kibitz?

SCARBOROUGH:  No, it‘s your show.  Go ahead.  We‘ve got—how much time do we have? 

(CROSSTALK)

ALTERMAN:  The fact is that tens of thousands of American sons and daughters died in Vietnam because this country‘s leadership was unwilling to admit a mistake. 

There were patriotic journalists and artists who brought to this country‘s attention the fact that our leaders were lying to us back in Vietnam.  The same thing is happening again.  And if it takes people to show unpleasant images in order to demonstrate—in order to demonstrate the truth about this war, then that‘s a patriotic action.

(CROSSTALK)

SCARBOROUGH:  Guys, unfortunately, we‘ve got to go. 

We‘re on a tough break.  And I appreciate you all coming on. 

Eric, I‘m sorry we didn‘t have another hour for you.

Jack, I‘m sorry we didn‘t have time to come back to you.  We appreciate both of you being with us tonight. 

But Eric‘s wrong. 

Coming up next, Sean Penn has said some pretty dumb things during his career.  No, unlike Michael Moore, he didn‘t say that more U.S. troops should die, but tonight, is he suggesting presidential assassinations may fix our problems? 

More on that straight ahead.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SCARBOROUGH:  Hey, tomorrow night on SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY, we‘ve got much more on Hollywood against the president, against the war, against U.S.  troops.

And coming up next, is Sean Penn suggesting assassinating President Bush would make things better?  That‘s next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SCARBOROUGH:  Michael Moore seems to be saying that more U.S. troops need to be killed.  And Sean Penn is surfacing at the Cannes Film Festival with his new movie, “The Assassination of Richard Nixon.” 

Now, it‘s about a kill then President Nixon by flying a plane into the White House.  Penn went on to describe his character, a disgruntled salesman-turned-assassin, as someone who is oppressed and silenced by society, that‘s he‘s forced to resort to silence. 

Then Sean Penn said this: “So I would like to think that in this parallel, that it dramatizes well there will be some thoughts provoked about how to fix the problem before it happens.”

Sounds like assassination plots to me. 

More about that tomorrow night. 

END   

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