updated 6/1/2004 11:06:18 AM ET 2004-06-01T15:06:18

Guests: Diane Kresh, Mike Crapo, James Von Waldegg, Allen West, Daniel Lashof, Arianna Huffington

PAT BUCHANAN, GUEST HOST:  Tonight‘s top headlines:  Sticker shock at the gas pump fails to deter holiday drivers. 

Welcome to SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY.  No passport required, only common sense allowed. 

Gas prices are at near record highs.  Arianna Huffington and the anti-SUV crowd says they‘ve got just the right idea: get rid of these monster gas guzzlers.  But how and why?

And long before the Abu Ghraib scandal, Colonel Allen West‘s Iraqi prisoner interrogation cost him his job, but it may have prevented an attack on American troops.  He‘s here in SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY in an exclusive. 

Plus, President Bush‘s approval ratings are at an all-time low.  Did Bush bet his presidency on Iraq?  Can he make a comeback just before the election?  My all-star panel will lay out their own individual game plans for a Bush victory come November. 

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

BUCHANAN:  Summer officially began with this Memorial Day weekend.  And if you traveled to the beach house or the lake cottage, you felt it at the gas pump. 

My next two guests say politicians, especially the Bush administration, are to blame for these outrageous gas prices.  With me now, Arianna Huffington, the author of “Fanatics and Fools,” and Daniel Lashof of the Natural Resources Defense Council. 

Let me begin with you, Arianna.  What do we do about the SUVs? 

ARIANNA HUFFINGTON, AUTHOR, “FANATICS & FOOLS”:  Well, what we do is, we end the corporate welfare that goes at moment to Detroit and the automakers.  We end the tax credits to those who buy the largest SUVs.  We end the loopholes that make it possible for SUVs not to have to comply with the other cars‘ fuel efficiency standards. 

We raise fuel efficiency standards to 36 or 40 miles per gallon and that‘s all it‘s going to take.  It‘s very simple. 

BUCHANAN:  All right, well, let me mention something to you.  Now, John Kerry‘s wife, Teresa Heinz, has what‘s called a Gulfstream 5.  She flew it from Washington to Pittsburgh and back to give John Kerry a haircut.  The Gulfstream 5 went 1,300 miles and it costs $2,600 for the gasoline in that trip to and from there.

For that, a Hummer can go back and forth across the United States four times.  Now, Arianna, before the average guy gives up his SUV, shouldn‘t these corporate types you‘re talking about, all of them, ground their corporate jets? 

HUFFINGTON:  But I‘m not talking about anybody giving up their SUVs.  I‘m talking about changing public policy.  I‘m talking about Detroit producing fuel-efficient SUVs. 

(CROSSTALK)

HUFFINGTON:  We can do that.  We are not talking about private

behavior.  Just by ending corporate welfare—I know you‘re in favor of

that—and by actually making Detroit do the right thing for Detroit

(CROSSTALK)

HUFFINGTON:  The sale of Hummers is down right now. 

BUCHANAN:  All right, it‘s down.  OK, the market seems to be working. 

But what I‘m getting at is, there‘s a lot of families for whom a station wagon—this is the new station wagon, their Navigator, their Ford Escort, whatever it is, now, if they‘re going to be getting out of those into smaller cars, why not these big luxury boats that use an enormous amount of fuel and ride a couple of people around, why not get rid of these corporate and private jets?  Folks can take the airlines.  It will help the airlines.  Why not make the rich and the elite, like Arianna Huffington, sacrifice as well? 

HUFFINGTON:  Pat, I‘m sacrificing. 

I don‘t have a private jet and I‘m driving a Toyota Prius, a hybrid car that does 60 miles to the gallon.  And also we‘re not here to end people‘s freedom to consume the way they want to consume.  Yes, we want to educate the public and we want to get Detroit and Washington to do the right thing. 

BUCHANAN:  All right, we‘re doing some education right here. 

Daniel Lashof can help me. 

Daniel, look, now, everybody agrees we should be more fuel-efficient and all the rest of it.  And you‘re the National Resources Defense Council.  We can get a lot of oil out of ANWR.  We could drill off the California coast.  We could drill off the Florida coast, get a lot more oil.  Why don‘t we do that? 

DANIEL LASHOF, NATURAL RESOURCES DEFENSE COUNCIL:  Well, Pat, there‘s just no way we can drill our way out of our dangerous dependence on Middle East oil.  The U.S. just doesn‘t have enough reserves.

We use 25 percent of the world‘s oil.  We only have 3 percent of the world‘s reserves.  Drilling in the Arctic Refuge would add 0.3 percent to that.  It doesn‘t do any good.  Right now, with oil at $40 a barrel, we‘re spending $100 million a day on Middle East oil.  It‘s time we made a national commitment to reduce that dependence by applying better technologies to our SUVs and our cars and our planes, for that matter.

We can go further on every gallon of fuel that we consume and that‘s what we need to do. 

BUCHANAN:  All right, Arianna, I want you to listen here, because John Kerry found a way to chime into the SUV debate.  Now, you listen to this especially. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. JOHN KERRY (D-MA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  Well, they scare all the soccer moms and tell them you can‘t take the whole soccer team to the soccer game, because they‘re going to force you into some—that‘s not true.  You want to drive a great big SUV?  Go for it.  But why not be smart to your own budget and ask them to charge you a little less for what it takes to run it? 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BUCHANAN:  He says, go for it, Arianna. 

HUFFINGTON:  Yes, he says go for it, and, at the same time, he says let‘s make a commitment to make ourselves oil independent, a 10-year commitment.  That‘s a major thing that John Kerry has put forward, one of his best plans, energy independence, so that we don‘t have to kowtow to all those nations that harbor terrorists like Saudi Arabia that ultimately do not wish us well. 

We are now spending even before the war in Iraq $50 billion a year to maintain the military bases in the Gulf. 

(CROSSTALK)

BUCHANAN:  All right, I agree with you on energy independence.

And I agree with you, Daniel.  But, look, when you say energy independence and we all hear this talk about solar and wind power, look, nuclear power provides 70 percent of the electricity, I believe, in France, and we haven‘t built a nuclear power plant in 25 years.  We haven‘t built an oil refinery in 20 years. 

Now, if we did drill off California and Florida and ANWR, and you turned to nuclear power, couldn‘t you do an awful lot to make us energy independent of Middle Eastern oil?

LASHOF:  Well, we can‘t drive our cars on nuclear power. 

(CROSSTALK)

BUCHANAN:  No, but that would reduce the need for oil for the oil-fired plants. 

LASHOF:  We hardly use any oil in electricity.  That‘s one thing we do in the ‘70s.  Only a few percent, 2 or 3 percent of our electricity comes from oil now.  So when we‘re talking about oil, we‘re talking about cars and we‘re talking about better technologies to make cars go further on a gallon of gas.  It‘s by far the fastest, cheapest and best for the environment way we can get out of our dependence on foreign oil. 

So if you agree that we need to reduce our dependence on Middle East oil, you should be supporting incentives for Detroit to build more efficient cars here in America, so American workers can do that.  We have the technology.  And we need to make the commitment to do that. 

BUCHANAN:  All right, now, Arianna, you know markets forces.  It seems to me that the greatest force that got America into small cars to begin with, before they went back to the large ones, was the price of gasoline.  It was costing an awful lot.  Aren‘t the market forces of $40-a-barrel-oil and $2-a-gallon gasoline, will they not work better than your advertisement at convincing Americans, look, I like this car, I like this big truck, but I‘ve got to get in a little smaller car because it‘s costing too much to travel.  In other words, won‘t the market solve this problem? 

HUFFINGTON:  Right now, you know perfectly well that market forces are being undermined by insane public policy, public policy that gives up to $100,000 in write-offs to those who buy the largest SUVs, like the Hummer. 

And that‘s the kind of corporate welfare also that goes to Detroit, not to mention the fact that Detroit is spending billions of dollars every year advertising these monstrosities and giving 0 financing.  So it‘s not plain and simple supply and demand here.  We have major forces going against small cars and against Detroit doing the right thing and equipping large cars with the right technology. 

BUCHANAN:  But, Dan, look, why aren‘t people buying these small cars with the incentives they‘ve already got?  Why aren‘t they jumping on them, 40 miles per gallon, 50 miles per gallons, the Prius, all that stuff?  Don‘t they prefer the big ones? 

LASHOF:  Some of these new technologies are doing very well in the marketplace, the new hybrid gasoline-electric models, and Ford is coming out with a hybrid gasoline-electric SUV later this year.  I think it will do very well.

But what we need to do is make a national commitment so that every model and type of car is getting the best technology, not just small cars, not just big cars, but across the entire fleet.  That kind of push to get the technology...

BUCHANAN:  What do you mean, order Detroit to do it? 

LASHOF:  We need to raise fuel efficiency standards.  We need to create incentives for Detroit to retool their plants with the best technology, so American workers build these cars here.  And we need to give consumers an incentive when they buy a car to buy the most fuel-efficient car. 

It‘s not about pushing people into a car they don‘t want.  It‘s about putting better technology in the cars that they buy. 

BUCHANAN:  And, Arianna, very quickly, what do you say about the fact that, if somebody hits me in my Navigator and they‘re in one of those Priuses you drive, I‘m going to survive and you‘re not?

HUFFINGTON:  Well, you know, the record of SUV safety, unfortunately, is not as good as it was hyped to be.

BUCHANAN:  Not as good as the Prius? 

HUFFINGTON:  And in terms of waiting lists, Pat, in terms of waiting lists, terrorist are long waiting lists right now for people to buy my Toyota Prius 2004 hybrid car. 

And it‘s a shame that we have to buy Japanese, when we could be buying American, if American industry was not letting itself be actually overtaken by Japan. 

BUCHANAN:  OK, thank you for being here, Arianna Huffington and Daniel Lashof.

LASHOF:  Thank you. 

BUCHANAN:  Thanks for joining us.  See you again. 

Still to come, he was relieved of his command after a prisoner interrogation that got ugly.  Tonight, he‘s here to weigh in on Abu Ghraib and Memorial Day.  An exclusive interview with Army Colonel Allen West, that‘s up next. 

And later, President Bush‘s approval ratings have hit a new low.  Our Democratic and Republican strategists are here with a plan to jump-start his road to reelection victory.

Then, as we remember our fallen heroes this Memorial Day, we‘ll tell you how you can help preserve the legacy of our heroic veterans. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BUCHANAN:  Join us this weekend for “D-Day At 60: A Celebration of Heroes.”  We‘ll have personal stories from those who were there.  That‘s live special coverage this weekend right here on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BUCHANAN:  Months before the Abu Ghraib prison scandal, Lieutenant Colonel Allen West was relieved of his command in Iraq after he fired a pistol near the head of a prisoner who had information regarding a possible ambush of his men. 

Colonel West joins me now. 

Colonel, thank you very much for joining us. 

Can you tell our folks out there pretty much exactly what happened in this interrogation and why you were relieved of your command? 

LT. COL. ALLEN WEST, U.S. ARMY:  Thank you.

And, first, I‘d like to say happy Memorial Day to you, Mr. Buchanan, and all the listening audience, and especially to all the soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines out there, past, presents and future. 

Well, what happened back almost eight, nine months ago, information came to us about an Iraqi police officer who potentially had been meeting with a gentleman and preparing or involved in attacks against us, and specifically an assassination plot against me.  We did pick up this Iraqi policeman.  The interrogating team that we had was not getting anywhere with this gentleman.

And not wanting to expose my soldiers to any potential attacks in the near future, I became involved, and there was physical aggression.  And I did use the intimidation tactic of firing my .9-millimeter sidearm close to his head to convince him to come forth with information. 

BUCHANAN:  All right.  Colonel, looking back, did Mr. Hamoody, I guess this was the police officer, did he have information that led you to believe he was part of a plot or knew of a plot to ambush you and kill some of your men as well?  And do regret now doing what you did? 

WEST:  Well, the information that came forth was names of people he had been meeting with and saying that the next possible attack was a sniper ambush that was set up across the street from the police station, where we conducted a lot of joint patrols with the Iraqi police and also did a lot of council meetings. 

As far as regretting what happened, if it‘s based upon the punishment I received, no, because I think the most important thing in a tactical situation as a commander is the safety and safeguarding your soldiers and getting them back home to your families.  And that‘s my No. 1 responsibility. 

BUCHANAN:  And do you think now that Hamoody did know about a plot to ambush—or assassinate you and ambush your men? 

WEST:  Well, the most important thing for a commander on the ground in a tactical situation, you act on your instincts and the things that you learned being out there and interacting. 

And the greatest measure of effectiveness is whether or not you continue to get shot at.  We just had a very severe IED ambush that was right prior to going down to one of the council meetings.  And after that and some actions that we took, to include picking up Mr. Hamoody, there were no further attacks against my soldiers, as I stayed in command. 

BUCHANAN:  So you would have done it again, and you believe that you probably or very possibly saved the lives of your men by doing this. 

Let me turn to the Abu Ghraib situation.  You‘ve seen the pictures.  You have read the stories, I‘m sure.  Do you think this small group acted alone or just under local military intelligence, or do you think responsibility goes way up the chain of command?  And what do you think about what was done there? 

WEST:  Well, I would never try to make some type of supposition about what happened.  But I find it hard to believe that a group of young soldiers could enact such a thing and no one in the higher chain of command would know anything about it. 

And then, furthermore, one the concepts I always based my leadership principles and style was that, if there‘s anything good that happens in your unit, it‘s because of your soldiers.  If there‘s something bad that goes wrong, it‘s your responsibility and it‘s your fault and you should step up and take the—accept whatever blame there is for it. 

BUCHANAN:  Colonel, I understand all the men that—I think you had 600 men under you.  An awful lot of them showed up at that hearing to support you and cheer you as their commander, is that right? 

WEST:  Yes, there were a good bunch that made the trip up.  It was about an hour and a half from Taji, which is where we had our compound, up to Tikrit, where they had the Article 32 hearing. 

BUCHANAN:  Quick question on can we win this war and are we fighting it the right way? 

WEST:  Yes. 

You know, the thing is, the American soldier, sailor, airman, and Marine will always be victorious.  What‘s the most important thing is the support that he has.  Von Clausewitz wrote about the paradoxical trinity, which is the will of the soldier, the will of the government and the will of the people.  And those are the three parts that you need to have enacted to make sure that we can be successful. 

And I think that each and every one of us need to check and make sure we‘re doing our part. 

BUCHANAN:  Very quickly, Colonel, can you tell us what you‘re doing now? 

WEST:  Well, right now, I have successfully transitioned and was hired by the Broward County School Board.  So next fall, I will begin teaching social studies, and also, tomorrow, I‘ll start scuba certification, because I‘m not going to be jumping out of airplanes anymore, so I need another activity that I can do in my leisure time. 

BUCHANAN:  I think those high school kids have got a great teacher coming this fall.  Good luck and have a good Memorial Day weekend or what‘s left of it. 

WEST:  And you, too.  Thank you very much. 

BUCHANAN:  Yes, sir.  Thank you. 

That was Colonel Allen West, folk.

Coming up, our all-star political panel has some advice for President Bush.  We‘re going to lay out the game plan to get the Bush campaign up on the victory road again.

And today is a day of remembrance for our heroic veterans.  We‘ll bring you a very personal story from one World War II soldier right here on SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY.  That‘s coming up. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BUCHANAN:  President Bush‘s approval ratings are at an all-time low.  After the break, we‘ll ask our all-star panel what they think he should do to get back on track. 

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 back to SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY.

BUCHANAN:  Welcome back. 

The president is headed to Normandy for the 60th anniversary of D-Day and to repair the NATO Alliance.  But according to ABC and “The Washington Post,” only 47 percent of Americans approve of the president‘s job performance; 50 percent disapprove, his worst rating to date. 

Now we‘re going to do prescriptions for President Bush, Frank Luntz. 

And here is my prescription for President Bush to get back on track. 

No. 1, hammer the good economic news, because the big media won‘t.  No. 2, launch an August offensive right after Kerry‘s nomination.  Three, force Kerry to spend his $75 million in FEC funds during August.  Fourth, announce a date certain for withdrawal of U.S. troops in October. 

Pollster Frank Luntz joins me now to comment on the Buchanan formula. 

What do you think, Frank?

FRANK LUNTZ, POLLSTER:  Well, the first thing I would do is, I would actually—I think it‘s a pretty good formula.

BUCHANAN:  Right. 

LUNTZ:  You should be paid a lot more than what you get for sitting in tonight. 

(LAUGHTER)

LUNTZ:  I would take a strategy of responding in August and put it earlier.  I would start one week before the Democratic Convention and really let Kerry have it, but I would let Kerry have it with substance, rather than style, and I would push Democrats to have to respond to things that the White House is saying. 

It‘s going to be a left-wing love fest in Boston.  It‘s the right city for this.  It‘s the right community.  But you want to make sure that the American people understand that John Kerry is outside the mainstream.  And right now, the Bush campaign hasn‘t done enough of that. 

BUCHANAN:  What‘s your game plan for getting him outside the mainstream? 

LUNTZ:  My game plan, several points.

No. 1 is, the advertising campaign of the Bush effort has to improve.  This is a campaign about big ideas, national security, economic security, personal security.  And you can‘t have ads that look like they were created in a control room that‘s half the size of this studio.  No. 2 is, you‘ve got to get Condoleezza Rice out there, more Rice more often. 

There have been times in this administration when Rumsfeld‘s been the best spokesperson, when Cheney has been the best, when Powell has been the bet.  Right now it‘s Condi Rice who is most effective.  And third, it‘s also important that this administration takes that whole concept of outsourcing head on.  The fact is, with tax simplification, with regulatory reform and with lawsuit abuse reform, this administration can make some significant gains on the economic front. 

BUCHANAN:  Given Bush‘s present numbers, 47 percent approving, I think only one-third think the country is moving in the right direction, a lot of his approval numbers down, 42 percent, can he win the election if it were held today? 

LUNTZ:  He can still win. 

BUCHANAN:  Do you think he would lose it if it were held today? 

LUNTZ:  If it were held today, you can‘t tell because it‘s up to state by state.  You could have the same outcome in 2000, where he could actually lose the popular vote and still win the Electoral College. 

Mark my words.  This is going to be the first election where both the incumbent and the challenger have disapproval rates at 50 percent or perhaps even higher.  Combined, there will be more people angry at both candidates than we‘ve ever had in modern politics. 

BUCHANAN:  More than favoring both candidates.

Let‘s bring in MSNBC political analyst Flavia Colgan, and John Fund from OpinionJournal.com. 

Flavia, why don‘t you go ahead and give us your recommendations for the president?

FLAVIA COLGAN, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST:  Well, Pat, I wish they had been listening to you about a year and a half ago, instead of that cadre of neocons.  We wouldn‘t even be having this segment.

But I think one of the most important things President Bush has to do is to start talking directly with the American public more.  He‘s really only spoken to them twice since the Iraq war started.  And he needs to get away from that strident war talk, which really hasn‘t been that productive and has hurt him with female voters.  Start showing more empathy, start talking about the war in human terms, and start talking about some of the reconstructive and the positive news coming out of there and really create that bond with the American people. 

That helped inoculate him against some very legitimate attacks on both domestic and foreign policy.  And he needs to get back to doing that and get rid of the Texas talk.  Send it back to Texas and start bringing the compassionate conservative model back.  Karen Hughes can help him with that.  Secondly, I think...

(CROSSTALK)

BUCHANAN:  Secondly, go ahead. 

COLGAN:  Secondly, I think that he needs to start creating news instead of letting news happen to him.

I think he needs to talk about what we‘re doing more on the overall global war on terror.  Americans are concerned that Iraq is a distraction and he needs to prove to them why it‘s not and what we‘re doing collaboratively with a lot of countries around the world.  I think he also needs to come out not just with these alert—terror alert press conferences—they‘re a little muddled and kind of window dressing—but with some homeland security initiatives, whether it‘s looking into some container ships or some big initiatives. 

The 9/11 Commission is going to be coming out this summer.  It‘s going to put people‘s attention on prevention.  Also, he needs to come out with a leadership role, abandon this bad apples theory on Abu Ghraib, and really, before it explodes even further in his face—Rumsfeld‘s lost 30 percent in the polls.  He‘s got to come out with that moral authority, let this go up the chain of command, further than the M.P.s, and say what he‘s going to do to make sure it doesn‘t happen again. 

(CROSSTALK)

COLGAN:  It‘s really been troubling for a lot of Americans.

BUCHANAN:  Let‘s get John Fund in here. 

First, John, what do you think of that and then give us quickly your recommendations. 

JOHN FUND, COLUMNIST, “THE WALL STREET JOURNAL”:  Oh, those are all good stylistic points.

I would simply say that despite the all Iraq, all the time news coverage, most voters are going to vote on issues other than Iraq in November.  Bush has to remember that.  One of the things he should push is investment accounts for young people as an alternative to Social Security or to take some of their payroll money and put it into Social Security.  That would pick up some votes for people who don‘t normally vote.

Secondly, the tax cuts that he put in place have led to a surging economy.  We‘re going to get more great job news numbers this Friday.  He should remind people, without those tax cuts, we wouldn‘t have a better economy. 

BUCHANAN:  All right, let me just interrupt you there, John.  I think you‘re exactly right on that. 

And let me just follow up, though, on Flavia‘s point.  I think he ought to tie the tax cuts to the economy, pound the good news of the economy all the way through, because I think it‘s going to be very good.  But I think Flavia has a very good point about the compassionate conservatism, a conservatism of the heart, somewhat softer approach.  He can be tough on the war on terror, but he‘s got to get some of those women back if he‘s going to win this election, isn‘t that right, John?

FUND:  Well, there could be misplaced conservatism. 

That Medicare prescription drug benefit isn‘t satisfying anybody, Pat. 

BUCHANAN:  Right. 

FUND:  Lots of people think it‘s too stingy.  And a lot of conservatives in his base thought that it was wildly big spending.  So I think he has to be very careful.  Thematically is fine, but don‘t promise, overpromise, because people won‘t believe you. 

BUCHANAN:  What do you think, Frank?

LUNTZ:  Actually, I think John is right. 

I think that this president is usually quite effective when he goes to the camera and looks the camera straight in the eye.  And his press conferences were very good.  And the fact is, the economy is getting so much better than it was six months or a year ago.  But the fact is, he‘s not getting credit for it.  And that‘s a challenge for him. 

BUCHANAN:  But let me go back to you—well, Flavia, you try this.  He‘s supposed to be a conservative.  No Child Left Behind is not a conservative policy.  It is Teddy Kennedy and George Bush.  

(CROSSTALK)

COLGAN:  But unfunded. 

BUCHANAN:  All right, it‘s underfunded -- $540 billion for Medicare, prescription drugs, it hasn‘t bought him a thing.  He‘s being hammered on both issues, and the conservatives are unhappy on both.  He‘s running the deficit up, and they don‘t seem to have worked for him. 

COLGAN:  Well, that‘s one of the problems with touting the economic news, is that one of the problems is, some of the biggest unemployment numbers are really in the battleground states.

And even though all the economic indicators are looking stronger, you can say that until you‘re blue in the face.  It‘s not going to change the minds of people that aren‘t bringing home a paycheck every day. 

What I‘m talking about in terms of the compassionate conservative is more of a tonal issue. 

BUCHANAN:  Right. 

COLGAN:  If you look at how women are responding to the way he‘s speaking, this let‘s get them or this aggressive talk, it‘s really not helping him.  I mean, the chasm between women voters is getting bigger and bigger every day.  And he needs to start talking about this in more human terms and bringing it back to something people can relate to on a visceral, emotional level. 

(CROSSTALK)

COLGAN:  He‘s losing the connection. 

BUCHANAN:  I‘ll tell you what people relate to, at least I do.  I think Laura Bush is terrific.  I think he puts her on “The Tonight Show” and every appearance I see, I think she wins in votes.  She softens him.  She‘s an enormously attractive woman.  There‘s no down side at all. 

LUNTZ:  She‘s fantastic.  She‘s articulate.  She smooth.  She‘s at ease with the public.  She‘s great. 

I‘ve got one thing that no one has talked about here.  This president ought to go after the personal injury lawyers.  These president really...

BUCHANAN:  The trial lawyers? 

LUNTZ:  Personal injury lawyers.

(LAUGHTER)

LUNTZ:  It‘s the language.

BUCHANAN:  Right. 

LUNTZ:  Those are the ambulance chasers that are screwing up our health care.  They‘re screwing up our court system. 

(CROSSTALK)

BUCHANAN:  That‘s the tort reform thing, but he ought to go after—make it personal injury lawyers? 

LUNTZ:  It‘s lawsuit abuse reform, Pat, not tort reform.  Tort reform is a French dessert.  It‘s lawsuit abuse that the public is frustrated with.

BUCHANAN:  John Fund, I think that sound like a good idea. 

FUND:  It does, because those are very unpopular people.  John Edwards is not going to be the Democratic presidential candidate, but John Kerry has voted with the trial lawyers every time he‘s voted on the issue in the Senate. 

BUCHANAN:  All right, let me ask this question to all of you. 

We‘ll start with you, Flavia.

Did George Bush bet his presidency on Iraq?  And does it pretty much depend on whether that looks like it‘s a mess in November or whether it looks like it‘s getting better and we‘re getting out? 

COLGAN:  I agree, the economy, I think, is still going to play a part.  And I think he has a great opportunity in the next couple of weeks to really heal a lot of the alliances on this world trip that he‘s taking. 

And the only way to turn the polls around significantly is to change dynamics on the grounds.  So let‘s hope that he gets more international involvement and changes those dynamics and makes sure that we get some other boots on the grounds and some other support for that war. 

BUCHANAN:  All right, Frank, what do you think?  Should he set a date certain, say, in October?  You know, I will have the troops out?  By the end of next year, they will be home?  That would be very dramatic.  I think it cuts the grounds under from Kerry.  Of course, I think it depends on whether Bush believes that we got to stay in no matter what. 

LUNTZ:  It would be dramatic, but I‘m going to surprise you, that foreign policy is something that you don‘t wage based on political polls or the next election.  And I believe this president will do what he thinks is right at the time, even if it might cost him a few votes. 

BUCHANAN:  John Fund?

FUND:  What this president has to do is worry about the oil price in October.  These attacks on Khobar and the Saudi oil facilities could be repeated in October.  If they actually blew up some oil facilities and sent the price of oil to $50 a barrel, that could be destabilizing.  That‘s what Bush has to worry about, the right policies, the right politics here.  Don‘t govern by polls. 

BUCHANAN:  What do you think is the right policy, John? 

FUND:  Make sure that the Saudis have all of the equipment and all of the security that they can to make sure that those oil facilities are safe, and hug that Iraqi government tight and close to you, make sure that they can succeed and make sure that there‘s measurable progress in Iraq. 

BUCHANAN:  But, Flavia, as the Saudis said today, they‘re not attacking the oil facilities.  They‘re hitting soft targets.  They‘re hitting employees, going into housing projects and, you know, residences and things like that and simply murdering people.  They could do that until hell freezes over. 

FUND:  Hard targets could be next.

COLGAN:  I mean, you had Arianna on earlier.  And people are going to start trying to connect the dots between Bush‘s oil friends and his relationship with Saudi Arabia and the numbers at the tanks.  So he better start coming out and defining that issue on his own before other people do it for him. 

BUCHANAN:  Is that a problem for him, Frank, Halliburton, Saudi connection, oil, all that? 

LUNTZ:  Halliburton—Halliburton—whoever is running those ads in Washington, D.C., I think they took them off the air. 

(CROSSTALK)

BUCHANAN:  Halliburton is helping America? 

LUNTZ:  Halliburton—those people ought to be shot. 

(LAUGHTER)

LUNTZ:  And I‘ll take the abuse and the heat.  The people who put those Halliburton ads on the air in Washington, D.C. ought to be shot.  They‘re actually doing damage to their company and they‘re doing damage to the people who would otherwise support them.

BUCHANAN:  You don‘t think they‘re improving third image? 

LUNTZ:  I think that their image is about as bad as the Unabomber.  It might even be worse.

BUCHANAN:  How is Halliburton up at “The Wall Street Journal,” John?

FUND:  I think Halliburton has got a bum rap.  But let‘s face it. 

They need some better communication strategy. 

BUCHANAN:  OK.  I think that‘s going to about do it for our all-star panel.

Flavia, thank you very much.  John Fund, Frank Luntz.

And we‘ll be back with more, and this man here you‘re looking at was a fighter pilot in World War II.  And he‘s here to tell us how the experience changed his life forever. 

ANNOUNCER:  Tonight‘s SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY challenge:  What was the original name for Memorial Day?  Was it, A, Honor Day, B, Decoration Day, or, C, Flag Day?  The answer after the break?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ANNOUNCER:  In tonight‘s SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY challenge, we asked, what was the original name for Memorial Day?  The answer is B.  It started in 1868.  It was a day set aside to decorate the days of Civil War dead.  The holiday was renamed Memorial Day in 1882.

Now back to Pat.

BUCHANAN:  Here‘s President Bush commemorating Memorial Day in Washington today.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  At this and other cemeteries across our country and in cemeteries abroad where heroes fell, America acknowledges a debt that is beyond our power to repay. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BUCHANAN:  One of America‘s World War II heroes is right here, James Von Waldegg, a fighter pilot who flew P-38s and won a distinguished flying cross for heroism. 

Colonel, welcome. 

You actually saw General Douglas MacArthur in the Pacific theater, I understand?

RETIRED LT. COL. JAMES VON WALDEGG, U.S. ARMY AIR CORPS:  Yes, I sure did. 

And it was quite a thrill.  However, we had to stay an extra day in that particular field and stood in formation for most of the day.  And when the general got there, he opened the door and he said, you‘re doing a fine job.  Keep up the good work.  And the door closed and that was it.  So...

(LAUGHTER)

BUCHANAN:  Well, you‘ve got a story you can tell 60 years later. 

VON WALDEGG:  That‘s right.  That‘s right. 

BUCHANAN:  Tell us, Colonel, why you awarded the Flying Cross. 

VON WALDEGG:  Well, we were doing bomber escort and we got to our no go further.  We had to get back or not have enough gas to get back.  So as we were leaving, the bunch of zeros came in on us and managed to knock down several of our boys. 

There were only three of us left.  Two of the airplanes that were there were very badly damaged.  And so I was kind of riding shotgun for them.  And then, as we left, we got jumped again, and I had to keep them very busy and tried to hold them off to make sure the other two got away and was able to get home.  I finally decided that there was no way I could hold them back, so I dove into—towards the water.

And I went really as low as I could over the water and of course they thought I was a goner and left.  So I was able to get back, and with the airplane very, very badly damaged.  And, in fact, when I landed, the gear wouldn‘t work, all the hydraulic fluid I lost, and so I banged up the airplane pretty bad.  But I did get back to the base. 

BUCHANAN:  Well, Lieutenant Colonel James Von Waldegg, thanks very much for joining us.  And I guess—what did you think?  You were pretty impressed with the memorial they put up today? 

VON WALDEGG:  Oh, I was there a month or so ago, when they were still working on it, and I thought it was just beautiful.  And I wish I could have gone last Saturday and took a look at it.  But I will probably next month or something.  It‘s just beautiful, and it‘s something that should have been done a long, long time ago. 

BUCHANAN:  All right.  Thank you very much, sir. 

VON WALDEGG:  Thank you, Pat. 

BUCHANAN:  Millions of veterans who served their country in our armed services have stories to tell, just like the one we heard.  In 2000, Congress authorized the Veterans History Project to collect and preserve wartime stories from veterans of America‘s wars from the 20th century. 

Idaho Senator Mike Crapo joins me now.  He‘s an advocate for the project who‘s been personally recording veterans‘ stories.  And so has Diane Kresh from the Library of Congress.  She led 400 volunteers and collected 3,000 interviews from World War II veterans this weekend. 

Let me start with you, Senator.  This is quite a project, a great idea.  How‘s it going? 

SEN. MIKE CRAPO ®, IDAHO:  It is a tremendous project.  And when we heard of it and started doing it, it‘s just taken on like wildfire in Idaho. 

And I got to tell you, Pat, the story we just heard is just one of hundreds of thousands of stories that our World War II veterans have.  In the interviews that I‘ve done, I talked to a man who bailed out of a bomber at the early part of the war and literally landed on the roof of a stalag and got arrested and spent the war there.  And there‘s many other stories like that that we can preserve for history, if we‘ll just get engaged in this project. 

BUCHANAN:  And you were down there, you were telling me earlier, preserving those stories today.  You‘re a little bit tired, but it must have been a great experience listening to those fellows. 

Everybody I know that‘s been down to that memorial and seen those vets down there and the way they appreciate it, let‘s face it, this is the last great encampment of the World War II vets.  Everybody who has been down there has been very moved by the whole thing. 

DIANE KRESH, LIBRARY OF CONGRESS:  That‘s accurate. 

We had a great four days.  And we‘re all pretty tired.  But everybody was very moved and personally engaged in collecting the stories because they want, as the senator said, to have them for posterity for future generations to learn from. 

BUCHANAN:  Is the Library of Congress—you are collecting memorabilia, are you?

KRESH:  Yes. 

BUCHANAN:  From—a lot of these pictures from World War II? 

KRESH:  Yes. 

BUCHANAN:  All these stories and all the rest of it?

KRESH:  Pictures, letters, notebooks, copies of orders from the people when they served, just about anything that commemorates the experience.  We have to date collected over 70,000 pieces of material, as well as over 16,000 interviews, not including the ones that we did this weekend over the four days. 

BUCHANAN:  Well, you know, Senator, when I was a little boy during World War II, my mother and all four of her younger brothers were in what they called the ETO, all the way from Kasserine Pass to Sicily to Anzio.  One of them hit every beachhead except for Normandy. 

Do you have GOT any experiences like this in your family that caused you to have this interest in that?  My wife‘s father, incidentally, was on carrier Cabot. 

CRAPO:  There have been members of my family whose histories I want to go out and try to find and record. 

BUCHANAN:  Right. 

CRAPO:  But what we need to make sure that people understand is, they can go right on to the Library of Congress Web site.  It will tell them just how to go about it, what kind of questions to ask if they aren‘t sure, and they will find incredible experiences. 

Like I say, I interviewed people with many different stories.  I talked to one man who was on the ships that dropped people off on the shores when they were trying to assault the beachheads.  What an incredible experience.  And we‘ve had high school students in Idaho get engaged.  And think about the experience it is for a teenager to talk to a World War II vet about some of those experiences.  It preserves the experiences and it changes the life of that teenager. 

BUCHANAN:  You know, during one of my late, lamented campaigns, I was in an airport and this fellow came up to me, very talkative.  And he said, you don‘t know me, but I know who you are.  And he came over and sat down  talked.  And told me a story.

He was in the crow‘s nest of the battleship Maryland during Pearl Harbor, and he was up there.  And when—saw this whole scene.  It is an incredible story.  And a lot of us, when you‘re very young, of course they were firsthand.  And a lot of them are losing a lot of those folks very rapidly.  What, we‘re down to four million of them now. 

KRESH:  We heard so many times over the weekend when family members were with the vets that they had never heard the stories before, or the veteran was talking about something that he never before felt comfortable to talk about. 

BUCHANAN:  An event like this is certain to start folks.  It‘s like a reunion. 

CRAPO:  That‘s right. 

KRESH:  That‘s right. 

BUCHANAN:  You start folks talking, do you recall the time, and here‘s where I was and things like that.  So they‘re all set and you‘re going to put them all in the Library of Congress? 

KRESH:  That‘s right.  They‘re all going to be in the Library of Congress.  And we‘re going to digitize a lot of them and make them available on our Web site, which is loc.gov/vets.

BUCHANAN:  OK.  OK.  And this idea, again, came out of other senators‘ interests in this as well? 

CRAPO:  Yes. 

This was adopted by Congress in 2000.  The Library of Congress was put in charge.  And I just cannot emphasize enough how this can change lives.  In the couple of interviews that I have done, it has literally given me a tremendously different perspective on the lives of those who put their lives literally on the line for our safety and for our freedom. 

And like has been said, these stories haven‘t been told yet.  Many of the family members of these veterans have not heard these stories.  And yet, when you get them to open up and start sharing this history, it‘s something that we‘re losing because we‘re losing so many of them every day now as we move forward.

BUCHANAN:  Just the idea of kids and grandkids going up and saying, grandpop, or, grandma, where were you and what did you do and tell me about it and just put the old recorder down. 

(CROSSTALK)

CRAPO:  That‘s right.  And anybody can do the history.  It can be a son, a daughter, a grandchild, a friend, a relative, a neighbor.  Anybody can do this.  They just need to get on to the Library of Congress Web site and get the instructions for how to make sure that it‘s recordable properly for this history. 

BUCHANAN:  OK, we‘ll be back with more info on the Veterans History Project and how you can participate. 

Stay with us. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BUCHANAN:  Just a reminder to join us this weekend for our live coverage of “D-Day At 60: A Celebration of Heroes.”  That‘s live special coverage this weekend right here on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BUCHANAN:  We‘re back talking about the Veterans History Project with Senator Crapo and Diane Kresh of the Library of Congress. 

Diane, this is going to cover all wars of the 20th century. 

KRESH:  That‘s correct.  That‘s right. 

BUCHANAN:  And that would include the latest war? 

KRESH:  That‘s correct. 

The emphasis in the beginning of the project was on the five through the Gulf War, but with the recent conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq...

BUCHANAN:  And you get memorabilia?

KRESH:  Yes, sir.

BUCHANAN:  Do you think maybe Senator Crapo could talk to the president and see if he‘ll give up that gun of Saddam Hussein‘s that he‘s got hanging on his wall? 

(LAUGHTER)

CRAPO:  You‘ve got a deal there.

BUCHANAN:  I think that would be a nice item in the library, only I think it‘s going down to the Bush library, right, Senator? 

CRAPO:  That‘s very possible.  If you want, I will talk to him about it. 

(LAUGHTER)

BUCHANAN:  Well, let me say, I think it‘s just—it‘s a terrific idea.  You were at the memorial today.  Were you over the weekend? 

CRAPO:  I was actually flying in from Idaho today.  And we made arrangements to get the memorial services all broadcast out in Idaho with a little bit of an introduction.  And I had to be on an airplane.

BUCHANAN:  It was a great, great three days. 

KRESH:  It was.

BUCHANAN:  And we got a great—I guess coming up at the end of this week, the president of the United States is going to be there at Normandy, 60th anniversary. 

CRAPO:  That‘s right. 

BUCHANAN:  We‘re going to have huge coverage of it ourselves.  But...

CRAPO:  Oh, it‘s very important that we do this, because, like I said, these people put their lives on the line for us and for our freedom, and we need to recognize that. 

(CROSSTALK)

BUCHANAN:  Well, I remember Ronald—I guess Ronald Reagan did it, 40th anniversary. 

KRESH:  Right. 

BUCHANAN:  And President Clinton was out there on the 50th anniversary.  At the 20th anniversary, old Ike went over there with Walter Cronkite. 

KRESH:  Right. 

CRAPO:  That‘s right. 

(CROSSTALK)

BUCHANAN:  Very, very moving. 

Well, listen, viewers can link to the Veterans History Project on Joe.MSNBC.com.  We hope anyone veterans and anyone who knows a veteran with a story to tell will go to the site and tell your story. 

Thank you, Senator Crapo.  And, thank you, Diane Kresh. 

KRESH:  You‘re welcome.   

CRAPO:  Thank you. 

BUCHANAN:  Been a delight visiting and thanks for coming over this evening live.  Appreciate it. 

KRESH:  Thanks very much.

CRAPO:  A privilege.

BUCHANAN:  Don‘t forget to watch us again tomorrow on SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY.  We‘ll have “Vanity Fair”‘s Carl Bernstein, who compares Iraq to Vietnam. 

Have a good night. 

END   

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