Guests: Michael Newdow, Jay Sekulow, Joel Mowbray, Danny Goldberg, Gene Lyons, Harry Thomason
JOE SCARBOROUGH, HOST: Tonight‘s top headline, a new film is out that attacks Bill Clinton‘s attackers. The “Real Deal”: There‘s no vast right-wing conspiracy.
Welcome to SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY, where no passport is required and only common sense is allowed.
A new movie coming out this week says there‘s been a vast right-wing conspiracy to destroy former President Bill Clinton, even before he was president. We‘re going to take a closer look at “The Hunting of the President” with a longtime friend of Bill who directed it, plus the man who wrote the book the movie was based upon.
And speaking of movies, New Yorkers are getting their first glimpse of Michael Moore‘s “Fahrenheit 9/11.” Tonight, the film that accuses President Bush of scheming with the Saudis after 9/11, we‘re going to be at that sneak showing and get firsthand reaction to the Bush-bashing flick.
Then, as an American is kidnapped in Saudi Arabia, the U.S. pulls out most of its diplomats and tells other Americans it‘s time to get out. Is Saudi Arabia on the brink of civil war? And are they our friends? We‘re going to debate it next.
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 our show.
Now, today, President Clinton had his portrait unveiled at the White House in a ceremony with President Bush. And tomorrow night in Little Rock, his longtime friend Harry Thomason is unveiling a movie in the hope of rehabilitating the president‘s legacy. He‘s going after those who attacked his friend, the former President Bill Clinton. Is the movie propaganda or is it a legitimate defense of the Clinton years?
With me now Harry Thomason. He‘s a director of “Hunting of the President.” And we also have Gene Lyons. He‘s co-author of the book that that movie was based on.
Harry, let me start with you.
It had to be an interesting day for you, as you saw your friend Bill Clinton at the White House with George Bush, and George Bush saying some pretty positive things about him. What did you make of that ceremony today?
HARRY THOMASON, CO-DIRECTOR, “HUNTING OF THE PRESIDENT”: I don‘t know, but, you know, I thought George Bush was funnier today than I‘ve seen him in most speeches.
SCARBOROUGH: He seemed more relaxed.
THOMASON: He did.
SCARBOROUGH: Yes. Maybe he should take Bill Clinton around with him.
THOMASON: They should all relax.
You know, that‘s sort of what we hope the end result of our film is, that everybody will relax and leave politics at the office and life will be better. We don‘t have to argue about this 24 hours a day.
SCARBOROUGH: Harry, let‘s take a listen to one of Hillary Clinton‘s infamous remarks during the impeachment era in 1998.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HILLARY CLINTON, FIRST LADY: The great story here for anybody willing to find and write about it and explain it is this vast right-wing conspiracy that‘s been conspiring against my husband since the day he announced for president. A few journalists have kind of caught on to it and explained it. But it has not yet been fully revealed to the American public. And, actually, you know, in a bizarre sort of way, this may do it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SCARBOROUGH: Now, Harry, I‘m on the other side of the political aisle from Senator Clinton, but I don‘t see a vast right-wing conspiracy. And yet, from what I understand, your movie actually lays it all out that there is this conspiracy. Explain.
THOMASON: We lay it all out based on Gene‘s wonderful book.
But she was on the right track, but she was wrong. It wasn‘t a vast right-wing conspiracy. It was sort of a confederacy of dunces, plus some extreme right-wing people. And they just—it was sort of a small, but sort of well-organized conspiracy. And it got more organized. It‘s sort of like a storm that‘s not organized at first and sort of organizes itself into a tornado then. And that‘s what you saw with that eight-year span.
SCARBOROUGH: You know, Harry, a lot of people looking at Clinton‘s eight years in the White House say, man, this guy had more people going after him than anybody else in years.
But there are certain leaders, like Richard Nixon, George W. Bush now, and of course, Bill Clinton, that seems to enrage opponents more than others. What was it about Bill Clinton that made Republicans, that made conservatives, that made some very wealthy donors so angry?
THOMASON: You know, now, Gene and I have never talked about this, and he may have a completely different idea, but I‘ve always thought it was a generational thing, that he was the first president coming into the White House that had not served in World War II and he was out of that Vietnam generation, where half believed we should be there, half were protesting.
And the half that thought it was—you know, that had heavy support
for the action in the military put Clinton in the flower child count, which
wasn‘t exactly right either. And I think, as the baby boomers got old
enough to be running everything, that those old animosities came out. It
was still the ‘70s and you were either in school and wearing shirts and
ties or you were flower children. And I think
THOMASON: ... neither side ever got over that.
SCARBOROUGH: You know, Gene—let me bring you in here, Gene.
And, you know, I think Harry is completely correct there. I still think, in American politics, especially on the presidential level, Americans divide their candidates between the guys that protested against Vietnam and the guys that supported the war. Of course, we just buried a president who took bayonets after protesters during the Vietnam era. And then, of course, you have George W. Bush, who is very conservative, who didn‘t serve in Vietnam, but was in the National Guard.
Do you think that may be the dividing line, that Bill Clinton was supposedly a draft dodger, he was against the war, he protested against our troops while he was over in England? Is that what enraged conservatives so much about him?
GENE LYONS, CO-AUTHOR, “HUNTING OF THE PRESIDENT”: Well, I think it‘s one of the dividing lines. Historically, I think that‘s absolutely true. That‘s what Betsy Wright told me, his former chief of staff as governor, when I interviewed her. That was her take.
I also think it has, frankly, something to do with being from little old Arkansas, which isn‘t supposed to be able to defeat big old Texas, but does so with some regularity in various walks of life, I might say. In fact, I‘d be surprised if Bush and Clinton didn‘t put a bet on the college baseball world series today.
But I also think there are personal things about Clinton that would be irritating to anyone that was on the other side. Basically, he‘s smarter than you. He‘s going to beat you, and he‘s a little bit like Larry Bird. He‘s going to let you know it wasn‘t very hard.
Let me play you what Joe Conason, who of course was your co-author of “The Hunting of the President,” had to say about Bill Clinton‘s impeachment during your movie.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, “THE HUNTING OF THE PRESIDENT”)
JOE CONASON, CO-AUTHOR, “THE HUNTING OF THE PRESIDENT”: Do we really want a country where right-wing millionaires and, you know, unethical lawyers can put together and attempt to have a coup d‘etat against a twice elected president over nothing, over what turned out to be nothing, really, except a sex lie and a phony financial scandal?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SCARBOROUGH: Is that really what it all comes down to? Was it just a sex lie?
LYONS: In my view, essentially, yes.
I wrote as early as 1995 that anyone familiar with the documentary record knew that nothing was going to come out of Whitewater. It was patently clear to anybody who studied the facts in the Jones case that it wasn‘t going anywhere. Those were the two jaws of the trap that Clinton jumped into both feet forward.
I‘ll just say this. If the activities that we depict factually in our film were being done to George W. Bush right now, people would be going crazy. And I would hope not just Republicans, but Democrats as well, because some of the things that were done were just beyond the bounds. It was the most successful Republican dirty tricks campaign in American history, I believe.
SCARBOROUGH: I was just going to ask, Harry, obviously, again, you didn‘t see this so much against Ronald Reagan or George Bush Sr. You saw a lot of attacks, very personal attacks, against Bill Clinton. It was a blood sport throughout the 1990s.
But now don‘t you think George Bush is starting to get some of the level of intensity of the hatred against him that Bill Clinton felt during the 1990s? And do Democrats consider this payback time?
THOMASON: I don‘t know if they consider it payback time.
And if our film brought about one thing, I hope it shows how each side can do this to the other and that maybe we ought to talk much softer to each other politically in this country. So I hope we can at least get that out of it.
SCARBOROUGH: You know, Harry, if we can get that out of it, then I think it‘s good. I don‘t know about you. I absolutely loved seeing the presidents sitting together at the Reagan funeral, talking. It was great to see George W. Bush and Bill Clinton today smiling and acting like human beings.
Shouldn‘t we all—to quote a great American philosopher, shouldn‘t we all be able to just get along?
THOMASON: That‘s exactly right.
You know, Tip O‘Neill and Ronald Reagan had a very interesting relationship, but they sort of left politics at the office at the end of the day and had a drink. And I think we need to get—I think we need to get back to that.
SCARBOROUGH: Gene Lyons, let me give you the last word on your book.
SCARBOROUGH: Go ahead.
LYONS: You asked the question about George Bush, if I could answer that one.
George Bush arouses very strong feelings. And I don‘t think there‘s any doubt that a lot of Democrats are furious with him and want more than anything else to see him defeated. But you don‘t see the kinds of organized political activities against him. For one thing, we don‘t have an independent counsel law anymore. Sometimes, I think getting rid of that law was one of Kenneth Starr‘s secret missions, that he was so awful that no one could support that law anymore.
And you don‘t see private detectives sponsored by wacky billionaires running around waving big checks under women that might have had a drink with George Bush 20 years ago.
SCARBOROUGH: All right, we‘ll have to leave it there. Of course, George Bush supporters would say that there‘s a wacky billionaire named George Soros who is throwing some money around. But, obviously, Clinton supporters would say it‘s a completely different thing.
I appreciate both of you being here. Harry, thanks so much. Gene, we appreciate it.
I‘m going to check out the movie, and you should, too.
Coming up next, we‘ve got much more. Michael Moore won a big one in France. And tonight, there‘s a special screening of his controversial movie in New York City. And SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY was on the scene to see what celebrities and average Joes thought about it. But not everybody was eager to talk to us.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TIM ROBBINS, ACTOR: I‘m not going to do that one. I don‘t like Joe Scarborough.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SCARBOROUGH: Hey, let‘s not get personal.
And after that, after the recent wave of terror attacks in Saudi Arabia, the U.S. is warning Americans to get out. What will the latest news do to our long relationship with the Saudis and to the price of oil? We‘ll debate that one next, so stick around.
SCARBOROUGH: Michael Moore is the toast of the town again tonight. And he claims that he‘s known about the prisoner abuse scandal in Iraq for months. Did he keep it to himself to make big bucks at the box office?
We‘ll give you the answer next.
SCARBOROUGH: Once again, Michael Moore is the toast of the town in his new film. “Fahrenheit 9/11,” a highly critical account of the Bush administration, got a standing ovation from over 600 people at its West Coast media screening. And tonight‘s screening in New York City drew hundreds as well. Well, I guess my invitation must have gotten lost in the mail.
I‘m joined now by somebody who did manage to get in. It‘s MSNBC‘s entertainment editor, Dana Kennedy, live outside the Ziegfeld Theater, where “Fahrenheit 9/11” has just been screened. Also with us is Danny Goldberg. He‘s author of “Dispatches From the Culture War.”
Let me begin with you, Dana Kennedy. You‘re there. Set the scene.
What‘s been going on tonight?
DANA KENNEDY, NBC ENTERTAINMENT EDITOR: Well, it was a packed audience here at the Ziegfeld Theater and a lot of obviously celebrities came.
And, obviously, Joe more left-wing celebrities were here than right-wing, usual suspects like Tim Robbins. Richard Gere was here, spoke to me very briefly. Michael Moore, of course, spent a lot of time on the red carpet. And inside, the audience of course was very sympathetic to Moore‘s movie, which, I have to say, was extremely thought-provoking and pretty hard-hitting and certainly unsympathetic to President Bush.
It painted him as a cross between a clueless Little Lord Fauntleroy and “Mad” magazine‘s Alfred E. Newman. The movie was really all over the map, Joe, but yet, if you stay for the whole thing, you could see a common thread. Part of it was very satirical and funny, painting Bush, as I said, as kind of this clueless, yet canny leader.
But mostly, it hit very hard on the Bush administration‘s ties to the bin Laden family and to Saudi officials. That was the most compelling part of the documentary. And many people don‘t know how tight the Bush administration, both Bush Sr. and Bush Jr., with were with the bin Ladens. And the end of the documentary was also very compelling.
As you may now, Michael Moore had a camera snuck into some of the troops in Iraq. And he showed some very, very painful images of women and children getting killed there.
SCARBOROUGH: Yes, you know, I actually—we‘ve got two reports from the front ourselves. We have two people that work with our show that went in and saw the movie. One of them, a Republican, one of them a Democrat. Both of them thought it was a very compelling movie.
In fact, the Republican even thought that this film may actually affect the outcome of the election, may switch some votes away from George Bush. Did you really find it to be that compelling?
KENNEDY: I—are you asking me, Joe?
I found it certainly compelling. If you‘re asking me if you think President Bush came off badly, if this could possibly influence the election, it‘s certainly not going to win him any votes. I guess that‘s the easiest, most diplomatic way of putting things, because, obviously, Michael Moore has a very funny, satirical way of putting a movie together and editing it. It‘s very cleverly done.
And it‘s always easy to make somebody look really stupid. And he really does make President Bush look both kind of dumb and also a pawn of the very rich. Basically, what he said about—the movie really is saying that Iraq was all about money, that they wanted to use 9/11 to make Americans fearful, so they‘d get behind the Bush administration‘s plan to go to war in Iraq, which Michael Moore basically says of course was completely unnecessary.
Now, Dana, the special guest tonight includes Vernon Jordan and Yoko Ono. This movie is actually going to open on 700 screens, which is unheard of for a documentary. And this is what Michael told you about why he wouldn‘t come on this show with you himself.
Let‘s take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MICHAEL MOORE, DIRECTOR: I don‘t participate in the kind of smear tactics that Mr. Scarborough participates in. He does this because he‘s afraid to have a real debate on the issues. Those who want to have a debate on the issues, I go on those shows. Those who lie and smear, I don‘t really have time for them.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SCARBOROUGH: I‘d love to have him on for an hour, to tell you the truth, and debate him one on one.
Of course, he talks about smear campaigns, Dana, but I also understood he accused me of murder right before making that statement.
Now, the competition also showed up at Moore‘s movie. Let‘s check out what Bill O‘Reilly told you.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BILL O‘REILLY, FOX NEWS ANCHOR: He‘s the competition.
KENNEDY: What are you hoping—what kind of message are you (INAUDIBLE)
O‘REILLY: This is “Shrek 2,” right? This isn‘t “Shrek 2”?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SCARBOROUGH: You can‘t fool us, Bill. You knew what you were getting into.
Dana, so, anyway, Moore comes out. He claims that he‘s been slighted by Disney, Michael Eisner, Jeb Bush. And, yet, in the end, he‘s going to have this extraordinary opening in over 700 movie theaters, correct?
KENNEDY: Yes, we know he‘s a terrific showman. And as we‘ve talked about before on your show, all this publicity is only going to do him well obviously with his movie.
But also don‘t forget that “Bowling For Columbine,” his last documentary, made an incredible $40 million, which, for a documentary, is unheard of. So, the studios aren‘t foolish. Even though Disney dumped this for political reasons, it‘s still going to make some money. And this got more P.R. obviously than even “Bowling For Columbine” did.
I think a lot of people will see this movie. Will it make a difference in the election? I don‘t know. I don‘t really feel qualified to say, but I think it is going to make people think, no question about it.
SCARBOROUGH: Thank you, Dana.
Let me bring in now Danny Goldberg.
Danny, you‘re a friend of Michael Moore‘s. You‘ve been following this. Are you surprised by the response this movie‘s gotten, not only in France and on the West Coast, but also in New York?
DANNY GOLDBERG, AUTHOR, “DISPATCHES FROM THE CULTURE WAR”: I‘m not surprised, because Michael Moore is really one of the great American artists, who, whether you agree with him or not—I do agree with him—finds a way of finding humor and tragedy in politics.
Politics is so often this linear, cerebral process, and the same arguments seem to be repeated in almost a deadening way that makes one think less. And what he‘s able to do with his movies, and particularly with this one, is make you laugh and make you cry, see the humanity in the soldiers, the humanities in the parents of dead soldiers, the humanities of the Iraqis.
And by humanizing and bringing heart and soul into this issue, it does change the way you think, but it‘s also an entertaining movie. So he‘s done this for his whole career, starting with “Roger and Me” and “Bowling For Columbine” and his old TV show. And he‘s done it again. He‘s one of the great American artists.
SCARBOROUGH: Danny, let me ask you this. You say he‘s one of the great American artists. You can be one of the great American artists and not be factually accurate all the time and not be a documentarian.
And I want to ask you, because, obviously, there were inconsistencies in his last film, Richard Clarke suggesting now that Moore doesn‘t quite get it right on Bush getting the bin Ladens out of town. Do you consider this man that you call a great artist a documentarian or do you consider him an entertainer?
GOLDBERG: Well, I think he‘s a great filmmaker.
And he makes impressionistic, entertaining commercial documentaries, which also have a lot of facts and truth in them. But I think he strives for poetic truth. He‘s not trying to be the newspaper. But I think the poetic truth of what he says about George Bush will hold up. I think the poetic truth of what he said about guns in America will hold up. And the poetic truth he said about the class differences in this country will hold up. But he‘s a political artist.
SCARBOROUGH: Yes, painting in broad strokes, which is fine for me. I just—I wouldn‘t call him a documentarian. I‘d call him an artist, like you are.
Now, Moore is claiming that, while he was made this movie, that he obtained footage of American soldiers abusing prisoners at Abu Ghraib, but didn‘t know what to do with it. Let me read you a quote from a San Francisco report. He said—quote—“I had it months before the story broke on ‘60 Minutes‘ and I really struggled with what to do with it. I wanted to come out with it sooner, but I thought I‘d be accused of just putting this out for publicity for my movie.”
Isn‘t that troubling? If this guy really did have this very important, very disturbing footage that really has caught the world off-guard, don‘t you think he had a responsibility to put this out months before “60 Minutes” got ahold of it?
GOLDBERG: No, I think he was very wise. I think he understands his place in the culture. And if this information was perceived as a Michael Moore thing, it wouldn‘t have the same gravitas and seriousness as being reported by the news media.
So I think he selflessly deprived himself of the headline. Much of a showman as he is and P.R. genius that he is, in this instance, he deprived himself of a headline in order to let this news come out in a way that would really have the maximum credibility. So I think this was a righteous thing that he did.
SCARBOROUGH: OK. I would not call it righteous, maybe self-serving.
But, Danny, thanks for being with us.
GOLDBERG: Thanks for having me.
SCARBOROUGH: And do me a favor, will you, Danny? You know Michael, right?
GOLDBERG: I do, indeed.
SCARBOROUGH: You going to talk to Michael?
GOLDBERG: When he has time for me.
SCARBOROUGH: When he has time for you, just tell him to stop going around calling me a murderer or I‘m going to have to call my lawyers. Will you do that for me?
GOLDBERG: Well, I‘m sure you can get to him yourself, Joe, but I appreciate you having me on. I really do.
SCARBOROUGH: It‘s good to have you on again, Danny. I appreciate it.
GOLDBERG: Thank you.
SCARBOROUGH: Dana Kennedy, thanks a lot for your report from New York. I appreciate that, too.
And just ahead, is Saudi Arabia doing everything it can to fight terror? Recent events suggest maybe not. But is the Bush administration going to do anything about it? And isn‘t it time we get tough with the Saudis? We‘re going to debate that.
Plus, the Supreme Court says “under God” is going to remain in the pledge, but only on a technicality. And neither side is happy about it. We‘re going to be talking to the man who tried and failed to amend the Pledge of Allegiance.
Don‘t go away. That‘s next.
SCARBOROUGH: Americans are getting yanked out of Saudi Arabia while some worry that the country may be headed to civil war. Is Saudi Arabia our friends or are they harborers of terrorists? We‘ll debate that next.
But, first, let‘s get the latest headlines from the MSNBC News Desk.
ANNOUNCER: From the press room, to the courtroom, to the halls of Congress, Joe Scarborough has seen it all. Welcome back to SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY.
SCARBOROUGH: You know, look at that news. That‘s remarkable. And I was talking about it earlier with Phil Griffin, who helps run prime-time here at MSNBC, saying that the clock is ticking on these terrorists who want to destabilize Iraq, that actually now, with Iraqi leaders starting to run that country, some very bad news for Osama bin Laden and his buddies.
Well, I‘ll tell you what. Speaking of the Middle East, the Saudis can‘t have it both ways anymore. It‘s time for tonight‘s “Real Deal.”
Now, following a string of terror attacks against Americans and Western interests inside Saudi Arabia, the U.S. ordered diplomats and family members out of the country. Now, America‘s had a long, complicated relationship with the kingdom of Saudi Arabia and its royal family. And since 9/11, that relationship has only become more difficult. A lot of people here in America, including me, have criticized the Bush administration for being too soft on the Saudis.
It was, after all, George W. Bush who famously declared after 9/11, you‘re either with us or you‘re with the terrorists. But you know what? Saudi schools have preached hate against Americans and Jews for years, while Saudi funds have fed terror attacks against Americans and American interests.
Like just last month, Saudi Crown Prince Abdullah blamed Jews for the recent terror attacks, saying—quote—“We can be certain that Zionism is behind everything.” And the Saudi interior minister claimed the Jews were behind 9/11. Now, some are suggesting the Saudi royals are finally cracking down on terrorists. But, if so, it may be too little too late.
The Saudis are reaping what they‘ve sewn. You don‘t teach hatred and fund terrorism for years and then simply switch sides when you‘re in the middle of a war on terror. That‘s why al Qaeda‘s striking back at the Saudi kingdom right now. But now is the time for the Saudis to stand firm. Any softening, any softening at all, are just going to empower the terrorists. If you don‘t believe me, just remember what happened in Madrid.
The Saudis are taking small steps, like cutting money supplies to terrorists. And it‘s a start, but they‘ve still got a long, long way to go. The Saudi royals have to prove that they can stand up to bin Laden and his band of butchers. This has to be a beginning and not an end.
In the meantime, the Bush administration needs to crank up the pressure, because, after all, time may not be on America‘s side.
And that‘s tonight‘s “Real Deal.”
Now, MSNBC‘s Laurie Jennings took a closer look at the history of America‘s strange relationship with the Saudis.
LAURIE JENNINGS, NBC CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Over the weekend, American contractor Paul Johnson from New Jersey kidnapped, his captors threatening to abuse him like some of the prisoners at Abu Ghraib prison, this in the wake of the State Department‘s evacuation order for most diplomats and Americans last week. The grim news a reminder of just how dangerous and confusing it can be for Americans in the Saudi kingdom. Are the Saudis our friends or foes? Over the years, they‘ve looked like both.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It‘s a relationship with extraordinary contradictions. We are both are a defender of Israel and yet we have been the defender of Saudi Arabia, which is a guarantor of Wahabism and Israel‘s mortal enemy. And it‘s also been a prime force in breeding terrorism.
JENNINGS: The U.S. has been a major player in the Saudi oil industry since the ‘30s, getting production off the ground and organizing the industry. It‘s simple math. OPEC now supplies more than one-third of the world‘s crude. Saudi Arabia, with the largest proven reserves, is OPEC‘s largest producer.
The United States is the world‘s largest oil consumer and importer. During the Arab-Israeli war, Saudi Arabia led the Arab oil boycott of the U.S. and the Netherlands. And as part of OPEC, Saudi Arabia pushed for oil price increases in the ‘70s. The 1980s brought Ronald Reagan and decontrol, allowing prices to go up. Then, in the run-up to the Persian Gulf War in the ‘90s, the Saudis came through on assurances to increase crude oil production to help keep prices lower.
But the U.S. has also had to keep a close watch. In 2000, President Clinton authorized the release of the Strategic Petroleum Reserve to bring prices down. Over the years, there‘s been plenty of scrutiny about the financial ties that bind the House of Saud and the Bush family and their oil interests and whether the Saudis have unduly influenced American politics.
In Bob Woodward‘s recent book, he claims that the Saudis were shown Iraq war plans before the secretary of state. And he charges that the Saudis agreed to prime oil production to favor the president‘s reelection bid.
SCARBOROUGH: All right, thanks, Laurie.
Now, after 9/11, President Bush gave the world this ultimatum.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Every nation in every region now has a decision to make. Either you‘re with us or you are with the terrorists. From this day forward, any nation that continues to harbor or support terrorism will be regarded by the United States as a hostile regime.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SCARBOROUGH: Now, Afghanistan and Iraq learned that lesson the hard way, but Saudi Arabia seems to be getting a free pass, even though terror attacks continue to spiral out of control.
So what should be done about Saudi Arabia?
With us tonight to talk about it, we have got Joel Mowbray. He wrote “Dangerous Diplomacy: How the State Department Threatens America‘s Security,” and also Hussein Ibish. He‘s also here. And he‘s the communications director for the American Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee.
Let me begin with you, Joel.
You‘ve written about this before. It seems like events are spiraling out of control in Saudi Arabia. Are the Saudis with us, as George Bush said, or are they with the terrorists?
JOEL MOWBRAY, AUTHOR, “DANGEROUS DIPLOMACY”: Well, the Saudis have always been shaking our hand with one hand and then stabbing us in the back with the other hand. And that‘s the Saudi game.
So, right now, they‘re doing these—going through the motions. They‘re saying, hey, look, we‘re consolidating charities. We‘re doing this reform and that reform to cut down on direct financing to terrorists. Now, let‘s say, Joe, that we even take them at their word. Now, that‘s a big if.
But if we do take them at their word, even then, Saudi money is still going to support the vast majority of terrorism in the world, not through direct aid to terrorist organizations, but through the much more expensive proposition of creating the infrastructure that radicalizes and brainwashes young Muslim and Arab children and then turns them—puts them into this production factory, this assembly line, where they take young Palestinian kids and send them to their deaths and other people in Iraq and elsewhere, send them to their deaths to kill in mass murder attacks.
And that‘s the problem, is, you have these madrasas, the religious schools, and then you have the mosques. And then you have various groups that are there to politically protect all this. And this is what you have as the infrastructure of terrorism.
MOWBRAY: And this is expensive and this is what matters.
SCARBOROUGH: Hussein, of course, a lot of people will say, well, you know what? Joel‘s got a point; 15 of the 19 hijackers on 9/11 were from Saudi Arabia.
HUSSEIN IBISH, AMERICAN-ARAB ANTI-DISCRIMINATION COMMITTEE: Yes.
SCARBOROUGH: Are the Saudis guilty of basically churning out terrorist after terrorist to attack not only Americans, but also Jewish interests?
IBISH: Well, if you mean the Saudi government, I think the answer is obviously not. And there‘s a profound logical inconsistency to what he‘s saying.
If you look at the recent actions of al Qaeda in Saudi Arabia both at Saudi and American interests, clearly, the principal aim of which is to destabilize and indeed bring down the Saudi government, you‘d have to say that, if what Joel is saying is true, if there really is a conscious effort to promote terrorism on the part of the Saudi government and especially al Qaeda, that they‘re trying to destroy themselves, that they‘re actually plotting their own downfall.
This makes no sense. What the administration says makes much more sense, which is that the Saudi regime was complacent, as we were before 9/11, and that their wakeup call came a year and a half after ours with the first Riyadh attack, and that now we are basically on the same page here. They have no choice but to try to crush al Qaeda.
SCARBOROUGH: Hold on a second. Joel, I‘ll give you a chance to answer that question, respond to that.
But, Hussein, I want to ask you.
SCARBOROUGH: Why does the prince come out and blame 9/11 on Jews, blame most of the attacks on Zionism? What‘s that about?
There have been a couple of instances where Saudi officials have said things that I don‘t find defensible, like that. And I think that what they‘re doing is basically kind of playing to a domestic constituency. You‘ve got very different statements coming out of the Saudi ambassador recently that were printed in “The Washington Post” and “New York Times,” etcetera, and that were translated from Arabic Saudi newspapers. It‘s not like...
IBISH: ... there first.
So he‘s saying, we can‘t blame Jews, we can‘t blame Israel, and we have to clean up this problem that is a threat against us that exists in our country. And I think he‘s right about that.
SCARBOROUGH: Joel, I want to ask you. I want to follow up, Joel, with a point that Hussein made. And that is, if Saudi Arabia is funding al Qaeda, then why is al Qaeda blowing up Saudi Arabian infrastructure and killing people over there?
MOWBRAY: See, I agree with Hussein when he says it‘s crazy that the Saudis would be contributing to their own demise, yet they are, because, again, even if they take away the direct funding to terrorist organizations, the problem is, it‘s the infrastructure of terrorism, this machine that churns out brainwashed, indoctrinated radical Islamic youths who want to go out and commit these attacks and take their own lives and send themselves up to Allah in a mass murderous attack.
MOWBRAY: The problem is, Joe, that that is what‘s expensive. It‘s the suicide bombs, it‘s the logistics of actual attacks that isn‘t that expensive. You have Iran and other places that fund that.
MOWBRAY: The Saudis fund the infrastructure. And they make it
possible. And they can‘t get rid of that funding, Joe, because the moment
they do, they lose the legitimacy
SCARBOROUGH: Hussein, let me show you a poll really quickly. And you can respond to that.
IBISH: All right.
SCARBOROUGH: But I wanted to show you a poll that was conducted by a Saudi security expert. He asked 15,000 Saudis their opinion of Osama bin Laden‘s sermons and rhetoric; 49 percent said they had a favorable opinion. Meanwhile, only 12 percent had a favorable opinion of liberal reformers in the kingdom. Is this is a problem that‘s much bigger than Osama bin Laden? Is it a P.R. problem?
IBISH: No, it‘s a serious political problem in Saudi Arabia.
Two things about that poll, though. One, it was conducted before the Riyadh attacks of a year and a half ago. That‘s the first thing. The second thing about it is that that same sample, I think it was like 2 percent of the respondents said bin Laden should be a Saudi leader.
So they‘re responding favorably to the rhetoric, not favorably to him as a political leader. But that‘s bad enough. I think it‘s really troubling. And, definitely, there is—it‘s obvious that there‘s a segment of opinion in Saudi Arabia and other Arab and Muslim countries that is tacking on to this kind of extremism. And it has to be dealt with.
IBISH: It has to be dealt with both through reform, and we have to change our policies, too.
SCARBOROUGH: All right, Hussein, I‘m sorry. We‘re out of time. I appreciate you being here tonight.
Joel, thank you also for being with us.
We‘ll be right back in a second.
SCARBOROUGH: The Supreme Court dealt a technical knockout to the man who brought the case against the Pledge of Allegiance. The court said my next guest had no legal standing to remove the phrase “under God,” since he doesn‘t have custody of the daughter he claims to be protecting. But the door may still be wide open for another parent to come forward and bring suit.
The man who sued to change the pledge, Michael Newdow, is with us tonight. And so is Jay Sekulow from the American Center For Law and Justice, who is pleased with the way the pledge is currently worded.
Let me start with you, Michael Newdow.
Do you consider today‘s judgment a big loss?
MICHAEL NEWDOW, PLAINTIFF: It‘s a disappointment, but I don‘t think it‘s a huge loss. There are lots of other plaintiffs who have contacted me and we‘ll just send it right back. The Supreme Court just delayed their ultimate decision.
And I would like to correct—I certainly have custody of my child.
My child lives in my house 10 days a month.
SCARBOROUGH: So why did the Supreme Court rule the way they did?
NEWDOW: Because we have a family law system in this nation that is incredible and that deprives people of the most important thing in their lives based on balderdash. And the Supreme Court I think used that as an excuse to not rule in this election year.
Jay Sekulow, do you think the Supreme Court was just making a political decision, like Mr. Newdow said, and they just wanted to avoid a very controversial decision?
JAY SEKULOW, CHIEF COUNSEL, AMERICAN CENTER FOR LAW AND JUSTICE:
Well, I don‘t think it was a political decision.
And Justice Stevens, writing for a majority of the court, held that Michael did not possess a sufficient legal standing. By the way, Michael‘s right. They didn‘t say he didn‘t have custody. They just said that, under the custody arrangements that he had, the mother of the child had more rights regarding the education and upbringing of the child in that regard. That was a close question. The court was clearly divided on the issue.
What is interesting about this, Joe, is, five justices of the court that normally are very likely to find standing did not find standing here. And three conservative justices, who are oftentimes not so quick to find standing, found that there was standing. These were justices—the chief justice, Chief Justice Rehnquist, Justice Thomas, and Justice O‘Connor, who would have found standing, but would have ruled that the pledge with the phrase “under God” is in fact constitutional.
The most significant of those decisions and those opinions, clearly Justice O‘Connor‘s, which was a pivotal vote that Michael would have needed to carry the day. And she said, the pledge would have been fine. It‘s constitutional.
SCARBOROUGH: Now, Chief Justice Rehnquist wrote a concurring decision the ruled that the current pledge is constitutional.
And this is what he said: “The pledge is a declaration of belief in allegiance and loyalty to the United States flag and the Republican. The phrase ‘under God‘ is in no sense a prayer, nor any endorsement of religion.”
And, of course, Michael, there were two other justices that followed the chief justice there. You include Anthony Scalia, who also shares that view, and, all of a sudden, you‘ve got four justices coming forward saying they disagree with you. Does that concern you on any case that may follow in the future?
NEWDOW: It‘s of some concern, but there‘s still five that didn‘t say that, and 5-4 wins the day.
And, you know, one of the nice things about—I‘m an optimist—is that we now know exactly what three justices are thinking and we can address future cases to those arguments, which I don‘t agree with at all.
SEKULOW: Well, Michael did get a free look, so to speak, at the case, because you do know where three of the justices are.
What is interesting, though, and I think what is going to be a difficult hurdle for Michael to get over in a subsequent case, assuming that there is legal standing, is, Justice O‘Connor and Justice Kennedy, on the religion cases, generally go together. Now, here Justice Kennedy did not sign on to Justice O‘Connor‘s opinion. But, nevertheless, generally on merits cases, they do. And I would suspect that Justice Kennedy is going to go along with Justice O‘Connor with this, what she called ceremonial deism.
Michael did a great job arguing the case. I don‘t want to take anything away from it. And I told him when he argued it, sometimes—I‘ve had this happen, too—you‘ve had a great oral argument and the court still rules against you. That‘s what happened today. He had a great oral argument. The court ruled against him. It was a very interesting lineup, though.
SCARBOROUGH: But, Jay Sekulow, what‘s interesting to me is the fact that you only had three coming forward and saying they disagreed with Michael on the merits. Of course, again, Scalia is going to be with them if this case is ever heard again in the future.
Why didn‘t Kennedy, why didn‘t somebody else step forward and provide that fifth majority vote to send a message to anybody out there who might be thinking about bringing a similar suit in the future, don‘t bother, we‘re not going to rule in your favor?
SEKULOW: Well, because Justice Kennedy, you know, and justice—in this particular case, Justice Stevens wrote an opinion saying, look, we‘re going to do what the Constitution says and we‘re not going to find standing here.
And when you find that there‘s a lack of what‘s called Article 3 standing—I know that‘s technical, but it‘s a constitutional term which gives the court authority to hear a case—if we don‘t find authority to hear the case, we‘re not going to address the merits. So that‘s the reason they didn‘t join. They found that, as a principal matter, there was no standing.
Now, also remember this, Joe. The first issue that was briefed in the briefs that we filed and the briefs that the Department of Justice filed and the briefs that were filed by the school district addressed this issue of standing, that there was, in fact, no standing in our view, or not sufficient standing, to get to the merits of the constitutional claim and that‘s what the court went off on.
SCARBOROUGH: Michael Newdow, you lost your battle today in the court.
What‘s next for you?
NEWDOW: Well, as I said, I will be there for—you know, I‘ve done all the work. It‘s going to take essentially nothing to have this case come back, and it will. And I‘m also challenging the family court system.
This is outrageous. I‘m a wonderful father. There is nothing on the record—one of the things that I find amazing is that no one in the media ever says, well, why did this guy lose the right that every other parent has? What did he do? This is a fundamental constitutional right. It requires a compelling state interest, narrowly tailored laws and all this other stuff. There‘s nothing on the record. How could I lose that right?
SEKULOW: But, see, that‘s a state question and that‘s what the Supreme Court said today. That—you don‘t argue domestic relation cases at the Supreme Court of the United States. That was the message that Justice Stevens was saying. He said, look, we‘re going to rely on what the state courts in California have done.
And Michael doesn‘t like what they‘ve done, so he‘s working on getting it changed. And that‘s, of course, his constitutional right to do that. But the Supreme Court said today, look, the domestic relations issue, we don‘t decide those in the Supreme Court of the United States. That‘s not what we‘re here for.
NEWDOW: Except, they didn‘t say—the state court never said I can‘t bring this case. The only way I would have lost standing is if the state court said specifically, Newdow, you can‘t bring this case. And on the contrary, on the record, the state court says, if you choose to bring this case, you can. So how did I lose that right?
SEKULOW: Because they can‘t decide it on a constitutional standard on a federal level. That‘s why.
SCARBOROUGH: OK, thanks Jay Sekulow. Thank you, Michael Newdow.
SEKULOW: Thanks, Joe.
NEWDOW: Thank you.
SCARBOROUGH: I‘m sure this is going to be continued in the future.
We appreciate you being with us tonight.
SEKULOW: Thank you.
SCARBOROUGH: And just ahead, today is the day we celebrate Flag Day. But why? Stick around, because I‘m going to tell you right after this short break.
SCARBOROUGH: Tomorrow night in SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY, Bubba is back.
And the presales for Bill Clinton‘s memoirs are hotter than Hillary‘s. Will his reemergence in public hurt John Kerry or help him get elected president? We‘re going to be asking former Clinton press secretary Dee Dee Myers tomorrow night.
But more SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY straight ahead right now.
SCARBOROUGH: You know, today‘s pledge ruling coincidentally falls on Flag Day.
So, why do we celebrate the flag today? Old glory‘s connection to June 14 goes all the way back to 1777. On that date, the Continental Congress replaced the British Union Jack with the stars and stripes as our nation‘s official flag.
But it‘s no small part thanks to a Wisconsin schoolteacher named B.J. Cigrand that we actually celebrate this day. He observed the flag‘s birthday with his students for the first time in 1885. And in the years afterward, Cigrand gave speeches urging the celebration of Flag Day. From there, the trend only began to spread. Teachers in New York and Philadelphia led their classes in the same way.
We will see you tomorrow night on SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY. Make sure to be here at 10:00 Eastern.
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