updated 7/6/2004 2:34:41 PM ET 2004-07-06T18:34:41

Guest:Jennifer Giroux, Shmuley Boteach, Kirsten Powers, Willie Brown, Bob Kohn, Bob Jensen

JOE SCARBOROUGH, HOST:  Tonight‘s top headline, Iraqis‘ biggest hurdle to peace may be the American press corps.  The “Real Deal”:  Media bias at home could be hurting our troops overseas.

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

The president handed over sovereignty to Iraq two days ahead of schedule.  And Saddam Hussein‘s in custody, awaiting a fair trial by his own countrymen.  But America‘s Iraq effort is still getting slammed by the paper of record.  Why isn‘t the media reporting any good news?  We will be debating that. 

And nobody is safe from Michael Moore‘s ridicule, not even Jesus Christ.  The director claims that the son of God had a hand in making the controversial “Fahrenheit 9/11”—quote—“more successful than ‘The Passion‘” as a payback for Mel Gibson‘s megahit. 

Plus, move over “Girls Gone Wide” and make room for “Guys Gone Wild.”  The new video turns the tables, coaxing young men into compromising positions in front of the camera.  Is it good clean fun or male exploitation?  We are going to be asking producer Misty Nicole, who tries to get guys to go the full monty. 

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

SCARBOROUGH:  Good evening.  I thought I had seen it all until I saw “Guys Gone Wild.”

Anyway, will the media call a cease-fire in its war with America‘s foreign policy?  It‘s a question that is at the center of tonight‘s “Real Deal.” 

Now, during the 2000 presidential election I was a sitting Republican in Congress.  That‘s one of the reasons why I campaigned for George W. Bush in 2000.  Because I have a habit of talking straight to you, I told “HARDBALL”‘s Chris Matthews back then on air that I thought the political media was much tougher on Al Gore during that election than George W. Bush. 

After 9/11, the media took it easier on this White House than any other since the early days of LBJ‘s administration, back in 1964.  But the media‘s treatment of George W. Bush took a nasty left turn after the war to liberate Iraq was launched in March of 2003.  It was then that the same media that had behaved like lapdogs during the Bush administration‘s first three years turned into rottweilers on a search-and-destroy mission. 

“The New York Times” and ABC News led the charge in the early days of the war.  But by the summer of 2003, ABC News President David Westin demanded his reporters to do a better job of putting the Iraqi campaign in better perspective.  His efforts succeeded in bringing balance to that esteemed outfit‘s war coverage.

“The New York Times” Howell Raines proved himself to be a brilliant editorial page editor.  But when he became editor of the entire “Times” paper, he forgot to keep his opinions off of page one.  “The Times”‘ war coverage was embarrassing, but not because Judith Miller reported that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction.  That was a claim that was also made by the likes of Chirac, John Kerry, Ted Kennedy and Schroeder, and, yes, even Saddam Hussein. 

Bill Keller‘s elevation to “Times” editor improved the coverage considerably.  Note Sunday‘s even-handed account of the Iraqis responding to the latest regime change.  But, unfortunately, Gail Collins‘ editorial page has proven itself to be little more than a shameless instrument of the Democratic machine, something you could never say about Howell Raines‘ editorial page. 

Now, while Dowd, Safire, Kristof and Brooks are the best starting rotation in the business of op-eds, party hacks like Paul Krugman bring shame to this once great newspaper.  With only two of “The New York Times”‘ 90 or so Iraqi editorials mentioning anything positive about our war of liberation, how can snobs working at the old gray lady ever accuse Bill O‘Reilly or Fox News of being biased? 

“The New York Times” editorial voice has been more biased than Fox News—I‘m sorry, the Fox News‘s editorial voice has been a lot more even-handed than “The New York Times” editorial page, which reminds me again just how much I miss journalistic giants like Walter Cronkite and David Brinkley. 

Now, I don‘t care if these guys voted a straight Democratic Party ticket their entire life.  For the most part, they left those opinions in the voting booth.  And instead, they gave it to you straight, or at least they made the effort.  That‘s all we ask for, for fairness and moderation in reporting.  And if you‘re going to give your opinion, as I do every night, let viewers know, it‘s your op-ed page. 

But, even then, be more dedicated to the truth than to a political party.  I look forward to the day when I can say that again about the paper I read every day, “The New York Times.”  And that‘s tonight‘s “Real Deal.” 

So is the media undermining our mission in the Middle East?  And are they giving a free pass to Michael Moore? 

With me now is Dr. Bob Jensen.  He is professor of media law, ethics and politics at the University of Texas. 

Thank you for being with us, Professor. 

We have talked about “The New York Times” editorial page before.  I have told you that I thought that they were biased against the war, against the president, against American foreign policy because, of 90 op-eds they have written since the beginning of the year, only two only two have been positive.  What‘s your take on that?

DR. BOB JENSEN, UNIVERSITY OF TEXAS:  Well, first of all, I you make a fundamental mistake when you ask the question, is “The New York Times” or any other media outlet undermining our mission in the Middle East?

That assumes there‘s a clear mission that is understood by everyone and agreed upon by everyone, which, of course, there isn‘t.  The Bush administration has a mission in the Middle East, just as every other U.S.  administration has had, which is to extend and deepen American control.  It has nothing to do with liberation.  It has nothing to do with democracy.  It never has, and it isn‘t in this administration. 

So you start out by framing the questions in ways that are so highly distorted, I have trouble answering.  As for the content of “The New York Times” editorial op-ed page, I‘m probably as critical of it from a left perspective, because, as you point out, the Democratic Party position is often represented on that page. 

But, remember, we have Brooks.  We have Safire.  We have a serious-right wing presence on the editorial page as well.  So I‘m not exactly sure what your complaint is, given that, if you want fairness and balance, as you say, you have got a couple of heavy hitters on the right.  You have a lot of centrists.  What you don‘t have on the editorial page of “The New York Times,” unfortunately, is a consistent left voice.  You have liberal voices, but no left voice. 

SCARBOROUGH:  What do you say Paul Krugman.  You say that what I...

(CROSSTALK)

SCARBOROUGH:  That I make claims that are false and misleading and said false things.  Paul Krugman is 99 to 100 percent pro-Democrat.  In fact, he is to the far left in the political spectrum. 

This guy probably couldn‘t get elected outside of the Upper West Side of Manhattan to any office. 

JENSEN:  Well, first of all, Paul Krugman is a dedicated free trader. 

He‘s well within the mainstream consensus of American political thought. 

He is clearly partisan for the Democratic Party.

SCARBOROUGH:  Where?  Where? 

JENSEN:  I think we have to describe—we have to use these terms a little more carefully. 

(CROSSTALK)

JENSEN:  He is not left.  He is a moderate Democrat who is offended by the lies and the distortions of the Bush administration, which many people are, not just Democrats. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Professor, you believe that Paul—first, you saying that Paul Krugman is in the mainstream of American political thought gives...

JENSEN:  Oh, yes, without question.  He‘s a Clinton Democrat, basically.

SCARBOROUGH:  Gives your political position—wait, I have got to pick up on a couple of things that you said, though. 

JENSEN:  Sure. 

SCARBOROUGH:  You said that American foreign policy is never about liberation.  It‘s never about bringing democracy to places.  Now, was that the case...

JENSEN:  no, I said American foreign policy in the Middle East has never been about liberating anyone or bringing democracy.  It‘s been about deepening and extending American control over those strategically crucial energy resources.  And I‘m bipartisan on my evaluation.  That‘s true of Democrat and Republican administrations. 

(CROSSTALK)

SCARBOROUGH:  You think we went to war then in Iraq to get Iraq‘s oil? 

JENSEN:  No, not to get Iraq‘s oil, but to control the flow of oil and the flow of oil profits.  This is consistent since FDR cut a deal with the Saudis in 1945. 

The United States realized after World War II that the nation that controlled the flow of oil in an industrial world that was based on oil was going to have enormous strategic power.  And the United States has built a system in the Middle East to control that.  It includes support for Israel and it includes support in the Saudis.  It includes support for Saddam Hussein in the 1980s when they saw that as a valuable ally and it includes demonizing Saddam Hussein in the 1990s. 

In other words, it‘s a complex system, as is any attempt to control a region.  But it‘s quite clear that the policy is fairly consistent across space and time and administration.  Now, the difference here is the Bush administration, in part because of the extreme right-wing ideological fanaticism of this administration, has taken a different tack that was made possible by the events of 9/11. 

Now, people like Paul Krugman who are I think, yes, well, within the mainstream and conventional wisdom of this country, are offended by that and they are reacting.  But you have to realize that around the country people are offended by the lies and the distortions and the ideological fanaticism of the Bush administration. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Well, I think a lot of people—you have just offended

a great number of people also, saying the only reason Americans are dying

over in Iraq is to extend America‘s economic influence over there, when a

lot of young men who are dying over there, a lot of their parents—and

young women also—a lot of their parents, a lot of people that support

them believe that

(CROSSTALK)

JENSEN:  I agree.

SCARBOROUGH:  Let me finish. 

(CROSSTALK)

SCARBOROUGH:  I have been polite. I even let you talk.  Let me talk a little bit here. 

JENSEN:  Sure.

SCARBOROUGH:  Now, I think a lot of people believe that what America is doing is actually breaking away from a foreign policy since FDR that is cynically presupposed that we can get oil cheaply, while we allowed one-fifth of the world‘ population to continue to languish under dictatorships.  It didn‘t matter whether there were kings there, whether there were shahs, whether there were religious tyrants there, like Ayatollah Khomeini, whether there were Baathist thugs like Saddam Hussein. 

America sat back silently.  We sat back.  We‘ve ignored what the Saudis have been doing for years because we wanted the cheap oil.  And now the United States steps forward.  We send our troops overseas.  We go into Iraq. 

We give the Iraqi people really their first shot at a free government and you‘re sitting here tonight saying that all of those young American men have died in vain and we‘re all being lied to, that Americans are too stupid and also by extension Thomas Friedman of “The New York Times” also is too stupid to catch on to what George Bush is really doing, and all he is doing is allowing young men to die so greedy corporations can get their hands on oil. 

I think we‘re doing just the opposite.  I think we‘re moving past that type of cynical foreign policy and we‘re daring to liberate the Iraqi people.  Tell me why I‘m wrong. 

JENSEN:  Well, I think there‘s a couple of points that are very important.  We agree on some things, apparently, that U.S. policy in the Middle East has historically been really in a sense a moral crime. 

But I think we have to distinguish what the people serving in the military may believe they‘re doing and what the American leadership that sends them to war is actually doing.  Now, there‘s nothing inconsistent with me respecting that individual people join the military—I have conversations with people about this all the time—saying, listen, I signed up to fight for freedom. 

And I say, yes, I agree you signed up for that, but the problem is, the leadership is not sending you to do that.  Now, that‘s not disrespectful to the...

(CROSSTALK)

SCARBOROUGH:  How do you know that?  How can you make that assumption? 

JENSEN:  First of all, it‘s not purely an assumption. 

SCARBOROUGH:  It is. 

JENSEN:  It‘s based on historical documents.  It‘s based on patterns that are readily available. 

SCARBOROUGH:  What documents? 

JENSEN:  If you look at the planning documents...

SCARBOROUGH:  What documents?

JENSEN:  No, if you happen to go back and look at what are now declassified documents, it‘s clear that the American government has pursued not just in the Middle East but around the Third World especially a consistent foreign policy aimed at derailing the possibility of independent development of the Third World.  Now, that‘s borne out I think in the documents from the post World War II era on. 

SCARBOROUGH:  It‘s certainly not George Bush‘s document. 

(CROSSTALK) 

SCARBOROUGH:  And, in fact, that‘s exactly what this administration is breaking from, when they‘re saying enough is enough.  We‘re not going to continue to allow one-fifth of the world‘s population, the Middle East, to be enslaved just so we can get oil on the cheap. 

JENSEN:  OK, now we‘re to the second point, which is that you‘re suggesting there‘s a change of course. 

Now, first of all, you have to look historically and realize that American governments are always claiming there‘s a change of course when the previous crimes are exposed of foreign policy in the United States.  Now, first of all, if there‘s a change of course, you would have to ask the question, what has changed?  Have the institutions of American government changed?  Has the American economy changed?  You have to make a case that there‘s some change of course. 

The Bush administration, I think, is pursuing a different strategy

toward the same end.  Now, first of all, we can look at what kind of

democracy are they really trying to create in Iraq?  First of all, they‘re

imposing essentially a hand-picked set of American puppets.  The prime

minister is a former CIA set asset.  When proconsul Bremer was in charge

(CROSSTALK)

SCARBOROUGH:  Is the president a puppet?

JENSEN:  When Bremer was in charge, he privatized large chunks of the Iraqi economy and made decisions which will make it very difficult for any independent Iraqi government to make decisions.  And we shouldn‘t forgot there are 100,000-some-plus troops in Iraq.  There‘s no such thing as a democratic government. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Professor, stick with us.  We are going to have to go to break, Professor.

JENSEN:  Great.

SCARBOROUGH:  Of course, the president there is not picked by the United States.  In fact, we opposed his selection. 

Freedom is coming to Iraq.  I‘m on the right side of history, just like Reagan was in the 1980s.  I will be proven right. 

Stick around.  We will be right back. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SCARBOROUGH:  Right now, the Iraqi people are celebrating being out from underneath the oppressive boot of Saddam Hussein.  But “The New York Times” is calling the new sovereignty hollow and uncertain. 

We will talk about that when SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY returns. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SCARBOROUGH:  Welcome back to SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY. 

We‘re joined now by Bob Kohn.

Bob, I want to read you the first line of “The New York Times”‘ editorial on the handover.  And they summed up the process like this:

“Washington‘s proconsul  Iraq, Paul Bremer, handed a hollow and uncertain sovereignty to Prime Minister Allawi.”

Let me ask you, how do you respond to an editorial like that, when we‘re getting reports not only from “The New York Times” but also from the BBC and others that the Iraqis are actually celebrating this as a very hopeful sign? 

BOB KOHN, AUTHOR, “JOURNALISTIC FRAUD”:  Well, first, I want to say it was interesting to listen to a professor of journalism spend so much time talking about public policy, when he should be talking about objectivity in journalism. 

Now, frankly, I don‘t really have a problem with what “The New York Times” said on its editorial page or even its op-ed page.  The real problem is—and they can call this a hollow victory.  But what they do on their front page is what concerns me. 

They reported on the Abu Ghraib prison scandal 26 days in a row on the front page.  And last Tuesday, yes, they had a front-page story about the sovereignty in Iraq and the transfer of power.  But look at Wednesday‘s newspaper.  Look at Thursday, nothing on the front page.  Look at Friday, nothing on the front page.  Look at Saturday, nothing on the front page of “The New York Times” on the transfer of power and sovereignty in Iraq. 

And on Sunday, there was a front-page story above the fold quoting ordinary Iraqis saying they don‘t feel any different.  OK, that‘s the problem I have with “The New York Times,” not what they say on the editorial page.  We have guys like you, guys like Rush Limbaugh, others to respond to what they say on the editorial page. 

In that same editorial, they said that Bremer was conducting this transfer of power in secrecy.  If he had a big celebration, they would be complaining about the celebration.  So what they‘re saying on their editorial page is ridiculous. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Well, Bob, what is so disturbing is, what they‘re saying on the editorial page sounds like an awful lot like Democratic talking points, which means that unlike when Howell Raines was the editorial page editor of “The New York Times,” I just skip over “The New York Times” official editorials because I know that I can get the same thing from a blast fax blast from the DNC. 

I want to ask you, though, about “The New York Times,” though.

KOHN:  Sure.

SCARBOROUGH:  A lot of people have said that newspapers like “The New York Times” that worked so aggressively against the president leading up to this war and took a very hostile position leading up to the war, a lot of people are saying that they‘re now slanting their coverage against the war because they don‘t want to be proven wrong, much like “The Times” and a lot of other liberal media outlets were proven wrong by Ronald Reagan in the 1980s.  Is that a cheap shot or is that fair? 

KOHN:  I don‘t know.  I don‘t question their motivations here. 

I just take a look at—take a forensic approach and take a look at what they have done.  Yes, leading up to the war, they fought tooth and nail against our administration on this war in Iraq.  And now they‘re fighting tooth and nail when the news is actually quite good.  You remember, when they were covering the two weeks of the war, as it was negative every day, when in fact we—the greatest military victory since Marathon. 

“The New York Times,” it‘s either they honestly don‘t know how to put things in perspective or they have an agenda.  And I frankly think it‘s an agenda.  They‘re a massive soft money machine.  They‘re taking $3 billion in revenue—compare that to George Bush‘s $200 million -- $3 billion in revenue and dedicating it not only on the editorial page, but on the front page to eliminate, to remove George Bush from office, to get George Bush—a John Kerry victory this fall.  There‘s no question about it. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Do you see any difference between what Bill Keller is doing now as the editor of “The New York Times” and what Howell Raines did leading up to the war?

KOHN:  I see a small difference.  I notice that the actual lead sentences of “The New York Times” aren‘t as completely slanted as they were under Howell Raines. 

But if you take a look at the story placement, why doesn‘t Bill Keller assign 10 reporters to the U.N. oil-for-food scandal? 

(CROSSTALK)

SCARBOROUGH:  Isn‘t that amazing? 

KOHN:  Bill Safire is the only—as an op-ed columnist, is the only one, it seems, at “The New York Times” doing any reporting whatsoever.  That‘s not an op-ed columnist‘s job.  That‘s a reporter‘s job. 

SCARBOROUGH:  What a story that is and it‘s being ignored by “The Times.”  For the most part. 

KOHN:  Completely.  That‘s how Bill Keller is biasing the news.

SCARBOROUGH:  Professor, I want to go back to you. 

The press has just bent over backwards praising Michael Moore for a film that I believe is as shameless on the left as “The Clinton Chronicles” was shameless on the right back in the 1990s.  I want to read you a quote by Michael Moore and ask you as journalism professor and an ethics professor why the media is not holding this man accountable and the politicians who embrace him. 

And this is what Michael Moore said on why he opposed U.N. involvement in the Iraq war.  He said: “I‘m sorry, but the majority of Americans supported this war.  And once it began, 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.”

Now, professor, you know, if a Republican had suggested that more Americans needed to die in a war started by Bill Clinton, all hell would break loose in the press.  Don‘t you think it‘s the media‘s responsibility to reveal the true nature of Michael Moore‘s bias against Americans and here actually saying he wants more American troops to die?

JENSEN:  Well, I don‘t think that‘s what he is saying.

(CROSSTALK)

SCARBOROUGH:  What‘s he saying?

JENSEN:  I‘m no great supporter of Michael Moore‘s movie.  I critiqued it myself from a left perspective, pointing out some of the problems of it. 

In fact, part of the problem of “Fahrenheit 9/11” is, in some sense, it‘s a conservative movie. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Oh, give me a break.

JENSEN:  He ends by valorizing the American military and American military actions. 

(CROSSTALK)

SCARBOROUGH:  This is a conservative movie? 

JENSEN:  Now, let me say, first of all, to answer your question, the U.S. media I think has been quite a bit to poke holes in Michael Moore‘s movie, to question his motives.  He has taken his fair share of hits in the mainstream media.  But I don‘t think that Michael Moore is saying he wants Americans to die.  If you look at the film...

(CROSSTALK)

SCARBOROUGH:  Let me read this to you again.  Put the quote up on the screen, if you will: “I‘m sorry, but the majority of Americans supported this war.”  And, again, he‘s saying why he doesn‘t want to U.S. to get involved.  “And once it began, 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.”

How is Michael Moore not advocating the killing of Americans, the letting of more American troops‘ blood? 

JENSEN:  I‘m not going to speak for Michael Moore.  I think the

thought that I would articulate is that the Bush administration

(CROSSTALK)

SCARBOROUGH:  No, no, no, you just said Michael Moore wasn‘t saying that.  I want you to answer my question. 

JENSEN:  It‘s a quote that‘s very hard to understand.  Quite frankly, I think it‘s a bit ambiguous and vague.  Michael Moore is sometimes very good at that.

(CROSSTALK)

SCARBOROUGH:  And, sadly, that majority must now sacrifice their

blood.”  That‘s ambiguous to you

(CROSSTALK)

JENSEN:  I think he is trying to say that the Bush administration took

us into a war that was illegal and it was immoral.  And the United States

is paying the price.  Now, if you can‘t come to terms

(CROSSTALK)

SCARBOROUGH:  Listen, you can‘t spin that one. 

JENSEN:  I‘m not trying to spin it.  I‘m not trying to defend it.

SCARBOROUGH:  He says he wants more American children‘s blood. 

Let me read this quote to you and I want you to tell me what he is saying here.: “The Iraqis who have risen up against the occupation are not insurgents or terrorists or the enemy.  They are the revolution, the Minutemen.  And their numbers will grow.  And they will win.”

Professor, again, I‘m asking you as a professor of journalism, not as somebody that‘s far to the left of most of the politicians that are elected.  Obviously, this is why groups like Hezbollah are coming forward and trying to promote this movie in the Middle East, using it possibly as recruitment tools.  Don‘t you think journalists have a responsibility to say that Michael Moore is comparing al-Zarqawi with George Washington, Benjamin Franklin, and our other founding fathers? 

JENSEN:  No, in that case, I think he is making a very clear observation, that the United States conducted an illegal war, invaded and occupied a country.  And it‘s not surprising that people in that country from various political points of view are going to resist that occupation. 

(CROSSTALK)

JENSEN:  Imagine the United States being occupied.  I think international law makes it very clear that people have a right to resist occupation. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Do you agree with him?

(CROSSTALK)  

JENSEN:  What I want is George Bush...

SCARBOROUGH:  Do you agree with him al-Zarqawi is a Minuteman.

JENSEN:  No, I don‘t.

SCARBOROUGH:  That he‘s a revolution, that he is not the enemy.

(CROSSTALK)

SCARBOROUGH:  Let me ask you this question, Professor, to clear things up for us. 

JENSEN:  No, let me say one thing really quickly. 

(CROSSTALK)

SCARBOROUGH:  Hold on.  Do you believe that al-Zarqawi is an enemy of the United States of America? 

JENSEN:  I think al-Zarqawi is an enemy of the people of the world. 

(CROSSTALK)

SCARBOROUGH:  What about the United States of America? 

JENSEN:  Yes.  I consider the people of the word to include the United States.

(CROSSTALK)

SCARBOROUGH:  You disagree with Michael Moore, then, right?

(CROSSTALK)

JENSEN:  No, let me finish.  You‘re trying to reduce the Iraqi resistance to one man who is a fanatic. 

SCARBOROUGH:  I‘m reading his words. 

(CROSSTALK)

JENSEN:  You can play these games, Joe, but, Joe, the games don‘t answer the question. 

(CROSSTALK)

JENSEN:  The fact is that George Bush took us into an illegal war, and the American people are paying the price for it. 

SCARBOROUGH:  What does that have to do with—Bob, let me ask you, because I‘m very confused.

KOHN:  It has nothing to do....

(CROSSTALK)

KOHN:  You have a journalism professor here.

SCARBOROUGH:  I‘m very confused.  Help me out here.

KOHN:  The real ethics question here for journalists is whether Michael Moore is the Tokyo Rose of the war on terrorism.  That‘s the ethical question here, not whether the war was appropriate or not. 

I‘m surprised that a professor of journalism is simply talking about public policy issues and not talking about the ethics of what is going on and objectivity in journalism. 

(CROSSTALK)

SCARBOROUGH:  Bob, I want to read this to you.  You just said he could be the Tokyo Rose.  We‘ve got to get out.

But he says: “The Iraqis who have risen up against the occupation are not insurgents, aren‘t terrorists, aren‘t the enemy.  They are the revolution, the Minutemen.  Their numbers will grow.  And they will win.”

Does that not sound like he is rooting for al-Zarqawi, the leader of the insurgency? 

(CROSSTALK)

KOHN:  He is ignoring the facts completely. 

SCARBOROUGH:  He is.

KOHN:  Most of these guys are foreigners. 

(CROSSTALK)

KOHN:  From Syria, from Iran.

SCARBOROUGH:  We will be right back.  Thanks for being with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SCARBOROUGH:  Hey, you know what?  Right now, a lot of people are saying that John Kerry is going to pick his vice president tomorrow in Pennsylvania.  We‘ve got two Democratic insiders to give us a sneak peek on who that may be.  We are going to talk about that in a second. 

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.

SCARBOROUGH:  You know, beltway journalists love nothing more than a good horse race.  And the latest is the question on who is going to be John Kerry‘s running mate. 

With me now to discuss the latest on the Kerry veepstakes is Democratic strategist Kirsten Powers.  And we also have former Mayor of San Francisco Willie Brown. 

Well, it looks like tomorrow is the big day.  This is like Christmas Eve for those of us who follow politics closely.  And, yes, I love the process, whether it‘s Democrats or Republicans, as long as Michael Moore is not involved.  Let‘s talk about odds-on favorite starting.

I want to start with you, Mayor Brown.  Who do you think Kerry is going to tap tomorrow? 

WILLIE BROWN (D), FORMER MAYOR OF SAN FRANCISCO:  I would think that at this moment, John Edwards would be at the top of the list.  I also think that Bob Graham is still in the hunt.  However, from a personal standpoint, it may very well be Vilsack.  I think John Kerry, frankly, personally prefers Vilsack. 

(CROSSTALK)

BROWN:  But for electoral purposes, I think John Edwards is the number. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Do you think John Edwards can help him John Kerry win a single state in the South? 

BROWN:  I don‘t know if it‘s a question about whether or not he wins a single state in the South.  But there have been so many new voters that have come online since Mr. Bush has done what he has done in managing the nation for the last four years.  There‘s also the phenomenon of all these young people looking for somebody with some life in them, with some real spontaneity in them.  And John Edwards demonstrated that in the primaries. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Well, I know John Edwards.  I have always liked the guy. 

I was a big cheerleader for him early in the Democratic process. 

Let me ask you, Kirsten Powers, who is your favorite?  What are you hearing right now? 

KIRSTEN POWERS, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST:  Well, I have definitely learned the hard way not to make predictions.

So I am just going to say that I think there are obviously a lot of great people he is looking at, whether it‘s Vilsack or Edwards or Gephardt‘s name is still out there.  I guess that I wouldn‘t predict, but I think that whoever he chooses is—going to sort of the electoral question, I think I‘m leaning more towards Midwesterner and I‘m thinking that the chances of picking up anyone in the South are pretty—picking up voters in the South or states in the South is pretty low.

And a lot of Democrats are now looking towards the Midwest and that sort of—that looks to Vilsack or Gephardt. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Yes. 

And we‘re hearing obviously—what I have been hearing by talking to my friends in the Democratic Party that actually give an awful lot of money and run around in the right circles, I‘m hearing John Edwards‘ name at the top of the ticket.

But there‘s been this buzz over the past couple of days about Dick Gephardt.  Now, I served with Dick Gephardt in Congress.  I like the guy, very likable guy.  But Dick Gephardt did horribly in Iowa, wasn‘t able to excite voters out there that knew him.  Kirsten, why would John Kerry pick Dick Gephardt? 

POWERS:  Well, I think that probably the reason he would be looking at Gephardt is because when you think of Gephardt, you think of populist.  You think of the Midwest. 

But I think what you just raised is an important point and why a lot of people are looking at a Vilsack, who has a lot of the benefits of a Gephardt without the downsides.  And so I think there are a lot of positive things about Gephardt.  I personally would be sort of surprised if that‘s who he went with, but I can certainly understand why he would be looking at him. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Willie Brown, you mentioned Bob Graham before, another guy obviously could bring an awful lot to the ticket, a guy that actually could help him carry the state of Florida.  Do you think Bob Graham hurt his chances during his presidential campaign or is the fact that this guy has experience, he has been a governor and he also was head of the Intel Committee, do you think that may be enough to wipe out any mistakes he may have made in Iowa? 

BROWN:  I don‘t think he made any mistakes frankly that were deadly in any fashion. 

I think Bob Graham would be a tremendous addition to the ticket.  I also think that the state of Florida is absolutely necessary for the Democrats to win this time, and the one person who has proven consistently that he can win the state of Florida, it‘s been Mr. Graham.  And he has been doing it time after time. 

SCARBOROUGH:  You know, there was talk four years ago that the reason he didn‘t get on is because “TIME” magazine ran a story about him writing in these little journals, which actually I saw him doing it and I must tell you I was very impressed.  We were actually flying over Florida surveying hurricane damage while I was a congressman.

This guy was writing everything down and he remembered it all.  Do you that think people are going to go back and say he is a little strange because he writes everything down?  That was the big knock four years ago.

BROWN:  Well, I think that you can always interpret for the public what you think about individuals based on their conduct, because it‘s a little bit out of the ordinary. 

But it is not in any manner something that people would consider absolutely crazy.  Yes, you ought to write things down if you really believe that you‘re saying something, you‘re doing something, or you are observing something that you don‘t want to miss one point of.  And I think Bob Graham has done exactly that.  I don‘t think he will be viewed as any kind of a cook. 

I think if he is the selectee of Mr. Kerry, he will bring strength to the ticket. 

SCARBOROUGH:  I think he will, too.  I also think he is going to nail the Bush team down in the state of Florida, a state they have got to win. 

Hey, we will be right back, going to be talking about Michael Moore and “Fahrenheit 9/11.”  Moore said “Fahrenheit 9/11” did better than “The Passion” and that Jesus had a hand in his success.  We will debate which claim is more outrageous in a second. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SCARBOROUGH:  Claiming his movie “Fahrenheit 9/11” edged out the phenomenal success of Mel Gibson‘s “The Passion,” Michael Moore told a group of students in Oregon—quote—“I think Jesus had something to do with that.”  And then he went on to say that Jesus was on his side. 

Professor Robert Jensen is back with us.  We also have Jennifer Giroux of Women Influencing the Nation.  And on the phone, radio talk show host Rabbi Shmuley Boteach. 

Let me begin with you, Jennifer Giroux. 

Now, I want to compare some box office numbers and maybe you can help me decipher this.  “The Passion” made almost $84 million its first week.  And while “Fahrenheit 9/11” only made $22 million, to date, “The Passion” has totaled $370 million domestically.  So far, “Fahrenheit 9/11” has made $60 million.  I‘m sure you heard this quote.  Michael Moore claims that “Fahrenheit 9/11” outsold “The Passion.”  Is this yet another lie that Michael Moore has been caught in? 

JENNIFER GIROUX, SEETHEPASSION.COM:  Well, Joe, I think what it is, is absurd.  I think it‘s some of the arrogance that turns people off about Michael Moore‘s movie.

And I think that to compare his own perspective to the holy spirit-inspired Gospel, which Mel Gibson stayed so closely to, is really an insult to viewers.  Clearly, it‘s not going to do as well.  The only similarity is that he has gotten more attention and a few more viewers to go to that because of the discussion that‘s going on, on shows like yours and around the country. 

But to compare the two, to me, is completely absurd.  I think that he definitely took some really cheap low-blow shots at President Bush.  I think his personal bias shows through on that.  I think if there‘s anything that the Bush administration could turn in their favor in this movie is to realize that there are people, “Passion” audience-type people that have gone to that, people that love George Bush, not left lunatics, people that love George Bush that are leaving, asking questions and concerned because he elevated the concerns about sending our sons and daughters over there.  They could turn that into a positive by addressing that. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Yes, let me bring in the Rabbi Shmuley Boteach. 

Rabbi, Michael Moore has his version of the axis of evil.  And he said this—quote—“It‘s all part of the same ball of wax, right, the oil companies, Israel, Halliburton?”

Rabbi, you attacked “The Passion,” said that it was anti-Semitic.  Do you think Michael Moore may be hostile to Israel and to Jews because of comments like this and certainly because his film is being viewed by groups like Hezbollah as being very positive? 

BOTEACH:  Well, you know what, Joe?  Michael Moore is an enemy not just of Israel.  He‘s an enemy of decency itself. 

Michael Moore in his film dishonors the memory of every single one of the one million victims of Saddam Hussein by portraying Iraq as having been Disneyland under Saddam.  The offense in watching that film and showing people kids flying kites the day before the war started, he never showed us the bloated babies in Halabja who were killed with poison mustard gas.

He never showed the scores, the countless funeral pyres of children who were butchered because they were children of political dissidents.  He never showed the women who were cut to pieces, prostitutes, because that‘s how—the summary justice that was done in the name of Saddam.  So, of course, he is an enemy of Israel because Israel is a democracy and it‘s decent.  He is an enemy of the American military.  He portrays our heroic men as women as a bunch of dupes and doofuses who are only interested in abusing Iraqis. 

Michael Moore—if his film just lied about issues that were not important, we would just call him a liar.  But instead, he is a propagandist.  And, unfortunately, Joe, we live in an era where propaganda, which is anti-American, coming from an American is going to make him immensely popular, win the Palme d‘Or in France. 

But the one thing that it shares in common with the movie “The Passion” is that both of them, Mel Gibson and Michael Moore, both let off the hook tyrants.  Michael Moore lets Saddam off the hook and portrays our president, a democratically elected leader of the free world, to be a tyrant. And the same thing is true with Pontius Pilate, who is portrayed as a humanitarian, even though he, too, slaughtered hundreds of thousands of innocent Judeans.

SCARBOROUGH:  Let me read what a reviewer for “The Philadelphia Inquirer” had to say about Michael Moore‘s movie.

“To call Michael Moore‘s ‘Fahrenheit 9/11” is to miss the point.  a fiction is missing the point.  It‘s a documentary, but whereas most documentaries document the truth, Moore‘s film is documenting a fantasy.” 

Professor, let me bring you back in here.  One of the first fantasies obviously that he talks about is this oil pipeline.  He says America went to war in Afghanistan because we wanted to build an oil pipeline under Afghanistan.  Of course, since the movie has been released, we, of course, have read a lot of reports out there that have said actually that that deal was killed in 1998 during the Clinton administration and never revived. 

Why isn‘t he being held to a high standard?  Why aren‘t people going out and attacking this movie instead of saying, oh, it‘s filled with lies but it‘s still an important movie to see? 

JENSEN:  Well, I think, first of all, people are attacking those interpretations, those distortions that you might point to. 

I agree, actually.  I think Moore‘s film is wrong when it suggests that the United States went to war in Afghanistan for a pipeline.  I think the United States went to war in Afghanistan for complex reasons that had to do with establishing dominance in Central Asia, in establishing the fact that the United States would not subordinate itself to international law. 

There are a lot of reasons.  I think it‘s simplistic to say it was a pipeline.  The pipeline deal was in the works in ‘97, ‘98.  It was killed.  It may in fact be built eventually.  But the United States, just like other great powers, don‘t go to war for a single pipeline.  They go to war to establish control. 

Now, I think one thing I would like to go back to is, the claim was made that Michael Moore is anti-American.  As I said before, I have my own critique of “Fahrenheit 9/11,” which I published today on the Web, and I think it‘s insufficient in many ways in explaining U.S. foreign policy.  But this claim that someone is anti-American because they critique a policy is a fundamentally anti-democratic claim.

(CROSSTALK)

JENSEN:  In a democracy in which the people are sovereign, the right to critique leadership and policies is inherent.  And to claim someone is anti-American is simply demagoguery and I don‘t understand the claims.

(CROSSTALK)

SCARBOROUGH:  All right, well, thanks a lot.  I appreciate it.

Listen, we‘ve got to go, unfortunately.

I am just going to—I am going to read this for you again, Professor, because, obviously, you missed it last time.  Michael Moore said this: “I‘m sorry,but the majority of Americans supported this war once it began and sadly that majority must now sacrifice their children until enough blood has been and maybe God and the Iraqi people will forgive us.”

(CROSSTALK)

JENSEN:  And it is sad the Bush administration took us into this war. 

I agree that it‘s sad. 

SCARBOROUGH:  So you agree that more American troops need to die?  OK, well, that‘s what he said.

JENSEN:  No.  I agree that it‘s sad the Bush administration has so little regard for the lives of Americans or Iraqis that it did this. 

SCARBOROUGH:  So you agree with Michael Moore that more Americans need to die because you believe George Bush made a mistake?

JENSEN:  I said—as I said—let me repeat—I‘m sad that the Bush administration has so little regard for the lives of ordinary people in the U.S. or Iraq that he took us into an illegal and immoral war.  Yes, I‘m sad about that.  I think decent people should be sad about that.

SCARBOROUGH:  It‘s sad that you would come on my show and give such a non sequitur to my question when Michael Moore said: “I‘m sorry, but the majority of Americans supported this war.  And once it began, sadly, the majority must now sacrifice their children”—speaking of American children—“until enough blood has been let that maybe, just maybe, God and the Iraqi people will forgive us in the end.”

I appreciate all of you being with us tonight. 

If that‘s not anti-American, wishing for the deaths of more American children, I don‘t know what is. 

Appreciate all of you being with us. 

We‘ll be right back in a second.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SCARBOROUGH:  Former Senate hopeful Jack Ryan joins us tomorrow night.  In a prime-time cable exclusive, we‘re going to talk about details of his divorce and how it ended his run for the Senate because of a sex scandal.  Plus, what does his future hold?  That‘s tomorrow night, 10:00 Eastern.

But stick around.  We‘ve got more hot debate on SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY straight ahead.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)      

SCARBOROUGH:  We‘re back talking about the media‘s soft treatment of Michael Moore.

Rabbi Shmuley, you wanted to interject something.  Go ahead.

BOTEACH:  You know, it‘s interesting, Joe. 

The Iraqis in the war had Baghdad Bob.  And we with Michael Moore had Michigan Mike.  This is a propagandist of such offensive distortions.  And the truth is, Joe, it takes one to know one.  Michael Moore is interested in money.  Every accusation he launches against Bush and the American soldiers and the American people is really a reflection of himself.  This man is simply extrapolating beyond his own experience. 

He will lie for money.  This documentary is driven but—for nothing but money.  He portrays our liberating soldiers as a bunch of sadistic miscreants who want to oppress people.  He shows Iraq as having been Disney World the day before the war.  And then he says, this country never did anything to us.  Why did we attack them? 

He doesn‘t show the tens of thousands of people gassed by Saddam Hussein.  It‘s amazing to me that liberal-minded people—and liberalism, Joe, once stood for something.  It stood for the dignity of the human person.  It stood for the value of human life.  It stood for not exploiting children.  Michael Moore stomps on all of those liberal values by portraying the Iraqi people as having enjoyed the torture of Saddam Hussein. 

(CROSSTALK)

SCARBOROUGH:  It‘s unbelievable.  Unbelievable. 

Jennifer Giroux, I want to read you quickly.  This is what “The New York Times”‘ reviewer had to say about “Fahrenheit 9/11.”  “Mr. Moore‘s populist instincts have never been sharper.  He is a credit to the Republic.” 

But this is what they said about “The Passion.”  “Mel Gibson has exploited the popular appetite for terror and gore.”

Were you surprised at the uneven handling of “The Passion” and “Fahrenheit 9/11,” or more of the same? 

GIROUX:  I think the article comparing those two is just vile and I think it‘s an unfair comparison. 

The best authority I can bring to you here, Joe, is this.  There are good Americans that differ over the war.  They love our president.  We consider John Kerry moral decadence that the country will be dragged down into again if he gets in office.  They simply want Bush to reassure them that we‘re getting out of there with dignity as quick as possible, because the war on terror is important in Afghanistan. 

SCARBOROUGH:  All right. 

GIROUX:  There‘s a lot of places around the world that we could help people pull out from underneath people like Saddam Hussein.  They want assurance from Bush that they‘re coming home soon.

SCARBOROUGH:  All right, thanks so much, Jennifer.  We appreciate it. 

And thank you for being with us tonight.  Tomorrow, we‘ve got Jack Ryan live in SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY. 

END   

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