updated 8/6/2004 9:07:35 AM ET 2004-08-06T13:07:35

Guest: Mark Chester, Dave Adams, Tommy Franks, Ann Coulter

JOE SCARBOROUGH, HOST:  Tonight‘s top headline, General Tommy Franks gives us the real deal on George Bush, Bill Clinton, and why he told the president to tell America, mission accomplished. 

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

Retired General Tommy Franks enters SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY with some straight answers on why America went to war to take out Saddam Hussein.

And new information on Northwest Flight 327.  A second terrified passenger enters SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY.  Plus, a federal air marshal on that flight is now telling his side of the story. 

And conservative consultant Ann Coulter was banned from “The USA Today‘s” convention coverage in Boston.  Was it media bias or good editorial judgment?

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 back. 

You know, General Tommy Franks shoots straight tonight about George Bush, Bill Clinton, and the war of Iraq.  It‘s time for tonight‘s “Real Deal.” 

You know, I always got frustrated when I was serving on the Armed Services Committee in Congress, because top generals and admirals would always come and testify before our committee without ever really stating their opinions.  But once they retired and were free of their obligations to avoid political debate, these retired military leaders would come to my office and vent for hours about Bill Clinton and the poor state of the Pentagon. 

Tonight, a giant among generals, Tommy Franks, sheds his four stars and lays down the real deal on the Iraq war, the commander in chief, and the reason why he urged George W. Bush to give his now infamous “mission accomplished” speech last year. 

You know, Tommy Franks is an American hero and the fact that he spares no president and no Pentagon bureaucrat in his fascinating book only adds more weight to his words.  So when he tells us that he still believes that going to the war in Iraq was the right thing to do, Americans listen.  And, as Tommy Franks said, it‘s better to be fighting this war on terror in terrorists‘ backyards than on the streets of America. 

But wherever we fight this war, we can only pray that American troops are going to be heading into battle under the type of leadership that Tommy Franks always gave America through the years, from firefights in Vietnam to battles in Baghdad.  Read his book and I‘m sure you‘ll agree with me that Tommy Franks is the “Real Deal.” 

Now, earlier today, I was honored to sit down with General Franks for his first interview on MSNBC.  He‘s the former commander in chief of the United States Central Command.  He led our troops in the war on terror.  And he‘s the author of “American Soldier.”

I started by asking the general what America needs to do in order to maintain the peace in Iraq and make it a stable democracy in the Middle East. 

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

RET. GEN. TOMMY FRANKS, FORMER CENTCOM COMMANDER:  I think what we all have to do is reduce our expectations. 

Gosh, when the sole superpower went into Iraq, and I think, to some extent, we went into Afghanistan, we created expectations among the Afghans and the Iraqis, and also among our own people that we could get this done just terribly quickly.  And I think the expectation, a little bit too high. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Well, General, you obviously talked to a lot of men and women that are on the ground in Iraq right now.  Tell me, how is troop morale over there? 

FRANKS:  I think the morale is very good.  Of course, it doesn‘t help when we see the Abu Ghraib sort of issue. 

And it‘s not a pleasant thing when you‘re a young trooper and living there with the heat and getting shot at every day and all of that.  But these kids understand what they‘re doing.  And I think their leaders understand what they‘re doing, so I think their morale is pretty good. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Do they believe—again, I get e-mails from people serving over there, mainly officers.  But do you believe that the rank-and-file believe that they‘re engaged in a moral battle over there, or do they believe that this is a quagmire that may turn into the 21st century‘s version of Vietnam? 

FRANKS:  Oh, I think they believe in what they‘re doing.  And I think they—and much more important than believing in what they‘re doing, I think they understand what they‘re doing. 

I was up in Huntington, Long Island, a couple of days ago and I had the chance to meet with a bunch of kids who had just come home from Iraq, and they were as you would expect them to be.  They were describing their experience over there.  And to the last one of them, they understood what they were all about, and I think that they do attach it to a moral thing. 

And they also feel good about protecting the United States of America. 

SCARBOROUGH:  You know, when I was in Congress on the Armed Services Committee, during the run-up to Bosnia and Kosovo, we would have administrative officials from the Clinton administration, and I‘d always ask the question, if a soldier dies in Bosnia or in Kosovo and somebody picks up the phone and has to call their parents and say, Mr. and Mrs.  Smith, I‘m so sorry your son was killed in action in Bosnia, but he died for a noble cause, and that cause was, fill in the blank, the Clinton administration, and including Al Gore, could only say that, well, he died because—and I‘d say, what‘s the answer to that? 

And they would say—all I ever got out of them was the prestige of NATO was on the line.  That wasn‘t good enough for me.  I voted against that.  When you talk to family members that lost their children or their spouses or their fathers or mothers over there, what would you tell them?  What was the noble cause worth dying for in Iraq? 

FRANKS:  Yes, counterterrorism, a way of life, freedom, liberty in this country that our forbearers bought us some 225 years ago and so many generations since then have helped us with. 

And it always is interesting to me that the families of loved ones get it.  They actually do understand what this is all about.  I describe it to them in another way, Joe.  I say it‘s multiple choice.  We fight the terrorists over there or we fight them here.  And we all have a memory long enough to remember 9/11, ‘01, and that‘s what this is about. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Now, in your book you actually talk about, on September 11 having somebody running in, knocking on your door 4:00 in the afternoon, and telling you to turn on the TV.  And the second you turned on the TV, you said Osama bin Laden.  How did you know? 

FRANKS:  I don‘t know how we know that sort of thing.  But I said bin Laden.  I said al Qaeda.  I said Afghanistan.  And what flashed through my mind at that time, it went all the way back to 1983, 1983, the Beirut barracks bombing, terrorism, the Khobar Towers in the mid-1990s, the embassy bombings in East Africa of two of our embassies.

All that came to me.  And I recognized that, for a couple of decades, we had been observing the growth of terrorist hatred of my country.  And on 9/11, ‘01, they brought it to our soil. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Now, 1983, obviously, after the bombing, America retreated from Lebanon. 

FRANKS:  That‘s right. 

SCARBOROUGH:  In 1993, in Mogadishu, after that attack, we retreated from Somalia.  You‘re critical of the Clinton administration for cutting and running in Somalia after those attacks.  Do you think these type of actions actually encouraged Osama bin Laden to act more aggressively towards the United States? 

FRANKS:  Joe, I do think that. 

And, further, I go back to my experience when I was a kid, a lieutenant in Vietnam, and our enemy would hide in Cambodia.  And you‘ll recall the Ho Chi Minh Trail.  And then there was a sanctuary created there and the enemy would strike us, and then he would hide.  And I really do remember when I was a kid lieutenant in Vietnam saying, I just don‘t understand how the United States of America could ever permit a sanctuary to be created for our enemies. 

And that‘s what I think you‘ve just described.  We permitted, over a period of years, the creation of sanctuary from which our terrorists attacked us—our enemies, the terrorists, attacked us. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Now, in your book, you‘re critical of both the Clinton and the Bush administrations. 

And you say this: “I‘ve not agreed with every decision made over the past three years, as I did not agree with many made before that.  I found fault with Don Rumsfeld‘s centralized management style.”

FRANKS:  Right. 

SCARBOROUGH:  “I chafed at the intellectual arrogance of some in this administration, as I chafed at the same phenomenon in the Clinton administration.”

General, what do you believe is the greatest flaw coming out of the Pentagon during the Iraq war, actually, the lead-up to the Iraq war, the Iraq war, and the stage that we‘re in now? 

FRANKS:  I don‘t know if it‘s a flaw.  Let me describe it this way.

I‘m not sure it‘s a fault, but it is a flaw.  And it has to do with the way our bureaucracy works.  Bureaucracies represent the country that spawns them.  And our bureaucracies are very much geared to pay attention to consensus.  On the other hands, I also say in the book, Joe—and I know you‘ve read it—that all too frequently, the Washington bureaucracy fights like cats in a sack. 

Well, my experience in the military has been the closer you can get subordinates together—and my boss used to tell me, all you guys go in the room and I‘m going to shove pizzas under the door until you come up with some solution. 

(LAUGHTER)

FRANKS:  And lots of times, they shoved pizzas under the door for a long, long time. 

Well, whether it‘s the Pentagon or the State Department or the nature of our bureaucracy, I think we‘re going to have to get a focus on what we‘re doing, and we‘re going to have to stay with this process.  And this cats in a sack fighting is just not the most helpful thing that I‘ve seen. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Now, General, I‘ve been a big fan of Don Rumsfeld since the beginning of this war.

FRANKS:  Yes, me, too.

SCARBOROUGH:  Probably because I didn‘t have to work with him as closely as you did. 

But the one thing that has bothered me with Rumsfeld and leadership in the Pentagon, even before he was sworn in and I started talking to his people about what they were planning, it seemed that they wanted to continue this drawdown of force strength that started in 1992.  After the first Gulf War, we basically gave pink slips to 200,000 troops. 

FRANKS:  Yes.  Yes. 

SCARBOROUGH:  And now we‘re so stretched that our reservists are having to step in and doing things that they have not been trained to do. 

I want to know, General, why is the Pentagon so hell-bent on continuing to reduce strength levels and not giving commanders like you the type of forces they need to win wars? 

FRANKS:  Tough question, Joe. 

I think you‘ll remember when Don Rumsfeld came in and started building that defense team, they were talking about transformation.  And I think that‘s a healthy thing, because transformation may mean bring it up or it may mean bring it down.  But, certainly, it means let‘s study it and be sure that we have the right mix in the National Guard and in the active force, so that, on the first day of every crisis we see, we don‘t have to call forward the National Guard. 

I‘m a little bit heartened over the last month or so when I‘ve seen the chief of staff of the Army, Peter Schoomaker, General Pete Schoomaker, friend of mine for a long time, doing some work that says, OK, do we have the right number of infantrymen and military policemen, civil affairs people and all of that, or are those numbers wrong? 

Now, I think the result of that is going to be, if you‘ll think back to the time you spent up on the Hill, when military leadership goes up there next year, I think they‘re going to be able to say, we need more, we need less, and then maybe have the metrics, maybe have the math to back it up.  And I‘m not sure we‘ve had it up to this point. 

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SCARBOROUGH:  We certainly haven‘t. 

But I‘ll tell you what.  We‘re going to have more with our interview coming up.  And General Franks is going to tell us how a secret agent sold false documents to Saddam Hussein.  And you may be surprised to find out who came up with the idea behind the now infamous “mission accomplished” speech.

Plus, what really happened on Flight 327?  A second passenger comes forward and tells SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY his side of the story.  And we‘re going to be getting reaction from a spokesperson for the Federal Air Marshal Service. 

So stay tuned to SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY.  We‘ll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SCARBOROUGH:  General Tommy Franks takes the bullet for President Bush when it comes to the “mission accomplished” debacle.  We‘ll tell you that story when we have more with General Tommy Franks in SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY in a minute. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SCARBOROUGH:  It‘s must-see Thursday in SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY.  We‘ve got more from Tommy Franks‘ first interview with MSNBC. 

His book “American Soldier” details stories about a division commander who told him the troops were collecting hundreds of tons of ordnance in Iraq. 

And General Franks wrote this about it.  He said—quote—“The whole country is one big weapons dump.  I thought there must be thousands of ammo storage sites.  It will take years to clear them all.”

I then asked General Franks if he was surprised that we hadn‘t found any weapons of mass destruction in Iraq yet.  This is what he said. 

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

FRANKS:  Right now, I‘m not surprised that we haven‘t found them, Joe. 

But about the time I left military service, I was terribly surprised that they weren‘t used against us.  When our forces got up into Iraq and started finding these literally thousands of ammunition dumps, I thought, boy, I‘ll tell you what.  Before we‘re ever able to convince ourselves that there is no WMD in this country, it‘s going to take a long time to get through these sites. 

What I believe right now is that Saddam Hussein and that regime may not—may not—have had weaponized WMD at that time.  But I‘ll tell you what.  When we moved those forces on the 19th of March of last year across that border into Iraq, I was 100 percent convinced that those kids, that our kids were going to have WMD used against them.  No one more surprised than I that that didn‘t happen. 

SCARBOROUGH:  You know, it‘s so amazing when people talk about how the president lied about WMDs and Tony Blair lied about WMDs.  If they were lying about WMDs, the entire world was.  I know Mubarak and others were warning us that we were going to have WMDs used against us. 

(CROSSTALK)

SCARBOROUGH:  Now, one of the most fascinating parts of your book, a part that I loved, is when you wrote about how a double agent tricked Saddam Hussein. 

FRANKS:  Right. 

SCARBOROUGH:  How did he trick Saddam Hussein?  And tell our audience how important that was in our rapid invasion of Iraq. 

FRANKS:  Well, I think it was very important. 

I describe this fellow in my book.  I use a pseudonym, because I‘ve obviously not going to use the real classified stuff.  But I call this guy April Fool.  And we very simply used a guy who had access to the Iraqi regime to pass fake information to them.  And our purpose was to try to keep Saddam Hussein from knowing, are these guys going to come at us from the south or from the west or from the north?

And so we worked very hard to provide disinformation to the regime. 

It will take some years to know whether—well, how successful it was.  But I suspect that it did a lot, because, on the day we attacked, there were still thousands and thousands of Iraqi troops up north of Baghdad, where we had no intention of attacking. 

SCARBOROUGH:  And what a remarkable invasion of Iraq it was, the speed at which you went north towards Baghdad.  Were you surprised at how ruthlessly efficient our fighting men and women were? 

FRANKS:  A lot of people have asked me, well, now, how good was the plan, General?  Well, how did our troopers do? 

And what I‘ve said—and I say it in the book as well—is, I think the strategy of, well, OK, let‘s fight them over there, preemption, I think, is a good strategy.  I think the plan that said, OK, we‘ll attack from the south and use special forces troopers in the west and all of that, I think it was a good plan.  I think the execution of the plan, the question you just asked, by America‘s sons and daughters and some Brits and Poles and Aussies and others will have historians writing for hundreds of years, the most efficient exercise I have ever seen on a battlefield. 

SCARBOROUGH:  It was remarkable. 

Now, you take credit for the now infamous idea of President Bush‘s “mission accomplished” landing on the USS Lincoln.

FRANKS:  Yes. 

SCARBOROUGH:  And you told Secretary Rumsfeld—and you write this in your book—quote—“It would be good if the president acknowledged the success of major combat operations.  The troops have accomplished every mission we gave them.  There‘s never been a combat operation more successful as Iraqi Freedom.”

But, General, there really was more to the story than just patting the troops on the back. 

FRANKS:  Yes. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Why did you believe it was important for the president to declare an end to major military operations and declare “mission accomplished”? 

FRANKS:  Well, Joe, thanks a lot for asking the question, because I really do think it‘s important. 

At this time, the coalition that was involved in operations, whether in Iraq or in the surrounding countries, I think was 60 or 65 nations.  Now, that‘s a heck of a coalition.  But, additionally, we had polled all the countries that were involved in the coalition to find out what they would do for us either during a major war or after the war. 

And a lot of countries had committed to us to provide troops and funding and so forth just as soon as, guess what, just as soon as major combat operations were finished.  And I was anxious to bring the international community into this effort, into Iraq.  And so, as I had fessed up, I‘m the guilty guy. 

(LAUGHTER)

FRANKS:  I asked the president to do it.  I asked him to do it.  And I think he‘s been pretty well abused since then, but I think I‘m the culprit. 

SCARBOROUGH:  But, again, the key for you was that that would be the triggering event that would bring the French, the Germans and others into Iraq to help us begin the process of rebuilding this country. 

FRANKS:  And, you know, there are two things.  You have a major war effort, and then you have a long period of stability operations.  And I was interested in that long period of stability operations.

And we wanted to generate as much financial support and as much military support as we could from the international community.  And candidly, Joe, I wish a lot more of that support had been forthcoming. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Now, General, you also talked about somebody who‘s supposed to be our allies, the Saudis.  I‘m sort of a black-and-white kind of guy.  I think you‘re either on our side or you‘re against us.  The Saudis have been trying to have it both ways for years now. 

FRANKS:  Yes. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Tell Americans, because you‘ve been over there, you‘ve worked with these people, should we consider the Saudi royal family to be our friends or our enemies? 

FRANKS:  I want to consider the Saudi royal family to be our friends.  And I think there‘s evidence that Crown Prince Abdullah, the de facto leader of Saudi Arabia, is a friend.  He‘s my friend and I think he‘s our friend. 

The difficulty is, there must be a couple thousand members of the royal family in Saudi Arabia, and that country tries to rule itself by consensus.  And it makes it very difficult to get all of them lined up, where some are—you know, where some want to go get bin Laden and the terrorists very quickly, and others will say, well, be careful.  This may cost us something on the Arab street. 

But I think Abdullah is a friend.  I think Saudi wants to be a friend.  I just think it‘s a very, very complex environment and we need to exercise caution. 

SCARBOROUGH:  It is complex. 

And this is what you write in your book about them.  You say: “The royal family‘s attitude toward their home-grown terrorists had vacillated for years between toleration and extermination.  And now they are openly apprehensive about publicly associating with the American military.”

FRANKS:  Right. 

SCARBOROUGH:  What‘s the future of Saudi Arabia?  Do you think the Saudi royal family will survive? 

FRANKS:  Yogi Berra, the magnificent philosopher that he is, one time said, prediction is difficult, especially if it has to do with the future. 

So I don‘t know, Joe, about a prediction.  I don‘t see anything that convinces me that the Saudi royals are going to collapse at any point, you know, in the near future.  I think that they want our friendship.  They want to be close to us, but they don‘t want to be too close.  And I think the answer to your question is going to come in the months ahead, when we see how well they do in rounding up some of these terrorists that are in Saudi Arabia. 

SCARBOROUGH:  General, one final question for you.  I‘m going to ask you the question that journalists keep asking John Kerry.  And they‘re going to continue asking this question.  And it‘s this.  If you knew then what you know now, would you still support the invasion of Iraq? 

FRANKS:  Absolutely.  I would support the invasion of Iraq.  It‘s back to this business of harbor that I mentioned. 

Look, we have given 50 million people a chance.  That‘s a good thing.  But what‘s much more important to the United States of America is that we have denied two harbors where terrorists were working.  And I don‘t believe that we can sit back in this country and simply wait for them to come to us.  I said before, and I‘ll say it again, Joe.  This is multiple choice.  You have A and B.  Either we fight them over there or we fight them here. 

I believe it was exactly the right thing to do.  And there are things that keep me awake at night.  But the fact that Saddam Hussein is no longer in charge of Iraq is not one of them. 

SCARBOROUGH:  All right, General Tommy Franks.  The book is “American Soldier.”  It‘s a great read.  And I‘ve got to tell you, it is the first draft of history.  And I think it‘s the most important book that‘s been written this year. 

General, it‘s a great honor to have you here with us in SCARBOROUGH

COUNTRY. 

FRANKS:  Joe, it‘s always a pleasure and thanks very much. 

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SCARBOROUGH:  And coming up next on SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY, what really happened on Flight 327?  A second passenger is coming forward tonight to tell SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY his story.  We‘re also going to get a reaction from a spokesperson from the Federal Air Marshal Service. 

And later, I‘ve got issues with the CIA.  They‘re sending their agents to Hollywood.  If you thought the search for WMDs was over, you‘re not going to want to miss this story. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SCARBOROUGH:  Coming up, we‘ve got the head of the federal air marshals to tell us really what happened on Flight 327, plus, another passenger on that flight. 

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:  We want to give you a quick update on some breaking news. 

Tonight, we have a better understanding of why the terror alert was heightened this week along the East Coast.  NBC News has learned that a man arrested Tuesday in Great Britain is the one who cased the financial institutions here.  He‘s believed to be a high-level Al Qaeda operative, a trusted aide of bin Laden.  He‘s also believed to be responsible for al Qaeda communications in Great Britain. 

Now on to Flight 327.  On this side of the Atlantic, we‘re following the story of Annie Jacobson.  She said 14 Syrian men behaved suspiciously on Northwest Flight 327.  And she and her husband both said they feared for their lives on the four-hour flight between Detroit and Los Angeles. 

Now, some are saying the behavior of the men seemed like a possible dry run by terrorists.  But we have a lead air marshal who was on that flight who‘s coming forward.  He spoke to “TIME” magazine‘s Sally Donnelly.  And I talked to her earlier and asked her what the air marshal told her he saw on Flight 327. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) 

SALLY DONNELLY, “TIME”:  He said he was aware of these people, this group of individuals, Middle Eastern men, from the very beginning of the flight. 

And about 25 minutes after takeoff, the flight attendant told him specifically that she was concerned about suspicious activity by these men.  So he kept an even closer watch on them throughout the flight.  But the bottom line is, he never felt that there was a threat to the airline or the people on that plane. 

(END VIDEO CLIP) 

SCARBOROUGH:  We‘re joined now by Dave Adams.  Dave is a spokesman for the Federal Air Marshal Service.  We also have Annie Jacobsen back.  She‘s the one who reported that she thought there was suspicious behavior on Flight 327.  We also have Mark Chester, who was aboard that flight and is coming forward for the first time tonight. 

And let me go to you, Annie.  A federal air marshal on board Flight 327 has told “TIME” magazine the marshals did their job properly and no people on that flight were ever in danger.  Do you agree? 

ANNIE JACOBSEN, ABOARD NORTHWEST AIRLINES FLIGHT:  Well, Joe, it goes back to what I originally spoke to Dave Adams about. 

One of my concerns was he said that there hadn‘t been an incident on the flight that, you know, caused anyone to deploy.  And my question is—you know, I asked him point blank, did you need someone to get a lighter out and light a fuse?  So I understand that—I read that marshal‘s account, and I pretty much agreed with it, except for the part about he never saw the men congregating around the bathroom. 

But I know, from where I was sitting, it was a very different perspective.  And without giving away where the federal air marshal was sitting, he was in a very different place. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Where were you?  How far were you from the first-class lavatory? 

JACOBSEN:  Well, we‘re not talking about the first-class lavatory, remember.  And I think that was an error on his part of perhaps not reading my account carefully. 

There are three bathrooms on a 757.  There‘s one up in first class.  There‘s one right at the front of coach, and then there‘s one way in the back of the plane.  And I was talking about, at the end of the flight, about four men being at the front coach class bathroom, which would have been...

SCARBOROUGH:  Oh, OK. 

Now, Mark Chester, you were also on the flight with Annie Jacobsen. 

What did you see that day? 

MARK CHESTER, PASSENGER ON FLIGHT 327:  Joe, I‘ll tell you, I saw some truly bizarre behavior pre-9/11.  Post-9/11, I would say it was—comes close to being terrifying. 

I was very concerned for a great deal of the flight.  And these guys kept getting up and walking down the aisle and gathering with some other guys and chitchatting and just—I‘m not used to seeing people get up and do that on a plane.  And then, a little bit before we landed, they came on and made the announcement that everybody needs to get ready for—you know, for the landing there in LAX. 

And I‘m looking out the window, looking at golf courses and different things, and then these guys are still standing there.  They‘re not making a move to go sit down.  So one of the flight attendants has to say, gentlemen, you need to go sit down.  And a couple of them made their way back to their seat.  And a couple of guys still stood there.  And she finally had to say in a very strong voice, sir, I need you to sit down right now, please. 

And it was just—like I said, it was really strange behavior all during the flight.  And then, at the end, that was very unsettling, what they did.  And then, of course, when I got off...

(CROSSTALK)

CHESTER:  Go ahead. 

SCARBOROUGH:  No, I was just going to say, Annie said before that she and her husband feared for her life.  Did you fear for your life or did just you think that these gentlemen were behaving erratically? 

CHESTER:  I thought they were behaving very strange. 

And then the way they acted when we were getting ready to land, I thought that was really bizarre.  And then, by the time I was getting off the plane, there‘s at least a dozen LAPD officers gathering these guys up.  And they‘re handing over their passports or whatever they‘re handing over, identification. 

And what was—what I found really peculiar is, if you‘re not engaging in any kind of behavior that you think is wrong and you‘re being detained like that, you‘re going—the natural response is to be upset.  And all these guys just handed over their I.D. and were very casual about the whole thing.  Nobody seemed to be upset.  I was standing there watching this. 

And I called my folks in Michigan.  And I called my wife and told them what was going on.  And I said, you know, watch this.  It‘s going to be a big story on the news and it‘s going to be in the paper.  And then there was nothing about it.  I was dumbfounded. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Let me bring in Dave Adams. 

Dave, obviously, we‘ve got some passengers very upset about what happened on this flight, some people believing that the air marshals should have taken control or the flight attendants or the captain should have taken control. 

What do you say to these passengers who were concerned on the flight?  And some of this just doesn‘t square up with what the air marshals who actually were there and were protecting the flight have said. 

DAVE ADAMS, FEDERAL AIR MARSHAL SERVICE:  That‘s correct, Joe. 

You know, these are untrained civilian eyes.  And, certainly, in their vision, I‘m sure maybe they felt that this was possibly a serious situation.  But we have trained federal law enforcement personnel aboard the aircraft and flight attendants who see actions every day. 

They didn‘t think that it posed a threat to the aircraft.  Yes, they agree that their actions were a little bit out of the norm and they notified our federal air marshals.  And then they felt it was prudent thing to do to keep them under observation.  And they did.  And they decided also to notify the LAX and also our command center in Herndon to have our federal law enforcement presence at LAX, not that they committed any type of criminal act or interfered with the flight crew.

But it‘s a prudent law enforcement mission to follow up to see who these people were. 

SCARBOROUGH:  One thing we keep hearing over and over again from Annie and others is that these gentlemen from Syria kept going to the restroom and leaving and going, congregating around the restroom, and going back and forth.  Is that—I understand that the air marshal, though, would go in behind them and check and make sure that they hadn‘t left anything in there or planted any bomb. 

Is this something that you all are concerned about right now?  Because I understand a couple of years ago some federal law enforcement agency was talking about the possibility of people taking in parts that they could get through security and possibly building bombs inside these lavatories. 

ADAMS:  Well, Joe, obviously, this situation, when the air marshals were notified of it, they kept them under observation.  There was only one time that a gentlemen went into the first class lav.  He was in there about 10 minutes.  And a federal air marshal went in there and he looked at the lav.  Nothing was out of the ordinary. 

And then, in the rear lav, yes, they were congregating a little bit there, but other passengers were, too, nothing out of the ordinary, according to the flight attendants, because we interviewed all four flight attendants on this flight.  But the flight attendants went in the rear lav and also reported back to our federal air marshals that everything was in the norm and nothing was out of the ordinary. 

SCARBOROUGH:  One final question.  The other night, we had a gentlemen on from the Federal Air Marshals Association, but he wasn‘t an actual air marshal.  You‘re aware of all of the facts of the flight.  Do you believe that the air marshals on the flight acted appropriately? 

ADAMS:  Yes, they did, Joe. 

And it‘s safe to fly.  And the Department of Homeland Security looks at all these situations.  And I can tell you that there‘s no threat to the aviation industry now.  We have no information anybody is targeting our aircrafts, and it is safe to fly. 

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

And I want to get you back on to talk about the dress code that federal air marshals have, because it has a lot of people thinking, hey, we need to have them go undercover, instead of all dressing in sort of the same uniform.  So can we get you back here? 

ADAMS:  Yes, you can. 

SCARBOROUGH:  All right.  Thanks a lot for being here.

ADAMS:  Thank you. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Greatly appreciate it. 

Dave Adams, Annie Jacobsen, and Mark Chester, we greatly appreciate you being with us tonight.  And we‘re going to be inviting you back soon.

And coming up next on SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY, I‘ve got issues with the CIA.  They want to invade Hollywood in search of weapons of mass destruction. 

And, later, Ann Coulter is going to join us to talk about what role the media played in the coverage of the Democratic Convention in Boston and what effect it might have on this year‘s election. 

ANNOUNCER:  Tonight‘s SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY challenge:  Who placed the first phone call to the moon?  Was it, A, John F. Kennedy, B, Richard Nixon, or, C, Gerald Ford?

The answer coming up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ANNOUNCER:  In tonight‘s SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY challenge, we asked:  Who placed the first phone call to the moon?  The answer is B.  Richard Nixon spoke to Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin on July 20, 1969, the day they landed on the moon. 

Now back to Joe. 

SCARBOROUGH:  By the way, if you picked A, John Kennedy, you‘ve got issues, because nobody was on the moon until six years after he passed away. 

Anyway, speaking of issues, it‘s not after hours yet, so I‘ve got issues.  First of all, I‘ve got issues with the Democratic National Committee.  After retelling the “John Kerry is a Vietnam hero” story for the past six months, the DNC is outraged that a group of vets who served in Vietnam with Senator Kerry are questioning his wartime credentials. 

Now, the group released a blistering television ad that disputes some of the claims about the events that led to his Purple Heart and Bronze Stars.  And John McCain, a Republican senator, said this of the TV spot—quote—“I think the ad is dishonest and dishonorable.”  The vets say they respect John McCain, but point out that the Arizona war hero never served with John Kerry and doesn‘t know the real deal about the Democratic candidate in Vietnam. 

As for the DNC, that‘s really who I have issues with, because the same party bosses that are so offended by this ad still embrace some of the political hate speech that‘s been promoted by Michael Moore and groups like MoveOn.org.  And while this independent ad may be very, very tough, at least no one‘s compared the Massachusetts senator to Adolf Hitler.  And you certainly can‘t say that about some of Mr. Kerry‘s allies. 

Now, in an effort to address the concerns of the September 11 commission, the CIA has called in the professionals for some advice, the professional screenwriters, that is.  In an attempt to address the failure of—quote—“imagination in the government”—unquote—CIA terrorism analysts met with Hollywood screenwriters, directors and producers.  After all, these are the same geniuses who recycled “Catwoman” and “Around the World in 80 Days” this summer. 

Besides, who else could prepare Americans for the imminent dodgeball terror attacks that are sure to be striking soft targets in the coming months? 

And, finally, I‘ve still got issues with the “USA Today,” the best-selling newspaper in America.  You know, it‘s become a much more balanced editorial voice in recent years.  And I‘m grateful for that.  But someone in the editorial department showed their bias during last week‘s Democratic Convention.  The paper asked flamethrower Michael Moore to be their guest columnist during the Republican Convention, yes, the same Michael Moore who suggested that more Americans needed to be slaughtered in Baghdad so God and the Iraqi people could forgive America. 

Now, to help point this very nuanced point of view, “USA Today” invited Ann Coulter to provide daily articles during the Democratic Convention.  But once Ann Coulter delivered her first column, the paper censored their guest columnist. 

This is what she said—quote—“Here at the Spawn of Satan convention in Boston, conservatives are deploying a series of covert signals to identify one another, much like gay men do.  My allies are the ones wearing crosses or American flags.  The people sporting shirts emblazoned with the “F-word” are my opponents.   Also, as always, the pretty girls and cops are on my side, most of them barely able to conceal their eye-rolling.”

“USA Today” executive editor Brian Gallagher said that his paper was not trying to silence or censor Ann Coulter, but did kill Coulter‘s columns due to—quote—“differences of opinion over editing, words, voice, and that sort of thing.”

With me now, the most dangerous columnist in the USA, Ann Coulter. 

Ann, thanks for being with us. 

When I read this on Drudge, I was shocked.  What excuse did “USA Today” give you for actually, if not censoring, at least killing your editorials? 

ANN COULTER, AUTHOR, “TREASON”:  Well, that one—I mean, the official one I think really says it all, differences over what words to use.  I‘m an opinion columnist.  Consequently, I use my own words. 

But, I mean, you make a good point by saying “USA Today” isn‘t even one of the crazy ones.  That‘s one of the more fair and balanced media outlets out there.  So imagine what that says about the media people are getting.  I keep hearing about this conservative media, conservative media.  Think of all the young conservatives out there who are not being published.

For me, you know, it‘s mildly amusing and massively inconvenient to go home after one day of my one-week sojourn.  But think of all the young right-wingers who are trying to start writing out there.  They all get the same thing. 

SCARBOROUGH:  You know, The Drudge Report posted messages allegedly from the paper‘s editors suggesting that they didn‘t get many of your very obvious jokes.  Did you really get comments like “I don‘t get it” next to some of your jokes from the paper‘s editors? 

COULTER:  Yes.  And I should say a very prominent conservative writer came up to me at a party on Saturday night and said, God bless you for publishing that.  I read the editor‘s comments and I can‘t tell you how many times I‘ve been through that before. 

And this is a prominent conservative writer who doesn‘t need “USA Today.”  I do not need “USA Today.”  I keep bringing this back to the young writers trying to start out there, as I was and as she was once.  You know, you either change your politics or you change your profession. 

SCARBOROUGH:  So you think this was a clear example of media bias. 

COULTER:  Oh, sure.  I was insulted enough that my counterpart was Michael Moore.  The fact that Michael Moore is kosher with “USA Today,” but I‘m over the top, I think that is example 1,000,000,493. 

SCARBOROUGH:  And, of course, you know, that‘s the thing that‘s so disturbing to me is, Michael Moore, again, the things that this man has written, just so over the top, suggesting more Americans need to be killed so God and the Iraqi people will forgive us.  Do these people really expect more genteel postings from Michael Moore? 

COULTER:  I think they‘re going to get his jokes. 

(LAUGHTER)

SCARBOROUGH:  Yes, and why is that? 

COULTER:  No, and I return again to your original point.  “USA Today” is better than “The New York Times.”  So, you know, think about what most people are reading out there.  Consider right now the Swift Boat Veterans For Truth.

They originally held a press conference about four or five months ago.  And if you happened to be up, you know, at 3:00 in the morning watching C-SPAN, you would have seen them.  It‘s pretty stunning that in a campaign ad that John Kerry has used standing with other swift boat officers, all but two oppose John Kerry.  And the only way for that to come out is for people to actually purchase airtime and buy ads.  And that‘s example 1,000,000,498.

SCARBOROUGH:  All right, Ann Coulter, stick around with us, because we‘re going to have more with you in SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY when we return.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SCARBOROUGH:  Hey, join me tomorrow night for a special edition of “AFTER HOURS: Battle for the White House” at 9:00 p.m., followed by a special SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY at 10.  We‘re going to be very special tomorrow night, so make sure you watch it.

But we‘re going to be back with Ann Coulter in a second.  That‘s special, too.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SCARBOROUGH:  Speaking of media bias, Ann Coulter, do you think Sandy Berger would have gotten the same treatment had he been a Republican? 

(LAUGHTER)

SCARBOROUGH:  You like that one? 

COULTER:  Yes, what is it with these Democrats and scandals involving pants? 

(LAUGHTER)

SCARBOROUGH:  Yes, I don‘t know.  I mean, certainly, Fawn Hall got pretty rough treatment for shoving documents in her clothing, didn‘t she? 

COULTER:  No, with a Republican, the scandal is the scandal.  With a Democrat, the scandal is always, “Who‘s behind this, who leaked it?” as with the swift boat veterans, as with Sandy Berger.  What they‘re interested in is who leaked this, not the fact that the former national security adviser was walking out with top secret documents in his underpants. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Yes.  And, of course, “The New York Times,” when they wrote the article, the first article on Sandy Berger, the first 75 percent of the article were denials from Democrats and attacks on Republicans.

(LAUGHTER)

COULTER:  Right.  It was the press release from Sandy Berger‘s lawyers. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Exactly. 

Ann Coulter, hey, thanks a lot for being with us.  We greatly appreciate it. 

And I want to thank all of you for watching SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY.  We‘re going to back tomorrow night with a special edition of “AFTER HOURS” with Ron Reagan at 9:00 p.m. Eastern and a special edition of SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY at 10:00.

Make sure to start your weekend with us on SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY.

END   

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