updated 8/16/2004 10:01:14 AM ET 2004-08-16T14:01:14

Guest: Tom Fiedler, Jerry Brown, Kirsten Powers, Mike Barnicle, Ed Rollins, Ed Rollins, Jack Burkman, Bret Schundler, David Dreier, Joe Trippi, Flavia Colgan, John P. Avlon

JOE SCARBOROUGH, HOST:  Tonight‘s top headline, Hurricane Charley leaves residents of Florida devastated.  The real deal?  The next storm they‘re going to be facing is going to be a political one. 

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

After the 2000 Florida showdown, President Bush wants to make sure the Sunshine State is solidly in its column this November.  Will the way he handles Hurricane Charley have any political impact?

Then New Jersey‘s governor McGreevey dropped a double bombshell last week.  First, he‘s gay.  Second, he‘s quitting November 15.  As he returns to work tomorrow, though, the question on everybody‘s mind in New Jersey is, will this lame duck be too lame to govern?

Plus, the 9/11 Commission blasting intel committee oversight leading up to 9/11 and says it was weak.  Were John Kerry and John Edwards part of the problem?  Republicans say yes.  And if not, why don‘t they want their attendance records released?

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

SCARBOROUGH:  Welcome to SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY, the special Sunday night edition, live from the state of Florida.

In Pity, Florida, because my state just got slammed by one hurricane and now it‘s going to have to brace for a political storm that‘s sure to follow. 

It‘s time for tonight‘s “Real Deal.” 

Now, the politics of personal tragedy usually play out on center court in Florida almost immediately after every hurricane crosses the Sunshine State‘s northern border.  You know, we‘ve seen Florida‘s governor, the president of the United States and Senator Kerry all weighing in on how to best help Florida residents hit by Charley.

Which, of course, is their job.  But talking heads have been chattering away today about the politics of Hurricane Charley and how it‘s going o play out in this fall‘s election. 

Pundits are reminding viewers of how the first President Bush lost support in Florida after voters viewed his response to Hurricane Andrew was less than stellar.  But you know what?  That lesson was learned well by Bill Clinton and his FEMA director, James Lee Witt, whom I followed around on several hurricanes that hit northwest Florida. 

And apparently, Bush the younger has also learned that lesson.  So don‘t expect a repeat of the 1992 campaign.  But campaign managers that are hoping to turn Florida‘s personal tragedy into political points had best tread lightly. 

Because you know, Florida voters have seen this political play before.  And any candidate they see exploiting the human wreckage of Hurricane Charley had best brace themselves for a political storm that is of their own making. 

And that‘s tonight‘s “Real Deal.” 

Now, for the latest on Hurricane Charley, we‘re joined now by NBC‘s Martin Savidge, and he‘s in devastated Punta Gorda. 

Martin, what‘s the latest?

MARTIN SAVIDGE, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT:  Good evening to you, Joe. 

We thought we‘d start out with something different, maybe some good news coming out of this particular area.  Especially over the past few days, it‘s been a desert of any good news. 

No. 1, the electricity is being turned back on.  You wouldn‘t see it in the background here, but in fact, they say there are only about a million people that are without electricity.  That is an improvement because at one point, it was said to be as many as two million people. 

Then the other positive news has to do with the death toll.  You may think that‘s kind of strange, but in fact, here‘s the way it works.  The death toll, it appears now, has stabilized at 16.  Given the magnitude of this storm, that would be remarkable. 

There had been fears that the death toll would soar.  However, now officials believe that is not going to happen, maybe because the search and rescue team have gone through just about all the buildings that remain to be looked at, and they haven‘t found anybody else.  That‘s the positive.

President Bush also was in town this morning, toured the damage from the air, looked at it from the ground, talked to victims, talked to emergency officials, and as you say, he has promised very swift action coming into the state. 

He does not want to have that sense of a repeat performance that his father had back in 1992 of senior Bush when dealing with Hurricane Andrew. 

And then there are the numbers, and they are staggering.  The early estimates are that this storm could cost anywhere from $11 to perhaps as much as $20 billion. 

Eighty percent of the homes in this country, Charlotte County, have been damaged.  Next door in Lee County, a quarter of a million structures have been damaged.  You have thousands of people that are not in their homes.  And you had hundreds of people in Punta Gorda alone today that lined up just to have the prospect of getting ice. 

So it‘s still a very difficult situation.  Water is also a problem here.  Communication, the cell phone.  Telephone lines are down.  People are resorting to all kind of different methods just trying to get word out that they are OK. 

And then also, it was Sunday, and the irony you have there was that people were leaving their devastated homes, going to their devastated houses of worship.  Still, they do feel grateful for what they have gone through, and they‘re hoping that, as the president says, the help really is on the way—Joe. 

SCARBOROUGH:  All right, Martin.  Thanks so much.  We greatly appreciate your work down there.  You‘re doing a great job. 

I want to bring in our next guest.  He‘s an expert on Florida politics.  He‘s also the executive editor of the “Miami Herald.” 

Tom Fiedler, thanks a lot for being with us tonight. 

TOM FIEDLER, EXECUTIVE EDITOR, “MIAMI HERALD”:  Glad to be here, Joe. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Tom, you know, on Tuesday, northwest Florida was stormed by the Bush brothers.  On Wednesday, central Florida got hit by Hurricane Charley. 

A lot of—a lot of politicians and a lot of pundits today, I noticed on news shows, were chattering about the political impact on the election in Florida in 2004.  I almost hate to discuss this after you see those—those images, but people are talking about it in Washington and the campaigns. 

Do you see any impact at all from this hurricane, compared to what happened to George Bush in 1992?

FIEDLER:  I really think the situations are quite different, and you made a point in your opening commentary that the lessons have been learned. 

A couple of things that are probably worth noting from the outset is that, No. 1, people ought to remember that President Bush the first, President H.W. Bush, actually won Florida in 1992.  So—so you cannot suggest that a failure to do something led to his defeat. 

Secondly, there was a Democratic governor in 1992, Lawton Chiles.  And Lawton Chiles was the one who really, in many ways, created the situation that proved a bit embarrassing for President Bush in—in president—rather in Governor Chiles‘ calling for much more federal aid. 

And—and he—he led the criticism there of the federal government. 

Clearly, you have here in Florida now the brother of the president, and he is not about to create a situation in which his brother would be embarrassed.  So quite a bit of difference here. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Yes.  Yes.  The Bush families traded up as far as who they‘ve had politically sitting in the governor‘s chair during these hurricanes. 

I want to ask you to give us an update on the state of Florida and the 2004 election.  Obviously, you‘ve—you‘ve written what a lot of people considered the Bible of Florida politics.  You understand this state county by county. 

I thought I understood the state county by county until the 2000 election when I remember being quoted in “The New York Times” in September saying if this race is within two or three points in October, George Bush is going to be in trouble. 

How do you explain a state—as a Democratic—I mean, a Republican governor, the cabinet is all Republican.  The Senate, the House and the state dominated by Republicans.  And yet, right now John Kerry is up in the latest poll I‘ve seen by six points.  How do you explain it?

FIEDLER:  Well, the simplest way to explain it is that, yes, you‘re right, that the cabinet certainly is Republican, and the house and the senate and the legislature are Republican and the congressional delegation overwhelmingly Republican. 

But as you know, all of those are the results of redistricting, of apportionment, which can benefit the party in power.  What you also need to make note of at the same time is that the two U.S. senators from Florida are Democrats. 

So Florida has long had two things.  It‘s had a history of being a bellwether of the nation.  If you‘re going to have the nation split all virtually 50/50, as they are Florida, Florida is likely to be split 50-50.

And if the other thing about Florida is that it is a state where political party loyalty is very weak.  People tend to identify with the individual, to vote the individual and not the party. 

And I think in this particular case, that even though the Republicans would seem to hold an overwhelming edge in offices and so forth, that really doesn‘t reflect strength for the Republican Party itself.  It‘s simply, again, a factor caused by redistricting, apportionment and so forth. 

People here tend to move about, depending on the individual and will go in that particular way. 

SCARBOROUGH:  And that‘s what makes reporting of Florida politics, like you do so—It makes it so fascinating. 

Hey, Tom, thanks...

FIEDLER:  Always interesting. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Always.  And Tom, thanks for being with us tonight.  We greatly appreciate it and we hope you‘ll come back as we get into October.  September, October.  And we‘re going to be going around the state of Florida and updating our viewers on the very latest in, as you said, that bellwether state.

FIEDLER:  I‘d enjoy it.  Thank you. 

SCARBOROUGH:  All right.  Thanks. 

Now, to discuss the finer point of all things regarding not only Florida but also presidential politics, we‘ve brought in an all-star panel.  With us tonight, we‘ve got Mayor Jerry Brown.  He‘s, of course, from Oakland, California.  We‘ve got Democratic strategist Kirsten Powers.  And our old buddy, Mike Barnicle of the “Boston Herald.”

Mike, let me begin wit you.  I want to show you some new polls that shows that there‘s really still no discernible bounce from the Democratic National Convention, or from anything that apparently has happened over the past three or four or five months. 

The latest polls shows President Bush leading Kerry 50-47 percent.  And the president has a 51 percent approval rating.  It‘s only mid-August, obviously.  But there is a slight swing the president‘s direction.  What do you think is causing it right now?

MIKE BARNICLE, “THE BOSTON HERALD”:  I think probably, Joe, if anything it‘s causing those numbers—it‘s John Kerry‘s failure to close the deal in Iraq. 

He had an opening at the convention.  He‘s had several openings since then. 

I think he had a tough week this past week when he said if he knew now what he knew then with regard to his vote on the Iraqi resolution, he‘d do the same thing.  I think that caused a lot of Democrats who were maybe on the fence about which way to go here, shrug their shoulders and say, “Well, why should I vote for that guy?”

BARNICLE:  He‘s got to give people a reason to vote for him, and he hasn‘t done that with regard to Iraq, which I think is the hugest anxiety level issue out there. 

SCARBOROUGH:  You know, Mike, I saw—I was watching our friend Chris Matthews in this past hour.  I thought Chris was going to pull his hair out when he was talking about John Kerry, saying that if he had known everything then that he knows now, he still obviously would have supported the war. 

Do you think that was a tactical mistake on John Kerry‘s part, and do you think the Bush campaign will make him pay for it by climbing into his trap?

BARNICLE:  Well, I think they‘ve already started to try and make him pay for it.  Perhaps in the minds of some people, maybe a lot of people, that it was a mistake. 

Because again, to reiterate it, he says, if I knew now what I knew then, I would still do the same thing. 

I think people are looking for an alternative to the way this war is being waged.  It‘s caused a lot of divisions in this country, not just in blue states, red states: I think with a lot of people throughout the United States. 

And they want to hear an alternative view, and so far Senator Kerry hasn‘t given them that view. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Jerry Brown, the old song, and old Who song, “Won‘t Get Fooled Again.”  Final line, meet the new boss, same as the old boss. 

Is that what we have here with John Kerry versus George W. Bush when it come to the war in Iraq?

MAYOR JERRY BROWN, OAKLAND:  Well, if it‘s the same today, you know, it‘s the same in a couple of months as it is today, I think Kerry will have a real problem. 

I think the reason why Kerry‘s holding back because if he knows he‘ll get trashed by the Republicans and some of the media, and so he‘s being very cautious. 

But at some point, I agree.  He‘s got to lay out a very solid alternative. 

SCARBOROUGH:  When does he do that, though?  When does he do that, Governor?

BROWN:  Well, it‘s getting pretty close.  I‘d say the next few weeks. 

I mean, he doesn‘t have to do it before the Republican convention.  He has to be the remark, I think, was damaging.  And what Kerry has to realize is that, if the voters like that war in Iraq, or you know, at least don‘t want to change horses, he‘s not going to win. 

So if the fact that he has to be so close to Bush is a reflection of his judgment of swing voters, then this is a very tough election for him to win.  I think he‘s got to lay out that—lay the high ground out, what he thinks.  It‘s got to be substantially different to change the commander in chief.

And I think he‘s got a real shot to win, but win or lose, he has got to provide an alternative, or he‘s going to run the real risk that people will stick with what‘ve got.  

SCARBOROUGH:  All right.  Governor, Mayor, man of many talents.  Thanks for that response.  We‘ll get more from you, more from Mike Barnicle, Kirsten Powers and our panel when SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY returns in just a minute. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SCARBOROUGH:  And we‘re joined now by GOP strategist Ed Rollins.  We also have Democratic strategist Kirsten Powers.  Thanks for being with us. 

Let me start with you, Kirsten Powers.  Do you believe—I think the biggest news this week has to be John Kerry saying that he would have still supported the war, knowing everything now that he knew then. 

Do you think that was a mistake, or do you think it‘s something that he had to do?

KIRSTEN POWERS, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST:  Well, I think that he continues to give these kinds of nuanced answers that are upsetting to, you know, to some Democrats. 

And the way we‘re supposed to understand it, I guess, is that he believes giving the president the authority was the right thing to do, and that‘s a position that he continues to hold.  It‘s not a position that a lot of Democrats hold, but it seems to be his position.  And if that‘s how he feel, I think he has to continue to state that ground. 

SCARBOROUGH:  But boy, that‘s a long way, though, as you know, from the Howard Dean campaign and some of the other campaigns in December and January that just absolutely set the Democratic grassroots on fire. 

POWERS:  Yes, but that‘s not John Kerry.  That never was John Kerry.  I think that there are plenty of Democratic senators who still—who have said many of the same things that John Kerry is saying. 

I don‘t personally agree with it.  And some other Democrats don‘t agree with it.  But there are leaders in the Democratic Party, and there are Democrats, frankly, who believe the president should have had that authority. 

They‘re not happy with the way he used the authority.  But they do believe philosophically, that the president should have the authority, you know, to make that decision. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Ed Rollins, you‘ve been a Republican strategist.  You‘ve also helped independents.  Tell me, in this case, if John Kerry called you up last week and said, “What should I do?  The president has come out; he‘s challenged to pick a side.  Do I say, support the war or say I oppose war?”

What would you tell him to do?

ED ROLLINS, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST:  Well, the critical thing here is not what he did back then or what he would have done back then.  It‘s what he‘s going to do now.

And I think, you know, it‘s the same way he argues about what he did in Vietnam.  The critical thing is what he‘s done in the last 20 years. 

This is about the future, and this is about how we support our troops that are there.  We‘re not pulling our troops out, and neither side is arguing that.  I think the critical thing is what is your plan to win this war, to get a democracy there, to rebuild Iraq?  And how do you do it most effectively?

And I think that both candidates, the president and John Kerry, to talk to the American public about that issue. 

SCARBOROUGH:  He‘s got a problem, though, because again, his biggest fundraisers, the people that are most aggressively supporting him, the 527s like MoveOn.org, they are out there specifically because they‘re against George Bush‘s war in Iraq. 

They‘re anti-war activists.  That‘s what seems to unite the Democratic base.  This is going to defang that base, isn‘t it?

ROLLINS:  I would argue that those people would be against George Bush no matter what.  They were against George Bush from when your former home state went to Bush three years ago. 

And I think to a certain extent, there‘s a very polarized electorate today.  And I think a lot of what‘s driving this campaign is an anti-Bush vote.  Just as on our side, we have a very strong, unified Republican Party, which we haven‘t had in a long, long time. 

So it‘s a very polarized election, a very close election.  The next 80 days will be like the Ali-Frazier fight, you know. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Which one, one, two or three? 

ROLLINS:  Certainly...

SCARBOROUGH:  Or all of them?

ROLLINS:  Certainly, the first two, and I think to a certain extent it‘s going to come down to those closing—closing days. 

POWERS:  I also—I also think that a lot of—when you talk about those people that, you know, that were, that are so anti-war and were, you know, supporting the Howard Deans, I mean, at the end of the today, those primary voters, the most liberal voters out there, they went with John Kerry. 

And John Kerry is not a pacifist.  You know, it‘s not—we‘re not talking about the same type of thing.  We‘re talking about some people who have specific problems with how the president has, you know, has moved, handled this war. 

You know, there are people who opposed the war, and then there are people who actually supported the war, who are Democrats, but are not happy with the way—the way the president has handled it. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Yes.  Now let‘s move on to the other hot story this week. 

One of the more shocking pieces of political theater that I‘ve ever seen, Democratic Governor James McGreevey of New Jersey announced Thursday that for years he‘s been leading a double life. 

McGreevey revealed that he‘s gay, that he had an extra-marital relationship with another man who—who he gave a high profile government job.  And that he planned to resign his office, effective November 13, 13 convenient days after the election. 

Now let‘s bring back in other members of our panel.  And I want to go to you, Mike Barnicle, and tell me what‘s your reaction to the resignation.  And is it going to have an impact on New Jersey politics or presidential politics?

BARNICLE:  I have no idea, Joe.  All I know is that I cringed for his wife and his parents during that announcement and I wonder, God only knows why public people drag their families onto the stage at a moment like this. 

SCARBOROUGH:  You see—You see that father?  Every time he made one of these—one of these revealing sort of statements about his double life and sort of couched it in Dr. Phil speak, his father‘s eyes would shoot up toward the ceiling, just saying, “I cannot believe my son is making me go through this in public.” 

BARNICLE:  There‘s that aspect of it.  And you know, I felt terribly for the governor.  I would feel terrible for any human being to have to be so self-revealing in such a public a forum with the eyes of the nation on him. 

But there was an element of that address, six minutes long, where he exploited his sexuality to try and camouflage his horrendously bad judgment in appointing this guy, not even a citizen, to the head of—to the homeland security department in a state, New Jersey, devastated by September 11. 

Jerry Brown, was—forget this “I am a gay American” thing.  I mean, I think—I think most voters at this point, especially New Jersey, aren‘t going to care if the guy come out and says “I‘m a gay American.”  They‘re hardly going to run him out of office, going to force him to resign. 

But isn‘t that—wasn‘t it—didn‘t you find that to be just a convenient excuse for getting out of office when he had all these scandals and bribing him?

BARNICLE:  I think the first principle is that when you drop a bombshell, you know, like Nixon, you get away from the helicopter.  You get the hell out of town. 

It‘s very odd to say there‘s a horrible thing here.  I‘m now going to tell it to you.  It‘s painful.  But I‘m going to hang around for a couple months.  That doesn‘t quite make sense. 

And then secondly, this business about being gay and then—it sounds like some of these candidates are saying, “Well, that‘s old news.”  And he‘s waiting for all the bad news that‘s going to come up over the next several weeks or months.  And then he‘s going to say, we already said that. 

So it indicates, there‘s going to be allegations that are pretty shocking, and he wanted to get out as positive an impression as he could before, you know, the real mud starts, or the allegation of such starts floating up and driven by this guy that he‘s obviously in a big argument with. 

SCARBOROUGH:  And Ed Rollins of “The New York Times” wrote something this morning.  I thought it was very interesting—where they talked about a candidate in public life, actually hiding behind his gayness, to shield other—other corrupt acts. 

Doesn‘t that show us just how far, let‘s says the gay movement has advanced over the past 20 years?  Where being gay itself would have been the scandal 20 years ago. 

ROLLINS:  I don‘t want to speak to his sexual orientation.  I think this is a man who‘s been compromised over and over again by his friendships and by his business dealings with people. 

And I think without any question, he would have been beat by Coresine in a primary a year from now. 

I think, at this point in time, he allowed himself to be compromised by his inappropriate behavior. 

And I think whoever said earlier, to drag his wife and his family out there is outrageous.  He should have stood out there like a man and said, “I made a serious mistake.  I‘m resigning today.  Let the state hold another election to the most powerful governorship in the country.”

Don‘t put some lame duck in there for the next 13 months and move on. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Kirsten—oh, I‘m sorry.  Go ahead. 

ROLLINS:  That‘s fine.

SCARBOROUGH:  Kirsten, I wanted to read you what the “Times” said and get you to respond also to what Ed said. 

They said McGreevey‘s announcement was hardly a voluntary act.  If the public turns against him, is it because he was gay?  Or because he led what was in effect a double life, that included marital infidelity as well as what could be—what could prove to be serious ethical improprieties?”

If that‘s the case, as Ed Rollins says, should he resign tomorrow instead of waiting until November 15?

POWER:  Well, I mean, I think that he in many ways had to come out and make this announcement, because like you just said, it was going to come out. 

And part of all of the improprieties involved this alleged gay relationship.  Now the guy is actually saying that he‘s not gay.

So I think that he had no choice to come out and say it. 

And you know, in terms of resigning, I mean, he—he is not going to resign because he‘s gay, and he‘s maintaining that he hasn‘t done anything wrong.  So there‘s really no reason for him to resign at this point.  He‘s been accused of things, but he hasn‘t been actually found guilty of anything. 

SCARBOROUGH:  You know, there‘s one other point.  Besides all this ethical stuff, this is still a political world.  And if the senator from New Jersey wants to run, then you‘re going to open up a seat and need the Democratic governor to replace him. 

And you know, that—I guess it sounds a little too political.  But that‘s the way politicians think. 

POWERS:  Well, the other interesting thing...

BROWN:  I have to report that to you.

POWERS:   ... of course, is that a poll just came out today, showing that his approval rating actually has gone up.  So it seems to have...

SCARBOROUGH:  Yes, yes.  Boy, you know what?  That‘s something that I—you know what?  Because if I lived in New Jersey, I would be really glad that he got a foreigner, who I hear wrote poetry and was a sailor, to head up New Jersey‘s Homeland Security Commission. 

Boy, you know what?  That would make me want to vote for this guy, too.  I mean, that is a scandal in itself, isn‘t it, Mike Barnicle?

BARNICLE:  Look, Joe, you‘ve got Jersey City, the hotels there right along the Hudson River.  We‘ve done shows there from MSNBC.  You can look right across the Hudson River, right at Ground Zero, right where the two world trade towers used to stand. 

The last PATH stop before the World Trade Center is right there in Jersey City. 

Hundreds and hundreds of people boarded those trains on the morning of September 11.  New Jersey citizens went to work, never to return.  They got killed for going to work. 

This guy, McGreevey, within a year, appoints a non-citizen to head up a commission—I don‘t think head up a commission, but to be part of a homeland security department of the state of New Jersey in that whole northern New Jersey area devastated by September 11. 

This guy has a lot more going on inside of his head that would create problems other than his sexuality. 

SCARBOROUGH:  I agree with you.  I mean, that‘s why—that, of all the thing I‘ve heard, that‘s what‘s the most unforgivable right now. 

Now, coming up on SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY, we‘ve got more of our panel.  The president is attacking John Kerry over a new ad regarding missing key intelligence committee hearing votes.  We‘re going to take a look at that next, so don‘t go away.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SCARBOROUGH:  Coming up next, the Republican continue swinging at Kerry and John Edwards.  Now they‘ve got the chairman of the intel committee in the Senate going on “MEET THE PRESS” to say that John Kerry was MIA in the war on terror. 

We‘ll talk about that in a second, but first, let‘s get the latest headlines from the MSNBC news desk.

(NEWSBREAK) 

SCARBOROUGH:  A new ad for the Bush/Cheney campaign says if John Kerry and John Edwards didn‘t participate in key votes on terror related intelligence.  Take a listen to this. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATS:  I‘m George W. Bush, and I approved this message. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  John Kerry promises...

SEN. JOHN KERRY (D-MA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  I will immediately reform the intelligence system. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Really?  As a member of the intelligence committee, Senator Kerry was absent for 76 percent of the committee‘s hearings. 

In the year after the first terrorist attack on the World Trade Center, Kerry was absent for every single one.  That same year he proposed slashing America‘s intelligence budget by $6 million. 

There‘s what Kerry says and then there‘s what Kerry does. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCARBOROUGH:  Mike Barnicle, let me bring you back in here.  You‘re always sort of—I mean, you‘re somebody that I love asking these questions to.  First of all, you know John Kerry. 

Secondly, if it‘s a fair charge, you say as a Democrat and as somebody that supports John Kerry, you say, you know what, that‘s fair or it‘s not fair.  What about this latest charge?  Is this a fair attack on John Kerry?

BARNICLE:  Well, it‘s a political charge.  I mean, it‘s a political ad.  And I‘m sure Senator Kerry‘s campaign will have an equally negative ad. 

You have to sit there and ask yourself, Joe, what does it mean to the people who, you know, push their grocery carts up alongside the aisle along with you on a Saturday morning? 

You know, what does it mean, that he didn‘t go to work?  That he didn‘t show up for the job?

I suppose Senator Kerry could say, you know, “While the other guy did show up on the job every day, and now your son, your brother, your sister, whomever, is going door to door in Najaf when they perhaps didn‘t have to.  And we‘ve lost over 900 young Americans in Iraq, when perhaps we didn‘t have to.” 

So the scale will balance itself out.  Is this ad fair?  Of course not.  Will the Kerry ads against Bush be fair?  Of course not.  They‘ll be political theater as they always have been. 

I don‘t know that a lot of people in this day and age, when there are so many informational tools available to them, are going to vote off of just one ad. 

SCARBOROUGH:  You know, Mike, I still think this race is too close to call.  I think it‘s going to remain too close to call, like Ed Rollins said, to the very end. 

But you look at all the money the Bush campaign spent, trying to paint him as a flip-flopper.  And that seems to work. 

And since—since John Kerry‘s convention, talking about strength, strength, strength, they have really been pounding him, trying to turn him into a Michael Dukakis Massachusetts liberal. 

BARNICLE:  Well, you know what‘s interesting—what‘s interesting about the ad, Joe, off of what you just said, is you know, if you go around and write about this campaign, write about the politics of it as I try to do occasionally, the one thing that strikes you about people who are leaning toward voting for George Bush, who are going to vote for George Bush, is they admire his certainty of belief. 

And that does separate him so far from Senator Kerry, who according to the ads and according to his own statements, you could say, you know, what does the guy believe in?  George Bush, at least people know, I think, what he believes in.  And he articulates it very simply and very clearly.  And that‘s a very strong asset for the president. 

ROLLINS:  Yes, you know, I think what we have here is an effective ad.  It doesn‘t really relate to Kerry‘s commitment to terrorism, but it certainly underscores the fact that terrorism is the issue.  And it also underscores this discrepancy between word and deed. 

So yes, it doesn‘t say anything about what Kerry would do.  And I think maybe in addition, it goes back to that same point.  What is the Kerry difference such that we should throw the commander in chief out in the middle of this war?  That is what he‘s got to provide, and this ad definitely undermines Kerry‘s position. 

SCARBOROUGH:  You know, Ed Rollins, when I was running for Congress the first time, nobody really knew who I was.  About six months in the campaign, I had Democrats coming up to me.  In 1994, baby, I hadn‘t grown yet.  I was a conservative‘s conservative.  A fire breathing conservative. 

ROLLINS:  You still are. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Exactly.  But I‘m trying to pretend to my friends and the media that I‘ve grown. 

But I would have people come up to me and they‘d say, “You know what, Scarborough?  We think you‘re crazy.  We disagree with you half the time, but we‘re going to vote for you because we know you‘re going to say what you mean.  You‘re going to mean what you say.”  And when you vote, you‘re not going to stick your finger in the wind. 

I‘m not saying that to say, “Hey, look at me, I‘m great.”  I‘m saying that, though, to that to undermine what Mike Barnicle just said.  And when you worked for Ross Perot, I believe in 1992, didn‘t he have that same thing going for him, that people loved him because he was a straight shooter? 

ROLLINS:  Well, they did, and first of all, you talked me being an independent.  I‘ve been a Republican for 35 years, and I spent six weeks helping Perot.  And I took him from 39 to 17.  At least that‘s what he claims. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Good job!

ROLLINS:  Thank you.

The critical thing on this ad, and this is an effective ad.  No ad in August is going to change an election in November, 80 days out. 

But where this effective, and where I disagree just a little bit with my—People do expect you to go vote.  That‘s the one job a senator or a congressman or assemblyman has. 

And when you miss a whole bunch of votes, and I‘ve watched assembly races and congressional races, people say, “Well, why didn‘t you?”

Obviously, running for president, which is the reason these two men have missed a great number of votes, is extremely difficult, and that‘s why if you‘re smart, you really resign and go, basically, be a full-time presidential candidate. 

No one wants to take that risk, but the bottom line is if you miss all those votes, which they have, it is a legitimate issue, and it will be raised over and over again. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Jack Burkman, what do you say?  Is this a real issue?  Or is this just a Bush/Cheney campaign team trying to hit the Massachusetts senator below the belt?

JACK BURKMAN, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST:  I think it is a real issue.  I may disagree a bit, with what‘s been sitting here.  Don‘t see why it‘s a bad ad.  Facts are facts.  Facts are stubborn things. 

If he missed 76 percent of committee hearings, he missed 76 percent of committee hearings.  Yes, it‘s the case that most members missing hearings because they‘re boring. 

Kerry might say, in a moment of candor, “Well, I had to raise money for being president.”

But you know what, Joe?  If you want to be president of the United States, you have to be better than just the average member of the Senate, better than just the average member of Congress.  You have to have a good attendance record. 

And I think Kerry had an obligation to attend a lot of those hearings, particularly with some of the positions he‘s taken.  He‘s chosen to run on national security.  He obviously is proud of his intelligence record. 

So I don‘t see why this is a bad ad.  What‘s wrong with—what‘s wrong with stating the facts as they are?

SCARBOROUGH:  Jack Kennedy missed a lot of votes. 

BURKMAN:  How is that relevant, Jerry?  How is that relevant?  Who cares if Jack Kennedy missed votes?  Do you think it‘s relevant?  Do you think it‘s relevant that Senator Kerry missed a lot of these hearings?  We‘re not talking about Jack Kennedy. 

BROWN:  In reality, I don‘t think it is relevant if Kerry has a defining alternative.  And because that‘s missing, ads like this can really knock him off his horse. 

SCARBOROUGH:  And it fills that void.  Kirsten, I‘ll ask you the same question.  Do you think this ad is fair?  Do you think it was fair for Pat Roberts to go on the “MEET THE PRESS” this morning, attacking his voting record?  Do you think it‘s fair for us to be talking about this now for five or six minutes?

POWERS:  I think it‘s absolutely fair.  And I think it‘s pretty par for the course in any campaign.  I mean, this is what you talk about, it‘s the easiest thing to hit people on. 

The reality is he, while he was missing votes, he was also getting briefings.  And I‘m not expecting the Bush administration to put that in their ad. 

But it‘s not that he didn‘t know what was going on. 

In terms of what happened on meet the press this morning, I watched it and I didn‘t get that you did.  I didn‘t really get that he was saying that he was MIA.  I think that he was actually saying, a little—he held back a little bit on that and did make it clear that he thinks the hearings were important. 

But if he was running for president, he would have been in all those hearings.  So it‘s a little unfair to John Kerry. 

SCARBOROUGH:  I—you know, personally I agree.  I‘d like to see the last Republican, I guess it was Bob Dole in 1996 when he was running for president.  I wonder what his voting record was on some of these key issues, key issues that were relevant in 1996. 

We‘ll be right back on SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  In tonight‘s “SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY Challenge,” we asked, “What was the costliest natural disaster in U.S. history.”  The answer is B.  Hurricane Andrew was estimated to have inflicted between $20 and $35 billion in damage. 

Now back to Joe.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCARBOROUGH:  Well, what a disaster that was.  We‘re back with more from our panel.  Mike Barnicle, I want to go with you. 

I know you‘ve—well, you‘ve probably read the Kennedy imprisonment.  Gary Wills, great book. 

They talked about that pitiful moment in the 1980 Democratic primary campaign, Wills does, where Roger Mudd asks the question of Ted Kennedy, why do you want to be president of the United States?  He stammers around, looks lost. 

Again, you‘re somebody that‘s followed John Kerry.  You liked the man.  Tell Americans, why does John Kerry want to be president of the United States?  What does he believe in in his core?

BARNICLE:  Well, I think what he believes in at his core, Joe, is the fact that the most important thing a commander-in-chief can do, slash president of the United States, is commit young Americans to war. 

It‘s not the economy.  It‘s not health care.  It‘s not gas prices.  It‘s the life of an individual human being, our sons and our daughters, the bravest among us. 

And I think he probably wants to be president of the United States this particular year because we are at war.  Nobody is really talking about it as—like we are at war.  We‘re going about our daily business as if nothing is happening.  We‘re not making any sacrifices here. 

And I think Senator Kerry, probably along with more than a few senators, feel that they were deliberately misled by this administration.  They‘re probably joined in that belief by Secretary of State Colin Powell. 

And I think the principle reason that John Kerry is running and wants to be president this year is so that that particular aspect of the presidency, the role of commander-in-chief, committing our youngest and our best to war, will not be taken lightly. 

BURKMAN:  You know, Mike, I don‘t even think you believe that.  Let me jump in.  I would say first of all...

SCARBOROUGH:  What do you mean you don‘t think I believe it?

BURKMAN:  If he cares so much about the military, why did he vote against every major weapons system in the last 20 years?

The second question is...

BARNICLE:  Hey, this is the only guy in the ballot who‘s been shot at.  He‘s running against—he‘s running against one guy with five deferments, the vice president of the United States. 

BURKMAN:  That‘s not relevant.  How is that—how is that relevant, Mike?

BARNICLE:  Well, I think it‘s sort of...

BURKMAN:  Senator Kerry does not even have—Senator Kerry does not even have a different position on the war.  If you want to talk about his role or potential role as commander in chief, the first question he needs to answer is, if you took over in commander in chief, how would you handle this war differently?

SCARBOROUGH:  Mike Barnicle...

BURKMAN:  You‘re right about that, and we spoke to that earlier in the hour.  And that‘s a huge negative, a drag in his campaign right now. 

But the question posed to me was what I thought internally was driving John Kerry in his desire to be president right now.  And I answered the question. 

But you are absolutely right.  I mean, he should step up to the plate.  And if he‘s got a point to make, if he wants to close this deal, he should close it.  He hasn‘t done it yet. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Let—Let me go to Jerry Brown now, another Democrat.  Jerry Brown, what do you think John Kerry believes in?  Why is he running for president?

BROWN:  Well, I‘ll tell you, I was a little older than John Kerry.  I got out of Yale Law School a little sooner.  And I didn‘t know anybody there anxious to go to Vietnam. 

And I am really impressed that here‘s a guy with his kind of background in a liberal part of America, willing to go there and get his head blown off.  So this man has a core of courage. 

And I think his whole background gives him a certain sense of duty and commitment that‘s not only high-minded, but I think it‘s really well suited to the cynical, superficial age we‘re now in. 

So I think Kerry has the gravity.  I think he has the reserve.  And that fits very well with the kind of glitter and distraction and indulgence that this particular age seems to me to manifest in its worst aspects. 

SCARBOROUGH:  He certainly did serve with a lot of men and women who decided they didn‘t want to. 

Don‘t go away.  We‘ve got more with our panel just ahead, when SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY returns.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SCARBOROUGH:  You‘re not going to want to miss SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY this week.  We‘ve got Alan Keyes tomorrow night, talking about his run for the Senate.  Tuesday we‘ve got former vice presidential candidate Jack Kemp.  Wednesday it‘s former Vice President Dan Quayle.

That and much more, but stay tuned, because we‘ve got a lot more SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY straight ahead.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SCARBOROUGH:  Ed Rollins, I asked two Democrats what they thought about John Kerry and what he believed in.  Do you believe that Kerry‘s biggest weakness is the fact that he seems to waffle, seems to go back and forth on issues?

ROLLINS:  Well, I think the bottom line is John Kerry‘s been a liberal the 20 years he‘s been in Congress: always been one of the more liberal members by any definition.  I think he has always tried to push the Kennedy agenda. 

Where I disagree with Mike is, I think this is a guy who‘s wanted to be president for a long period of time.  After Gore made his decision not to go, he certainly saw an opportunity, whether there was a war or not a war.

The bottom line is, he‘s also a guy who want to always be loved by everybody.  And so, even though he pushes a liberal agenda, he‘s tried to cover himself by voting on a variety of issues back and forth.  And I think that‘s what has given him this record of not being very significant. 

I go back to the point that was made earlier by my fellow strategist in the sense that, this is a guy—It‘s not what he did in Vietnam.  I give him great credit for that.  Anyone who wins a Silver Star.  That was my era.  I take my hat off to him. 

It‘s what he‘s done in the 20 years he‘s been in Congress.  He‘s never been a good military vote.  He‘s never been for the troops.  And the question he has to answer now, is he going to be for the troops that are in Iraq today?

SCARBOROUGH:  Kirsten, I want to ask you—Kirsten, do you think—you know, when I was in Boston I didn‘t find a lot of people for John Kerry as much as I found people against George Bush.  Do you think that may be even worse for Kerry now because of this flip-flop on the war issue?

POWERS:  I think that—I mean, just to weigh in on what drives him, I mean, I think that what drives him is sort of this sense of duty.  And he‘s, you know, he‘s clearly driven by that.  And he was clearly driven by his experience in Vietnam. 

And, you know, I‘m going to agree with Ed, also.  He‘s obviously a very ambitious person, you know, who has wanted to be president.  And I don‘t think there‘s anything wrong with that. 

He—The Bush administration is doing a really brilliant job of casting him as the flip-flopper.  This is a person who does like to think about things and, frankly, there are a lot of really complicated issues. 

George Bush has gone back and forth on a lot of issues.  The Republicans have just been much better at really putting him in this box that now he‘s in the defensive and he‘s going to have to explain away. 

And I guess the short answer is yes, I think it does hurt him.  And I think that people do want someone who is decisive and do like that about Bush...

SCARBOROUGH:  Yes.

POWERS:  ... that he clearly believes in certain things.  And that‘s John Kerry‘s challenge now, is to really convince American that he can be decisive. 

BARNICLE:  You...

SCARBOROUGH:  Mike Barnicle, I‘ll give you the final 15 seconds. 

BARNICLE:  Well, you know, first of all, John Kerry has enjoyed a notable lack of success in having people love him, because very few people love him. 

But secondly, his job off of everything that‘s been said here tonight, now of everything you ever hear in the country, he has one job.  If he wants to be president of the United States, he‘s got to convince Americans that he can best win this war on terror and keep all of us safer over the next four years than the incumbent can.  I don‘t know that he can do it, but that‘s his job. 

SCARBOROUGH:  All right.  Thanks so much.  We‘ve had a great panel tonight.  Thank you, Mike Barnicle, Governor Brown, Kirsten Powers, Ed Rollins and Jack Burkman.  We really appreciate you being with us. 

Tomorrow night I‘m going to be joined by Sergeant Peter Damon.  He—Michael Moore featured Sergeant Damon, who lost an arm in Iraq, in his film, “Fahrenheit 9/11,” and the sergeant‘s not happy.  Hear why he‘s so mad at Michael Moore and why he still supports a war in Iraq. 

Plus, the race for Illinois Senate seat is heating up.  Tomorrow night, we‘re going to have Barack Obama and Alan Keyes.  Don‘t miss it, but we‘ll be right back in a second.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

JOE SCARBOROUGH, HOST, SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY:  Tonight‘s top headline, more details about Jim McGreevey‘s gay sex scandal.  The real deal - it‘s not about the governor being gay.  It‘s about how he‘s using it to distract us from his corrupt politics.

Welcome to the second hour of this special Sunday night edition of SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY, where no passport‘s still required, and only common sense is allowed.

The fallout from the New Jersey governor‘s announcement that shocked the country.  Republicans are demanding that he step down now and let the voters decide who they want in office.

And is John Kerry fit for command?  We‘ve been following that heated debate about a new book that claims that the presidential nominee lied about his war record.

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

SCARBOROUGH:  Poor Governor McGreevey!  He‘s out of office because he‘s a gay American.  It‘s time for tonight‘s real deal.

Now, don‘t you feel bad for Governor James McGreevey?  Now, here‘s a public servant who gave his all for the people of New Jersey.  And yet, he was forced from office just because of his alternative lifestyle.

Oh, I‘m sure critics are going to be attacking the poor governor because of his alleged gay partner, who is reportedly a poet and a foreign sailor - the same poet and foreign sailor who McGreevey tapped to run New Jersey‘s homeland security department just one year after 9/11.

And others are surely going to slam McGreevey because of his connections to one sleazy political scandal after another, almost from the first day he was sworn in as governor of New Jersey.

And still, other mean-spirited, right-wing, Christian extremist types will certainly bash the poor gay governor, because he‘s going to try to hold on to office until after the fall election.

This was the same kind of underhanded political trick the Democrats launched after New Jersey‘s own Robert “the Torch” Torricelli quit the United States Senate in disgrace just two years ago.

But questioning the proud-to-say-he‘s-gay governor would be so unfair!

Forget the sleazy political tricks.  Forget the slimy political scandals.  Forget the gay affair that seemingly launched a thousand political jobs.  And forget the rape charges that may soon be filed against the governor.

Forget it all!  And instead remember that Governor James McGreevey said those heroic words this week - “I am a gay American.”  And know that Governor James McGreevey is ready to fall on his sword for the greater good of the gay movement.

But if I were a gay American, I‘m not so sure I‘d want Mr. McGreevey‘s sword on my side.  In fact, I‘d ask the governor to reconsider the joys of having sex with women, and throw him back to the straights.  Because in the end, welcoming a guy like the New Jersey governor could set the cause of gay rights back decades.

And that‘s tonight‘s real deal.

With me now we have Governor Bret Schundler.  He was the first Republican elected mayor in Jersey City since World War I.  And he‘s the man who ran against McGreevey for governor of New Jersey in 2001.

Bret, thanks for being with us tonight.

I can‘t help but read, you know, laugh when I read all of these columns and people saying, McGreevey was courageous for coming out and saying I‘m a gay American.  I mean, take us behind the scenes in this administration.  Wasn‘t this one of the most corrupt governors in recent New Jersey history?

BRET SCHUNDLER, REPUBLICAN, FORMER MAYOR, JERSEY CITY:  Well, there‘s no doubt about that.

And, in fact, I think a lot of us were wondering whether he‘d be able to finish his term, because of some of the investigations going on right now.

In fact, there‘s one that has specifically to do with extortion.  A fellow by the name of Damiano, who is one of his childhood friends.

I think some of your viewers may have heard that, because, frankly, Jim McGreevey has been in the national news quite a bit recently in connection with a variety of scandals.

SCARBOROUGH:  Now, one of those scandals - fill us in - one of the scandals his top fundraiser apparently hired a prostitute, tried to blackmail his brother-in-law.

SCHUNDLER:  Yeah, that was actually ...

SCARBOROUGH:  Is that correct?

SCHUNDLER:  ... that‘s an obstruction of justice case.  There was an investigation going on with regard to his fundraising practices that had to do with trying to silence a witness in that case.

Now, the other case, which I think is perhaps the most interesting and the most potentially damaging for the governor, was one where a top fundraiser had been indicted by the U.S. attorney in connection, essentially, with a bribery scandal.

I think the governor was on his way out, one way or the other.  Many of us are wondering whether this particular exit was one engineered by some of the governor‘s former Democratic colleagues, the Democratic bosses who were always standing behind him, but may have found him to be more of a risk to their long-term control in New Jersey, and maybe wanted to clear the way for John Corzine, who they see as being somebody that may be able to hold on to the office next year.

SCARBOROUGH:  Now, what - are the New Jersey Republicans going to do anything about this scheme that‘s been launched?  I mean, it‘s so much like 2002, where ...

SCHUNDLER:  Right.

SCARBOROUGH:  ... Torricelli resigned, and he resigned after the filing deadline.  Democrats figured out a way to get a candidate on.

Now, of course, he resigns.  But he‘s staying on until after the election, so there‘s not a special election.

SCHUNDLER:  Well, the Republicans ...

SCARBOROUGH:  Are the Republicans going to fight that?

SCHUNDLER:  Yes.  The Republicans have called for him to step down.  And you‘ve seen every newspaper in the state, also.  I don‘t think the public clamor for his stepping down would have had any impact.

But I think it‘s very possible that Jim McGreevey may step down.  And I think the reason he may do it is because a number of the Democrats who have been trying to push him to the side, I think may also offer him considerable financial encouragement to step down.

You know, Jim McGreevey is someone who I think many people believe did break the law in connection with different fundraising schemes.  But he wasn‘t someone who I think most of us thought was out to make money himself.

He doesn‘t have a lot of money.  He is now going to be jobless.  He needs money.  And don‘t be surprised if he steps down and, ultimately, some of those who may have been there elbowing him off the stage are there to catch him and put him into a job as a reward for his stepping down earlier and giving John Corzine a chance to run in this November‘s election.

I think, frankly, McGreevey would sooner not do that, because I think he probably feels he was being pushed off the stage by some of these people who were his former allies, and would sooner not see them happy with John Corzine stepping right on.

And instead, McGreevey would probably rather see Dick Cody, the senate of the New Jersey - the president of the New Jersey senate - come on as an acting governor for a year.

But, again, I don‘t think Jim McGreevey really is necessarily in the driver‘s seat right now.  He may feel that he has to do what he has to do to secure the financial future of his family.

SCARBOROUGH:  All right.  Thanks a lot, Bret Schundler.  We greatly appreciate it.  You‘ve been a political maverick for a long, long time.

In fact, I remember reading about you in the early ‘90s, and taking great solace in what you did in Jersey City.

SCHUNDLER:  Well, thank you.

SCARBOROUGH:  Thanks for being with us.

SCHUNDLER:  It‘s a real pleasure.

SCARBOROUGH:  All right.  I want to bring in our panel now.  We‘ve got California congressman David Dreier.

We‘ve got MSNBC contributor and former Howard Dean campaign manager Joe Trippi.  He, of course, is the author of “The Revolution Will Not Be Televised.”

We also have MSNBC political analyst Flavia Colgan and John Avlon.  He‘s a columnist for the “New York Sun.”  And he‘s also the author of “Independent Nation:  How the Vital Center Is Changing American Politics.”

David Dreier, let me begin with you.  McGreevey comes out, he gives this - he gives this speech that many people praise as being courageous.

There wasn‘t a whole lot of courage involved here, was there?

REP. DAVID DREIER, REPUBLICAN, CALIFORNIA:  No.  You‘re absolutely right.

I think that the - that the real point here - and you failed to ask Bret the operative question.  Will he run in the November election, if, in fact, we see McGreevey step aside?  He didn‘t sound like he was ready to take on John Corzine if he were to do this.

But I happen to believe that, in light of all of the corruption that Bret just went through in that discussion, that it seems to me this would create an opportunity for a Republican to come in and actually be elected governor of New Jersey.

And, obviously, the other big question that comes into play here is, while we know that John Kerry enjoys a lead in New Jersey, the fact is, I think that if the gubernatorial seat were open for the November 2nd election, I think that it would bring that state into an even greater degree of play than it may already be in.

SCARBOROUGH:  But, David Dreier, don‘t you think the public clamoring for McGreevey to get out of office and not try to turn it over to one of his cronies would actually - if they did nothing, don‘t you think that could actually hurt John Kerry even more?

DREIER:  Well, you know, I think it may.  But I will tell you.  I mean, Bret just said something that I didn‘t know.

He said - he said that every newspaper in the state has, in fact, called for him to step aside.  And we know that Republicans have called for him to step aside.

Who knows?  I mean, John Kerry is, right now, as we all are aware, ahead in New Jersey.  And I happen to think that if you look at the tradition there, I think the state can be in play.  And I think that George Bush has a strong, vibrant campaign there.

I believe that actually opening this up with a candidate like Bret Schundler who, as you said, Joe - you and I followed him closely during the early 1990s, when he as major of Jersey City was able to take the initiative that we have, as far as our supply side goal, trying to encourage individual initiative and responsibility, and have a heck of a lot of success there - I think that that‘s the kind of candidacy that could really do a lot in turning around that state from the corrupt pattern that we‘ve seen for a long period of time.

SCARBOROUGH:  Boy, it has been corrupt!

Joe Trippi, as somebody that was in the final stages - I mean, you were there in the final stages of Gary Hart‘s campaign for president in 1988.

What did you think of McGreevey‘s speech?  Would you have recommended that he brought out his wife and his parents?  I thought is was just so painful to watch.

JOE TRIPPI, FORMER HOWARD DEAN CAMPAIGN MANAGER:  Well, it was painful to watch.  But I think it was amazing that his parents and wife were there, and that he chose this course of talking about this so bluntly and forthrightly.

Let me - one of the things I think that people are missing here is, look.  This guy, like it or not, is the duly elected governor of the State of New Jersey.

He could stay in office, have the sort of delayed and delay.  I mean, they would have to go to impeachment or some other method to remove him.  And so - which would obviously stall out beyond the election here.

I mean, whatever the legal process is, he‘s still facing that legal process.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  No, I can‘t.  I can‘t give (UNINTELLIGIBLE) ...

TRIPPI:  And if (UNINTELLIGIBLE) ...

DREIER:  But, Joe.  He admitted that he can‘t govern.  He admitted that he can‘t govern.  I mean, that‘s something that he said ...

TRIPPI:  No, he said that ...

DREIER:  ... in his ...

TRIPPI:  ... that the ensuing scandal would prevent him from governing, and that he was ...

DREIER:  Right.  And ...

(CROSSTALK)

SCARBOROUGH:  That‘s why he quit.

DREIER:  That‘s why I‘m perplexed.  Why does he - why can he still govern for three more months, then?

TRIPPI:  Well, no, it‘s a question of whether he can govern for three weeks, because the September 3rd deadline ...

DREIER:  OK, then ...

TRIPPI:  ... it‘s not a November 15th deadline.

All he had to do is resign on September 4th, and you couldn‘t have an election.

So, I don‘t believe - you know, I think this guy is doing the right thing.  He is duly elected.  If they want to impeach him, they can go through that process.  But we all know that process will last longer than the November election in the first place.

So I kind of think it doesn‘t - you know, all this stuff about the newspapers are calling for his resignation and there‘s a public clamor.

First of all, all the polls I saw show it neck in neck.  I mean, roughly 40-something believe he should resign immediately, and 53, I think, percent believe he should stay in office until November - to the November 15th resignation.  So, ...

SCARBOROUGH:  All right.  We‘re going to have to cut it there.  But we‘re going to have more on this McGreevey sex scandal with our panel coming up in a minute.

And later, the fallout from the new book accusing John Kerry of lying about his Vietnam war record.

And next, a live report from Florida and the aftermath of Hurricane Charley when SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY returns.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

LEONARD LANCE, REPUBLICAN, STATE SENATOR, NEW JERSEY:  I call upon Governor McGreevey, with my colleagues, to resign in time to permit an election this November.  It is nonsense to think that there needs to be a three-month transition period between Governor McGreevey and Senate President Cody.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCARBOROUGH:  I don‘t know.  He may need three months to shred all the documents.

That was New Jersey‘s state senator Leonard Lance calling for New Jersey Governor McGreevey to step down immediately.

We‘re back with our panel.  We‘ve got California congressman David Dreier.  We‘ve got MSNBC contributor and former Howard Dean campaign manager Joe Trippi, MSNBC political analyst Flavia Colgan and John Avlon.  He‘s a columnist for the “New York Sun.”  And he‘s the author of “Independent Nation:  How the Vital Center Is Changing American Politics.”

Flavia Colgan, want to ask you the same question I‘ve asked others.  Don‘t you think it could actually hurt the Democratic Party more if they‘re seen stonewalling and allowing McGreevey to stay in past this deadline, instead of sweeping him out of office immediately and calling for a special election in November?

FLAVIA COLGAN, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST:  Well, Joe, you know me well.  It is a dark day when I criticize Democrats.  But I‘m certainly very disgusted with everything that‘s happened with McGreevey.

And I agree with you.  I don‘t think what he did the other day was courageous at all.  It wasn‘t as if he was Barack Obama who came out long ago and disclosed his drug use, way before anyone had any inkling of it.

This is a man who was - his hand was forced.  And there‘s even accusations now that this was not a consensual relationship.

And I agree with Joe.  I mean, as someone who has lived in Pennsylvania my whole life, New Jersey has been plagued with a legacy of corruption.  And McGreevey, unfortunately, seems to have been involved, if not himself, certainly a lot of people around him.

And I don‘t know that it would be such a bad idea for Democrats, in terms of a special election.  Because I think that Corzine, in terms of money, name recognition, being able to get the money together and get a message out quickly before November, I think he‘d be a very, very strong candidate.

I do think it‘s unfortunate for the voters of New Jersey to get such a short election, where they wouldn‘t really be able to discuss the issues and see the candidates, and party bosses would be picking them, ...

DREIER:  That‘d be a relief.

COLGAN:  ... instead of in a primary process.

DREIER:  That‘d be a relief.

SCARBOROUGH:  John Avlon, you‘re - your, obviously - a report of the “New York Sun.”  You‘re right by New Jersey.

New Jersey is such a strong Democratic state.  It seems to me, one of the only ways a - well, the only way a Republican can win would be if the Democratic Party bosses were seen trying to rig this election.

JOHN P. AVLON, “NEW YORK SUN”:  I think there‘s going to be a backlash to this.  And there‘s an opportunity to have it be a time for reform in the state.

There‘s no more vivid example of the kind of, you know, hip-deep sleaze the state‘s suffered through for so long.

What‘s trying to be spun as a civil rights movement is, in fact, just evidence of how deeply in need their state is of change.  And there could be an opportunity here.  And it‘s one that, hopefully, the voters will get a chance to make their voices heard on.

What‘s also interesting to me is how this dovetails with the presidential election and with the cultural war agenda that‘s been put forward a bit with ballot referendum items on the gay marriage amendment in different swing states.

This does a lot of hard work for the Republicans.  And McGreevey and his corruption has played right into their hands.

SCARBOROUGH:  Flavia, what about this issue?  I mean, again, most people have been looking at what McGreevey said.  And, you know, we don‘t care that the guy was gay.  We care about the corruption.

Obviously, though, John Kerry has had a very nuanced position on gay marriage, on civil unions.  Do you think this may hurt him in states that are actually socially conservative, like Pennsylvania?

COLGAN:  Well, first of all, you know, I‘ve been spending a lot of time in Pennsylvania.  And you‘re right - not only on gun rights, but gay rights, abortion rights - Pennsylvania tends to be very socially conservative.

However, when you‘re dealing with a situation where 165,000 people have lost their jobs, where families are paying $2,700 more a year for health benefits, what I really notice as I travel around the state is, people are really voting with their pocketbooks.  And they don‘t have the luxury - if you want to call it that - to worry about these sort of visceral, emotional, social issues like they did in 2000 even a little bit.

So, I don‘t see it playing that big in Pennsylvania or in Michigan, for that matter, where I lived for a number of years also.

SCARBOROUGH:  David Dreier, what about - I mean, this - John Kerry can‘t be excited, just like he couldn‘t be excited, obviously, about the Massachusetts ruling on gay marriage.

He can‘t be excited that this scandal comes out, talking about gay marriage, if only because, in more culturally conservative areas, people may say, we‘re not offended by gay marriage.  We‘re not offended by civil unions.

But, in fact, when they go into the voting booths, it seems like - Missouri was a - was a perfect example.  Missouri voted down, what, 70/30, gay marriage.

DREIER:  Right.  Joe, I think what people are offended by - and they should be offended by - corruption.  And I think that‘s, again, what you had in your opening point, was what this really is all about.

And I think if you talk about states like Pennsylvania, I think that we need to recognize that today, on a nationwide basis, the unemployment rate is exactly where it was when Bill Clinton was running on his record as it related to the economy in 1996.

And I believe that we also have to realize that we are seeing improvement.  It is true that we‘ve gone through a heck of a lot.

And a lot of Pennsylvanians have lost jobs, as have others.

But, I mean, after having gone through an inherited recession, which Bill Clinton left for George W. Bush, coupled with, obviously, the corporate corruptions and September 11th and the war in Iraq - I think that we‘re emerging very well.  And I think that we‘re going to see a positive when it comes to the economy as November 2nd approaches.

SCARBOROUGH:  Joe Trippi, I want to - I want to follow up on that.  And actually, I think I may need to correct my good friend David Dreier, because I believe, in 1996, the unemployment rate was 5.6 percent.  Now it‘s 5.5 percent.

How does John Kerry ...

DREIER:  I don‘t mind that correction, Joe.

SCARBOROUGH:  ... get around - how does John Kerry get around that in the debates, when he talks about all the jobs that have been lost, and George Bush can say, the unemployment rate is lower, on average, than it was in the ‘70s, the ‘80s and the ‘90s, and, in fact, lower than when Bill Clinton ran for re-election in 1996?

TRIPPI:  Well, I‘ve been in Pennsylvania three times in the last 10 days.  And I think what‘s going is, a way to explain this is, a lot of folks have found work.

But what‘s happened there, for example, is they lost a $20 an hour job and are now working as a bartender or at McDonald‘s or some other place for $6, $7 an hour.  And so, ...

SCARBOROUGH:  Is that about out - is that outsourcing?  Is that about outsourcing?

TRIPPI:  I think it can be.  It must be.  I mean, there‘s something else going on.  I‘m not trying to get into the debate about whether there‘s lower jobless numbers or not.

I‘m saying, you know, David can say that they are - and I believe the numbers are correct - that they‘re lower.

I think what‘s going on is, people in Pennsylvania, in Michigan, states like that, are indeed employed.  But they‘ve dropped down.  Their standard of living has dropped considerably ...

DREIER:  You know, ...

TRIPPI:  ... in the last couple of years.  And that‘s ...

DREIER:  Joe, I will tell you.  You know, ...

TRIPPI:  ... that‘s why there‘s an angst about it.

DREIER:  Joe, there‘s very little attention focused on some dramatic new sectors of our economy.

Frankly, if you look at the household survey, which showed that - we saw 627,000 new jobs created last month.  And I know that the payroll survey - the establishment survey, which doesn‘t take into account a lot of these new sectors of our economy - showed a much lower number.

And many argue that it‘s somewhere between that 627 and the 32,000.  For example, you know, not many people know this, Joe.  There are 430,000 Americans who make their full-time living doing what?  Selling on eBay.

Now, a decade ago, no one would have even contemplated this.  And so I think that, you know, for my friend Joe Trippi to talk about, you know, the proverbial hamburger flipper jobs, that‘s the exact line that was used by Walter Mondale 20 years ago and by Michael Dukakis in his 1998 run against George H.W. Bush.  And we all know that those were specious arguments there.

I‘m not saying that things are perfect, but I think that Joe Scarborough was right in pointing to the fact that we do have an economy that is virtually identical to the growing economy that Bill Clinton and those advisors of Bill Clinton‘s, who today are working for John Kerry, were bragging about in the mid-1990s.

SCARBOROUGH:  All right.  Stay with us.  We‘re going to back to all of you, get back to you, Joe Trippi, let you respond.

But right now, let‘s go to NBC‘s Ron Blome.  He‘s in Punta Gorda, Florida, for some details on George Bush‘s visit today, and the latest on the cleanup effort after Hurricane Charley - Ron.

RON BLOME, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT, PUNTA GORDA, FLORIDA:  It was a busy day for a Sunday in Punta Gorda, Joe.

It was a day that began with prayer.  It included a presidential visit.  And then there was progress, at least some beginning of progress, in the cleanup here after what was left over from the category four hurricane that hit just 48 hours ago.

Let‘s talk about the prayer services.  Many of the churches were destroyed, so many of the services were held on the street and in parking lots.  Other churches were able to hold services, but without power - electric power, that is.  The power of prayer was still on display.

And then there was the visit of the president, which came less than 48 hours after the storm struck.  It was a quick visit by a president after such a disaster.

The White House wanted to play this as a quick response by a concerned president, but not long enough of a visit to get in the way of recovery efforts.

They pulled that off.

The president toured by air.  He was in the area for about 2.5 hours.

There was also a motorcade through Punta Gorda, a first-hand look at the damage, a walk down the most historic street in town, accompanied by his governor-brother, Jeb Bush, and by the head of the Red Cross.

He heard stories from survivors about what it was like to go through a category four hurricane.  And then he commented.  He talked about the compassion he saw on display.  Let‘s listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  That ice and water moving in.  Trailers where people live in are moving in.

The state is providing security, so that people can have peace of mind that their neighborhoods would be safe.

There‘s a lot of compassion moving in the area.  The Red Cross is here.

And what I‘m telling is that there‘s a lot of help moving into this part of the world.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLOME:  The president was also asked if he‘d learned a lesson from the first President Bush, Bush 41.  He was criticized for being slow to respond 12 years ago to the disaster of Hurricane - that - Andrew, that hit Florida.

And he said, well, sure.  There was a lesson there.  It was to respond quickly.  And that‘s what they were doing.

There‘s also the quick progress on cleanup.  Utility crews are flowing into the area.  We saw thousands of utility linemen and many, many trucks.

Also, the Red Cross now has 400 people in town.  They fed 9,000 meals today.  They‘re going to add another 20,000 to that to more.

The streets of downtown Punta Gorda were scraped up.  And yet, the people still have no power.  They have no water.  They don‘t have transportation.  And they‘re still waiting for that beginning of relief, the light at the end of the tunnel, to come here in Punta Gorda.

Back to you, Joe.

SCARBOROUGH:  All right.  Thanks a lot, Ron.  Great report on prayer and progress in Florida.  Appreciate you being with us.

And coming up on SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY, it was a war of words between Vietnam vets for and against John Kerry.  So, who‘s telling the truth?  And how‘s it going to affect John Kerry‘s run for the White House?

We‘re going to be debating that with our panel straight ahead.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SCARBOROUGH:  George Bush‘s poll numbers go up on the heels of a new ad of Vietnam veterans attacking John Kerry.  We‘ll talk about that when SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY returns.

But first, let‘s get the latest headlines from the MSNBC news desk.

MILISSA REHBERGER, MSNBC RIGHT NOW:  Hi, everyone.  I‘m Milissa Rehberger with the headlines.

In Venezuela, exit results from an independent polling firm show that President Hugo Chavez has been ousted in a recall referendum.  According to Penn, Schoen and Berland Associates, percent of Venezuelans were in favor of the recall, and 41 percent against.

In Northern California, a day-old wildfire continues burning out of control.  The blaze has destroyed 20 homes and forced nearly 300 residents to flee from the town of French Gulch.  Many more homes are threatened by the 7,600-acre fire that is only 10 percent contained.

And Michael Jackson made a surprise appearance at a Los Angeles area church today.  One (UNINTELLIGIBLE) is expected in court for his child molestation case.

In an unusual move, District Attorney Tom Sneddon will take the stand tomorrow.  Jackson‘s attorney is trying to show that Sneddon invaded attorney-client privilege between Jackson and his former lawyer.

Those are your headlines.  Now back to SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  From the press room to the court room to the halls of Congress, Joe Scarborough has seen it all.  Welcome back to SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY.

SCARBOROUGH:  A new book‘s challenging John Kerry‘s version of his service in Vietnam.  So, did he spend a Christmas in Cambodia, as he‘s claimed on the floor of the Senate?

And will the book that‘s coming out end up sinking Kerry‘s campaign for president?

We‘re back with our panel.  We‘ve got congressman David Dreier from California, MSNBC panelist and former Howard Dean campaign manager, Joe Trippi.  He, of course, is the author of “The Revolution Will Not Be Televised.”

We also have MSNBC political analyst Flavia Colgan and John Avlon, a columnist for the “New York Sun,” and author of “Independent Nation:  How the Vital Center Is Changing American Politics.”

Flavia, let me begin with you.  You‘ve obviously seen this ad that‘s been out there.  It‘s a lot of - like a lot of those 527 ads that Kerry supporters have been running for the past four or five, six months against George Bush.

This ad ...

COLGAN:  It‘s nothing like those ads, but ...

SCARBOROUGH:  Actually, a lot like the MoveOn.org ads.

But do you think - talking about this ad - do you think this ad is going to end up having a negative impact on John Kerry?

COLGAN:  No, quite the contrary.  I think this ad is despicable.

I think that the accusations it makes go in direct contrast, not only to the naval records, independent investigations, eyewitness accounts, accounts by respected historians, and perhaps most importantly, by the men who were in the best position to know what Kerry did in action.  And those are the men on the boats.

And I think that every time this is brought up, the American public is reminded that John Kerry was there, and that he won a Silver Star, a Bronze Star and three Purple Hearts.

And I have to agree with McCain and Max Cleland on matters like this, men who have sacrificed for this country and worn the uniform.

I think it‘s dishonorable, as McCain noted, and dishonest.  And I hope the Bush campaign - and Bush himself - continues to come out and really say that these ads are inappropriate.  I think they‘re shameful.

SCARBOROUGH:  John Avlon, are they shameful, or are they fair?

AVLON:  Well, I mean, I think - John McCain has said they‘re dishonorable.  And he‘s got moral authority that‘s unique in politics, because he appeals across the political spectrum.

I think the ads don‘t help the debate.  It‘s a return to the politics of personal destruction.

And as Bush campaigns with John McCain and tries to draw off his support and popularity, I think the administration would do well to listen to him and distance themselves from these ads.

SCARBOROUGH:  David Dreier, I don‘t want to be a voice of dissent here.  But, you know, it - I see all of the panelists on other TV shows and read all these editorials about all these people who were so shocked about this single ad that‘s come out criticizing John Kerry and what he did in Vietnam.

Yet I didn‘t hear any of these people complaining about ads in 2000 that basically blame George Bush for dragging a black man to death in Texas.

It seems to me, buddy, there‘s a double standard here.

DREIER:  Well, Joe, I think you‘re absolutely right.

I mean, I remember back to 1992, and we‘re talking about Cambodia speeches that John Kerry gave in 1986 and 1992.

But one of the speeches that John Kerry did give, or a statement he made in 1992, was the issue of Vietnam and service at that time should not be an issue.  And that was when Bill Clinton was challenging George H.W. Bush in that campaign.

I think it‘s very important.  We all are - we herald the great service.  I mean, we laud John Kerry for his service.

I do believe that it‘s appropriate for us to condemn it.

I sat in this chair - you remember the other day when Ron Reagan was with you on your after hours program.  And Ron asked me, and I agreed to condemn the ad, because I don‘t like any of these ads that are out there.

You know, as Flavia correctly said, the politics of self-destruction - you know, this stuff is not ...

SCARBOROUGH:  But, David, but wait ...

DREIER:  ... helpful to the debate.

SCARBOROUGH:  ... wait, wait, wait, wait, wait.  But I want to know.  I want to know.

Are you condemning these 527 independent expenditure ads?

DREIER:  That‘s ...

SCARBOROUGH:  Are you condemning this ad itself?

DREIER:  I think what we should do is - I mean, listen.  When I - I first saw the ad sitting right here.  And Ron pushed me to say that, and I said, hey.  Listen.  I don‘t think that it‘s helpful for the debate.

I do believe that all of these 527s were not supposed to be there, in the eyes of those who were supportive of the McCain-Feingold bill.  And I think it‘s been - they‘ve been widely condemned.

And so, what we‘ve said, Joe, is that it‘s very important for us to say that we don‘t want any of these ads, whether it‘s, you know, put on by the swift boat gang, or on MoveOn.org.  I mean, it‘s really not part of the debate.

But, having said that, ...

SCARBOROUGH:  Yeah, but - but ...

(CROSSTALK)

DREIER:  But, Joe.  Let me just say that there are very serious questions that have been raised.  John Kerry is bragging about his four months of service, and we‘ve all congratulated him and been supportive of that.

But the fact that he‘s focused so much attention on it, and did at the convention, I think has now brought that issue to the forefront and led these people to come forward.  So I think questions can still be asked.

SCARBOROUGH:  Well, you know, and I‘ve caught a lot of grief from Republicans, because during that convention, I said he served honorably.

Everything we‘ve heard about him shows that he served honorably.  He went to Vietnam when a lot of people didn‘t go to Vietnam.  And he should be praised for that.

But if his entire convention centers around his four months in Vietnam, centers around ...

DREIER:  Right.

SCARBOROUGH:  ... Vietnam vets ...

DREIER:  It‘s fair game.

SCARBOROUGH:  ... who say he‘s a great hero, then if other veterans - and I know some of these guys that are coming forward now - if some of these other guys come forward and are telling a different story, I just don‘t understand why we listen to one group of vets and we don‘t listen to another group of vets, and get the issues out on the table and debate them.

Now, Joe Trippi, I want to ask you if you think that these ads are having any impact.  And I‘m going to show you a new poll that‘s come out, that still shows there‘s no really great bounce from the Democratic National Convention, that maybe this ad and some other things may be helping George Bush.

Here‘s the very latest poll.  President Bush is leading John Kerry 50 to 47 percent.  And the president has a 51 percent approval rating.  And it‘s only mid-August.

Do you think the momentum right now is swinging in George Bush‘s direction?  And are you concerned, as a Democrat, that John Kerry didn‘t get a bounce from the Democratic convention?

TRIPPI:  No.  I mean, look.  All the polls are going to - I think these polls are going to be all within three or four points from here on in.

And there is no undecided left out there.  People are very intense, either saying they‘re going to vote for Kerry or vote for Bush.

And look at those numbers - 50, you know, 47.  I mean, there‘s nothing left out there.

SCARBOROUGH:  A dead heat.  That‘s - and we need ...

TRIPPI:  Yes.

SCARBOROUGH:  ... to tell our viewers.

TRIPPI:  Yes, now ...

SCARBOROUGH:  That is a statistical dead heat.

TRIPPI:  Yes.  Now, on these ads, though, I agree - what I think is insane about this, from the Republican side, is that - I think that, you know, people can raise these questions.

But I think, again, it just raises more questions about, where was George Bush during the same period?

John Kerry said, “Send me.”

Whether - you know, now we‘re disputing his medals.  The fact is, the guy was shot at.  The guy was wounded.  One way or another, you know, he was.

No bullets ever were flying over George Bush‘s head, or he was wounded.  In fact, we don‘t even know for sure where the hell he was during this whole period.

SCARBOROUGH:  So, you agree with Flavia, then, ...

TRIPPI:  Oh, yes.  I think ...

SCARBOROUGH:  ... Joe, that any time the Vietnam issue ...

TRIPPI:  ... yes ...

SCARBOROUGH:  ... is brought up, good or bad, it plays against George Bush, because George Bush served in the National Guard.

TRIPPI:  Yes.  I think, I mean - I think that‘s not fair either.

I mean, that - I agree with David about, the politics of mutual destruction, we‘ve got to do something about it.

You know, the first - the ads that - this is where this really started - was another independent ad, the Willie Horton ad in 1988.  That wasn‘t produced by the George Bush campaign.  It was produced by an independent group.

And you‘re start - I mean, these ads that come from - without the - you know, outside the campaign.  And then we say, hey, you know, George Bush needs to disavow it.  He needs to order it off the air.

The fact of the matter is, I wish he would say he‘d like it off the air and keep saying that.  But the fact of the matter is, he can‘t order it off the air.  That would be, under these crazy rules that we have, that would mean he had - there was coordination.  And coordination is not allowed.

So, I mean, these rules are just crazy.  And I think they‘re having a real delirious effect on our democracy and on getting people involved.

DREIER:  That‘s why we should have just gone for full disclosure and left it at that, and not created this massive, massive bureaucratic mess, which has made it ...

COLGAN:  Exactly.

DREIER:  ... virtually ...

(CROSSTALK)

SCARBOROUGH:  You know, I agree with you.

TRIPPI:  We can all agree on that.

SCARBOROUGH:  I think we should all - I think we can all agree on that, that the more Congress gets involved, the more politicians get involved in trying to regulate campaign finance reform instead of saying, you know what, if somebody writes me a check today, I‘ve got to scan it, I‘ve got to put it up on my campaign Web site.  I need to give full disclosure.

That‘s the way to do it, instead of having all of these rules that lobbyists and special interest groups are going to find ways around it.

SCARBOROUGH:  I agree with David Dreier and Joe Trippi.  These 527 ads are sleazy.  I don‘t care if it comes from the right or if it comes from the left.

I want to hear from the president.  I want to hear from John Kerry.  And I want to be - I want to be - I want, on every one of these political ads, you know what we need to hear?  We need to hear what we‘re hearing now.  I‘m George Bush and I approve this ad.  I‘m John Kerry, and I approve this ad.

Not the sleaziness that we‘re seeing from MoveOn.org and other people on the left, or from people on the far right also.  It‘s disgusting.  It‘s underhanded, and it misleads voters.

Hey, we‘re going to continue with this heated debate, right after the break.  Stick around, because SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY will be right back.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Tonight‘s SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY challenge.  Two countries that competed in every modern Olympics.  Australia is one.  What‘s the other?

Is it, A, the U.S., B, Greece, or C, England?

The answer coming up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  In tonight‘s SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY challenge we asked, two countries that competed in every modern Olympics.  Australia is one.  What‘s the other?

The answer is B, Greece.

Now, back to Joe.

SCARBOROUGH:  That‘s surprising.

Hey, we‘re back.  We‘ve got California congressman David Dreier with us.  Also, MSNBC contributor and former Howard Dean campaign manager Joe Trippi.

We also have MSNBC political analyst Flavia Colgan and John Avlon.  He‘s a columnist for the “New York Sun,” and author of “Independent Nation:  How the Vital Center Is Changing American Politics.”

Flavia, I want to ask you about John Kerry‘s week.  He didn‘t really have a great week.

And one of his biggest problems this week was that he got nailed down on the war and said he would have still voted for the war knowing everything now that - if he had known everything then that he knows now, he still would have voted for the war.

That‘s not going to help him with the Democratic base, is it?

COLGAN:  I have no idea why he said that.  I don‘t know that he needs tons of help with the Democratic base.  I mean, I‘ve never seen this party more united.

I think that John Kerry sometimes, when he speaks, gets into a little bit too much nuance.

I think what he was trying to say was that he and others were told that they needed that vote in order to put more pressure on Saddam Hussein and the inspections process, and that he didn‘t think - as many others didn‘t - that the president would then rush to war.

But I agree with you that, I think the way he phrased those remarks were not that helpful, in that it does play into the script that Bush and Cheney have been setting, in terms of his flip-flopping or not knowing where he stands.

I do think that Bush and Cheney, and particularly Dick Cheney this week, however, really took his words out of context, saying that he felt that we should be sensitive to terrorists.

He said nothing of the sort.  And I think that that‘s pretty absurd, as well.

SCARBOROUGH:  Oh, I tell you what.  That - but when he says something like that, it plays into the Republican play book that they‘ve been ...

COLGAN:  No question.

SCARBOROUGH:  ... that they‘ve been coming out of since 1970 ...

COLGAN:  No question.  But ...

SCARBOROUGH:  ... 1972.

COLGAN:  ... no question.

SCARBOROUGH:  Yes.

COLGAN:  No question, Joe, you‘re right.  But that doesn‘t give Dick Cheney the right to say things that I believe are misleading and certainly taken out of context.

SCARBOROUGH:  Yes, (UNINTELLIGIBLE) Joe Trippi, you‘re a guy, Joe Trippi, that ran Howard Dean‘s campaign.  He ignited the base on an anti-war platform.

John Kerry now goes 180.  He says he still would have voted for the war.  Come on.

TRIPPI:  Well, ...

SCARBOROUGH:  Just - as John Lennon said, just give some truth.  There are a lot of Democrats that are hurting out there right now because of that, aren‘t there?

TRIPPI:  You know, no.  I don‘t believe so.  I mean, John Kerry said that all the way through the Iowa caucuses and New Hampshire, that he had voted for the war.  And the ...

SCARBOROUGH:  Well, we knew he voted for the war.  But he was saying that he was lied to, that the president tricked him.

TRIPPI:  Well, we were all lied to.  But ...

SCARBOROUGH:  And now he - but now he‘s saying ...

TRIPPI:  Oh, well, come on, Joe.

SCARBOROUGH:  ... tell me lies, tell me sweet little lies.  Of course, John Kerry ...

TRIPPI:  No.

SCARBOROUGH:  ... also said ...

TRIPPI:  You know what?

SCARBOROUGH:  ... that he had weapons of mass destruction - Saddam Hussein.

What‘s the difference between John Kerry and George Bush on this war issue?

TRIPPI:  I think that this party is unified.  They know what Kerry‘s position on the war is.  They know what Edwards‘ position on the war is.  Both of them made that clear.

I disagree with Kerry.  I was against it from the beginning.  But that doesn‘t - I‘m supporting him.  Howard Dean‘s supporting him.  This party is lock step in support of John Kerry, and ...

SCARBOROUGH:  Are you telling me ...

TRIPPI:  ... we know that.

SCARBOROUGH:  Are you telling me that Howard Dean was excited this week, and Democratic activists that give to MoveOn.org were excited this week, when their Democratic candidate came out and said, yes, I still would have voted for the war?

TRIPPI:  I think that there are people out there who knew - all of us knew what John Kerry and John Edwards‘ position is on it.  We may not agree with it.  We wish he was more against it, and would say so, but he hasn‘t and won‘t.

SCARBOROUGH:  But, Joe, ...

TRIPPI:  I think - you know what the - what really - the events, I think, that are making a difference this week, that matter a lot and are helping Bush are this hurricane in Florida, the way the U.S. was - a delegation was greeted as it walked into that stadium in Greece in the opening ceremonies and the way the Iraqi team was greeted when it came into that stadium.

These, you know, these were very positive things that have happened.  And I think it‘s these kind of events that are going to form what happens in the next few weeks as we go into November.

SCARBOROUGH:  And, Joe Trippi, you‘re exactly right.  And, hey, we‘re going to be back with a final thought from our panel.

You‘re watching SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SCARBOROUGH:  David Dreier, I‘ve asked our Democratic friends with us tonight.  They are friends, people I respect.

But I‘ve asked them if they were disappointed that John Kerry came out in favor of the war, even now, even if he had known everything then that he knows now.  And they don‘t seem to be bothered by it.

But I‘ve got to tell you.  I think there are a lot of Democrats out there who are very concerned about John Kerry‘s continuing flip-flop on this war issue.

DREIER:  I‘m not disappointed at all that John Kerry basically embraced the Bush view on the war.  I mean, Joe, we‘re going to be able to still watch the Olympics swimming out here tonight, because it‘s still early here.

You know, for the first time, as president Bush pointed out yesterday in his radio address, Olympians from Iraq are going to be able to return home without the prospect of torture if they don‘t do all that well.

And, you know, George Bush laid forth a few months ago five clear points as to exactly what should take place in Iraq.  The turnover - and it was done two days early, as we well know - focusing on security, training 260,000 of those Iraqis.

And right now, under the leadership of Prime Minister Ayad Alawi, what have we seen?  We‘ve seen the Iraqis leading the effort in this very troubled area of Najaf.  And we also have seen infrastructure rebuilt.

And the thing that John Kerry talked about, Joe, building international coalitions.  We now have two Arab nations, Jordan and Yemen, who have indicated willingness to join in support of this effort here.  And so, I think it‘s very important.

And then, of course, the election.  And we‘ve got the election on path with 9.9 million people registered in Afghanistan for October 9th.  And then in Iraq we‘ve got the elections scheduled for January.

SCARBOROUGH:  I‘ll tell you what.  A lot of good things coming in Iraq.  I believe just like you.

I want to thank all of you for being with us tonight.

And by the way, Dave Dreier, of course, the Iraqis were tortured when they came back home.  That‘s unfortunate.  But we‘ve got to figure out what to do with our men‘s basketball team, if they don‘t start playing any better.

Thanks to our panel for being with us.

And tomorrow night, the Illinois senate race is heating up.  We‘ve got both contenders on the show - Alan Keyes and Barack Obama - tomorrow night at 10 p.m. Eastern.  We‘ll see you then.

END   

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