updated 9/14/2004 10:33:03 AM ET 2004-09-14T14:33:03

Guests: Pat Toomey, Charlie Crist, Bobby Eberle, Carl Limbacher, Bob Zelnick

JOE SCARBOROUGH, HOST:  Tonight‘s top headline, CBS is circling the wagons.  And the “Real Deal,” Dan Rather may be facing the journalistic equivalent of Custer‘s last stand. 

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

More doubts cast on CBS‘ alleged National Guard documents critical of George Bush.  But Dan Rather is still standing by his story.  So who should you believe?  We‘re going to lay out all the evidence and let you decide.

And then, first she claimed Ronald Reagan smoked pot.  Now Kitty Kelley is claiming that George W. Bush did coke at Camp David.  Some people call her work garbage, but why are others in the media gobbling it up? 

And Hurricane Ivan is headed straight to SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY.  We‘ll get the very latest on the damage Ivan has caused and how my state is preparing itself for a third major storm in a month. 

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

SCARBOROUGH:  Hey, welcome to our show tonight.

               

Now, tonight, CBS remains in a lockdown mode as a hurricane of criticism continues to rock the news network.  It‘s time for tonight‘s “Real Deal.” 

Dan Rather and CBS continue to face withering criticism from other news agencies for using what appears to be a forged document.  But most criticism involves CBS‘ decision to shift to lockdown mode by denying the most obvious charges and refusing to conduct an internal investigation.  Some are also suggesting that several of their so-called experts have been asked not to speak publicly about the alleged documents involving George W.  Bush‘s service or lack of service in the National Guard. 

Now, more disturbing to me and many others is Rather‘s adoption of the Clintonesque claim that these problems of his are all the result of—quote—“partisan attacks,” this despite the fact that “The Washington Post,” the Associated Press, “the Dallas Morning News” and several other respected media outlets have punched holes in the CBS document. 

“Newsweek” is even launching their own external investigation.  But let me be blunt.  It looks like CBS and Dan Rather in particular really screwed up on the story.  Did they do it on purpose?  No, of course not.  But did Dan Rather rush into passing this bad information onto you because of a bias?  Sadly, I suspect that could be the case. 

Is his standard for reporting that Texans For Truth tale the same standard he used in the swift boat ads?  I‘ll let you answer that question, but, as I‘ve said for a long time, we all bring our biases to news reporting, whether we‘re Walter Cronkite, Dan Rather or Joe Scarborough.  And the only question to me is whether a reporter is honest to himself and to you about his or her political leanings.  And I am. 

And that‘s why you can trust me more than you can trust other news anchor who is hide their political viewpoints.  But, listen, the CBS scandal has less to do with ideology than judgment.  How many times have reporters opined that it was never the underlying dust-ups that cause politicians all the trouble, but rather the cover-up?  A thousand times, if once. 

So why does Dan Rather and CBS News continue to deny the obvious?  Circling the wagons only keeps a story in the news for another day and makes Americans trust CBS News less.  It‘s time for Dan Rather and CBS News to consider the possibility that they are wrong on this story, and it‘s time for the person or persons who generated this alleged forgery to come clean, because the truth is out there, friends, somewhere.  And we‘re all going to find it.  And that‘s tonight‘s “Real Deal.” 

Now, Dan Rather continued to defend CBS‘ position, insisting the documents are authentic.  And he did it tonight on “The CBS Evening News.”

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DAN RATHER, CBS NEWS:  What‘s in the “60 Minutes” report CBS believes to be true and believes the documents are authentic. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCARBOROUGH:  And with me now is “Newsweek”‘s Howard Fineman, former at-bats ABC news reporter Bob Zelnick, who is currently a professor of journalism at Boston University, and Carl Limbacher of NewsMax.com. 

Let me begin with you, Howard Fineman. 

“Newsweek” is conducting its own external investigation.  What have you found thus far? 

HOWARD FINEMAN, NBC CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT:  Well, we spent a lot of time on it last week, Joe.  And one of the things we‘re reporting in this week‘s issue of the magazine is the possibility that a principal source for CBS‘ acquisition of these documents was a guy down in Texas named Bill Burkett, who‘s had run-ins with the National Guard before and whose own credible has been heavily questioned. 

We also point out what “The Dallas Morning News” pointed out, which is a discrepancy in the dates on one of the memos indicating action by an officer of the National Guard who, in fact, had left the Guard a year before that.  And I can tell you tonight, having reported around town about this among my colleagues in the media, outside of CBS, which is a greatly respected news organization, there‘s a lot of skepticism, a very deep skepticism among rivals in television and print, a lot of skeptical looks going on right now. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Now, Howard, you‘re talking about the “Dallas Morning News” story this week.  And they uncovered this very significant detail regarding the timeline of service for the man who allegedly pressured George Bush‘s superior officer. 

And this is what it said—quote—“The man named in the disputed memo as exerting pressure to sugar coat President Bush‘s military record left the Texas Air National Guard a year and a half before the memo was supposedly written.  Colonel Walter Buck Staudt was honorably discharged on March 1, 1972.  CBS News reported that a memo in which Colonel Staudt was described as interfering with officers‘ negative evaluations of Mr. Bush was actually dated August 18, 1973.”

Howard, if that‘s the case, very bad news for CBS and Dan Rather. 

FINEMAN:  Well, their answer is that this guy Staudt was such a legendary bullying figure that he exerted influence on the Guard and the junior officers in the Guard a year and a half after he left. 

(LAUGHTER)

FINEMAN:  I mean, that‘s—I‘m just telling you the arguments they make. 

The other problem here, Joe, is that all of the relatives of the late author of these memos and all of his other officers in the National Guard say, No. 1, that he wasn‘t the kind of guy to write memos at all, that he never wrote memos to his own file, that he didn‘t have a file of his own, that he rarely used a typewriter, and that this just was not the kind of thing that he would have done, that it was out of character for him. 

And also one of the people that CBS says was a confirming source in the whole story has now said that he was never shown the documents themselves, and he‘s kind of recanted his story.  So, you know, I knew that CBS was going to have a show on tonight in which Rather was going to defend the story.  I had heard in advance that it was going to be a very strong defense.  And they did bring out some additional typographical experts and made a couple small points on typography, but they haven‘t said where the memos really came from, other than to say that they were from Killian‘s personally file.

They haven‘t said how they acquired them.  And that to me is a bigger question than a lot of the typographical questions that they did choose to answer tonight. 

SCARBOROUGH:  It certainly is.  And I‘m afraid they do look like they‘re circling the wagons. 

Professor Zelnick, let me bring you in here.  Obviously, you‘re a professor of journalism right now, but you had a long and storied career in journalism.  Tell me, I want you to grade and tell our viewers how you would grade what Dan Rather and CBS News is doing right now, how they‘re handling this budding scandal. 

BOB ZELNICK, FORMER ABC NEWS PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT:  Well, I would grade them a C for the very reasons that we‘ve seen already in this program.  And that is, they have not convinced their peers that their story was accurate. 

And there‘s only one way for them to do that.  And that‘s to open up the record, to have independent observers come in and review the documents and the sources and then to reach a judgment—a new judgment on it.  It reminds me very much of CNN‘s big scandal with Operation Tailwind, where some of the journalism going into production of the program, which alleged that the U.S. used chemical weapons in Laos during the Vietnam War in order to kill U.S. defectors, some of the journalism in advance was a bit shabby. 

But I think once the story was public and was seriously questioned by the military and journalistic communities, CNN did the right thing.  They retained a highly respected outside counsel, Floyd Abrams of New York, who reviewed the methodology used in the piece and concluded that it could not stand up to scrutiny.  CNN then withdrew the thrust of its story. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Bob, that‘s what surprises me so much about this CBS story.  It seems very obvious.  Reading “The Washington Post” story, the “Dallas Morning News” story, the Associated Press story, looking at the reports and of course, listening to what Howard Fineman just told us from what “Newsweek” is digging up right now for their story this coming week, it seems very obvious to almost every journalist in Washington, D.C., that this document was forged. 

Why is CBS circling the wagons?  And how much long-term damage could they cause themselves by not doing the right thing, by not being straightforward and up front like CNN was when they got some bad information? 

ZELNICK:  I think the first instinct of every journalistic organization is to stand behind the work of their reporters.  I‘ve seen that done with big stories.  I‘ve seen it done with small stories.  I‘ve seen it done long after it became apparent that the stories were inaccurate, even at my old network, ABC. 

So I think it‘s a human tendency . It‘s a professional tendency.  But I think when the criticism comes from particularly their own peers in the industry and people begin urging that they take a fresh look, an independent look at this thing, I think they better stop playing hardball.  Hardball is great game when Chris Matthews plays it.  When CBS plays it, it‘s too much like a cover-up. 

SCARBOROUGH:  And they look like the same stupid politicians that have been playing this type of game, denying the obvious that all of Americans can tell is going on.  It just makes them look ridiculous. 

Now, Carl Limbacher, I want you to listen to what Dan Rather had to say earlier when he questioned his critics‘ motivation and told “The Washington Post” he believed the memos were real.  This is what he said—quote—“Until someone shows me definite proof that they are not, I don‘t see any reason to carry on a conversation with a professional rumor mill.”

But, again, major media outlets, including “The Los Angeles Times,” “The Dallas Morning News,” “The Washington Post,” and “Newsweek,‘ have all called into question the document‘s authenticity. 

So my question for you is this, Carl.  How can Dan Rather claim “The L.A. Times” and some rather center or left-of-center news outlets are partisans and they are taking part in a partisan rumor mill? 

CARL LIMBACHER, NEWSMAX.COM:  Yes, it is a little bit outrageous for Mr. Rather to make that claim, especially when he sets the bar to a level of proof that he himself didn‘t adhere to when he put those documents on air.

No credible document expert whose account I‘ve come across in the last few days would ever authenticate third, fourth, fifth, 10th generation photocopies, which is what CBS apparently did here. 

And I want to just add one aspect to something that Bob Zelnick said in previous comments.  There‘s a big difference between what happened in CNN‘s Tailwind and what‘s going on now.  There‘s a crime involved.  Forgery is a crime.  Somebody intentionally—if the allegations of forgery are accurate, somebody intentionally distorted these documents with the idea of torpedoing President Bush‘s reelection campaign.  And I think you‘ve got one heck of a serious scandal on your hands if that‘s the case. 

SCARBOROUGH:  And, Carl, I notice tonight you‘re not wearing pajamas.  I want to ask about that next time, because, of course, Dan Rather is claiming that bloggers and people on the Internet or people that report wearing pajamas, I think it shows just how out of touch he is. 

But I want to talk to you about the impact the Internet and other alternative media sources have had in moving this story forward and also talk to our panel about some other issues.  We have got a lot more to talk about. 

Want you all to stick around, because we‘re going to tell you about the latest book about the Bush family also and how the author‘s main source says she got the story all wrong.  The big question, why is anybody listening to Kitty Kelley at all? 

And later, Congress is writing checks and we‘re going to be stuck with the bill, a very large bill.  We‘re going to show just how much that bill has increased over the past week. 

But I want you to stick around, because we‘re going to have much more with our panel with Bob Zelnick.   Obviously, we‘re going to also have Carl Limbacher and Howard Fineman of “Newsweek.”

We‘ll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SCARBOROUGH:  William Safire of “The New York Times” accused Dan Rather of shutting up sources and impugning the motives of serious critics.  We‘re going to be talking about that fiery column and much more on the Dan Rather scandal when SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY continues.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SCARBOROUGH:  We are talking about the CBS scandal and Dan Rather with our panel.  We have got Howard Fineman, Bob Zelnick, Carl Limbacher.  And we‘re joined by Bob Eberle.  He‘s president of GOPUSA.com and Talon News. 

I thank all of you for being here. 

I want to go back to you, though, Howard Fineman, and ask you to comment on what William Safire had to say today.  He gave Dan Rather this advice in “The New York Times” today.  He said—quote—“To shut up sources and impugn the motives of serious critics demeans the tradition of Murrow.  Nor is any demand that others prove them wrong acceptable.  Hey, Dan, on this, recognize the preponderance of doubt.  Call for a panel of old CBS hands and independent editors to reexamine sources and papers.  Courage.”

(LAUGHTER)

SCARBOROUGH:  I will tell you what, that last word stings.  Do you think Dan Rather and more importantly the people at CBS News are going to follow this advice from William Safire? 

FINEMAN:  I don‘t know.  I don‘t know if all the viewers know the

reference to courage there, “Cor-a-hay,” as Dan once said on the air. 

That‘s—he said on the air a number of years ago.

A couple things.  First of all, let me say that George Bush has never spoken on the record about this period of his life in any detail.  And the Democrats want to try to force him to do so.  That‘s one thing going on here.  That‘s No. 1. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Howard, why can‘t you force—I mean, let‘s face it, I don‘t think the president knows where he was back then. 

FINEMAN:  No, of course not. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Why can‘t you or somebody else force George Bush to come clean on this?  Whether the voters want to know about it or not, it‘s amazing that he‘s never come clean on it. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Well, I don‘t know if he‘s—most of the accounts—

I‘m serious, Joe.  Most of the accounts come through biographers or, you know, aides or so forth.  So that sort of whetted the appetite, No. 1. 

No. 2, let me say CBS has a great tradition, which William Safire alluded to in talking about Edward R. Murrow.  But I‘ve got to say that when Dan Rather says, go prove us wrong, if that‘s his standard, he said that he will retract this if somebody can conclusively prove that these documents are fake, I don‘t think that‘s the standard.  I think when you‘re basically accusing the president of the United States of having, when he was a young man, committed a court-martialable offense, which was to violate a direct order, which was what these documents purport to show, you have to have the originals. 

You have to be able to say where they came from.  You have to be dead solid perfect on it if you‘re going to make this kind of accusation in a news broadcast.  And I think it‘s problematic.  I‘ve got to say it‘s problematic for Rather to say, go ahead and prove us wrong and, for the most part, to blame the criticism on either journalistic jealousy or on partisan attacks.  I think that‘s not the right way to go about it.  And I think that‘s why so many of my colleagues in the media are skeptical. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Bob Zelnick, are you surprised that Dan Rather said prove us wrong?  And don‘t you think that a journalist has a responsibility to prove himself or herself right and produce the original documents? 

ZELNICK:  I think the fury of battle is in the nostrils of Dan Rather right now and he‘s acting in an uncharacteristic way.

I respect him.  I think he‘s a great journalist.  He‘s certainly put in long years of honorable service.  But I think in this particular case, for all the reasons we discussed already, he would be serving CBS better, he would be serving the profession of journalism better were he to open this process to independent, highly credible analysts. 

SCARBOROUGH:  And do you think that‘s going to happen?  Because it certainly doesn‘t sound like CBS is going to do that. 

ZELNICK:  Well, I hesitate to predict what my former colleagues and friends would do in this situation.  I hope they‘re listening.  And I hope they‘re listening to people who wish CBS no evil, but want to honor both CBS and the profession of journalism. 

SCARBOROUGH:  What do you think about Bill Safire accusing Dan Rather of shutting up sources and impugning the motives of serious critics?  Is that fair? 

ZELNICK:  Well, yes, I do think it‘s fair.  I think that, in light of the fact that people involved as experts have been asked not to comment elsewhere and make outside statements and in view of the other types of activities that have gone on at CBS, I think it‘s harsh but fair criticism.  And I hope somebody says something that opens CBS‘ eyes to the fact that they‘re not serving their own interest as a credible news organization. 

I think is that‘s the real loss in all of this. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Bobby, let me bring you in here. 

Obviously, you also have a Web site, GOPUSA.com, very important Web site.  And you guys have been pushing this story from the very beginning.  Tell me, how important do you think it Web sites such as your own, news gathering organizations such as your own, to drive this sort of story and also to hold people like Dan Rather accountable, who, let‘s face it, before the Internet and talk radio, almost had a monopoly on news gathering?

BOBBY EBERLE, PRESIDENT, GOPUSA:  Well, I think it‘s very important, Joe.

One of the things we see, you‘re talking about the story of—people have talked about the Democrats attacking President Bush.  Well, in this case, the attack is going through the media.  In this case, CBS is being a willing accomplice to a story that is meant to disparage the president.  And before, the left had this monopoly on the news.  But now, with the advent of cable news networks, with the Internet, with all sorts of talk radio, all sorts of other media, no one gets a free pass anymore. 

And it‘s up to the outlets if they are called on the carpet to come clean.  Retractions are printed all the time.  And if there was some bogus data down low that got fed up the food chain, it‘s up to CBS to say, here‘s what happened.  Here‘s what‘s going on.

Otherwise, they destroy their credibility.  It‘s another nail in the coffin of credibility.  And they look like they‘re supporting the Democrats and have an agenda of their own.  And that only goes to the claims of what Republicans and those on the right have been saying for quite a while.

(CROSSTALK)

SCARBOROUGH:  Now, what about your news site?  It‘s called GOPUSA.com.  I know Democrats would say, well, your agenda is electing Republicans and electing George W. Bush.  What‘s the difference between what you‘re doing and what conservatives accuse Dan Rather of doing?

EBERLE:  Well, here‘s the difference. 

At GOPUSA.com, we have got news and commentary.  And our news comes from Talon News, which is a separate company that feeds just straight news into us and other news outlets, Web and print, across the country.  And what we can say is, you know, if you guys see a story that you don‘t like on GOPUSA from Talon News, let us know about it. 

We reach 300,000 people every day.  And credibility is very important to me.  And you would think with my organization, which in relative terms is small, that a powerhouse like a network would be very concerned about their own credibility.  And for them not to step forward, for them to take a step back—I was talking to Colonel Maury Udell tonight, sitting across the table from him, Bush‘s flight instructor, who has spoken out considerably on the character of President Bush. 

We went through the documents together, and his eyes nearly popped out from what he saw.  And it‘s not—you don‘t have to be a typographer to see that these documents are bogus.  They don‘t follow standard protocol in the way they‘re laid out. 

FINEMAN:  Joe?

SCARBOROUGH:  Yes. 

FINEMAN:  Can I just say that word credibility was used, which is crucial. 

I may be a sort of antique figure at this point, but I insist on the notion that it‘s possible for respected mainstream news organizations not to take sides, not to be seen as partisan tools of one kind or another, but dedicated to the pursuit of trying to get as close to the truth as it‘s humanly possible to do.  That kind of thing is at stake here if one network or one newspaper is seen as a tool of partisanship. 

I know it‘s fashionable now to say that everyone is a partisan and let‘s just be honest about it.  That‘s what you said in your commentary at the beginning.  I respect that point of view.  But as a longtime journalist, you know, maybe I‘m naive, but I believe that it‘s still possible to be fair and accurate to all.  And that‘s what‘s at stake when CBS looks like and is all too easily accused of uncritically accepting what might be a partisan-fed information.  That‘s the problem here. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Howard, I agree with you.  I agree with everything you just said. 

And I‘ll tell you what.  We‘ll be right back with much more when SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY returns.  We‘ll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SCARBOROUGH:  From Dan Rather to Kitty Kelley, is mainstream media liberal?  Is there a bias there?  Should they even be letting Kitty Kelley talk on their airwaves?  Well, we‘ll talk about that on ours next. 

But, first, let‘s get the latest headline from the MSNBC News Desk. 

(NEWS BREAK)

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

SCARBOROUGH:  Hey, welcome back to the show. 

We‘re talking about the latest offering from celebrity biographer Kitty Kelley with our panel, Howard Fineman, Bob Zelnick, Bobby Eberle, and Carl Limbacher.  And, also, we‘re still talking about Dan Rather. 

I want go to you, Carl Limbacher, and I want you to explain this to me, because we heard Howard Fineman talking about how mainstream media journalists can be fair.  And I think they can.  I know we always watched as CBS‘ Walter Cronkite growing up, despite the fact my dad always called him a communist. 

But why is it that your Web site, people that watch this show and so many others seem to relish these news stories that show the big major news media outlets stumbling over themselves?  Of course, earlier, we had CBS and the Reagan biography story.  We got this CBS News story.  And, again, my viewers love it.  I know people that go to your Web site absolutely can‘t wait to read what you‘re writing about it.  Why is that? 

LIMBACHER:  Well, I think in large part it‘s because for years, guys like Dan Rather have been the nation‘s information gatekeepers.  They‘re the ones who have controlled the news, determined what gets reported and what doesn‘t. 

Now we learn that, at least in Rather‘s case, there seems to be a very pronounced agenda that goes so far even to tolerate perhaps forged documents getting on to the nation‘s airwaves in a way that severely misleads the potential voters in this year‘s election.  I think it‘s more than just taking, you know, some intermedia jealousy here and some satisfaction in seeing the mighty fall. 

It‘s the sense that Rather and some of these folks who have had a stranglehold on the information flow have now been unmasked.  And their agenda is no less pronounced, no less partisan, no less unfair and no more objective than anyone else‘s.  Whether the—quote—“rumor mongers” on the Internet, or the right-wing cable news shows, everybody comes at news from a perspective. 

I think Howard is right.  You can be fair, but you do have a perspective.  And everybody has a take that comes through in their reporting. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Carl, you know, Dan talked about—Dan Rather talked about people typing articles in their pajamas.  Do you think that shows how detached he is from the realities of how powerful the Internet is, how powerful bloggers are?  Obviously, John Fund wrote about that in “The Wall Street Journal.”  I personally think he‘s dead on. 

LIMBACHER:  Well, you know, Rather, in complaining about this in a sort of backhanded way, it‘s a compliment.  Right now, it‘s the Internet that has him on the run.  It‘s the Internet that called him on this, the bloggers out there in the different Web sites, and it makes its way up the Internet media food chain to sites like NewsMax, like Drudge, until a guy like Rather has to deal with it, because there is validity to the information that we reported online, that the folks at “Free Republic” reported on line. 

These are the kinds of Web sites that Dan Rather and his crowd would rather pretend don‘t exist.  But in a case like this, when he stumbles in such a major way and it‘s the Internet that catches him, he‘s got to acknowledge that. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Howard Fineman, the rules of the game have changed over the past several years.  And the way that you report news has changed.

I know, in Boston and New York, you were actually blogging on your BlackBerry.  But we‘ve come a long way from, I guess, it was 1998 when Matt Drudge posted that posting about Monica Lewinsky, that “Newsweek” had a story they were sitting on.  How much has the Internet changed the type of work you do?  And let‘s talk—in defense of Dan Rather, could Dan Rather have been sitting on this document and say, if I don‘t put this out tonight or tomorrow, the NewsMax.com or Matt Drudge will have it out and we‘re going to be scooped?  Is that part of the equation now? 

FINEMAN:  I think it could be.  By the way, let me admit that I have written for the Web in my pajamas.  So...

SCARBOROUGH:  Yes, I too. 

(LAUGHTER)

FINEMAN:  That‘s probably something we don‘t want to think about too much. 

But, yes, the whole world has changed.  Everyone in the world is looking over your shoulder while you are reporting and writing a story.  It‘s like when I began as a newspaper reporter in a small bureau in Kentucky.  You know, somebody could march right into the newsroom the next day if you didn‘t get it right in the newspaper.  And that kind of situation now exists on a global scale because of the Internet. 

And there may have been pressures on CBS, competitive pressures to get the story out, in part maybe because of the Internet and Web sites on a sort of more liberal side of the spectrum.  I don‘t really know that.  But I think what we‘re all selling is credibility.  And I think, in the big media—let‘s not say mainstream or whatever—in the big media, credibility for the accuracy of what you report is what our business is.  And that has to be kept in mind at all times. 

If we in the big media are going to survive in this new world of the Internet and bloggers and so forth, we have to sell even more and have to care more about our accuracy, because it‘s easier to stick anything out there on the Internet.  Hopefully, we do have the quality control and the editorial judgment and the journalistic experience so that when readers and viewers and Web surfers come to our name brand, they can trust what we do.  That‘s what makes this issue so big in journalism and journalistic circles. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Bob Zelnick, I want to ask you about the Kitty Kelley biography of the Bushes, obviously a lot of material in there that appears to be slanderous.  But who knows.  Maybe she‘s got a story.  Maybe she doesn‘t.  We don‘t know the truth about it.

But are you surprised that mainstream media outlets, the big media outlets, are covering this type of story? 

(CROSSTALK)

SCARBOROUGH:  I‘m sorry.  Go ahead.

ZELNICK:  I am a little bit surprised and disappointed.  Apparently, some, including “Newsweek,” have taken a look at it and decided that they didn‘t want to go with it. 

I keep asking myself—and, again, I haven‘t looked at all the information and can‘t pass judgment upon specific parts of it.  But I keep asking myself if Kitty Kelley came into my newsroom at the time that I was hiring, which I did in the Washington bureau for ABC for a while, would I hire her based on her record?  Would another potential employer representing, say, a newspaper or a news magazine hire her? 

I don‘t think any one of us would if we cared about the credibility of our organizations.  And I view her work as suspect.  And I am very nervous about those members of the media that have made big-time commitments, like NBC, to circulate her information. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Bobby Eberle, I‘ll give you the last word.

EBERLE:  Well, I just wanted to echo what Carl had said and kind of add to it.

I think one of the reasons these stories are so popular is not only that the big media has had such a monopoly on the stories that they say in the delivery, but how they deliver it.  And our audience goes crazy when they can see a, hey, I told you so, when they see the perceived bias that they perceive as in the media, when it comes to fruition, as it seems like it‘s coming here, they go nuts.  And you can see on the Web site.  They just go crazy. 

When stories come out, when the big media kind of lives up to the conservative‘s expectations or those that turn to alternative media, it‘s a gold mine as far as readership and excitement. 

SCARBOROUGH:  You‘re exactly right.  And that‘s what I was alluding to earlier.  People, I mean, their worst suspicions are confirmed.  And I think that‘s what Howard is so concerned about with this story. 

Well, Howard, Bob, Bobby, and, Carl, thanks a lot for being with us.  I‘ll tell you what.  It was a great discussion.  I want to have all of you back again. 

Now, coming up next on SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY, we‘re going to be talking about Hurricane Ivan, one of the fiercest Atlantic storms on record.  It‘s cut a path across Grenada, Jamaica, the Cayman Islands.  And now it‘s headed straight to my hometown of Pensacola. 

We‘ll talk about that coming up next.

ANNOUNCER:  Tonight‘s SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY challenge:  What‘s the strongest hurricane ever recorded in the Western Hemisphere?  Is it, A, Hurricane Gilbert, B, Hurricane Camille, or, Hurricane Andrew?  The answer after the break.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ANNOUNCER:  In tonight‘s SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY challenge, what‘s the strongest hurricane ever recorded in the Western Hemisphere?  The answer is A.  Gilbert has sustained winds of 179 miles per hour and gusts reaching 218.

Now back to Joe.

SCARBOROUGH:  All right.  Hey, welcome back. 

Hey, that‘s going to be a great interview, by the way.  Wednesday, make sure you watch Don Imus, going to be talking to John Kerry.  Going to be explosive, I‘m sure. 

Turning now to Hurricane Ivan, one of the fiercest Atlantic storms on record.  It‘s already cut a path across Grenada, Jamaica and the Cayman Islands.  And now it‘s headed to Florida‘s Panhandle. 

With me now to talk about it and how the state of Florida is going to prepare for their third storm in a month is Florida Attorney General Charlie Crist.

Charlie, it‘s so good to be with you tonight. 

What is Florida doing?  Do you have enough manpower?  Do you have enough money?  Do you have enough resources to ride out a third assault from a hurricane in less than a month? 

CHARLIE CRIST, FLORIDA ATTORNEY GENERAL:  Joe, good to be with you. 

I think we do, and I think because in large measure the leadership of Governor Jeb Bush.  He‘s really taken the bull by the horns, done a tremendous job in marshalling a lot of assets.  And a lot of what we‘ve been able to benefit from are your former colleagues in the Congress.  I was speaking with the chairman, Congressman Bill young, my congressman, the other day, thanking him for his wonderful assistance in getting the $2 billion that we already were able to have come to Florida. 

And, apparently, more may be on the way.  So, you know, between the local, state and federal levels of government, an awful lot of people have responded, and not just government.  It‘s important to state, you know, the private sector has really come to the fore to help Florida in this time of need.  So with that kind of effort...

SCARBOROUGH:  Yes, well, Charlie, what—what about looting, though? 

We‘ve heard about looting.

But, more importantly, what you‘re going after, you‘re going after price gouging.  Have you seen evidence of that in the past two storms? 

CRIST:  Unfortunately, we have. 

Between those two storms, we‘ve gotten close to 6,000 calls now, which is a remarkable number, a lot of those really seeking comfort and advice and counsel on different types of thing, but the vast majority about price gouging.  We‘re already filing some cases.  It‘s a serious offense.  We‘re taking it seriously and doing everything we can to protect our citizens.  If they‘ve already been victimized once by a storm, they certainly don‘t need to be victimized again by somebody trying to gouge them. 

SCARBOROUGH:  So the people in the Panhandle, in my hometown where we‘re taping this from tonight, what should they be doing to prepare for this monstrous storm? 

CRIST:  Well, what the rest of Florida has done to prepare for the other storms, No. 1, I think, most importantly, listen to local officials, people in Escambia County, Santa Rosa, Okaloosa.  You know, when they start to issue orders of evacuation if the storm continues on its current path, be vigilant and listen to them.  Don‘t panic.  Be prepared.  Do the kinds of things that are—be smart, be ready, have a plan in place, those kinds of things that are important to be attuned to.

And keep your head.  And keep calm.  And it‘s not always easy to do, but it‘s important to do, because, to do otherwise, you just, you know, you don‘t do the right things.  You don‘t prepare smartly.  And you need to be smart and prepare well. 

SCARBOROUGH:  All right.  And I‘ll tell you what.  There‘s a lot to prepare for here.  Charlie Crist, Florida attorney general, thanks for being with us tonight.  And I hope you‘ll come back every day this week as we continue reporting on Ivan the terrible. 

CRIST:  Be happy to, Joe.  Thank you. 

SCARBOROUGH:  All right, great to see you again. 

CRIST:  You too, my friend. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Now, politics is called the second oldest profession in the world.  And if you pick up my book, you‘re going to find out how much politics resembles the world‘s oldest profession.  The book is “Rome Wasn‘t Burnt in a Day: The Real Deal on How Politicians, Bureaucrats, and Other Washington Barbarians are Bankrupting America.”

And with me now to discuss the bankrupting of America, a guy who knows firsthand, Congressman Pat Toomey from Pennsylvania. 

Pat, what in the world is going on in Washington, D.C.?  We‘ve been showing viewers the national debt clock.  Of course, it‘s located in New York City.  Let‘s go ahead and put that up, if we can.  We‘re going to get a live shot of that.  It‘s going at the bottom of our screen. 

You know, we put that shot up last Tuesday, and over the past week, the national debt has increased $60 billion.  What‘s going on, Pat? 

REP. PAT TOOMEY ®, PENNSYLVANIA:  Well, Joe, I would say that we‘re spending money like drunken sailors, but that really wouldn‘t be fair to drunken sailors. 

(LAUGHTER)

TOOMEY:  Actually, at least they‘re spending their own money. 

This is a problem down here.  You know it very well, Joe.  The fact is, it is the national tendency of government to grow.  It‘s the natural tendency of politicians to want to spend money.  And we need to really get serious about this and restore limited government and be the party of fiscal responsibility and less government spending. 

It‘s been tough.  We‘ve seen in the last few years that—first of all, let‘s keep in mind, it would be a whole lot worse if the Democrats had their way, but we‘re guilty ourselves as a party of certainly giving into some of this excessive spending. 

SCARBOROUGH:  But, Pat, yes, Republicans are in charge.  And let‘s look how agencies have grown over the past 10 years since Republicans have been in charge, Department of Justice up 131 percent, Department of Education up 101 percent, Commerce up 82 percent, Department of Health and Human Services 81 percent.  That‘s all domestic spending.  State Department, 80 percent.  Department of Transportation...

(CROSSTALK)

SCARBOROUGH:  I‘ve got more -- 65 percent.  Housing and Urban Development has exploded 59 percent. 

I could go on, Pat.  Everybody is talking about 9/11.  These agencies don‘t have much to do with 9/11.

TOOMEY:  That‘s right. 

SCARBOROUGH:  This is all domestic spending. 

TOOMEY:  In fact, the agencies that are growing the most in the last several years have not been about defense or homeland security.  You‘re absolutely right.  It‘s discretionary domestic spending.  It‘s mandatory spending programs. 

I mean, spending is out of control.  One of the things we‘ve learned is, Republicans are human, too.  They become seduced by the trappings of power, the opportunity to be ladling out this pork, Joe.  Do you know there are over 10,000 individual pork-barrel projects, like $50 million to build an indoor tropical rain forest in Iowa?

SCARBOROUGH:  In Iowa? 

(CROSSTALK)

TOOMEY:  Yes, and $4 million to study fruit flies in France, $2 million to teach kids to play golf in your state.  Now, I have got nothing against golf.  I just don‘t think my constituents should be paying for other people‘s lessons.  It‘s been out of control.

The good news is, Joe, there does seem to be some sense that we‘ve got to turn this around.  We passed the budget this year that takes the nonsecurity part of our budget and says we‘re going to freeze it, no growth at all.  And, you know, historically, we have not lived with our budget.  That‘s one of the problems, one of our many problems here. 

But we often get close.  And I think we‘ve got a shot at getting real close this time.  And I‘m hoping that the president will help us do that, because it‘s way overdue. 

SCARBOROUGH:  No doubt. 

Pat, stay with me.  It sounds like you‘ve already read my book, because a lot of your examples are the examples I talk about. 

I‘ll tell you what.  We‘ll be right back with more Pat Toomey and more on the bankrupting of America.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SCARBOROUGH:  We‘re back with Congressman Pat Toomey.  He, of course, is from Pennsylvania. 

Pat, you said Democrats would be a lot worse than Republicans.  But you have got to admit, the Republicans are spending more money.  They‘ve got the biggest deficit ever, the biggest debt ever.  How does it get much worse than what‘s going on right now? 

TOOMEY:  Well, all I know is when the Democrats go down to the House floor to vote against a spending bill, it is always, invariably, with no exceptions, because they don‘t think it spends enough.

(LAUGHTER)

SCARBOROUGH:  Exactly. 

TOOMEY:  It‘s never because it spends too much, Joe.  You know that. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Yes, you‘re exactly—now, I will admit, that‘s the one thing about John Kerry.   This is what disturbs me.  We are not going to have a debate about this because Republicans are spending way too much money, but John Kerry is even proposing more.  So nobody is talking about this debt that really could cripple us economically. 

TOOMEY:  The debt is very important, Joe.  But I really see it as the second most important thing. 

The most important thing is the total level of spending.  Whether we finance that by confiscating people‘s money today or borrowing for a while and confiscating their money tomorrow, either way, we‘re taking money away from the productive part of our society and taking it out of the hands who know how to spend it on what‘s important to them and we‘re putting it in the hands of politicians, who spend it on trying to get reelected.  This is not a good way to allocate resources. 

We‘ve got to get the spending under control.  We don‘t need higher taxes.  I think our tax burden is still too high, but we are not going to be able to lower it until we get spending under control. 

SCARBOROUGH:  You‘re exactly right, Pat Toomey. 

Congressman Pat Toomey from Pennsylvania, you‘re a hero.  Thanks a lot for being with us.  And I hope you will come back. 

TOOMEY:  Thanks for having me, Joe.  Thank you. 

All right, and you can read an excerpt of “Rome Wasn‘t Burnt in a Day” on our Web site, Joe.MSNBC.com.  And if you have questions about the book, I have answers.  And if you‘re going to be near Simi Valley, California, this Friday, ask me in person.  I‘m going to hosting the show live from the Reagan National Library.  If you want to be there, contact the library at 1-800-410-8354 for reservations.  I want to see you there.  We‘re going to have a great show from the Reagan Library. 

That‘s all we have for tonight, but we‘ll see you tomorrow live from that conservative bastion on the left coast, San Francisco, one of my favorite towns. 

See you tomorrow. 

END   

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