updated 9/24/2004 1:36:36 PM ET 2004-09-24T17:36:36

Guests: Jan Ting, Abdul-Malik Mujahid, Debra Burlingame, Gwen Walz, Diane Weathers, Linda Kaplan Thaler


DEBORAH NORVILLE, HOST:  The musician on the terror watch list.  An overseas flight is diverted and grounded when it emerges a man called Yusuf Islam is on board.


YUSUF ISLAM, FORMERLY KNOWN AS CAT STEVENS:  Half of me wants to smile and half of me wants to growl.


NORVILLE:  Is the man formerly known as Cat Stevens, the man who wrote “Peace Train,” a terrorist sympathizer or a victim of religious profiling?


ROGER CRESSEY, FORMER WHITE HOUSE COUNTERTERRORISM OFFICIAL:  We can laugh about this being Cat Stevens, but the fact of the matter is, in the future, it could be a real terrorist.  It could be someone who‘s coming into the country to conduct a terrorist attack.


NORVILLE:  Security moms.






NORVILLE:  They‘re the new soccer moms, and this time, they‘re voting for the candidate they think will keep them and their families safer.


GEORGE WALKER BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  ... if they want a safer America, a stronger America, a better America, to put me and Dick Cheney back in office!

SEN. JOHN KERRY (D-MA), PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE:  A stronger America is what we‘re here to build today.


NORVILLE:  Tonight, what women want from a presidential candidate and how the Kerry and Bush campaigns are chasing the female vote.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  In just sheer numbers, we have the ability to make or break a candidate.


ANNOUNCER:  From studio 3K in Rockefeller Center, Deborah Norville.

NORVILLE:  And good evening.  Yusuf Islam, the British singer who used to be known as Cat Stevens, says he is totally shocked that he was barred from entering the United States.  He was traveling from London to Washington with his 21-year-old daughter on a United Airlines flight Tuesday when the plane was diverted 600 miles off course to Bangor, Maine.  The Homeland Security Department says Yusuf Islam‘s name appeared on a watch list because of activities that could potentially be related to terrorism.  He was escorted off the airplane.  He was detained and interrogated by the FBI and then told he would have to leave this country.  He arrived back in London today.


YUSUF ISLAM, FORMERLY KNOWN AS CAT STEVENS:  Obviously, I mean, half of me wants to smile and half of me wants to growl.  I was traveling to Nashville, actually, with my daughter to initiate (UNINTELLIGIBLE) recordings.  And you know, suddenly—we were forced to land, and suddenly, I was being interrogated by all these FBI officers.  And you know, the whole thing is totally ridiculous.


NORVILLE:  Cat Stevens had a string of hits back in the 1970s, including “Peace Train,” “Moon Shadow” and “Wild World.”  He changed his name to Yusuf Islam and converted to Islam in 1997.  So how on earth did Cat Stevens, now Yusuf Islam, end up on a terror watch list?  He‘s been a vocal opponent of terror.  In the wake of September 11, he said the terrorists had, quote, “hijacked” his religion.  He‘s the chairman of a large charity organization and, just four months ago, met with officials of the White House‘s Office of Faith-Based Charity.  But he has in the past been accused of supporting Hamas, a charge he has denied.  Today, Homeland Security officials say they have new information that raises concerns.

My first guest, Abdul-Malik Mujahid, has been friends with Yusuf Islam for nearly 16 years.  Back in 1995, he persuaded him to go back into the recording studio after a 20-year absence.  He joins me now exclusively.

Sir, thank you so much for being with us.  What possible activities can Mr. Islam have been involved in that you think would have put him in the crosshairs of the United States government?

ABDUL-MALIK MUJAHID, FRIEND OF YUSUF ISLAM:  I would say being a peace activist and being a singer for peace.  That‘s what he has been all his life, before Islam or after Islam.  And peace is not something which is controversial in this world. 

But not only he sings for peace, but he works for peace.  Just last year, he was in South Africa, raising funds with Nelson Mandela for AIDS.  He has—sang “Peace Train,” actually, re-recorded after 9/11, and sang it.  And half of all income through the proceeds of his latest four-box—four-CD hit he‘s donating to victims of terrorism of 9/11.  I think he goes everywhere where he feels children need him.  He hasn‘t...

NORVILLE:  So what do you think—what do you think—and pardon me for interrupting, but what do you think is new in his background or new in the government‘s investigation of his background that‘s prompted this change?  Four months ago, he was in the United States, talking with White House officials.  So something between then and now has either changed or come to the attention of the federal government.  What do you suspect that might have been?

MUJAHID:  I—you know, speculation is a business I‘m not in.  I‘m in the business of recording songs, persuading people to sing songs and working for peace.  What I would say, it‘s not a watch list.  I suspect it for being a witch hunt list, in which people are just put there.  I think we‘ll be better off if people are informed beforehand that they are suspected of being on the list and given the opportunity to clear their name and defend themselves.

Yusuf Islam is just one of the high-profile persons.  Muslims in this country—as a Muslim, I can testify to that—are a victim of this.  Amnesty International has simply said 1 in 9 Americans, at this moment after 9/11, is being watched or is being profiled.  And it‘s not healthy for our society.  So I don‘t think anything wrong with Yusuf Islam.  I suspect something wrong with the way we are making our list, without telling people that they are on the list.

NORVILLE:  Well, with all due respect, I can‘t imagine that if you were a real bad guy and the government came to you and said, We think you‘re a bad guy, we‘re going to put you on our list, I don‘t imagine that that‘s the kind of activity that would make the rest of Americans feel very secure about the way our security system is set up, do you?

MUJAHID:  Well, I would say security system should not exclude common sense.  A person who speaks for peace, works for peace, as a well-known person, if he‘s a suspect and—you know, if he‘s a suspect, tell him what they are suspecting him of.  I mean, just by—you know, America is built on freedom, freedom of travel, freedom of trade.  Capitalism is directly connected with freedom of travel and freedom of trade.  If you cannot travel—I mean, Americans are (UNINTELLIGIBLE) abroad and we are shutting off people from coming in.  And the people who are well-known, artists, is known through his artwork, our artwork.  And which terrorists have been singing his latest hits to commit terrorism?  You know, this is all ridiculous.

NORVILLE:  Let me ask you, as you know, there have been times in Mr.

Islam‘s past, particularly with some support that was given to Hamas

allegedly, a charge that he denies—but some of his charitable activities

have caused people to raise questions.  We went on to his Web site, and

there are three groups with which he‘s pretty actively involved, and I

wonder what light you can shed for us on these three groups.  One of them

is called Small Kindness.  It is described as a worldwide humanitarian

relief agency.  Another is Islamia Schools‘ Trust.  That‘s a group which

raises children to Islam principles.  And the third is the Waqf al Birr

Educational Trust, which is apparently an anti-poverty group that supports

·         I guess it‘s a think tank—supports educational research along those lines.

What can you tell us about those three groups and Yusuf Islam‘s support of them?

MUJAHID:  I‘m not directly involved with his charity work and have not assessed that.  But I know at least one thing, that the—the school which you mentioned is the school which he started for his children, and then he realized more children need better education, let‘s focus on the school, which he runs in London.  And it‘s a school in which the government—

British government contributes money to.  It‘s a well-known school, well-honored school.  Prince Charles has been to that place and has been with him.

The second charity which you are mentioning, it is focused on connecting lost children of Kosovo with their parents.  That‘s another focus which I‘m aware of.

But you know, go back to, Deborah, what you are mentioning, he has been suspected, he has been associated, he has been allegedly?  Why not—when was it?  I mean, if it was five years ago, why not we prove that?  This is the dilemma at this moment, that most Muslims—I mean, it was said That African-Americans don‘t get a fair trial.  I was listening to a comedian, a Muslim comedian, he was saying, Well, (UNINTELLIGIBLE) Muslims (UNINTELLIGIBLE) we don‘t even get a trial, forget about a fair trial.

NORVILLE:  Are you one of those who think that this might be something that they called Islamophobia?

MUJAHID:  Oh, it absolutely is Islamophobia.  And Yusuf Islam is the most known and most latest victim of it.  But we suffered through it day and night, and that was the reason President Bush went on air and he told that any people who are going after people with a scarf on their head are not Americans immediately on 9/11.  And I admire for him.  But I like him to stand up against this witch hunt of people.  I mean, we know artists through their songs.  We know artists—and laws are there, but laws require common sense for the people implementing them.

NORVILLE:  Yes.   Well, we also know that people have lives outside the recording studio, and obviously, we would be very interested in Mr.  Islam to talk here.  We also note that we asked the Homeland Security agency to supply a representative for us, to help us guide us this in discussion, and they declined to do so.

I‘m going to ask you to stick with us, sir, because we‘re now going to be joined in our conversation about the terror watch list that we‘ve heard so much about by former White House counterterrorism official, now an NBC News analyst, Roger Cressey.  Also with us is Jan Ting.  He‘s a former assistant commissioner for the Immigration and Naturalization Service, now a professor of law at Temple University.  Gentlemen, I thank you for joining our discussion.

Richard (SIC), I got to ask you, what the heck is a guy who‘s on the terror watch list doing on the airplane?  Isn‘t the point of the list to keep these people off?

ROGER CRESSEY, FORMER WHITE HOUSE COUNTERTERRORISM OFFICIAL:  Well, the bottom line is, he shouldn‘t have been on the plane.  There was really two mistakes, Deborah.  The first was a failure of the watch list system itself.  The second, of course, was a really bad judgment call by the Homeland Security Department.  It‘s one thing if you have somebody of real concern on a flight and you make a decision to divert that flight.  But if you have someone like Cat Stevens, and even if he is involved in terrorism financing, the flight should have landed in Dulles, they should have taken him off the flight there, questioned him and then maybe sent him back.  So there‘s really two problems here that we should be worried about.

NORVILLE:  Do you know anything specifically, Roger, about why Cat Stevens, now Mr. Yusuf Islam, would have been on this terror watch list?  Can you shed some light on that, please?

CRESSEY:  Well, the government has not given us any specifics, but it‘s safe to assume if it‘s a fund-raising issue, then one of two things has happened.  One, he or his organization have given money directly to Hamas or a front of Hamas, or, more likely, one of his organizations has given money to a charity...

MUJAHID:  What does your proof of that?

NORVILLE:  Well, hold on.  Let him finish, please.

CRESSEY:  Sir, I don‘t have any proof yet.  I‘m telling you what my theory is.  It‘s either he gave it directly or he gave it to a non-governmental organization, which ultimately found its way into Hamas.  We don‘t know, is the bottom line, but if the government is saying that‘s the reason, then that‘s probably the most likely scenario.

NORVILLE:  Well, you know another question I‘ve got is, haven‘t we, by virtue of this whole episode, just sent a huge news flash to every person who might intend harm upon the United States, Guess what, folks?  Even if you think you‘re on the list, you‘re not on the list they‘ve got at the airport.  Feel free to go on, buy your ticket, get on the plane and come to America.  The doors are wide open.  We have to assume that most folks wouldn‘t have been diverted the way this gentleman was.

JAN TING, FORMER ASST. COMMISSIONER, INS:  Deborah, I think you touched on exactly what the problem is.  I mean, I‘m a fan of Cat Stevens‘s music, but no foreign national outside the United States is entitled to enter the United States.  They have no constitutional right to come to the United States.  Indeed, the foreign national who wants to come to the U.S.  has the burden of proof of showing that they‘re entitled to a non-immigrant visa to enter the United States and that they‘re not otherwise inadmissible.

Anyone who has made a financial contribution to any organization on the list of terrorists organizations of the United States government, that person is inadmissible and cannot enter the United States!  Now, I don‘t know all the details...

NORVILLE:  Do most people, Mr. Ting, know what those organizations are?  I mean, I think it‘s entirely possible that a person well-intended could give money to what they thought was a legitimate charity and it turns out to be a front for one of these organizations the government has targeted.

TING:  Absolutely.  And if you want to come to the United States, you have the burden of proof—of proving that you are not, in fact, inadmissible for having made a contribution to Hamas because you thought it was doing, you know, valuable charitable work.

NORVILLE:  Well, we got a news flash for you.  There are about 3,500 names on the terror watch list.  It is three years since September 11, and they‘ve only put 3,500 names on.  Another news flash for you.  According to NBC News, as it reported tonight, there are more than 300,000 names on the government‘s list.  They just haven‘t made it to the terror watch list.

We‘re going to take a short break.  When I come back, more with my guests.  And we‘ll have more on this very strange case of the former Cat Stevens, Yusuf Islam, being stopped at our border.


ISLAM:  I‘m very happy to be able to contribute my voice to the call for peace.  And even though things look difficult sometimes, the great thing about what‘s happening is the way that people are uniting and getting together in the name of peace.




COLIN POWELL, SECRETARY OF STATE:  Our Homeland Security Department and intelligence agencies found some information concerning his activities that they felt under our law required him to be placed on a watch list and therefore deny him entry into the United States.  We have no charges against him.  We have nothing that would be actionable.


NORVILLE:  That was secretary of state Colin Powell talking about the man who used to be known as pop singer Cat Stevens, Yusuf Islam.  He was barred from entering the United States.  This was Cat Stevens‘s response when he arrived back in London today.


ISLAM:  Everybody knows who I am.  You know, I‘m no secret figure.  Everybody knows my campaigning for charity, for peace.  And there‘s got to be a whole lot of explanations.  Hopefully, they‘ll be there.


ISLAM:  Well, absolutely.  But you know, for God‘s sakes, people make mistakes.  I just hope that they‘ve made a big mistake.


NORVILLE:  People make big mistakes.  I hope it was a big one.

We‘re back with a friend of Yusuf Islam for the past 16 years, Abdul-Malik Mujahid.  He joins us exclusively this evening.  Also with us, former White House counterterrorism official Roger Cressey and former INS assistant commissioner Jan Ting.

Roger, is it possible that this was just a big mistake and Mr. Islam should not have been put on that list?

CRESSEY:  Oh, it‘s always possible.  Lord knows, the government‘s not infallible.  But my guess is they received some information that links some donations that ultimately made their way into Hamas or into another organization.  It may not be 100 percent confirmable and corroborated, but it‘s good enough to put him on the list.  I think the issue still is, Deborah...

NORVILLE:  So how does he get off the list?  If this was an inadvertent donation, how would he get off the list, or is he sunk?

CRESSEY:  He‘s pretty much sunk because it‘s very difficult to get off this type of list these days because the process is still so antiquated.  Deborah, we‘re still relying on human beings at the airports to make judgment calls as to whether or not individuals get onto the plane.  There has to be a technological solution here, so that your last line of defense is not the airline official at the counter before the plane leaves the gate.

NORVILLE:  Well, Jan Ting, I have to tell you, anybody who‘s traveled, and a lot of our viewers have done so, aren‘t exactly inspired by confidence when they look at the people who are behind the counter, whether it‘s the person at the ticket counter, the person checking them through the security line or the person asking, Is that your bag?  Did you pack it yourself?  Has it been in your control the whole time?  I mean, this just underscores that there are problems, and we‘re reminded of that when we see this happen because the man did get on the plane, even though he was on the list.

TING:  Exactly.  Actually, it‘s our Congress that passed a law that said any foreign national who contributes to a designated terrorist organization is inadmissible to the United States.  If Congress wants to change that law and let such people into the United States, Congress is free to do so at any time, but I think the border patrol people have the obligation of enforcing the law, and the law says these individuals can‘t come in.

Now, prior to 1986, all foreign nationals, except Canadians and Mexicans, had to get visas to come to the United States.  They had to submit their passports in advance, and we had a chance to ask them questions and look at their passports and say yes or no, so we didn‘t have this sort of embarrassment.  But in ‘86, Congress was persuaded to adopt the visa waiver law, which says these nice Europeans, if you have a European passport, you don‘t need a visa to come to the United States.  You can just buy an airline ticket and get on the airplane.

And that‘s how Zacarias Moussaoui, the 20th hijacker, came to the U.S.  on his own French passport.  That‘s how Richard Reid, the shoe bomber, got on an airplane headed for the United States on his own British passport, and that‘s how Ramzi Yousef, one of the ‘93 World Trade Center bombers, came to the United States on a counterfeit European passport~!

NORVILLE:  But that‘s the point.  We know those people...

TING:  All he had to do was show his passport!

NORVILLE:  ... came here on legitimate passport and absolutely following the rules.  What we‘re seeing now is that the rules aren‘t being followed by the government.

TING:  No, the problem is the visa waiver program.  I would have thought that post-9/11, this would be...

NORVILLE:  The visa waiver program didn‘t have a thing about that man getting on the airplane today, and you know it.

TING:  Absolutely, it did.  That‘s how he got on the airplane.  By showing his British passport, he was able to buy a ticket and get on the airplane without having a chance for the United States to screen him in advance!  If we had had a visa requirement in place, he would have had to submit his passport to an American consulate and have it checked.  We could have given him then a firm yes or no as to whether he‘d be admissible to the United States.

Visa waiver causes these problems.  I would have thought it would have been repealed after 9/11.  I was wrong.  The travel industry has lobbied hard to maintain it, that the mass murderers coming in under it are statistically insignificant, we‘re told.  And the State Department likes visa waiver because it saves them a lot of paperwork.

NORVILLE:  Let me change the subject a little bit.  Mr. Mujahid, I‘m wondering what you think the fall-out of this is going to be.  We don‘t know what the government may or may not have on Mr. Islam.  Presumably, we will find that out in the weeks to come.  But we do know that there are a lot of moderate people who are of the Islamic faith who want to come to this country to do their business, to travel, to whatever.  I know personally of people who have not come to this country because they‘re afraid of the kind of treatment they might receive.  Do you perceive a negative fall-out because of this incident?

MUJAHID:  This is already happening.  Not only laws need to be improved, but there is no law—we must remember, there is no law against common sense, and it‘s a good idea to start admitting the mistake.  What Colin Powell just said, “We have nothing actionable,” quote, unquote.  If you have nothing actionable, then why this person is deported?  If we have something, try it, and try openly, not based on secret evidence.

You know, I‘m sitting in downtown—talking to you in downtown Chicago.  Any time any person extends his hand, I give some money.  What that person does—goes for drugs, eats really, as he‘s saying that I‘m hungry and I need a dollar—what he does, no one knows.  He just raised money in South Africa.  What—South African government or organizer did with that money, he cannot go around tracing that.  So I think we need to use common sense in this area.

(UNINTELLIGIBLE) is already there.  I mean, there are not just Muslims, there are non-Muslims that are Pulitzer Prize-winners who have come to this country, and after treatment, left.  The first victim was a Sikh because he has turban.  He was not even Muslim.  So I think profiling is gone to extreme extent.  I think this is what is wrong with America today, that to save freedom, we are killing freedom.

NORVILLE:  Roger Cressey, when you look at how screening is done as people get on airplanes, as they proceed through the airports, are you confident that the system that exists now, three years post-9/11, is sufficient to catch those persons whom the United States would not want coming into this country?

CRESSEY:  Absolutely not.  I mean, like I said earlier, we can laugh about Cat Stevens, but what if this was a real terrorist who was coming into the United States to conduct an attack, or worse yet, to attack the plane in mid-air?  Think about what happened in Moscow, Deborah, where the Chechen suicide bombers were able to get on the Russian aircraft at the last minute because they were able to bribe an airline official at the gate in order to get on the plane.  That scenario has now happened.

That‘s not to say it‘s going to happen in Western Europe, but we need a much more rigorous program, more technologically advanced, to ensure our level of violence is much higher that the real terrorists are not allowed to get on these planes.

NORVILLE:  Well, I think everyone agrees that that‘s definitely something no one wants to see happen, a real terrorist getting on a plane again.  Abdul-Malik Mujahid, we thank you very much for being with us tonight from Chicago.  Roger Cressey, Jan Ting, thanks to you both, as well.

TING:  Thank you.

NORVILLE:  When we come back, we‘re going to stick with the topic of terrorism and national security because guess what?  It‘s a huge concern for voters out there and for one of biggest voting blocks this election season, women.

ANNOUNCER:  Up next...






ANNOUNCER:  They may represent this election year‘s most important group of swing voters.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  There are more women and more women registered than men.


ANNOUNCER:  But are their voices being heard?  What women really want from a candidate when DEBORAH NORVILLE TONIGHT returns.



NORVILLE:  The last presidential election had the soccer moms.  Well, this go-around, meet the security moms. 

The latest NBC News/”Wall Street Journal” poll suggests that a voting bloc of women who are primarily concerned with safety from terror could well end up deciding who is in the White House for the next four years.  Here‘s a look at the gender gap among likely voters.  It shows John Kerry leading President Bush among women, but only by 3 percent.  Four years ago, Al Gore took the women‘s vote by 12 percent.  Right now, President Bush leads Senator Kerry by 10 percent among men. 

And although women traditionally do vote Democratic, it appears that the Bush campaign at the moment anyway is winning the security moms.  Here are some of the key numbers.  Among married women age 18-49, 57 percent say terrorism is the most important issue this election.  Only 33 percent cited the economy.  Both campaigns see women as the key to this election in the wake of 9/11.  And more recently, the terror attack on schoolchildren in Russia underscores how security could well be the watershed issue for many women voters in 2004. 

Tonight, we‘re joined by two mothers, both of whom are politically active, their main motivation, terrorism and homeland security. 

Debra Burlingame‘s brother, Charles, was the pilot of American Airlines Flight 77, which as you know crashed into the Pentagon on September 11.  She supports President Bush.  Gwen Walz is the mother of a 3-year-old little girl and she‘s working for the campaign of Senator John Kerry.  Her husband has recently returned from being deployed to Europe as a backfill for the troops in Iraq. 

We welcome you both for being with us. 


NORVILLE:  Gwen, let me start with you first. 

Why do you think that security is going to be the linchpin this election? 

GWEN WALZ, MILITARY MOMS ON A MISSION:  Well, first, I would just like to clarify that I am volunteering for the Kerry campaign.  I‘ve taken a week of vacation time from my job as an assessment coordinator in a school district to spend some time talking about the issues of military deployment and security.  So I just wanted to clarify that for you. 


WALZ:  But the security issue obviously is extraordinarily important.  It‘s on everyone‘s mind, and you know, we hear horror stories from day to day of things that are happening around the world. 

And I just so firmly believe that John Kerry and John Edwards understand this issue and have a plan to address that issue.  So I‘m out talking about the military deployment in my family and helping people distinguish, I hope, between the terrorism and the war in Iraq as two separate things. 

NORVILLE:  Debra Burlingame, why do you think it‘s the hot button for women this go-around? 

DEBRA BURLINGAME, SISTER OF 9/11 VICTIM:  Well, I think, after the 9/11 attacks, it was no longer an intellectual concept, the idea that you could lose your loved ones in a terrorist attack in our country. 

And I think, you know, you can be interested in the issues of—more typically liberal issues like gay marriage or abortion rights, that kind of thing, but ultimately, in the balance between civil liberties and national security, national security trumps everything. 

NORVILLE:  What is it, Debra, that you think voters want to hear?  Now, I don‘t want to get political here.  I don‘t want to talk about some of these platform issues, but what is it that a woman needs to hear to feel comfortable about security? 

BURLINGAME:  I think they want to know that their family is going to be safe.  It‘s a very personal issue.  They want to know that when they send their children to school in the morning, they‘re going to be able to pick them up that afternoon. 

And I think the reason it‘s broken down, women, the demographic of women has broken down is because traditionally, as you said, they do go Democratic.  But I think people make the mistake of looking at party labels in this campaign.  And I think people are crossing party lines.  And I‘m a Democrat.  I‘m a staunch supporter of this president because I think if you want to keep us safe at home, you have to fight them abroad. 

NORVILLE:  Gwen, I know you‘ve been looking at all the numbers and you‘ve seen that last time around 22 million single women didn‘t go to the polls.  Now, you‘re a mother of a 3-year-old.  You have got a husband, you‘ve got a family to take care of.  Your life is different than that 22 million single women four years from now, but do you believe that they too share your and Debra‘s concerns about security issues this go-around? 

WALZ:  I think absolutely.  And I‘d like to applaud those single mothers. 

I learned firsthand how difficult it was to be a single parent when my husband was deployed for eight months in ‘03 and ‘04 from August to March, and I believe they have the same concerns that we all do.  And it is about keeping our families safe and it‘s about keeping our country safe and it‘s about keeping our world safe.  And that‘s a—that‘s a complicated issue, and yet, there are some specific things I believe we can do.  So it‘s very important to all mothers and I would think to all Americans. 

NORVILLE:  You know, it‘s interesting.  There‘s a huge get-out-the-vote effort this go-around and it seems to be directed primarily at women.  The Lifetime Television Network, which broadcasts to women, has really been focusing on that for quite some time.   

Here‘s a look at one PSA that they have got running right now, which emphasizes that every vote counts and everybody has got a choice to make.

WALZ:  Yes. 


UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  So what are we going to name him? 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Oh, you decide. 

NARRATOR:  Chances are, you do have an opinion.  Don‘t let someone else choose for you. 


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Double Bacon Cheeseburger Henderson. 

NARRATOR:  Change the future.  Vote this November 2.  And some day, considering running for office, because every woman counts. 



NORVILLE:  Debra, when you‘re out there talking to people as one of the security moms of this election go-round, are people saying to you: “I understand why you‘re involved.  You lost your brother.  I share the grief that you must feel, but they‘re not going to do anything.  It‘s not going to matter.  Why waste my time going down to the polls?  It‘s such a hassle and nothing is really going to change”?

BURLINGAME:  I don‘t hear that.  I hear people that are very concerned with this election.  I think they know it‘s an historic election, that the world has changed since 9/11, that all the old rules no longer apply.

I think they are looking for strength and consistency.  I think they are looking for leadership, because they know that the decisions we make today will affect their children and their grandchildren.  And they want—they want to rid the earth of the scourge of terrorism.  And I think that, for that reason, a lot of people, this issue has been resonating with moms. 

NORVILLE:  And it‘s interesting, because you can see that the politicians clearly get that women have something to say and they have some power to wield at the voting box.  As everybody knows, not only have the candidates been out.  Their wives have been out.  Their relatives have been out.  Their daughters have been out.

And, at one campaign event, President Bush‘s sister Doro was out there.  Here‘s a snippet of one event where the president‘s sister was out there beating the drum not only for her brother, but for women. 


DORO BUSH KOCH, SISTER OF PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH:  This president has more women in leadership positions than any other president in American history. 


KOCH:  And with Laura and the girls, he‘s surrounded by strong women in his own home. 


KOCH:  The president takes all of their advice and counsel very seriously.  He really has no other choice. 


NORVILLE:  He probably doesn‘t at that. 

Gwen, do you...

WALZ:  Yes. 

NORVILLE:  Do you ever have a sense that trotting the women out, trotting out the family members is going to be seen as less an idea that this candidate has strong women in his circle, and more a “I‘m using the girls in the family to pander to the female vote”? 

WALZ:  Oh, I guess I would absolutely disagree that that‘s what we‘re doing here. 

We‘re—as we‘re traveling across the country, we are stating some messages that are not heard a lot, especially within military families.  So I think we‘re bringing up really important issues that illustrate what this campaign and what John Kerry and John Edwards are about.  And I think there are so many compelling issues with that.  So I guess—I consider myself a strong woman.  I think women have the right to make their own choices in many, many ways.  And I made the choice to speak out about this, not to be trotted out in any way, shape, or form.

And I know the other women on this tour would agree with that.  We feel very strongly and passionately about the issues. 

NORVILLE:  I know you do.  And I think you misunderstood me.  I didn‘t mean you guys on the tour being trotted out. 


NORVILLE:  I meant some of the relatives of the candidates of Senator Kerry and President Bush. 

WALZ:  Oh.

NORVILLE:  We‘re going to take a quick break.  When we come back, we‘ll have more with our two guests right here.

We‘re also going to be joined by some others to find out if the Bush and Kerry campaigns are getting the message out to women the way they need to in order to win this race. 


NORVILLE:  The women‘s vote, both President Bush and Senator Kerry need it big time to win, but are they going after those votes in the right way?

More in a moment.


NORVILLE:  We‘re back continuing our discussion about the influence women voters will have in this year‘s presidential election.  Debra Burlingame‘s brother, Charles, was the pilot of American Airlines Flight 77, which crashed into the Pentagon.  She‘s one of the security moms out there working for President Bush.  Gwen Walz is the mother of a 3-year-old daughter.  She supports John Kerry.  Her husband recently returned from deployment in Europe. 

Also with us joining us are Linda Kaplan Thaler.  She is the CEO of Kaplan Thaler advertising agency.  She markets to women and knows firsthand what women are looking for in this year‘s presidential election.  And Diane Weathers is the chief in editor of “Essence” magazine, which has been polling its readers to find out what they‘re looking to find from the candidates this time around. 

You‘ve seen the polls.  There are a huge number of undecided women out there.  George Washington University says about 65 percent of the undecided voters are women.  So the question is, what have they got to hear in order to come around to either George Bush or John Kerry? 

Linda, you market to these people.  What is it that they‘re looking for? 

LINDA KAPLAN THALER, ADVERTISING EXECUTIVE:  Well, first of all, they‘re looking to be spoken to in the way that women talk to each other.  And neither of the candidates, even with the commercials that they‘re doing, are speaking in a way that women talk. 

NORVILLE:  What do you mean? 

THALER:  Well, it‘s all about the agenda and I will do this and it‘s very much from high atop a hill, as opposed to the way that women really talk to each other.

And when we‘re selling to women, it‘s much more conversational.  Actually, the Lifetime ad to me was a great example of how women talk to other women.  And I think there‘s a lesson to be learned. 

NORVILLE:  And, Diane, when you polled your readers—and you reach a huge segment of women and a huge segment of African-American women in this country—what are they saying that they‘re interested in? 


We reach about seven million readers.  This is about 38 percent of all African-American women.  And they are not undecided, first of all.

NORVILLE:  Really? 

WEATHERS:  According to our poll that we conducted in August, it‘s about 83 percent John Kerry.  No surprise.  We know most African-Americans vote Democratic. 

But the issue for them is the economy. 

NORVILLE:  How so?

WEATHERS:  That‘s No. 1, jobs, jobs, specifically jobs.  After that, Iraq.  And Iraq, African-Americans are disproportionately serving in the military, so that‘s what affects them.  Health care, insurance. 


NORVILLE:  Throw that back up there, because with—put the graphic back up for us, what the specifics were.

War in Iraq, 16 percent.  Way down on the bottom, terrorism and homeland security, 8 percent.  Clearly they don‘t see a linkage between the war on terror and the war that‘s going on in Iraq. 

WEATHERS:  The war on terror is about Osama bin Laden.  Iraq is about something else.  And our readers, as I am, quite frankly, are baffled how the two became connected. 

NORVILLE:  Why is there such a big difference, then?  If economy is No. 1, is this—is this a racial divide or an economic divide? 

WEATHERS:  It‘s both, because it—it cuts across—it cuts across demographics.  It‘s—I haven‘t met—I have met so few people who believe that we are on the right course politically, right course in Iraq, and this is—I mean, I just had lunch with a friend.  That‘s all we talked about.  What‘s going on there is a disaster.  How are we going to get out?

But we are also concerned about our—about the economy.  We got some figures today that 42 million men are—excuse me, 42,000 African-American men in Cleveland are unemployed.  That is amazing.  That‘s the kind of situation we see.  So, I mean, many of our readers are single women.  They‘re heads of households.  They‘re struggling.  Nobody is talking about the economic issue. 

I mean, George Bush certainly isn‘t talking about it. 

NORVILLE:  And, Gwen, since you‘re out there stumping for John Kerry, do you feel like you as a woman, a military wife, are hearing enough about the economy? 

WALZ:  Certainly, I think that‘s part of the discussion.  I think the discussion on Iraq has taken center focus because of the Republican National Convention and the Republican attempt to tie the war in Iraq to terrorism and to make that the agenda.

So certainly, you know, in response to that, I would like to see more focus on the economy.  But I‘d also like to add on what we were just talking about that we are actually less safe in our country because of the spending in Iraq.  When you look at some of the proposed numbers by security expert Tom Martin, we are doing a disservice to our country.

And by focusing on some of the things he suggests, we could bring some of the jobs and the efforts back into the economy.  But I definitely see the economy as an issue and I do hear that out there. 

NORVILLE:  We‘re going to take a break. 

When we come back, there are a lot of other issues that women care about, jobs, education, health care, what happens if the kids get sick.

We‘ll talk about some of these things with our guests in just a moment. 


NORVILLE:  We‘re talking about the importance of the women‘s vote in this year‘s presidential election. 

Back with Debra Burlingame, Gwen Walz, Linda Kaplan Thaler and Diane Weathers.

Linda, we were talking in the break about some of the issues.  Sort of apropos of the whole military question is, I hear this from a lot of women, the fear that a draft is looming, even though we hear officially that‘s just not going to happen. 

THALER:  Yes. 

I think that‘s an Achilles for Bush, because he is out there saying, I am going to protect you.  And all these security moms are saying, oh, that‘s what I need, a protection.  But when it starts to hit home and you realize oh, my God, after November 2, my son or my daughter could be drafted, then the fear hits home.  And that‘s where I think Kerry has a little bit of an edge. 


NORVILLE:  And when you do your market research, are you seeing that kind of a fear latent in there? 

THALER:  Absolutely. 

And I‘m just seeing it in the hallways where we work.  We have a lot of women.  I also think there‘s a group that we have totally not talked about, which I call the swingles. 

NORVILLE:  Right. 

THALER:  The single women independents now guarantee the largest electoral success.  They got so much of the vote to Gore last time, millions.  And we‘re talking about 47 million single women.  Some are moms, some not. 

NORVILLE:  But if this NBC poll is to be believed, unlike the statistics you have congressman from “Essence” magazine, more than half of them are concerned about terrorism. 


But last time, there were millions who didn‘t vote.  How do you get these women energized enough to go out and vote?  They need a baby-sitter, some very practical things that they‘re not getting.  And they‘re more concerned about with economy, as you said, because they‘re at a socioeconomic level of $30,000 or under. 

NORVILLE:  Debra, you are one of the security moms.  One of the things you want to see is people to get motivated enough to get down there and do just that, pull the lever and pull it for the candidate you support. 

But it takes planning.  It takes hiring a baby-sitter or getting the kid in the car and scheduling the day care person or having the pram with three holders and one hand out feeding the baby a bottle while you‘re reaching with the other one and trying to hit the lever.  It‘s not easy.  If you are a woman with kids, if are you a woman with a busy life, it‘s not easy to get down to the polls.  How do you tell them it‘s important? 

BURLINGAME:  Well, I think what you have to say is that the future of our country is at stake here. 

I think they understand.  And I think they are motivated.  I think—

I think they all know they can bring those children with them and they can go with their friends.  You look—here‘s the baby and I‘m going to be in there.  You are only in there 30 seconds or how long it takes to pull the lever.  They know, I imagine, who they want to vote for by the time they show up. 

NORVILLE:  By the time they get down there.

BURLINGAME:  But I think they understand that this is a question about confidence, who do they feel confident with going forward.  We‘re in the middle of a war.  We‘re prosecuting a war.  I think that President Bush has made the case for why we should be there. 

And I think Senator Kerry agreed with him and has agreed with him historically many, many times.  So I think for a lot of women, it‘s who do I feel confidence in, who is going to—who is giving me a preview of what I am going to be seeing this November.  And I think President Bush has absolutely showed them who he is and what he‘s going to do. 

NORVILLE:  Quick 10 seconds for each candidate, Linda.  What should John Kerry be saying to brand himself to women?  What should George Bush be saying? 

And then, Diane, you get the same answer.

THALER:  You have a more secure America if you vote for me. 

NORVILLE:  Both of them should say that? 

THALER:  Both of them should say that.  But he has an edge because he could bring it home and say, it‘s your child that could be going to Iraq.  Think that about come November. 

NORVILLE:  All right. 

Diane, what should they say?

WEATHERS:  I don‘t know what George Bush could say to our readers, to African-American women.

But I know that Kerry needs to say that, I care about your economy.  I care about jobs and I want Iraq—I want us out of Iraq. 

NORVILLE:  All right, we‘ll let that be the last word. 

Not meaning to be political, but I‘m afraid it sounds that way. 

Diane Weathers, thank you for being with us.  Linda Kaplan Thaler, Debra Burlingame, and Gwen Walz, our thanks to you as well.

WALZ:  Thank you. 

NORVILLE:  When we come back, just how vulnerable is America—another uplifting topic—to a nuclear attack? 


NORVILLE:  No time to share e-mails tonight, but we do like to hear from you.  It‘s NORVILLE@MSNBC.com.  And since we can‘t tell you right now, we can show them to you on our Web page at NORVILLE.MSNBC.com, the same place you can sign up for our newsletter. 

That‘s our program for tonight.  Thanks a lot for watching. 

Coming up tomorrow night, the threat of nuclear terror.  Just how great is the possibility that terrorists could target our reactors or even use a nuclear device here in the United States?  Well, you‘re going to be pretty shocked by some of the stuff we found.  And we‘ll also share with you a documentary on the subject. 

That‘s it for tonight.  “SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY” is next.


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