updated 9/24/2004 1:39:24 PM ET 2004-09-24T17:39:24

Guests: Bill Maher, Dave Morgan, Jack Burkman, J.D. Hayworth, Christopher Hitchens, Marshall Manson

JOE SCARBOROUGH, HOST:  Tonight‘s top headline:  CBS‘ numbers plummet in the Big Apple.  The “Real Deal”?  Big media is getting a crash course on the market. 

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

Are CBS and the Kerry campaign guilty of violating federal election laws?  Well, a new complaint with the FEC says yes, alleging that Dan Rather‘s network and John Kerry‘s campaign illegally coordinated attacks against the president.  We are going to be digging for evidence tonight from the Washington watchdog organization that filed the complaint. 

Then, the Bush campaign launches another attack ad accusing John Kerry of, guess what, flip-flopping.  We will be debating that and the latest swift vet ad in tonight‘s SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY showdown. 

Plus, HBO‘s Bill Maher has some advice for John Kerry when he goes toe to toe with the president in next week‘s debate.  He is going to be here and you are not going to not want to miss it on SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY. 

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 the show tonight.  

You know, the free market is finally meeting big media and the results may get ugly.  Time for tonight‘s “Real Deal.” 

You know, elite media outlets like CBS News have long enjoyed a mere monopoly when it came to dishing out news to you, the American public.  But this information oligarchy was broken up by Rush Limbaugh‘s emergence in 1988, Matt Drudge‘s debut in the late 1990s—you remember that? -- and cable news‘ explosion at the turn of the century.  And you know what, the results have been deadly for Dan Rather and his ilk. 

Now bloggers in pajamas are serving as feisty fact-checkers for the fat and happy who were once protected in their ivory towers on the Upper West Side of Manhattan.  Today, though, we hear of an affiliate dropping CBS News and ratings plummeting for Dan Rather in the media capital of the world.  Maybe it‘s because viewers have been finally given a choice on where they get their news.  And that choice is the most liberating development in modern media history. 

But you know what, like aging Soviet generals, media elites and cultural snobs still long for the oppressive days before the information explosion rocked their world.  I remember my political science professor at the University of Alabama telling me that Kremlin generals were more worried about the development of the Xerox machine than any long-range ballistic missiles. 

And tonight, I suspect that Dan Rather and his left-wing producer recognize that their fate may have already been sealed by Internet bloggers, Rush Limbaugh and cable news shows like this one.  The free market has invaded big media.  And while the results may be frightening for Dan Rather and the old guard, they‘re very liberating for the rest of us and they have helped an explosion of ideas in the free marketplace of ideas.  That‘s great news for everybody.  And it‘s tonight‘s “Real Deal.” 

Now, if Dan Rather and CBS were hoping that the announcement of an independent investigation would get this story out of the headlines, they were mistaken.  To the contrary, the latest turn in the story, well, the Center For Individual Freedom has filed a complaint with the Federal Elections Commission charging that CBS and the John Kerry campaign illegally coordinated the bringing forth of these memos. 

Let‘s bring in now Marshall Manson from the Center For Individual Freedom to talk about that complaint. 

Marshall, thank you for being with us. 

Let‘s take a look at what your group is alleging—quote—“It‘s obvious that CBS and the Kerry campaign acted improperly.  That much is clear to anyone with a pulse.  But what has been lost is that CBS and its executives blatantly violated federal election laws when they overtly ignored basic journalistic ethical standards and coordinated with the Kerry campaign in order to run an attack story in an effort to effect the outcome of the November presidential election.”

Now, Mr. Manson, you may not like what Dan Rather did, but did he really violate any federal election laws? 

MARSHALL MANSON, CENTER FOR INDIVIDUAL FREEDOM:  He did, Joe. 

You know, it‘s really actually pretty simple.  We have a fairly straightforward set of campaign finance laws now.  And they say that if you coordinate, what is called electioneering communications with a candidate, with a candidate‘s campaign, you are guilty of violating those campaign finance laws. 

SCARBOROUGH:  But isn‘t that just for—those are for advertisements.  That‘s if George Bush calls the swift vets and say, hey, start up a new ad next week.  That‘s certainly not for Dan Rather, is it, or for Mary Mapes? 

MANSON:  Well, look, we‘re the biggest supporters of the First Amendment out there.  We‘re in favor of freedom of speech.  We want to protect freedom of speech.

But, in this case, Dan Rather made himself and CBS News made itself an arm of the Kerry campaign.  They basically went out and became part of the Kerry campaign and did the Kerry campaign‘s work for it.  And not only did they do that.  They coordinated those activities with the Kerry campaign itself.  And we have heard all the details about this, Mary Mapes‘ call to Joe Lockhart and all the rest.  It is very clear.  I think anybody who paid any attention to this would agree that there was coordination. 

And I think the fact that CBS News really went out of its way to basically run an attack ad against President Bush demonstrates that this exception that is supposed to be out there for media really shouldn‘t apply in this case. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Do you expect, though, the FEC to rule in your way?  You are opening up an—you say you support the First Amendment.  But if a news organization can actually be fined by the Federal Elections Commission for running a negative story about a candidate, are you not opening up a can of worms that actually threatens the First Amendment and is going to have a very chilling effect on reporters and journalists? 

MANSON:  Well, frankly, we are worried about that.  And there is a—we believe that the fact that CBS has apparently violated this absurd campaign finance law ultimately will call into question and show people just how overbroad this campaign finance law is and show people what a threat it is to the First Amendment. 

So, from that standpoint, yes, we‘re concerned about the effect it has on the First Amendment.  But, at the same time, the Supreme Court ruled on this.  And the Supreme Court made it very clear that this law was acceptable.  And we have all got to play by the same rules.  That‘s the bottom line here.  If the Center For Individual Freedom has to live with these rules and understand we can‘t go out and run ads, we can‘t go out and speak, our right to free speech in the political marketplace has been gagged. 

So if we can‘t go out and run ads or speak, if our rights are limited, then we think CBS News and the Kerry campaign ought to abide by the same set of laws. 

SCARBOROUGH:  All right, Marshall, thanks a lot for being with us.  We appreciate it. 

Now let‘s bring in my all-star panel to get this thing going tonight.  With me, Congressman J.D. Hayworth.  He is a Republican from Arizona.  We of course have Christopher Hitchens, a columnist from “Vanity Fair,” Lawrence O‘Donnell, MSNBC senior political analyst. 

And before I go to any of you, let me show you something that was in today‘s “National Review Online”—quote—“If this were a game of Clue, we‘d collectively be jumping up and down and shouting, the attempted character assassination was committed by Burkett, Mapes, Rather, Lockhart, McAuliffe, with a fake memo in the observatory in CBS offices and DNC headquarters.”

Let me start with you, Christopher Hitchens. 

You think there‘s a conspiracy between CBS and the John Kerry campaign or do you think this is just incredibly reckless journalism? 

CHRISTOPHER HITCHENS, “VANITY FAIR”:  Well, could I answer that in reverse order?

While you were talking to your previous guest, I was taking, I remember once denouncing Nixon on some chat show in Los Angeles on the radio and someone said, you have to hold it there.  You may just have violated the FEC‘s fairness doctrine.  And I thought I was just saying what I thought because you asked me.  They said, no, no, it‘s more complicated than that.  We might have to get someone in to do equal time. 

Ridiculous.  The conclusion your last guest should have drawn was not that CBS News should be subjected to this absurd law if he has to be, but they should both combine to say, nobody should be fettered in this manner. 

But for journalism and its standards do matter, not just to me.  I don‘t think of myself now as in the same profession of Dan Rather.  And Dan Rather showed himself, it seems to me, to be—not for the first time actually—a very poor specimen of a showbiz type.  He‘s not in journalism at all anymore.  It‘s an absolute scandal that this stuff ever got on the air. 

And it‘s wrong for us to call it forgery, even.  A forgery is an attempt to fake something that‘s worth having.  If I could get my printer to give me a $100 bill and I handed it to you and you took it, the handshake between us would be of that kind.  But if I printed a $99 bill and handed it to you, you would be a fool and I would be a crook twice.  This is not a forgery.  This is fabrication. 

And we help Rather out, it seems to me, every time we say forgery.  Forgery is the cover story now.  That‘s what they‘re back to.  They‘re saying, well, it‘s essentially true.  All the documents are fake, but the story is true.  This is unpardonable. 

(CROSSTALK)

HITCHENS:  I don‘t think it could fall any lower than this, in other words.  And whether there is collusion with the DNC or not, I don‘t know.  But there really had better not be, because I can‘t think—having said it couldn‘t go any lower, that‘s as low as it could then go. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Lawrence O‘Donnell, as far as journalistic standards go, is this as low as it goes?  And do you think there is a link between CBS and the John Kerry campaign? 

LAWRENCE O‘DONNELL, MSNBC SR. POLITICAL ANALYST:  I don‘t think there‘s any link at all.  And there‘s no absolutely evidence of any link. 

It‘s just the typical kind of hysteria that you would get in a moment like this, for people to come up and file these complaints.  And, remember, the Kerry campaign instantly filed an FEC complaint against the swift boat guys, saying that they were coordinating with the Bush campaign.  Nothing will come of that, even when you have Ben Ginsberg being the lawyer for both the Bush campaign and the swift both guys, even that won‘t come to anything legally at the FEC, and probably shouldn‘t. 

But there‘s clearly no evidence of it here.  It‘s preposterous to think about it.  It‘s preposterous to waste any of our speculation time on it. 

SCARBOROUGH:  J.D. Hayworth, you got on the House floor after this came out and you said you wanted to know what Dan Rather knew and when you he knew it.  What did you mean by that?

REP. J.D. HAYWORTH ®, ARIZONA:  Well, as I said the other night, Dan Rather has become the very thing he despised.  He is positively Nixonian. 

You heard the bizarre statement on “60 Minutes II” when he took to task partisan attacks.  And the fact is, listen, he‘s just in a bad way and CBS is dropping like a rock, so there ought to be concern at Black Rock.  But I really get a kick out of Lawrence O‘Donnell tonight.  Let me congratulate him for not hyperventilating tonight.

But he‘s saying, nothing to see, folks, move along, move along, when, in reality, Mary Mapes got in touch with Joe Lockhart to get the Burkett guy in contact with Lockhart.  Listen, that‘s collusion.  And there is coordination going on.  And to just dismiss it as no big deal is just the height of absurdity. 

O‘DONNELL:  Well, tell me what they said.  J.D., you were in on the call.  Tell me what they said that was collusion.  Tell me what they said.

(CROSSTALK)

HAYWORTH:  Let me congratulate you, Lawrence.  You are very clever because you know I‘m not clairvoyant. 

But just stop and think about the dynamics.  I don‘t know of a situation—and for purposes of full disclosure, I was a broadcaster, no, not a network anchor.  But never do you have a situation where you sit down and you put one of the principals involved in a campaign with a source.  You know that and I know that. 

And to claim that somehow this is business as usual or nothing exceptional because I can‘t quote you the transcripts of the White House tapes, a la Dick Nixon, is absurd.  We see on its face that it is collusion.

(CROSSTALK)

O‘DONNELL:  But, J.D., we have both participants in the conversation giving an account of what happened in the conversation.  Their account of what happened in the conversation makes it very clear, if believed, that there was absolutely no collusion whatsoever in regards to this CBS report and the Kerry campaign. 

So, in order to believe something else, you have to invent in your own imagination, which is fair, some other conversation that these two people had.  And there‘s absolutely no evidence of any other conversation that these two people had. 

HITCHENS:  There‘s not much evidence against it either. 

(CROSSTALK)

HAYWORTH:  That‘s exactly the point. 

HITCHENS:  If you want to be ontological about it, but it doesn‘t seem that improbable. 

A number of people, not any of them known for sympathy to the Bush campaign, elsewhere in the press and in politics appear to have known when the starting gun for this was going to be shot, was going to echo.  There seems to me at any rate no doubt that there was an attempt to prebuild the story and to have people primed.

O‘DONNELL:  But, Christopher, that frequently happens. 

(CROSSTALK)

HITCHENS:  Yes, it does. 

(CROSSTALK)

O‘DONNELL:  But we frequently know ahead of time—for example, we frequently over the years have known ahead of time that “The Washington Post” is working on X and two weeks from now, X comes out.  That‘s not unusual in journalistic circles, to be aware that one institution is working on a particular story. 

SCARBOROUGH:  But, Lawrence, let me ask you this question, though.  Have you ever known of a single time where a journalist had called a member of a campaign and coordinated a contact, saying, listen, so and so has some information that is very relevant to your campaign, you ought to give him a call, it‘s going to help move this Texans For Truth story ahead?  Have you known of that ever happening?  Because I have never seen it in politics before. 

O‘DONNELL:  Yes.  Yes.  I would say it happens all the time.  Let‘s limit it to this, that if we‘re saying do I know of people in the journalistic community who have made calls to campaigns saying you should talk to this guy, yes.  They do that all the time, Republicans, Democrats, state campaigns, national campaigns, all the time. 

SCARBOROUGH:  All right.  Lawrence, we‘ll talk about that and more when we come back on SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SCARBOROUGH:  It‘s been a tough year for the Tiffany Network, especially the news division.  We‘ll be talking about that when SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY returns. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SCARBOROUGH:  Hey, welcome back. 

We‘re talking about Rather-gate with our all-star panel, J.D.

Hayworth, Christopher Hitchens and Lawrence O‘Donnell.

J.D., I was thinking throughout the break that Lawrence may have actually just given us the best evidence of a liberal media bias when he said it happened all the time, that reporters pass on basically political pointers to subjects they cover, because I can tell you, on the Republican side, nobody in all my years of politics—no reporter has ever told me how to dig up dirt or who to call to advance my campaign.. 

O‘DONNELL:  That‘s not what I‘m saying, Joe. 

SCARBOROUGH:  What are you saying, Lawrence? 

(CROSSTALK)

O‘DONNELL:  It all depends on how wildly or accurately or how we want to imagine, how we want to imagine the way we‘ll characterize this phone call that Joe Lockhart makes after CBS calls him. 

SCARBOROUGH:  No, I‘m concerned about the Mary Mapes‘ call. 

(CROSSTALK)

O‘DONNELL:  Here‘s what I‘m going to work with.  Here‘s what I‘m going to work with when I analyze it. 

HAYWORTH:  Oh, Lawrence. 

(CROSSTALK)

O‘DONNELL:  All I can work with. 

HAYWORTH:  Take a breath.  Take a breath, Lawrence.  Calm down. 

O‘DONNELL:  Is this J.D.?

(CROSSTALK)

SCARBOROUGH:  I‘ll tell you what, guys.  Let me take control here. 

O‘DONNELL:  I surrender.  I quit. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Lawrence—I want to ask you, Lawrence—and no interruptions here.  I‘m talking to Lawrence first.

Lawrence, I‘m just concerned about Mary Mapes picking up the phone call, a producer for CBS...

O‘DONNELL:  OK.  OK.

SCARBOROUGH:  And saying to a Kerry operative, a top Kerry operative, I have got a guy that has got information that is going to help your campaign.  I have never heard of that happening before. 

(CROSSTALK)

O‘DONNELL:  Joe, Joe, Joe, that isn‘t the evidence right now. 

All we have right now, because Mary Mapes has not told anyone what she said—all we have is Joe Lockhart‘s version of the call.  Joe Lockhart‘s version is this.  He gets a call from Mary Mapes, who says, would you call this guy?  This guy has been helpful to us on a story.  And the favor I‘m doing for him in return is asking you to call him.  That‘s it.  There‘s no other content that we know about. 

Now, everyone is free to imagine whatever you want.  And I don‘t argue

with the

(CROSSTALK) 

SCARBOROUGH:  Lawrence, I have got great respect for you.  I like you. 

(CROSSTALK)

O‘DONNELL:  ... that if I‘m going to analyze it based on what Joe has said, then there‘s nothing in that call. 

SCARBOROUGH:  OK.

Well, let me tell you something.  You are looking at that call in a way that, quite frankly, no major media outlet that I‘ve been reading...

O‘DONNELL:  I agree.  I agree that I am.  I see nothing wrong with it.

(CROSSTALK)

SCARBOROUGH:  Hold on a second.  Hold on.  Joe Lockhart‘s statements speak for himself.  And he is the one that said Mary Mapes passed the information on. 

I‘m sorry.  Go ahead, Chris Hitchens. 

HITCHENS:  Christopher.

SCARBOROUGH:  Christopher.  Chrissy.

HITCHENS:  Was the gentleman called Burkett for whom this favor was being done, by any chance?

Because, if it was, I must say I feel sorry for Mr. O‘Donnell, who I also thought spoke a little too quickly, a little too glibly the last time he answered on this point  He said, oh, you know, Christopher, this happens all the time.  We all known at times where “The Washington Post” is going to run something.  No, we do not. 

I can remember precisely in 1988 there was a rumor that “The Washington Post” was going to publish something very discreditable to then Vice President Bush.  Everyone thought they knew what it was.  And Ben Bradlee, when asked, said the same thing he always says and the same thing every newspaper is supposed to say.  Read the newspaper if you want to see what we‘re going to print.  We‘re not going to tell you in advance.

In fact, he got so angry that he got to the point that I thought he went too far in the other direction and said, actually, the story that you think we‘re running, we found out isn‘t true.  We‘re not going to run it.  I thought he overbounced in the other direction. 

(CROSSTALK)

O‘DONNELL:  He confirmed they were working on it, Christopher, which is all everybody knew.  Everybody knew they were working on it. 

(CROSSTALK)

HITCHENS:  No, we didn‘t even really know that. 

But too many people in politics and journalism seem to have been ready for this for me to be completely suspicious.  The second thing is this.  I have already said CBS not just bought a $99 bill from an evident nut case, a person who, if you have looked at anything he‘s ever written, this person needs professional help.  They bought a $99 bill and then they tried to pass it on to the rest of us.  It is not forgery.  It‘s whole-cloth fabrication. 

Second, it‘s a nonstory to begin with, OK?  The president has already said several times the first three decades of his life were effectively a washout.  He said in public he‘d rather have John Kerry‘s military record than his own.  He is not running on his Texan experience.  It doesn‘t take down any major claim made by the president. 

If you add the fact that it‘s not much of a story at all, so, even if true, even if not fabricated—and it has been fabricated, not forged—and that there isn‘t a single fact checker at CBS worthy of the title, and there‘s no one who takes one serious look at it who doesn‘t see right away that it is jacked-up. 

How do all those safeguards get so easily overwritten if there isn‘t

political prejudice involved, if someone doesn‘t think I so much hope this

is true that I am going to abandon every single thing that makes up

journalistic or fact-checking

(CROSSTALK)  

SCARBOROUGH:  I cut off J.D. before.

J.D., I want to you respond to all this, but I also want you to look back at some of the stories that have contributed to CBS News‘ fall from grace over the past year.  Of course, October 2003, “The Reagans” had to be moved to Showtime after they attacked the president with unsubstantiated charges while the president lay on his deathbed. 

November 2003, CBS promised Jessica Lynch an MTV party, a “Total Request Live” party if only they would give the news division an interview.  March 2004, of course, Richard Clarke, Paul O‘Neill, published by Simon & Schuster, appeared on “60 Minutes” without them telling the world.  And, of course, in September 2004, Dan Rather‘s memos.

This is a heck of a fall from grace for the network of Walter Cronkite, isn‘t it? 

HAYWORTH:  Well, the bottom line is this.  The so-called tiffany network is in the trash can, its branding of the network‘s own decision. 

And you talked about it at top of this broadcast, Joe, in terms of the “Real Deal.”  CBS is headed south in the ratings.  The American people get this.  And I must say, with all due respect to my friend, Lawrence O‘Donnell, the more Lawrence hyperventilates tonight, he is proving our point.  This frantic effort to try and claim that, if we don‘t have the conversation or that this happens all the time—no, it‘s a new day in media. 

And the fact is, when someone who is a producer at a network contacts a campaign official and serves as the source and as the go-between, that is unethical, to say the least.  And to try to paper over this and say everybody does it, I‘m sorry.  You are proving our point tonight, Lawrence.  The ferocity of your rebuttal just lends credence to the fact that the American people know that CBS has taken an unerringly liberal view that is in error because it has now reached to unethical lows and absolutely killed the network. 

(CROSSTALK)

SCARBOROUGH:  Respond, though, to what Lawrence said earlier, when Lawrence said we don‘t have any evidence of this, because his reading, again, I said, is different from my reading.  But answer his question, where he says we don‘t know what Mary Mapes said to Joe Lockhart. 

HAYWORTH:  Well, again, this point.  And it‘s a point that Adlai made to the Soviet ambassador during the Cuban Missile Crisis.  We‘re not in a court of law.  We‘re in the court of public opinion. 

So I don‘t have to have the interchange.  I understand the dynamic.  And when you set up the dynamic where an ostensible objective news person is serving as the go-between between a political hack and a campaign operative, you have upset the dynamic here.  And to laugh and with a world-weary, oh, everybody does it, no, the American people understand that everybody does not do it, protestations to the country.

That‘s why there are real problems for CBS and that‘s why there is this frantic effort to claim we have to know exactly what is said.  No, we don‘t.  Perception and public opinion count for something.  And the American people understand there‘s something seriously wrong at Black Rock.  And on down the road, CBS has more problems than they know how to deal with. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Lawrence O‘Donnell, obviously, it‘s not just Republicans. 

O‘DONNELL:  Very, very funny to me, Joe.  It couldn‘t be funnier. 

(CROSSTALK)

SCARBOROUGH:  Lawrence O‘Donnell, please stop, OK?  Because it‘s not just Republican congressmen who are saying this.  Op-ed pages from all over the country are getting into the act. 

This is what “The St. Petersburg Times” said, certainly not a conservative newspaper.  They went so far to question whether CBS can ever regain its credibility.  They say this—quote—“The repercussions have only begun for CBS News.  ‘60 Minutes“ first news show of the season Sunday features an interview with Fox News channel pundit Bill O‘Reilly.  Can Mike Wallace ask tough questions about the right-leaning news channel without facing allegations of Rather-influenced liberal bias?  And if CBS investigators unearth the next Abu Ghraib or Watergate, will anybody believe them?

This from “The Hartford Courant”: “Were no lessons learned from the Jayson Blair incident last years that cost ‘New York Times“ top editors their jobs?  The CBS segment was at best a very shoddy piece of journalism.  It constitutes as personal humiliation for the anchor and another black eye for the profession.”

And, again, Lawrence, you know, this is not

(CROSSTALK)

HITCHENS:  It‘s no Jayson Blair, by the way.

SCARBOROUGH:  It‘s not conservatives, Lawrence, that are saying this.  It‘s the entire mainstream media.  It‘s conservative media outlets.  Again, I think you are one of the few people on the Earth right now defending the honor of Dan Rather and CBS News. 

O‘DONNELL:  Oh, I haven‘t even gotten to defending the honor of Dan Rather, which I will do if we have the time. 

But I‘m simply saying that I do think there‘s a huge overreaction to this story based on a few things, including Christopher‘s point that there was no news in this story even if read at face value.  That‘s true.  That‘s why this is hugely exaggerated, I think, analysis of what went wrong with the story that didn‘t have any news in it. 

But the—and, by the way, I will start my hyperventilating in a minute.  But always when I start speaking here, I just try to imagine how J.D. is going to mischaracterize what I‘ve just said. 

(CROSSTALK)

HITCHENS:  Don‘t be too sorry for yourself.  Get on with it. 

O‘DONNELL:  It‘s worth remembering that those editorial writers who wrote the indictment of CBS News, it‘s worth them remembering—they referred to Abu Ghraib—that this very same team and this very same producer is the person who did indeed make the first finding on Abu Ghraib in a network television news division. 

She‘s done extremely important, reliable work that has turned out to be true.  And so she‘s obviously made a gigantic mistake, which I‘m sure she regrets and she is sorry about.  But let‘s not pretend she has never done anything right. 

SCARBOROUGH:  All right, Lawrence, thanks a lot.

Hey, stay tuned, gentlemen.  We have got a lot more straight ahead.

Another ad from a GOP group going after John Kerry, we‘ll talk about it and Dan Rather when CBS returns.

(LAUGHTER)

SCARBOROUGH:  When SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY returns.  Boy, talk about a bad Freudian slip.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SCARBOROUGH:  The natives out there are restless, especially CBS News affiliates.  A lot of them are threatening to drop CBS News.  And we‘re going to be talking to actually one affiliate who did coming up. 

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

(NEWS BREAK)

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

SCARBOROUGH:  Hey, welcome back to the show. 

Some breaking news.  Our news group saw on the Drudge Report a posting.  And we actually called to confirm.  And “The Fort Worth Star-Telegram” is going to be reporting tomorrow morning that they‘ve talked to Bill Burkett.  And Bill Burkett said that he spoke to Joe Lockhart, who—quote—“tried to convince me as to why I should give him the documents, the documents in question. 

I want to go right now to the phone.  We‘re going to be hearing a lot more about that tomorrow.  But I want to go to the phone.  We have got Dave Morgan from CBS radio affiliate WNIS in Norfolk, Virginia. 

Dave, I understand your station has just dropped CBS Radio News. 

Tell us why. 

DAVE MORGAN, WNIS RADIO:  Well, good evening, Joe. 

Yes, we are actually a former CBS affiliate.  We‘re still running their commercials officially.  And we are not running their news content anymore.  But we picked up ABC today because we had serious concerns about the way they have handled this whole situation regarding the memos and the whole—this whole situation that has arisen from it. 

And our listeners have been making their voices heard.  But we have also been watching the way CBS has handled it.  And it was our judgment that we had to make this decision. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Well, Dave, I have been hearing from other affiliates that have been very concerned about this.  Have you been talking to other CBS affiliates, radio affiliates that have also been concerned?  And what exactly are your listeners telling you? 

MORGAN:  Well, on the affiliate question, I have only heard from one other affiliate so far. 

And with regard to the listeners, they are—they have been talking about CBS‘ credibility and their perceived bias for quite a number of years.  This is not a new phenomenon with regard to CBS and Dan Rather.  But for many years, we have been standing by CBS and we have really cherished our relationship with the network.  By and large, in a number of ways, they still do an outstanding job. 

But, increasingly, even before this situation arose, people were letting us hear about their thoughts about how CBS would cover this story or that story.  And when this situation with the memos broke and it was apparent to a layman, just man on the street, that those memos looked as if they came off a laser printer as opposed to an early ‘70s typewriter, and then they were standing behind those documents, people really started to smell some bad odors around the coverage that was coming out of CBS.

And just more and more, we started hearing from them.  And the more time that went on, the more people expressed their views to us and expressed their lack of confidence in CBS‘ coverage. 

SCARBOROUGH:  All right, thanks so much, Dave Morgan.

We greatly appreciate it. 

Let‘s rejoin our panel.  We‘ve got Arizona Congressman J.D. Hayworth and MSNBC political analyst Lawrence O‘Donnell. 

I want to read this to you, J.D. 

On September the 13th, CBS News had 266,000 viewers in New York.  One week later, the night Rather issued his apology, there were 135,000 viewers.  That‘s a 49 percent decline in New York City, obviously the media capital of the world. 

Do you believe that CBS is going to be hearing more fallout from affiliates and also from viewers that may walk away as long as Dan Rather is sitting in the anchor‘s chair? 

HAYWORTH:  Well, I think you can see ample evidence of it right now. 

And I really don‘t know how they rehabilitate themselves with Rather in the anchor chair and Mary Mapes as a producer.  There are serious questions here, serious questions that CBS has to resolve.  And I think it is going to be interesting to watch the corporate dynamic.  Will CBS say the heck with popular opinion, we‘ll stick by Rather, give him another 18 months in the chair and just watch their news division go to H-E double hockey sticks?  Because that is what is going on.

And, again, it goes back to your opening commentary.  The market will decide this and viewers vote every night with their remotes.  And people are running away from CBS News because of the mishandling of this and what is perceived as unethical behavior on the part of CBS News. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Now, Lawrence, in the wake of the “60 Minutes” controversy, the Gallup Organization has conducted a poll.  And let me read you the results. 

This time last year, 46 percent of Americans distrusted the media.  One year later, that number is up to 55 percent.  Of course, if you took this poll in the 1960s, when Walter Cronkite was king, those numbers would be extraordinarily low.  Do you think that this is just one more incident that has convinced Americans and middle America that they can‘t trust big media? 

O‘DONNELL:  I think the distrust is extremely healthy.  And I think the low level of distrust of the Walter Cronkite era of establishment media was a huge mistake. 

It‘s only in the ‘70s that we began to realize what kind of journalistic techniques were available to actually find things out that the government and people in power didn‘t want us to know.  There was no real investigative reporting going on in America in the ‘60s, in the early ‘60s, especially, the golden age of the Cronkites. 

And this is—I‘m not trying to criticize Walter Cronkite.  That was not his job.  But the public should not have been consuming that stuff and consuming the imagery delivered them by network news in the early ‘60s as if it was an absolute truth about America.  We know, for example, since President Kennedy‘s death and long after, that there was much more to what was going on in the Kennedy administration, both on a personal level and then also in terms of their governing choices, in fact, how they ultimately solved the Cuban Missile Crisis, that sort of thing, that we could not find out were it not for history.  Journalism was no help in those days. 

(CROSSTALK)

HAYWORTH:  Well, no, no, no.  Larry, Lawrence, you are being a little too dismissive.  Let me go back to the 1960s. 

(CROSSTALK)

SCARBOROUGH:  J.D., I will tell you what, J.D.  I hate to interrupt you.  You know what?  We‘re out of time.  But I will tell you what.  I‘ll invite both of you guys back.  We‘ll talk about the 1960s and anything else you want to talk about. 

I appreciate you being with us, J.D.

HAYWORTH:  Thank you. 

SCARBOROUGH:  And also, Lawrence, we didn‘t agree with each other tonight, but, as always, you are a great guest.  We appreciate it.  And also, of course, we appreciate Christopher Hitchens being around. 

Now, coming up next, there are 40 days left until the election.  And there seems to be a new attack ad every day.  But we‘re going to be looking at the latest attack ads from George Bush and then John Kerry. 

Plus, comedian Bill Maher‘s prediction on next week‘s presidential debate.  You are not going to want to miss the feisty host of real politics, “Real Time”—real something.  “Real Deal.” 

We‘ll be right back. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SCARBOROUGH:  You know, the knives are out.  In the past 24 hours, we have now seen three new TV ads, one from the swift boat vets, one from the Kerry campaign, and this one from the Bush campaign that has a lot of Kerry supporters bent out of shape.  Let‘s take a look.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, AD)

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

NARRATOR:  In which direction would John Kerry lead?  Kerry voted for the Iraq war, opposed it, supported it, and now opposes it again.  He bragged about voting for the $87 billion to support our troops before he voted against it.  He voted for education reform and now opposes it.  He claims he is against increasing Medicare premiums, but voted five times to do so. 

John Kerry, whichever way the wind blows. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCARBOROUGH:  I will tell you what, that‘s a brutal ad.  And it‘s brutal because of the images, not because of what—they have been saying that for a long time.  That‘s a lot like the Dukakis ad with him in the tank and the helmet.  A picture paints 1,000 words or whatever that is.

Anyway, is it fair game? 

With me now to talk about it is Jack Burkman.  He, of course, is a Republican strategist.  We also have Flavia Colgan, a Democratic strategist and an MSNBC analyst. 

Welcome to both of you. 

I‘ll start with you, Flavia.  That ad goes after John Kerry, paints him as a flip-flopper and, I think more damaging to middle America, an elitist.  Is that fair game? 

FLAVIA COLGAN, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST:  I think the ad is shameful. 

I think to put out a sophomoric attack ad like that, it trivializes the sacrifices going on in the face of the grim reality of 1,000 deaths, skyrocketing health care and Medicare plans—I mean cost.  I‘m just shocked that the president doesn‘t have something more to say than putting up someone windsurfing in the face of all this and acting like he is on a playground. 

(CROSSTALK)

JACK BURKMAN, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST:  You call the ad brutal.  I call it charitable.  I think he should have gone further. 

With what John Kerry said Monday—I don‘t know if anybody noticed.  He completely changed his position on Iraq.  Three months ago, he said he supported the launching of the war.  On Monday, in case no one noticed, he said he opposed the launching of the war.  It‘s most intellectually dishonest presidential campaign in modern history.  I think the president was charitable.

The Kerry campaign, not only is it the most intellectually dishonest campaign in recent history.  It‘s the worst-run campaign in recent history.  If you look at the things you were talking about in the previous segment about the collusion with—the alleged collusion with Joe Lockhart, mistakes like that shouldn‘t happen. 

Joe, this campaign comes down to three things.  And none of them are going to happen.  To win, Kerry needs to, A, win Florida, B, win Ohio, C, win some other major Southern state.  None of those things.  Maybe, as we were discussing before, Florida is possible.

(CROSSTALK)

SCARBOROUGH:  Florida is possible. 

Jack Burkman, though, the Kerry campaign is doing all they can to win it.  Today, they unveiled their own TV ad, this one attacking George Bush on his Iraq policy. 

Let‘s take a look. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, AD)

NARRATOR:  George Bush keeps telling us things are getting better in Iraq.  The facts tell a different story.  Terrorists are pouring into the country.  Attacks on U.S. forces are increasing every month.  One thousand American soldiers have died.  We need a fresh start to fix the mess in Iraq. 

The Kerry solution:  Allies share the burden.  Train Iraqis to protect themselves.  Take the real steps needed to hold free elections. 

John Kerry, a new direction in Iraq. 

SEN. JOHN KERRY (D-MA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  I‘m John Kerry and I approved this message. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCARBOROUGH:  You know, Flavia, we have talked about this before. 

That ad attacked George Bush for about 10 seconds. 

I‘m just wondering, though, why they have taken so long to take off the gloves and go after George W. Bush.  The Bush campaign has been going after Kerry nonstop for the past eight months. 

COLGAN:  Joe, look, I think Kerry‘s campaign would have done well to have you in there advising them.  I agree with you.  We have been agreeing on this for months. 

But I am hopeful.  This last week, I think that Kerry has been sharper.  I think that he has been crisper.  I think you have seen the elbows come out a little more.  I think that he is trying to not allow Bush to morph the war in Iraq into the war on terror, which of course has gotten him some support with the—quote, unquote—“security moms.”  But I think we need to see a lot more of it.

BURKMAN:  Joe, the reason that Kerry hasn‘t come out—you asked the question on, why hasn‘t he come out before with this?  It‘s because he has had no position on Iraq before.  Monday was the first day he had any position in a yearlong presidential campaign. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Flavia, is that fair? 

COLGAN:  Absolutely not.  This ad is exactly right.  You have President Bush coming out, saying, oh, things are great in Afghanistan. 

Meanwhile, President Hamid Karzai last week said that he is going to have to work with the Taliban to get the security under control there. 

(CROSSTALK)

COLGAN:  Hold on, Jack.  There is the RAND study that came out, a bipartisan study that came out last week, all of them showing a very different picture in Iraq than what President Bush is saying. 

(CROSSTALK)

BURKMAN:  Would you argue that Kerry‘s position on Iraq has been consistent for the last six months?  Would you argue that?

COLGAN:  Absolutely. 

Do I think that it fits into a 30-second sound bite, which is what we need in this media consolidated world?  No.  Do I think it is great for him to be out there windsurfing, which the average American doesn‘t relate to?  Absolutely not. 

But, yes, I do think that his position on Iraq has been consistent.  And I think the biggest problem with the Kerry campaign has been that they have not come out and taken Bush on head to head and allowed him to set the pace and the frame of this election. 

(CROSSTALK)

SCARBOROUGH:  Jack Burkman, you got 15 seconds.  Go. 

BURKMAN:  Here‘s the problem.  And I said this nine months ago on your show. 

It is very difficult, if not impossible, for Democrats to win national elections on international and national security issues.  Clinton gave Kerry the best advice six months ago.  He didn‘t take it.  And that is, you have to return the election to domestic issues.  If the public thinks Iraq is salient, if they think terrorism is salient, Democrats won‘t be elected. 

(CROSSTALK)

COLGAN:  But as “The Wall Street Journal” poll showed today, you can connect national security issues with what we‘re not doing here at home because of the money being spent in Iraq. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Very good.

Flavia, Jack, as always, you two are great.  We need to take you on the road.  And we may. 

SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY will be back talking to Bill Maher about how John Kerry can win the debate next week.  Stick around.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SCARBOROUGH:  You know, there‘s been a lot of Monday-morning quarterbacking by the Kerry campaign when it comes to the Iraq war.

But I asked Bill Maher if there was anyone in America prior to the war who believed that Saddam Hussein did not have weapons of mass destruction. 

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BILL MAHER, HOST, “REAL TIME WITH BILL MAHER”:  There were people who kind of got it right.

And if he had listened to people, not just the people who were telling him what he wanted to hear, because, let‘s remember, that before George Bush started to talk about Iraq, even after 9/11, no one, nobody was thinking about Iraq.  After 9/11, it wasn‘t like the whole world went, well, obviously, we got to go after Iraq next.  They are the logical choice. 

The people who were against this are the people who live in theocracies.  Saudi Arabia, that‘s where the hijackers came from.  Iran was the country that let the hijackers come and go without stamping their passports.  And the Taliban in Afghanistan.  What do those three have in common?  They‘re all theocracies, because, really, what we are up against here is religion.  It‘s Islamic fundamentalism.  And Saddam Hussein was not a part of that.  He would not have given his weapons—even if he had weapons, he certainly wouldn‘t have given them to anybody else. 

SCARBOROUGH:  So, tell me, with all this talk about issues that we are going to have, let‘s talk politics.  Have any predictions for this presidential election?  Do you think John Kerry can turn it around in the remaining 44 or 45 days left? 

MAHER:  It really depends on how good a debater he is, not that those debates are really debates, which is a shame, because I think, if they would let them have a real one-on-one, kind of go-after-each other debate, I think he might be able to score some points.

But I don‘t know if the country will ever get over their love affair with George Bush and their just, to me, mysterious ability to grant him victory because of their very low expectations.  It seems like, if he doesn‘t swallow his tongue, he is going to win the debate. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Hey, you know what?  Let that be the standard people place on my shoulders.  I will be a happy man. 

(LAUGHTER)

SCARBOROUGH:  Bill Maher, thanks for being with us tonight, buddy. 

MAHER:  All right, Joe. 

SCARBOROUGH:  We really appreciate it. 

MAHER:  Good to see you. 

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SCARBOROUGH:  And make sure you check out “Imus” tomorrow morning.  He is going to be talking to the latest “Apprentice” to hear those dreaded words, “You‘re fired.”  And also, you can check out Mike Barnicle—God bless him—Mik, and Terry Bradshaw coming up Friday on “Imus.” 

And we‘ll see you tomorrow night. 

END   

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