updated 11/9/2004 10:21:35 AM ET 2004-11-09T15:21:35

Guest: Dean Johnson, Daniel Horowitz, Andrew Kohut, Michael Bocian, James Robison, Richard Land, Jim Wallis, Karol Jackowski

ANNOUNCER:  DEBORAH NORVILLE TONIGHT.

DEBORAH NORVILLE, HOST:  Stalemate.  Jurors in Scott Peterson‘s murder trial deeply divided and possibly facing a deadlock.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  It‘s just unimaginable, the stress, the tension.

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NORVILLE:  Could one of the year‘s longest and most notorious criminal cases be headed for a mistrial?  We‘ve got the very latest.

A question of faith.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE WALKER BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  I‘m humbled by the trust and the confidence of my fellow citizens.

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NORVILLE:  Did issues like abortion, stem cell research and gay marriage ultimately decide who wins the White House, or did a bad polling question leave a false impression on the morning after?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  When it comes to a sense of community and civility, it‘s pretty much all gone.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

NORVILLE:  Tonight, the morality factor—a new mandate or a post-election myth?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BUSH:  America has spoken!

(END VIDEO CLIP)

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

NORVILLE:  And good evening, everybody.  All eyes are on the courthouse out in Redwood City, California, this evening.  After five months of testimony and just four days of deliberations, could there be a deadlock in the double murder trial of Scott Peterson?

Joining us now with the very latest from Redwood City, California, is Dan Abrams, NBC News chief legal correspondent and the host of MSNBC‘s “THE ABRAMS REPORT”—Dan.

DAN ABRAMS, HOST, “THE ABRAMS REPORT”:  Deborah, a lot of activity here at the courthouse today, and it sure seems like there‘s some dissension on the jury.

Here‘s what happened.  This morning, the first thing, they bring in the boat that prosecutors say Scott Peterson used to dump Laci‘s body in the bay.  The jurors said, We want to see it again.  A couple of the jurors apparently get into the boat and actually start rocking it.  Well, defense attorney Mark Geragos immediately says, We want to get a mistrial or be able to present new evidence in this case about this issue.  The judge says it‘s not going to happen.

But within about an hour, the jurors send out another note, and then the judge issues an instruction.  It‘s a book of instructions.  And this instruction basically says to the jurors, Play nice.  Listen to one another.  You‘re not supposed to be partisans here.  You‘re supposed to be objective.

That sure made it sound like there was a battle going on in that jury room.

They then resumed their deliberation, and at the very end of the day, before they went back to their hotel, sequestered for another night, they asked for a number of items, including tidal charts.  Remember, San Francisco Bay, key place, where the bodies are found, same place that Scott Peterson says he was fishing that day.  They asked for the Amber Frey audiotapes.  They asked for the anchor in Scott Peterson‘s boat.

And so the question, of course, is what does all this mean?  Does this mean they‘re digging in their heels for a long deliberation process?

Let me bring in a couple of people to help me out with this.  I‘m joined by Daniel Horowitz, a defense attorney, and Dean Johnson, a former San Mateo County prosecutor.  Gentlemen, good to see you once again.

All right, Dean, what does this all mean to you?

DEAN JOHNSON, FORMER SAN MATEO COUNTY PROSECUTOR:  Well, I just think it means that jury is being very systemic about tracing Laci‘s steps.  They started in the residence.  They moved on to the boat.  And now they‘re looking at the bay, tide charts, and also possibly even some of the debris that washed up near where Laci and Conner were recovered.

Obviously, they have factual issues about all of them.  I think it‘s a very good sign for the prosecution that they have systematically moved from the residence to the boat to the bay.  They‘re entertaining the idea that Laci was put in that boat and that Laci was ultimately taken to the bay by Scott Peterson.

ABRAMS:  Daniel, good sign for the prosecution?  I don‘t know.  It says to me that they‘re seriously considering the possibility that Scott Peterson couldn‘t have dumped the body out of that boat without the boat capsizing.

DANIEL HOROWITZ, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY:  Of course.  We‘ve got a barroom brawl going on.  We‘ve got two sides, and each side wants their evidence.  Dan, that target bag does nothing for the prosecution.  That target bag is the type of bag that was sold...

ABRAMS:  Why don‘t you explain...

HOROWITZ:  ... to crews on the Richmond Bridge.

ABRAMS:  Daniel, explain what the target bag is.  It‘s one of the items the jurors asked for.  Explain what it is and why it‘s important.

HOROWITZ:  It is a bag that washed up near the bodies of Laci, and also Conner.  Now, the theory is that the tides brought the bodies and the bag from the same location.  If that‘s true—and that bag is a bag that was sold to the construction crew on the Richmond Bridge.  The Richmond Bridge is the completely opposite direction from where the prosecution thinks Scott dumped the bodies.

So the prosecution has to somehow deal with the fact that the bodies may have come from Brooks Island and the bag from another location.  They never took that bull by the horns during the trial, and now it‘s coming back to bite them in the jury room.

JOHNSON:  The trouble is, the defense never took that bull by the horns, either, and they never explained how it would be—how it would be that if Laci Peterson was dumped off of the Richmond Bridge after she was dead, she‘d have simply—she‘d simply have to swim upstream against the tides to get to where she was.

ABRAMS:  Yes.  But that‘s the great thing about being on the defense, isn‘t it, Dean, is that you don‘t necessarily have to have a theory that entirely makes sense, all you got to say is, Their theory has problems.

JOHNSON:  Oh, yes, you‘re right.  But that‘s a big problem with the defense in this particular case because remember what Mark Geragos promised.  We‘re going to give you a solution to this case.  We‘re going to show you how Laci Peterson was killed.  They never delivered.  Now the jury‘s out there trying to see if there‘s any theory in the world that could possibly hold water.  They just don‘t have either the guidance or the information that would allow them to construct any other reasonable theory, other than that Scott Peterson is responsible for this killing.

HOROWITZ:  Not really, Dean, though.  The No. 1 defense hammer of evidence has still not been brought into the jury room, the picture of Conner with the twine around his throat.  It‘s only three quarters of an inch.  It couldn‘t have come around his chin.  It had to be tied there with the bow.  When that goes into the jury room, you know you‘ve got your hung jury.

JOHNSON:  Oh, Daniel, when that goes into the jury room, I‘ll know that we‘re going to see a guilty conviction because that was the worst mistake Mark Geragos ever made, claiming that that baby was born alive.  There‘s simply no way, consistent with the evidence that‘s been presented in this case, that that baby was born alive.

HOROWITZ:  Dean, don‘t jump to born alive.  Bottom line is there‘s a rope around the baby‘s neck.  The baby was out of the uterus at some point, maybe alive, maybe dead, maybe cut out.  Don‘t give me a red herring.

JOHNSON:  Daniel...

HOROWITZ:  You‘re going to be here agreeing with me later on.

ABRAMS:  Hold on...

JOHNSON:  Daniel, don‘t tell me not to give you a red herring.  The defense is the one that raised the red herrings in this case, and that‘s exactly their problem.

ABRAMS:  All right, let me ask you this.  What happens—and this is a question a lot of people ask me, pretty straightforward answer.  People say—everyone says, Oh, there‘s a real chance there‘s going to be a hung jury.  Dean, bottom line, if there‘s a hung jury, all it means is Scott Peterson stays in jail and gets retried, right?

JOHNSON:  Absolutely.  He stays in jail.  No bail until the case comes back again.  And guess what?  The prosecution always wins a retrial.

ABRAMS:  Who does it help, Daniel?  I mean, I think sometimes it can help the defense, but I don‘t think in this case.  I think the prosecution made a lot of mistakes early in the case.  Mark Geragos was able to take advantage of a lot of that.  Next time around, they‘ll present a much quicker, smoother case, if there is a hung jury, don‘t you think?

HOROWITZ:  Well, no, I don‘t think so.  I think that prosecution mistakes are on the record with a court reporter having taken it down under oath.  They called every witness they‘ve got.  I don‘t think they can fix it, Dan.  What they can fix is to bring in a new top-flight, heavy-duty prosecutor.  Maybe they can use Birgitte Flattiger (ph), and maybe they can James Anderson (ph), the guy with...

(CROSSTALK)

ABRAMS:  But Daniel, prosecution mistakes on the record—prosecution mistakes on the record—you can‘t bring in what the prosecutor said or didn‘t say in the next trial.  You can bring out what the witnesses said or didn‘t say, OK.  But you can‘t have that experience of the witnesses coming off as if they aren‘t confident about their testimony or there are problems with it, et cetera.

HOROWITZ:  Well, Dan, for example, there was a witness who directly contradicted the testimony of Detective Brocchini, a citizen witness.  In opening statement next time, the defense can say, You know, the prosecution is going to call Detective Brocchini.  Here‘s what he testified to last time.  Here‘s what a citizen witness said.

ABRAMS:  Yes.

HOROWITZ:  They may not be able to bring up...

JOHNSON:  No.  Daniel, Daniel, Daniel...

HOROWITZ:  ... the other trial.  They can say, In another proceeding.  When you have right up front that Brocchini perjured himself—and we can go into this in more detail some other time—I think that makes him an unbelievable witness.

JOHNSON:  Yes.  I don‘t know.  “Perjured himself” is a strong statement, but...

ABRAMS:  All right, Dean, very quickly.

HOROWITZ:  I know.

ABRAMS:  Ten seconds.  Go ahead.

JOHNSON:  No, the prosecution mistakes in this case were all mistakes of advocacy and presentation.  If this goes back to another trial, the advocacy‘s going to be very different.

ABRAMS:  I agree.

JOHNSON:  This is a powerful circumstantial case for the prosecution.

ABRAMS:  I agree with Dean on that.  All right.  Dean Johnson and Daniel Horowitz, as always, great to see you guys.  And Deborah, back to you.

NORVILLE:  Dan Abrams, the host of MSNBC‘s “THE ABRAMS REPORT,” thank you very much.  We‘ll be right back.

ANNOUNCER:  Up next: the morality factor.  Just how strongly did traditional “family values” influence the reelection of George Bush?

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BUSH:  America has spoken!

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ANNOUNCER:  The truth about the president‘s Christian mandate when DEBORAH NORVILLE TONIGHT returns.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

NORVILLE:  Last week, more than 1 in 5 voters told pollsters that moral values matter more to them than terrorism, the economy, even the war in Iraq.  Well, that moral values question is stirring up a real hornets‘ net.  What exactly did voters, whether they were liberal or conservative, Republican or Democrat, actually mean when they said “moral values” in those polls?

Well, here‘s my two cents worth.  Part of me, the mom that‘s trying to raise her kids, said, Right.  Hallelujah.  Americans embracing moral values.  That‘s great.  The other part of me, the journalist, looked at the evidence.  Last night, almost 25 million of those same Americans watched “Desperate Housewives,” the TV show where there‘s probably more making out going on than at a high school prom.  And I will bet that some of those viewers were those same “moral values” voters.

Here‘s the deal.  This stuff‘s nothing new.  America never stopped being a moral country.  Most folks know that it‘s right to help the less fortunate and it‘s wrong to hit your kid.  America was founded on an ethic of live and let live.  As long as your rights don‘t infringe on mine, go for it.  And America‘s always been a country of conscience.  If you can defend your policy decisions as the right thing to do, chances are you‘ll find enough voters to back you up.

So what were those voters saying when they identified “moral values” as influencing their vote?  Joining me now to talk about that is Andrew Kohut.  He‘s the president of the Pew Research Center in Washington, D.C.  Also with us tonight, Michael Bocian, a Democratic pollster and senior associate at Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research.  And I thank you both for being here.

I wonder if the question itself wasn‘t kind of a bad question, Mr.

Kohut.  I mean, who isn‘t going to say they‘re for moral values?

ANDREW KOHUT, PRESIDENT, PEW RESEARCH CENTER:  Well, I think that‘s part of it.  “Moral values” was listed on the exit poll questionnaire, with specific items such as economic—the economy, terrorism, the war in Iraq and health care.  And “moral values” is almost a slogan and more of a catchall general phrase than a specific issue.  And I think a lot of people, especially conservative people, would be hard put to not say they were thinking about moral values when they cast their ballot.

I don‘t think that “moral values” rose to the level of what I call the conditional issues in the voting Tuesday.

NORVILLE:  What does that mean?  You‘re talking pollster-speak.

KOHUT:  Well, what I mean is issues such as the economy and terrorism, because we never saw in any of our pre-election survey, when we asked people to volunteer, without any prompting, what were the issues that were on their mind when they were thinking about voting for President Bush and John Kerry, things like economy and the war in Iraq, they overwhelmed the moral issues—abortion, stem cell research, homosexuality.

Further, there was no evidence in this exit poll that the Christian conservatives played a disproportionate role...

NORVILLE:  Right.

KOHUT:  ... in electing President Bush.  Republicans and conservatives of all stripes and hues turned out at higher levels in this election.  It was an issue of the social conservatives, the country moving in that direction or the social conservatives being much more preponderant in this election.

NORVILLE:  But they came out in more or less the same percentages. 

They may have had higher numbers, but the percentages were pretty similar.  The youth vote, for instance, was about 18, 20 percent, same as it was last time around.

Michael, I want to ask you, this question was cooked up by the news organizations that got together, ponied up for exit poll, so they would have this data that they could talk about until real numbers came in.  What were they trying to get at when they formulated that “moral values” catchall question?

MICHAEL BOCIAN, DEMOCRATIC POLLSTER:  Well, I suspect they were trying to get at the issues that most of us assume they were trying to get at—abortion, gay marriage, other cultural issues.  Now, the nature of those issues makes it difficult.  Are voters—is the No. 1 issue voters are concerned about abortion or gay marriage?  No, absolutely not.  But together, these issues do work to help Republicans portray John Kerry as a cultural liberal.  And most importantly, they did use those issues, while not on television, under the radar, they used them for mail, for phone calls, to help get out Republican voters.

So clearly, the No. 1 issue voters are concerned about is not moral values, issues of abortion and gay marriage and guns.

NORVILLE:  So what are we supposed to read into this now?  Forget the candidates.  They‘re history.  Now we‘re going forward.  Does this mean that voters truly do care about this, or, Gee, that was an easy one because I‘m not really sure this guy‘s the right one for the economy, I really don‘t like what‘s going on here with the war, but I‘m not sure I like the other guy.  It was kind of the default mode that you could fall into.

BOCIAN:  Yes, well, culture—you know, voters do want a president who‘s comfortable talking about his faith, and that‘s something President Bush was able to do.  But what they‘re really eager for is the debate they didn‘t have, the debate about the economy, the debate about making health care more affordable, about schools.  That‘s the debate that they didn‘t have, the debate that would have helped Kerry, that some of the voters who probably chose “moral values” and voted for Bush, some of the less educated, non-college voters, rural voters—a lot of those voters in an economic debate, in a health care debate, in an education debate would support Kerry and would supports Democrats largely.

So that‘s one of the challenges for Democrats, to return us to that debate.  That didn‘t happen.  In large part because of the big issue of terrorism and the war in Iraq, we weren‘t able to have the debate that voters are eager for about the economy and health care.

NORVILLE:  When you look at the percentage, the 22 percent who voted on the basis of “moral values,” 80 percent of those voters did cast their ballot for George Bush.  But that means 20 percent voted for John Kerry.  Andrew Kohut, does this statistic tell us anything about a longing in America for discussion of issues that do speak to the soul, that do speak to the ethics, the ethos of the country?

KOHUT:  I‘ll say it again.  Moral values are important to Americans, but they‘re not as important as issues like Iraq and terrorism in this election.  President Bush won reelection over John Kerry because he was seen as the stronger leader.  He was seen as the better candidate to deal with the war on terrorism.  And yes, the public does have concerns about moral issues...

NORVILLE:  Well, hold on...

KOHUT:  ... and life issues and so on, but...

NORVILLE:  What are those moral issues?  You know, let‘s just—let‘s forget the buzzword.  Let‘s make the list.

KOHUT:  OK.  The...

NORVILLE:  I‘ve got my pencil.  Let‘s make a list now.

KOHUT:  The top “moral issues,” so to speak, are abortion, homosexuality, gay marriage specifically, and increasingly stem cell research, stem cell research drawn from human embryos.  And those issues are very important to many Americans.  And—but the—if there‘s an agenda for the president, the agenda is to deal with the top conditions that the American public are concerned about, and they continue to be the war in Iraq...

NORVILLE:  Right.

KOHUT:  ... terrorism in this country, the economy, health care and so on and so forth.  And I‘m not trying to say that these life issues, let‘s call them, are not important...

NORVILLE:  Well, you know, let me...

KOHUT:  ... but they just don‘t rise to that level of importance, as implied by that horribly flawed question on the exit poll.

NORVILLE:  And they might not be as divisive, gentlemen.  I want to just throw up some statistics where you look at what the numbers say, first starting off with abortion.  And 55 percent of voters, and this is from the National Election Poll, say that abortion should be legal in all or most cases.  That‘s not that different from what a “Washington Post” survey found eight years ago, in ‘96.  Going on now to gay marriages.  When you add it all together, 60 percent of voters say they support either gay marriage or civil unions.  And then stem cell research, two thirds, 68 percent of voters support federal funding of stem cell research.

It doesn‘t seem like there‘s a great divide, Michael, on these life issues, as Mr. Kohut calls it.

BOCIAN:  Yes, that‘s right.  And as your numbers just pointed out, and other non-exit poll numbers confirm those, a majority of Americans do support abortion being legal in most or all cases, 60 percent of voters do support the legality of gay marriage or civil unions, which was John Kerry‘s position.

So I think the Republicans did use these issues.  But again, I agree with Andy, we shouldn‘t lose sight of the real big issues here.  What Republicans were able to do is make terrorism a big issue, and Bush was able to convince a majority of voters that the war on Iraq is part of the war on terrorism, despite all evidence to the contrary.  And therefore, we didn‘t have the debate that voters really wanted about strengthening the economy and making health care more affordable.

NORVILLE:  We‘ve talked a lot in the last several days.  We‘ve seen those maps ad infinitum.  We‘ll throw them up right now, the red states and the blue states.  And you see which states went for the Republican candidate, which states went for the Democratic candidate.  “The Boston Globe” finally did what I‘ve been talking about since last Tuesday, and they made it purple.

This is what happens.  And you see the degree of red—and this is what goes more toward the Republican vote—and the darker the blue the state gets, it‘s Democrat.  But basically, America‘s purple.  What that says to me, Andrew Kohut, is we agree on a lot more than we disagree on, and it seems to me that that‘s not a bad thing, is it?

KOHUT:  Absolutely not.  And this, in the end, is a centrist country.  We do have a large social conservative minority.  We do have a somewhat smaller secular minority.  But there are an awful lot of people who are in the middle, and this is still a country that‘s capable of consensus on a whole range of issues.

We see more differences between Republicans and Democrats these days on the tough policy issues relating to the economy, to the war on terrorism, to Iraq.  But still and all, there is a good deal of potential for Americans to come together and agree about the right course, predicated upon the right leadership.

NORVILLE:  On that note, I‘m going to take a short break.  When we come back: We‘ve been talking about the big middle.  Why is it not possible to embrace the middle and get any political traction?  More with my guests in just a moment.  And then a little later on: No matter how complex the moral values vote is, there‘s no question that faith and religion will be a big part of the political story during the second Bush administration.  Religious leaders on Bush, God and the presidency still ahead.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BUSH:  I‘m glad people of faith voted in this election.  I‘m glad—I appreciate all people who voted.  And I don‘t think you ought to read anything into the politics, the moment, about whether or not this nation will become a divided nation over religion.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(NEWS BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BUSH:  The great tradition of America is one where people can worship the way they want to worship.  And if they choose not to worship, they‘re just as patriotic as your neighbor.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

NORVILLE:  That was President Bush speaking just two days after the election, talking about faith in America.

Back with my guests, the president of the Pew Research Center, Andrew Kohut, and Michael Bocian, a Democratic pollster, senior associate at Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research.

Michael, I‘m kind of curious.  How did it end up that liberals somehow got portrayed as being anti-religion or devoid of religion?

BOCIAN:  Well, it was a strategy of the Republicans to portray themselves as the party of faith and the Democrats as the non-religious party.  In reality, a majority of Americans of all parties are religious and believe in God.  And even those who don‘t have moral values that they stand by.  So it was a strategy here, and somewhat successful.

That said, I think we can have a middle-of-the-road strategy.  The majority of Americans are middle of the road and agree on many of these issues, and the Republicans risk overstepping, as the Gingrich Republicans did in ‘94.  They read into their victory a bigger mandate than they had.  In this case, Bush got 51 percent of the vote, just barely a majority, and they do run the risk.  I hope that they‘ll play the middle of the road angle here.

NORVILLE:  Well, I wonder...

BOCIAN:  But it‘s increasingly difficult.

NORVILLE:  I wonder if the middle-of-the-road angle is as narrowly defined as these three issues.  I mean, OK, fine, stem cell research, gay unions and the abortion question.  But for heaven‘s sakes, there‘s homeless people in this country.  There are children who don‘t get enough food in their bellies.  There are a lot of other issues that, seems to me, would fall under that umbrella of, It is the right thing to do to feed the hungry, to clothe the needy, to house those without homes.  Why hasn‘t either party addressed those issues?  Michael, I‘ll throw it back at you.

BOCIAN:  Well, I think they ought to.  And I think it‘s critically important that they do.  A lot of what‘s happened is the parties—the Republican Party has played to its base.  Every 10 years, they redistrict, and they redistrict with a strategy of making the incumbents safe.  So Republican districts become more Republican, Democratic districts more Democratic, and therefore, you have a Senate that is increasingly partisan and less moderate.  And there‘s a strategy of playing, in a lot of ways, political cards that the parties think can work to their advantage.  In this case, the Republicans, although I agree it wasn‘t the central issue, they did try to use abortion and gay marriage as one side issue to help their side.  In reality, there should be a broad coalition of religious and nonreligious voters and elected officials who are supporting eradicating poverty and other issues like that. 

NORVILLE:  Andrew, does your research indicate that such a coalition is even possible? 

KOHUT:  Well, new coalitions are always possible, because the history of American politics is, we go from one kind of coalition to another, but there‘s no question that the base issues in the Democratic Party have not been worked as well as the base issues of the Republican Party.

In part, Republicans have, especially when it comes to social issues, Republicans have a much easier time than Democrats.  First of all, there‘s more Republican unity on these issues than there is on the Democratic side. 

NORVILLE:  And what‘s the right way to deal with them.

BOCIAN:  Well, from a political point of view, the problems with the Democrats is, they have a secular wing of their party.  They also have many religious voters as well, and when seculars hear political leaders talking in religious terms, they worry about losing personal freedoms.  They worry about the Democratic Party moving too far to the right to suit them on these issues. 

(CROSSTALK)

NORVILLE:  I wonder, though—I‘m just going to stop you there.  I wonder if this isn‘t really a cry for, enough with the relativism.  Just, dang it, stand for something?  Isn‘t that what voters are saying?  Just put your pole in the ground and let me know where you‘re building your tent?

KOHUT:  Well, I think being genuine is an awfully important lesson that we learned all the way back from Ronald Reagan.  There were many things that American voters didn‘t agree with Ronald Reagan about, but what they really respected that he spoke directly and clearly.  And they understood from whence he came.  And there was no seeming equivocating, no changing his mind. 

And, quite frankly, one of the issues that people had throughout this campaign, the swing voters, the people in the middle, about John Kerry was, where does he really stand?  And the Republicans exploited this theme, and it really hurt him. 

NORVILLE:  Well, we will see four years from now if any lessons have been learned and if indeed that was what was going on.

Andrew Kohut, thank you very much for being with us.  Michael Bocian, we thank you as well.  It was a great conversation. 

BOCIAN:  Thank you. 

KOHUT:  You‘re welcome. 

NORVILLE:  We‘ll take a short break.  When we come back, more on this subject. 

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ANNOUNCER:  Still to come, crossing the line between church and state.  Have George Bush and his faithful followers turned the GOP into the party of Christianity? 

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  A new term is a new opportunity to reach out to the whole nation. 

ANNOUNCER:  A nation under God when DEBORAH NORVILLE TONIGHT returns. 

(END VIDEOTAPE)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

NORVILLE:  President Bush is a man of faith, so how much do Americans want his religious beliefs to affect the way he runs the country?

That discussion still ahead.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

NORVILLE:  In those first days following the election, some took it as an article of faith that the values vote put the president over the top.  Now it looks like it was just a poorly worded question that might have skewed those exit polls. 

But even if the values vote story of the election is more fiction than fact, the fact remains that most Americans, about 85 percent, say that religion is important in their lives.  And 72 percent say it is important for a president to have strong religious beliefs. 

But how far do Americans want their president to go when it comes to church and state? 

Joining me now to talk about that is James Robison.  He‘s an evangelist, the founder of Life Outreach International and the co-host of “Life Today,” a popular evangelical television program.  Also with us tonight, Dr. Richard Land.  He is the president of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention.  Jim Wallis is the editor in chief of “Sojourners” magazine.  He‘s also a Christian leader for social change.  And in the studio here is Sister Karol Jackowski.  She‘s a Roman Catholic nun, the author of “The Silence We Keep.” 

And I want to ask you all for being here.  And I want to just start out and ask you all to please define for me your definition of moral values. 

Mr. Robison, I‘ll start with you first. 

JAMES ROBISON, FOUNDER, LIFE OUTREACH INTERNATIONAL:  Well, I think you touched on it earlier when you alluded to the fact that a relativist may believe in the fact that there are no absolutes, except he‘s very absolute about that. 

And I think that moral values go back to what we would all call and refer to as the Judeo-Christian ethic, believing that there are some ground rules for life and that faith and family and a sound foundation upon which our faith is established and our family is built is established on a set of principles that guide our lives in a very healthy and meaningful way.  Just as there are rules for sporting events, for traffic control, there are safe guidelines for life. 

(CROSSTALK)

NORVILLE:  And those guidelines you would find from the Bible. 

ROBISON:  I think you can find them in the Bible, and I think you can also distort them and misrepresent them and get totally out of character with the essence of their teaching. 

But there are ground rules.  There is a principle-based foundation upon which all sane societies will safely stand and build.  And I really do believe that the average American agrees with that. 

NORVILLE:  All right.  I will move on now to Dr. Richard Land. 

Dr. Land, what is your definition of moral values?  And I really want to know what it is. 

(CROSSTALK)

RICHARD LAND, SOUTHERN BAPTIST CONVENTION:  Well, my definition of values, of course, are confined within my understanding of myself as an evangelical Christian.

And I would find them in the Old Testament and New Testament.  I believe that in a never-changing Gospel for an ever-changing world that there are timeless truths that are revealed in scripture about the sanctity of every human life, about the nature of marriage, about the role that government should play and should not play.  I believe in soul liberty.

I believe in religious freedom.  I don‘t think the government should be giving favoritism to one religion over another religion or giving favoritism to no religion over religion, that the government ought to be neutral and ought to respect and protect freedom of conscience. 

NORVILLE:  And let‘s move on to Jim Wallis from “Sojourners.”

Jim, your definition. 

JIM WALLIS, EDITOR, “SOJOURNERS”:  I welcome the conversation about values.  It‘s a good talk about our politics. 

I‘m an evangelical Christian, too.  And when I found 2,000 verses in the Bible about the poor, I have to say that poverty, overcoming poverty, is a moral value.  Right now, the average age of a homeless person in Chicago is 9 years old.  That‘s a moral value.  The war in Iraq, whether that was a just war, those are moral issues, too. 

I think we have to have a broader, deeper understanding of moral values and what the religious issues are.  I don‘t think we can take all of our Christian ethics, which are mine, and some shrink them down to only one or two issues.  We have to say poverty is a moral value, war is a moral value, protecting the environment is a moral value.  Let‘s have a broader,, richer conversation and we‘ll all be better served. 

NORVILLE:  And, Sister Jackowski, what is your definition? 

SISTER KAROL JACKOWSKI, AUTHOR, “THE SILENCE WE KEEP”:  Well, I think moral values are the principles that we all identify in our life to live a good life.  And I think the thing that‘s most critical—and this is the role that conscience plays in moral values—that no one, unless you have a criminal mind, chooses a bad life.  Everyone wants to choose something that‘s good. 

And I think that it‘s our choice of what are the things that I want to include in my life that I think make my life a good life, a just life, whether it‘s Christian or Jewish or Buddhist or nonreligious?  So it‘s sort of—people talk about that moral compass inside, and I think it‘s the conscience that informs our moral values, that makes the moral choices, and that‘s kind of the holy spirit in all of us. 

NORVILLE:  By the collective definition you all have given, it would seem that most Americans would agree to live a moral life, to make moral decisions is a desirable thing. 

Let me ask you—Dr. Land, I‘ll go back to you.  Do you think that there is division in this country over what is moral policy? 

LAND:  Sure.  Of course there is, because people are coming from different world views.  And it‘s not that one is moral and one‘s immoral.  It‘s that they are based upon different set of moral principles, based upon differing presuppositions. 

For instance, Jim Wallis says that poverty is a moral value.  And I agree.  And he says the average age of a homeless person in Chicago is 9.  The single thing that would eliminate more poverty for more Americans in America than any other single thing would be if mothers married the fathers of their children.  So, government policies that promote marriage and welfare reform are one of the most effective ways of dealing with poverty. 

NORVILLE:  But, see, you‘ve just made a statement, sir, that imposes a value judgment.  In some of those 9-year-olds‘ situations in Chicago, I imagine there isn‘t a father figure present, or, if he were, he‘s no one that you would want raising a child. 

LAND:  That‘s the point, Deborah.

NORVILLE:  And that‘s kind of the crux, isn‘t it? 

LAND:  Well, no, it isn‘t. 

The point is that for, far too long in this country, we‘ve subsidized illegitimacy in the old welfare program and we penalized the formation of stable families by reducing the deduction for dependents and for not having what we now have, which is the child dependent tax care credit.  And the president is trying to put policies into place in the welfare reform that would encourage the formation of stable families. 

You know, it‘s a fact that children who are reared in homes with a mother and a father are much more likely to grow up to be stable, self-reliant citizens.  That‘s not a moral judgment.  It‘s a fact.  And that‘s not a debatable fact, actually. 

(CROSSTALK)

NORVILLE:  I don‘t want to get into a debate, because we could get into a debate on every single one of these issues and probably not come to any agreement. 

But I think one of the things that‘s been a question in many people‘s minds, and you‘ve seen expressed in some of the editorials that are out there, how much of a role will religion play?  And the president spoke to that when he had his press conference on Thursday.  I want to play the president‘s remarks from that on the other day. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BUSH:  My answer to people is, I will be your president regardless of your faith.  And I don‘t expect you to agree with me, necessarily, on religion.  As a matter of fact, no president should ever try to impose religion on our society. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

NORVILLE:  James Robison, I know you met with George Bush before he decided to run for the presidency, and you‘ve had some very heart-to-heart discussions over the years about religion. 

As someone who knows him personally, what are his thoughts about the fears that some people have expressed that this will be an evangelical presidency? 

ROBISON:  Well, I think there will be absolutely no attempt on his part to impose his belief system on others.  I do think that he will continually express his own appreciation for the fact that faith changed his life and that he believes a relationship with God can be meaningful.

But he will respect those who don‘t agree with him.  I think that he understands the need to reach out to the poor.  I think he understands that throwing money at it, however, through government programs, without compassionate connections, will not heal the problem.  I‘m a pretty good example of a lot of what has already been addressed.  I grew up fatherless.  I am actually the product of a forced sexual relationship, where a medical doctor, when my 40-year-old mother being pregnant from a rape asked for an abortion, and the doctor simply advised her that it was against his own conscience for her to reconsider.

And he did.  And she gave birth to me.  And our three children and 11 grandchildren are grateful that she did, as are many people that we are now feeding who are hungry all over the world.  So we‘re doing our best.  As a believer, as a person who believes that faith in action is the best way to bring about positive change, we are trying to care for the hungry in as many places as possible, inspire others to do the very same thing. 

My life was changed because someone reached out to me, living their faith, sharing their faith, loving me, sharing with me a home, a hope and a future.  And I believe that most Americans want that.  I really want to see people bridge the communication gap.  I don‘t think there is as much difference in people as some people have tried to make us believe. 

(CROSSTALK)

NORVILLE:  And, Sister Jackowski, I guess that‘s kind of the question here.  Is there a way to take this discussion of some of the very important issues that this country faces, not all of which were articulated during the campaign, and put it on the policy agenda, so that government, community groups, religious groups together can come at this and come up with some solutions?  Is there an opportunity, is there an opening that maybe we haven‘t seen before?  Or maybe I‘m just being Pollyanna and optimistic. 

JACKOWSKI:  No.  No.  I think so.

And, you know, I thought this yesterday when I heard on this network Ann Coulter say that this is a Christian country.  And I stopped.  You know, I was like, wait a minute.  You know, democracy is the religion of this country.  You know, the spirits of truth that govern this country are equality, life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.  And I think if we‘re going to reach a divine common ground...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  She‘s a pretty sick one. 

JACKOWSKI:  ... that we need to talk more about what are the things that hold us together.  And I think religion has become divisive. 

(CROSSTALK)

NORVILLE:  I want to stop you right there, because, when we come back, I want each of you to offer your own prescription on how we can bridge the divide and come together and achieve some of that good that we‘re talking about.

More with my guests in just a moment. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

NORVILLE:  So what role does President Bush‘s faith play in his life, and what role might it play in his second term? 

Back again with our panel of religious leaders.  They include James Robison from the Life Outreach International organization, Dr. Richard Land.  He‘s the president of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention.  Jim Wallis, editor and chief of “Sojourners” magazine, and Sister Karol Jackowski, a Roman Catholic nun and author. 

President Bush has made no bones about the fact he‘s a man of faith.  And many voters, the majority of voters, say they‘re glad a man of faith is in the White House. 

What‘s your action plan, each of you, for this man of faith to address the pressing issues that America faces? 

Mr. Wallis, I‘ll go with you first. 

WALLIS:  Deborah, the important thing is that religion not be defined too narrowly or in a partisan, political way. 

For example, I agree with Richard that strong marriages and families are an anti-poverty measure.  It‘s also true that half of the families that now don‘t make enough to survive are married households.  So affordable housing and health care, those are moral issues, too.  I‘m pro-life, so unborn, innocent lives are important to me. 

But this week, the U.S. military is doing an offensive in Fallujah.  Are the innocent lives going to be lost there, are those important to us, too?  Religion really doesn‘t fit left and right.  It cuts both ways.  And if we‘re going to listen really to the full depth and breadth of our religious traditions, it‘s going to criticize liberal conservative, left and right.  And calling us—I think the best way to find common ground is to move to higher ground. 

That‘s what religion can offer, but not if we narrow it in a too partisan way. 

NORVILLE:  Dr. Land, give me your No. 1 item on an action agenda for President Bush now. 

LAND:  Well, his No. 1 item has to be the protection of the American people from terrorist attacks.  I mean, that is his sworn duty as the president of the United States.  That‘s part of his oath of office. 

But I want to go back to what Jim says.  I think that I would agree with part of what Jim says.  I think that, first of all, God is not a Republican.  God is not a Democrat.  God is not a conservative.  God is not a liberal.  God is God.  And he has revealed moral truth to us.  And I think that what we must do—the first thing we must do is get rid of a secularist bias that says that religious values don‘t have a place in public policy. 

And I think that when religious values come to public policy and are given their fair place at the table, that it will make conservatives better conservatives, it will make liberals better liberals, and it will elevate the debate.  But we‘ve had for the last 30 years an idea that has been loose, at least among our secular elites, as Stephen Carter has pointed in his book “The Culture of Disbelief,” that wants to shove religion to the side and make it something trivial and to say that there‘s something unconstitutional about bringing religiously informed moral values into public policy.  And that‘s just nonsense. 

NORVILLE:  Well, you know, it‘s interesting.  There have been Democrats that have been out there.  Jimmy Carter made no bones about the fact he was a Sunday school teacher.  Bill Clinton was very up front about the fact that he had grown up in the church and considered his faith an important part of his life. 

Let me move the question now to you, James Robison.  What‘s your No. 1 item for the president? 

ROBISON:  Well, I agree with what‘s just been said, by the way.

And I do think that I encourage—and, as a matter of fact, I communicated with Karl Rove today a compliment not only to the way he‘s handled the post election with humility and asking God for wisdom.  We all need that.  We definitely need it.  I‘m encouraging the president to continuing doing what he did with Senator Obama.  And that‘s build lines of communication.  He is seeking to do that.

I know this president very well.  He wants open lines of communication.  He wants to hear both sides and he wants to bring forth solutions that are best for the people.  And that would include addressing poverty and all those issues, but addressing them with love and in a very intelligent and, let‘s say, reasonable discussion. 

NORVILLE:  All right.  Let me stop you there. 

ROBISON:  And I do believe that the president must build those bridges. 

NORVILLE:  I‘m glad to hear that.  And I know everybody listening is, too. 

Sister Karol, your final...

JACKOWSKI:  Embrace the middle ground.  I think that‘s where most of the country stands.  And I think, you know, to try to avoid either extreme of liberal or conservative and to be wise about not using government to legislate anybody‘s religious beliefs. 

NORVILLE:  Well, as we saw on that map we put up earlier on the program, there‘s a lot of purple in America, which means there ought to be a lot of places where some agreement can be found. 

I thank all of you so much.  It‘s been a really interesting discussion.  James Robison, Dr. Richard Land, Jim Wallis, and, Sister Karol Jackowski, it‘s been fun.  Thank you very much. 

JACKOWSKI:  Thank you. 

NORVILLE:  We‘ll be right back. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

NORVILLE:  We love to hear from you.  Send us your ideas and comments to us at NORVILLE@MSNBC.com.  Some of your e-mails are posted on our Web page.  That address is NORVILLE.MSNBC.com.  It‘s also the same place you can sign up for our newsletter.

And that is our program for tonight.  I‘m Deborah Norville.  Thanks so much for watching. 

Coming up tomorrow night, we have got the latest on the Scott Peterson case, as this five-month-long trial comes to its long-awaited completion. | Also, we will be joined by Washington insider, veteran newsman Sam Donaldson on George W. Bush‘s second term, how the players and the policies will change, or maybe not, in the president‘s second administration, and also how both parties will somehow find a way to work together after a divisive election.  That is all coming up tomorrow. 

And coming up next, Joe Scarborough and “SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY.”

That‘s it for us today.  Thanks for watching.  Have a great evening.

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

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