updated 11/11/2004 11:03:14 AM ET 2004-11-11T16:03:14

Guest: Bob Kohn, Seth Mnookin, Lisa Caputo, Mack McLarty, Mort Zuckerman, Lisa Caputo

JOE SCARBOROUGH, HOST:  Tonight‘s top headlines, Bill Clinton gives straight talk to fellow Democrats.  The “Real Deal”?  I never thought I would say it, but I couldn‘t agree with Bill Clinton more. 

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


WILLIAM J. CLINTON, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  We cannot be nationally competitive unless we feel comfortable talking about our convictions. 


SCARBOROUGH:  The former president gives solid advice to Democrats on the election and on how to resurrect his party.  Will they finally listen? 

And then, Georgia Democrat Senator Zell Miller says his party is no longer a national party.  Did last week‘s elections prove him right?  We‘re going to be debating that. 

And “The New York Times,” is it really all the news that‘s fit to print or is it agenda-driven?  We‘re going to take you behind the scandals at the paper of record.  

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.

Now, tonight, as Democrats huddle behind closed doors in the nation‘s capital, preparing for another four years in the political wilderness, a lone voice speaks out for moral values in his party.  His name, Bill Clinton. 

It‘s time for tonight‘s “Real Deal.”  Now, some may say that the party of FDR has reached dire straits when formerly impeached President Bill Clinton is lecturing his party on moral values.  This is, after all, the same president who was disbarred, busted for perjury, and caught turning political tricks for Chinese campaign contributions. 

But like those Democrats who once again found themselves guilty of underestimating George Bush this past week, Republican leaders had better hope that their fellow political opponents don‘t follow Bill Clinton‘s advice.  That‘s because President Clinton understands better than anybody in his struggling party what it takes for a Democrat to win votes in states like Missouri, in Iowa, and in Florida. 

Because he was born and raised in middle America, Bill Clinton knows that the Jesus freaks stereotypes that his party leaders lay on those of us in flyover space creates a cultural divide between us and them. 

And as I said after a “New York Times”‘ op-ed suggested that believing the biblical version of Jesus‘ birth put Christians on par intellectually with al Qaeda, the inhabitants of flyover space are not always so easy to categorize.  Many of those who believe in the virgin birth also believe in drinking vodka.  Some who go to Sunday school on Sunday mornings watch “Desperate Housewives” Sunday night. 

And as Bill Clinton proved twice, most Americans are more concerned with how a politician plans to protect their kids from cultural rot than whether there‘s cultural rot in the politician‘s own life. 

Now, Bill Clinton gets it.  His party doesn‘t, because, a week after their defeat, their supporters and intellectual malfeasance continue to mock middle America and dismiss us as what one Hollywood bigwig has called Jesus Land.  The bigotry and the stereotyping is especially troubling when it comes to the South. 

Now, for 30 years, Southerners have been branded as racists for voting Republicans.  Smart guys from New York City and D.C. always try to explain away the defeats of people like George McGovern, Mondale and Dukakis by evoking what they call the Southern strategy, which again crudely suggests that the only reason why Republicans in the South would ever win is because white people in the South hate black people. 

This insulting theory was even thrust on Zell Miller this summer by the likes of David Gergen simply because Miller was crossing party lines to endorse George Bush.  And, suddenly, the same Democrat who fought hard to elect the likes of Bill Clinton, Jimmy Carter, and Max Cleland was a closet racist tool for the likes of Lester Maddox. 

And now the South and their brethren in the Midwest are being labeled by mainstream media types as science-hating, gay-bashing, hate-mongering fundamentalists who are the moral equivalent of the same radical Muslims we‘re fighting in Fallujah. 

As I suggested to John Kerry and his campaign all year long, the one question they should have been asking and the one question Democrats need to be asking themselves tonight is this, WWBD?  What would Bubba do?  And if they ask themselves that question and if they listen to Bill Clinton‘s answers, they may find themselves in a competitive election with Karl Rove and the Republican Party sometime in the next decade. 

And that‘s tonight‘s “Real Deal.” 

With me tonight now, we‘ve got an all-star panel, Pat Buchanan, author of “Where the Right Went Wrong: How Neoconservatives Subverted the Reagan Revolution and Hijacked the Bush Presidency.”  We‘ve got “Newsweek” chief political correspondent Howard Fineman.  We‘ve got former Hillary Clinton spokeswoman Lisa Caputo, and we‘ve got Mort Zuckerman, editor in chief of “U.S. News & World Report.”

I want to go to you, Howard Fineman.  Let‘s put a little perspective on this.  Obviously, over the past week, we‘ve heard about the demise of the Democratic Party in the House, in the Senate, on both sides of Pennsylvania avenue.  I know you were a reporter in 1974 when everybody said the Republicans were in the political wilderness forever; 1994, remember, the headlines saying that the Democratic Party was dead. 

Let‘s put this in proper perspective.  As you go around Washington, D.C. this week, just how bad is it for the Democratic Party? 

HOWARD FINEMAN, NBC CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT:  Well, I think they‘re confused and lost and divided and angry, but not knowing quite where to turn. 

James Carville, who I think has got a terrific political mind as well, you know, said this election to him was a kind of born-again experience, where he knows that he‘s got to look for something new.  Others in the Democratic Party are still clinging to the notion that there were lost votes in Ohio or Florida or whatever.

But I think the Democrats know that they have to come up with a theory, a theory for being, why they‘re Democrats, what their vision is going to be and that somehow it has to connect up to the idea of fundamental values, not specific lines in scripture, necessarily, but the idea that the Democrats stand for values, traditional values in many ways, but have different ways of interpreting them. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Well, you know, it‘s interesting, Howard.  You talk about James Carville, but Carville also in that speech said that the Republican Party won by going out and saying that they were going to protect us from terrorists in Tikrit and homos in Hollywood, again more stereotyping. 


SCARBOROUGH:  Those were James Carville‘s words, not mine. 

So, if he‘s had a born-again experience, I think he may need to get back on his knees again.  Isn‘t that the problem with Democrats, that they can‘t help themselves? 


FINEMAN:  No, I think he—I mean, he was reaching for a sound bite there and he obviously got a very good one. 

He knows it‘s more than that.  He knows that there‘s a reason why, since 1964, the only Democrats to within the White House are Southerners, because they understand some fundamental aspects of the way public life is now conducted in America that other Democrats from other places just don‘t get.  And Carville as a Southerner knows that. 


Now, of course, Bill Clinton, also another Southerner that I was talking about, spoke at Hamilton College in New York yesterday, had a lot of great things to say for the Democratic Party.  Let‘s take a listen to something that he said. 


B. CLINTON:  There was an astonishing turnout among evangelical Christians, who said they were voting on the basis of moral values. 

I do not believe either party has a monopoly on morality or truth.  I do not believe that the Democrats can seek to be a truly national party—they may win more national elections, but we cannot be nationally competitive unless we feel comfortable talking about our convictions. 


SCARBOROUGH:  Pat Buchanan, you‘ve worked in White Houses.  You‘ve been on the presidential campaign trail several times.  You‘ve been across the Southeast, the Midwest, across America.  I want you to explain to Americans the difference between somebody like Bill Clinton and John Kerry, Bill Clinton, who actually got quite a few votes from evangelical Christians in 1992 and 1996, despite some of the personal messy stories that came out about him before both of those elections. 

PAT BUCHANAN, NBC POLITICAL ANALYST:  I will tell you why Clinton does well. 

Clinton grew up in the South.  He grew up in Arkansas.  He‘s lived with those people.  He understands those folks.  On some issues, like the death penalty, he tended to agree with them.  He knows how to talk with them.  He‘s especially good at communicating with African-American folks in the South.  He has rapport with them.  He‘s a good candidate. 

John Kerry is a cold fish from Massachusetts who voted a Massachusetts liberal line and who really has almost nothing in common with Southern and rural people in this country.  And Howard is right.  Lyndon Johnson spoke the language.  Jimmy Carter in his first run clearly spoke the language.  When it was perceived that he was a national liberal in 1980, then Ronald Reagan came in and he had rapport there. 

I think that the question is, Joe, the Democratic Party is being annihilated south of the Potomac River or maybe south of the beltway.  And it‘s being annihilated because the folks that they put up on the national level and the folks that speak on the national level for them are almost terribly alien.  And many of the journalists who support the Democratic Party have a culture of contempt for conservatives, for Southerners in particular, and for Southern Christians especially, as does Hollywood. 

When was the last time Hollywood made a movie with a Southern Christian evangelical pastor as the hero? 

SCARBOROUGH:  It‘s been a while. 

Now, Mort Zuckerman, let‘s take a look at...

BUCHANAN:  It‘s “Elmer Gantry.”


SCARBOROUGH:  Let‘s take a look at Mort Zuckerman for a second.  Mort Zuckerman is dressed—the guy looks like he‘s right out of rural Arkansas.  So it seems.  You know, wearing the black tie. 


SCARBOROUGH:  So, Mort, you‘re perfect for this next question.  Bill Clinton talked about the issue that so many of the chattering classes are talking about this week.  And it‘s the issue of gay marriage.  Take a listen to what he said. 


B. CLINTON:  With regard to the gay marriage issue, it was an overwhelming factor in the defeat of John Kerry.  I signed a bill called the Defense of Marriage Act, which simply said that every state got to decide this issue and that no state would be bound by the decision of another.  And I still believe that.  I still think I did the right thing. 


SCARBOROUGH:  And now I want to play—I want to read you what Maureen Dowd of “The New York Times” said, of course, Mort. 

She wrote this gem—quote—“The president,” talking about Bush, “got reelected by divided the country along fault lines of fear, intolerance, ignorance and religious rule.  He doesn‘t want to heal rifts.  He ran a jihad in America so he can fight one in Iraq.”

And, of course, Maureen goes on and talks about how evangelicals hate homosexuals.

What‘s so interesting, Mort Zuckerman, is Bill Clinton‘s position, again, was a position that many in his own party would call intolerant and hateful.  That Defense of Marriage Act that he spoke of John Kerry said was a piece of legislation that was hate-filled.  Has the Democratic Party really lurched that far left since Bill Clinton left office in 2000? 

MORT ZUCKERMAN, EDITOR IN CHIEF, “U.S. NEWS & WORLD REPORT”:  Well, I‘m not sure I would use those terms. 

Here‘s what I think happened in this past election.  I think John Kerry reinforced the view of many in the country that the Democratic Party was led by an elitist group of people with excessive numbers of academic degrees, with the Hollywood and entertainment community, with a number of people from the media world and from the financial world, but a lot of people who in a sense have lost contact with the middle and working class peoples of this country. 

By the way, I think the reason why Clinton won in 1992 was because his opponent at that time, George Bush 41, was also thought to have lost contact with the middle and working class peoples of America.  If you remember, he famously did not know what a bar code was at a supermarket.  And what you have, therefore, is a sense that the Democrats—and John Kerry was a godsend for the Republicans in this regard, in part because of his personal style, which did not really have much emotional content or emotional affect and able to touch people emotionally, and in part because of his personal, shall we say, windsurfing and other sort of very high-level entertainment that made everybody feel, who is this guy? 

He doesn‘t really connect with us.  He doesn‘t really understand.  Neither Kerry, nor George Bush 41 felt comfortable with a middle-class lifestyle. And George Bush 43 showed that he did.  George Bush came across as somebody who was comfortable and could talk to people in a way that connected with them.  And so I think, if the Democrats don‘t break out of this elitist mold, they will be doomed to defeat.  And if the Republicans who used to be associated with elitism through the business world, they have to—they changed and now the Democrats are going to have to change. 

SCARBOROUGH:  All right, Mort Zuckerman, I know you have to go. 

You‘re dressed for the windsurfing championship awards in Manhattan. 


ZUCKERMAN:  Your people told me it was a black-tie event. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Well, for you, it is.  Thanks a lot for coming.  We appreciate it. 

I want to ask the rest of the panel to stick around, because, coming up, we‘ve got a lot more.  Senator Zell Miller has a little advice for his own Democratic Party.  And you know he‘s not one to parse words.  We‘re going to tell you what he‘s been saying and whether he‘s right.

Plus, more on President Clinton with his former chief of staff Mack McLarty.

Don‘t go away, because there‘s a lot more SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY straight ahead.  So stick around.


SCARBOROUGH:  Democratic Senator Zell Miller said the Democrats were a national party no more and they would get obliterated in the South in this election.  Was he right? 

We‘ll talk about that with Bill Clinton‘s former chief of staff Mack McLarty in just a second, when SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY returns.


SCARBOROUGH:  Welcome back. 

I‘m joined now by Mack McLarty.  He‘s a former chief of staff under President Bill Clinton, the man we‘ve been talking about tonight. 

Mr. McLarty, thanks a lot for being with us tonight. 

MACK MCLARTY, FORMER CLINTON CHIEF OF STAFF:  Joe, my pleasure.  Thank you. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Now, I want to put voting and the South in proper perspective for those Democrats out there who think it‘s always been a Republican haven. 

I know, when I registered to vote in 1981, I was told in Escambia County, Florida, boy, you don‘t register Republican.  I‘m sure you heard the same thing in Arkansas.  My relatives heard the same thing in Georgia, Alabama.  You just did not register Republican even 20 years ago. 

What has happened to the Democratic Party in the South over the past 20 years? 

MCLARTY:  Joe, you‘re right. 

There‘s an old saying you grew up a Democrat in the South of our generation, my generation.  And that was very true.  From our home state in Arkansas, you had Senators Fulbright and McClellan.  Of course, they was followed up by Dale Bumpers and David Pryor.  So it‘s been a very strong Democratic state. 

But, clearly, the Republican Party worked very hard in terms of grassroots.  They developed a national constituency.  And I think many of the things that you‘ve been talking about tonight, they have connected with the voters.  And voters‘ views have changed.  Their interests have changed.  Their priorities have changed.  And, in some ways, the Republican Party has connected with that in some cases better than the Democratic Party in the South. 

SCARBOROUGH:  My question is, and what a lot of people in Northwest Florida will say, and I know you‘ve heard it in Arkansas, too.  You‘re a good that, you served our country proudly, but your roots are in Arkansas.

I know you‘ve heard countless times in Arkansas:  I didn‘t leave the Democratic Party.

MCLARTY:  It left me.

SCARBOROUGH:  The Democratic Party left me. 

What do you say to people that say that?  And how does Bill Clinton and how do people like you get Democrats in the South back reengaged in their party?    

MCLARTY:  Joe, I think it‘s very clear.  I think Democrats have to stand up and communicate what we believe in, why we believe it, express a degree of tolerance and understanding and respect for those that don‘t necessarily hold the same views on certain issues we do. 

But if you look at those Democrats in the South—and my home state of Arkansas has two Democratic senators—both have run as centrists, much in the tradition that, and you talked about Senator Miller earlier, of Senator Nun from Georgia.  That‘s what I think the party has to do in the South and more broadly nationally.  And I think Bill Clinton, who‘s a pretty fair political strategist, gave some wise counsel in his commentary. 

SCARBOROUGH:  I think you‘re right.

Now, just two days after the election, of course, Democratic Senator

Zell Miller of Georgia, again, a big fan of Bill Clinton‘s in his own right

during the ‘96 convention, wrote this about the Democratic Party—quote -

·         “Secular socialism, heavy taxes, big spending, weak defense, limitless  lawsuits and heavy regulation, that pack of beagles hasn‘t caught a rabbit in the South or Midwest in years.  When you write off centrist and conservative policies that reflect the will of people in the South and Midwest, you write off the South and the Midwest.”

Now, Mack, you‘re exactly right about your two senators in Arkansas.  I served with one of them in the House, centrist Democrats.  Why is it that the Democratic Party, though, seems to have such a hard time electing those type of people to the top of their ticket when they‘re trying to figure out who‘s going to be elected president of the United States? 

MCLARTY:  Of course, Joe, we had a president with President Clinton who was not only elected, but reelected for two terms. 

So I think, again, it goes back—I would take exception, by the way, of Senator Miller‘s description.  I think during President Clinton‘s eight years in office, our fiscal responsibility was something that served our country and all of our people very well.  It lifted people out of poverty.  Those kinds of very clear policies, very clear value statements I think speak broadly and loudly.  That‘s what we have to do, Joe, not just in South, but, as you suggest, on the national ticket as well. 

SCARBOROUGH:  All right, Mack McLarty, thanks a lot being with us.  And I also want to thank you for service to our country.  I‘ll tell you, you were in Washington at a tough time.  And you served your city, you served your country well and very honorably.  And we thank you for that. 

MCLARTY:  Joe, thank you very much for your warm words.  I appreciate it.

SCARBOROUGH:  All right. 

Now, let‘s go back to our panel.  We of course have got Pat Buchanan, former presidential candidate, MSNBC analyst, and author of “Where the Right Went Wrong.”

We‘ve got “Newsweek”‘s Howard Fineman.  And we‘ve got former Hillary Clinton press secretary Lisa Caputo.

Now, Howard Fineman, since you‘re friends with Maureen Dowd—and I‘ve got to tell you, she just sent me her book and wrote a nice note in there.  So I don‘t want to pick on her too much here tonight.  But I want to play you a clip of what Zell Miller had to say about Maureen Dowd on “Imus.” 

Let‘s go ahead and play that clip right now. 


SEN. ZELL MILLER (D), GEORGIA:  The more Maureen Dowd gets on “Meet the Press” and writes those columns, the more—the redder these states get.  I mean, they don‘t want some highbrow hussy from New York City explaining to them that they‘re idiots and telling them that they‘re stupid. 


SCARBOROUGH:  Now, of course, for the record, Maureen Dowd came out and said:  I‘m not a high-brow hussy from New York.  I‘m a high-brow hussy from Washington, D.C.

But Maureen Dowd aside, Zell Miller has a point that it seems that the more people like Maureen Dowd, Gary Wills, “New York Times” editorial op-ed page and others seem to characterize those of us in middle America as idiots, the more excited and the more excitable Republicans get going out to vote against them. 

FINEMAN:  Well, first of all, Maureen is my favorite high-brow hussy, no matter where lives.  That‘s the first thing. 

Second thing, I know Maureen.  And I know that her life has a lot more red state in it than a lot her critics would believe, growing up in a middle-class home here in Washington. 


FINEMAN:  Really.  I‘m serious. 

But the key thing is what Bill Clinton said.  What Bill Clinton said was that the Democrats gave away the values issues on the personal side, because they didn‘t follow his lead on abortion, which he said was a moderate position.  They didn‘t follow his lead on gay marriage, which he said was a moderate position.  But just as important, the Democrats have to figure out a way once again to turn economics into a value issue on their side. 

That‘s what he said in the speech at Hamilton College today.  He proudly said that in his 12 years as governor of Arkansas, in every succeeding election, he said, he got more conservative votes and more Republican votes than the previous one by stressing education and standards, by talking about economic development, and by talking about economic justice. 

The answer for the Democrats is in that book behind you there, probably, Joe, which I now see is very prominently featured, the one that said RFK on it, because Robert F. Kennedy was the last Democrat really to talk about economic justice as a matter of morality and succeed at it before he was assassinated. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Yes, and it‘s very interesting.  And RFK, just like Ronald Reagan—I know that will shock people on both sides of the coastal divide.


SCARBOROUGH:  RFK, like Ronald Reagan, knew how to reach across and grab the economically disaffected and pull them into their side. 

FINEMAN:  Right.  Exactly. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Let me bring in Lisa Caputo, because, Lisa, you worked for Hillary Clinton.  You worked in the Clinton White House. 

Obviously, you understand the challenges that are facing the Democratic Party right now.  But it strikes many as ironic—tonight, I‘m talking about how Bill Clinton has a message for the Democratic Party moving forward.  But it seems that Hillary Clinton actually personifies all of those blue state qualities that could doom the Democrats in 2008.  Is that an oversimplification? 


I think the Democratic Party has to step back, quite honestly.  Howard talked about, you know, the fundamental values, and the Democrats have to come back, sit down, peel back the layers on these numbers coming out of this last election and try and find their voice again, what are the Democratic Party‘s fundamental values and framing the debate as such. 

John Kerry didn‘t do a good job of doing that.  We have heard everybody on the panel, including Mack McLarty, talk about that.  What Bill Clinton talked about today is, you know, which is a more moral position, surplus or deficit, health care or no health care, 300,000 cops on the street or assault weapons?  John Kerry failed to frame the debate that way. 

The Democratic Party has to find its voice again, has to find its fundamental values.  And if we‘re going to have a debate about moral values, the party has to frame the debate around moral values around its issues.  I actually think Hillary Clinton has found a way to actually capture that voice and perhaps can help, you know, pull the party together and help the party find its voice. 

SCARBOROUGH:  And speaking of that voice—and I know Pat Buchanan is probably laughing right now—hold on, Pat, because I want us to go back and see what Senator Hillary Clinton had to say in Iowa last November. 


SEN. HILLARY CLINTON (D), NEW YORK:  That of all the criticisms we can level against this president, the most damaging is that he has no vision for a future that will make America safer and stronger and smarter and richer and better and fairer.  I am absolutely sure we will have the next president of the United States be a Democrat when January 2005 comes around!


SCARBOROUGH:  Pat Buchanan, is that the Democrats‘...


BUCHANAN:  Howard Dean.


SCARBOROUGH:  Is that the Democrats‘ person for 2008?

BUCHANAN:  She‘s taking voice lessons from Howard Dean. 

Look, no, Hillary Clinton—let me say this.  I admire the job she has done in New York.  I didn‘t think she could win.  I give her all the credit in the world.  And she‘s been outstanding in the Senate at moving across the aisle. 

But let me tell you, what you have just heard brings it all back.  It‘s that headband liberalism.  She is the authentic voice of American liberalism, the way Bill Clinton was not.  Bill Clinton has got a little aw, shucks, rascal from Arkansas in him, some good old boy in him.  And he can talk to the right and talk to the left.  But Hillary Rodham Clinton is McGovernism, pure McGovernism from 1992.  She‘s the child—and I like him -- of Senator George McGovern.

You put her up, Joe, she has no reach whatsoever in a red state. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Stay right there, because I‘m going to be coming back to you, Howard Fineman, Lisa Caputo. 

Much more when SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY country returns in a minute.  Stick around.


SCARBOROUGH:  Are the Democrats in Washington victims of gay baiting and religious bigotry?  We‘re going to be talking about that when SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY returns. 

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


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


H. CLINTON:  I am absolutely sure we will have the next president of the United States be a Democrat when January 2005 comes around!


SCARBOROUGH:  Well, we‘re going to be playing that every night for the next four years. 


SCARBOROUGH:  Welcome back to SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY.  Great to have you here. 

I want us to take a look, a graphic look at exactly how far the Democrats have fallen in the South since the election of 1960.  Now, this is an electoral map from 1960, when John Kennedy edged out Richard Nixon.  But look closely at the Southern states.  You see a lot of blue.  John Kennedy takes some major blocs, including Texas, Louisiana, Georgia, North and South Carolina and Arkansas. 

Now take a look at today‘s electoral map and what you will see is, of course, that all those Southern states have gone from blue to red. 

Howard Fineman, everybody it seems this week that I‘ve been reading about have been talking about the moral issues, but mainly the gay rights issue, the homosexual issue, gay marriage.  Picking apart the numbers—you‘ve looked at this now for a week—did that really play that big of a role in the 2004 election? 

FINEMAN:  Well, it played a role.  I don‘t think that it played the overwhelming role that Bill Clinton said today at Hamilton College that it had played.  I think he‘s overstating it some. 

But I think it did become a symbol.  By the way, I thought Clinton had a fascinating theory.  He basically blamed the result on the Supreme Court once again, because he said had the Supreme Court not in that Texas case basically said that there was a right to privacy that protected gay sex that a lot of those state ballot measures never would have been on the state ballots in states such as Ohio, where issue one, as it was called, did win by a 3-2 margin.  It was a factor.  It wasn‘t the overwhelming factor. 

I think the overwhelming thing was that George Bush conveyed a sense of strength that in his case was based on biblical values that he holds dear and that he talks about all the time. 


SCARBOROUGH:  Howard, you‘ve studied...


SCARBOROUGH:  I hate to interrupt you.

FINEMAN:  No, go ahead.

SCARBOROUGH:  But you‘ve studied this guy.  You did a great story on his faith.  George Bush‘s faith, is that something that secularists in middle America or on the coasts should be concerned about?  Is this guy the religious zealot that some of his political enemies are making him out to be? 

FINEMAN:  Well, the short answer is no.  But the more complicated answer is, he‘s probably got some people in his base, in the core base that expanded this year, that Karl Rove, his strategist, very much relied on, that do see this in more apocalyptic terms, see this time as the end of times, do see George Bush as a man on a mission from God, who probably trample the edges, if not all of the constitutional separation of powers. 

But I don‘t see George Bush himself in that way at all.  I think George Bush and the voters saw that the strength, wherever it came from, gave him a consistency of vision, a toughness on the terrorists, you know, a consistent domestic and foreign policy.  And it‘s all true in politics as in sports that you can‘t beat something with nothing.  John Kerry did not have a consistent vision, regardless of where it came from, from the Bible or otherwise. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Pat Buchanan, there are three issues that Democrats keep talking about to try to prove that George Bush and his supporters are running a jihad against America and constitutional foundations, one, stem cell research, two, abortion, three, gay marriage. 

And I think we have had Carl Bernstein on this show, and he talks about how there‘s a tiny sliver of these evangelical Christians that want to been all gay marriages.  Well, the last time I checked, the number is more like 70 to 75 percent.  Isn‘t that, in the end, the Democratic Party‘s biggest problem is that they‘re embracing some issues that that are just very unpopular in middle America?

BUCHANAN:  Well, there‘s no question that—I don‘t think civil unions has passed any legislature in the country. 

I think where it‘s been imposed, it‘s been imposed by judges.  Now, as for gay marriage, nobody in the country is in favor for that.  Even Clinton says he wasn‘t in favor of that.  It was absolute folly of Democrats to let themselves be associated with an issue which is going down by 85 percent in Mississippi and 60 percent and 70 percent in the rest of the country. 

Now, I do think, Joe.  In the South, Richard Nixon began it.  I remember—I worked with him in ‘66.  We campaigned down there in South Carolina and ran into Strom and all those folks.  And Nixon said the future is in the South.  And I think ‘60 and ‘68, Nixon‘s strongest state was Nebraska.  In 1972, it was Mississippi.  He carried the entire South overwhelmingly. 

I think John Kerry not only wrote it off, except for Florida.  There‘s just no cultural social mesh between John Kerry and the South.  With George W. Bush, look, is a good old boy.  He‘s a Christian.  He‘s a conservative.  He‘s pro-gun.  He‘s a pro-fishing and pro-sports.  And he‘s a patriot.  He‘s a visible patriot.  And he gets up and says, who is your greatest—who is your favorite philosopher? 

Old Mr. Forbes says John Locke and George Bush says Jesus Christ.  Who do you think won that contest? 

SCARBOROUGH:  And, Pat Buchanan, in 15 seconds or less—and I‘m serious about this—we all know Hillary Clinton is running for president in 2008.  Can you pick a red state on the map that George W. Bush won this year that Hillary Clinton can pick up four years from now? 

BUCHANAN:  No.  And I think she would put at risk some of the blue states like New Hampshire.

I think Hillary Clinton, I think she bumps her head at 45 percent nationally.  I just think—look, if the Democrats nominate her, it means God the father is a conservative Republican. 


SCARBOROUGH:  All right, thanks so much, Pat Buchanan.  I appreciate it, always.

Howard Fineman, we‘re great.  We appreciate you being here. 

Now, coming up straight ahead, we‘ve been telling you about scandal and bias at the so-called paper of record for over a year.  Well, tonight, we‘re going to hear the story behind the story from journalists who know. 

Stick around.  We‘ll be right back with that in a second.

ANNOUNCER:  Tonight‘s SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY challenge:  What branch of the U.S. armed services was created 229 years ago today?  Was it, A, the Army, B, the Marines, or, C, the Air Force? 

The answer coming up.


ANNOUNCER:  In tonight‘s SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY challenge, we asked: 

What branch of the U.S. armed services was created 229 years ago today? 

The answer is B.  The Marines were created on this date in 1776.  The Air Force is the youngest branch, begun in 1947.

SCARBOROUGH:  God bless the Marines. 

Well, “The New York Times”‘ motto, “all the news that‘s fit to print.”  But for Jayson Blair, to the missing munitions story that threatened to bounce President Bush from office, a lot of people are asking if the newspaper of record has an agenda that‘s really to print. 

With me now is Seth Mnookin.  He‘s the author of “Hard News: The Scandals of The New York Times and Their Meaning for the American Media.”  We also have Bob Kohn.  He‘s the author of “Journalistic Fraud: How The New York Times Distorts the News and Why It Can No Longer Be Trusted.”

Seth, tell me about your book.  Tell me what is driving these scandals at “The New York Times.”  Is it a management problem?  Or does it have to do with an elitist culture? 

SETH MNOOKIN, AUTHOR, “HARD NEWS”:  Well, my book looks at really the two-year period that Howell Raines was the executive director. 

And during those two years, or about 21 months, that went from right before September 11 to June 2003, when he was fired, I think the problems you saw in the paper then were definitely a management issue.  When you‘re talking about their coverage of the Augusta National Club and its refusal to admit women, its coverage of the buildup to the war in Iraq, or ultimately what happened with Jayson Blair, all of those were a result of management issues that were going on in the paper at the time.

I think what is going on now is different.  And you and I probably have slightly different views about what we read in “The Times” these days, but certainly what was going on in the period covered in my book was a management issue. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Well, Seth, if you talk, though, about Jayson Blair, if you talk about Augusta, you have got two issues that may deal with management, but also, wouldn‘t you agree, also have to do with, also have to do political correctness?  In fact, Howell Raines admitted that Jayson Blair had much to do—he didn‘t call it political correctness, but that‘s basically what it all boiled down to, isn‘t it.

MNOOKIN:  Absolutely.

And, certainly, if you look at Augusta and his insistence on overplaying that story and making that into a much bigger story than anyone else in the country really felt like it was, I think what you saw there was someone who has been a very liberal and a very active editor of the editorial page, and that‘s Howell Raines, and bringing that same sort of editorial activism to the news pages. 

And there were a lot of people both inside and obviously a lot of outside of “The Times” who had a big problem with that.  Howell did say that one of the reasons that he says gave Jayson Blair so many second chances was because he, Howell Raines, as a white man from Alabama may have been dealing with some residual guilt.  And, obviously, that statement raised a lot of eyebrows for people.


MNOOKIN:  My own reading of the Jayson Blair situation is that is it more complex.  Was race a factor?  Absolutely.

So was the fact that Howell had alienated huge swathes of the newsrooms, so there no one was left to really push back against him and the fact that, by the time Jayson Blair rolled around, “The New York Times” was in a lot of ways a newsroom in crisis. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Seth, just for the record, because, again, you touched on this, but, again, you don‘t believe “The New York Times,” like I believe “The New York Times,” is elitist, center-left, do you?  That‘s not what your book is about?

MNOOKIN:  Well, actually, no.  I would say that it is elitist in a certain regard.  I think the audience that it‘s aiming for, it‘s not, you know—its circulation is a million out of a country of several hundred million. 

And it is aiming for and certainly what they would term an elite audience.  And if you look at their culture pages or the magazine or the book review, they‘re very clearly to the left of what the rest of the country is in terms of how they present a lot of those issues.  I think that, in their news pages, they are very careful about trying to play it pretty straight down the line. 

But I‘m making a very clear distinction between the news pages and then things like the editorial page or even the arts coverage and the book review and magazine. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Bob Kohn, I—and I know you just hate hearing this every time I say it, Bob Kohn, but “The New York Times” is my paper of record, even though I think they are leftists.  I read it every day.  It‘s the one paper I read every day. 

Tell me, do you agree with Seth that, when it comes to the front page of “The New York Times,” they play it down the middle editorially? 


SCARBOROUGH:  Give me examples. 

KOHN:  Well, first, Seth said his book is largely about Howell Raines, and that‘s true.  And Howell Raines had a liberal agenda to slant the paper to the left, which he did in his crusading against the war in Iraq and his crusading against the Augusta National Golf Club‘s policies against not having women as members.

But, you know, Howell Raines has been gone for 18 months and the paper is just as liberally slanted as it was before.  So, I think this suggests that this was not really a management problem.  This was an institutional problem, a cultural problem.  Nothing has changed on the editorial level. 

It really goes up to the publisher.  And I think the publisher has a goal here or has a mission to use “The New York Times” as a method of influencing public opinion, rather than a means of informing the public. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Now, is that—is there anything wrong with that? 

Haven‘t papers been doing that for, well, a century now, even centuries? 


KOHN:  As long as it‘s labeled as such.  I mean, there‘s no Federal Trade Commission on false labeling for newspapers. 

I mean, it‘s OK if the editorial page takes as liberal a position as it wants.  The op-ed pages, that‘s opinion.  That is what it‘s for.  But don‘t disguise your opinion in the form of a straight news story on the front page.  Even the public editor of “The New York Times” very recently said that “The New York Times” is a liberal newspaper, and it virtually cheerleads on the social issues like gay marriage. 

There really isn‘t any question about whether “The Times” is slanting the news.  There really isn‘t. 


SCARBOROUGH:  You know, you‘re exactly right.  And I want to ask both of you back again this week, because we‘re out of time, unfortunately, tonight.  And we may have some breaking news coming up. 

But, Bob Kohn, Seth Mnookin, thanks a lot for being with us tonight. 


SCARBOROUGH:  And I‘ll tell you what.  Howell Raines—interestingly, about Howell Raines, I think he was one of the best editorial page editors “The New York Times” has had in some time.  But, boy, when he took over the whole paper, it was a disaster. 

We‘ll be right back with more SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY right after this short break. 


SCARBOROUGH:  We have got news in that the condition of Yasser Arafat continues to worsen. 

And stick around.  SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY will be right back with the very latest.


SCARBOROUGH:  Hey, I want to thank all of you for visiting SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY tonight.

And, remember, if you have questions or comments about the show, you can e-mail us at Joe.MSNBC.com.  We would love to hear from you. 

Also, make sure to catch Imus tomorrow morning.  He‘s got a lot of great guests, including Donald Trump. 

Hey, good night, and we will see you tomorrow. 

And make sure you stick around with more coverage on MSNBC, the condition of Yasser Arafat continuing to decline.  We will have the very latest for you throughout the night. 

Have a great night.  See you tomorrow. 



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