updated 12/10/2004 2:18:25 PM ET 2004-12-10T19:18:25

Guest: Laurie Roth, Michael Rectenwald, Ann Coulter, Al Franken, Matt Salmon, Charles Pickering, Tommy Franks

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SPC. THOMAS WILSON, U.S. ARMY:  Why do we soldiers have to dig through local landfills for pieces of scrap metal and compromised ballistic glass to help armor our vehicles?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

PAT BUCHANAN, GUEST HOST:  It‘s the question America can‘t stop talking about today, but it turns out it was a setup question.  We have got a SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY showdown on Rumsfeld and the soldier you won‘t want to miss.  Plus, I will ask General Tommy Franks why our soldiers don‘t have the armor they need. 

Then, the film masterpiece “The Passion of the Christ” should sweep the Oscars this year.  But will Hollywood blacklist Mel Gibson? 

And Mississippi Judge Charles Pickering has long been the whipping boy of the left.  Today, he announced he is retiring, and he comes here to SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY tonight for his first exclusive interview. 

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

BUCHANAN:  Welcome to the show.  I‘m Pat Buchanan, filling in for Joe Scarborough. 

As you know, Joe has had back problems, but is feeling better and is eager to get back in his anchor chair.  Friends and family are telling him to wait a little while longer to ensure a full recovery.  Expect him back soon. 

First up tonight, Donald Rumsfeld faced tough questioning from his own troops in Kuwait yesterday. 

WILSON:  Why do we soldiers have to dig through local landfills for pieces of scrap metal and compromised ballistic glass to help armor our vehicles and why don‘t we have those resources readily available to us?

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)  

DONALD RUMSFELD, SECRETARY OF DEFENSE:  It‘s a matter of production and capability of doing it.  As you know, you go to war with the Army you have, not the Army you might want or wish to have at a later time. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BUCHANAN:  While the media zeroed in on Rumsfeld‘ glib response, the defense secretary delivered a comprehensive five-minute answer.  He also had General Whitcomb, commander of the 3rd Army, tell the troops what‘s being done point by point. 

Joining me now, Ann Coulter, syndicated columnist and author of “How to Talk to a Liberal (If You Must,” Air America radio talk show host Al Franken, “Newsweek”‘s Howard Fineman and former Congressman Matt Salmon, who now represents ArmorWorks, which provides armor to the military for its Humvees. 

Ann Coulter, what is your take on this issue?  Do you think the soldier did the right thing, in throwing up that question?  And what about this issue?  Why don‘t those men have the armor they need?  Is that an indictment of the people planning this war? 

ANN COULTER, AUTHOR, “HOW TO TALK TO A LIBERAL (IF YOU MUST)”:  On the second question, no, not particularly.  I mean, I think this is an indictment of government programs generally, which is why conservatives don‘t want the government doing things, other than things it has to do, like run the military. 

Yes, government programs never run like a Swiss clock.  And, yes, sure, the soldier should ask the question.  I actually think it‘s a great thing, putting aside for now that the journalist‘s involvement in it.  Obviously, this is something the soldiers care about, from their response there.  But I think it‘s worth mentioning that to portray this as some sort of unusual insurrection of the troops against Donald Rumsfeld, troops always complain. 

They famously complained throughout World War I, World War II.  There‘s a reason the word snafu and FUBAR comes from the military.  They have a right to complain.  They are putting their live at risk.  They are in war, but this isn‘t a new phenomenon. 

BUCHANAN:  All right, I am wondering if this is Murphy‘s law, Al Franken. 

Also, we have been one year now into a guerrilla war, where many of the casualties are being caused by these improvised explosive devices at roadside, by RPGs fired at Humvees, by people in trucks and Humvees being shot at and killed by AK-47 rifles.  In your judgment, is this a dereliction on the part of the Pentagon? 

AL FRANKEN, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST:   Yes.  I don‘t know why Rumsfeld is still there. 

As far as Ann‘s point that this is unusual, this is incredibly unusual, for a soldier to confront the secretary of defense.  I have been at these things.  I have been at these events with the secretary of defense in Kosovo.  I have never seen anything like this.  And for Ann to say that this isn‘t unusual—have you ever, Pat, have you ever seen a soldier ask a question like that of the secretary of defense? 

BUCHANAN:  Well, I haven‘t seen many times—no, I have not, to be candid, or I can‘t think of a time.

FRANKEN:  Yes.  This is unprecedented, and for Ann to say this happens all the time is crazy. 

COULTER:  No, what I am saying what happens all the time is soldiers complaining about the conditions. 

(CROSSTALK)

FRANKEN:  That‘s not what you said.  What you said was this event was very common. 

COULTER:  I was saying—I know what I said. 

FRANKEN:  No, you don‘t, evidently. 

(CROSSTALK)

COULTER:  ... for the military to complain.  They complained throughout World War I, throughout World War II. 

FRANKEN:  I know you said that part, but you said this event wasn‘t unusual. 

(CROSSTALK)

COULTER:  It‘s a good thing.  And that is the fact that the soldiers in our country do complain directly to the defense secretary.  You can‘t imagine it happening...

(CROSSTALK)

FRANKEN:  When? 

(CROSSTALK) 

FRANKEN:  When have you ever heard this, Ann? 

BUCHANAN:  Al Franken. 

(CROSSTALK)

BUCHANAN:  Let‘s bring in Howard Fineman.

Howard Fineman, let me ask you a question.  I want to ask you about the journalist down there, the Chattanooga journalist who put these soldiers up to asking this question.  He said he has been trying to get this story into print a long time.  He has not been able to ask the responsible parties to really get national attention to it.  So he went to this soldier, talked to this soldier, gave the soldier basically the question, which the soldier asked, I think very graphically and dramatically.

And then you got that huge response from the troops, which suggests that it‘s valid.  Let‘s take a look at the response of the troops again to the question. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RUMSFELD:  Thank you very much. 

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE) 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BUCHANAN:  Now, Howard, this tells me this is an issue very much on the minds of the soldiers over there now.  And it‘s a legitimate question.  Was it legitimate to set up the question, for the reporter to do that? 

HOWARD FINEMAN, NBC CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT:  Well, I have thought about it some.  And I think, if it‘s the only way that the reporter could do his job—and his argument is that it was—then I can‘t fault him ethically for doing it, nor I think could I fault the soldier for asking it, given—especially given the response. 

That was spontaneous.  That wasn‘t set up.  That wasn‘t the media, the big media, or the small media—and, you know, the Chattanooga newspaper is not all that big media.  That‘s pretty local.  That‘s pretty grassrootsy in and of itself.  So actually I think all the discussion about how it was a big setup, to me, for the most part, is red herring. 

BUCHANAN:  All right, let me go back to Ann on that one, quickly.

Ann, I agree with Howard 100 percent.  Look, this is a very important

question.  If these guys are going up that road without armor, and this guy

is a journalist and he can‘t get it out in the media, I see no problem with

him going to the soldier, if the soldier believes the question is

legitimate.  And certainly that whole troop certainly did.  So I just think

·         I don‘t find any fault with his question, that it was put to the guy or that he put it to Rumsfeld, do you? 

COULTER:  Well, as Howard said, he began with the question if there‘s no other way to get this question answered. 

I believe Secretary Rumsfeld has press conferences fairly regularly.  I think the point of putting this through a soldier was obviously that the reporter thought it would have more effect coming from a soldier, rather than from just a member of the scribbling profession, and just so to set it up like that.  And for it to only be revealed leaks to the Drudge Report through an e-mail he sent around bragging.

And, by the way, I thought the e-mail sounded a little bit demeaning toward the members of the military. 

FRANKEN:  Not at all. 

COULTER:  Portraying them as...

(CROSSTALK)

FRANKEN:  Not at all. 

(CROSSTALK)

COULTER:  ... and how he manages to slip this question, to get his question through. 

FRANKEN:  I have read that e-mail. 

(CROSSTALK)

COULTER:  Yes, I think it would make a big difference.  More people would think it‘s a little bit strange if a conservative reporter had slipped questions to be asked of Hillary Clinton when she is over there visiting. 

BUCHANAN:  OK.  Al?  Al Franken, go ahead.  Respond. 

(CROSSTALK)

FRANKEN:  Pat, I was so glad to hear you say what you said, and I am so—this is so typical of Ann.

And I have read this e-mail.  It was not demeaning at all.  And the thing is, is that when our reporters, when reporters were embedded with our troops, remember, the people who were skeptical of that were saying that, well, the embedded reporters are going to—of course, they are going to love the troops, which you do.  And, by the way, I am going to Kuwait next week and Iraq and Afghanistan on my fifth USO tour.  I know Ann objects to my ever bringing that up, but it will be my fifth USO tour. 

COULTER:  No, I miss it when you don‘t mention it.  But that never happens. 

(CROSSTALK)

FRANKEN:  Well, let me finish.

BUCHANAN:  OK.  Go ahead.  Finish. 

FRANKEN:  OK. 

So this embedded reporter—yes, the danger is, the reporters will fall in love with the troops.  You know what?  The troops like the reporters, too.  And this—you are the one—the right is being demeaning to our soldiers, because, on Fox, I have been listening to the right wing go, like, oh, this soldier was put up to it. 

(CROSSTALK)

FRANKEN:  You know, our soldiers are smart. 

BUCHANAN:  All right.  Just hold it, Al.  Hold it, Al. 

Look, there‘s no question that it‘s a legitimate question that I put to Howard Fineman. 

FRANKEN:  No. 

(CROSSTALK)

BUCHANAN:  Hold it.  We learned about it.  I saw Tony Blankley praise that soldier today.  I saw the president of the United States make a statement, legitimate question.  We ought to answer these questions. 

I have seen no one, no conservative attack this soldier at all.  But there is a valid question for journalists to address. 

FRANKEN:  I have heard setup. 

(CROSSTALK)

FRANKEN:  I have heard that they wrote the question for the soldier. 

That‘s not what was in the e-mail. 

What the guy said in the e-mail is that he huddled with these two soldiers.  This soldier—this was the soldier‘s experience.  And this soldier is a smart man, and it is demeaning to say he was set up.  And it‘s demeaning to our troops to say he was set up. 

BUCHANAN:  All right, Howard Fineman, do you think I have demeaned this soldier when I said this guy got him, I guess we used that it was set up—the question was set up on Rumsfeld? 

FINEMAN:  No, I don‘t think you were being demeaning. 

FRANKEN:  I didn‘t say Pat was. 

FINEMAN:  Yes.  No.  Yes, I don‘t think Pat was. 

And Ann has a point there, because maybe there is a question, all right, was he doing this for theatrical effect to some measure?  But, on the other hand, I think it‘s possible that it was difficult for him to get anybody in a position of authority.  And what better person in a position of authority could you get than the secretary of defense to directly answer that question?

And, by the way, back at the Pentagon, you know, there are very well informed reporters at the Pentagon on the Pentagon beat.  But a lot of the guys out in the field don‘t get to go to those briefings.  And a lot of the guys in the press room don‘t know the exact problems on the ground in the kind of gritty detail that an embedded reporter with the Tennessee National Guard would. 

BUCHANAN:  All right. 

Now, I interviewed, I spoke with General Tommy Franks today.  And the first question out of the box I asked him was this question.  And then he said that he thought Rumsfeld had given a good answer.  And I said, but I think the average American out there is going to say, look, we are a rich country, and whatever you think of the war, the wisdom of it, that our guys should have body armor and vehicle armor, is as important that they have ammunition.

And one year into a guerrilla war, when these guys are being shot in these canvass-backed Humvees, that they don‘t have armor, it seems to me somebody ought to be held to account for this situation.  It‘s probably somebody at the Pentagon.  Is it not? 

Go ahead. 

MATT SALMON, PRESIDENT, ARMORWORKS:  I would like to interject just a little bit here, because, as I listen to the various people on the panel talking about whether the right is wrong or the left is wrong or what the soldier‘s motives were, I think everybody is missing the point. 

You just crystallized the point.  The fact is, do we have a shortage of armor?  And if we do, let‘s fix it, because, right now, our troops, their lives depend on it.  And I represent a company that produces about 65 percent of all the body armor.  We had the same issue when the war began.  You had body armor that wasn‘t getting out to the troops. 

(CROSSTALK)

SALMON:  Excuse me. 

So parents ended up having to buy it for their kids or loved ones buying it for their loved ones, and that‘s what created the pressure to finally get this out there.  We are producing vehicle armor right now for the Humvee and for other vehicles, and we are not even close to capacity. 

BUCHANAN:  All right, this is what I want to ask you.  Let me interrupt there. 

I understand that this company you represent offered to the Pentagon to increase by at least 20 percent without any new investment the number of armored Humvees it would provide to the Pentagon, and they got no response. 

SALMON:  We have told them repeatedly that we are only at 50 percent capacity.  We are actually putting 300 kits out a month.  We could be putting out 600.

And, Pat, it‘s not just about the Humvees.  This is about all the vehicles that are over there.  The security of the soldiers has been compromised.  And we have a solution.  Right now, our technology is a ceramic-based composite, which is far lighter than steel.  Now, the Pentagon has said today one of the reasons we don‘t like the retrofitted stuff is because it‘s too heavy.  Well, our stuff is one-third the weight of steel. 

(CROSSTALK)

SALMON:  It is a solution that works.  It doesn‘t compromise the integrity of the vehicle. 

BUCHANAN:  OK.  Matt...

SALMON:  And, also, it‘s as safe if not safer than the stuff we have got out there.

So, if money is not the issue and we have got the solution and we are not even close to capacity, why isn‘t it out there?  That question has to be asked. 

BUCHANAN:  That is what we are going to bring up when we come back. 

Matt Salmon, thanks for joining us. 

The rest of you, stick around, because, up next, a soldier says he has to pick through trash for scrap armor for his Humvee.  Today, I asked General Tommy Franks what he would have told that soldier. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BUCHANAN:  Why this problem, in 18 months of guerrilla war, has not been solved?  I mean, a country as great and productive as the United States, should it not have done this sooner? 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BUCHANAN:  His answer and the panel‘s reaction when we return. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BUCHANAN:  Do our soldiers have the armor they need?  The architect of the war in Iraq, General Tommy Franks, weighs in next. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BUCHANAN:  Welcome back. 

Are the troops in Iraq getting the armor to survive roadside bombs and grenade attacks, or is the Pentagon trying to fight this war on the cheap? 

A soldier in Kuwait asked Secretary Rumsfeld why the troops were being forced to go into battle with what he calls—quote—“hillbilly armor.” 

I asked former head of Central Command General Tommy Franks how he would have responded to that soldier. 

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

RET. GEN. TOMMY FRANKS, FORMER CENTCOM COMMANDER:  Probably—probably about the same way, Pat, actually.  I might have used terminology like, well, we are in a come-as-you-are environment. 

I think it‘s great that the young soldier asked the question.  And I think it‘s great that he asked the question of Secretary Don Rumsfeld.  And I suspect that what Rumsfeld has said today, he really means.  And that is that he thanks the youngsters for bringing issues that are absolutely serious to his attention in a very one-on-one kind of way.  And so I probably would have answered it about the same way. 

I remember when Rumsfeld became the secretary of defense.  And I will try not to give you this enormously long answer, but I remember one of the first things he talked about was the need to transform the military.  And part of that had to do with what sort of equipment are we going to have in a post-Iron Curtain kind of world, you know, thinking all the way back to 1990 or so, because there‘s recognition in Washington that we have not procured the right sorts of systems in every case to move us into the 21st century.

BUCHANAN:  All right. 

FRANKS:  And so I think what he is trying to do right now is catch up with production that we know we need. 

BUCHANAN:  Well, general, let me ask you this.  I think a lot of Americans probably saw that, as I did, and heard it, and said that—you know, you are right.  The specialist asked an excellent question.  Americans would ask, look, if we have spent $100 billion or $150 billion already, this enormous amount of money, and these young fellows are being blown up by these IEDs, these explosive devices, by the side of the road, they‘re being killed in their Humvees by small-arms fire, why this problem in 18 months of guerrilla war has not been solved when these fellows are trying to solve it now by going into junkyards and getting scrap to put on the sides?

(CROSSTALK)

BUCHANAN:  A country as great and productive as the United States, should it not have done this sooner? 

FRANKS:  Well, it‘s easy for me as an old retired military guy to say, boy, you bet, Pat.  Gosh, we should have been right there on day one to solve this problem. 

But I think you recognize as well as I do that over the course of that 18 months or two years, we have identified, our troops have identified lots and lots of problems.  Some of them have to do with body armor.  Some of them have to do with Kevlar helmets.  Some of them have to do with boots.  And so I guess the short answer is, I would like to have seen the production of armored-up Humvees as something beyond whatever it is, 450 or 500 a month that we see now.

But the fact is that attention within the building has probably been spread across an awful lot of systems that help our soldiers stay alive. 

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BUCHANAN:  You can see more of my interview with General Franks at 10:00 p.m. Eastern on New Year‘s Eve. 

Now let‘s go back to the panel, Ann Coulter, Al Franken.

And let me start with you, Howard Fineman.

Howard, the case made against the president, the political case, and against the administration and the Pentagon is that, you did a great job in winning in Baghdad, with General Tommy Franks in three weeks, but you were not prepared for the aftermath of the war.  You did not anticipate what happened.  You did not prepare, and, therefore, you have blundered and failed in a lot of ways in the aftermath of this war.  Is this going to feed into that political perception, and how big a political problem do you think this is going to become for the administration? 

FINEMAN:  Well, actually, I think it‘s going to have the effect of guaranteeing that the president gets another $70 billion in an appropriation early next year for more money for Iraq and Afghanistan. 

I don‘t think it digs the president into an insuperable hole.  I think he is going to argue that this is the reason why we need—the Congress needs to approve more money.  That will be one effect of it.  And the Democrats are going to harp on it, but it won‘t matter until the Republicans really do.  The Republicans are in charge of the Congress.  And I wouldn‘t be surprised to see hearings early next year, when the new Congress comes in, right off the bat in the Armed Services Committee or elsewhere, taking stock of what‘s happened. 

The campaign was sort of about how we got into the war.  George Bush was elected after that argument.  Now the next argument, I think you are right, is going to be about how the war is being fought, whether it‘s being fought well or poorly.  And that will be in the Congress, even as the vote is supposedly taking place in Iraq at the end of January. 

BUCHANAN:  All right, Al Franken, what is your feeling about the political impact of this soldier‘s confrontation with the secretary? 

FRANKEN:  I want to go back to your question, which I think was a great question, which is, this is about how this war has been executed, which is, it‘s total incompetence.

And it‘s not enough to say that, as Ann did, that, oh, government programs are run badly.  This was stupid.  These guys are being killed.  Our guys are being killed by explosives that were looted after we took Baghdad.  Tommy Franks was part of the problem, because he basically caved in on how many troops we sent to Afghanistan and not surrounding Tora Bora, not sending our troops in there and getting bin Laden, and also in caving in on how many troops we sent to Iraq. 

If you are going to go to war against Iraq—as Colin Powell says, if you break it, you own it.  And this president didn‘t have the intellectual curiosity to understand what that meant. 

BUCHANAN:  All right.  We are going to let—OK, Ann, do you want to respond to that? 

COULTER:  Well, it‘s a little odd to be harangued by the party that has historically opposed spending on defense, who just ran a candidate who voted, I guess, for more spending on body armor before voting against it. 

FRANKEN:  You want me to explain that vote, Ann? 

BUCHANAN:  No.  Let Ann respond. 

Go ahead, Ann.

FRANKEN:  Well, I would like to explain that vote. 

BUCHANAN:  Well, go ahead, Ann. 

(LAUGHTER)

COULTER:  I‘m not really interested anymore.  I think the country made its decision a few weeks ago. 

FRANKEN:  But you brought it up, so I would like to explain it. 

(CROSSTALK)

COULTER:  I don‘t think there‘s going to be any problem getting that vote through.  It‘s Republicans who have supported defense spending. 

And up until this question was asked, I think it was the Democrats who were saying, oh, got to cut spending on defense, so we can pay for more teachers or more social welfare spending or health care for the elderly.  So, no, I don‘t think it‘s going to be a problem getting this bill through, but, yes, there are...

FRANKEN:  This isn‘t about spending. 

(CROSSTALK)

COULTER:  ... problems with government programs.  And I think this is an important moment to notice that. 

BUCHANAN:  OK, I thought, Al—I do think, Al—or let me go back to Howard. 

Howard, I do think the president moved very well today and handled it exactly correctly. 

FINEMAN:  Yes.

And one reason you know that Rumsfeld really screwed up politically was the speed with which the president came out here today in response to questions at the White House and said, we are going to make sure that these soldiers have the very best equipment available. 

And, you know, hindsight is 20/20.  We clearly should have had more troops in there early on, as Al was saying.  But, of course, one of the problems with doing that would have been that even more soldiers would have been improperly protected in terms of body armor and up-armoring vehicles and so on.  So, it‘s a been a tremendous logistical problem all the way around. 

FRANKEN:  Howard...

FINEMAN:  But the big problem that Rumsfeld—Rumsfeld‘s big problem today was that he sounded in that sound bite just horribly cavalier and uncaring and uninterested in the actual lives of the grunts out there and the dangers they were facing and especially dealing with a bunch of National Guardsmen, who hardly were expecting to be in a war zone, let alone on their way to Iraq.  It made it seem very callous.

And the president, in his typical way, was out there saying, no, we really do care. 

BUCHANAN:  All right, briefly, Al Franken, go ahead, before we take a break.

FRANKEN:  Well, listen, there was planning ahead of time.  This is not 20/20 hindsight.  There was planning done by the State Department, by the Future of Iraq Project, that said send more troops in. 

General Shinseki said, send more troops in.  This is why we have this insurgency, because remember what Rumsfeld said so cavalierly when the looting started in April of ‘03?  He said, well, things will happen.  In a free society, people are free to loot.  You know what, Pat?  I didn‘t know that.  I didn‘t know you‘re free to loot in Washington.  I didn‘t know we are free to loot here in New York. 

Ann and I, can we go—Ann, do you want to go loot Madison Avenue after the show? 

(LAUGHTER)

BUCHANAN:  We will take a break now.  Howard Fineman...

(CROSSTALK)

FRANKEN:  Come on, you and me, Ann.  Get some jewelry for you. 

BUCHANAN:  We‘ll give Ann a chance to respond after that.

Howard Fineman, thanks for joining me. 

Al, Ann, stick around, because I am sure you won‘t want to—I‘m sure you want to weigh in our next debate:  Will Hollywood snub Mel Gibson and “The Passion of the Christ” and will the academy honor Michael Moore‘s “Fahrenheit 9/11”?  That‘s sure to create some sparks in SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY tonight.

Don‘t miss it.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BUCHANAN:  Does “The Passion of the Christ” have a prayer at the Oscars?  We will debate that question in a minute. 

But, first, 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.

BUCHANAN:  Welcome back.  I‘m Pat Buchanan, filling in for Joe Scarborough. 

As you know, Joe has been out recovering from some back problems.  He wants to thank you all for your e-mails and assure you he will be back in the anchor chair soon. 

Now, does “The Passion” have a prayer at the Oscars?  The film and its creator, Mel Gibson, were subjected to savage attack even before it hit the big screen.  Many in the elite media labeled the film anti-Semitic.  One famous critic at “The New York Times” went so far as to call Mel Gibson—quote—“a Jew baiter.”

Mel Gibson, however, triumphed.  The film became a box office sensation, pulling in nearly $400 million in the United States, and it dominated the talk at last year‘s Oscars, even though it wasn‘t even up for nomination.  Will Hollywood snub “The Passion of the Christ,” the cinematic story of the last act of the most influential man in Western civilization?  And, if so, will we see a backlash against Hollywood from the red states? 

We are back with Ann Coulter, Al Franken.  And joining me now, Dr.  Michael Rectenwald of Citizens For Legitimate Government, and Laurie Roth, host of “The Laurie Roth Show.” 

Laurie Roth, let me start with you. 

LAURIE ROTH, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST:  OK.

BUCHANAN:  It seems to me we have a film here which is a movie sensation, which is an artistic masterpiece, which is...

(LAUGHTER)

BUCHANAN:  I know Al doesn‘t like that, but it‘s a beloved film of scores of millions of people, and it‘s deeply disliked by Al Franken. 

FRANKEN:  No, no.  I didn‘t say that. 

BUCHANAN:  Is that enough to get it denied a nomination as picture of the year? 

ROTH:  Well, you know, with the climate that we have right now, which seems to be the Salem Witch trials against anybody who believes in God or Christ...

FRANKEN:  Oh, jeez. 

ROTH:  We have seen this decades now. 

I will be praying for you too, Al. 

We have seen the persecution at the Boy Scouts table.  We have seen the eradication of the Salvation Army this Christmas from the Target stores with a bunch of bunk excuses.  We have seen all kinds of things play their hands, with nativity scenes going bye-bye, people wearing crosses, memorial crosses, so it wouldn‘t surprise me if, after Mel‘s treatment in Hollywood, when he tried to get this film off the ground, and he had to put his own money in and promote it himself—he didn‘t get help.  And I think more like $600 million gross receipts.

BUCHANAN:  Worldwide.

ROTH:  Excuse me, and the eighth most successful film of all time.  Yes, I think he might have a problem, unless the majority of the people that believe in God rise up. 

BUCHANAN:  All right, Al Franken, all right, seriously, Al, why doesn‘t it at least deserve nomination as best picture of the year? 

FRANKEN:  Well, I haven‘t seen it. 

BUCHANAN:  You‘re the only guy in America that hasn‘t, Al. 

FRANKEN:  No.  Let me just put it this way.  But I just laughed when you said it was artistic masterpiece, just because I‘m...

BUCHANAN:  Well, I was very moved by it, yes.

FRANKEN:  OK.  Well, good, good.  I am glad you liked it, and that‘s your opinion.  And I haven‘t seen it, and it may very well be an artistic masterpiece, but, anyway.

I know Mel.  He hosted “Saturday Night Live” once.  And I was at a party last year about two days before the Oscars in L.A.  And it was like an A-list party that someone brought me to. 

BUCHANAN:  All right. 

FRANKEN:  And Tom Hanks was there.

But Mel—it was Mel‘s agent.  And I didn‘t know what I would say to Mel when I saw him, because I know him from and I liked him when he hosted “SNL.”  And what I thought of saying to him was—and I didn‘t end up talking to him, but what I thought of saying to him was, your father and my dad probably wouldn‘t have gotten along. 

BUCHANAN:  All right. 

FRANKEN:  And his father...

(CROSSTALK)

BUCHANAN:  Yes, I know.  We all know the reason for that. 

FRANKEN:  And his father is a Holocaust denier, and there are people that have seen the movie...

ROTH:  Here we go.  Here we go.  Let‘s smear Mel Gibson. 

(CROSSTALK)

BUCHANAN:  We‘ve got to get Ann Coulter. 

(CROSSTALK)

BUCHANAN:  Let me get to Ann Coulter here, because, look, I don‘t think Mel‘s father has got anything to do with the film. 

ROTH:  Typical.

BUCHANAN:  I don‘t think he was in it.  I didn‘t see him there. 

FRANKEN:  Didn‘t he play Christ?  I didn‘t see it.  I thought he played Christ. 

(CROSSTALK)

BUCHANAN:  Ann—what is your take, Ann, on whether Hollywood will stiff the film? 

COULTER:  Well, for one thing, if you are going to repeat your funny jokes, I think you really have to be there, Al.  And... 

FRANKEN:  What? 

(CROSSTALK)

COULTER:  Yes.  I am betting Mel Gibson will not win any award for that. 

BUCHANAN:  Will he be nominated?

COULTER:  I don‘t think so, no.  He certainly will not win.  And I would also say I certainly hope that Michael Moore will nominate—be nominated and win.  I am not sure if Hollywood is that stupid, but you can never put that past them. 

BUCHANAN:  All right, you think...

(CROSSTALK)

ROTH:  I think Michael Moore should—I was going to say, I think Michael Moore should win the Oscar, the Oscar de la traitor award, for, at time of war, emboldening the enemy and endangering our troops by having such a popular film overseas, especially in the Middle East, that bashed our commander in chief.  And, sadly, he probably will get far more attention only selling 119 gross receipts -- $119, that is—as opposed to nearly $600 million with Mel Gibson. 

BUCHANAN:  All right, Al Franken, I gather you probably have seen “Fahrenheit 9/11.”  And do you think it will be nominated?  I know he took it out of the category of documentary, because, apparently, he put it on pay TV.  So now it‘s a nomination in the category of films.  Do you think it will be nominated? 

FRANKEN:  I don‘t know.  I don‘t live in Hollywood.  I live in New York.  I don‘t know.  And I don‘t know how the process—there were things about the movie that I liked very much.  I thought the story of Lila Lipscomb was very moving.  And she was the emotional centerpiece of the movie.  She‘s the mother who lost a son in Iraq.  And that was extremely moving to me. 

There are a couple of things in the movie that I objected to.  I didn‘t like the juxtaposition of things.  But I thought that factually he didn‘t stray.  He laid the Afghanistan war on things that I didn‘t agree with and that kind of thing.  But I don‘t know. 

BUCHANAN:  All right, Ann, was it documentary or propaganda, the Michael Moore film? 

COULTER:  I haven‘t seen it.  I have read Dave Kopel‘s, I think, 60-point refutation of it and describing various scenes. 

FRANKEN:  Can you tell me one? 

COULTER:  And it seems pretty disingenuous of a lot of things.  Yes. 

(CROSSTALK)

COULTER:  And you can tell me about “The Passion of the Christ.”

FRANKEN:  Tell me one.  Tell me one. 

COULTER:  Yes.  And I was going to say, Pat, Al is not the only person not to have seen “The Passion of the Christ.”  All of the secular liberals on TV denouncing it have not seen it. 

BUCHANAN:  OK.  We need to take a quick break.  Don‘t go away.

FRANKEN:  I would like to know one refutation of... 

(CROSSTALK)

BUCHANAN:  All right, we have much more of this debate straight ahead, as you can hear. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BUCHANAN:  Welcome back to SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY.  I‘m Pat Buchanan, in for Joe. 

We‘re back with Ann Coulter, Al Franken, Michael Rectenwald, and Laurie Roth.

Michael Rectenwald, our apologies for the camera problems we had a couple of minutes ago. 

Let me ask you this.  Just as—I am sure—I gather you saw “The Passion of the Christ.”  As a film, given its power, its compelling nature, some of the fine acting that was done—Maia Morgenstern I thought was phenomenal—and its impact on the country and the tremendous success it had, wouldn‘t it be an act of almost insulting folly to the American people, especially to Christians in America who have loved this film, taken it to heart, for Hollywood to snub it or blacklist and deny a nomination for best picture? 

MICHAEL RECTENWALD, CITIZENS FOR LEGITIMATE GOVERNMENT:  Well, Pat, I don‘t think the film deserves to win best picture, by any means. 

BUCHANAN:  Just nominate for it. 

RECTENWALD:  A nomination—well, a nomination, perhaps. 

But let me say this, Pat.  I was raised a Catholic.  I saw this movie every day, every Sunday, Easter Sunday, since I was 5 years old.  This is not an original story.  Certainly, it shouldn‘t win best script or screenplay.  After all, it‘s the most...

(CROSSTALK)

BUCHANAN:  Well, you‘ve got some good writers, Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. 

RECTENWALD:  Yes, Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John.  But this isn‘t the Renaissance and we are not painting Passover pictures anymore. 

This is postmodern era, and this story is hackneyed and overtold.  And, furthermore, it‘s not factually accurate.  After all, they have a white Jesus who looks like he is the lead singer for a grunge band, rather than the true—the way Jesus looked was more Arabic.  And I find it quite ironic that a time when we‘re bombing Iraq... 

(CROSSTALK)

BUCHANAN:  How do you know how he looked?  How do you know how he looked? 

RECTENWALD:  Because it‘s very well known that Jesus had to have been an Arabic looking person, Pat.  And I find it very ironic, at the time we are bombing Iraq, we cannot put on an actual Arabic Jesus in the film. 

BUCHANAN:  All right.  OK. 

Ann Coulter, what are your thoughts? 

COULTER:  No, it‘s true.  The story was not original with Mel Gibson. 

I do think, as I said, it will not be winning any awards from Hollywood.  Obviously, I agree with your point, Pat, that I think it should.  I mean, if movies are something other than just dopey entertainment and we are not just comparing which bowling alley is better, this was an epiphenomenon. 

You had people sobbing, moved, transformed by this movie like nothing I have seen in my lifetime, forget this year.  And I actually thought Jesus was supposed to be Jewish-looking. 

RECTENWALD:  Well, he was Jesus looking, but you know, Ann, these two tribes are very closely related.  And he actually had dark hair, curly.  He wasn‘t a white grunge band lead singer. 

BUCHANAN:  He had curly hair? 

All right. 

(LAUGHTER)

BUCHANAN:  Al Franken, do you share any of Michael‘s concerns?  Well, you didn‘t see the picture.  It‘s a little bit tough to ask you about this one. 

(LAUGHTER)

FRANKEN:  Yes.  Well, he was Semitic.  Shall we put it that way, OK?

BUCHANAN:  Right.  All right. 

FRANKEN:  And I was interrupted when I said the thing about Mel‘s father being a Holocaust denier. 

I was explaining the joke that Ann didn‘t like, which was going up to Mel and saying, my father and your father probably wouldn‘t have gotten along, which was a diplomatic way of—and a joke for me and Mel.  Mel would have—no one would have laughed harder than Mel. 

But I want to get back to Ann, because you had said that you read this piece that had 60 refutations of “Fahrenheit 9/11.”  Can you give me one? 

COULTER:  Yes.  As long as Pat is turning over his hosting duties, I shall answer. 

I was saying, I have not seen the movie.  I began with that and said that I had read Dave Kopel‘s—I think it‘s 69 points that he raises.  And I‘d recommend...

(CROSSTALK)

FRANKEN:  Could you name one of them? 

(CROSSTALK)

BUCHANAN:  ... try to name one, Al.

COULTER:  I‘ll give you one.

BUCHANAN:  Go ahead, Ann.  Go ahead.

COULTER:  One is, he goes to a Republican congressman with his snippy little point about, will you support my movement to have congressmen send their relatives to war in Iraq, which is a little bit of a stupid question.  We are a country of 300 million.  The military is, what, 1.6 million strong.  Not every person who supports the war is going to have a direct relative.

But, as luck would have it, the congressman he asked this question of, a Republican, turned to him and said...

(CROSSTALK)

COULTER:  Wait.  I am answering the question now.  You hold off.  You asked.  I am answering. 

FRANKEN:  And I know you are wrong. 

COULTER:  A Republican congressman says to him, why, yes, I would support you, Michael Moore.  In fact, I have two relatives—I think it was two nephews—one in Afghanistan, one on the way over there.

FRANKEN:  Nephews. 

COULTER:  And Michael Moore showed himself asking the question, showed a shot of the congressman, but cut what was a pretty good answer. 

FRANKEN:  But that‘s not a refutation of anything.  I asked you for a refutation of a fact. 

(CROSSTALK) 

FRANKEN:  Not an edit, not an edit you don‘t agree with.  Give me a refutation of a fact. 

(CROSSTALK)

COULTER:  ... edit. 

(CROSSTALK)

RECTENWALD:  That‘s not a refutation.  I agree with Al.  Let me say something. 

(CROSSTALK)

BUCHANAN:  All right, let me say something. 

(CROSSTALK)

FRANKEN:  This shows you....

(CROSSTALK)

BUCHANAN:  My understanding—no, I am going to get in here. 

My understanding is that this 9/11, “Fahrenheit 9/11,” showed special privileges were given to the Saudis, the bin Laden family, to get out of the country.  Is that not true, Al?  My understanding is that was denied even by Richard Clarke. 

FRANKEN:  No, it did not show that.  It said that there was a flight

from Florida to Tennessee, I believe, on the 13th of September.  That‘s all

they said.  And they said they were allowed to leave after a only cursory -

·         this is not a refutation, Pat.  

BUCHANAN:  OK.

FRANKEN:  What he said was absolutely accurate. 

BUCHANAN:  Let‘s let it stand there.  Let‘s let it stand there.  It‘s not a refutation.

Ann Coulter, Al Franken, Michael Rectenwald, Laurie Roth, thanks for joining us. 

Coming up next, Judge Pickering‘s nomination drew fire, but he steps down now from the bench.  He gives us his first interview to SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY.

Stick around

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BUCHANAN:  In my judgment, Ann Coulter not only made a refutation of one of those points in Michael Moore‘s film.  I think there are many, many more we could be making—made here.  We would be happy to do so, but, right now, we don‘t have time, because we have got the judge here right now.

And you are not going to have Judge Charles Pickering Sr. to kick around anymore.  He became the whipping boy of Democrats and the mainstream media when President Bush nominated him to the Federal Court of Appeals in 2001.  He came under even more fire when President Bush put him on the bench with a recess appointment. 

Here for an exclusive interview, his first since announcing his retirement, is Judge Charles Pickering. 

Judge, thank you very much for coming on. 

I want to ask you a first simple question.  Why do you think the liberals and the left did this to you? 

JUDGE CHARLES PICKERING, U.S. COURT OF APPEALS:  Well, I was the first circuit court nominee up.  I think they wanted to send a message to President Bush:  Don‘t send anyone to the Supreme Court who thinks like Charles Pickering.

And the issue that drove this was abortion.  Anyone who had strong religious beliefs, convictions, I think, who had made statements relative to that, they took after them.  And I happened to be the first one up.  So, for five months, my nomination was pending.  They had announced opposition to about 10 or 12 of the Bush nominees, but not said one word in opposition to my nomination until my hearing came up. 

BUCHANAN:  Well, Judge, there were a lot of smear tactics used, even though you had tremendous support from the black and white community down there in Mississippi. 

I‘ve got to ask you, do you think the president will be able to get a man like yourself, of your views, a strict constructionist on the Constitution, a constitutionalist, do you think he will be able to get that individual elevated to the Supreme Court, if there is an opening?  And is it worth it for a judge to go through that? 

PICKERING:  Well, Pat, you know, being nominated to the Supreme Court is, of course, different than being nominated to the appellate court or one of the circuit courts, because you have so much more impact on the Supreme Court than you do on the appellate level.

So, I think most people who have that ability would be willing to go through this type of situation.  I think, the last two elections, that those who obstructed judicial nominees paid a tremendously high price.  They lost the Senate in 2002.  They lost it even more so in 2004.  They lost the presidency. 

Now, I am not suggesting that judicial nominees and the obstruction and the filibuster was the sole cause of that, but it certainly was a contributing cause.  It was part of the cog.  And all of these judges—I think the American people understood the importance when the judges in Massachusetts stepped into the legislative arena in regard to marriage and when they did the same thing in California relative to the pledge. 

So, I think the American people have connected the dots.  And I think it became a real important issue with them. 

BUCHANAN:  All right, Judge Pickering, I hope the president, if the opening comes, will be able to appoint a man or woman of your character and convictions. 

And we thank you very much for your service to the country and for joining us tonight. 

Make sure to catch Imus tomorrow morning, because he has got some great guests, including Hall of Fame quarterback Terry Bradshaw. 

Chris Matthews is up next.  Good night. 

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

END   

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